Astral projection

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Artist's illustration of an astral projection.

Astral projection (or astral travel) refers to episodes of out-of-body experiences perceived as unfolding in environments other than the physical world, by an astral counterpart of the physical body that separates from it and travels to one or more astral planes.[1] Astral projection is experienced as being "out of the body".[2] Unlike dreaming or near death experiences, astral projection may be practiced deliberately.

Descriptions of such experiences are found in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife,[3] with the soul's journey or "ascent" being described in such terms as "an...out-of-body experience" wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or dreambody or astral body) into ‘other’ realms."[4]

There is limited scientific evidence regarding the validity of astral projection,[5][6] and more typically reports of such experiences are subjective and anecdotal.[7] The belief that one has had an out-of-body experience, whether spoken of as "astral projection" or not, is common. Hundreds of personal accounts of astral projection were published in a number of books through the 1960s and 70s. Surveys have reported percentages ranging from 8% (as much as 50% in certain groups of respondents) who state they have had such an experience.[8] Because of the subjective nature of the experience, however, there are a number of materialist explanations that do not rely on the existence of an "astral" body and plane.[2]


[edit] Beliefs

Planes of existence

Gross and subtle bodies


The 7 Worlds & the 7 Cosmic Planes
The Seven-fold constitution of Man
The Ten-fold constitution of Man


Body of light | Thelemic mysticism

Surat Shabda Yoga



Sufi cosmology

Talas/Lokas - Tattvas, Kosas, Upadhis
Buddhist cosmology
Atziluth -> Beri'ah -> Yetzirah -> Assiah


Fourth Way

Ray of Creation
The Laws
Three Centers and Five Centers

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Astral projection or travel denotes the astral body or double leaving the physical body to travel in the astral plane. According to classical, medieval, renaissance Neoplatonist, later Theosophist and Rosicrucian philosophy, the astral body is an intermediate body of light linking the rational soul to the physical body, and the astral plane is an intermediate world of light between Heaven and Earth composed of the spheres of the planets and stars. These astral spheres were held to be populated by gods, angels, demons and spirits.[9] [10]

The subtle bodies, and their associated planes of existence, form an essential part of the esoteric systems that deal with astral phenomena. In the neo-platonism of Plotinus, for example, the individual is a microcosm ("small world") of the universe (the macrocosm or "great world"). "The rational akin to the great Soul of the World" while "the material universe, like the body, is made as a faded image of the Intelligible". Each succeeding plane of manifestation is causal to the next, a world-view called emanationism; "from the One proceeds Intellect, from Intellect Soul, and from Soul - in its lower phase, or Nature - the material universe".[11] Often these bodies and their corresponding planes of existence are depicted as a series of concentric circles or nested spheres, with a separate body traversing each realm.[12]

Similar concepts of "soul" travel appear in various other religious traditions, for example ancient Egyptian teachings present the soul as having the ability to hover outside the physical body in the ka, or subtle body.[13] A common belief is that the subtle body is attached to the physical body by means of a psychic silver cord.[14][15]

The idea of the astral figured prominently in the work of the ninteteenth-century French occultist Eliphas Levi, whence it was adopted by Theosophy and Golden Dawn magical society. The Theosophists also took note of similar ideas (Lin'ga S'ari-ra) found in ancient Hindu scriptures such as the YogaVashishta-Maharamayana of Valmiki.[13]

However, the expression "astral projection" came to be used in two different ways. For the Golden Dawn[16] and some Theosophists[17] it retained the classical and mediaeval philosophers' meaning of journeying to other worlds, heavens, hells, the astrological spheres and other imaginal[18] landscapes, but outside these circles the term was increasingly applied to non-physical travel around the physical world rather than the astral[19]. Though this usage continues to be widespread, the "etheric travel" label coined by later Theosophists such as Leadbetter and Bailey[citation needed] is more appropriate to such scenarios.

The Subtle body and the cosmic man, Nepal 1600's

[edit] Astral projection

Commonly in the astral projection experience, the experiencer describes themselves as being in a domain which often has no parallel to any physical setting, although they say they can visit different times and/or physical settings. Environments may be populated or unpopulated, artificial, natural or completely abstract and from beatific to horrific. A common belief is that one may access a compendium of mystical knowledge called the Akashic records. In many of these accounts, the experiencer correlates the astral world with the world of dreams. They report seeing dreamers enact dream scenarios on the astral plane, unaware of the wider environment around them.[20] Some also state that "falling" dreams are brought about by projection.[21]

The astral environment is often theoretically divided into levels or planes. There are many different views concerning the overall structure of the astral planes in various traditions. These planes may include heavens and hells and other after-death spheres, transcendent environments or other less-easily characterized states.[22][20][23]

[edit] Etheric projection

In contrast to astral projection, etheric projection is described as the ability to move about in the material world in an etheric body which is usually, though not always, invisible to people who are presently "in their bodies." Robert Monroe describes this type of projection as a projection to "Locale I" or the "Here-Now", and describes it as containing people and places that he feels actually exist in the material world.[24] Robert Bruce refers to a similar area as the "Real Time Zone" (RTZ) and describes it as the nonphysical, dimension-level closest to the physical.[25]

According to Max Heindel, the etheric "double" serves as a medium between the astral and physical realms. In his system, the ether, also called prana, is the "vital force" that empowers the physical forms in order for that change to take place. From his descriptions it can be inferred that when one views the physical during an out-of-body experience, they are not technically "in" the astral realm at all.[26]

The subtle vehicle remains connected to the physical body during the separation by a so-called “silver cord”, said to be that mentioned in Ecclesiastes 12:6.

Stephen LaBerge suggested in his 1985 book Lucid Dreaming that all such "out-of-body experiences" may represent partially lucid dreams or "misinterpreted dream experiences", in which the sleeper does not fully recognize the situation. "In the dark forest, one may experience a tree as a tiger, but it is still in fact only a tree."[27] Applying identical reasoning to waking consciousness, real life could be a dream too (see Descartes' Evil daemon).

[edit] Representations in popular culture

One of the earliest mainstream portrayals of such experiences is a 1936 Mickey Mouse animation short, Thru the Mirror[28]. In it, Mickey's consciousness is shown as rousing while his body still sleeps,[29] leaving the bed and then climbing through his mantelpiece mirror to a parallel Carrollian version of his room. With perfect timing, it later reintegrates with his sleeping body just as his alarm clock rings. Also, in the series Charmed, Prudence "Prue" Halliwell, played by actress Shannen Doherty, was a powerful good witch that possessed the power to astral project.

[edit] Modern practitioners

Although there were many twentieth century publications on astral projection,[30] only a few of their authors remain widely cited as influential after their deaths. These include Robert Monroe,[31] Oliver Fox,[32] Sylvan Muldoon[33] and Yram[34]. Of living authors, Robert Bruce and William Buhlmann are relatively well known, both having discussed their theories and findings on the syndicated show Coast to Coast AM several times.

[edit] Robert Monroe

Robert Monroe's accounts of journeys to other realms (1971-1994) popularized the term "OBE" and were translated into a large number of languages. Though his books themselves only placed secondary importance on descriptions of method, Monroe also founded an institute dedicated to research, exploration and non-profit dissemination of auditory technology for assisting others in achieving projection and related altered states of consciousness, which has spawned a wave of further publications of assisted projection experiences. His institute remains highly active today.

[edit] Oliver Fox

Using the pseudonym Oliver Fox, Hugh G. Callaway published a series of articles in The Occult Review during the 1920s that later became the basis of a book, Astral Projection (1939).

[edit] Sylvan Muldoon

Hereward Carrington, a psychical researcher, along with Sylvan Muldoon, who professed ease with astral projection, published The Projection of the Astral Body in 1929. Both Callaway and Muldoon wrote of techniques they felt facilitated a projection into the astral. Among these practices included visualizing such mental images as flying or being in an elevator traveling upward, just before going to sleep. They also recommended trying to regain waking consciousness while in a dream state (lucid dreaming). This was done, they wrote, by habitually recognizing apparent incongruities in one's dream, such as noticing a different pattern of wallpaper in one's home. Such recognition, they said, sometimes resulted in normal consciousness, but with the feeling of being outside the physical body and able to look down on it.[13]

[edit] Practices

In occult traditions, practices range from inducing trance states to the mental construction of a second body, called the Body of Light in Aleister Crowley's writings, through visualization and controlled breathing, followed by the transfer of consciousness to the secondary body by a mental act of will.[35]

[edit] References

  1. ^ astral projection. (n.d.). Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7). Retrieved June 21, 2008, from website
  2. ^ a b Melton, J. G. (1996). Astral Projection. In Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Thomson Gale. ISBN 978-0810394872. 
  3. ^ Suki Miller, After Death: How People around the World Map the Journey after Death (1995)
  4. ^ Dr. Roger J. Woolger, Beyond Death: Transition and the Afterlife, accessed online June 2008 at the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists,
  5. ^ "Further evidence for veridical perception during near-death experiences", Ring and Lawrence, Journal of Near-Death Studies Vol 11, Issue 4, p223-9.
  6. ^ "A Psychophysiological Study of Out-of-the-Body Experiences in a Selected Subject" Charles Tart, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1968, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 3-27.
  7. ^ Skeptic's Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll, article on Astral Projection, retrieved August 24, 2007. "There is scant evidence to support the claim that anyone can project their mind, soul, psyche, spirit, astral body, etheric body, or any other entity to somewhere else on this or any other planet. The main evidence is in the form of testimonials."
  8. ^ Blackmore, Susan (1991). "Near-Death Experiences: In or out of the body?". Skeptical Inquirer 1991, 16, 34-45. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved on 2008-06-17. 
  9. ^ Dodds, E.R. Proclus: The Elements of Theology. A revised text with translation, introduction, and commentary, 2nd edition 1963, Appendix.
  10. ^ Pagel, Walter (1967). William Harvey's Biological Ideas. Karger Publishers. pp. 147–148. ISBN 3805509626. 
  11. ^ John Gregory, The Neoplatonists, Kyle Cathie 1991 pp15-16
  12. ^ Besant, Annie Wood (1897). The Ancient Wisdom: An Outline of Theosophical Teachings. Theosophical publishing society. ISBN 0524027129. 
  13. ^ a b c Melton, J. G. (1996). Out-of-the-body Travel. In Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Thomson Gale. ISBN 978-0810394872. 
  14. ^ Projection of the Astral Body by Carrington and Muldoon
  15. ^ Out of Body Experiences: How to have them and what to expect by Robert Peterson (chapters 5, 17, 22)
  16. ^ Chic Cicero, Chic C, Sandra Tabatha Cicero The Essential Golden Dawn, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003.
  17. ^ Arthur A.Powell, THE ASTRAL BODY AND OTHER ASTRAL PHENOMENA, The Theosophical Publishing House, London, England; Wheaton,Ill, U.S.A.; Adyar, Chennai, India, 1927, reprinted in 1954 and 1965, page 7, online June 2008 at
  18. ^ Henri Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, tr. Ralph Mannheim, Bollingen XCI, Princeton U.P., 1969
  19. ^ William Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy 2nd Ed. TPH, 1893, Chapter 5, book online June 2008 at
  20. ^ a b Monroe, Robert. Far Journeys. ISBN 0-385-23182-2
  21. ^ Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce. Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc, 1999 ISBN 1-57174-143-7
  22. ^ Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce. Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc, 1999 ISBN 1-57174-143-7
  23. ^ Journeys Out of the Body by Robert A. Monroe, p 60. Anchor Press, 1977.
  24. ^ Journeys Out of the Body by Robert A. Monroe, p 60. Anchor Press, 1977.
  25. ^ Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc, 1999. p 25-27, 30-31
  26. ^ Heindel, Max, The Rosicrucian Mysteries (Chapter IV, The Constitution of Man: Vital Body - Desire Body - Mind), 1911, ISBN 0-911274-86-3
  27. ^ Lucid Dreaming: the power of being awake & aware in your dreams, p 232-346. Quote on p234.
  28. ^ "Motfis of passage into worlds imaginary and fantastic", Greene, Journal of Near-Death Studies Vol 10, Issue 4, p205.
  29. ^ Still from Disney's "Thru the Mirror"
  30. ^ Substantial bibliography of general OBE and astral projection literature
  31. ^ A biography of Robert Monroe by Susan Blackmore
  32. ^ A biography of Oliver Fox by Susan Blackmore
  33. ^ A biography of Sylvan Muldoon by Susan Blackmore
  34. ^ A biography of Yram by Susan Blackmore
  35. ^ Greer, John (1967). Astral Projection. In The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 1567183360. 

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