According to the Theosophical Society, co-founded in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, which based its knowledge on ancient India and its rich tradition of the Yoga disciplines, we each have the potential of seven types of bodies: These are: the Physical body, the Etheric (or Energy) body, the Astral (or Emotional) body, the Soul (or Ego) body, the Manas body, the Buddhi body and the Atman body.
My exposition below is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Anthroposophical Society (1912), and author of multiple works that launch the Spiritual Science of Man. The two esoteric societies differ in that Rudolf Steiner expanded his thought and study to include, beyond the ancient Indian, western impulses such as those of ancient Persia and Egypt, classical Greece, Christianity, the Grail sagas, and Rosicrucian tradition.
Understanding our seven types of bodies gives you a better insight to the healing modalities emerging in our world today.
The four bodies we experience as humans
Of the seven bodies of human, the lower four manifest in all humans:
- The physical body that we study in western medicine.
This is our body of bones and blood and nerves and flesh and organs.
- The energy, etheric, or life body, which we exercise in yoga, qi gong and tai chi
This body carries our divine blueprint and harnesses our physical to grow into it.
It regulates our systemic processes and provides the warmth and energy we need to live and grow. All living things, from plants up, have this body. Without it the physical would just decompose. This is also the body felt as a leg or arm after one loses that limb.
- The astral or emotional body that regulates our aspirations, passions, and desires.
This is the body we dream with. Also, the one that spins our traumas, pains, and complexes.
- The soul, or “I” body which births our individual consciousness, and our ability to love through passion as also compassion. This is the body through which we may observe ourselves think.
These are the four bodies humanity has conquered this far. With the earth kingdom, man shares the physical body, with the plant kingdom also the etheric, and with the animal kingdom also the astral. Soul at the individual level first incarnates in man.
In our manifested universe, the earth, its stones, and crystals only exhibit a physical body. Plants manifest a physical, but also an energy body that allows the plant to grow and direct itself to light. Animals manifest those two, but also an astral body that allows them to think, to perceive, to feel and discern how to direct themselves through physical movement, no longer being rooted to one location. Humans are offered the opportunity to explore even further and manifest a body of soul.
Animals also experience soul, but as an external influence from their oversoul that directs an animal species or subspecies. The human soul dwells within our being and is individual. The animal group or over-soul harbors the breed’s bank of instincts and talents, harvested as each individual animal dies. Of course, as we name and begin to tame our domesticated animals, we create in them the seed to harbor in the future an indwelling soul.
To better understand how man differs from animals, aside from standing erect and being able to speak, animals can think, but they cannot watch themselves think. Man can observe oneself thinking through a trait we name consciousness. This trait is the result of our indwelling soul and plays a key role in our evolution. By learning to observe ourselves, we work to transform our lower self so it may reach into our higher essence.
The role of consciousness
Beginning with the time of Noah’s Ark, soul moves to dwell within the human being. Esoteric symbology depicts Soul as a floating vessel. Initially this vessel harbors the experiences effective in the animal kingdom, therefore its name, anima. As time moves on, the animal in man learns to stand upright. This is the symbolism in the Centaurs, the wise teachers of ancient heroes. – animals in their lower body, men in their upper. This is also the symbolism in the Sphinx, harboring the bull, lion, and eagle in her lower body with a human face in the upper.
The opposite is what needs to be harnessed in the Minotaur, being human in the body, yet bearing the head of a bull. This head of a bull is characteristic of the age of Taurus during which man must take his first steps into individuation and learn to exercise his physical brain. This is what today we term our animal or devil brain. It devours our innocence (the Athenian virgins) and fills us with caution, suspicion, calculation, fear, and guilt.
The harness of this physical brain was a major aim in ancient initiation which buried its candidate in a cave or pyramid offering a solid material barrier able to silence the cosmic mind and thus awaken the individual, physical brain. Today we stand on the opposite side of this gate; we know fully well how to rely on our left brain yet must learn to silence it at times to liberate the imagery of our right, holistic, cosmic mind.
Back to the symbolism of Noah’s Ark, the soul is a vessel that helps man navigate his emotional essence through water density. The stronger a man’s discipline, the better he can navigate his vessel to stay out of troubled waters. So, to the vessel is added a keel that provides the gravity (earth density) needed to maintain balance amidst a storm. This is the function of the physical brain. As it evolves to a sailboat, this vessel raises a mast to harbor spirit (air density) in the wind it catches in its sales. This is our uprightness we have been evolving in the period we term “history”, as Histos is the term for mast in ancient Greek.
A similar symbology survives in the masonic cycles who observe three grades of initiation:
- Knight is the man who can harness a horse. This symbolizes our inner discipline which moves our soul (or anima) out of its horizontal spine (the horse) to its vertical position (the rider) as we become the whisperer over our animal nature.
- Mason is the man who can build a soul vessel, and
- Ark mariner is the man who knows to navigate that vessel in the invisible realm.
The upper three levels
By training one’s soul to navigate in water density, one prepares to rise into one’s spirit in air density. While on planet earth this happens by raising soul consciousness to the three presences that comprise our higher being. These align to the three masonic grades, they are:
- The manas level, we gain into once our astral or animal body has been harnessed by our consciousness. We embody this as we observe the “do no harm” principle, become entirely truthful, responsible, authentic, individual human beings.
- The buddhi level, we gain into once our etheric or plant body can be directed by our consciousness. We embody this as we abandon the “it’s all about me” drama and learn to live in divine presence.
- The atman level, we gain into once our physical or mineral body has been cleansed by our discipline, inner vision, and healing. We embody this as we exit all hybris and fear and offer our being in absolute humility to the service of our sisters and brothers.
By developing our soul consciousness (fourth body) we learn to awaken into these upper three levels. We do not attain into these as another “body”. In our current state of evolution, we experience these higher three as energy or spirit levels from where to regulate and heal the lower four bodies. Provided we can stand in full presence, we experience them as distinct levels in our upper or spirit self.
Now, given that our time on planet Earth is meant to help us build our fourth body, meaning the soul, anything we accomplish in the upper self is only an experience gained through the extension of our spirit and is in no way a permanent gain. In fact, we risk to instantly loose its footing when we transgress, even in a small way.
So, when we act out of pride, we fall out of the atman, when we create personal drama, we lose touch with our buddhi, when we lie, for whatever reason, we can no longer ascend to manas, and so on. Again, not permanently, only until we manage to correct our course and climb once more. But each of these falls causes pain greater than any transgression incurred in our lower being.
Our rise into our upper being is not a matter of tricks, nor the result of hallucinogenic substances like LSD or magical mushrooms. It cannot be afforded by a guru, nor is it the mere result of meditation and divine grace. Most important, it is not a journey to wipe out our ego. It is rather, squarely the result of strengthening our ego by gaining into upright morality, unbending truth, compassion, and authenticity.
From the perspective of evolution, an indwelling soul is accompanied by a transition to a vertical spine. A vertical spine is a must for evolution to occur through the individuation of soul because as it rises to consciousness a soul attains to spirit. Spirits differs from souls as much as souls differs from bodies. While our body aligns to the earth’s density, our soul aligns to water, our spirit aligns to air and our divine essence aligns to fire.
Through Healing we ascend in spirit
Our ascent back to spirit is accomplished through the practice of healing self and others. Humanity has devised practices to cure each of these bodies, but a cure more often than not addresses the symptom and does not necessarily deliver healing:
- Western medicine uses physical means to address the physical bodies.
- Eastern medicine uses energy means to address the energy bodies.
- Culture, religion and ritual use law, tradition, and custom to address the astral bodies.
- Religion as also psychology and psychoanalysis tap into the subconscious to address the soul.
All these practices are useful, yet ultimately, our task as humans is to evolve consciousness to where we learn to direct and tame our soul and through it heal our lower three bodies. To tame our soul means to learn to foster light within. This is a moral process that redirects the self to serve the higher good. Its training unfolds as a long process of faith in self, service, forgiveness, and healing.
The first level that requires healing is the soul body that searches to understand its identity and how it fits in the ever-expanding universe. One does this through the pursuit of consciousness, in a practice the ancients termed “Know Thyself”. It is through the Soul level that we pursue consciousness. As mentioned earlier, unlike animals, humans can observe themselves think. This observer or soul level is where consciousness begins.
The study of philosophy and Platonic Ideas, anthropology, divine archetypes, or ancient holistic systems imbued in symbol leads us to our healing. Esoteric schools mandate the learning of at least one symbolic worldview such as astrology, numerology, or the Tarot for this very reason. It teaches one how to gain a healthy self-perspective by rising into the realm of symbol where one using the right mind may understand how to relate the individual self to the whole.
The second level that requires healing is the astral body. One does this from the Manas level. Our astral harbors our memory of injury, injustice, and pain. While we live the animal drama of predator/prey dynamics we see ourselves as victims of external forces. As we try to rise to become victors instead, we continue to pile up negative memories in our astral being. These are stored right below our heart and block our entry into our true self. Energy healers today refer to this as the heart wall.
To tear down this wall we need to realize that while we manifest self in the physical, this self extends up where it also resides in the immortal realm of light. As we recognize that side of our being we open the gates to the spiritual.
The next level to heal is the energy body. One does this from the Buddhi level. Multiple modalities attempt this, most well-known are acupuncture and the Chinese Medicine Meridian system, Reiki, Yoga, Ayurveda, Craniosacral, sound or color healing, the list is endless. Energy healers who master one or more of these do so only after successfully healing themselves.
The last level to heal is the physical body. One does this from the Atman level. Most disease is obviously prevented or even averted by mastering the previous three levels. Only a handful of healers are effective once disease has taken hold irreparably on the physical organ such as advanced cancer or spine and joint issues. Such healers are true miracle workers, as is the power of group prayer. For in the end matter is spirit in slowed down, condensed form.
Soul activates the higher levels
Every human being has the potential to activate all seven types of bodies, but how far one rises depends on how advanced a being is in an incarnation and how one engages consciousness to evolve. Most of humanity today is busy developing the fourth body, namely the Soul. As the soul evolves its individual consciousness it tames the lower three bodies and builds the spiritual organs that make up the upper three bodies. By taming the astral we evolve our Manas being, by taming the Energy body we evolve our Buddhi being, by taming the physical we become miracle workers able to direct and heal the physical as Atman beings.
Rare examples of human entities attaining to these “divine” levels include a being like Mani, founder of the Manichean religion, who also evolved the fifth body, Buddha who achieved the height of the sixth, and Christ who in His last three years of life as Jesus in the physical attained to the seventh.
Note that present humanity is millennia away from manifesting the higher three bodies. To evolve each of these will take the length of a new planetary incarnation. On planet Earth today we can evolve soul. It is then through soul that we can rise to these three levels in our being, thus becoming the teachers and healers of light and spirit. And this is where the terms Soul and Spirit come together and become confused.
Soul is the body that allows our non-manifested spirit to work with matter and vice versa. Animals, plants, and stones also work with soul, but it is not within their individual control. They are not ensouled beings, they obey instead an oversoul that resides above them.
This makes humans the only manifested beings able to span the physical with the spiritual. This is important to understand and grasping the immense opportunity it offers can be life changing. To rise into spirit, we must first recognize that just as we are the highest of the animals, we also manifest as the lowest of the angelic. Exploring the potence of the angelic is an uplifting exercise that gives immense meaning to our life, much stronger and deeper than the satisfaction we gain through physical competition and the greed to win.
Think of Soulas the vessel we build to navigate the invisible realm that manifests what we know as the Cosmos. The ancients depicted Soul as a sea vessel comprised of a hull, mast, sail, and rudder. The hull represents the experience we have already amassed from previous lives. The mast represents the character we bring to this life and our ability to stand upright. The sail represents our ability to expand beyond the physical self into the realm of wind (PNEUMA), synonymous to the word for spirit in ancient language. The rudder represents our ability to navigate our vessel through a tempest. Let the rudder go and the boat will toss and turn and finally capsize.
Soul is how we choose to navigate Self through our own intent. It is our ticket out of the flee or fight animal reaction, through self-discipline we achieve our freedom. This is a journey we each must take if we are to evolve beyond our animal state. Soul moves us from fate to destiny. While in fate, we perceive ourselves as the victims of the things that happen to us, in destiny, we direct our self through each and every encounter in presence.
To stand in presence means to take responsibility for who we are and for how we intend to contribute to this world. This is the mast in our vessel, Histos in ancient Greek, which became the root for the word that describes our current phase of evolution as History.
Such a journey obeys strict metaphysical laws that may not be broken. These laws for example decree that gratitude results in levity, while fear precipitates us into gravity.
As we work to build our soul, we learn to tame our desire for drama, and with it its seasons of lust, pride, grief, fear, and anger. All these we harbor in our Astral. As we tame our astral, we build our own Manas being. Equipped with Manas means we can discern between good and evil, can control our emotions, can pull ourselves out of depression, and can sustain the calm readiness defined in Presence. Just as Soul defines one as human, Manas decrees one’s entry into the angelic realm. The ancients called this the realm of the Hero.
Energy healers engage their soul even deeper, to tame their Etheric body. This is the ultimate purpose of Yoga, to master one’s parasympathetic system, the name by which we group the inner energy that drives our organs to function properly. This is the slow process of building our own Buddhi being, which decrees our entry in the archangelic realm.
The hardest of all is the process that engages the soul to heal the Physical body. There is probably a handful or such miracle-workers on earth at any time. They have built for themselves the Atman being, which decrees their entry in the realm of the Archai, or Principalities. Jesus entered that realm in the last three years of His life after His baptism in the Jordan.
Our human phase on earth requires that we all build soul. To build soul we must learn compassion. Compassion denotes the ability to accept the other as our brother, and to forgive without judgment, and without competition or the need for revenge.
Christ teaches us how to build Soul. His commandment to us were brief, yet difficult to realize:
- Accept Do not judge the other lest you are free of sin
- Forgive Turn the other cheek when prosecuted
- Love Love one another as I love you
These three, once practiced, let go our preoccupation with the external world and its seeming effect on us. This in turn leads to inner freedom. Nothing else does. And there is nothing we should value more than the inner freedom we may attain through Soul.
According to Rudolf Steiner, for humanity at large, each of the three upper bodies will be attained in three subsequent planet incarnations. Millions of years are required for each phase. The men and women who exhibit ability to work with the upper bodies today are helpers visiting from higher realms. Their mission is to teach, heal and inspire humanity to strive towards spirit and light.