There are three major beliefs (with many variations) about what happens after death: one is that nothing happens, the other is reincarnation, and the third is that the non-material aspect of the human being continues to exist in a different reality. Surprisingly, it seems that there is scope for a synthesis even here. Each of these interpretations are to some extent right, but they are burdened by ideological baggage that makes them seemingly incompatible. In other words, they are all epistemically valid, although the degree of their ontological status may differ. To draw a parallel, when swimmers reach the other end of a swimming pool, one can stay there and do nothing, the other can swim back, and the third can get out. However, the first one will eventually have to either swim back or get out, and the second one will eventually have to get out.
Several conclusions related to this subject can be drawn from the previous arguments. First of all, if the soul is non-material, it does not return or go to another world after death - the soul has never left that other world. What happens is that it loses the connection with and the support of the body. The soul can still remain a discrete unit of energy in non-material reality because it has a centre (the self) and also its unique ‘shape' (the distribution of energy) that was re-formed during physical existence. This shape may be to some extent affected by the rings, but cannot be identified with them. It is more fluid and is sustained by an internal cohesive force, rather than structures acquired from the outside. The shape gives a character to the soul and does not disappear. The rings that are created through an interaction with the brain and the physical environment cannot be indefinitely sustained though, and slowly fade (the difficulty is not only to preserve their elements, but also their coherence). So, after death, constructs created during one's physical existence eventually disintegrate (which is to be expected, because they are not relevant any more). However, their effects, the imprints that they leave on a soul (the knowledge and experience content) are incorporated into its shape. In other words, the form is forgotten, but the essence remains. This may be compared to a computer disc that preserves a particular code, but not words and images. On the other hand, without the restrictions of the heavy brain, awareness has an opportunity to expand, and what happens after that is likely to depend on the stage of development achieved during material life. Several options are possible: the soul merges with a larger unit, reincarnates or, if the self is capable of keeping its energy together, remains aware and intentful in non-material reality. The following descriptions of these options are an interpretation that does not need to be taken onboard. What really matters is the notion that development can continue even after death.
A soul is sometimes still connected to a larger energy unit (physical separation during material life does not mean necessarily that individual souls are fully separated in the non-material domain). In this case, the soul again becomes a part of the larger whole, within which it may still maintain a limited individuality or it can merge fully.
If the body and bodily instincts were the main driving force during material existence the soul cannot, on its own, remain integrated after death (the first ring easily breaks when the soul loses the support of the senses and body to provide security and anchor it). Two reactions can be expected: panic, which leads to a rush attachment to any available new body or a (spontaneous or possibly assisted) enfolding of the soul, similar to a sleep without dreams, a state of rest and preservation until the next life begins. This means that the soul ceases to be aware of anything until a new life (which fits well with the materialists' view that nothing happens after death).
If the main force in life was social determination, the second ring can preserve the soul integrated for awhile. The experience is interpreted according to the cultural framework adopted during the lifetime. A person gives a recognisable shape to a new experience. Non-material energy takes familiar forms (relatives, angels, religious figures). These constructs can persist for a while on the basis of inner ‘monologue' or for even longer if a collective framework is created and supported by mutual interactions among participating souls. Nevertheless, those constructs do not have the same solidity and durability as in physical life (they create a state similar to a dream). Without the support of the brain and material world, sooner or later they also fade off. The second ring starts falling apart. The length of this process depends on how much the soul is attached to socially conditioned elements and whether they are reinforced by other souls. When this ring eventually disintegrates, awareness expands, but the soul that heavily relied on such constructs is unlikely to be able to adapt to the new, so the same happens as in the above case (i.e. reincarnation). On the other hand, if the person managed to transcend shimself within the conventional stage (through shis actions, for example), it may weaken the attachment and make possible to remain in non-material realm.
If during physical life a person was predominantly on the third (ego) stage of development, shis soul is likely to be fully separated. An individual can temporarily create shis own environment, so personal expectations are fulfilled. The soul of a convinced materialist, for instance, can spontaneously enfold leading to ‘hibernation' and supporting the belief that nothing happens after death. More commonly, the soul can create the world of shis desires. Such an ego-created ‘world' can be shared and supported by other souls that have similar affinities. However, this ego shell can consume much energy and be limiting. Furthermore, being transfixed with these identifications can become a trap. As long as the self is identified with ego, awareness is restricted (like awareness in a dream that is narrower than when awake). This is similar (although more intense) to being so involved in a computer game, fantasy or dream that one forgets the real world outside. The third stage, however, is notoriously unstable, so sooner or later the third ring also starts to break down. As in the previous instance, a soul at this point does not need to reincarnate any more if it is capable of opening enough and accepting the new, but this is far from easy. When reality is faced, the experience is still susceptible to personal interpretations and can look like Heaven or Hell. Heaven and Hell are in fact the same (an analogy can be drawn with, for example, London, that can be Heaven for one individual and Hell for another). It all depends to what extent the shape of the soul fits the new environment. Moral sense and an ability to give up personal importance play a significant role. For instance, people who, during their material existence, used physical strength or money to control others may feel lost because there are no bodies or money any more. In short, unless the person is able to transcend, reincarnation is again the most likely outcome.
If the fourth stage of development was dominant (at least in one dimension) the self is likely to be able to preserve and control energy with expanded awareness. This is not to say that it is easy to maintain the soul coherent (as a separate unit) without the support of the rings, but transcendent stage is a good preparation in this respect. The fourth ring does not even need to contain elements about the non-material aspect of reality if a sufficient degree of non-attachment (to the constructs of the world and one's own ego) is involved. Thus, reincarnation is not needed any more, although it is traditionally believed that some souls may return to assist the collective development.