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An aura is a colored outline or outlines emanating from the surfaces of humans, animals and even inanimate objects. Under ordinary circumstances, these colored films are only visible to certain people with a special psychic power. However, you may purchase a special set of goggles ["Aura Goggles"], some with pinacyanole bromide filters, or you may use Kirlian photography to capture auras on film.

Auras are believed to be indicative of a person's physical and emotional state of being. Thus, auras can be read by people with special powers like Ray Stanford (if you believe his own story) or members of the Berkeley Psychic Institute.

Every year at the University of California at Davis there is a festival reminiscent of the sixties with tie-dyed shirts, psychedelic music, incense burning, children with flowers in their hair, marijuana smoking, gurus, massages with scented oils, handcrafts, etc. The show is called the Whole Earth Festival and I've been to several of them. One booth is run by the Berkeley Psychic Institute (BPI). It's the Aura Reading booth. For a few dollars, you sit in a chair in the great outdoors with the music playing and people swaying while someone from BPI reads your aura. Not only does the reader read your aura, he or she draws it for you on a piece of paper which is pre-printed with the vague outline of a person. Actually, the reader doesn't draw so much as color your aura. There he or she sits with a can of crayons, picking out very carefully just the right hue to capture the essence of his or her vision of your aura. Then the reader tells you what your aura reveals.

Posters from this same Berkeley Psychic Institute once found their way to my college. In addition to information about BPI, the poster exclaimed: You may not be psychotic, you may be psychic! I wrote a note to our school psychologist who handled the "psychologically challenged" at the time. I told her I was concerned about the poster. She wrote me back and asked me how I knew that she had attended BPI. (So, if I occasionally express a bit of disdain for psychologists and therapists, please keep in mind that I have had a traumatic adulthood, dotted with experiences such as this one.)

There is a way to test the claim that a person can read auras and it was done on national television on a program hosted by Bill Bixby. The Berkeley Psychic Institute sent their top aura reader for a chance to win a $10,000 prize to anyone who could demonstrate psychic powers. (Was this the $10,000 put up by James Randi?) The psychic was presented with about twenty people on stage and was asked if she could see their auras. She said that she could see the auras and that they all had one and they emanated at least a foot or two above each person's head. The twenty aura-wearing people then went offstage. A curtain was lifted, revealing a number of partitions behind which only some of the twenty people were standing. Thus Bixby and the psychic were looking at twenty partitions but only several of them had a person behind it. The psychic was asked if she could see any auras creeping up above the partitions. She said she could. To get her ten grand all she had to do was correctly identify each partition which had a person behind it. She was to do this by seeing each person's aura above the partition. The audience was given an aerial camera view of the proceeding. Well, the psychic claimed that there was a person behind each partition. She claimed she saw an aura above partition number 1, then also above number 2, then 3 and finally she said she saw an aura above all the partitions. The partitions were removed, revealing about 6 people behind partitions. The psychic didn't even seem surprised. And I suppose she could go back home and tell her followers that she did get right all the ones who were behind the partitions, or that 6 out of 20 -- not bad in a hostile arena.

But of course the test only demonstrates the lack of aura reading power of one person, not that there is no such thing as an aura or that auras are not indicative of mental, emotional and physical health or sickness. A more interesting area of investigation here is photography, beginning with Kirlian photography which is taken by the true believer as proof auras exist. The Centre of Expertise in Paranormal Phenomena, an Australian outfit, claims to have taken Kirlian photography to new limits. They claim that they have applied for a patent on a process of restoring a scratched and damaged CD to its exact original state by examining the aura of the damaged item using Kirlian photography. They claim the aura leaves an exact impression of all the pits and bumps of the original CD and they know how to map the aura and restore the compact disc to its pre- damaged state. I imagine they will be seeking investors in this exciting new development.

In another exciting development, Stuart Anderson has posted his tips on how to read your aura photograph, should you happen to have one.

RED: Fire, passion, vitality and activity.
ORANGE: Self expression, ambition and lateral thought.
YELLOW: Intellect, analysis and... cheerful optimism.
GREEN: Balance, healing and teaching ability.
BLUE: Love, peace, honesty, sensitivity and contentment.
TURQUOISE: Imagination, spontaneity and good communication.
PINK: Warmth, compassion and self respect.
VIOLET: Clairvoyance, mysticism, eroticism and charm.

The right side of your aura refers to what you outwardly express,
and how others perceive you.

The centre of your aura refers to how you experience life, the
abilities you possess in the present moment.

The left side of your aura refers to areas of potential to be

Robert Bruce, another aura expert, objects to the notion that specific colors have specific meanings. In his view, even colors have auras, so what color clothing you have on will affect the color of your aura. According to Bruce,

The human aura is both an energy field and a reflection of the subtle life energies within the body. These energies make us what we are and in turn, are affected by our surroundings and life style. The aura reflects our health, character, mental activity and emotional state. It also shows disease - often long before the onset of symptoms.

The notion that auras reflect health is a common one among true believers. The problem is what color reflects what condition? My sister claims that when she worked in a hospital she could always tell which patient would die by their aura. The dying ones had purple auras the night before they died. Bruce sees something different with dying patients: "First the aura fades and weakens, and then, a week or so before death it starts to expand, changing into a beautiful pale Sky-blue aura shot through with Silver sparks." And, as just noted, these colors mean something entirely different to Mr. Anderson.

In other words, reading auras is something like reading rorschach tests and probably just as accurate.

But do some people actually see auras? I think there is evidence that some people sometimes do see colored outlines around objects in their field of perception. From what I have read, such hallucinations may be a sign of a vision or a brain disorder. To paraphrase and twist somewhat the message of the poster from the Berkeley Psychic Institute: If you see auras, you may not be psychic; you may be psychotic. See your doctor.Of course, I'm not a real doctor (Ph.D.s are not real doctors, I've been told many times), nor do I play one on TV, and I'd recommend starting with an ophthalmologist, not a psychiatrist.

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The Skeptic's Dictionary
Robert Todd Carroll