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The Constitution of Man
Vital Body—Desire Body—Mind
We have spoken of the Earth upon which we live as being composed of several invisible realms in addition to the world we perceive by means of our senses. We have also spoken of man as being correlated to these various divisions in nature, and a little thought upon the subject will quickly convince us that in order to function upon the various planes of existence described, it is necessary that a man should have a body composed of their substance, or at least have specialized for his or her own use, some of the material of each of these worlds.
We have said that finer matter, called desire-stuff and mind-stuff, permeates our atmosphere and the solid Earth, even as blood percolates through all parts of our flesh. But that is not a sufficient explanation to account for all facts of life. If that were all, then minerals, which are interpenetrated by the World of Thought and the World of Desire, would have thoughts and desires as well as man. This is not the case, so something more than mere interpenetration must be requisite to acquire the faculties of thought and feeling.
We know that in order to function in this world, to live as a physical being among other like beings, we must have a physical body all our own, built of the chemical constituents of this visible world. When we lose it at death, it profits us nothing that the world is full of just the very chemicals needed to build such a body. We cannot then specialize them, and therefore we are invisible to all others. Similarly, if we did not possess a special body made of ether, we should be unable to grow and to propagate. That is the case with the mineral. Had we no separate individual desire body, we should be unable to feel desires and emotions, there would be no incentive to move from one place to another. We should then be stationary as plants, and did we not possess a mind, we should be incapable of thought, and act upon impulse and instinct as animals do. Someone may of course object to this last statement, and contend that animals do think. So far as our domesticated animals are concerned that is partially true, but it is not quite in the same way that we think and reason. The difference may perhaps best be understood if we take an illustration from the electrical field. When an electric current of high voltage is passed through a coiled copper wire, and another wire is placed in the center of the coils, that wire will become charged with electricity of a lower voltage; so also the animal, when brought within the sphere of human thoughts, evolves a mental activity of a lower order.
Paul, in his writings, also mentions the natural body and the spiritual body while the man himself is a Spirit inhabiting those vehicles. We will briefly note the constitution of the various bodies of man invisible to the physical sight but as objective to spiritual sight as the dense body to ordinary vision.
The Vital (Etheric) Body:
That body of ours is composed of ether is called the "vital body" in Western Mystery Schools, for, as we have already seen, ether is the avenue of ingress for vital force from the Sun and the field of agencies in nature which promote such vital activities as assimilation, growth, and propagation.
This vehicle is an exact counterpart of our visible body, molecule for molecule, and organ for organ, with one exception, which we shall note later. But it is slightly larger, extending about one and one-half inches beyond the periphery of our dense vehicle.
The spleen is the entrance gate of forces which vitalize the body. In the etheric counterpart of that organ solar energy is transmuted to vital fluid of a pale rose color. Thence it spreads all over the nervous system, and after having been used in the body it radiates in streams, much as bristles protrude from a porcupine.
The rays of the Sun are transmitted either directly, or reflected by way of the planets and the Moon. The rays directly from the Sun give spiritual illumination; the rays perceived by way of the planets produce intelligence, morality, and soul growth, but the rays reflected by way of the Moon make for physical growth as seen in the case of plants, which grow differently when planted in the light of the Moon from what is the case when they are planted when the Moon is dark. There is also a difference in plants sown when the Moon is in barren and fruitful signs of the Zodiac.
The solar ray is absorbed by the human Spirit which has its seat in the center of the forehead; the stellar ray is absorbed by the brain and spinal cord; and the lunar ray enters our system through the spleen.
The solar, stellar, and lunar rays are all three-colored, and in the lunar which supplies our vital force, the blue beam is the life of the Father, which cause germination; the yellow beam is the life of the Son, which is the active principle in nutrition and growth; and the red beam is the life of the Holy Spirit, which stimulates to action, dissipating the energy stored by the yellow force. This principle is particularly active in generation.
The various kingdoms absorb this life-force differently, according to their constitution. Animals have only 28 pairs of spinal nerves. They are keyed to the lunar month of 28 days and therefore dependent upon a Group Spirit for an infusion of stellar rays necessary to produce consciousness. They are altogether incapable of absorbing the direct ray of the Sun.
Man is in a transition stage, he has 31 pairs of spinal nerves which keys him to the solar month, but the nerves in the so-called cauda-equina (literally, horse-tail) at the end of our spinal cord are still too undeveloped to act as avenues for the spiritual ray of the Sun. In proportion as we draw our creative force upward by spiritual thought we develop these nerves and awaken dormant faculties of the Spirit. But it is dangerous to attempt that development except under guidance of a qualified teacher, and the reader is earnestly warned not to use any method published in books, nor sold, for their practice usually leads to insanity. The safe method is never sold for money or any earthly consideration however large or small; it is alway freely given as a reward of merit. "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened," said the Christ. If our life is a prayer for illumination, the search will not be uncertain, nor the knock without response.
When solar energy has been transmuted in the spleen it traverses the whole nervous system of the body, glowing with a most beautiful color of a delicate rosy hue. It answers the same purpose as electricity in a telegraph system. We may string wires between cities, erect telegraph stations, install receivers and transmitters. We may even have operators ready at the keys, but until electric fluid is turned into our wires, the telegraph keys will refuse to click.
So also in the body, the human Spirit is operator, and from the central station of the brain, nerves ramify, go through the whole body to all the different muscles. When this vitalizing fluid of which we are speaking traverses the nervous system, the Ego may send his commands to the muscles and cause them to move, but if the vital fluid for any reason does not flow into a certain part of the body such as an arm or a limb, then the Spirit is powerless to move that part of the body and we say that it is paralyzed.
When we are in health, we specialize solar energy in such great quantities that we cannot use it all in the body and therefore it radiates through the pores of our skin in straight streams and serves a similar purpose as an exhaust fan. That machine drives the foul air out of a room or building and keeps the atmosphere within pure and sweet. The excessive vital force which radiates from the body drives out poisonous gases, deleterious microbes, and effete matter, thus tending to preserve a healthy condition. It also prevents armies of disease germs, which swarm about in the atmosphere, from entering, upon the same principle that a fly cannot wing its way into a building through the exhaust fan. Thus it serves a most beneficent purpose even after it has been utilized in our body and is returning to the free state.
It is a curious and most astounding sight when one first observes how, from exposed parts of the body such as hands and face, there suddenly commences to flow a stream of stars, cubes, pyramids, and a variety of other geometrical forms. The writer has more than once rubbed his eyes when he first perceived the phenomenon, for it seemed that he must be suffering from hallucinations. The forms observed are chemical atoms, however, which have served their purpose in the body and are expelled through the pores.
When one has eaten a meal, vital fluid is consumed by the body in great quantities, for it is the cement whereby nature's forces build our food into the body. Therefore the radiations are weakest during the period of digestion. If the meal has been heavy, the outflow is very perceptibly diminished, and does not then cleanse our body as thoroughly as when the food has been digested, nor are the radiations as potent in keeping out inimical germs. Therefore one is most liable to catch cold or other diseases by over-eating.
During ill health the vital body specializes but little solar energy. Then, for a time, the visible body seems to feed upon the vital body, as it were, so that the vehicle becomes more transparent and attenuated at the same rate as the visible body exhibits a state of emaciation. The cleansing odic radiations are almost entirely absent during sickness, therefore complications set in easily.
Though science has not directly observed this vital body of man, it has upon several occasions postulated the existence of such a vehicle as necessary to account for facts in life, and the radiations have been observed by a number of scientists at different times and under varying conditions. Blondlot and Charpentier have called them N-rays after the city of Nantes where the radiations were observed by these scientists; others have named them "The Odic fluid." Scientific investigators who have conducted researches into psychic phenomena have even photographed it when it has been extracted through the spleen by materializing Spirits.
We said in the beginning of this description that the vital is an exact counterpart of the dense body with one exception: it is of the opposite sex, or perhaps we should rather say polarity. As the vital body nourishes the dense vehicle, we may readily understand that blood is its highest visible expression, and also that a positively polarized vital body would generate more blood than a negative one. Woman, who is physically negative, has a positive vital body, hence she generates a surplus of blood which is relieved by the periodic flow. She is also more prone to tears, which are white bleeding, than man, whose negative vital body does not generate more blood than he can comfortably take care of. Therefore it is not necessary for him to have the outlets which relieve excess of blood in woman.
The Desire Body
In addition to the visible body and the vital body we also have a body made of desire stuff from which we form our feelings and emotions. This vehicle also impels us to seek sense gratification. But while the two instruments of which we have already spoken are well organized, the desire body appears to spiritual sight as an ovoid cloud extending from sixteen to twenty inches beyond the physical body. It is above the head and below the feet so that our dense body sits in the center of this egg-shaped cloud as the yolk is in the center of an egg.
The reason for the rudimentary state of this vehicle is that it has been added to the human constitution more recently than the bodies previously mentioned. Evolution of form may be likened to the manner in which the juices in the snail first condense into flesh and later become a hard shell. When our present visible body first germinated in the Spirit, it was a thought-form, but gradually it has become denser and more concrete until it is now a chemical crystallization. The vital body was next emanated by the Spirit as a thought-form, and is in the third stage of concretion which is etheric. The desire body is a still later acquisition. That also was a thought-form at its inception, but has now condensed to desire-stuff, and the mind, which we have only recently received, is still but a mere cloudy thought-form.
Arms and limbs, ears and eyes are not necessary to use the desire body, for it can glide through space more swiftly than wind without such means of locomotion as we require in this visible world.
When viewed by spiritual sight, it appears that there are in this desire body a number of whirling vortices. We have already explained that it is a characteristic of desire-stuff to be in constant motion, and from the main vortex in the region of the liver, there is a constant outwelling flow which radiates toward the periphery of this egg-shaped body and returns to the center through a number of other vortices. The desire body exhibits all the colors and shades which we know and a vast number of others which are indescribable in earthly language. Those colors vary in every person according to his or her characteristics and temperament, and they also vary from moment to moment as passing moods, fancies, or emotions are experienced by him. There is, however, in each one a certain basic color dependent upon the ruling star at the moment of his or her birth. The man in whose horoscope Mars is peculiarly strong usually has a crimson tint in his aura; where Jupiter is the strongest planet the prevailing tint seems to be a bluish tone; and so on with the other planets.
There was a time in the Earth's past history when incrustation was not yet complete, and human beings of that time lived upon islands here and there, amid boiling seas. They had not yet evolved eyes or ears, but a little organ: the pineal gland, which anatomists have called the third eye, protruded through the back of the head and was a localized organ of feeling. It warned the man when he came too near a volcanic crater and thus enabled him to escape destruction. Since then the cerebral hemispheres have covered the pineal gland, and instead of a single organ of feeling, the whole body inside and out is sensitive to impacts, which of course is a much higher state of development.
In the desire body every particle is sensitive to vibrations similar to those which we call sight, sounds, and feelings, and every particle is in incessant motion, rapidly swirling about so that in the same instant it may be at the top and bottom of the desire body and impart at all points to all the other particles a sensation of that which it has experienced. Thus every particle of desire-stuff in this vehicle of ours will instantly feel any sensation experienced by any single particle. Therefore the desire body is of an exceedingly sensitive nature, capable of most intense feelings and emotions.
This is the latest acquisition of the human Spirit, and in most people who have not yet accustomed themselves to orderly, consecutive thought, it is a mere inchoate cloud disposed particularly in the region of the head. When looking at a person clairvoyantly there appears to be an empty space in the center of the forehead just above and between the eyebrows. It looks like the blue part of a gas flame. That is mind-stuff which veils the human Spirit, or Ego, and the writer has been told that not even the most gifted seer can penetrate that veil, said to have been spoken of in ancient Egypt as "the veil of Isis." None may lift it and live, for behind that veil is the Holy of Holies, the temple of our body, where the Spirit is to be left secure from all intrusion.
To those who have not previously studied the deeper philosophies the question may occur: But why all these divisions? Even the Bible speaks only of soul and body, for most people believe soul and Spirit to be synonymous terms. We can only answer that this division is not arbitrary but necessary, and founded upon facts in nature. Neither is it correct to regard the soul and the Spirit as synonymous. Paul himself speaks of the "natural body" which is composed of physical substances: solids, liquids, gases, and ethers; he mentions a "spiritual body," the vehicle of the Spirit, composed of the mind and desire body, and the Spirit itself, which is called "Ego" in Latin or "I" in English.
That term "I" is an application which can be made only by the human Spirit of itself. We may all call a dog, dog; or we may call a table, table, and any one else may apply the same name to the dog and to the table, but only a human being can be called "I." Only he himself can apply that most exclusive of all words, "I," for this is the badge of self-consciousness, the recognition by the human spirit of itself as an entity, separate and apart from all others.
Thus we see that the constitution of man is more complex than appears upon the surface, and we will now proceed to note the effect upon this multiplex being of various conditions of life.
This article was adapted from "The Rosicrucian Mysteries," by Max Heindel.
Contemporary Mystic Christianity
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