Once I had an OBE, an Out-of-Body-Experience, and flew across the sea. There were a few times I am certain I had other OBEs, one bordering on a NDE or Near-Death Experience. This particular OBE had one significant difference, though, that distinguished it from all the others. As of March 2013, this event remains the only time I managed to intentionally astral travel. All of my other OBEs were unintentional and spontaneous. This particular astral journey was startling in its clarity. I remember it vividly many years later as if it happened yesterday.
During my time as a Wiccan, I was exposed to a number of practices and paranormal phenomena at odds with mainstream orthodox science. Among these were strange “things” called astral projection, astral travel, or out-of-body experiences. They are different terms for the same phenomena. One could dismiss such things as magical thinking, a level of psycho-spiritual and socio-cultural evolutionary development considered inferior. Magical thinking is a cluster of different religious and psychological belief systems wrapped up in elements of what many deride as “superstition.”
The one primary distinction shared within this cluster is the idea thinking certain thoughts either intentionally or unintentionally generates actions and events in the outer or “real” world of matter and energy. Research into psychic phenomena and brain waves demonstrate the power of focused mental energy to affect change in the environment beyond the body. Meditation, prayer, casting spells, calling down old Deities, and focused ESP represent different examples of focused mental power.
There is still much to learn regarding the mysteries of consciousness. The experience of Afterlife beings raises questions about definitions of life, especially beyond biological death. None of this mattered to those who feared for my soul, however, as they were sure these “things” were real. My Fundamentalist Christian friends and a few family members swore I was deluded by the Devil and flying straight down into Hell.
One afternoon, however, regardless of Heaven or Hell or the Levels In Between, I faced my fears and deliberately left my body for what proved to be an exciting adventure.
Astral projection or travel was one of those practices introduced to me during my pre-initiatory training as a Wiccan flamen or priest back in 1981-1983. I wasn’t good at deliberate astral projection, but I did talk to a number of people who claimed success in this field and read a stack of books on journeys beyond the body. The majority of the stories I heard were remarkably similar as what to expect once one begins to leave the body.
One of the better books I read were Astral Travel: Your Guide to the Secrets of Out-of-the-Body Experiences, 1982, by Gavin and Yvonne Frost of the Church and School of Witchcraft. Despite the somewhat cheesy subtitle, it was an excellent step-by-step how-to-really-do-it manual. Practicing their techniques allowed me success in projecting into the astral realm. Another fascinating book was Robert Munroe’s Journeys Out of the Body: The Classic Work on Out-of-Body Experience, which first came out in 1971.
My astral event happened one rainy afternoon in 1989 or 1990. At the time my second wife, Gwen, and I lived with her parents in a wooded area of Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg was a quiet, lovely city nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the bluffs of the James River. Although we had started out as friends in 1985, she and I had developed a tight romantic, sexualoving bond over the years. We were married outdoors in the woods growing along the edges of the Hughes Family Home. It was a Celtic Wiccan Handfasting by a Priest and Priestess on October 1, 1988, held as autumn leaves began to turn colors in the woods around us. The energy and ambience of the place set the stage for relaxed and relatively easy parapsychological experimentation. At times it felt the home and the woods around it were within or at the center of some kind of energy vortex or anomaly. It was an intuitive-imaginal hyperaware feeling sensation more than anything logical or measurable.
At those years Gwen and I were deeply immersed in the Neo-Pagan communities. We also worked in outdoor adventure back in those days and often spent the between-times with our families. Gwen’s mother Nancy was a fascinating and observant lady. She was also deeply immersed in the progressive New Age subculture of an otherwise narrow and conservative Central Virginia city.
Nancy’s knowledge and experience of metaphysics was extensive and encyclopedic. She tempered this with a gentle lovingkindness and an absolute confidence in what was real and what wasn’t regardless of what “scientific religionists” declared. She’s been deep inside the Great Pyramids of Egypt, up high in the Potala Temple Complex in Lhasa, Tibet, and hung out with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India where she gave him her Mickey Mouse watch. His Holiness was delighted. I could talk shop with Nancy regarding many spiritual topics, although I related to her more as a wise and experienced sage. Our conversations spanned many psychic and paranormal events and practices. This included astral projection.
“Oh, I’ve astral traveled a number of times,” she told me. “I just lay down on my bed, and as I fall asleep, I leave my body and fly around.”
She wasn’t too fond of sorcery, however, and dismissed the negative entities dwelling in the astral realm.
“Oh, they’re there alright,” she said. “But don’t focus on them. Don’t think about them. If you do they’ll be drawn to you and they’ll want more of you. Similar to the way psychic vampires seek you out. They like to drain you of your energy, you know. Instead of fretting about them, surround yourself with light. Think about the light. Think about love. Feel it in your heart. It’ll drive those low-level critters away.”
“Critters? Are they demons?”
“Oh, goodness no. They’re more like…bugs! Real demons won’t waste their time with you.”
Yes, I love my mother-in-law.
I’ve been practicing the steps on how to astral project from books. You may recall there wasn’t really much of an Internet back then. Many of these books were labeled “occult” and often difficult to find. Several I came upon quite by happenstance in old bookstores. Now anyone can easily find once-obscure books plus numerous articles and how-to-do-its online.
I went into my bedroom alone and closed the door. I lay supine upon the bed and loosen up my clothes a little bit. My arms rested by my side. I had to struggle not to fall asleep as well as not think too hard. Astral projection can be smooth and easy once one is used to its sensations. I caught myself beginning to doze off and gently willed myself back into relaxed awareness. One must first relax the bodymind. This in turn allows the astral body to relax enough to exit flesh without stress.
Within moments I felt a tight, humming vibration throughout my body. I felt myself rise partway out of my body, as if I was half-out and half-in. Then it seemed as if I sat up out of my body and floated up toward the ceiling. A silver thread-like rope connected me to my body. This is known by various terms including the astral cord, the silver cord, or aka thread. In the beginning I was aware of it. Toward the end I was not.
As I floated up and spun gently around, I was in the shape of my body but mostly transparent. I recognized what I identified as “me” as being my astral or ethereal body. I recognized my bedroom within the home of my wife’s family. Their house, while in the middle of an urban area, also sits in the middle of a large wooded area. It was a lovely and unique combination, a hilly area rich with a mix of Virginia hardwood trees, pines, and cedars.
It feels odd as I write to identify my sense of self with my astral body. The sensation isn’t any different from feeling and viewing my leg as my leg, my hand as my hand, or my belly as my belly. I am not my foot or my femur or my intestines as they are part of my body.
As I drifted somewhat clumsily above my body still upon the bed, I could see through my ethereal flesh yet could also see the outlines of all of me. The Sun was setting and the woods were already dark and casting shadows over the house. OK, I’m floating. What’s next? I just wanted to fly.
Instantly I zoomed at incredible speeds across the ocean. Wow! I flew so fast the waves and other features of the ocean blurred below me. Intuitively in a way I can’t quite understand I knew exactly where I was … I was speeding over the Atlantic Ocean toward Europe. As I flew I realized as I watched moving bands of light and shadows I must be crossing time zones. I loved flying. In that moment flying was all I wanted to do.
My astral body felt different, too. I felt smaller, more compact, and much more dense. I was bemused to realize I was no longer so transparent but a grayish-silver. Furthermore, I was in the shape of a large teardrop or tear-shaped raindrop. Instead of liquid I was composed of whatever substance my astral ether was composed. There was no sense of temperature I was present to other than I was so comfortable it didn’t dawn upon me until afterwards that I wasn’t too hot or too cold. Everything felt … perfect.
I looked around me and realized I wasn’t flying alone. There were so many other astral people! Assuming all those astral bodies were indeed human beings, that is. Some could well have been biologically deceased souls or spirits, too. In the moment I couldn’t tell one from the other. These astral beings zoomed at high speeds back and forth across the ocean. They flew in all directions, meaning they flew straight without weaving and many flew east while many others flew west and yet others north and south. These were astral correlations, of course, for it felt we were in a higher vibrational dimension where we were not bound by the limitations of four dimensions.
All of these astral flyers appeared similar to me. Every one I witnessed was a dense silvery teardrop shape flying at great speeds. The round “pear” of the teardrop was the front. The body of the astral being tapered off to end in a silvery-gray tail. Upon the front of each flying teardrop was a face, not a head, but a face, a human face. They all knew I was there, and I sensed some kind of telepathic greeting from some of them. Most seemed merely intent on going somewhere fast. A few popped out of visible existence.
I felt exhilarated! Wow! Cool! There was a wonderful sense of lightness and freedom. I was astonished to discover myself floating above my bed in Lynchburg, Virginia to unexpectedly streak over the ocean to Europe.
As soon as I thought “Europe,” I was there. Emerald green fields, woods, narrow roads, and towns zipped behind me as I sped over the southern edge of England. I shot out across an expanse of huge, white cliffs and back over the sea. The scene felt so familiar, as if I’d been there before when I know I’ve not yet set foot anywhere in Europe. Then I recognized where I was; the Cliffs of Dover! Aye, behind me stretched the chalky-white Cliffs of Dover. Below me churned the English Channel. The sky was blue and sunny yet intense and vibrant in a magickal sort of way. Every color was deep and rich.
Shaped as a teardrop, I soared toward France and swooped low over the waves. The great, white band of cliffs receded into the distance. I didn’t see one single demon or spooky astral critter. In that moment I fell back into my body with a rapidity that shocked and scared me. Demons! I jolted up in bed, recognized I was home, then relaxed and smiled. I grinned ear to ear because I did it! I astral projected with intention and deliberation. Except at the end when I freaked out the instant my imagination conjured up horror images of demons. Oh, this was so exciting!
I shared my experiences with Gwen and Nancy. I felt bashful in front of my wife’s mother. Felt like a little boy who finds himself unexpectedly shy and tongue-tied. Gwen got me talking.
“Sounds like it,” Nancy said after I finished describing my adventure. “Your description seems real enough, too. You made it onto the astral plane and back again. Good for you. See, it’s just an ordinary, everyday occurrence once you get used to it.”
Still, I wondered to myself, how much of all this is really real? Could it all be dreams, subconscious mentally induced fantasy creatures, or brain hallucinations? Maybe it was wishful thinking amplified by my culturally conditioned spiritual expectations? Or all or some of these in combination?
Relatively recent scientific experiments involving electrical stimulation of the frontal lobes of different human brains induced out-of-body experiences that felt vividly real to the subjects. Other experiments involved creating complex optical illusions without any direct brain stimulation. The subjects in this case claimed they felt outside their bodies a certain distance as they identified with the perceived location of the illusion as a real “them.”
None of these reported flying around seeing things real and solid and not fantastical as far as I know.
There are some who engage in astral projection but declare it to be an advanced form of lucid dreaming. According to these people, even the demons, critters, other astral beings, and the ethereal appearances of angels, deities, and deceased loved ones are simply the imaginative subconscious creation of sleeping, dreaming minds.
Others disagree strongly. They identify astral travel and OBEs as real and not dreams. The astral plane for these people is a real place. It constitutes a realm of higher dimensional energies vibrating at different frequencies than our mundane 4D reality. Many who hold this view equate astral bodies with the spirit or soul and the astral realm as lower levels of Heaven or the Afterlife. There are certain similarities between astral events, OBEs, and NDEs.
How does one then distinguish between a dream, even a lucid dream, and astral travel?
In many dreams you the dreamer start out with little or no control over your environment or the sequence of events. People and places merge and separate and mix again in new combinations. Often there are fantastical environments. Once some degree of waking is achieved during the dreaming state, you the dreamer become less reactive and far more responsive. In lucid dreaming you are in control of your dream environment. A lucid dream is created and populated as you wish. You fly as a bird over mountains, swoop down waterfalls, and dance naked with a hot, sexy lover.
In astral projection you the traveler have absolute control over yourself and your actions. You want to be on a tropical island in the Caribbean? Presto! You’re there on the beach. How about a wild, snowy mountain range? And you’re there. Other than envisioning real places and finding yourself there or flying there, one cannot create places that don’t exist. There aren’t any fantasmagorical juxtapositions that defy common sense reality.
Furthermore, another characteristic distinguishing OBEs from dreams is one only has control over themselves. One has no control over the actions of other beings. These entities may be deemed harmful and negative, or quirky but harmless, or loving and positive, or divine. They can approach you on their own accord, and you have conscious choices for how you respond to them. These are not made up characters from your subconscious brought to life within the game-like fantasy world of lucid dreaming. Whatever these entities are, they are experienced as real and in control of themselves.
Astral travelers report being around living people in their everyday physical bodies. These embodied people have no idea, unless they are extremely sensitive and intuitive, that you and other astral spirits are floating and flying around up close. One can interact with other astral beings, including those remaining inside sleeping humans. At the same time other human and non-human astral entities are spotted doing whatever they do whether you like it or not. You the astral traveler have no more control over these other ethereal entities than you do over the corporeal folks walking around embodied within their clothes. For many these factors are what make astral projection and OBEs distinct from dreams including lucid dreams.
There is one more category of “believers” to consider. A surprising number of people, especially from Christianity and Islam, believe astral travel is indeed real. In their belief system, however, they hold it is a dangerous practice where one violates dictates against all things magickal, as these practices are considered Satanic in nature. In other words, they feel strongly astral projection is of the Devil. I’ve encountered more of these believers than the neuroscience-explains-it-all camp. Nor do I share fundamentalist interpretations from either party.
Others see many similarities between astral projection and shamanic journeying. They seem to be going in opposite directions, one going “up” with spirit while the shamanic journey takes one’s soul “down” through holes and tunnels underground. Although these “trips” at first seem to follow different paths, they end up at the same place.
Since then I’ve had spontaneous astral experiences. My other deliberate attempts to project left my astral self resulted no further than floating half-out but half-in my physical body.
My first time remains the most vivid and delightful. I recall my astral experience as if it occurred last weekend. It remains an amazing, awe-inspiring, and humbling event. Yes, once I succeeded in deliberately floating out of my body to fly across the ocean and the Great Cliffs of Dover.
William Dudley Bass
7-8 March 2013
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