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Astral Projection
(see also: Pathworking, Skrying)

Article by David Claiborne
(C) Copyright 2000  All rights reserved

Astral projection is one of the most useful, interesting and misunderstood tools in the toolbox of the magician, mystic and psychonaut.  Many authors on the subject have discussed the theory and practice of astral projection only in terms of their own system or Order, and countless others have misapplied the term in various ways.  Astral projection is, in fact, a very natural process, and many people do it involuntarily during sleep.

One of the experiences commonly confused with astral projection is the out-of-body experience (OOBE or OBE), in which the consciousness and astral body are separated from the physical body and travel throughout the physical plane.  The phenomena of clairvoyance, clairaudience et al are closely related to OOBEs.  The defining factor between OOBES/clair-sensual visions and astral projection/skrying, is that the former two work within the physical plane, and the latter two within the astral plane.  The purpose of this distinction is clarification alone, and not to condemn or belittle these practices, which are related disciplines and the study of which will be quite beneficial to the aspiring astral traveler or skryer.

The word that must be defined before continuing is astral.  From the Latin astrum, meaning star, it quite literally means starry, or of the stars.  However, during the middle ages, the word acquired an additional meaning among Hermetic philosophers and magicians.  There is, between the physical and divine realms, an astral plane which serves as the foundation of the physical world.  It is often equated with what Jungian depth-analysts call the Collective Unconscious, the medieval alchemists and Hermeticists called it the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World, and many Qabalists identify the Olam Yetzirah, World of Formation and realm of angels, with the astral plane.  There are, further, various levels of "density" or vibrational rate within this astral realm, the "upper" astral being the angelic abodes and the "lower" astral the world of dreams and phantasms.

The methods of  willed astral projection are various and the practitioner should find the one which works best for themselves.  There is among all these methods a common thread, and at its core the practice is quite simple, but simple does not necessarily mean easy.  Mastering astral projection will require repeated practice, determination and patience.  The essential procedure is Relaxation, Transference of the Astral Body, Development of Sensation and Transference of Consciousness, Astral Work/Travel, Return to Body.  Some preliminary exercises may be performed including only some of the above steps, with the intent of strengthening particular abilities.

Relaxation is best performed while sitting comfortably, eyes closed, free of distraction, and developing a slow, rhythmic breathing pattern.  Some may find it useful to lie down, though others may find themselves falling asleep, which is not the desired result.  Once the mind is relatively calm and the body relaxed, the astral body can be willed outside the physical body.

The transfer of the astral body can be accomplished simply by the will, though it may be easier for some to bring it out of the body slowly, rather than to suddenly place it across the room.  The astral body can be visualized in various ways, from an amorphous ball of light, a doppelganger or double of the physical body, or a desired god-form.  With the astral body in its desired position and clearly visualized, sensations from the astral body should begin to be felt.

Transferring the consciousness into the astral body is really symptomatic of strong concentration on the sensations coming from the astral body.  The initial attempts at feeling oneself inside the astral body will be short-lived, and consciousness will flicker back and forth between the astral and physical body.  After some practice, it will become easier to maintain focus on the sensations.  It may be easiest for many students to focus on the sense of touch first, then hearing, smell, taste, and finally sight.  The act of opening the eyes of the astral body can trigger the eyes opening on the physical body, snapping back the consciousness.  For this reason it is essential to be comfortable in and familiar with the astral body before beginning to focus on the astral sight.

The two primary uses of astral projection to the magician are pathworking and astral temple work.  Pathworking is a system developed primarily by members of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  The most common aspect of pathworking utilizes the 22 paths of the Qabalistic Tree of Life as an astral "road map," although the same process can also be performed with various systems such as the I Ching hexagrams, the theosophical Tattvas or the tablets of the Enochian angelic system.  The astral traveler combines the techniques of skrying with those of astral projection by holding a symbol before the mind and visualizing the symbol painted on a door or curtain and traveling through the door.  The experience is something akin to dreaming, or perhaps more accurately daydreaming, in which all the normal powers of judgment, choice and will-power are retained.  These controlled journeys are meaningful, vivid and coherent, and bear a direct relation to the symbol used as a gateway.  Through this method, the magician can gain extraordinary insight into the nature of the aspect of the astral which is traveled into.

Astral temple work is a little different.  Even when a person is not astral projecting, they have an astral body which is a part of the astral plane.  Particularly when a magician is performing ritual, the astral body works in accordance with the will and effects the world of the astral.  First, the astral temple must be built.  Whenever a banishing ritual is performed or a circle is cast properly, an astral vacuum is created, which can be filled according to the magician's will.  The magician can create a permanent personal sanctuary on the astral plane.  This serves several purposes.  The act of building a temple from scratch will familiarize the traveler with the nature of the astral plane, and provides and excellent space for meditation and magick.  Last, but not least, rituals can be performed quickly and efficiently in the astral temple no matter what the physical accommodations afforded to the traveler.

Returning to the body is the easiest part of an astral projection, and can sometimes happen unintentionally if the traveler is jarred back, resulting in a sensation sometimes called "astral whiplash."  The effect is similar to what many people experience upon waking in the middle of a dream; grogginess, sore muscles, etc.  This temporary discomfort can be alleviated by a nap, reprojecting to the place where the traveler was when they were snapped back and properly returning, or performing a meditation like the circulation of the Body of Light, to restore the astral body to its normal strength and place.  This response of being snapped back into the body can sometimes also result from seeing the physical body from the astral, which can be traumatic the first few times.  The proper way to return to the body is to project back to the starting point, embrace the physical body with the astral or simply walk back in, reversing the process of the transference of consciousness.  It is best to wait until all sensations are renewed in the physical body before opening the eyes and standing.

Students of astral projection have often expressed many fears about astral projection.  Primary among these is the fear of getting lost.  Many authors have discussed an astral umbilical cord which connects the two bodies, securing a direct link.  Even if such a cord does not actually exist, it should be kept in mind that the concept of distance on the astral plane is quite different than the physical.  Beginners may be more comfortable staying "close" in the beginning, but a few dips into the astral will quickly familiarize the traveler and it will be seen there is nothing to fear.  Another fear often expressed is one of being possessed by another astral form while your own astral body is out.  This apprehension is most likely completely unfounded, although for peace of mind as well as the proper establishment of sacred space prior to a projection, it is highly recommended that a circle is cast and/or a banishing ritual is performed.

The progress of mastering astral projection will follow a few steps.  The first state will be what is often called mental projection, when the sensations of the astral body are faintly felt, and may consciousness may flicker between the physical and astral bodies.  The state is also often called bi-location, since there is an awareness of both bodies.  Next, a state of projection will take place which is very similar to an OOBE, and sometimes called etheric projection, referring the the lower astral which is more closely akin to the physical plane.  From here the magician can push on into the formative world of archetypes on the astral plane.

There is further another class of projection sometimes referred to as bi-location, not to be confused with the state previously referred to as such.  This is a projection, on the physical/lower astral plane, of such intensity that a second physical body, or at least the appearance of one, is witnessed by others on the physical plane.  The existence of such a state of projection is highly speculative, and should not concern the beginner.  It is mentioned here only to differentiate between this phenomena and the afforementioned state of the same name.

Astral projection is a fascinating spiritual art which is within the grasp of the dedicated student.  Practice, concentration and relaxation are essential.  If the apsirant persists, they will soon be on the road to fulfilling, exciting and enlightening experiences on the astral plane.

As a final word, it should be stated that there is nothing wrong with an occasional astral joy-ride, but astral projection is not a toy.  Like any hobby, interest, or spritual practice, astral projection should not become so interesting and enjoyable that one fails to give the proper attention to the physical body and its environment.  One certainly does want to become what Francis King called an "astral junkie," or Israel Regardie called a "cosmic foo-foo."  Astral travel is a powerful and sacred art, and should always be treated as such.

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