The response I gave my friend, as quoted on NonDuality and the Divine, brought some further questions. In section 2 I said “Subtle beings are literal thought-forms that are entirely pliable to intention.” He wanted to clarify this. My response, edited for this context.
When it’s not the experience, I fully understand how the idea of subtle beings can seem imaginary and illusory. In a sense, subtle beings are made of the stuff of dreams but they exist distinct from personal dreams and can be known in waking state.
In the cosmic sense, they are thought-forms in the cosmic mind. From that perspective, they are our (the one of us) thought forms.
But in the local sense, what I mean is that they are indeed autonomous entities with “thought bodies”. This means several things.
1 – They can appear to us as they choose to appear. This relates strongly to #2, our expectations.
2 – our expectations of their appearance will colour how they appear. Angels with wings, for example. I call this personalization.
3 – If neither party is creating appearances (form), they will be perceived something like clouds of light with a focal point whose shade expresses their feelings. Pink – joy, gold – peaceful clarity, red – fire, etc.
It is certainly common for first experiences of this stuff to be lower astral which is of variable or questionable value. Beings on that level can be attached to or associated with a prior appearance and thus always appear this way. It’s also common for people to find this something of an escape from the world and engage it too much or for the wrong reasons. We’re in the physical to have a physical experience and grow through that. So Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s advice to be highly circumspect of this stuff was good.
We can’t safely assume beings are benign in the slightest. There are quite nasty beings and there are beings who are more than happy to manipulate, etc. The second are quite common with some channellers and in new age communities these days. The key with this is the feeling values. If we are clear enough of our emotional baggage, the feeling value becomes clear and we can discern the quality of the being immediately. If we can’t tell, we should be highly circumspect.
Also, if we go higher, into the celestial, we can avoid all the baggage of lower levels.
For myself, some of the higher beings have had key roles in my growth. But I’ve been more circumspect about the whole thing, having stumbled a little early on. And I’ve had the fortune of having good human teachers. Not everyone does. The question comes down to results. Are they caught in a dream-like place of pleasant experiences or ego-boosting “gifts”? Or are they making real spiritual progress (with challenges) and getting results?
On the Yoga Sutra, the verse is 3:51
There is no cause for attachment or pride upon invitation from those who are well-established (celestial beings), because the undesirable may occur again.
This comes right after:
Solely from the perception of the distinction between buddhi (sattva) and purusha comes all-knowingness and supremacy over all that exists.
Through non-attachment to even that – when the source of imbalance is collapsed – there is a singularity, kaivalya (liberation, enlightenment).
In this context what it means is that when perception of celestial beings arises, we have to be careful not to become attached to that or be proud of that or we can become trapped again rather than liberated. Just like the ego is not the barrier, it’s our attachment to the ego that binds us – so too the attachment to any quality of experience or strata of creation is a barrier. Attachment is what binds us, even to our own stage of development. Our enlightenment itself must be shed to reach the next stage.