Photographing Auras In “The New Age”

Richard Feynman once said that the “first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” In my lifetime I have encountered the truth of this “law” more than a few times. My deep dive into believing the conspiratorial view of history for many years and my eventual tri-fecta causing me to reevaluate the truth of what I previously held as truths.

  • What happened was (1) Y2K, (2) I started listening to and being challenged by Michael Medved’s “Conspiracy Show,” which lead me to try and (3) follow AND confirm the many references to historical positions made in these books, which failed miserably. (RPT)

So I come at this with sympathy for the gullibility of our human nature. Which leads me to a recent conversation with a gentleman I respect, but, is a bit young in his “critical skills.” A classic in debunking — though many years old – is of James Randi debunking an Aura Reader. But the purpose of this post is to deal with why Kirlian photography is explained completely by natural processes and has nothing to do with metaphysics and auras.


STALKING LIGHT explains the process for us:

Kirlian photography, although the study of which can be traced back to the late 1700s, was officially invented in 1939 by Semyon Davidovitch Kirlian. The Kirlian photographic process reveals visible “auras” around the objects photographed. These photographs have been the subject of much myth and controversy over the years. Interestingly, much of which was initially put forth to explain the Kirlian photography phenomena was put forth by the inventor himself, along with his wife.

The process of taking a Kirlian photo is a fairly simple one and does not even require the use of a camera. First, a sheet of photographic film is placed on top of a metal plate. Then, the object that is to be photographed is placed on top of the film. To create the initial exposure, high voltage current is applied to the metal plate. The electrical coronal discharge between the object and the metal plate is captured on the film. The Kirlian photograph, which shows a light, glowing silhouette around the photographed object, becomes visible as a result of developing the film.


The technique became popular in the 70’s, with the influx of New Age and susceptibility to wanting to believe in something beyond “us” that is still driven and centers on the “inner divinity” — as part of the rejection of the Judeo-Christian tradition that the “counter-culture” was rejecting. Drugs also played a part in the susceptibility of a generation. It is a human construct (history teaches us this) to worship ourselves in some way, and New Age religions offer this in spades:

(See for responses: Issues ETC | Pastor Dennis Ingolfsland | Probe Ministrties | Mama Bear Apologetics)

This always the outcome of the New Age movement, self divinity. It is the oldest lie in the Book.

  • When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything. ~ G. K. Chesterton

The urge to believe in something and the ease we can fool ourselves at times combine to anesthetize our critical thinking.


And often times it is the simple practicing of simple psychological tricks and perception and planted words that help the aura reader do his “magic.” (The aura reader can slightly change the outcome of the aura as well, depending on the “vibe” he is getting from the client. More on this later.) This “reading” is similar to other New Age practices like crystal ball readings, tarot cards, and the like:

I must say that the practice of revealing the hidden by reading one’s palm still fools thousands of people who are unaware of the simple tricks used. The more personalized secrets the palm reader or crystal ball gazer is able to reveal, the more one is inclined to believe that palm reading is actually a skill rather than a trick. While some readings are done by collecting information on the client beforehand or use known principles of psychology that apply to nearly everyone. and is referred to as a hot reading, others are preformed by what is known as a cold reading. This is when the crystal ball or palm reader uses both his clever intuition or insight into a persons personality or character traits to give the reading. Sometimes he is also able to extract lots of information from his client by observing him very carefully and listening to his answers. (FRUMSCAMS)

So now we get into some hints that the claims of us having an aura are actually better explained by the processes used to “capture” it. For instance, the early “leaf” experiments were later challenged and when reproduced properly, did not repeat the effects:


The same is true for the effect the Kirlian’s saw when they cut off part of a leaf and then placed the leaf back on the photographic film and took another photograph. They claimed that the leaves showed up whole, as though the missing part had never been cut away – and they pointed to this as evidence that Kirlian photography could photograph the “life force” or aura of living things.

This effect was likely due to the fact that the Kirlians did not change the glass plate used to photograph the leaf, so the residual moisture left from the part of the leaf that had been cut off still remained. This allowed the electronics corona discharge to still occur on that part of the leaf – because the electrons were still flowing through the moisture on the plate, even though that portion of the leaf had been cut off.

This scientific fact was later proved by researchers at Drexel University, who noticed that the “cut leaf” effect did not occur when they replaced the glass with a new one before photographing the freshly cut leaf.


researchers at Drexel University have recreated the famous cut leaf experiment that the Kirlians stood by, and decided it was erroneously conducted, which led to false results.

The team photographed a whole leaf on a glass plate, then changed it before producing an image of the cut one. The leaf appeared as it was, namely halved, which demonstrated that the only reason why Semyon and Valentina made their discovery was due to a buildup of residual energy that caused inaccuracies in their tests.

Therefore, the metaphysical explanation is off the table. So, what causes the effect produced by Kirlian photography? The general consensus among scientists is that the images are created by a high voltage corona effect. The same process can be observed at the level of other sources of high voltage, SUCH AS TESLA COILS, OR THE VAN DE GRAAFF GENERATOR


Not only is this similar to the Tesla coil, but pictures of the various colors surrounding people is also easily explained:

  • Living thingsare moist. When the electricity enters the living object, it produces an area of gas ionization around the photographed object, assuming moisture is present on the object. This moisture is transferred from the subject to the emulsion surface of the photographic film and causes an alternation of the electric charge pattern on the film. (SKEPDIC)

CREATIVE PHOTO CONNECT explains more the above:

However, all these claims no longer stand, as science explains that the variations in color are produced by quantifiable factors. The glowing shapes appear due to the water content in the subject, which makes the air around the object become ionized when exposed to high-voltage current. If the surrounding air contains any moisture, the resulting picture will contain a colorful silhouette around the object, a phenomenon scientifically called corona plasma discharge.

Even if there is nothing supernatural, paranormal or psychic about the Kirlian photography, most photography enthusiasts will get a kick out of experimenting with this technique.


Kirlian photography is still fascinating for scientists and photographers, even after the myth of auras was debunked. Even if the surrounding New Age theories were proven wrong, this technique was not abandoned.

Many people do not realize that the subjects taking the photograph have their hands on an electrocharged plate:

The film merely picks up the ionized air and the moisture. Slight changes in voltage, moisture, film, and gullibility of the client combined with hints picked up by the reader in demeanor, reactions to discussion, and the likecan cause someone to put their faith in a neat photographic trick as more than just that. WIRED MAGAZINE notes the industry that cropped up around these natural forces. The cost of the AuraCam6000 at the date of the article was $10,000 new.

The New Age is not a new subject to me… (some examples)…


But what unites all the above ~ the cults, the occult, world religions, and even my own faith and it’s aberrant ruminations (word faith, positive confession, televangelists, and the like — see my eulogy at my dads funeral for an example) ~ is the human need for controlling one’s circumstances and outcomes. Combined with ultimately, fooling ourselves. What helped me out of my aberrant view of history were common sense facts. So here are some quick refutations to show straight forward thinking to knock others out of their malaise.


First, auras are in living things — supposedly. But Kirlian photography show them in non-living things:

Here one can see the set-up that causes what we are seeing:


Obviously the above is easily explained… as are similar aspects of “aura photography.” Many paranormal enthusiasts still claim that the aura captured by Kirlian photography is some sort of “life force”. However, this is easily debunked (MEDIA COLLEGE):

  • Kirlian photographs can be taken of anything moist or conductive, including coins, paper clips, etc.
  • Kirlian photographs taken in a vacuum (where no ionized gas is present) show no aura.
  • Some people claim that a living object slowly loses its aura after it dies. This is more easily explained by the fact that it loses its moisture.

But not easily debunked to people who are vested in (emotionally and financially) such constructs.


*TOP SECRET continues with another “experiment” explained well by natural (moisture and temperature) changes:

“When a man was photographed before taking a drink of alcohol, his fingertip was black; after the drink, the tip was literally ‘lit up’.”

It is human nature to apply extraordinary explanations to such an event. The author would have you believe that the calming effects of alcohol enlivened the aura of the man, and led to his fingertip “lighting up” with the energies created by his intoxication. The truth, however, is far more mundane. In holding the cold glass of alcohol, likely with a fresh film of condensation on the outside of it, the man successfully dampened his dry finger and increased its conductivity, making it an ideal object for the flow of electrons during the coronal discharge.

It is a perfect example of how the lack of scientific understanding about an event can lead to all sorts of wild and erroneous conclusions, and how that can also lead to the start of an elaborate and fraudulent meme that lives on in society, long after the original inventors are gone.