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The Astral Realm in Esoteric Literature


“The Astral Realm, as described in esoteric literature, is a metaphysical dimension, a spiritual counterpart to our physical world, often associated with dreams, out-of-body experiences, and even afterlife in various spiritual and philosophical traditions.

The astral plane, also called the astral realm or the astral world, is a plane of existence postulated by classical, medieval, oriental, and esoteric philosophies and mystery religions.

It is the world of the celestial spheres, crossed by the soul in its astral body on the way to being born and after death, and is generally believed to be populated by angels, spirits or other immaterial beings. In the late 19th and early 20th century the term was popularized by Theosophy and neo-Rosicrucianism.

The astral spheres were thought to be planes of angelic existence intermediate between earth and heaven”. (

The exact nature, constituents, and purpose of the Astral Realm vary across traditions, but a common thread often portrays it as a place of expansive consciousness and profound spiritual insights (Powell, 1927).

Astral Realm in Philosophical, Religious, and Ideological Contexts


In Theosophy, a religion established in the late 19th century by Helena Blavatsky, the Astral Plane is conceived as one of seven planes of existence. It’s an intermediary place between the physical and spiritual worlds, inhabited by various astral entities such as spirits of the deceased and non-human entities (Blavatsky, 1888).

C.W. Leadbeater, a prominent figure in the Theosophical Society, offered some of the most detailed descriptions of the Astral Plane in his seminal work, “The Astral Plane: Its Scenery, Inhabitants and Phenomena” (1895).

Leadbeater posited that the Astral Plane, an intermediate dimension between the Physical and the Heavenly Planes, is as tangible to its inhabitants as the Physical Plane is to us. He suggested it was composed of seven sub-planes, each corresponding to varying degrees of materiality and spirituality (Leadbeater, 1895).

According to Leadbeater, the Astral Plane is occupied by a multitude of entities, including human spirits both pre- and post-death, Elemental Spirits, and non-human entities. He claimed that disembodied humans reside in the Astral Plane following physical death until they transition to the Heavenly Plane. He also noted the existence of thought-forms, non-physical entities manifested from human thought and emotion (Leadbeater, 1895).

Leadbeater further expounded on a concept called “astral sight.” According to him, this form of perception allowed one to view multiple angles simultaneously, perceive the true essence of things unobstructed by physical matter, and even see into the past. He held that individuals could develop this ability through training and spiritual growth (Leadbeater, 1895).

One of the most striking aspects of Leadbeater’s work is his focus on morality. He warned that immoral thoughts and actions could result in negative experiences and encounters with lower astral entities. Therefore, he strongly advocated for ethical conduct to ensure a beneficial and uplifting journey through the Astral Plane (Leadbeater, 1895).

In summary, Leadbeater provided a complex and detailed view of the Astral Plane, populated by various beings, navigable through spiritual development, and inherently moral in its operation..


Hermeticism, another philosophy influenced by ancient Greek and Egyptian ideas, also conceptualizes an Astral Plane. In hermetic thought, the Astral Realm is the ‘Anima Mundi’ or World Soul, a plane where thoughts and dreams exist independently of the physical brain, reflecting the maxim of “As above, so below” (Three Initiates, 1908).

Hermeticism, drawing from Greek and Egyptian philosophical traditions, also conceptualizes an Astral Plane, and its interpretation has greatly influenced esoteric literature and philosophy.

One of the central tenets of Hermeticism is the concept of the ‘Anima Mundi’ or World Soul, equated to the Astral Realm. This concept signifies the presence of a universal, sentient, and intelligent force that permeates every aspect of the cosmos and connects all living beings (Three Initiates, 1908).

In Hermetic thought, the Astral Plane, as part of the Anima Mundi, is a repository for thoughts, dreams, emotions, and images, independent of the physical brain. It is considered the realm where mental phenomena occur and manifest, forming a bridge between the material and spiritual realms (Regardie, 1969).

This belief reflects the Hermetic principle of Correspondence, summarized in the maxim “As above, so below; as below, so above.” This principle states that the microcosm (human being) mirrors the macrocosm (Universe), and vice versa. Consequently, the Astral Plane mirrors physical reality, and events or actions in one plane affect the other (Three Initiates, 1908).

The Astral Plane, within Hermeticism, plays a crucial role in spiritual development. Through meditation, visualization, and other spiritual practices, Hermetists aim to consciously interact with this Astral Plane, thus achieving insights, wisdom, and spiritual growth (Regardie, 1969).

The Hermetic view of the Astral Plane, thus, imbues it with a rich and deep significance, viewing it not merely as a separate realm but as an intrinsic part of the Universe, affecting and affected by the actions and thoughts occurring within the physical plane.

Hindu philosophy

Similarly, in Hindu philosophy and yogic traditions, an equivalent of the Astral Realm exists as ‘Sukshma Sharira,’ an astral or subtle body that separates from the physical body during sleep, meditation, or at the time of death, further exploring the cycle of karma and reincarnation (Yogananda, 1946).

In Hindu philosophy and Yogic traditions, the concept of multiple bodies or ‘koshas’ exists. One of these is the ‘Sukshma Sharira’ or the subtle body, which is akin to the Astral Body as described in Western esotericism.

The Sukshma Sharira is said to consist of seventeen elements: five pranas (vital energies), ten indriyas (senses), mind (manas), and intellect (buddhi) (Taimni, 1961). Unlike the physical body or ‘Sthula Sharira’ that interacts with the material world, the subtle body operates in a realm that transcends physicality and is associated with dream states, deep meditation, and the afterlife.

In the context of sleep and meditation, it is believed that the Sukshma Sharira separates from the physical body, allowing the individual to experience dimensions beyond the physical world (Yogananda, 1946). This is similar to the concept of astral projection found in Western traditions.

At death, according to Hindu and Yogic philosophies, the Sukshma Sharira carries the individual’s karmic imprints or ‘samskaras’ to the next life, facilitating the cycle of birth and death (reincarnation) until Moksha, or liberation from the cycle, is attained (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1957).

Furthermore, the concept of Karma, the law of action and reaction, plays a significant role in determining the experiences of the Sukshma Sharira. It is believed that the subtle body experiences the consequences of past actions, shaping an individual’s spiritual journey and experiences in the astral or subtle realms (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1957).

Thus, the Astral Realm, or the domain of the Sukshma Sharira, is a central concept in Hindu philosophy and yogic traditions, serving as a bridge between physical life and higher spiritual realities.


In the context of Rosicrucian thought, the astral plane is considered to be an intermediate plane of existence or a level of reality that exists in parallel to the physical world. It is often depicted as a realm of consciousness that exists beyond the physical, but is nevertheless connected to it.

The astral plane is seen as the world of dreams, emotions, and psychic phenomena. It is often associated with out-of-body experiences, during which individuals are thought to travel or project their consciousness to these realms. This is known as astral projection or astral travel.

The astral realms are thought to be inhabited by a variety of entities, including spirits of the deceased, and other non-physical beings. It is also seen as a place where thoughts and ideas can have a tangible form, and where individuals can interact with each other at a deeper, psychic level.

Rosicrucian teachings often draw on earlier esoteric and philosophical traditions, such as Neoplatonism and Hermeticism, which conceived of the world as a series of interlocking and interpenetrating layers or planes of existence. These range from the dense, physical world, through the astral plane, and up to higher spiritual or divine realms.

As with many elements of esoteric and spiritual belief, the concept of the astral plane is metaphorical and symbolic, and is often used to illustrate ideas about the nature of consciousness, the relationship between mind and body, and the existence of spiritual realities beyond the physical world.

Keep in mind that these ideas aren’t universally accepted or understood in the same way by all Rosicrucians. Interpretations can vary greatly among individuals and across different groups. As such, it’s always a good idea to approach these topics with an open mind and a willingness to explore different perspectives.

Inhabitants and Knowledge in the Astral Realm

Esoteric literature offers a wide-ranging view of the Astral Realm’s inhabitants. Among the most commonly referenced are the spirits of humans who have passed on. According to esoteric theory, these departed spirits remain within the Astral Realm during an interim phase, progressing their spiritual journey before moving onto higher planes of existence (Leadbeater, 1895).

Additionally, this literature mentions ‘thought-forms,’ sometimes referred to as ‘tulpas’ in Tibetan mysticism. These entities are manifestations of concentrated thought and emotional energy, autonomously existing in the astral dimension. The idea here is that focused mental energy can create semi-independent entities in the astral plane (David-Neel, 1929).

Besides human-related entities, non-human beings, often termed as astral entities, are described. These might include elemental spirits, nature spirits, or beings of higher consciousness, whose origins and purposes may differ vastly (Leadbeater, 1895).

However, esoteric literature cautions that the perception and interaction with these astral entities can be profoundly subjective. The personal mental and emotional state of the individual projecting into the astral plane can shape their experiences, often acting as a lens through which they interpret encounters with astral entities (Monroe, 1971).

The knowledge and insights acquired within the Astral Realm often transcend mundane understanding, primarily focusing on spiritual or personal growth. Many individuals recount experiences of profound enlightenment and deep introspection. For instance, some report encounters with spirit guides – entities believed to assist and guide an individual’s spiritual journey (Monroe, 1971).

Additionally, many explorers of the astral dimension discuss reconciling past life experiences. This process involves confronting and understanding past incarnations’ events, aiding in the resolution of karma and fostering spiritual growth (Stevenson, 2001).

Moreover, some individuals have described gaining foresight or glimpses of potential future events while in the Astral Realm. Although the exact mechanics of such foresight remain a mystery, these experiences often serve as guidance for personal or spiritual decisions (Buhlman, 1996).

In essence, the Astral Realm, as depicted in esoteric literature, presents a multi-layered, highly subjective domain teeming with diverse entities and profound insights, offering explorers opportunities for significant personal and spiritual evolution.

Interacting Safely with the Astral Realm

Esoteric literature provides numerous practices and techniques to explore the Astral Realm in a safe and controlled manner. Foremost among these techniques is ‘Astral Projection’ or ‘Astral Travel,’ which is depicted as the conscious, intentional separation of the astral or subtle body from the physical body (Monroe, 1971). This separation allows the individual to navigate and explore the astral dimension while maintaining a connection to their physical form.

However, it’s important to underscore that safely conducting astral travel requires a certain degree of mental and emotional clarity. Any mental turbulence or emotional unrest can potentially lead to challenging, even distressing, astral experiences. Therefore, techniques fostering calm, centered awareness are crucial pre-requisites for engaging in astral projection (Buhlman, 1996).

Meditation is frequently advised as a foundational practice in this context. Regular meditation cultivates mental stability, awareness, and clarity, which not only facilitates the separation process but also aids in navigating the Astral Realm. Deep meditative states can also potentially trigger spontaneous astral projection experiences (Buhlman, 1996).

Affirmations form another crucial tool in safe astral travel practices. Positive self-statements can help set intentions, reinforce self-confidence, and alleviate fears or anxieties related to astral projection. An example might be affirming “I will safely explore the astral realm and return to my body with ease and clarity” (Buhlman, 1996).

Visualization techniques also play a significant role in astral travel. Imagining oneself floating outside the physical body, visualizing a particular astral destination, or picturing a silver cord connecting the astral and physical bodies can facilitate the projection process and ensure a sense of safety and connectedness (Buhlman, 1996).

Dream recall can serve as a precursor to conscious astral projection. By remembering and interpreting dreams, individuals can become more aware of their unconscious mind and subtle body experiences. Techniques to enhance dream recall may include keeping a dream journal or practicing conscious waking during dreams, also known as lucid dreaming (LaBerge & Rheingold, 1990).

Techniques like the Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB) are often recommended to maintain consciousness while transitioning into sleep. This method involves waking up after several hours of sleep, staying awake for a short period, and then going back to sleep with the intention to astral project (LaBerge & Rheingold, 1990).

In conclusion, safely exploring the Astral Realm involves preparation and practice, with an emphasis on maintaining mental and emotional clarity. Through techniques like meditation, affirmation, visualization, dream recall, and the WBTB method, individuals can prepare themselves for conscious and controlled astral exploration.


The Astral Realm, as delineated in esoteric literature, presents a rich, multidimensional space for spiritual exploration and self-discovery. Though the nuances may differ across philosophies and spiritual traditions, the unifying notion is its position as a metaphysical bridge between the physical and the spiritual. As more people seek spiritual growth beyond traditional paths, understanding the Astral Realm becomes a crucial facet of the spiritual journey.


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