Astral projection or astral travel refers to the purported experience of a person’s conscious awareness leaving their physical body to observe the world from an independent point of view via an astral body (or “double”). This is also known as an out-of-body experience (OBE).
Although there is no scientific evidence to support the theory a surprising number of people –- about 15% of the population have had experience of astral projection or OBE.
Out of body experiences
OBEs are normally brief experiences in which a person's consciousness departs from their body, this state enables the observation of the world objectively from a point of view other than that of the physical body and by means other than those of the normal physical senses.
In some cases people have claimed that they observed or saw things (objects which were really there, events and conversations which really took place) which they could not have seen or heard from within their actual bodies
OBEs can occur to anyone in almost any circumstances be it dreaming, sleeping, walking driving etc.
There are also reports of reciprocal cases of OBE and apparition: the OBE subject, aware that he is operating in a duplicate body, travels to a distant location where he sees a person and is aware of being seen by that person; this person can then confirm that he saw an apparition of the OBEer. Thus the two experiences link to each other.
Common aspects of the experience include being in an 'out-of-body' body much like the physical one, feeling a sense of energy, feeling vibrations, seeing strange images or hearing loud voices.OBEs, especially spontaneous ones, are often very vivid, and resemble everyday waking experiences rather than dreams.
Reports and studies conclude that the conscious self's awareness outside the body is not only unimpaired but enhanced: events which occurred during the period of unconsciousness are described in accurate detail and confirmed by those present.
OBEs show the capacity of the conscious self to have experiences and perceptions outside the physical body and this leads us to the concept of astral travel.
If you seem to be leaving your physical body and observing things from outside it then it seems natural to assume that, at least temporarily, you had a double. It also seems obvious that this double could see, hear, think and move. This interpretation is not necessarily valid. As Palmer has so carefully pointed out [Pal78a] the experience of being out of the body is not equivalent to the fact of being out.
Superficially, the idea of having a double may seem to explain the OBE. However, as soon as this idea is pursued, problems questions arise
One of the most complex, and certainly the most influential, of such systems is the theory of astral projection, based on the teachings of theosophy.
In 1875 Madame Blavatsky started the Theosophical Society in New York, to study Eastern science religions.
From her teachings in India and elsewhere, a complex theory took shape.
Man is seen not just as a product of his physical body, but is instead thought to be a complex creature consisting of many bodies, each finer and more subtle than the one below, making a complex web of bodies which can reveal the true overall being.
It is commonly claimed that there are seven great planes and seven corresponding bodies or vehicles.
The biggest of all is of course the physical body which we are all familiar with day to day.
There is supposed to be another body described as physical known as the 'etheric double,' or 'vehicle of vitality.' Etheric double is a by product of physical vitality and remains constant. Eventually it re-absorbs into the elements it is made of.
This 'double' acts as a giver of energy, keeping the lower physical body in contact with the higher bodies. Etheric substance is therefore an extension of the physical.
The next level is thought to be the 'astral world' and its 'astral body', or the giver of consciousnesses.
These entities are thought to be smaller than their etheric parts and are harder for us to see
Astral body is thought to be 'a replica of our physical body, but more subtle and tenuous in substance but linked to every part of the physical body.
The astral world consists of astral matter, and all physical objects have a double in the astral world. There is in fact, a complete physical copy of everything in the astral world, but there are also objects in the astral world which have no double in the physical world.
The astral body is supposed to be able to separate from the physical and travel alone.
Since the astral is the vehicle of consciousness, it is this body which is aware, not the physical.
It is claimed that when sleeping the astral body detaches and leaves the body.
In many people little memory is retained and the astral body travels are limited and have no clear direction, but other people the astral can be controlled, can travel great distances in sleep, and can even be projected from the physical body as they wish. It is this state which is commonly referred to as astral projection.
In astral projection the consciousness can travel freely in the astral world. It therefore sees not the physical objects, but astral counterparts, and in addition the beings that live in the astral worlds. The astral world is known as the world of illusion and the world of thoughts.
The idea has of OBEs and astral travel as we have said has no scientific evidence to back it up but the sheer number of people who claim to have had these experiences have build up the fascinating subject above which remains the subject of much debate.