Some concept of a "subtle body" is accepted widely throughout the East, but it hasn't made major headway in the West for one obvious reason: Whatever is invisible has little standing in a materialistic culture where reality is defined by science. Therefore, an understanding about subtler levels of reality has spread one person at a time. Such persons may be eminent and respectable -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, W.B. Yeats, Vaclav Havel -- but on the whole these matters are explored privately by ordinary people, mostly alone but sometimes in small groups.
What have they discovered? Because the subtle body is as complex as the physical body, insights about it have been legion. On the periphery of official wisdom, if we can use that term to describe orthodox ways of thinking, millions of people have experienced and believe in the following propositions:
--Direct healing is possible, including self-healing, faith healing, and hands-on healing.
--Separate minds can be in communication.
--The living can contact the dead.
--Outer events mirror inner states of mind.
--Everything happens for a reason.
--Destiny is a force in human life.
--Collective consciousness is a web connecting every human being.
--Nature is organized and intelligent.
--Higher states of consciousness are real.
--Prayers are answered.
--Dreams, wishes, and intentions can come true.
--A critical mass of people who want peace can end war and bring about an era of peace.
What these diverse things have in common -- besides being excluded from official wisdom -- is that they imply an invisible connection. By which I don't mean a mystical one. Just as the material world is connected invisibly at the quantum level, the subtle world is connected by a field of consciousness. A prayer, a desire to be healed, a wish for peace, hope for reassurance about the dead -- each impulse enters the field of consciousness and is responded to, just as every material event enters the quantum field and is responded to, down to the least quark and photon.
So much evidence exists already about everything on the list that there is no longer a need to try and adapt to the scientific world view as if it were the only valid one. (Or as if the alternative is superstition, magical thinking, and fantasy.) The problem about living a connected life isn't the opposition of science or skepticism. The problem is that the subtle level of Nature, being invisible and explored one person at a time, has not revealed itself in a very organized way. Consciousness is still a cottage industry. As such, there is a wild mixture of truth and speculation, projection and verification. Anyone's experience could be real or imaginary. Anyone's explanation could be valid or eccentric.
Even in the East, where higher states of consciousness are revered, the knowledge of subtle reality feels confused and disorganized. There are specialists in isolated fields like acupuncture, there are martial arts schools and various gurus and sages, but making specialized connections isn't the same as providing an understanding to the world at large.
For a new world view to emerge it must be coherent. It cannot be built up from entirely personal experiences, because sometimes these experiences are so intense that we can't see beyond them. Imagine being in a room where a clairvoyant medium, a channeler, a faith healer, and an acupuncturist are trying to reach agreement while all around them radios blare messages about UFOs, alien abductions, reincarnation, near-death experiences, etc. The Babel of voices is so intense as to be unintelligible.
The first steps have to be taken, however, despite this welter of confusion. A culture of consciousness is possible. In fact, present-day science is such a culture, although it is based, ironically enough, on the premise that consciousness has no validity except as an emergent property of matter. One can foresee the next culture of consciousness based on connections, which would overturn the whole scientific prejudice against the subtle body, invisible realities, and the primacy of consciousness in general.
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