The astral body is an intermediate body of light linking the rational soul to the physical body while the astral plane is an intermediate world of light between Heaven and Earth, composed of the spheres of the planets and stars. These astral spheres were held to be populated by angels, demons and spirits.
The subtle bodies, and their associated planes of existence, form an essential part of the esoteric systems that deal with astral phenomena. In the neo-platonism of Plotinus, for example, the individual is a microcosm (small world) all but a grain of sand in the universe (the macrocosm world).
The rational soul…is akin to the great Soul of the World, as within so without, while the material universe, like the body, is made as a faded image of the Intelligible. Each succeeding plane of manifestation is causal to the next, a world-view known as emanationism; “from the One proceeds Intellect, from Intellect Soul, and from Soul – in its lower phase, or that of Nature – the material universe.
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 to experiencing the inner world of the astral and also, 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 tale ‘The Mahabharata’ Drona leaves his physical body to see if his son is alive.
Karma and reincarnation explain that our soul, like the legendary phoenix, does indeed rise from the ashes of our former selves to be reborn and that our former lives contain the seeds of our new life. They can help us understand why we were born with a particular set of aptitudes and talents, crises and challenges, assignments and aspirations.
Astral travel, astral projection and astral adventures, prepare us for advancing the soul and expanding consciousness, into the higher self and upper realms of the cosmic universal brain.