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On the Etheric

These extracts are taken from the writings of the Tibetan via the books of Alice A. Bailey.

The etheric body is primarily composed of the dominant energy or energies to which the man, the group, the nation or the world reacts in any particular time cycle or world period. Six major propositions which govern all considerations of the etheric body.

  1. There is nothing in the manifested universe - solar, planetary or the various kingdoms in nature - which does not possess an energy form, subtle and intangible yet substantial, which controls, governs and conditions the outer physical body. This is the etheric body.
  2. This energy form - underlying the solar system, the planets and all forms within their specific rings-pass-not is itself conditioned and governed by the dominant solar or planetary energy which ceaselessly and without break in time, creates it, changes and qualifies it. The etheric body is subject to ceaseless change. This being true of the Macrocosm, is equally true of man, the microcosm, and - through the agency of humanity - will eventually and mysteriously prove true of all the subhuman kingdoms in nature. Of this, the animal kingdom and the vegetable kingdom are already evidences.
  3. The etheric body is composed of interlocking and circulating lines of force emanating from one or other, or from one or many, of the seven planes or areas of consciousness of our planetary life.
  4. These lines of energy and this closely interlocking system of streams of force are related to seven focal points or centres to be found within the etheric body. These centres are related, each of them to certain types of incoming energy. When the energy reaching the etheric body is not related to a particular centre, then that centre remains quiescent and unawakened; when it is related and the centre is sensitive to its impact, then that centre becomes vibrant and receptive and develops as a controlling factor in the life of the man on the physical plane.
  5. The dense physical body, composed of atoms - each with its own individual life, light and activity - is held together by and is expressive of the energies which compose the etheric body. These, as will be apparent, are of two natures:
    • The energies which form (through interlocked "lines of forceful energy") the underlying etheric body, as a whole and in relation to all physical forms. This form is qualified then by the general life and vitality of the plane on which the Dweller in the body functions, and therefore where his consciousness is normally focused.
    • The particularised or specialised energies by which the individual (at this particular point in evolution, through the circumstances of his daily life and his heredity) chooses to govern his daily activities.
  6. The etheric body has many centres of force, responsive to the inflowing energies of our planetary Life, but we shall consider only the seven major centres which respond to the inflowing energies of the seven rays. All lesser centres are conditioned by the seven major centres; this is a point which students are apt to forget. It is here that knowledge of the egoic and of the personality rays is of prime usefulness.

It can be seen, therefore how exceedingly important this subject of energy becomes, because it controls and makes the man what he is at any given moment, and likewise indicates the plane on which he should function, and the method whereby he should govern his environment, circumstances and relationships. If this is grasped by him, it will enable him to realise that he will have to shift his whole attention from the physical or astral planes on to the etheric levels of awareness; his objective will them be to determine what energy should control his daily expression (or energies if he is an advanced disciple).

Within the physical body, the network of the etheric body is to be found permeating every single part. It is peculiarly associated at this time with the nervous system, which is fed, nourished , controlled and galvanised by its etheric counterpart. This counterpart is present in millions of tiny streams or lines of energy, to which the Eastern occultist has give the name "nadis." These nadis are the carriers of energy. They are in fact the energy itself and carry the quality of energy from some area of consciousness in which the "dweller in the body" may happen to be focused. This may be the astral plane or the planes of the Spiritual Triad, for none of the energies can control the physical body from any plane, no matter how high, except in this manner. According to the focus of the consciousness, the psychic state of awareness, the potency of aspiration or desire, and the point in evolution or spiritual status, so will be the type of energy carried by the nadis, passing from them to the outer nervous system.

It must always be remembered that the seven centres are not within the dense physical body. They exist only in etheric matter and in the etheric so-called aura, outside the physical body. They are closely related to the dense physical body by the network of nadis. Each of these seven centres has appeared in the course of human evolution in response to energy from one or other, or from several, of the seven rays.

Everything - every form, every organism within all forms, all aspects of manifested life in every kingdom in nature - is intimately related each to each through the planetary etheric body (of which all etheric bodies are integral parts) which substands all that is. Lines of light pass from form to form. Some are bright and some are dim; some move or circulate with rapidity, others are lethargic and slow in their interplay; some seem to circulate with facility in some particular kingdom in nature and some in another; it is a constant circulation. There is not one single atom in the body which is not the recipient of this living, moving energy and there is therefore no part of the body of manifestation (which is an integral part of the planetary vehicle of the Lord of the World) which is not in complex but complete touch with HIS divine intention - through the medium of HIS three major centres: Shamballa, the Hierarchy, and Humanity. Students have been apt to speak simply of the etheric body as an integral entity and as constituted solely of etheric substance, forgetting that the etheric body is the medium for the transfer of many types of energy. They forget the following facts:

  1. The etheric body is itself composed of four types of substance, each of which is definitely specialised and found on one or other of the etheric levels.
  2. These substances, functioning actively in any particular etheric body, create a network of channels; they produce fine tubes (if I may use so inappropriate a word) which takes the general form of the dense material or tangible form with which they may be associated…usually takes the form or general outline of the physical vehicle with which it is associated. When however, the head centre is awakened and functioning, then the ovoid appearance is far more frequent.
  3. These channels or tubes - according to the type of energy they carry - pass to certain areas of the body, via three main stations:
    • The seven major centres.
    • The twenty-one minor centres.
    • The forty-nine focal points scattered all over the body.
  4. All these centres and focal points for the transmission of energy are connected each with each by larger channels than the mass of channels which constitute the etheric body as a whole, because many lesser channels and lines of force or energy merge and blend as they near a centre or a focal point.
  5. The mass of the smaller channels or the channelling tubes of energy eventually create in all forms that layer of corresponding nerves which are not yet recognised by medical science but which are like an intermediary web or network. These relate the etheric body as a whole to the entire two-fold nervous system (cerebro-spinal and the sympathetic nervous systems) which science does recognise. It is this system underlying the nerves which is the true response apparatus and which - via the brain - telegraphs information to the mind or, via the brain and the mind, keeps the soul informed. It is this system nadis which is used in full consciousness by the initiate who has related the Spiritual Triad and the soul infused personality, and has therefore seen the soul-body, the causal body or the egoic lotus totally disappear, being no longer of any true importance. There is a peculiar and at present inexplicable relation between this system of nadis and the antahkarana when it is in process of creation or is created.
  6. The physical body, therefore, like so much else in nature, is triple in design. There is:
    • The etheric body
    • The substantial nadis
    • The dense physical body.
    These form one unit and in incarnation are inseparable.
  7. The centres in their totality and the many focal points of contact found in the etheric body are responsible for the creation and preservation of the endocrine glandular system in a form either limited and inadequate, or representative of the spiritual man and entirely adequate. The nadis in their turn are responsible for the creation and precipitation of the twofold nervous system. This is a point most carefully to be borne in mind and is the clue to the problem of creativity.
  8. The type of the etheric substance "substanding" any form is dependent upon two factors:
    1. The kingdom of nature concerned. Basically the four kingdoms draw their pranic life each from one or other of the four levels of etheric substance, counting upwards from the lowest:
      • The mineral kingdom is sustained from plane 1.
      • The vegetable kingdom is sustained from plane 2.
      • The animal kingdom is sustained from plane 3.
      • The human kingdom is sustained from plane 4.
      That was the original condition; but as evolution proceeded and there was an inter-acting emanation established between all the kingdoms, this automatically changed. It was this "esoteric emanating change" which, aeons ago, produced animal-man. I give this as an illustration and a key to a great mystery.
    2. Curiously enough, in the human kingdom (and only in the human kingdom) the etheric body is now composed of all four types of etheric substance. The reason for this is that eventually (when mankind is spiritually developed) each of these four planes or types of etheric substance will be responsive to the four higher levels of the cosmic physical plane - the etheric levels to which we give the names: the logoic level, the monadic, the atmic level and the buddhic. This will happen as a result of conscious growth and initiation.
  9. It must also be remembered that the substance of which these etheric channels or channelling tubes are composed is planetary prana, the life-giving, health-giving energy of the planet itself. Through these tubes, however, may flow all or any of the possible energies - emotional, mental, egoic, manasic, buddhic or atmic, according to the point in evolution which the men concerned has reached. This always means that several energies are passing through these tubes, unless the point in evolution is exceedingly low or unless one is dealing with a cleavage; these various energies are fused and blended together but find their own focal points in the etheric body when entering directly within the circumference of the dense physical body. Just as it can be said of the soul or of the Deity, so it can be said of the energetic or vital etheric body or entity: "Having pervaded this whole universe with a fragment of myself, I remain."

Prana might be defined as the life-essence of every plane in the sevenfold area which we call the cosmic physical plane. It is the LIFE of the planetary Logos, reduced within limits, animating, vivifying and correlating all the seven planes (in reality the seven subplanes of the cosmic physical plane) and all that is to be found within and upon them. The cosmic sutratma or life-thread of the planetary Logos enters His manifestation on the highest of our planes (the logoic plane) and, through the instrumentality of the informing Lives to be found in Shamballa (which I must remind you is not the name of a locality) is brought into contact with, or is related to the matter of which the manifested worlds are made - formless, as on the cosmic etheric planes (our highest four planes) , or tangible and objective, as on our lower three planes. The fact that we call only that tangible which we can see or touch and contact through the medium of the five senses is entirely wrong. All is regarded as belonging to the world of form which is found on the physical plane, the astral plane and the levels of the lower mind. This lower mental plane, referred to above , includes the level on which the causal body is found…All that lies above that on mental levels, and on up to the highest of the cosmic physical planes, is formless. These distinctions must be carefully borne in mind. Each of the four ethers, as they are sometimes called, is intended - as far as man is concerned - to be a channel or expression of the four cosmic ethers. At present this is very far from being the case. It can only truly be so when the antahkarana is built and acts, therefore, as a direct channel for the cosmic ethers to which we have given the names of universal life, monadic intensity, divine purpose and pure reason. Ponder for a while on these types of energy and creatively imagine their effect when, in due course of time and spiritual unfoldment, they can pour unrestrictedly into and through the etheric body of a human being. At present, the etheric body is responsive to energies from:

  1. The physical world. These are not principles but are the feeders and controllers of the animal appetites.
  2. The astral world, determining the desires, emotions and aspirations which the man will express and go after upon the physical plane.
  3. The lower mental plane, the lower mind, developing self-will, selfishness, separateness and the direction and trend of the life upon the physical plane. It is this directive instinct which, when turned to higher matters, eventually opens the door to the higher etheric cosmic etheric energies.
  4. The soul, the principle of individualism, the reflection in the microcosm of the divine intention and - speaking symbolically - being to the entire monadic expression that which "stands at the midway point," the instrument of true sensitivity, of responsive ability, the spiritual counterpart of the solar plexus centre which is found at the midway point between that which lies above the diaphragm and that which is found below it.
Space is etheric in nature, and - so we are told in the occult science - Space is an entity…..This etheric body - vast and unknown as it is, as to its extent - is nevertheless limited in nature and static (relatively speaking) in capacity; it preserves a set form, a form of which we know absolutely nothing, but which is the etheric form of the Unknown Entity. To this form the esoteric science gives the name of SPACE; it is the fixed area in which every form, from a universe to an atom, finds its location. Each form (because it constitutes an aggregated area of substantial lives or atoms) is a centre within the etheric body of the form of which it is a constituent part. A form is a centre of life within some aspect of the etheric body of the Entity , Space, where a living animated existence, such as that of a planet, is concerned. The same is true also of all lesser forms, such as those found upon and within a plane. This centre has within it a point of life and is related to all surrounding energies; it has its own sphere of radiation or influence which is dependent upon the nature or strength of its consciousness and upon the dynamic conditioning factor of the ensouling entity's thought life.

The etheric body is the mould of the physical body. The etheric body is the archetype upon which the dense physical form is built, whether it is the form of a solar system, or of a human body in any one incarnation. The etheric body is a web or network of fine interlacing channels, formed of matter of the four ethers, and built into a specific form. It forms a focal point for certain radiatory emanations, which vivify, stimulate and produce the rotary action of matter. These pranic emanations when focalised and received, react upon the dense matter which is built upon the etheric scaffolding and framework. The etheric web, during incarnation, forms a barrier between the physical and astral planes, which can only be transcended when consciousness is sufficiently developed to permit of escape. This can be seen in both the microcosm and the macrocosm. When a man has, through meditation and concentration, expanded his consciousness to a certain point he is enabled to include the subtler planes, and to escape beyond the limits of the dividing web. In all three bodies - human, planetary and systemic or logoic - will be found a great organ within the organism which acts as the receiver of prana. This organ has its etheric manifestation and its dense physical correspondence…in man the organ of reception is the spleen through its etheric counterpart. Primarily the functions of the etheric body are three in number:

  1. It is the receiver of prana.
  2. It is the assimilator of prana.
  3. It is the transmitter of prana.
The main centre for the reception of prana at present is a centre between the shoulder blades. situated slightly above the solar plexus. The main organ of assimilation is the spleen - the etheric centre and the dense physical organ.
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This page last updated 18th October 2000.