THEOSOPHY, Vol. 29, No. 8, June, 1941
(Pages 358-362; Size: 16K)
(Number 90 of a 103-part series)



(Part I of II)

The whole issue of the quarrel between the profane and the esoteric sciences depends upon the belief in, and demonstration of, the existence of an astral body within the physical, the former independent of the latter.
The Secret Doctrine, 1888 (II, 149.)
LET us cast our imagination into a hopeful future, and observe the sequelae of the scientific acceptance of the existence of this form. We may suppose the unrolling of some such consequences as the following:

To those who waver between scientific orthodoxy and Theosophy, acceptance of the astral body would be a great demonstration of the prior knowledge of Theosophy. But by that time, since such knowledge always comes gradually, science would have found a Greek word for it, and most devotees of science would claim that this subtle form had rather been raised from the limbo of "theosophic superstition" into the light of scientific day. So far as science is concerned, the discovery would not be a vindication of Theosophy, but a rectification of its "errors" -- just as modern transmutation of the elements is regarded as a correction of the errors of alchemy.

To those who thirst for some concrete evidence of man's potential immortality, such as a vehicle which might be supposed to survive death, public recognition of this vehicle would be a spring of hope. But it would unloose on the world a flood of spiritualistic practices.

To those who yearn for some "practical evidence" of the existence of Mahatmas and Adepts, the uncovering of the astral body would indeed open the road to the reasonableness of superphysical powers in man. But for science and the public it would mean a stampede for the acquisition of these powers -- for purely selfish purposes. All one need do to realize the imminence of these possibilities is to read the "occult" advertisements in the pulp magazines.

Students sometimes think Madame Blavatsky and Wm. Q. Judge said too little about the astral body and its powers. If anything, they said too much! Indeed, in considering the bearing and general character of scientific evidence of the existence of this entity, grave questions as to its moral utility arise.

Nevertheless, the inexorable onrush of truth, rising with this "occult" cycle, must bring the facts to light, willy-nilly. The very lack of real knowledge in such a period would only deepen the superstitions of those who now run after pseudo-occult enticements; it is, especially, lack of real moral knowledge, of the kind Theosophy alone can supply, that may cause science, by exploitation of the "astral" and its forces, to plunge humanity into a psychic holocaust far worse than any modern scientific war. For this war, like all the rest, is but a faint, far-flung echo of the spiritual horrors which overwhelmed great civilizations long lost and forgotten.

A slow accumulation of evidence of a matter-of-fact sort may serve to cushion what would otherwise be a serious psychic shock to the race. There is value, then, in "taking stock" of scientific progress.

The nature of the available evidence may be indicated by reminding the reader that the astral body, as usually dealt with, is only a particular phase of the astral nature, which includes much more. Here we refer to that aspect of the "astral" known in the East as the Linga Sharira or "pattern body," a principle so near the physical in substantiality as to become physically visible under favorable conditions of lighting, atmosphere, etc. In fact, some materialistic observers who have seen it, but fortunately did not see too clearly, have tried to explain it as physical radiation, slightly removed from the normal range of perceptive powers, but otherwise differing little from the "infra" and "ultra" bands of the spectrum. Others, who have employed visual-chemical means for more prolonged and detailed study, have found to their bewilderment that the phenomena do not conform to the usual laws of optics.

The testimony of "ghost-seers," "psychics," and the like, we omit entirely from discussion. A whole library of volumes could no more contain the amassed evidence from such sources than could the mind of a materialist contain the idea that any of it is worth anything.

It is through the function of the Linga Sharira in elaborating and preserving physical form that this principle can most easily be detected in the material world. As usual, anything new and physically functional is first suspected by science through the inadequacy of what were originally held to be sufficient explanations. To grasp the significance of much that follows, it is well to remember that the astral body is not, correctly speaking, a "body" as we usually conceive it. A scientist would more easily grasp its nature under the definition of a "field." The layman may be helped to understand this view by remembering the nature of the emanation that surrounds a magnet, taking a definite form which can be rendered visible by the presence in it of iron dust. The physical body is to the Linga Sharira as the iron dust is to the field of the magnet -- though this is an oversimplification.

[The astral body] is flexible, plastic, extensible, and strong. The matter of which it is composed is electrical and magnetic in its essence, and is just what the whole world was composed of in the dim past when the processes of evolution had not yet arrived at the point of producing the material body for man. But it is not raw or crude matter. Having been through a vast period of evolution and undergone purifying processes of an incalculable number, its nature has been refined to a degree far beyond the gross physical elements we see and touch with the physical eye and hand. (The Ocean of Theosophy, 1893, p. 39.)
That the electricity and magnetism manifested in the astral body are exactly the same as those known in physics, is certainly untrue; yet the forces of the one plane are probably convertible into those of another. Also, there seems no definite point at which the forces of the physical plane cease to give way to those of the "astral," as is attested by the admitted electro-magnetic nature of physical "life."

One of the most remarkable of all recent statements on the subject was by H. S. Burr at the meeting of the National Academy of Science, April, 1939. The official abstract is worth quoting in full:

The existence of electrical activity in living things is attested by electrocardiographs and electroencephalographs. Recently, it has been possible to add to these graphs of steady state voltage differences which possess definitive patterns characteristic of the species to which the animal belongs and, in all probability, of the individual itself. This pattern has been shown to change with alterations in the fundamental activity of the organism. In the growing embryo the electrical pattern develops hand in hand with the development of the whole organism. A definite cycle of electrical phenomena correlates with the menstrual cycle in women. Under proper conditions it has been possible to record electrically the exact instant of ovulation in rabbits, cats and women. The progress of healing in wounds shows electrical concomitants which parallel very closely the reparative process. In mice it has been possible to detect adenocarcinoma of the mammary gland by characteristic changes in the over-all electrical pattern of the organism a week or more before it can be detected by palpation. The results of many hundreds of thousands of determinations indicate that relatively steady state voltage differences are an expression in quantitative terms of one form of the relationships which exist between the units of the organism. This suggests that the simplest assumption with which to explain all the evidence so far gathered is that of the existence in the living organism of an electro-dynamic field.(1)
A future generation may come to recognize the last sentence of this statement as one of the most important observations ever made in the scientific world.

The astral body is truly an "electro-dynamic" field, as distinguished from that of the magnet, which is static. In using such an expression, Dr. Burr spoke more definitely than he knew, for the astral body does not, like the magnetic field, hold its atoms of physical matter in fixed positions. It is full of electrical streams which transfer the physical particles here and there, and guide the orientations of their purely chemical affinities. It is also the vehicle of currents of efflux from the psycho-physical centers, which carry materials for building in the beginning, and later, for repairs; and of corresponding reflux streams, which bear damaged and dead material into the channels of physical elimination. In order for the astral currents thus to control the molecules of the body, a mutual attraction must exist, and electrical attraction means polarity. Significantly, biologists recognize polarity as a fundamental property of living matter.

Prof. Ross G. Harrison, of Yale, says that during the development of the embryo of the salamander (which of course means of any embryo) the protein molecules arrange themselves in the order of their polarities, so that the individual effects add themselves up.(2) In other words, the embryo is a small living magnet of which the constituent particles are all magnets also, exactly as is the case with a steel magnet. The polarity of the embryo, like the steel magnet, determines the polaric alignment of the lesser magnetic units of the organism. It follows, therefore, that every organic form, the human included, may be regarded as a living magnet.

But what determined the organization of the magnetic field in the first place, and what is the nature of its subordinate fields or branches which govern the limbs, nervous system, etc.?

An illustration of the power of the astral in orienting physical development was discovered by investigators during 1937.(3) A species of Amphibia is possessed of the power of regenerating a lost organ. When portions of the mesenchyme were used as grafts to replace lost eye lenses, the mesenchyme differentiated into typical lenses. This was taken as an evidence of the "totipotence" of the mesenchyme (its capacity to mold itself, or be molded, in the service of any part of the organism). But if that were all, just why did it so differentiate when placed in the region of the eye? It is clear that it so altered because it had been placed in the field of the astral eye; its "totipotence" being merely an unusual susceptibility to the invisible differentiating power of the pattern body.

The "healing power" of the true Adept is simply an intelligent stimulation of the regenerative power of the astral currents, coupled with a knowledge of how to purify them. The fact is that every main nerve channel, the central canals of the bones, the principal veins and arteries, etc., mark the lines of flow of the forces of the astral body, and are determined by those forces. Moreover, every region of weakness, of degeneration, or point of susceptibility to infection, etc., marks an area where the astral currents tend to become clogged, weak, or poisoned in their action. In turn, every such inhibition, hindrance, or corruption, is the result of a "subconscious" fixation derived from wrong thought and action in the near or distant past.

In other words, the "astral" is an organism even more complicated than the physical body, an organism of forces and currents as well as of patterning fields which maintain the physical configuration. That configuration, however, extends considerably beyond the limits of the physical form, even in the lower kingdoms. Prof. M. A. Raines shows that a plant hangs out a "no-trespassing" sign "written in some kind of unexplored chemical language" (unexplored indeed!) to keep invading roots out of its territory.(4) When two root-tips approach each other, they do not touch, but bend and turn parallel to avoid meeting. This mutual reaction begins when the root-tips are some distance apart. The real sphere of the plant's being, then, is not limited to the parts which are physically visible, but should rather be conceived as extending throughout its astral field.

From this simple experiment with plants, an important lesson in astral physiology may be learned. Normally, one astral field does not merge with another, but maintains a field "integrity." Exceptions occur in cases where close symbiotic relations prevail, as in the lichen, and in parasitism, where "invasion" and a kind of vampirism takes place. Then, too, generative union between the members of a species brings about a fertilizing mergence of the parent fields, simply psycho-physical in the lower kingdoms, but physical and also psycho-spiritual for man, when there is the moral harmony and egoic sympathy that befits human procreation. Finally, there is the consciously maleficent invasion and domination of one being by another through the astral principle, by means of certain of the arts of sorcery now exciting so much public attention, some of which are anything but "superstition" -- unfortunately!

(To be concluded)

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(Part II of II)
(Part 91 of a 103-part series)

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(1) Science, May 5, 1939.
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(2) Science, September 18, 1936.
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(3) Science, May 7, 1937.
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(4) Science, June 19, 1936.
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