The Truth About Astral Projection

Astral projection is a spiritual theory of the out of body experience. But is astral projection real or a type of lucid dream?

Astral Projection or Lucid Dreaming?

Astral projection is a controversial idea because it lacks any physical evidence. Moreover, for us lucid dreamers, it bears a striking resemblance with the wake induced lucid dream. So, is astral projection real?

As a teenager I was set on having out of body experiences. I'd already had some tantalizing experiences of passing through the vibrational state; a harsh buzzing sensation likely produced by the hypnagogic state and which marks the onset of conscious sleep. Around the same time I began having lucid dreams.

Soon, I'd managed to separate my awareness from my body in bed, and float in my bedroom. Sometimes, it was clear I was floating in a dream bedroom, in a completely different location to where I went to sleep. At other times, I felt it was absolutely real, even if it was difficult to see much, and I was aware of being in my own bedroom that looked exactly like waking life.

Astral Projection

Over time, I had more WILD lucid dreams in which I entered my dreams directly from a waking state. And I noticed a pattern. If I didn't visualize a dream scene in time, I'd start dreaming of lying in bed in my own bedroom. Sometimes I'd just wake up, but sometimes I'd float out-of-body and fly the window. It was as tangible and real as any astral projection story I'd ever heard about.

So it started to make sense to me that all of these experiences were all internally generated dream states. And when I looked at it that way, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

Astral Projection vs Lucid Dreams

Interestingly, the core experience of astral projection, out of body experiences, sleep paralysis, and wake induced lucid dreams are very similar.

It begins when you are half-asleep in bed. You may feel paralyzed, which is the normal state of REM atonia, preventing you from acting out your dreams. You're aware of lying in bed, yet there are some funny sights, sounds, and sensations going on.

As you dissociate from your body, you begin to feel as if you're floating. Your mind shuts off awareness from your physical body in bed. As long as you are awake and your body falls asleep, you naturally transfer your awareness to a more flexible replica body. A dream body.

You could describe this as a spirit or astral body. Or you could call it your lucid dream body. It's all about perspective. But I'm quite sure this is not a real body.

To remain with the the perception that you're still paralyzed, stuck in your body in bed, is at best a frustrating experience. At worst, it's extremely scary, especially if you start to dream that bad entities or astral spirits have entered the room. This is a true mark of sleep paralysis.

One you separate from your body in bed, you can explore the room, pass through walls and windows, and even fly out into the night. It's no wonder that this incredibly realistic experience is interpreted as a spiritual one.

Invoking The Astral Dream

When Expectations Drive Your Journey

If there's one reliable principle in lucid dreaming, it's that your expectations drive your experience. This is just one way we can establish for ourselves whether we're awake or dreaming. Indeed, when I reality check, I try to push my fingers through something solid and expect them to pass through. They only do so in the dream world.

Equally, during astral projection, you might feel as if you travel to different astral planes, and see layers of ethereal realities shaped by energy and light. Yet one key similarity remains: the experience is driven by the expectation that you're in some astral realm.

In the same way, if you imagine a friend's house on your astral travels, you will zap there in an instant. If you imagine your body back in bed, you'll quickly return to it. And if you expect to see the legendary silver cord connecting you to your body, it will materialize.

Is a belief in astral projection, as a genuine spiritual phenomenon, somehow detrimental? Why can't people just believe whatever they want to believe?

Of course, you can. But there is a danger in believe your dream characters to be real. What if they terrify you? What if they tell you to do things? What if you encounter something that hurts an otherwise functional worldview?

As lucid dreamers, the expectation principle allows us to manifest dream figures and objects, change the scenery, and fulfill our greatest desires. Even when the dream takes over and we experience a lucid nightmare, we remain aware that none of it is real and that we are ultimately safe.

For the astral traveler, the power of expectation also has direct implications on how you mingle with the spirit world. One example is from the blogger Erin Pavlina, who described her first astral projection experience as terrifying:

During sleep paralysis, Erin sensed three other entities in her bedroom, trying to coax her out of body. She struggled to breathe, to scream, and to free herself from the terrifying paralysis. She felt sure it was all real, including the malicious entities. Yet the more she fought it, the more terrified she became, until she eventually woke up. Erin believed her spirit was in a literal tug-of-war against the entities in her room (who, incidentally, she could also hear talking about her).

Because of her spiritual beliefs, Erin was convinced these visions were real. Imagine the intensity of the fear if you truly believed these were evil beings from a spirit world. Let alone the opportunity cost of missed lucid dreams.

Sleep paralysis is a real physical experience and can be scary enough, but the visions we experience in this state are dreams, or false awakenings, as convincing as they are. To feel safe in your astral explorations or lucid dreams, I urge you to recognize any entities as dream figures. This will help reduce any fear and lead to more fulfilling experiences of out-of-body dream states.

About The Author

About The Author

Rebecca Casale is a lucid dreamer and a science writer with a special interest in biology and the brain. She is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming and Science Me.