As discussed in Anthroposophy,
an aura is an invisible
yet colored emanation
that reflects the inner qualities
of a person, place, etc. —
it is a nimbus, a cloud, a halo
perceptible only through
the use of clairvoyance.
Auras do not exist.
This, however, has not prevented
Steiner and his followers
from believing in them.
"The color effects perceptible to the spirit eye that ray out around the physical man observed in his activity, and that envelop him like a somewhat egg-shaped cloud, are the human aura. The size of this aura varies in different people, but we may say that the entire man appears on the average twice as long and four times as wide as the physical man.
"The most varied shades of color flood the aura. This color flooding is a true picture of the inner human life. As this changes, so do the shades of color change. Certain permanent qualities such as talents, habits and traits of character, however, express themselves also in permanent fundamental color shades.
"Misunderstandings can arise in men who at present stand remote from the experiences of the path of knowledge described in a later chapter of this book — in regard to the nature of what is here described as the aura. We might imagine that what are here described as colors would stand before the soul just as the physical colors stand before the physical eye, but such a soul color would be nothing but hallucination. Spiritual science is not in the least concerned with hallucinatory impressions, and they are, in any case, not what is meant in the description now before us. We reach a correct conception if we keep the following in mind. With a physical color, the soul experiences not only the sense impression, but through it, it has a soul-experience. When through the eye the soul perceives a yellow surface, this soul-experience is different from what it is when it perceives a blue surface. One may call this experience 'living in yellow' or 'living in blue.' Now the soul that has followed the path of knowledge has a similar 'experience in yellow' when observing the active soul-experience of other beings; an 'experience in blue' when observing devotional soul-moods. The essential thing is not that the seer in visualization of another soul sees blue just as he sees this blue in the physical world, but that he has an experience that justifies his calling the visualization blue; just as the physical man calls a curtain blue, for instance. Further, it is essential that the seer should be conscious of standing in an experience free of the body so that he gains the possibility of speaking about the value and the meaning of the soul-life in a world whose perception is not mediated through the human body. Although this meaning of the description must be taken into account, yet it is altogether a matter of course for the seer to speak of blue, yellow, green, and so forth, in the aura. The aura varies greatly according to the different temperaments and dispositions of people. It likewise varies in accordance with the stages of spiritual development. A man who yields completely to his animal impulses has an entirely different aura from one who lives much in the world of thought. The aura of a religiously disposed nature differs essentially from one that loses itself in the trivial experiences of the day. In addition to this, all varying moods, all inclinations, joys and pains, find their expression in the aura.
"We have to compare the auras of various soul-experiences with each other in order to learn to understand the meaning of the color shades. To begin with, take soul-experiences shot through with strongly marked emotions. They may be divided into two kinds — those in which the soul is impelled to these emotions chiefly by the animal nature, and those in which these passions take a more subtle form, in which they are, so to speak, strongly influenced by reflection. In the first kind of experiences brown and reddish-yellow streams of color surge through the aura in definite locations. In persons with more subtle passions there appear in the same locations brighter reddish-yellow and green shades. One can notice that as intelligence increases the green shades become more frequent. Persons who are very intelligent, but who give themselves over entirely to satisfying their animal impulses, show much green in their aura, but this green will always have an admixture more or less of brown or brownish-red. Unintelligent people show a great part of their aura permeated by brownish-red or even by dark blood-red currents." — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), chapter 3, section 6, “Thought Forms and the Human Aura”, GA 9.
According to Steiner, people using ordinary perception can see objects and figures, such as the figure at the center of this image, but they miss the surrounding nimbus or aura, the spiritual realities hovering beyond normal perception. Only clairvoyance allows us to perceive the higher realities, Steiner said. Indeed, all of Anthroposophy — including Waldorf education — depends on the existence of clairvoyance. “Clairvoyance is the necessary pre-requisite for the discovery of a spiritual truth.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 1, GA 99. More particularly, Steiner pinned all of his teachings on his claimed use of "exact" clairvoyance, clairvoyance so precise and reliable that its findings cannot be challenged. [See "Exactly" and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".] The exercise of clairvoyance is so central to Anthroposophy that, if clairvoyance did not exist, then Anthroposophy would collapse and there would be no justification for Waldorf education. And this presents a slight difficulty. There is absolutely no solid evidence that any type of clairvoyance — certainly including "exact" clairvoyance — exists. [See "Clairvoyance".] Hence, there is no justification for Waldorf education. [R. R, sketch, 2010, based on the one in Rudolf Steiner's MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), p. 6.]
"Anyone who with clairvoyant consciousness travels through different countries in various parts of the earth knows that the peculiar form of vegetation, the characteristic configuration of the rocks, does not exhaust what he knows about this particular country. When we speak of a peculiar aroma, or, of an aura of a certain part of our earth, it is comprehensible that for a materialist we are only speaking of an abstraction. To clairvoyant consciousness there arises over every part of our earth a peculiar spiritual cloudlike formation which we must designate as the etheric aura of that special part of the earth. This etheric aura is quite different over the land of Switzerland from what it is over the land of Italy, and again different over the lands of Norway, Denmark or Germany. It is true that every man has his own etheric body, and it is also true that a kind of etheric aura towers up over every part of the surface of our earth. This etheric aura differs very considerably from other etheric auras, for example from that of man. If we observe a living human being, we find that his etheric aura is united to him as long as he lives, that is, from his birth to his death. It is united to his physical body, and only alters in so far as the man during his lifetime goes through a development, when he rises higher as regards intelligence, morals, etc. But then we always see that this etheric aura of man alters from within, it develops certain parts which shine out from within. The case is different with those etheric auras which can be perceived over the various countries. Certainly these preserve throughout long periods a fundamental tone, they have something which continues throughout long ages. But in these etheric auras there are also changes which take place quickly, and these distinguish them from human auras which alter slowly and gradually, and when they do alter, the alteration only takes place from within. The auras over the various countries alter in the course of the evolution of humanity on the earth when one people leaves its dwelling place and takes possession of another part of the earth. The essential is, that the etheric aura over a certain part of the earth does not only depend upon what rises out of the ground, so to speak, but upon the last inhabitants of that territory. So that those who wish to follow the destinies of our human race in their true form on earth, endeavor to follow the interpenetration of this particular part of the etheric auras of the different parts of our earth. The various etheric auras of Europe altered very much at the time which we designate as the period of the migrations of the peoples. You may already see, that in the etheric aura over any particular part of the earth there is something which can be altered, which may indeed change suddenly, and that this change may even be brought about from outside, in a certain sense. Every one of these etheric auras is in a certain respect a fusion of what comes from the ground and of what has been brought there by the migrations of the peoples. When we consider this aura we must clearly understand that, in a certain respect, the saying which is so lightly quoted in Theosophy, but which is never really understood, at least not in all its depths, holds good in the widest sense; everything seen outside in the world with physical consciousness is only maya or illusion. It is often mentioned among theosophists, but is seldom observed in such detail, as to play a part in one's life. It is rather quoted in an abstract form, but if concrete connections are sought for, it is forgotten and only material consciousness comes into play. In truth that which mysteriously confronts us in the part of the earth inhabited by a certain people, is the etheric aura of that particular part of the earth. That which confronts the physical eyes in the green vegetation, in the peculiar configuration of the earth and so on, is fundamentally only maya or external illusion; it is a condensation, as it were, of what is at work in the etheric aura. Albeit, only that part of the external is dependent upon this etheric aura upon which it — that is to say, a living organizing principle can have an influence. The Archangels, who have the spiritual laws within them, cannot intervene in the physical laws. Where, therefore, only the physical laws work and come into consideration, as in the relations of mountain and plain, in the contours of the ground and so on, in all cases where that which determined the great changes of the people depends upon the physical conditions, there the influence of the Archangels does not extend; they have not as yet gone far enough in their evolution to be able to intervene in physical conditions. Because they are unable to do this, but are in this matter dependent, they are compelled at certain times to wander over the earth; and they embody themselves, as in a physical body, in that which is represented by the configuration of the land, in that therefore, which is ruled by physical laws. The etheric body of the people cannot as yet enter in there, it cannot as yet extend into it and organize it. Therefore the ground is sought out, if it proves to be suitable, and from this union between the etheric body which is worked through by spiritual soul-forces, and the physical piece of ground, there arises that which we meet with as the peculiar charm appertaining to the characteristics of a people, that which a man who is not clairvoyant can merely feel in a country, but which a man who observes country and people with clairvoyant consciousness, is able to see.
"Now how does what may be called the work of the Archangels, the Folksouls, take place in this etheric body which rises above the ground? What is the work of the Archangel, how does he work into the human beings who move about upon this ground and live within this cloud of the Folk-spirit? He works into it in such a way that his power expresses itself in three ways in man. It is the etheric aura of the people that works into them, weaves through them, is active within them. Indeed this etheric aura works into the human being in such a way that three parts in him are affected by it. Through the mingling of these three parts arises the peculiar character which belongs to a man who lives in this etheric aura of the people. What part of man does this affect? It acts on a threefold nature in the temperaments. It acts on the temperaments which are themselves immersed in the emotional life of man, those that work in the etheric body of man, but not on the so-called melancholic temperament. The etheric aura of the folk acts upon the choleric, the phlegmatic and the sanguine temperaments; on the whole, therefore, the power of the etheric aura of the folk flows into these three temperaments. Now these three may be mingled in many different ways and may co-operate differently in different human individuals. You may think of an endless variety of ways in which the three forces co-operate, when one influences another, or conquers it, etc. Thus arise the many configurations which we meet with, e.g., in Russia, in Norway or Germany. That which works into the temperaments constitutes the national character of man. The difference existing in this respect between the several individuals, is only caused by the degree of the mingling. National temperaments are therefore mingled according to the interpenetration of the folk aura." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1929), lecture 2, GA 121.
"The divining rod is a branch which has been carved into a fork, the way branches fork on a tree, and it is held by the two prongs. But how did Professor Benedikt arrive at his conclusions? He did it with the help of certain individuals whom he calls 'darkness-adapted.' He calls them this because when they observe other people in the dark, they see colors. Experiments have established that the colors thus seen on a person's left side are different from those on his right side. Benedikt had the help of two such persons in his experiments. It becomes clear that these colors seen in a dark room, so dark that there is no possibility of ordinary physical sight, are what Benedikt calls emanations. We would call them deep physical aura. In this way it was possible for Professor Benedikt, with the help of 'darkness-adapted' persons to prove, not only that human beings are asymmetric; i.e., show different colors on the two sides of their body, but also that the whole color picture changes when the divining rod is held. The experiment can be carried out in a laboratory; all that is needed is a bowl with water or a piece of metal. Thus in a room that is made dark one can prove what causes the effect produced by the rod.
"...I must emphasize, so that there can be no misunderstanding, that what we are here concerned with has nothing to do with what I describe in my book THEOSOPHY as the aura. What I describe reveals man's higher soul and spirit. What Professor Benedikt discovers in his darkroom is something that exists below the threshold, that is, not above but below the threshold of man's ordinary consciousness. These emanations or radiations are not perceptible to ordinary physical sight. What is interesting for us is the fact that a modern natural scientist finds it acceptable not only to speak about but to investigate scientifically a subconscious aura. It is also interesting that Benedikt himself finds it necessary to indicate that an aptitude for using the divining rod is not an indication of a higher kind of human capability. On the contrary it is seen to be a talent connected with man's lower organization and denied to those who are intellectually developed. It is shown that the ability of certain people to make the rod dip especially strongly is connected with lower soul impulses of a kind not perceptible to the ordinary senses, at least not in the normal way. That is why Professor Benedikt always needs 'darkness-adapted' persons for his experiments." — Rudolf Steiner, ASPECTS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), lecture 4, GA 176.
"[T]he human aura, when seen from the front, acquires a kind of coronet, a wreath of astrality, through which the rays of the etheric body pass. That is the halo which those gifted with the ancient clairvoyance perceived in those whose etheric aura shone brightly because of the purity of their being. This is what we see depicted in pictures. That is what is meant by the halo, that is what becomes visible to the clairvoyant who clearly sees the aura round the head. The inner astral aura, the inner astral substance, through a peculiar characteristic of the brain, is retained and disposed around the head.
"Please try to grasp this process very clearly. Etheric-astral substance in man flows from below upwards. This ethericastral substance expands in the brain in such a way as to fill it, but is held back there, just as a ray of light which falls upon a mirror is arrested and thrown back. Here we have the true mirroring-process. Because the astral stuff of the brain is held back, it reflects itself, and what in this way enters into you and is reflected, is your thought, your conscious feeling, what you normally experience as your soul-life. And it is only because this astral part is so to speak tied together or sewn together by the etheric currents streaming through the brain, which thus effect a union between the inner astrality and the outer, that knowledge of the outer world comes about. Everything that we know of the outer world we know because the outer astrality unites with the inner astrality by virtue of the strange astral cap or hood which everyone has.
"Yes, my dear friends, even the history of civilisation will still be greatly enriched by means of occultism. Let me draw your attention to the fact that in ancient times men actually saw such things, and that the aura which was in olden times still visible was copied in men's clothing. Men adopted helmets because they were shaped like the astral cap or hood which crowns every man. All clothing originated in this way, through man's imitating in his dress the etheric or the astral element which he had around him. If we want to understand ancient garments, priestly robes in particular, if we want to know why this or that originated, we only need to be able to look clairvoyantly upon what surrounds men as their etheric or astral auras. For the form of these auras was reproduced in ancient garments, and is still represented in the vestments connected with religious cults or rituals. Nowadays — I say this by the way — we have become so corrupted by materialism that we ignore the aura and will have nothing to do with the kind of clothing which represents what man bears within him. The craze for nudism has emerged in our time because the materialistic mind is no longer aware of those higher etheric and astral auras which men bear around them, and from which they have derived the shape of their garments. In olden times, though not so very long ago, the colours of these auras were reproduced in human clothing. If you look at pictures by the old masters the colour of the garments still bears witness to a vestigial consciousness of the aura. Notice how Mary is usually depicted with undergarment and cloak of specific colours. The painter could not give to Mary the yellow robe of the Magdalene! Why not? Because the aura of a Magdalene is quite different from that of a Mary! The painter of old brought very clearly to expression that the raiment represented what the human being carries around him supersensibly as a kind of clothing. And if you look at what the figures of the Greek gods wear, you see that not only their clothing, but also their helmet-shaped headdresses and the like — as apparent for example in the case of Pallas Athene — are due to the way the Greek sculptors were conditioned to think of the auras of their gods." — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), lecture 9, GA 129.
A discussion of mystical
auras in general,
from a different source:
"An aura, according to New Age metaphysics, is a colored outline, or set of contiguous outlines, allegedly emanating from the surface of an object. Auras are not to be confused with the aureoles or halos of saints, which are devices of Christian iconography used to depict the radiance of light associated with divine infusion. In the New Age, even the lowly amoeba has an aura, as does the mosquito and every lump of goat dung. The aura supposedly reflects a supernatural energy field or life force that permeates all things. Human auras allegedly emerge from the chakras. Under ordinary circumstances, auras are only visible to certain people with special psychic power. However, with a little bit of training, or with a special set of Aura Goggles with 'pinacyanole bromide' filters (available at your local New Age Head Shop), anyone can see auras. You may also use Kirlian photography to capture auras on film. At least that is what New Age spiritualists believe.
"On the other hand, you may also see auras if you have a migraine, a certain form of epilepsy, a visual system disorder or a brain disorder. These auras, however, are somewhat different from the kind encouraged by most aura training exercises. These involve staring at an object placed against a white background in a dimly lit room. What one sees is due to retinal fatigue and other natural perceptual processes, not the unleashing of hidden psychic powers. Something similar happens when you stare at certain colored or black and white patterns. Vision is not the verbatim recording of the outside world. When looking at a colored object, for example, the eye does not transmit to the brain a continuous series of duplicate impressions. The brain itself supplies much of the visual perception. In short, even if auras are perceived, that is not good evidence that there is an energy field in the physical or supernatural world corresponding to the perceptions.
"...[T]he best aura reader in the West was tested before a live television audience and failed miserably. The Berkeley Psychic Institute (BPI) sent their top aura reader for a chance to win $10,000 if she could prove her powers. She agreed that the devised test was fair and accurate. The test was televised on a program hosted by Bill Bixby. James Randi put up the $10,000. The psychic was presented with about twenty people on stage and was asked if she could see their auras. She said that she could see the auras, they all had one and they emanated at least a foot or two above each person's head. The twenty aura-wearing people then went offstage. A curtain was lifted, revealing a number of partitions behind which only some of the twenty people were standing. Thus, Bixby and the psychic were looking at twenty partitions but only several of them had a person behind it. The psychic was asked if she could see any auras creeping up above the partitions. She said she could. To get her ten grand all she had to do was correctly identify each partition that had a person behind it. She was to do this by seeing each person's aura above the partition. The audience was given an aerial camera view of the proceeding. Well, the psychic claimed that she saw an aura above all the partitions and that there was a person behind each partition. The partitions were removed, revealing about 6 people behind the partitions. The psychic didn't even seem surprised. She might console herself that 6 out of 20 is not bad in a hostile arena.
"Of course, the test only demonstrates the lack of aura reading power of one person, not that there is no such thing as an aura or that auras are not indicative of mental, emotional and physical health or sickness. However, Randi's offer is still open to any psychic who wants to try it, except that now the prize is over $1,000,000. Hurry, though, the offer ends March 6, 2010.* Why is there not a line of psychics outside Randi's house? If what the psychics say is true about auras and reading them, taking this money would be easier than taking candy from a baby. Even if there are no poor psychics who need the money, they might still demonstrate their powers and give the prize to their favorite charity.
"The Berkeley Psychic Institute has a special place in my heart. One day a few years ago, I noticed a poster from BPI on a bulletin board near my office at Sacramento City College. In addition to information about BPI, the poster exclaimed: You may not be psychotic, you may be psychic! I wrote a note to our school psychologist who handled the 'psychologically challenged' at the time. I told her I was concerned about the poster. She wrote me back and asked me how in the world did I know that she had attended BPI. (If I occasionally express a bit of disdain for psychologists and therapists, please keep in mind that I have had a traumatic adulthood, dotted with experiences such as this one. I know. I should have told her I was psychic.)
"I was familiar with BPI from their work at an annual local affair. Every year in May at the University of California at Davis there is a Whole Earth Festival reminiscent of the sixties. For three days the campus is filled with tie-dyed shirts, psychedelic music, incense burning, children with flowers in their hair, marijuana smoking, gurus, massages with scented oils, handcrafts, the latest in New Age healing and religion, karma patrol (for those who overdose on drugs), etc. The Aura Reading Booth is run by BPI. For a few dollars, one sits in a chair in the great outdoors with the music playing, the incense wafting, and people swaying while someone from BPI reads your aura. Actually, the BPI psychic uses colored crayons to fill in a piece of paper pre-printed with a series of outlines in the vague shape of a person. Then the psychic tells you what your aura reveals. They only charge a few dollars and for the longest time I considered their activity a harmless parlor game. But now I feel I should put up posters near their booth saying, If you see auras, you may not be psychic; you may have a brain or vision disorder. See your physician ASAP." — Robert Todd Carroll, "Aura", THE SKEPTIC'S DICTIONARY, http://www.skepdic.com/auras.html.
— Compiled by Roger Rawlings
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also see "Human Nature, Human Potential"