The Etheric Body

The idea that the material world reflects the reality of the spiritual world – ‘as above, so below’ – was basic to the perennial philosophy of the ancients. It is embodied in the Hindu concept of ‘maya’ – matter is ‘ appearance’ – and in Plato’s doctrine of ‘archetypes’, perfect models which are imperfectly expressed in material forms or phenomena. ‘A man groweth upwards towards his roots’ said an ancient rabbi. We are what we will one day become as surely as the acorn will grow into the oak though, because we have free will, we may take wrong turnings along the Path. Since all phenomena are expressed in a combination of content and form, just as flesh and blood are shaped in the ‘archetypal body’, the body of light as many mystics call it. This is the body which our consciousness will inhabit when it has evolved into the real self; in oriental terms, when it is enlightened – filled with light; in Christian terms, when it is transfigured.


Modern scientists have shown us that matter consists of charges of electrical energy from which vibrations emanate. The psychics of all ages have asserted that thoughts and feelings also generate vibrations of psychic energy. The ‘vibes’ of a person’s anger can shatter another’s nervous system; the ‘vibes’ of love can heal and invigorate.


In the non-material world – the world of pure consciousness therefore, all phenomena are composed of the psychic vibrations of thoughts and feelings. It follows that the process of growing into our real selves involves generating ever more lofty and enlightened feelings and thoughts. Just as physically we are largely what we eat, so psychically we are largely what we think. The body of light coheres by absorbing the energies generated by the thoughts and feelings of our true nature, which we may call ‘soul’. These may be deliberately cultivated by prayer, ritual, meditation and other religious practices; or they may be quickened, consciously or unconsciously, by right living and service to others. All the great religions affirm that moral rectitude is the basis of spiritual development. It follows that the key to spiritual development is not belief but growth. Just as the seed may grow for a long time underground so the body of light of the noble atheist or agnostic who gives a life to the service of humankind will grow in the soil of unbelief. By the same token the body of the light of neurotic, aggressive, arrogant or dogmatic persons will fail to grow!


What happens to the human consciousness when the physical body is unconscious, in sleep or death? In the case of people whose vibrations are of a low moral quality, the body of light is obviously largely or completely undeveloped during earth life.


In cases where it has begun to cohere, it manifests objectively as it were, in very lofty states of being or vibration far removed from the coarse and negative vibrations which prevail generally on earth. Only a great spiritual master or Saint can shift his consciousness directly and at will from the physical body into the fully developed body of light. The gap is filled by an intermediate body, called the etheric body, which is energized by the thoughts and feelings of the person’s human life, however it has been or is directed. If these feelings and thoughts are fearful and depressed, the etheric body will be weak and wobbly. If they are angry, violent or lustful, the etheric body will be distorted by negative energy. A disturbed person will have diseased etheric body and this etheric dis-ease will react upon the physical body – the psycho-somatic relationship is now generally recognized even by many who do not affirm the existence of the etheric body. Equally, a person whose feelings are loving and whose thoughts are pure will develop a strong and healthy etheric body. Such a body is thus energized from below, from the human level, and from above the spiritual or  archetypal level – from the developing body of light. It is the link between heaven and earth.

The celestial energies absorbed by the etheric body from the body of light or light flow down into the physical body spirititualising its very atoms, imparting health, happiness and peace of mind.  (This interaction of etheric and physical bodies means, of course, that it is important to care for and purify the physical body by right diet, exercise, avoidance of drugs etc.) Something more happens. Whereas in old age the consciousness of the immature person, whose etheric body is weak or warped, becomes ‘difficult’, childish or apathetic, the consciousness of the mature begins to shift its centre of gravity from physical to the developed etheric body, living half on earth and half in heaven producing a constitutional state of dispassionate benevolence and wisdom. In traditional societies old people were revered because this spiritual law was understood.

Just as we live on earth surrounded by other human beings, whose ‘vibes’ react al the time with ours, so the body of light and the etheric body manifest in states of being where they are surrounded by other consciousnesses, by discarnate persons. In the non-physical states, governed by thought vibrations, ‘birds of a feather flock together’; like is drawn to like by the cosmic laws of empathy and affinity. The immature, when in their etheric body, consort with others on their wavelength: bores, neurotics, fanatics, villains, debauchees – whatever. The mature may find themselves consorting with the gods! Thus the energies of discarnate beings reinforce our conscious states of mind; intensify our depression, fears or desires, or illuminate our minds and irradiate our hearts.

Another cosmic law provides that the ‘higher’ governs the ‘lower’. An evolved person can by an effort of will attune his vibrations to those of an unevolved person but the latter cannot, in his etheric body, contact the exalted soul on his level. The exalted soul moves at will in different spheres of vibration by taking on an appropriate ‘body’, that is, by changing the vibrations of the etheric body, like putting on an overcoat before facing cold weather or like a diver assuming a diving suit before plunging into the deep sea. Thus those in the spiritual world who love us, whether known to us on earth or whether they lived long before us, will assume an appropriate etheric body when they wish to draw near objectively as they may do in times of crisis in our lives. We never tread the path alone.

Highly evolved souls can materialize and de-materialize the physical body at will. This may explain the post-mortem behavior of Jesus. He was, in life, a spiritual Master whose body of light was fully developed. When his physical body was killed he transferred his consciousness at once to his body of light – this was the ‘resurrection’. He then chose to dematerialize the physical body which was lying in the tomb and to appear in hid etheric body to his disciples. If it is so ordained, he will appear again in his etheric body – the ‘second coming’ – and the effect on the vibration of the world will be tremendous!

What is the general significance of the phenomenon of the etheric body as the link between heaven and earth for the spiritual and psychic situation of the world today?

First; the population of the world is exploding. In 1800AD it was one billion and now it is around five billion. By the year 2050 it is expected to stabilize at ten billion. If the light of heaven is expressed through people, there are simply more people around to express it.

Second; the average life-span is doubling from the 30 years or so which generally prevailed before this century. In China for instance, it has risen fro 30 years to 60 since 1949 and a quarter of the word’s population live there. Thus there are far older people around to provide mature etheric bodies for the expression of spiritual light.

Third; the spread of the concepts of science, which is by its nature universal, and of universal human rights is for the first time in history encouraging everyone everywhere to try to spend a life fulfilling its creative potential as a person. Rapidly, everywhere, life styles, social customs, attitudes to marriage, education, law and government are being transformed by the impulse of this ideal.

Forth: the mighty surge of science and human rights is therefore inevitably breaking down the rigid systems of thought and custom which have for centuries denied persons their full self-expression and is thus opening the psychic floodgates to direct inspiration from the higher spheres. The growing urge to refine the psyche through mystical training and experience, to refine the body through Hindu yoga and other forms of exercise, through vegetarianism and to help the poor and suffering throughout the world are all surely the first symptoms of a collective urge to refine the vibrations of the etheric body. Thinkers, pioneered by such H.G.Wells and Teilhard de Chardin for example, are drawing attention to the evolution in the century of a planetary etheric body – the ‘ world-brain’ – the ‘nonsphere’* complementing the ‘biosphere’**. The concept is in the air of the world community or ‘global village’ which could develop into the ‘cosmopolis’. The world city of men and gods of the ancient Greek Stoics – thus extending the world community into the psychic and spiritual states.

It is inevitable that such an enormous and rapid leap forward into an entirely new dimension of global consciousness should produce an enormous reaction. There is a crucial tension today between the creative urge to spiritualise the planet and the suicidal urge to destroy it – by war, torture, terrorism, greed, pollution and so on. Just because the old order is breaking down to let in the light of the consciousness of gods, angels and archangels , so the devils, the murky forces in the collective ‘unconscious’ which modern psychologists are so powerfully  exposing, are rising up to oppose the light, like a noisome fog drawn out of the soil by the rising sun. Every little effort which any person makes to raise the vibrations of consciousness, thus drawing to earth the light of heaven through the etheric body, adds a facet to the edifice of the planetary etheric body, which is illumined by the gods with the radiant vision of the archetypal forms of the new world order.

‘As above, so below’ as the ancient Gnostics said.

Charlotte Waterlow

*Noosphere: developed from ‘nous’ (Greek) – intellect, talent

**Biosphere: the part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living things are found. (Chambers 20th Century Dictionary)