Is Astral Projection Real?

Practitioners claim they can separate their soul from their body at will

The human being and universal energy
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Astral projection is a term commonly used by practitioners in the metaphysical spirituality community to describe an intentional out-of-body experience (OBE). The theory relies upon the notion that the soul and body are two distinct entities, and that the soul (or consciousness) can leave the body and travel throughout the astral plane. 

There are plenty of people who claim to practice astral projection regularly, as well as countless books and websites that explain how to do it. However, there is no scientific explanation for astral projection, nor is there definitive proof of its existence.

Key Takeaways: Astral Projection

  • Astral projection is an out-of-body experience (OBE) in which the soul is detached from the body voluntarily or involuntarily.
  • In most metaphysical disciplines, it is believed there are different types of out of body experiences: spontaneous, traumatic, and deliberate. 
  • In order to study astral projection, scientists have created lab-induced situations mimicking the experience. Through MRI analysis, researchers have found neurological effects that correspond with the sensations described by astral travelers.
  • Astral projection and out of body experiences are examples of unverifiable personal gnosis.
  • At this point in time, there is no scientific evidence to verify or to disprove the existence of the phenomenon of astral projection.

Imitating Astral Projection in a Lab

Few scientific studies have been conducted on astral projection, likely because there is no known way to measure or test astral experiences. That said, scientists have been able to examine patients' claims about their experiences during astral travel and OBEs, then artificially replicate those sensations in a laboratory.

In 2007, researchers released a study entitled The Experimental Induction of Out-of-Body Experiences. Cognitive neuroscientist Henrik Ehrsson created a scenario that mimicked an out of body experience by connecting a pair of virtual reality goggles to a three-dimensional camera pointed at the back of the test subject’s head. The test subjects, who did not know the purpose of the study, reported sensations resembling those described by astral projection practitioners, which suggested that the experience of OBE can be replicated in a lab.

Other studies have found similar results. In 2004, a study found that damage to the brain’s temporo-parietal junction can cause illusions similar to those experienced by people who believe they are having out of body experiences. This is because damage to the temporo-parietal junction can cause individuals to lose their ability to know where they are and to coordinate their five senses. 

In 2014, researchers Andra M. Smith and Claude Messierwere of the University of Ottawa studied a patient who believed she had the ability to intentionally travel along the astral plane. The patient told them that she could "elicit the experience of moving above her body." When Smith and Messierwere looked at the subject's MRI results, they noticed brain patterns that showed a "strong deactivation of the visual cortex" while "activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery." In other words, the patient’s brain literally showed that she was experiencing bodily movement, despite the fact that she was lying completely still in an MRI tube.

However, these are lab-induced situations in which researchers have created an artificial experience mimicking astral projection. The fact is that there’s just no way of measuring or testing whether or not we can really astral project.

The Metaphysical Perspective

Many members of the metaphysical community believe astral projection is possible. People who claim to have experienced astral travel report similar experiences, even when they are from different cultural or religious backgrounds. 

According to many practitioners of astral projection, the spirit leaves the physical body to travel along the astral plane during astral travel. These practitioners often report a feeling of being disconnected, and sometimes claim they can view their physical body from above as though floating in the air, as in the case of a patient in a 2014 University of Ottawa study.

The young woman referenced in this report was a college student who told researchers that she could deliberately put herself into a trancelike, out-of-body state; in fact, she was surprised that not everyone could do this. She told study facilitators that "she was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving 'real' body."

Others have reported a feeling of vibrations, hearing voices in the distance, and buzzing sounds. In astral travel, practitioners say they can send their spirit or consciousness to another physical location, far away from their actual body.

In most metaphysical disciplines, it is believed there are different types of out of body experiences: spontaneous, traumatic, and deliberate. Spontaneous OBEs can happen at random. You might be relaxing on the couch and suddenly feel as though you’re somewhere else­, or even that you're looking at your own body from outside of it.

Traumatic OBEs are triggered by specific situations, such as a car accident, a violent encounter, or a psychological trauma. Those who have encountered these types of situations report feeling as if their spirit left their body, enabling them to lucidly watch what was happening to them as a sort of emotional defense mechanism.

Finally, there are deliberate, or intentional, out of body experiences. In these cases, a practitioner consciously projects, maintaining complete control over where their spirit travels and what they do while they are on the astral plane.

Unverifiable Personal Gnosis

The phenomenon of unverifiable personal gnosis, sometimes abbreviated as UPG, is often found in contemporary metaphysical spirituality. UPG is the concept that each person's spiritual insights are unprovable and, while right for them, may not apply to everyone. Astral projection and out of body experiences are examples of unverifiable personal gnosis.

Sometimes, a gnosis may be shared. If a number of people on the same spiritual path share similar experiences independently of one another—if, perhaps, two people both had experiences that were alike—the experience may be regarded as a shared personal gnosis. The sharing of gnosis is sometimes accepted as a possible verification, but rarely a definite one. There is also the phenomena of confirmed gnosis, in which historical documentation and records relating to the spiritual system confirm the gnostic experience of the individual.

With astral travel, or astral projection, one person who believes they have experienced it may have a similar experience to another person; this is not proof of astral projection, but merely a shared gnosis. Likewise, just because a spiritual system's history and lore includes the supposition of astral travel or out of body experiences, it is not necessarily confirmation.

At this point in time, there is no scientific evidence to verify the existence of the phenomenon of astral projection. Regardless of the scientific evidence, however, every practitioner is entitled to embrace the UPGs that give them spiritual satisfaction

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Is Astral Projection Real?" Learn Religions, Oct. 30, 2020, Wigington, Patti. (2020, October 30). Is Astral Projection Real? Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Is Astral Projection Real?" Learn Religions. (accessed May 30, 2023).