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The Three Worlds

In this visible world of matter there are three invisible worlds of mind. It is these three mental worlds that determine the condition of the material world. They are real worlds in which men and women move, and though they are interlaced, there is no commingling and confusion. They are acutely defined, and men and women are continually passing and repassing from one to the other, though, until the highest of the three worlds is finally entered, this passing and repassing is not understood, and this lack of understanding gives rise to innumerable speculations which are supposed to be sources of enlightenment, whereas enlightenment consists, not in framing speculations about the universe, but in dying out of the two lower worlds and being reborn in the third and highest, which is preeminently the world of pure Light.

By what names shall I designate these three worlds? I might employ the old theological phraseology, and call them Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but as these words have become entirely associated with doctrines that are purely and exclusively speculative, they would stir up in the minds of my readers ideas having no relation to the self-existent realities to which refer; nevertheless, it is these three worlds with which I am dealing, for Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven are here on this earth, and men and women are living in them. I might also employ the terminology of the Hindoo Vyasa, and call them Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva; but these words would convey no clear meaning to the majority of Western minds. I will therefore call them Indifference, Passion, and Goodness, and my readers will then find it easier to realize that I am speaking of a world or worlds within, which, though invisible to the eye of sense, are determinant and causative, being the worlds from which all action and power and form proceed.

For the whole universe is mental, and clearly outlined states of mind are not separable from cosmic conditions.

The first and lowest world, that of Indifference, is a world of dense darkness; its inhabitants are blind, perceiving only by sensation, and even that is dull and lethargic. Course pleasures, and contact with tangible objects constitute the life of that sphere, and ignorance and indolence prevail. All the avenues of enlightenment are closed, and there is a blind groping after sensation and ease. There is deadness everywhere; the sufferings of others awaken neither indignation nor sympathy; passion is low and almost dead, not because of self-conquest, but because of lack of vigorous life. It is the dark, cold world of spiritual death.

The second world, that of Passion, is the one in which by far the greater number of mankind live. It is neither dark nor light, it is lurid. It is the sphere of burning lusts, of flaming hatreds, and consuming desires. The clashing and tearing of powerful loves and hates, likes and dislikes, repulsions and attractions, is continually going on. There is no rest or peace anywhere, and all who live in this world undergo periodically the most acute bodily and mental sufferings. All are more or less blinded by the lurid flames and stifled by the noxious fumes. There is not, in this world, the dense darkness and blindness, but there is not clear light, and everything is seen in an exaggerated form, and not as it really is in itself. Here the soul learns by bitter experience, and gamers, as the harvest of passion, the barren sheaves of sorrow and pain. Strife, contention, and condemnation are rife. It is the fiery world of painful action and purgation.

Above and beyond these two worlds is the third, that of Goodness. This is the world of Light. It is the sphere of pure thoughts, of gentle speech, of mild and stainless deeds. Its inhabitants are of the nature of Love; chastened and enlightened; lifted above the darkness of Indifference and the confusing and distorting flames of Passion; and, living in the pure white Light of Goodness, they see things as they are. All wrong-doing and suffering are viewed, not with anger and indignation, but with compassion. No selfish strife can ever enter this supremely beautiful world; the darkness and flames of the underworlds cannot reach it, and from age to age its eternal splendor is not marred. Peace is forever there, and outside its gates there is no rest. Anyone can enter it, but one can only do so on condition that he leaves behind him every shred of sloth, every flaming garment of passion, for these things bind him to the underworlds. The third world, which is Heaven, can only be entered and known by entirely transcending the other two. Ignorance, sloth, hardness of heart, and the blind groping for sensation, must be renounced; and hatred, lust, anger, and avarice must be utterly abandoned.

Such are the three worlds of Indifference, "Passion, and Goodness. They are also worlds of Darkness, Fire, and Light; of Ignorance, Desire, and Enlightenment; of Hell, the Intermediate State, and Heaven. The lower world is the place of "the Second Death"; the middle world is the place "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"; and the upper world is the place where there is "no need of the sun, neither of the moon," for the Light of Truth I is there.

The dwellers in the lowest world neither understand their own world nor the other two, for darkness is without comprehension. The dwellers in the middle world partly understand the world below them, but neither understand their own world nor the one above them. The dwellers in the upper world understand both their own world and the two lower, for Light is not only self-illuminant, it can also penetrate the densest darkness.

The pathways leading from world to world are opened up, and man has but to aspire in order to find and walk them. Man's thoughts and acts determine his world, his allotted dwelling place. He who fashions his mind and life in accordance with Truth, rises into the world of Truth. He who purifies his heart of self and passion, comes to the Heavenly Abode. What a man loves to do decides whether he shall remain in hell or ascend into Heaven. The death of the body cannot alter conditions as they exist, but man can abandon one set of conditions for another; he can alter his heart and life.

Men clothe themselves in the pleasing and gorgeous garments of theologies, theories, and speculative metaphysics, and think they are arrayed in the garments of Truth. Truth is found only by right-doing. Man must fashion his heart anew. He can rise into Heaven only on the wings of holy thoughts and loving deeds.

Though a man have all the philosophy of Greece, the learning of Rome, and the hoary end voluminous metaphysics of the far East, it shall not avail him one jot if he continues to cling to self; and in so far as he loves and clings to passion, just so far will he be removed from Truth.

He who is a fiery partisan, who will not put away prejudice and anger, is already in the place of torment, and is his own tormentor. He will remain there so long as he loves those violent conditions which are the source of his torment; for the spirits in hell do actually love its stifling atmosphere, and, in spite of their maladies and sufferings and unrest, persuade themselves that they are happy, and imagine that they have peace. And this is so because the nature and quality of thought is not understood, and the source whence actions spring and the places whither they tend are not perceived by them. They are ignorant of their own condition.

He who is at peace with the world, who has put away prejudice and anger, is already in the Place of Bliss, has reached the Celestial Abode. He looks down into the hells from which he has risen, and understands their darkness and anguish. He knows because he has conquered; he understands because he has overcome; he is compassionate and loving because he has freed his heart from strife and hatred. He understands the quality and nature of thought, and perceives the source whence actions spring and the places whither they tend. He is enlightened as to his own condition.

He who prefers to remain in the region of hell will remain there; he who is ready to ascend into Heaven, let him ascend: the Way is open and the ascent is clear.

Speak the truth; do not yield to anger; give if thou art asked; by these three steps thou wilt become divine.
—Buddha

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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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