Astral projection (or astral travel) is an interpretation of an out-of-body experience (OBE) that assumes the existence of an “astral body” separate from the physical body and capable of travelling outside it. Astral projection or travel denotes the astral body leaving the physical body to travel in an astral plane. The idea of astral travel is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife in which the consciousness’ or soul’s journey, or “ascent,” is described in such terms as “an… out-of-body experience, wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or “dreambody”, or “astral body”) into ‘higher’ realms.” It is frequently reported in association with dreams, and forms of meditation.
Taoist alchemical practice involves creation of an energy body by breathing meditations, drawing energy into a ‘pearl’ that is then “circulated”. “Xiangzi … with a drum as his pillow fell fast asleep, snoring and motionless. His primordial spirit, however, went straight into the banquet room and said, “My lords, here I am again.” … When Tuizhi walked … with the officials to take a look, there really was a Taoist sleeping on the ground and snoring like thunder. Yet inside, in the side room, there was another Taoist beating a fisher drum and singing Taoist songs. The officials all said, “Although there are two different people, their faces and clothes are exactly alike. Clearly he is a divine immortal who can divide his body and appear in several places at once. …” … At that moment, the Taoist in the side room came walking out, and the Taoist sleeping on the ground woke up. The two merged into one.”
Similar ideas such as the Lin’ga S’ari-ra are found in ancient Hindu scriptures such as the YogaVashishta-Maharamayana of Valmiki. Modern Indians who have vouched for astral projection include Paramahansa Yogananda who witnessed Swami Pranabananda doing a miracle through a possible astral projection and Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) who practiced it himself.
The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba described one’s use of astral projection:
In the advancing stages leading to the beginning of the path, the aspirant becomes spiritually prepared for being entrusted with free use of the forces of the inner world of the astral bodies. He may then undertake astral journeys in his astral body, leaving the physical body in sleep or wakefulness. The astral journeys that are taken unconsciously are much less important than those undertaken with full consciousness and as a result of deliberate volition. This implies conscious use of the astral body. Conscious separation of the astral body from the outer vehicle of the gross body has its own value in making the soul feel its distinction from the gross body and in arriving at fuller control of the gross body. One can, at will, put on and take off the external gross body as if it were a cloak, and use the astral body for experiencing the inner world of the astral and for undertaking journeys through it, if and when necessary….The ability to undertake astral journeys therefore involves considerable expansion of one’s scope for experience. It brings opportunities for promoting one’s own spiritual advancement, which begins with the involution of consciousness.
Astral projection is one of the Siddhis considered achievable by yoga practitioners through self-disciplined practice. In the epic The Mahabharata Drona leaves his physical body to see if his son is alive.