Over all the world and in all cultures, the etheric body and the ether were known in the mystical or magical secret teachings. Thus, there exist many very different names for the ether, sometimes not recognizable anymore as being related to the ether. Depending on religion, way of thinking and magical use, various aspects of the ether were emphasized or described differently. This leads to a high diversity of notions and ideas, which results in confusion and misinterpretation.
Historical facts about the ether
The term "ether" was coined by the theosophists, mainly by Helena Petrova Blavatsky (1831 – 1891) and Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847 – 1934). Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541) wrote about the "sideric body", under which he understood the same or something similar to the etheric body.
In theosophy, the ether is seen as a linking substance between astral (transcendent) and physical (material) matter. After the theosophic teachings, the etheric body is about six inches bigger than the physical body.
Ether as lifeless substance (if something like lifeless ether exists at all) and ether of a living human may be as different as matter in a test tube and living matter/ body of a highly evolved being.
Proof of the ether
So far, physics couldn’t proof the ether. It is an unfortunate fact for the occult sciences that in the 19th century, when a lot of discoveries were made, phenomena about newly discovered radiations were claimed evidence for the existence of the ether. These anticipations made the defenders of the "ether theories" untrustworthy. The superficiality of their postulates was a great mistake of the parapsychologists of this time.
Surely, paranormal phenomena can still be observed. But still they are physically unverifiable. We have to think of the fact that all physical measuring methods are basing on mechanical or electromagnetic parameters. Everything which is beyond this measurability is automatically unverifiable. Thus, it is not scientific to deny everything which lies beyond those measuring methods from the first. No one in natural science would assert that anything beyond measurability didn’t exist at all. Let’s take the postulate which claims that 90 % of the mass/ energy of the universe consisted of dark energy and matter – but neither dark matter nor dark energy are metrologically verifiable.
Ether in Physics
In the 19th century, light was understood as wave. A wave needs a carrier medium. But because light is even able to cross the empty space, this carrier medium could not consist of matter as it was known until then, and thus, a still undiscovered matter was postulated – the ether. Later, when quantum physics defined light as a wave as well as a particle, this postulate became invalid.
The communication between physics and parapsychology was disturbed since 1900, due to the anticipated interpretations of the parapsychologists. Thus, both sides defined the term "ether" in very different ways. It was attempted to disprove the opponent’s theory with arguments of the own definition of ether, not with the opponent’s definition. Thus, agreement was barred from the beginning on – they were talking at cross purposes, insulting each other as fantasists or as narrowminded.
Recently, the term "ether" comes up in physics again – mostly in unacknowledged outskirts of physics, to explain gravitation through a moving ether (in the 19th century, when ether was postulated as carrier medium for light, it was postulated to be static). But these theories have nothing to do with the occult term of ether.
The true nature of the etheric body
While a "body" may be understood as a carrier for consciousness – with all its functions of perception and ability to operate – this does not apply to the etheric body. It is not a body as in this sense of a carrier for consciousness. Furthermore, there is no "etheric plane" as living environment like e. g. the astral planes. Ether is rather a subtle substance, which is closely connected to the physical body and can adhere to the astral body as long as the astral body is in proximity of the physical body. It is rather from a practical view that it is called etheric "body".
While the astral body is loosening from the physical, it takes more or less of etheric substance with it. Due to this adhering vital substance, the quality of appearances and perception is changing. This intermediary phase is characterised through a couple of strange and unique aspects – which is why an own term for this kind of phenomena was only practical.There is great misunderstanding arising from the fact, that after a longer distance of the "etheric body" the etheric substance returns to the physical body and from then on, the astral body remains without etheric matter – its only called astral body then. This astral body continues the "excursion" – and the principles which are taking effect now are totally different from the principles before in the etheric state. In practice, this leads to confusion: persons which are less versed in theory interpret these differences of experience as differences of perception and ignore the existence of an etheric state. Both phenomena are not longer distinguishable for them. This has the effect that many people, e. g. researchers on lucid dreams (LD), classify both phenomena as one and the same occurrence.
Other terms and names for ether
Bioplasm is a term for etheric substance especially used by East European parapsychologists – it is believed there that it can be made visible through Kirlian photography. The term was coined in 1966 by the Russian scientist V. S. Grishenko as a term for the 5th state of aggregation (the other four are: solid, liquid, gaseous, plasmatic). After Grishenko, bioplasm is identical with the vital force.
Chi (Chinese)/ Ki (Japanese). The Chinese call the etheric energy "Chi". There is a Taoistic discipline similar to yoga where it is believed that through sexual energy (water, abdomen) working together with fire (belly) a new form of energy is developed (Chi) – likewise to the development of water vapour from water and heat. This is the reason why deities and Buddhas are often depicted with a big belly in China, which is a sign that they possess a great amount of Chi energy.
Fluidal substance is a term coined by French occultists. Regarding this subject, Hector Durville and Albert de Rochas are known.
Literature: Hector Durville: The Theory and Practice of Human Magnetism. Nabu press, 2012 (original book in 1912)
Ectoplasm is a common term in spiritism. Under this term, a very dense etheric discharge is understood, which is believed to be responsible for materialisations and various poltergeist phenomenona. Ectoplasm develops through an inner alchemic process in the abdomen. It can be discharged from the body in different ways:
- it can evaporate from the whole body surface like fine mist
- in its densest manifestation, ectoplasm can flow out of orifices of the body slowly and in a honey-like consistency, whereat it vaporizes at the edges
In common language use, "ectoplasm" is understood as the dense manifestation which is flowing out of body orifices. Its colour is light to dark gray. Ectoplasm does not have to be homogenous and can contain granulate material. In a few experiments, ectoplasm has been successfully photographed. There have been attempts to make measurements on ectoplasm, but those tests showed very varying results without any significance (electrical conductivity, Albert Freiherr v. Schrenk Notzing, 1862-1929, Munich, physician and parapsychologist). For searching photos of ectoplasm in the internet, the term "teleplasm" is useful as well.
Od is a term which is rather rare in recent esotericism. In my opinion, this is a knowledge gap, because the observations connected to "Od" are a valuable addition to the Eastern notions of Prana and Chi. Our occidental researches – although they are not acknowledged – allow us an experimental access to the most fundamental esoteric facts. Maybe it will once be achieved to bring structure into the maze of traditions from all over the world through these researches. The term "Od" was coined by Karl Freiherr von Reichenbach. Reichenbach was a chemist, natural scientist, industrialist and discoverer of creosote and paraffin. He did very thorough research on polar emanations of objects and persons with the help of the observations of "sensitive people".
Prana is a term from the Indian Yoga. By this term is understood a vital energy which can be accumulated in the body through breathing techniques.
After the teachings of Indian Yoga, vital energies are inhaled with the breath. In the human body, these energies are divided into different qualities and used to awaken the chakras (energy centres). There are five kinds of Prana energies, the Pranavayus:
- Prana (which influences the heart/ Anahata chakra)
- Apana (Muladhara/ root chakra)
- Samana (Manipura/ navel chakra)
- Udana (Vishuddha/ throat chaka)
- Vyana (whole body)
The Prana energies flow through the body in different energy channels, similar to the meridians in acupuncture. The most important energy channels are:
- Sushumna – central channel in the spinal column
- Ida – left to the Sushumna
- Pingala – right to the Sushumna
- Medha Nadi – this Nadi is less known and runs along the vertical axis on the front side of the body
The exercises which deal with the control of these energies can be found in various types of yoga and are used as techniques to "awaken the Kundalini".
© Alfred Ballabene (Vienna) translated by Corra