The Subtle Body Defined... sort of... maybe...by Gryphon M on 06/24/16
The term itself, while drastically redefined again and again, most likely comes from the Vedic Three Bodies Doctrine (Vedanta) which describes a layer of being much less substantial than the flesh as Suksma (subtle, unmanifest) Sarira (body). Over the years it has risen from time to time in Western literature from the middle of the 1600's to modern day. The term became widely popular among the spiritualist movement of the 1800's from which we take our nebulous usage throughout the New Age movement of the 1980's to the 2000's.
The Subtle Body has been pigeon holed by nearly as many authors and practitioners as there are pigeons. Unfortunately, being a non-physical energy not yet quantified by science (and perhaps never so), trying to hammer this other-worldly shaped peg into an earthly shaped hole just does not seem to work well. And this is why I keep saying we will "sort of" and "maybe" define it.
As a side note I would like to share a little experiment I was witness to; At a previous House Kheperu Gather, Michelle Belanger and my friend Ges (as well as several others) decided to test the effect of subtle energy using an electronic true random number device. The device generates a stream of random numbers between two set parameters. The calculated mean should remain a relatively flat line on a graph. The idea is that if something is influencing reality in the vicinity of the device, the flat graphed line will show uncharacteristic peaks and/or valleys. While Ges was out of the room, Michelle set down energy lines. Ges was then invited back in to see if he could find them using the device. In short, he did. Is this proof of what is going on? No. Is it a reasonable show that something is going on? Yes.
Being a member of House Kheperu, I fully embrace that whole "Seek Your Own Truth" thingy. My definitions based on my experience work for me... and I am always willing to allow both those definitions and experiences to be fluid because as Kenny Chesney says, "Reality ain't all it's cracked up to be". Honestly, it a good thing to embrace in any event. Allowing for multiple realities to be correct keeps us from falling into the I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong trap.
Uncle Al (Aleister Crowley) called the Subtle Body the "Body of Light". This offers connotations of glowing insubstantial energies and perhaps that is exactly how he perceived it. The system of Chakras which can number from 3 to several thousand (though the commonly accepted number is 7) describes centers or nodes of vital energy and the lines of spiritual energy that connect them. The vastly higglety-pigglety body of knowledge surrounding the term "Aura" is so diverse that I wont even try to give it an explanation. It is enough to say that one could spend a lifetime garnering sources of study on this topic and never have enough time to get to them all.
So, when I use terms like "Subtle Body" and "Subtle Energy", I am talking about many things all combined... thought, emotion, personal history, psychology, spiritual existence, Higher Self, ancestry, past lives, future lives, etc. It's all a tapestry woven together of many colors and different threads and multiple patterns. Every shape, color, pattern, and texture has meaning. What you "see" and experience may not be what I "see" and experience because our realities are not the same. Hopefully, our realities share enough in common that we can agree on common interpretations.
I look at it like a combination of diagnostic tools all rolled into one... a holistic approach, if you will. In comparison to the medical field, why only use an MRI to diagnose an issue. Why not a CT and an X-Ray and a blood screening and an Ultrasound and whatever else you have at your disposal as well. Take a look at the whole as well as the individual parts from as many angles as you can.
To me, Subtle Bodies and the Subtle Energies that they and all things are composed of are like complex sigils that when interpreted, tell the story of the whole being or thing. I see and interpret these sigils and then I create art. Over the years both my skill at interpreting these sigils and transcribing them into art have grown. My understanding of the complex symbol set I experience has become more detailed.
I have created dozens of works of art based on what I see. I call them Subtle Body Portraits. To date they have been rendered as two dimensional images on paper using various types of colored ink. The limited capacity of two dimensions does not do justice of a system that exists beyond three. This has led me to the desire to take my art into the digital world. Therefore I have started the Subtle Body Project Kickstarter (see the link at the top).
I could go on and on about the history, cultural usage, ritual practices, amusing anecdotes, etc. that surround this topic. In fact, eventually, I will scrape all of these blog entries together and combine them with other essays I have written, collaborate with some other very talented artists and writers and perhaps produce a book. I'll keep you posted.
NEXT ENTRY: Just how does a Gryphon see the Subtle Body
(in which I share an amusing story about Michelle Balenger)