by Bruce Johnson
Esoteric science recognizes that the physical plane of life is divided into seven sub-planes, four of which are called the etheric sub-planes of physical matter. Etheric substances are much finer than the most subtle gas, but definitely physical in nature. The first sub-plane ether is the finest grade of physical ether. With each lower sub-plane, the etheric substance is coarser, culminating with the fourth ether, which is the grossest form of ether. Like everything in physical manifestation, the etheric plane is dual, with the two highest ethers positive in polarity, and the two lower ethers negative in polarity. The human etheric body is composed of all four ethers. Let’s identify these four distinct ethers, of which modern science is oblivious.
The level that contains the finest grade of physical substance, with the fewest number of atoms, is called the first etheric sub-plane. This level is composed of the first ether, called by various occult writers the atomic ether, the reflecting ether, and the mental or intellectual ether. The second etheric sub-plane is composed of a different type of ether called the second ether, sub-atomic ether, the light ether, or the sensory or emotional ether. The first and second ethers are positive in relationship to the third and fourth ethers, and facilitate the flow of consciousness and sensation between the higher bodies and the physical brain.
The third and fourth ethers are passive in their interaction with the first and second ethers, and together make up the etheric double or duplicate that is the invisible energy pattern behind every form in the physical universe. The third ether is called the super-etheric ether, and the vital or the life ether by diverse occult writers. The fourth ether is the most concrete of all the ethers and is called etheric substance by Alice Bailey, and labeled the chemical ether by other writers. The fourth ether will be “discovered” before the end of the century as more individuals develop etheric vision, and can see not only etheric doubles, but also devas and nature spirits.
The first ether is strongly linked to the human kingdom, and the soul plane of life. The first ether is the cause of the phenomena called “nature’s memory”, and the “Akashic Records”. Like the other ethers, the first or memory ether is wholly diffused throughout the entirety of the manifested universe. The first ether records every thought, word, image, emotion, or motion that takes place. The memory records of the first etheric sub- plane are an imperfect reflection of the much finer Akashic records that exist on higher planes.
The second ether corresponds to the mental plane and the animal kingdom. Often called the light ether, it translates vibrations of our sun into light that is visible to human senses. This ether makes possible sense perception between the etheric/physical and higher bodies.
The third ether has an affinity with the astral plane and the vegetable kingdom. It is the vehicle of pranic life energy to the dense physical body of everything in existence. It is called the vital or life ether in that it is the means by which solar life force is directed to the four kingdoms of nature.
The fourth ether relates to the mineral kingdom and the physical plane. It underlies the chemical changes of the dense physical body as well as in inorganic matter.
Bruce Johnson has over 30 years of study in the fields of Ancient Wisdom and occultism. He has taught classes on a wide range of topics, from Atlantis to mediums to Zoroaster. He is also a spiritualist minister, with a background in spiritual astrology. He lives in Colorado with his wife and their cat.