Spiritualism is the study of the spirit which is the vital force in any living being. Spirit is alternately called soul. Unlike the modern scientists who believe only in the physical world, all Hindu philosophers look beyond the physical world and believe in the invisible subtle world which exists before the birth and after the death. Much is discussed about this in all Hindu books. The complete journey of the soul to the higher worlds is discussed in 'Garuda Puranam'. Sage Vasista in his 'Yoga Vaasistam' lucidly explains the reasons behind the phenomena of birth and death. Sankaracharya who is believed to be the incarnation of God Siva has contributed several volumes on spiritualism. In modern times, the books written by Lobsang Rampa and Peter Richellu provide vivid description of this subject.

Reason behind birth:

In the beginning, there exists nothing except a form of energy which we call 'Supreme soul'. This energy at a higher consciousness has transformed some part of it into material which became the basis of the universe. So the universe is composed of not only the physical particles, but also the invisible energy. Now, to acquire different states of consciousness, the Supreme soul has evolved into different life forms which we call 'species'. These species are of 8,400,000 distinct types including trees, insects, birds, animals and human beings. The Supreme soul dwells as a fundamental spirit in all these different forms.

The fundamental spirit which is in the humans should acquire different experiences so that its level of consciousness increases and finally becomes the Supreme soul. This is the reason why the soul takes birth again and again. For example, when a soul is born as a rich person who enjoys life in such way he never bothered about the poor, the soul's experience became limited in that it could not understand the sufferings of the poor. So, the soul has to take birth again as a poor person to experience the other side. Like this, the soul takes on several births till it experiences every thing at the fullest level and achieves an unperturbed stable state. Finally, the soul experiences oneness in everything that exists. The soul at this state is called 'Divine soul'.

When the soul becomes a Divine soul, there is nothing to experience, so it goes into a cognitive state and is capable of helping and guiding the mankind. Sai baba of Shirdi, India is one such Divine soul.

Reason behind death:

The soul first selects its parents and surroundings depending on which type of experiences it wants to undergo. It also plans how much time to spend on the earth. Once it finds the right parents and right place, it enters the mother's womb and then starts forming the physical body. After taking birth, the soul tries to get all experiences as pre-planned and as a result its consciousness increases to the expected level. When the set time is completed, the soul liberates itself from the physical body. When the soul recedes from the body, the functioning of the body ceases. This is called 'death'.

The reason behind accidental deaths is also same. When the soul wants to experience the accident, it takes the birth and faces an accident and understands the trauma caused by the accident.

Life after death:

Like we cover our body with clothes, the soul also wraps itself in 2 different bodies. They are: physical body and astral body.

1. Physical body: The physical body is most dense and built out of cells, molecules and atoms. It needs food to survive. The physical body is surrounded by a magnetic field of 1 to 6 inches, called 'Ethereal body'. The ethereal body looks like a mesh of twinkling lines. It is responsible for dragging the cosmic energy into the physical body.

2. Astral body: The astral body is less dense and composed of thin astral particles which are in constant movement. This body lies inside the physical body and allows us the experience of emotions, desires and instincts. The astral body can take any shape, but it usually takes the form of its physical body.

At the time of death, the astral body comes out of the physical body and the connection between the astral body and the physical body no more exists. When the physical body dies, the ethereal body will exist for some time at the place of death and roams around in confusion. This is perceived as devil. After a few hours or days, the ethereal body becomes weak and submerges into the surroundings. What remains is only astral body.

The soul with its astral body now enters a different world where its experiences will depend on the actions done in the physical body. People who are very much bound to the human relations and material pleasures will enter a world where they create objects to their liking and enjoy with them. For example, a drunkard, after his death will go to a bar with his friends and drink all brands of liquor he likes. The bearers, friends and the liquor bottles are all mere creation of his astral soul.

The soul lives in the astral world for a few years doing whatever it wants. Then it has to take another birth to gain new experiences on the earth. This new birth depends on the previous actions. For example, a butcher's soul may prefer to take birth as a goat and go to slaughter house to experience the fear and agony of death.