The Human Aura

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By Tania O’Neill McGowan (feature image: Depositphotos)

The notion of an organising energy field is commonly employed by energy medicine practitioners such as Kinesiologists in their sessions, however, many find it difficult to articulate what it is or why it’s a valid concept to employ when working as a healthcare professional. A well-known energy healing practitioner and teacher Barbara Brennan, who has the ability to see human energy fields, described this field as “a luminous body that surrounds and interpenetrates the physical body, emits its own characteristic radiation and is usually called the ‘aura’” (Brennan, 1998, p. 41).

The concept that human beings are comprised of a physical body as well as a nonmaterial energy field has persisted throughout the ages and is recorded in ancient scriptures, artworks, temples, modern writings, and scientific research. This nonmaterial energy field is an organising field of information that has been given many different names including the human aura (Rubik, 2004), the human energy field (Brennan, 1988), the subtle energy body (Lockhart, 2010), morphogenic field (Rubik et al., 2015), life field or L field (Krippner & White, 1977), the health aura (Krippner & White, 1977), orgone field (Reich, 1945), and a biological field (Rubik et al., 2015). This concept of a human energy field has persisted because it is necessary to explain the full range of experiences that occur in human life.

In the late 20th century, it was recognised that many healthcare and energy healing modalities were founded on the concept of a nonmaterial vital force, but they all had their own terminology to describe it. For unity and common understanding to be established a universal term was needed. “The term ‘biofield’ was conceived in 1992 by an ad hoc committee of complementary and alternative practitioners and researchers … and defined as ‘a massless field (not necessarily electromagnetic) that surrounds and permeates living bodies and affects the body.’” (Rubik, 2015, p. 90). This seminal event provided a new framework for scientific investigation of the biofield.

The biofield is a field of energy intimately connected with each organism that holds information essential to coordinating life functions (Rubik, 2015). It permeates the whole organism and is involved in the generation, maintenance, and regulation of biological homeodynamics (Rubik et al., 2015). That is, the biofield regulates the physiological and biochemical processes of the body and therefore plays a critical role in the living organism’s response to external and internal inputs. Changes in the biofield actually precede observable physical changes and it is also proposed to create matter and life (Krippner & White, 1977, p. 56).

The concept of an invisible energy that maintains life was common in ancient cultures, however, western science had discarded all notions of a vital force by the mid-1800s. Then during the twentieth century it became evident in the scientific research that not all aspects of life could be satisfactorily explained by a physicalist worldview, leading to the re-emergence of a field view of life (Rubik, 2015). The concept of a biological field first arose in modern science in embryology as an explanation for how organisms develop, which does seem to follow some sort of template (Rubik et al., 2015). By focusing only on the physical component of people’s functioning, biology and medicine are leaving out a crucial element needed for wellness, the global organising field of the organism which is central to life (Rubik, 2002).

Historical Perspective

The concept of nonmaterial fields of energy and consciousness is not new. Thousands of years ago the Vedic sages were trying to comprehend the manifest and non-manifest through inner mystical experience and they recorded this knowledge in the Vedas and Upanishads (Ferrer, 2018, p. 282). In the Taittiriya Upanishad, a Vedic text which provides guidance on spiritual liberation, it was recorded that the human being consists of five kosas, or sheaths. The five kosas are the sheaths or subtle coverings of the physical body, representing ascending planes of consciousness that have to be transcended in order to realise the ultimate reality, the supreme soul known as Brahman (Lockhart, 2010, p. 29). These five kosas are also arranged into three bodies: the gross physical body, the subtle body, and the causal body (Swami Sivanada). In this philosophy, it is through the causal body that one moves beyond duality and experiences the Absolute (Motoyama, 1978, p. 83).

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In the late 19th century Russian Helena Blavatsky co-founded the Theosophical Society in order to share the esoteric teachings from the East and increase awareness of the nonmaterial aspects of reality. In 1888 Blavatsky presented a theory of seven principles which constitute man which she termed the ‘constitution of man’ and this representation was similar to that presented in the Vedic literature. However, over time the Theosophical Society’s ‘constitution of man’ went through changes, and a variety of models were published between the late 1800s and the 1930s. The terminology of the seven planes of existence commonly taught in Energetic Kinesiology today is: (1) physical/etheric, (2) astral, (3) mental, (4) buddhic, (5) atmic, (6) monadic, and (7) divine. This terminology is actually a combination of a Theosophical model published by Jinarājadāsa in 1921 and a later model published by Leadbeater in 1937. In addition to the seven planes of existence, the Theosophical Society discusses the four bodies used by man for incarnation which are the etheric double which aligns with the physical body, astral body, mental body, and causal body.

Scientific Investigation

Early in the 20th century, the idea of a biological field that coordinated and regulated life functions was proposed (Rubik, 2015, p. 86). The need for a field-like mechanism to explain life functions was elegantly explained by researchers Burr and Northrup: “Growing systems possess an extraordinary capacity for self-regulation. Some powerful agent seems to be inherent in the system through which the progress of development from stage to stage is coordinated and regulated according to a definite plan” (Burr and Northrup, 1935, p. 329). Just a few of the significant findings will be presented here.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Harold Burr explored the voltage fields around living organisms. “Burr found that around every living being there is a complex pattern of voltages which govern its growth and health” (Swanson, 2011, p. 185). In this research he discovered that there is an electrical axis in unfertilised salamander and frog eggs that corresponds with the orientation of the brain and central nervous system in the adult (Burr, 1947). He also found that the electrical field surrounding plant seedlings took the shape of the adult plant. These findings led Burr to propose that an electrodynamic field was involved in guiding growing cells in the embryo and possibly instructed stem cells in how to specialise.

Human anatomy on xray: Image: Deposit Photos

Research by orthopedic surgeon Robert Becker found that frogs, which cannot regenerate new limbs, had a positive electrical potential across an amputated arm that gradually drifted to zero as the stump healed over. Whereas salamanders, which can regenerate new limbs, had an initial positive electrical potential but it reversed to a negative potential which gradually drifted to zero as the salamander regrew a new limb. When Becker artificially applied a negative potential to the site of the frog’s amputated limb, he found that the frog grew a new limb, suggesting fields seem to play a role in tissue regeneration (Becker & Selden, 1985).

Scientist Valerie Hunt discovered that the baseline electrical activity found in recordings of physiological activity, such as an EMG, was actually the human biofield (Hunt, 1996). This baseline activity had previously been thought to be noise within the electrical equipment. Hunt spent more than 25 years researching the human biofield, and what was particularly significant was that she discovered physiological changes could be measured in the field first. “We discovered by recording brain waves, blood pressure changes, galvanic skin responses, heartbeat and muscle contraction simultaneously with auric changes, that changes occurred in the field before any of the other systems changed” (Hunt, 1996, p. 33).

The field of energy medicine has an increasing number of studies being reported and they show a spectrum of beneficial results that included the psychological, behavioural, and physiological (Rubik et al., 2015). It is difficult, if not impossible, to explain changes in clinical biomarkers from energy medicine therapies using the current medical model. However, the biofield provides a model for explaining how therapies which provide a very small stimulus, which physically should have no impact on the organism, can actually cause dramatic changes, such as regularly observed in energy medicine (Rubik, 2002). The biofield concept, appears to provide a logical model for explaining field-like phenomena associated with humans, energy medicine effects, and non-physical interactions between humans and the world around them.


As discussed, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that human functioning involves a field-like aspect which suggests that health and wellness is the product of more than just biochemistry. Unfortunately, “the medical community takes for granted that the best way to describe the living state is in terms of molecular biology, and that questions of illness and wellness must be ultimately answered in this context” (Liboff, 2004, p. 41). However, Complementary and Alternative Medicine is challenging the current medical paradigm and therefore a new framework that is acceptable to the scientific community is being developed which includes the concept of the biofield (Rubik, 1995).

A large body of research over the last 100 years has demonstrated that humans have field-like properties, that disturbances in physiology can be measured in the biofield first, that humans can interact with the external world via non-physical mechanisms, and that energy medicine can facilitate health and wellbeing without providing any physical inputs. Therefore, it appears that the concept of a human energy field is essential for explaining the full range of experiences that occur in human life. However, a comprehensive model for explaining these mechanisms, which is satisfactory to both alternative and allopathic medicine communities, is still being developed and more resources are essential to further this endeavour.

Tania O’Neill McGowan 
is the co-author of the textbook Energetic Kinesiology. Tania has over 20 years’ experience working in professional Kinesiology training and has been studying the science of healing for 25 years. Tania is currently completing her PhD in Integral Health, hoping to create more research opportunities in the alternative healing industry and bring greater understanding of the benefits of Complementary Medicine to the public.


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