The Astral Body by A. E. Powell: more things in heaven and earth

The Astral Body: And Other Astral PhenomenaThe Astral Body: And Other Astral Phenomena by Arthur E. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This follow-on volume, published in 1927, to the author’s The Etheric Double: The Health Aura of Man, extends the survey of the unseen world around us to the next level: that of the astral realm.

The methodology is the same: the author combed through about 40 Theosophical texts to distill the information on the astral body and astral realm into a series of short, well-organized chapters. Again, for those of us who think of ourselves as living in a purely physical world, it is mind-expanding stuff. According to the clairvoyants whose visions form the basis of these teachings, we are all living in the astral world already. It is the world of our sensations, emotions, and desires. We each have an astral body, composed of astral matter, which is not different from the physical matter we’re familiar with except in being much more diaphanous. Like physical matter, it has grades, corresponding to our solid, liquid, and gaseous phases (as well as a few more). Our astral body is formed like our physical one, except that it fades out beyond the boundary of the physical, producing the phenomenon known as the astral aura, which some people can see. Every night, when we sleep, our astral body detaches from the physical and has experiences of its own in the astral realm; when we die, our astral body detaches permanently, and goes on to a further destiny in the astral realm. There are bodies and realms beyond the astral, so our astral body, too, will die. What happens then? That is the subject of the author’s next book: The Mental Body.

The Theosophists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were optimistic that their discoveries would help usher in an age in which humanity would break the chains of materialism which hold us to a low level of spiritual development. That has not happened yet, but the teachings, which are based on the empirical findings of many people, are still with us in the form of this book and others like it. My own inclination is to believe that their findings are mostly correct. Our true existence is in a world much vaster than the one we usually think of–and which in itself is already big enough, to be sure. This book provides a brief and authoritative overview of one part of that vaster world: the astral plane. Since it is the plane of feelings and desires, it’s one in which we all have an enormous stake. This book does much to help the reader gain insight into that part of life, and into the mystery of the cosmos altogether.

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