Astral projection is one of those gray areas in witchcraft that crosses a lot of boundaries. You don't have to be pagan or Wiccan to have an astral projection experience; it's not confined to just neopaganism. Out of body experiences are common across the world, and most often occur in tangent with near-death experiences. However, some people actually seek these experiences out.
Astral projection is a very subjective topic with very little scientific evidence to support the believer's view that someone's soul has actually left the body. However, there are physiological markers to out of body experiences, and obviously, many practitioners achieve altered states.
Since this topic is so subjective, let's hear from our resident experts on what they think about the astral plane and out of body experiences.
James Skye's Viewpoint on Astral Projection
As the resident worship expert, I think we can't rule out astral projection as a way that we, humans, connect to the divine and life giving forces around us. Even if our "astral body" and "physical body" never seem truly separate to scientists, what we experience in our mind's eye is very real at the time.
We can't and shouldn't dismiss religious claims about astral projection and the astral realm simply because they make us uncomfortable in modern Western civilization. Many historians and anthropologists have recorded historical instances of people claiming to leave their own body and travel around the world. Whether it's described as lucid dreaming, astral projection, a vision, or even vivid dreams, probably depend's on the person's upbringing and belief system.
I think astral projection is a way for us to connect with the divine, unseen, natural forces of the world. Many people who experience astral projection report feelings of calm, peace, happiness, and contentment during their experience. Out of body experiences, for the most part, bring comfort to people during trying times. It makes sense that astral projection practitioners would chase that feeling of contentment by trying to have some control over the experience.
There is just so much about our physical bodies that we don't know. We can't eliminate astral projection as "those weird people" without being equally cynical of religion on the whole, including Wicca and paganism.
Lynn Windsor's Responses To Astral Travel
As a witch for many years, I have always believed in the power of astral projection and out of body experiences. Our physical body is still, in many ways, mysterious to doctors. It makes sense that we have these sets of phenomena that we can't yet explain. An out of body experience is common enough that you're not written off by people if you talk about it.
I think of astral projection as an asset of meditation. It's about learning to let go to achieve those out of body experiences. I haven't had very many, but my out of body experience always seems to come when I least expect it. I love using an out of body experience as an excuse to "fly around" - and I usually end up slipping into a dream shortly after.
When is astral projection a problem?
There are some instances where astral projection is indicative of an actual medical issue though.
I received an email a while back about astral projection and travel that I'd like to share with folks. This definitely represents an experience that is more extreme than what most folks experience. Here's what she wrote:
Hi I wanted a bit of advice about whats going on around me a while back my 3rd eye opened it was so magical I thought that I could become part of it the lights around my eye was amazing I have a hooded figure around me ive seen it 3 times twice while I was a wake and once while I astro travelled the 3rd time it jumped at me ive seen lots of things and spirits come to me and tells me things some of the spirits ive seen have fightened me im not sure if its spirital warfare if it is how do I deal with it ive had lil people throw liquid at me like I said my 3rd eye opens during the night and its still dark seeing things that I wouldnt nomally see with my normal eyes open I do see things with or without my 3rd eye opened if that makes any sence? I do feel as tho im going crazy and have been to a doctor can u put some lught on this please thank you
My (truncated) response:
I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to spirits and astral travel. The mind is a powerful thing, and what you experience is very individualized. If things in your astral travels are scaring you, I would recommend that you stop engaging in those experiences. If you're seeing things while fully awake and/or coherent, I would make a visit to your doctor again, and possibly a psychiatrist.Lynn Windsor, 2013
There is a phenomenon which you may want to investigate, called sleep paralysis, and the related "hypnagogia." Basically, your mind starts playing tricks on you when you're crossing the boundary into sleep.
These are related phenomena where, when you're coming in/out of sleep, you experience a sense of paralysis, lights, sounds, smells, and even visions. It happens when your brain isn't quite fully asleep. Although we don't understand much of it, it is harmless. Anxiety, migraines, and some other illnesses are all co-morbid with sleep paralysis (e.g., they occur together). I, myself, occasionally experience loud noises, visions, and sleep paralysis when I'm moving in and out of sleep.
If you're using psychoactive drugs, either prescribed or illegally, these may also influence your perception. I try my best to live a "clean" life and stay away from cigarettes and marijuana, and only drink alcohol occasionally, in moderation. Remember, treating your body and spirit well are the best way to honor the Universe/gods.
These sentiments haven't changed much for me. I still think that pursuing a cleaner life is one way out. But reflecting back some, I also think that this person could have used a confidential conversation with a psychiatrist. If she was experiencing these things in real time, it could have been indicative of a real mental illness, and it did seem to be impacting her negatively. She never wrote me back - so I hope she got the help she needed.
How do I get an astral projection experience of my own?
To get into the world of astral projection, you'll need to practice lucid dreaming. The simplest way to say it is, try to stay conscious as long as you can, and notice your body as it falls asleep. This will make it easier for you to "slip out" and explore while your physical body is asleep.
Remember: an out of body experience is perfectly safe. It just takes patience, practice, and a little faith.
This post was originally published on August 14, 2013, and updated on December 17, 2021.