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Astral body(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
The astral body is an invisible double of the physical body and functions on the astral plane. It is also known as the etheric double, and sometimes even as the spirit. It is this double that leaves the physical body during sleep, in trance, or under anesthetic. It also leaves the physical body permanently at death. According to Nandor Fodor, the astral body is “an exact replica of the physical body but composed of finer matter.” He said that the etheric body is distinct from the astral body in theosophy, but in Spiritualist literature they are often interchanged. There is an infinitely elastic “silver cord” that always connects the astral body to the physical, no matter how far away the astral body should travel. But at death that cord separates. In the Bible, Ecclesiastes 12:6 refers to the silver cord and to its breaking at death. Also, in I Corinthians 15:44 there is the statement “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body,” and in II Corinthians 12:3 it says “whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell.” The astral body is what is seen as an apparition, when the deceased needs to appear to the living.
The concept of the astral double is a very old one. There are descriptions, in ancient Indian writings, of the eight siddhis, or supernatural powers. These can be acquired through the yoga practice known as Pranayama. The sixth siddhi is astral projection or, as described, “flying in the sky.” To the Hebrews, this astral body was the ruach. To the ancient Egyptians it was the ka. To the Greeks it was the eidolon. It is the etheric double, or astral body, which finally leaves the physical body and breaks the silver cord at death.
Some sensitives can actually see the astral body as a thin, dark line around the physical body. Interestingly, if the person being studied has a missing limb, the sensitive sees the outline of that limb as though it were still in place. The English painter William Blake’s painting, The Soul Hovering Above the Body, shows the astral body leaving the physical body at death. It is thought to be based on Blake’s own experiences of astral projection.
Some believe that dreams are memories of journeys that the astral body has had while the physical body was asleep (see Astral Projection).
Dreams can take the spirit anywhere in the world, and on those journeys the silver cord stretches as far as necessary but remains attached. There are stories of “evil spirits” trying to break the cord to kill the sleeping person, but such stories are pure fantasy. Anything affecting the astral body and the cord would cause the immediate awakening of the physical body.
The leader of Britain’s Royal Air Force through World War II, Air Chief Marshall Lord Dowding, was a Spiritualist. In his book God’s Magic (London, 1955), he said, “Everything in nature has, I believe, what is called an etheric double. Man and animals and plants certainly have. This body is actually material, though invisible and impalpable. In a normal ‘natural death,’ the etheric double and higher bodies are slowly withdrawn from the physical, a process which can be seen by some clairvoyants.”