Most people can see the vital body. Hold your hand against a dark background in a somewhat subdued light. Shake the hand lightly so as not to focus on it. You should see something resembling the following illustration.

There is a slight band, about 5 mm, surrounding the hand where there is no visible aura. Then a grayish fog-like aura is visible of the size of 5-10 cm depending on the level of vitality. Where there are injuries to the fingers, like after a minor operation, there will be an empty band radiating out from the injured area. Actually, the vital body has the same shape and size as the physical body, what we see is an emanation from it.

The vital body is not a separate body like the other subtle bodies, but is a part of the physical body, being its subtlest element. Hence it is also called the etheric double. It administers the flow of vital force (prāna) to the various organs through its numerous energy channels (nādis). Traditional Indian scriptures say there are 72,000 such nādis, but I doubt anyone has actually sat down and counted the exact number. These are probably the same as the meridians known from acupuncture.

All living organisms exchange etherical matter. There is thus an exchange of vitality going on subconsciously. People with pets are often attached to the exchange of etherical matter between themselves and their pet. They believe they love the pet, but largely they love the exchange of vitality with the animal. One can feel this exchange if one is in close proximity to an unpleasant and unhealthy person. Similarly, one can feel it when in the company of someone radiating vitality and joy. You just feel either drained or uplifted. Much of what is love between individuals and the pleasure of being in each other’s proximity or cuddling is due to an exchange of etheric matter.

Mostly this exchange is unconscious, but it can be used consciously in the healing arts. If someone has a weak organ or some other disease, one with a strong vital body can direct a flow of vitality (“prāna”) from himself to that area in the other person. This kind of healing does of course not heal the organ, but invigorates the vital body of the patient so it can better help heal the diseased organ itself. The problem with healing is that the healer gives away some of his own vitality. He or she may even pick up the malfunctional etherical matter of the patient. Thus, a healer may eventually suffer the very illness he or she is healing.

Plants have vital bodies also. Anyone with some experience with plants will know the invigorating influence they can have. It is well known that if you direct negativity towards a plant, i.e. harm its vital body, it will not thrive, while loving care has the opposite effect.

The vital body is strengthened through wholesome, organically grown food with strong vital bodies. Modern agriculture does not support a good vital body in plant food. Nor do animal farms with no care for the animals’ wellbeing produce vitality in the animals. Animal products for food should come from free range animals brought up on grass and wholesome food.

There are chakras, or energy centers, in the vital body, just as in all the subtle bodies. They are located in the same places in all the bodies. In the vital body they are like command centers directing the flow of prāna to the rest of the vital body. There are numerous chakras, but seven are the most important ones. In the etherical body they are generally colorless.

  1. The brain and the top of the head
  2. Between the eyebrows
  3. At the throat
  4. In the middle of the chest
  5. Midway between the breast bone and the navel
  6. Midway between the navel and the pubic bone
  7. The perineum

The theosophists ignore this second chakra and use the spleen chakra instead. That is a gross error since the rising of prāna kundalinī is inside the spine, not in the spleen.

There are pink chakras in the palms of the hands. They can be used for healing. There is an eighth chakra about 30-40 cm above the head called Brahmara. It is very potent and one should only meditate on it under guidance and at an advanced level of one’s sadhana (spiritual practice). You need to open and activate the seven major chakras first.

The etherical body of a living person can influence other people positively or negatively, like all the other bodies can. Certain people can vampirize on other people’s etherical body and so to speak steal their vital force. In such people’s company you feel drained and exhausted. Similarly, one may out of love for someone in distress channel vital force to his or her etherical body invigorating the person. This happens constantly between lovers.

Being in the company of good friends is also a source of positive etherical exchange. But as soon as you feel someone wants something from you it is probably a one sided exchanged and best left avoided.

If you feel love for someone and it is unremitted, it usually means they do not feel invigorated by you like you do by them. It can also be an astral phenomenon. But physical love tends to depend on etherical exchange. Astral resonance comes later. The the couple may discover that despite the good physical match they are terrible emotional matches and the relationship breaks apart. Some people jump into relationships based on the physical and etherical alone and then hope the best. Sometimes they are lucky, often not.

Etherical love is the most common “love” known to man and animals. When two living bodies lie together there is an intense exchange of etherial matter (prāna). This is invigorating and stimulating to both parties if they are in sympathy or “love” as they would say. They will feel dependent on this exchange and miss each other when they don’t get it for a while. It is the same if it is two humans or a human and an animal. Contemporary so-called Tantric practitioners often do nothing spiritual except invigorate the etherical body. Regarding enlightenment it is useless. It can have as great a therapeutic value as good sex, where etherical matter is exchanged, but that is it. If you are single and sexually frustrated, you can go to a “Tantric” and get healed and have your body and genitals massaged lovingly. Just don’t think of it as anything but sophisticated prostitution.

Most people need this etherical exchange in sex in order to feel good. At some high level of progress you draw the etheric substance from the surroundings and do not need physical intimacy anymore. This does not mean that just because you have repressed your sexual urges, you are at this stage of etheric interaction with the surroundings. It just means you are depleting yourself of a pleasure of life and will not feel as invigorated as others do. So, celibacy is not a good thing unless it happens spontaneously and you have no urge anymore. Not even wet dreams.

Upon death the vital body stays with the physical body and slowly dissipates into the surroundings. Usually it will float over the grave for some days. This is usually what is considered a ghost. It is quite harmless since it has no intelligence or intent. Eventually it will dissipate and vanish. But it is one of the reasons there is such a spooky mood at graveyards. The deceased person can even remain in the etherical body for a few hours or days. This does not happen if the body is cremated.

If the vital body is strongly infused with energy from the astral body, and if there is strong attachment to the physical level, then the astral body and etherical body may stay connected after the physical death and form a “regular” ghost. Such a ghost can haunt places, either malevolently or benevolently or simply neutrally for a long time. The length of time depending on how long it takes the astral body to break the connection with the etherical. It can take hours or years depending on the level of attachment the individual had to the physical world. He or she is using the etherical body in place of a physical. Often such poor souls do not realize they are dead. I know of one woman who was an ardent meditator and died. She haunts her ashram as a ghost believing she is in a higher state of consciousness. She is just attached to her ashram life and won’t let go.

After physical death there will be a period of astral life. But more about that later. We are concerned with cases where a dead person is so attached to the physical world he or she won’t let go of the etherical body and lives as a ghost. Such ghosts are usually attached to sensual experiences like sex, drinking, smoking or hard drugs. They will try to suck etherical matter from people engaged in such acts or even try to possess them.