January 10, 2006

The etheric double

Although the word “astral” is often associated with New Age ideas, this term was also used historically by alchemists. In the late 19th and early 20th century the term was popularised by Theosophy, especially as developed by Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, and later Alice Bailey. In this cosmology, the astral is the first metaphysical plane beyond the physical, but is “denser” than the mental plane. The astral plane is also sometimes termed the world of emotion or world of illusion, and corresponds to Blavatsky’s Kamic Plane.
It should be noted however that in original theosophical literature (such as those written by Blavatsky), the term “astral” does not have the same meaning as the term is used in later theosophical literature (such as C. W. Leadbeater). The astral body, in her works, does not refer to the emotional body but to the etheric double or linga sarira.
Some equivalent concepts to the astral plane in various esoteric teachings are the Barzakh or Imaginal or Inter-world in Islamic Esotericism (Ishraqism, Sufism, etc), the World of Asiyah in Lurianic Kabbalah (although this sometimes includes the physical plane as well), or Yetzirah in some interpretations of Hermetic Kabbalah, the “spirit world” in Spiritualism, the “Nervous” State in Max Theon’s teachings, and the “Vital” World in the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa.
In his book Autobiography of a Yogi, Sri Sri Paramhansa Yogananda has explained with amazing clarity and detail the difference between the physical, astral, and causal planes, as per traditional Hindu philosophy. According to him when one dies his soul moves to the astral plane. There he reaps the results of his past actions or karmas and accordingly reinhabits a physical body or moves on to the higher causal plane. The term “astral plane” has also more recently come to mean a plane of existence where otherkin believe their souls reside. MysWizard

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