A colourful layer of light around us: that’s the aura. But does it exist, and what is it? Are we able to see it? Journalist Lisette Thooft looks into the fascinating phenomenon and comes to a remarkable conclusion.
Everybody has one. Sometimes you can see someones aura, even if you’re not an aura reader. It doesn’t mean that you see a colourful cloud around people, like in an aura photo. But you feel your friend is down, even if she tries to hide it. Or you just know that there’s anger around your partner, even if you can only see his back. Or you approach a spiritual person and experience the peace and serenity they radiate. There is something we can’t really describe, something that is called aura in spiritual circles.
Many ancient traditions and philosophies make mention of the layer of light around us. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism all state that, apart from a ‘normal’ body, we all have an energetic body, invisible for the non-spiritual eye. The Buddhist flag contains the colors that, according to rumour, were visible in Buddha’s aura when he was enlightened. In old paintings, the main Christian figures – Jesus, Mary, the saints – were surrounded by an aureole or at least a halo, a circle of light above their heads.
In anthroposophy, there are four body layers. The ether body supplies the physical body with spirit and growth. In the astral body, your feelings, preferences and aversions emerge. The spirit body organizes your ego – it’s home to your self awareness, it enables you to use words and to reflect on yourself.
In new age, aura is a common concept. It has up to seven layers and sticks out at least 30 centimeters on all sides of your body. The better these layers are adjusted to one another, the happier and healthier you are. With some practice, you can enlarge or reduce your aura.
You can also cleanse your aura, for instance by stroking your body from head to toe, as if you’re removing imaginary fluff and creases from a wide coat. Or by visualizing lightening up your aura in bright colors. A lengthy walk on the beach blows your aura clean. You can feel it.
Is it possible for people to see auras? To predict which sicknesses are coming up, to perceive hidden feelings or to tell you what your true mission in life is? Aura readers and many of their clients say so. But the question is whether you can speak of ‘seeing’. Because our auras don’t consist of natural light.
What about aura photography, then? You pose in front of a camera with your hand on a sensitive sheet, and a minute later you see your picture surrounded by clouds of colour, on a real photograph that you can take home with you.
According to the inventor of the aura camera, Guy Coggins, these colors are projected by a computer program. The machine uses a galvanometer (comparable to a lie detector) to measure something in your hand, and translates this to color.
What it is the computer measures, and how this translation to color takes place? Coggins says the meter measures electrical vibrations in the acupuncture points in your hand. With the help of experienced aura readers, Coggins has translated these vibrations to colors and made a program of it. An aura photographer told me: the higher the frequency of your vibrations, the lighter the colors.
Someone else said: it depends on the spot in the picture. But all aura readers agree that only good aura readers are able to interpret the colors. Red symbolizes anger for person A, but passion or sensuality for person B. Green stands for healing, but also for jealousy or the love of nature. Yellow is intellect, or cheer. Etcetera.
But if colors can have so many meanings, how come so many people have their aura read and are impressed by the results? Apparently, the best aura readers are sensitive enough to observe what’s going on inside our minds. But whether this relates to the colors, or whether they find this information another way, is no foregone conclusion.
There have been some scientific tests with aura readers, but all of them are disappointing. In one experiment there were four screens in a room, a man sat behind one of them– close to the rim, so that his aura would have to stick out past the screen. The (renowned) aura readers were asked behind which screen the man was sitting – they didn’t score higher than 26 percent.
Nonetheless, according to other tests, the light that people radiate is measurable. This light supposably comes from photons, a very weak radiation that forms the shape of a person if you amplify it a million times – the strongest around the head. Every test person that was photographed shows the same pattern, but the intensity of the light differs.
Is this the aura? Hm. A remarkable result of the research was that experienced meditators radiate less light than people who aren’t spiritual. And when a test person started meditating, his radiation weakened. As if normal people let the light ‘leak out’ and people who meditate keep it ‘in’.
Strong, hard evidence for the existence of the aura doesn’t exist. But do we really need it? Perhaps the light of auras just isn’t visible or natural. Perhaps there are two kinds of light – an ‘invisible’ spiritual light, and the regular daylight that we’re able to see? If you’re sensitive to the wisdom of myths, this suggestion might appeal to you. Because in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1, the Creator exclaims: ‘Let there be light!’, and there was light. This is while He didn’t create the sun, moon and stars until the fourth day. Sunlight is what makes us able to see each other, with our normal eyes. And perhaps all this information we mysteriously get about each other, comes from that other light, the light that existed before the universe – the spiritual light that permeates everything, even the deepest darkness.
Text: Lisette Thooft
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