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The Soul and its Mechanism - Soul, Ether and Energy
Chapter V

Oriental Teaching as to the Soul, Ether and Energy

"As from its fineness, the all-pervading ether is not touched, so the soul, located in every body, is not touched.

As the one Sun illumines all this world so He that abideth in the body lights up the whole field.

They, who with the eye of Wisdom perceive the distinction between the field and the Knower of the field, and the liberation of being from nature, go to the Supreme."
- Bhagavad Gita, XIII, pp. 32, 33, 34.

The literature of the East dealing with the soul and its expression, the etheric or vital body, on the physical plane is immense as a study of the very incomplete bibliography will show. Scattered throughout the Upanishads and the Puranas are thousands of passages dealing with this teaching. Two of the most important sources of information are the Shiv-Samhita and the Shatchakra Nirupanam.

Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon) has done much, through his books, to bring a knowledge of this Eastern teaching and of this technique of soul development to the West; he has, through the form in which he has presented it, safeguarded the public also from a too quick comprehension of a most [93] dangerous science. A little book by a Hindu physician, well grounded in Western medicine and science, entitled The Mysterious Kundalini (Vasant G. Rele) is of real value also.

The danger of this science is well recognized by those who know anything about it. It lies in the fact that through a knowledge of a certain technical method it becomes possible for a man to work actively with the forces of his own nature, as they function through the medium of the vital body. Modern physicians are recognizing increasingly the energy factor in connection with man. The electrical nature of the human unit is a natural outgrowth of a necessary recognition that the physical body is formed of atoms, as are all forms in the natural world.

The Occidental scientist recognizes ether and motion. The Oriental teacher speaks of the akasha and of prana. Both are dealing with the vital livingness which permeates all forms, and is the cause of their coherency, sentiency, and terms of existence. The following passage from the Kenopanishad will substantiate this.

"Unmanifested, formless, the one giver of light, is the Great Power; from that appeared the sonoriferous ether (Akasha); from that had birth the tangiferous ether.

From the tangiferous ether, the luminiferous ether, and from this the gustiferous ether; thence was the birth of the odoriferous ether. These are the five ethers and they have fivefold extension. [94]

From these the universe came forth; by these it continues; into these it disappears; among these also it shows itself again."
- Kenopanishad - Quoted by Rama Prasad in Nature's Finer Forces, pp. 187-188.

A resemblance between the luminiferous ether of the ancient Indian scriptures, and the light waves of the modern scientist is obvious. Rama Prasad in an amazingly interesting book called Nature's Finer Forces lists four states of subtle matter:

  1. Prana or life matter
  2. Psychic matter
  3. Mental matter
  4. Spiritual matter

and it becomes apparent that these four are qualities of the energies which use the Akasha as their medium of expression. A study of the Oriental books gives us a picture of a material world which is brought into being and animated by a subjective world of forces, which use the ether (Akasha) as their playground, and are responsible for all forms, qualities and differentiations in the phenomenal world.

The following extracts from The Serpent Power give the Oriental teaching about matter and ether.

"Recent scientific research has shown that this original substance cannot be scientific 'matter' - that is, that which has mass, weight, and inertia. Matter has been dematerialized and reduced, according to current [95] hypotheses, to something which differs profoundly from 'matter' as known by the senses. This ultimate substance is stated to be Ether in a state of motion. The present scientific hypothesis would appear to be as follows. There is no such thing as scientific 'Matter.' If there seems to be such, this is due to the action of Shakti as Maya. The ultimate and simplest physical factor from which the universe has arisen is motion of and in a substance, called 'ether,' which is not scientific 'matter.' The motions of this substance give rise from the realistic point of view to the notion of 'matter.' Matter is thus at base one, notwithstanding the diversity of its forms. Its ultimate element is on the final analysis of one kind, and the differences in the various kinds of matter depend on the various movements of the ultimate particle and its succeeding combinations. Given such unity of base, it is possible that one form of matter may pass into another."
- Avalon,Arthur (Sir John Woodroffe), The Serpent Power, p. 89.

In another book Arthur Avalon says: "In the first place, it is now admitted that 'matter,' even with the addition of all possible forces, is insufficient to explain many phenomena, such as those of light; and it has, accordingly, come to be an article of scientific faith that there is a substance called 'Ether'; a medium which, filling the universe, transports by its vibrations the radiations of light, heat, electricity, and perhaps action from a distance, such as the attraction exercised between heavenly bodies. It is said, however, that this Ether is not 'matter,' but differs profoundly from it, and that it is only our infirmity of knowledge which obliges us, in our attempted description of it, to borrow comparisons from 'matter' in its ordinary physical sense, which alone is known by our senses. But if we assume the existence of Ether, we know that [96] 'material' bodies immersed in it can change their places therein. In fact, to use an Indian expression, the characteristic property of the vibrations of the Akasha Tattva is to make the space in which the other Tattvas and their derivatives exist. With 'Matter' and Ether as its materials, Western purely 'scientific' theories have sought to construct the world."
- Woodroffe, Sir John (Arthur Avalon), Shakti and Shakta, p 167.

"Many people were wont, as some still are, to laugh at the idea of Maya. Was not matter solid, permanent and real enough? But according to science what are we (as physical beings) at base? The answer is, infinitely tenuous formless energy which materializes into relatively stable, yet essentially transitory, forms... The process by which the subtle becomes gradually more and more gross continues until it develops into what a friend of mine calls the 'crust' of solid matter (Parthivabhuta). This whilst it lasts is tangible enough. But it will not last for ever and in some radioactive substances dissociates before our eyes."
- Woodroffe, Sir John (Arthur Avalon), Shakti and Shakta, p. 170.

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