According to classical, medieval and renaissance Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and later Theosophist and Rosicrucian thought the astral body is an intermediate body of light linking the rational soul to the physical body while the astral plane is an intermediate world of light between Heaven and Earth, composed of the spheres of the planets and stars. These astral spheres were held to be populated by angels, demons and spirits
The subtle bodies, and their associated planes of existence, form an essential part of the esoteric systems that deal with astral phenomena. In the neo-platonism of Plotinus, for example, the individual is a microcosm (“small world”) of the universe (the macrocosm or “great world”). “The rational soul…is akin to the great Soul of the World” while “the material universe, like the body, is made as a faded image of the Intelligible”. Each succeeding plane of manifestation is causal to the next, a world-view called emanationism; “from the One proceeds Intellect, from Intellect Soul, and from Soul – in its lower phase, or that of Nature – the material universe”.
Often these bodies and their planes of existence are depicted as a series of concentric circles or nested spheres, with a separate body traversing each realm.The idea of the astral figured prominently in the work of the nineteenth-century French occultist Eliphas Levi, whence it was adopted and developed further by Theosophy, and used afterwards by other esoteric movements.
Some have claimed that the Bible contains mentions of astral projection.
Carrington, Muldoon, Peterson, and Williams claim that the subtle body is attached to the physical body by means of a psychic silver cord. The final chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes is often cited in this respect: “Before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be shattered at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at the cistern.” Scherman, however, contends that the context points to this being merely a metaphor, comparing the body to a machine, with the silver cord referring to the spine.
Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians is more generally agreed to refer to the astral planes;”I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago, (whether in the body I know not, or out of the body I know not, God knows) such a one caught up to the third heaven…” This statement gave rise to the Visio Pauli, a tract that offers a vision of heaven and hell, a forerunner of visions attributed to Adomnan and Tnugdalus as well as of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
In view of the references from the Qur’an and Hadith, Muslims reject this saying the Isra and Mi’raj, the night journey – mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith was physical yet spiritual. He was taken to the Masjid Al Aqsa, where he performed prayer leading all previous prophets and then taken to the heavens in a journey. ”
Similar concepts of soul travel appear in various other religious traditions, for example ancient Egyptian teachings present the soul as having the ability to hover outside the physical body in the ka, or subtle body.
Taoist alchemical practice involves creation of an energy body by breathing meditations, drawing energy into a ‘pearl’ that is then “circulated”. “Xiangzi … with a drum as his pillow fell fast asleep, snoring and motionless. His primordial spirit, however, went straight into the banquet room and said, “My lords, here I am again.” … When Tuizhi walked … with the officials to take a look, there really was a Daoist sleeping on the ground and snoring like thunder. Yet inside, in the side room, there was another Daoist beating a fisher drum and singing Daoist songs. The officials all said, “Although there are two different people, their faces and clothes are exactly alike. Clearly he is a divine immortal who can divide his body and appear in several places at once. …” … At that moment, the Daoist in the side room came walking out, and the Daoist sleeping on the ground woke up. The two merged into one.”
Similar ideas such as the Lin’ga S’ari-ra are found in ancient Hindu scriptures such as the YogaVashishta-Maharamayana of Valmiki. Modern Indians who have vouched for astral projection include Paramahansa Yogananda who witnessed Swami Pranabananda doing a miracle through a possible astral projection and Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) who practiced it himself.
The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba described one’s use of astral projection:
In the advancing stages leading to the beginning of the path, the aspirant becomes spiritually prepared for being entrusted with free use of the forces of the inner world of the astral bodies. He may then undertake astral journeys in his astral body, leaving the physical body in sleep or wakefulness. The astral journeys that are taken unconsciously are much less important than those undertaken with full consciousness and as a result of deliberate volition. This implies conscious use of the astral body. Conscious separation of the astral body from the outer vehicle of the gross body has its own value in making the soul feel its distinction from the gross body and in arriving at fuller control of the gross body. One can, at will, put on and take off the external gross body as if it were a cloak, and use the astral body for experiencing the inner world of the astral and for undertaking journeys through it, if and when necessary….The ability to undertake astral journeys therefore involves considerable expansion of one’s scope for experience. It brings opportunities for promoting one’s own spiritual advancement, which begins with the involution of consciousness.
Astral projection is one of the Siddhis considered achievable by yoga practitioners through self-disciplined practice. In the epic The Mahabharata Drona leaves his physical body to see if his son is alive.
In Japanese mythology, an ikiryō (生霊?) (also read shōryō, seirei, or ikisudama) is a manifestation of the soul of a living person separately from their body.Traditionally, if someone holds a sufficient grudge against another person, it is believed that a part or the whole of their soul can temporarily leave their body and appear before the target of their hate in order to curse or otherwise harm them, similar to an evil eye. Souls are also believed to leave a living body when the body is extremely sick or comatose; such ikiryō are not malevolent.
In some Inuit groups, people with special capabilities are said to travel to (mythological) remote places, and report their experiences and things important to their fellows or the entire community; how to stop bad luck in hunting, cure a sick person etc.,things unavailable to people with normal capabilities.
The yaskomo of the Waiwai is believed to be able to perform a “soul flight” that can serve several functions such as healing, flying to the sky to consult cosmological beings (the moon or the brother of the moon) to get a name for a new-born baby, flying to the cave of peccaries’ mountains to ask the father of peccaries for abundance of game or flying deep down in a river to get the help of other beings.
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