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The Astral State


 Alan Schneider


            The Astral State is accessed by turning attention away from the ongoing flow of the senses and ego activity related to the foreground region of the mind -  normal waking consciousness. As soon as, and for as long as, we defocus from the foreground, we begin to experience some essence of the background region - preconscious perception. The Astral state includes several distinct types of experiences, including dreams, fantasies, meditative perceptions, mental visions, various altered states of symbolic perception, emergent archetypes, and many psychic modes of activity including remote viewing, astral projection, and various types of extrasensory perception. The Astral State is the “supermarket” of consciousness from which the ego selects those “products” that it considers appropriate to build our perception of what is “real” and relevant in life. The preferred products will, of course, always be those linked to an immediate and tangible positive outcome for the organism in the material sense. Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but there is also nothing necessarily right with it either. The problem with the ego is that it is only as reliable as the acculturation which produces it, and materialistic acculturation produces an ego state that tends to overlook and denigrate much useful Astral content as being “unreal” or “irrelevant” in character. It may be true that Astral information is generally intangible, but intangible does not equal “irrelevant” or “useless” by any means. The key to working with the often fantastic Astral images lies in understanding their meaning as symbolic content that subsequently influences literal perception. 

            The Astral state is generally referred to in the Mystery Theories as the Astral Plane of conscious expression, and is conceived of as immediately presupposing the obvious Physical Plane experienced in the physical senses. It is held in the Mysteries that the images of the Astral Plane “condense out” into the experience of the Physical Plane, and so they do, with the further observation that the acculturated ego is the selective agency of that condensation, determining what is “real” through the use of cultural reinforcement schema. Some of those schema are valid as survival mechanisms – others are most questionable from any point of view. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church fomented the belief that cats were Satanic creatures linked to the Devil and witchcraft. The result was a prolonged period of cat eradication throughout Europe. Without the cats to predate them, the rats then proliferated, causing a succession of plagues on the continent. Certainly, predators have a ferocious aspect, but eliminating them from the ecosystem invariably causes ruin. The cat is an Astral symbol often present, as are cat’s eyes, but these manifestations must be viewed with a calm and deliberating gaze – not in a panic of fear and irrational prejudice. The first rule of Astral exploration is: no matter what appears to be manifesting, keep your courage and stand your ground!  

            There are predominantly two modes of symbolic expression in the Astral state – the personal and the collective. A given Astral symbol will invariably have unique significance for the individual, based upon that person’s background experiences. The same symbol will have a collective, and more or less universal, significance that is reflective of its archetypal origin. At some point, the personal unconscious truly becomes the collective unconscious, as we dive deeper into the Psyche. The basic rule of thumb here is that the personal significance must be understood and accepted before the collective level can be accessed and successfully worked with. If I have been traumatized by being attacked by a dog, this must first be dealt with before the Archetype of Cerberus, the three-headed Hound of Hades, can be understood and confronted in the Astral state. And, because we have all been traumatized to some extent or other, the Astral experience should be approached with respect for the archetypal potencies therein, and any investigations conducted carried forth with caution and patience. 

            Probably the most functional conscious approach to accessing either the personal or collective Astral Plane is voluntary meditation. This is an essentially simple process in which the individual finds a relatively quite, calm physical space, closes the eyes, and begins to focus attention on the breath, progressively allowing breathing to become slower and deeper in the process. This slow, deep breathing will induce an initial trance state characterized by ego reduction and enhanced symbolic perception. With ongoing practice, the Astral Plane can be accessed continually in normal waking awareness, and the symbolic content displayed there used as spiritual guidelines in all other psychic practices. The beginning meditator may well encounter a variety of mental obstacles, including impatience, distractions, negative personal recall of traumatic events, and confusion. Eventually psychic Gatekeepers of various kinds are encountered at the collective level of Astral Manifestation, and these entities must also be negotiated with for further passage into the higher Planes of Manifestation. There are a number of particularly menacing entities present in the Lower Astral Plane that may be encountered – essentially demonic influences – and the practitioner must be courageous and persistent if success is to be had in bypassing this level if it is heavily present in personal consciousness. Simply keep at it, taking breaks of whatever length are required in the meditative practice to psychologically heal, and then resume meditation. If necessary, a course of therapy may be undertaken to assist mental healing as well. 

            Astral symbolism and symbolic interaction must be understood if any other progress is to be made in the Mystery Studies. For this reason, the student is encouraged to confront the challenges that may appear in the course of Astral investigation of any kind, using the technique (or techniques) of choice. Once the Astral Gateway is opened on the personal and collective levels, the way is clear to access the total Psyche and unlimited Consciousness beyond!


CR2007/Alan Schneider