Introducing the Etheric Body
The Etheric Body – Different Approaches
The etheric body, ether-body, or æther body, is the name given by neo-Theosophy to the subtle body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the human energy field or aura.
The etheric body is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body and to sustain it and connect it with “higher” bodies. It is also said to consist of a finer substance, more pure and composed of smaller particles, than the ordinary matter of the physical plane.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy , often referred to the etheric body (Ätherleib or “Life Body”) in association with the etheric formative forces and the evolution of man and the cosmos. According to him, it can be perceived by a person gifted with clairvoyance as being of “peach-blossom color“.
According to Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian writings, the etheric body, composed of four ethers, is called the “Vital Body” since the ether is the way of ingress for vital force from the Sun and the field of agencies in nature which promote such vital activities as assimilation, growth, and propagation.
It is an exact counterpart of our physical body, molecule for molecule, and organ for organ, but it is of the opposite polarity. It is slightly larger, extending about one and one-half inches beyond the periphery of the physical body.
Doctrine of the Three Bodies
According to Śarīra Traya, the Doctrine of the Three Bodies in Hinduism, the human being is composed of three Śarīras or “bodies” emanating from Brahman by avidya, “ignorance” or “nescience”. They are often equated with the five koshas (sheaths), which cover the atman (Self or self-existent essence of individuals).
The three vital bodies are: the Physical (Gross) body, Astral (Subtle) body, and Causal body.
The Physical Body, Gross or Sthula Śarīra, is the mortal, material body that acts – eats food for sustenance, breathes and moves. It is composed of five primordial subtle elements which have undergone panchikarana or the Vedantic process of how subtle matter can transform into gross matter. The 5 constituent elements are: Ether, Air, Water, Fire and Earth. In this physical state, the body comes into contact with the external world. So, the ‘Sthula Sarira’ is called anatman as it is corporal or non-spiritual.
The Astral/Subtle Body or Suksma Śarīra, is not a physical or material thing but it is made up of subtle elements that the eyes cannot see.
The astral body is composed of prana, i.e the vital force of life that keeps the physical body alive and directs its activities. The mind is full of emotions and thoughts that affect the movement of prana in our bodies.
The astral body relates to the senses and the way we feel or act. This body consists of five perceptive organs, five organs of action, five vital breaths, the mind, and the intellect.
It is responsible for functions like breathing, digestion, metabolism, circulation, muscular, neural, skeletal, etc.
The Causal body or Karana Śarīra is a combination of the physical and astral bodies. It records our past thoughts, habits and actions in all its state of existence and carries the spirit of the person from one life to another upon reincarnation. It it is the foundation of the physical and astral body and connects you to your true self.
Helena Blavatsky, a Russian author who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, wrote that the physical body “can be regarded as merely a denser aspect of the Linga-Śarīra, for the Body and the Linga-Śarīra are both on the same plane, and the Linga-Śarīra is molecular in its constitution, like the Body”.
Later theosophical teachings call this the ‘etheric double‘.
Our physical body is composed of what they call dense or coarse matter; but the organization and vitality of this body depends on other bodies made of finer kinds of matter that are mostly undetectable with our coarse senses.
The densest of these other bodies is the so-called etheric body or etheric double: a body made of finer-grade matter than our dense physical body, but otherwise mirroring it closely in form and occupying the same space.
It is slightly larger than our dense body, generally having its outer border about a centimeter beyond our skin. It has the function of connecting our dense body to our higher-order bodies, and channeling vital energy or prana into our body, which is what keeps us alive.
The etheric body is organized around the chakras, seven energy centers that receive and redirect prana from the outside world. It enters at the 3rd chakra, the spleen center, which then sends it on to the others via particular channels.
Each chakra has its own structure and functions. If we activate and develop our chakras, we acquire new powers, notably the ability to relate consciously with the higher-order parts of ourselves. Many occult and magical phenomena are accounted for by the activities of the etheric and higher bodies.
Birth and Death
The linga-śarīra is formed prior to the birth of the physical body.
Up to the age of seven, the linga-śarīra determines the shape and condition of the physical body. After seven, it is the body that molds the linga-śarīra.
Real death of the physical body happens only when the linga-śarīra is permanently separated from the body. When it is not, even when the body shows no vital signs such as pulse or breath, it is still possible that the body will still revive. This is the case in so-called near-death experiences of people who have revived after going through a period of clinical death.
So long as the magnetic cord (also called “silver cord”) remains connected between the Linga-Śarīra and the physical body, the person is not yet really dead, even if there are signs of initial decomposition.
After death, the linga-śarīra dies or fades out with the disappearance of the last atom of the psychical body. Prior to such disintegration, it can sometimes be visible as wraiths or ghosts.
In the case of an average person, the double will stay for a while but will have disappeared before the next incarnation. But in the case of highly material or sensual individuals, the double may remain for centuries and still be existing during the next incarnation of the Ego. This double will be drawn or attracted to the newly incarnated Ego, and affect him or her (ibid., p. 713). This is the phenomenon known as the Dweller of the Threshold written about by Bulwer-Lytton in Zanoni.
According to Helena Blavatsky, there is a Laya Centre between the physical plane proper and the one of the Linga Sarira (the astral) above it, and therefore distinctly different sets of senses operate on the planes on either side of the Laya Centres.
The physical is cognisable by physical senses but the plane of the Linga Sarira (the Astral in the Blavatsky system) is not; the latter requires astral senses, i.e. those of clairvoyance and clairaudience.
In the Annie Besant system, however, the Etheric Body or Double being ‘etheric’ physical, but on the physical plane, would not be separated from the dense physical by a Laya Centre: physical senses would therefore apply to both the gross physical and the etheric physical.
The existence of the linga-śarīra has been known since time immemorial, whether in the east or west. Socrates, in Plato’s Georgias (Part 9), spoke of this double when he stated that the dead soul will retain the whip marks, height or deformities of the dead physical body.
In the successive incarnations of the individual, new linga-śarīras are being formed, and hence it cannot be said that there is one permanent linga-śarīra seed through successive lives.
The reincarnation researches of Dr. Ian Stevenson have shown that those who died by violence and who were quickly reborn retain identifiable birthmarks in the new body which were present in the previous body. Thus, for example, a man who lost all his fingers in an accident was reborn as a baby with congenital absence of those fingers in the same hand (Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect, 1997).
It indicates that the linga-śarīra retained from the previous body (since the previous death was evidently premature and the double is not yet due for disintegration) has molded the form of the new physical body. The double is of physical substance, though much subtler.
In the phenomenon called telekinesis, a person is able to use the Linga–Śarīra’s properties to move an object without touching it.
Just left of the crown chakra there is a channel that extends into the prefrontal lobes and minds eye. As you open the channel you also begin to awaken the etheric mind chakra just above the head to the right side of the head.
Thoughts can be sent in this channel and sending through the pre frontal lobes out into the etheric plane. Around all physical matter we find etheric matter. Which would indicate that telepathy much like telekinesis is in fact etheric in nature.
While food is essential for us to live, prana is even more essential. Its source, for us anyway, is the sun.
According to Theosophical teachings, the linga-śarīra (also called doppelgänger), is the necessary intermediate body between prāna and the physical body. Without it, prāna would not be able to animate the body.
It is also the underlying matrix that determines the shape and condition of the physical body. Whatever its shape is, the body will conform accordingly.
The germ or life-essence of the linga-śarīra is said to be in the real spleen (within the physical spleen), which acts as the center of the prāna in the body.
The flow of prana throughout the etheric body is facilitated by fine bioplasmic meridians the workings of which are much like the workings of the blood vessels in the physical body. Yogic terminology refers to these channels or meridians as ‘nadis’.
These nadis are further classified into major and minor nadis. Just like we possess blood vessels and capillaries of varied importance and function in our tangible body, there is order in our etheric body as well. Prana (chi) thus provides nourishment to and invigorates the physical body in its totality through the effective functioning of the channels in the etheric body.
The etheric body and the physical body share an intimate bond of interdependence and what affects one, affects the other.
Master Choa Kok Sui, after several years of detailed study, research and analysis, provided his students with much information about the nature and functioning of spiritual energy and the etheric body. This process of inter-related functioning works in accordance with the Law of Correspondence.
Just as sickness in the etheric body is a precursor to sickness in the physical body, healing the etheric body heals the ailments in the physical body. The etheric body is thus a tetra-dimensional energy entity that serves as an integral counterpart of the physical body.
The Etheric Double – A. E. Powell
The Etheric Double was first published in 1925 as one of a series by the same author dealing with the inner structure of Man.
This book has been compiled with the object of presenting to the student of Occultism a coherent synthesis of all, or nearly all, (as at 1925) of the information regarding the Etheric Double and closely allied phenomena, which has been given to the world through the medium of modern Theosophical and psychical research and literature.
The Etheric Body – According to the teachings of Alice Bailey
Alice Bailey’s teachings offer a wealth of information on the etheric body.
Alice Bailey is often viewed as a prolific writer, mystic the founder of an international esoteric movement. She wrote extensively about what she termed, ‘the etheric body’ as the mould of the physical body. Another way to put it is that on which the dense physical form is built.
Imagine what lies beneath what you may see. Consider these six key points:
1) Everything in the universe is energy. This etheric level can be subtle and invisible, yet controls, governs and conditions all things in the manifested physical world.
2) This etheric body creates, changes and qualifies what you perceive. This etheric is subject to ceaseless change. This being true of the Macrocosm, human beings, the microcosm. It can mysteriously prove true of all the subhuman kingdoms in nature. Of this, the animal kingdom and the vegetable kingdom are already widely perceived.
3) The etheric body is composed of interlocking and circulating lines of force. They emanate from one or other, or from one or many, of the seven planes or areas of consciousness of our planetary life. Some human beings evolve to view this as a grid.
4) This energy system has seven focal points within the etheric body. These centres are related to certain types of incoming energy. When the energy reaching the etheric body is not related to a particular centre, then that centre remains unawakened. When it is related and the centre is sensitive to impact, then that centre becomes vibrant, receptive and develops as a controlling factor in the life of the man on the physical plane.
5) The physical body is perceived based on how you discern your energies. Your dense physical body, composed of atoms (each with its own life, light and activity) is held together by and expresses energies which compose the etheric.
6) The etheric body has many centres of force, responsive to the inflowing energies of our planetary Life, but we shall consider only the seven major centres which respond to the inflowing energies of the seven rays. All lesser centres are conditioned by the seven major centres. Knowledge of the ego and of the personality rays is useful.
Strengthening and refinement of the etheric body allows the individual to become more discriminating in what energies and impressions, including telepathic impressions, reach the dense physical vehicle: “the etheric body of a disciple or even of an advanced person can be so handled and dealt with that it can reject much that might otherwise impinge upon it, pass through it or use it as a channel.
Of most immediate concern to us is understanding the critical role of the etheric body in establishing and maintaining life on the physical plane: how the dense physical vehicle is built around the structure of the etheric body during gestation and childhood, how the etheric body vitalises the endocrine and nervous systems and the circulation of the blood, and how it strives to maintain health and function during physical embodiment.
Those tasks are obstructed by poor living conditions, inadequate diet, and disease; they are aided by healthful lifestyles and, when needed, by conventional and complementary healing therapies.
When the lifetime comes to an end the etheric body withdraws from the dense physical form. In due course it too is abandoned, as the lessons learned at the physical, astral, and lower mental levels are absorbed into their respective permanent atoms.
The physical permanent atom absorbs the record of the etheric body and also any record of dense physical life that is to be preserved. Of less immediate concern, but of no less importance to an appreciation of individual and collective human potential, is understanding the way in which the etheric body establishes and eventually awakens the chakras, and how it — and in turn the physical body.
Giancarlo works as a Hypnotherapist, Past Life & Regression Therapist and a Reiki Master Teacher in London, and via Zoom, Skype or telephone.