What is astral projection? Is it real?
Have you ever had the feeling of your mind being outside your body—maybe looking down, or up, or across the room at yourself? About 10 percent of people report having had an out-of-body experience at least once.
Some take this unbound consciousness as proof of the existence of soul, and spiritual seekers call the intentional practice of loosening the mind/body tie “astral projection.” Neuroscientists investigate the out-of-body experience as a physical phenomenon rooted in a specific part of the brain.
Either way, there is a very long record of this form of human experience, which all agree offers tantalizing glimpses into other modes of consciousness beyond the standard concept of self.
The ancient Egyptians ascribed to the soul the power to hover outside of the physical body. This floating presence has come to be known as the “subtle body.” This subtle body appears repeatedly in spiritual and religious contexts. In the New Testament it is written, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.” In the Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist and other Eastern spiritual literatures there are many examples of people engaging in out-of-body practices, including to enter into other realms of existence.
Numerous Western esoteric traditions conceive of out-of-body experiences as spiritual travel to realms outside of ordinary observable human reality to the border of, or even into, the divine or celestial space. In the late nineteenth century, the terms “astral projection” and “astral plane” were coined to describe the soul’s journey and destination.
For the past century or more, this type of cosmic journeying has been relegated by the hard sciences to the domain of the paranormal or New Age spirituality. In the mid-twentieth century, Virginia businessman Robert Monroe helped bring astral projection to the mainstream. Today, techniques including biofeedback, hypnosis, Transcendental Meditation, and binaural beats, as well as the ingestion of certain drugs such as ketamine, are used to induce astral projection. In addition, lucid dreaming is considered by some to be a form of astral projection.
In the twenty-first century, science has begun to take outside-of-body experiences seriously. Technological developments have enabled scientists to pair the anecdotal evidence with the ability to observe and measure brain activity, making it possible to apply the scientific method.
One important study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor the brain activity of a woman claiming to be astral projecting. It showed that her descriptions of motion and movement corresponded with activity in a part of the brain not normally associated with movement in everyday life. Other studies have pinpointed the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) area of the brain as the place where the sense of self is created, and suggest that out-of-body experiences are linked to this location.
The growth of the field of neuroscience along with the confirmation of many aspects of quantum theory and the emerging areas of virtual reality and artificial intelligence are converging into the biggest unsolved mystery of science—the question of what consciousness is.
Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander has personally traveled the path from scientific skepticism about out-of-body-experiences and astral projection to belief. A near-death experience caused him to turn his research to the study of human consciousness, including the ability of the mind to use astral projection to travel beyond the body. Echoing the assertions of quantum mysticism, Alexander and others maintain the conviction that through this the next great evolutionary leap is upon us: “We are about to take another jump in our understanding of just how vast and profoundly strange a place the universe really is. But rather than making us feel small and insignificant in the face of this vastness and strangeness, this jump in understanding will make us feel hugely empowered and joyful. We will grasp that we are not accidental and insignificant blips in the universe, but the very heart and reason for its existence.”
How do you astral project? Is astral projection dangerous?
For the lay person, practices to induce astral projection without resorting to drugs or other outside stimulants can be learned. Similar to lucid dreaming, astral projection requires a deep state of relaxation to the point where you are midway between wakefulness and sleep and in a hypnotic state. The vibrational energy from crystals can be used to facilitate the process. Simple movements such as flexing the fingers help to loosen the soul from the body, culminating in the experience of looking at yourself from across the room.
Science has developed other means to induce astral projection in controlled experiments. Using cameras and headsets, subjects experience the sensation of being transported across a room when touched. Cognitive neuroscientist Henrik Ehrsson said of this technique, “They see themselves sitting in the middle of the room, but they feel themselves sitting in a corner of the room.”
As a spiritual discipline, astral projection, while an advanced practice, is not considered dangerous. Metaphysical studies refer to the “silver cord” that connects the physical body with the subtle body. Keeping the silver cord intact during astral projection is essential to returning to the earthly realm, but its strength is not generally considered to be an issue. Approaching astral projection with a clear and pure intention is important, as it is believed that the energy you bring is reflected back to you.
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