That ball of black light raises the whole question of so-called "psychic" abilities.
The first thing to know is that these special abilities and gifts exist. The second is that there is a superphysical "realm" or "domain" to which they provide access.
The third thing to know is that a relationship—though not always a direct or obvious one—exists between elements in the superphysical realm and elements in the physical realm.
The fourth thing to know is that nothing to do with this territory is accessible to or demonstrable using scientific methodology evolved for dealing with purely physical phenomena.
I use the term superphysical deliberately.
The word, supernatural, carries with it a huge bunch of garbage, and in any case, the area it refers to is just as natural as any other area of experience.
If you mention anything to do with this area to a conservative Christian you can just about smell the fear.
Eastern teachers are rather more relaxed, but they will tell you to be careful of the siddhis, a collective term for the psychic gifts. They can be a trap, especially so if you try and use them to increase your personal power, wealth, or social leverage.
[It's not that one is "punished" by an "angry" God for serious misbehaviour—it is simply that this area is a distraction. For as long as you explore it, you make no progress in your spiritual life. It is one aspect of the outward travels of the prodigal.]
If you are seriously involved in healing, you will almost inevitably encounter superphysical phenomena sooner or later, and you may even discover that you appear to have some ability to manipulate the phenomena. This is a temptation that I suggest you resist, not because it is, gasp, magic, but because it is a distraction.
It is not your function as a mystic to manipulate or direct such phenomena as you become aware of. While they are not usually visible to everyday human beings, they are nevertheless part of the everyday world. They are the province of the magician—and the priest.
Your function as a mystic, as a spiritual healer, is to transcend these phenomena, to realise (i.e., make real) the presence of God. You are to provide a bridge between the Garden and the Everyday World. In my own case, most of my mystical experiences have occurred in a context of healing, which at least for me seems to permit the transition more readily than other areas of experience.
Coming relatively fresh to this area, the problem that I experienced lay in the lack of useful and easily accessible information that might provide me with maps of this new territory.
What I had to learn is that in one sense, a map was an attempt to systematise, to model an area of experience and so enable me to more readily comprehend it, and beyond that control it. Not really possible, or only within limits. But we will look for maps anyway because that is the way we have learned in Darwin's world to be successful.
It's not that the search for a map is wrong. It is simply that in limiting ourselves to that which we can manipulate, we miss out on the possibility of realising the presence of God. This was the mistake Judas made: the only way that he could see for Jesus to be effective was as a temporal king exercising personal power.
Once you have a little experience under your belt you will be better able to see beyond these deficiencies, familiarity will generate its own meaning for you, and you will be better able to distinguish the genuine from the tv script.
Anyway, let's start with auras and subtle bodies. Yes they do exist, perhaps not scientifically, but then, as E.E. Cummings wrote: "Who pays atte ntion to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you."
As far as I have travelled, the map provided by theosophy corresponds with my own experience.
According to this, matter exists in various degrees of fineness. The coarsest matter is that subject to scientific measurement and technological manipulation. Beyond that matter exists in a form that is outside the present scope of science, but which lends itself to manipulation by those who trouble to learn how. In this area of operation we can identify a number of the "alternative" health modalities. They are effective and no more to be despised than the purely scientific methodology that provided me with a couple of metal hip joints and a life free of pain.
Beyond this again are the territories proper to the mystic. When we become aware of matter in this form we are also aware of its continuity throughout the universe. But as long as we are thinking in terms of manipulation, of control or command, we thereby set up a duality, a subject/object self/other relationship that excludes us from this third territory.
Let's have a closer look.
Consider a human being. Everybody can register that person's physical existence. Most of us are also capable of identifying a thin gunmetal blue layer extending about a centimetre beyond the body.
This we can call the etheric body, which coexists with the physical body and extends slightly beyond the surface. (If we want to get controversial at this point, we might add that this etheric body, separated after death from its physical component, is likely what people see when they see a "ghost".)
These two taken together form the first of seven "bodies".
A similar but finer body extends approximately 300mm beyond the physical body. This is the astral body. Whereas the etheric body mimics the outline of the physical body quite closely, the astral body is much more generalised in shape.
Many people are able to "see" this body, and it is possible without too much trouble to train oneself to do so. It is at this point that language starts to cause difficulty, as the word "see" does not completely answer to the meaning required. This is the area in which I located the ball of black light in Yvonne's aura.
Several people looking at the same object might be expected to report a similar experience. But imagine that one of the persons was normal sighted, one was red-green colour blind, one of them blue-yellow colour blind, and one of them able to see only black and white. Let's say another was very short-sighted, one astigmatic, and one blind.
This is analogous to what we encounter in reporting on the astral body. Even when all of the persons concerned are normal-sighted they can be expected to report variously on what they experience. "Seeing" is not quite what is happening.
This is unfortunate as perhaps the key feature of this body is its "colour". When people speak about auras, it is the astral body, primarily, they are referring to.
Skilled and practised readers of an aura report much more consistently.
The "colours" of an astral aura are determined in two ways: first, by the emotional history of the person concerned, and secondly by the emotions he is currently experiencing. The astral body is also quite frequently called the emotional body.
Evidence of disease may also be present. The relationship between emotion and disease is well-established, in any case, outside of this model.
Next, and interpenetrating the denser bodies, is the manasic body, also known as the mental body. This extends probably 300-600mm beyond the astral body and is even more general in its outline. The ability to "see" this body is quite rare, even among skilled auric readers.
In the same way that the physical body exists as solid, as liquid, as gas and as "ether", there are two components to the manasic body, the concrete and the abstract, with the abstract itself divided further into the causal and the soul bodies.
If the astral body is the emotional body, the concrete manasic body is the seat of the will. This is the territory in which magicians of one sort or another typically operate, by manipulating elements in it so as to influence the behaviour of coarser matter.
At death, the physical, astral and concrete manasic bodies, sequentially dissolve into their constituent elements. They are created anew with each incarnation. The causal body and the soul, together with four finer bodies make up the permanent component.
At this point, the word "incarnation" may disturb some readers. If that's you, please skip over to the page on reincarnation.
Without further comment at this point, I will note that the causal body is the repository of karma. As each of the temporary bodies dissolves into its components, its nature is absorbed into the next finer body, until the essence, the quality, of a particular lifetime is pooled in the causal body, the densest of the reincarnating bodies, along with the unresolved karma from previous existences.
OK, go and check out the karma page if that's what you have to do.
Now, one's spiritual journey, the return trip of the prodigal, if you like, can be conceived in terms of a consciousness that is successively aware of one's existence and identity in each of these successively finer bodies.
And this is the point of the warnings about the siddhis, the psychic gifts that often arrive along the way. The siddhis are normally associated, at least at first, with a consciousness that has attained an awareness at concrete manasic level. If you begin to focus your attention on these, especially with a view to increasing your power, your knowledge, or your security, you will not progress spiritually.
You may gain the whole world, though that is extremely unlikely, but you will surely postpone for some considerable time the opportunity to attain to a conscious awareness of your own soul. Why is this important?
God does not inhabit the denser regions, the physical, the astral, the concrete manasic, the causal realms. He stayed back in the Garden. Believe it. The first level of awareness at which God may be experienced directly is at soul level. (OK. Check out The Fall.) Until we are aware at soul level, God is experienced as separate, as other than ourself, and known only by report. This is the way most people experience God.
So, it's simple. If you want to get into magic, you miss out on the personal and direct experience of God. And all the magic in the world is not going to get you past the angel with the flaming sword that guards the gate of Eden.
If you can let the siddhis be, you will eventually become aware of your causal existence. You will become aware of your karmic history, and you will realise the utter impossibility of ever working that out.
You will realise the cumulative consequences of your lifetimes of existence separate from God, as fallen man. We're not talking punishment here, just consequences. And for a while, you have to sit with it, until the utter bankruptcy - in karmic terms - of your separate existence becomes inescapable.
If you want an analogy here, we can return once more to the prodigal son, bankrupt, and envying the swine for the husks he was feeding them when his own stomach was empty. And something stirs within him, and he turns his steps homeward. And his Father, seeing him coming from afar, comes out to greet him.
Here we have the first direct awareness of God as we move from causal consciousness to soul consciousness, the beginnings of mystical experience.
So far, so good.
The next body is the Buddhic body, sometimes called the Christ body. If you are conscious at this level, you will begin to realise your oneness with all that surrounds you. At the same time, you will preserve your awareness of your own identity, though it will be a very different experience from the despair of causal consciousness, or the heady presumption of the siddhis.
W.T. Stace in Mysticism and Philosophy, describes this state without benefit of subtle bodies, and calls it extrovertive mysticism. It is, he says, the characteristic mystical experience of western civilisation.
Up to this point , I am able to report from personal experience that such is the case. Beyond this, I have to take on trust what others have reported before me, beyond a fleeting experience that might have been a moment of Atmic awareness.
The final three bodies are the Atmic, the Monadic, and the Adic, according to the theosophical model. In atmic consciousness, one becomes aware of the unity of all creation, but one's personal identity, and the individual identity of all created objects, disappears. Stace describes this state as the experience of undifferentiated unity, which he terms introvertive mysticism.
It is the characteristic mystical experience of eastern civilisation, and without characterising it in terms of bodies as I have, Stace suggests strongly that it is a more advanced state.
Awareness at Monadic or Adic level, from what I have read, is something not normally present in incarnate form.
And here we introduce a further concept - superphysical beings. We'll save that for another page, too. That's enough for today.
The essence of my present belief system is that there is an "I" which persists prior to, incidental to and subsequent to my human existence. It is this "I" that absorbs input from the world around, by way of my human senses, and which processes and interprets this input according to the level of consciousness we have attained, and which grows and develops in its scope and capacity from one lifetime to the next over many lifetimes.
The analogy is a little like that of an internal cinema in which "I" watch the world projected onto an internal screen, and make decisions about my part in it.
Recent developments in the field of neuroscience have suggested that this model of an internal screen and an independent watcher/evaluator/decision maker presently occupying our body should be abandoned in favour of a concept that combines the two. The watcher and the screen are the same thing, a function of chemical activity within the body and specifically the brain. As presented by writers such as Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennet, these ideas are enormously compelling, though still highly controversial.
Other writers have paid attention to that function of the brain which recognises our "boundaries", and enables us to move around in a world of external objects without harm or, even more important, to our advantage. Thus we can guide our fork towards food and then guide our fork to our mouths. We can keep a safe distance from fierce dogs. And so on.
According to these writers, we can learn how to turn this boundary function off, and one of the practices that will do this is meditation. We then lose our sense of separation from the rest of creation, and with it, very often, the sense of danger that may accompany the presence of something that is "not us". It can be, therefore, a profoundly peaceful or relaxing experience. It can also be much more, as our mystical traditions attest.
Once again, it is important for us to remember that the central issue for us is our own experience. The actual details of this experience will remain the same whatever belief system we encounter or employ to elucidate it.
Maybe there is not, and never has been and never will be an "I" separate from our present physical existence. Even so, over countless generations, this "mystical" experience remains, and irrespective of any belief systems about its nature or implications, its presence has profoundly changed the lives and the characters of those who encounter it. They partake of the unity, the "worldness" of all creation including themselves. They are in one sense equipped thereby to be the true guardians, the kaitiaki, of our world.
The experience serves as a counter, as a balance, to those whose experience of the world as unvaryingly separate, leads them to exploit it and its inhabitants selfishly and, in the long run, dangerously.
As they say in the advertising business, "Watch this space."