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Astral projection is an awareness of one's consciousness detaching from the physical body, and can be spontaneous or induced. It is a transfer of the consciousness from the physical body and senses to the astral body. This generally occurs during a state of altered consciousness, often in the state of deep relaxation that arises just before one falls asleep. The physical body is then at rest, and may be "asleep" or somewhat paralyzed in order to not move around during dreams, but the conscious mind lags behind a step, remaining awake. It is also common in experiences of trauma, such as accidents and near death experiences, or when undergoing anesthesia.

In many cases, the person projecting travels and sees others in the physical and is able to describe where that person was and what they were doing at the time, which is then corroborated by that person. In some cases, the person observed also sees the projector, either as real and solid, or in apparition form. Reports of out of body experiences tend to share some common characteristics, such as the ability to travel through walls and other physical structures, the experience of vibrations and loud noises (music or rushing noises) just before leaving the body, a snap or pop as one separates from the body, and distorted vision and/or hearing.

Some say that our consciousness is actually rooted in the astral body, and controls the physical (including the brain) from the astral plane. This seems rather unlikely, at least during waking hours, otherwise we'd have more conscious awareness of the astral plane. What we perceive generally seems to be determined by the focus of our attention, and by the frequency of our energetic vibrations. Therefore, through altering our state of consciousness, we can become aware of energies on the astral plane (such as auras) and other realms of experience (such as dreams). We experience the reverse of this all the time, when we "snap out of it," or come "back to earth," and refocus on the physical plane. When we are daydreaming our conscious awareness is not on this physical reality. A person who is "spacey," forgetful or accident-prone is often said to be "ungrounded," and less than fully consciously present in their bodies.

The physical body is the densest of our bodies (so far as is known). Interpenetrating the physical and extending just beyond it is what is known as the etheric body, which transforms energy from the spiritual through to this plane. The etheric is like a blueprint for the physical body. The astral body is associated with emotion, imagination and thought forms. Beyond this (and interpenetrating it all) there are mental and spiritual bodies. Many teach about the "lower" astral versus the "higher" astral. The lower astral is allegedly the slums of the astral plane, inhabited by criminals, thieves, frightening thought forms, etc., while the higher astral is the place of dreams and visions, and a good place to rendezvous with loved ones now in spirit and guides.

Everyone leaves their bodies at night, though few remember it. Some people claim not to even dream, but dream lab studies show that everyone dreams. Remembering one's dreams is a sign of becoming more "awake," more self-aware, or more developed spiritually. Similarly, most people do not remember their out of body experiences at night, but the more developed we become, the more we retain both knowledge of these experiences, and conscious awareness during them. We can even develop the ability to induce out of body experiences.

The frequency of vibrations one achieves when projecting will determine the specifics of the experience. The more in harmony we are with the finer vibrations of the astral plane, the easier it will be to get out of the body. People approaching such an experiment motivated by curiosity will likely have a different type of experience from someone who has been on a conscious spiritual path and who seeks greater knowledge of the nature of life. The spiritually developed projector is likely to have ease in getting out of the body, to experience no noise/static during separation, and no dramatic snap or pop as they lift out. Their experiences are also more likely to be positive or desirable.

The coarser one's vibration while out of the body, the more likely one is to be seen by others in the physical. The ability to pass through physical objects will also likely diminish or disappear. The "reality" perceived is also likely to be closer to that of physical reality. Paul Twitchell teaches that it is possible to travel beyond the astral plane, and to eventually achieve "enlightenment" or reunion with "God" or the divine through the practice of soul travel. More information on this can be found in his and others' writings on Eckankar.

Many astral projectors see death as an out of body experience in which the projector never re-enters the body. It is possible that through astral projection we can learn more about death, life, and the nature of consciousness. It is certainly true that people who have had conscious out of body experiences are generally transformed, having much greater faith in our existence beyond the physical. A spontaneous out of body experience launches many people on a conscious spiritual quest.

As technology has enabled us to explore the far reaches of the globe, and even out into space, a new frontier for adventurous pioneers has come to the forefront. There are many such researchers and investigators quietly at work, delving into the mysteries of consciousness and life both in their living rooms and in some of the best-equipped laboratories universities and governments can supply. It's ironic that the "realities" that many people accept as the parameters of what is true or actual based on "science" were transcended years ago by the real scientists who continually move forward, opening up to question learned assumptions as they arise in experience.

The more we open up our beliefs and walk through new doors of experience, the more we realize that anything is possible. We may not live "normal" lives, but perhaps we can create extraordinary lives. To achieve this, we must be willing to abandon the limits of what is "real" that we've been taught, and explore the world with unprejudiced eyes through our own experiences.

"Those who deny the reality of the ecstasies and other spiritual experiences ... merely betray their own narrow-mindedness and shallow insight. Some allowance, however, must be made for them, for it is as difficult to believe in the reality of states of which one has no personal experiences as it is for a blind man to understand the pleasures of looking at green grass..."(Al-Ghazzali)

The best way to know the pleasure of green grass is to see it. The best way to know the reality of our existence beyond the physical is to transcend the physical, or experience astral projection for ourselves. Many ordinary people will be blessed with a spontaneous astral projection experience in their lifetimes. A few will undertake and achieve the ability to project at will.

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