Do We Leave the Physical World Once, Or Many Times?


How would Yogananda view the claim that the Swedish mystic Swedenborg (1688-1772) made that we leave the physical world once but then we go through several lives in the spiritual world? And do we live several lives in the spiritual world after our life in the physical world has ended?

—AO, World


Dear AO,

Yogananda would in a small part agree, in a large part disagree. He would tell Swedenborg that we leave the physical world countless times, always returning to it, lifetime after lifetime. The power that pulls us back again and again to this physical plane is desire. You read in the Autobiography of a Yogi: “The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man’s slavery.”

Only when all physical karma is dissolved, when all physical lessons are learned, and when all physical desires are overcome, then Swedenborg is right: we will leave the physical world for good. We then live many lives in the astral (energy) world. At that point our soul-journey occurs between the astral and the still higher causal (thought) world. In that stage, what holds us down to the astral realms are our astral desires. We read in the same book: “Astral desires center around enjoyment in terms of vibration. Astral beings enjoy the ethereal music of the spheres and are entranced by the sight of all creation as exhaustless expressions of changing light. The astral beings also smell, taste, and touch light.”

Finally, when we have overcome all our astral desires, we are bound only by our causal desires, which bind us to the causal world. Again you read the Autobiography of a Yogi: “Causal desires are fulfilled by perception only. The nearly-free beings who are encased only in the causal body see the whole universe as realizations of the dream-ideas of God; they can materialize anything and everything in sheer thought.”

Here, then, is the essential teaching: “So long as the soul of man is encased in one, two, or three body-containers, sealed tightly with the corks of ignorance and desires, he cannot merge with the sea of Spirit.”

When all our desires are dissolved, then our soul “emerges, free at last; it is one with the Measureless Amplitude.” This means that finally our soul, like a wave, unites with the Ocean of Spirit. It experiences unending and ever-new bliss. It is finally back home. Nothing else will satisfy us for very long.

All the best,