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The Soul and its Mechanism - The Theory of the Etheric Body
Chapter III

The Theory of the Etheric Body

The Oriental psychologist starts with that which the Occidental regards as hypothetical. He lays the emphasis upon the spiritual nature of man, and believes that the physical nature itself is the result of spiritual activity. He asserts that all that is objectively seen is but the outward manifestation of inner subjective energies. He regards the entire mechanics of the cosmos and of man as effects, and believes the scientist is dealing only with effects. His position may be summed up as follows:

  • First: There is nothing but energy, and it functions through a substance which interpenetrates and actuates all forms, and which is analogous to the ether of the modern world. Matter is energy or spirit in its densest form, and spirit is matter in its most sublimated aspect.
  • Second: As all forms are interpenetrated by this ether, every form has an etheric form or etheric body.
  • Third: As the tiny atom has a positive nucleus, or positive nuclei, as well as negative aspects, so in every etheric body there are positive centers of force in the midst of negative substance. The human being too has an etheric body which is positive to the negative physical body, which galvanizes it [55] into activity, and which acts as its coherent force, holding it in being.
  • Fourth: The etheric body of man has seven main nuclei of energy through which various types of energy flow, producing his psychical activity. These nuclei are related to the cerebro-spinal system, and the base of this psychical activity, or the seat of the soul nature, is situated in the head. The governing principle therefore is in the head and from this center the entire mechanism should be directed, and energized through the medium of the other six force centers.
  • Fifth: Only certain centers are now functioning in man and the rest are quiescent. In a perfect human being all the centers will function fully and produce perfect psychical unfoldment and a perfect mechanism.

This Oriental emphasis upon spiritual energy and the Occidental emphasis upon the structure or mechanism, it will be seen, accounts fully for the psychical nature of man, both in its higher and in its lower aspects.

To unite the Eastern or vitalistic conception, and the Western or mechanistic conception, and so bridge the gap between them, it is necessary to establish the fact of the existence of the etheric body.

The Oriental system is abstruse and intricate, and defies summarization. Still, some brief introduction must be made and the following outline is therefore given. It is incomplete, but if it gives an [56] intelligible survey of the field, however brief, it will serve its purpose.

In giving this outline, we shall make positive statements instead of continually repeating that "the Eastern psychologist believes" or "the Orientalist states" or similar expressions. It is enough to recognize once and fully that to the Western mind it must be presented as an hypothesis, to be submitted to test, to stand proved or fall disproved. With this introduction we proceed to outline the Eastern theory.

There is a universal substance, the source of all, but so sublimated, so subtle that it is truly beyond the real grasp of human intelligence. In comparison with it, the most delicate fragrance, the dancing radiance of sunbeams, the crimson glory of the sunset, are gross and earthly. It is "a web of light," forever invisible to human eye.

The key word "substance" with its suggestion of materiality is a misnomer. It is helpful however, to reduce this word to its Latin roots: - "sub" under and "sto" to stand. So, substance is that which stands underneath, or underlies. The spelling, or misspelling "substans" is more indicative and suggestive.

Subtle and fugitive as this universal substance is, yet in another sense it is denser even than matter. If we could conceive of an agent outside of universal substance - an hypothesis contrary to all fact and possibility - and if such an external agent attempted to compress universal substance, or in some [57] other way affect it from without, then substance would be found denser than any known material.

Inherent in substance, and a perpetual counterpart of it, is life, incessant life. Life and substance are one and the same, one and forever inseparable, but different aspects however, of the one reality. Life is as positive electricity, substance negative. Life is dynamic, substance static. Life is activity or spirit, and substance form or matter. Life is the father and begets, substance is the mother and conceives.

In addition to these two aspects of life and substance, there is still a third. Life is theoretical or potential activity, and needs a field of operation. Substance furnishes this and in the union of life and substance, there flames forth active energy.

Thus we have a single reality, universal substance; - but at the same time a coexistent duality, - life and substance, and at the same time, a coexistent trinity, life, substance, and the resultant interaction which we call consciousness or soul.

The entire manifested world arises from energy (and the co-factors substance and consciousness). All that is seen, from the tiniest grain of sand to the widest sweep of starry heaven, from an African savage to a Buddha or a Christ, all are outgrowths of energy. Matter is energy in its densest or lowest form; spirit is this same Energy in highest or most subtle form. So matter is spirit descending and debased; spirit, conversely, is matter ascending and glorified. [58]

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