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There are some very important differences in terminology in the literature on the various occult bodies that make up a person's being. I use non-disputed terminology first, and at the end I indicate where confusion lies.
The concept of the astral bodies comes from a particular theory of reality. In Indian and theosophical views, reality has seven planes to it (each plane has seven sub-planes, but we don't need to go into this aspect).
Each of these planes is a world of "matter " or physical vibration, with each plane being of different "density" to any other plane. The heavier the density is of a plane, the lower is its rate of vibration. So we have a gradation of these planes, due to the gradation in the density of matter. The plane with the heaviest, most dense matter is the physical plane, in which we live our normal lives. This is usually the only plane that most people have any awareness of. The "lightest, least dense" plane is the plane nearest to the "home" of god.
Each plane is a real place of existence, with its own life forms inhabiting it. The planes are not in separate parts of reality. Instead, because they vibrate at different frequencies, they inter-mingle with each other. This is just like a radio spectrum, with different radio and TV channels inter-mingling in the same space. To pick a channel out of the radio spectrum, you have to tune the radio or TV set to that channel. Similarly, to see any plane you have to tune your sense of sight to that plane - the ability to do this is called clairvoyance or extra-sensory perception (this ability, like any ability, varies with each practitioner - some clairvoyants are good at it and some are not very good ).
The physical plane, we can call it plane 1, has its life forms, of which we are one. Or, to put it another way, life forms on the physical plane have bodies that vibrate at the physical level. The senses vibrate at the same rate as the plane, and can normally only see life forms on that plane. Therefore, since we are in a physical body, we can only see physical forms and cannot see forms on higher planes (unless we are clairvoyant).
The next plane "above" the physical is lighter than it and so vibrates at a higher frequency.
I use the terms "above" and "below" as a convenience ; they are not accurate, and are used simply to indicate the view that spiritual evolution is a journey from dense realities to higher, more rarefied realities ; from planes of low vibrations to planes of faster ones. It is traditional, but inaccurate, to understand spirituality as being a "higher" realm - it is higher only in terms of frequency of vibration.
The next plane, plane 2, "above" the physical is lighter than it and so vibrates at a higher frequency. This is the plane of the energy body; it is called this because energy from this plane is used to give life to matter in the physical plane (plane 1). Another name for this kind of energy are the Eastern terms "prana" and "chi". If we were clairvoyant, we would see the life forms on this plane, which are described by terms like fairies, nature spirits, goblins, trolls, Earth spirits, or elementals.
The energy body is the blueprint for the physical body : when the energy body changes, then so too does the physical body. This is the basis of some forms of healing. Disorder in the physical body represents disorder in the energy body. Therefore, if we can heal the energy body then the physical body follows suit and becomes healed too.
The next plane of existence, plane 3, is "above" the energy plane; it is lighter than plane 2 and so vibrates at a higher frequency. This is the desire or emotion plane. This plane belongs to the state of consciousness which shows itself as feelings, desires, and emotions. This is a world of vivid colour. Each emotion has its appropriate colour, because each is accompanied by its own invariable set of vibrations. Since our thoughts are usually accompanied or produced by emotional responses, so these thoughts are highly coloured. If a person is sufficiently clairvoyant to see the desire world, then he can see thoughts as coloured clouds emanating from a person's head. For example, anger causes vibrations that yield a flash of scarlet, while an emotion of pure love gives a rosy hue to the thought cloud.
Some of the life forms on this plane are beings that may visit us when we are asleep. It is the plane that our consciousness goes to when we start sleeping and dreaming. It is also considered to be the plane of purgatory.
We are multi-dimensional beings. Our physical body consists of matter from the physical plane, our energy consists of matter from the energy plane, and our emotions and desires consist of matter from the desire plane. Our mind consists of matter from the mental plane, which is the subject of the next page.
@2003 Ian Heath
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