Man's physical body - that we observe and feel with our senses and waking consciousness - is surrounded by a threefold aura that can be observed by clairvoyant or supersensory perception, and which shows the expression, in many coloured forms, of:
- the different Human temperaments and dispositions of people
- the stages of spiritual development
- all varying moods, inclinations, joys and pains.
The aura has the form of a so-called 'auric egg' and is sized 2 to 3 (upto 6) times the height, and 4 times the width of the physical body.
The three members, body, soul and spirit, come to expression in the aura:
- The first aura is a mirror of the influence the body exercises on the human soul;
- the second characterizes the life of the soul itself, the soul that has raised itself above the direct influence of the senses, but is not yet devoted to the service of the eternal;
- the third mirrors the eternal spirit, see causal body and Man's higher triad
- size and form
- what characteristics can be perceived by clairvoyant observation in the human aura (colours, patterns)
- Walter J. Kilner published one of the first western medical studies on the aura in 1911, proposing its existence as an indicator of health and mood, for possible use in medical diagnosis (see references below).
FMC00.253 is purely intended to imagine the size of the 'auric egg', normally two to three times, but - in the case for initiaties - can become as large a 6 times (or more) the height of the physical body .
FMC00.250 is a summary table sketching the threefold aura
FMC00.251 provides an overview on the multitude of colours and forms on the three aspects that find expression in the auras
Lecture coverage and references
1903-12-29-GA088 is a lecture dedicated to Man's threefold aura or body, and senses:
When we consider the physical body of human beings, as we know it, we see that it is just a crystallized solid mass. The so-called aura surrounds the physical body in a kind of egg form. By and large the aura is always larger than the physical body itself. It is smallest among undeveloped people; and the more developed a person is, the larger it is. The aura of a highly evolved human being can be six times his or her height. You are picturing the whole human being only if you imagine his or her height extending three times higher and three times lower.
There are three things in the aura we must distinguish:
- first, the so-called astral body. This is the body that contains for the eyes of seers what human beings otherwise only feel within: drives, desires, and passions. A seer can distinguish very precisely from this aura whether a human being has pure or ugly passions such as greed, compassion, good will, and the like.
- Then, second, there is the mental aura. This contains what we feel subjectively to be as our intellect, as our power of reasoning, the lower spiritual power.
After death these two are dissolved, just as the physical body dissolves. The astral aura is dissolved in kamaloca, and the mental aura in lower devachan. They are counted among the transitory parts of a human being.
- The enduring being of a human is objectively observable in the third aura. This is the aura of the causal body, the body that goes through all incarnations. Among unevolved people who understand little of what is enduring, the causal body is only indicated. If we observe the aura of an unevolved person we find little of any causal body. Those human beings who seek deeper knowledge develop this causal aura. The more a person is evolved the more this causal aura is developed. Then a kind of radiant system is inserted into the aura, so that a more highly developed person sends out rays of spiritual light that can be noticed in his or her causal aura.
When observed, the aura of an adept is much greater than a house, so that the whole person appears infinitely larger than the physical person appears for the physical eye. The causal aura that we can see with highly developed people is also suggested in the undeveloped; and not as a small body, but also large, but it is not yet luminous. With unevolved people it is a weak, glimmering light and becomes constantly more luminous the more a person develops. Rays of light enter as a person takes in more and more content. The more people develop within themselves what is enduring, what will appear again, the more they will have luminous power within. It is the objectively perceptible that a person carries over from one incarnation into another.
I will first consider human beings with their astral aura: we can observe them in three successive states.
- The first state is the one in which the actual power to form thoughts is as yet very little developed. That was the case with the third root race and at the beginning of the fourth; that is, from the middle of the Lemurian until the first half of the Atlantean time. Lemurians and the first Atlanteans did not think using reason, but they thought out of their memory.
- Only in the course of the fourth root race was the power to reason gradually developed; and the aura was also changed. In the third root race and in the first half of the fourth, the astral aura was developed in such a way that the aura surrounded the human body. It was just a little bit larger than the skin and it was much mistier than later; it was like a dark mass of fog, but much stormier and intense because of human passions. Only the first beginnings of the mental aura were present at that time. Evolution progressed up until our present root race, so that today a kind of high point has been reached. This is the second stage in which the mental aura is developed to a certain extent.
- The third stage is that of advanced human beings who have developed so-called astral clairvoyance. They are also in a position to see this aura. They can see not only what is in the physical world but also what is present in the astral world. The astral aura of such people looks a little different. Wheel-shaped figures appear with the aura of Atlantean and post-Atlantean human beings. Such figures are in the aura of every human being today; with Lemurians they were still barely noticeable. When these "wheels" are in motion in present-day people, then astral vision enters. When they are at rest then the astral seeing is stopped.
Now among more highly evolved human beings, in whom the chakras are moving, a different process occurs. They are able to withdraw the kundalini fire [editor: see Human astral body] voluntarily from the organism; at the same time there are opposing streams from within, working outward; what earlier streamed into the human being only from outside can now be regulated from within by the human being. The entire process can now be voluntarily brought into motion.
With this achievement, human beings have complete ability to control their astral body. Now I ask you to consider that this condition will enter more and more into human evolution.
- Today it is those who are psychically evolved who have such an astral body, but humanity itself is quickly moving to such a condition.
- It will have the ability to use the astral body in the sixth race. We human beings will have a physical body within what is an astral body, which we can use in this way.
- In the next round, however, human beings will not have any physical body, but only an astral body that they will then be able to use freely just as they use the physical body today. The physical body will no longer exist; our lowest body will be the astral body.
[Mental body and sense]
We find something similar to the astral body in the mental body. The astral body has individual sense-centers; there is an astral nerve corresponding to the optic nerve; so too the auditory nerve, the olfactory nerve, and so forth. The mental body no longer has such individual senses. It has but one single sense; it is permeated by the mental capacity of understanding, so that it can perceive mentally with that one single sense. For this reason, it is able to relate all things to each other and to everything as a whole.
The shadow of the mental sense is the understanding. When you hear a bell sounding, you turn yourself around in order to perceive also with your face. The astral senses are also connected to the mental senses with a kind of kundalini fire. Kundalini fire is a kind of in-between-matter, which unites the individual conditions with each other.
In 1904-GA009 (Theosophy - Chapter 6):
In this way the soul and spirit nature of man appear as the supersensible part of the whole human being.
The color effects perceptible to the spirit eye that ray out around the physical man observed in his activity, and that envelop him like a somewhat egg-shaped cloud, are the human aura. The size of this aura varies in different people, but we may say that the entire man appears on the average twice as long and four times as wide as the physical man.
The most varied shades of color flood the aura. This color flooding is a true picture of the inner human life. As this changes, so do the shades of color change. Certain permanent qualities such as talents, habits and traits of character, however, express themselves also in permanent fundamental color shades.
- [... We might imagine that what are here described as colors would stand before the soul just as the physical colors stand before the physical eye, but such a soul color would be nothing but hallucination. Spiritual science is not in the least concerned with hallucinatory impressions, and they are not what is meant in the description now before us. We reach a correct conception if we keep the following in mind. With a physical color, the soul experiences not only the sense impression, but through it, it has a soul-experience. When through the eye the soul perceives a yellow surface, this soul-experience is different from what it is when it perceives a blue surface. One may call this experience “living in yellow” or “living in blue.” Now the soul that has followed the path of knowledge has a similar “experience in yellow” when observing the active soul-experience of other beings; an “experience in blue” when observing devotional soul-moods. The essential thing is not that the seer in visualization of another soul sees blue just as he sees this blue in the physical world, but that he has an experience that justifies his calling the visualization blue; just as the physical man calls a curtain blue, for instance. Further, it is essential that the seer should be conscious of standing in an experience free of the body so that he gains the possibility of speaking about the value and the meaning of the soul-life in a world whose perception is not mediated through the human body. Although this meaning of the description must be taken into account, yet it is altogether a matter of course for the seer to speak of blue, yellow, green, and so forth, in the aura.]
The aura varies greatly according to
- the different temperaments and dispositions of people. It likewise varies in accordance with
- the stages of spiritual development. A man who yields completely to his animal impulses has an entirely different aura from one who lives much in the world of thought. The aura of a religiously disposed nature differs essentially from one that loses itself in the trivial experiences of the day. In addition to this,
- all varying moods, all inclinations, joys and pains, find their expression in the aura.
We have to compare the auras of various soul-experiences with each other in order to learn to understand the meaning of the color shades. To begin with, take soul-experiences shot through with strongly marked emotions. They may be divided into two kinds:
- those in which the soul is impelled to these emotions chiefly by the animal nature, and
- those in which these passions take a more subtle form, in which they are, so to speak, strongly influenced by reflection.
In the first kind of experiences brown and reddish-yellow streams of color surge through the aura in definite locations.
In persons with more subtle passions there appear in the same locations brighter reddish-yellow and green shades.
One can notice that as intelligence increases the green shades become more frequent. Persons who are very intelligent, but who give themselves over entirely to satisfying their animal impulses, show much green in their aura, but this green will always have an admixture more or less of brown or brownish-red. Unintelligent people show a great part of their aura permeated by brownish-red or even by dark blood-red currents.
The auras of quiet, meditative, thoughtful soul-moods are essentially different from those of such passionate conditions. The brownish and reddish tones become less prominent and various shades of green emerge. In strenuous thinking the aura shows a pleasing green undertone. This is to a special degree the appearance of those natures who know how to adapt themselves to every condition of life.
Shades of blue appear in soul-moods full of devotion. The more a man places his self in the service of a cause, the more pronounced become the blue shades. In this class also one finds two quite different kinds of people.
- There are natures who are not in the habit of exerting their power of thought — passive souls who, as it were, have nothing to throw into the streams of events in the world but their good nature. Their aura glimmers with beautiful blue. This is also the appearance of many religious and devotional natures. Compassionate souls and those who find pleasure in giving themselves up to a life of benevolence have a similar aura. If such people are intelligent in addition, green and blue currents alternate, or the blue itself perhaps takes on a greenish shade.
- It is the peculiarity of the active souls in contrast to the passive, that their blue saturates itself from within with bright shades of color. Inventive natures, having fruitful thoughts, radiate bright shades of color as if from an inner center. This is true to the highest degree in those persons whom we call wise, and especially in those full of fruitful ideas.
- all that implies spiritual activity takes more the form of rays spreading out from within, while
- everything that arises from the animal nature has the form of irregular clouds surging through the aura.
The variations in color nuances showing themselves in the corresponding aura formations depend on whether thoughts, sprinting from the soul's activity, are at the service of the soul's animal nature or that of an ideal, objective interest.
- The inventive person who applies all his thoughts to the satisfaction of his sensual passions shows dark blue-red shades.
- He, on the contrary, who places his thoughts selflessly at the service of an interest outside himself shows light reddish-blue color tones.
- A spiritual life combined with noble devotion and capacity for sacrifice shows rose-pink or light violet colors.
Not only does the fundamental disposition of the soul show its color surgings in the aura, but also transient passions, moods and other inner experiences. A violent anger that breaks out suddenly creates red streams; feelings of injured dignity that expend themselves in a sudden welling up can be seen appearing in dark green clouds. Color phenomena, however, do not appear only in irregular cloud forms but also in distinctly defined, regularly shaped figures.
- If we observe a man under the influence of an attack of fear, we see this, for instance, in his aura from top to bottom as undulating stripes of blue color suffused with a bluish-red shimmer.
- When we observe a person who expects some particular event with anxiety, we can see red-blue stripes like rays constantly streaming through his aura from within outwards.
Every sensation received from without can be observed by the one who has developed the faculty of exact spiritual perception.
- Persons who are greatly excited by every external impression show a continuous flickering of small bluish-red spots and flecks in the aura.
- In people who do not feel intensely, these flecks have an orange-yellow or even a beautiful yellow coloring.
- So-called absent-mindedness shows bluish flecks playing over into green and more or less changing in form.
By means of a more highly developed spiritual vision three aspects of color phenomena can be distinguished within the aura radiating and surging round a person.
- Firstly, there are colors that bear more or less the character of opaqueness and dullness. Certainly, if we compare them with colors seen with our physical eyes, they appear fugitive and transparent in comparison. Within the supersensible world itself, however, they make the space that they fill, comparatively speaking, opaque. They fill it in the manner of mist formations.
- A second species of colors consists of those that are light itself, as it were. They light up the space they fill so that it becomes through them itself a space of light.
- Color phenomena of the third kind are quite different from the first two. They have a raying, sparkling, glittering character. They fill space not merely with light but with glistening, glittering rays. There is something active and inherently mobile in these colors. The others are somewhat quiet and lack brilliance. These, on the contrary, continuously produce themselves out of themselves, as it were.
Space is filled by the first two species of colors with a subtle fluidity that remains quietly in it. By the third, space is filled with an ever self-enkindling life, with never resting activity.
These three species of colors, however, are not ranged alongside each other in the human aura. They are not each enclosed in a separate section of space, but they interpenetrate and suffuse each other in the most varied ways. All three species can be seen playing through each other in one region of the aura, just a physical body, such as a bell, can simultaneously be heard and seen.
The aura thus becomes an exceedingly complicated phenomenon because we have to do with three auras within each other, interpenetrating each other. We can, however, overcome the difficulty by directing our attention to the three species alternately. In the supersensible world we then do something similar to what we do in the sensible, for example, when we close our eyes in order to give ourselves up fully to the impressions of a piece of music. The seer has three different organs for the three species of color, and in order to observe undisturbed, he can open or close any one of the organs to impressions. As a rule only one kind of organ can at first be developed by a seer, namely, the organ for the first species of color. A person at this stage can see only the one aura; the other two remain invisible to him. In the same way a person may be accessible to impressions from the first two but not from the third. The higher stage of the gift of seeing consists in a person's being able to see all three auras, and for the purpose of study to direct his attention to the one or the other.
The threefold aura is thus the supersensibly visible expression of the being of man. The three members, body, soul and spirit, come to expression in it.
- The first aura is a mirror of the influence the body exercises on the human soul;
- the second characterizes the life of the soul itself, the soul that has raised itself above the direct influence of the senses, but is not yet devoted to the service of the eternal;
- the third mirrors the mastery the eternal spirit has won over the transitory man.
When descriptions of the aura are given, as here, it must be emphasized that these things are not only difficult to observe but above all difficult to describe. No one, therefore, should see in a description like this anything more than a stimulus to thought.
Thus, for the seer, the peculiarity of the soul's life expresses itself in the constitution of the aura.
- When he encounters a soul life that is given up entirely to passing impulses, passions and momentary external incitements, he sees the first aura in loudest colors; the second, on the contrary is only slightly developed. He sees in it only scanty color formations, while the third is barely indicated. Only here and there a small glittering spark of color shows itself, indicating that even in such a soul-mood the eternal already lives in man as a germ, but that it is driven into the background by the action of the sensory nature as has been indicated.
- The more a man gets rid of his lower impulses, the less obtrusive becomes the first part of the aura. The second part then grows larger and larger, filling the color body within which the physical man lives ever more completely with its illuminating force.
- The more a man proves himself to be a servant of the eternal, the more does the wonderful third aura show itself to be the part that bears witness to the extent to which he has become a citizen of the spiritual world because the divine self radiates into the earthly life through this part of the human aura. Insofar as men show this aura, they are flames through whom the Godhead illumines this world. They show through this part of the aura how far they know how to live not for themselves, but for the eternally True, the nobly Beautiful and the Good. They show how far they have wrung from their narrower self the power to offer themselves up on the altar of cosmic world activity.
Thus there comes to expression in the aura what a man has made of himself in the course of his incarnation.
All three parts of the aura contain colors of the most varied shades, but the character of these shades changes with the stage of man's development.
- In the first part of the aura there can be seen the undeveloped life of impulse in all shades from red to blue. These shades have a dull, muddy character. The obtrusive red shades point to the sensual desires, to the fleshly lusts, to the passion for the enjoyments of the palate and the stomach. Green shades appear to be found especially in those lower natures that incline to obtuseness and indifference, greedily giving themselves over to each enjoyment, but nevertheless shunning the exertions necessary to bring them to satisfaction. Where the desires are passionately bent on some goal beyond the reach of the capacities already acquired, brownish-green and yellowish-green auric colors appear. Certain modern modes of life actually breed this kind of aura. A personal conceit that is entirely rooted in low inclinations, thus representing the lowest stage of egotism, shows itself in tones of muddy yellow to brown. Now it is clear that the animal life of impulse can take on a pleasing character. There is a purely natural capacity for self-sacrifice, a high form of which is to be found even in the animal kingdom. This development of an animal impulse finds its most beautiful consummation in natural mother love. These selfless natural impulses come to expression in the first aura in light reddish to rose-red shades of color. Cowardly fear and timidity in the face of external causes show themselves in the aura in brown-blue and grey-blue colors.
- The second aura again shows the most varied grades of colors. Brown and orange colored formations point to strongly developed conceit, pride and ambition. Inquisitiveness also announces its presence through red-yellow flecks. A bright yellow mirrors clear thinking and intelligence; green expresses understanding of life and the world. Children who learn easily have much green in this part of the aura. A green yellow in the second aura seems to betoken a good memory. Rose-red indicates a benevolent, affectionate nature; blue is the sign of piety. The more piety approaches religious fervor, the more does the blue pass over into violet. Idealism and an earnest view of life in a higher sense is to be seen as indigo blue.
- The fundamental colors of the third aura are yellow, green and blue. Bright yellow appears here if the thinking is filled with lofty, comprehensive ideas that grasp the details as part of the whole of the divine world order. If the thinking is intuitive and also completely purified of all sensuous visualizations, the yellow has a golden brilliance. Green expresses love towards all beings; blue is the sign of a capacity for selfless sacrifice for all beings. If this capacity for sacrifice rises to the height of strong willing, devoting itself to the active service of the world, the blue brightens to light violet. If pride and desire for honor, as last remnants of personal egoism, are still present despite a more highly developed soul nature, others verging on orange appear beside the yellow shades. It must be remarked, however, that in this part of the aura the colors are quite different from the shades we are accustomed to see in the world of the senses. The seer beholds a beauty and an exaltedness with which nothing in the ordinary world can be compared.
This presentation of the aura cannot be rightly judged by anyone who does not attach the chief weight to the fact that the seeing of the aura implies an extension and enrichment of what is perceived in the physical world — an extension, indeed, that aims at knowing the form of the soul life that possesses spiritual reality apart from the world of the senses. This whole presentation has nothing whatever to do with reading character or a man's thoughts from an aura perceived in the manner of a hallucination. It seeks to expand knowledge in the direction of the spiritual world and has nothing in common with the questionable art of reading human souls from their auras.
If we consider man's being in its entirety, we have to begin with the physical body, then the etheric body, then the astral body. The physical body of man can be seen by everyone. The etheric body becomes visible when the physical body is suggested away by a strong act of will. Then the space of the physical body remains filled with the etheric body. The occultist considers the etheric as actually being the lowest body. It is the body according to which the physical body is formed. Taking the descending line, the form of the etheric body is the reverse of the physical. It is only in the ascending line that they are identical. A woman has a masculine etheric body, and a man a feminine etheric body.
Around the etheric body appears the astral body. It is the outer form for the entire content of the soul: for passions, emotions, impulses, desires, joy, unhappiness, enthusiasm, and so on. It manifests itself in forms of every description. The surrounding part shows cloud formations; it radiates the most varied colours. Frequently somewhat tattered formations are attached to it. The forms and colours are different and changing. Green shows sympathy and compassion for one's fellow men. The lower levels of the population show much red in the astral body, brownish red, brick red, blood red.
With every human being all the fluctuations of the astral body are enclosed in an egg-shaped sheath. This has an underlying blue colour and shows, as an important factor, a dark violet spot in the middle of the brain. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky calls this egg-shaped sheath the auric egg. In the case of little children the auric egg is predominant; in their case many bright, luminous clouds of color appear within it. In the lower parts, however, little children also have dark clouds, indicating lower impulses. This is the inherited karma that they have in common with their ancestors — ‘the sins of the fathers’. These sins of the fathers are inherited down to the seventh generation.
What is being perceived and described?
Clairvoyancy should not be confused with physical vision of the mineral kingdom as part of Waking consciousness. See stages of clairvoyance, the the characteristics of the astral world, or, to get a feel for the three different worlds: astral, lower and higher spirit worlds, see eg middle column of FMC00.175. Clairvoyance in the astral world is very different than that of higher spirit world. The higher mental world does not map to space and time, this needs to be considered when drawing or imagining a localized aura for the I, as in for example FMC00.164, though of course the spiritual I uses the threefold soul to take hold of the three lower bodies, and the first component of our refined astral body will shine through as the spirit self (manas or causal body). Also, compare FMC00.325 with FMC00.036.
- Steiner in lecturing audience expansion of consciousness
- Daskalos description
- example of Eliah 'cloud around person', and also early years of Christ in Jesus
- note humble magician
References and further reading
- Auguste Marques (1841-1929): 'The human aura: a study' (1896).
- C.W. Leadbeater (1854-1934): 'Man visible and invisible' (1902)
- Dr. Walter J. Kilner: 'The Human Atmosphere' (1911)
- William Walker Atkinson: 'The human aura - astral colors and thought forms' (1912)
- Notes on the 'auric egg' by Blavatsky and G. de Purucker
- Geoffrey Hodson (1882-1983)
- eg chapter 'The Human Aura: Its Colors And Their Meanings' in the book 'Theosophy Answers Some Problems of Life'
- Barbara Brennan (1939-): 'Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field' (1987)
- Dora Kunz: 'The personal aura' (1991)