Beyond the Etheric Veil
by Vincent Gaddis, BSRA
John Puckering was dead. His heart had stopped. He had drawn his last breath. The body of the elderly market gardener lay white and motionless beneath the vivid white light of the operating room in a London hospital. Dr. G. Perceval Mills, the surgeon, massaged the heart “only from a sense of duty,” he wrote later, “and without real hope of success.”
Then came a faint beat, a pulse. Artificial respiration was applied. And then, after long, anxious minutes, the consciousness of John Puckering came back from the Beyond, back from the valley of the shadow of death. Within three weeks, states the sober report in the British Medical Journal, he was discharged as cured.
But John Puckering was an unwilling Lazarus. He was not happy about his return to physical life. His visit to a realm that we are all destined to see had brought him only the sensations of happiness and contentment. When the story of his amazing experience was given to the public early in 1935, London newspaper reporters interviewed him for more details. And here, collected from the accounts published at the time, is the story of a man who pierced the veil between life and death and came back:
“I do not wish to appear ungrateful to Dr. Mills, but I wish he had not brought me back. I was very happy over there. No one would fear death if they knew what I know. Once I was afraid, but having tasted death I am afraid no longer.
“I suddenly found myself in a room, much bigger that any room I have ever seen. It must have been night, for the room was lighted very clearly. This light was brighter than electrical light, yet somehow very comforting. Where the light came from I do not know, for I did not notice any lamps.
“In fact, I did not notice any of the surroundings, because I was so interested in the people in the room. There were a lot of them. And they were all grown-up men and women. They wore clothes like you and I and looked like ordinary people. All their faces looked fresh. They were like the faces of very healthy people who are out of the doors most of the time.
“I felt awkward. I wondered what to do. But that soon passed off, because the people looked so friendly. They smiled at me. Everybody there looked so happy. I saw my wife. She died, as people say, more than a year ago, but I saw her there clearly and she looked very happy.
“I saw other people I used to know. There was one man who used to be the postman. He died five years ago. And there was another who passed away seven years ago. When I looked at him he knew who I was. He smiled and nodded. Then somehow the light in the room began to change. It was as though daylight was coming. I don’t remember any more.”
And so John Puckering returned to the life we now know with the memory of his experience to sustain him in the twilight years to come. A landmark by day and a star at night, he now knew that for him the valley of death was but a road that led to home.
VEHICLES OF THE SPIRIT
The experience of John Puckering is not unique; there are many similar cases on record. And these glimpses of a life beyond the grave are a part of the phenomenon of bilocation, as it is called in theology, or astral projection, as it is termed by psychic students. The consciousness of man can be separated from his physical body for brief periods during physical life, and death is but a permanent projection.
In analyzing hundreds of reports of projection experiences, however, we find only a small number  — about five percent — include apparent penetrations to the realm where dwell the so-called dead. The average projector, in making either an experimental or spontaneous projection, remains here on the physical plane, although, as a rule, he is invisible to other persons and cannot affect physical matter. He is in a borderland state known as the “plane of forces,” and he finds himself very much alone. Although earthbound entities are occasionally observed, especially in large cities, the average projector seldom meets one.
Between the physical world and the astral plane there exists a veil, or “etheric web,” which manifests as a soft, penetrating light or glow filtering through the atmosphere and all physical objects. It becomes brighter as darkness increases, and in the early morning hours, when most projections occur and the vitality of life reaches its lowest ebb, it often resembles a gray fog.
It is beyond this astral light or veil, in states of increased vibration and time-space curvatures, that the innumerable planes of the astral world exist in the atmosphere of our planet. The veil acts as a barrier for the average projector. And while it is true that the planes apparently merge into one another, it is also true that the demarcations between them are definite.
How is it possible, then, for a projector of consciousness to occasionally penetrate this veil and make a brief visit to the planes beyond?
The belief that man has a number of subtle of spiritual bodies — vehicles for his spirit and consciousness that are progressively greater in vibratory refinement — is part of the age-old esoteric doctrine that underlies the worlds great mystery schools. The number is usually given as seven. Moreover, studies of projection experiences provide quite a bit of evidence to support this View. The entire question of man and his bodies, or “doubles,” is a puzzling one, but there are a number of reports on record in which projectors found their consciousness separated not only from their physical bodies, but from second, more subtle, bodies as well.
There is practically no evidence that a projected consciousness can penetrate the veil simply by an act of will. But, on the other hand, there is evidence that the veil can be penetrated by projecting the consciousness into a more subtle body than the vehicle used in the usual projection. The astral world is a realm of various mediums or affinities, and is simply a matter of entering a medium in a vehicle that coincides with the vibratory medium.
For example, Yram, the French student of projection in his book Practical Astral Projection, tells of being able to achieve a series of projections from a series of bodies, these vehicles being left behind him as he passed from plane to plane.
Mrs. Marjorie Livingston, writing in Light, the English psychic magazine, some years ago, tells of visiting the higher astral planes with a guide. In order to enter a large temple on one of these spiritual planes, she had to pass out of the vehicle her consciousness was using into a more subtle one. Later when she emerged from the temple, this first vehicle was lying on the steps at the temple entrance in apparent sleep. As her guide awakened it, she suddenly became conscious in it. “Here is an instance,” she wrote, “in which, during the space of a few minutes, I had been active in three layers of consciousness, each with their corresponding forms, and each form a representation of myself easily recognizable as a personality.”
As to the nature of the higher vehicles, very little is definitely known, Dr. Hector Durville, once president of the Magnetic Society of France, in his book Le Fantome des Vivants, tells of an astonishing experimental separation of the spiritual vehicles that is almost incredible. If the phenomenon actually occurred as pictured, and the doctor was not unconsciously deceived, it was the most amazing experiment in psychic history.
According to Dr. Durville's account, he placed the best hypnotic subject into the deepest state of trance possible, then commanded her various bodies to separate, one from the other, where they were observed by a clairvoyant. The first body was, of course, the physical; the second was a more subtle duplicate of the physical; the third resembled the physical, but was smaller and surrounded by an oval radiation with two bars of similar radiation over the head; the  fourth vehicle appeared as a touch of leaping flame; the fifth vehicle looked like a vivid ball of white light radiating powerful streams or rays; the sixth had a base, curved like a boomerang and pointed at both ends, surrounded by a mass in the shape of a triangle; the seventh was a web of light, roughly circular in shape with irregular outlines, the bars of light radiating from a center and being interspersed by mist-like waves, and the entire appearance being surmounted by what seemed to be a leaping flame.
It seems impossible that this experiment could have been made without death resulting to the subject, and likewise difficult to believe that even the best of clairvoyants could register the higher vibrations of the more subtle bodies. Nevertheless, Dr. Durville's report is interesting, and future research may serve to confirm his observations.
THE PLANES BEYOND
A realm where thoughts become realities and where time and space become more and more relative, the astral world with its myriad planes, it's heavens and hells, it's relics of earths past and visible premonitions of tomorrow, is truly the giant “treasure house of images.” Between physical matter, which can be regarded as energy curved by time and space into a minimum of activity, and the other extreme of energy manifesting as maximum activity in it's pure ultimate essence, lie all the numberless planes or states and the vehicles that coincide with them. Each consciousness is limited by the plane on which it exists. And since we progress by experiencing and then casting off the attraction of lower states, it follows that each consciousness determines its own place in the evolutionary scale or ladder.
Man creates, with his mind and his desires, his Gehennas and his Paradises. The astral planes can be roughly divided into three groups. Just beyond the astral veil, close to the physical atmosphere of the earth, are the sub-planes of Gehenna. Here entities are bound by their base desires, and they are punished, not for their sins or material wishes, but by them. Here dwell the single-track minds directed towards the false, the passing, the evil factors in life.
The miser has his thought created gold, which he cannot spend; the drunkard, the dope addict, has his substances which fail to lead him from stem reality into foggy, dreamy pleasure. And the murderer, his conscience freed from his physical cloak at last, is haunted by the thought-formed phantoms of his victims.
They all suffer the fate of Tantalus. Their desires are burned out, purged in the flames of mental creation without recreation. Disgust finally sets in; the current of desire changes and they ultimately progress to a higher plane with few exceptions. The average person will never know this realm.
The medium planes are devoted to the working out of desires and ambitions that are neither spiritual nor base. During our present lives we are consciously or unconsciously working up stresses or goals of this type. There are the poems we always wanted to write, the music we always wanted to compose. On these planes we will satisfy these desires, work off these stresses. The artist will paint his masterpiece; the mechanic will design his machine. As Kipling put it: “No one shall work for money, and no one will work for fame; but each for the joy of working.” Here, too, on one of the planes is the heavenly Oasis, Valhalla, the Happy Hunting Ground of the Indian, all in different regions.
The highest planes are the spiritual planes. No descriptions can be given. Regarding this “third heaven” St. Paul wrote that it is not lawful” (possible) to explain its nature. Here, in a light so intense as to be beyond any comparison, the soul enjoys the freedom of roaming outer space.
In general, it may be said that the closer a plane exists to the physical world, the more it resembles this world that we know. In fact, on some of the lower planes, the great cities of the world are duplicated, although they are larger than their originals and include buildings and other features that have passed away on the mundane level. Consisting of farms, villages and cities, fields, forests and lakes, much of the astral world is similar to the physical existence, but with activity at a more intense pace and the problems of our sensate, mercantile culture absent.
Illustrative of these beliefs are the following experiences. It should be pointed out, however, that the very nature of the astral planes causes individual reports to vary to some extent. Moreover, the projected consciousness is always in danger of passing into a dream state in which imaginary events are regarded as actual experiences, although the difference between the two is quite definite to the student of projection. Selected from a large number of reports on file, however, the writer regards the following examples as authentic penetrations through the etheric veil to the planes beyond.
Our first case has been reported by Maurice A. Craven, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Mr. Craven felt himself leave his body rising upward as if in an elevator, and under the control of an unknown intelligence. Then a merging of views, a shifting of scenes. He suddenly found himself on a boulevard lined with trees and beautiful homes made of a material resembling white marble. He was taken to a lovely garden where he met his deceased grandparents. A long conversation followed. He also met two aunts and an uncle who had passed on from the physical world.
Later he continued walking down the boulevard, passing many happy persons. He wrote: “One curious thing was a house under construction. I knew it was being built in some mysterious manner, but I was told my memory would not retain the secret when I returned to earth again. This proved a fact.” Mr. Craven was also told that the air was vitalized for them, that they possessed everything they required, and that their work was a labor of love. “The memory of my journey will live with me till I am ready to go over into the Great Beyond.”
Our second case appeared in the New York Magazine of Mysteries, a remarkable publication that was issued during the year 1901. It was written by a Mrs. A. Spaulding, who had her experience while mourning the death of a beloved aunt who had passed away six months before. Under the influence of an invisible intelligence (which may have been either a spirit guide or her super-conscious mind which controls the phenomenon of projection), Mrs. Spaulding felt herself pass from her physical body which she saw lying on the bed with the astral cord attached to its head, and rising upward finally came to a “seemingly gauze curtain” which parted revealing solid ground and beautiful scenery. She noticed, too, the peculiar light of the atmosphere, pearl-like and restful, but so clear the smallest object could be vividly observed.
Her aunt appeared, looking younger, and took her to a small cottage, where she noticed that her aunt had an arbor of her favorite roses. “Most of my desires have been gratified,” the aunt said, “and the ability to satisfy your desires is gained by kindness to others while on the earth plane. You have hands with which to do kind deeds; your lips can speak loving words. Make good use of your time and talents, that you may come to your final home rich with the harvest of your sowing.” The aunt also told her that they were actually at a half-way point between the earth plane and the realms where live the so called dead.
Later Mrs. Spaulding returned to earth, saw her body again on the bed, entered it, and instantly awakened. “This experience,” she wrote, “for me has been ever a beacon light. I know for myself that the other world is a counterpart of this, minus the shadows. I know that the mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, trees and flowers, are more real here than there, and best of all, our loved ones live to love and welcome us when we are called upon to change to a higher life.”
Our final example is offered by Donald Galbraith, head of a large glass manufacturing company in Ohio. He was projected while under an anesthetic during an operation. He walked out of the building, down the street, tried to speak to several friends who could not see him, and finally approached his church. He noticed that things seemed subdued, different. Noises came to his ears in altered tones; he felt a curious sense of isolation, a detachment from all material things and the rest of mankind. And then, suddenly, he slipped and fell to the ground.
He arose to find himself in a different world — trees, a river, purple hills in the distance. A pearly light  pulsated over the scene. Then he heard voices, and was greeted by a group of friends and relatives who had died. His daughter, who had passed as an infant fifteen years before, was now a young girl. They were not angels, winged radiant beings, but just human loved ones. In bewilderment, he went from one to the other, holding his daughters hand. Then his father told him it was time to return to earth. Again he seemed to fall and roll downward. He awakened with his doctor and his wife standing at his side.
Merging imperceptibly with this world we know, like clouds above the mountains and air above the sea, is the world to come. Mr. Craven's reference to a “secret” regarding the construction of a home he witnessed is a mystery the writer believes he can explain. All the objects in the astral world are visualized into existence by the creative ability of the minds of its inhabitants. It is a realm where wishes and desires attain objective fulfillment, where dreams come true, and where the mind truly creates its environment — be it a heaven of hell.
But it is also a world of rest and creative tasks, blessed by reunions with those who have gone before, crowned by achievements that complete our character — a destination that we are all traveling to ward and a goal we all shall know.
- YRAM [Marcel Louis Forhan]. Practical Astral Projection. London, New York: Rider & Co. Ltd., 1935. Print. <http://amzn.to/1n3Dapr>
- Durville, H. Le Fantôme des Vivants. Paris: Librairie du Magnétisme, 1909. Print.