An Insider's Guide to the
Perceptual Revolution
The Etheric Field
Retuning the Aura

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Life Force

 Years ago, a friend of mine who was studying tai ch’i introduced me to the idea of vital energy. He explained the idea of sentient energy fields and then, to illustrate, he held his hand a few inches from mine and tried to project ch’i (or subtle human energy) across the intervening space. I was skeptical at first, but then I started to feel a strange, almost rhythmic electrical activity running up my arm. It is hard to describe in words, but I had the impression that something other than myself was slowly moving up my arm. It was as if my body is normally full of living "stuff" that is distinctly mine, a substance which is so essential to me that I paid it no more mind than the blood rushing through my veins, and now some foreign matter was playing around in the wiring.

Later, as I mulled over the experience, I recalled that famous line from Hamlet: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” It all left me curious enough that I decided to read up on the subject and see if anyone else had observed a similar phenomenon--or better yet, researched this strange “energy” to discover how it works. I found that most science journals had little to offer (although Chi, an alternate medicine journal, occasionally reviews new research on topics like acupuncture or the heart’s electromagnetic field). I then turned to religious studies, and eventually came upon ideas like the etheric field (Theosophy), the chi body (Taoism), and the Spirit Body or Dreaming body (Native American cosmology).

In the time since, I have committed quite a bit of effort to learning about this level of being. My research, if it can be called such, has drawn on personal experience, corroboration of others’ testimonials, and a wide range of literature related to the subject. Through practice, I believe I have become aware of a coherent, self-aware energy that all people radiate. Some of the techniques that have helped me reach this goal are breathing meditation (or pranayama), harmonic chanting, and physical exercises that promote mindfulness of the body’s balance and movements.

If there is one thing I have found in my studies, it is that we all have a connection to a living energy that falls outside of any Materialist explanation of human consciousness. This etheric energy (for lack of a better term, I will monkey the Theosophists) is integral to people's identity, connections with one another, and rapport with the natural world. In fact, it is so essential to the ordinary processes of thinking and feeling that anyone can learn to recognize what occurs at this level of their reality, even with little to no prior experience.

Perceiving the etheric plane is the closest I have come to verifying that “mind” has an objective existence. All self-reflection engages our awareness of living energy fields, making us more attuned to activity occurring in the mind-matrix. As we think, feel, and do, we activate certain areas of our etheric nature and divest attention from other regions of that same energy field. With effort, we can learn to notice these shifts, which in turn offers greater insight into how we direct our own internal processes. Exploring and affirming our perennial connection with the etheric plane is one of many ways that we can learn more about the universe of the psyche.

The Etheric Field

  Every living thing generates vital energy, and human beings are filled to the brim with it. The energy of human awareness exists simultaneously throughout a series of distinct, yet interconnected, levels of reality. Just as your psyche is home to multitude of untapped internal forces which affect your conscious thinking, all of our experiences arise from an intersection of many energy fields. We are not separate from these layers of reality; we interact with them all the time. The one we deal with most of all is, of course, the electromagnetic spectrum, but we are far more than bioelectrical machines ticking away our lives in a material universe.

The physical body has its own variation on an “aura:” a complex electromagnetic field, which arises from energy circulating through the nervous system. This bioelectrical matrix includes the heart, brain, spinal cord, and nerve channels, and it is our primary connecting link between the material plane and alternate realities. Through it, all of our physical systems—nervous, endocrine, lymphatic, respiratory, circulatory, and so on—interact with energy fields outside of the measurable spectrum.

Two of the most integral layers of human energy occur at the etheric and astral levels of reality. Theosophists believe that we all have an “astral body” and an “etheric body,” but this terminology is misleading because it equates transmaterial energy with solid matter. The etheric and astral layers of human consciousness are coherent in the sense that they are self-contained. However, these “bodies” are not made of solid matter but malleable energy fields, which are constantly rearranging themselves as we redefine our thoughts and emotions. A field of ever-shifting, extradimensional life force has little in common with the matter that makes up one’s physical vehicle.

The mind is an ever-shifting matrix that is centered in the physical vehicle of the nervous system, yet also spans many alternate planes in a complex interplay of material and transmaterial forces. Like the realm of material phenomena, these parallel energy fields obey specific principles and laws. The human etheric field is transmaterial: it is not composed of the same electrical energy currently recognized by human science. It is also metaspatial, meaning that it intersects more than one reality or "space" at any given time. Contrary to one popular conception of the aura, it does not just surround the physical body like a cornea: it suffuses all of the body’s electromagnetic fields, particularly those circulating through the cranium, heart, nerves, bone marrow, and muscles.

The physical and etheric realms are so intertwined that we can learn to sense subtle energy without entering a "separate reality." The aura is only slightly removed from the world of tangible things which occupies most of our waking consciousness. One implication of this is that the aspect of us that exists on the etheric plane is an ideal relay point between more “distant” levels of reality and the central nervous system.

The human body is an organic design of incredible complexity. It is imbued with capabilities that few people know about and even fewer understand well enough to utilize. Among other things, it acts as a point of interface between parallel, interconnected planes of reality. Our will can generate a two-way vortex that connects the “space” that we occupy in the material plane with adjoining layers of “space,” causing the normally separate levels of reality to overlap. When this occurs, the alternate reality’s parameters spill over into the physical universe, creating all sorts of interesting phenomena.

Learning to be aware of the etheric field widens the connection between two closely linked aspects of our existence. Central to the process is a goal of extending the mind’s attention. In the Real World, people’s attention is focused on psychological and sensory processes that seem to originate in the physical body. Psychic ability develops as we learn to redirect the mind to more subtle levels of vibration. Confirming that etheric energy is real bridges the gap between the physical locus of the mind’s attention, and the transmaterial energy fields where our consciousness also resides. In most ways, reality remains within our usual cognitive-perceptual range, but as the physical and etheric bodies come into closer alignment, we touch upon a slightly different set of operant "laws."

The central nervous system is optimized to process a wide range of transmaterial impressions as sensory data. It does this by synchronizing the electromagnetic fields in our nerves and muscles with the etheric plane, and then translating the data into a syntax that we can comprehend. When we focus our attention on sensing the etheric plane, the nervous system steps up its energy circulation, which registers in our muscles as a strange combination of excitability and calm. This attunement somehow allows us to ground the meta-spatial vortex in the body itself, so that we become a portal of sorts. This is a two-way connection: not only do we engage etheric energy as a function of the senses, we also extend our “sensing” faculties into other layers of reality.

With every thought and action, we generate, synthesize, transmute, and project etheric energy. The etheric field acts as a generator by drawing on the raw energy of consciousness which we then hone into more refined patterns of awareness. It synthesizes in the sense that certain kinds of energy always predominate over the ambient space around us. People have a number of options for what they do with ambient energy. We can "tune into" and then emulate it, repel it, or transmute it to a state that is more to our liking. Lastly, we are projectors. People may not always want such a power, but the inescapable reality is that we are connected to everything around us through etheric energy fields.

Retuning the Aura

 Our physical bodies perform various functions that are partly autonomic and partly subject to our volition. Breathing, blood pressure, and stomach acidity are a few examples of processes that we sometimes affect, intentionally or inadvertently, with our state of awareness. These processes run on "autopilot" when we pay no attention to them, but we can also exert an impact on them by focusing on them with intention. In the etheric energy field, there is an analog to this rule: subtle energies contribute to our awareness regardless of whether we know or care about this fact, but with greater mindfulness, we can take a more direct part in "tuning" aspects of the etheric field.

From a Materialist reality model, people can perceive the undercurrents of thought, emotion and imagery within themselves, but not the subtle energies that produce much of this activity. When we learn to bring the etheric aspects of the psyche into the conscious sphere, their role becomes more vivid and immanent. It could be said that most people’s etheric bodies are half-asleep. Engaging the field at a conscious level can awaken people to many capabilities outside of their normal repertoire.

Mystical practice designed to extend our perceptual boundaries also affects the etheric field. The field itself is not changed, but reoriented to a different way of processing and filtering the vital energy that is all around us. The metaspatial dynamic here is a revolving door: what happens to our bodies has an effect on the subtle energy fluctuations on the etheric plane, and vice versa.

Among people who study the aura firsthand, it is commonly understood that the very act of perceiving the aura changes its energy. If this is true, it raises some questions of primacy. Primacy is best summed up by the old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" The implication is that the etheric field’s structure largely depends on how cognizant we are of its existence. Even a minor expansion in our perceptual range can affect the field’s intensity, structure, size and consistency.

The etheric and sensorial realms are part of an interrelated gestalt. When the body and the etheric energy field are in sync, we feel more attuned to subtle energies; as this occurs, it helps to keep in mind that the "new" perceptions only illuminate what was there all along. A great deal of activity is always occurring on the etheric plane, but opening the conscious mind to it can increase the level of energy being generated at this level. There is an integral connection between our conscious attention span and the level of vital energy that we infuse into the etheric level of our being.

Qualitative changes in the etheric field aren't restricted to those who actively explore their mystical potential; in fact, people generate fluctuations any time that they go through a change in perspective. Mental and emotional energies shape the character of the aura as much as our perceptual state. Consider someone who often feels resentful of those around her, but after some soul-searching, she resolves to regard others with greater tolerance and empathy. If we could observe her energy field as a series of images paced over a period of months, we would see a graded succession of changes. Transformative changes would be apparent in her etheric field’s predominant energy. Some regions would develop greater intensity while others receded, the structure would change size, shape, and consistency in minute steps—even the "color scheme" would show marked differences over time. No matter what people achieve in metaphysical exploration, thoughts and emotions will always form the baseline of their self-awareness—and in turn, the etheric field.

Sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste can’t happen without the requisite physical conditions, but they aren’t totally limited to the arena of bodily sensation. Imagination is the most obvious proof of this: all of us are endowed with the ability to internally reproduce the experience of sensory perception without the stimuli that would normally generate those impressions. Along the same lines, the five senses have various etheric allegories—aspects of perception that are not the same thing, but contain overlapping elements. This is why many people have had success in using sensory stimuli to elicit effects at a nonphysical level. Color therapy, aromatherapy, yoga, harmonic chanting, Tibetan singing bowls, and trance drumming are just a few commonly used techniques.


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© 1999, 2003 by Lucius R.  Ringwald.  All rights reserved.