As a budding occultist that also has trusted science for everything throughout the years, I find myself often torn when finding new topics of study. Currently, that topic is astral projection and out-of-body experiences; two experiences that are somehow the same yet very different. Many in the psychiatric world consider out-of-body experiences (or OBEs) to be a type of hallucination caused by disassociation with reality, taking hallucinogenic drugs, brain traumas, or even combinations of the three. In the esoteric world, this same experience is related to astral projection. The key differences between to two are whether the person is undergoing the experience with a purpose, and if it is spiritual in nature.
In astral projection, practitioners are attempting to leave our regular physical reality and are trying to reach the astral plane, where many spirits wander. The reasons for doing this are different from person to person, but often it includes improving oneself and an eventual ascension to a godly state, or communicating with specific spirits for spiritual gain. Some occultists can do this almost naturally, others must practice every day for months and hardly get results. In an OBE happening purely on accident, usually a person feels separated from their body and sometimes is able to see their physical body while they are “outside.” A similar experience, but you take all of the spiritual purpose out of it. However, some people who experience OBEs against their will, particularly in the case of near-death experiences, report a spiritual side to it such as the infamous “white light” or voices of loved ones calling them up to heaven. My own experiences have mostly been basic out-of-body feelings, and I have tried to feed this through meditative trances which have led me to more of a spiritual cleansing, but I have yet to find myself traversing any astral plane. My own journey has been a very short one, so far.
Astral projection has been practiced in some form or another on nearly every continent since around Platonic times, which makes it harder to believe that so many are experiencing similar delusions; yet that is what the science world seems to think the astral practitioners are experiencing – some kind of shared delusion based on guided experience astral teachers give, or how people learn about projection online before attempting it. A self-fulfilling prophecy; if you think you will experience it a certain way, you will. They have done studies on those who claim to willfully leave their body and find changes in brain activity that show these feelings to be no bullshit, which anyone who has OBEs could easily tell you. But as far as I have searched, no studies seem to tackle or show data about the spiritual effects of deeper practice, all of them just want to laugh it away as delusions and call it job done. Yet clearly there is either a real spiritual experience to be had here – a real way to connect with something humanity cannot yet understand, but individuals can sneak a glimpse of.
So does it take a prior held belief, whether it is in the esoteric or the godly, to take what is normally a hallucination into a grand spiritual journey? Does it take the experience itself to make one become more spiritual, in cases where it was not there to begin with? I feel that science can only hope to one day explain why many an evangelist almost dies and sees God, or when an occultist practices pulling the thread every day and one day sees a plane of existence they never thought possible, and interacts with spiritual beings. This is an experience only for those meant to see it, and the rest of us will see it in the end.