The cult following that astral projection has garnered over the last few decades has left many people wondering what it is all about. While gullible are busy trying to find the answers for questions like 'is astral projection dangerous' 'is it safe to venture into the astral realms', 'does it serve the purpose', etc., skeptics seem to be more keen on finding answers to those unanswered questions which would reveal whether astral projection is real or not. The question still remains though, if astral projection is myth, how do you explain all those astral travel accounts put forth by individuals who claim to have experienced this phenomenon themselves?.
Some of the eminent rationalists out there - including the likes of James Randi, have time and again questioned the credibility of these 'accounts' whilst associating astral projection, and related concepts, with a concept known as the out-of-body experience. The problem though, is that very few people know what an out-of-body experience, often abbreviated as OBE, is all about, and that makes it difficult for them to related astral projection and out-of-body experience. In order to get to the bottom of the entire matter, one has to start from the beginning and see what those people who claim to have experienced astral projection have to say about it.
What is Astral Projection?
Basically, 'astral projection' is defined as a condition wherein a person's 'astral body' leaves the physical body, and embarks on a journey of the 'astral plane'. In order to understand what this definition of astral projection or astral travel exactly refers to, you need to get well versed with the two terms that have been mentioned in it - astral body and astral plane. While the physical body of a person refers to human anatomy, the astral body is allegedly a body made up of subtle material which acts as a medium between the person's physical body and intelligent mind.
Astral plane, on the other hand, is believed to be a parallel world, and the fact that it finds a place in several philosophies and religions does add to its credibility. In course of astral projection or astral travel, the spiritual traveler leaves his physical body, and travels to the higher realms i.e., the astral plane to seek answers for all the unanswered questions of his life.
Is Astral Projection Real?
Going by all the philosophical arguments involved, a layman is forced into believing that the concept of astral projection is real. The skeptics, however, seem to be least impressed by these arguments, and continue to argue that it is nothing but a paranormal interpretation of out-of-body experiences. So what is out-of-body experience all about? An out-of-body experience is an experience which is typically characterized by the sensation of floating outside ones own body. It is a typical case of hallucination wherein the person has illusory perception - predominantly as a result of neural stress.
An out-of-body experience is often associated with near death experiences, with several people claiming that they saw doctors operating on their body with their own eyes. Hallucinations at the death bed are most often attributed to chemical changes in the body - psycho-biochemical changes in the brain in particular, as a result of which various bodily functions - including our ability to think, are hampered. With minor chemical changes in the brain, the chances of a person hallucinating are at their peak.
That explains people claiming that their 'other body' stood right in the operation theater and watched the entire surgical process being carried out by the doctors. A person who claims of having an out-of-body experience associated with near death experience is not entirely right or wrong, but is just ignorant about what has actually transpired.
That being said, there do exist cases wherein individuals go into this hallucinatory state of mind and embark on astral travel intentionally by resorting to meditation techniques. Once again our brain has a crucial role to play when it comes to astral projection by meditation. Even though the brain roughly accounts for 3 percent of the total body weight, it uses somewhere around 24-27 percent of the oxygen we breathe for smooth functioning. When the brain doesn't get the required amount of oxygen, it becomes vulnerable to hallucination, and the person begins perceiving things which don't exist.
In case of meditation, the hallucinatory state of mind is triggered by deficiency of oxygen supply to the brain, which in turn is attributed to the way the individual breathes when meditating - typically inhaling less air and exhaling more. A similar phenomenon, attributed to psycho-biochemical triggers, is observed when individuals resort to narcotics for astral projection or OBE.
Astral Projection Debunked
If astral projection is fraud, what about all those accounts of astral travel put forth by people who claim to have experienced the same. While subliminal observation and deductive reasoning are the keys to these accounts, the coincidence factor also has a crucial role to play.
For instance, when Ingo Swann and Harold Sherman claimed to have astral traveled to planet Jupiter, way before Pioneer 10 passed by it, James Randi did a critical analysis of their observation which revealed that 30 of their 65 observations were wrong, 9 were vague, 2 were probably false, 18 were facts which were either obvious or could be obtained from book, 5 were probable facts, and only 1 was a fact which was not obtained from reference material.
This is just one of the several instances of astral travel debunking which hint at the fact that astral projection, as with various other psychic abilities, is just our imagination at its best. In other words, just a dream which can be attributed to overuse of subconscious-mind.
PS: Rationalists from the world over are hell-bent on proving that psychic abilities, like astral projection and extraterrestrial telepathy, are nothing but fraudulent claims. Quite a few rationalist organizations across the world have declared that they would give away a stipulated amount of prize money to the person who can demonstrate any psychic ability, including astral projection, under fraud proof conditions. One of the most famous among these is 'The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge' by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). The fact that no one has won any such prize money as yet, itself shows that these claims don't hold ground.