The Theosophist Arthur Powell (1927) was an early author to advocate the subtle body theory of OBEs. Sylvan Muldoon (1936) embraced the concept of an etheric body to explain the OBE experience. The psychical researcher Ernesto Bozzano (1938) had also supported a similar view describing the phenomena of the OBE experience in terms of bilocation in which an "etheric body" can release itself from the physical body in rare circumstances. The subtle body theory was also supported by occult writers such as Ralph Shirley (1938), Benjamin Walker (1977) and Douglas Baker (1979). James Baker (1954) wrote that a mental body enters an "intercosmic region" during the OBE. Robert Crookall in many publications supported the subtle body theory of OBEs.
The astral body is sometimes said to be visible as an aura of swirling colours. It is widely linked today with out-of-body experiences or astral projection. Where this refers to a supposed movement around the real world, as in Muldoon and Carrington's book The Projection of the Astral Body, it conforms to Madame Blavatsky's usage of the term. Elsewhere this latter is termed "etheric", while "astral" denotes an experience of dream-symbols, archetypes, memories, spiritual beings and visionary landscapes.
There are many twentieth-century publications on astral projection, although only a few authors remain widely cited. These include Robert Monroe, Oliver Fox, Sylvan Muldoon, and Hereward Carrington, and Yram.
Sylvan Muldoon (February 18, 1903 – October 1969) was an American esotericist who promoted the concept of astral projection. According to Muldoon, astral projection is an out-of-body experience (OBE) that assumes the existence of an astral body separate from the physical body and is capable of travelling outside it. A 2012 Princeton University Press publication by Hugh Urban asserted that one of Muldoon’s most popular books formed the basis for theories of the Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard which he claimed were his own.
Max Heindel divided the subtle body into the Vital Body made of Ether; the Desire body, related to the Astral plane; and the Mental body.
The silver cord in metaphysical studies and literature, also known as the sutratma or life thread of the antahkarana, refers to a life-giving linkage from the higher self (atma) down to the physical body. It also refers to an extended synthesis of this thread and a second (the consciousness thread, passing from the soul to the physical body) that connects the physical body to the etheric body, onwards to the astral body and finally to the mental body.
Astral projection is a paranormal interpretation of out-of-body experiences that assumes the existence of one or more non-physical planes of existence and an associated body beyond the physical. Commonly such planes are called astral, etheric, or spiritual. Astral projection is often experienced as the spirit or astral body leaving the physical body to travel in the spirit world or astral plane.
Astral body is a subtle body posited by many philosophers, intermediate between the intelligent soul and the mental body, composed of a subtle material. The concept ultimately derives from the philosophy of Plato: it is related to an astral plane, which consists of the planetary heavens of astrology. The term was adopted by nineteenth-century Theosophists and neo-Rosicrucians.
The mental body (the mind) is one of the subtle bodies in esoteric philosophies, in some religious teachings and in New Age thought. It is understood as a sort of body made up of thoughts, just as the emotional body consists of emotions and the physical body is made up of matter. In occult understanding, thoughts are not just subjective qualia, but have an existence apart from the associated physical organ, the brain.
According to Max Heindel's Rosicrucian writings, the mind is the latest acquisition of the human spirit and is related to the Region of Concrete Thought, which is the lower region of the World of Thought. It is not yet an organized body and in most people it is still a mere inchoate cloud disposed particularly in the region of the head. It works as the link or focus between the threefold Spirit and the threefold body, in a reversed reflexion manner : the mind is like the projecting lens of a stereopticon, it projects the image in one of three directions, according to the will of the thinker, which ensouls the thought-form.
Such doctrines were commonplace in mystery-schools and Hermetic and gnostic sects throughout the Roman Empire and influenced the early Christian church. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians contains a reference to the astral plane or astral projection: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows."
According to occult teachings the astral plane can be visited consciously through astral projection, meditation and mantra, near death experience, lucid dreaming, or other means. Individuals that are trained in the use of the astral vehicle can separate their consciousness in the astral vehicle from the physical body at will. The first stage in development, according to Ramacharaka, is "mastery of the physical body and its care and attention", which pertains not only to the physical body but also to its double in the astral. In addition, one must spend time tuning the "instinctive mind". The first three subdivisions of the instinctive mind are passions, desires, and lusts. The second stage is the intellect, otherwise known as the sharpening of the mind. Someone operating largely out of the instinctive mind would "have only a glimmering of intellect", therefore those who are centered in the intellect would only have an inkling of the spiritual. Once both stages are completed the spiritual mind can be awakened.
Writers within the fields of parapsychology and occultism have written that OBEs are not psychological and that a soul, spirit or subtle body can detach itself out of the body and visit distant locations. Out-of-the-body experiences were known during the Victorian period in spiritualist literature as "travelling clairvoyance". The psychical researcher Frederic Myers referred to the OBE as a "psychical excursion". An early study which described alleged cases of OBEs was the two volume Phantasms of the Living, published in 1886 by the psychical researchers Edmund Gurney, Myers and Frank Podmore. The book was largely criticized by the scientific community as the anecdotal reports lacked evidential substantiation in nearly every case.
It is believed by Theosophists that nature spirits, elementals (gnomes, ondines, sylphs, and salamanders), and fairies can also be observed when the third eye is activated. It is maintained by Theosophists that these less evolutionarily developed beings have never been previously incarnated as human beings; they are regarded as on a separate line of spiritual evolution called the “deva evolution”; eventually, as their souls advance as they reincarnate, it is believed they will incarnate as devas.