“The spiritual body knows all things, lives in utmost purity, and gathers true, divine knowledge. Its energy vivifies and nourishes all the other bodies of man.“
Since the beginning of mankind, man has wondered who he is, what he is doing here, and where he is going after death. He looked at the outer world and fell in awe before the forces of nature. He looked inside and discovered that he was more than a physical body. He experimented with plants and with meditation, and found that he and his environment also existed on other levels of consciousness. He passed on his knowledge orally and later he wrote down his experiences. Thus his fellow human beings and their descendants could learn about this, and on the basis hereof interpret their own experiences.
At present we live in society where the emphases is on material gain and security, by which the other facets of life, namely the spiritual, have been well suppressed.
Nevertheless people continue to experience states of existence, and facets of life, other than the material. From this I have gathered information to present you with an overview of the makeup of man, the different planes of existence available to him, and the continuing of his life after the transition we call death. It is essential to your well-being to know who you are and what happens after death. We all share the gift of living, so we should know who we are; and we all share the same destiny in this life, so we should know what is death.
Human beings like to interpret, categorize and label their experiences. Nature, or life, do not do that. Bear in mind that what follows is an attempt to make the information understandable and clear. Every interpretation, categorization and labeling is artificial and should not be taken as the unmistakable truth. They are like sign posts, giving you an idea what you are about.
The Basic Trinity of Man
The most basic distinction we can make in regards to the make-up of man is that he consists of a personality, an individuality and a divine essence.
The personality is the lower self, consisting of the physical body and the psychic soul. It has the genetics of its forefathers, the energy system to keep the physical body alive, and the psychological and psychic characteristics that define us as human. He has the abilities to express himself through thought, language, and other intellectual capacities.
The personality is a unit of incarnation, it is all those bodies and all those characteristics you have taken on for this incarnation. As it belongs to the world of form, it is temporary. It was created to express yourself in this world on a temporary basis. When you die, the personality dissolves. The experiences you have gained during your lifetime are then being absorbed by your individuality.
The individuality is the higher self. It is the unit of evolution. It does not die but remains the same throughout the many incarnations. It learns from all the experiences in those incarnations. While the personality often does not know why it incarnated, as with every birth memory of the past has been wiped out, the individuality has an overview of all incarnations, and of the meaning of everything that happens to the person. Eventually the individuality will go back into the Divine.
The divine essence is what man always has been, at this moment is, and always will be. Each living being is a part of the Divine. It is often compared with a star, or a light spark. Although it seems that each living being is a separate light spark in this universe of darkness, our divine essence links us all together, as in the Divine there is no distinction, only unity prevails. Our divine essence does not know duality, only unity.
Our language is too limited to express the Divine, but we try it anyway and thus we say that the Divine, and our divine essence, is perfect, immortal, eternal, unchangeable, formless and so on. The individuality and personality are not perfect, mortal, temporal, subjected to change, have form and so on.
The Bodies of Man
There are several systems, doctrines, and philosophies that have their own classification and names for the different bodies of man. Aside from some minor details they all fit together in the following basic schematic.
- The physical body
- The astral body
- The mental body
- The spiritual body
All these bodies belong to the world of creation, and thus are temporal. They have form and each has a specific function that allows man to express himself in the world.
The Physical Body
The physical body allows man to express himself in the physical world. It is built out of cells, molecules and atoms, and it needs food to survive. It is the most crystallized of al bodies, and the most dense. The physical body is male or female, and this polarity plays an immense role in the life of man.
The physical body is kept alive and structured by the ethereal body. The ethereal body is often seen as a separate body, but it is actually a template, a matrix for the physical body. The physical atoms, molecules and cells arrange themselves according to the structure of the ethereal body. The ethereal matrix looks like a web of energy lines, like light fibers which attract physical matter and arrange it into a physical body.
You can say that the physical body is a duplicate of the ethereal body. Did you know that with children, when a piece of a finger got cut off, the entire finger will grow back again (for some reason this ability gets lost in later years). How do the cells know how to structure themselves in order to grow a new finger? It is because they follow the ethereal matrix along which they align themselves. In primitive animals, like salamanders, this ability remains for their entire live. They will grow a new limb, or tail, easily. The ethereal body is responsible for the pain of so-called phantom limbs. It has been a medical mystery for a long time, that when a limb has been amputated, the patient will feel pain in this limb that actually is not there anymore. The pain is often long-lasting. In the light of the above we can explain this pain in phantom limbs. Although the physical limb has gone, the ethereal counterpart is still there. The surgical removal of that limb created an immense trauma on the body. In normal circumstances traumas settles themselves on muscles, creating muscle spasms which in turn creates pain. As the physical body by itself is inert, the trauma always happens on the level of the ethereal body, which will pass on the trauma to the physical body, mostly to the muscles. In the case of an amputated limb, the trauma is still in the ethereal counterpart of that limb, and thus pain is felt. It just does not have the ability to express itself on the physical level. People have successfully removed this ‘phantom’ pain by methods of relaxation, hypnosis and energy work.
Although the physical body can loose parts or can be deformed during the course of a lifetime, the ethereal body always remains the same. The only change that can happen to the ethereal body is constriction on the energy flow through its fibers (also called nadis). This will result in ailments and diseases in the physical body. When the nadis are ‘cleared’, or the constriction of them lifted, by energy healing of one kind or another, the physical ailments or diseases will disappear.
The ethereal body absorbs the solar and lunar pranas (subtle energies) and transforms them into the necessary life energies for the physical body. They keep the physical body not only alive but also healthy. The ethereal body acts especially on the muscles, and with the ethereal body we experience time.
The physical body, as it is composed of physical matter is by itself inert. It is through the ethereal body that we feel pain, suffering, hunger, thirst and other ‘physical’ comforts or discomforts.
The Astral Body
The astral body is the body that allows us the experience of emotions, lust, instincts, desires and so on.
The astral body does not have organs, although it takes on a form similar to the physical body. It is composed of little astral particles which are in constant movement. The astral body takes up these astral particles from its astral environment and then ‘breathes’ them out again. The astral can take any shape, but usually it takes the form of the physical body of the present or last incarnation as consciousness has gotten used to identifying itself with this form. It is called ‘astral’ body because it glitters like stars when observed clairvoyantly.
The Mental Body
The mental body allows us the experience of thoughts, thinking, and rational processes. The intellect. It still has a form, but not necessarily a human form. Its form is abstract and geometrical, although it can take on an apparent physical form to make oneself recognizable on the lower levels of existence.
The mental body cannot think by itself, as it does not have a consciousness by it own. It is more like an automatic body that stores information and transfers what it receives.
The mental body is sometimes divided into two: The lower mental body, which is the seat of practical thinking; The higher mental body, also called the causal body, which is the level of abstract thinking, and which contains the causes of everything that manifest in the lower bodies and worlds. It contains the knowledge of all past and present incarnations, and the roots of and possibilities of future incarnations. It is the gateway to universal knowledge and spiritual development. Although some authors make a distinction between the causal body and the spiritual body, there are probably one and the same.
The Spiritual Body
The spiritual body allows us to experience the highest forms of human manifestation. We could call it a cosmic body and it is close to divine realm.
It is not a real body as it is not subjected to form. On this level the ego ceases to exists. One is free of duality and its constructs. Here is the experience of oneness of everything that exists.
The spiritual body knows all things, lives in utmost purity, and gathers true, divine knowledge. Its energy vivifies and nourishes all the other bodies of man.
~source: “Living With The Himalayan Masters” by Swami Rama (1978, Himalayan Institute)