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Astral Bodies

David Pratt

February 2017


1. Three astral bodies

2. HPB on astral bodies
3. Process of reincarnation
4. Model-body: some issues
5. Maternal impressions
6. Phantom limbs
7. Occult phenomena
8. Astral body, morphic fields and genetics

1. Neotheosophy
2. Kirlian photography


H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Theosophical Publishing House (TPH),

The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, A.L. Conger (ed.), Theosophical
University Press (TUP), 1948
Echoes Echoes of the Orient, W.Q. Judge, TUP, 2nd ed., 2009-10
The Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky, Daniel H. Caldwell (comp.),
Kessinger, 2004
ET The Esoteric Tradition, G. de Purucker, TUP, 3rd ed., 2011
Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed.,
FSO Fountain-Source of Occultism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1974
The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, Henk J. Spierenburg
(comp.), PLP, 2nd ed., 1995
Isis Isis Unveiled, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1972 (1877)
Key The Key to Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1972 (1889)
MiE Man in Evolution, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1977
The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, A.T. Barker (comp.), TUP, 2nd ed.,
MLc The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TPH, chron. ed., 1993
Ocean The Ocean of Theosophy, W.Q. Judge, TUP, 1973 (1893)
ODL Old Diary Leaves, H.S. Olcott, TPH, 1900-1941
OG Occult Glossary, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1996
SD The Secret Doctrine, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1977 (1888)
SOP Studies in Occult Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1973

1. Three astral bodies

William Quan Judge highlights the imprecision of the term astral body:

As we use in English very loose terms, some confusion is inevitable. Astral

body is made to cover too much ... (Echoes 3:385)

The astral body is a term which must some day be given up. But it stands,
for the present, for the whole of the ethereal inner person. (Echoes 3:444)

Three main types of astral body are distinguished in theosophical literature. A general
description of them is given in the quotations below.

Astral literally means relating to the stars. The reason this name was given to the
more ethereal level of reality just beyond the physical plane is because the matter of the
astral plane (or astral light) appears self-luminous to sensitives and seers, rather like
the luminous nebulae or comets seen in the night sky (Dialogues 3:425-6).

[Astral body] is the popular term for the model-body, the linga-sharira [liga-
arra, model/pattern form]. It is but slightly less material than is the
physical body, and is in fact the model or framework around which the
physical body is builded, and from which, in a sense, the physical body flows
or develops as growth proceeds. It is the vehicle of prana or life-energy, and
is, therefore, the container of all the energies descending from the higher
parts of the human constitution by means of the pranic stream. The astral
body precedes in time the physical body, and is the pattern around which the
physical body is slavishly molded, atom by atom. In one sense the physical
body may be called the deposit or dregs or lees of the astral body; the astral
body likewise in its turn is but a deposit from the auric egg. (OG 8)

[The auric egg] is the source of the human aura as well as of everything else
that the human septenary constitution contains. It is usually of an oviform or
egg-shaped appearance ... It ranges from the divine to the astral-physical,
and is the seat of all the monadic, spiritual, intellectual, mental, passional,
and vital energies and faculties of the human septiform constitution. In its
essence it is eternal ... (OG 15)

The astral body is made of matter of very fine texture as compared with the
visible body, and has a great tensile strength, so that it changes but little
during a lifetime, while the physical alters every moment. And not only has it
this immense strength, but at the same time possesses an elasticity
permitting its extension to a considerable distance. It is flexible, plastic,
extensible, and strong. The matter of which it is composed is electrical and
magnetic in its essence, and is just what the whole world was composed of
in the dim past when the processes of evolution had not yet arrived at the
point of producing the material body for man. ...

The astral body is the guiding model for the physical one, and all the other
kingdoms have the same astral model. Vegetables, minerals, and animals,
have the ethereal double, and this theory is the only one which will answer
the question how it is that the seed produces its own kind and all sentient
beings bring forth their like. ...

[T]he model for the growing child in the womb is the astral body already
perfect in shape before the child is born. It is on this the molecules arrange
themselves until the child is complete, and the presence of the ethereal
design-body will explain how the form grows into shape, how the eyes push
themselves out from within to the surface of the face, and many other
mysterious matters in embryology ...

The astral body has in it the real organs of the outer sense organs. In it are
the sight, hearing, power to smell, and the sense of touch. It has a complete
system of nerves and arteries of its own for the conveyance of the astral fluid
which is to that body as our blood is to the physical. It is the real personal
man. There are located the sub-conscious perception and the latent
memory, which the hypnotizers of the day are dealing with and being baffled
by. (Ocean 44-7)

When the hypnotic process ... is submitted to, a disjunction is made between
the soul-man and the astral body, which is then for the time deprived of will,
and is the sport of any suggestion coming in unopposed ... (Echoes 1:416)

After the maturity of the child before birth this form is fixed, coherent, and
lasting, undergoing but small alteration from that day until death. And so also
as to its brain; that remains unchanged until the body is given up, and does
not, like the outer brain, give up cells to be replaced by others from hour to
hour. These inner parts are thus more permanent than the outer
correspondents to them. Our material organs, bones, and tissues are
undergoing change each instant. ... This is not the case with the inner form.
It alters only from life to life, being constructed at the time of reincarnation to
last for a whole period of existence. For it is the model fixed by the present
evolutionary proportions for the outer body. ... At birth it is potentially of a
certain size, and when that limit is reached it stops the further extension of
the body ... At the same time the outer body is kept in shape by the inner
one until the period of decay. And this decay, followed by death, is not due to
bodily disintegration per se, but to the fact that the term of the astral body is
reached, when it is no longer able to hold the outer frame intact. Its power to
resist the impact and war of the material molecules being exhausted, the
sleep of death supervenes.

Now, as in our physical form the brain and spine are the centres for nerves,
so in the other there are the nerves which ramify from the inner brain and
spine all over the structure. All of these are related to every organ in the
outer visible body. They are more in the nature of currents than nerves ...
(Echoes 2:38)

[O]nce that death has taken place, the linga-sharira hovers around and over
the corpse, although linked to it by innumerable tenuous threads of astral
pranic substance ... (FSO 545)

Cremation helps the astral body to disintegrate sooner than is the case when
the physical body is allowed to decay in the grave, because both the astral
body and the cadaver are very intimately conjoined physically and
magnetically. In fact they disintegrate almost atom for atom (the only
exception being that the skeleton due to its heavy mineral chemical
composition may outlast even the astral skeleton of the linga-sharira). As
long as the body is decaying in its coffin, the linga-sharira hovers around it;
and just so long is the kama-rupa to a certain extent psychomagnetically
drawn to the neighborhood of the grave. (FSO 547)

The astral model-body is connected with the aura:

Every human being is surrounded by ... a psycho-magneto-electric

atmosphere streaming forth from within, an aura or psychovital cloud
stamped with that human beings characteristics of individuality ... [It] is an
emanation of the force-substance of the mans astral body or linga-sharira.
(ET 488)

[The aura is an] extremely subtle and therefore invisible essence or fluid that
emanates from and surrounds not only human beings and beasts, but as a
matter of fact plants and minerals also. It is one of the aspects of the auric
egg and therefore the human aura partakes of all the qualities that the
human constitution contains. ... Sensitives have frequently described it in
more or less vague terms as a light flowing from the eyes or the heart or the
tips of the fingers or from other parts of the body. Sometimes this fluid,
instead of being colorless light, manifests itself by flashing and scintillating
changes of color the color or colors in each case depending not only upon
the varying moods of the human individual, but also possessing a
background equivalent to the character or nature of the individual. Animals
are extremely sensitive to auras, and some beasts even descry the human
being surrounded with the aura as with a cloud or veil. (OG 14-5)

[The kma-rpa or desire body] is that part of mans inner constitution in

which dwell or inhere the various desires, affections, hates, loves in short,
the various mental and psychical energies. After death it becomes the
vehicle in the astral worlds of the higher principles of the man that was. But
these higher principles are nevertheless scarcely conscious of the fact,
because the rupture of the golden cord of life at the moment of the physical
death plunges the cognizing personal entity into a merciful stupor of
unconsciousness, in which stupor it remains a longer or shorter period
depending upon its qualities of spirituality or materiality. The more spiritual
the man was the longer the period of merciful unconsciousness lasts, and
vice versa.

After death, ... there occurs what is called the second death, which is the
separation of the immortal part of the second or intermediate duad from the
lower portions of this duad, which lower portions remain as the kama-rupa in
the etheric or higher astral spheres which are intermediate between the
devachanic and the earthly spheres. In time this kama-rupa gradually fades
out in its turn, its life-atoms at such dissolution passing on to their various
and unceasing peregrinations.

It is this kama-rupa which legend and story in the various ancient world
religions or philosophies speak of as the shade and which it has been
customary in the Occident to call the spook or ghost. It is, in short, all the
mortal elements of the human soul that was. The kama-rupa is an exact
astral duplicate, in appearance and mannerism, of the man who died; it is his
eidolon or image. (OG 78-9)

The kama-rupa, which becomes the vehicle for the unconscious or quasi-
conscious entity in the kama-loka, is actually forming constantly during the
life of the individual ... [It] is one of the most fluidic, changeable and plastic
parts of our constitution, for it undergoes modification with every passing
mood, indeed with every passing thought. ...

However, after the death of the physical body there is no further change or
growth of the kama-rupic form, it remaining more or less static, all
modifications being of the nature of disintegration or slow decay. It is really
that portion of the human constitution which is the kama-manasic-astral seat
or focus of the passional, emotional, lower mental and psychic attributes;
and these as an aggregate comprise all the lower skandhas [bundles of
attributes] of the human constitution ...

Now it is the human ego which works through the kama-rupa during
incarnation, exactly as the kama-rupa works through the linga-sharira, and
this last again through the body. In fact, it is correct enough to say that the
personal man, which is the reflection and usually distorted radiance of the
reincarnating ego or human monad, is this kama-rupa itself; because, being
a collection of skandhas, the kama-rupa is the expression of the merely
personal qualities of the human ego. (FSO 579, 664)
The second death ... is an astral reproduction of what took place at physical
death; for just as at physical death the body is cast off with the linga-sharira
and the gross animal pranas, so at the second death the human ego, having
snapped its links of psychomagnetic attraction with the kama-rupa, casts it
off and enters into the devachanic condition, carrying with it all the spiritual
yearnings or sympathies or memories which the personal man during earth
life had stored in the web of consciousness. ...

For a certain period of brief duration, which depends in every instance upon
the individual, kama-rupas retain a wavering, shadowy kind of quasi-animal
consciousness ... Some kama-rupas disintegrate in a few months; those of
average humanity may take eight, ten, fifteen, possibly twenty years; while
those of extremely materialistic or bad men, but who still had some spiritual
good in them, may endure for several scores of years. (FSO 580)

Cases have been known where the kamarupa has lasted for centuries so
long a time, in fact, that it still coheres as a kamarupic entity after the monad
of the man has returned to incarnation [on] earth, and thereafter haunts the
unfortunate new man, attaching itself to his newly evolved kamarupa and in
most cases coalescing with it and thus acting as an unceasing fountain of
downward suggestions and impulses. This is a case of what is technically
called a Dweller of the Threshold ... (ET 416)

When the second death takes place the triune monad, the atman-buddhi-
manas, releases itself from all its lower kama-manasic substances and
energies. These perishable elements remain in the kama-rupic shell and
gradually fade out like the radiance in the sky after sunset; the energies
producing this fading radiance gradually vanish upward and, being belated
life-atoms, become attached like sleeping seeds or tanhic elementals to the
auric egg of the human ego which has now entered its devachan. It is these
sleeping seeds of lower attributes and qualities, i.e. dormant skandhas
which, preceding the next incarnation, will spring into action and take initial
parts in forming the astral body-to-be.

At the separation of the triadic monad from the kama-rupa, all the most
spiritual and highly intellectual attributes are withdrawn as a still more
brilliant radiance into the reincarnating ego; and it is this spiritual aroma, the
truly human being, which becomes the devachani sleeping in the bosom of
the reincarnating ego, the human monad. Distinguish here the human
monad from its ray the human ego.

Thus, after physical death, the seven-principled person has become four-
principled, consisting of the two duads, atma-buddhi, and manas with the
spiritual parts of kama. Now, when the four-principled man enters at the
second death into the devachan, these two duads coalesce into the upper
triad of atma-buddhi and the higher part of manas, because of the dropping
of the lower kama-manasic attributes. (FSO 582)

The myvi-rpa, illusory body, or thought-body, is a higher astral-mental form that
enables adepts to project their consciousness to distant locations. It can assume any
shape but usually resembles the physical body. An adept can make their mayavi-rupa
visible by condensing the ether and physical atoms around it. The mayavi-rupa contains
a complete human minus the three lower principles: the physical body is left behind in a
trance state, along with the astral-model body and the lower pranas. The highest
initiates can project their mayavi-rupa even to other planets and appear there in their
spiritual mayavi-rupa. (OG 105, Dialogues 1:311-4)

The mayavi-rupa can also be projected unconsciously. For instance, the double or
doppelganger that sometimes appears to close relatives at the moment someone is
dying at a distant location is the mayavi-rupa, produced by the dying persons thoughts
(BCW 10:220).

2. HPB on astral bodies

In Esoteric Section Instruction no. 5 (BCW 12:691-713; IGT 167-94; EPMB 599-622),
issued by Annie Besant and William Quan Judge after H.P. Blavatskys death, HPB
introduces the idea that the basis for all astral bodies the germ or living essence of
the linga-sharira, the chhya (lit. shade, copy) is curled up in the spleen. She calls
the spleen the vehicle or seat of the linga-sharira.

The spleen is a soft, spongy organ about as big as a persons fist, located in the upper
left part of the abdomen, just under the rib cage. According to modern medicine, the
spleen acts as a filter for blood as part of the immune system. Old red blood cells are
recycled there, platelets (blood cells that help blood clotting) and white blood cells are
stored there, and it helps fight certain kinds of bacteria that cause pneumonia and
meningitis. People can live without a spleen, but the body loses some of its ability to
produce protective antibodies and to remove unwanted microorganisms from the blood
(merckmanuals.com; webmd.com).
Front view of the spleen.

Blavatsky writes:

The spleen corresponds to the linga-sharira, and serves as its dwelling-

place, in which it lies curled up. As the linga-sharira is the reservoir of life for
the body, the medium and vehicle of prana, the spleen acts as the centre of
prana in the body, from which the life is pumped out and circulated. It is
consequently a very delicate organ, though the physical spleen is only the
cover for the real spleen. ...

Anatomists ... are in error as to the spleen, when they call it the manufactory
of the white corpuscles of the blood, for ... it is really the vehicle of the linga-
sharira. But these same white corpuscles which are the devourers, the
scavengers of the human body are oozed out of the linga-sharira, and are
of the same essence as itself. They come from the spleen, not because the
spleen manufactures them, but because they are oozed out of the linga-
sharira, which, as said, is curled up in the spleen. (BCW12:699-700)

Judge says that the statement that the astral body is curled up in the spleen is
misleading as the astral body has many strata:

The astral shape which extends to the very finger-tips and to the ends of the
hair, is certainly not in the spleen. But that astral body is not the centre, the
archeus, the heart, so to say, of all the rest. The saying refers to that phase
of the ethereal body which is the knot or center of all, that part through which
the connection is made between the gross astral on one side, and the higher
chemical and occult parts of nature on the other; the physical case being
attached to its mediator, the gross astral. ... The fact that with some
mediums it has been observed that the cloudy astral form came out from the
spleen side, does not prove the assertion that the ethereal form is curled up
in the spleen. For the form has, in other cases, oozed out through the head,
or by way of the solar plexus.
All of natures operations are carried on with proper agents and in degrees.
The ethereal double of the body is not the proper agent or means for
connecting with the subtler side save through some other and more subtle
form. Itself attaching by one phase to the gross body it has to be reached
from the higher side of nature by that which can in its turn reach yet higher
or deeper. So, that which lies in the spleen is that which aids in keeping the
whole series of lines open. (Echoes 3:462)

According to Blavatsky:

[The physical body or sthla-arra] can be regarded as merely a denser

aspect of the linga-sharira, for the body and the linga-sharira are both on the
same plane, and the linga-sharira is molecular in its constitution, like the
body. The earth and its astral light are as closely related as the body and its
linga-sharira, the earth being the upadhi* of the astral light. Our plane in its
lowest division is the earth; in its highest the astral. The terrestrial astral light
should of course not be confounded with the universal astral light. (BCW

*Upadhi means that through which a force acts. The word vehicle is
sometimes used to convey the same idea (BCW 12:692fn).

The astral bodies are molecular, however etherealized may be their

composition, whereas the ego is atomic. ... The linga-sharira, or ethereal
double of the body, is molecular in constitution, but of molecules invisible to
the physical eyes. It is therefore not homogeneous. (BCW 12:703-4)

Atomic is being used here in its etymological sense of indivisible, i.e. monadic and
homogeneous (see IGT 44, 66, 111, 182-3). But these are relative terms: strictly
speaking, everything composed of any grade of consciousness-substance is composite
(see The monad: one and many).

Blavatsky continues:

The linga-sharira ... is the vehicle of prana, and supports life in the body. ...
[It] serves as the intermediary between prana and sthula-sarira, drawing life
from the ocean of jiva, and pumping it in the physical body as prana. ...

The linga-sharira of one incarnation fades out, as the sthula-sharira to which

it belongs rots out; the auric egg furnishes the basis of the new linga-sharira
and the tanhic elementals form it within the auric envelope, the continuity
being thus preserved; it lies dormant in the foetal state, during the devachan
of the entity to whom it belongs, and enters, in due course, a womans
womb. It is first in the womb, and then comes the germ that fructifies it, from
the male parent. It is the subjective image of the man that is to be, the model
of the physical body in which the child is to be formed and developed. It is
then clothed with matter, as were the lunar pitris, and is therefore often
called the chhaya. Up to the age of seven, it forms and moulds the body;
after that age, the body forms the linga-sharira. The mind and the linga-
sharira mutually act and react on each other, and so is prepared a mould for
the next incarnation. It is the perfect picture of the man, good or bad,
according to his own nature.* It cannot therefore be said that there is one
permanent linga-shariric seed in the incarnations of the ego; it is a perpetual
succession of destruction and reformation, the manas by the auric egg
affording the permanent seed; it is heaven and earth kissing each other.
(BCW 12:704-5)

*Blavatskys original statement at one of her Inner Group meetings was: The
linga-sharira in the spleen is the perfect picture of the man, and is good or
bad according to his own nature (IGT 84).

In its broadest sense, lunar pitris (lunar fathers) refers to all the kingdoms or classes
of monads that came from the moon-chain when it reembodied as the earth planetary
chain, but more specifically it refers to the lunar monads who became the various
human and more-than-human groups now on earth (ET 550fn). Sometimes the lunar
pitris are said to have formed our lower quaternary (kama, prana, linga-sharira and
sthula-sharira), while the solar or agnishvatta pitris (the highest classes of lunar
monads) formed our higher intellectual and spiritual nature (SOP 198, 264-5; FSO 213-
4). Agnishvatta means sweetened by fire; solar fire denotes intellectuality and
spirituality (OG 2-5).

In the first root-race of the fourth round the lunar pitris are said to have projected their
chhayas or astral doubles a graphic way of saying that those early humans worked
through their astral bodies; our present physical bodies are the thickened and
concreted chhayas of the lunar pitris (FSO 284-6). The awakening of our selfconscious
minds during the latter half of third root-race is figuratively referred to as the incarnation
of the manasaputras, or the solar or agnishvatta pitris. This process began when our
astral-physical bodies had become sufficiently well developed for our manasic or higher
human monad to manifest through them (Origin of mind).

Blavatsky continues:

During incarnation the germ, or life essence, of the linga-sharira, is, as said,
in the spleen; the chhaya lies curled up therein. And now let the student
escape from much confusion by distinguishing between the various astral
bodies and the true astral. The astral, par excellence, the second principle in
man, corresponding to the second principle in cosmos, is the progeny of the
chhaya of the lunar pitris and the auric essence that absorbed it. This is the
moulder of the infants body, the model spoken of above. This has for its
physical organ the spleen, and during incarnation has its seat there. It
affords the basis for all astral bodies, for the linga-sharira proper, and the
mayavi-rupas used as vehicles for different principles. Let us then now call it
the chhaya, in view of its origin. When an astral body is to be formed, the
chhaya evolves a shadowy, curling or gyrating essence like smoke, which
gradually takes form as it emerges. In order that this essence may become
visible, the chhaya draws on the surrounding atmosphere, attracting to itself
certain minute particles floating therein, and so the linga-sharira, or other
astral vehicle is formed outside the physical body. This process has often
been observed at spiritualistic sances, at which materialization has
occurred. An esotericist has seen the chhaya emerging from Eglintons left
side, and forming in the way here described.
William Eglinton producing a fully materialized spirit, Abdullah, while in a trance state in
(ehbritten.blogspot.nl; psychictruth.info)

This ethereal body, built outside the sthula-sharira, is the linga-sharira,

properly so termed; it could not form in vacuo, it is built up temporarily, with
the chhaya as its foundation, and disperses when the chhayic foundation is
withdrawn into the body. This linga-sharira is united to the physical body by
an umbilical cord, a material cord, and cannot therefore travel very far from
it. It may be hurt by a sharp instrument, and would not face a sword or
bayonet, although it can easily pass through a table or other piece of
furniture. When swords are struck at shades, it is the sword itself, not its
linga-sharira, or astral that cuts. Sharp instruments alone can penetrate such
astrals; thus, under water, a blow with a blunt object would not affect you so
much as a cut would.

At spiritualistic sances the linga-sharira of the medium materializes, the

resemblance to deceased persons being mostly caused by the imagination,
but sometimes by an elemental throwing onto the linga-sharira a reflection of
a picture of the defunct in the astral light, thus producing the likeness. The
clothing on such phantasms is formed from the living particles of the
mediums body, and is no real clothing, nor has it anything to do with the
clothing of the medium. All the material clothing seen at materialization
sances has been paid for. Materialized forms are to be for the present
divided into two classes: (a) those with a definite form produced by the sub-
conscious or other thought of the person to whom the form belongs, or as
above stated, and, (b) those the form, or semblance, or appearing of which
is due to the combined thought of the person to whom it belongs, and the
person who sees it, so that the outer appearance is due to a process of
thought or imagination exercised by the one or the other. The imagination
and the thought in these cases take place or act at the same time with too
small an interval to be noticed. It is these facts about astral bodies that
account for the Arabian and Eastern tales about Jinns, bottle imps [imps that
live in bottles], etc. Dugpas are able to work on the linga-shariras of other
people. When a man visits another in his astral body, it is the linga-sharira
that goes, but this cannot happen at any great distance. So also it is the
linga-sharira that is seen in the neighborhood of persons as their doubles.
And it is the linga-sharira that is used to move objects without visible contact.
A linga-sharira can be formed by the escaping chhaya without any
knowledge of the person emanating it, and can wander about, but it is not
then fully endowed with consciousness. Such projection of the astral body
should not be attempted.

A more important kind of astral body is the mayavi-rupa, or illusionary body,

and this is of different degrees. All have the chhaya as upadhi [basis], but
they may be unconscious or conscious. If a man thinks intensely of another
at a distance, his mayavi-rupa may appear to that person, without the
projector knowing anything about it. This mayavi-rupa is formed by the
unconscious use of kriyashakti, when the thought is at work with much
intensity and concentration. It is formed without the idea of conscious
projection, and it is itself unconscious, a thought body, but not a vehicle of
consciousness. But when a man consciously projects a mayavi-rupa and
uses it as a vehicle of consciousness, he is an adept. No two persons can
be simultaneously conscious of one anothers presence, unless one of the
two be an adept.

In the formation of a mayavi-rupa, as already said, the upadhi is furnished by

the chhaya, the basis of all forms. When an adept projects his mayavi-rupa,
the guiding intelligence that informs it comes from the heart, the essence of
manas entering it; the attributes and qualities are drawn from the auric
envelope. Nothing can hurt the mayavi-rupa no sharp instrument or
weapon since, as regards this plane, it is purely subjective. It has no
material connection with the physical body, no umbilical cord. It is spiritual
and ethereal, and passes everywhere without let or hindrance. It thus
entirely differs from the linga-sharira, which, if injured, acts by repercussion
on the physical body. The mayavi-rupa is a manasic body, and should not be
confused with the linga-sharira; its projection is always a manasic act, since
it cannot be formed without the activity of kriyashakti. The mayavi-rupa may
be so strongly vitalized that it can go on to another plane, and can there
unite with the beings of that plane, and so ensoul them. But this can only be
done by an adept. Dugpas and sorcerers, the adepts of the left hand path,
are able to create and use mayavi-rupas of their own.

As said, the projection of the linga-sharira should not be attempted, but the
student should seek to exercise the power of kriyashakti in the conscious
projection of the mayavi-rupa. (BCW 12:705-7)

Blavatsky then writes as follows about the kama-rupa:

The kama during life does not form a body which can be separated from the
physical body. It is intermolecular, answering molecule for molecule to the
physical body, and inseparable from it molecularly. Thus it is a form yet not a
form; a form within the physical body, but incapable of being projected
outward as a form. This is the inner, or astral man, in whom are located the
centres of sensation, the psychic senses, and on whose intermolecular
rapport with the physical body, all sensation and purposive action depend. At
death, every cell and molecule gives out this essence, and from it, with the
dregs of the auric envelope, is formed the separate kama-rupa; but this can
never come during life. The blood is a good symbol of kama-rupa, for while
within the body, filling every portion but confined in vessels, it takes the
shape of the body and has a form, though in itself formless. If the term
kama-rupa be used to indicate this intermolecular structure which is the
psychic man, then the post mortem separate form must be called the kama-
rupa-astral, or astral of the kama-rupa.

During life the lower manas acts through this kama-rupa, and so comes into
contact with the sthula-sharira; this is why the lower manas is said to be
enthroned in kama-rupa. After death it ensouls the kama-rupa for a time,
until the higher triad, having reabsorbed the lower manas, or such portion of
it as it can reabsorb, passes into devachan. The normal period during which
any part of the consciousness remains in kama-loka, i.e., is connected with
the kama-rupa, is one hundred and fifty years. The kama-rupa eventually
breaks up, and leaving in kama-loka the tanhic elementals, its remaining
portions go into animals, of which the red-blooded come from man. Cold-
blooded animals are from the matter of the past. ...

[I]n the body, kama is specially connected with the blood, liver, stomach,
navel, and generative organs, leaving out now its organs in the head, which
are connected with its psychic rather than with its animal aspect. ... [K]ama,
while having as part of it bad passions and emotions, animal instincts, yet
helps you to evolve, by giving also the desire and impulse necessary for
rising. ... Hence the student must learn to dominate and purify kama, until
only its energy is left as a motor power, and that energy directed wholly by
the manasic will. (BCW 12:708-9)

Blavatsky goes on to say that at every incarnation the higher manas, or higher ego,
shoots out a ray, the lower manas, that becomes the soul of a child. This ray the
chhaya of the higher mind clothes itself in the highest degree of astral matter, and is
then ready for incarnation (BCW 12:709-10).
3. Process of reincarnation

As the devachanic period of postmortem rest draws to a close, the reembodying ego is
attracted back to the planes where it once lived.

[T]he consciousness of the ego begins to sink from dreaming into

unconsciousness, and the gestation period preceding rebirth begins. [T]he
auric egg, acting automatically and instinctively under the driving urge of the
awakening karma, gradually forms within itself the vague outlines of the
astral form, which latter slowly drifts to the family or the woman to which the
karmic psychomagnetic attraction is strongest. (FSO 621)

In ES Instruction no. 3, HPB writes:

Now, the linga-sharira remains with the physical body, and fades out along
with it. An astral entity then has to be created (a new linga-sharira provided)
to become the bearer of all the past tanhas and future karma. How is this
accomplished? The mediumistic spook, the departed angel, fades out and
vanishes also in its turn as an entity or full image of the personality that was,
and leaves in the kamalokic world of effects only the records of its misdeeds
and sinful thoughts and acts, known in the phraseology of the occultists as
tanhic or human elementals. [Tanh = thirst for material life (OG 174).] It is
these elementals which upon entering into the composition of the astral
form of the new body, into which the ego, on its quitting the devachanic
state, is to enter according to karmic decree form that new astral entity
which is born within the auric envelope, and of which it is often said Karma,
with its army of skandhas, waits at the threshold of devachan. [Key 141] For
no sooner is the devachanic state of reward ended, than the ego is
indissolubly united with (or rather follows in the track of) the new astral form.
Both are karmically propelled towards the family or woman from which is to
be born the animal child chosen by karma to become the vehicle of the ego
which has just awakened from the devachanic state. Then the new astral
form, composed partly of the pure akashic essence of the auric egg, and
partly of the terrestrial elements of the punishable sins and misdeeds of the
last personality, is drawn into the woman. Once there, nature models the
foetus of flesh around the astral, out of the growing materials of the male
seed in the female soil. Thus grows out of the essence of a decayed seed
the fruit or eidolon of the dead seed, the physical fruit producing in its turn
within itself another and other seeds for future plants. (BCW 12:609-10)

G. de Purucker expands on this as follows:

The tanhic elementals may be otherwise described as the emotional and

mental thought-deposits, as Patajali did; and these remain after the second
death and before the egos entering the devachan stamped upon the
various kinds of life-atoms which had functioned on all the lower planes of
mans constitution. Some of these tanhic elementals or life-atoms
peregrinate, and finally are psychomagnetically attracted back to the
reincarnating ego during its process of bringing forth a new astral form
preceding rebirth. Others belong to the monadic substances of the auric egg,
and consequently remain therein in a latent condition, to awaken only when
the devachani leaves the devachan. Then these dormant tanhic elementals,
in combination with the other life-atoms which had been peregrinating,
combine in building up the new astral form that H.P.B. speaks of; and it is
largely these two classes of tanhic life-atoms or elementals which compose
the skandhas of the man in his coming incarnation. And these skandhas are
the various groups of mental, emotional, psychovital and physical
characteristics which, when all collected together, make the new personality
through which the higher man or egoic individuality works. ...

Now the formation of the astral man takes place within the auric egg of the
ex-devachani. From the moment when the ego leaves the devachanic
condition, the astral form becomes steadily more complete or definite as the
gestating entity approaches entrance into the womb. The ray from the
reincarnating ego enters first the aura and later the womb of the mother-to-
be by means of the growing astral form, which takes its rise in and from the
most appropriate life-center or life-atom latent in the auric egg of the
incoming entity.

The term astral form is descriptive not so much of an actual body (as we
think of it in our physical world), as it is of an ethereal agglomerate of life-
atoms in the auric egg which is at first only vaguely shadowed, yet gradually
assumes more or less a definite human outline, and usually one of extremely
small size. ...

[T]he more material part of the new astral form is drawn first into the
womans aura and then into the womb wherein it produces the living ovum
and finds its suitable milieu; coincidently the inner and more manasic portion
of the astral form, which is the more ethereal part of the tip of the ray from
the reincarnating ego, flashes to the male parent and produces in its
appropriate physiological seat the positive life-germ. ...

The human egos awaiting incarnation are exceedingly numerous, so that

there may be scores of entities which could become children of any one
couple, yet there is always one whose attraction is strongest to the mother-
to-be at any specific physiological moment, and it is this astral form which
becomes the child. ...

The entity thus preceding rebirth is attracted to the family to which its karma
draws or impels it; and if the appropriate physiological activities take place at
the right moment, then conception occurs and the growth of the embryo
proceeds. ...

The reincarnating ego has in a sense very little choice in the matter, if by this
we mean a deliberate selecting of ones future family. Such a choice as we
understand it is almost non-existent, because the reincarnating ego has just
left the devachan and is sunken into the relative unconsciousness of the
gestation period preceding rebirth, and thus is in no condition to choose with
self-conscious intent. It is karma, which throughout controls these things ...

When the astral form has definite union with the human ovum, it begins to
grow as the foetus. The lower or grosser portions of the astral form become
the linga-sharira of the child, in combination with the two general classes of
tanhic elementals; whereas its higher portions, the vehicles of the ray from
the reincarnating ego (as the embryo and later as the child grows), become
the intermediate parts of the constitution ...

The vital germ cell, whether of man or of woman, is originally an integral part
of the model-body, which is an electromagnetic body of astral substance
belonging to the plane just above the physical; and around this astral form
the physical body is built cell for cell, bone for bone, and feature for feature.

The astral form begins its first growth within the reimbodying auric egg,
gestates within it and continues to be fed by its essences throughout the
prenatal processes, and in time brings about the stages of birth, infancy,
childhood and adulthood; for, in fact, the auric egg is really the true
manifested man considered as being the vital auric pranas flowing forth from
the various foci of the reincarnating monad. (FSO 622-6)

Purucker also discusses this subject in his Dialogues (3:308-10): After a human has
died and passed through the kama-loka, it enters its devachanic rest enclosed in the
appropriate layers of its own auric egg or akashic envelope, which is extremely small,
perhaps no larger than a pinpoint. As soon as the devachani begins its period of rest,
the auric egg in which it dwells automatically begins to build a new linga-sharira for its
next incarnation. This is done by the tanhic elementals the elementals of thought,
desire and emotion working automatically on the substances of a portion of the auric
envelope. This new linga-sharira remains in a foetal state in the auric egg during the
entire devachan (cf BCW 12:704).

As the devachan comes to an end, the reincarnating ego within its auric egg is drawn to
a potential mother and father with whom it has karmic links. The new astral form enters
the womans body as the vital aura of the life-atom containing the reincarnating ego. A
higher part of the energy of the reincarnating ego meanwhile enters the fathers body as
a life-atom, but on a different plane. The mothers body receives the linga-sharira, now
passing from the foetal state it had in the devachanis auric egg into a more advanced
stage of growth. When a sperm fertilizes the ovum, the two life-atoms conjoin because
of the intense psychomagnetic attraction between them.

Thenceforth the foetal linga-sharira, the new astral form, begins to grow and
to develop into the child which is finally born. The woman receives the lower
element or new linga-sharira; but the seed of individuality, the seed of the
egoic part of the reincarnating entity, is that life-atom which has entered the
mans body. (Dialogues 3:310)

The auric egg shrinks after death because the energies comprising it are reabsorbed by
the monad. As the devachan ends, the auric egg begins to swell and continues to do so
until adulthood is reached (Dialogues 3:112-3).
In another discussion of this subject (SOP 106-8), Purucker says that when the blissful
devachanic dreams of the reembodying ego begin to fade, memories of earthly things
slowly reawaken. The tanhic elementals become more active in the egos ether-body or
auric body, which begins to coarsen or materialize, and is attracted towards the earth
sphere a process that make take centuries or a few score years. This marks the
beginning of the growth of the linga-sharira, which has the capacity to develop into the
linga-sharira and the physical body of the child to be born. Before this stage is reached,
the ray descending from the auric body establishes a magnetic connection with potential
parents. In any human there are countless life-atoms which are strictly their own and
originate from their own vitality. After death they become distributed among billions of
inhabitants on earth. The contact of the ray from the reembodying ego with life-germs in
two parents is a contact with life-atoms that that ego used in its former body on earth.

4. Model-body: some issues

Theosophy teaches the birth of the astral, before the physical body: the former being a
model for the latter (SD 2:1). The earliest humanities during the present round of
evolution were astral-ethereal beings, and the physical body did not develop until the
latter half of the third root-race (Evolution in the fourth round). The astral model-body
explains how physical entities acquire their form and then maintain it, despite the
constant turnover of their physical constituents.

This does not mean that no structure can come into being on any plane unless there is
an identical, more ethereal template (model-body) on a higher plane. If that were the
case, the astral model-body would require a more ethereal model-body, which would
require an even more ethereal model-body, and so on. The kama-rupa is not the model-
body for the astral body, though it does acquire a humanlike form in the course of its
development; our higher (mental, spiritual, divine) bodies/souls do not have a human
shape. A record of everything that has ever happened or existed is somehow imprinted
on the substance of nature, and since every evolutionary cycle results from and builds
on the events of previous cycles, and each incarnation is karmically connected with past
incarnations, there are always blueprints of appropriate forms available for evolutionary

The following quotations imply that physical atoms and subatomic particles are
concretions of astral atoms and particles, and that every object or entity composed of
physical atoms has an astral counterpart.

Each atom has seven planes of being or existence ... (SD 1:150)

Every kosmic body or globe, be it sun or planet, nebula or comet, atom or

electron, is a composite entity formed of ... seven principles or elements ...
(OG 129-30)

Every atom is a sevenfold entity, with its physical body, its vitality, its astral
body, its kamic principle, its manasic, its buddhic principle, and its atman.
(Dialogues 1:395)
... the atoms of the physical world are the emanations [or] projections [of] the
astral monad ... (FEP 407)

On the physical level, in human sexual reproduction, the male sex cell enters the female
sex cell, causing it to divide and multiply; the resulting cells begin to differentiate and
specialize, and form themselves into a variety of tissues, organs, etc., resulting nine
months later in a fully formed baby. This process is a marvel to behold (youtube.com). If
every physical cell has an astral counterpart, the same process must be taking place
simultaneously on the astral level. But is the astral body being formed in this way the
astral model-body (linga-sharira), or does the latter already exist and provide the
template for the final physical form that physical (and astral) embryogenesis is working

The astral model-body begins forming when the reincarnating soul enters the
devachanic state (Dialogues 3:308-9). The astral form is initially vaguely shadowed
and in a foetal state, but once the devachan has finished, it gradually assumes a more
or less definite human outline of extremely small size (FSO 623). After conception the
astral body grows until a certain date, but much more quickly than the physical body
(Echoes 3:383), and it is already perfect in shape before the child is born (Ocean 45).
The physical body is built around (and partly from) the astral model-body, atom by atom,
cell by cell, feature by feature (OG 8; FSO 624; ET 412).

[T]he growth of the embryo in the mothers womb, and the growth of the little
child when born, follows slavishly, point by point, the growth in formation of
the astral body. But this astral body is always ahead of the physical body
which comes trailing after, so to speak, in development. (Dialogues 1:393)

This can be interpreted to mean that the counterpart astral body (composed of the astral
matter corresponding to each particle of the physical body) is the same as the astral
model-body. But as W.Q. Judge says, the astral body that extends to the very finger-
tips and to the ends of the hair must be distinguished from the chhaya that ends up in
the spleen. The chhaya is the more ethereal germ, foundation or life-essence of the
linga-sharira, and probably a miniature version of it (IGT 84), and begins forming long
before conception.

After birth, the astral model-body undergoes only small alterations until the physical
body dies, which happens when the astral body is no longer able to hold the physical
form intact (Echoes 2:37-8). The physical body is constantly changing and its cells are
being replaced, whereas the astral model-body changes but little during a lifetime
(Ocean 44). The astral body forms and moulds the physical body until the age of seven,
after which the physical body forms the astral body (BCW 12:705).

Judge stated that contemporary science recognized that the [physical] body undergoes
a complete alteration and renovation every seven years (Ocean 41). Mahatma KH
stated that science had accepted the Buddhist teaching that a man of any given age,
while sentiently the same, is yet physically not the same as he was a few years earlier
(we say seven years and are prepared to maintain and prove it) (ML2 111-2 / MLc 199).
According to modern science, different tissues replace cells at different rates and a few
tissues never replace cells (book.bionumbers.org; nytimes.com). Some examples of
estimated turnover rates are: stomach cells 2-9 days; skin epidermis cells 10-30
days; red blood cells 4 months ; fat cells 8 years; skeleton 10 years; heart muscle
cells 3-50 years depending on age; cerebral cortex neurons and inner lens cells

Blavatsky says that a man marked with the whip will have his astral body full of the
prints and scars (Isis 1:327). According to Judge, a knife or acid cannot injure the
astral body (Ocean 46). Blavatsky says that, although the astral body can easily pass
through a table or other piece of furniture, it can be hurt by a sharp physical instrument
(not by the astral counterpart of the instrument) (BCW 12:705-6). The astral bodies of
living people, such as sorcerers, fear steel, and may be wounded by sword or fire; their
wounds react on and leave marks and scars on the physical body, whereas the astral
bodies of even elementary apparitions cannot be hurt (BCW 6:348). Thus, if the linga-
sharira is injured, it acts by repercussion on the physical body, to which it is linked by a
material cord. No sharp instrument or weapon can hurt the mayavi-rupa, which has no
material connection with the physical body (BCW 12:707).

The following case from the judicial records of England, reported by 19th-century
Catholic writer R.G. des Mousseaux, suggests that repercussion can also take place
with the mayavi-rupa. A woman called Jane Brooks was persecuting a child by visiting
him in her astral form. On one occasion when the child screamed that the phantom
double was present, a witness named Gilson slashed at it with a knife, though unable to
see it. He then visited the womans home with the childs father and a constable, and
she was found sitting on her stool trying to conceal a hand covered with blood, bearing
the wound the child said Gilson had inflicted on the phantoms hand (ODL 1:389).

When a person dies, they see a panoramic review of their past life. It usually begins
when all bodily activities have ceased, sometimes before the last heartbeat, and
continues after the heart has stopped, taking some six hours on average.

Such a panorama occurs even when a man dies suddenly as the result of
some accident, as for instance when the brain is blown to pieces or the body
is burned alive. In these cases, the panorama takes place in the higher parts
of the astral brain, which, although it is seriously affected, especially in its
more material parts, nevertheless endures as a cohering organ somewhat
longer than does the physical brain. (FSO 549-50)

5. Maternal impressions

W.Q. Judge says that the existence of an astral model-body explains

the cases of marking of the child in the womb sometimes denied by

physicians but well-known by those who care to watch, to be a fact of
frequent occurrence. The growing physical form is subject to the astral
model; it is connected with the imagination of the mother by physical and
psychical organs; the mother makes a strong picture from horror, fear, or
otherwise, and the astral model is then similarly affected. In the case of
marking by being born legless, the ideas and strong imagination of the
mother act so as to cut off or shrivel up the astral leg, and the result is that
the molecules, having no model of leg to work on, make no physical leg
whatever; and similarly in all such cases. But where we find a man who still
feels the leg which the surgeon has cut off, or perceives the fingers that
were amputated, then the astral member has not been interfered with, and
hence the man feels as if it were still on his person. For knife or acid will not
injure the astral model, but in the first stages of its growth ideas and
imagination have the power of acid and sharpened steel. (Ocean 45-6)

Blavatsky discusses this subject at length in Isis Unveiled (1:384-402, ch. 11). It is one
aspect of the study of congenital abnormalities also known as teratology. The marking
of an unborn child by the mothers imagination and emotions usually happens
accidentally, after the pregnant mother has had a shocking or frightening experience.
Blavatsky says that the soul of the mother, violently affected by her imagination, blindly
projects into the astral light an image of the object which impressed it, and, by re-
percussion, that is stamped upon the foetus (Isis 1:397). She cites various examples:

Cornelius Gemma tells of a child that was born with his forehead wounded
and running with blood, the result of his fathers threats toward his mother ...
with a drawn sword which he directed toward her forehead; Sennertius
records the case of a pregnant woman who, seeing a butcher divide a
swines head with his cleaver, brought forth her child with his face cloven in
the upper jaw, the palate, and upper lip to the very nose. In Van Helmonts
De Injectis Materialibus [in his book Ortus medicinae], some very
astonishing cases are reported: The wife of a tailor at Mechlin was standing
at her door and saw a soldiers hand cut off in a quarrel, which so impressed
her as to bring on premature labor, and her child was born with only one
hand, the other arm bleeding. In 1602, the wife of Marcus Devogeler, a
merchant of Antwerp, seeing a soldier who had just lost his arm, was taken
in labor and brought forth a daughter with one arm struck off and bleeding as
in the first case. Van Helmont gives a third example of another woman who
witnessed the beheading of thirteen men by order of the Duc dAlva. The
horror of the spectacle was so overpowering that she suddainly fell into
labour and brought forth a perfectly-formed infant, onely the head was
wanting, but the neck bloody as their bodies she beheld that had their heads
cut off. And that which does still advance the wonder is, that the hand, arme,
and head of these infants were none of them to be found. (Isis 1:386)

One case was that of a Judge of an Imperial Court at Saratow, Russia, who
always wore a bandage to cover a mouse-mark on the left side of his face. It
was a perfectly-formed mouse, whose body was represented in high relief
upon the cheek, and the tail ran upward across the temple and was lost in
his hair. The body seemed glossy, gray, and quite natural. According to his
own account, his mother had an unconquerable repugnance to mice, and
her labor was prematurely brought on by seeing a mouse jump out from her
workbox. (Isis 1:391)

Blavatsky also gives examples involving animals:

Let us consider the assertion of Magendie in the light of recorded instances

of the power of imagination in producing monstrous deformities, where the
question does not involve pregnant women. He admits that these occur daily
in the offspring of the lower animals; how does he account for the hatching
of chickens with hawk-heads, except upon the theory that the appearance of
the hereditary enemy acted upon the hens imagination, which, in its turn,
imparted to the matter composing the germ a certain motion which, before
expanding itself, produced the monstrous chicks? We know of an analogous
case, where a tame dove, belonging to a lady of our acquaintance, was
frightened daily by a parrot, and in her next brood of young there were two
squabs with parrots heads, the resemblance even extending to the color of
the feathers. We might also cite Columella, Youatt, and other authorities,
together with the experience of all animal breeders, to show that by exciting
the imagination of the mother, the external appearance of the offspring can
be largely controlled. These instances in no degree affect the question of
heredity, for they are simply special variations of type artificially caused. (Isis

Blavatsky says that the examples she gives suffice to show that there is reason to
attribute these aberrations of physiological type to the mutual reaction of the maternal
mind and the universal ether upon each other (Isis 1:400). The medical authorities of
Blavatskys day tended to dismiss the possibility of a mothers mental impressions
causing foetal deformities and teratological monsters, and attributed apparent cases of
this to coincidence.

As Ian Stevenson pointed out, the possibility of maternal impressions affecting a baby in
the womb is accepted in most parts of the world today but not by orthodox medical

It was accepted without challenge in the West until the early 18th century.
Advances in anatomy and physiology then showed that there is no physical
connection between a pregnant woman and her gestating baby through the
placenta or otherwise that could mediate the expression in the baby of a
mental image in the mother-to-be. The skepticism that these observations
stimulated spread slowly. In the 19th century and through the first two
decades of [the 20th century], the leading medical journals of the United
States, Great Britain, and Europe published numerous reports of maternal
impressions. (1997, 24)

In 1890 a paediatrician at the University of Virginia reviewed 90 cases of maternal

impressions published between 1853 and 1886, and concluded that in 77% of the cases
there was quite a close correspondence between the impression on the mother and the
babys defect. Stevenson himself studied reports of about 300 cases in medical
journals, books and other publications from the US and Europe, and selected 50 of
them for detailed analysis. One case involved a woman whose brother had to have his
penis amputated due to cancer. While she was pregnant, her curiosity impelled her to
have a look at the sight of her brothers amputation; she later gave birth to a male baby
without a penis. In the general population, congenital absence of the penis occurs in
only 1 in 30 million babies.

Stevenson found that the events associated with the later birth of deformed babies
occurred more often than would be expected by chance in the first trimester of
pregnancy than in the second and third trimesters. During the first trimester the embryo
is also most sensitive to noxious drugs, such as thalidomide, and to infections like

One case that Stevenson personally investigated involved a male baby (Sampath
Priyasantha) born in Sri Lanka without any arms and with severely deformed legs, who
died at the age of about 20 months. Before the childs birth, the father and his brothers
had killed a young man in the village by severing his arms and legs with a sword and
leaving him to die. The murdered man was considered a bully and had allegedly killed
several people. The dead mans mother cursed the murderer and his family, saying they
would be punished for killing her son by having a defective child. The murderers were
arrested and imprisoned. The father sometimes came home on leave and his wife had
another baby a normal, healthy girl. But their next child was the severely malformed
boy. Some of the villagers believed the boy was the reincarnation of the murdered man,
but a maternal impression is another possible explanation (1997, 26-7).

Maternal impressions are only one of the potential causes of congenital deformities.
Modern science focuses on genetic causes, lack of nutrients, and exposure to toxins,
alcohol and infections as factors in abnormal foetal and embryonic development. Its
mistake is to rule out maternal impressions altogether because this does not fit in with
their materialistic beliefs.


Ian Stevenson, Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect, London: Praeger, 1997

6. Phantom limbs

As explained in the previous section, a mothers imagination can directly impact the
astral body of a developing embryo, resulting in corresponding deformities in the
physical body. After birth, the loss of a physical limb by accident or amputation is
unlikely to affect the corresponding limb of the astral model-body. Some clairvoyants
have reported seeing the astral limb still present. However, if all the atoms of the
physical limb are always accompanied by an astral counterpart, the removed physical
limb might still have an astral limb interpenetrating it (perhaps on some grosser level of
the astral plane), even though the corresponding limb of the astral model-body remains
attached to the astral body (cf appendix 1).

The vast majority of people who lose a limb continue to feel sensations at least for a
time in the missing limb, as if it is still there. If a deformed limb or body part is
removed, the deformity is usually carried over to the phantom. Phantom sensations may
also occur after the removal of eyes, teeth, tongue, nose, breasts, penis, testes, bowel
and bladder. Many people sense the phantom body part for a few days or weeks after
its loss while others sense it for the rest of their lives. Phantoms do not usually
disappear forever, and may return decades after they seem to have gone.

Some 70% of amputees suffer phantom pain, ranging from occasional and mild to
continuous and severe; the burning, aching or shooting pain usually declines with time.
Other sensations include tingling, tickling, cramps, twitching, itching, numbness, cold
and warmth. Many people with phantoms can move them at will, even through solid
objects like beds and tables. They may find themselves trying to pick things up with a
phantom arm. Cats have been seen trying to use an amputated leg.

A phantom arm or leg is usually felt to move in coordination with the rest of the body,
just like a physical arm or leg, but sometimes it is felt to be stuck in some unusual
position. For instance, a man whose phantom arm was bent behind him, slept only on
his abdomen or on his side because the phantom got in the way when he tried to rest
on his back. Some people report that their phantoms feel as if they shrink with time, but
this does not usually happen if they wear artificial arms or legs; the phantom fits the
prosthesis like a hand fits a glove. If a person starts wearing a prosthesis after their
phantom has shrunk, the phantom usually grows again to fit it. People who wear
artificial limbs usually take them off when they go to bed, and the phantom may then
become very painful.

Phantom pain is usually treated with a variety of drugs. Shock therapy, acupuncture,
muscle relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, massage and hypnosis sometimes help
patients deal with phantom symptoms. If non-invasive treatments fail to work,
stimulation of the spinal cord, intrathecal drug delivery and deep brain stimulation may
be used. Most treatments do not lead to consistent symptom improvement.

Needless to say, the existence of astral limbs is not taken seriously by orthodox
medicine; phantom limbs are assumed to exist only in a persons head. The main
hypothesis for phantom limbs used to be that impulses from the severed nerve ends
(neuromas) in the limb-stump travel via the spinal cord to the brain and generate
sensations in the sensory regions of the cerebral cortex that are then referred to the
missing limb. Attempts have been made to tackle phantom pain by cutting the nerves
just above the neuromas or where they enter the spinal cord and by removing areas of
the thalamus and sensory cortex that would have received impulses from the missing
limb, but the phantom remained and any pain relief was at best temporary.

The nerve hypothesis fails to explain how between 10% and 20% of people born without
a limb have phantoms even though there is no nerve injury. For instance, a girl born
without forearms or hands learned arithmetic by placing her vivid phantom hands on her
desk and counting on her outstretched phantom fingers. The phantoms of congenitally
absent limbs are rarely painful.

The favoured hypothesis for explaining phantom limbs and pain is now neuroplasticity,
i.e. the ability of neurons to modify their connections and behaviour. The brain is thought
to rewire itself after loss of a limb, and this may result in sensory input from other parts
of the body being falsely attributed to a limb that no longer exists. Rupert Sheldrake

The sprouting of new nervous connections within the brain may shed light on
some aspects of phantoms, but it cannot explain their existence in the first
place, because they appear immediately after amputation, long before any
remapping has had time to occur. (2011, 343)

Patients who have been anaesthetized may experience a phantom arm or leg until the
anaesthetic wears off. 90% of patients who are given local anaesthetic before surgery
on their arms experience a phantom arm within 20 to 40 minutes of the anaesthetic
being injected.

When they close their eyes, they can move their arm around and lift it up,
and also flex their hand and move their fingers. The arm feels completely
real. Yet when they open their eyes they are usually amazed to see that their
actual arm is lying immobile on the bed, while the phantom arm they
experience is in a different position. Typically, when they realize the
discrepancy, the phantom rapidly moves back into the real limb, fusing with
it. (Sheldrake, 2011, 343)

Under anaesthetic, many patients experience phantom legs, which are usually partly
flexed, so that when a patient is lying on their back, the phantom leg often rises in the
air above the physical leg.

Seven amputees with a vivid phantom arm took part in an experiment in which they
used visual imagery to learn to perform a phantom wrist movement that defied normal
anatomical constraints, and four of them felt they succeeded in performing the
previously impossible movement. Remarkably, say the researchers, some previous
movements and functional tasks involving the phantom arm became more difficult once
the shift in body image had occurred. Some lower limb amputees have reported
bending back their phantom shin to avoid contact with solid objects. Such phenomena
are interpreted to mean that amputees can modify the neural representation of their
phantom limbs (Moseley & Brugger, 2009).

An interesting case concerns a 57-year-old woman who was born with a deformed right
hand consisting of only three fingers and a rudimentary thumb. After a car crash at the
age of 18, her deformed hand was amputated, giving rise to feelings of a phantom
hand, but one with all five fingers (though some of the digits were foreshortened). 35
years after her accident, her phantom hand became unbearably painful. The treatment
involved using false visual feedback from a mirror: the reflection of her healthy left hand
was seen as superimposed onto where she felt her phantom right hand to be. After two
weeks she was able to move her phantom fingers and was relieved of pain, and all her
phantom fingers were now of normal length. This was interpreted to mean that an innate
(hard-wired) representation of a fully formed hand had always been present in her brain
(McGeoch & Ramachandran, 2012).

Experiments have demonstrated that there is a difference between real movements of

phantom limbs and imagined movements (Reilly, 2012). When amputees imagine
moving the missing limb (which is not associated with the feeling that their limb has
changed position), they take less time than when they actually move the phantom limb
(which is associated with the feeling that the limbs position has changed as well as with
contractions in stump muscles).

Around 60% of men who have their penis amputated due to cancer experience a
phantom penis. Some of the men experience phantom erections and even phantom
orgasms. In post-operative male-to-female transsexuals the incidence of phantom
penises is only 30%. Interestingly, over 60% of female-to-male transsexuals also report
phantom penises; many claim to have experienced this since early childhood. One
hypothesis is that the brains of transsexuals are hard-wired in a manner opposite to
that of their biological sex perhaps due to a dissociation during embryological
development (Ramachandran & McGeoch, 2008).

To investigate cases of phantom limbs properly, a person with advanced clairvoyant

powers would be needed, to describe what is happening at the astral level. The
continued presence of an astral limb is likely to be a major factor in phantom limb cases,
but the plasticity and adaptability of our minds and brains are also key factors. It would
be interesting to know whether, in the case of people born with a missing limb who feel
a phantom, the astral limb is in fact present, implying that the person was born without
the corresponding physical limb because of physical factors that interfered with normal
embryonic development.

A possibly related phenomenon is the phantom effect that sometimes shows up in

Kirlian photography (high-voltage photography). If a Kirlian photo is taken of a leaf after
a portion has been cut off, a ghostly outline of the missing portion is sometimes visible
in the image (see appendix 2).

According to many traditions, the body retains some sort of connection with a part that
has been separated from it. This is one of the key principles of sympathetic magic. For
instance, in some cultures (e.g. in Malaysia) there is a belief that an enemy might use a
persons fingernail clippings to harm them by witchcraft. Similarly, a severed limb is
believed to continue to affect the person it was once part of. This possibility is illustrated
by the following reports (Sheldrake, 1994, 126-8).

An American man was suffering great pain in an amputated arm so his friends dug it up
and, after they had straightened out the fingers, the pain disappeared. Another story
concerns a man who had a finger amputated and preserved in a jar, which was kept in
his mothers heated basement. The man was alright for several years but then started
complaining of a feeling of extreme cold in the missing finger. It turned out that there
was a broken window a few inches from the jar containing the finger. As soon as the
finger was warmed up, the pain left.

Another case concerns a 14-year-old boy who suffered severe burning pain in his
phantom leg following an amputation. The previous year a schoolteacher had told the
story of a man who experienced stinging pain in a phantom limb. When the leg was dug
up, ants were found to be burrowing into it; the pain ceased when the ants were
removed and the leg was carefully buried again. As a result of hearing this story, the
boy believed that the incineration of his amputated leg was the cause of the burning
pain in the phantom.

After a car accident, a 16-year-old girl had both her legs amputated. She later suffered
severe burning pains in her phantoms. Under hypnosis she remembered telling the
surgeon to bury her legs rather than incinerate them, but he ignored her request. A
psychiatrist treated her by suggesting, under hypnosis, that her legs were still with her in
a spiritual sense. She reported increased feelings of wellbeing and her phantom pain
completely disappeared. This is one of the rare cases of a complete cure.


Cheriyedath, S., What is a phantom limb?, July 2016, news-medical.net

McGeoch, P.D., & Ramachandran, V.S., The appearance of new phantom fingers post-
amputation in a phocomelus, Neurocase, v. 18, no. 2, 2012, pp. 95-7, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Melzack, Ronald, Phantom limbs, 1 Sep 2006, scientificamerican.com

Moseley, G.L., & Brugger, P., Interdependence of movement and anatomy persists
when amputees learn a physiologically impossible movement of their phantom limb,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 106, no. 44, 2009, pp. 18798-
18802, pnas.org

Ramachandran, V.S., & McGeoch, P.D., Phantom penises in transsexuals, Journal of

Consciousness Studies, v. 15, no. 1, 2008, pp. 5-16, ingentaconnect.com

Karen Reilly, The moving phantom: motor execution or motor imagery?, July 2012,

Sheldrake, Rupert, Seven Experiments that Could Change the World, London: Fourth
Estate, 1994

Sheldrake, Rupert, The Presence of the Past: Morphic resonance and the habits of
nature, London: Icon Books, 2nd ed., 2011

Subedi, B., & Grossberg, G.T., Phantom limb pain: mechanisms and treatment
approaches, Pain Research and Treatment, 2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov


7. Occult phenomena

The astral model-body and kama-rupa play a role in numerous paranormal, mediumistic
and spiritualistic phenomena. The astral senses are involved in telepathy, clairvoyance,
clairaudience and precognition. W.Q. Judge writes:

In clairvoyance the pictures in the astral light pass before the inner vision
and are reflected into the physical eye from within. They then appear
objectively to the seer. If they are of past events or those to come, the
picture only is seen; if of events actually then occurring, the scene is
perceived through the astral light by the inner sense. ...

The highest order of clairvoyance that of spiritual vision is very rare. The
usual clairvoyant deals only with the ordinary aspects and strata of the astral
matter. Spiritual sight comes only to those who are pure, devoted, and firm.
(Ocean 160-1)

A mediums astral body can be extended from the physical body and act outside it; it
may extrude a hand, arm or leg and thereby move objects, write letters, produce
touches on the body, etc. (Ocean 171). An extruded astral hand and arm can grasp
objects up to about 10 feet away. Another way of moving objects at a distance is by
learning to control the elemental nature-forces (Ocean 158-9). Control over natures
finer forces is also required for materializing, dematerializing and teleporting objects and
for levitation.

During the heyday of spiritualism, ectoplasmic limbs or prolongations known as

pseudopods were sometimes seen emanating from various parts of a mediums
body. Sometimes a seemingly detached phantom hand or spirit hand, extruded from
the mediums astral body, would become visible.

In the presence of certain mediums these seemingly detached members will

gradually develop from a luminous nebula, pick up a pencil, write messages,
and then dissolve before the eyes of the witnesses. (Isis 2:594)

Mediums who can unconsciously manipulate astral forces due to dislocation of their
inner constitution are sometimes able to galvanize into life and communicate with the
kama-rupas of dead humans, which still possess a degree of instinctive intelligence and
memory. These astral corpses are generally mistaken for the spirits of the dead (Life
beyond death). Mediums also draw information from other peoples minds, especially
those present at a seance, and from the vast store of information imprinted on the astral

Judge gives three possible explanations of spirit materializations (Ocean 48-9, 168-9;
Echoes 1:197-200, 405-10):
1) The mediums astral body is exuded and becomes visible by drawing particles from
the air and the bodies of those present at the seance. It may resemble the medium or
assume the appearance of a dead person whose image is present on the astral plane.
2) A deceased persons kama-rupa (astral shell) may become visible under certain
3) An unseen mass of matter is collected from the atmosphere, the medium or other
people present, and a picture of any desired person, living or dead, is reflected on it
from the store of pictures on the astral plane.

H.P. Blavatsky says that the liver corresponds to kama, and is closely connected with
the spleen, as is kama with the linga-sharira, and both are involved in generating the
blood. The liver is the general, the spleen the aide-de-camp (BCW 12:699). G. de
Purucker writes:

The liver is the seat of the personal man, the kama-manasic individual; and
the spleen, the lieutenant of the former, is the seat of the astral body, the
linga-sharira. Even at sances ... it has been shown how the astral body of
the medium oozes out, first as a slender thread, and then becomes, when
the manifestation is genuine, what is now called ectoplasm, really thickened
astral stuff; and it is from the spleen that this astral body comes forth. (MiE
Front view of the liver. The livers main job is to filter the blood coming from the
digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. (webmd.com)

Whatever the source of ectoplasm, it has been observed emerging from various parts of
a mediums body, including mouth, ears, nipples and vagina (Visitors from the twilight

The astral model-body cannot go more than a few feet from the physical one (Ocean
46), and the kama-rupa cannot be separated from the physical body during life (BCW
12:708). It is the mayavi-rupa that can be projected intentionally or involuntarily to
great distances. Projection of the mayavi-rupa requires years of careful training and
numerous experiments. And it cannot be consciously done until the inner man has
developed and cohered into something more than irresponsible and quivering jelly. This
development and coherence are gained by perfecting the power of concentration
(Echoes 1:74).

Explaining why an astral form that appears to another person is clothed, Judge writes:

Everything in nature has its double or astral on other planes, the fact being
that nothing visible in matter or space could be produced without such for
basis. The clothes are seen as well as the person because they exist on the
astral [plane] as well as he. Besides this, the reason why people are seen in
the astral plane with clothes of various cut and color is because of the
thought and desire of the person which clothes him thus. Hence a person
may be seen in the astral light wearing there a suit of clothes utterly unlike
what he has on his body at the time, because his thought and desire were
upon another suit, more comfortable, more appropriate, or what not, and
which therefore clothes his astral form. This fact I testify to from actual
experience and observation. (Echoes 3:390)

Blavatsky says that a mayavi-rupa can inflict a mortal wound on the inner body of
another person by the force of will. The victims astral body is not hurt or killed, but the
reaction of the physical body can be fatal (BCW 4:566). She relates a case in which an
old woman, eager for revenge on the murderers of a prince, instructed an entranced,
mediumistic gypsy girl to seek out the murderers in her mayavi-rupa and kill them. While
carrying out the attack, the girls physical body slashed at the air around her with a
stiletto, while foaming at the mouth. At the same time, the two victims, far away, were
seen to scream and stagger around a room, as if trying to ward off the blows of an
unseen weapon. Afterwards their corpses showed no external wounds, only numerous
dark spots and marks on the skin. An autopsy revealed coagulated blood beneath these
discolorations (BCW 1:163-73).

Blavatsky sometimes calls the mayavi-rupa the kama-rupa, and she uses these two
terms in a variety of ways:

- The mayavi-rupa or thought body is the vehicle both of thought and of the animal
passions and desires during life, and forms the kama-rupa after death (BCW 10:219).

- She cites a case where the figure of a young soldier appeared in hospital dress to the
captain of his company and requested that his pay be forwarded to his mother, whose
address he then gave; it turned out that the soldier had died the previous day. She
comments that the intense thought and anxiety felt by the soldier in his dying moments
for his mother could easily create a kama-rupa, a form born of and generated by the
powerful desire of the still living man (BCW 3:282-3).

- What appears as the double is called the mayavi-rupa when acting blindly and the
kama-rupa when compelled into an objective shape by the conscious will and desire of
its possessor (BCW 4:53).

- If someone clairvoyantly sees a dying friend at a distance, what they are seeing is the
latters concentrated thought, an image produced by their will-energy, whereas if many
people see the apparition, the projection of the mayavi-rupa is involved (BCW 6:138).

It would be better to follow Puruckers usage and to call the astral-mental form that can
be projected to distant locations the mayavi-rupa regardless of whether it is produced
consciously or unconsciously, and to call the seat of the lower mind the kama-rupa, both
before and after death. In some cases, an apparition might be more of a semi-
materialized thought-form than a mayavi-rupa.

8. Astral body, morphic fields and genetics


Mainstream science does not have a satisfactory explanation for morphogenesis i.e.
for how a developing organism acquires its specific form. How does an acorn manage
to grow into an oak tree, or a fertilized human egg into an adult human being? Genes do
not explain this. Genes contain instructions for assembling amino acids into proteins,
the building blocks of our bodies. In protein synthesis, one of the two intertwined strands
of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is transcribed to give a single-stranded molecule of
messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid), from which the sequence of bases is read off three
at a time (DNA contains four nitrogen-containing bases: adenine, thymine, guanine and
cytosine); different triplets of bases (known as codons) specify different amino acids. In
this way the genetic code is translated into sequences of amino acids, which link
together and then fold up into proteins (Evolution and design).

In addition to structural genes, there are regulatory genes (also known as homeotic,
homeobox, or toolbox genes), which code for proteins that turn other genes on or off
and control the pattern in which different parts of an embryo or larva develop. Some
regulatory genes are remarkably similar in fruit flies, worms, fish and mammals, so
these genes alone do not determine form, otherwise fruit flies would look like us.

In other words, neither structural nor regulatory genes contain instructions telling
proteins how to combine into cells, tissues, organs, and entire organisms. Orthodox
biologists assume this can be explained in terms of self-assembly. If the right proteins
are produced in the right order in the right places at the right times, morphogenesis can
supposedly take place spontaneously. As Rupert Sheldrake (2009, 57) remarks, This is
rather like saying that a house can build itself spontaneously as long as the right
building materials are delivered to the building site at the right times.

Neo-Darwinists hope that epigenetic (i.e. nongenetic) information contained in cell

structures other than DNA such as patterns in the cytoskeleton (the cellular
scaffolding in a cells cytoplasm) and in the cell membrane will help explain how
organisms acquire their three-dimensional form (Evolution and design). But unless
these structures arise magically out of nowhere, they too are likely to be the result of
more fundamental causes.

Regulation and regeneration

If part of a developing organism is destroyed or removed at a sufficiently early stage,
many organisms continue to develop in such a way that more or less normal structures
are produced this phenomenon is known as embryonic regulation. For instance, if one
of the cells of a very young sea-urchin embryo at the two-celled stage is killed, the
remaining cell gives rise not to half a sea urchin but to a small but complete sea urchin,
and the fusion of two young sea-urchin embryos results in the development of one giant
sea urchin. Rupert Sheldrake writes:

Regulation occurs in all developing organisms, in animals and plants. In

animals, as development proceeds, this capacity is often lost as the fate of
different regions of the embryo becomes determined, as in limbs and livers.
But even when determination occurs at an early stage, as in insect embryos,
regulation still occurs after damage to the egg.

Results of this type show that developing plants and animals proceed
towards a morphological goal. They have some property that specifies this
goal and enables them to reach it, even if parts of the system are removed
and the normal course of development is disturbed. (Sheldrake, 2009, 34-5)

Experimental tissue-grafting work on frog eggs and developing tadpoles shows that if a
limb bud is removed and a tail bud grafted in its place, the tail bud is converted into a
limb. And if the tissues in a developing frog egg are transposed by cutting and grafting,
material that would have become skin is converted into a spinal cord, and vice versa. In
another experiment, a portion of one newt embryo was transplanted into another
developing newt embryo, which then produced two bodies, each with a head and tail,
but joined together at the belly; the anatomy of the embryo was thus dramatically
altered even though its DNA remained unchanged (Evolution and design).

Organisms also have the ability to replace or restore damaged structures a

phenomenon known as regeneration.

All organisms have some regenerative powers, even if only when young or
only in certain tissues. For example, we ourselves are continuously
regenerating our blood, our intestinal lining, our skin; our wounds heal;
broken bones knit themselves together; severed nerves grow out again; and
if part of the liver is lost, new liver tissue develops to replace it. (Sheldrake,
2011, 111)

Many plants are capable of total regeneration, i.e. the formation of a whole individual
from a single fragment such as a stem, root, leaf, or even a small slip from such an
organ (as in grafting). If the trunk, branches and twigs of a willow tree are cut up into
hundreds of pieces, they can all grow into new trees. Among animals, the lower the
form, the more capable it is of regeneration. Some multicellular organisms (e.g. starfish,
hydras, flatworms, newts and salamanders) can regenerate new heads, limbs, internal
organs, or other body parts if the originals are lost or injured. If a flatworm is cut up into
several pieces, each piece grows into a new worm. If the lens is surgically removed
from a newts eye, a new lens regenerates from the edge of the iris, whereas in normal
embryonic development the lens is formed from the skin.

Regeneration of a lens from the margin of the iris in a newts eye after removal of the
original lens.

According to theosophy, each living cell possesses an inherent drive towards self-
expression, originating in the inner, invisible part of its constitution. The cells thrown off
by earlier, astral races of humanity often developed into lower creatures because the
dominance of the inner human entity over the cells was far weaker than it now is
(Evolution in the fourth round). Today, a free human cell or an amputated human limb or
a bit of the human body cut off from the trunk does not grow into another human being
or, perhaps, into some inferior entity, as was often the case in the zoological past (MiE
145-6). The cells in vertebrate animals have largely lost the power of self-expression.
However, invertebrates still possess a faculty of self-repair, allowing them to regenerate
a lost limb or tail. Nowadays, the cells in such creatures are impelled to follow the
reproductive tendency of the limb only to which they belong.

This method of the regeneration of lost parts, or of reproduction, prevailed in

a past time in the human frame, as much as and as fully as in the cases of
the lower creatures ... And it was this general method of reproduction which
gave rise to the various animate stocks ... (MiE 146-7)

Abnormal development
Mutations in homeotic genes can lead to abnormal embryological development.
Experiments on plants and animals have shown that such mutations can lead to the
loss of an entire structure or the replacement of one structure by another. Sometimes
such changes can be caused by changes in the environment of the developing
organism. Such effects have been studied in detail in the fruit fly Drosophila. Mutant
flies may have extra wings, no wings at all, legs instead of antennae, antennae instead
of legs, or extra eyes on different parts of their anatomy. However, not all flies with a
particular mutation have a mutant form, and sometimes a mutant form may be
expressed only partially: for example, mutants sometimes have a normal antenna on
one side of their head and a leg instead of an antenna on the other.

Above: A normal specimen of the fruit fly Drosophila (top), and a mutant fly in which
the third thoracic segment has been transformed so that it duplicates the second
thoracic segment.
Below: On the left, the head of a normal fruit fly; on the right, the head of a mutant
fly in which the antennae are transformed into legs.

A mutation in the bithorax gene complex of fruit flies can result in the birth of four-
winged flies. Exposing the eggs of normal two-winged fruit flies to fumes of ether three
hours after they are laid can also produce four-winged flies. This happens not because
ether induces specific mutations in the DNA, but because it disturbs the normal pattern
of development, just as exposing human embryos to thalidomide results in abnormal

Sheldrake suggests that some morphological abnormalities are reversions to patterns of

development of more or less remote ancestral species. For instance, the formation of
two pairs of wings in bithorax mutants of Drosophila can be seen as a throwback to the
four-winged ancestors of flies.

Astral body and morphic fields

Stuart Pivar (2011, 4, 83) notes that during embryogenesis cells seem to run about
helter-skelter, organizing themselves into organs as though they knew in advance
where to go, all to the utter confusion of embryologists. ... It is difficult, if not impossible,
to assign epigenetic, mechanically causative effects to the successive steps of
observed embryology. Instead, it is as though the cells give the illusion of filling an
invisible mold. According to theosophy, this mould or blueprint is the astral model-body.

Since the 1920s many biologists have proposed that biological organization depends on
some kind of developmental or morphogenetic field, but without explaining in concrete
terms what such a field is. Rupert Sheldrake suggests that morphogenetic fields are a
new type of field so far unknown to science and work by imposing patterns on
otherwise random or indeterminate patterns of activity (sheldrake.org). He argues that
the shape and structure of a physical body are organized by a hierarchy of
morphogenetic fields, one for every atom, molecule, cell, tissue and organ up to the
body as a whole. He points out that the electromagnetic fields surrounding organisms,
which reflect changes in the current state of the organism, must not be confused with
morphogenetic fields. Harold Saxton Burr made this mistake when he claimed that
electrodynamic life fields act as blueprints for development.

Sheldrake proposes that, besides morphogenetic fields, there are also other types of
morphic fields, such as behavioural fields, mental fields, social fields, cultural fields and
the morphic field of the entire planet. He proposes that morphic fields contain an
inherent memory, transmitted through morphic resonance from previous similar fields.
The fields themselves are not static, but evolve, and when the entity they organize dies
they continue to exist as potential organizing patterns of influence. He describes
morphic fields as probability structures and fields of information, but insists that they
are not composed of matter-energy of any kind. However, if that were true, they would
be pure nothingness and would have no effect on anything (Sheldrake appraisal). As it
stands, Sheldrakes theory is an extreme form of dualism: a realm of disembodied,
energy-less probability patterns somehow interacting with the realm of energy-

Sheldrake argues that, during embryogenesis, groups of relatively unspecialized cells

act as morphogenetic germs that tune into the morphogenetic fields that guide the
development of particular bodily structures. In animal embryos embryologists have
identified many organizing centres that play a key role in the development of tissues
and organs, and he thinks these may be the germs that morphogenetic fields become
associated with. A morphogenetic field contains the virtual final form of the developing
system, whether it be part of an organism or the entire organism; the virtual form is
actualized as appropriate component parts come within the fields range of influence
and take up their relative positions.

A given type of morphogenesis usually follows a particular developmental pathway, but

may also proceed towards the final form from different morphogenetic germs and by
different pathways, as in the phenomena of regulation and regeneration. In Sheldrakes
theory, if unusual environmental conditions or genetic alterations change the structure
and oscillatory pattern of a morphogenetic germ sufficiently, it will no longer become
associated with its usual morphogenetic field. It will either fail to act as a germ at all, in
which case an entire structure will fail to appear, or become associated with a different
morphogenetic field, in which case a structure not normally found in this part of the
organism will develop instead of the usual one. In other words, mutations in homeotic
genes affect the tuning of morphogenetic germs to particular morphogenetic fields, just
as an alteration to a transistor or condenser in a tuning circuit could cause a television
to tune in to a different channel or to lose the ability to tune in to any channel at all.

If genetic mutations or other factors cause extra morphogenetic germs to form within
developing organisms, certain structures can be repeated more than usual.

A familiar horticultural example is that of double flowers, containing

additional petals. Human babies are sometimes born with extra fingers or
toes. And many instances of abnormally reduplicated structures can be
found in the standard texts on teratology, ranging from double-headed
calves to monstrous multiple pears.

As these additional structures develop, regulation occurs in such a way that

they are integrated more or less completely with the rest of the organism: for
example, extra petals in double flowers have normal vascular connections,
and extra fingers and toes have a proper blood supply and innervation.
(Sheldrake, 2009, 177)

In Sheldrakes theory, then, changes in physical genes or ambient conditions can

interfere with the normal pattern of physical development by preventing attunement to
the relevant morphic fields, and not because they affect the morphic fields themselves.

From a theosophical perspective, there are two possibilities: either the developing astral
body is adversely affected by mutations in physical genes or changes in ambient
conditions (exposure to toxins, X-rays, heat etc.), or perhaps by the corresponding
events on the astral level; or the astral body is unaffected by such changes (in contrast
to the damage inflicted by thoughts and emotions in the case of maternal impressions).
In the first scenario, the malformed physical body slavishly copies the malformed astral
body. In the second scenario, the physical body is malformed but the astral body is not;
if morphological germs in the developing embryo depart too far from their normal state,
they fail to produce an exact physical copy of the corresponding parts of the astral body,
or they give rise to extra physical copies of the wrong astral structures if a resonance
develops with these structures. To say for certain what is happening on the astral level,
it would be necessary to possess clairvoyant vision.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, thalidomide was prescribed to treat morning sickness in
pregnant women. This led to the birth of over 10,000 children with severely deformed
limbs and other defects. At the physical level, thalidomide is believed to lead to the loss
or disruption of newly formed blood vessels, thereby interfering with normal
development (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). The question is whether the drug leads to
corresponding deformities in the astral body. The fact that people born without a limb
because their mothers took thalidomide sometimes have phantom limbs suggests that
the corresponding astral limb may in some cases be present.

Regulation and regeneration poses similar questions. When a flatworm is cut into
pieces and each piece develops into a whole worm, its possible that the astral body is
likewise cut into pieces, and that each of these portion is capable to regenerating itself
but again, this could only be verified using occult methods.

The following instances of regeneration in salamanders raise interesting issues. If,

within five to seven days after it first appears, the blastema (the mass of unspecialized
cells from which a new limb grows) from the stump of an amputated foreleg is grafted
near the hind leg, it grows into a second hind leg, whereas if it is slightly older, it
produces a foreleg (Becker & Selden, 1985, 49-50). In other words, the blastema is
programmed by nearby tissues, and is reprogrammed if moved to a different location
within a few days, but not if a longer period has elapsed. Such scenarios could not arise
in the wild, but are the result of human ingenuity.

An abnormally developing astral or physical body still does its best to reach the normal
final form and ensure that, despite any abnormalities, the final form produced is viable.
This is made possible by the instinctive intelligence that pervades nature. Every cell has
a consciousness of its own kind and a certain freedom of action (BCW 12:365); it has its
own memory, instinct, relative intelligence and discriminative powers (BCW 10:322;
12:134). Animals born with abnormal bodies sometimes manage to survive by modifying
their movements and behaviour.

Orthodox science simply assumes that instincts are somehow programmed in genes or
the nervous system, and that all forms of mental activity can be reduced to
electrochemical activity in the brain. In Sheldrakes theory, there is a behavioural
morphic field for every pattern of instinctive behaviour and a mental field for every
thought or idea. He argues that the conscious self is separate from the brain; it either
interacts with the brain through mental and behavioural morphic fields, or is a
subjective aspect of mental and behavioural fields.

Theosophically, humans consist of a series of interpenetrating and interacting vehicles

of consciousness composed of different grades of energy-substance: the spiritual-divine
self works through the reincarnating soul (higher mind), which works through the kama-
rupa (lower mind), which works through the astral model-body, which works through the
physical body. Instincts and mental activities are connected with patterns of vibratory
activity in our subtle bodies, every particle of which is alive and conscious to some

From the standpoint of orthodox science, we inherit certain bodily characteristics from
our parents through our genes. It used to be thought that a simple trait like eye colour
was determined by a single gene. But as many as 15 genes have so far been
associated with eye colour inheritance. So scientists now believe that our characteristics
are the result of multiple genes interacting with each other and with the environment.
There is also growing recognition that changes in gene activity and expression can be
inherited epigenetically through chemical changes in the chromosomes.

The human genome project revealed that we only have about 20,000 protein-coding
genes, far fewer than the 100,000 expected. Sea urchins have around 26,000, rice
plants 38,000, and lily cells contain 30 times more DNA than human cells. Moreover, the
predictive value of human genomes turns out to be very limited. Tall parents tend to
have tall children; in fact, 80 to 90% of the variation in childrens height can be
explained in terms of their parents height. About 50 genes connected with being tall or
short have been identified, but these genes only account for about 5% of the inheritance
of height. This is one of many examples of missing heritability. In another study, 18
genes associated with diabetes were found to explain less than 5% of the inherited
liability to diabetes (Sheldrake, 2011, 3, 195-6, 229).

Sheldrake suggests that morphic resonance between present and past organisms is
another mechanism of heredity. He believes that morphic resonance involves the
transfer of information directly from the past, which is supposedly pressed up against
the present, without any transfer of energy of any kind. In theosophical terms, the
records impressed on the astral and akashic planes the memory of nature and in
our own inner constitution can be accessed by vibrational synchrony, these vibrations
being transmitted through more ethereal strata of energy-substance.

How closely physical genetic and epigenetic mechanisms resemble the processes
operating in the astral body is an open question. As already noted, physical DNA is
vastly overrated. It does not explain how our bodies assemble themselves, nor does it
determine our basic habits and character traits. Blavatsky says that the germinal plasm
(now called DNA) of the physical cell is dominated by the spiritual plasm of the inner
soul of the cell the fluid that contains the five lower principles of the six-principled
dhyan (SD 1:219, 223-4). G. de Purucker describes germ plasm as the concreted
deposit of the astral fluid of ... the reincarnating ego (Dialogues 2:77-9), and spiritual
plasm as the monadic essence, the spiritual characteristic which works through the
reincarnating ego (FSO 400-1).

Theosophy therefore takes a much broader view of heredity:

[Occultism] teaches that (a) the life-atoms of our (prana) life-principle are
never entirely lost when a man dies. That the atoms best impregnated with
the life-principle (an independent, eternal, conscious factor) are partially
transmitted from father to son by heredity, and partially are drawn once more
together and become the animating principle of the new body in every new
incarnation of the monads. Because (b), as the individual soul is ever the
same, so are the atoms of the lower principles (body, its astral, or life double,
etc.), drawn as they are by affinity and karmic law always to the same
individuality in a series of various bodies ... (SD 2:671-2)

When [an ego] is ready to reincarnate, it is drawn psychomagnetically,

instinctually if you like, to the family, to the womb, most sympathetic to its
vibrational rate. ... It is not the parents who give the traits to the child. It is the
child, bearing these traits within himself, that is attracted by sympathy of
vibrational rates to the parents who will give him a body best fitted to
express the character he already possesses in potentia ... (MiE 227)

Every human being has more than a mere physical heredity; he has an
astral, a psychical, an intellectual, a spiritual and, indeed, a divine heredity.
Being the child of himself, and being at present the parent of what he will be
in the future, his heredity is simply the resultant of the chain of causation
flowing forth from what he was before on any plane. (FSO 395)

When returning to earth ..., the monad attracts back to itself [the] same life-
atoms which it had previously cast off, ... so that one might almost say that
the reimbodying ego resurrects the old bodies intellectual, psychical,
astral, and physical which it had had in its last earth life. (FSO 638)

A large part of heredity, of the stream of consequences, is carried on from

generation to generation by the life-atoms. The other part of heredity is that
which the parents bring into the equation. But no life-atom ever goes into an
inappropriate environment. It goes only to that environment towards which it
is psychomagnetically attracted: like unto like, life after life. (FSO 396)


Becker, Robert O., & Selden, Gary, The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the
foundation of life, New York: William Morrow, 1985

Pivar, Stuart, et al., The Urform Theory: Evolution without Darwin, Synthetic Life Lab,

Sheldrake, Rupert, A New Science of Life: The hypothesis of formative causation,

London: Icon Books, 3rd ed., 2009

Sheldrake, Rupert, The Presence of the Past: Morphic resonance and the habits of
nature, London: Icon Books, 2nd ed., 2011

Appendix 1: Neotheosophy

The neotheosophical teachings on mans bodies presented by C.W. Leadbeater and

Annie Besant, based partly on their clairvoyant observations, are outlined below. There
are significant differences with the Blavatsky-Judge-Purucker teachings. In
neotheosophy the linga-sharira is named the etheric double and equated with the
etheric layers of the physical body, and the kama-rupa is named the astral body.

According to neotheosophy, the seven grades of physical matter are: solid, liquid, gas,
and four more ethereal grades etheric, superetheric, subatomic and atomic. (Modern
science refers to plasma (i.e. ions and free electrons) as the fourth state of matter.) On
the physical plane we have two bodies: the dense physical body (sthula-sharira),
composed of solids, liquids and gases; and the etheric double (linga-sharira), composed
of the four etheric grades of physical matter.

Since every solid, liquid or gaseous particle is surrounded by an etheric envelope, the
etheric double is a perfect duplicate of the dense body. It projects a quarter of an inch
beyond the skin, while the etheric aura normally projects seven inches beyond the skin.
The double is pale violet-grey or blue-grey and faintly luminous. It absorbs prana and
distributes it to the physical body, and acts as a bridge between the dense body and
astral body. The double cannot move far from the dense body, but may be separated
from it by accident, death, anaesthetics or mesmerism. The double is built after the
mould given by the lords of karma.

Etheric matter is purely physical and can be affected by cold and heat, and also by
powerful acids. Besant writes:

Persons who have lost a limb by amputation sometimes complain that they
can feel pain at the extremities of the amputated limb, i.e., at the place
where the limb used to be. This is due to the fact that the etheric portion of
the limb is not removed with the dense physical portion, but can still be seen
in its place by clairvoyant sight, and therefore, under suitable stimulus,
sensations can be aroused in this etheric limb and transmitted to the
consciousness. (Powell, 1979, 6)

Dense physical atoms have not only etheric envelopes, but also astral envelopes;
physical matter is embedded in a matrix of astral matter. An ultimate physical atom on
the highest physical subplane is composed of 49 atoms of the grossest astral matter.
According to Leadbeater, an electron is an astral atom, and a hydrogen atom contains
882 electrons (Powell, 1972, 5)!

The astral body or desire body (kama-rupa) consists of the seven grades of matter of
the astral plane. It is the seat of animal passions and desires, and acts as a link
between the physical brain and the mind. The astral body not only permeates the
physical body but also extends around it in every direction like a cloud. The portion of
the astral body extending beyond the physical body is called the astral aura. In an
undeveloped person, the astral body is gross, dense and loosely organized, extending
about 10 or 12 inches beyond the physical body. In an average person, the astral body
is composed of finer materials, has a clear outline, and extends about 18 inches beyond
the body. In the case of a spiritual person, the astral body is larger still, and composed
of the finest particles of each grade of astral matter. In undeveloped persons the astral
body is coarse and muddy, becoming more and more luminous as the person develops
emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

About 99% of the astral particles are compressed within the periphery of the physical
body, with the remaining 1% filling the rest of the ovoid and forming the aura. The
central portion of the astral body is very solid and definite and takes the exact form of
the physical body. It is termed the astral counterpart of the physical body. Everything
physical has a corresponding order of astral matter in constant association with it; this
astral counterpart cannot be separated from it except by the exertion of considerable
occult force. Since astral particles are constantly moving among one another, there is
no permanent association between any one physical particle and the astral matter that
at any given moment is acting as its counterpart. The astral portion of an object usually
projects somewhat beyond the physical part of it, so that metals, stones, etc. are
surrounded by an astral aura.

Leadbeater writes:

If some part of a mans physical body be removed, e.g., by amputation, the

coherence of the living astral matter is stronger than its attraction towards
the severed portion of the physical. Consequently the astral counterpart of
the limb will not be carried away with the severed physical limb. Since the
astral matter has acquired the habit of keeping that particular form, it will
continue to retain the original shape, but will soon withdraw within the limits
of the maimed form. The same phenomenon takes place in the case of a
tree from which a branch has been severed.

In the case of an inanimate body, however, such as a chair or a basin, there

is not the same kind of individual life to maintain cohesion. Consequently,
when the physical object is broken the astral counterpart would also be
divided. (Powell, 1972, 8-9)

On the mental or devachanic plane we have two bodies: the mental body (lower
manas), built of the four lower grades of mental matter; and the causal body (higher
manas, permanent body of the ego), built of the three higher grades of mental matter.
By far the greater part of the matter of the mental body is gathered within the physical
frame. To clairvoyant sight, the mental body appears as built of dense mist, having the
shape of the physical body, surrounded by an ovoid of much finer mist. The portion of
the mental body projecting beyond the physical body forms the mental aura. The
colours and striations of a mental body reveal the character and progress of the person
concerned. Every thought produces vibrations in the mental body, accompanied by a
play of colour.

The causal body, too, is ovoid in outline, and surrounds the lower bodies with a radiant
atmosphere, which becomes increasingly beautiful as the higher mental faculties are
developed. The spiritual body (anandamayakosha) resides on the fourth plane the
plane of turiya or buddhi.

After death, the physical and astral bodies start to disintegrate. The mind body dwells
on the lower levels of devachan for hundreds of years, but it is ultimately shaken off and
disintegrates. The individual then dwells in the causal body in the higher devachanic
realms. The causal body passes from life to life.

The astral body (kama-rupa) can range the astral plane when freed from the physical
body. The mayavi-rupa is a temporary rearrangement of the mind body. A person
fashions the mind body into a likeness of themselves and can then range the mental,
astral and physical planes without hindrance. Sometimes other temporary bodies are
also called mayavi-rupa. For instance, a person may appear at a distance in a body
that is really a thought-form clothed in astral matter.

Whatever classification of subtle bodies is used, our evolutionary task is clear: to purify
and refine our inner vehicles of consciousness by living a clean and ethical life, so that
our nobler, spiritual self can manifest on earth.


Annie Besant, Man and His Bodies, Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing House
(TPH), 1983 (1896)

Arthur E. Powell, The Etheric Double and Allied Phenomena, TPH, 1979 (1925)

Arthur E. Powell, The Astral Body and Other Astral Phenomena, TPH, 1972 (1927)

Arthur E. Powell, The Mental Body, TPH, 1975 (1927)

Appendix 2: Kirlian photography

Kirlian photography is a form of high-voltage, high-frequency, low-current

electrophotography. Electrophotography dates back to 1777, when German physicist
George Lichtenberg discovered that a glow appeared around any object placed in a
strong electrical field. In the 1890s French experimenter Henri Baraduc and Polish
engineer Jakub Narkiewicz-Jodko took electrophotographs of hands, leaves and coins.
In 1939 two Czechs, Silvester Prat and Jan Schlemmer, published photographs
showing a glow around leaves and metal objects in the US Journal of Biological
Photography. Around the same time Soviet electrical engineer Semyon Kirlian and his
wife Valentina independently developed their own electrophotographic technique after
observing that when electrodes attached to a high-frequency electric generator were
brought near a patients skin, there was a glow similar to that of a neon discharge tube.
Kirlian photography is often used as a general term for all forms of electrophotography.

There are many different methods of making Kirlian images and movies. The basic
technique involves attaching a conductor to a hand, leaf or other object placed on
photographic film on top of a conducting plate. When the conductors are briefly
energized by a high-frequency, high-voltage power source, images are produced
showing a silhouette of the object surrounded by a halo of light, accompanied by flares,
bubbles and blotches. The luminous halo is known as a corona discharge. A corona
discharge occurs when a current flows from an electrode with a high potential into a
neutral fluid (usually air) and ionizes it, creating a region of light-emitting plasma.

Kirlian photograph of a Cannabis sativa leaf. (fineartamerica.com)

Kirlian photograph of a hand. (eachoneteachwon.wordpress.com)
Kirlian photograph of a key. (extremeelectronics.co.uk)

The precise features shown in Kirlian images are determined by a variety of physical
factors, including the voltage and frequency, the type of film, the exposure time, the
photographic development time, the pressure of the object in question on the imaging
surface, the objects moisture content, local humidity, how well grounded the object is,
and other factors affecting the objects conductivity. The big controversy concerns
whether the corona also reveals something about subtler energy fields around living
organisms and other objects.

The Kirlians experiments spanned several decades, and at times they received funding
from the Soviet government. They described their photography as a method for the
conversion of an objects non-electrical properties into electrical properties that are then
captured on film. They found that the corona around metal objects remained constant if
all the parameters remained the same, whereas the coronas produced by living matter
were variable and non-repeatable, even with the same equipment and settings.

On one occasion, they were given two seemingly identical leaves to photograph. They
obtained excellent pictures of the energy flares from one of them, but could only get
poor images from the other, despite trying all night. They were then told that one leaf
had been plucked from a healthy plant, and the other from a diseased specimen. They
concluded that the disease was manifest in the plants energy field before becoming
visible as a symptom in its physical body (Tompkins & Bird, 1973, 201).

The Kirlian effect or Kirlian aura was studied by various other researchers in the Soviet
Union, notably biophysicist Victor Adamenko and biologist Victor Inyushin. Inyushin
believed that the bioluminescence visible in Kirlian photos was caused by an energy
body, which he termed the bioplasmic body. Bioplasma consists of organized
ensembles of electrons and protons, but the term can also refer to subtler energies,
variously known as animal magnetism (Franz Anton Mesmer), odic force (Karl von
Reichenbach), orgone (Wilhelm Reich), prana (Hinduism), lung (Tibetan Buddhism),
and qi (pronounced: chi) (China).

Kirlian images of a slightly cooked organic tomato (left) and raw organic tomato (right).

The Kirlians work was virtually unknown in the West until 1970, when two Americans,
Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander, published their book Psychic Discoveries Behind
the Iron Curtain. At the University of California in Los Angeles, Thelma Moss and
Kendall Johnson pursued extensive investigations with Kirlian photography (Moss &
Johnson, 1974; Moss, 1981). They reported that dramatic changes in the corona
occurred when human subjects experienced different emotions. States of relaxation
induced by hypnosis, meditation and drugs tended to produce a more brilliant, wider
corona. Drinking alcohol also produced a more intense corona. Strong emotions like
anger and sexual passion tended to produce brilliant crimsons and reds, while more
relaxed and gentle emotions like peace, rapport and harmony tended to show in shades
of blue. The researchers concluded from their experiments that such changes could not
be explained by alterations in skin resistance or temperature or by changes in vascular
blood flow.
Corona of tip of index finger. Left: subject normal. Right: same subject after two shots of

In studies of four healers, Moss and Johnson found that the corona discharges tended
to be much larger and brighter before the healing session than during or after it, while
their patients coronas increased sharply, suggesting there had been a transfer of
energy to them. Another discovery was that when needles were inserted at acupuncture
points known to be related to patients specific complaints, the brightness and clarity of
the corona discharges increased.

The results of Kirlian photography can be extremely inconsistent because of the many
factors that determine the corona discharge and because the equipment used by
different researchers differs widely. Some researchers in the 1970s concluded that
when all factors are carefully controlled, there is no change of the Kirlian photograph
with the psychological state of the subject (Milton, 1994, 71-2). However, the fact that
one group of researchers may obtain results very different from anothers does not
automatically invalidate either groups results. Moss and Johnson wrote:

In varying the frequency with which we have taken pictures, we have seen
an object (such as a leaf or finger pad) appear with brilliant detail at one
frequency, change its shape at a higher frequency, disappear entirely at a
higher frequency, only to reappear again with brilliant detail at still a higher
frequency. It is our belief that some law of harmonics as yet unknown to us
is responsible for this capricious appearance and disappearance of the
object being photographed. (1974, 59)

To make the corona discharge from metal objects produce fluctuations as great as
those produced by living tissues, the voltage has to be varied by thousands of volts,
whereas the human body only shows changes in the millivolt range. Brian Snellgrove
(1996, 90) argues: This lends weight to the idea that the whole living body resonates
with auric energy which Eastern philosophy would call prana. He believes that
Kirlian techniques provide a bridge between the visible and invisible worlds and are the
closest we have so far come to recording the aura photographically.
If a leaf is plucked from a plant and Kirlian photographs are taken of it over a period of
several days, its corona changes extensively, until finally no glow at all is obtained.
Those who do not believe in subtler energy fields attribute this entirely to the gradual
dehydration of the leaf (water being a good conductor). However, Henry C. Monteith, an
electrical engineer, found that if a dead leaf was bathed in water it produced usually no
glow at all, or at best only a uniform glow (Moss & Johnson, 1974, 112). Another
researcher found that humidity variations of 40% to 70% or the insertion of a
polyethylene sheet an effective moisture barrier between the fingers and the film
had no effect on a corona (Snellgrove, 1996, 97).

Mosss team, on the other hand, found that a dead leaf bathed either in water or by the
hot, dry Santa Ana winds comes back to Kirlian life while heat alone had no such effect.
They also found that gashing and mutilating a leaf caused the Kirlian image to become
much dimmer, with gaping holes of black, even in places where the leaf was still moist
and intact. Furthermore, dry fingers and wet apples, for example, photographed
brilliantly, whereas wet fingers and dried apples didnt photograph at all (Moss, 1981,
98, 152-3, 204). So clearly the phenomenon cannot be reduced to moisture alone.

The most intriguing and controversial Kirlian effect of all is the phantom leaf effect.
If part of a leaf is cut off, a Kirlian photograph occasionally shows not only an image of
the intact part, but also a faint ghostly image of the missing part. This phenomenon has
been photographed independently by many researchers, but occurs only on rare
occasions, under just the right conditions. Pace & Drumm (1992) write:

Precautions are routinely taken to ensure that an image cannot occur by

mistake. For example, it is standard procedure to cut the leaf immediately
before it is smoothed onto the emulsion (photographs are by direct contact)
to eliminate the possibility that images could result from moisture prints. In
the early 1970s, the credibility of the first phantom photographs was
jeopardized by the practice of cutting the leaf while on the emulsion, but that
practice was abandoned in the mid-1970s.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, it is still commonly claimed that if, after the
whole leaf has been photographed, the imaging surface is cleaned of contaminants and
residual moisture before the cut leaf is photographed, no image of the missing section
ever appears. Romanian researcher Ion Dumitrescu suggested that the phantom leaf
effect is caused by microscopic water droplets being squeezed out from the edge of the
remaining leaf by a few millimetres (Oldfield & Coghill, 1988, 95-6). However the water
droplets would have to be squeezed out 5 to 10 cm and adopt the shape of the specific
leaf concerned by random chance. Moreover, if the phantom leaf effect is simply the
result of gaseous emissions, moisture or water vapour, why does no phantom appear in
the majority of cases?

Short videos showing the phantom leaf effect are available here:
cyberspaceandtime.com; youtube.com.
Phantom leaf effect, University of Los Angeles, 1973. (natural-health-zone.com)

Left to right: intact ivy leaf; ivy leaf as it usually appears after a portion is cut off;
phantom leaf effect (Robert M. Wagner, 29 April 1975).
The uncut portion of the leaf was covered with a piece of plastic before the third photo
was taken. (tpissarro.com)
Kirlian image of the phantom leaf effect, taken in So Paulo, Brazil, in 1973 by H.G.
director of research at the Brazilian Institute of Psychobiophysical Investigation.

Mosss team tried to produce phantom images after amputating part of the tail of rats
and mice, but without success. Jack R. Worsley claimed that Kirlian photography can
also show amputated limbs in humans. The more pronounced the phantom pains are
in an amputee, the more visible is the amputated portion of the body, he said (Krippner
& Rubin, 1974, 165). However, further details do not seem to be available. Stanley
Krippner has said that no attempts to detect phantom limbs and fingers by the Kirlian
method have been successful (Sheldrake, 1994, 145).

There is controversy as to whether Kirlian photography is a useful diagnostic technique.

Experiments by Jessel-Kenyon et al. (1998) showed that a Kirlian device known as the
plasma print was not a reliable diagnostic tool. However, many practitioners around the
world claim to have used Kirlian photography successfully, sometimes as a backup
diagnostic tool to get another perspective on their own discipline (homoeopathy,
acupuncture, etc.). The practitioners intuition plays an important role in interpreting
Kirlian images. But many researchers have verified that, using electrophotographic
techniques, malignant tissues display a brighter corona discharge than undamaged
cells (Oldfield & Coghill, 1988, 97-8).

In the 1970s Ion Dumitrescu found that, in electrophotos of sick patients, acupuncture
points showed up that indicated the location of the illness. After the illness had been
treated and cured, the acupuncture points disappeared (Moss, 1981, 214). He
examined over 5000 normal healthy humans and 171 suffering from malignant tumours,
and confirmed the locality of the tumours by Kirlian methods in 74% of the cases. In
three cases of sarcoma the Kirlian image showed the tumour while the X-ray image did
not (Oldfield & Coghill, 1988, 98).

US researcher L.W. Konikiewicz demonstrated in double-blind studies that he could

accurately identify patients with cystic fibrosis using Kirlian photography. He also
reported success in detecting cancer and other abnormal conditions (Korotkin, 2015,
112). A double-blind study of 120 subjects by an Athens psychiatrist in early 1980s
found that the corona images of psychotic patients showed highly disruptive patterns
while the patterns of the control subjects were well organized and uniform. A double-
blind study of 1500 women in India in 1990 showed that Kirlian photography was more
effective at screening and diagnosing cancer than a biopsy or histological examination
and could detect the disease in a premalignant condition (Snellgrove, 1996, 46-9).

In the 1980s Harry Oldfield began to use a Kirlian-type technique (electroscanning) for
diagnostic purposes, and developed electrocrystal therapy the application of pulsed
high-frequency electric currents, amplified by crystals. He treated disorders ranging
from migraines to multiple sclerosis, with a good success rate (Oldfield & Coghill, 1988).

German naturopath and acupuncturist Peter Mandel developed a healing system which
uses Kirlian photography for diagnostic purposes and treats acupuncture points with
coloured light. Based on decades of studies, he published data showing a correlation
between particular sectors of fingertip emissions and diseased organs (Mandel, 1986;

Gas Discharge Visualization (GDV) technology a state-of-the-art Kirlian technique

was developed in Russia by Konstantin Korotkov and his team in the 1990s (Korotkov,
2015; gdvcamera.com; Rubik, 2009). The GDV camera is a registered medical device in
Russia. It measures emissions only from the fingertips. Based on an unpublished
algorithm, the accompanying software uses the data to model energy flow in tissues,
organs and the whole body (including the chakras) based on insights from acupuncture
and su jok, in which the hand is a homunculus of the whole body. Since there is as yet
no large database showing how fingertip data correlates with states of health, specific
diseases, etc., interpreting the data is highly subjective.
GDV camera and software.

Beverly Rubik (2004) conducted a pilot study using the GDV device to see whether
practising qigong led to changes in the biofield. The results indicated that after qigong
the subjects fingertips emitted a more uniform circle of light and the emissions from the
left and right hands were more evenly balanced. However, Rubik acknowledged that the
small sample size (five subjects, with no control subjects) was too small to permit a
meaningful statistical analysis and did not allow strong conclusions.


Jessel-Kenyon, J., Pfeiffer, L., & Brenton, M., A statistical comparison of repeatability in
three commonly used bioelectronic devices: Kirlian photography, the segmental
electrogram, and the AMI of Motoyama, Acupuncture in Medicine, v. 16, no. 1, 1998,
pp. 40-2, aim.bmj.com

Korotkov, Konstantin, Science of measuring energy fields, in: Paul J. Rosch,

Bioelectromagnetic and Subtle Energy Medicine, New York: CRC Press, 2nd ed., 2015,
pp. 111-20

Krippner, Stanley, & Rubin, Daniel (eds.), The Kirlian Aura: Photographing the galaxies
of life, New York: Anchor, 2nd ed., 1974, scribd.com

Mandel, P., Energy Emission Analysis: New application of Kirlian photography for
holistic medicine, Germany: Synthesis Publishing Co., 1986

Milton, Richard, Forbidden Science: Suppressed research that could change our lives,
London: Fourth Estate, 1994

Moss, Thelma, The Body Electric: A personal journey into the mysteries of
parapsychology and Kirlian photography, London: Granada, 1981 (1979)

Moss, Thelma, & Johnson, Kendall L., Bioplasma or corona discharge?, in Krippner &
Rubin, 1974, pp. 51-71

Ostrander, Sheila, & Schroeder, Lynn, PSI: Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain,
London: Abacus, 1973 (1970)

Oldfield, Harry, & Coghill, Roger, The Dark Side of the Brain: Major discoveries in the
use of Kirlian photography and electrocrystal therapy, Dorset, UK: Element, 1988

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Life beyond death

Visitors from the twilight zone

Evolution and design

Sevenfold constitution of nature and man

Our after-death journey