There are a number of ways traditions speak of the layers of creation. Some speak, for example, of the “three worlds” – the physical, astral and divine or spirit. On this blog, I favour 7-based models like koshas due to the way I relate to it. But these are just different ways of modelling or describing it, like describing the colours of a rainbow. For the purpose of this article, I’ll keep it simple and stay with the three.
The key point here is this: the astral is not the divine. Many people have their first exposures to “spiritual experiences” with what are actually astral. Astral is not a bad thing, but it’s not heaven.
The astral arena is where we go when we dream. And we all have different kinds of dreams. The astral is also where we store our unresolved emotional baggage. Where everyone does. Not heaven.
We all experience the astral daily though our emotions and dreams. But some are born with or develop the skills for more detailed perception of the subtle “worlds”. This finer perception helps support the Refined versions of higher stages of consciousness. Astral techniques can also help us heal our emotional burden, amongst other things.
Because the astral can feel like a “safer” place for some people, they can tend to favour it over living in the world. It becomes an escapist or avoidance practice. For others, the astral is the shadow or dark side.
Many people don’t even realize it’s the astral they’re playing with. General dallying may make you feel good or avoid feeling for a short time but it doesn’t typically create lasting change nor does it help evolution.
For example, over on What is Meditation?, I explored how many common practices such as guided meditation or guided prayer are actually a form of hypnosis. If you’re following someone else, it’s not real meditation. As Rose Rosetree points out, hypnosis only ever takes you to the astral. Look around you after such a practice. Are people more alert? Or are they more sleepy and spacey?
The astral is where we can communicate with guides and our guardian angel. But people often don’t know how to discriminate guides from random beings wanting attention. Or they become dependent on their guides rather than supported. Astral co-dependency.
Do you like Mediums? Mediums generally connect with etheric (lower astral) beings on the “other side”, typically dead relatives. This can be a cathartic experience for people with unresolved baggage with a departed relative. And to recognize we live on. But dwelling in the past is not living your life.
What about Channelling? Channelling is a way astral beings might communicate with physical beings. But there is no way most people can verify the astral beings are who they say they are. And several well-known examples are not who people have implied they are. Plus it’s very hard on the health of the person channelling. What would motivate a being to behave this way?
Worse, a few channels have been tempted with more charisma and ability. In exchange, the being takes over the channel and taps the energy connections of their students. That influence has spread widely in some New Age circles.
Law of Attraction is astral. Visualization is astral. Feeling energy is astral. Astral travel is of course (it’s also disintegrative).
We can even make other techniques astral. For example, if present awareness is not clear and we try and practice a mindfulness technique, we’ll be making a mood of it or imagining it. Both culture the astral, not presence. Not mindfulness.
True meditation is what connects you to source. Practices that emphasize experiences or getting in touch with your feelings or travelling in space and time? You guessed it. Even if we have a proper meditation that brings us to source – if we instead decide to daydream, we’re staying astral.
Pot smoking? An escape to the astral. Rose explores the subject in much more detail here. Some other “recreational” drugs aka ‘subtle body polluters’ are similar. Not harmless from a spiritual point of view.
Some astral-level techniques like hypnosis can be very effective for specific things. But we should not confuse it with spiritual any more than you might confuse going to a medical clinic as spiritual. Not divine either.
Ironically, pursing astral to escape our current experience makes us less effective at being in the world and also less effective at making spiritual progress. We’re spending our time and attention in dream-space rather than healing or integrating spirit in our daily life.
Many in New Age and neo-Eastern circles spend way too much time in “spiritual” practices that are actually just astral escapism. Rose calls this a form of spiritual addiction. We’re spending a disproportional amount of time in the upper chakras. This leaves us ungrounded and poor at getting results in the world.
Now – this may be slightly superior to being in denial and shutdown spiritually, but not by much.
To correct Spiritual Addiction, Rose recommends people spend a maximum of 20 min. of technique time a day. That’s a total of 20 min. doing meditation, checking with guides, reading food, and so on and on. In fact, she recommends this for everyone.
Personally, by the results people mention, the advice seems effective for those caught in space camp and those who are inclined to such. But I’d be a little more liberal if that is not a problem for you. Do you function well in the world? Are money and relationships working for you? Are you typically pretty grounded? Then a little more technique time is OK.
An occasional weekend retreat can also be a good idea. A little extra here and there. But the goal here is balance and integration, not drifting off into space. People I know who are doing 8 hours a day ongoing – not likely such a good idea. In the current time, I see people getting major results on a 3 day retreat. Months in a cave are typically not necessary any more. It may even be counter-productive. Seek quality rather than quantity.
The main idea – the astral is what we want to heal, not where we want to live. Be discriminating with how you use your attention and who you let manipulate it. And watch how much time you spend avoiding life. A break is nice but how checked out are we? As Ram Dass used to say, ‘Be Here Now’. (he says ‘Be Love Now’ now)