Astral Projection: What is This Out-of-Body Experience?

7 Min Read | By Letara Buckley

Last Modified 14 May 2024   First Added 30 January 2023

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

What is astral projection?

Simply put, astral projection is a term that describes the soul or ‘astral body’ intentionally leaving the physical body while asleep or meditating, and travelling to wherever it likes. It’s sometimes called an ‘out-of-body experience (OBE)’ too – a state in which consciousness can operate independently from the physical body and traverse the astral plane.

There are various techniques and beliefs surrounding astral projection; it has been a topic of interest in many spiritual and esoteric traditions throughout history. Some believe that astral projection or OBEs provide an opportunity for personal growth, spiritual insight, and expanded consciousness. On the other hand, scientists view OBEs as experiences stemming from mental states similar to dreams or altered states of consciousness. Psychologists and neuroscientists suggest OBEs are related to pathological activity patterns.

Meanwhile, online communities have grown to support others who experience this, with many, such as @spiritualactivator on Tiktok, giving quick tips for people to identify what they see as signs of someone astral projecting, and advice on how to harness this ability:

@spiritualactivator

#thirdeye #astraltravel #astralprojection #222 #spiritualawakening

♬ Circle of Life – Whitesand

The practice itself, in its modern iteration, traces its roots to the birth of theosophy, a movement from the late 19th century that came from the experience of Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s interactions with Tibetan, and other, cultures. Indeed, much of this practice is based on different cultural backgrounds that go back much further than this movement.

Historical references to the practise can be seen in older literature such as The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese handbook on alchemy and meditation, and also has roots in Hindu, Inuit, Taoist and Waiwai belief systems. In these, the practise and the manner of projection may differ some, but there is a general shared consensus of being able to leave one’s physical form to achieve other feats.

With so much cultural background, and differing opinions on modern applications, it can be a hotly contested area of discussion. But, is it simply another form of out-of-body experience, or is there something more to this practise?

Astral projection vs. OBE

Although both terms are used interchangeably, Healthline states there are distinct differences between the two:

An astral projection usually involves an intentional effort to send your consciousness from your body. It usually refers to your consciousness travelling out of your body toward a spiritual plane or dimension.

An out-of-body experience, on the other hand, is usually unplanned. And rather than travelling, your consciousness is said to simply float or hover above your physical body.

OBEs – or at least the sensations of them – are largely recognised within the medical community and have been the subject of many studies. It’s linked to several medical and mental health conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety, or dissociative disorders.

Astral projection, however, is considered to be a spiritual practise.

What does an OBE feel like?

As stated an OBE and astral projection are similar but not the exact same as one is the latter is intentional. While it’s hard to narrow down exactly how they feel, an OBE and astral projection can feel like:

  • a feeling of floating outside your body
  • an altered perception of the world
  • the feeling you’re out of your body, looking down at yourself

Astral projection can also be explained by delusion, hallucination and vivid dreams according to psychologist Donovan Rawcliffe in his book The Psychology of the Occult.

 

A white open doorway that leads from a wooden floor to a moonlit lake.

Is astral projection safe?

The notion of astral projection is ancient. Many people, from New Agers to Shamans worldwide, practise it as a form of self-care and spiritual healing. An article on Elite Daily features an interview with Dr Deganit Nuur of Nuurvana Clairvoyant Healing. She is a world-renowned spiritual teacher, clairvoyant, and doctor of acupuncture. Nuur says that astral projection should be practised carefully and intentionally. This is because when a traumatising event confronts humans, they can end up astrally projecting and losing a sense of control. Nuur explains:

We can do it unconsciously, when we’re not feeling safe… the spirit leaves the body, and projects elsewhere… When not practised responsibly, you can lose a sense of authority and seniority over your own body, it can be really disempowering.

Astral travel and science

While astral projection may be a philosophical experience, there’s currently no way to scientifically measure whether or not a person’s spirit can leave and enter the body during sleep or meditation. The simplest explanation for out-of-body experiences is that the person fantasises or dreams. Live Science also sums it up like this:

Though astral projection practitioners insist their experiences are real, their evidence is all anecdotal — just as someone taking peyote or LSD may be truly convinced that they interacted with God, dead people, or angels while in their altered state. Astral projection is an entertaining and harmless pastime that can seem profound and, in some cases, even life-changing. But there’s no evidence that out-of-body experiences happen outside the body instead of inside the brain.

Some further studies also explore the link between astral projection and dissociative disorders, with the following discovered during a study of one individual who was experiencing this:

On further evaluation, a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder and dissociative fugue was formulated. The patient showed improvement after undergoing abreaction, hypnosis, and relaxation training along with supportive psychotherapy. Dissociative disorders occur due to an internal conflict between ego and self, when a person is unable to successfully repress a traumatic experience, or when a repressed memory or experience comes out of the cocooned barrier, leading to an altered state of perception and self-experience, which is described by the patient as OBE.

Ultimately, astral projection is a difficult thing to prove scientifically. There seems to be an empathetic approach to the phenomena with regard to cultural practise, but no concrete studies that guarantee its existence.

A woman sleeping on a pillow while floating in a field of flowers and grass.

How to astral project

Dr Deganit Nuur also explains how to intentionally and safely practise astral projection. She describes the astral cord as a light-filled tube extending from the third chakra (solar plexus, located in the upper abdomen) of the physical body to the third chakra of the ‘light-body,’ or soul. Similar to the way a mother and baby are connected through the umbilical cord.

  1. Once relaxed, you must picture the astral cord extending out of the third chakra into the astral plane (aka astral realm/world where all consciousness resides).
  2. Once you reach this other world, you’re likely to experience a feeling of weightlessness and relief – this is why it’s used to help release tension and heal unresolved traumas.

However, before diving into astral projection with no previous experience, we recommend researching thoroughly and finding an expert in that field to help guide you in the right direction to practise it safely and intentionally.

Astral travel on Netflix

A popular Netflix series from 2021, Behind Her Eyes, brought astral projection into mainstream view. It follows a single mum working in a psychiatrist’s office. After beginning an affair with her manager, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with his wife, who suffers from night terrors. The wife teaches her how to ‘astral project’ – send her consciousness to somewhere else. Without spoiling the ending, the pair start to try to control one another by entering each other’s bodies while asleep – spooky stuff.

While not exactly astral projecting in the classic sense, 2016’s Doctor Strange also featured the idea of splitting from the physical body to explore in a spiritual manner. The influence of the original culture on this portrayal is unique, to say the least.

There are countless other uses of astral projection across the media landscape: Games like the recent Alan Wake 2 feature elements of astral projection, both as a mechanic and as a story beat. While not the primary focus, it allows players a different way to explore the world around them. Plus, the classic Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game features astral projection as a spell, one that players often enjoy using to help uncover the secrets in a situation or see things from a very different perspective.

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