There is a long and widespread tradition of belief that the body extends beyond its physical boundaries, in other words, that it has its own energy field. In Christianity, the term aureole is used for such a field surrounding the whole body and halo for the part of it around the head. Bio-energy fields are also commonly recognised in the East (e.g. Kundalini, chi, or energy flows that are associated with chakras and treated in acupuncture). In modern times, a morphogenetic (form-generating) field was postulated as early as the 1920s by biologist Alexander Gurwitsch, who claimed that the generation and regeneration of organisms is guided by it. In the 1930s, as a result of experimental work, a professor of anatomy Harold Burr and a professor at Yale at that time F. S. C. Northrop, proposed the existence of a life-field that shapes the organism. Experiments at Lanzhou University and at the Atomic Nuclear Institute in Shanghai seem to confirm the existence of an energy field generated by the human body; moreover, it appears to be affected by the mental power of the subjects. Scientists at the A. S. Popov Bio-information Institute in Russia reported that the field consists of frequencies within the range of 300 to 2 000 nanometres. All this indicates that the existence of such a field, for which a common term in the West is the aura, should not be dismissed.
The body, as any other physical object, ultimately consists of subatomic entities that have a dual nature. So, while the physical body, as normally perceived, can be identified with its corpuscular form, what is commonly called the aura could reflect its wave (or field) nature. This is not to say that there is an exact correspondence between those two (just as the two sides of the same coin can have different engravings). The body perceived as a field may have some properties that the body perceived as a conglomeration of particles does not, and the other way around.
In any case, such a field seems necessary. About 100 000 chemical reactions per second occur in each cell of the human body, so billions of chemical reactions happen at every moment. They all have to be synchronised for an organism to function. Chemical processes throughout the body are simply not fast enough to achieve this. It was already suggested (by physicist Hebert Fröhlich, for example) that some sort of collective vibration was responsible for getting proteins to cooperate with each other and carry out DNA instructions. As early as the 1960s, a Nobel laureate for Medicine Albert Szent-Györgyi proposed that protein molecules can function as semiconductors, meaning that they can conserve and pass along the energy of electrons as information over relatively long distances (Becker and Selden, 1985, p.93-94). Both, molecules and intermolecular bonds, emit unique frequencies, so it is possible that they interact with other molecules through a resonating wave, creating a cascade of electromagnetic impulses.
This ‘morphogenetic field' may also account for some phenomena that remain a mystery for modern science, for example, how the one-dimensional sequence of bases in the genes determines three-dimensional tissues and organs that give the organism its shape and properties. The extremely complex and intricate processes of embryogenesis (the development of an embryo) are most unlikely to be mapped by stable attractors and governed alone by genetic information. It is more probable that such a chaotic (meaning ultra sensitive) system results from an interaction between DNA, environment, and the organisation of the morphogenetic field - or the aura. According to biologist Brian Goodwin, bio-fields are the basic unit of organic form and organisation; molecules and cells are merely ‘units of composition'. Life evolves in the interaction between organisms and the field in which they are embedded. Polanyi and Prosch write:
A considerable amount of experimental work, done by such biologists as H. Spemann, Paul Weiss, and C. H. Waddington, has shown that some of the development that takes place in embryos is controlled by fields, although exactly how this occurs is still uncertain. (1975, p.176)
Guiding the development of each organism by its own species-specific morphic resonance can also explain why species always breed true (the morphology of the offspring becomes similar to the morphology of its progenitors). The aura is already three-dimensional and contains complete information, so it can form a mould before the cells form a body. In other words, it is possible that when an egg is fertilised, a three dimensional blueprint (as a potential) is formed, which governs the activation of different sets of genes in different cells. It ‘envelops' embryonic cells which allows some genes to be expressed while others are suppressed. So, the dual nature of organic matter enables the whole to act upon the parts.
This concept may also account for an extraordinary re-generation ability of some simple organisms. It appears that the cells are guided by an orientation system that functions even when they are separated from one another. Such a capability diminishes though in higher organisms. This is probably the case because the processes in their organs are less chaotic and seem to lose their sensitivity to the feedback from the field fluctuations. With greater organ specialisation the intensity and power of the aura to act as a blue-print for the body is decreased and the regeneration capacity is largely lost. Such an explanation is in line with the experimental research done by biophysicist Fritz-Albert Popp showing that the more complex the organism, the fewer photons are emitted (McTaggart, 2001, p.50).
The aura, however, should not be mistaken for the soul for several reasons. If the above mentioned pieces of research are credible, the aura has to be a part of the material world (situated within the space-time framework) while the soul is not. The aura cannot be separated from the body (chakras for example, roughly correspond to bodily glands, and the meridians of chi energy partly to the nervous system) and it dissolves after death. The soul, on the other hand, does not correlate to the body so closely. For example, the aura of a new born baby reflects its relative structural simplicity, while the associated soul is, according to Jenny Wade who researched pre-natal consciousness, more complex (1996, chapter 2). Moreover, it seems that only highly sensitive individuals may be able to perceive this field, while to perceive a soul (or more accurately, the soul processes associated with an immediate experience), extraordinary abilities are not necessary.
There are some indications though, that the aura can reflect the state of the soul. It is well known, for example, that attention (which is linked to awareness and intent) can have an effect on the aura. So, it is likely that the non-material aspect of a living organism communicates with this field rather than the corpuscular body, and such interference may be reflected in the aura. This mutual interaction can be accounted for by the findings of physicist Renato Nobili, showing that the fluid in cells promotes wave patterns that correspond with wave patterns in the brain cortex and scalp. If this is correct, the aura cannot be reduced only to an electro-magnetic field that the body produces (as some investigators believe). Thus, the characteristics of the field depend first of all on the body and environmental factors, but also the mind and the soul itself, which is why it is apparently possible to distinguish different layers of the aura.
- . It consisted of separating and mixing up the cells of a salamander embryo. If that mixture was then put in a slightly acid solution they would re-form into an embryo.
- . Equilibrium states or end points into which these process would settle.
- . This coincides with transpersonal insights. The spiritual philosopher (with a Christian bent), Rudolf Steiner, described the etheric body, another name for aura, as ‘the principle which calls inorganic matter into life'. For this reason it is sometimes also called ‘formative-force-body'.
- . Tuning in beyond the constructs of reality and stabilising perception is sufficient in this case (see The perception of the soul).
- . Interference is the mutual action of two or more waves that results in a new wave pattern.