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Akasha (Sanskrit ākāśa आकाश) is a term for "æther" in traditional Indian cosmology. The term has also been adopted in western occultism and spiritualism in the late 19th century.

Indian cosmology

The Sanskrit word is derived from a root kāś meaning "to be visible". It appears as a masculine noun in Vedic Sanskrit with a generic meaning of "open space, vacuity". In Classical Sanskrit, the noun acquires the neuter gender and may express the concept of "sky; atmosphere" (Manusmrti, Shatapathabrahmana). In classical Vedantic Hindu philosophy, the word acquires its technical meaning of "an ethereal fluid imagined as pervading the cosmos". In many modern Indo-Aryan languages, the corresponding word (often rendered Akash) retains a generic meaning of "sky".[1]


In Vedantic Hinduism, Akasha means the basis and essence of all things in the material world; the first material element created from the astral world, (Akasha (Ether), Earth,Water,Fire,Air,) in sequence). It is one of the Panchamahabhuta, or "five elements"; its main characteristic is Shabda (sound).

The Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools of Hindu philosophy state that Akasha or aether is the fifth physical substance, which is the substratum of the quality of sound. It is the One, Eternal, and All Pervading physical substance, which is imperceptible.[2]

According to the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy, Akasha is one of the five Mahābhūtas (grand physical elements) having the specific property of sound.[3]

Adherents of the heterodox Cārvāka or Lokāyata philosophy held that this world is made of four elements only. They exclude the fifth element, Akasha, because its existence cannot be perceived.[4]


Akasha is space in the Jain conception of the cosmos. It falls into the Ajiva category, divided into two parts: Loakasa (the part occupied by the material world) and Aloakasa (the space beyond it which is absolutely void and empty). In Loakasa the universe forms only a part. Akasha is that which gives space and makes room for the existence of all extended substances.[5]


In Buddhist phenomenology Akasha is divided into limited space (ākāsa-dhātu) and endless space (ajatākasā).[6]

The Vaibhashika, an early school of Buddhist philosophy, hold Akasha's existence to be real.[7]

Ākāsa is identified as the first arūpa jhāna (arūpajhāna), but usually translates as "infinite space."[8]

Modern reception

The Western religious philosophy called Theosophy has popularized the word Akasha as an adjective, through the use of the term "Akashic records" or "Akashic library", referring to an ethereal compendium of all knowledge and history.

Scott Cunningham (1995) uses the term Akasha to refer to "the spiritual force that Earth, Air, Fire, and Water descend from".[9]

Ervin László in Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything (2004), based on ideas by Rudolf Steiner, posits "a field of information" as the substance of the cosmos, which he calls "Akashic field" or "A-field".[10]

See also


  1. Dictionary of World Philosophy by A. Pablo Iannone, Taylor & Francis, 2001, p. 30. ISBN 0-415-17995-5
  2. Indian Metaphysics and Epistemology by Karl H. Potter, Usharbudh Arya, Motilal Banarsidass Publications, 1977, p. 71. ISBN 81-208-0309-4
  3. Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga; Naya and Vaiseshika by F. Max Muller, Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p. 40. ISBN 0-7661-4296-5
  4. The Tale of Carvaka by Manga Randreas, Mangalakshmi Ravindram, iUniverse, 2005, ISBN 0-595-34955-2, pg, 270
  5. Encyclopaedia of Jainism by Narendra Singh, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., 2001, p. 1623. ISBN 81-261-0691-3
  6. Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Publication Society, 1998, pp. 24-35. ISBN 955-24-0019-8
  7. Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy By Oliver Leaman, Contributor Oliver Leaman, Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 0-415-17281-0, pg. 476
  8. The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism By Tilmann Vetter, Brill: Leiden, 1988. pg. 65
  9. Earth, Air, Fire & Water, Scott Cunningham (Llewellyn, 1995)
  10. Gidley, J. The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views, Integral Review: A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal for New Thought, Research and Praxis, 2007, Issue 5, pp. 29-31.]