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Effect on the etheric web

C. W. Leadbeater described the existence of an etheric web that separates the physical from the astral plane:

The astral and etheric centres are in very close correspondence; but between them, and interpenetrating them in a manner not readily describable, is a sheath or web of closely woven texture, a sheath composed of a single layer of physical atoms much compressed and permeated by a special form of vital force. The divine life which normally descends from the astral body to the physical is so attuned as to pass through this with perfect ease, but it is an absolute barrier to all other forces - all which cannot use the atomic matter of both the planes. This web is the protection provided by nature to prevent a premature opening up of communication between the planes - a development which could lead to nothing but injury.[1]

The abuse of tobacco may destroy this protective web:

Certain drugs and drinks-- notably alcohol and all the narcotics, including tobacco-- contain matter which on breaking up volatilizes, and some of it passes from the physical plane to the astral. . . .

When this takes place in the body of man these constituents rush out through the force-centres in the opposite direction to that for which they are intended, and in doing this repeatedly they seriously injure and finally destroy the delicate web. This deterioration or destruction may be brought about in two different ways, according to the type of the person concerned and to the proportion of the constituents in his etheric and astral bodies. First, the rush of volatilizing matter actually burns away the web, and therefore leaves the door open to all sorts of irregular forces and evil influences.

The second result is that these volatile constituents, in flowing through, somehow harden the atom so that its pulsation is to a large extent checked and crippled, and it is no longer capable of being vitalized by the particular type of force which welds it into a web. The result of this is a kind of ossification of the web, so that instead of having too much coming through from one plane to the other, we have very little of any kind coming through.[2]

The second type of effect is very commonly to be seen among those who are slaves of the tobacco habit; again and again we find that they persist in their self-indulgence even when they know perfectly well that it causes nausea and misery to their neighbors. We shall recognize the deterioration at once when we think that this is the only practice in which a gentleman will persist when he is aware that it causes acute annoyance to others. Clearly in this case the finer feelings have already been seriously blunted.[3]

All impressions which pass from one plane to the other are intended to come only through the atomic sub-planes, as I have said; but when this deadening process sets in, it presently infects not only other atomic matter, but matter of even the second and third sub-planes, so that the only communication between the astral and the etheric is when some force acting on the lower sub-planes (upon which only unpleasant and evil influences are to be found) happens to be strong enough to compel a response by the violence of its vibration.[4]

Effect on the astral body

C. W. Leadbeater also described the effect of the abuse of tobacco on the astral body:

It permeates the man physically with exceedingly impure particles, causing emanations so grossly material that they are frequently perceptible to the sense of smell. Astrally it not only introduces impurity but it also tends to deaden many of the vibrations, and it is for this reason that it is found to “soothe the nerves”, as it is called. But of course for occult progress we do not want the vibrations deadened, nor the astral body weighed down with poisonous particles. We need the capacity of answering instantly to all possible wave-lengths, and yet at the same time we must have perfect control, so that our desires shall be as horses guided by the intelligent mind to draw us where we will, not to run away with us wildly, as does the tobacco habit, and carry us into situations where our higher nature knows that it ought never to be found. Its results after death are also of the most distressing character; it causes a sort of ossification and paralysis of the astral body, so that for a long time (extending to weeks and months) the man remains helpless, supine, scarcely conscious, shut up as though in a prison, unable to communicate with his friends, dead for the time to all higher influences. Is it worth while incurring all these penalties for the sake of a petty indulgence? For any person who really means to develop his vehicles, to awaken his chakras, to make progress along the path of holiness, tobacco is un­doubtedly to be sedulously avoided.[5]


  1. Charles Webster Leadbeater, The Chakras, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 89.
  2. Charles Webster Leadbeater, The Chakras, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 90-91.
  3. Charles Webster Leadbeater, The Chakras, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 92.
  4. Charles Webster Leadbeater, The Chakras, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 93.
  5. Charles Webster Leadbeater, The Chakras, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 92-93.