According to Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2, energy and matter are interchangeable. Matter can be converted into energy, and energy into matter. Indeed, when physicists looked deeply into matter to find what we are made of, they discovered that matter is not solid but consists of subatomic particles comprised of mostly empty space. In turn, when they looked into the “empty space,” physicists determined that it was not so empty after all, that it is teaming with energy, effervescing, a quantum froth. This energy is at the core of everything in existence.
One does not have to stretch far to see the parallels between this underlying energy-essence that connects everything and the notion of unifying oneness that weaves its way through many spiritual traditions. One of the places where science and spirituality intersect comfortably is in the emerging field of energy medicine. Here ancient methods find their home in modern practitioners’ offices and in research laboratories.
The question then arises: If everything is energy, what constitutes the legitimate domain of energy medicine? In attempting to answer this question, I found a useful model that is shared by modern science and many ancient traditions. It accounts for the diversity in the field of energy medicine and helps to explain a vast array of energy-based phenomena. This theoretical model holds that a human being consists of multiple layers, or dimensions, that coexist simultaneously. Although individual models based on this principle differ slightly in terms of the number of layers and their labels, there is general agreement about four main dimensions: the physical-etheric, the emotional, the mental, and the spiritual. According to the ancients, the soul is encased in these successive layers.
Versions of the multidimensional model have been discussed over the years at annual conferences of the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM), the leading organization for the scientific study of energy medicine. Elmer Green, the organization’s cofounder, a pioneer in biofeedback and psychophysiology research, used the model as a basis for his work. The most substantiated version of the multidimensional model has been advanced by William Tiller, professor emeritus at Stanford University and former chair of the Materials Science department. Tiller’s contribution is significant because, after 34 years in academia, his feet are firmly planted in conventional science. His stated mission is to build a reliable bridge that seamlessly joins conventional science with the various subtle domains of inner reality and the domain of spirit. He calls his approach psychoenergetic science, and he has made important strides in revealing, in quantitative detail, how human consciousness interacts with physical reality.
Rich in heuristic value, Tiller’s multidimensional model was used by Richard Gerber, a practicing physician trained in internal medicine and devoted to researching vibrational healing. Gerber became a definitive authority on energy medicine with the publication of his seminal contribution Vibrational Medicine, which used the multidimensional model as its foundation. Meticulously researched and backed by the science of the day, the book was essentially the first energy medicine textbook of its kind. Former professor and analytical chemist Charles Krebs used the same model in his ground-breaking work on energy kinesiology (A Revolutionary Way of Thinking), and I also made use of the multidimensional model in my recent book on energy health (Endless Energy).
What Is the Multidimensional Model?
According to the multidimensional model, human beings consist of a spectrum of energy frequencies. These layers or “energy bodies” – the physical-etheric, emotional, mental, and spiritual – comprise distinct yet overlapping frequency domains. They represent the “equipment” through which we experience various dimensions of reality. Consciousness is the great mediator that connects the energy bodies and holds us together so that we function as a whole person (actions, feelings, thoughts, and volition) with continuity from day to day.
The slowest or lowest frequency domain is the physical plane, which we occupy by virtue of the fact that we have a physical body. Bones, organs, tissues, blood, glandular secretions, nervous system, and DNA all fall within the purview of the physical body. As well, the five senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling belong to the physical body. But the gross physical body needs a power supply, a life force, in order to function. This life force is called the etheric body, and it is responsible for our vitality.
According to the model, the dense physical body and the etheric body must be understood as inseparably woven together, as two sides of the same coin. That’s why the physical-etheric is typically referred to as one body and not two. Without the etheric body to animate it, the physical body is a corpse. That Western medical science developed primarily through the study of cadavers helps explain how the etheric body was missed in conventional medicine.
The etheric body is the inner substantial form, the “internal scaffolding,” upon which the dense physical body is built. It consists of a vitality-rich energy that goes by several names: for example, chi in China, kiin Japan, prana in India, or mana in Hawaii. The martial arts from a variety of cultures are based on this energy, as are the healing systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, Ayurveda, yoga, Tibetan Medicine, and kahuna healing, to name a few. The ancients knew this energy well and developed their healing practices accordingly.
Moving up the frequency spectrum, the remaining energy bodies that comprise our basic human constitution are the emotional, mental, and spiritual. The emotional body is responsible for our emotions and feelings, while the domain of the mental body is our thoughts and intellect. The spiritual body, which is the highest or fastest frequency domain, allows us to have spiritual experiences. We humans occupy these multiple levels of existence simultaneously. That’s what makes us so wonderfully complex. Most of us are familiar with the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of ourselves, but the etheric body, the foundational component of energy medicine, remains more of a mystery.
The Etheric Body
Although the U.S. medical world has been resistant to recognizing the etheric body, mainstream culture has embraced numerous practices based on its underlying principles. You don’t have to look far today to see the popularity of yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and the martial arts. These practices emerged from ancient cultures dedicated to the complex and systematic study of the etheric body, which led to a scientific understanding of human energy anatomy. Successful medical systems based on their findings followed. This knowledge and these practices are now being validated by Western scientific methods.
According to the ancients, the etheric body is a complex energy/information matrix that interpenetrates the dense physical body and extends beyond it for several inches. The etheric body powers the physical body through a sophisticated network of energy centers, distribution lines called meridians in Chinese medicine, and the branching of smaller and smaller energy capillaries called nadis, a Sanskrit term for “channels.” This network has been validated by a number of modern scientific methods, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The energy centers are often referred to as chakras, a Sanskrit word that means round or wheel. These, too, have been experimentally verified with electrostatic measurements as well as electromyography (EMG). It’s likely that ancient scientists and practitioners had the capacity to see these wheel-like energy centers and named them accordingly. People today who claim to see these energies have described them as looking like spinning wheels or vortices that range in size from about two to several inches in diameter, depending on their stage of development.
Chakras are like electrical power plants where high voltage energy is transformed and distributed through a convergence of power lines. The etheric body interfaces with the physical body through these power distribution lines, these meridians. This energy network corresponds to the physical nervous system. When several meridians intersect, which happens at the major nerve centers in the physical body, they become even more potent, teeming with life-force energy.
The Interface Effect
Chakras and meridians form the basis of a variety of established energy-based healing modalities and have been linked to physical, emotional, and mental health. One explanation for this is “the interface effect” of the etheric body. It is believed that the etheric body acts as an interface between the physical body and the other energy bodies (emotional, mental, and spiritual). In the clothing world, an interface performs an important function – for example, making the collar of a man’s dress shirt stiff so it can stand up. The purpose of an interface is to reinforce or add substance to whatever it is sewn into. It is usually stitched onto the inside of an outward-facing piece of fabric. This makes it invisible when the garment is completed because the interface is concealed between layers of fabric.
So it is with the etheric body. This energy body is woven onto the inside of the physical body and is “invisible” from the outside. As an interface, the etheric body reinforces the physical body, providing the energetic substance that holds the physical body together and helps it function as an integrated unit (for example, your liver stays in place and your heart beats without you having to think about it). Like a collar without an interface, if the physical body were without its etheric body “backing,” it would be limp and unsubstantiated, unable to stand up.
As an interface, the etheric body also acts as a gateway between the physical body and the three remaining bodies – the emotional, mental, and spiritual – creating reciprocity between them. Any of the bodies can be accessed through the etheric body. This is why healing modalities that specifically involve the etheric body (such as classical homeopathy, acupuncture, therapeutic touch, Reiki, Emotional Freedom Technique, Touch for Health, and other kinesiologies, to name a few) usually help with physical ailments as well as emotional and psychological issues.
The Blueprint Effect
In addition to being an interface, the etheric body serves another important function. The conventional wisdom is that genes provide the blueprint for the physical body. However, ground-breaking research in molecular biology over the last couple of decades suggests otherwise. Although genes play a fundamental role in determining our physicality, the new field of epigenetics (epigenetic means “above the gene”) has revealed another influence beyond the genes that determines whether or not a gene is used.
According to epigenetics, our genes are more like building materials than blueprints. They are the lumber, nails, Sheetrock and fixture choices that may or may not end up being included in the physical structure. Something outside of the gene helps determine whether it becomes part of the building (or rebuilding) process. Mechanisms that potentially influence whether or not a gene gets “expressed” include such nonphysical factors as emotions, thoughts, and states of consciousness. In light of the interface effect, this is the domain of the etheric body as it provides a gateway to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies.
It could be that the true blueprint for the physical body is the etheric body, which may contain the energy/information instructions that determine what goes into the physical body’s formation. It may also be that all aspects of the physical body, including illness and disease, pre-exist in the etheric body. The physical body is an exact replica of the etheric body; the etheric body is the “original.” This helps explain why energy-based healing modalities are able to produce physical effects simply by balancing the energies of the etheric body. It appears that they may be working at the level of the blueprint.
Taken together, the blueprint effect and the interface effect of the etheric body profoundly impact the physical body, from its shape and size to its ongoing health and vitality. The important energy activity happens behind the scenes, in the internal realms; the physical body displays the aftereffects. In essence, the physical body is the stage where emotions, thoughts, and spiritual energies play out their ultimate expression.
The multidimensional model, and the etheric body in particular, help explain why there’s such a high incidence of relapse with conventional medical approaches. One can fall sick with any number of illnesses, get treated, and then become sick again. The illness may not be truly healed because addressing only the physical aspect potentially leaves the “energetic signature” of the illness intact. Indeed, the energy bodies may hold the key to complete healing.
Recognizing and working with the energy bodies may also provide an accurate early detection system. Since, in this model, any physical ailment pre-exists in the etheric body before it manifests on the physical level, we don’t have to wait for an illness to show up in the physical body before correcting it. We can be pro-active by focusing on the energy bodies first, keeping them healthy and balanced. This is something that can largely be accomplished with education and self-care – a much more cost effective and much less invasive approach than medical interventions on the gross physical level.
Energy medicine is an idea whose time has come. Recognition of the energy bodies is what defines energy medicine and sets it apart from allopathic approaches. As far as we know, every healing system on the planet recognizes the existence of these types of energy except for one, conventional Western medicine. But as the therapeutic effects of energy-based healing methods continue to be substantiated, this is bound to change. It’s time to put the soul back into medicine.