The Cross-Cultural History of Auras

References to the aura can be traced back to the very beginnings of civilization. In the West we are likely most familiar with the aura as a glowing light or halo surrounding the heads of Jesus, Mary and saints in religious art. The aura denoted spiritual energy long before it's depiction as halos in Christianity, however. Ancient Egyptian art is full of representations of the aura. Energy as the basis for life is at the core of Eastern religions; in China this energy is called "Chi," in India, it's referred to as "prana." In mystical Hindu writings one finds reference to the "thousand-petaled lotus of light" surrounding the head of those who achieved enlightenment. (Walker, 373)

One finds numerous allusions to visions of light and to light as the source of life in literature as well. One of the earliest written examples comes from the writings of Hildegard von Bingen (1098 - 1179), who produced major visionary and theological writings over the course of her lifetime. She describes in her writings her visions of luminous objects, as well as other visionary experiences of light. She was a composer of music and some say the ethereal tone of her work is the foundation for what has come to be known as New Age music. (Lerman)

Centuries later, Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote of death as a diminishing of light and slowing of the "wheels of Being," which could be said to correspond to the chakras, the body's life energy vortexes referred to in Hindu religion.* Certainly light is cross-culturally held to be the essence of spirit or "God," as is reflected in language such as "divine light," the "light of the Holy Spirit" and "enlightenment." The Bible is full of light imagery.**

*Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
and tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow..."
Lord Alfred Tennyson, In the Valley of Cauteretz, 1847

**Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."
Corinthians 1, 11

"The Lord is the source of my light and my safety, so whom shall I fear?"
Psalm 26:1

Scientific Research Supporting Life Energy Fields

Until recent times, conscious perception of these light energy fields was the province of clairvoyants, healers and "sensitives." With the development of ever more sensitive technology, however, we are now able to objectively measure these energy fields and interactions. That all living organisms are surrounded by electromagnetic fields is not disputed. The electrostatic field surrounding the human body can be easily measured by a static meter. These fields have been measured and even photographed in experiments with humans, animals and plants.

For example, EKG's measure the electrical impulses of the heart. EEG's measure the magnetic fields around our heads resulting from the tiny electrical currents in the brain. Polygraph tests measure the human body's electrical potential, and fluctuations in this energy provide feedback in response to the subject's thoughts and emotions. Kirlian photography captures the electromagnetic fields of living systems on film, and has proven that the conditions of these fields correspond to the life energy of the biosystems they emanate from.

Kirlian photography is able to transfer the aura of the subject to film by placing the subject of the photograph (such as a leaf or a human hand) directly on the film or photographic plate and passing high-frequency electrical currents through it. Kirlian photography has demonstrated that the auric energy emanating from plants and animals changes with alterations in the physical, mental and emotional states of the subject and its environment.

Semyon Kirlian, the developer of this photography, was asked in 1950 to photograph the energy radiations of two nearly identical leaves presented to him by a stranger. He and his wife stayed up late into the night, but despite their efforts one leaf revealed strong energy flares on film while the other barely registered even weak luminescence. When they showed their dismal results to the stranger the next day, he became very excited, for despite their identical appearance, the leaf that had revealed strong energy had been plucked from a healthy plant, and the leaf that had registered little energy had been plucked from a diseased plant. Subsequent Kirlian research has shown that the energy photographed around plants is indeed related to its vitality or life, for if a leaf is injured or allowed to die the energy will gradually diminish and then disappear. (Tompkins and Bird, 201-2)

Kirlian photographic research of the human aura reveals energy fields surrounding people's physical bodies. Scientific research has further determined that this energy is concentrated in hundreds of points on the body that seem to correspond to Chinese acupuncture points. (Tompkins and Bird, 204-5)

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