from Kheper Website
The term "astral plane" is variously used in New Age, occult,
and theosophical thought to designate the reality corresponding to the
next most subtle body or vehicle beyond the etheric body, which one
experiences in astral travel and so on. More broadly, it can be
interpreted as the "subtle" aspect of the Physical (i.e. the subtle
physical) and the physical aspect of Orectic reality. It is divided into a
number of sub-gradations, but the descriptions and details differ
according to the particular teaching.
The Astral plane is
well-known in many esoteric traditions.
References to this reality are:
the Dreaming of the Australian
the Spirit-world of Shamanism
the Duat of the ancient
(Intermediate State) of the Tibetans
the Imaginal world of Islamic Esotericism - e.g. the Barzakh
(Interworld) or of Suhrawardi and the the Mithal
(Imaginal realm) of Ibn Arabi
the Universe of Asiyah of some Kabbalists, or of
Yetzirah according to others
Other descriptions are:
the Nervo degree of the Physical State of Theon
the Astral or 2nd Prakritic plane (corresponding to the Linga
Sharira or Subtle or Astral body)
the Kama (Desire-Plane) of Blavatsky
the Astral Plane of the Adyar school of Theosophy and of
popular occultism, Rudolph Steiner's "Soul World"
the Vital and Subtle Physical described by Sri Aurobindo and
These are just a few of the innumerable descriptions of this plane
The fractal approach to occultism (e.g. Max Theon) suggests that there is not a single
astral reality, but rather the astral plane, and the corresponding
astral body, pertains to a number of realities, mostly in the Subtle
Physical, but also in the Physical Orectic worlds.
might even formulate a gradation from,
the Greater Astral or Kosmic Orectic Universe such as
to Subtle Physical,
and finally to objective physical reality.
These can be related as fractal resonances, with a lesser or
kosmic physical Astral/Orectic distinguished from the greater or
numinocosmic kosmic Astral/Orectic, as being a reflection or
resonance of the latter.
kosmic physical Astral/Orectic in turn creates a resonance in the subtle
physical (or etheric) astral, as well as in other octaves.
contrast to the universes of pure ideas (the ideational universe) above
it, here the ability of consciousness to even formulate ideas is lost, due
to the increasing preponderance of the material pole of existence. This
coarseness also brings about, for the first time, a limitation in the
multiplicity of things, as it screens out more and more the infinite
number of possible subtleties.
There is also, for the first time, the beginning of egotism, the
mistaken belief that one's own little self is the centre of the universe,
and the consequent desire to aggrandize that petty self (there is no
egotism in the higher worlds; mental egotism only comes about through mind
being mixed with the substance of the lower
spiritualist representative of the Psychic Universe
from "The Return
of Authur Conan Doyle"
Like the other planes and ontological universes, the Physical
Astral plane seems to consist of a number of resonances or subplanes, such
as are illustrated in the above diagram. These sub-planes constitute a
"vertical" gradation of zones from dark to light, dense to subtle,
material to spiritual.
have been described and categorized in different esoteric teachings,
including the system of chakras and planes in Sant Mat, the occult
cosmologies of the Kabbalists, Theon, Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner,
Spiritualism, Adyar school of Theosophy, and Sri Aurobindo.
of the Astral Plane
The following is a diagram that, although presented from a
mythological New Age ufological perspective, which interprets the
the Subtle Physical Astral in terms of galactic extraterrestrials
and so on. Although this should not be taken too literally, it presents a
useful representation of the planes and graduations of this
Here, "time-space influence" refers to proximity to the Cosmic
Physical planes and subplanes, "time-space independent" to the higher
regions of Cosmic Astral (i.e. the Astral and higher subplanes).
Terms like interplanetary and intergalactic may be
pseudoscientific interpretations of various degrees of ascent of
consciousness, or they may refer to genuine cosmic
Some subdivsions of the Astral Universes
Various occult teachers give different descriptions and
enumerations (the Theosophists have seven, the Kabbalists ten, and so on).
Following Sri Aurobindo's division of the Vital we posit four
distinct Psychic planes, here termed,
...four distinct "resonances" or states of existence.
However this is only one classification system, and the others can
be considered just as valid.
The first, the Mental-Psychic Plane, Noeric of Psychic, is
the higher octave of the physical intellect, and the lower of the Divine
intellect. It takes the form of the source of imagination, and
creativity. There are also higher resonances, which pertain to the
descent of higher angelic or Divine Light, and constitute a sort of
"Divinised" Astral. This Divinized Astral is the region of many
The second, the Psychic-Emotional, is the octave of higher
emotion, especially love (the highest and purest of the emotions). This
is a higher, more "spiritual" and "heavenly", Psychic Plane, the plane
of pure feelings and emotions, especially the higher emotions such as
Love. We can call this the Emotional Plane.
The third, the Higher or Greater Astral, is the octave of
will, power, and egotism. The sense of an individual self or personality
comes from here. This is the plane of pure desires and ambitions and
power and will, which we can call the Connative or Will or
Higher Astral Plane.
The lowest, Physical Psychic, or Lower Astral, refers to
that aspect of the Psychic nature that have taken on or reproduced forms
from the world of Physical (what are variously referred to by occult
writers as "thought-forms", "elementals", and "artificial elementals",
although there are other beings also called "elementals" that are native
to these and other planes).
19th century occultists such as Eiphas Levi and Madame
Blavatsky refer to this as the "astral light", and it presumably
occurs on a number of planes. This is a lower, more "material" and
"purgatorial" Psychic Plane, which - borrowing a term from
Plato's three-fold psychology (the division into reason, will, and
desire) - we can refer to as the epithymia or Desire or
Lower Psychic plane.
The Emotional Plane corresponds to the Lurianic
Kabbalistic World of Angels (Yetzirah), and the "higher Astral
Plane" of Theosophy and contemporary occultism.
is on this Higher Psychic or Greater Astral or Thymatic
Plane that we find the various paradises and heavens.
Here the "soul" or ba (to give the Egyptian term) ascends after
physical death. This would also seem to be the plane which the
Spiritualists refer to as "Summerland", the paradisiacal after-life state
described in a number of spiritualist teachings.
this is the universal counterpart of what Sri Aurobindo describes
as the emotional vital,
"the seat of various feelings, such as love, joy, sorrow, hatred,
and the rest."
[Letters on Yoga, Vol 1, p.334].
the Emotional-Spiritual Plane is not the same as the Emotional body of the
Emotional body in the Etheric is the Psychic incarnate in the etheric,
while the Emotional-Spiritual Plane represents the original impulse or
source, "metaphysical emotion" so to speak, as distinct from
The Higher Astral
The Upper Astral corresponds in part to the
Lurianic Kabbalistic World of Making (Asiyah), and pretty much to
Blavatsky's Kamic (not "karmic") or Desire Plane. As with the Emotional
Plane, this is a vast psychic region.
Theosophical writers such as
Leadbeater and Steiner, and a number of Spiritualist
sources, refer here to a progression of gradations (usually seven), going
from purgatorial to heavenly. Although the purgatorial regions are
usually associated in these writings most closely with the Earth plane,
this is not strictly correct. What we have here is a "horizontal" series
of regions, from Gross to Subtle and Causal Astral, the Gross Astral being
most caught up with physical consciousness (and hence still tied to
physical things), the Causal (or noetic) Astral being the most
In the psychological-yogic system of Sri
Aurobindo, this faculty especially is referred to as the Vital.
This refers not to etheric or life-force body as such, but the various
emotions, desires, lusts, likes, dislikes, and so on. The Vital can
be identified with the element of Will, of motivation and energy. Without
the help of the vital, nothing can be achieved.
occult practices, such as Magic, extend the consciousness into the Higher
Astral or Psychic universe. This is done through attuning oneself to, and
contacting, various entities or powers of those worlds, through the means
of ritual, visualization, sex, and other potent techniques. Even the most
basic magical ritual, such as the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram,
in many ways the foundation-stone of the entire Golden Dawn tradition, can
have a strikingly powerful effect on the Lower and Higher Astral
Ritual Magic as a whole, with its emphasis on the
acquiring of powers and abilities, pertains very much to the Upper
Astral world of Yetzirah; to exploring and mastering the phenomena of
this plane, just as science and technology explore and master the
phenomena of the physical plane (but with each, how important, and how
often neglected, is the guidance of proper wisdom and true Spiritual
Exploration of the Higher Astral plane is often to be had
through a form of clairvoyance included under the heading of Magical
imagination or scrying, a sort of modified astral travelling. In this, one
doesn't actually "see" colors and beings "objectively", as the true
clairvoyant does, but rather imaginatively, with the "mind's eye". Still,
this can be a powerful technique, especially when combined (as in the
Golden Dawn system) with Ritual Magic.
Sometimes this state can also be achieved through taking drugs in
an appropriate frame of mind, but by far the majority of all drug
experiences are Asiyatic.
The emotional and higher astral
regions would seem to constitute the origin of that phenomenon known as
Channeling. Channeling is the process whereby a higher nonphysical
intelligence or entity, in conjunction with the channeler's own
subconscious, dictates a teaching, usually of a spiritual or
pseudo-spiritual nature. Generally, material of this genre tends to be
turgid, verbose, obscure, and poorly presented.
Despite, or maybe because of, this, such communications have become
enormously popular and influential in the so-called "New Age" movement.
But this is by no means a unique modern Western phenomenon. Close
analogies can be made with the Hebraic prophets and also the Voodoo
ceremonies of possession by a god (loa), to give just two
It is in the Psychic Planes then that one can encounter
the Gods of religions, as reflections of the original Gods and
Godheads of the Divine Ontocosm. Each Astral God creates its
own empire, and human entities of lesser understanding (which includes the
great mass of humanity at present) can easily get stuck there.
is the basis of the Monotheist's claim that there is only one God,
the God of their Religion, and all the other religions have only an
inferior understanding of their God, is false. His consciousness is
stuck in the empire of that one god, and overpowered by its strength and
radiance. He is thus unable to recognize or acknowledge other realities,
In addition there are innumerable other orders of beings
here, most of which have no connection or relation to human or earthly
The Lower Psychic or Epithymic Plane
The Lower Astral Plane, or plane of psychic desire is
the region of lower astral spirits, elementals, formations and
thought-forms, and various other phenomena. These constitute a sort of
psychic zone pervading and surrounding the Earth. If we see a certain
place a particular "atmosphere" for example, we are attuning to the astral
energy of that place.
Spiritualist mediums tend to attune to this plane, and the
so-called "spirits" they contact are actually the psychic "shells" of
deceased people, what Blavatsky called kama-rupa
Lower Astral is the most accessible of the Yetziratic worlds,
because it is closest (i.e. most similar in "density") to the Physical
The most dramatic way to experience this plane is to
actually bodily transfer one's field-of-consciousness from Physical to
Psychic; to leave one's physical body behind and travel "out of body" in
the Psychic Universe itself. In popular terminology this is referred to as
"astral projection" or "astral travelling." Some individuals have a
greater aptitude for it than others. In any case, most of these
experiences pertain to the Lower Astral; only skilled astral travelers
ascend to higher planes.
Another method of experiencing the Lower
Astral is, while remaining in the physical vehicle, to extend one's
sensorium into the Psychic worlds. One form of this is called
"Clairvoyance" ("seeing auras", etc). Most clairvoyants only function on
the Etheric and the Lower Astral planes. This is because the higher up you
go on the scale of being, the more subtle the realities (the "vibrations"
to use the originally Gurdjieffian New Age term) and hence the
greater difficulty in perceiving them.
The Lower Psychic or
Epithymic Plane corresponds in Neoplatonism and Kabbalah to the
so-called "animal soul", the lower or instinctual self; the "lower self".
Says Sri Aurobindo:
"The lower vital as distinguished from the higher is concerned
only with the small greeds, small desires, small passions, etc, which
make up the daily stuff of life for the ordinary sensational man; while
the vital-physical proper is the nervous being giving vital reflexes to
contacts of things with the physical consciousness."
[Letters on Yoga, vol. 1,
Lower Psychic or Lesser Astral is much less diverse than the
higher (for now the further down we go, the less multiplicity). Yet this
is still an exceedingly diverse reality, relative to the Physical. It
includes the "spirit world" of shamanism, and the "astral plane" of
popular occultism; and is directly experienced by individuals who "go out
of their body" and travel around the spirit-world.
plane corresponds to the Manipura or navel and solar plexus chakras
(there are two distinct chakras here - call them "Manipura A" and
"Manipura B" - although the Indian Tantric tradition only recognizes one).
All phenomena imagined by the mind of man have their existence here, as
thought-forms [Besant and Leadbeater, Thought forms].
Lower Astral or Epithymatic Plane is also the region of
lower desires and "earth-bound" spirits; human entities who have died but
are still unable to break free of their former material attachments.
Theosophy and Occultism this is usually called the "Lower Astral
Blavatsky describes the Astral Light as a region
of illusion [quoted in Farthing, p.92].
"Our Astral Light is ...the Linga Sharira [subtle body] of
our earth; only instead of being its primordial prototype...it is the
reverse. Human and animal bodies grow and develop on the model of their
antetypal Doubles, whereas the Astral Light is born from the
terrene emanations, grows and develops after its prototypal parent, and
in its treacherous waves everything from the upper planes and from the
lower solid plane, the earth,... is reflected reversed.
Hence the confusion of its colors and its sounds in the
clairvoyance and clairaudience of the sensitive who trusts to its
records, be (he)... a Hatha yogi or a medium..."
[S.D. vol. III, p.500; quoted in Geoffrey Farthing,
Exploring the Great Beyond, p.90]
"The Astral Light is that which mirrors the three higher planes
of consciousness, and is above the lower, or terrestrial plane;
therefore it does not extend beyond the fourth plane [Kama-Manas] where,
one may say, the Akasha begins...."
[quoted Ibid, p.91]
study of this one plane would require a whole book in itself, so perhaps
we better leave it off now, with the above quotations as a basic
description. But certainly it is in references such as these that we see
the origin of widespread modern occult-theosophical idea of the "Astral
Plane" as "the plane of illusion".
is interesting though to find a brief reference to what seems to be the
same phenomena in the Tibetan Bardo Thodol ("Tibetan
Book of the Dead") where the following instruction is given to the
soul or consciousness of the deceased newly departed from its
son of noble family, after being unconscious for four and a half days
you will move on, and awakening from your faint you will wonder what has
happened to you, so recognize it as the bardo [intermediate]
state. At this time samsara is reversed, and everything you see
appears as lights and images."
Tibetan Book of the Dead - the Great Liberation through hearing in the
Bardo, transl. by Francesca Fremantle and Chogyam Trungpa, p.41 (1975,
illusory, self-created nature of these visions is stressed elsewhere in
text by the words:
"...the essential point to recognize with certainty is that
whatever appears, however terrifying, is your own
emphasis on the subjectively-generated nature of the phenomena of the
astral (or "bardo") world is constantly reiterated by other clairvoyants,
like the Theosophist Leadbeater.
The Gross Astral/Orectic Reality
By Gross Astral Reality is meant here that aspect of the
Astral/Orectic that is closest to Gross Physical (the Material or
Mundane Physical) reality.
Sri Aurobindo (in Letters on Yoga) uses the term
"physical vital" in an integral psychological context, while The Mother
speaks of the "Material Vital"; this seems to be a rather more dense and
inconscient level, an interface between the Lower Astral and the
Physical, and responsible for things like illness, delirium, etc
(Mother's Agenda vol.4, 6th July 1963).
Blavatsky also refers to the lower astral subplanes in this
context (ref), although she also refers to "Opening of the Material Vital
to the Light" and "Joyous enthusiasm in the most material