The “Etheric” Body Does Not Exist

Theosophy teaches the existence of a subtle, unseen, “astral body” which is the blueprint, framework, and mould upon and around which the outer shell of the physical body is built. The “astral double,” as it is called, is in effect the energy body since it is the vehicle through which Prana (life energy) flows to the physical body.

Someone has remarked that the teachings from H. P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge quoted in articles such as Mysteries of the Astral Body seem to be confused and mixed up between the “astral body” and the “etheric body.”

But the fact is that there is no such thing as the etheric body and that the confusion the reader may have experienced is due to their having unfortunately accepted and believed the Pseudo-Theosophy teachings of such people as C. W. Leadbeater and Alice Bailey.

Neither H. P. Blavatsky nor the Masters recognise or mention any body matching the description given to the so-called etheric body by Leadbeater, Besant, Bailey, and other subsequent writers.

Blavatsky and the Masters also never use the term “etheric body.”

No-one had ever heard of the etheric body until C. W. Leadbeater claimed to have discovered it by his clairvoyant powers sometime around the early 1900s. He and Annie Besant then altered the existing description and definition of the astral body in order to fit the “newly discovered” etheric body into the details of man’s inner constitution. At the same time they altered the definition and details of all the other “principles” or components in man, resulting in terrible confusion for many students ever since.

In so doing, they casually defied HPB’s cautionary statement of 1889 in an article titled “A Signal of Danger,” made on the authority of the Masters, which said that “The terminology, introduced fifteen years ago in the T.S., [i.e. Theosophical Society] is the true one, . . . This terminology could not be modified, at this hour, without the risk of introducing in Theosophical teachings a chaos as deplorable as it is dangerous for their clarity.”

The table below compares and contrasts the inner constitution of the human being as taught in both Theosophy and Pseudo-Theosophy. There is no reason why the latter should be referred to as “Theosophy,” seeing as it differs overall in almost every single way from the vast, philosophical, and self-consistent system of teaching presented by H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters and was very largely the invention of C. W. Leadbeater, accepted and endorsed by Annie Besant, and subsequently added to and perpetuated by Alice Bailey.

It can be clearly seen that the differences are not merely matters of terminology and different choices of name but that the actual definitions, concepts, and underlying principles have all been altered and re-written in a way that allows no possible compatibility or legitimate correspondence.

Further in depth explanations of some of the major and most important differences and discrepancies between original Theosophy and its later counterfeit version, largely the product and property of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” can be found in numerous articles on this site, ranging from Original Theosophy and Later Versions to Understanding the Logos to The Seven Planes to The Three Logoi to Atman – The Higher Self to Our Seven Divine Parents (A Study in Monads, Rays, and Planets) to Christos – The Christ Principle to Are There Parallel Lines of Evolution or a Single Evolutionary Chain? to Theosophy warns against Ceremonial Magic and beyond. There is also a listing of relevant articles under the heading “PSEUDO-THEOSOPHY/NEO-THEOSOPHY” on the Articles page.


Over the years, various individuals such as the highly respected late English Theosophist Geoffrey Farthing, himself a member of the Adyar Society, have also shown through research and examination that no such thing as the etheric body discovered and described by Leadbeater can possibly exist as per the Masters’ system. In regard to this notion of the “Etheric Double,” Farthing spoke of “the far-reaching effects of a false assumption.”

According to H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters, we only have TWO parts of our being which can really be called “bodies” and these are the physical body and its double known as the astral body. That does not mean that there may not be subtle “forms” associated with some of our other Principles but HPB and the Masters never speak of our Manas or Buddhi, for example, as being our “mental body,” “Buddhic body,” and so on. Least of all would they ever speak of such a philosophical incongruity as an “Atmic body.”

“The “principles,” as already said, save the body, the life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of consciousness.” (HPB, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 100)

The article The Sevenfold Nature of Man explains each of our seven principles in more detail and the article Understanding Our Seven Principles even more so.

According to the writings of the Masters, the teaching about the Seven Principles is of absolutely vital importance. They say that it is the fundamental foundation of the entire Esoteric Doctrine and that a right comprehension of Theosophy is dependent upon a right comprehension of the Seven Principles. No-one can hope to clearly understand or learn anything from HPB’s teachings until they first undertake the necessary step of unlearning the teachings of Leadbeater, Besant, and Bailey.

As was said in the article How to successfully study the Teachings of H. P. Blavatsky:

“. . . it is impossible to gain anything like a clear or accurate understanding of HPB’s teachings while at the same time following the teachings of the likes of Bailey, Leadbeater, and Besant. Their teachings are an entirely different system with entirely different focus, aims, objectives, and terminology to that of the original Theosophy.

“This is the initial thing to realise, otherwise you will just mistakenly assume when you read HPB’s references to the astral body or the Monad or the Seven Rays or the Seven Planes or the Logos or the Kumaras, etc. that she is using those terms and concepts in the same way as those later writers, whereas in fact those later writers use these and over 50 other important terms and concepts in an entirely different way and with entirely different meanings from how they were used by HPB and the Masters in their authentic teachings. This is a proven and undeniable fact which has been shown and demonstrated in depth, point by point, in some of our articles. It is also a fact that the human mind cannot hold to two contradictory understandings or perceptions of something at one and the same time. Thus it is essential, if you want to stand any chance of comprehending the teachings of HPB, to unlearn those later teachings.

“The majority of Alice Bailey students and Leadbeater/Besant followers admit to having great difficulty in understanding HPB’s teachings. Meanwhile, those Theosophists who have nothing to do with the Bailey/Leadbeater/Besant teachings have little problem or difficulty with the Blavatsky teachings. The difficulty and confusion comes from trying to read HPB’s teachings through the lens of those other teachings. It just cannot be done.

“The same applies to some extent to the Agni Yoga teachings of Helena Roerich. Although these are much closer to HPB’s teachings, they are still quite different in some respects and use concepts and terminology in contradictory ways which are liable to cause confusion and misunderstanding.

“Do not approach HPB’s works expecting to find something even slightly similar or compatible with those later teachings. The differences are manifold and irreconcilable. You must be willing to unlearn in order to learn. And if you are not, then there is no point even bothering with HPB because it will be little more than a waste of your time.”

Also of serious significance is the unfortunate fact that the numbering of the Principles and Planes was reversed by Leadbeater. For example, in HPB’s teachings the highest Principle and Plane is referred to as the 7th, whereas the lowest is referred to as the 1st. In the Leadbeater/Besant/Bailey teachings and in the so-called “Theosophical” writings of those who put their trust in those individuals, the highest Principle and Plane will be found referred to as the 1st whilst the lowest is called the 7th.

One may argue that the actual numbers used don’t really matter too much, seeing as they are simply for ease of comprehension and explanation and no Principle or Plane actually has a designated number in actuality. Whilst this is true, the fact is that the reversal of the numbering has had the effect of causing generations of spiritual seekers to be unable to understand or make sense of HPB’s writings.

The law of correspondence and analogy is an essential key – some might say the central key – for comprehension of “The Secret Doctrine,” with all the various groups of seven – such as the Seven Planes, Seven Globes, Seven Sacred Planets, Seven Rounds, Seven Root Races, Seven Sub-Races etc. – corresponding with the order and numbering of the Seven Principles of the human constitution. But if the enumeration of the Principles is REVERSED and the various numbers made to correspond to OTHER Principles, then the whole thing is messed up and literally cannot be understood or grasped.

Finally, as unsavoury and unpleasant as it is, it is still necessary for the sake of Truth to inform or remind the reader of proven facts about Leadbeater which are common knowledge despite ongoing unsuccessful attempts by certain members of the Adyar Theosophical Society to suppress or dismiss them. We will not give those in this article, lest it distract from the main point of discussion, but anyone who wishes can take a look at The Case against C. W. Leadbeater, which is primarily excerpted from “Charles Webster Leadbeater: A Biographical Study” by Gregory Tillett.

We are sure no-one can legitimately or justifiably take offence or accuse us of being “closed minded” when we say we would rather study Theosophy as it was given by HPB and the Masters than study and believe the self-proclaimed clairvoyant discoveries and revelations of such a character as Leadbeater.

It was HPB herself who coined the term “Pseudo-Theosophy.” In one of her final articles, titled “On Pseudo-Theosophy,” she wrote: “If the “false prophets of Theosophy” are to be left untouched, the true prophets will be very soon – as they have been already – confused with the false. It is nigh time to winnow our corn and cast away the chaff.”

This article has hopefully been a much needed step in that direction. Thankfully for the great Theosophical Cause, communications received from visitors to the site indicate that there is a growing dissatisfaction and distrust around the world with those later, highly altered versions of Theosophy and a renewed interest beginning in the life, work, and teachings of HPB.

A general misunderstanding and misconception still prevails, however, as to what Theosophy is. It is not a series of theories, opinions, and speculations, to be added to, altered, revised, improved, corrected, or rewritten, by anyone who feels the wish to do so or who claims to be spiritually capable or “inspired by the Masters” to do so. Such an idea is a real depreciation and distortion of true Theosophy.

For those who may wish to understand better why we say this, the article Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom will help to make things clearer.

As our final point, we ought to clarify two things: (1) We are not saying that HPB never ever used the word “etheric.” She did, several times, – it was a term used by some late 19th century scientists – but only in its literal sense of “something belonging to the nature of ether” and never in respect to any of the Principles of the human constitution; she never once wrote about “the etheric body”; and (2) Whilst both HPB and William Judge do very occasionally speak of the “ethereal body” it is the case that “ethereal” is not the same word as “etheric” nor does it have the same meaning. “Ethereal” means “light, fine, subtle, seemingly not of this world.” Whenever they speak of an “ethereal body” it can readily be seen from the context and the descriptions and synonyms given that they are speaking of what they usually call the astral body and not as a separate Principle distinct from this.

In closing, here is some positive feedback received by email from a visitor to this website:

“I am very grateful that you have been brave enough to post this information online as I know how many supporters of later “Theosophy” resent these details being made widely known. I discovered it by “accident” when writing something of my own and trying to understand and explain the etheric body. Wanting to go to the original source, I decided to see how HPB herself had defined it and was stunned to realise through my research that she did not originate the concept and never even spoke of an etheric body but only an astral one. This discovery provides a lot of clarity for me on many things that subconsciously bothered me for quite a while about Alice Bailey and other teachings.”

~ ~


Tibetan Master or Christian Priest?

(Uncovering the real inspiration behind the Alice Bailey Books)

5 thoughts on “The “Etheric” Body Does Not Exist

  1. I came across this web site a few months ago, and I must say I like what I have been reading. Though … this article above has sparked me to do some research to find out if your assertion is true, as I thought I had “all my ducks in a row” so to speak with regards to the “planes” of matter.
    I found your title to be correct, they never used the term “Etheric” in describing either the body or the planes of matter. However they do use the word etherial.
    Your second remark in the 3rd paragraph, that they never mention any body matching the description of the etheric body is false.
    I think it was a in book Raja Yoga or Occultism by H.P.B she mentions a body that separates at death of bluish green and calls it a grave yard ghost. That is the exact description of the etheric body, sorry I don’t have the page number, or if it is in fact from that book, but pretty sure it was.
    It has also been made clear a number of times, by Both HPB and in the Mahatma letters that there is 7 sub-planes to the physical plane. HPB has even correlated Reichenbach’s OD as too has KH in the Mahatma letters talking about the sun .. “A counterpart of what the astronomers call the red flames in the “corona” may be seen in Reichenbach’s crystals or in any other strongly magnetic body.” and again … “Those blood corpuscles are the electric and magnetic matter in its sixth and seventh state. What are those long white filaments twisted like so many ropes, of which the penumbra of the Sun is made up? What — the central part that is seen like a huge flame ending in fiery spires, and the transparent clouds, or rather vapours formed of delicate threads of silvery light, that hangs over those flames — what — but magneto-electric aura — the phlogiston of the Sun.
    Clearly talking about Plasma and Berkland currents with the term twisted ropes. Plasma named in about 1928.
    So where does this leave us ?
    Clearly yes, the name etheric was never termed or used by them, but also clearly they did talk of matter within the range of what was later termed etheric.
    I’m happy to continue using it, and I guess I need to ask what term are you using for these states of matter ?
    Many “new agers” are using the term “dark matter” but I refuse to use that term as the real story of dark matter is basically science has not found or discovered anything. Dark matter was MADE UP to account for the erroneous assumption that gravity holds the planets and galaxies in position and it was found through calculations that more matter was needed to account for the gravitational hold … so they made up dark matter.
    Anyway, what do you call these 3 sub-planes of more subtle states of matter ? we have solid liquid gas and now plasma .. what about the next 3 ? I’m happy to still call them etheric, until science discovers them and names them, but I won’t be calling them dark matter.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment Cary.

      When HPB, William Judge, and the Masters speak of the “ethereal body” it is always in the exact same context that they speak of the “astral body,” the “double,” which they designate as Linga Sharira. If one looks at the references, “ethereal body” is simply a synonym – and a relatively infrequent one – for “astral body.” It simply refers to the fact that the astral body is of an ethereal nature, using “ethereal” in its literal sense of meaning light, airy, insubstantial, etc. Both as a term and in regard to context, “ethereal” is not the same as “etheric.”

      You said:

      “Your second remark in the 3rd paragraph, that they never mention any body matching the description of the etheric body is false.
      I think it was a in book Raja Yoga or Occultism by H.P.B she mentions a body that separates at death of bluish green and calls it a grave yard ghost. That is the exact description of the etheric body, sorry I don’t have the page number, or if it is in fact from that book, but pretty sure it was.”

      Apologies if this seems argumentative but our assertion is not “false.” A half-remembered statement from a half-remembered source is not proof of anything.

      But this may be what you had in mind:

      “Man has his “double” or shadow, properly so called, around which the physical body of the foetus – the future man – is built. . . . This double is born with man, dies with him and can never separate itself far from the body during life, and though surviving him, it disintegrates, pari passu, with the corpse. It is this, which is sometimes seen over the graves like a luminous figure of the man that was, during certain atmospheric conditions. From its physical aspect it is, during life, man’s vital double, and after death, only the gases given off from the decaying body. But, as regards its origin and essence, it is something more. This “double” is what we have agreed to call lingasarira, but which I would propose to call, for greater convenience, “Protean” or “Plastic Body.”” (H.P. Blavatsky, “Dialogues Between the Two Editors: On Astral Bodies, or Doppelgangers”; “Raja-Yoga, or Occultism” p. 200)

      There is no mention of “bluish green” and it is specifically equated with Linga Sharira, which in the original teachings of Theosophy is simply the Sanskrit name for what is called the Astral Body and Astral Double. There is nothing here to support the Leadbeater invention of an “etheric body” as different and distinct from the astral body.

      You wrote in closing:

      “Anyway, what do you call these 3 sub-planes of more subtle states of matter ? we have solid liquid gas and now plasma .. what about the next 3 ? I’m happy to still call them etheric, until science discovers them and names them, but I won’t be calling them dark matter.”

      We do not apply any particular name to them and rarely have reason to speak of them. We do not criticise the term “etheric” in itself (it was used by some 19th century and early 20th century scientists) but rather the terms and concepts of “etheric body” (also known as “etheric double”) and “etheric plane” as formulated and purportedly “discovered” by C.W. Leadbeater, not least because they seriously contradict, distort, and render somewhat incomprehensible the original Theosophical teachings, terminology, science, and definitions, of the Mahatmas Themselves and H.P. Blavatsky, who They remarked was the best Agent, Messenger, and Representative They could have for a very long time to come.

  2. Thanks for your reply.
    I think my concern and reason for comment to your article above is I was under the impression it was saying that etheric “matter” didn’t exist, as you have the quotation marks around the word etheric, when perhaps they should have been around the word BODY. That I fully agree on. So I was trying to make the point “etheric” matter does exist and and has been mentioned all be it not named as such. But not arguing that there is an etheric “body”.
    I think it very important and you should “have reason” to know and teach about etheric matter, as science is reaching into this realm and beyond right now and I think having an understanding of these higher sub-planes of the physical is important and can validate Theosophical teachings.
    That is why I made comment all be it a bit disjointed.
    KH talks of plasma like structures on the sun, when describing what he called Phlogiston, now days called plasma, the so called 4th state of matter and the twisting of plasma currents as Bierkland currents years before Plasma was discovered about 1897? and named plasma I think about 1927. This is the HOT topic right NOW in science ! That and of course the nonsense going at at CERN with particle physics and the ridiculous idea of the Higgs Boson.
    Mahatma Letters pg 161 “What are those long white filaments twisted like so many ropes, of which the penumbra of the Sun is made up? What — the central part that is seen like a huge flame ending in fiery spires, and the transparent clouds, or rather vapours formed of delicate threads of silvery light, that hangs over those flames — what — but magneto-electric aura — the phlogiston of the Sun?”
    Even today this came out …
    And where is Theosophy ? sitting on it’s hands denying any importance.
    Who is doing the cross checking and cross referencing to what was talked about in 1880, to what is being discovered today in science ?
    I have to say the only one I know of is David Pratt and he’s doing a fine job in this regard …..
    So yes I think it important, it’s one side of Theosophy of course but important in validating what was said so long ago, which at the time was laughed at as nonsense. Many other comments made regarding electricity and magnetism, which now is also cutting edge with the Thunderbolts people or Electric Universe… they are being laughed at right now by main stream science, but gaining headway fast in throwing the gravitation models of the solar system, along with the rubbish about dark matter … which I may add is being taken up by many new agers and Theosophists alike, and referred to as etheric matter, using that as a validation of etheric matter. But dark matter does not exist, it’s fictional and was made up to account for the lack of mass when using gravity as the model as to what is holding the planets and stars in orbit, as has black holes, myth also you can download the pdf, so basic EU info here
    But we have known that it has been magnetism all along.
    So in summing up my mistake, about the BODY, and we need more Theosophical science.

  3. I am quoting this from Helena Blavatsky’s one of the most important book Isis Unveiled — Vol. 1 Etheric body Is mentioned in the very begening of the book :

    ,,A conviction, founded upon seventy thousand years of experience,** as they allege, has been entertained by hermetic philosophers of all periods that matter has in time become, through sin, more gross and dense than it was at man’s first formation; that, at the beginning, the
    human body was of a half-ethereal nature; and that, before the fall, mankind communed freely with the now unseen universes. But since that time matter has become the formidable barrier between us and the world of spirits.”

    – at the beginning, the human body was of a half-ethereal nature –

    You receive absolutely dogmatically Madam Blavatsky’s teachings and lack personal experience of spiritual research, That’s why there is so much rejection of everything that does not prove Blavatsky’s Authority, work to have some personal experince and not only Parroting others.

    1. “Ethereal” is not the same word as “Etheric” nor does it have the same meaning.

      It is erroneous to say that the “etheric body” is mentioned in “Isis Unveiled” or any other of H.P. Blavatsky’s works.

      The term is never once used by her and she never describes any subtle body matching the description applied by Leadbeater/Besant/Bailey etc. to what they called the “etheric body.”

      “Ethereal” means “light, fine, subtle, seemingly not of this world.” Whenever HPB and William Q. Judge speak of an “ethereal body” it can be seen that they are speaking of what they generally call the ASTRAL body and not as a separate Principle distinct from this.

      Is it not “absolutely dogmatic” on your own part to assert that we “lack personal experience of spiritual research” when you do not personally know us and have no way of knowing whether or not this is actually the case?

      Whatever the case may be in this regard, the fact is that Theosophy is a very definite Body of Knowledge, a specific System of Teaching, and that it is most certainly not something to be added to and altered based on a Theosophical student’s own “personal experience” of psychic or spiritual things.

      Your view is seemingly that whatever HPB said and taught very quickly became out of date and that it has now been superseded and improved upon by later teachings as well as by people’s personal experiences. It is apparently “parroting” to repeat, present, and defend, what HPB taught. She herself made it clear, as in the Preface to “The Secret Doctrine,” that what she wrote was merely a repetition of what she had been taught by the Masters and that it should not be viewed as being the fruit and result of her own experiences. Was she a “parrot” too?

      If we may quote from the article “The Importance of Supporting Evidence” (

      – – –

      “The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages,” declared HPB. She was referring to the Secret Doctrine itself, of which the book titled “The Secret Doctrine” is the chief and highest representative in our day.

      Theosophy IS the Ancient and Ageless Wisdom. H.P. Blavatsky did not invent it; she merely fulfilled her mission and duty and transmitted it. Utilising thousands of supporting references from a multitudinous array of the most diverse and distant sources, she proved the timelessness, reliability, and universality of her doctrines, even those which seemed at first glance to be the most peculiar. Those who have read and studied her work, particularly “The Secret Doctrine” and “Isis Unveiled,” know for themselves that this is the case.

      She never claimed any of her teachings to be the result of any “clairvoyant investigations” or “readings of the Akashic Records” carried out by herself. Unfortunately, as later so-called “theosophical teachers” purported to have derived their own teachings (which were invariably totally contradictory and even entirely opposite to those presented by HPB) through such methods, some have automatically assumed that HPB’s teachings must have been the outcome of the same and have not bothered to do any independent study or research of their own to check whether or not this was actually so.

      Whereas HPB’s major books contain literally thousands of supporting references and quotations from the realms of religion, philosophy, classical literature, ancient and modern history, and science, the books of such individuals as C.W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant, Alice Bailey, Geoffrey Hodson, and Helena Roerich, contain nothing of the sort. They are content to simply present their manifold claims and statements on what have been described as “lines of pure assertion with implied authority in the background.”

      – – –

      We, like many other esoteric students around the world, would much rather stick with the tried and tested Wisdom of the Ages – backed up by proofs, references, evidences, and sources in order to show the validity, legitimacy, and authenticity of the teachings presented – than to discard all this in favour of personal experiences. You, of course, should do as you see fit but do not expect others to follow your unwise example.

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