The Aura

The Aura

Shell by James Petts
Shell by James Petts

The aura is a term often used to describe the energy field surrounding the physical body. It’s coloured according to the activity of the chakras, dominant thoughts in the mind, emotions, and physical sensations.

However, this article is about something else. Walter Benjamin referred to the aura of an original piece of art. The “here and now of the work of art.” It “bears the mark of the history to which the work has been subject”, including time and place. How an original piece has a “unique existence” that is not carried forward in prints and reproductions.

I would describe this as the presence of the work and disagree that it’s not carried forward. However, it is much reduced the further it is from the original. This is like the darshan of a spiritual teacher. It’s the strongest live, in person. Strong live online. Weaker in recordings. And even weaker in writing (or prints). Yet even that writing can be charged with the energy of the author. Prints can connect us with the presence of the original, especially if that’s been directly experienced. I also have prints that were “charged” by the artist before shipping them to me.

The video below is by Dami Lee, a Vancouver-based architect who muses on the built environment.

Sometimes, what she means by “aura” is this presence. And sometimes, it’s the closely related collective consciousness. I saw an excellent video (which I could not re-find) awhile back on how cities have a dominant meme, a label for a dominant quality of the collective of the city. Easterners nicknamed Vancouver “Lotusland”, for example, because it’s so lifestyle-oriented. New York is nicknamed “The Big Apple” because it’s very achievement-oriented. That clip gave a few examples of American cities that I found insightful.

Dami’s video explores cities in this aura context. And how you can navigate a city in an undefined way. (She mentions in another video that the revolutionary cement facade structures that were popular in the 70s (my youth) are now known as Brutalism.)

On YouTube

If you enjoyed this, you’ll enjoy her channel.

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  1. Richard Barnes

    Nice essay David. Perhaps another aspect of the aura or darshan is what the observer brings to the interaction. One phrase, even clumsily translated, written thousands of years ago in the Himalayas, may have the desired effect today read in the subway in New York by one who is ripe for it. Or, one saintly person sees the brightness in another’s aura even though that person is homeless and broke.

  2. Aaron

    I realize this is a little off topic, but at a retreat at Kiwi Cove we were roommates. Just before lights out, you had this bright purple and green aura around your head. That’s been the most distinguished aura of a person I’ve ever seen. I see faint, but without much color auras around some people every once in awhile. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

    1. (laughs) I remember that, Aaron. The room upstairs at the far end, as I recall. Funny.

      I find feel more important than colours but they can be interesting. Gangaji once told me I was a pink fountain of bliss, out the top of the head. My resonance with her brought out the bliss, although she didn’t have a teacher role.

    1. Hi Scott
      I saw this talk awhile back. There is great wisdom in building to the natural flows of the environment. I’ve seen it done beautifully – the home radiates calming presence. But I’ve also seen it messed up from unrecognized influences or over-simplification of the principles.

      To me, such architects should also be trained in energy awareness so they can get it right. Otherwise, the point of the extra expense is lost.

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