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WHAT IS ASTRAL PROJECTION? PART 2
A. Occult Views (continued from file 1)
i. Occult Anatomy
So, we have defined the planes. Now let us define the vehicles or
"bodies" we possess for interacting with the planes.
According to occult theory, we have 5 bodies. These are:
1. The Physical Body
2. The Etheric Body
3. The Astral Body
4. The Mental Body
5. The Buddhic Body
Now, when we define these bodies, we must define them from two
perspectives at the same time. The first perspective is how these
different bodies manifest in our normal waking life, and the second
perspective is to define these bodies in terms of focusing your
consciousness exclusively in that body and using it as a vehicle
for perceiving its respective plane.
Also, it's important to say at the start that, in all reality, these five
bodies are one body. These bodies operate simultaneously and are highly
integrated. While we are awake here in the physical plane, we haven't the
slightest clue that we have these five bodies because they each work
so smoothly together that all we recognize is our unified perception
and experience. In actuality, these 5 bodies represent the major FUNCTIONS
we have as human beings. From the standpoint of our normal waking life,
it is almost arbitrary to define the human being in terms of these 5 bodies.
However, it is in their utility for explaining altered states of
consciousness that the definitions of these bodies will be found to be
very useful. Thus, once we get more into the specifics of astral
projecting, we will see how useful this scheme of 5 bodies is.
And what we will see too is that defining human nature
in terms of these 5 bodies will put us in an excellent position to
understand very clearly our normal life here in the physical world.
So, having said this, let's discuss each body in turn.
1. The Physical Body. This is the body that we know. This is the body
with eyes and ears, hands and feet, internal organs, a brain and nervous
system. This is our organic body made of molecules and electricity,
pulsating with the living energies of the Earth and Sun.
The best way to think of your physical body is that it is like
a TV set. As a TV set allows you to tune into specific channels, likewise
your physical body allows you (i.e your consciousness) to tune into the
physical world. As a matter of fact, this is how you should think of
all 5 bodies. Each body is a "tuner" that allows us to tune into the
plane corresponding to that body. So, your physical body perceives
the physical world of 3-D space and 1 dimensional time.
I said above that we need to view each body from two perspectives:
1. in terms of normal waking experience, and 2. in terms of altered
states of consciousness. For the physical body, it is the only body
we directly perceive while awake in the physical world. And when
we are in an altered state of consciousness (such as dreams), we no
longer perceive the physical body. There are exceptions to this last
statement, but in general, it is true. Once we get into techniques
for inducing astral projections, you will see that one way to
"leave" your body entails losing consciousness of your physical body
while at the same time gaining consciousness of your astral or etheric
2. The Etheric Body. As was stated above, occultists consider the etheric
plane to be the invisible aspects of the physical plane. So then, it
follows that our etheric body is then the invisible parts of our
physical body. To give you an idea of what our etheric body may look
like consider this. Hopefully you have seen how grains of iron will line
up around a magnet, aligning with the magnetic field lines. Well, both
our hearts and our brains are very electrical organs which are constantly
emitting electrical fields. These fields emitted by the heart and brain
are invisible to our senses, but are easily measured by machines (which
is what the EKGs and EEGs used by doctors are). If you could literally
perceive these electrical fields that come from your brain and heart, you
would be seeing part of your etheric body.
Also, there is electricity constantly pulsing along the nerves
throughout our entire body. Again, we cannot directly perceive these
flowing nerve energies, but they are there nonetheless. And again, these
nerve energies are a part of our etheric body. As a matter of fact, though
some may debate this, the acupuncture charts of Tantra traditions are charts
of the flowing of energies through the etheric body.
Some occult teachings describe the etheric body as being made of a
blue glowing substance.
Now, from our the point of view of our waking experience, the etheric
body is the basis of all sensation and perception. When you feel something
with your hand, smell something, see something or whatever, these sensations
are registering in your etheric body. This is why you do not perceive
things happening in the physical plane when you are asleep or unconscious.
See, it is a mistake to think that your physical/organic body perceives
things. Your organic body is like a lens that *focuses* sensations. These
focused sensations then register in your etheric body, which means they
are brought into your awareness. The physical/organic body is a machine
that *conveys* sensation. The etheric body is the body that *registers
and interprets* sensation.
Those of you who are expert enough in physiology to argue with me about
these ideas can feel free to do so.
Now, from the point of view of altered states of consciousness, it
is possible to move about in the etheric body independently from your
physical/organic body. This is very difficult to do though. You can
always tell that you are in your etheric body because you feel very heavy
and it is very hard to move. Also, it is likely that if you are in your
etheric body, then you will be in a dark, and sometimes, scary subplane.
(More on this point below). Robert Monroe describes moving in his etheric
body, but does not call it such.
Also, it is likely that you have experienced having your consciousness
focused in your etheric body, but did not know it. This usually happens
right when you are waking up or falling asleep. Have you ever had the
experience of waking up in bed and trying to move, or trying to talk but
not being able to do so? If so, you might have even felt scared. If this
has ever happened to you, what is actually going on here is that you
are actually *not* awake. Instead, you have "woken up" on the etheric
plane in your etheric body by accident. For those of you that have had
such experiences, be happy, because these were actually etheric projections!
We will learn below how to cultivate the ability to do this, and also
what to do when you find yourself in this position.
3. The Astral Body. From the point of view of being awake here in the
physical world, your astral body is the emotions and desires you feel.
You know how sometimes you get real distinct "vibes" from people? Maybe
someone makes you feel creepy, or another person uplifts you and
makes you feel good, and yet other people seem to drain you of your energy?
Well these "vibes" are in actuality you sensing that person's astral body.
When you get angry, or sad, happy or feel any emotion, you are feeling
your own astral body. When you sense these emotions in another person
(which is called "empathy") you are feeling that person's astral body.
Now, again, some people will argue with this, saying that emotions
are a part of the brain, contained in the nerves of the limbic system.
However, I again will say that these brain regions that relate to emotion
are gateways between the physical body and the astral body. Feeling emotion
is not dependent upon having a physical/organic body. After you die you
will continue to feel emotions because emotions originate in your astral
Now, in terms of altered states of consciousness, when we start getting
into the meat of astral projection, the vast majority of your OOBEs will
occur in your astral body. This is the body you use at night when you are
dreaming and your physical body is asleep. Thus, the world you will be in
when you astral project will be extremely similar to the world you are in
when you dream at night. We will have much more to say about the
astral body and its properties as we proceed.
4. The Mental Body. During normal waking life, you perceive your mental
body as your mind. You think thoughts, see images in your imagination
(your "mind's eye"), can hear songs and voices "in your head". All of these
phenomena are occuring in your mental body. Again, you can argue and
say that all of these things occur in your brain, and that, if you did
not have a brain, then you would not think thoughts, see things in your
"mind's eye" or hear things in your head. And again, I will counter and
say that the brain is a CHANNEL, a "machine" that allows these mental
events to manifest on the physical plane. If you have no brain, you
cannot express your mental behavior on the physical plane. However, having
no physical brain does not prevent you from expressing your thoughts
and ideas on the astral and mental planes.
And to repeat again, once you learn to project for yourself, you can
decide who is right in these kinds of debates. Below we will discuss
these types of debates a little more, but for now, all I'm trying to do
is convey occult ideas about human anatomy.
From the point of view of altered states of consciousness, shifting
the focus of your consciousness to your mental body will allow you to
directly perceive the mental plane. I've already stated that this is very
difficult, and that I have never done it. In the bibliography I reference
books by people who describe what the mental plane looks like. It is
supposedly extremely beautiful, but I suppose this depends on what
level of the mental plane you perceive.
5. The Buddhic Body. We've discussed the buddhic body already in the
statements I made about morals and astral projecting. To repeat here:
In our normal waking life, buddhic energy manifests as: creativity,
novelty, spontaneity, wisdom, compassion, will power, sudden insight,
great genius, great leadership abilities, deep spirituality. Other times,
buddhic energy may manifest as death, disease and decay (this is
the Hindu image of Shiva the Destroyer). Whatever your situation
demands for growth, this is what the buddhic energy will manifest as.
Ideas such as "God", "Tao", etc. refer to buddhic energy. However,
religion is not buddhic energy, though it may be a channel for it.
One very powerful source of buddhic energy is the Grateful Dead.
Buddhic energy is the underlying essence of LIFE. It is everywhere
and permeates everything we know. As far as being human goes, there
is nothing more powerful than buddhic energy. We can think of buddhic
energy however we please. It does not matter what we call it or what we
think of it. Buddhic energy is the energy that moves our very minds.
Mystics speak of the ineffable essence that underlies and unifies all
reality. This ineffable essence is buddhic plane energy.
In terms of altered states of consciousness, it is extremely
unlikely that anyone reading this will learn to focus their consciousness
onto the buddhic plane. It is simply too subtle to do so. It IS possible
to take LSD and feel the buddhic energy while you are awake here in the
physical world. However, though this is not as difficult as focusing
directly onto the buddhic plane, it takes great mastery over the LSD
experience to be able to use it to perceive the buddhic energy that
fills every nook and cranny of all life.
Now, ironically, though it seems the buddhic energy is the
hardest to attain, it turns out to be the energy you should most desire
to attain. Frankly, astral projecting is nothing compared to attaining
buddi, or learning how to have buddhic energies play through your being.
Earlier I mentioned that there were Eastern and Western views of
occultism, and till now have made no attempt to distinguish between
them. However, when it comes to opening yourself up to buddhic energy,
Eastern occultism has always been crystal clear about this, whereas
Western occultism is not always so clear. Eastern occultism is yoga, and
the purpose of yoga is to become enlightened. Becoming enlightened is
exactly the same as opening up to the buddhic energies. This process
goes under many names: enlightenment, samasamadi, mysticism, cosmic
consciousness, satori. All these words refer to the same thing.
However, it is not my purpose in these notes to digress on mysticism.
For the interested reader, see the reference by van der Leeuww in the
To conclude this brief overview of occult anatomy, I would like to define
the word "aura", which I used above and will have occasion to use
throughout these notes. The word "aura" is a generic term and can refer
to any one of the nonphysical bodies by itself or in combination with
the other nonphysical bodies. I use the term to refer to all the non-
physical bodies at once. Some people use the term to refer specifically
to the astral body. "Aura" is a vague term. I prefer, when speaking,
to call a specific body by its proper name. And again, if I want to
refer to the four nonphysical bodies (i.e. etheric, astral, mental
and buddhic) simultaneously, I will use the word "aura".
So, we have gone over occult physics and occult anatomy. All of this to
give some idea of the occult interpretation of the astral projection/OOBE
experience! What I have done above it to lay out in a barebones outline
the elements of the occult *worldview*. And a barebones outline it is.
Again, readers that want more detail should consult the bibliography.
What I have covered above, though, is sufficient for our purposes here.
To summarize, occultists teach that there are 7 planes and that we have
bodies for perceiving 4 of these planes. By this view, altered states
of consciousness are explained by the fact that we shift our conscious
awareness from the physical plane/body to one of our other, nonphysical
bodies and perceive events occuring on the respective plane. This is
indeed one of the valid theoretical approaches to explaining astral
projection. And, as I've already said, we will find this is the most
useful view to take. Below I will go into other theories of what
astral projection is, but, when we start attempting to be practical
and put the various theories to the test of practice, we will find our-
selves returning to the occult theory again and again to explain what
happens to us when we are "out of body".
B. Scientific Views
Other ideas exist about astral projection besides the occult ideas
expressed above. I classify these other views under the heading
"scientific" because these views mainly stem from the attempts of
scientists of various persuasions to understand the OOBE experience.
The persuasions of scientists of interest here are psychologists and
parapsychologists. These are the folks, other than occultists, who
have given us ideas about the astral projection experience. What I will
do is explain some of these nonoccult ideas, then afterward make some
attempt to compare the occult and nonoccult views of the projection
experience. After that I will then try to tie everything together
and provide the theoretical framework we will use throughout the rest
of these notes.
i. Parapsychology - OOBEs
At begining I said I would use the terms "astral projection" and
"OOBE" (which stands for "out-of-body experience") interchangeably.
Hopefully, you now understand what the term "astral projection" means
and where it comes from. Now we are going to look at the term "OOBE".
The term "OOBE" is a word coined by parapsychologists. Parapsychology,
as a science, began with the work of a man named J.B. Rhine who did
statistical experiments on psychic powers at Duke University in the
1930s. Rhine's application of statistics to psychic phenomena gave
rise to the tradition of parapsychology, a "science" which has had
a questionable and spotted reputation from its inception. Generally
speaking, parapsychologists have been interested in displaying the
existence of so-called psychic abilities, or "psi" as they term it,
using statistics and other props such as dice, or the relatively
famous ESP cards that you may have seen.
What can be said about parapsychology? Not very much actually.
Frankly, other fields of science don't take parapsychologists very
seriously. And because parapsychologists have been so preoccupied
with proving that psychic powers exist by statistical tests, they
have done little to offer real explanations of psychic phenomena.
We saw above that occultists explain psychic powers with the theory
of the planes and nonphysical bodies, and that psychic powers are the
result of shifting the focus of our consciousness from the physical
plane to one of the other planes. Basically, parapsychologists have
not been able to provide a competing explanation of psychic powers.
And what's even worse, parapsychologists, on the whole, have completely
ignored the ideas of occultists.
What parapsychologists have done over the 60 or so years that they've
been around is to coin a bunch of new words like "psi", "ESP", "OOBE",
"remote viewing" and many other jargons, without having any really clear
meaning of these words. The result of this is that parapsychologists
have created more confusion than clarity. Many of the terms they have coined
(such as "ESP" or "OOBE") are now common in our language, yet these
terms have no precise meaning. Earlier, I said that theory without
practice is just empty talk. Unfortunately, this is what parapsychology
is: a lot of talk and very little action.
For example, the term OOBE was coined in the 1960s. Apparently, the
older term "astral projection", and its occult implications, was to be
ignored. What does the term OOBE mean? Well, "out of body experience"
seems to mean that you leave your body. But the questions immediately
come up: *What* leaves? and *Where* does it go? I guess it's nice, at least,
that parapsychologists recognize that the OOBE phenomena exists.
Unfortunately, the work by parapsychologists on the OOBE have produced
results that parapsychologists did not expect.
The type of experiments parapsychologists have done on OOBEs are
things such as putting a person in a room to project, and in an adjacent,
locked room, putting a piece of paper with something written on it, and then
expecting the projector to "leave his body", go into the locked room, and
read what's on the paper. These types of experiments have prodced very
mixed results which are by no means easy to interpret. Mostly they have been
unsuccessful because the person projecting could not project, or, if the
person did project, then they did not accurately read the message in the
locked room, or never even made it into the locked room!
What are we to make of the results of these parapsycholgoy experiments?
Well, first, let's look under the hood, so to speak, at the implications
inherent in the designs of these parapsychology experiments. Unlike
occultists, who very clearly state their premises, parapsychologists never
clearly lay out their intentions. Thus we are forced to second guess them
to some extent. So, let's do this.
So, we asked: what leaves the body and where does it go? Well, the
experimental design above does not directly address the question of *what*
leaves the body. Yet, the fact that the parapsychologist expects the
projector to bring back information implies that at least the para-
psychologist knows that it is the person's awareness that is "leaving
Of much more importance though is the question: *where* does this
disembodied awareness go? Well, the answer to this question is very obvious
from the experimental design above. The parapsychologist obviously
expects the projecting person to go into the adjacent room. What this
means is that the parapsychologist assumes that *whatever is leaving
the body stays in the physical world*. This is a key point for
understanding the meaning of the term OOBE. That is to say, the term
"OOBE", as used by parapsychologists, implies that there is only a
physical world, and that there are not any planes as occultists
describe. Obviously, when I use the term OOBE in these notes, I do not
Now, the lack of success that parapsychologists have encountered in
the type of experiments described above has forced some parapsychologists
to rethink their ideas. In the past few years, certain parapsychologists
have begun to recognize the possibility that the OOBE subject does NOT
project into the physical world, and that there must be some non-
physical world in which the OOBE occurs. In particular, these ideas
have been stated by both D. Scott Rogo and Lawrence LeShan, who are both
noted parapsychologists. However, only D. Scott Rogo has gone so far as
to suggest that occult ideas might be the correct explanation of the
OOBE experience. Rogo himself learned how to have OOBEs, and came to this
conclusion based on his own first hand experience. Again, if all goes well,
then you too can be like Rogo and go and see for yourself. To read
about Rogo's experiences, look for his book listed in the bibiography.
Rogo's book, which is called "Leaving The Body", is actually an
important reference and all of you are highly encouraged to read this
However, Rogo's view is not widely held by the few parapsychologists
who are around today, and generally speaking, parapsychologists still
cling to the notion that psychic powers (or "psi" as they call it),
including OOBEs, are purely physical phenomena.
So, this is what the term OOBE really means: it implies a purely
physical view of the projection experience. As I said, I don't use the
term OOBE in this fashion, but parapsychologists do.
This is all I will say about the parapsychological view at this point.
We will return to it below when we compare occult and nonoccult views
later in the discussion.
ii. Psychology - Lucid Dreaming
The next nonoccult view we shall discuss is the view that comes
to us from the science of psychology. Now, anyone familiar with academic
psychology knows that there are many schools of thought in psychology
including: Freudian views, the views of Carl Jung, the psychology of
Abraham Maslow, behavioralist psychology, cognitive psychology, psychiatry,
physiological psychology and neurology - just to name a few! I do not
plan on discussing all of these different schools of thought here. If the
reader has enough interest in these topics, you can go read up on them
for yourself. What I want to do here is outline the broad features of
the ideas in psychology relevant to the astral projection experience,
and outline these in enough detail so that 1. you at least know that
such ideas exist, and 2. you are able to compare these ideas to the occult
and parapsychological ideas of the projection experience.
In general, psychologists are not stupid. They have observed many
altered states of consciousness and come up with a number of theories
to account for these altered states of consciousness. Psychologists
recognize astral projection under a vareity of names: lucid dreams,
dissociative experiences, near death experiences, hypnogogia (of which we
will have much to say about later). From what I've seen
in the psychological literature, no one has really tied all these
experiences together under one unified theory. Each of these phenomena
is thought of in different terms. Even the fact of dreaming has not
been clearly tied into the fact of astral projection by any psychologists
as far as I know.
Now, in the last few years, there have been a number of books published
by psychologists involving lucid dreams (one such book is called "Have
a Lucid Dream in 30 Days" - but I do not remember the author). These
books are "how to do it" books for having lucid dreams, and are quite
effective as it goes. However, where they lack is in having a good
understanding of what the lucid dream experience is. One such book that
I read said something to the effect "No one knows what a lucid dreams is..."
and I thought to myself, "*YOU* don't know what a lucid dream is!".
So, for those of you that read these types of books, what I'm saying
here is that these books may show you how to actually have a lucid
dream, but the theory they teach you about the nature of lucid dreaming
is not very good, and, as I've already stated, the theory is important
for helping you understand what is happening to you once you start
projecting. The more powerful the theory, the more effective will be
your projection experiences. The flimsy theories of psychologists will
aid you only so far, and there are many things you will experience
when you project that these theories cannot explain.
Lucid dreams ARE astral projections. When we get into techniques below,
we will use this idea in one of our techniques. The idea of a lucid dream
is that it is a dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming. As I
said earlier, occultists teach that the place where we go dream is the
astral plane. However, this idea is not accepted in modern psychology.
The psychologists have a much "softer" view of the projection experience,
calling it a lucid dream. Interestingly, psychologists have no explanation
of what dreams are! Some work under the idea that dreams are a vivid
hallucination created in your brain while you sleep. Others have more
nebulous ideas about collective unconsciousnesses and similar stuff.
Freudians look upon dreams as a symbolic realm where repressions are
stored up. To some extent each of these views is correct - correct that is,
but highly incomplete. Taken together, the ideas in psychology about
dreams and lucid dreams, at best, paint a somewhat confusing mosaic of
sometimes conflicting ideas about the nature of dream and lucid dream
experiences. At their worst, the ideas in psychology about dreams and
lucid dreaming can lead you into an intellectual maze of jargon and
speculation that will only confuse you and not help you one iota
in your quest to actually project! If this happens, you are wasting
your time and energy.
So basically, we have seen that "astral projection" is an occult term.
"OOBE" is a term from parapsychology. The term "lucid dreaming"
is a term from psychology. A lucid dream is a dream in which you are
aware that you are dreaming. However, psychologists offer no really
convincing and complete idea of how dreams work or exactly what their
And again, I am fully open to debate the ideas I present here. If any
of you do not like what I have to say, or if you think I am wrong in
the ideas I am presenting, please feel free to challenge me on any point
END OF FILE 2
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank