Astral projection is also known as conscious out-of-body experience. This experience is a form of telepathy, wherein the soul or consciousness is separated from the physical body in the form of astral body. The astral body can travel without physical form and go to various points not only of the world but the whole universe.
Astral projection or astral travel has its roots from esotericism and occultism. This concept became popular in the 19th century among Theosophists, who were philosophers specializing on mystical and preternatural origins of Earth. Astral projection was commonly linked with dreams and in meditation practices. There were also people who claimed having experienced astral projection by using hallucinogenics or through hypnosis. However, science does not have any evidence that can support the notion of the separation of soul or consciousness from the physical body. Basically, experts cannot accept that consciousness can be separated from neural activities of the brain. in this regard, a new field of study called pseudoscience, appeared, and it aims at searching for scientific evidence that can reveal the truth about astral projection.
Astral projections can be discussed from different points of view.
From the Western perspective, astral projection was discussed in philosophies of Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and Theosophist and Rosicrucian studies. From these teachings, astral body is deemed as an intermediate body that serves as bridge between rational souls and their corresponding physical entities. Meanwhile, the term astral plane is used to describe the intermediate space lying in between Heaven and Earth. This place consists of spheres including the planets and starts. It is believed that it is in these spheres were angels, demons, and spirits originally dwell upon.
On the other hand, subtle bodies and their corresponding planes of existence are important components of esoteric systems related to astral events. According to the Neoplatonism thought made popular by Plotinus, each individual can be considered as microcosm or a greater world or macrocosm. In this regard, the rational soul is likened to great soul of the world, whereas the material worlds is just a lingering image of the Intelligible.
As described in emanationism, planes of manifestation succeed one another. For instance, the One Intellect Soul Nature or material universe.
Astral bodies and their planes of existence are commonly represented by concentric circles. The images are usually accompanied by a separate body, which can be seen passing through each realm. This representation of astral image was made more popular by Elliphas Levi during the 19th century. Theosophists adopted this concept and further developed its principles.
From the biblical point of view, some reported about the clues provided by the Bible regarding astral projection. Experts believe that a psychic silver cord bridges the subtle body and the physical body. The final chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes mentions something about a silver cord and a golden bowl. However, some people assume that passage from that book only pertains to a metaphor, wherein the silver cord is a term that used to represent the human spine.
Meanwhile, more people believe that Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians actually contains information regarding astral planes. In that book, Paul describes a man named Christ while mentioning something that is related to out-of-body experience. The book also mentions a third heaven, which is possibly one of the realms of astral planes. Based on the description provided by Paul in his book, Visio Pauli was developed, and it suggests a vision of heaven and hell. This was the vision that was first documented before those of Adomnan and Tnugdalus became popular.
In Egyptian history, there are also evidence from various religious pertaining to out-of-body journey of the soul. The ancient Egyptian teachings commonly referred to the souls as something capable of wandering outside the physical body in the form of the subtle body.
In China, Taiost alchemy revolves production of an energy body through meditative practices, where in energy is collected and circulated. Taoist teachings also mention Xiangsi, whose primordial spirit supposedly went into a banquet room while his body remained in a room fast asleep. Upon seeing the astral projection and the physical body lying inside the room, people started to believed that Xiangzi was a divine being who could divide his body and be in several places at once.
Similar teachings were also noted on Hindu scriptures, which include the likes of YogaVashishta-Maharamayana of Valmiki. As believed by Indians, a person named Swami Pranabananda had the ability create miracles through astral projection.
Meanwhile, according to Meher Baba, an Indian Spiritual teacher, a person who will undergo astral projection must first prepare himself before he can be allowed to utilize the natural forces of the inner world involving astral bodies. Afterward, astral projection or astral journey is achieved wherein the physical body is left in sleeping state or in wakefulness. Conscious astral journeys are considered more important than unconscious ones because of deliberate volition, which serves as indicator for conscious astral projection. When the soul is conscious during astral projection, it feels more distinct from its physical vessel and thus is able to control more fully its container. It is also possible for people to leave and inhabit their physical bodies repeatedly during astral projection. However, successful astral journey requires considerable amount of knowledge and experience. Meanwhile, on the other hand, it also open doors for a person’s spiritual progress, which starts with consciousness involution.
Based on the beliefs of yoga practitioners, astral projection is one of the Siddhis that can be acquired through self-disciplined practices. One popular Indian epic, The Mahabharata, describes a character, Drona, who went on an astral journey to check on his son.
Ikiryo is a popular term in Japanese mythology. It has been defined as embodiment of a living soul outside the physical body. The Japanese believe that holding a grudge allows a person’s soul to temporarily leave his physical body and bring misfortune to the person he hates. Another belief entails that souls tend to leave their physical vessel during times of sickness or comatose.
The Inuits believe that there some people in this world that can travel to mythological places through their minds. These people are known for sharing their spiritual journey with their communities. Given their almost clairvoyant ability, such individuals sometime provide help in eliminating bad luck during hunting, treating a sick person, or helping those who are incapable of doing specific things.
Meanwhile, Amazons believe in the existence of yaskomo of the Waiwai, which is supposedly capable of “soul flight” or the capability to perform some functions, including healing, making conversations and seeking the help of cosmological beings, meeting with father of peccaries in the cave of peccaries’ mountains, or immersing in rivers to consult with other creatures.
DIFFERENTIATING ASTRAL AND ETHERIC
The term “astral projection” has two usages. For the Golden Dawn and several Theosophists, astral projection can be defined as the soul’s journey in various places in the universe. These regions commonly include the world, heaves, hell, astrological spheres, and places formed by the imagination. On the other hand, astral projection may also pertain to non-physical journey in different points of the physical world.
Another term that is also popular used is “etheric travel,” which is more commonly utilized by later Theosophists. In addition, this term may also indicate an entirely different meaning from astral projection. Other people claim that “etheric” is associated more with the sense of being outside the body while “astral” usually connotes consideration for altered time-perception. According to Robert Monroe, “astral projection” may be classified under two groups. “Locale I” or “Here-Now” revolve around existing people and places. On the other hand, Robert Bruce uses another term, “Real Time Zone (RTZ),” which is concerned about non-physical dimension-levels that are most proximal to physical ones. Meanwhile, etheric body is more often than not, invisible but is felt by a person and is connected to the physical body through the “silver cord.”
Max Heindel described etheric “double” medium connecting astral and physical realms. According to him, ether or prana is a vital force that allows the transformation of physical entities. Based on the details that he provided, from the physical perspective, out-of-body experience indicates that one is not basically present in the astral realm.
There are also people who claim that there is an existing domain that does not have any counterpart in physical settings. In addition, environments can be defined as being populated or unpopulated, artificial, natural, or abstract. On the other hand, astral experiences are described as being beatific, horrendous, or neutral. Among Theosophists, they believe that a person is capable of making connection with a body of mystical knowledge, which is more commonly known as the Akashic records. Various reports have also shown that people who experience astral projections are more likely to describe astral worlds as some sort of dream worlds. In other cases, people may participate in dreams without them realizing that a greater environment is surrounding them.
Astral surroundings are composed of different levels or sub-planes, based on theories. However, there are conflicting views regarding the specific overall of structure governing these planes. Astral planes may include heavens and hells, spheres concerning the after-death, ideal worlds, and other hard-to-define astral levels.
POPULAR PEOPLE IN THE STUDY OF ASTRAL PROJECTION
One of the first practitioners of astral projection was Emmanuel Swedenborg. The man constructed written accounts of his experiences outside his physical body. In fact, he wrote Spiritual Diary (1747–1756), which provided details regarding his astral adventures. On the other hand, the French philosopher and novelist Honore de Balzac wrote a fictional story entitled, “Louis Lambert,” based on the story a number of people assumed that this person might have experienced astral projections at some point in his life.
Meanwhile, there were also publications that centered on the topic of astral projection. However, only a few authors were cited for these works. Some known writers of astral projections included Robert Monroe, Sylvan Muldoon, Oliver Fox, Hereward Carrington, and Yram.
Robert Monroe wrote about astral journey to other realms. He was also one of the first people who popularized the term “OBE”. Moreover, his works had been translated in various languages. Monroe’s books did not focus much on describing methods employed in the practice of astral projections. However, he established a research institute, which aimed conducting studies on astral projections and utilizing modern technology to help other people experienced altered state of consciousness.
Meanwhile, some experts, including Robert Bruce, William Buhlman, and Albert Taylor, were also invited to shows, such as Coast to Coast AM, to provide their opinions and share their knowledge in astral projection. Even the popular author Michael Crichton wrote about the topic. His non-fiction Travel provides adequate information and explanation about astral projection experiences.
“Soul travel” happens when the soul is able to leave the body at will or during sleep and spiritually go to different planes of heaven. This exercise is one of the practices that can be found in the teachings of Surat Shabd yoga, where meditation techniques and mantra repetition are commonly utilized. All Sant Mat Gurus also shared their knowledge in such type of out-of-bod experience, which they called Kirpal Singh.
Meanwhile, in Eckankar, Soul Travel is deemed as crusade of the true, spiritual self toward God. Though this event is normally described as a travel experience of an individual, the soul basically does not leave but just learn to accept the conditions that are already predetermined in the time and space in which it resides. At present, Eckankar is spiritually led by Harold Klemp, who is known practitioner and mentor for soul travel. In this regard, he and his group are popular for practicing techniques, which are collectively called Spiritual Exercises of ECK.
Occult traditions also employ various methods, including trance state induction to form mentally a second body, called as Body of Light in the works of Aleister Crowley. This second body can be obtained through visualization and controlled breathing. Then, consciousness is transported to the secondary body through use of mental abilities or willfulness.
SCIENCE AND ASTRAL PROJECTION
Currently, scientific evidence concerning astral projections are lacking. However, some studies indicated some patients who claimed experiencing astral projection by brain stimulation and through administration of hallucinogenic drugs.
The next-to-concrete evidence of astral projection is the works of Robert Todd Caroll, who obtained his information in claims of various people on astral projection experience. On the other hand, some parapsychological studies focused on determining whether it is possible to project astral bodies to distant rooms. However, these studies have not succeeded yet in discovering underlying scientific mechanism of astral projection.
Meanwhile, there are also people who doubt that astral projection has scientific origins at all. For example, Bob Bruce of the Queensland Skeptic Association claims that astral projection is mere products of the imagination or a result of dreaming. He also argues that astral projection defies the limits of science. He realizes that a number of possibilities surround each dimension. However, none of those can be linked with astral projection. Moreover, he claims that records of astral experiences can be rooted to confirmation bias and mere coincidences.
On the other hand, the psychologist Donovan Rawcliffe greatly believes that delusion, hallucination, and vivid dreams result in astral projection experienced by a number of people.
Arthur W. Wiggins supported non-believers of astral projection by claiming that any ability regarding astral journeys and travels through various dimensions and planes are only backed up by anecdotes, which were not that reliable. In 1978, a man named Ingo Swann conducted experiments to test whether he could use his astral ability to describe the planet Jupiter in detail. However, when James Randi checked the data, it was found out that Swann’s observations were inaccurate and insignificant based on the 37% score that as observed for the information. Wiggins also adds that astral journeys are just products of imagination. Furthermore, he firmly believes that any astral-related experiences can be attributed to neuroanatomy, human belief, and imagination.