Word of the Month: Ephemeral vs. Ethereal

David Zapatka

Reader, friend and fellow table tennis player, June Wagner, explains that the words “ephemeral” and “ethereal” are sometimes used inappropriately since they sound so familiar. They are very different.

“Ephemeral” (əˈfem(ə)rəl) refers to something that is brief, fleeting or quickly passing. “Ethereal” (əˈthirēəl) refers to something lacking material substance, marked by unusual delicacy or refinement.

Using both these words in a sentence we might write, “The bride wore a white gown as ethereal as a breeze, but alas, her wearing this delicate creation of beauty was ephemeral.” This sentence draws the analogy of the gown and the breeze as both being delicate, light and airy. The sentence concludes by letting us know this image was a brief and fleeting moment.

Though these two words have clearly different meanings, you can see why they may be confused.

“Ethereal” has additional meanings – unworldly, spiritual, of or relating to regions beyond the physical.

Students of esoteric philosophies will recognize the word “ethereal” as relating to the etheric body or etheric level of consciousness. This vital or subtle body is the first or lowest layer in the “human energy field” or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with “higher” bodies. The etheric body is thought to be formed entirely of energy currents and is the substratum of living substance which underlies our dense physical bodies.

The etheric body plays an important role in the nature, purpose and function of the mind. Universal law of mind can be summed up in the words, “energy follows thought.” The sequence of activity might be stated like this:

We formulate a thought embodying a purpose or desire. Our mind vibrates in response to this idea and simultaneously produces a corresponding reaction in our emotional body. Our etheric body vibrates synchronously with the emotional body stimulating the brain which in turn energizes our nervous system throughout our physical body. The impulse of our thinking manifests into physical plane activity or energy. “Energy follows thought.”

Hoping you found this short tome neither ephemeral nor ethereal, I look forward to your comments.

Please submit any thoughts you may have on this month’s column or any word you may like to share with our readers along with your insights and comments to [email protected].