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The Subtle Being


The "Emanational" dimension Infinite Consciousness Force
Hidden Existence
Pathotic
Supracausal
Causal Being
Subtle Being
"Gross" Being
Klippotic

Meaning of the Term

The term "Subtle Being" and "Subtle Reality" is used here on the basis of the following somewhat arbitrary and incomplete list

Type description 1 - reference: Ken Wilber uses the term Subtle to indicate the yogic and mystic holonic-evolutionary level intermediate between "Psychic" (in his series = Nature Mysticism) and "Causal" (=Realisation"); it includes many psychic and occult experiences and can be considered as pertaining to the Subtle as defined here (although it also includes other realities and experiences that might also be interpreted as "Inner Gross" - e.g. Kundalini as a classic example).

Type description 2 - reference: Sri Aurobindo's description of the Intermediate Zone would seem to belong to this reality, at least in part (as it also extends to the Causal region)

Type description 3 - reference: Suhrawardian and later derived concepts regarding the Interworld / Barzakh; but these also might include the Inner Gross reality, or at least aspects of it

Type description 4 - reference: Jung's account of the collective unconscious, divested of its biological reductionism ("racial memory") might be a good example of the Subtle Reality. Jung is very weak on metaphysics; his strength lies in his superb phenomenological descriptions - taken from classic mythological, alchemical, and esoteric literature as well as the accounts of his patients and later, his own experiences as well, provide a rich source of material on the phenomena and dynamics of the Subtle reality inasmuch as it interacts with the outer human psyche or physical consciousness (Gross Being). However, some of what he describes also pertains to the Eso and Inner Gross reality; also the vague quality of what defines an archetype means that archetypes could pertain to anything of transpersonal nature (e.g. mystical experiuences are experiences of archetypes).

The above list is in no way definitive - no doubt other descriptions in different esoteriuc traditions can be added here as well.


Other definitions of "Subtle" in Esoteric Teachings

The Sukshma Sthula or Subtle Body is one of the seven principles of man in Blavatskian Theosophy; it is also called the "astral body" but has little similarity with the astral body of Out of Body experiuence (because it cannot move far from the gross physical vehicle), and identified with the Double or Ka

In Sant Mat / Radhasoami cosmology - the Anda (Cosmic Egg) / Sahans-dal Kanwal (Crown Chakra) / Subtle seems to refer to the "Eso Subtle" and is here suggetsed as a Type description for that reality

The term Subtle Physical is used somewhat generically by Sri Aurobindo (in Letters on Yoga) to refer to a wider reality behind the external physical.

In Vedanta (Mandukya Upanishad and later teachings - e.g. Advaita - based on it) "subtle" is used to designate the "dream state" of consciousness, and in Advaita this also includes the Prana, Manas, and Vijnana koshas (= the vehicles of vital force, mins, and higher consciousness) re-interpreted from of the Taittiriya Upanishad.

In Tibetan Buddhism it refers to an intermediate grade between the "gross" and "very subtle" "minds" and "winds" (vayu -= prana).

Although all the above realities each resenting experiences pertaining to their own specific spiritual and yogic tradition - are not necessarily synomous (In Sant Mat the Sahans-dal Kanwal is associated with the Astral, while Sri Aurobindo distinguished between the Subtle Physical, the Vital (=Affective and Astral), and the Inner Being), in all cases they represent a larger reality behind and supporting the gross surface or outer being. While in Vedanta the emphasis is on yogic experience rather than metaohysics, and the definitions offered there are too broad or too vague (or if referring to the dream state alone, not applicable, as dreams pertain to the "gross" level) to be of much use in specific "type descriptions" of states of consciousness for an ontological map or cartography of states of existence. Tibetan Buddhist conceptions obviously refer to a series of ch'i levels, but these seem more related to the etheric or ch'i octaves of the inner or perhaps even the purushic being.

"Subtle" Reality

As defined here, the "Subtle Realm" or "Subtle Being" refers to the emanational reality immediately preceeding the gross realm. These represent a large number of different realities. These are of an occult or mystic nature, and indeed many occult and esoteric experiences would seem to pertain to this reality.

Add to this the "Vertical" dimensions of consciousness means that at least three Subtle Universes can be posited. There are of course further higher ones, progressing to the Manifest Godhead, but these pertain to higher stages of Revelation and Illumination that are not often attained. Obviously, the further from the physical one progresses, the harder and rarer it is for the embodied consciousness to attain these spiritual summits.

The three regions or subregions refrerred to here are:






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page created 29 November 2005