Our Physical and Subtle Anatomy: Part One
Our physical bodies are a wonderful and grand vessel of complex and varied capabilities. Most of the functions that sustain our life are transparent in their process and automatic in their function. We breathe, our heart beats, we move in coordinated and purposeful mechanics, we feel, we think, we react. All of these physiological components are used as vehicles of anchoring in the refinement of our spiritual and subtle nature. We are humans in corporeal state and as such our level of response to spiritual and energetic action is through the vehicle of physical being. Even those experiences that we cannot articulate or are unaware of their potency and impact move through the state of our physical being and often become the eventual place of manifestation.
This posting will focus on the physical anatomy and in its briefest form will offer some basic information to get us started. I am using the elements as some additional correspondence to the form of energies I associate with these physiological systems. There are many overlays that can be used and some may find other attributes more relevant in description or assignment. Formulate your own opinions and see the analogies in whatever way you resonate most soundly with. As you work with and through these systems over time, everything you thought you knew about their function will change in perception and new perspectives about how they work in collaboration with a strong personal practice, magickal working and spiritual growth will evolve.
A Disclaimer: I am neither a healthcare professional nor a professional scientist. The information I have pulled together is the result of my personal experiences as both a professional dancer and practitioner of Eastern and Western Hermetic protocols. I have read and filled in what was needed of the basics of physiological anatomy to gain a deeper understanding of how to make better use of the energetic protocols and results and strongly encourage those who wish to become more effective in their workings to do some research and formulate their own foundation of understanding about the inner workings of the greatest tool we have in our own spiritual development- our physical state of being!
Flesh and Bones
Our skin, the largest organ in our body, acts as the interface between what surrounds us and how we respond at a tactile level to those surroundings. The sense of touch evokes emotional and mental reaction and the sensitivity of our skin to multiple layers of stimuli is often one of the first points of engagement we have with our world.
Our bones form the structure that holds in place and protects the bodies we inhabit as corporeal and physical beings. Our bones connect us the most deeply to the earth and the mineral life that is composite in the formation of the planet itself. Our bones serve as the upholders of our physical action and are the scaffolding of what is our outer appearance and make-up.
The Muscular system
The muscles are responsible for movement of the bones and work in conjunction with the brain, nerves and sensory systems. There are three types of muscle:
The Skeletal Muscles- sheath the bones connected via tendons and are responsible for reflex actions and giving shape and form to the skeleton.
Smooth Muscles- these are found in the organs and work automatically to ensure the continued function of their specific organ. These are controlled by the autonomic nervous system and regulate such things as digestion, elimination and breathing.
Cardiac Muscle- constantly works pumping the blood in and out of the heart and is stimulated by the electrical impulse generated within our body. This muscle is directly responsible for the function of the circulatory system.
The Neurological System
The nervous system is the master communicator, receiving and distributing the information received throughout our bodies and is the most complex of the physiological systems. The Central Nervous System includes the Brain and spinal cord and the Peripheral Nervous System acts to initiate changes inside and outside of the body. This information gathered is sent to the CNS and reacted upon.
It is through the nerve endings in the skin that the sensorial feed-back is transmitted to the brain. These neural networks of fibers are often interconnected to tissue and blood vessels. Additionally, it is through this system of communication that the development of language, motor and thinking processes is set into motion.
The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is similar to the nervous system in that it relays information and acts as a signal system. The nervous system uses blood as the conductor of the electrical impulses and the endocrine systems uses the blood vessels as the channels of transport.
The endocrine glands release specific hormones that regulate the body’s growth, metabolism, development and more. These secretions are released directly into the bloodstream, carried by the blood vessels and act upon the specific organs and their functions. These hormones are vital for the body to function optimally and grow in a productive healthy way. In spiritual practice the endocrine system is one that can be attuned to enlivening and reforming the physical body’s responses. The seven master glands act one upon the other stimulating and opening the subtle spiritual centers.
The Circulatory System
Our circulatory system uses the electrical current of fire and the flow of water to maintain our life’s spark. The pumping of blood through our bodies and its transformation within the chambers of the heart and then ultimate release back into circulation throughout our bodies is a statement of efficiency in use and flow. The heart is the central core responsible for multiple functions and the related by products that keep us healthy and alive. Mind and heart have long been the components of spiritual growth and deeper understanding. The scientific parameters of the heart have shown that the heart ‘s electromagnetic field is 60 times greater than that of the brain and that it is capable of performing some brain-like functions because of the continual energetic flow between heart and brain in an exchange of cellular information.
The spiritual term “Intelligence of the Heart” takes on new meaning when we have this scientific knowledge and provokes a new way of thinking about how our emotional and mental interactions may better serve one another.
The Respiratory System
The intake of breath is the sustainer of life. The air that moves in and through us serves to oxygenate and maintain the life force that runs as current throughout our physical form. The lungs become the great bellows expanding and contraction; response and reaction to the flow of air that is taken in and then released.
The next post will continue to move through the systems and take a look at the correlates of function of our energetic anatomy.
Emmet B. Keefe, Introduction to Know Your Body: The Atlas of Anatomy (Berkley, CA;Ulysses Press, 1999)
Cyndi Dale, The Subtle Body:An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy (Boulder, CO:Sounds True Inc., 2009)
About the Author:
Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.
She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):
It’s Written in the Stars
The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two
The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three
The Eternal Cord
A Collection of Esoteric Writings
Aligning the Parts of SELF
Musings on the Magick of the Natural World
Nights of Devotion
Musings for the Year
Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.