The word “astral” comes from the Greek word meaning “related to a star” and it originally described the heavens of the Greeks and the abode of their gods. The concept of the astral world expanded in time to refer to what the ancients called “ghostland,” a realm inhabited by etheric entities, disembodied spirits and highly developed angelic beings.
Under normal circumstances the limitations of our five physical senses keep us from seeing into the astral world. That is because that world is made up of an energy that is invisible to us, owing to the fact that it is vibrating at a higher rate than the energy that comprises the material world.
But there are ways to perceive it other than through direct entry into it via astral projection. Clairvoyants and well-trained occultists have done so all through the ages. The former is the passive recipient of mental impressions, but these are usually fleeting and only moderately revealing.
If he is developed enough, though, the occultist can shift from material to astral perception through a conscious act of will, “just as the operator on the typewriter shifts from the small letter type to the capitals,” in the words of one writer.
The perceiver will look into a world that is just as real as ours. It has geography, scenery, inhabitants. There are even countries and kingdoms. The astral world has its own natural laws. It is subject to constant change just as the physical world is.
Some theorists writing on the subject of astral projection have speculated that the astral world is in fact a “rationalized dream world,” a universe of elemental energies which we shape into beings, people and places through our own thought processes. In other words, the astral world is a real place but we create its manifestations in our imaginations.
There probably is some truth to this idea. Certainly some of the sights and experiences reported by astral explorers sound like thought projections. But at the same time so many people have reported the same kinds of things in the astral realm—witness, for instance, the testimonies of many thousands of NDE percipients—that we can reasonably conclude that it has its own independent, objective existence. Once you enter it, you can be confident you will see certain things there.
A Theosophical View
The esoteric thought system known as Theosophy provides a detailed description of the astral world, which it depicts as the realm into which we pass at physical death and in which we spend a period of time before moving on to a higher sphere.
Theosophists believe that it is not just disembodied spirits who live in the astral but also, writer Lewis Spence says, “inhabitants. . .of an altogether nonhuman nature—lower orders of the devas or angels, and nature-spirits or elementals, both good and bad, such including fairies which are just beyond the powers of human vision, and the demons present to the vision of delirium tremens.”
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