The Astral World
In this, the seventh of the twelve articles comprising our occult studies course, we shall discuss and explore the subject of the Astral World in order to find out what it is and what it isn't.
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There are more misconceptions about the Astral World than almost any other occult subject we can think of. In this investigation we aim to clear up these misconceptions and solve some of the puzzles which confront the genuine seeker after truth who wants FACTS, rather than the speculations and fantasies of psychics who, lacking any training in the Occult Sciences, only partially understand what they see and experience during their travels on the Astral plane.
We know of only two writers who described the Astral World correctly, and it will be no surprise to our regular readers to discover that these are J Michaud PhD and the 19th century occultist, H. P. Blavatsky. You will find the truth and nothing but the truth in their writings, insofar as it may be revealed to a world deeply imbedded in materialism, greed and selfishness. This is the reason why their books are largely unknown and ignored by modern readers. Most of those who profess an interest in occultism and magic do not want to hear the truth. They much prefer the colourful fantasies that pour off the presses in an unending stream and spread across the Internet like poisonous weeds. An example of this are the many popular websites which purport to describe the various planes of the Astral World and their inhabitants.
To anyone familiar with the occult scientific teachings of H. P. Blavatsky, it is clear where such authors get their information from. It is equally clear what they have done with it; namely distorted it out of all recognition by expunging those parts they do not understand and grafting on the fruits of their own, ignorant speculations. A typical example of this distortion is the following description of the Astral World which can be found on many websites (we have edited this for brevity): "The lowest plane is known as Avichi which is hell to the inhabitants, where the astral body is composed of much the same dense matter as this plane. Why is it hell? Because the inhabitants lack a physical body to satisfy their appetites." If the supposed inhabitants of this plane have a body composed of 'dense matter', they are just as able to 'satisfy their appetites' through it as we are on Earth. This is simply common sense—something the authors of such conspicuous claptrap seem to have left behind, if they ever possessed it, which we doubt!
This is the principal reason why there are so many contradictory descriptions of the Astral World. For many it is a replica of earthly conditions, where you only have to think of a thing and it appears! This is very much the spiritualist's conception, now adopted and adapted unthinkingly by many in the "New Age" movement and its various offshoots. Then we have the happy-hunting grounds of the native Americans, with an abundance of buffalo and no double-dealing, two-faced palefaces to ruin it all, or the Eskimo heaven, which is the tummy of a whale, made of blubber, and WARM. Then there is the Muslim heaven where every man will receive two wives. The Koran is silent on whether women are blessed with two husbands, if such can be considered a blessing! These are all variations on the Astral theme. And so each race and age has its own ideas of what heaven is like, and these astral regions are the domains in which all the happiness and content, not to be found on earth, can be found; each according to what they most wish for and know as their highest ideal.
There is much truth in these various beliefs in, and longings after, paradises not to be found on earth. But they are not the whole truth, as we shall discover as we develop our theme. There is also the astral world which is the dwelling of the elemental spirits, such as the fairies, gnomes and sylphs we may read about in occult books, and a host of other, far less savoury entities, and there are certain ways of penetrating into the regions where they dwell. Proclus called these beings demons, and many of them are demoniacal creatures, very dangerous to contact if one is not prepared and under full protection, as you may read in the near-death experience (NDE) of Howard Storm, who met some of these low-grade elemental beings when he 'died' during an operation.
" I was lost. There were no features that I could relate to. There was just the fog and a wet, clammy ground, and I had no sense of direction. . .I had hoped to die and end the torment of life. Now things were worse as I was forced by a mob of unfriendly and cruel people toward some unknown destination in the darkness. . .A number of them began to push and shove me, and I responded by hitting back at them.
"A wild orgy of frenzied taunting, screaming and hitting ensued. I fought like a wild man. All the while it was obvious that they were having great fun. It seemed to be, almost, a game for them, with me as the centrepiece of their amusement. My pain became their pleasure. They seemed to want to make me hurt by clawing at me and biting me."
"At no time did I ever have any sense that the beings who seduced and attacked me were anything other than human beings. The best way I can describe them is to think of the worst imaginable person stripped of every impulse to do good. Some of them seemed to be able to tell others what to do, but I had no sense of any structure or hierarchy in an organizational sense. They didn’t appear to be controlled or directed by anyone. Basically they were a mob of beings totally driven by unbridled cruelty and passions."
And this is the astral world some foolish seekers want to 'project' into in the mistaken belief (though fantasy would be a better word) that it will be a 'fun' and 'exciting' diversion from their humdrum lives! If you, who are reading this, have ever had such desires, let the above experience of Howard Storm be a warning to you not to meddle with conditions over which you have no control and less understanding. What the beings that dwell in the higher regions of the astral world look like you can also discover in the above account which is well worth reading in its entirety. We feel compelled to add that Storm's belief that the radiant being who befriended him was Jesus is an interpretation of his own mind, but this in no way detracts from the truth of what he experienced when he was released from his physical body for a time. We ourselves have beheld similar things and beings in the astral world, so we know from personal experience that his account is an honest and truthful one. The fact that it comes from a former atheist with no occult knowledge, training or any prior religious convictions or faith considerably adds to its verisimilitude and that is one reason why we have quoted it.
The inhabitants of the Astral World
There are three distinct classes of beings in the astral world. The first are the so-called "elementaries"; the shells or shades of human beings who have lived on earth, and these are the most intelligent, or rather cunning. They are the remnants of people, who, having refused all spiritual light, remained and died so deeply immersed in the mire of matter that the Higher Self or immortal Ego has only gradually separated from their sinful earthly personalities. Fortunately, most of these pitiful wretches only survive the death of the body for a short time, gradually losing all consciousness of their erstwhile human personalities as they disintegrate. The coarser the human being from whom they were separated, the longer they survive, and the more chance they have of finding their way into the séance room or the mind of a "New Age" channeler. It is more than likely that the entities who tormented Howard Storm belonged to this class of beings.
No good can come of any contact with these beings. Even if not actually evil, they are always imperfect and weak and their influence can never be elevating. Moreover, it is quite wrong to encourage such shells into activity or to feed them upon the vital essences of human beings as Spiritualists do, thus galvanizing them into a fictitious renewal of their existence. Such are the "angel guides" we hear so much about nowadays. Idle dreams and speculations; they are nothing more than the succubi and incubi of medieval times in modern dress. If we critically examine the communications of these supposed 'guides' from the beyond received by channelers, we find in almost all cases that they contain nothing which could not have come from the medium's own mind. Often the 'messages' received are so banal and nonsensical that they would shame the smallest child, yet because they are claimed to emanate from the 'astral', they are swallowed like manna from Heaven!
H. P. Blavatsky, who could SEE and recognise the elementals behind such 'spirit' communications knew what a lying charade contacts with such beings is, and wrote at great length about it in Isis Unveiled. J Michaud describes the tricks these low beings employ to hoodwink their gullible contacts very clearly in the fifth chapter of The Golden Star. We suggest you read it if you wish to learn the truth about the mechanics behind all such astral phenomena. Since spiritualism began in the 19th Century there have been thousands of good, pure and honest men and women who, but for the cultivation of the evil capacity to make contact with the elementaries, might have lived useful lives leading to higher things, but through the gradual and pernicious influence of these low, earth-bound spirits, have sunk from bad to worse. What a damnable farce it all is! The worst part of it is that millions still believe in this maleficent masquerade of moving shadows, now invoked through modern Witchcraft or Wicca, 'channeling' and other 'New Age' practises—as you can read in the sidebar.
The second class of beings in the astral world are human beings themselves. These may be the astral bodies of human beings whose physical bodies are asleep on earth while their minds roam in the astral regions, or the discarnate Higher Selves of human beings awaiting their next incarnation. These are of all grades of evolution, just as we find here on earth; some wise, some not so wise, and some so little evolved they resemble animals in all but name. Each dwells in that part of the astral world with which they are most attuned. The more highly evolved of these beings can be contacted, but only by rising up in thought to the refined regions where they dwell, not via the séance room or 'channeling', which at best can only contact the most lowly-evolved of the dwellers in the astral world; hence the nonsensical messages received from them.
The third class are the proper elementals, which never evolve into human beings, but exist on a different rate of vibration as nature-spirits, each confined to its own special element. Tertullian called them the "princes and powers of the air." They have no tangible bodies, nor are they immortal, having only astral forms which are closely identified with the elements they are connected with. There are elementals of the Air, Fire, Water and Earth. There are also flower elementals, tree elementals and so on. They are a combination of sublimated matter and rudimental mind. The lower ranks act collectively and have no individuality as a rule, though the great Devas who rule over them are distinct individualities of great power, compassion and wisdom. None of these beings can be seen by ordinary physical sight, but only by clairvoyant vision. If you want to know what they look like, you can find true descriptions of them in the clairvoyant investigations of nature spirits and fairies by the English seer, Geoffrey Hodson, several of whose books we recommend elsewhere on our website.
In addition to the above, we have the fairies, pixies, gnomes, kobolds, hobgoblins, elves, undines, water-nymphs, nixies, sylphs, salamanders, and a legion of other strange beings, too numerous to enumerate here. As Bulwer-Lytton wrote in his occult novel Zanoni: "some are of surpassing wisdom, some of horrible malignity; some hostile as fiends to men, others gentle as messengers between earth and heaven." As we have said above, it needs the inner sight to see the varied inhabitants of the astral world. But to assert they do not exist because those who are not clairvoyant can't see them is ridiculous. But to have clairvoyant powers is not always an unmixed blessing. It can be both embarrassing and disturbing, especially when children have this gift and their parents either cannot, or will not, acknowledge and understand it.
Astral vision — seeing into the Astral World
A friend of ours, who has the "sight", was once talking to a stranger who had come to his home for assistance. As our friend spoke to him, the stranger's face faded away and in its place appeared the countenance of a demonic-looking satyr, glaring at our friend in the most dreadful manner. When enquiries were made about the man it was found that, although he had asked for money, he was living in a splendid house in a rich district. Yet when he visited our friend he was almost in rags and told him he was starving. Now whether our friend saw the lower self of that stranger as it really was, or his Higher Self which had turned to evil, OR an elementary who was obsessing or possessing him, it is impossible to say; for the explanations for such clairvoyant visions are many, and only the trained Initiate can distinguish one possibility from another and so arrive at the correct and true conclusion.
On another occasion, this friend heard galloping sounds behind him as he walked in the park, and on looking around, he saw a troop of pan-like figures, capering around him in the moonlight. We know many mystics, who have not so much of the gift of clairvoyance, who when alone in the countryside, have seen sudden flashes of light from the hedgerows and a fleeting form, more beautiful than words can describe, flit past their startled gaze. Young children, too, quite often see such beings, and some may even become "invisible" playmates for a time, to the consternation and often, sad to say, anger of their parents, who do not want their child "seeing things that aren't there." If only the poor parents realised that nothing they do see, hear, taste, touch, or sense in any way, is 'there' either, they might just learn something of value from those children who can see a little further than most.
We are never alone. Others to whom we have spoken have had very similar experiences, but it is the privilege of all to believe these things or not. It is quite easy—but not always advisable to develop this power of clairvoyance, and there are various ways of doing this, apart from the exercises taught by the genuine Occult Orders to their students. There are also secret methods of sounding certain notes, thereby attuning with the conditions that exist in the Astral World. But we strongly advise you not to experiment with any such methods you may have read about, because if these are applied in the wrong manner, it can lead to dire results. Similar methods also allow one to be present at the meetings and rituals of some of the dark societies of the West and East, without these people being aware of it. But to us—who are on the path to the Light—these things hold no attraction, and apart from trying out the principle a few times, we have no wish to be present at any time to see these dark individuals at work or listen to their plans. They have no power to hurt us if we do not invite them to do so by tuning in with their conditions or their black hearts.
At the same time, as we have mentioned in our discussion of the Occult Jungle, it is good to have knowledge, for it aids us in protecting the inexperienced and unwary seeker who might innocently fall into a trap. Many victims are caught in this way and realise too late how difficult it will be to escape from the clutches of these black magicians; more of whom in our next article.
As we study the conditions in the Astral World, we begin to realise who the genii were we read so much about in Eastern tales of magic and wonder such as Aladdin and his "magic" lamp. These beings do exist, but to employ them leads to perdition. No white brother would do so. Black and white do not mix. And here we have another hint in regard to what Karma really is. It is definitely attunement and nothing else. Therefore it will be clear to you that if we attune ourselves with these genii, elementals, demons and other less pleasant inhabitants of the astral world, we deliberately invite their conditions as well, and we will find that individuals of like propensities to our own are drawn towards us too, so affecting us and our life in a most undesirable manner.
The true conditions and real nature of the Astral World
Please do not think that the astral world is vaporous and intangible, filled with spooks drifting about like actors and actresses in a Hollywood Gothic melodrama. No! Things in the astral world are only tenuous in substance to our conception, but dense to its own inhabitants. We, on the other hand, seem to be a less tangible substance to them than their own. The first kind of astral world is that of which the ancient Sages speak, and it is the creation of God himself no less than our own world. Its inhabitants are real and have form in every sense. The second kind consists of thought-forms, produced by humanity as a whole; for thoughts are things. The cumulative effects of humanity have produced that second kind of astral world, which some philosophers and mystics call the Universal Mind, or Anima Mundi. Others have called it the "Soul of the World" and many occultists, "astral light".
Whatever thoughts, emotions or feelings have been produced by man have been (and are) sent forth and exist in space—as we conceive space—and they influence our thinking and produce "waves" of various kinds of sentiments; good, bad and indifferent. They produce the public "mood", national pride and what the Germans call "Weltschmerz" or World Sorrow. They sway mobs and meetings of all kinds by the speaker or leader enflaming the passions or appealing to the reason, thereby drawing upon the great reservoirs of similar feeling extant in the astral realms. They also attract evil elementals, who gather around in great hordes whenever the passions are aroused, for these beings feed on these low emotions as we feed on food and drink.
Whenever we give way to anger, a host of demons, most malignant, attend on us, and will hover around us for a long time, in the hope that we may act in the same way again; for when we give way to anger we release a certain amount of "power", on which these elementals exist. This is why one always feels exhausted after a fit of anger, for "virtue has gone out of us." Being thus weakened, and having less control than before, it becomes more and more easy to give way to new fits of anger, weakening us still more, until at last the results become apparent in bodily ill-health. At the same time we have less power of resistance to the insidious whispers of the elementals, which have now adopted us as a more or less permanent provider of strength for themselves, and we find ourselves in the grip of a remorseless fate, affecting not only our health, but our material and economic conditions as well.
The third kind of astral world comprises our own, personal thoughts-forms, and the thoughts of others, which can be contacted by us, for they cling to us for a while, and they can be seen by others if they are clairvoyant, or we can see another person's thoughts, or feel them, if we have the capacity to do so. Always remember that these things are material and have form. They are still part of our material being, thinking and acting. They have no connection with the conditions of the HIGHER realms of celestial purity, goodness and love, which are described in a Glimpse of Heaven on our Religious quotes and occult maxims page.
A thought-form—produced by Mr A—is generally seen in its true shape by Miss B, if she has the faculty of "seeing", but it is also possible that Mr A may form a thought of what HE thinks Christ looked like. This projected picture is then picked up by Mrs C, who sees a vision of HER version of Christ's personal appearance. Or Mr D may only contact the devotional feeling of Mr A and translate this into the form of the Virgin Mary, or Isis, or Buddha, or Krishna, or one of the Christian Saints, and swear blind that this is the only "true" vision, sent by his "angel guide", when you (and we) know it was not! There are countless possibilities of having similar "visions" of all sorts from one projection, especially if one or more of the elementals manipulate it as well. So you will agree that the subject is very difficult indeed and why it is almost impossible to discuss it without being misunderstood.
In addition to these thought-forms which may be seen in the astral world, there are the projections of our own astral body. In this way we may appear at a greater or lesser distance, visible to others who have the "sight", when our physical body is lying relaxed or asleep at home. We can "project" to different places on earth as well as to locations within the astral world. This is one of the means of penetrating into regions existing on different rates of vibration, or into the past and even the future. Though the former kind of "projection" may also be considered as contacting the memories of our previous lives on earth as we discussed in our article on Reincarnation. Quite how we may contact our future lives is a topic outside this discussion which you are welcome to ponder upon! Though we would say that it is certainly possible, for "time" and "space" are not what we think they are, here on earth.
We ourselves have seen and learnt many interesting things during our explorations of the astral world as you can read in our Astral Conversations series of articles. We vividly recall seeing our physical body for the first time from the perspective of our freed Higher Self. My goodness, we thought, is that disgusting grey corpse really us? What a shock that was to our ego, removing all vanity in our personal appearance forever and at once! On another occasion we were privileged to see the Higher Self of a close friend as it really appeared in its own, high, spiritual realm. That too was an enormous shock, but a most joyful one, for the god-like being that we beheld was more glorious than words can describe. We have also had many pleasant excursions among the beautiful scenery and magnificent buildings of the higher regions of the astral world and met many of its blessed inhabitants, as well as contacting some of the more unpleasant dwellers in the lower regions. But we will refrain from describing them as all they can teach us is what not to attune with in our astral journeyings.
You may be asking at this point, "yes, this is all very well, but how do I learn the technique of 'astral' projection?" This is a good question, and the simple answer is by learning how to free your mind from your physical body. You can do this through deep meditation as we discuss later on in this Course. The genuine Occult Orders give their students certain exercises to acquire and develop the technique of so-called 'astral projection', but we prefer the term 'extension of consciousness', for this is what astral projection really is. Such exercises are the secrets of the Orders who teach them and it would be against all occult laws for us to reveal them. Moreover, even if we were to reveal them it would not help you. For unless you are under the constant personal supervision of a trained Adept in the occult sciences, such information would do little good but might do untold harm, as we explain our Occult FAQ question about secrecy.
For this reason any astral projection exercises or techniques which you may have read about in books or encountered on the Internet, no matter how 'famous' and 'highly regarded' the authors of such books may be, are best avoided. Even if you should achieve limited success with such methods, the results you obtain will be of very little value to you. For unless you have been trained to recognise exactly where you are in the Astral World, and the real nature of the conditions and beings you may encounter there, you are in much the same position as a terrestrial explorer who ventures into unknown regions without map, compass, guide, or any idea of what to expect. In short, your observations and discoveries may mean anything or nothing, and this is one of the main reasons why channeled 'New Age' teachings are mostly such complete nonsense, as you can read in our afterword to this article in the sidebar.
Some readers have told us that they experience 'terrifying vibrations', loud 'rushing noises' and all manner of other strange and often unpleasant symptoms when attempting to leave their physical body. Let us say at once that all such symptoms are almost always due to physical or mental tension of some kind brought on by over-excitement and worry about what might happen. The idea of leaving your body helpless whilst you go wandering about in the Astral World has frightened the life out generations of occult students, who were afraid they would never get back inside themselves!! Let us reassure you that this is quite impossible in actuality, whatever you may have read or heard to the contrary.
Finally, we have known and do know, some occult students who become so addicted to 'astral travelling' (when such excursions are not the figment of their overheated imaginations) that they become quite unbalanced about their 'amazing' experiences, which they relate with great relish to anyone who will listen to them, or post them on YouTube for the entertainment of other, equally vapid, thrill-seekers and mystery-mongers. No possible good can come of such obsessions, which at best are nothing more than a form of mystical self-indulgence which do not add one iota to our store of Wisdom, and at worst mislead the seeker into all manner of errors and delusions.
The Astral Light
Paracelsus, in his Philosophia Saga, states: "The current of the astral light with its peculiar inhabitants, gnomes, sylphs, etc., is transformed into human light at the moment of conception, and it becomes the first envelope of the soul—its grosser portion; combined with the most subtle fluids, it forms the sidereal (astral, or ethereal) phantom—the inner man." To which Eliphas Levi adds: "The astral light is saturated with elementary souls which it discharges in the incessant generation of beings...At the birth of a child, they influence the four temperaments of the latter. The element of the gnomes (Earth) predominates in melancholy persons; of the salamanders (Fire) in the sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable); of the undines (Water) in the phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet); of the sylphs (Air) in the Choleric or giddy and bilious...These are the spirits which we designate under the term of the (four) Occult Elements." So, if any ladies are reading this, when someone next compliments you on your "sylph-like" figure, perhaps you won't feel quite so proud!
What the Kabbalists term the astral light, the Buddhists call Svabhavat, and some higher metaphysical schools even state that this astral light is a self-existent matter, which has never been created, but always was, without beginning or end, past or future. This atmosphere is said to be constantly changing every minute of every day. When we consider all that we have said up to now about the various thought-forms that are constantly being projected into, and reflected back from, the astral light, this statement seems very reasonable to us. Herakleides said that the knowledge of the astral world was the great secret of the highest initiation. You can read more about matter from the standpoint of occult science in our article why matter matters.
We have seen in our previous articles about Karma, Reincarnation, Evolution and Intelligence that the human Higher Self or immortal ego ascends from the physical by successive stages until at last it leaves all material dross behind and joins with the spiritual essence from which it first descended; rich with the experience it has garnered during its sojourns here on earth and in the various spheres or planes in which it dwells in between incarnations. If these teachings are true, and we are in no doubt of it and hope that you are not either, what an awe-inspiring journey it is! But to succeed in that journey, wherever it may take us, we need FAITH, which is the subject of our next and eighth article in this Occult studies course.
Published 12 March 2013 — © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Updated 10 June 2023.