This second principle of man is not nearly so well known as its physical brother, although it is closely connected with the latter and is its exact counterpart in appearance. The astral body has been known to people in all ages, and has given rise to many superstitions and mysteries, owing to a lack of knowledge of its nature. It has been called the “ethereal body”; the “fluidic body”; the “double”; the “wraith”; the “Doppelganger,” etc.
It is composed of matter of a finer quality than that composing our physical bodies, but matter none the less. In order to give you a clearer idea of what we mean, we will call your attention to water, which manifests in several well-known forms. Water at a certain temperature is known as ice, a hard, solid substance; at a little higher temperature it assumes its best known form, which we call “water”; at a still higher temperature it escapes in the form of a vapor which we call “steam,” although the real steam is invisible to the human eye, and becomes apparent only when it mixes with the air and has its temperature lowered a little, when it becomes vapor visible to the eye, and which vapor we call “steam.”
The astral body is the best counterpart of the physical body and may be separated from it under certain circumstances. Ordinarily, conscious separation is a matter of considerable difficulty, but in persons of a certain degree of psychical development the astral body may be detached and often goes on journeys. To the clairvoyant vision the astral body is seen looking exactly like its counterpart, the physical body, and united to it by a slender silken cord.
The astral body exists some time after the death of the person to whom it belongs, and under certain circumstances it is visible to living persons, and is called a “ghost.” There are other means whereby the spirits of those who have passed on may become manifest, and the astral shell which is sometimes seen after it has been sloughed off by the soul which has passed on is in such cases nothing more than a corpse of finer matter than its physical counterpart. In such cases it is possessed of no life or intelligence, and is nothing more than a cloud seen in the sky bearing a resemblance to a human form. It is a shell, nothing more.
The astral body of a dying person is sometimes projected by an earnest desire, and is at such times seen by friends and relatives with whom he is in sympathy. There are many cases of this kind on record, and the student probably is aware of occurrences of this kind. We will have more to say about the astral body and astral shells in other lessons in this course. We will have occasion to go into further detail when we reach the subject of the astral plane, and, in fact, the astral body will form a part of several lessons.
The astral body is invisible to the ordinary eye, but is readily perceived by those having clairvoyant power of a certain degree. Under certain circumstances the astral body of a living person may be seen by friends and others, the mental condition of the persons and the observer having much to do with the matter. Of course, the trained and developed occultist is able to project his astral body consciously, and may make it appear at will; but such powers are rare and are acquired only after a certain stage of development is reached.
The adept sees the astral body rising from the physical body as the hour of death approaches. It is seen hovering over the physical body, to which it is bound by a slender thread. When the thread snaps the person is dead, and the soul passes on carrying with it the astral body, which in turn is discarded as the physical body has been before. It must be remembered that the astral body is merely a finer grade of matter, and that it is merely a vehicle for the soul, just as is the physical, and that both are discarded at the proper time. The astral body, like the physical, disintegrates after the death of the person, and persons of a psychic nature sometimes see the dissolving fragments around cemeteries, in the shape of violet light. We are merely calling attention to the different vehicles of the soul of man, his seven principles, and we must hasten on to the next principle.
We would like to speak to you of the interesting phenomenon of the ego leaving the physical body in the astral body while one is “asleep.” We would like to tell you just what occurs during, sleep, and how one may give orders to his astral self to gain certain information or to work out certain problems while he is, wrapped in sleep, but that belongs to another phase of our subject, and we must pass on after merely whetting your appetite. We wish you to get these seven principles well fixed in your mind, so that you may be able to understand the terms when we use them later on.