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"The Separation of the Spirit Body" from The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese handbook on alchemy and meditation

Astral projection (or astral travel) is an esoteric interpretation of any form of out-of-body experience (OOBE) that assumes the existence of an "astral body" separate from the physical body and capable of travelling outside it.[1] Astral projection or travel denotes the astral body leaving the physical body to travel in the astral plane.

The idea of astral travel is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife[2] in which the consciousness' or soul's journey or "ascent" is 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 ‘higher’ realms."[3] It is therefore associated with near death experiences and is also frequently reported as spontaneously experienced in association with sleep and dreams, illness,[4] surgical operations, drug experiences, sleep paralysis and forms of meditation.[5]

It is also sometimes cultivated for its own sake,[6] or may be believed to be a faculty derived from or necessary to some forms of spiritual practice.[7] It may involve "travel to higher realms" called astral planes but is commonly used to describe any sensation of being "out of the body"[8] in the everyday world, even seeing one's body from outside or above. It may be reported in the form of an apparitional experience, a supposed encounter with a doppelgänger, some living person also seen somewhere else at the same time.[9]

Through the 1960s and 70s, surveys reported percentages ranging from 8% to as many as 50% (in certain groups) of respondents who state they had such an experience.[10] The subjective nature of the experience permits explanations that do not rely on the existence of an "astral" body and plane.[8] There is little beyond anecdotal evidence to support the idea that people can actually "leave the body".[11]



Western philosophies

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 angels, demons and spirits.[12] [13]

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".[14]

Often these bodies and their planes of existence are depicted as a series of concentric circles or nested spheres, with a separate body traversing each realm.[15] The idea of the astral figured prominently in the work of the nineteenth-century French occultist Eliphas Levi, whence it was adopted by Theosophy and Golden Dawn magical society.

Ancient Egypt

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.[16] A common belief is that the subtle body is attached to the physical body by means of a psychic silver cord.[17][18]


Taoist alchemical practice involves creation of an energy body by breathing meditations, drawing energy into a 'pearl' that is then "circulated".[19] "Xiangzi ... with a drum as his pillow fell fast asleep, snoring and motionless. His primordial spirit, however, went straight into the banquet room and said, "My lords, here I am again." ... When Tuizhi walked ... with the officials to take a look, there really was a Daoist sleeping on the ground and snoring like thunder. Yet inside, in the side room, there was another Daoist beating a fisher drum and singing Daoist songs. The officials all said, “Although there are two different people, their faces and clothes are exactly alike. Clearly he is a divine immortal who can divide his body and appear in several places at once. ..." ... At that moment, the Daoist in the side room came walking out, and the Daoist sleeping on the ground woke up. The two merged into one." [20]


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.[16]

"Astral" and "etheric"

The expression "astral projection" came to be used in two different ways. For the Golden Dawn[21] and some Theosophists[22] it retained the classical and medieval philosophers' meaning of journeying to other worlds, heavens, hells, the astrological spheres and other imaginal[23] landscapes, but outside these circles the term was increasingly applied to non-physical travel around the physical world rather than the astral[24]. 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.

Commonly in the astral projection experience, the experients describe 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.[25] 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.[26] Some also state that "falling" dreams are brought about by projection.[27]

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.[26][27][28]

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.[28] 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.[29]

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, one is not technically "in" the astral realm at all.[30]

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."[31]

Notable practitioners

Although there are many twentieth century publications on astral projection,[32] only a few of their authors remain widely cited as influential after their deaths. These include Robert Monroe,[33] Oliver Fox,[34] Sylvan Muldoon[35], and Yram.[36] Living authors that receive repeated coverage in popular media include Robert Bruce, William Buhlmann and Albert Taylor, all of whom have discussed their theories and findings on the syndicated show Coast to Coast AM several times.[37][38][39] Michael Crichton gives lengthy and detailed explanations and experience of astral projection in his non-fiction book "Travels".

Living practitioners

William Buhlman[40] and Robert Bruce[41] are among the most popular author-practitioners on the OBE. Waldo Vieira is a physician and dentist that claims to have had his first OBE at the age of 9 and has gone on to write numerous articles and over 20 books, including Projectiology.[42] Wagner Alegretti, president of and researcher at International Academy of Consciousness, is another experienced out-of-body experiencer recently featured on the Discovery Channel en Espanol[43] and New York's New Realities[44] series.

Historical practitioners

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.

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.[16]

Emanuel Swedenborg was one of the first practitioners to write extensively about the out-of-body experience, in his Spiritual Diary (1747-65). French philosopher and novelist Honoré de Balzac's fictional work "Louis Lambert" suggests he may have been a lucid projector (astral projector or out-of-body experiencer).


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.[45]

See also


  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. ^ Suki Miller, After Death: How People around the World Map the Journey after Death (1995)
  3. ^ Dr. Roger J. Woolger, Beyond Death: Transition and the Afterlife, accessed online June 2008 at the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists,
  4. ^ See, for example Sylvan Muldoon's account in; Muldoon, Sylvan J. and Carrington, Hereward - Projection of the Astral Body. ISBN 0766146049
  5. ^ Osho, The Transmission of the Lamp, Chapter 3, Rebel Press.
  6. ^ Muldoon and Carrington
  7. ^ Richard Wilhelm, Cary F. Baines (trans.), The Secret of the Golden Flower, RKP London.
  8. ^ a b Melton, J. G. (1996). Astral Projection. In Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Thomson Gale. ISBN 978-0810394872. 
  9. ^ Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, ISBN 978-0-87612-083-5
  10. ^ Blackmore, Susan (1991). "Near-Death Experiences: In or out of the body?". Skeptical Inquirer 1991, 16, 34-45. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  11. ^ 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."
  12. ^ Dodds, E.R. Proclus: The Elements of Theology. A revised text with translation, introduction, and commentary, 2nd edition 1963, Appendix.
  13. ^ Pagel, Walter (1967). William Harvey's Biological Ideas. Karger Publishers. pp. 147–148. ISBN 3805509626. 
  14. ^ John Gregory, The Neoplatonists, Kyle Cathie 1991 pp15–16
  15. ^ Besant, Annie Wood (1897). The Ancient Wisdom: An Outline of Theosophical Teachings. Theosophical publishing society. ISBN 0524027129. 
  16. ^ a b c Melton, J. G. (1996). Out-of-the-body Travel. In Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Thomson Gale. ISBN 978-0810394872. 
  17. ^ Projection of the Astral Body by Carrington and Muldoon
  18. ^ Out of Body Experiences: How to have them and what to expect by Robert Peterson (chapters 5, 17, 22)
  19. ^ Chia, Mantak (1989, 2007). Fusion of the Five Elements. Destiny Books. pp. 89+. ISBN 1594771030. 
  20. ^ Erzeng, Yang (2007). The Story of Han Xiangzi. University of Washington Press. pp. 207–209. ISBN 0-295-98690-5 978-0-295-98690-6. 
  21. ^ Chic Cicero, Chic C, Sandra Tabatha Cicero The Essential Golden Dawn, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003.
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ Henri Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, tr. Ralph Mannheim, Bollingen XCI, Princeton U.P., 1969
  24. ^ William Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy 2nd Ed. TPH, 1893, Chapter 5, book online June 2008 at
  25. ^"Secret Guide To Instant Astral Projection"
  26. ^ a b Monroe, Robert. Far Journeys. ISBN 0-385-23182-2
  27. ^ a b Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce. Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc, 1999 ISBN 1-57174-143-7
  28. ^ a b Journeys Out of the Body by Robert A. Monroe, p 60. Anchor Press, 1977.
  29. ^ Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc, 1999. p 25-27, 30-31
  30. ^ Heindel, Max, The Rosicrucian Mysteries (Chapter IV, The Constitution of Man: Vital Body - Desire Body - Mind), 1911, ISBN 0-911274-86-3
  31. ^ Lucid Dreaming: the power of being awake & aware in your dreams, p 232-346. Quote on p234.
  32. ^ Substantial bibliography of general OBE and astral projection literature
  33. ^ A biography of Robert Monroe by Susan Blackmore
  34. ^ A biography of Oliver Fox by Susan Blackmore
  35. ^ A biography of Sylvan Muldoon by Susan Blackmore
  36. ^ A biography of Yram by Susan Blackmore
  37. ^ Coast To Coast archives of shows featuring Robert Bruce
  38. ^ Coast To Coast archives of shows featuring William Buhlman
  39. ^ Coast To Coast archives of shows featuring Albert Taylor
  40. ^ [1]
  41. ^ [2]
  42. ^ "Projectiology"
  43. ^ Discovery Channel en Espanol
  44. ^ New Realities
  45. ^ Greer, John (1967). Astral Projection. In The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 1567183360. 

Further reading

  • Barton, Mary E. - Soul Sight: Projections of Consciousness and Out of Body Epiphanies. ISBN 978-0-557-02163-5
  • Bruce, Robert (1999) - Astral Dynamics: A NEW Approach to Out-of-Body Experiences. ISBN 1-57174-143-7
  • Buhlman, William - Adventures Beyond the Body: Astral Projection. ISBN 0062513710
  • Leland, Kurt. - Otherwhere: A Field Guide to Nonphysical Reality for the Out-of-Body Traveler. Hampton Roads Publishing (2001). ISBN 978-1571742414
  • Leland, Kurt. - The Unanswered Question: Death, Near-Death, and the Afterlife. Hampton Roads Publishing (2002). ISBN 978-1571742995
  • Muldoon, Sylvan J. and Carrington, Hereward - Projection of the Astral Body. ISBN 0766146049
  • Monroe, Robert - Journeys Out of the Body Doubleday (1971). reprinted (1989) Souvenir Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0285627536
  • Monroe, Robert. - Far Journeys. Doubleday (1985). reprinted (1992) Main Street Books. ISBN 978-0385231824
  • Monroe, Robert. - Ultimate Journey. Doubleday (1994). reprinted (1996) Main Street Books. ISBN 978-0385472081
  • Peterson, Robert - Out of Body Experiences. ISBN 1571740570
  • Pritchard, Mark H - A Course in Astral Travel and Dreams. Absolute Publishing Press (2005). Second edition. ISBN 0974056030
  • Stack, Rick - Out of Body Adventures. ISBN 0-8092-4560-4
  • Vieira, Dr. Waldo - Projectiology. ISBN 85-86019-58-5
  • Wilde, Stuart - Sixth Sense. ISBN 1-56170-501-2

External links

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