An exact replica of the physical body but composed of finer
matter. The term is chiefly employed in Theosophy, and those
numerous occult systems derived from it, to denote the link between
the nervous system and the cosmic reservoir of energy.
The astral body corresponds to the double of out-of-the-body
experiences reported in psychic research. The term double,
however, is less comprehensive and refers only to the living; astral
body refers specifically to the bodily counterpart of the dead.
The etheric double or body, in Theosophy, is distinct from the
astral, but in Spiritualistic literature they are often interchanged.
These concepts derive from traditional Hindu mysticism,
though there are also Western precursors.
The astral body is the instrument of passions, emotions, and
desires, and, since it interpenetrates and extends beyond the
physical body, it is the medium through which these are conveyed
to the latter. When it separates from the denser body
during sleep, or by the influence of drugs, or as the result of
accidentsit takes with it the capacity for feeling, and only with
its return can pain or any other such phenomena be felt. During
these periods of separation, the astral body is an exact replica
of the physical, and as it is extremely sensitive to thought,
the apparitions of dead and dying resemble even to the smallest
details the physical bodies which they have lately left.
The Astral World is said to be attainable to clairvoyants,
and many claim that the appropriate body is therefore visible
to them. In accordance with theosophical teaching, thought is
not the abstraction it is commonly considered to be, but is built
up of definite forms, the shape of which depends on the quality
of the thought. It also causes definite vibrations, which are seen
as colors. Hence, clairvoyants may tell the state of a mans development
from the appearance of his astral body.
For example, some suggest that a nebulous appearance indicates
imperfect development, while an ovoid appearance betokens
a more perfect development. As the colors are indicative
of the kind of thought, the variety of these in the astral body
indicates the possessors character. Inferior thoughts produce
loud colors, so that rage, for instance, will be recognized by the
red appearance of the astral body. Higher thoughts will be recognizable
by the presence of delicate colors; religious thought,
for instance, will cause a blue color.
Associazione Italiana Scientifica . . . Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
This teaching holds true for the bodies higher than the astral,
but the coloration of the astral body is much more familiar
to those dwellers in the physical world who can see into the astral
plane. Less familiar are the coloration and feelings of the
higher bodies, for humans are relatively unacquainted with
There is a definite theory underlying the emotional and
other functions of the astral body. The astral body is not composed
of matter alive with an intelligent life, but it nevertheless
possesses a kind of life sufficient to convey an understanding
of its own existence and wants. The stage of evolution of this
astral life is that of descent, the turning point not having yet
been reached. He who possesses the physical body has, on the
other hand, commenced to ascend, and there is, therefore, a
continual opposition of forces between him and his astral body.
Hence, the astral body accentuates in him such grosser, retrograde
thoughts as he may nourish, since the direction of these
thoughts coincides with its own direction. If, however, he resists
the opposition of his astral body, the craving of the latter gradually
becomes weaker and weaker, till at last it disappears altogether.
The constitution of the astral body is thereby altered,
for gross thoughts demand for their medium gross astral matter,
while pure thoughts demand fine astral matter. During
physical life the various kinds of matter in the astral body are
intermingled, but at physical death the elementary life in the
matter of the astral body seeks instinctively after selfpreservation,
and it therefore causes the matter to rearrange itself
in a series of seven concentric sheaths, the densest being
outside and the finest inside.
Physical vision depends on the eyes, but astral vision depends
on the various kinds of astral matter capable of receiving
different undulations. To be aware of fine matter, fine matter
in the astral body is necessary, and so with the other kinds.
Hence, when the rearrangement takes place, vision only of the
grossest kinds of matter is possible, since only that kind is represented
in the thick outer sheath of the astral body. Under
these circumstances, the new inhabitant of the astral sphere
sees only the worst of it, and also only the worst of his fellow inhabitants,
even though they are not in so low a state as himself.
This state is not eternal, and in accordance with the evolutionary
process, according to Theosophists, the gross sheath of
astral matter wears slowly away, and the individual remains
clothed with the six less gross sheaths. These also, with the passage
of time, wear away, being resolved into their compound
elements, and at last when the final disintegration of the least
gross sheath of all takes place, the individual leaves the Astral
World and passes into the Mental. However, this rearrangement
of the astral body is not inevitable, and those who have
learned and know are able at physical death to prevent it. In
such cases the change appears a very small one, and the socalled
dead continue to live their lives and do their work much
as they did in the physical body. (See also Avichi)
Mead, George R. S. The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western
Tradition. London John M. Watkins, 1919. Reprint, Wheaton,
Ill. Theosophical Publishing House, 1967.
Powell, Arthur E. The Astral Body and Other Astral Phenomena.
London Theosophical Publishing House, 1927.