by Gary Seeman, Ph.D.

This was originally posted on Tuesday, 3/9/10.

Today I received the first responses to posting my articles to several psychological listservs on psychological change in the human aura. Several readers were immediately interested in this subject and some were turned off by the very idea. Reading the responses of supporters and critics allows me to respond to readers’ curiosity and concerns, so I can write more effectively about this subject. Those who objected did so on the basis of reading my announcement about the articles, not the articles themselves. Their objection was that since they don’t “see” any “aura,” the subject is irrelevant at best. At worst, they think I’m probably promoting pseudoscience. I actually address the concern about not being able to sense the aura in Part 1 of the series, which you can read here. This blog responds to the question about being able to see the aura.

I wouldn’t be writing about such things if I hadn’t had life-changing mystical experiences. I’ve been been able to see and feel the aura for many years, if I decide to focus that way, which I usually don’t do (see below). The ability to see auras isn’t common in western culture and not even among experienced meditators, who generally don’t train to develop such specific abilities (also see below).

After a classic spiritual opening in early 1977, I trained in the reading and healing of the aura at a local offshoot of the Berkeley Psychic Institute for a year and a half. Part of this training involved doing what we called “line readings,” where students would meditate upon and speak about their perceptions of the auras of people who would come for such readings. We found that when practicing with each other or reading these complete strangers, we would see similar energy structure and color in our minds’ eyes. This is a common experience among intuitives. Valerie Hunt, Ph.D., in her book, Infinite Mind, describes assembling a panel of intuitives who would see similarly to each other. Although some intuitives were always able to see this way, others, like me, gained that ability only after doing specific meditation exercises. And much of the training involves stilling the mind sufficiently that you’re not projecting what you expect to see rather than intuiting directly. To get a sense of what intuitives like me perceive when meditating upon someone’s energy field, see the illustrations by Joseph A. Smith in the book, Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan.

Another experience of what it’s like to see the aura comes from a friendship I had while attending my Master’s in Psychology program. One of my classmates was an accomplished meditator who typically sat in meditation for at least six hours each day. He reported seeing subtle energy in great detail as if he was seeing through his eyes. He could see all of the chakras, acupuncture meridians and acupoints as moving dashes of white light. For him, this ability opened up spontaneously as a result of his extensive meditation. Such experiences are probably more common in cultures where many more people do extensive meditation under expert guidance.

Skeptics reading this blog will think that because they can’t sense such things, what I’m writing cannot be true or honest. But I’m telling you my actual experience. Think of it this way. Some people and animals perceive things that others don’t, and this is objectively known. Your dog, for instance, can perceive sounds far above the range of human hearing. Seeing auras is a similar ability in that some people have inner visual representations of energy when others see nothing. The difference is that with training, some people can develop this extra sensitivity.

I’ll also tell you that as a psychotherapist, I usually don’t pay much attention to subtle fields but instead hold myself in a meditative calmness and pay close attention to my clients’ words while peripherally observing their facial expressions and body language. But mostly I’m taking in what they’re saying, trying to empathize with what it’s like to have their experiences, and reflecting on evidence-based or case-based psychological theory to try and help them work through their issues.

Rather than be vigilant to what may be happening in the aura, I center myself in a calm and alert state. If a client is very emotionally activated, my being centered may have a field effect that helps to calm them. Certainly doing so helps me think more clearly in the session. My current lack of focus on psychic reading is consistent with what is taught in Buddhism and Hinduism, which both consider too much focus on siddhis (special powers) to be a hindrance to growth of character and attainment of deep mental calmness. When going through my psychic training, I found it a strain to try and sense that way too much and am glad to have gotten out of the habit. If I do use subtle sensing, it’s not very different from anyone having a feeling, getting a hunch, and asking the other person whether my intuition fits their experience. If not, I go with what they tell me because aura reading is vulnerable to distortion by one’s projections.

The series of articles I’m writing will survey the scientific attempts to detect the subtle energies intuitives like me see and feel. I will also review experiments that have been done to differentiate subtle sensing from the inner imagery created through reading another’s physical cues. All in due time. I’m at the beginning of this project and look forward to reporting my findings to you.