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According to spiritual beliefs, an aura or energy field is a colored emanation said to enclose a human body or any animal or object.[1] In some esoteric positions, the aura is described as a subtle body.[2] Psychics and holistic medicine practitioners often claim to have the ability to see the size, color and type of vibration of an aura.[3]


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In spiritual alternative medicine, the human being aura is seen as part of a hidden anatomy that reflects the state of being and health of a client, often understood to even comprise centers of vital force called chakras.[1] Such claims are not supported by scientific evidence and are thus pseudoscience.[4] When tested under scientific controlled experiments, the ability to see auras has not been proven to exist.[5]

In Latin and Ancient Greek, aura means wind, breeze or breath. It was used in Middle English to mean "gentle breeze". By the end of the 19th century, the word was used in some spiritualist circles to describe a speculated subtle emanation around the body.[6][7]

The concept of auras was first popularized by Charles Webster Leadbeater, a former priest of the Church of England and a member of the mystic Theosophical Society.[8] Leadbeater had studied theosophy in India, and believed he had the capacity to use his clairvoyant powers to make scientific investigations.[9] He claimed that he had discovered that most men came from Mars but the more advanced men came from the Moon, and that hydrogen atoms were made of six bodies contained in an egg-like form.[10] In his book Man Visible and Invisible published in 1903, Leadbeater illustrated the aura of man at various stages of his moral evolution, from the "savage" to the saint.[11][12] In 1910, Leadbeater introduced the modern conception of auras by incorporating the Tantric notion of chakras in his book The Inner Life.[13] Leadbeater did not simply present the Tantric beliefs to the West, he reconstructed and reinterpreted them by mixing them with his own ideas, without acknowledging the sources of these innovations. Some of Leadbeater's innovations are describing chakras as energy vortices, and associating each of them with a gland, an organ and other body parts.[14]

In the following years, Leadbeater's ideas on the aura and chakras were adopted and reinterpreted by other theosophists such as Rudolf Steiner[15] and Edgar Cayce, but his occult anatomy remained of minor interest within the esoteric counterculture until the 1980s, when it was picked up by the New Age movement.[16]

In 1977, American esotericist Christopher Hills published the book Nuclear Evolution: The Rainbow Body, which presented a modified version of Leadbeater's occult anatomy.[17] Whereas Leadbeater had drawn each chakras with intricately detailed shapes and multiple colors, Hills presented them as a sequence of centers, each one being associated with a color of the rainbow. Most of the subsequent New Age writers based their representations of the aura on Hill's interpretation of Leadbeater's ideas.[18] Chakras became a part of mainstream esoteric speculations in the 1980s and 1990s. Many New Age techniques that aim to clear blockages of the chakras were developed during those years, such as crystal healing and aura-soma.[19] Chakras were, by the late 1990s, less connected with their theosophical and Hinduist roots, and more infused with New Age ideas. A variety of New Age books proposed different links between each chakras and colors, personality traits, illnesses, Christian sacraments,[20] etc.[21] Various type of holistic healing within the New Age movement claim to use aura reading techniques, such as bioenergetic analysis, spiritual energy and energy medicine.[22]

In yoga participants attempt to focus on, or enhance their "auric energy shield".[23] The concept of auric energy is spiritual and is concerned with metaphysics. Some people think that the aura carries a person's soul after death.[24]

There have been numerous attempts to capture an energy field around the human body, going as far back as photographs by French physician Hippolyte Baraduc in the 1890s.[25] Supernatural interpretations of these images have often been the result of a lack of understanding of the simple natural phenomena behind them, such as heat emanating from a human body producing aura-like images under infrared photography.[26]

More recent attempts at capturing auras include the Aura Imaging cameras and software introduced by Guy Coggins in 1992. Coggins claims that his software uses biofeedback data to color the picture of the subject. The technique has failed to yield reproducible results.[26]

Recognition of auras has occasionally been tested on television. One test involved an aura reader standing on one side of a room with an opaque partition separating her from a number of slots which might contain either actual people or mannequins. The aura reader failed to identify the slots containing people, incorrectly stating that all contained people.[32]

In another televised test another aura reader was placed before a partition where five people were standing. He claimed that he could see their auras from behind the partition. As each person moved out, the reader was asked to identify where that person was standing behind the slot. He identified two out of five correctly.[33]

Attempts to prove the existence of auras scientifically have repeatedly met with failure; for example people are unable to see auras in complete darkness, and auras have never been successfully used to identify people when their identifying features are otherwise obscured in controlled tests.[26][31][32][33] A 1999 study concluded that conventional sensory cues such as radiated body heat might be mistaken for evidence of a metaphysical phenomenon.[34]

Psychologist Andrew Neher has written that "there is no good evidence to support the notion that auras are, in any way, psychic in origin."[35] Studies in laboratory conditions have demonstrated that auras are instead best explained as visual illusions known as afterimages.[36][37] Neurologists contend that people may perceive auras because of effects within the brain: epilepsy, migraines, or the influence of psychedelic drugs such as LSD.[38][39]

It has been suggested that auras may result from synaesthesia.[40] However, a 2012 study discovered no link between auras and synaesthesia, concluding "the discrepancies found suggest that both phenomena are phenomenological and behaviourally dissimilar."[41] Clinical neurologist Steven Novella has written: "Given the weight of the evidence it seems that the connection between auras and synaesthesia is speculative and based on superficial similarities that are likely coincidental."[42]

Bridgette Perez, in a review for the Skeptical Inquirer, wrote: "perceptual distortions, illusions, and hallucinations might promote belief in auras... Psychological factors, including absorption, fantasy proneness, vividness of visual imagery, and after-images, might also be responsible for the phenomena of the aura."[43]

Epileptic and migraine auras are due to the involvement of specific areas of the brain, which are those that determine the symptoms of the aura. Therefore, if the visual area is affected, the aura will consist of visual symptoms, while if a sensory one, then sensory symptoms will occur.

Epileptic auras are subjective sensory or psychic phenomena due to a focal seizure, i.e. a seizure that originates from that area of the brain responsible for the function which then expresses itself with the symptoms of the aura. It is important because it makes it clear where the alteration causing the seizure is located. An epileptic aura is in most cases followed by other manifestations of a seizure, for example a convulsion, since the epileptic discharge spreads to other parts of the brain. Rarely it remains isolated. Auras, when they occur, allow some people who have epilepsy time to prevent injury to themselves and/or others when they lose consciousness.

The aura of migraine is visual in the vast majority of cases, because dysfunction starts from the visual cortex. The aura is usually followed, after a time varying from minutes to an hour, by the migraine headache. However, the migraine aura can manifest itself in isolation, that is, without being followed by headache. The aura can stay for the duration of the migraine; depending on the type of aura, it can leave the person disoriented and confused. It is common for people with migraines to experience more than one type of aura during the migraine. Most people who have auras have the same type of aura every time.[citation needed]

An epileptic aura is the consequence of the activation of functional cortex by abnormal neuronal discharge.[3] In addition to being a warning sign for an impending seizure, the nature of an aura can give insight into the localization and lateralization of the seizure or migraine.[4][5]

The most common auras include motor, somatosensory, visual, and auditory symptoms.[6] The activation in the brain during an aura can spread through multiple regions continuously or discontinuously, on the same side or to both sides.[7]

Auras are particularly common in focal seizures. If the motor cortex is involved in the overstimulation of neurons, motor auras can result. Likewise, somatosensory auras (such as tingling, numbness, and pain) can result if the somatosensory cortex is involved. When the primary somatosensory cortex is activated, more discrete parts on the opposite side of the body and the secondary somatosensory areas result in symptoms ipsilateral to the seizure focus.[8][9]

Visual auras can be simple or complex. Simple visual symptoms can include static, flashing, or moving lights/shapes/colors caused mostly by abnormal activity in the primary visual cortex. Complex visual auras can include people, scenes, and objects which results from stimulation of the temporo-occipital junction and is lateralized to one hemifield. Auditory auras can also be simple (ringing, buzzing) or complex (voices, music). Simple symptoms can occur from activation in the primary auditory cortex and complex symptoms from the temporo-occipital cortex at the location of the auditory association areas.[10] 041b061a72


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