The Subtle Bodies

Posted: August 22, 2012 by phaedrap1 in Spirituality

Behind the obvious physical being is a series of more subtle vehicles of consciousness, each with its own aura and energy dynamics.
As with “soul”, “spirit”, and so on, the term “subtle body” is unfortunately used in a very vague sense, with different esotericists using it to describe different things. “Subtle body” can refer to :
1) any of a number of distinct “subtle bodies”   or vehicles of consciousness that exist as frequency levels on the     the Etheric Plane.  The word “subtle” here is used to distinguish these bodies from the gross physical body.
2) the “astral body”, the individualised nature which consists of a finer “substance” or prakriti than the physical.
3) the “yogic body”, consisting of chakras, nadis, and ch’i or pranic energy, regardless of whether this is considered real or a visualisation to aid concentration (traditional esoteric systems did not feel the need to discriminate between the two, unlike secular modernity which is bound to a literal belief in scientism and materialism)
The Etheric Bodies collectively correspond to what the Ancient Egyptians referred to as the Ka.  The various subtle bodies constitute the energy blueprints both for those subtle bodies below them, and for the gross physical body and physical consciousness.  Although the subtle bodies are invisible to our normal sense-perception, certain individuals have – whether through innate ability or training – developed a higher or extended sense perception, and have, on this basis, described these subtle bodies, and various associated phenomena.  These clairvoyants do perceive something, even if the majority are very limited in their abilities.  They only see a little bit, and then they claim on this basis to know everything.  There are however rare clairvoyants who do have exceptional abilities.  Such higher clairvoyance seems to be always associated with both a great spiritual development and a very strong Healing ability.
Most forms of Clairvoyance – seeing auras, colours, chakras,etc – pertain to the various resonances of the Etheric Plane.  Here we have what in Theosophical and especially in popular occult terminology are called the Etheric, Emotional, and Mental bodies, also called “koshas”, “subtle bodies” or “vehicles of consciousness”.  Each has its own emanated field of influence, its own atmosphere or aura.  All writers on this subject are in agreement that the aura of the Etheric body is the smallest in extent, whilst the Mental aura is the largest of these three.  The higher spiritual auras are larger again.  However, these clairvoyants all differ as to the precise size or extent of each aura beyond the physical body (usually it ranges from a centimeter or so to a meter or more, depending on the subtle body).
In all of these planes and bodies one finds individualised resonances of higher worlds.  So the physical intellect or “Mental Body” is the lower octave, or resonance, of the Rational Universe, and the instrument of reason and imagination, or in short, thinking.  The “Emotional Body” is the lower octave, or resonance, of the Psychic Universe, and pertains to feelings, desires, and emotions; in short, teeling.  And the somatic-physical represents the basic nature of that particular plane itself (Chthonic, Material-Physical, or Etheric), and constitutes the “consciousness of the body”.
In man, there are apparently seven subtle bodies in total.  These define the human condition.  Further subtle bodies are actualised in Adepts and Enlightened Beings, whilst animals and plants are described as having fewer.  Even if this is true, this does not make them spiritually inferior or “lacking a soul”, as some religions claim, because spiritual evolution is dependent on the degree of development of the evolving higher self, and it may be the case that an animal or even a plant has a purer and more developed higher self than a human, even though the human has actualised more subtle bodies.
Each subtle body  has its own set of charkas or energy-centres.  According to the Theosophical paradigm (widely adopted by the New Age movement) the chakras serve as receiving stations that seem to have four distinct functions:
They process and assimilate the etheric energy of that particular plane.
They act as “voltage transformers” that enable the higher frequency consciousness-energy of the more spiritual subtle bodies to be received and assimilated by the subtle body in question.
They allow the consciousness of higher dimensions of self to function within the subtle body, just as the brain and nervous system does for the physical body.
Finally, quite apart from these “outer” energy-centre chakras, there are totally different “inner” organs of subtle consciousness, also called  chakras, which allow the functioning of even more inward dimensions of self.
The Gross Physical, Physical Etheric, Physical Emotional, and Physical Mental Bodies together make up the Gross Psycho-physical entity, the being that is separate from other beings, and which ceases with the death of the physical body.  The higher subtle bodies however continue in varying degrees even after the death of the physical body.
The first spiritual body, the Psychic or “astral” Etheric Body constitutes the psycho-energic body transitional between the Physical and Spiritual Subtle-Physical dimensions.  Qabalistically, it is represented by the Sefirah Tifaret, the transitional stage between the lower and higher sefirot.
With the three higher spiritual bodies we enter the realm of the universal.  There are three subtle bodies to consider here, being the form (etheric), emotion, and mental bodies repeated (or originally arising) on a higher octave.
More to come soon.

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