The mental body is composed of only four types of essence, whereas the astral [emotion/desire] and the physical are formed of seven types. 11 The mental body is built of particles of the four lower sub-divisions of the mental world, ie., of mental matter which corresponds to the four lower sub-divisions of astral matter, and to solid, liquid, gaseous and etheric matter of the physical plane.
The three higher grades of mental matter are used to build the Causal, or Higher Mental [which is expanded upon in Spiritual body page].
The mental body is the vehicle of the Thinker, who himself resides in the Causal body. But while the mental body is intended eventually to be the vehicle of consciousness on the lower mental plane, it also works on and through the astral and physical bodies in all manifestations that are usually called the "mind" in ordinary waking consciousness. The shape of the mental body is ovoid, [as are the astral and causal]. The matter of the mental body, however, is not evenly distributed throughout the egg. In the midst of the ovoid is the physical body, which strongly attracts astral matter: and in its turn the astral matter strongly attracts mental matter. Consequently, by far the greater part of the matter of both astral and mental bodies is gathered within the physical frame. To 'clairvoyant' sight, therefore, the mental body appears as built of dense mist, of the shape of the physical body, and surrounded by an ovoid of much finer mist. The portion of the mental body which projects beyond the periphery of the physical body forms the mental 'aura'.
The size of both astral and mental bodies is the same as that of the causal body, or more accurately, of the section of the causal body on the lower planes. Thus, unlike the physical body, which has remained substantially the same size [for aeons], the mental body grows in size as the man himself develops.14
The sympathetic nervous system is mostly connected with the astral body, while the cerebro-spinal system is more under the influence of the ego working through the mental body.
The process described above may be elucidated a little further. Every particle in the physical brain has its astral counterpart, and this in turn has its mental counterpart. If then, we suppose, for the purposes of our examination, that the whole of the physical brain be spread out so as to be one particle thick, we may further suppose that the corresponding astral and mental matter is also laid out in layers in a similar manner, the astral a little above the physical, the mental a little above the astral.
We thus have three layers of matter of differing density, all corresponding one to the other, but not joined in any way except that here and there wires of communication exist between the physical and the astral particles, and between the astral and mental particles.
That would fairly represent the condition of affairs in the brain of the average man.
When, therefore such a man wants to send a thought down from the mental level to the physical level, the thought - owing to many channels not being open - may have to go out of its way, as it were, going laterally through the brain of mental matter until it can find a way down, passing eventually through a [wire] not at all suited to it, and then, when it reaches the physical level, having to move laterally again in the physical brain before it meets the physical particles which are capable of expressing it.
It is obvious that such a method is awkward and clumsy. We can thus understand why it is that some people have no comprehension of mathematics or no taste for music,art etc. The reason is that in the part of the brain devoted to that particular faculty or subject the communications have not yet been opened up.
The particles of the mental body are in ceaseless motion. Moreover they are constantly changing, the mental body automatically drawing to itself, from the general storehouse, matter that can maintain the combinations already existing in it.
In spite of the intensely rapid motion of the mental particles among themselves, the mental body has yet at the same time a kind of loose organisation. there are in it certain striations which divide it more or less irregularly into segments, each of these corresponding to a certain department in the physical brain, so that every type of thought should function through its duly assigned portion. The mental body is as yet so imperfectly developed in ordinary men, however, [as mentioned above] that there are many in whom a great number of special departments are not yet in activity, and any attempt at thought belonging to those departments has to travel round through some inappropriate channel which happens to be fully open. The result is that thought on those subjects, is for those people, clumsy and uncomprehending. That is why some people have a head for mathematics and others are unable to perform a simple mathematical process - why some people instinctively understand, appreciate and enjoy music, while others do not know one tune from another.
Good thoughts produce vibrations of the finer matter of the body, which by its specific gravity tends to float in the upper part of the ovoid: wheras bad thoughts, such as selfishness and avarice, are always oscillations of the grosser matter, which tends to gravitate towards the lower part of the ovoid. Consequently the ordinary man who yields himself not infrequently to selfish thoughts of various kinds, usually expands the lower part of his mental body, and presents roughly the appearance of an egg with its larger end downwards. The man who has not indulged in those lower thoughts, but has devoted himself to higher ones, tends to expand the upper part of his mental body and therefore presents the appearance of an egg standing on its smaller end. All such appearances, however, are only temporary, the tendency being for the symmetry of the ovoid to re-assert itself by degrees.14
When a man thinks of a concrete object - a book, house, landscape, etc - he builds a tiny image of the object in the matter of his mental body. This image floats in the upper part of that body, usually in front of the face of the man and about at the level of the eyes. It remains there as long as the man is comtemplating the object, and usually for a little time afterwards, the length of life depending upon the intensity and the clearness of the thought. The form is quite objective and can be seen by another person possessed of mental sight. If a man thinks of another person he creates a tiny portrait in just the same way. 6
From a study of the colours and striations of a man's mental body, the 'clairvoyant' can perceive his character and the progress he has made in his life.
The mental body is more or less refined in its constituents, according to the stage of intellectual development at which the man has arrived. it is an object of great beauty, the delicacy and rapid motion of its particles giving it an aspect of living, iridescent light, and this beauty becomes an extraordinarily radiant and entrancing loveliness as the intellect becomes mor highly evolved and is employed chiefly on pure and sublime topics.
Every thought gives rise to vibrations in the mental body, accompanied by a play of colour described as like the spray of a waterfall as the sunlight strikes it, raised many degrees in colour and vivid delicacy. [A list of colours and their meanings are found on the Emotion/Desire body page.]
Where aspirational thought exists it invariably shows itself in a beautiful little violet circle at the top of the ovoid of the mental body, [eventually] it is a splendid glowing cap of the most lovely colour imaginable.
Below it often comes the blue ring of devotional thought, usually rather a narrow one, except in the case of the few whose religion is really deep and genuine.
Next to that there may be the much broader zone of affectionate thought, which may be of any shade of crimson or rose-colour according to the type of affection which it indicates.
Near the zone of affection, and frequently closely connected with it, there is found the orange band, which expresses proud and ambitious thought.
Again in intimate relation with pride comes the yellow belt of intellect, commonly divided into two bands, denoting respectively the philosophical and the scientific types of thought. The place of this yellow colour varies much in different men; sometimes it fills the whole of the upper part of the egg, rising above devotion and affection, and in such a case pride is generally excessive.
Below the group just described, and occupying the middle section of the ovoid, is the broad belt devoted to concrete shapes - the part of the mental body from which all ordinary thought-forms issue. [these will be described later]
The principal colour here is green, shaded often with brown or yellow, according to the disposition of the person.
There is no part of the mental body which varies more widely than this. Some people have their mental bodies crowded with a vast number of concrete images, whereas others have only a few. In some they are clear and well outlined, in others they are vague and hazy to the last degree; in some they are classified, labelled and arranged in the most orderly fashion, in others they are not arranged at all, but are left in hopeless confusion.
In the lower parts of the ovoid come the belts expressing all kinds of undesirable thoughts. A kind of muddy precipitate of selfishness often fills the lower third, or even half, of the mental body, and above this is sometimes a ring portraying hatred, cunning or fear. Naturally, as a man develops, this lower part vanishes, the upper part gradually expanding until it fills the whole body [as shown in Man visible and Invisible]
The general rule is, the stronger the thought, the larger is the vibration; the more spiritual and unselfish the thought the higher or more rapid is the vibration. strength of thought produces brilliancy, spirituality produces delicacy of colour.14
The principles which underlie the production of all thought-emotion forms are:-
1. Colour is determined by the quality of the thought or emotion.
2. Form is determined by the nature of the thought or emotion.
3. Clearness of Outline is determined by the definiteness of the thought or emotion.
The life period of a thought-form depends upon (1) its initial intensity; (2) the nutriment afterwards supplied to it by a repetition of the thought, either by the generator or by others. Its life may be continually reinforced by this repetition, a thought which is brooded over acquiring great stability of form. So again thought-forms of similar character are attracted to and mutually strengthen each other, making a form of great energy and intensity.
Furthermore, such a thought-form appears to possess instinctive desire to prolong its life and will react on its creator, tending to evoke from him renewal of the feeling that created it. It will react in a similar, though not so perfect manner on any others with whom it may come into contact.
The colours in which thought-forms express themselves are identical with the colours in the [emotional] aura.
The brilliance and depth of the colours are usually a measure of the strength and the activity of the feeling.
Each thought-form is a temporary entity. It resembles a charged battery, awaiting an opportunity to discharge itself. Its tendency is always to reproduce its own rate of vibration in the mental body upon which it fastens itself, and so to arouse in it, a like thought. If the person at whom it is aimed happens to be busy or already engaged in some definite train of thought, the particles of his mental body are already swinging at a certain determinate rate, and cannot for the moment be affected from without. In that case the thought-form bides its time, hanging about its object until he/she is sufficiently at rest to permit its entrance; then it discharges itself upon them, and in the act ceases to exist.
The self-centred thought behaves in exactly the same way with regard to its generator and discharges itself upon him when the opportunity offers. If it be an evil thought, he generally regards it as the suggestion of a tempting demon, whereas in truth he tempts himself. Usually each definite thought creates a new thought-form; but if a thought-form of the same nature is hovering round the thinker, under certain circumstances a new thought on the same subject, instead of creating a new form, coalesces with and strengthens, the old one, so that by long brooding over the same subject a man may sometimes create a thought-form of tremendous power. If the thought be a wicked one, such a thought-form may become a veritable evil influence, lasting perhaps for many years, and having, for a time all the appearance and powers of a real living entity. w1
For our present purpose we may classify thought-forms into three kinds:
1. Those connected solely with their originator.
2. Those connected with another person.
3. Those not definitely personal.
If a mans thought is about himself, or based on a personal feeling, as the vast majority of thoughts are, the form will hover in the immediate neighborhood of its generator. At any time then, when he is in a passive condition, his thoughts and feelings not being specifically occupied, his own thought-form will return to him and discharge itself upon him. In addition, each man also serves as a magnet to draw towards himself the thought-forms of others similar to his own, thus attracting towards himself reinforcements of energy from outside. People who are becoming sensitive have sometimes imagined, in such cases, that they have been tempted by the 'devil', whereas it is their own thought-desire forms which are the case of the 'temptation.' Long brooding over the same subject may create a thought-form of tremendous power. Such a form may last for many years and have for a time all the appearance and powers of a real living entity.
Most men move through life enclosed literally within a cage of their own building, surrounded by masses of forms created by their habitual thoughts. One important effect of this is that each man looks out upon the world through his own thought-forms, and thus sees everything tinged by them.
Thus a man's own thought-forms re-act upon him, tending to reproduce themselves and thus setting up definite habits of thought and feeling, which may be helpful if of a lofty character, but are often cramping and a hindrance to growth, obscuring the mental vision and facilitating the formation of prejudice and fixed moods or attitudes which may develop into definite vices.
"Man is continually peopling his current in space with a world of his own, crowded with the offspring of his fancies, desires, impulses and passions." These thought-forms remain in his aura, increasing in number and intensity, until certain kinds of them so dominate his mental and emotional life that the man rather answers to their impulse than decides anew: thus are habits, the outer expression of his stored up force, created, and thus is character built.
Moreover, as each man leaves behind him a trail of thought-forms, it follows that as we go along a street we are walking amidst a sea of other men's thoughts. If a man leaves his mind blank for a time, these thoughts of others drift through it: if one happens to attract his attention, his mind seizes upon it, makes it its own, strengthening it by the addition of its force, and then casts its out again to affect somebody else. A man therefore, is not responsible for a thought which floats into his mind, but he is reponsible if he takes it up, dwells upon it, and then sends it out again, strengthened.
The vast majority of thought-forms are simply copies or images of people or other material objects. They are formed first within the mental body and then pass outwards and remain suspended before the man. This applies to anything about which one may be thinking: persons, houses, landscapes, or anything else.
A painter, for example, builds out of the matter of his mental body a conception of his future picture, projects it into space in front of him, keeps it before his 'minds's eye', and copies it. This thought- and emotion-form persists and may be regarded as the unseen counterpart of the picture, radiating out its own vibrations and affecting all who come within its influence.
Similarly a novelist builds in mental matter images of his characters, and then, by his will, moves these puppets from one position or grouping to another, so that the plot of the story is acted out before him.
Considered in the mass[es], it is easy to realise the tremendous effect that these thought-forms or artificial elementals have in producing national and race-feelings, and thus in biasing and prejudicing the mind: for thought-forms of a similar kind have a tendency to aggregate together and form a kind of collective entity. We see everything through this atmosphere, every thought is more or less refracted by it, and our own astral bodies are vibrating in accord with it. As most people are receptive rather than initiative in their nature, they act almost as automatic reproducers of the thoughts which reach them, and thus the national atmosphere is continually intensified. This fact obviously explains many of the phenomena of crowd-consciousness.
The influence of these aggregated thought-forms extends still further. Thought-forms of a destructive type act as a disruptive agent and often precipitate havoc on the physical plane, causing "accidents", natural convulsions, storms, earthquakes, floods, or crime, disease,social upheavals and wars. 6
All these which have been described are the ordinary unpremeditated thoughts of man. A man can make a thought-form intentionally, and aim it at another with the object of helping him. This is one of the lines of activity adopted by those who desire to serve humanity. A steady stream of powerful thought dircted intelligently upon another person may be of the greatest assistance to him. A strong thought-form may be a real guardian angel, and protect its object from impurity, from irritability or from fear.
An interesting branch of the subject is the study of the various shapes and colours taken by thought-forms of different kinds. The colours indicate the nature of the thought, and are in agreement with those which we have already described as existing in the bodies. The shapes are of infinite variety, but are often in some way typical of the kind of thought which they express.
Every thought of definite character, such as a thought of affection or hatred, of devotion or suspicion, of anger or fear, of pride or jealousy, not only creates a form but also radiates an undulation. The fact that each one of these thoughts is expressed by a certain colour indicates that the thought expresses itself as an oscillation of the matter of a certain part of the mental body. This rate of oscillation communicates itself to the surrounding mental matter precisely in the same way as the vibration of a bell communicates itself to the surrounding air.
This radiation travels out in all directions, and whenever it impinges upon another mental body in a passive or receptive condition it communicates to it something of its own vibration. This does not convey a definite complete idea, as does the thought-form, but it tends to produce a thought of the same character as itself. For example, if the thought be devotional its undulations will excite devotion, but the object of the worship may be different in the case of each person upon whose mental body they impinge. The thought-form on the other hand, can reach only one person, but will convey to that person (if receptive) not only a general devotional feeling, but also a precise image of the Being for whom the adoration was already felt.
Any person who habitually thinks pure, good and strong thoughts is utilizing for that purpose the higher part of his mental body - a part which is not used at all by the ordinary man, and is entirely undeveloped in him. Such a one is therefore a power for good in the world, and is being of good use to all his neighbours who are capable of any sort of response. For the vibration which he sends out tends to arouse a new and higher part of their mental bodies, and consequently to open before them altogether new fields of thought.
It may not be exactly the same thought as that sent out, but it is of the same nature. The undulations generated by a man thinking of Theosophy [for example] do not necessarily communicate Theosophical ideas to all those around him; but they do awaken in them more liberal and higher thought than that to which they have before been accustomed. On the other hand, the thought-forms generated under such circumstances, though more limited in their action than the radiation, are also more precise; they can affect only those who are to some extent open to them, but to them they will convey definite Theosophical ideas. w1
In view of the fact that the seven grades of mental matter correspond respectively to the seven grades of physical (as well as to those of astral) matter it would seem that the mental body would be more especially affected by the physical solids, liquids, gases and ethers, ie., by the four lower orders of physical matter.) it will of course, be clear to the student that a mental body composed of the coarse varieties of mental matter will respond to the coarser types of thought more readily than to the finer varieties.
Coarse food and drink tend to produce a coarse mental body. Flesh foods, alcohol and tobacco are harmful to physical, astral and mental bodies. The same applies to nearly all drugs.
Furthermore, a body fed on flesh and alcohol is especially liable to be thrown out of health by the opening up of the higher consciousness; nervous diseases in fact, are partly due to the fact that the higher consciousness is trying to express itself through bodies clogged by flesh-products and alcohol.
Dirt of all kinds is often more objectionable in the higher worlds than in the physical. Thus for example, the mental and astral counterparts of the waste matter which is constantly being thrown off by the physical body as invisible perspiration are of the most undesirable character.
Loud, sharp or sudden noises should, as far as possible, be avoided by any one who wishes to keep his astral and mental bodies in order. The cumulative effect of noise on the mental body is a feeling of fatigue and inability to think clearly.
The ordinary person uses matter of the seventh or lowest [mental] sub-plane only; that being very near to the astral plane, all his thoughts are coloured by reflections from the astral or emotional world. Very few people can as yet deal with the sixth sub-plane [this is from a book dated 1926]; great scientific men certainly use it a good deal but unfortunately they mingle it with the matter of the lowest sub-plane and then become jealous of other peoples' discoveries and inventions. The matter of the fifth sub- plane is much more free from the possibility of astral entanglement with astral vibrations.14