To clear up semantic confusion, “etheric” can refer to either of two things: first is the “etheric realm” of occultism which is a luminescent mirror world interpenetrating the physical, and second is the “ether” of archaic science which is the medium in which everything exists.
Perhaps the two are identical, but for this article I will be referring to the “etheric realm” of occultism since that is where we have empirical data.
What is the etheric?
Minerals, plants, animals, and people have physical bodies, but what makes them alive is something beyond the physical. Without that extra factor, entropy would cause disintegration of the physical as happens after death. Tracing the physical processes of the body down to the smallest scales brings us into the quantum domain. Processes that seem mechanical and predictable on the large scale have their origins in quantum jumps that are neither predictable by physical science nor controllable by physical means.
So that extra factor is something that biases these quantum jumps at the small scale to offset the forces of entropy at the large scale. This is the etheric body, a subtle energy body interpenetrating the physical and shaping the quantum processes that give rise to its biological activities. In other words, the etheric body is an energy template that biases the probability of acausal biological events to produce ordered and intelligent life. It is a formative field made of coarse life-force energy.
Using the terminology of chaos theory, it is an attractor field (a structured field made of strange attractors).
Since the physical body resides in a physical environment, the etheric body must reside in an etheric environment. And just as a physical body can exist without an etheric (as is the case with a corpse) so can the etheric exist without the physical. This means etheric life-forms may exist around us who, because they lack physical bodies, are imperceptible to our physical senses.
Occult perception (known as second sight) lets one view the local etheric environment. For beginners this requires entering a trance state in between sleeping and waking, where the mind is decoupled from linear time and mechanized thoughts. It happens naturally in hypnagogic and hypnopompic states while going to sleep and waking up, although advanced occultists and shamans can switch into this while walking around and talking.
In this state, one can observe etheric life-forms, the etheric field around living things, and also etheric thought-forms which are produced by mental/emotional energy cast off by people throughout the day that continue in the ether like eddies in water until running out of energy and fading.
It is also known that alien/hyper-dimensional entities can hang around in the etheric, not fully materializing into the physical, in order to quietly observe. This is also true of time travelers who are unable or unwilling to fully lock phase with our particular time stream and thus can only observe us. All these can be seen with second sight, however. The etheric realm is therefore a superset of the physical, and the parts we can see through second sight is just the close halo of the physical extending into the etheric realm.
From a quantum viewpoint, the etheric state appears to involve partial delocalization of the wave function, as will be discussed below. And it takes delocalization of your own consciousness to view it through second sight.
While the physical realm and our normal waking consciousness are both highly localized or collapsed into a single sharp focal point, the etheric plane is more diffuse, like the tranced consciousness needed to perceive it. That diffuseness is what allows the etheric body to shape quantum events, to bias probability, because it is a structure diffused across multiple possibilities instead of being localized to just one as our physical body is.
Other clairvoyants have described the etheric realm as a mirror world, not only in mirroring the physical when, say, the etheric body has similar morphology to the physical it enlivens, but that very often perception shows things as reversed — reversed in time, reversed in space. I’m getting ahead of myself, but that phenomenon appears to involve more the parts of the etheric that blend into the astral, complicated by the fact that what we see with second sight is what our mind decodes of the energy patterns constituting etheric life-forms, and it is therefore biased by our own personal lexicon of symbolic visuals.
Although relatively speaking, what you see of the etheric is closer to its actual reality than what you would see in the astral.
Another thing to notice is that if the etheric realm is indeed a mirror world in every sense of the term, where time intervals do run opposite those of the physical, then it sheds further light on how it can bias probability. Probabilities deal with probable futures and to shape quantum events means to have these be attracted toward certain probable futures and repelled from others.
So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this attraction and repulsion seems to come from those probable futures. Some type of resonant action between the current quantum system and the most strongly attracted probable future helps that future manifest.
This resonance is encoded in the etheric field, and it acts upon the physical by pulling on it from the direction of the future — meaning it is an influence that originates in our perceived future and flows backward in time.
To illustrate this, if you are given five choices then you have five probable futures all sending their influences back in time and intersecting you in the present. The choice you most feel a tug toward is the probable future with the strongest reverse-time attraction force. You still have freewill and can choose one of the lesser alternatives, which is especially important if that strongest future is a bad one and willpower is needed to get you toward the healthier alternative.
Etherically, you are resonant with the strongest of your immediate probable futures.
In addition to being mere psychology, habit also has an etheric basis because repeated behaviors set up a type of momentum in the etheric that biases probability toward continuation of that behavior. And not only behavior, but for instance the type of activity that goes on in a house can imprint the etheric to attract similar activity in whoever moves in next.
So a transfer of etheric patterns can take place. You could receive the pattern of illness or bad luck from someone else’s etheric field through close interaction and thus start attracting those. In fact, etheric entities (and devices built by aliens) can be latched onto you in order to alter your behavior, health, and probability of experience.
Certain schools of occultism teach how to create your own etheric thought-forms to accomplish tasks, and the darker of those schools teach how a thought-form programmed to start a fire in your enemy’s home will do just that. Of course, it won’t start a fire by heating the carpet until it smolders, rather it heightens the probability that an accident causing a fire will occur.
All this shows that the etheric is intimately involved in probability.
So the etheric is closely associated with the physical realm, loosely mirroring its shape and diffusing outward in all spatiotemporal directions. It is the seat of raw life-force energy and influencer of probability. In contrast, the astral is as far removed from the etheric as the etheric is from the physical, and is thus two orders different from the physical. It is more reflective of internal psychic space than an external physical space.
The astral body is the seat of soul-based emotions. Whereas the etheric pulls on physical quantum events, the astral seems to pull on mental and emotional events. The astral realm, instead of mirroring physical form, symbolically mirrors emotional and psychic energy patterns.
Second sight also allows perception of the astral when an astral entity blends into the etheric environment. But to fully enter an astral realm requires that consciousness shift completely out of the physical and etheric environment and enter into something that is more like shared mind-space rather than space-time.
Astral beings are not defined by structure and form, but by abstract symbolic meaning and conscious signature.
An astral traveler can still decode all this into an internally recreated visual environment, but the real reality behind it isn’t comprehensible in terms of distance and time.
Hope this info helps discern any misconceptions.