Astral projection (or astral travel) is an esoteric interpretation of the out of body experience assuming the existence of a spirit.
The symptoms are much the same as an OBE: feelings of floating out of your body, meeting other entities, and experiencing the physical world from an ethereal perspective (ie, being able to float through walls and teleport instantly around the universe).
However, the expectation principle can cause the experience of astral projection to take on a highly spiritual form. Believers in the afterlife expect to see angels, deceased spirits and even gods - and so that is what they do see.
They may travel to different so-called astral planes, described as layers of ethereal realities shaped by energy and light. Yet one key similarity remains: in astral projection, out of body experiences and lucid dreams, your thoughts guide the experience.
So if you imagine a friend's house, you will likely zap there in an instant. If you imagine your body back in bed, you will quickly return to it. And if you expect to see an astral chord connecting you to your body, it will materialize for you.
Scientists do not believe that astral projection is real. It is a spiritual theory, and other than first-hand accounts, we have no physical evidence of the phenomena.
While lucid dreams are officially deemed as internally generated experiences, astral projection is the belief that the spirit literally travels outside the body, in real, externally generated spiritual realms.
That is an extraordinary claim - and therefore requires extraordinary proof. Unlike lucid dreaming, we have not been able to prove the existence of astral projection under controlled conditions nor verify any awareness literally exiting the body.
Not only is it presumptuous to believe in something nobody has been able to physically verify, it's also damaging to your own experience due to the Expectation Principle.
As lucid dreamers, we all know that our expectations have a significant impact on our lucid dream experiences. For the out of body explorer, expecting to encounter the astral world can be a major hindrance.
Often, so-called spirit travelers claim to communicate with deceased loved ones and even entities from alien worlds. Intrepid explorers are rewarded with mind-blowing experiences that seem so real that they may forever convince them of life after death.
However, some of these astral projection experiences can be quite frightening - because of the direct implications of mingling with the spirit world. One example is from the lucid dreamer, Erin Pavlina, who described her first astral projection experience as terrifying:
Under the effect of sleep paralysis, Erin sensed three other entities in her bedroom, trying to coax her out of body. She had problems trying to breathe, scream, and free herself from the paralysis. The more she fought it, the more terrified she became, until she eventually woke up. She later had a nervous breakdown.
Erin believed her spirit was in a literal tug-of-war against the presences in her room (who, incidentally, she could also hear talking about her). Believing the events to be real, this was no doubt terrifying.
Yet, when we take the scientific perspective that astral projection isn't real, we can rationalize that the experience was just a dream during sleep paralysis and thereby reduce the fear involved. The conscious understanding that the entities are simply nightmarish figures really does help reduce the fear and lead to better dream outcomes.
If you regularly astral project, or explore out of body, or are even about to have your first experience, I urge you to take this perspective and see how it affects your experience.
You simply need to assume that the scenario is a dream, no matter how vividly your bedroom appears to you. This knowledge will empower you to take control of the experience faster, which is of utmost importance if you are worried about negative entities encroaching on your dreamspace.
This is what lucid dreamers frequently do when they encounter nightmares. In the example above, Erin was already an advanced lucid dreamer by this point, yet her powerful belief in the spirit world led her to believe that this out-of-body experience was beyond her control.
After that, Erin had many more astral projection experiences and met many more negative entities in the spirit world. Eventually she learned to fight them (Buffy-The-Vampire-Slayer-style).
In lucid dreams, however, there is no need to fear nightmare figures - you can very often embrace and relate to them. If given a choice, right now, would you rather embrace every aspect or your unconscious self appearing in your dreams - or fight them off as if twisted spirits?