The Body of Light in the Western Esoteric Tradition

by Mark Stavish, M.A. Copyright 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Introduction The doctrine of the ‘Body of Light’ is replete throughout Western esoteric literature. Unfortunately, while many references are made to the concept, little information is supplied regarding its origin (or formation), stages of growth, and applications. The purpose of this document is to supply qabalistic and alchemical students with a workable esoteric theory, and practical technique, regarding this often obscure subject. Theoretical and Historical Background The origin of the “body of light” is seen in gnostic literature as early as first century. However, extensive documentation and theory exist in Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Indian literature and practices of an earlier date. Under the general heading of chi kung, or Chinese internal alchemy, these practices are designed to create and mature a body of subtle astral and etheric energy that is capable of existence independent of material consciousness. This body is also thought to be capable of infusing the material body with sufficient energy to allow it to become more subtle and ‘etherial’. This ‘etherialization’ is said to make the physical body, under the direction of the adept, capable of de-materialization at the time of death. Enoch, Ezekiel, the ascension of Jesus, his mother Mary, and even Mohammed with his horse, are often given as examples of this form of dematerialization in Western spiritual literature. Unfortunately, while Eastern systems have maintained a working technical tradition of the theory and its application needed to achieve this goal, little information remains in the West of a similar nature. The idea of the ‘simulacrum’ is the closest we have, and may very well be the starting point of such experimentation. It can be seen from the Eastern literature available, that the idea of the “Body of Light” often called the “Rainbow” or “Diamond Body” is the perfection of a vehicle for the exteriorization (projection), and continuation of consciousness beyond material reality. This paper will attempt to show how the development of this body can be achieved through existing qabalistic practices, and that the stages of its growth corresponds to total realization on the Lunar (Yetzirah), Solar (Briah), and Saturnian (Daath) planes of consciousness. It is important to realize what is meant by these ‘planes’ however, as they can be confusing when first encountered as an esoteric teaching. When the Cosmic created the universe, humanity, or the ‘human seed’, that aspect of consciousness which was to grow into realization of godhood, descended from primal unity. This unity is symbolized by the Divine World of Atzilooth, and the Holy Upper Trinity in the Tree of Life. When consciousness experiences increasing levels of density as matter is created, duality forms and continues to the material world. This first descent from unity to duality is the so-called “Fall” and to prevent a premature return to Unity, that is before all of creation could be encountered, a barrier was placed called in qabalistic literature, the Abyss. This is the “First Day of Creation” or appearance of time/space. As the descent continued, the human seed experienced progressive levels of sexual polarization as well as being further removed from its memory of Divine consciousness. After the level of Divine Harmony in creation, or Tiphareth, the center of humanities sense of self, an additional barrier was created, the Veil, or Paroketh. This is the appearance of individuality free of the Divine spark. Finally, a third barrier of Veil is encountered, and that is what separates material creation from the psychic and spiritual worlds. Here, humanity has no memory of its Divine origin, and has complete free will to seek what it desires. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, states, “When working in this way [Pathworking] you are using the astral body, and you know already about your Magical Personality[1] which has been quietly growing in strength with each month’s work. But there is another form used by some magicians, the Body of Light. Some think that it is the same as the astral body, but it is in fact quite different. The astral is an etheric form common to everyone, a Magical Personality is acquired through practice and concentration. The Body of Light is deliberately built for a purpose, another term for it is ‘cowan’. It is not easily formed, some people never manage it, or at least not fully, and once it is formed it can be troublesome, and requires firm handling.” P. 153, The Ritual Magic Workbook

The Sepher Yetzirah and the Golem as the body of Light is often suggested.30) The ritual also states clearly that it is the method whereby spiritual perfection and birth of the subtle body are attained. It very well may be one of the few books dedicated to this subject available. This idea is also stated in Tibetan and Chinese literature. and grown to proper strength so that is can be a help to the magician and not a hindrance. Mead asserts that the spiritual body is essentially one. The small ‘child of light’ is often compared to a fetus in the astral womb of the practitioner’s aura and temple. vital and psychic side to alchemy . a subtler phase intimately bound up with the highest themes of sidereal religion. and that notions of the subtle body develop along with those of alchemy and astrology. This astrology has nothing to do with “. in Jewish Qabalah. it lacks any description of the techniques used to experience it. is the force closely aligned to the physical body. as this paper will attempt to show. then it must be reconstructed with a new birth. Similar to the nephesch. This is both true in East and West. although no reasons are given. dangers come more often from rushing through preliminary work instead of allowing it to proceed in a healthy and natural pace. and while it is full of scholarly research regarding the theories and beliefs regarding the subtle body.Ms. or that of the Gate of Life and Death. or ‘surviving the Second Death’. there may also be confusion regarding its actual purpose . the Resurrection Body is established. So called.” (p. It is described as : the spirit-body. Despite appearances to the contrary. She also goes on to say that few Western magicians have ever been able to master the technique fully. philosophic astral theory set up a ladder of ascent from the earth to the light world. educated. and is made of light and/or fire. or Paroketh. (p. If this is not done. than from the exercises themselves actually being psychically dangerous. . and its theurgical practices are similar to Indian yoga. and then must be shed. Mead and the Subtle Body GRS Mead wrote a booklet around the turn of the century titled. It must be matured. Mead points out that there is the possibility of extreme confusion when reading the ancient literature and the vocabulary used to describe the spiritual body. side of astrology.[2] It is possible. like in all occult activity. and is seen in the techniques often suggested for use by the student. The astral body has access to three levels of consciousness. The Spirit-Body. Out-of-Body experiences (OOBE’s). Ashcroft-Nowicki further states that the Body of Light can acquire a kind of ‘self consciousness’ after a period of development. Mead states that the doctrine of the subtle body achieved its highest expression in India. and that the only complete ritual of the Mithrian cult has survived to present time. or to soma pheumatikon. more vital.vulgar horoscopy. although he may have been unaware of other oriental teachings.. that just as there is confusion among some students regarding the Body of Light as being the astral body. then greater attempts can be made to realize its full potential. increases in power and purity. precautions must be undertaken to avoid the destruction of the astral body if the Second Death is to be avoided.that of extended consciousness. or vegetative-animal soul. However. so there was a supra-physical.” (p.13) Mead also states that Zosimus states catagorecally that the Rites of Mithras were identical in purpose to the practices of alchemy. or encounter the ‘Second Death” in order to penetrate the Veil. and it is the ‘body’ or expression of consciousness used for Reintergration to Unity. and that the sidereal body. or even potential danger. However.a scale of ascent leading finally to man’s perfection in spiritual reality. Above the Solar World. we must pierce the first Viel. When its function is clearly understood. fed. to the next three levels. has nothing to do with today’s (1919) astral body. The material quoted is almost exclusively Gnostic-Christian in origin.9) Mead also states: “But even as there was a deeper. depending on its degree of purity. When we attempt esoteric exercises and a return to Primal Unity. or physical death itself. because few people pierce it except during near-death-experiences (NDE’s). the radiant body. Three Levels of Light The three basic ideas around the subtle body are that it progresses though the levels of the spheres. The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in the Western Tradition. and the resurrection body.

the creation of the BOL. They were tangible. essentially a quintessence. as in A. be tantamount to “the Fall” in our own personal microcosm. but increasingly purified expressions of the personality. They will think it is you and trust the appearance.L. First Fire of fire in me. . What makes the resurrection body different is that while it can and does exist within the material world. that it should be given firm disciplining. While the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh was hotly contested during its developmental stages. and where initiated into that mystery. the cowan [Body of Light] will eventually gain a half conscious mind of its own. These ‘bodies’ in fact.The Radiant Body. in which we joyed in mystic ecstasy. where as the physical body is contaminated by the grosser elements. and A Mithriac Ritual. even partially. allows us to experience of the Vision f Beauty Triumphant as referred to modern qabalistic schools: “Tiphareth translates to Beauty. Thou Perfect Body of me!. Something you cannot allow for it has no protection against the darker forces who will take it over and use it against you and even against those with whom you are involved. such s Jesus’ passing through the locked door. and this mortal [frame] with the sublunary [region]”. and in no uncertain terms remind it who is boss. together with the rest of the Blessed Company . is to court disaster. God-given for the Blending of the blendings in me. Therefor the moment it feels as if the cowan is getting above itself. she warns. The descriptions of these accounts. It is differentiated into subtle and simple elements. when.. can be a very rewarding psychic and spiritual experience. However. unlike Jesus however. This means that a man capable of remaining in Tiphareth has “spiritualized” his matter. First Fire. a man “of flesh and blood. method. It offers many avenues for psychological cleansing. has formed his glorious body and has obtained the power to go beyond incarnation. She also states that when the B. yet. Thou Primal Substance of my substance.” This does not mean that he cannot receive the influences of the higher sepheroth (higher according to the Tree). suggest that the bodies they inhabited were the same. As one ‘body’ or expression is purified and ‘dies’ another takes its place.S. the radiant vehicle (augoeides ochema) [corresponds] with heaven. First Breath of breath.they both beheld the beatific spectacle and [divine] vision. with the ‘flesh lovers as they were called. At this point. there was a strong Biblical and midrashic tradition of increasing in grades of purity of the individual allowing for ascension and resurrection to take place. and psychic enhancement. or is. This perfect body was. and other [ranks of souls] in the train of the Gods . This would in fact.” (p. The Mithriac initiation states: “O Primal Origin of my origination. that is. the breath that is in me. give it a good psychic shake. Mead points out that the belief in physical resurrection was not universally accepted by the Jews of Jesus’ day. it will almost certainly make a bid for freedom. are not really separate bodies. but was taken into heaven bodily in a chariot of fire. London 1907) The Technique The technique suggested by Ashcroft-Nowicki is the simplest and most direct. 102. Primal Earth-essence of the earthly essence in me. the water in me. while no specific rituals are employed. You will in fact have partially ensouled it. it is suggested that the ritual be performed in a consecrated temple to prevent the simulacrum from wondering. Elijah. even the tiny amount used here. the individual and unique expression of God we all carry within us. yet could overcome material limitations.we [philosophers] in the train of Zeus. “Moreover. First Water of my water. which may be called the holiest of all. winning out over those believing in a purely spiritual resurrection. it is free from material constraints. and problems. To do otherwise. and yet not the same.” She then suggests withdrawing all contact with the cowan for a lunar month. Yet despite these warnings. Elijah and Jesus. to the highest state in which a man incarnate on this earth can live.” (p.”[3] “There was a time when we they could behold Beauty in all its brilliance. perceive or live something of their nature and mode of action. we are told. is sufficiently developed to begin to desire acting on its own. “With the constant implanting of consciousness. as we shall see. 58) Proclus states. It is located on the Pillar of Balance which is the Pillar of consciousness and corresponds. did not die.O. and to feel no sympathy for this self-created and projected aspect of ourselves.

In addition. that these forces and ideas within us. talismans. and astrological knowledge. often violent imagery that can be dredged up from a nephesch (subconscious) that doesn’t want to be integrated into the workings of the ruach (Mental-Spiritual functions). forms the core of the technique. shows us in no uncertain terms. Pathworking. Ideally however. and the Rose+Cross Ritual. vol 3 of The Magical Philosophy by Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips. if they are desired. On occasion. the first 3-3 ½ years is spent learning very basic magical procedures. and to take on self-consciousness. is that the BOL is a superior being to physical world. Only by freeing the psychic self from the constrains of material life can we experience the full degree of good and evil in our .[6] The material belongs to the curriculum of the Aurlem Solis Sacra Verbum. composed of fourteen distinct parts in total. and even in sever forms of psychosis. The second year doing planetary work. we are in reality giving those things to our self. Since each Path is often done more than once. Among the most important points in gnostic and Platonic literature is the need to separate the subtle body from the physical body for its purification. The most complete method available for creating the Body of Light is in the ritual called “The Magician” in Mysteria Magica. the speed at which one works is not important. increased health. Within the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. but clearly stated in the Oriental ones. known as the Portal Grade. This imagined. particularly Paths 32 through 24 are critical for psychological health and should be done two or three times before doing the second set of Paths. and in doing so. The Western schools are silent about what the implications of the Hermetic axiom. The ritual is divided into five main sections. are common to Eastern and Western methods of creating the BOL. coupled with the memorization and intellectual comprehension of a vast amount of qabalistic. during the first planetary hour of the day. Previous experience with planetary invocations will make some of the following instructions easier. as seen and experienced through the multi-colored glasses of the Lesser Pentagram and Hexegram Rituals. Only after this period are planetary rituals. such as the Supreme Rituals of the Pentegram and Hexegram. and reminding the BOL who is boss. by the third or fourth year of study. they may be given in the preliminary section. alchemical. or Adeptus Minor grade. the genuine sense of the simulacrum being ‘other’. Despite the projective imagery.[4] For those who do not belong to any formal course of study. preventing it from wondering. In magical work we see this clearly in the creation of the BOL. The techniques given by Regardie in The Golden Dawn. All magical tools are also constructed after being received into the Second Order. and guiding it with a firm hand. with the third year being spent integrating the two. A note belonging to the title suggests that the ritual is considered most effective when performed at the beginning of the day. and related techniques as seen in Regardie’s work undertaken. It is better to go slowly and diligently and make real progress. Pathworking can be started anywhere from the first year on and requires about 1 1/2 years to fully do all of the 32 Paths of the Tree of Life. and possibly even a kind of ‘psychic mutation’ that allows for increased psychic activity along family lines. and eventually real separation. The following method can be performed by anyone regardless of their level of experience. In relation to what has been said previously. and can be directed to have effects on the physical body. or Adeptus Minor.These four directives: going slow. the easier it will be to achieve noticeable success. the BOL is still a part of us. the aspiring qabalistic magician will hopefully have worked through some of their more obvious psychological issues. will seek to manifest. Esoteric work allows us to address these diverse aspects of our being. The reasons for this are simple: the more experience you have in psychic and occult matters. visualization. performing in a sacred space or enclosure. It is these effects which allow for the etherialization of the physical body. and unconscious. than to rush through and simply do the work haphazardly. in psychology in neurotic and schizophrenic behavior. it is generally suggested that the first year of activity be spent learning Elemental and Pentagram work. Presumably. left unregenerated and when given the opportunity.[5] Of course. the required skills of concentration. What is missing in the modern accounts. it is best to allow two to three years for this additional aspect of magical training. The fourth year often focuses on zodiacal magic and the completion of any Pathworking. By disciplining it. “The subtle rules the dense” and how it might apply here. and creating a strong working environment for psychic activity will have become second nature. to prevent psychic ruptures that might otherwise manifest in modern terms as mental illness. it would be best if it is done during the third or fourth year of qabalistic study. longevity. or 23 through 19. are not generally taught until the 5=5 Grade. to integrate them. The simulacrum however. giving it function and purpose.

The methodical and militant purification of our psyche and integration of its diverse aspects constitutes the most difficult. If possible. in the Name of the Most High. Turn to the East and ask that the Powers of the Higher Self be present and fully utilized for this operation and at all times forward. Be thankful that they are present to serve you. but that they are at the service of the development of Self. upon the Earth Pantacle. Project the simulacrum from the solar plexus. If any particular instruction. . touching your crown and uniting you with the cosmos. Ask that Light. Invoke the presence of your Higher Self. The Lower Self Turning clockwise. arms outstretched). Preliminaries The temple area should be set as usual. Pause and imagine the great streams of energy circulating through your physical and psychic bodies. address the image before you firmly and lovingly that it is to give your full assistance in the Great Work. Affirm your intentions for performing this exercise. Life. upper abdomen region. Lower arms and meditate on the significance of your Higher Self. the hand of Mercy. and not as independent beings. Pause for a few moments as the feeling of vastness disappears and you return to normal awareness of the temple. Give blessing to your Nephesh. Assume the position of the Adeptus Minor. and back up again. Send thoughts of blessing. Stand in the posture of the Adeptus Minor. Perform the Middle Pillar a second time if needed. face the West of the Temple. and rewarding. and imagine yourself growing to a vast and immense size. Feeling most of your consciousness operating from inside of it. love. with alter in the middle. or slightly East of center. thought. or additional work is needed. and appreciation for consciousness and the opportunity to develop in awareness and Service. Imagine in brilliant phosphorescence a flaming sphere. assistance. (Tau Cross. and feet. and well being to your lower self and guph. with the silvery-bluish cord visible between the simulacrum and the operator’s abdomen or solar plexus. feeling a stream of energy running from your crown to your heart. and action of your being. it is to be interjected here. and Love be expressed in every cell. Establishing the Temple Perform the Banishing Ritual of the Lesser or Greater Pentagram. psycho-spiritual practices known.[8] Higher Self Place your left hand. Move to the eastern Quarter and Face the West again. wear a consecrated Rose+Cross present. Maintain or reformulate your Flaming Crown center.psyche. and place the Pentacle of Earth on the alter[7]. and thank it for its participation in this ritual. good health. This cosmic seed. Have it facing East. or toward the operator. Affirm your position of authority over your lower self and physical body in a loving. or flaming yod. Exhortation and Instruction In the Name of your Higher Self. but firm manner. this flame of Creation within you. Perform the Middle Pillar exercise. Energize your heart center.

we can in effect. it would find perfection in the Diamond. The Nephesch. Always reabsorb the energy. Air. which constitutes the bulk of the ‘self’ that we are refining in this work. the simulacrum can be tincted with particular qualities and virtues. glowing and strong.Energize and imagine the simulacrum attaining a high degree of integration . as it will be influenced and influential upon the Lunar and Astral worlds as a whole. Instructing the Simulacrum After a two or three weeks of successful projection and reabsorbing of the simulacrum. it should be thought of as a body of Quintessence. by imagining them along the spinal column from Saturn at the base. or according to the Queen’s Scale. or Golden. and will assist in its creation and projection. or projected onto it from elsewhere. . Completion Re-absorb the simulacrum and the silver cord by imaging it return to a cloud or mist of bright bluish-gray or silver psychic protoplasm and collapsing backward along the cord (bring the cord with it) into your body at the level it was projected from. to Luna and Sol at the head. filling the whole image with the light and sense and virtues of that planet. it also acts as a bridge between not just our objective and subjective worlds.[9] The letters can be done in blazing white. or Resurrection Body. The effects of this are different that the usual methods for Assumption of the Godform. and that the energy be completely reabsorbed after it is over. overlaps and connects the worlds of matter (forming our Salt) and mind (forming our Mercury). bones. or a shadow image fusing itself into your earthly body. under the influence of the Sphere of Saturn. just below the surface of the skin. or Astral purification of the simulacrum so that it can be rightly called a Silver Body. Or imagine counterparts of physical organs inside the simulacrum and them having the colors and sounds of their planetary counterparts. Fee the energy move though out your body and sink deep into your muscles. either as a mist. that it might become a Solar. When generally projected. Also. we are adding the third Essential. influenced by the Briactic Worlds. and not carved on the surface. The simulacrum can also be projected and modified to a deific image or godform. you can begin projecting specific ideas into it. This can be done in several ways depending on your personal preference. Imagine them in bright white light. Rejoice in the successful operation. This is the Lunar. In this instance it is helpful to grow the image in size and stature to a larger than normal appearance after it has been created. It is important that your consciousness be projected firmly into the simulacrum during any working. or the overlap of Mind and Spirit (forming our Sulfur). Close down firmly. in the normal Y (Head) Heh (Shoulders) Vau (Spine) Heh (Hips Feet) fashion. prior to projection of the simulacrum. The simulacrum can be charged with Hebrew letters. or the Queens Color Scale. symbols. Radiant Body. use the simulacrum and tune it to the Element you seek to explore. This can be done to the physical body as well. First. Using the colors. but also between out emotional and physical realities. after it has been projected. and envelope you in a body of light. use a general plan of associating the simulacrum with the planets. Beyond this. or Spirit. alter our physical appearance and health through proper and loving purification of our astral matrix. marrow. As with the alphabet. When we address it from the perspective of our Kether. Engraving them according to there location and association with the physical organs as outlined in the Sepher Yetzirah. At some point you can then begin to educate it further. The purpose of the simulacrum is to create a vehicle for the purification and expression of astral (Yetziric) and mental (Briah) energies. Water. practice performing the Middle Pillar inside the simulacrum. As stated. or Earth. of dynamic electric and magnetic qualities containing within it the balanced potential for all bodies of the four Elements. they should be seen as existing inside the figure. and sounds of the planets. When venturing into the Quarters. It can also be charged with the Tetragrammaton. making it a body of Fire. As such.

Both are eradicated. they are not constructed until the very end of the six year course. We cannot ascend and take our mistaken ideas with us. Ill. Wheaton. Ill. and clear out psychic blockages on the Path of Return. forming the Three Essentials. or redirected by the Sword of Geburah. [3] See: Qabala Course. In The Philosopher’s of Nature (PON) Qabala Course. Where the 27th connects Natural Energy to the Intellectual World. [2] See: Fundamentals of Esoteric Knowledge. [6] P. All of the Paths of Yetzirah will be effects to some degree by this exercise. © 1995. Saint Paul. This exercise will have secondary effects on the 24th Path. and some effects on the 28th Path (Net-Yes) as this Path governs the flow of Psychic energy through our Psychic centers. Copyright 1995 [5] For more information on Pathworking see: PON Qabala Course. The Philosopher’s of Nature (PON). but also slightly more difficult to control. Lesson 1-3. whereas the 24th Path is the arousal of Kundalini. Lessons through . or our passions and lusts. as they reverse the flow of Mezla. sometimes called the House of God (Deu) or Fire (Feu) shows us that the ever flowing lightning bolt of Mezla will destroy any imperfections that it comes in contact with. [1] The Magical Personality is defined as a self-created image of one’s self that allows for greater power and presence when doing esoteric work. they when they imagined the letters within their physical body when falling asleep. [8] Use of the ‘Elemental Grade Signs’ or the ‘Rending of the Veil’ is at the performers discretion. The Philosophers of Nature (PON). . Highways of the Mind by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. ©1988. disciplined. MN. and Magical States of Consciousness by Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips. in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Both are under the influence of Mars. or an Enlightened Will. the 24th Path converts Solar (soul) energy into Natural (psychic) energy. Wheaton. However. [4] See: Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. often before the fifth or sixth letter was reached. that astral projection occurred rapidly. [9] One student who did this noted that the simulacrum was more vital. form the basis for inner and outer alchemy. They also noted. 359-362. The Lightning Bolt on the tarot card the Tower. the Hermetic Rose+Cross and the Pantacle of Earth are ‘adept level’ tools.These Four Qabalstic Worlds and their overlapping. The 27th Path is also a sort of Kundalini Yoga exercise. the Supreme Pentagram and Hexagram rituals are presented in the second year. Lesson 17. or Will. [7] As mentioned. Llewellyn Publications.

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