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The Subtle Physical

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reality: Inner / Subtle Aspect of the Physical, and vice versa

objective qualities: "Yogic anatomy", chakras, nadis, etc

subjective qualities: Inner Facet of Body / Matter, inner elemental presence, Tantric and Taoist states of physical transformation, Awareness of Body, Inner Physical Consciousness, Spontaneous action ("Zen and the art of archery")

Type Description (microcosm - subjective): Inner Physical Being of Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga vo.1, pp.311ff);

This is what Sri Aurobindo would call (in his Letters on Yoga - Planes and Parts of Being) the Inner Physical - or at least the outermost aspect of the Inner Physical. It is not mentioned by the Theosophists or by Rudolph Steiner. Higher mystic states of martial arts training would seem to derive from here, also states of Tantric development.

As with all the regions, the Subtle Physical itself could be thought of as consisting of a number of resonances or subplanes.  One might for example postulate subplanes such as: the Divine, Higher Spiritual, Illumined, Higher Mental, Mental, Emotional, Vital, Mundane Physical, Chthonic or Subphysical, and Hylic or Inconscient. (Subconscient and Inconscient are useful terms borrowed from Sri Aurobindo but possibly deriving from Theon's Tradition). As in all these cases, the higher planes are only poorly understood, pertaining as they do to very elevated and spiritual states of existence.  Those who are familiar with the teachings of Theosophy or of Anthroposophy (Rudolph Steiner), will have come across the distinction between the Physical or "Gross Physical" and the Etheric or "Subtle Physical" Planes, but the lower two planes are not mentioned in those teachings, although they are indicated to in writings of Sri Aurobindo

Subplanes - Comparative

Beyond the obvious physical are other planes or subgrades. I would associate these with the lower four of Theon's subdivisions, and the corresponding lower four of Barbara Brennan's sequence of seven energy bodies (the physical body making up the eight body). These can also be associated with the four elements of Greek thought, the four subdivisions of the sefirah Malkut in Hermetic Kabbalah, and so on. This is shown in the following table (the colours are approximately those attributed by Barbara Brennan:

Physical Reality element Max Theon
"Cosmic Tradition"
The Objective Plane
Alice Bailey Barbara Brennan - "Human Energy Field" (aura)
Divine Spiritual Physical / Logoic Spirit Free Intelligence subdegree of the physical 7. x Logoic n/a
Higher Spiritual Physical / Monadic Pure Spirit subdegree of the physical Monad
Middle Spiritual Physical Light subdegree of the physical 6. Spiritual-emotional Soul
(atma-buddhi-higher manas)
Lower Spiritual Physical ("Logoic") Noeric Intuition subdegree of the physical
Mental Physical Air Mental subdegree of the physical 5. Mental-emotional Personality (lower manas-emotional) Mental body
Physical Emotional Water Soul subdegree of the physical 4. Passional-emotional
3. Physiological-emotional
Emotional body
Etheric Plane Warmth, Fire (life force) Nervo / Astral subdegree of the physical 2. Instinctual Etheric Etheric body
Mundane Physical Earth Physical subdegree of the physical 1. Sensuous Physical Physical body

The Subtle Physical refers to the inner, etheric and formative regions of the physical, as opposed to the lower dense physical or the objective outer physical. However, all these regions and subdividions intergrade, and the Subtle Physical itself includes a vast number of different realities.

At its densest and most objective, this region corresponds to paraphysics, alternative healing modalities, auras and the etheric or subtle bodies, orgone energy, Earth energies, Anthroposophy, and other phenomena on the fringes of science, considered quackery because they don't fit within the secular-reductionistic paradigm that recognises only the material-physical.

At a more subtle level, this shades into the region of dreams, astral travel, shamanic vision, clairvoyance, and so on.

In Ishraqi and Sufi cosmology, this is the Imaginal Realm - Barzakh (Interworld) of Suhrawardi, the Mithal (Imaginal realm) of Ibn Arabi, "the 8th Clime" of islamic geography and cosmology. It is the region of pure Forms intermediate between the higher spiritual and Divine hypostasis of Light and Divine logoi, and the Cosmic Physical reality.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
this page uploaded 13 June 2005, last modified 29 November
includes material originally uploaded 19 July 1998 and 6 September 2001