What the hell!
Now this is going to be a strange ride if you haven’t come across this concept. It is possibly one of the most potent of esoteric ideas that pervades the whole of occult and spiritual thinking.
In a nutshell what it says is that although you may think that a thought just disappears after you stop thinking it – it doesn’t. It continues to exist in some ‘etheric’ realm. A simple starting analogy is the residual image you have if you shut your eyes after looking at a bright light. You know how it continues for a while on the back of your eyelids.
The obvious question is where does it exist? And the answer is ‘on another plane’ or ‘in another dimension’ – which frankly doesn’t help at all!
One way of thinking about it is in terms of mental energy charging up a battery. So if you think hard about something you are charging up a battery, specific to that ‘something’. So let’s say you think about a red Ferrari and you passionately desire it with high intensity of emotion you are actually charging up the ‘red Ferrari’ thought-form (battery) in some hidden realm of existence.
Once the thought-form is charged it can be accessed to release power back into our physical plane. One example of this is Reiki, which you have probably heard of. Within Reiki there are four symbols which are keys to thought-forms that have been built up over many years in the ‘ether’ (another term for this place where thought-forms are stored) and when a healer draws the symbol he/she invokes the spiritual power for the purposes of healing on the physical plane.
I realise that I have been using the term ‘plane’ quite a lot. This is one of the most common terms used to describe esoteric principles, but it is worth thinking about in a little more detail. Before we do that though I would like to talk a bit about metaphors. I know this sounds like I’m going off on one of those confusing tangents again – but when I started reading about this stuff I found it very confusing because writers used a lot of terms that they understood – but they were meaningless to me. The reason I want to talk about metaphors is because they are the mechanisms by which we attach meaning to words. Let me explain.
Although we don’t realise it many of our words are based on spatial models that we have in our heads. For example we talk about being weighed down by problems. This is a metaphor associating a problem with a heavy weight that pulls us down. We associate down with bad or unhappy (e.g. someone’s downfall, of down in the dumps, or feeling a bit down today). We associate up with happiness or success – so we say ‘I’m on the up’ or ‘I’m feeling on top of the world’ or ‘I’m high as a kite’. Similarly we talk about going forward to achieve a goal (future is forward, past is backward). I could give many more examples, but you get the idea. There is plenty written on this subject, including well founded university research. Even mathematics is based on physical metaphors. When we talk about addition or subtraction we tend to understand it, at root, on the basis of objects being added to or subtracted from a group, or multiplication being several sets of groups of physical objects. These associations of mathematical concepts with the physical world are called grounding metaphors. If we come across a mathematical concept that we find difficult to grasp the likelihood is that we cannot attach it to something in the physical world. Take imaginary numbers or the concept of infinity. We cannot easily ‘ground’ them by associating them with a suitable physical analogy and therefore we get the feeling that we don’t really understand them.
True understanding of anything is very, very much easier if we have a physical metaphor for it. I am an electronic engineer and work with electric currents, voltages, resistances, capacitances, etc. If you haven’t been trained in this these are meaningless words. However if I were to say that an electric current is like water flowing – you can imagine it. If I say that a voltage is like having a dam with a high level of water on one side which means that if you insert a pipe into the dam the water will flow – you can understand that voltage (difference of water levels) causes current (water) to flow. My whole understanding of electronics is based on metaphors associated with things that I can sense physically.
The problem with the world of spirit is that it is so different from the physical world that any metaphors we try to use do not accurately describe its realities. That is why spiritual writing is often so difficult to understand. What tends to happen is that someone uses a metaphor to describe one aspect of the spiritual world and that is taken to be a precise metaphor for the whole of it.
In order to understand the spiritual world we need to be able to take parts of one metaphor, which partially explain something, and parts of another metaphor to explain something else, etc. this requires considerable mental agility and can be alien to the way we have been taught previously.
These paragraphs were intended to set the scene for my use of the term ‘plane’. Now a plane, in mathematical terms, is a two dimensional shape. In other words like an infinitely thin piece of paper extending infinitely in all directions. If the paper has any thickness (which of course in the real world it does) technically it becomes a three dimensional object, e.g. a cuboid (a box in layman’s terms) or a cylinder. I think this was one of my fundamental problems with the word when it was first used (coming from a mathematical background).
When the word ‘plane’ is used in the spiritual sense it is more like a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere. Don’t worry – we’re not going deeply into meteorology here – but I’m sure you’ve heard of the troposphere, stratosphere, etc. These are defined levels in the Earth’s atmosphere – but as you (hopefully) can imagine, there is no precise boundary between them. There is an area between the two which could be one or the other – like shades of grey. Another good analogy would be to think about the colours of the rainbow. As children we draw very definite bands of colour, clearly delineated, but if you look at a rainbow you would be very hard pushed to say exactly where red becomes orange becomes yellow, etc.
So the spiritual planes can be likened to the colours of the rainbow or the layers in the Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately this in itself creates problems for our understanding because we are taught to think in clear and distinct categories. I think this may stem from (although I would have to seek ‘learned’ opinion on this) Victorian thinking. Victorian scholars seemed to like to classify everything into very clear categories. Something is this or that – no half-way house. Perhaps it was because of a perception that God created things distinctly as one thing or another.
A classic example of this ‘differentiated thinking’ is school subjects. We tend to think that chemistry is chemistry and it covers different things to physics or geography or English, etc. etc. But someone, at some time in the past, defined what should go into each category. It was an arbitrary decision made, probably, by someone who was asked to define a school curriculum. In reality there is a huge overlap between the subjects. I did the sciences and maths and, for example, applied maths and physics were often indistinguishable from each other.
So my point is that we are taught, from a very early age, to think of things, very simplistically, with distinct boundaries. The real world is very different and particularly the spiritual world. One of my biggest difficulties when trying to understand the spiritual world was that I expected it to be clearly defined with nice neat boundaries and clear definitions. So when I read in one book that there were 7 levels and in another that there were 6 and in another 13 – I wanted to understand which one it was. In my expectation there had to be a precise and true answer. The fact is that there isn’t. Who decided how many colours there are in a rainbow? If I didn’t know the answer I very much doubt if I would come up with the classic red, orange, yellow scheme. This explains why different spiritual philosophies talk about the spiritual realm in different ways.
It also explains why rational scientists brought up in our world of clear distinctions and categories find it so easy to discredit spiritual writers. They say that no-one can agree on the precise structure of the spiritual world and therefore it must be made up and so they discount the whole canon of spiritual writing.
A lot of these problems of interpreting the spiritual world can be laid at the door of Newton. The ‘Newtonian’ world is one of precise formulae for everything – nice discrete entities. There is no doubt that Newton helped us take a huge step forward and his formulae and approach are absolutely indispensable in many walks of life, particularly engineering. Engineers (of which I, proudly, am one) are probably the most Newtonian people on the planet. Aircraft, bridges, trains, etc. are all designed on sound Newtonian principles. I have the highest regard for Newton. However, in the twentieth century the quantum physicists discovered that the world is not as simple as Newton thought. There is another level in which things are not clearly categorised. Newton’s clear cut formulae don’t always apply. The behaviour of things can vary depending on the ‘observer’ – and this means the person who is looking at the results. Whereas Newton postulated a truly objective universe obeying clear cut rules the new generation of physicists (or at least some of them) said that the universe is not truly objective (it is dependent on the ‘observer’) and that the simple rules can be bent under extreme conditions (e.g. when velocity approaches the speed of light).
Well, I apologise if that has been a long meander into the byways of God knows what, but the intention was to undo some of the programming that you have been subjected to during your education, which if allowed to continue could have prevented you from progressing along your spiritual path.
As I write this I am a little concerned about being patronising. I realise that you may be coming to this book with very little awareness of the things I have talked about – but you may also be further ahead than me on the path. Having said that I guess a book is its own filter – in other words if you found it patronising you’ve probably already checked out. So I can relax!
My goodness, how easily I can get side-tracked! This chapter was supposed to be about thought-forms, or so I recall. Hopefully you have found it vaguely relevant. The real point was that thought-forms are constructed from thought and exist independently in another plane. And I realise still haven’t really described what I mean by another plane!
I think that’s probably enough for this chapter. I do apologise for the meandering nature of this work – but if you stick with it I hope you will gain a greater understanding of your spiritual path – which is the only really important thing. If I can help you to progress spiritually then I have done my job.