AIPR Information Sheet: The Human Aura
Psychics throughout history have seen coloured auras about persons. An example is the halo about the head of saints in religious paintings. The aura is supposedly the “life force” emanating from the body (at points called “chakras” in Hindu teachings). Sensitives say they can tell a persons emotional, mental and spiritual state from the colours of the aura. Most modern commentary can be traced back to the theosophist C. W. Leadbeater (10) and London physician W. J. Kilner (8). They recognised three layers to the aura, in order outwards from the body.
Etheric double: a narrow dark space near the body.
Inner aura (astral body): brightly coloured of fixed width.
Outer aura (mental body): less bright, of variable width.
Types of aura
Auras about the human body can be of three types (11,14).
1. Physical auras
Several energy and matter fields that constantly surround the body. They can be instrumentally detected. For example: Thermal (inflamed): radiated from the body, which is hotter than the surrounding air. Electromagnetic: alpha and other brain waves, and waves generated by muscle action. Ionising radiation: the high-voltage corona discharge aura (see Kirlian aura). Electrostatic Sweating: water vapour and organic molecules.
2. Psychological aura
The personal space about a person, that is, the closest distance an observer can approach without the person feeling uncomfortable.
3. Projected aura
An aura perceived about a target person, but existing only within the observer’s mind.
Common types are:
After-images: the result of the constant motion of our eyes as we stare at the target body a long time.
Contrast effects: the apparently brighter zone immediately surrounding the body produced where the background colour is brighter than, or complementary to, that of the person viewed.
Imagery effects: unconscious dramatisation, where the observer so strongly expects to see an aura (for example, because of strong needs or spiritual beliefs), he or she indeed sees one.
Physical effects: produced only under special conditions (e.g., reflection or refraction effects from the moisture in the air or in the lens of the eye.
The studies by Kilner
In 1908 to 1910, Kilner looked at human subjects through a glass cell containing the dye dicyanin, and saw a grey/blue haze (8). He trained his eye to see this aura without the screen; the best viewing conditions being dim light and a dark background. He said that 95% of persons could see the aura; one need not be psychic or occultist. He looked at auras through different coloured screens, and concluded he could diagnose disease. He believed that the aura was ultraviolet radiation from the body, even though his UV photography failed to show it (note that old Kilner goggles are of little use, as the dye fades with age).
Tests on the dicyanin screens, however, show that they almost fully cut out the light in the middle of the visible spectrum, letting through only the double image of the red and blue ends of the spectrum (5,6). This explains at least some aspects of Kilner’s aura. Another flaw is that none of Kilner’s research was carried out double-blind, that is, his beliefs influenced his conclusions. In the early 1900s, there was much talk of newly discovered rays: X-ray, radio waves, radioactivity, “N-rays”, “odic (Reichenbach) forces”. Theosophy and Spiritualism were popular. Kilner was thus predisposed to discover new rays. A third flaw was that Kilner did not first eliminate the possibility of projected auras; indeed three facts point to projected auras as the correct explanation:
Kilner also claimed, by similar means, to see magnetic, electric and radioactivity fields, as well as the non-existent “N-rays”.
Psychics do not often agree about the colours they see about the same target person (11).
The doorway test (14). The target person stands behind an open doorway so that only the aura is visible through the doorway. The target is told to move away from the door at random intervals. The aura is physical, that is, emanates from the target, if the psychic observer can accurately predict the time during which the target is near the doorway with only his or her aura showing. All psychics tested so far, including Matthew Manning, have failed this test.
Thus, the “human aura” seems to be projected aura existing within the psychics mind as an “unconscious dramatisation” of their “psychic vision”. Nevertheless, this ability is worth cultivating, because it may be affected by the moods and beliefs of the observer and target. The aura is thus of potential diagnostic interest.
Kirlian photography is a high-voltage radio-frequency corona discharge method of photographing biological systems (1,2,4,7,9,13,15).
It was popularised by Seryon Kirlian in the USSR in the 1950s. Some Soviet scientists, who call it the dielectric effect, use it in agriculture, medical diagnosis and acupuncture. Thelma Moss, Kendall Johnson and Douglas Dean pioneered initial studies in the USA. Early researchers claimed that Kirlian photographs were actual pictures of the human aura heretofore seen only by clairvoyants. The colour and intensity of the flares supposedly represented the physical, mental and spiritual condition of the human subject.
The Kirlian images result from electrical (corona) discharges (air ionisation) between an object and an electrode at atmospheric temperature and pressure.
The two main methods are:
The object and a film (separated by a 0.01-1 mm gap) are placed between parallel metal plates (electrodes).
The finger touches a film on an electrode. Tissue damage and electric shock are minimised by use of high frequencies and low currents, and careful apparatus design. The device should only be used by persons qualified in the electrical field.
The Kirlian aura depends on the thin, salty layer of sweat around the body (1,3). The high voltage causes photon emission from the sodium, calcium, etc., in the salt. These emissions darken the silver in the photographic plate. Tension, depression and abdominal pain inhibit sweat, decreasing the Kirlian aura. Fear, anger, mental effect, joy and sexual effect increase sweating, thus intensifying the aura.
Problems with the Kirlian method
The early researchers were insufficiently aware of the large number of variables that affect the images. Prof. Omura (International Kirlian Research Association) states that 24 variables need to be controlled (7).
The most important are:
Power factors: voltage/amperage fluctuations; wave form; pulse frequency. Tesla and induction coils offer inadequate control.
Equipment set-up: type of electrode and insulator; grounding conditions; electrode-finger spacing.
Film: Type and exposure time; finger-film spacing. A special retainer is needed to keep the film flat.
Finger: Cleanliness (lack of sweat); pressure of finger on film; area of contact; physiological state (electrical conductivity and blood chemistry). Subjects must wash their fingers in distilled water, dry them in air and wear cotton gloves until the test starts.
Environmental: Temperature, pressure, humidity and pollutant content of the air.
An electrical engineer would identify the streamers of the Kirlian aura as normal corona discharge streamers. The pattern of streamers varies according to the gases in the air being ionised. The colours supposedly indicate a psychic person. However, blue and white are the normal colours (from excited nitrogen molecules in the air). The other colours (reds, oranges, yellows, greens) can occur if (i) the electrode is dirty, (ii) the film has vibrated or buckled, (iii) the film-electrode distance is varied, and/or (iv) the exposure time or intensity are varied.
The “phantom-leaf” effect occurs when a part of a leaf that has been placed between the electrodes is cut off. The image still shows the full leaf. A dead leaf will show no aura at all. These anomalies can be explained by the absence of sap in the dead leaf and its presence in the living leaf (when part of the leaf is cut off, traces of sap still remain on the electrodes) (7).
Kirlian photograph: Promising future?
Kirlian photography is an example of a technique initially studied by psychic researchers that has subsequently found important scientific applications. Recently, important medical applications have emerged. The technique has also spawned a new discipline called electrography, which includes 20 or so methods of recording the minute electrical and magnetic changes in the body.
Ion Dumitrescu, a Romanian medical doctor with an electronics degree, found that Kirlian images were not easily reproducible, and the method was too dangerous for use on the heart and brain. Thus, since 1958, he has pioneered 10 to 20 other original electrographic methods of imaging the human body (3). The techniques all work on the principle that all biological processes are fundamentally electrical. These minute electrical changes always pre-date any pathological or physiological change in the body, enabling early treatment.
The acupuncture points have higher electrical conductivity, potential and capacitance than the surrounding skin, and these increase further with ill health. He has obtained electroluminescent images at cell and tissue level, and invented a new method (electrography) for imaging the whole body.
Leonard Konikiewics (Polyclinic Medical Centre, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) has used Kirlian photography to correctly identify 16 out of 18 cystic fibrosis patients in a sample of 140, and 37 out of 48 carriers of the CF gene. He has also studied menstruation of the human female. The luminosity of the Kirlian aura increases during ovulation. When the female took a birth-control pill (preventing ovulation), the Kirlian aura remained at constant intensity (9).
Harry Oldfield (Charing Cross Hospital, London) has built a Kirlian hand-gun. It fires high-frequency radio signals at the heart. Resonance of the heart is picked up by the gun and displayed on an oscilloscope, indicating anomalies. He and Peter Kandela have also photographed undiagnosed breast tumours in women (12).
1) Boyers, D G & Tiller, W A (1973). Corona discharge photography. Journal of Applied Physics, 44, 3102-3112.
2) Dakin, H S (1975). High voltage photography. San Francisco, CA: Dakin & Co.
3) Dumitrescu, I & Kenyon, J N (1983). Electrographic imaging in medicine and biology. Sudbury: Spearman.
4) Ebrahim, H & Williams, R. (1982). Kirlian photography – an appraisal. Journal of Audiovisual Media in Medicine, 5, 84-91.
5) Ellison, A J (1962). Some recent experiments in psychic perceptivity. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 41, 355-364.
6) Ellison A J (1967). Review of the book “The human aura” by W J Kilner. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 44, 27-34.
7) Ellison, A J (1981). The Unexplained, 630-634 and 650-653.
8) Kilner, W J (1920/1965). The human aura (2nd edition, reprint). New York: University Books.
9) Konikiewics, L W (1977). Kirlian photography in theory and clinical application. Journal of the Biological Photographic Association, 45, 115-134.
10) Leadbeater, C W (1902/1969). Man visible and invisible. Wheaton, IL: Quest.
11) Neher, A (1980). The psychology of transcendence (pp. 186-191). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Spectrum.
12) Omni, June 1981, p48.
13) Pehek, J O and others (1976). Science, 194, 63-270.
14) Tart, C T (1972). Concerning the scientific study of the human aura. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 46, 1-21.
15) Tiller, W A (1974). New Scientist, 25 April, 160-163.