There is only a veil that separates the living from the dead. The same veil separates the material world from the astral world. There is a gulf that separates the Seven Heavens from the Seven Hells. This gulf is the material world.
Jesus spoke the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus begged at the rich man's gate. Both died. The rich man asked Lazarus for a drop of water to quench his tongue. Lazarus who lived a miserable life at the rich man's gate mercifully would've given the rich man water but for the gulf which separated them.
Man living in the Material World, the gulf between the Heavens and Hells, is separated from the Astral World, or Heaven and Hell by a veil.
There are times of the month wherein the veil is slightly lifted allowing the living to offer their ancestors a drop of water, food and other things. This is called the Tarpanam ritual. Tarpanam removes ancestral karma and brings blessings.
Man, in a sense, has five bodies: Physical or Material, Astral or Vital, Mental, Psychic or Heart, and, Soul Body or Human Spirit. The Material body is gross, the Astral or vital body is finer, the mental body is finer than the vital, the psychic or heart, is finer than the mind, the finest is the Soul.
During life the Soul has access to all the Material, Astral, Mental, Psychic or Heart, and Soul Worlds through its five corresponding bodies. After life the Soul losses its vehicles one by one in time, travels from the grossest to the subtlest, then in the reincarnation process, from the subtlest to the grossest again. The Soul's Journey from the gross to the subtle is the process of death. The Soul's journey from the subtle to the gross is the process of reincarnation. After death the Soul may remain close to the material plane for up to forty days before migrating to the Astral or Vital plane.
The newly dead are sometimes confused and don't realize that they've died. (Please see article of ghosts that appeared to taxi drivers after the Fukushima disaster http://fxn.ws/1RbOoWz). To produce an apparition the Soul remains attached to the physical to such an extent that it keeps the subtle physical body intact. This kind of attachment occurs when the Soul does not realize that it's physical body has died, or when unexpected or violent deaths occur.
In most cases the Soul being free from the physical travels unhindered in the Astral Body anywhere it desires in that plane, separated from the material world by a veil. The Astral plane being the closest to the material plane, is easily accessed by those that are sensitive or spiritually advanced.
As I only write from personal experience, I will relate a few experiences that may be of interest. I had a dream one night. A real dream. A young black man came to me and took me down a private road or ally with chain link fences on both sides. He showed me a clearing, a lawn with a sidewalk. Then a black couple sitting in their living room crying. He said, "I was shot because I am black."
A week later, the news of Trevon Martin's killing hit national news and I recognized the couple in my dream. They were Trevon's parents. I recognized the teenaged black man to be Trevon, complete with hoody, and, the clearing to be the crime scene.
Shortly after George Harrison died, he stood before me in my mind's eye and said with his characteristic humor, "And who are you?" Afterward I learned from various documentaries about George several striking similarities in our spiritual lives. We both were first introduced into Yogic Philosophy through the works of Swami Vivekananda, both bought multiple copies of Paramahamsa Yogananda's, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI, to give to friends. George was a direct initiate of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, my guru was a direct initiate of the Maharishi. Both of us loved Swami Prabhupada, who shaped our spiritual life.
George was a great influence over my life because of his music and I felt very blessed by his visit to me in his Astral Body. I don't know why he came to me. I was greatly blessed that he did.
My guru Sri Chinmoy died on a Thursday. I was at my office like any other day. While I did not receive any word of His death, I broke down and cried, saying, "I lost my guide in this world...I lost my guide..."
I had no idea why I did this until the weekend when I heard on NPR that the great guru Sri Chinmoy had died that passed Thursday. By the time I got the news, I had already been assured by Him, that He is in fact not dead, and, would be accessible to those that love Him. He continues to work on the Earth plane today.
The Great Ones can remain active on the Earth plane long after they have passed. Sri Ramakrishna and Paramahamsa Yogananda both have appeared in their astral bodies to me in a gesture of welcome when I first visited their ashrams.
For the ordinary man, as the Soul's vehicles dissolve, i.e, the Physical and Subtle Vehicles, the Astral or Vital Body may separate from the Mental, Psychic, and, Soul Bodies. The Astral or Vital energy may repeat actions or scenes in the Soul's life in a loop of samsara for years or even decades until dissipation, or, merely hover around the grave site until the corpse completely turns to dust.
As the Soul migrates to the Astral plane it then receives reward or punishment according to its thoughts, desires, and actions during life. The Astral plane is the source of the world wide ancient myths of Heaven and Hell that all Souls must pass through. It's not an eternal state.
The Soul gravitates to the Hell or Heaven that it's drawn to by the what it secretly loved during life whether it be vice or virtue. (This video contains a description of one Hell. It is worth viewing: https://youtu.be/FTq0xjJaWkw)
The Soul continues to the finer planes of the Mental, Psychic and Soul Worlds. In the Soul’s World it enjoys the Highest Bliss until material desires arise again causing it to be reborn in the Physical World. In Its decent, It gains the bodies one by one in reverse order that it lost during the process of death. It gathers a Psychic, Mental, Vital, and lastly, a Physical Body.
Prior to birth the Soul is given a choice of parents and families according to karma. This “new” person is not the same as the one of the previous incarnation in all of the five aspects of Soul, Heart, Mind, Vital, and Body. All that survives of the last incarnation is the Divinity that the Soul gained in the previous life in all of the five worlds.
The function of reincarnation and the transmigration of Souls is to increase Divinity or Christ Consciousness in the Material World. The Spiritual Life is a life of Transformation from Human to Divine. As one remains in the Presence of the Lord, one gets transformed into His Image. Light received by the Soul that is allowed to spread into a loving, devoted, and surrendered Heart, transforms the Heart through spiritual alchemy.
The Light received by the Heart if allowed to spread into a concentrated and silent Mind, illumines the Mind. This is Enlightenment. The Light received by the Mind, if allowed to spread into a disciplined Vital or Astral Body, purifies the Vital energy from lower form desires. The Light received by the Vital or Astral Body, if allowed to spread into the Physical Body, eventually transforms it into a Body of Light, or Light Body.
It is only the transformed portions of man’s various bodies which survive into the next incarnation as the process of death burns away everything else as dross, leaving only the refined Gold of Divinity. In this manner a Soul after numerous of incarnations has the opportunity to continue on Its spiritual journey back to Godhead until there are no longer any material desires to cause rebirth into the Material World.
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