We are all traveling in three worlds. According to the rishis, we move between three levels of awareness that account for all experience:
1. Consciousness filled with physical objects.
2. Consciousness filled with subtle objects.
3. Consciousness filled with nothing but itself’s pure consciousness.
In each state the soul looks different. In the physical world the soul is centered around emotions and idealism. It connotes warmth of heart, love, devotion to God. We look to our souls to remind ourselves that we have a divine spark inside, and yet we don’t base our lives on it. The soul flickers in and out.
In the subtle world the soul is spirit, denoting holiness, closeness to God, and freedom from the burdens of physical existence. The soul no longer offers mere comfort; it is the bliss that pain was disguising. The soul is constant now; its guidance can be clearly followed without confusion. The primary feeling is magnetic: One is being drawn inexorably toward the divine.
In the domain of pure consciousness, merging is complete. One sees that self and soul are one. Since there is no here and there, the soul has no location. It exists everywhere and nowhere at the same time. One no longer seeks the soul’s goodness, holiness, or purity. It simply is.
After death a person experiences the subtle dimension automatically, yet to the rishis every dimension is enfolded into the others. The appearance of angels on earth is possible, even though they are properly consigned to the domain of subtle objects, and so is the sojourn of the prophet Mohammed to heaven on a white horse. Each involves a shift in awareness. At the same time each state of consciousness has its own particular qualities and is perceived as its own separate reality.
Adapted from Life After Death, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).