There are three worlds. No, I don't mean in the alien sci-fi kind of way, and I'm not crazy (okay, I'm a little crazy but that's inconsequential at the moment). I'm referring to the three spheres of reality that interact and overlap the physical reality we typically acknowledge. The fun thing about these worlds is you don't have to drugs to get there (although some have had some pretty interesting experiences using umm...chemical methods to experience these spheres, although I'm not advocating drug use While i'm on the topic stay in school, don't do drugs and only you can prevent forest fires and all that jazz).
Anywhoodle, In many spiritual traditions, complex metaphysical philosophies and even quantum physics there is the notion that there are 3 planes or spheres that categorize existence, all of which house different levels of information and require different forms of "technology" to understand.
In Vedanta, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Gnostic Christianity and Kabbalah these spheres are often referred to as the gross/physical, subtle/astral and mental spheres. Each sphere, or plane, has a function and interacts and overlaps with one another and helps to create the totality of existence. The mental world transverses and influences the subtle world which transverses and influences the physical world, kind of like a nesting doll. Each one houses its own set of rules and guidelines and much like the laws of gravity we recognize in the physical world.
In most of the aforementioned traditions there is the belief that the only Reality or Truth that one can achieve comes when the consciousness has transcended all three spheres and perceives the Divine which is independent of these spheres yet manifests them simultaneously.
Each soul has a certain propensity, aptitude and habit of attention fixed one of these three spheres. This depends largely on the soul's relative level of advancement or soul age. All human beings have the capacity to perceive all 3 spheres, and are affected equally by all three spheres however one will hold the soul's attention more than the others.
Additionally, the sphere in which the soul is most focused will be the point of limitation and strength that they have to work with; meaning those who are only conscious of the physical sphere will focus on physical/material concerns to the exclusion of the subtle (emotional/energetic) or mental spheres and as such may miss deeper significance in underlying physical phenomena. Their thoughts, however intelligent and developed will focus primarily on physical/material concerns and ideas and emotions will stay primarily relegated to the gross world.
Below are snapshots of the three spheres. As you read try to ascertain where your habit of attention lies. Also, note that a soul can have their habit of attention on one sphere but have the capability to perceive higher or more refined spheres. This point of limitation happens because of cultural conditioning and other factors that cause the soul to reposition their habit of attention to a slower frequency (fear, religious bias, skepticism, economic necessity).
Most people in the United States are largely focused on the physical and subtle spheres. However, the physical sphere receives the most attention and validity due to scientific advancements that made its mysteries understandable.
We're about to get pretty philosophical so strap in folks:
The gross sphere corresponds to physical reality. It is the world of matter and density. It is through the gross sphere that the physical organism tends to its basic survival needs. The gross sphere has countless expressions within it from the subtle manifestations (like the atom, oxygen, carbon, etc) to the most complex organisms like human beings, monkeys and elephants. The gross sphere has the slowest frequency and vibration. Those who are predominately gross conscious will be aware of the physical world through the gross senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste). The senses or extensions of the senses (such as scientific instruments) are used to measure the gross world and provide information and data about how the gross world functions.
Medical science, biology, anthropology, chemistry, and physics are all sciences which are used to measure and understand the gross world of matter. The gross conscious soul will be largely unaware of how the subtle and mental spheres affect them or their surroundings and will largely focus on physical and physically tangible reality because that is where their attention goes. Surrounding the gross sphere is the etheric sphere which is merely an echo of what is happening on a physical level. The etheric level is the afterglow of the physical vibration and can be seen around objects like a milky or gray substance that extends a few inches off of the object or organism. All animals and a great deal of humanity are predominately gross conscious. Ironically the gross conscious sphere is the "least" real as it is merely a manifestation of energy and thought on the higher spheres, but because of its gross density appears to the senses to be finite and "real". The light on the physical plane is darker and more dense than on the subtle or mental planes.
The gross conscious soul has a physical body but an inactive/unconscious subtle body and an inactive/unconscious mental body.
The subtle/astral sphere corresponds to the energetic and emotional world. This subtle sphere houses emotional and energetic information underlying the physical sphere. The subtle sphere is the arena through which spiritual energy manifest. The subtle sphere has a faster vibration than the gross sphere and as such is largely invisible to the normal physical senses (except for those who have a genetic disposition which enhances their physical senses to perceive subtle phenomena). The subtle sphere has no mass and is not typically measurable utilizing gross tools. Those aware of the subtle sphere will be aware of it through their subtle body and subtle senses (clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, psycometry, subtle taste) although this awareness may be unconscious their focus will still go to their subtle impression of the world.
This is the sphere through which those who have developed the ability can sense ghosts or other astral beings on the astarl plane, emotional energy, or other subtle energetic information. Because the subtle world can only be contacted through one's subtle senses and is largely misunderstood by mainstream western science due to a lack of appropriate tools to measure its validity. Furthermore because it is based largely on emotional energy its various manifestations are tenuous and subject to extreme variability depending on conditions.
Most mediums, psychics, shamans, and energy workers (reiki masters, qi gong masters, etc) are working with subtle or astral information. The "astral plane" houses the emotional energy/beings produced by all beings and as such can be experienced in our dreams states or through conscious astral travel. Conversely those experiences can be beautiful and healing or terrifying and dark.
The subtle sphere is the emotional or energetic imprint of what happens, has happened or will happen in the physical sphere. Subtle energy holds a longer shelf life and greater flexibility than physical matter, meaning subtle energy can linger longer than physical matter and transports quicker which allows it to be sensed outside of time and space. The subtle conscious soul is often focused on emotions or spiritual energy in one way or another. This means that the subtle conscious soul may be aware of how the emotional or energetic world affects the physical world and so may be powerful healers or agents for change because of an understanding of the emotional and subtle effects of thoughts and actions.
As one moves to the higher states of the subtle sphere the focus moves from lower astral/subtle emotions such as ( power, lust, grief, shame and anger) to higher astral/subtle emotions such as (happiness, sympathy, empowerment, confidence and forgiveness). However, everyone's experience in the physical world will reflect their energetic focus in the subtle world, which is why attendance to the emotional/subtle experience is paramount for holistic balance.
The subtle body houses all of the emotional information from this life and other lifetimes. As such those who conduct healing or who are clairvoyant are accessing the subtle body for data and depending on their ability may be miraculous in their accuracy and efficacy in correcting physical or emotional imbalance. Subtle conscious souls are aware of the physical and subtle realms and at the higher end of the subtle sphere may be aware of mental sphere information as well. The light (awareness) on the subtle plane increases in brightness as one moves to the higher levels of the subtle sphere.
The subtle conscious living human soul has a physical body and an active-conscious subtle body and an inactive-unconscious or inactive-semi-conscious mental body (depending on soul development).
The mental sphere is the world of higher mind however this is not to be confused with thought because thought is experienced in all spheres on the human level and some animal species. Here the words "thoughts" and "mind" are not referring to the individual thinking mechanism of the human being that focuses on everyday thoughts and ideas as a manifestation of brain activity. The mental sphere corresponds to higher mind. This is the world of possibility and higher order, and the recognition of universal patterns and connections. The mental sphere is where imagination is born and the mental sphere has the highest vibration out of the three sphere and the brightest light.
The mental sphere is where the realization of divine or unifying consciousness resides. The mental sphere can only be accessed through intuition and direct knowledge.
Those souls conscious of the mental sphere typically experience direct knowing in relation to the universal nature of all life through their mental bodies. The mental sphere houses all possibilities for expression in the subtle or physical world, meaning that thought forms are produced in the mental sphere and perceived and created in the subtle and physical spheres, much like a filtering process.
This is the realm of the collective (un)conscious, archetypes, universal tropes and time/space potentialities. Mental conscious souls function (often unconsciously) as idea generators for the other spheres. They tend to be at least vaguely intuitively aware of a divine unifying consciousness even if skepticism and pragmatism is their choice of expression through the personality. The mental sphere houses mental energy and as such has no direct energetic power but gains power through interacting with the subtle sphere and integrating emotional charge and then physical expression.
The mental sphere is vast and holds various levels within it (far more than the subtle and physical spheres) because it is the realm of potentiality Thoughts by souls in the subtle and physical sphere are inherited or filtered from the mental sphere. Theoretically if a thought form is born in the mental sphere it has the potential to become a reality in some form. This does not mean that subtle and physical conscious souls do not have thoughts but rather they interpret mental sphere impressions according to their level of consciousness and experience.
Higher wisdom resides in the mental sphere, so those older souls that may be physically young who are mental conscious may possess spiritual or metaphysical wisdom beyond their years. The mental conscious soul is aware of both the physical and subtle spheres but may have difficulty in manifesting physical and subtle results because the consciousness is focused on higher or universal mental information (not thoughts or mental activity...anyone can be thought centered depending on personality and temperament). The mental conscious soul may get caught in astral/subtle streams of energy and act out emotional turmoil whilst still maintaining an awareness of that energy being illusory or false.
The mental conscious living human soul has a physical body and a fully conscious-active mental body and a fully conscious-latent subtle body