“Astral travel for me is I close my eyes – they don’t close all the way – and I’m peering through a slit and this happens: the instant I close my eyes I see people and places instantly. Maybe it’s more like remote viewing.”
- Stanley Victor Paskavich
Astral projection is defined as a willful out-of-body experience. Believed to be a form of telepathy, this concept assumes that the consciousness or soul often referred to as an ‘astral body’ is a separate entity from the physical body, and therefore able to travel outside of the body through the universe.
A belief that has existed throughout history, dating back to ancient times, it is one that has been discussed, debated and contested throughout the decades. At this time experts believe that somewhere between 8% and 20% of people make the claim that they have had an out-of-body experience at some stage in their lives. This includes experienced during sleep, while under hypnosis or one that comes about from nothing more than mere relaxation.
The difficulty in quantifying whether or not astral projection exists in the world of science is the inability to actually measure the moments in which individuals state that their spirit ‘leaves’ or ‘enters’ their body. Without tracking this phenomenon there is no way to scientifically measure and assess whether there truly is a separation between body and soul, or whether they are merely experiencing a heightened dream state.
Susan Blackmore, author of ‘Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences’ explained that people who experience astral travel “have been found to score higher on measures of hypnotizability and, in several surveys, on measures of absorption, [a] measure of a person’s ability to pay complete attention to something and to become immersed in it, even if it is not real, or imagined event.”
Claiming that those who identify as having out-of-body-experiences are more suggestible, imaginative and fantasy-prone, experts do advise that these individuals have low levels of drug and alcohol use, and no obvious signs of mental illness or psychopathology.
The question remains, then, if they are not experiencing an out of body experience, what is actually happening? It is possible that they are entering a dream state during a ‘microsleep.’ A microsleep refers to any time that an individual falls asleep for half a second to a minute, not realizing that they have done so. Often people who experience this state wake up believing that they have been asleep for minutes, or even hours, unaware that they were only sleeping for such a short time. During this time, it is conceivable that they may be having extremely vivid and realistic dreams, which are then being interpreted as an out of body experience.
Despite the inability to scientifically prove or disprove the phenomenon, it continues to take the world by storm, bringing in large incomes for those who are able to appeal to the believers. Mark Pritchard even offers an online course and book on how you can learn to astral travel in eight weeks.
While this may be entirely true, or nothing more than a money grab, it is both entertaining and harmless. There have, however, been cases where the experience has been life-changing. While scientists continue to speculate whether they believe this can actually occur, there are limitations to science and aspects of the natural world that it cannot hope to understand. For this reason, whether it can be scientifically measured doesn’t disprove its ability to occur. It simply leaves us with unanswered questions and the amazing first-hand accounts of those who have experienced it, until such time that Science may some day catch up.
“[Science] is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything”
- Carl Sagan
Inspired by an article that appeared on Live Science