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The Subtle Bodies

the subtle body
Connected, © Jason Wolf
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Many esoteric teachings refer to a number of distinct planes of existence, each with its own corresponding "vehicle" of consciousness,   Instead of a single physical body housing the soul (Dualism), we possess a series of "bodies" or "vehicles of consciousness", beyond all of which is the spiritual-soul principle.

The Dutch philosopher Dr J. J. Poortman completed in the 1950s a comprehensive four-volume historical, comparative, and philosophical study on this very subject, which has been translated into English [J. J. Poortman, Ochema - Vehicles of Consciousness, Utrecht, Adyar, 1978].

The Subtle Body in different Esoteric Teachings


Comparing the ancient Egyptian conception of soul/self levels, Indian five-self doctrine of the Indian Vedanta (derived originally from the Taittiriya Upanishad), the Neoplatonic-Hermetic classification, the Theosophical system Rudolph Steiner's Anthroposophy, we have the following rough consensus:

Level Egypt Vedanta (Kosha) Neoplatonic-Hermetic Blavatsky Leadbeater Steiner
Spiritual Body Akh (in part) Ananda
Nous/Mind - Sun Upper Manas ("Ego")  Causal subplane and body Ego - Spirit - Devachan
Ideational Body Manas Lower Manas ("Mind") Mental subplane and body
Astral Body Ba Soul - Moon Kama ("Desire")  Astral/Emotional planes and body Soul - Astral plane / Soul world
Etheric Body Ka (in part) Prana (vitality) Vital Spirit Prana (Vitality)
Sukshma (Astral Double)
Etheric subplane and body Etheric body of formative forces
Physical body Kha Anna "Food"  (Physical body) Body - Earth Sthula (Gross body) Gross Physical subplane and body Physical

This table is actually somewhat simplistic, because Steiner's Devachan is not necessarily the same as the Adyar-Theosophical Mental Plane.  And moreover there is a frequent tendancy among many esoteric writers (especially those coming from an Adyar Theosophical-based tradition) to confuse the various planes and bodies.  But, quibbling aside, there is indicated here the basic sequence of "vehicles of consciousness":

This general schema can be represented diagrammatically by concentric circles.  The physical body is the most "external" or visible part of the being.  Within this, according to the standard theosophical paradigm, is the etheric body, then the astral and the mental bodies, and finally the Higher Self

A distinct approach (which involves resonances but is not identical to the above sequence) has the physical body in the middle, and various etheric bodies as successive "auras" or atmospheres around it.

See also:

The Aura | The Energy Bodies | Energetic Protection | Chakra Energies and Energy Balancing | The Circulation of the Light

Web links Links Web links

web page sectionSubtle bodies: the many levels of Human Consciousness - by the Theosophical Society in Hobart Inc - short but useful intro

Web Site Seven Bodies - Seven Chakras - index page - associates each of the chakras with a subtle body.  From Osho's talks.

Web Site The Visionary Art of Alex Grey - incredible stuff!

electronic book The Macrocosm Within - by Dr. Edward F. Block IV, Ph.D. - This on-line book weaves together Astrobiology, Astrology, Metaphysics, Psychology, Qi, Yoga, and neurophysiology, describes the Subtle Energies of Man, the manner in which they flow and provide basis for growth, development and creative expression.  Covers material on the subtle energy fields and the subtle body.  See alsoexternal link PERCEPTION - An Interdisciplinary Journal Concerning Studies on the Theoretical Basis and Expression of Organic Evolution Within the Backdrop of Our Solar System As Relates To Bioelectromagnetic Medicine

web page Harmonic Energy Balancing - article by Kevin Farrow

web page The Energy Body - overview of the subtle bodies, and some channelled messages on this subject, by Hummingbird & company

Web Site The Psychic Sensor Karnak at ANPSI - A Psychic Sensor that can catch from a distance of one-two metres, without any electrode connected to the head, magnetic fields emitted by the brain of any human being or animal. The device recognize bioresonance between brain and organs and a software, linked to a personal computer, can verify energetic of the body variabilities each two seconds.

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content © M.Alan Kazlev
This material may be freely used for non-commercial purposes provided acknowledgment is given
subtle body icon © Martin Brofman
page uploaded 6 December 1998
last modified 30 November 2001