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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Shell(s)

The non-physical remains of human beings after the death of the physical body.

In theosophical teachings on the after-death process, the seven human principles undergo separation in several stages. The first is at the moment of death when the physical body, together with the LINGA-ŚARĪRA (ETHERIC DOUBLE) and PRĀNA, separates from the other inner principles. After a period, the principles undergo a “second death” during which the desire-body (kāma) and the grosser mental body (r™pa manas) separate from the higher principles (štma-Buddhi-Manas).

This separated k€ma-manas entity is called a “shell” because it no longer has a spiritual entity connected with it. Such shells, however, are still endowed with the memory of the individual who just passed away. They may be drawn to spiritualistic seances, during which the medium may be able to convey information that is known to the shell. Those who attend seances are then often convinced that the medium has contacted the “dead” when in fact the medium is merely communing with the leftover shell of the deceased. The Mahatma Letters speak of these shells as having no “perceptive faculties.”

The shells are animated by ELEMENTALS, which accounts for their apparent life. Helena P. BLAVATSKY wrote that “elementals enter into all of them, and thus get a fictitious personality and intelligence wholly the property of the shell. They galvanize the shell into action, and by its means can see and hear as if beings themselves, like us. The shells are, in this case, just like a sleep-walking human body. They will through habit exhibit the advancement they got while in the flesh” (CW IX:108).

The shells float in the atmosphere for a shorter or longer period according to the its qualities. Shells of intensely selfish persons may persist longer than the average shells. For those who practiced sorcery, the shells may actively try to perpetuate their life through artificial means. “The shell will cling so tenaciously to its semblance of life that it will seek refuge in a new organism in any beast — in a dog, a hyæna, a bird when no human organism is close at hand — rather than submit to annihilation” (ML, p. 331).

Shells differ from Elementaries, also called “shades” or earth-bound souls. The latter are souls of people who died prematurely, as in suicide, murder or accident. The k€ma-manas is still a living entity for it is still connected with the higher principles, the štma-Buddhi-Manas, until the hour of normal death comes, during which the deceased goes into a state of unconsciousness and the normal after-death processes ensue, including the leaving of the shell.

Shells are called bh™tas in India and qelippoth in Kabbalistic literature.

See DEATH AND AFTER-DEATH STATES; SPIRITUALISM AND THEOSOPHY.

V.H.C.

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