Astral projection is a highly speculative yet immensely popular paranormal concept that has its roots in ancient esoteric religious practices. It is a form of out-of-body experience (OBE) that allegedly functions by way of the separation of the soul (i.e., “astral” body) from the physical or corporeal body. As many religious and new age principles assert, the physical body houses your spirit/soul, and astral projection is the practice of separating the soul from the body for the purpose of traveling through various dimensions, or making contact with the unseen (i.e., spiritual) world. Through astral projection, you can walk through walls, interact with angels and demons, communicate with deceased loved ones, and transport yourself to locations thousands of miles away at the speed of thought. Some have even claimed to have had “astral sex” with other non-corporeal beings they have met during their astral travels.
According to its practitioners, astral projection is carried out by entering into an altered state similar to lucid dreaming, which is essentially the act of remaining conscious while in an unconscious state. Your body remains in somewhat of a resting trance, where all of your vital functions are still operative, but your consciousness and thoughts come with you into astral travel, since they are thought to be connected to your astral body. Astral travel takes place on what is known as the astral plane, which is a dimension that cannot be physically perceived, but is home to other worlds including fantastic landscapes, astrological realms, heavens, and hells.
Proponents of astral projection claim that the astral body remains connected to the physical body during projection by way of what is referred to as a “silver cord”. This mysterious cord purportedly acts as a supernatural “umbilical cord” that keeps your soul/spirit connected to your physical body during astral travel. The idea of the silver cord is most likely connected to a biblical passage in the last chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which describes the moment at which someone dies and leaves the earth. Ecclesiastes 12 mentions that the “silver cord” will be “loosed” (e.g., removed) at the point of death, which is thought by some to mean that the spirit undergoes final separation from the body at that time. Some sects believe that there is a risk of your silver cord being severed by other astral travelers or even nefarious spirits, but others assert that it is too strong and resilient to be broken. It is generally agreed upon that if the silver cord were to be severed or broken, you would physically die, as the soul or “life force” would then be permanently separated from the body.
The concept of astral projection is nothing new, and appears in one form or another in a wide variety of ancient cultural writings including those of Ancient Egypt, Japan, India, and China. Proponents of astral projection include occult sects such as The Golden Dawn, spiritual movements such as Theosophy, and secret societies such as the Rosicrucians. Although the particulars of what astral projection is and how it is carried out may differ across these different sects, the overarching premise is that it is a method by which a person can connect to the supernatural world in a conscious manner instead of through dreams, hallucinations or hypnosis.
As can be imagined, the scientific community lends little to no credence to the concept of astral projection, although there have been many pseudoscientific claims to the contrary. To date, no concrete scientific evidence has been offered that validates the claim that astral projection exists as an objective phenomenon. There are documented cases of patients who had received brain stimulation treatments or hallucinogenic drugs and then later reported experiences similar to astral projection, but the evidence has been anecdotal and is generally not considered to be scientifically reliable. Interestingly enough, some scientists do not rule out the possibility of alternate dimensions that cannot be physically perceived, but the general scientific consensus on astral travel is that it has not been verified by any scientific means.
This lack of scientific evidence hasn’t dissuaded proponents of astral projection from continuing to practice their alleged astral travel experiences. In fact, there are several spiritual counselors, guides and mentors who claim to astral travel on a regular basis, many of whom provide instructional material to help new astral travelers learn the craft. Whether their experiences will ever be scientifically validated is anyone’s guess, but if nothing else, their stories of astral travel make for some interesting conversation.