According to the New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia, ‘new age’ is:
“…a term popularized in the mid-1980’s to describe a nebulous, quasi-religious set of beliefs that are an outgrowth of the 1960’s counterculture and the 1970s ‘human potential movement.'”
In the United States originally the name alluded to the expectation of adherents, found particularly on the West Coast, that a new ‘spiritual’ age was dawning in which humans will realise higher, more spiritual selves. New age encompasses a wide array of notions such as, spiritualism, astrology, out-of-body experiences, reincarnation and the occult disciplines; as well as unorthodox psychotherapeutic techniques and pseudoscientific applications of the ‘healing powers’ of crystals and pyramids. (NGME). Astral Projection is certainly a part of new age culture and practice.
Astral Projection is a ‘spiritual’ experience but appears to be more akin to occult practice than evangelical Christianity.
Indeed, there are those who warn that it can clearly lead to ‘demonic possession’.
“Dreams are frequently explained as the experiences of a Wandering Soul, while the body is asleep. This wandering is dangerous because the soul runs the risk of being ensnared by a sorcerer or evil spirit, the result of which will be illness and insanity, and death if the souls is not rescued and restored.” – The Black Arts, Richard Cavendish, quoted in Man, Myth & Magic, vol.15, p.2114,
“Similiarly, the occultist who explores the astral plane runs the risk of failing to bring his astral self into her physical body.” – The Black Arts, Richard Cavendish, p.274.
When performed a person releases their astral body from their physical body in order to travel around, at will, on an astral plane in an out-of-body experience. This astral plane could be familiar territory, or else it could be many miles away, even in space. There is some confusion, even among it’s adherents, as to what they believe the astral body really is. Some say it is akin to one’s spirit and others that it is more of a physical thing that may perhaps be proven by science in some way. Whatever they decide to plump for as their basic belief, the truth is that it is all fantasy and has no foundation whatsoever. This is borne out in various writings and in the wild discrepancies of the arguments used.
In his book Understanding Astral Projection, Anthony Martin, a practitioner of the topic, quotes 2 Corinthians 12:2.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven. (NASB)
He then goes on to say,
“St. Paul’s account takes it for granted that such things were possible. This was no dream, no hallucination, the body could be left in a real sense. St. Paul’s terms are not always clear.”
The author is of course attempting to give a ‘rubber stamp’ of authenticity to this rather thin hypothesis by quoting the Bible.
The dubious nature of this astral body, is purported by Anthony Martin, to be non-spiritual in essence, as he sees the spirit as an imperishable part of a human, but the astral body as a perishable part. He says in his book,
“…there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body, which may mean that there is a physical and an astral body or that there is an astral body and a soul. One thing is clear, however, the experience of St. Paul described, was for him, an incontrovertibly real one.”
The practice of astral projection almost certainly involves a spiritual experience of some sort. However, the Bible has nothing to say on this ethereal body that new agers believe is supposed to reside within us, but it has plenty to say about the inner man or the spirit of a man. It is clear from the author’s words that even he is not convinced of the existence of an astral body. This bases the whole practice, and teaching of it, on pure speculation.
As we can see from the Bible in 1 Timothy 4:1,2
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (NIV)
It is clear that if one has a seared conscience it is cauterised – rendered insensitive. Such a conscience will enable you to believe anything, however ethereal, as it has no reference in spiritual truth. To a dead conscience, all things are right. As for hypocrisy – the idea of using scripture to authenticate your theories when in fact it condemns your philosophy surely is an example of this.
There is also another argument that the new agers bring to bear in order to add weight to their theories, and that is a scientific one. Eminent people are also used to reinforce the cause, as is one knight of the realm Sir James Frazer, who has written a book entitled ‘The Golden Bough’. In it he says
“…men in all stages of ignorance and knowledge commonly believe that when they die, some part of them does not perish. In this universal and continuing belief lies the essential distinction between the soul and the astral body. The difference is quite fundamental; the astral body has a co-relationship with the physical body and is an aspect of occult theory. The soul on the other hand is a religious concept and is indissolubly a fragment of eternity. The astral body is allied to materiality it may perhaps even come to be scientifically weighed.”
Here, again, we can see that words like ‘may’ and ‘perhaps’ are employed so that there is not a shred of definite evidence or precise teaching about the whole thing. There is also an admission that the astral body is of occult theory. Involving science in topics appears to be a common ploy to persuade the gullible into believing lies. Evangelical Christians believe this has been done with many topics such as creation and evolution. As time goes by however, more evidence is uncovered which causes the scientific argument to retreat and ‘scientific facts’ to be altered to ‘allow’ for the new evidence. A classic case of this is now that the Hubble space telescope has been employed, scientists have discovered that the universe is far younger than they have calculated. This leaves a big problem for them, as they now have stars, which they believe are older than the universe itself!
The teaching of these scholars is that the astral body, soul and spirit, are different, discrete components of an individual and yet collectively as humans we comprise ‘god.’ It is taught that because the astral body is of a physical nature, it may survive the death of the body for a short time but eventually perishes also.
Later in his book, Anthony Martin again attempts to authenticate his case with quotations from a doctor, although it is not evident what type of doctor he is quoting. This quotation is ‘laced’ with scripture to give it some sort of acceptability. He says,
“…on the whole the definitions of the occult anatomy used by doctor Robert Crookhall are to be recommended. Each person, according to Doctor Crookhall’s vie, has a physical body and a soul. These are the two poles of his total body constitution. In addition, there is a finer body called the astral body associated with the astral planes. Between the physical body and the astral body is an atmosphere or aura, then an interspace and then an astral atmosphere. The first or physical atmosphere is also called the vehicle of vitality and is analogous to the scriptural breath of life. Genesis 2:7 and 6:17.”
Genesis 2:7 – Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (NASB)
Genesis 6:17 – And behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. (NASB)
Allied to this concept of the ‘vehicle of vitality’, or breath of life, is what astral projectors call the ‘silver cord’; this is supposedly like an umbilical that links the astral body to the material body. When engaged in astral travel, this cord stretches for a fantastic distance like an enormous rubber band, eventually though there comes a point where it cannot stretch any more and it breaks, leaving the physical body devoid of the astral body which cannot return. Anthony Martin says in his book under the heading The Silver Cord,
“…the astral body is not always free floating, in many cases it cannot go where it will. It is connected to the physical system by a cord capable of stretching vast distances but nevertheless an ever-present link with the material body. The existence of the cord is testified to by many astral travellers and appears in the earliest accounts. The classic reference is in the Bible Ecclesiastes 12;6, “The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp, will fall and break, and the water jar will be shattered.” GNB. The cord is essentially an extension of the astral body and the connection with the physical body is such as to enable the latter’s vital processes to continue. It could with propriety be called a lifeline and has been compared on many occasions to the umbilical cord that supports the life processes of the unborn child. Severance of the astral cord like the disconnection of the umbilical link makes the re-entry of the double into the physical body impossible. This, as one astral projector said, is what death means.”
Here again we have a case of the misuse of Scripture to try to authenticate the practice of astral projection.
Some ancient yoga texts mention the eight ‘siddhis’ or super normal powers that can be achieved by a certain type of yoga. One of these is known as ‘flying in the sky’ which seems to refer to astral travel; this firmly roots the practice in eastern mysticism and appears to expose the practice for what it actually is – a spirituality but not based on evangelical Christianity.
Astral travel or astral projection is inextricably linked in with many other occult practices and beliefs via the new age movement, eastern mysticism and so on. One such aspect is the belief that a shining garment, which is interposed, between the physical body and the soul, surrounds the soul. This second body or garment is said to be composed of ‘stellar material’ and hence is susceptible to astrological influences.
In order to engage in astral travel the teachers of the practice recommend that the traveller empties his/her mind of everything but the desire to move beyond the physical body.
It would seem therefore that the grand plan is to encourage people into firstly vacating the mind and then secondly vacating the body. One can assume, with a degree of certainty, that this could potentially lead to an invasion of evil spirits, which would seek to enter the vacant ‘shell’ if indeed one’s essential life giving spirit can ever totally vacate the body.