The Astral World
Dream researchers distinguish OBE dreams from lucid dreams. Stephen LaBerge’s studies have indicated that about 9 percent of lucid dreams also are OBE dreams. It is often difficult for many dreamers to draw a line between the two: OBE dreams are lucid and lucid dreams involve OBEs. The feeling of being out of body may be more pronounced in some lucid dreams than in others. For example, a dreamer may be specifically aware of leaving and reentering his or her body. In other cases, a dreamer may simply know he or she is outside the body at the same time as realizing he or she is lucid dreaming.
The frequent out-of-body traveler Oliver Fox reported that he rarely saw his own body, though he often saw the sleeping body of his wife. Both Fox and Sylvan Muldoon concluded that out-of-body projections vary according to the individual.
Dream traveling is the visiting of distant places while asleep. The places may be on earth or in other realms. Dream traveling may be marked by sensations of flying and varying degrees of lucidity.
THE ASTRAL PLANE
If travel is involved in dreaming, it may occur on the astral plane. Since ancient times this has been described as an otherworldly place, but it has not necessarily been called “the astral plane.” People have visited there without dreaming, through spontaneous and de-liberate OBEs.
According to descriptions, the astral plane is a level of existence that lies next to the physical world but is invisible. The astral plane has no natural landscape of its own. It is white, formless, and very fluid. Duplicates of everything in the physical world exist on the astral plane. It is inhabited with duplicates of ourselves that appear as figures in our dreams, and by other beings. Although astral forms are duplicates, they look shadowy, like phantoms. Nothing on the astral plane is completely solid.
THE ASTRAL BODY
Traveling to the astral plane and realms beyond is done in a vehicle called the astral body, an exact duplicate of the physical body. The astral body has been called by different names. Sylvan Muldoon called the astral body the “soul body.” Robert A. Monroe, who became famous for his out-of-body journeys, called the astral body the “second body.” His own second body appeared as a bright, glowing outline duplicating the physical. It could register touch, and it moved accord-ing to his thought. The astral body passes through the solid objects in physical reality, such as walls, ceilings, mountains, and so forth. It is not affected by the elements.
The astral body stays connected to the physical body by the astral cord, a silver cord that resembles an elastic, umbilical cord of infinite length. It joins the two bodies at the heads: the forehead of the physical form and the back of the skull of the astral form. The astral cord has been described by such terms as “a coil of light,” “a luminous garden-hose,” “a strong ray of light,” “a lighted cord,” and “a tail of light.”
References to the astral cord appear in ancient writings of the Egyptians, Indians, and Chinese, and in Greece. It is mentioned in Ecclesiastes 12:6-7: “Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” The verses refer to paying attention to spiritual matters before life is ended.
The cord allows the astral body to range anywhere in the universe. The closer the astral body is to the physical body, the thicker the cord. According to esoteric tradition, the astral cord enables the astral body to rejoin the physical body. When a person dies, the cord is cut.
Muldoon observed that breath travels from the astral to the physical via the astral cord. “You breathe in the Astral, and your heart beats in the Astral. . . . Your physical heart beats because within it the Astral heart beats,” he said. “Each breath taken in the Astral can be seen pulsing over the ‘cord’ and causes a duplicate breath to be taken by the body.”
Many persons who astral travel, whether in dreams or in spontaneous experiences, say they can see the astral cord.
Astral travel is the ability to journey in the astral body to distant places in an instant. Places include locations on earth, the astral plane, and other realms beyond. Astral travel is sometimes called “astral projection.”
The leaving of the physical body is often preceded by strong, high-frequency vibrations. Prior to separation people feel electrical sensations in their body or hear loud buzzing, roaring, or ringing sounds. These sensations can occur in lucid dreams and become part of the dream.
Individuals leave their bodies through their head or solar plexus or by rising up and floating away. The physical body appears to be sleeping or in a coma-like state. Consciousness remains connected to the body via the astral cord. Reentry is accomplished by returning through the head or solar plexus or by melting back into the body.
There are many descriptions of journeying to other realms in ancient literature. The ancient Egyptians described a ba, or soul-like essence that manifested outside the body during sleep and after death. It was often portrayed as a bird with a human head. The ka was the vital essence, a collective energy that was part of every individual and which could be projected outward. Around the seventh century bce, the Greeks adopted an Eastern concept of out-of-body travel during sleep. This concept was embraced by the Greek religious movement called Orphism.
Michael Talbot, the author of The Holographic Universe and The Reincarnation Handbook, had astral school dreams often. He gave this description:
Throughout my high school and college years I had vivid and frequent dreams that I was attending classes on spiritual subjects at a strangely beautiful university in some sublime and other worldly place. These were not anxiety dreams about going to school, but incredibly pleasant flying dreams in which I floated weightlessly to lectures on the human energy field and reincarnation. During these dreams I sometimes encountered people I had known in this life but who had died, and even people who identified themselves as souls about to be reborn. Intriguingly, I have met several other individuals, usually people with more than normal psychic ability, who had also had these dreams. One, a talented Texas clairvoyant . . . was so baffled by the experience that he often asked his nonplussed mother why he had to go to school twice, once during the day with all the other children, and once at night while he slept.
Is it possible that people get an education in dreams that they could not get in an earthly classroom? Dreamers who have these experiences must decide for themselves which influenced many of Greece’s later great thinkers, including Pythagoras and Plato.
Following the thread of Orphic thought, Plato called dreams “the between state,” a real place where the human soul went during sleep to meet the gods and demigods who are otherwise inaccessible. He said that dreams are another way to know the world besides sense and experience; people can receive “the inspired word” of the divine in their sleep. Socrates, Pliny, and Plotinus gave descriptions of experiences that resemble astral travel; Plotinus wrote of being “lifted out of the body into myself” on many occasions. Plutarch described an astral projection that occurred to Aridanaeus in 79 ce.
Saints and mystics recorded their astral travel experiences, usually to the heavens to have conversations with divine figures. In the Eastern mystical traditions techniques are taught in the yogas (spiritual and philosophical disciplines) for mastering astral travel.
DURING ASTRAL TRAVEL
Sometimes astral travel dreams seem like adventures for fun: There are sensations of flying and of visiting places on earth and “somewhere else.” Dreamers experiment with passing through solid objects such as doors and furniture, levitating, flying, and moving objects.
Sometimes dreamers feel they are summoned by higher spiritual forces, who may remain hidden, to perform certain tasks. Monroe said that sometimes he was called or drawn by a signal or energy that pulled him to another location, where he found another person in need of help. For example, he met newly deceased souls who had arrived in the astral plane but were not aware that they were dead. They needed to be gently informed of their passage out of physical life and redirected into the afterlife.