Loosening of Etheric Body
Now we will deal with consciously leaving our material body through loosening and separating our etheric body from the physical. Many times, this happens unconsciously and we only realize this process going on when it is already happening.
The etheric body can be separated from the physical body in various ways. The most important ways are "taking off" and "stepping out".
The most important requirement for the process of separation of the subtle body is a deeply relaxed state or an ecstatic state, often in connection with overtiredness – as can be seen in some shamanic or ecclesiastical rituals which promote ecstatic states. Principally, the ability to loosen the subtle body is inherent in all humans; thus, separation is often happening spontaneously. But natural relaxation before or after sleep is connected with tiredness, which results in low awareness, so that the person is hardly able to stay in the state between sleep and awake and will mostly fall asleep. This is the reason why spontaneous separation hardly occurs in the evening before falling asleep (you’re too tired then), but much more frequently in the late morning. A weekend with longer sleep, for instance, is especially suitable – when we fluctuate between sleep and awake and a certain awakeness remains because we are already well-rested.
Similar circumstances apply to an afternoon nap, which is why OBEs are sometimes occurring here depending on individual predisposition.
It is easier for young people than for older people to come into a state of deep relaxation (better muscle relaxation, lower blood pressure).
- deep relaxation
- staying long enough in the state between sleep and awake
sufficient awareness to avoid dritfing into dreaming and fabulating
- low blood pressurelying;
- lying; especially lying on the back is very conducive
- expectant attitude
The term "taking off" or "take-off" was chosen because it indicates a gradual, soft loosening from the physical body. During this process, in most cases the subtle body floats upwards. But it can also float sidewards or glide down through the matress. Mostly, these events happen spontaneously. People often experience such a kind of "taking off" while sleeping or while half asleep, however they mostly don’t know to explain the situation due to a lack of information.
The loosening of the subtle body happens more or less passively and on its own in the process of taking off. Only the deep relaxation itself – which is required for a consciously performed process – is actively induced. The only active component of the following passive phase is an attentive observing of the process itself (which is required to guarantee the awareness that is needed, otherwise you’ll fall asleep).
Below an example (by Gauri):
"When this happens, I use to flow upwards just as if I was a balloon. The first time when this happened I was frightened, because I reached the ceiling but still the floating did not stop. I went through the stonework as if it was only a fata morgana. I could see every fibre of the bricks and the mortar and could even smell it."
After countless reports (and own experiences), the etheric double developed during the take-off is connected to the physical body through a cord, the so-called silver cord. This silver cord can be seen in the pictures below. It can be fixed to various parts of the body (often forehead, back, chest).
Phase 1: the etheric body loosens slightly from the physical
Phase 2: the etheric body takes off, connected to the physical body through the silver cord
Phase 3: the etheric body goes up and falls down again several times, swaying over the physical body, then it stabilizes and begins to wander around
Typical characteristics of a "take-off"
The process of taking off has typical features in both its preliminary stage and during the process itself. Even after the separation, the way of experiencing is different from astral travels or lucid dreams.
Typical symptoms before, during and after take-off:
- floating upwards
- falling down
- swaying/ rocking
- sometimes rotating
- sensations of wind (may happen when the process develops into astral travelling)
- floating or standing in the room
- vision: blackness or "real environment"
clear sensing of objects in the room (as long as they are not seen)
Initial stages/ preconditions for causing a take-off:
- spontaneous: in the early morning in bed/ during an afternoon nap
- willfully induced: deep relaxation/ trance/ autohypnosis
in narcosis (ether anaesthesia, nowadays not common anymore)
Theosophic explanatory model
Occultism and theosophy explain the process as follows: the connection between the subtle and the material body is loosened. This loosening can be caused by mechanical occurrences like vibrations and slow waves of the etheric body.
During the process of loosening, the etheric body loosens only a few centimetres up to a hand’s width from the physical body.
In a state of deep relaxation, the fluidal body floats upwards vertically, often accompanied by swaying and rocking movements, and may fall down again several times (falling dreams), then float up again.
There are four stages:
- fluidal loosening
- fluidal body goes up and falls down (again and again)
- fluidal body sways
- fluidal body begins to wander around
Rotation as a special form
Occasionally it will happen that we have the sensation of floating upwards, whereat we spin around oue own axis. This axis can be located at several parts of the material body. Mostly the axis lies at the head (forehead) or in the middle of the chest. An axis at the belly would also be possible (around the navel).
Pictures from: Sten Oomen: Door het Raam (through the door)
Below an own experience (Corra):
"I came into deep relaxation relatively fast and then I began to sink down, deeper and deeper, as if I would sink through my matress down to the floor. And now I knew I was in my etheric body, although I was sinking down this time instead of floating upwards. Then something happened which I never have experienced before: I began to rotate, and my head was the axis. I spun round about ten times, ever faster, and finally I stopped and began to stabilize, then I stood upright and could start to wander around."
Another experience (by Gauri):
"On that day I was a bit sick and feverish. Still I didn't lay down but attended to my business. After a few hours, I went to the bedroom to take something out of the cupboard. When I saw my bed, I suddendly felt my physical exhaustion. So, very spontaneously, I laid down. But as soon as I had pressed my head into the pillow, suddendly my head was pressed down in the forehead region. It felt as if someone nailed my head into the pillow. Instantly I couldn’t move my head anymore. Everything went black and now I was rotating clockwise and upwards. After three or four rotations, I floated upwards with my arms stretched forward, through a passage that felt like a dark and warm tube. I was pulled upwards as if by a magnet. The whole process was very fast but also very gentle and I didn’t have time to even become aware of what was happening. But intuitively I knew it was a take-off. Still the excitement was disturbing so that unfortunately the process was interrupted. Gently, as if with an invisible stretcher, I was brought back downwards until I was in my physical body again."
"Carried by the wind"
This "airstream" is most likely the fluidal substance which moves along the body surface. It is the dynamics of the energetic body set in motion, as it is known from Kundalini phenomena. A similar thing is sometimes described in the "descent of the spirit", where the "wind" is flowing down over the body from the crown.
"Carried by the wind"
Example by Gauri:
"I became conscious when I already had left the physical body. Now I was floating in lying position, tilted left, just as if I was carried by wind or lying on an invisible stretcher. This state is called ‘carried by the wind’ because it actually really feels as if you were floating in airy heights where the wind is strong. This effect is caused by the fluidal matter which is stirred into motion. I had had this kind of take-off several times before and I knew what was happening. But this time it was a bit different. There was someone with me, but I couldn’t see her. I could only feel her presence. She was an otherworldly guide. ‘Move both arms to the left, then it is easier’, she told me. So I moved my arms to the left side of the body and all of a sudden I was floating even faster and more gentle, into the darkness. Though I didn’t know where I went and I still don’t know it because I soon lost consciousness after this."
Dreams connected to unconscious take-off during sleep
If the take-off happens during sleep, we don’t experience the separation consciously, but we are able to remember certain dream scenes from which the typical stages of separation can be interpreted. The process of separation is perceived as becoming lighter and floating upwards. During the process there is a constant up and down and also a swaying and rocking.
Stages of take-off and the connected dream symbols
- vibration: is hardly perceived when being asleep
- falling dreams: the fluidal body floats up a few centimetres and falls back again and again into the physical body, which can result in waking up suddendly and startledly
- elevator dreams: the fluidal body floats up vertically, but glides back a bit; however, not so fastly and abruptly as in the falling dreams and not completely back into the physical. There is no startled awakening here.
- Swaying dreams: the fluidal body has floated up to the maximum strain of the silver cord and sways back and forth, fixed by the silver cord (like a tied balloon)
- wind dreams: could be connected to the "carried by the wind" sensation, maybe a change to astral travel
For more details on this topic, see dream symbols of body separation.
The denomination "step out" is to make clear that this process is a willful and active separation from the physical body.
To leave the body in a state of trance, deep relaxation methods basing on physical perception are most helpful. Mere imaginations and visualisations as they are used in autohypnosis are not suitable. E. g. the rocking and swaying in a boat – which is a useful method for inducing a stepping out (see practical advise) – should not be imagined, but it should be tried to feel this sensation of rocking and swaying physically. The imagination is just an accompanying aspect and is of secondary importance.
After our experiences, the methods around the process of stepping out had a higher chance of success than methods of taking off. However, this cannot be generalized, because there are considerable individual differences in this area. But this method has its disadvantages: there are some efforts to make – e. g. standing up between 4 and 5 AM – and furthermore, this state mostly lasts only for a few minutes in most practitioners. Nevertheless it can be trained in order to have longer experiences. It is possible that longer astral travels can be made with this method as well.
The method of stepping out means to perform a difficult balancing act between sleep and awake. To induce this state it is also necessary to work on perception of the physical body (through listening to the inside of the body, circulation of energy etc.). The shifting of the consciousness from one state into the other happens subtly and mostly imperceptible. Occasionally it may be difficult to recognize if the consciousness already has shifted into the etheric body. It happens easily that we confuse the respective body perceptions, and as a result it may happen that we move our physical body instead and by doing this, we are immediately brought out of the trance state.
Another point is that we mustn’t get lost in fantasies and imaginations, because in this method of separation it’s not the visual sense which ought to be active but rather the "inner sense of touch". Drifting off into spontaneous imaginations leads to dreams and reverie and thus results in falling asleep.
If the conscious process of separation has succeeded once, the fluidal body can move completely free. There are all intermediary stages between a sensation of material-physical heaviness and a dream-like lightness.
- Heaviness, weight
When stepping out "densely", the fluidal body behaves similar to the physical body – it has weight and it’s not possible to float or fly. According to occultism, this depends on the amount of fluidal substance which has been taken with the subtle body during the separation. In the etheric state, we’re actually inside of the astral body, whereat the astral body takes some of the denser fluidal substance with it. This denser matter stays attached to the astral body and depending on the amount of matter adhering to the astral body, the phenomenon can differ between more mediumistic-dense and dream-like astral states. That means that the transition between the etheric and astral state is smooth.
In denser states, vision is mostly not possible at the beginning and the state rather resembles the half-awake, imageless state in which one has been before. After occult teachings, etheric vision does not exist, but only physical or astral vision (because there exists no etheric plane). If the consciousness has not yet shifted into the astral body, the astral senses are not active yet and so we find ourselves wrapped in blackness as if we had closed our eyes. It happens then that one does not have the courage to go further and to step out into the blackness. But in this state it is mostly possible to sense your surroundings through a kind of inner space perception, which can be quite precise. And it is also sometimes possible to gain vision by concentrating on it, giving the silent order "I want to see now" or "I can see now".
- Maximum distance from the physical body
After a certain distance from the physical body has been covered, we may feel a pull in the back, preventing us from mpoving further. This is caused by the silver cord, which obviously can only be perceived when being in the etheric state, but not in astral travelling. In the state of "false awakening", there is no silver cord perceived as well (or only rarely).
"After having moved to a certain distance from the physical body, I felt a pull in my back or in the back of my head. I wasn’t able to move further then and was pulled back into my physical body immediately. Sometimes I tried to move on nevertheless, clinging to the window sill. If I succeeded to overcome the strain, I mostly ended up in a dream-like state and rarely managed to change into the astral state."
There is different information about the maximum distance from the physical body in various reports. Sometimes only a few meters are mentioned, sometimes more than 50 meters. Personally, we did experience all possible maximum distances between 5 and about 60 meters. In our opinion it is possible that the maximum distance can vary depending on one’s energetic state. It seems that, in a state of higher vibe and more energized, the maximum distance is increasing. It may also happen that the consciousness shifts completely into the astral body and the fluidal matter is drawn back to the physical body. In this case, the astral body can move free from then on.
- Perception of body and of the environment
The intensive perception of the body in this state often results in people believing in a non-physical, transcendent world. But a full perception of the body is actually not an evidence for another world. Of course we too believe in a transcendent world and are convinced that it exists, but one should not simplify things so much.
- Spontaneous partial body separation
When overtired, it often happens that one has the sensation as if a double of one’s one hand has moved – just one short movement and that was it. This has nothing to do with muscle twitches; it is far subtler. Very rarely, in an overtired state, it can occur that one is floating away with the whole body just for a very short distance and immediately wakes up again.
For more on this topic, see "OBE in etheric body".
So far, there is no full evidence for the existence of subtle bodies. Experiments are very difficult to do, because these states of trance – especially in the unfamiliar environment of a sleep laboratory – are not reproducable so easily and so often. This is different in astral travelling or lucid dreaming, which happen in the measurable REM sleep. Through slight awakening impulses a conscious state can be induced.
To interpret body separation as hypnagogic happenings would simplify the situation too much. The two states are very different from each other. One shouldn’t take explanations so easily. There are some detailed reports and we got letters of people with experiences that clearly suggested the separation of a subtle body. There are a few reports where even other persons could observe the separation, and other verifications like this. It would be too easy to consider all these people liars or consider them unable to think and observe critically. We had the impression that they were honest people.
© Alfred Ballabene (Vienna) translated by Corra