Kirlian Photographs - Pictures of the aura or corona discharge

Dr Swami Satyamurti Saraswati, Ph.D.

High voltage photography dates back to 1843. Images of the emanations or effluvia from humans were first photographed using a high voltage field by Carsten in England. Later in 1891 the same type of photographs were taken by the electronics genius, Nicola Tesla, who developed alternating current. Soon after, a number of scientists started using these techniques to make 'in depth' studies of human emanations. However, the most systematic and long term studies were those conducted in the Soviet Union by a husband and wife team, Semyon and Valentina Kirlian. Their basic technique involved a high frequency spark generator (similar to the coil of a car), or an oscillator generating from 75,000 to 200,000 cycles per second. This is connected to one or two electrode plates, and the object to be photographed is inserted between the plates along with photographic film or paper. When the current is turned on for a short time, the field created causes the corona discharge which is registered on the plate or film. The technique can be dangerous if not applied with care. The image formed results from the ways in which the electric charge is conducted through and around the object being photographed. Using this apparatus, the Kirlians have discovered the following phenomena.

  • Altered states of consciousness can be made visible. A photograph of the finger of a relaxed man is much different from a photo taken when he is angry or tense. Photos (in black & white and colour) show that the emanations are constantly changing with different thoughts, emotions, food and orientation. Even if the subject faces north, the photos will be different from those taken when he faces south.
  • Electrophysiological studies have shown that the emanations do not relate to: skin temperature, the skin's electrical potential, vaso-constrictions or dilations, or even to perspiration. Thus the energy being photographed is not a simple physiological one.
  • When a person is healthy the photo of the finger shows predominant blue and white coronas. When emotionally aroused, anxious or nervous, the photo also emanates a red blotch. Due to this and many more intricate observations, many people feel that the Kirlian device could be used in diagnosing illness even before any symptoms are visible. Many scientists are now working on this idea, using the Kirlian device.
  • In healing, there is some type of energy transfer taking place. Studies done on people who claimed healing ability showed a small corona before healing and a large one afterwards.
  • A psychic in his normal waking consciousness showed a very small emanation, but in trance he showed a brilliant, blue-white corona. This is similar to reports from many people who practice prana vidya (a yogic technique for healing).
  • In general every person has his own unique patterns.
  • During magnetic storms caused by sun spots, the corona changed to large red spots. This ties in with work done on L-fields (life fields). Professor Harold Burr of Yale University also found a similar distortion of the life field, as measured by a special type of voltmeter, whenever there was any disturbance on the earth's geomagnetic lines caused by solar storms.
  • Music and coloured light affect the corona discharge.
  • Plants were found to be ideal detectors of energy changes in individuals. Holding one's hand near a plant and suggesting that the hand was warm caused the plant's leaves to increase in luminescence. Suggesting that the hand was cold caused a decrease in luminescence of the leaves.
  • Acupuncture points have been photographed with the Kirlian device. It was found that stimulation of certain points on an acupuncture energy meridian could cause brighter luminescence at other flare points on the channel. Much work is being done in this regard, especially by the noted parapsychologist Dr Hiroshi Motoyama, Ph.D, in Tokyo, Japan, as well as by many other researchers in the field of psychophysiology.
  • Kirlian diagnosis of both the physical body and the emotional condition is possible.
  • In the future, using X-ray methods and ultrasonic holography, a person's three dimensional Kirlian photograph may be possible.

This is a partial view of the research being done in the field of Kirlian photography. However, if one examines the Soviet literature concerning this type of photography, it is clear that the basic question is still unanswered. What phenomenon is revealed by this radiation field photography (high voltage Kirlian photography)? The Kirlians describe their photography as 'a method of converting non-electrical properties of the object being photographed into electrical ones... with a direct transfer of charges from the object to the photographic plate'. We should not assume that Kirlian photographs are in fact photos of the human aura, because this has not yet been scientifically proven. However, let us examine what science has proved about them. Why are many scientists undecided about the nature of these emanations, which are affected by our thinking, feelings, environment etc?

The Kazakh biologist, V. M. Inyushin, in 1968 used the term bioplasma body to describe the emanations and internal structure of the objects photographed. He sees the 'bioplasma body' as similar if not identical to the 'aura' or 'astral body' as described in yogic literature. The Moscow biophysicist Viktor Adamenko, who spent many years in intimate collaboration with the Kirlians, sees the photographs as demonstrating the 'cold emission of electrons', called corona discharge by scientists. He believes that Kirlian photography reveals nothing more than a commonplace electrical phenomenon. The question remains unanswered, what does this photography reveal, bioplasma (aura pictures) or cold ion emission?

Corona discharges were apparently first noted in biblical times. Both the old and the new testaments report 'miraculous fires', e.g. the flames which allegedly appeared upon the twelve apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3), and the burning bush which Moses saw on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3:2), could in reality have been occurrences of corona discharge.

The corona discharge phenomenon has usually appeared hovering over sharp or pointed structures, such as ship's masts, church spires, aeroplane wing tips or tree tops. When it appeared over the masts of wooden ships, it became associated with Saint Elmo, the patron saint of sailors. There are numerous other names for this phenomenon such as the dioscuri, Castor, pollux and Fermie's fire. Only in the nineteenth century did scientists prove that these phenomena were due to an overabundance of electricity in the atmosphere.

Nicola Tesla was experimenting in his laboratory on duplicating lightning. He found that the high voltage coils which he used developed a bluish glow around them due to the corona discharge phenomenon. This clearly shows its ability to ionise the gases in the surrounding air. For these and other reasons, some physicists claim the images recorded by the Kirlian process are merely displacement currents which affect the photographic emulsion.

A Czechoslovakian researcher proved that the flow of a high energy field in a condenser is not constant. Thus some physicists argue that the spots and filaments of light seen in the Kirlian photographs might indicate that the high voltage currents have chosen imperfections in the emulsion surface as paths of least electrical resistance. The spots could be defined as Maxwell's currents (discovered in 1881) and the filaments of light may in reality be what are called Lichtenberg figures. Plasma in physics refers to a gaseous collection of positive and negative ions. The atmospheres of stars in the far reaches of space are composed of such plasma.

In contrast to the plasma of physics, biological or bioplasma is said to be a coherent organised system. The chaotic motion of particles is reduced to a minimum. The bioplasmic body (or astral body as some people call it) is relatively stable in changing external conditions, although it is influenced by electrical and magnetic fields. The Soviets, however, acknowledge that the biological plasma theory was originally conceived in the absence of any experimental proof. It is the opinion of some scientists that the concept of bioplasma is still very speculative, even by some scientists engaged in research into psychic phenomena! Many researchers believe that bioplasma is another word for consciousness. The only conclusion we can draw, as to whether the photographs reveal corona discharge or bioplasma (subtle or pranic body), is that the changes which have been observed to occur in organic (living) materials demonstrate a most interesting, still un-deciphered story. In this lies the challenge for us to proceed.