The Subtle Body

Quantum Medicine
Health center I.R.

                                 Subtle body

 Related articles

Transpersonal Psychology

The Subtle Body 






Subtle body 

The idea of the subtle body goes back to Eastern traditions of invisible energy centre’s and pathways Wilhelm Reich M.D. the father of Orgonomy, the science of the functional laws of cosmic Orgone energy which comprises all natural phenomena from living things to the universe itself. Reich was Freudʼs most important pupil and engaged with this idea but not with the spirituality concept because he disliked the esoteric concept.

He  perceived any kind of mysticism as dissociation from a direct experience of vegetative sensation in the body.

Recently, there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of Kundalini and Subtle body.

Many modern experimental research seeks to establish links between practice and the ideas of Wilhelm Reich.

Meanwhile Jung took a great interest in Buddhism, Taoism and Sufism and suggested that the Eastern idea of the subtle body could be compared to his idea of the somatic unconscious.

He defines this as the unconscious as perceived in the body.

Man as a living being, said Jung, outwardly appears as a material body, which inwardly manifests itself as ‘a series of images of the vital activities taking place within it.

These are two sides of the same coin.’ (Jung: 173) Rather than working directly on the body, as Reich did, Jung chose to work with the symbols, knowing that they had a materiality of their own, and profoundly shifted the energy of the body.

Jung’s emphasis on the fruitfulness of work with imagery has influenced a whole spectrum of psychotherapies, including many streams of body psychotherapy. Of these psychotherapies, only a few work explicitly with the subtle body as an energetic phenomenon.

In some therapies the subtle body – or energy field - is explored directly through bodywork. In this chapter, however, I want to focus on one specific aspect of the use of the subtle body in psychotherapy and quantum physic.


What is the subtle body?

I am exploring a new model of consciousness, which is relevant not only to psychotherapy, but to healing, creativity and life in general.

The subtle body is a matrix, which actually exists; though it transcends our normal common sense understanding of reality, including ordinary parameters of space and time and sense perception.

I believe that it is not the experience of the subtle body itself which is problematic – it is well within everyone’s capacity to experience it in some way – but that as a concept it defies consensual material ‘scientific’ reality.

The subtle body is an energy field which has a structure, which influences and gives life to the physical body. This body has several interconnected layers,

      The Physical body, is the manifestation of our consciousness and fears sickness, aging and death

      The etheric body, the template of and interface with the physical body, where sensation is perceived;

      The astral/emotional body, which relates to the individual's emotional state;

      The mental body, which contains the thinking patterns;

      The Astral body.  is the bridge for unconditional love.

      The causal body, level of higher intuition.

      The soul.

According to the parapsychologist Donald Watson, ‘only when the finer (i.e. subtle) bodies are round the physical body and joined to it (in gear) is the physical body conscious (centered).

When they separate from the body (step out of the body), consciousness also withdraws.

This gives us a possible model for splitting: major distortions and divisions can literally occur on and between any level(s) - sensation, feeling, thinking, or intuition - creating a variety of kinds of mind-body split.

The relationship between the layers is understood as a 'step-down' process, going from the finest, lightest, highest vibration to the final slow density the physical body.

According to Schwartz-Salant, Jung makes a clear statement that `the subtle body refers to that part of the unconscious that becomes more and more identical with the functioning of the human body, growing darker and darker and ending in the utter darkness of matter’.

Another way of putting it is that our unconscious thoughts and feelings exist in the subtle body and the less access we have to them at the higher levels, the greater likelihood that they will be crystallised as physical structure and physical symptoms. In becoming denser, the patterns are pressing up against the limits of our conscious mind.

This somatising process is a step towards embodiment, and away from the more continuous dissections of the layers of the subtle body, and thus a move towards wholeness.

  There are seven major chakras which are the focal points (the point of intersection between planes) for drawing in and transmuting energy from the subtle bodies into a utilisable form. A chakra is a vortex, ‘a significant gathering of organised life-energy’, and a gateway between dimensions. Clare Harvey, a complementary therapist comments that ‘the chakras may be regarded as transformers, simultaneously receiving, assimilating and transmitting energy. They are capable of gathering and holding various types of energy, and can also alter their vibrations so this energy can be used for different purposes’.

 The chakra is a vortical energy form created by two streams of energy weaving together:

One of these, flowing in the spinal cord, is thrown out from the centre and flows towards the periphery in a widening spiral; this represents the motor stream. The second stream, impinging on the surface of the etheric body, spirals inward, narrowing as it goes; this is the receptive or sensory stream. These two spirals flow parallel to one another, but in opposite directions, and may be compared to interlocking screw threads, in that one may be said to run in the grooves of the other. They give an impression of spinning, like the fluid in the vortex of a whirlpool. (Payne and Bendit, quoted in Boadella, 1987, 210)

According to Payne and Bendit, it is important that these two streams are co-ordinated with one another. If the motor or outgoing field is weak, the person is vulnerable to psychic invasion, or shock. An individual with a depleted or unstable energy field is easily overwhelmed by another person’s psychic energy. 

  This model of the chakras can help us understand how we take in information about our clients (and vice versa), and process it as sensations, feelings, fantasies, images and ultimately as intervention and interpretation. The energy which is processed through a chakra is then distributed through the body or discharged from it. Perhaps information that we block out - because it threatens to overwhelm us in some way - can hang around in our subtle bodies, potentially accumulating to the point where we become exhausted or ill.

Jung actually developed the idea that the subtle body is the medium through which projections are transmitted, but - probably because it was considered a bit esoteric - this has not been taken up by Jungians or others until recently.

Jung considered Kundalini energy or MISTERY SINDROME (according with Le Fanu  Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine) an interaction of the subtle body along chakra energy centers and nadis channels. Western awareness of the idea of kundalini was strengthened by the Theosophical Society and the interest of Carl G.Jung ("Jung's seminar on kundalini yoga, presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932, has been widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought. Jung presented Kundalini yoga with a model for the development of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation".


 In The Plural Psyche, Andrew Samuels has explored the concept of countertransference in relation to the idea of a 'mundus imaginalis', an imaginal world, a third order of reality between subjective and objective. (1989: 143-74) This reflects the journey being made in some fields of psychotherapy  - in what Samuels calls ‘the countertransference revolution’ - from a largely objectifying attitude towards the client, to an approach which values ever more highly the subjective body, or somatic countertransference. (1993: 24) In this case the 'object' becomes the therapist's body sensations, feelings, images and fantasies, which, through appropriate processing can become information. This equation is: subjective + objective = awareness. Awareness suggests interest, reflection, and some degree of openness. If I have a sensation or feeling in my body which I am observing, I can neither be totally detached (because it's in me), nor totally merged (because I am looking at it).

  This understanding has a parallel in the conclusions of quantum physicists that an individual cannot observe an event/object without altering it. The observer is a participant. 

The therapist is always embroiled in the client's dynamic and needs to be in order to get an 'in-sight'.

By taking the position of therapist you are implicitly agreeing to subject yourself to the distorting effect of the client's particular energy field in order to understand it (this does not preclude the client's attempts to do the same for the therapist, nor the fact that therapists have plenty of 'distortions' of their own).

  In a chapter which surveys various definitions of and attitudes to countertransference, Andrew Samuel's makes an interesting division into 'reflective' and 'embodied' countertransference.

What he calls 'reflective' countertransference is evoked when the therapist, observing his/her own feelings, is aware that they somehow reflect the client's unconscious feelings. 'Embodied' countertransference, on the other hand, is when the therapist seems to be experiencing the client's unconscious objects - the therapist embodies ‘an entity, theme, or person of long-standing intrapsychic inner-world nature’ (1989: 151).

The first seems to have more to do with identification - the therapist becomes 'one' with the client on some level - and the second is a form of opposition - the therapist becomes 'two' with the client, taking on a role that goes beyond the immediate relationship between client and therapist.

  Samuel's discussion of countertransference draws on the ideas of the French philosopher, Henry Corbin. Corbin's 'mundus imaginalis' ‘refers to a precise order or level of reality, located somewhere between primary sense impressions and more developed cognition. [It has] a central mediating function’. (Samuels 1989: 162-3) Corbin refers to ‘the organ of visionary knowledge’. (164). In terms of psychotherapy, writes Samuels, ‘that organ is [the therapist’s] countertransference’.

This fits well with the emphasis on somatic resonance in body psychotherapy. Body psychotherapists learn to deliberately cultivate access to primary sense impressions, which form the basis of energetic perception.

The physical senses connect us to a primary process, they give us a touchstone for ‘making sense’, and they provide a channel through which we can be irnpressed upon/ affected by our clients. At the same time we want to hold onto and utilise effectively our 'more developed cognition'.

 'Imaginalis' refers to both image and ability to create forms in the mind. These words originate from the Latin, imitari, to imitate. We could then say that countertransference is a form of involuntary imitation, which, in order to be understood, has to be translated from one system to another; from an energetic vibration into a more concrete form such as a visual or sensory image, or some recognisable pattern or relationship.


Information can be transported between persons via any of the subtle body layers and at different levels of force and velocity, and these differences account for the varieties of experience and definition of countertransference.

The model of consciousness I am using is of two fields of vibrating energy which operate in ways best described in the language of physics or music. The fields have layers of different frequencies  - they may harmonise or be dissonant in different places across the spectrum.

Where two wave forms of similar frequency ‘lock into phase’ with each other, there is what might be described variously as sympathetic vibration, resonance, or rhythm entrainment. This has the effect of amplifying the pattern. In other words, when therapist and client are 'tuned in' and conscious/centred they are like to become more aware of a pattern. Schwartz-Salant comments that the subtle body ‘may be projected and imaginally perceived as operating between people. Furthermore the intermediate subtle body realm can be a conjoined body, made up of the individual subtle bodies of two people ’ (25)

This gives a new dimension to the term ‘merging’ which has been used in psychoanalytic literature to describe the client’s regression to a state characteristic of infancy.

 In projective identification, there is a more dramatic and violent energetic interaction: the client's subtle body may literally eject an idea/object/ feeling into the therapist's subtle body with considerable force. In this case, the amount of energy created by the bringing together of two parts is so great as to threaten to fragment the client's ego/body.

It is like a bomb about to go off which has to be hurled into a potentially stronger container. The therapist might with various degrees of success be able to contain the explosion, or they might be swept up in a self-preservative counter action which involves throwing back the bombshell.

 Schwartz-Salant emphasises that the active, imaginal experience of the subtle bodies coming together can create a powerful feeling of being pulled together in fusion, and then pulled apart towards separation. He argues that this is why work with the subtle body is healing for clients who have suffered critical failures around separation, allowing them to work through these splits.

Having explored the relevance of the subtle body for an understanding of countertransference, I want to look in more detail at the chakras. In all subtle body traditions, the chakras are seen as relating to specific psychological themes (grounding, sexuality, power etc), and physiological functions, for example each chakra is linked with a specific sense, gland, and nerve plexus. (Myss) In addition each chakra is associated with a particular type of psychic perceptual functioning.

The root chakra, for example, gives us information on sensation. We may become aware of a holding in a client's legs through feeling how our own legs are tensing, while it is through the solar plexus that strong emotion strikes us. The heart is associated with compassion and emotional balance. The sixth chakra or third eye is clairvoyant, giving us what may be experienced as a direct insight.

 It is the fifth chakra, the throat, that I want to explore in more depth here because it is of prime importance with regard to communication in the therapeutic setting. It is predominantly through this chakra that we process the information that is coming to us via any of the chakras or directly through the throat chakra into recognisable and communicable patterns.

The fifth chakra is the realm of consciousness that controls, creates, transmits and receives communications. These communications - or patterns of energy - are symbolised for storage and use in the brain, whether in the form of words or images.

The throat chakra's inner state relates to the synthesis of ideas into symbols, thus drawing limits and decreasing the level of abstraction.  (It is one thing to 'pick up' energy, it is quite another to be able to describe coherently what you have picked up) It includes the capacity to create meaning from information.

This is important - for it is in ascribing meaning that we move from merely 'vibrating with' to giving the information a context, and a more explicit relationship to the here and now interaction. Jung comments that the throat chakra is the place where we learn to own our projections. 

This underscores its relevance for therapy, where other traditions – such as healing, meditation, or yoga – might emphasise the importance of the heart chakra, or the third eye.

Sound (vibration) is the element of the fifth chakra, both expressive sound and articulate speech. When expressed in language, the information is released from the therapist's body and may find its home in a new way in the client.

Thoughts voiced with feeling – by client or therapist – create vegetative movements which cleanse and re-balance, the throat chakra is strongly associated with and activated through the hands.  

This connection supports my own experience that work with the hands  - for example, massage – can heighten the ability to synthesise information from many different levels,  creating powerful images that succinctly encapsulate the client’s energetic state.

The hands also act as intelligent reflectors, giving back the client his/her vibration combined with the vibration of the therapist’s perception and intention.




I have focussed on the fifth chakra because it plays a significant role in mediating between the conscious and unconscious, between self and other. Of course all chakras are equally important and work in concert. An open root chakra keeps us grounded and in touch with the matter-of-fact reality of individual bodies, two separate people.

The seventh chakra consciousness, on the other hand, is about non-separation, everything as connected. The heart chakra is the balance point , but it is through the throat chakra that understanding can be defined and focussed. ‘What is’ can be symbolised and therefore known.

The therapist’s ability to utilise their fifth chakra helps maintain a necessary level of separateness while remaining connected. It also challenges the notion that energetic perception is only conceivable in terms of the archaic, primitive, regressive or symbiotic.

Even with ideas as esoteric as the subtle body, it is possible to be rigorous as a therapist, both in terms of challenging as well as supporting the client, and in terms of appropriate reflection on one’s therapeutic work.

The therapist’s perceptions are always pushed through the mesh of their own consciousness, so that whatever blind spots, unresolved issues and points of tension are in their subtle bodies will affect the process.

Clients have an uncanny ability to use their  own subtle body perceptions to hook onto, penetrate or overwhelm parts or all of the therapist’s subtle body.

  Most therapies that work with the subtle body focus on the healing process in an individual, with the facilitation of another.  Psychotherapeutic work with the subtle body, however, explores the subtle body as it emerges in the relationship between client and therapist, as an aspect of transference and countertransference.

When the two subtle bodies are interacting, it is felt as ‘a change in the quality of space between them’, a more energised, heightened state.

(Schwartz-Salant, 21) [v] Such is the quality of the change in atmosphere, that a sense of peeling away layers of history can be evoked.

The Jungian Roger Woolger, for example, explicitly uses subtle body work to work with past lives and trauma.

My own experience is most often of the face of my client changing as though masks are being pulled off one by one to reveal older, deeper identities. The faces seem to present very powerful aspects of the individual that may have been repressed and distorted through fear.

They may embody fantasy figures such as a witch or a pirate. The therapist needs the capacity to tolerate these delicate states, precisely because they hold the unconscious feelings from which the client has split off.

The client’s intense anxiety is part of a process of embodiment, and the therapist’s task is to remain embodied as the heat is turned up.

Schwartz-Salant argues that ‘such subtle body encounters strengthen psychic structure and build a firmer mind-body unity, one which is less afflicted by splitting and projective identification’.

At key moments in this process it is as if the subtle bodies are linked in a dance: a dance between two subtle bodies which may be imaged as nurturing, grotesque, comical, erotic, barbaric, playful, sombre, scintillating…Love





A subtle body is one of a series of psycho-spiritual constituents of living beings. Each subtle body corresponds to a subtle plane of existence, in a hierarchy or great chain of being that culminates in the physical form.

It is known in different spiritual traditions; "the most sacred body" (wujud al-aqdas) and "supracelestial body" (jism asli haqiqi) in Sufism, "the diamond body" in Taoism and Vajrayana, "the light body" or "rainbow body" in Tibetan Buddhism, "the body of bliss" in Kriya Yoga, and "the immortal body" (soma athanaton) in Hermeticism. The various attributes of the subtle body are described in terms secret symbolism: Tantra features references to the sun and moon as well as various Indian rivers and deities, while Taoist alchemy speaks of cauldrons and cinnabar fields.

Sometimes the Spiritual Masters can see the subtle bodies as an aura or as a pictures in the astral body . The practice of astral projection, as described in various literature, is supposed to involve the separation of the subtle body from the physical. The theosophical movement was important in spreading such ideas throughout the West in the late 19th century. The existence of subtle bodies is confirmed by part of scientific community.

The Yogic, Tantric and other systems of India, the Buddhist psychology of Tibet, as well as Chinese (Taoist alchemy) and Japanese (Shingon) esoterism are examples of doctrines that describe a subtle physiology having a number of focal points (chakras, acupuncture points) connected by a series of channels (nadis, Acupuncture meridians) that convey life-force (prana, vayu, ch'i, ki, lung).

These invisible channels and points are understood to determine the characteristics of the visible physical form. By understanding and mastering the subtlest levels of reality one gains mastery over the physical realm. Through practice of various breathing and visualisation exercises one is able to manipulate and direct the flow of vital force, to achieve superhuman (e.g. in martial arts) or miraculous powers ("siddhis") and attain higher states of consciousness, immortality, or liberation.

The subtle body (Sukshma sarira or Sukshma sharira) in Vedantic philosophy is composed of five Kosas or "sheaths". The subtle body is the vehicle of consciousness with which one passes from life to life. The Liṅga Śarīra is the vehicle of consciousness in later Samkhya, Vedanta, and Yoga , and is propelled by past-life tendencies, or bhavas.  Linga can be translated as "characteristic mark" or "impermanence" and the term Sarira as "form" or "mold".  Karana or "instrument" is a synonymous term.

In the Classical Samkhya system of Isvarakrsna (ca. 4th century CE), the Lińga is the characteristic mark of the transmigrating entity. It consists of twenty-five tattvas from eternal consciousness down to the five organs of sense, five of activity (buddindriya or jñānendriya, and karmendriya respectively) and the five subtle elements that are the objects of sense (tanmatras)

The Samkhyakarika says:

"The subtle body (linga), previously arisen, unconfined, constant, inclusive of the great one (mahat) etc , through the subtle elements, not having enjoyment, transmigrates, (because of) being endowed with bhavas ("conditions" or "dispositions")

As a picture (does) not (exist) without a support, or as a shadow (does) not (exist) without a post and so forth; so too the instrument (linga or karana) does not exist without that which is specific (i.e. a subtle body)."

The idea was adopted by Vedanta and Yoga philosophy, and from there, in the 19th century, the terminology was adopted by the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky. Subtility-The State Of Being Subtile To Will

The spiritual teacher Meher Baba stated that the subtle body "is the vehicle of desires and vital forces," one of those forces being "energy."  He held that the subtle body is one of three bodies with which the soul must cease to identify in order to realize God: "At the end of the Path, however, the soul frees itself from all sanskaras and desires connected with the gross, subtle and mental worlds; and it becomes possible for it to free itself from the illusion of being finite, which came into existence owing to its identification with the gross, subtle and mental bodies. At this stage the soul completely transcends the phenomenal world and becomes Self-conscious and Self-realised."

Each "body" has its own aura and set of chakras, and corresponds to a particular plane of existence. 

The different layers/bodies

The Physical body, is the most tangible manifestation of our consciousness. Its function is to be here and now, to be conscious of what we do: walking when walking, eating when eating etc. We all know the fears of the physical body - sickness, aging and death.

The Etheric body, is a thin invisible layer, approx. 2 cm thick, around the physical body. This is where the energy is reflected when it flows through meridians and chakras. The etheric body or double acts as a template for the physical body and appears as an energy matrix. It is described in Chinese medicine as meridians that transmit chi (ki) through the body. Consciousness is expressed in terms of sensations like physical pleasure or pain.
Many of our dreams can be found in the etheric body. With the aid of mantras, symbols, essence etc. one can affect the function of this part of the aura. Connected to the Root chakra.

The Emotional body. The emotional body is egg shaped and contains the other 2. This body reflects the feelings and emotions we have. Emotions like happiness, hope, love, anger, sorrow, hate are all found here. The emotional body is also connected to our past which can cause problems. The body is laced with wishes and desires from the past and this can cause tensions. It is important to learn how to handle different emotions during a day, the risk is otherwise that they become suppressed and stored in the emotional body and can later be the cause of blockages and disturbances leading to medical problems. Connected to the Navel chakra.

The Mental body's function is to teach us self knowledge. The mental body as it's name implies reflects the conscious mind, logic, intellect and active thinking.
We shape our reality with our minds. Our mind is the constructor, the builder. It reflects our ability through which we develop our learning and personality. Mental heath or mental illness is reflected in this level. Connected to the Solar Plexus Chakra.

The Astral body.  Unconditional love. Connected to the Heart chakra. The astral aura is the bridge between the physical world and the spiritual realm.

The Causal body (Ketheric Template) is the last body. The energies in this body spins with a very high frequency. This is where the soul communicates with the conscious mind via the subconscious mind in the mental body. Consciousness is expressed in higher concepts of knowing or belief systems. This is where the initial creative impulse begins; not just linear knowing, but integrated knowing. Connected to the Crown chakra.

The Soul



The Physical Body   

The Physical Body provides an experience of complete separation, which is unavailable in any other body. This experience of separation clarifies personal character and the essence of individuality. The Physical Body also provides stability, a solid foundation for all the other bodies. The Physical Body also assists in the crystallization of consciousness - any lessons learned while in a Physical Body, any experiences processed through it, become clearly defined and permanent consciousness as result of the Physical Body's separative and stabilizing influence. This is why the Physical Body is so valuable in our growth process.

The five physical sensory organs giving perceptions of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell limited to solid, liquid, and gaseous matter - painful and not painful. The five physical organs of action: hands (grasping, etc.), feet (motion), digestive system (eating and excreting), throat (speaking), and genitals (sex and reproduction).
THE PHYSICAL BRAIN IS NOT A SOURCE OF EXPERIENCE as some current neuroscientists now mistakenly believe. While areas of the brain are associated with different consciousness functions, many neuroscientists do admit that they cannot locate emotions, mind, and soul in the brain. Nor can they fully explain the human psyche with neuroanatomy. THE PHYSICAL BRAIN IS A RELAY STATION, translating emotional, mental, and spiritual events and information into neuro-electrochemical events and information. NEUROCHEMICALS AND ASSOCIATED BRAIN PROCESSES ARE SIMPLY CHANNEL SELECTORS FOR VARIOUS STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS. All states of consciousness exist independent of the physical body. This relay station works in both directions: spiritual, mental, or emotional states trigger neuro-electrochemical events in the brain (physical consciousness) AND neurochemical stimulation (for example through drugs) open access to specific states of emotion, thought, or spiritual awareness.

CONTEMPORARY PHYSICS HAS PROVEN VERY CLEARLY THAT SOLID PHYSICAL MATTER IS AN ILLUSION AND THAT ALL IS ENERGY ONLY. THEREFORE, TO SAY THAT THE SOLID PHYSICAL BRAIN IS THE MIND, IS A MISTAKE. While the brain appears to be solid, it is not - it is energy appearing solid, but is not solid - it is energy, only. The mind is also energy, an energy that interacts with the energy that creates the appearance of a brain.

The Physical Body is composed of the energy states of solids, liquids, and gases and is dependent upon the Etheric Body for its vitality, life, organization, and many processes that result in health.

Looking at a person from a purely energetic viewpoint, the physical or dense body has little significance. A yogi or sage, for example, would not be interested in a Physical Body condition just a person's emotional and spiritual make-up. To the rest of us, it is the body that is treated using physical therapy, manipulation, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Most importantly, the body shows us the signs and symptoms of energy imbalance when tested. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a practitioner discovers bodily imbalance through tests such as pulse diagnosis, hara abdominal diagnosis, tsing point diagnosis, iris diagnosis, or Listening Post analysis.

Symptoms are golden pearis of information that are used to identify the cause of the disease (dis-ease), and they show us how steps can be taken to treat the patient. It is my opinion that most of our ills are caused by imbalance in our Emotional Bodies, and the symptoms of disease are merely housed in the Physical Body. If the chakra points are used, acupuncture affects the subtle bodies, thus treating the etiology of the condition, making acupuncture an equally viable treatment to other traditional Western medical treatments.

There is a profound evolutionary shift that is taking place in the world that can be seen in the growing recognition of the fundamental role that energy plays in healing (Benor, 1992). The grandfather of this revolution of energy healing in the West is Dr. Robert Becker. In the early 1980s, he was one of the first scientists to measure the “current of injury” associated with healing wounds and bone fractures. In his early research on the healing and regeneration of salamanders, Becker (1985) showed that the control system that started, regulated, and stopped healing was electrical.

Becker’s work built upon the work of other scientists, such as Harold Burr, a Yale School of Medicine neuro anatomist who measured the electrical field around an unfertilized salamander and put forth research that physical illness is preceded by changes in an organism’s electromagnetic field (Burr & Northrup, 1935).

Scientist Owen Frazee reported in 1909 that passing electrical currents through water containing young salamanders speeded up the regeneration of amputated limbs (as cited in Becker, 1985, p.82). Since that time, there have been numerous well-researched studies showing the efficacy of various forms of energy in healing.

Some have described this paradigm shiftas a revolution, signaling a move from a Newtonian to an Einsteinian medicine model.

From Einstein’s insights about how energy is a key to opening the mysteries of the

universe, and the physical sciences developing that idea further, we are now on the edge of harnessing those mysteries in the arena of medicine and healing.

As paraphrased from Gerber. Newtonian thinkers see the human body as a series of intricate chemical

systems powering a structure of nerve, muscle, flesh, and bones. Thephysical body is viewed as a supreme mechanism, intricate physical clockwork down to the very cellular structure.

 Einsteinian Medicine sees human beings as networks of complex energy fields that interface with physical/cellular systems.

There is a hierarchy of subtle energetic systems that coordinate electrophysiological, hormonal, and cellular structure of

the physical body.

It is from these subtle levels that health and illness originate. These unique energy systems are powerfully affected by emotions, spiritual balance, nutrition, and environment. They influence cellular patterns of growth.

This energy-related revolution is affecting a wide variety of disciplines, including physics, biology (Pert, 1997; Lipton, 2005), and medicine, and should no longer be considered fringe science—it is now thought to be mainstream. Western knowledge of energy in the human organism has come a long way from believing that nerves are the only part of the body that contain electricity.

We now know that the body emits a broad spectrum of electromagnetic and acoustic radiation that has been measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalogram (EEG), electrocardiogram (EKG),electromylogram (EMG), thermography, and ultrasound. These instruments are used to monitor and diagnose diseases.

Behind the everyday use of instruments to measure energies lies a once-in-an-era change in the very foundation of science.

It was Dr. Lipton (2005), cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief, who wrote that the pyramid of science is changing. With this shift at the bottom of the pyramid showing physics changing from a Newtonian mechanistic view to one of quantum mechanics, energy and energy fields have come to

the forefront of importance.

Lipton says that once the bottom of the pyramid of science in physics shifts, all of the levels—chemistry, biology, and psychology—need to shift as well.

Although Western medicine uses instruments, such as the EEG, to read energy fields, it has not taken the next step in understanding the role energy plays in other ways, according to Dr. Lipton.

He shows how animals, from single cells to humans, convert environmental stimuli into physiological and behavioral responses. Dr. Lipton says that scientific research has revealed that “every facet of biological regulation is profoundly impacted by the ‘invisible forces’ of the electromagnetic spectrum … electromagnetic radiation regulates DNA, RNA and protein synthesis, alters protein shape and function, and controls gene regulation, cell division, cell differentiation, morphogenesis [the process by which cells assemble into organs and tissues] hormone secretion, nerve growth and function.…” Dr. Lipton laments that “though these research studies havebeen published in some of the most respected mainstream biomedical journals, their revolutionary findings have not been incorporated into our medical school curriculum” (Lipton 2005, as cited by Feinstein & Eden, 2006b).

 Most important for this book, Dr. Lipton speaks about the implications of this for the field of psychology and shows howthe newly identified cellular mechanisms include master switches through which our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs create the conditions of our body and of our place in the world.




Etheric body

The Etheric Body gives vitality, health, life and organization to the Physical Body. It attunes our consciousness to the principle of Energy. It steps energies from the higher bodies down into our physical consciousness.

An awareness of various types of subtle energy moving through the Physical Body and in the environment. Subtle/etheric energy can be seen as well as felt.

The Etheric Body is the subtle level of the Physical Body. It is composed of various energies such as electromagnetic, chi, prana, ki, vitality, etc. It is also composed of subatomic particles, the finest of which are quarks.

It glows overall with color variations in the range of blue to violet to silver.

The Etheric Body has a figure form in the same shape as the Physical Body. This figure form is made of numerous energy channels called nadis or meridians. There are seven major energy centers, called chakras, that are connected to the endocrine glands and process seven main types of consciousness. There are 21 minor energy centers and many smaller energy centers.

The Etheric Body has two auric layers. The first extends about one foot from the Physical Body. The second extends about three or more feet from the Physical Body. Each auric layer has luminous string-like hairs that radiate out and always move in wave like motions. From the inner body, sparkles of vitality move outwards.

The etheric body, ether-body, æther body, a name given by neo-Theosophy to a supposed vital body or subtle body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the "human energy field" or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with "higher" bodies.

The English term "etheric" in this context seems to derive from the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky, but its use was formalised by C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant due to the elimination of Hindu terminology from the system of seven planes and bodies. (Adyar School of Theosophy).

The term gained some general popularity after the 1914-18 war, Dr.Walter John Kilner having adopted it for a layer of the "human atmosphere" which, as he claimed in a popular book, could be rendered visible to the naked eye by means of certain exercises.

The classical element Aether of Platonic and Aristotlean physics continued in Victorian scientific proposals of a Luminiferous ether as well as the cognate chemical substance ether. According to Theosophists and Alice Bailey the etheric body inhabits an etheric plane which corresponds to the four higher subplanes of the physical plane. The intended reference is therefore to some extremely rarefied matter, analogous in usage to the word "spirit" (originally "breath"). In selecting it as the term for a clearly defined concept in an Indian-derived metaphysical system, the Theosophists aligned it with ideas such as the prana-maya-kosha (sheath made of prana, subtle breath or life-force) of Vedantic thought.

In popular use it is often confounded with the related concept of the astral body as for example in the term astral projection - the early Theosophists had called it the "astral double". Others prefer to speak of the "lower and higher astral".

Linga sarira is a Sanskrit term for the invisible double of the human body, the etheric body or etheric double (or astral body in some Theosophical concepts). It is one of the seven principles of the human being, according to Theosophical philosophy.

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".

Steiner considered the etheric reality or life principle as quite distinct from the physical material reality, being intermediate between the physical world and the astral or soul world. The etheric body can be characterised as the life force also present in the plant kingdom. It maintains the physical body's form until death. At that time, it separates from the physical body and the physical reverts to natural disintegration.

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.

On the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah, the vital body is often related to the sephirah Yesod.

Some researcher in this matter have produced drawings and paintings that record their perceptions of the etheric body; see Leadbeater's Man Visible and Invisible for one example. The images produced by Kirlian photography bear obvious resemblances to these graphics, showing a spiky-looking energy field extending a few inches around the human body (as well as other biological specimens, like leaves, and objects like coins). The fact that Kirlian photography can capture the acupuncture points of the body links the technology with concepts of prana, qi, bioplasma, and related ideas and theories. For some believers in the etheric body, Kirlian photography provides important supporting evidence—though skeptics are generally not swayed.

Relation to physics

A New concept appears in physics, the most important invention since Newton's time: The field. It needed great scientific imagination to realize that it is not the charges nor the particles but the field in space between the charges and the particles which is essential for the description of physical phenomena....

In the beginning, the field concept was no more than a means of facilitating the understanding of phenomena from the mechanical point of view.... The recognition of the new concept grew steadily, until substance was overshadowed by the field. It was realized that something of great importance had happened in physics. A new reality was created, a new concept for which there was no place in the mechanical description. Slowly and by a struggle the field concept established for itself a leading place in physics and has remained as one of the basic physical concepts. The electromagnetic field is, for the modern physicist, as real as the chair on which he sits.


The conception of the dynamic [mass-free energy] aether, possessing a fluid-crystal structure, sub-divided in different levels of density, with density proportional to the density of any physical substance occupying the area of space concerned, increasing around large bodies such as stars and planets, acting as a refracting medium, affecting the speed of propagation of light and conveying electromagnetic forces, etc.—for all the experimental data and astronomical observations currently cited in support of the special and general theories of relativity, including the phenomena known as vacuum energy and other unsolved problems in physics that baffles the current standard theories. It should also be noted that the internal inconsistencies and unwarranted assumptions of standard relativity theory have been pointed out by dozens of scientists. It must be re-iterated, though, that these ideas should in no way be construed as being indicative of generally accepted scientific opinion on the subject.


The Emotional Body

The emotional Body gives you the ability to have desires, emotions, imagination, and psychic abilities. To thought it lends power which is essential for effective action and manifestation.
Emotional consciousness includes the full range of emotions from fear, hate, and sorrow to love, happiness, and ecstasy.) It also includes the full range of desire from totally selfish and destructive desire to common personal desire to high spiritual aspiration to selfless serviceful desire.

This experiences include dreams, fantasies, out of body experiences, near death experiences, hallucinations, imagination, and visions.

The five senses are: Clairaudiance (astral hearing), Psychometry (astral touch/feeling), Clairvoyance (astral sight), Imagination (astral equivalent of taste), and Emotional Idealism (astral equivalent of smell). Emotional consciousness and the Astral Universe includes anything imaginable, from the worst possible hells to the most glorious heavens. The emotional Universe contains an astral replica of the higher universes. It is filled with imagery, feeling, and above all a personal point of view.

The Body has a figure form in the shape of the Physical Body and an aura usually in an ovoid shape pointed at both ends. The aura extends about 4 to 9 feet from the Physical Body. It has 7 major energy centers, 21 minor energy centers, and many smaller centers, just like the etheric body.

It is constantly changing color, dark to brilliant colors depending upon your mood.

Barbara Ann Brennan in her book Hands of Light writes, "This body interpenetrates the denser bodies that it surrounds. Its colors vary from brilliant clear hues to dark muddy ones. Clear and highly energized feelings such as love, excitement, joy or anger are bright and clear ; those feelings that are confused are dark and muddy" (1987).

In the Emotional Body, multitudes of different changes are constantly taking place, though an individual may or may not be aware of those changes. Each person is literally bombarded by stimuli from both external and internal sources. The main function of the Emotional Body is to act like a filtration system in a similar way to the Etheric Body. Only when there is imbalance in the Emotional Body or with the chakras that penetrate it do we become conscious of a shift from our normal state of being. Changes in the Emotional Body can ultimately lead to changes and hence symptoms in the Physical Body.



The Mental body


The mental body (the mind) is one of the subtle bodies in esoteric philosophies, in some religious teachings and in New Age thought. It is understood as a sort of body made up of thoughts, just as the emotional body consists of emotions and the physical body is made up of matter. In occult understanding, thoughts are not just subjective qualia, but have an existence apart from the associated physical organ, the brain. The Mental Body

The Mental Body is made up of a few things; namely, our life energy (quality & quantity), our thoughts, and our karmas (god and bad past actions; same as our mental patterns). Anything that is not natural is called a mental defilement or impurity. So for the Mental Body, we can tune into these ‘defilements’ or ‘impurities’ to gage the health of our minds.

All thoughts are defilements. Someone who is free of ego has no thoughts. So tune in to any thoughts that are stirring in your mind, such as songs your mind is singing, lustful thoughts about someone, restlessness or agitation in you thinking, stirring in any thoughts; thinking the same thing again and again. 

According to Theosophists C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant  (Adyar School of Theosophy), and later Alice Bailey, the mental body is equivalent to the "Lower Manas" of Blavatsky's original seven principles of man. But the New Age writer Barbara Brennan describes the Mental body as intermediate between the Emotional and the Astral body in terms of the layers in the "Human Energy Field" or Aura.

The mental body is usually considered in terms of an aura that includes thoughtforms. In Theosophical and Alice Bailey's teachings, it corresponds to the Mental plane.

According to Max Heindel's Rosicrucian writings, the mind is the latest acquisition of the human spirit and is related to the Region of Concrete Thought, which is the lower region of the World of Thought. It is not yet an organized body and in most people it is still a mere inchoate cloud disposed particularly in the region of the head. It works as the link or focus between the threefold Spirit and the threefold body, in a reversed reflexion manner: the mind is like the projecting lens of a stereopticon, it projects the image in one of three directions, according to the will of the thinker, which ensouls the thought-form.

His writings, called Western Wisdom Teachings, give a clear description on how the man's inner Spirit perceives, from the world of thought, the lower worlds through the mind: " We ourselves, as Egos, function directly in the subtle substance of the Region of Abstract Thought, which we have specialized within the periphery of our individual aura. Thence we view the impressions made by the outer world upon the vital body through the senses, together with the feelings and emotions generated by them in the desire body, and mirrored in the mind. From these mental images we form our conclusions, in the substance of the Region of Abstract Thought, concerning the subjects with which they deal. Those conclusions are ideas. By the power of will we project an idea through the mind, where it takes concrete shape as a thought-form by drawing mind-stuff around itself from the Region of Concrete Thought. ".

He also states that to the trained clairvoyant there appears to be an empty space in the center of the forehead just above and between the eyebrows and it looks like the blue part of a gas flame, but not even the most gifted seer can penetrate that veil, also known as "THE VEIL OF ISIS".

In Esoteric Christianity, the mental body is represented by the stubborn yet useful donkey that the Savior (Christ) subdues in order to be used as a vehicle to enter into heavenly Jerusalem (the superior worlds).

The mental body function is to teach us self knowledge. The mental body as it's name implies reflects the conscious mind, logic, intellect and active thinking.
We shape our reality with our minds. Our mind is the constructor, the builder. It reflects our ability through which we develop our learning and personality.

Mental heath or mental illness is reflected in this level. Connected to the Solar Plexus Chakra.

The Mental Body facilitates cognition, the faculty of knowing. It gives you the ability to discern, and to have thoughts, beliefs, concepts, and higher psychic abilities.

Mental consciousness ranges from discernment of the very specific, detailed, particular to the discernment of the very general, inclusive, abstract. Separative, distinguishing thought to unitive, embracing thought.

The five mental senses are: Higher Clairaudiance (mental hearing), Planetary Psychometry (mental feeling), Higher Clairvoyance (mental sight), Discernment (mental equivalent of taste), and Spiritual Discernment (mental equivalent of smell).

The Mental Body has its own range of feeling. When there is excessive focus within the limiting, separative range of thought then there is judgment, mental fear, and depression. When thought expands into the more unitive ranges then there is compassionate-understanding, peace, joy, awe, and bliss.

The Manasic Universe (which includes the Mental Body, Causal Body, and the Manasic Body) is overall a place of profound rarefied celestial beauty. It is filled with light - primarily white, blue and gold, although the full range of pastel colors are common. The Manasic Universe, similar to the Astral Universe, contains a mental replica of the higher universes. It is filled with knowledge about everything.

Mental consciousness is more objective, factual, and impersonal than astral consciousness. However, individual personality and character reach their pinnacle of development in mental consciousness.

The Mental Body has a figure like form in the shape of the Physical Body. It also has an aura that is ovoid shaped with pointed ends. The aura extends about 4 to 10 feet from the Physical Body. Usual colors are light blue, yellow, gray, silver, white, and gold, however all pastel colors can be present. It has 7 major energy centers, 21 minor energy centers, and many smaller centers, just like the etheric and astral bodies. Radiations of light extend from the heart area.

The substance that composes the Mental Body deals with thoughts and mental processes. They are sometimes called "thought forms." The Mental Body is the region where our thought forms are initiated.

Thus, what we think can affect both us and those with whom we are in contact. On one hand, if we lead our lives in a positive and helpful way and think lots of lovely thoughts toward others and ourselves, then we feel well. On the other hand, if we lead our lives with negativity, hatred, pessimism, grief, sorrow, and depressive tendencies, then those thoughts are eventually reflected in our physical make-up. The hackneyed phrase, "You are what you eat," is to a great extent true, and likewise, you become what you think. Not only do we feel better internally when we exhibit positive emotions, but we also, alter a prolonged period of experiencing positive vibes, experience a permanent change in body chemistry. The blood's chemistry, hormonal levels, and organic secretions all change. This has led many experts in this field to conclude that we are totally responsible for our own health.

I would add a couple exceptions to this mind-body philosophy. First, we can only change the vital force within us that hereditary disposition or congenital factors do not govern. Second, we may be affected by environmental factors, such as pollution, that are beyond our control. We are all governed by our genetic make-up and habitat, and some of us will naturally struggle more than others.


The Astral body.


Unconditional love. Connected to the Heart chakra. The astral aura is the bridge between the physical world and the spiritual realm.


The astral body is a subtle body posited by many religious philosophers, intermediate between the intelligent soul and the physical body, composed of a subtle material. The concept ultimately derives from the philosophy of Plato: it is related to an astral plane, which consists of the planetary heavens of astrology. The term was adopted by nineteenth-century Theosophists and neo-Rosicrucians.

The idea is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife in which the soul's journey or "ascent" is described in such terms as "an ecstatic.., mystical or out-of body experience, wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or dreambody or astral body) into ‘higher’ realms". Hence "the "many kinds of 'heavens', 'hells' and purgatorial existences believed in by followers of innumerable religions" may also be understood as astral phenomena, as may the various "phenomena of the séance room". The phenomenon of apparitional experience is therefore related, as is made explicit in Cicero's Dream of Scipio.

The astral body is sometimes said to be visible as an aura of swirling colours. It is widely linked today with out-of-body experiences or astral projection. Where this refers to a supposed movement around the real world, as in Muldoon and Carrington's book The Projection of the Astral Body, it conforms to Madame Blavatsky's usage of the term. Elsewhere this latter is termed "etheric", while "astral" denotes an experience of dream-symbols, archetypes, memories, spiritual beings and visionary landscapes. In reference to the secular scientific world view the concept is now generally considered superseded, being rooted in an attribution of materiality and dimensionality to the psychic world.

Neo-Platonism is a branch of classical philosophy that uses the works of Plato as a guide to understanding religion and the world. In the Myth of Er, particularly, Plato rendered an account of the afterlife which involved a journey through seven planetary spheres and then eventual reincarnation. He taught that man was composed of mortal body, immortal reason and an intermediate "spirit".

Neoplatonists agreed as to the immortality of the rational soul but disagreed as to whether man's "irrational soul" was immortal and celestial ("starry", hence astral) or whether it remained on earth and dissolved after death. The late Neoplatonist Proclus, who is credited the first to speak of subtle "planes", posited two subtle bodies or "carriers" (okhema) intermediate between the rational soul and the physical body.

These were;

1) the astral vehicle which was the immortal vehicle of the Soul and

2) the spiritual (pneuma) vehicle, aligned with the vital breath, which he considered mortal.

The word "astral" means "of the stars", thus the astral plane, consisting of the celestial spheres, is held to be an astrological phenomenon: "The whole of the astral portion of our earth and of the physical planets, together with the purely astral planets of our System, make up collectively the astral body of the Solar Logos". There are "seven types of astral matter" by means of which "psychic changes occur periodically".

Such ideas greatly influenced mediaeval religious thought and are visible in the Renaissance medicine of Paracelsus and Servetus. In the romantic era, alongside the discovery of electromagnetism and the nervous system, there came a new interest in the spirit world. Franz Anton Mesmer spoke of the stars, animal magnetism and magnetic fluids. In 1801, the English occultist Francis Barrett wrote of a herb's "excellent astral and magnetic powers" - for herbalists had categorised herbs according to their supposed correspondence with the seven planetary influences.

In the mid-nineteenth century the French occultist Eliphas Levi wrote much of "the astral light", a factor he considered of key importance to magic, alongside the power of will and the doctrine of correspondences. He considered the astral light the medium of all light, energy and movement, describing it in terms that recall both Mesmer and the luminiferous ether.

According to the teachings of Theosophy "Astral" means the "Electro-Magnetic spectrum at every level. The "Astral Body" is the electromagnetic design body that the physical molecules adhere to in the building up of every form, in every kingdom, on the physical plane."

Blavatsky aligned the term "astral body" with the Indian linga sharira which is one of the seven principles of human life according to her, and the astral light with the Akashic Record, a kind of cosmic memory. According to the Theosophical founder William Q. Judge the astral world is also analogous to the world of ghosts. Judge wrote; "There are many names for the Astral Body. Here are a few: Linga Sarira, Sanskrit, meaning design body, and the best one of all; ethereal double; phantom; wraith; apparition; doppelganger; personal man; perispirit; irrational soul; animal soul; Bhuta; elementary; spook; devil; demon. Some of these apply only to the astral body when devoid of the corpus after death."

However C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant (Adyar School of Theosophy), and following them, Alice Bailey, equated it with Blavatsky's Kama (desire) principle and called it the Emotional body a concept not found in earlier Theosophy. Astral body, desire body, and emotional body became synonymous, and this identification is found in much later Theosophically-inspired thought. The astral body in later Theosophy is "the vehicle of feelings and emotions" through which "it is experience all varieties of desire". We have a "life in the astral body, whilst the physical body is wrapped in slumber". So the astral body "provides a simple explanation of the mechanism of many phenomena revealed by modern psycho-analysis".To this extent, then, the "astral body" is a reification of the dream-world self.

According to Max Heindel's Rosicrucian writings the Desire body is made of desire stuff from which human beings form feelings and emotions. It is said to appear to spiritual sight as an ovoid cloud extending from sixteen to twenty inches beyond the physical body. It has a number of whirling vortices (chakras) and from the main vortex, in the region of the liver, there is a constant flow which radiates and returns.

 The desire body exhibits colors that vary in every person according to his or her temperament and mood. However, the astral body (or "Soul body") must be evolved by means of the work of transmutation and will eventually be evolved by humanity as a whole.

Many other popular accounts of post-Theosophical ideas appeared in the late 20th century. Barbara Brennan's Hands of Light distinguishes between the emotional body and the astral body. She sees these as two distinct layers in the seven-layered "Human Energy Field". The emotional body pertains to the physical universe, the astral body to the astral world. The Mother sometimes referred to the astral body and experiences on the astral plane. The Indian master Osho occasionally made use of a modified Theosophical terminology.


Depth Psychology

Parallels drawn between the idea of the astral and that of the unconscious mind have been noted above, for Sigmund Freud inherited Mesmer's awareness of the animal self, the value of hypnosis, trance and dream, replacing the physical idea of the life-force with a purely psychological paradigm of libido, id and subconscious mind. Later Wilhelm Reich tried to use vitalist biological theory and experiments to re-establish the materiality of the life-force.

Carl Jung has been aligned with the idea of the astral body by Jungians and Theosophists alike. Jung himself drew on alchemical and classical imagery to explore the dynamics and symbols of memory, dream and religious initiation. He saw the astral journey as a paradigm of "modern man's search for a soul", and pictured a collective unconscious memory, driven by archetypal forces and knowable in the symbolic language of dreams and visions.

Moreover, Jung saw this archetypal world as, like the astral plane, an "objective psyche", extending in the world at large, bridging mind and matter. He worked with physicist Wolfgang Pauli in his attempt to lend rigor to an idea largely absent from European science since the renaissance. Early twentieth-century biologists like Ernst Haeckel viewed embryology as a recapitulation of evolution, which implies a kind of organising memory, and a few modern biologists, such as Rupert Sheldrake, influenced by Jungian ideas and by vitalism, have posited organising fields of life consisting of memories and drives.

Astral projection

"The Separation of the Spirit Body"

Astral projection (or astral travel) is an out-of-body experience (OBE) that assumes the existence of an "astral body" separate from the physical body and capable of traveling outside it. Astral projection or travel denotes the astral body leaving the physical body to travel in the astral plane.

The idea of astral travel is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife in which the consciousness' or soul's journey or "ascent" is described in such terms as "an...out-of body experience, wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or dreambody or astral body) into ‘higher’ realms." It is therefore associated with near death experiences and is also frequently reported as spontaneously experienced in association with sleep and dreams, illness, surgical operations, drug experiences, sleep paralysis and forms of meditation.

It is sometimes attempted out of curiosity, or may be believed to be necessary to, or the result of, some forms of spiritual practice. It may involve "travel to higher realms" called astral planes but is commonly used to describe any sensation of being "out of the body"in the everyday world, even seeing one's body from outside or above. It may be reported in the form of an apparitional experience, a supposed encounter with a doppelgänger, some living person also seen somewhere else at the same time.

Through the 1960s and 70s, surveys reported percentages ranging from 8 percent to as many as 50 percent (in certain groups) of respondents who state they had such an experience. The subjective nature of the experience permits explanations that do not rely on the existence of an "astral" body and plane. There is little beyond anecdotal evidence to support the idea that people can actually "leave the body".

There are many references to an astral body or light body in esoteric literature. The astral body shimmers like countless tiny stars, hence the name astral or "starry" body. This vehicle is the first subtle covering over the attentional principle; its counterpart is found over the spirit in 10 of the 12 domains.

Meditation emphasizes experience of interior realities

The surface of the astral body shimmers or sparkles. The actual body is opalescent and resembles the physical body in appearance. However, the astral body may resemble the form of a younger or older physical form. For example, a 60-year-old man may assume the astral form of his 35-year-old physical appearance. A mature 14-year-old young lady may appear in an astral form of someone in her early 20s.

The astral body connects to the medulla center by an umbilical cord-like structure that is referred to as the silver cord in esoteric literature. This cord is infinitely extensible, yet tethers or anchors the astral body to the body’s etheric matrix or chakra.


The Causal Body

The Causal body - originally Karana-Sarira - is a Yogic and Vedantic concept that was adopted and modified by Theosophy and from the latter made its way into the general New Age movement and contemporary western esotericism. It generally refers to the highest or innermost subtle body that veils the true soul.

In Hinduism the Mandukya Upanishad refers to the Self having four "feet" or states of consciousness. These are: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep, and the transcendent (Turiya). Each of these is associated with both an individual state of consciousness and a cosmic state. Dreamless sleep corresponds to prajna.

In Advaita Vedanta, this is associated with the Anandamaya kosha or "sheath" (kosha) made of bliss, and with the causal principle or causal body (karana sarira).

In Blavatsky's synthesis of eastern philosophy with western esotericism, the union of the higher Manas with the Buddhi (i.e. the essential nature of the fifth, along with the sixth, of the seven principles) is referred to as the Causal Body (Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, pp. 121, 174). This higher principle is contrasted with the lower, the Kama-Manas, which is the seat of lower passions.

 In the Theosophy of Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater, the "Causal Body" refers not to the "Buddhi-Manas" but to Blavatsky's "Higher Manas" alone. This is also referred to as the "Higher Mental", "Abstract Mind" (as opposed to Lower Mental or "Concrete Mind"), or "Causal Body". It is considered the highest subtle body, beyond even the mental body. As with all the vehicles of consciousness, the Causal Body is associated with an objective or cosmic plane, in this case the Causal plane. A detailed definition of the Causal Body, is provided by A. E. Powell, who has brought together information in the works of Besant and Leadbeater in a series of books on each of the subtle bodies.

In the tradition of Samael Aun Weor it is taught that most people have only incarnated a fraction of the causal body or human soul. This fraction is known as the Essence or the Buddhata, which in humanity is bottled up in the psychological aggregates that constitute the ego.

The Causal/ is named "Causal" because it is the originating source of each personality that incarnates in each lifetime. It is the source of your personality, causing it to be and exist. When your personality ends, the essence of you is absorbed back into the Causal Body. It is the first level of your individuality that is relatively immortal as the Causal Body exists for many millions of years, during your journey as a human through many incarnations or lifetimes. Animals have yet to obtain a Causal Body and super-humans that are liberated from the cycle of rebirth discard the Causal Body and move on to higher levels.

The word "Soul" is used as a label for many bodies or human aspects by various religions and cultures. Generally it is meant to designate the innermost individuality. Limitations of perception has caused this label to be applied to the astral body, the mental body and other inner aspects. Here it is applied to the Causal Body because it is the pinnacle of personal consciousness.

The Causal Body is the depository for all consciousness and virtues cultivated in each personality lifetime; especially developed will/power, love-wisdom, and creative intelligence. It is built out of all the benefits of all past lives.

It is the treasure chest that safekeeps the fruits of all past experiences. It is the vehicle that facilitates the unfolding of consciousness that we use physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It is the vehicle for human immortality, whether a personality is in incarnation or not.
The Causal Body/Soul is the central focal point of consciousness itself for the entire human being. Therefore its range of consciousness includes the physical, etheric, emotional/astral, mental/intellectual. As it awakens spiritually it becomes aware of other souls on its own level and participates in a universe and an existence independent of the personality.


Soul Body

The Soul's life is unity,  consciousness, love, wisdom, bliss, and purpose.  

The soul – in many traditional spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions – is the incorporeal (and immortal) essence of a person, living thing, or object. Some belief systems (including the Abrahamic religions) argue that only human beings have souls and therefore that among the biological organisms of the Earth only they possess immortality and the possibility of union with the divine. In contrast others believe that all biological organisms have souls, and others further still that even non-biological entities (such as rivers and mountains) possess souls. This latter belief is called animism.

Soul can function as a synonym for spirit, mind or self; scientific works, in particular, often consider 'soul' as a synonym for 'mind'.

The word is probably an adaptation by early missionaries—particularly Ulfilas, apostle to the Goths during the 4th century—of a native Germanic concept, which was a translation of Greek  psychē "life, spirit, consciousness, soul, breath".

The Greek word is derived from a verb "to cool, to blow" and hence refers to the vital breath, the animating principle in humans and other animals, as opposed to σῶμα (soma) meaning "body". It could refer to a ghost or spirit of the dead in Homer, and to a more philosophical notion of an immortal and immaterial essence left over at death since Pindar. Latin anima figured as a translation of soul  since Terence. Psychē occurs juxtaposed to in Matthew 10:28:

Although the terms soul and spirit are sometimes used interchangeably, soul may denote a more worldly and less transcendent aspect of a person.

According to psychologist James Hillman, soul has an affinity for negative thoughts and images, whereas spirit seeks to rise above the entanglements of life and death. The words soul and psyche can also be treated synonymously, although psyche has more physical connotations, whereas soul is connected more closely to spirituality and religion.

Philosophical views

The Ancient Greeks used the same word for 'alive' as for 'ensouled', indicating that the earliest surviving western philosophical view believed that the soul was that which gave the body life. The soul was considered the incorporeal or spiritual 'breath' which animates (from the Latin, anima, cf. animal) the living organism.

Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar in saying that the soul sleeps while the limbs are active, but when one is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals in many a dream "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near".

Erwin Rohde writes that the early pre-Pythagorean belief was that the soul had no life when it departed from the body, and retired into Hades with no hope of returning to a body.

It has been argued that a strict line of causality fails to explain certain phenomenon within human experience such as free will, which have at times been attributed to the soul. (See also: Determinism and free will)

Plato, drawing on the words of his teacher Socrates, considered the soul the essence of a person, being that which decides how we behave. He considered this essence to be an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being. As bodies die, the soul is continually reborn in subsequent bodies. The Platonic soul comprises three parts:

  1. the logos, or logistikon (mind, nous, or reason)
  2. the thymos, or thumetikon (emotion, or spiritedness, or masculine)
  3. the eros, or epithumetikon (appetitive, or desire, or feminine)

Each of these has a function in a balanced, level and peaceful soul.

Aristotle defined the soul or psyche (ψυχή) as the first actuality of a naturally organized body, but argued against its having a separate existence from the physical body. In Aristotle's view, the primary activity of a living thing constitutes its soul; for example, the soul of an eye, if it were an independent organism, would be seeing (its purpose or final cause).

The various faculties of the soul or psyche, such as nutrition, sensation, movement, and so forth, when exercised, constitute the "second" actuality, or fulfillment, of the capacity to be alive. A good example is someone who falls asleep, as opposed to someone who falls dead; the former actuality can wake up and go about their life, while the second actuality can no longer do so.

Aristotle identified three hierarchical levels of living things: plants, animals, and people, for which groups he identified three corresponding levels of soul, or biological activity: the nutritive activity of growth, sustenance and reproduction which all life shares; the self-willed motive activity and sensory faculties, which only animals and people have in common; and finally reason, of which people alone are capable. Aristotle treats of the soul in his work, De Anima (On the Soul).

Aristotle concludes, in the fifth chapter of the third book of this work, that the human active intellect is immortal.

Following Aristotle, the Persian Muslim philosopher-physician, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Arab philosopher Ibn al-Nafis, further elaborated on the Aristotelian understanding of the soul and developed their own theories on the soul. They both made a distinction between the soul and the spirit, and in particular, the Avicennian doctrine on the nature of the soul was influential among the Scholastics.

Some of Avicenna's views on the soul included the idea that the immortality of the soul is a consequence of its nature, and not a purpose for it to fulfill. In his theory of "The Ten Intellects", he viewed the human soul as the tenth and final intellect.

While he was imprisoned, Avicenna wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantiality of the soul. He told his readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance. This argument was later refined and simplified by René Descartes in epistemic terms when he stated: "I can abstract from the supposition of all external things, but not from the supposition of my own consciousness."

Avicenna generally supported Aristotle's idea of the soul originating from the heart, whereas Ibn al-Nafis rejected this idea and instead argued that the soul "is related to the entirety and not to one or a few organs". He further criticized Aristotle's idea that every unique soul requires the existence of a unique source, in this case the heart. Ibn al-Nafis concluded that "the soul is related primarily neither to the spirit nor to any organ, but rather to the entire matter whose temperament is prepared to receive that soul" and he defined the soul as nothing other than "what a human indicates by saying"

Following Aristotle and Avicenna, St. Thomas Aquinas understood the soul to be the first actuality of the living body. Consequent to this, he distinguished three orders of life: plants, which feed and grow; animals, which add sensation to the operations of plants; and humans, which add intellect to the operations of animals.

Concerning the human soul, his epistemological theory required that, since the knower becomes what he knows the soul was definitely not corporeal: for, if it were corporeal when it knew what some corporeal thing was, that thing would come to be within it. Therefore, the soul had an operation which did not rely on a bodily organ and therefore the soul could subsist without the body. Furthermore, since the rational soul of human beings was a subsistent form and not something made up of matter and form, it could not be destroyed in any natural process. The full argument for the immortality of the soul and Thomas's elaboration of Aristotelian theory is found in Question 75 of the Summa Theologica.

In his discussions of rational psychology Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) identified the soul as the "I" in the strictest sense and that the existence of inner experience can neither be proved nor disproved. "We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be cognized from materiality." It is from the "I", or soul, that Kant proposes transcendental rationalization, but cautions that such rationalization can only determine the limits of knowledge if it is to remain practical.

Contemporary psychology is defined as the study of mental processes and behavior. However, the word "psychology" literally means "study of the soul", and psychologist James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology, has been credited with "restoring 'soul' to its psychological sense.

Although the words soul and spirit are often viewed as synonyms, Hillman argues that they can refer to antagonistic components of a person.

Summarizing Hillman's views, author and psychotherapist Thomas Moore associates spirit with "afterlife, cosmic issues, idealistic values and hopes, and universal truths", while placing soul "in the thick of things: in the repressed, in the shadow, in the messes of life, in illness, and in the pain and confusion of love." Hillman believes that religion—especially monotheism and monastic faiths—and humanistic psychology have tended to the spirit, often at the unfortunate expense of soul.

This happens, Moore says, because to transcend the "lowly conditions of the soul ... is to lose touch with the soul, and a split-off spirituality, with no influence from the soul, readily falls into extremes of literalism and destructive fanaticism."

Hillman's archetypal psychology is in many ways an attempt to tend to the oft-neglected soul, which Hillman views as the "self-sustaining and imagining substrate" upon which consciousness rests, and "which makes meaning possible, [deepens] events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern" as well as "a special relation with death."

Departing from the Cartesian dualism "between outer tangible reality and inner states of mind," Hillman takes the Neoplatonic stance that there is a "third, middle position" in which soul resides. Archetypal psychology acknowledges this third position by attuning to, and often accepting, the archetypes, dreams, myths, and even psychopathologies through which soul, in Hillman's view, expresses itself.

For a contemporary understanding of the soul/mind and the problem concerning its connection to the brain/body, consider the rejection of Descartes' mind/body dualism by Gilbert Ryle's ghost-in-the-machine argument, the tenuous unassailability of Richard Swinburne's argument for the soul, and the advances, which have been made in neuroscience and which are steadily uncovering the truth/falsity of the concept of an independent soul/mind.

The philosophies of mind and of personal identity also contribute to a contemporary understanding of the mind. The contemporary approach does not so much attack the existence of an independent soul as render the concept less relevant.

The advances in neuroscience mainly serve to support the mind/brain identity hypothesis, showing the extent of the correlation between mental states and physical-brain states.

The notion of soul has less explanatory power in a western world-view which prefers the empirical explanations involving observable and locatable elements of the brain. Even so, there remain considerable objections to simple-identity theory. Notably, philosophers such as Thomas Nagel and David Chalmers have argued that the correlation between physical-brain states and mental states is not strong enough to support identity theory. Nagel (1974) argues that no amount of physical data is sufficient to provide the "what it is like" of first-person experience, and Chalmers (1996) argues for an "explanatory gap" between functions of the brain and phenomenal experience. On the whole, brain/mind identity theory does poorly in accounting for mental phenomena of qualia and intentionality. While neuroscience has done much to illuminate the functioning of the brain, much of subjective experience remains mysterious.

Religious views

In the ancient Egyptian religion, an individual was believed to be made up of various elements, some physical and some spiritual. See the article Egyptian soul for more details.

Similar ideas are found in ancient Assyrian and Babylonian religion. Kuttamuwa, an 8th century BC royal official from Sam'al, ordered an inscribed stele erected upon his death. The inscription requested that his mourners commemorate his life and his afterlife with feasts "for my soul that is in this stele". It is one of the earliest references to a soul as a separate entity from the body. The 800-pound (360 kg) basalt stele is 3 ft (0.91 m) tall and 2 ft (0.61 m) wide. It was uncovered in the third season of excavations by the Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

The Bahá'í Faith affirms that "the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. Bahá'u'lláh stated that the soul not only continues to live after the physical death of the human body, but is, in fact, immortal. Heaven can be seen partly as the soul's state of nearness to God; and hell as a state of remoteness from God. Each state follows as a natural consequence of individual efforts, or the lack thereof, to develop spiritually. Bahá'u'lláh taught that individuals have no existence prior to their life here on earth and the soul's evolution is always towards God and away from the material world.

In Brahma Kumaris, souls, called atmas, are believed to be an infinitesimal point of spiritual light residing in the forehead of the bodies they occupy.

Buddhism teaches that all things are in a constant state of flux: all is changing, and no permanent state exists by itself. This applies to human beings as much as to anything else in the cosmos. Thus, a human being has no permanent self. According to this doctrine of anatta (Pāli; Sanskrit: anātman) – "no-self" or "no soul" – the words "I" or "me" do not refer to any fixed thing. They are simply convenient terms that allow us to refer to an ever-changing entity.

The anatta doctrine is not a kind of materialism. Buddhism does not deny the existence of "immaterial" entities, and it (at least traditionally) distinguishes bodily states from mental states. Thus, the conventional translation of anatta as "no-soul" can be confusing. If the word "soul" simply refers to an incorporeal component in living things that can continue after death, then Buddhism does not deny the existence of the soul. Instead, Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent entity that remains constant behind the changing corporeal and incorporeal components of a living being. Just as the body changes from moment to moment, so thoughts come and go. And there is no permanent, underlying mind that experiences these thoughts, as in Cartesianism; rather, conscious mental states simply arise and perish with no "thinker" behind them. When the body dies, the incorporeal mental processes continue and are reborn in a new body. Because the mental processes are constantly changing, the being that is reborn is neither entirely different than, nor exactly the same as, the being that died. However, the new being is continuous with the being that died – in the same way that the "you" of this moment is continuous with the "you" of a moment before, despite the fact that you are constantly changing.

Buddhist teaching holds that a notion of a permanent, abiding self is a delusion that is one of the causes of human conflict on the emotional, social, and political levels. They add that an understanding of anatta provides an accurate description of the human condition, and that this understanding allows us to pacify our mundane desires.

Various schools of Buddhism have differing ideas about what continues after death.

The Yogacara school in Mahayana Buddhism said there are Store consciousness which continue to exist after death. In some schools, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, the view is that there are three minds: very subtle mind, which does not disintegrate in death; subtle mind, which disintegrates in death and which is "dreaming mind" or "unconscious mind"; and gross mind, which does not exist when one is sleeping. Therefore, gross mind less permanent than subtle mind, which does not exist in death. Very subtle mind, however, does continue, and when it "catches on", or coincides with phenomena, again, a new subtle mind emerges, with its own personality/assumptions/habits, and that entity experiences karma in the current continuum.

Plants were said to be non-sentient, but Buddhist monks should avoid cutting or burning trees, because some sentient beings rely on them.

Some Mahayana monks said non-sentient beings such as plants and stones have buddha-nature. Some buddhists said about plants or divisible consciousnesses.

Certain modern Buddhists, particularly in Western countries, reject—or at least take an agnostic stance toward—the concept of rebirth or reincarnation, which they view as incompatible with the concept of anatta. Stephen Batchelor discusses this issue in his book, Buddhism Without Beliefs. Others point to research that has been conducted at the University of Virginia as proof that some people are reborn.

The Hebrew terms נפש nephesh (literally "living being"), רוח ruach (literally "wind"), נשמה neshama (literally "breath"), חיה chaya (literally "life") and יחידה yechidah (literally "singularity") are used to describe the soul or spirit. In modern Judaism the soul is believed to be given by God to a person by his/her first breath, as mentioned in Genesis, "And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7). From this statement, the rabbinical interpretation is often that human embryos do not have souls, though the orthodox often oppose abortion as a form of birth control. Judaism relates the quality of one's soul to one's performance of mitzvot and reaching higher levels of understanding, and thus closeness to God. A person with such closeness is called a tzadik. Judaism also has a concept of purity of body and soul, which requires avoidance of "unclean" things. Such practices mentioned in the Torah include the keeping of kashrut and daily bathing (tevilah) in a mikveh. In biblical times, it was believed that "impurity" was something that could be spread by touching, and unclean people were temporarily separated from the group. Though Jewish theology does not agree on the nature of an afterlife, the soul is said to "return to God" after death.

Kabbalah and other mystic traditions go into greater detail into the nature of the soul. Kabbalah separates the soul into five elements, corresponding to the five worlds:

  1. Nephesh, related to natural instinct.
  2. Ruach, related to emotion and morality.
  3. Neshamah, related to intellect and the awareness of God.
  4. Chaya, considered a part of God, as it were.
  5. Yechidah, also termed the pintele Yid (the "essential [inner] Jew"). This aspect is essentially one with G‑d.

Kabbalah furthermore proposed a concept of reincarnation, the gilgul. (See also nefesh habehamit the "animal soul").

Soul carried to Heaven by William Bouguereau

Most Christians understand the soul as an ontological reality distinct from, yet integrally connected with, the body. Its characteristics are described in moral, spiritual, and philosophical terms. According to a common Christian eschatology, when people die, their souls will be judged by God and determined to spend an eternity in Heaven or in Hell. Though all branches of Christianity –Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical or mainline Protestants – teach that Jesus Christ plays a decisive role in the salvation process, the specifics of that role and the part played by individual persons or ecclesiastical rituals and relationships, is a matter of wide diversity in official church teaching, theological speculation and popular practice. Some Christians believe that if one has not repented of one's sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, one will go to Hell and suffer eternal damnation or eternal separation from God. Variations also exist on this theme, e.g. some which hold that the unrighteous soul will be destroyed instead of suffering eternally (Annihilationism). Believers will inherit eternal life in Heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. There is also a belief that babies (including the unborn) and those with cognitive or mental impairments who have died will be received into Heaven on the basis of God's grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Soul at inception of life

Among Christians, there is uncertainty regarding whether human embryos have souls, and at what point between conception and birth the fetus acquires a soul and consciousness. This uncertainty is the general reasoning behind many Christians' belief that abortion should not be legal.

Roman Catholic beliefs

The present Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the soul as "the innermost aspect of humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are most especially in God's image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man." All souls living and dead will be judged by Jesus Christ when he comes back to earth. The souls of those who die unrepentant of serious sins, or in conscious rejection of God, will at judgment day be forever in a state called Hell. The Catholic Church teaches that the existence of each individual soul is dependent wholly upon God: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God."

Orthodox Christian beliefs

Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox views are somewhat similar, in essence, to Roman Catholic views although different in specifics. Orthodox Christians believe that after death, the soul is judged individually by God, and then sent to either Abraham's Bosom (temporary paradise) or Hades/Hell (temporary torture). At the Last Judgment, God judges all people who have ever lived. Those that know the Spirit of God, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, go to Heaven (permanent paradise) whilst the damned experience the Lake of Fire (permanent torture). The Orthodox Church does not teach that Purgatory exists.

Protestant beliefs

Depiction of the soul on a 17th century tombstone at the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow

Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence, but fall into two major camps about what this means in terms of an afterlife. Some, following Calvin, believe in the immortality of the soul and conscious existence after death, while others, following Luther, believe in the mortality of the soul and unconscious "sleep" until the resurrection of the dead.

Other Christians reject the idea of the immortality of the soul, citing the Apostles' Creed's reference to the "resurrection of the body" (the Greek word for body is soma σωμα, which implies the whole person, not sarx σαρξ, the term for flesh or corpse). They consider the soul to be the life force, which ends in death and will be restored in the resurrection. Theologian Frederick Buechner sums up this position in his 1973 book Whistling in the Dark: "...we go to our graves as dead as a doornail and are given our lives back again by God (i.e., resurrected) just as we were given them by God in the first place. "

Christadelphian beliefs

Christadelphians believe that we are all created out of the dust of the earth and became living souls once we received the breath of life based on the Genesis 2 account of humanity's creation. Adam was said to have become a living soul. His body did not contain a soul, rather his body (made from dust) plus the breath of life together were called a soul, in other words a living being. They believe that we are mortal and when we die our breath leaves our body, and our bodies return to the soil. They believe that we are mortal until the resurrection from the dead when Christ returns to this earth and grants immortality to the faithful. In the meantime, the dead lie in the earth in the sleep of death until Jesus comes.

Seventh-day Adventists beliefs

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the main definition of the term "Soul" is a combination of spirit (breath of life) and body, disagreeing with the view that the soul has a consciousness or sentient existence of its own.They affirm this through Genesis 2:7 "And (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." When God united His breath, or spirit with man, man became a living soul. A living soul is composed of body and spirit. Adventists believe at death the body returns to dust and life returns to the God who bestowed it. This belief is expressed in the following quotation from their fundamental beliefs, "The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people..." (Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 146:3, 4; John 11:11–14; Col. 3:4; 1 Cor. 15:51–54; 1 Thess. 4:13–17; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:1–10.)

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses take the Hebrew word nephesh, which is commonly translated as "soul", to be a person, an animal, or the life that a person or an animal enjoys. They believe that the Hebrew word ruach (Greek pneuma), which is commonly translated as "spirit" but literally means "wind", refers to the life force or the power that animates living things. A person is a breathing creature, a body animated by the "spirit of God", not an invisible being contained in a body and able to survive apart from that body after death. Jesus spoke of himself, having life, as having a soul. When he surrendered his life, he surrendered his soul. John 10:15 reads "just as the Father knows me and I know the father, and I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep." This belief that man is a soul, rather than having a soul, is also in line with the knowledge that Hell (Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek) represents the common grave with the hope of resurrection rather than eternal torment in hellfire.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beliefs

Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that the spirit and body together constitute the Soul of Man (Mankind). "The spirit and the body are the soul of man"They believe that the soul is the union of a domain of 'Elemental Intelligence' co-eternal with God, a portion of God's spirit which gives life, and a temporal body, which is formed by physical conception on earth. After death, the spirit continues to live and progress in the Spirit world until the resurrection, when it is reunited with the body that once housed it. This reuniting of body and spirit results in a perfect soul that is immortal and eternally young and healthy.

Other Christian opinions

Soul as the personality: Some Christians regard the soul as the immortal essence of a human – the seat or locus of human will, understanding, and personality.

Trichotomy of the soul : Augustine, one of western Christianity's most influential early Christian thinkers, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body". Some Christians espouse a trichotomic view of humans, which characterizes humans as consisting of a body (soma), soul (psyche), and spirit (pneuma),.However, the majority of modern Bible scholars point out how spirit and soul are used interchangeably in many biblical passages, and so hold to dichotomy: the view that each of us is body and soul. Paul said that the "body wars against" the soul, and that "I buffet my body", to keep it under control.

Philosopher Anthony Quinton said the soul is a "series of mental states connected by continuity of character and memory, [and] is the essential constituent of personality. The soul, therefore, is not only logically distinct from any particular human body with which it is associated; it is also what a person is". Richard Swinburne, a Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, wrote that "it is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualists cannot say what souls are.... Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties. They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs, and perform intentional actions. Souls are essential parts of human beings..."

Origin of the soul: The origin of the soul has provided a vexing question in Christianity; the major theories put forward include soul creationism, traducianism and pre-existence. According to creationism, each individual soul is created directly by God, either at the moment of conception or some later time (identical twins arise several cell divisions after conception, but no creationist would deny that they have whole souls). According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the preexistence theory, the soul exists before the moment of conception.


In Hinduism, the Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are "Jeev", "Aatma" and "Purusha", meaning the individual Self. The term "soul" is misleading as it implies an object possessed, whereas Self signifies the subject which perceives all objects. This self is held to be distinct from the various mental faculties such as desires, thinking, understanding, reasoning and self-image (ego), all of which are considered to be part of Prakriti (nature).

All the three major schools of Hindu philosophy agree, on the basis of the Vedic revelation, that the Aatma or jeevaatma(individual Self) is related to Brahman (lit. "the Immensity") or the Supreme Self of the Universe (ParamAatma). But they differ in the nature of this relationship. In Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) the Individual Self (jeevaatma) and the Supreme Self (paramaatman) are one and the same. Dvaita or dualistic rejects this concept of identity, instead identifying the Self as separate but similar part of supreme Self (God), but it never lose its individual identity. Visishtadvaita or Qualified Non-dualism takes a middle path and accepts the jeevatman as a "mode" [prakara] or attribute of the Brahman. For an alternative atheistic and dualistic view of the soul in ancient Hindu philosophy.

The jeevatman becomes involved in the process of becoming and transmigrating through cycles of birth and death because of ignorance of its own true nature. The spiritual path consists of Self-realization – a process in which one acquires the knowledge of the Self (brahma-jñanam) and through this knowledge applied through meditation and realization one then returns to the Source which is Brahman.

The qualities which are common to both Brahman and jeevaatma are: being (sat), consciousness (chit), and bliss/love (ananda). Liberation or Moksha (final release) is liberation from all limiting adjuncts (upadhis) and the unification with Brahman.

The Mandukya Upanishad verse 7 describes the Aatma in the following way:-

"Not inwardly cognitive, not outwardly cognitive, not both-wise cognitive, not a cognition-mass, not cognitive, not non-cognitive, unseen, with which there can be no dealing, ungraspable, having no distinctive mark, non-thinkable, that cannot be designated, the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with the Self, the cessation of development, tranquil, benign, without a second (a-dvaita)—[such] they think is the fourth. That is the Self. That should be discerned."

In Bhagavad – Gita 2.20  Lord Krishna describes the soul in the following way:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah ajo nityah sasvato yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire

"For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever – existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."

[Translation by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada)]

Srila Prabhupada, a great Vaishnava saint of the modern time further explains: The soul does not take birth there, and the soul does not die...And because the soul has no birth, he therefore has no past, present or future. He is eternal, ever-existing and primeval – that is, there is no trace in history of his coming into being.

Since the quality of Aatma is primarily consciousness, all sentient and insentient beings are pervaded by Aatma, including plants, animals, humans and gods. The difference between them is the contracted or expanded state of that consciousness.

For example, animals and humans share in common the desire to live, fear of death, desire to procreate and to protect their families and territory and the need for sleep, but animals' consciousness is more contracted and has less possibility to expand than does human consciousness.

When the Aatma becomes embodied it is called birth, when the Aatma leaves a body it is called death.

The Aatma transmigrates from one body to another body based on karmic [performed deeds] reactions.

In Hinduism, the Sanskrit word most closely corresponding to soul is "Aatma", which can mean soul or even God. It is seen as the portion of Brahman within us.

Hinduism contains many variant beliefs on the origin, purpose, and fate of the soul. For example, advaita or non-dualistic conception of the soul accords it union with Brahman, the absolute uncreated (roughly, the Godhead), in eventuality or in pre-existing fact.

Dvaita or dualistic concepts reject this, instead identifying the soul as a different and incompatible substance


According to the Quran, Ruh (Spirit) is a command from Allah (God).

And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about the soul (Rûh). Say, "The soul (Rûh) is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little." [Quran 17:85]

Islam teaches the soul is immortal and eternal. What a person does is definitely recorded and will be judged at the utterly court of the God.


In Jainism soul exists too, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. Every living being from a plant or a bacterium to human, has a soul. The soul (Jiva) is differentiated from non-soul or non-living reality (ajiva) that consists of: matter, time, space, medium of motion and medium of rest.[


According to Nadya Yuguseva, a shaman from the Altai, "'A woman has 40 souls; men have just one'"


Sikhism considers Soul (atma) to be part of God (Waheguru). Various hymns are cited from the holy book "Sri Guru Granth Sahib" (SGGS) that suggests this belief. "God is in the Soul and the Soul is in the God." The same concept is repeated at various pages of the SGGS.

For example: "The soul is divine; divine is the soul. Worship Him with love." and "The soul is the Lord, and the Lord is the soul; contemplating the Shabad, the Lord is found." The "Atma" or "Soul" according to Sikhism is an entity or "spiritual spark" or "light" in our body because of which the body can sustain life.

On the departure of this entity from the body, the body becomes lifeless – No amount of manipulations to the body can make the person make any physical actions.

The soul is the ‘driver’ in the body. It is the ‘roohu’ or spirit or atma, the presence of which makes the physical body alive. Many religious and philosophical traditions, support the view that the soul is the ethereal substance – a spirit; a non material spark – particular to a unique living being.

Such traditions often consider the soul both immortal and innately aware of its immortal nature, as well as the true basis for sentience in each living being.

The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly even within a given religion as to what happens to the soul after death.

Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it possibly material.


According to Chinese traditions, every person has two types of soul called hun and po, which are respectively yang and yin. Taoism believes in ten souls, sanhunqipo  "three hun and seven po". The pò is linked to the dead body and the grave, whereas the hún is linked to the ancestral tablet.

A living being that loses any of them is said to have mental illness or unconsciousness, while a dead soul may reincarnate to a disability, lower desire realms or may even be unable to reincarnate. Also, Journeys to the Under-World said there can be hundreds of divisible souls.


Other religious beliefs and views

In theological reference to the soul, the terms "life" and "death" are viewed as emphatically more definitive than the common concepts of "biological life" and "biological death". Because the soul is said to be transcendent of the material existence, and is said to have (potentially) eternal life, the death of the soul is likewise said to be an eternal death.

Thus, in the concept of divine judgment, God is commonly said to have options with regard to the dispensation of souls, ranging from Heaven (i.e. angels) to hell (i.e. demons), with various concepts in between. Typically both Heaven and hell are said to be eternal, or at least far beyond a typical human concept of lifespan and time.

Some transhumanists believe that it will become possible to perform mind transfer, either from one human body to another, or from a human body to a computer. Operations of this type (along with teleportation), raise philosophical questions related to the concept of the soul.

Spirituality, New Age and new religions


In Helena Blavatsky's Theosophy the soul is the field of our psychological activity (thinking, emotions, memory, desires, will, and so on) as well as of the so-called paranormal or psychic phenomena (extrasensory perception, out-of-body experiences, etc.).

However, the soul is not the highest, but a middle dimension of human beings. Higher than the soul is the spirit, which is considered to be the real self; the source of everything we call “good”—happiness, wisdom, love, compassion, harmony, peace, etc. While the spirit is eternal and incorruptible, the soul is not. The soul acts as a link between the material body and the spiritual self, and therefore shares some characteristics of both.

The soul can be attracted either towards the spiritual or towards the material realm, being thus the “battlefield” of good and evil. It is only when the soul is attracted towards the spiritual and merges with the Self that it becomes eternal and divine.


Rudolf Steiner differentiated three stages of soul development, which interpenetrate one another in consciousness:

  • the "sentient soul", centering on sensations, drives, and passions, with strong conative (will) and emotional components;
  • the "intellectual" or "mind soul", internalizing and reflecting on outer experience, with strong affective (feeling) and cognitive (thinking) components; and
  • the "consciousness soul", in search of universal, objective truths.


In Surat Shabda Yoga, the soul is considered to be an exact replica and spark of the Divine. The purpose of Surat Shabd Yoga is to realize one's True Self as soul (Self-Realisation), True Essence (Spirit-Realisation) and True Divinity (God-Realisation) while living in the physical body.

George Gurdjieff in his Fourth Way taught that nobody is ever born with a soul.

Rather, an individual must create a soul by a process of self-remembrance and observation during the course of their life. Without a soul, Gurdjieff taught that one will "die like a dog".

Eckankar, founded by Paul Twitchell in 1965, defines Soul as the true self; the inner, most sacred part of each person.


Science and medicine seek naturalistic accounts of the observable natural world. This stance is known as methodological naturalism. Much of the scientific study relating to the soul has involved investigating the soul as an object of human belief, or as a concept that shapes cognition and an understanding of the world, rather than as an entity in and of itself.

When modern scientists speak of the soul outside of this cultural and psychological context, they generally treat soul as a poetic synonym for mind. Francis Crick's book, The Astonishing Hypothesis, for example, has the subtitle, "The scientific search for the soul".

Crick held the position that one can learn everything knowable about the human soul by studying the workings of the human brain.

Depending on one's belief regarding the relationship between the soul and the mind, then, the findings of neuroscience may be relevant to one's understanding of the soul.

Skeptic Robert T. Carroll suggests that the concept of a non-substantial substance is an oxymoron, and that the scholarship done by philosophers and psychologists based on the assumption of a non-physical entity has not furthered scientific understanding of the working of the mind.

Daniel Dennett has championed the idea that the human survival strategy depends heavily on adoption of the intentional stance, a behavioral strategy that predicts the actions of others based on the expectation that they have a mind like one's own (see theory of mind).

Mirror neurons in brain regions such as Broca's area may facilitate this behavioral strategy.

The intentional stance, Dennett suggests, has proven so successful that people tend to apply it to all aspects of human experience, thus leading to animism and to other conceptualizations of soul.


Some parapsychologists have attempted to establish if the soul exists by scientific experiment. Milbourne Christopher in his book Search for the Soul (1979) explained that none of the attempts by parapsychologists have yet succeeded.

Photograph of the soul

The French physician Hippolyte Baraduc had claimed to have photographed the human soul. However some professional photographers have suggested that the effect observed in his photographs could have been caused by tiny pinholes in the bellows behind the lens of the camera.

Weight of the soul

In 1907 Dr Duncan MacDougall made weight measurements of patients as they died.

He claimed that there was weight loss of varying amounts at the time of death.

His results have never been reproduced, and are generally regarded either as meaningless or considered to have had little if any scientific merit.






[i] This essay is based on an article originally written for the AChP Newsletter no 9,  Summer 1997 as part of an ongoing discussion of the nature of countertransference. My original article was a commentary on and dialogue with articles by Babette Rothschild, Ray Holland and Tree Staunton in issues 7&8.

[ii] The subtle body has been extensively covered in literature since ancient times. It encompasses many traditions and practices. The most up-to-date integrative analysis of the subtle body in terms of spiritual  traditions and modern Western medicine is to be found in Caroline Myss’ The Anatomy of the Spirit.

[iii] For a comprehensive account of the influence of Jung in the body psychotherapy tradition, see Boadella 1990

[iv] Many holistic therapies work with the energy body – healing, therapeutic touch, Reiki, Polarity, intuitive massage. The emphasis is usually on integrating mental, emotional, physical and spiritual through hands-on work, which creates in the client a heightened experience of the subtle body. This is distinct from psychotherapy which works explicitly with the relationship between the client and therapist.

[v] Schwartz-Salant has developed this psychotherapeutic subtle body work most fully. His books on Narcissism and Character Transformation (Inner City, Toronto, 1982) and Borderline Personality are full of dynamic illustrative case material. The training at Chiron has been influenced by the Jungians, especially Redfearn, Hillman, and Schwartz-Salant.






1.      ^ Arthur A.Powell, The Astral Body and other Astral Phenomena, The Theosophical Publishing House, London, England; Wheaton,Ill, U.S.A.; Adyar, Chennai, India, 1927, reprinted in 1954 and 1965, page 7, online June 2008 at


3.      Energy Psychology by Michael Mayer

4.      ^ Suki Miller, After Death: How People around the World Map the Journey after Death (1995).

5.      ^ Dr. Roger J. Woolger, Beyond Death: Transition and the Afterlife, accessed online June 2008 at the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists,

6.      ^ Powell, op.cit.

7.      ^ C.W. Leadbeater, Man, Visible and Invisible; Barbara Brennan, Hands of Light; Dora Van Gelder Kunz, The Personal Aura; Barbara Y. Martin, Change Your Aura, Change Your Life.

8.      ^ Plato, The Republic, trans. Desmond Lee, Harmondsworth.

9.      ^ Dodds, E.R. Proclus: The Elements of Theology. A revised text with translation, introduction, and commentary, 2nd edition 1963, Appendix.

10.  ^ Powell, op. cit. page 9.

11.  ^ Chic Cicero, Chic C, Sandra Tabatha Cicero The Essential Golden Dawn, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003.

12.  ^ Theosophy, Vol. 83, No. 10, August, 1995

13.  ^ William Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy 2nd Ed. TPH, 1893, Chapter 5, book online June 2008 at

14.  ^ Powell, op. cit. Ch.1 passim.

15.  ^ Currents in the desire body

16.  ^ Cf. Matthew 22:1-14

17.  ^ Cf. 1Cor 15:44 (concordance Greek/Textus Receptus): "It is sown a soul body [Gr. "soma" – body and "psuchicon" – psu(y)che – soul; mistranslated "natural body"]; it is raised a spiritual body (...)"

18.  ^ Samael Aun Weor (1953), The Seven Words, Thelema Press

19.  ^ Kenneth Walker, A Study of Gurdjieff's Teachings.

20.  ^ Dr. Roger J. Woolger, Beyond Death: Transition and the Afterlife, accessed online June 2008 at the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists - "Buddhists from Tibet talk of the bardo realm in which many states of the spirit/soul, i.e. bardos, exist between lifetimes on earth. The Spiritualists in their teachings call it the Spirit World, following the great visionary Swedenborg....In the Celtic tradition, the intermediary realm is often called the Middle Kingdom or the Faery World. Australian aborigines call it the Dreamtime, the Sufis of Persia called it the alam al-mithal or Mythic World, which Henry Corbin (1995) has dubbed the mundus imaginalis. Jung called it the collective unconscious....."

21.  ^ Karen Gibson, D and D Lathrop, Carl Jung and Soul Psychology,1991, Haworth Press

22.  ^ Jung, C.G. (1947/1954) par. 420 Collected Works


  1. ^ Brennan, Barbara, Hands of Light : A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (Etheric body), Bantam Books, 1987
  2. ^ Leadbeater, C. W., Man, Visible and Invisible, 1902
  3. ^ Besant, Annie, Man and His Bodies, 1911
  4. ^ Kilner, Walter J., The Human Atmosphere, or the Aura Made Visible by the aid of Chemical Screens, 1911, reprinted as "The Human Aura" by Citadel Press, NY, 1965, ISBN 0-8065-0545-1. The Aura, by Walter J. Kilner. Introd. by Sibyl Ferguson. New York, S. Weiser, 1973.
  5. ^ Steiner, Rudolf, Occult science - An Outline. Trans. George and Mary Adams. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1909, 1969
  6. ^ Heindel, Max, The Rosicrucian Mysteries (Chapter IV, The Constitution of Man: Vital Body - Desire Body - Mind), 1911, ISBN 0-911274-86-3
  7. ^ Samael Aun Weor, The Pistis Sophia Unveiled, Thelema Press, (1983) 2005
  8. ^ Samael Aun Weor, "Death", The Book of the Dead, 1966
  9. ^ Samael Aun Weor, The Three Mountains, Thelema Press, (1972) 2003
  10. ^ Samael Aun Weor, The Initiatic Path in the Arcana of Tarot and Kabbalah, Thelema Press, (1978) 2007
  11. ^ Aspden, Harold, The Physics of Creation: Chapter 7: Aether Structure, 2003
  12. ^ Wilcock, David, Light on Quantum Physics
  13. ^ Mishin, Alexander M., The Ether Model as Result of the New Empirical Conception, International Academy of MegaSciences, St. Petersburg, Russia (html available)
  14. ^ Wilcock, David, The breakthroughs of Russian astrophysicist Dr. Nikolai A. Kozyrev (1908-1983)
  15. ^ Louis Essen (1908 - 1997), Relativity and Time Signals, in Wireless World magazine, October 1978
  16. ^ Aspden, Harold (Ph.D. electrical engineering at Trinity/University of Cambridge [1953/4], physicist, MInstP), Physics without EinsteinPDF 1969, 2005
  17. ^ Deutsch, Sid (Ph.D. electrical engineering, fellow of IEEE and the Society for Information Display), Einstein's Greatest Mistake: Abandonment of the Aether, ISBN 0595374816, 2006
  18. ^ Hodson, Geoffrey, Kingdom of the Gods ISBN 0-7661-8134-0 — Has color pictures of what Devas supposedly look like when observed by the third eye — their appearance is reputedly like colored flames about the size of a human being. Paintings of some of the devas claimed to have been seen by Hodson from his book "Kingdom of the Gods":
  19. ^ Eskild Tjalve’s paintings of devas, nature spirits, elementals and fairies:
  20. ^ Powell, A.E. The Solar System London:1930 The Theosophical Publishing House (A Complete Outline of the Theosophical Scheme of Evolution) See "Lifewave" chart (refer to index)
  21. ^ Powell, A.E. The Solar System London:1930 The Theosophical Publishing House (A Complete Outline of the Theosophical Scheme of Evolution) See "Lifewave" chart (refer to index)