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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?


A general description

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:

".....and you all are puffed up, and have not instead mourned, so that the one who committed this deed might be removed from your midst!  For I, 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)


".....for I shall come, in visions and revelations of the Lord.   I know of a man, in Christ, more than fourteen years ago (whether in the body I do not know, or whether outside the body, I do not know, only God knows) who was seized up, into the third heaven.  And I knew that this man (whether in the body or outside the body I do not know, only God knows) was seized up, into paradise, and that he heard ineffable words, which do not befit a man to utter..."   (2 Cor.12: 1-4)

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.


                                                       Ravana (Hindu)                               Avalokiteshvara (Buddhism)


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.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/KyosaiTenguBonze.jpg     http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Kyosai%2C_Yokai_image.jpg

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:

"... Having read the necessary material from the Philokalia, he persistently asked me to show him the way that the nous encounters the heart, and how it instills in it the Divine Name of Jesus Christ, which brings on the inexpressible joy of success of the esoteric PRAYER.  So I explained this as follows to him:

'Now you, being blind, cannot see anything. But of course with your memory and your imagination, you can form in your mind an image, a depiction, of a person, an animal, a tree, a house, the way you had seen them in the past - when you had your vision.  So, can't you likewise form a complete image of your own hands, your feet, the way you did when you had your health and your sight?'

'I most certainly can', he replied.

'Well then, just imagine an image of your heart in the same manner; turn your (albeit sightless) eyes towards it, and try to preserve that image as much and as clearly as you can.  Your ears will be able to perceive its every single beat, as best as they can. When you have achieved this, you can recommence your attempt to introduce the words of the Prayer with each beat. Thus, with the first beat, say with your mind "Lord"; with the second beat "Jesus"; with the third beat "Christ"; with the fourth beat "have mercy"; with the fifth beat "on me"...

You should not cease to repeat this continuously, and you will thus become familiarized with it very easily, because you will have succeeded in placing the foundations and built the first storey of the palace of the in-heart prayer.

The second stage is - as I have already told you - to adapt it to your breathing, in the manner that the holy Fathers have taught us.

According to this second, supreme phase, you should inhale, and say in your mind "Lord Jesus Christ" and when you exhale, you should complete the prayer by saying "have mercy on me".  Implement this as often as you can, and after some time you will feel a pleasant pain in your heart and will feel yourself overcome by a warmth. Then, by the grace of God, you will enter into the joyousness of the "self-activating prayer of the heart"!  However, that is when you should also take care and secure yourself from the danger of the various visions that will appear.  Do not get carried away, and do not acknowledge any of them, because the holy Fathers insist unimaginably on the fact that the esoteric Prayer must be kept away and free from visions, because they are extremely precarious and can plunge the heart into terrible temptations and dangers.'

The blind man seemed to have literally sucked in all the things that I said to him, and he began to apply them the way he heard, immediately, but even more during the night, when our journey would be interrupted for many hours.  Five days later, he began to feel a sweet warmth inside his heart, and an inexpressible bliss; furthermore, the rest of his tormented life took on a content and an untold consolation with that unflagging prayer, which made him literally burn out of his love for the most sweet Jesus.  From time to time, he would see light - although he was not able to determine it accurately. Sometimes, when the blind man achieved entry into his heart, then it seemed to him that he could see something like a flame that was torching it, and when exiting it, he was flooded with light. With the light of that flame, he was able to see distant things, and invisible events.

Another time, the following thing happened to him:  We were walking through a forest, both of us were silent, totally surrendered to praying, when he suddenly said: 'What a shame! The Church is burning over there.  Its belfry collapsed - a horrible ruin!'

'You must stop that deceptive vision' I said to him. 'It is a temptation. You must immediately drive away such fantasies. How can you see things that are happening in the town, when we are thirteen whole kilometers away from it?'

He obeyed me, and returned to the prayer. In the evening, we reached the town and actually saw several charred buildings and a collapsed wooden belfry. Crowds had gathered, and they were all wondering at the sight of the belfry, which had collapsed without causing the slightest damage around it.  I inquired about the time the fire occurred, and learnt that it was exactly the time that the blind man had "seen" it - when we were still in the forest.  So the two of us began to talk about this:

'You were convinced that the vision was deceptive' he said to me, 'but what I saw, actually happened. How can I not glorify with tears the name of the Lord Jesus, Who pours forth His Grace upon people such as myself, who are morons, blind and sinful?  I thank you warmly also, for teaching me the active prayer of the heart.'

'You should adore the Lord Jesus' I told him, 'and give thanks to Him, with all of your might. But try not to regard your vision as a direct energy of the Grace of God, because it is possible for events such as the one you saw to manifest themselves in accordance to natural laws also. A person's soul is not bound by matter or space. Quite often, it can even see inside the dark and discern events that are taking place far, far away, but we should not cloak them all with faith, presuming them to be the results of Christian virtue and Divine Grace. The powers that we have inside us are enfeebled and vanish, under the fatty weight of our material bodies and our material thoughts and cares. But when we concentrate ourselves and move away from everything that encompasses us and we become more perfected - as though we are immaterialized - then the soul returns to its spiritual self and it functions with all of our powers unfettered. Thus, what happened to you previously was not something supernatural.  I once heard from my late spiritual guide something that he had said, that quite often, people who - without having entered the realm of the heart's prayer - are in possession of such a skill, or, they happen to acquire it during the course of an illness where the powers of the body recede, thus allowing a freedom of movement to the various potentials of the soul. Then, in the dark, they can discern the spirits of people who are far away; they communicate with souls that are in the nether world, or they can read the thoughts of their fellow-men. But that which originates directly from God's Grace - in the case of the esoteric prayer - is the repletion of the heart with a sweetness and bliss, which "do not befit a man to utter", because there is nothing analogous on earth to compare them with; on the contrary, all earthly joys fall short, no matter how much they may be compared with that spiritual sweetness and bliss."

"Taken from the Greek version of "The Way of a Pilgrim" ("Oi Peripeteies enos proskiniti", Papadimitriou Publications, 17th Edition, pages 119-122)"

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.