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The concept of astral travel, or projection, has been observed for many thousands of years, dating all the way back to ancient China and is today frequently associated with New Age beliefs and systems.
Generally, it can be described as the conscious mind or spirit leaving the body, either to travel to distant places, times or different planes of existence altogether. As a rule, the traveller will remain attached to his or her physical body via an umbilical type silver cord and some people can see this cord while travelling.
Regarded as a so called out of body (OBE or OOBE) experience and accessible either awake, during sleep in vivid dreams or through deep meditations, some individuals have a natural ability to achieve astral projection while others are too afraid to consider leaving their physical body and thus never learn how to do this.
There seems to be no real clarity as to whether every physical body has its own astral counterpart or whether projection is the result of a spirit incarnated into a physical body. A third possibility is that its nature depends on something, as yet undefined, entirely different. It does, however, touch on and raise thoughts regarding life and what happens after the physical death of a person.
As it is, there are two major schools of thought regarding its nature. One, the Phasing Model, believes that it is not really possible to actually leave one’s body and that various planes are in fact merely points along the wide spectrum of consciousness. A person projecting is actually phasing into another section of consciousness and varying locations contained therein, a little like a radio being tuned to another station. This point of view can be regarded as a logical follow up of the philosophy stating that all external reality is in fact a state created internally.
In the Mystical Model, the other school of thought (subject of many different belief systems), it is believed that travel does indeed take place outside and away from the body, by a subtle energy body carrying an individuals consciousness away from their physical body.
Either way, travellers will usually find themselves on the so called astral plane, a region appearing real and being comparable to the “other worlds” often described in ancient traditions. Environments experienced here may be anything from apparently natural to abstract, from beautiful to horrifying and from populated to completely void of any kind of “life”. It is possible to travel from one location or realm to another and frequently our physical laws don’t apply, enabling travellers to fly or float. They may also be able to experience visions relating to the past or even the future, as time seems to be as obsolete here as space itself is. How this is possible, or how anything can occur in sequence without time and space being present is another question altogether and no one has as yet been able to answer this, it does seem, however, to function quite well.