Dreams and the Planes of Existence
a science report by Carl J. Schroeder for the Mystical Art and Talent Show 2008 <=== ©2008 Carl J. Schroeder ===>
I have been studying my dreams for decades, trying to understand them from many angles. Dreams are so complex – they really can be everything that people say they are, including daily brain releases (neural flatulence), premonitions and problem solving, visits with spirit beings and alien friends, healings, past life flashbacks, and out-of-body journeys to other dimensions. So much more is possible in the fluidity of dreams than in this solid world which we call the physical, because dream logic depends not on gravity and objects but on symbolism and puns for coded messages, like a game of charades or a rebus (the classic game show of Concentration was solved by a rebus, where you have to guess the phrase spelled out in pictures, like “eye sea ewe”). Yet for all their chaos and symbolism dreams are also very real, even life changing. Dreams have been the sources of great inventions, works of art, religions, and social structures. States of synchronicity and good fortune feel like waking dreams. It may even be that something isn’t real until it’s symbolic like a dream.

What are dreams, and where do they happen? Might it be possible to map out the levels of a single overarching reality within which the different kinds of dreams occur, with the properties of each level explaining the types of dreams available? I am considering the answer to be yes, as I study the Theosophical system of planes of reality (especially as described in "Man and his Bodies" by Annie Besant) and relate my own dream experiences to those of psychic explorers like Emanuel Swedenborg, Robert Monroe, Kurt Leland, Carl Jung, Geoffrey Hodson, and Monica Szu-Whitney. Leland writes about afterlife dream zones, Swedenborg about levels of heaven and hell, Monroe about out-of-body adventures across time and space, Jung about archetypes and symbols, Hodson about seeing into the fairy realms, Szu-Whitney about shamanic journeys to interview the aliens whose outlines appear when she paints. Such far out stories are very real to me, as I too have experienced a little of many such things. I feel certain that it’s just a matter of time before the eleven or so dimensions that seem required to describe physical space mathematically (string theory, m-theory, which try to model where went the sub-atomic forces which diminished with distance much faster than the inverse squared law of three dimensions) will be understood to be gateways between the infinity of worlds accessible to the mind which can dream.

There are 7 major planes of existence, each with 7 subplanes (numbered from 1 on top to 7 on bottom). A plane is a layer of cosmic universe, an ancient concept stemming from the shamanic image of the world tree, that axis mundi central pillar that connects all upper and lower realms.The top planes are inconceivable to us, places where even traditional gods lose their meaning, but the lowest plane is quite familiar: we call it the Physical world. Each plane has a body associated for travelling within it, and these bodies encase each other, like Russian dolls. The innermost doll that we see and shake hands with every day is called the physical body. It is made like all bodies out of the living material of its plane, to which it returns when we are not using it (it may seem that I'm referring to death here, but mastery of a plane looks more like resurrection, or reconstitution as needed, such as re-entering a dream). Most truly we are each a consciousness, a point of awareness and choice, travelling in body vehicles throughout the planes of our lives.

Some people relate the planes and their bodies to the chakras, which are seven symbolic energy centers that go up the spine. Probably all seven chakras are present in each plane, and account for the subplanes that guide the steps to mastering that plane. Kurt Leland, author of The Multidimensional Human, teaches that:

7) the seventh chakra (symbols white, top of head, divinity) = being able to master the plane while reaching for the next plane
6) the sixth chakra (symbols purple, brow area, vision) = being able to see clearly in the plane
5) the fifth chakra (symbols blue, throat, expression) = being able to express yourself in the plane
4) the fourth chakra (symbols green, heart area, compassion) = being able to communicate with beings in the plane
3) the third chakra (symbols yellow, belly button area, power) = being able to move around in the plane
2) the second chakra (symbols orange, genital area, socializing) = being aware of other beings in the plane
1) the first chakra (symbols red, base of spine, survival) = being aware of existing in the plane

The direction of spiritual growth is ascending mastery of the Planes of Existence, all the way back up to a state of conscious union with the Source (Logos), from which we all long ago descended unconsciously (by a less familiar process called involution). Mastery of each plane to move upward will require not only manipulating the plane’s contents at its lower subplanes, but also managing the world wisely from the upper subplanes. The human race has clearly mastered  physical objects by means of chemistry, biology, and physics, but integrating that knowledge into a healthy coexistence, complete with sensitivity to EM fields and the Earth’s ecosystems, is the current challenge we are facing. True mastery of a plane always involves movement into the next higher plane, so most of humanity is really working on emotionally maturing itself in the Astral Plane as it perfects itself in the Physical. Mastery of the Mental Plane is practiced whenever we reflect on our beliefs to create a better reality. Higher levels are seen by individuals functioning from positions of compassion and grace.
      What then to do with all the Planes of Existence, is each higher one better than the ones below? I suspect the Planes are meant to all work together as a continually cycling ecosystem, while we as points of awareness (stars of consciousness) remain free to travel up and down the worlds as we choose to observe and participate. Heaven is not found at a certain level, but the entire system becomes heavenly for you as you learn to allow yourself to function at the highest level of your growth, letting the universe take care of the rest. Everyone is thus always expanding through cycles of divine self-discovery. Imagine if the clarity of understanding your beliefs combined with the joy and love of a healthy emotional life supported by the beautiful details of sustainable physical systems that so cleverly and miraculously work; it's the combined layers in harmony which are so stunning. Then we can just be ourselves at whatever level we’re comfortable, knowing that the multiverse is functioning beautifully, and everyone we’ll meet is safe and trustworthy. This is the greater heaven of coordinated successful worlds which I believe we can enter to join the larger universe. And since many of us fell out of believing that such a living perfection was possible, it helps to study the theories so we can watch for the signs of it coming together again (re-memberance, or tikkun olam).

    Causal “Plane”
    “Heaven” / “Hell”
    Etheric “Plane”


7. The Physical Plane: The Physical Plane is the material world of physical objects, complete with gravity, biochemistry, and the logic of space and time. The lowest subplane of the physical contains solid objects with hard boundaries. Higher subplanes become more interpenetrable with liquids and gases, until they become a subtle matter called Etheric. Such substance is not currently explained by science, but ghost hunters try to detect changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields to show etheric presences. In fact, since 1879 science has already recognized plasma, which is ionized gases whose molecules have been stripped of their electrons, to be the fourth state of matter. Plasma has complex properties including tendencies to shift in electromagnetic fields that interplay with the environment, and potentials to be hot or cold. Plasma makes up 99% of the universe, and powers the sun's core.

Out-Of-Body Experiences: The first out-of-body experience that people can have is to shift awareness into their Etheric body. This is basically the person’s bio-energetic field that contains the physical body’s health. The Etheric energy body can’t move too far from its solid physical body. You may have dream-like ghostly experiences in it, but you can only float a few feet away from yourself. Although it’s not made for much travelling, the Etheric body is the perfect position from which to manipulate energies and communicate with Etheric lifeforms (often called devas and fairies).


6. The Astral Plane: The Astral Plane is the world of emotional energies. The Astral is not unfamiliar, but few people understand how much it is a separate universe unto itself, much bigger than even the incomprehensibly vast physical universe, and with much greater accessibility. There are many lifeforms and regions that exist only in the Astral plane, and it is where most people go when they die, for rest and recuperation before planning new lives. While I haven’t heard of a name for the dividing line between the lower and upper astral, it seems clear to me that the lower subplanes are the places of wild underworlds, hells, and nightmares, while the upper Astral subplanes are the home of heavenly countrysides and towns, many happy paradises, and what the spiritualists call the Summerlands. Even without understanding all the potentials, most people on the Earth now are working on Astral/emotional mastery, and a lot of the practice toward that takes place at night. Symbolic, purgative, emotional dreams of many kinds are experienced in the Astral body as it stays centered on or near the sleeping Physical body, creating what might be termed dreaming zones. But for the adventurous, the Astral body can also take us outside the set to astonishing new worlds, by using superpowers such as flying, stretching, teleporting, time travel, and passing through solid matter. Now that’s a weird feeling, I’m telling you.

Symbolism: Many people dismiss their dreams because dream symbolism is famously so bizarre and unexpected, but that’s just so that you won’t have your usual reactions while in the dream. The point of dream symbols varies with the purpose of the dream. A healing dream that is meant to drain away some recent fears might conjour big scary monsters that are really images for something much smaller from your daily life that, if you saw as you usually do, you might walk on by without ever releasing your pent-up emotions. A problem solving dream might have bizarre components that, for some reason, you just seem to know what to do with at the time, even though what you did makes no sense after you wake up. Why did I put the lemon on the cat before bicycling up the tree?  But again, if you didn’t dream in symbols then your daily ego self might have taken over with its usual assumptions, and you wouldn’t have done anything differently. You knew what to do in the dream because you were sensing the energies, so now all you have to do is think about the associations to get the practical meaning, thereby stretching your consciousness in the process.


5. The Mental Plane: The Mental Plane sounds intellectual, and to many that’s all it is. There’s certainly plenty to study, as the thoughts, narratives, and worldviews of every consciousness who has ever and will ever exist come into view. Just as the matter of the Astral plane was the emotional energy which can enslave or serve, so too the material of the Mental Plane is raw ideas and beliefs which can dictate or free entire lives. Mastery of the Mental Plane would bring the abilities to self-reinvent, to decide what one is capable of and create the opportunities, while being lost in the mental is, well, kind of mental, including delusional, distracted, and compulsive.  The lower mental plane includes the experiences of meeting religious deities, as well as obsessions with famous people. When the mental body is perfected in the upper subplanes which are called the Causal, then the previously conceived gods and demi-gods become revealed as soul individuals who are so loved and connected with you that practically worshipping an image of them was quite understandable. But really the Causal body is practical, the position from which to reach out to and welcome home all of your lifetimes along with the best friends of those lifetimes. On the Causal level there are angelic beings to help and to serve, and as we master the entire Mental plane then we become our immortal souls, like angels as well. Access to all knowing, past present and future, is a causal skill, often referred to as reading the akashic records.

Lucidity: Most people consider lucid dreaming to be a paradox; how can you be awake while you’re asleep? But if dreams are really about mind travelling to other dimensions, then of course there are degrees to which you can be aware of what you’re doing. The highest level of lucidity is being able to say “this is a dream!”, but on the way are stages of being able to think logically and analyze situations (hopefully not reacting too literally, since this is still a dream), being able to choose what to look at or where to go next, knowing that you recognize certain people and places, and having ecstatically heightened sense experiences. Since dreams are largely for learning and healing, becoming fully lucid isn’t even always desirable; you risk stopping the dream in your excitement of realizing that you’re in a dream. But lucidity is clearly a goal of evolution, as evidenced by an interesting test of whether a dream character is real or not: when you approach higher beings in a dream, regardless of their appearance, you will find yourself becoming more lucid in their presence. This experience can also backfire; I’ve had many dreams where I gravitated to a character who was waiting off to one side, until I became lucid and cried “Oh my gosh you’re real, this a dream, hello, how are you, what’s your name???!”… and then I woke up. It takes practice to stay calm so you can just saunter up and say something cool, like, “Hey, I know you’re real and this is a dream, so, what advice do you have for me?”

Simulations: Many beginner lucid dreams are actually instructional simulations that take place somewhere between the symbolism of a dream that is contained within the dreamer’s personal dreaming space (the etheric body), and the realness of an astral or mental region that is populated by actual nonphysical entities. That is to say, an intense dream of flying to another planet might actually be astral travelling to another planet, or, more likely for the beginner, just a kind of rehearsal that is being staged and controlled by unseen teachers.  One way to tell the difference would be if you become frustrated by a recurring situation that seems to call for a right answer, often waking up suddenly when you choose incorrectly. Another clue might be remembering that you entered a theatre or turned on a TV just before the main dream began. As in physical life, if you can submit to the lessons that come your way, then you will be guided to become truly free.


4. The Buddhic Plane: If the upper Mental plane has already developed the sense of eternal soul, universal wisdom, and divine community within the causal body, what could be more ultimate than that? In the still higher Buddhic plane, as souls we can experience states of oneness and boundless bliss with all we encounter, including nature, situations, and other people. Such oneness can seem dangerously naďve amidst the chaos of daily life, where fractured and damaged people still struggle in the physical, emotional, and mental worlds. Yet ironically the Buddhic body is the more powerful position from which to feel compassion for all beings and know what best to do to serve All, which of course includes you. I think most of us get glimpses at the Buddhic level as needed, but it’s hard to imagine what living there would be like, since so much of identity merges and changes.


For further reading on the Planes of Existence, there is a remarkable series of Theosophy lessons online, with the most relevant being Lesson 6, Heaven, Hell,Purgatory, Avichi, and Devachan, Lesson 7, Planes of Existence , and Lesson 11, Monad, Atma, Ego, Causal Body, etc.

==on to the sketches==>