The difficulty of describing the astral world is a complicated issue as it is not easy to correctly translate from the astral to the physical plane, the recollections of what has been seen by the seers during their sojourns into the astral plane in a state of transcendence or meditation. One of the most prominent characteristics of the astral plane is that it is full of continually changing shapes. One finds there not only thought-forms, composed of elemental essence and animated by a thought, but also vast masses of elemental essence from which continually shapes emerge and into which they again disappear. The elemental essence exists in hundreds of varieties on every sub-plane. Currents of thought are continually pounding through this astral matter, strong thoughts persisting as entities for a long time, weak ones clothing themselves in elemental essence and wavering out again.
Astral matter exists in seven orders of fineness, corresponding to the seven physical grades of solid, liquid, gaseous, etheric, super-etheric, atomic and sub-atomic. Each of these seven orders of matter is the basis of one of the seven levels, sub-divisions, or sub-planes of the astral plane. It has become customary to speak of these seven levels as being ranged one above the other, the densest at the bottom and the finest at the top. The matter of each sub-plane interpenetrates that of the sub-plane below it. The higher astral sub-planes extend further away from the physical earth than the lower sub-planes.
A very fair analogy of the relation between the astral sub-planes exists in the physical world. To a considerable extent liquids interpenetrate solids, e.g., water is found in soil, gases interpenetrate liquids (water usually contains considerable volume of air), and so on. Nevertheless it is true that the bulk of the liquid matter of the earth lies in seas, rivers etc., above the solid earth. Similarly, the bulk of gaseous matter rests above the surface of water, and reaches much further out into space than either solid or liquid. Similarly with astral matter, the densest aggregation of astral matter forms the lowest sub-plane followed by the next sub-plane of much finer matter and so on.
The seven sub-divisions fall naturally into three groups — (a) the seventh or the lowest, (b) the sixth, fifth and fourth and (c) the third, second and first. The distance between members of one group may be compared to that between two solids, eg steel and sand, the difference between the groups may be compared to that between a solid and a liquid. Sub-plane seven has the physical world as its background, though only a distorted and partial view of it is visible, since all that is light, good and beautiful seems invisible. Four thousand years ago the scribe Ani described it in an Egyptian papyrus thus - ‘what manner of a place is this unto which I have come? It hath no water, it hath no air; it is deep, unfathomable, it is black as the blackest night, and men wander helplessly about therein; in it a man may not live in quietness of the heart.’
For the unfortunate human being on that level it is indeed true that all the earth is full of darkness and cruel habitation, but it is darkness which radiates from within himself and causes his existence to be passed in a perpetual night of evil and horror, a very real hell, though, like all other hells, entirely of one’s own creation. Many find the investigation of this section an extremely unpleasant task, for there appears to be a sense of density and gross materiality about it which is indescribably loathsome to the liberated astral body, causing it the sense of pushing its way through some black, viscous fluid, while the inhabitants and the influences encountered there are also usually exceedingly undesirable. The ordinary decent man would probably have little to detain him on the seventh sub-plane, the only persons who would normally awake to consciousness on that sub-plane being those whose desires are gross and brutal - drunkards, sensualists, violent criminals and the like.
The article has been taken from the book Life Beyond Death by Anil Sharma