The afterlife is not just a mystery to be solved. It’s an opportunity to expand life beyond boundaries. As the rishis described it, awareness begins in an unbounded state with pure consciousness and then cascades, plane by plane, until it reaches the physical world.
Each level is in you. At any given moment you could place yourself anywhere; the choice of boundaries–or unboundedness–is yours alone. Therefore journeys to heaven and hell are daily occurrences, not far-off possibilities.
The “shadow” may be an unfamiliar term; it refers to hidden forces that influence us as if beyond our will. The shadow self in Jungian psychology is a region of the unconscious where we store energies that become our version of dark, evil, shameful, or adversarial beings.
It’s hard to imagine how the shadow can occupy the same space as beings of light, which are numinous and include angels and deities. We’re tempted to allot separate places for each, but there are no physical divisions in the subtle domain and therefore no barriers between heaven and hell, light and shadow.
Access to the entire subtle world is always open. If you can imagine and dream, you can also experience departed spirits, angels, or gods. There is no separation between observer and observed. The inner and outer worlds are changing constantly.
Many cultures have viewed the barrier between life and death as permeable. We insist on making it into a wall, and behind this insistence lurks a good deal of unspoken fear. We equate the entire subtle domain with the realm of death, which is far from the case.
Sorting out the subtle world was a project that the Vedic rishis set for themselves. By going deeper into their explanations we can begin to navigate this level of reality that is closest to the soul.
Adapted from Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).