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The experience of "astral projection" according to the Orthodox Faith
by Alexander Filippou
Sometimes, by means of special techniques - but usually unexpectedly and uninvited - it can happen to anyone. And like an uninvited visitor, it arouses concern and usually fear.... So, what is it all about? And what does the experience of the Saints of the Church say (in brief) about such phenomena?
You are lying down in your bed. You are not yet asleep, but sleep is gradually approaching. You have a completely clear awareness of your environment and your mind is anything but numb. Yes, you are positive that you are NOT ASLEEP. And then, suddenly, you feel in your heart a strange and basically indescribable sensation, which becomes stronger and stronger...
This sensation is followed by a certain buzz. You know that it does not come from the space around you. You are very much aware that what you hear, is something that comes from INSIDE YOU. And as the seconds tick by, the buzz increases....
It increases so much, that it begins to resemble a vibration. Yes, it becomes a vibration and you feel your body is in tune with that buzz and is throbbing to its rhythm. If it is the first time that this has happened to you, you don't know what is going on. You begin to feel scared. You can feel fear mingled with curiosity. But as the vibrations become even stronger and your body vibrates even more intensely, fear prevails over curiosity...
If your companion is sleeping alongside you, you become concerned that your body is vibrating so intensely to the rhythm of that buzz, that you will wake that person. You feel as though your bed is rattling more and more loudly. The quiver that began inside your heart - or from your feet - has now spread throughout your body. And you are fully aware that what is happening to you is not a dream...
Then you suddenly hear someone speaking to you in discernible phrases, which, however, consist of voices accompanied by gestures, not by words. Or, even more mysteriously, you "see" entities without the use of your corporeal eyes....
Should you allow this to manifest itself, you begin to levitate above your bed and move inside the room "independently" of your body. That is when you will have experienced what we call "astral projection"!
Of course it does not always occur in the same manner. There is a possibility it may occur instantaneously, without going through the "vibration phase". In other words, a person merely standing somewhere may incorporeally "slip away" towards another point in the room. And something like this - to a "novice" - is far more scary!
The Christian interpretation of the phenomenon
First of all, we need to point out that the terms "out-of-body experiences" and "astral projections" - albeit used here because they are more widely known - are in actual fact entirely erroneous and unproven terms for experiences such as these. The reason is, that neither is the exit from our body a real exit (as it is merely our perception that extends outside the body), nor is there such a thing as an "astral body", which would justify the term "astral projection". We are using these terms here condescendingly, because they have prevailed in our time, under the influence of other religions. We are doing this, only in order to help our readers to better understand what we are talking about.
According to the Christian Faith, the human soul has two forces. Saint John of Damascus says that the soul is rational and spiritual. God gave a "rational and spiritual soul, through the familiar animating breath". It is a basic teaching of the holy Fathers, that the "nous" (mind) and rationale (reasoning) are two parallel energies of the soul.
When mentioning that the soul is the "image of" the Holy Trinity and writing that the Holy Trinity is Nous, Logos and Spirit, Saint Gregory Palamas says that the soul, having been created by God in His image, is "noetic, rational and spiritual".
Activating that which we call "astral projection" in our day is - according to the Christian faith - a "natural" experience, and it relates to the activation of man's spiritual powers (which however is usually in remission in fallen man). But it DOES EXIST, and, under suitable conditions (which are either created by our own will or by God's concession), man can acquire the experience of this "unknown" human psychic power.
These powers were known to Adam. Inasmuch as Adam was in a state of enlightenment, both his rationale and the spiritual powers of his soul were fully functional. Thus, he could communicate, not only with material creation, but with the spiritual one also. As formulated in the Holy Bible, he was essentially "a fellow-citizen, together with the Saints" (Ephesians 2:19). However, after his fall and for his own safety, God deprived him of the use of that spiritual energy. Similarly we (who are of this fallen mankind and are not in a state of enlightenment) remain attached to the "rational" energy of the soul, and are ignorant of its spiritual energy.
The holy fathers have provided us with a portrait of this "neglect" of the spiritual energy, with their spiritual interpretation of the well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son. Apart from the broadly familiar meaning behind this Parable, the spiritual Fathers of our Church had also discerned in this parable a parallel and entirely different aspect, which has been very eloquently described by the Rev.Metropolitan Hierothos Vlachos in his book "Orthodox Psychotherapy". In it, he informs us that the Fathers liken these two powers of the soul to the two sons of the parable: the son who remained with his father, and the son who went away. During Man's fall into sin, the spiritual power "departs" and only the "rational" one remains. When repentance enters the scene and the spiritual power returns to the one who then becomes enlightened, the "other brother" - the "rational" energy - does not accept it easily, because Man remains fettered to the "rational power" only, and he does not recognize that "mental power", on account of his inexperience with spiritual things.
In many religions (the oriental ones mainly), mental power is a very familiar topic, and in fact there is a broad spectrum of methods by which the trainees activate it and develop it. But in the Christian Church, we DO NOT have such experimentations or exercises, even though these powers are also familiar to us - and in fact even considered to be "natural" ones. And the reason that we are NOT preoccupied with such things is the following:
God has blocked us from this mental power, FOR OUR PROTECTION. Fallen Man is not capable of handling spiritual matters without being seriously imperiled, and hence able to remain intact inside the spiritual world. This is because the mental power opens up to Man an entire hidden cosmos; it opens up the spiritual dimension! And when Man finds himself in that dimension, he is at risk at any given moment by the most cunning of its denizens: the demons! He is at risk, either of being harmed or deluded in a thousand ways. (It is not by chance, that in the oriental religions that practice these methods, they still worship demons....)
Agyo - temple "guardian" King Enma - Judge of the Dead (Japan - Buddhism)
It is only rarely that God concedes to allow certain people to fleetingly perceive this "dimension", so that they may have a point of reference and comprehend certain things when they encounter them later on.
However, being the God of freedom, He ALLOWS anyone who utilizes this power ILLICITLY to activate it and to develop it. But it will be ENTIRELY UNDER THAT INDIVIDUAL'S OWN RESPONSIBILITY.
When a person opens this "door" to the spiritual cosmos, two things occur simultaneously: The first is that he is able to "enter" that spiritual world by means of his own mental power; however, the second thing is that creatures of that cosmos are able to enter our cosmos - and even worse, enter into that person!
But from the moment that a person enters the phase of Enlightenment, God Himself (the Holy Spirit, Who becomes activated in one's heart) unlocks the spiritual power of his soul and allows him to use it freely. This is because a son who has reached maturity can now handle the inheritance that is given by the Father, wisely and without any risks. This is also the reason that the Saints of our Church are able SEE the spiritual cosmos: it is because their spiritual power functions in parallel with the rational one, exactly the way it used to, in Adam's case.
This is also the reason that the Apostle Paul - as an apostle who had attained the state of Theosis (deification) - spoke with such familiarity and ease about similar experiences of his own, which of course ALWAYS occurred with the synergy-collaboration of the Holy Spirit (a fact that he was able to discern, by possessing the appropriate charisma of the Holy Spirit). Let us take a look at two such examples of the Apostle Paul's experiences, from the Holy Bible:
albeit absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged, as if I were present, the one who has committed this; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, while you are (presently) gathered together, and with my spirit also, as well as by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ: may this one be delivered to Satan for the ruin of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus..." (1 Cor.5: 2-5)
Notice in the first example, how the Apostle Paul was able to "congregate" together with the Corinthians, and how he was able to act, with his spirit, without his body! Notice also in the second example the characteristic manner in which he describes his ignorance as to whether he had lived that experience with his body or without it. What is obvious however, is that Paul believed he was able to have such an experience, in which his spirit could participate without his body.
Above all, however, one must notice that these incidents were recorded by an apostle - one who had seen and spoken with Christ Himself - and that they were experienced (as he records it) "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ", and "by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ" and that they were a "revelation of the Lord". This fact in itself does not justify anyone who seeks to experiment with spiritual matters in absentia of the Lord, unless he has progressed in the Christian course of Enlightenment and Theosis, like the Apostle Paul.
Not every spiritual experience is, however, from God. In reality, most of them originate from - or are abetted by - deceitful spirits.
Notes on protection
Therefore a Christian should not hasten to acquire such experiences. This is not a matter of "pursuing experiences"; these are matters of life and death. If it is God's will and it is in the interest of the person, then God will make an exception and allow that person to find himself in a situation such as that, in order to perceive his mental power. But afterwards, that person must be patient; he must continue to struggle in his Christian labours, with his personal sanctification as the objective, and, if and when God thinks it is the right time, He will "withdraw" the obstacles that block that person's spiritual path. But under no circumstance whatsoever should that person attempt to preoccupy himself with these matters on his own - in the manner of oriental religions or with the help of related books or teachers - because he will be placing himself in great danger, while the object of his desire will distance itself even further, and because in that way, he will have proved his inexperience and his immaturity and God will never consider him worthy of handling such a dangerous power of the soul with safety. Furthermore, his every "success" with voluntary experimentation will not have come from God, but from the wicked one.
It is far more dangerous for baptized Christians especially to preoccupy themselves with all this, because, not only will God not grant them the extenuating circumstance of an ignorance of faith (in order to protect them sufficiently: worse still, their Baptism will also have been destroyed and there can be no "filtering" of the dangerous gateways to the spiritual world any more.
If one has extensively involved himself in "exo-somatic (out-of-body) experiences" - as these phenomena are also referred to - then his "gateway" to the spiritual world "loosens", and it becomes more and more easier (and therefore more and more dangerous) for him to enter the demons' dimension. But with Holy Baptism, God SEALS that entrance to all those whom He knows are in danger. However, if a person is already baptized and insists on opening that gateway, then the problem that he will create with this pastime of his will be PERMANENT. There will always be a leftover opening, through which he will be plagued to a certain degree by the entities of that spiritual dimension - even if he himself no longer desires those experiences. This will be a lesson to him, for the irresponsibility that he had shown, albeit a baptized Christian, to have preoccupied himself with such dangerous situations instead of the methods of illumination and theosis (deification) that were verified and delivered by the holy Fathers.
Chinese "monster-spirits": "Tengu" ("heavenly dog") and Shape-shifting "Yokai"
So, if you should ever feel that "shuddering", it is advisable to employ the following useful, practical suggestions:
Avoid laying on your back, and be especially careful to not place your head at a lower level, because a stretched neck facilitates the "exo-somatosis" (exit from the body). You should immediately change your position in bed, and preferably lay on your side. Make sure that you do whatever you can to hinder the shuddering from worsening. The sooner you achieve this, the better. And more importantly, if you feel that nothing can hinder it, then seek refuge in PRAYER. It is the most powerful weapon, which is able to interrupt this phenomenon and put an end to the "exo-somatic" process. Prayer is even more valuable, especially in the case where you find that you CAN NOT control your body's movements.
If these situations present themselves frequently, first check the medication/s that you may be taking. Medication such as Tribulus Terrestris may well be the underlying cause of such situations. This medication, as well as other, similar medications, can generate the secretion of a hormone that increases tolerance in people who are severely stressed physically. Therefore be extra careful with the medications that you take, if you should discover that they can cause such reactions.
One other very important thing that you must do, if you can sense that a demonic presence is surrounding you and trying to coerce you into an exo-somatic state, is to check the objects that you have in your room - or in all of your house. Is there a Buddhist or other magical symbol or idolatrous statuettes? GET RID OF THEM, and you will see how things will improve.
But above all, no matter what may occur, always remember that the most powerful weapon for confronting any kind of offensive EXISTS, and that is PRAYER. When you confront the problem with solemnity and discrimination, the Almighty is always willing to help you!
And be careful! Do not be deceived by ANYONE - whether person or spirit - who will "inform" you that what you experienced is attributed (supposedly) to your "sanctity"! Just say: "I am a sinful person, I am merely dust and water", then analyze the matter to your discerning spiritual father and he will counsel you appropriately.
On spiritual experiences
The Orthodox Church has from a very early stage recorded experiences of all the phenomena that were outlined here, but also of many other ones. However, the psychotherapeutic method of the Orthodox Church does not preoccupy itself with quack and dangerous experiments with the spiritual cosmos, the way that the various New Age groups and schools so irresponsibly do, as do also the religions mostly of the Orient. The Orthodox Church guides Man towards Enlightenment and Theosis (deification), from within the experience of the power of the Name of Jesus Christ.
In closing this article, we will quote a segment from the exceptional book "The adventures of a pilgrim", where one will find many interesting details regarding spiritual experiences under the light of the Orthodox Faith. Here is the excerpt:
Those interested can find much more information on these matters, in the book by the Elder Sophrony of Essex, England, "We shall see Him as He is" and "Saint Siluan the Athonite". You can also find elements on the matter of visions, in the book by Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov, "On Miracles and Signs".
Yamantaka - Tibetan god of the dead Chinese "protector" deity of Gyantse Kumbum
Thai deity Japanese Oni demon Elephant goddess Ganesha (India)
Translation by K. N.
Article published in English on: 27-8-2010.
Last update: 27-8-2010.