Oriental Teaching as to the Soul, Ether
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
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  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.
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
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. 
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:
- Prana or life matter
- Psychic matter
- Mental matter
- 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  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  '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
- 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.