The word aura means atmosphere or light, and is an appropriate enough term to use, given the nature of this phenomenon. It is usually defined as a sort of multi-dimensional energy field, made up of the emanations of each of the subtle bodies.
A voluminous amount of literature exists today on the human aura, the psychic energy-field surrounding the physical body, and accesible to clairvoyant vision. Scientific researchers such as Walter J. Kilner at London's St Thomas Hospital early in the century (The Human Atmosphere, 1911), Oscall Bagnall, a Cambridge biologist (The Origin and Properties of the Human Aura, 1937), Harold Saxon Burr and F.S.C. Northrop of Yale University (Fields of Life, ), the Russian husband and wife team Semyon and Valentina Kirlian, who invented the High Voltage or Kirlian photographic technique in the forties, and many others set out to describe and measure the more physical properties of the aura (equivalent to the theosophical "Etheric Body"), and were often persecuted and ridiculed for doing so. Meanwhile, clairvoyants such as C. W. Leadbeater, Edgar Cayce, and others described the more psychic aspects to the aura (equivalent to "the astral body"). It would be impossible to reveiw everything that has been written on the subject, so only a few more recent sources will be considered here.
Body and Field
Quantum physics refers to the unusual concept of the probability wave. On the macroscopic level of everyday objects, this effect is not noticeable (because the Plank Constant is so tiny). On the physical level that is. But when you take into account other planes and dimensions of existence, it does become very relevant. The physical body and associated physical consciousness is the "particle"; and the unconscious psyche, the aura, and the field of intuition is the wave-form. It is this wave-form that constitutes the multi-dimensional psycho-spiritual energy field.
This multi-dimensional energy field has a particular subtle or yogic anatomy, described by Tantrics, Taoists, Western Occultists, and others. This includes:
- a series of subtle or spiritual bodies or "vehicles of consciousness" - the theric body, astral body, and so on (more on which later) - which constitute "octaves" of consciousness/existence within the field
- subtle energy centres called chakras ("wheels"), described in stylised fashion by Indian and Tibetan Tantrics, but as actual energy vortexes by Western theosophical Clairvoyants.
- channels of energy flow; the nadis of yogic psychology and meridians of Acupuncture
- numerous minor energy lines described by Theosophical writers
- "drops" (bijas) and other high energy items referred to in Tibetan Buddhism and elsewhere, that can be released through yogic disciplines.
In addition to these natural subtle organs are the various pathological thought-forms, accretions, blocks, and other structures that are responsible for everyday human neuroticism.
Finally, the aura can serve as a sort of sensorium; for example if someone is staring at you behind your back you can generally feel it, even if there is no physical way you can know you are being observed. This is because their gaze strikes your aura, and you feel it that way.
The aura and the Subtle Bodies
The aura can be considered a series or composite of subtle bodies. Each of these subtle bodies is also a specific psychic energy field or aura containing thought-forms, ideas, emotions, desires, blocks, fixations, attached entities, and various other things that might happen to be floating around in your psyche. But because each kosha or aura is at a different "vibratory" level, it only contain things that pertain to its own particular nature. The Physical Mental aura for example contains thoughts, ideas and knowledge about things in the world, as well as dogmatism and wrong ideas (which take the form of rigid structures and fixations) and is mainly yellow in colour. While the Physical Emotional aura contains desires, likes and dislikes, as well as numerous insecurities and neuroses, which take the form of energy blockages; and is multi-coloured. When a formation from the Emotional aura gets together with a formation from the Mental aura, you have a structure called a complex (it was Carl Jung who first defined that term; he studied complexes through word association tests; if a patient took a long time to say a word, it meant there was a complex or resistance there). Our personalities are just chock-full of complexes and other such multi-aura-derived structures.