Many books that give a general introduction to magick have a section on astral projection. They focus on its difficulty, how important it is, how it is a major part of magickal work, and so on. But after reading these books, I'm left with a feeling like the late Clara Peller (who played a senior citizen in a now-iconic commercial from the mid-1980s) when she found nothing of substance in her sandwich, shouting, "Where's the beef?" Similarly, some books, after discussing the value of astral projection (without saying why it's valuable), give instructions on such things as journeying to a friend's home to determine which page of a book they are reading or visiting a girlfriend or boyfriend "on the astral." While these may be interesting and fun, where's the beef? Why do the books say astral projection is so important and valuable if all they talk about is whizzing around the world to have a tête á tête with a paramour?
Understanding why astral projection is important requires a knowledge of the way magick works, and to understand that requires a brief look at the nature of you and the universe. You have probably heard that you have an astral body, a match to your physical body that is so ethereal it is normally not seen. Most people think that we have an astral body because we have a physical body. Actually, it is the other way around. You had an astral body—you were spiritually formed—before having a physical body. The formation of the astral body necessitated the manifestation of a body to "house" it on the physical plane. (Actually, this is a bit of a simplification that sounds somewhat dualist, as in the expression, "You are a spirit in a body." In actuality, the physical and astral totally interpenetrate and are unitary.)
The idea of an astral body extends beyond the concept that living beings have an astral double. Everything in the physical universe has an astral body. And as with your body, the astral duplicate of everything on the physical plane pre-existed its physical manifestation.
The astral plane is not some far-away place. Rather, it is simply more ethereal than the physical plane. It interweaves with the physical plane. It is right here, if you can see it. To do so requires either a native talent or the development of astral vision. We have other astral senses, too. People who can see on the astral plane will be able to see such things as people's auras. Cats seem to see easily onto the astral plane. Perhaps you've seen a cat follow some invisible thing flying through the air and even bat at it with a paw. They're playing with something on the astral plane.
The key to the importance of the astral plane is this: it is a cosmic law, as sure as gravity, that anything created on the astral plane must eventually manifest on the physical plane. In short, the ability to create on the astral plane is a key to magick.
One pathway to the astral plane is through our minds. When you perform a simple spell, perhaps something using herbs and a brief rhyme, you are setting into motion events on the astral plane—even if you are not aware of it—that lead to a resulting manifesting on the physical plane. Similarly, when you do an involved ritual you are again creating events on the astral plane that result in manifestation on the physical plane.
In either situation, your physical actions—whether reciting a spell or performing complex rituals—create activity on the astral plane. However, the transfer from plane to plane to plane (physical plane actions create on the astral plane resulting in creation on the physical) is like translating from language to language. And as we all know, sometimes translations aren't as accurate as we would like.
If we could bypass one of those translations, it follows that our magick would be more accurate and more powerful. And that, dear reader, is the real reason that learning to astral project and function on the astral plane has been considered so important in magickal training.
Projection Per Se
The art of working directly in the astral plane has two aspects that are similar to going to a theme park. First, you have to get there. Then, once you're there, you have to know where to go, how to get around, and what to do to have the best time. In relation to doing astral magick, the first part is astral projection, per se, and the second part is the astral work itself.
One of the challenges with magick of all sorts is the number of variables that can affect the results. Weather, the phase of the moon, and even your emotions can affect the outcome of a magickal rite. That's why the books listed below describe different ways of being able to project onto the astral plane. A technique that works for one person might not work for you.
Initial failure at attempting to astral project can be discouraging. I can't predict which technique will or will not work for you, but I am positive that if you want to be able to astral project at will, your attitude is of vital importance. When you are trying to project, you must want to leave your body more than anything else in the world. It must be your only focus and you must be single-minded about it. You must want it with every bit of passion in your heart, soul, and being. With that attitude, combined with a method that appeals to you, you will succeed.
I have discovered that the main fear that prevents people from projecting is "what if I get lost or can't get back?" Frankly, that's like thinking, "If I learn to drive and get a high-powered Dodge Viper and drive it on a mountain road during a rain and it crashes through a rail and gets damaged, will I be able to pay for the repairs?" Learn to drive first. By the time you learn to control a speedy car you'll be able to drive safely. But there's an advantage with astral projection over a fast car. The natural home for the astral body is with the physical body. Getting them to temporarily separate takes determination and knowledge—getting them back together is the easy part. Unlike a car, the astral body—like a powerful magnet—is literally pulled back to the physical body.
Once you get out of your body, you will find yourself in another world that interpenetrates ours. The difference is that your interplay in the astral plane is controlled by your mind. Will it and it will happen. Many people create an idealized "astral temple," a model of the perfect magical area to perform a ritual. Perform a ritual for a healing or for assistance on the astral plane and you may get results faster than if you performed it physically.
Do you see the great advantage? You can do magick without any physical tools at all! Simply project to the astral plane and create the desired effect by willing it. That is yet another reason why astral projection is so valued in magickal traditions. There's obviously much more to it than I can describe here, but if you're involved with magick on any level and in any system, you should investigate astral projection.
Astral Projection for Beginners by Edain McCoy is a great place to start. It gives wonderful information on how to get out of your body and how to use this ability. Fully explained are healing of others and a method of astral creative visualization to do magick.
Astral Travel for Beginners by Richard Webster is another great introductory book. It includes twelve different techniques you can experiment with until you find one or more that will allow you to project. And it's written in that inimitable Webster style.
Sometimes, learning astral projection is easier with someone to assist you. The closest thing to a personal teacher is The Astral Projection Kit by Denning and Phillips. It includes a book with step-by-step instructions for astral projection and information on what you can do on the astral plane. It also includes a special, large card to focus upon while listening to the included ninety-minute cassette tape. An additional instruction booklet explains how to use the card and tape. This may be the best system for learning astral projection that is available.