The Strange World of Emotion

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Astral Bodies - 3

Sources of confusion

There are several sources of confusion in literature on the psychic /occult aspects of reality.

One major source is the meaning of the term "astral ".

Early (pre-1900) theosophical writers were Madame Blavatsky (called HPB after her initials), Annie Besant, William Judge, Charles W Leadbeater. Leadbeater is the best of these writers, as far as clarity of style is concerned.

They often used "astral " to refer to plane 2, the energy plane. Hence in some books the energy plane is called the astral plane. But "astral " was also used to refer to plane 3, the desire plane.

I use "astral" to refer to plane 3, and use "etheric " to refer to plane 2.  So, for me, plane 2 is the etheric plane. Early 20th century writers like Arthur Findley used the term "etheric", and this is where I got the term from.

Hence when you come across the use of  "astral", you need to see whether it refers to plane 2 or plane 3. Sometimes, as in the phrase "the astral world", it might be a common term to describe both planes 2 and 3.

Now I come to the really confusing ideas

This is the use of the terms "soul, ego, spirit ".

Until the modern era (beginning perhaps with Descartes), the concept of consciousness was vague and muddled. It was described by the traditional phrase "body, soul and spirit". Descartes brought the " I " or ego (which is more or less the personality) into contemporary thinking, and this change was made permanent by Freud. I follow Freud in this use of "ego".

So how does the ego fit into "body, soul and spirit" ?  It doesn't.
What seems to be the case to me is that "body" equals the physical body plus the bad parts of the ego (negative emotions like guilt, and feelings of violence, etc) ; and "soul" equals the good parts of the ego (its ethical idealisms and nobility of character). "Spirit" seems to be the spiritual agency.

In my use of terms, I ignore the body. Body is only the vehicle for consciousness. A body is required in order for the ego to experience the world. So I only use ego and soul. For me, "soul" is the spiritual agency. I do not use the term "spirit ".

In the works of some theosophical writers, the term "Ego" is used to mean the same as what I call "soul" or perhaps "spirit ".  And for such writers, their use of  "soul" is more or less equivalent to personality (or the modern use of "ego"). 

To equate theosophical terms to my terms :

"Ego" (theosophy) equals "soul" (my term).
"Soul" (theosophy) equals "ego" (my term).

So its rather a mess.

The first of these three articles was Astral Bodies - 1.

The second article was Astral Bodies - 2.

I describe my views on ego and soul in more detail in an article "Ego and Soul". This is on my website for my ideas on spirituality, Patterns of Spirituality. The address is


Madame Blavatsky or Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Avoid her books until you know a lot about theosophy.

Annie Besant. A good writing style.

Alice Bailey. A good writing style.

C W Leadbeater. A good stylist who in his early life seemed to have great ability in extra- sensory perception, but lost it in his later life. Ignore his writings from his Australian period.

William Judge. Became the chief writer of theosophy to American audiences.

Arthur Findley. A good writing style. Wrote "On the edge of the etheric".

Rudolf Steiner. Produced his own version of theosophy. Can be a difficult writer to understand.


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Ian Heath
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