This will not exactly be front-page news to various mystics out there, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. The first, from "Near-Death Experiences: The Rest Of The Story," by P.M.H. Atwater, from the chapter "Visible / Invisible energy fields":
"Near-death experiencers are able to perceive energy fields that exist as 'layered sheaths or coverings that circle our visible body in much the same fashion as onion skins layer around in an onion's core. Each layer is finer and more subtle than the previous. They extend out from the body about a foot or so, perhaps a number of yards--depending on a person's mood or health.'"
The second, from Whitley Strieber's "The Key":
"A part of the electromagnetic field that fills the nervous system rests a few centimeters above the skin, outside of the body. This field is an organ just like the heart or the brain. It is in quantum superposition, the electrons effectively everywhere in the universe and nowhere specific. It may be imprinted from information from anywhere and any time. With it, you may see other worlds, you may see the past and future, you may see into the lives of those around you."
Supposedly, this is the "aura" that is perceived by various psychics and intuitives. We have to take their word for it--we do not yet have instruments to measure it.
I've kept the notion of "auras" in my mental gray basket. I've never seen an "aura" as it's strictly defined, but I have seen something... and I suspect that this is what psychics claim to be seeing.
The best way to describe what I've seen (and in one case, photographed) is an *absence* of aura. I noticed something strange about a friend who, at the time, was near death (though I didn't know it); "something" seemed missing whenever I looked at him. Physically, he was there; but there was something mechanical and blank about his face. I spent some time studying his face and trying to put my finger on what I was seeing (or not seeing), but I never could. Weeks later, he died suddenly of a heart attack.
A few months before his death, I photographed my father standing with several others. In the photo, everyone else is staring into the camera, smiling, in sharp focus. My father, on the other hand, is staring away, and his face is a blur. Now, it's quite possible that my father moved his head at the moment of the shutter click. But the photo doesn't "feel" that way. It seemed that a significant part of him was already gone.
The subject of auras is almost too New Agey for me... but this is perhaps due to the surfeit of people who claim to see them. And it almost makes me embarrassed to admit that, well, maybe, I've seen something like this myself.
After all, if we accept the possibility that there there is a non-physical component to the physical self, we have to allow for the possibility that it can be perceived--in some manner.
My hunch is that the best way to document and prove the existence of the human "electromagnetic field" is with digital photography, as the process becomes more refined and ubiquitous. The camera does a better job of seeing what actually is there, rather than what we think or expect to see.... particularly in a one-off snapshot with no foresight or premeditation. Strict materialists will dismiss such anomalous photos as examples of operator error or equipment malfunction, but I like to think that they have the potential of documenting phenomena what we cannot see, or choose to ignore.