From the December/January 1975 edition of High Times comes Art Gatti’s fascinating guide to astral projection, and protection.

Astral bummers are heavy. Unwilled, abrupt discorporation makes first-timers think they’ve died and not gone to heaven. Triggered by dope, involuntary astral travel can be an excursion into ominous worlds that threaten the snuffing of the voyager. Astral adventurism. motivated by egotistical thoughts of private gain, career advancement, even the innocent wish to penetrate the girls’ gym, can backfire and produce paranoid reverberations that may last a lifetime, and beyond. Once the body and soul part in the trance state, the body lost in the bournless ether while the soul lies naked to its enemies, the chances of reunion, perfectly congruent as before, grow smaller in direct proportion to the lack of karmic training and astral agility of the individual.

First-time out-of-body-experience (OOBE) is often an involuntary partition caused by severe, seemingly insoluble personal problems, social dislocation, culture shock, mild forms of chemical imbalance, severe shock, drug or alcohol overdoses and other forms of chemical poisoning, the shock of childbirth and similar traumas. Thus, the unprepared astralnaut is likely to fear liberation from the mundane plane as a form of death and, subsequently, as a kind of insanity. At best the disillusioned parcel of spirit in flesh will decide it’s bigger than both of him/her/it and never mess with that again.

At worst, astral projection may become another tool in the arsenal of political repression. A recent article by William Burroughs cited this from P E. I. Bonewits’ Real Magic: “There are still more reasons why as many people as possible should have access to the sort of information this book contains. Part of them have to do with a top-secret government organization known among other names as the United States Parapsychological Corps. In the United States, for example, recruits are made of various psychic occultists and others with talents or knowledge wanted. The volunteers are trained by methods of hypnosis, sleep teaching and brainwashing to increase their powers and use them for the United States. The major training centers are in the American University, Washington. D.C.; the CIA headquarters in South Carolina; some coal mines in West Virginia and ultra secret training in the Nevada desert. The Russians also have an equivalent organization trained by similar procedures. The British have been the most practical: their major center is near Monte Carlo. And the Chinese didn’t invade Tibet and carry back sources of apprentices for nothing.”

Although Bonewits may be getting a bit lurid there, the potential new horizons for mind control opened up by psychic research in the intelligence community are considerable and disturbing: the unseen narcs in the smokeasy: the Kirilian counterspies in the cadre: the government ghost in the black box… all as invisible as flies on the shithouse ceiling while they hear every word you say, see everything you do. The prospect is scarifying.

The great problem at the moment is the underestimation of astrality by the public, which mostly sees the idea of disembodied soul travel as a pseudoidea and gimmick pulled from the hat of dream books, astrology columns and crystal balls by the usual bunch of job-lot printers and underemployed copy hacks. While this doubtless remains the source of nine-tenths of the available literature on the subject, some authors have spoken about astral travel with such clarity and scientific scruple that it is difficult (but not impossible) to write them off as prehensile nut bars.

One of the best books on astral traveling is Robert A. Monroe’s Journeys Out of the Body. An important feature of Monroe’s cautious approach to this fourth dimension of the mind is fear about the implications astral projection might have in the mundane realm of power politics.

What do you do if you discover an entirely new world? Do you report it to the authorities? Or do you stake a claim and defend it with all you’ve got while you explore to see what it can do for you? Monroe perceives the “Second State” as a separate but linked universe already inhabited by forces he sees as benign: angels, perhaps? or UFOs? At any rate, he found them friendly, but as liable as the nice guy down the hall in the dorm to turn out to be a cop. So he’s training an Astral Air Force (in his home town of Afton, Virginia) to defend the ethereal innocents from the corruptions of civilization, including CIA recruiting drives. The Astral Air Force isn’t exactly drilling to astrally project in V formation, but they are growing in numbers and quite determined to keep the Second State safe for democracy. Such zeal is born of a grim realization of what might happen if THEY establish a firm foothold on the astral plane.

Meanwhile. Russia has been heavily into psychical research for well over a decade, probably two. According to the A.R.E. (Association for Research and Enlightenment—Edgar Cayce Foundation) Bulletin, the Soviets had established at least eight psychical research centers as early as 1963, were involved in an exchange program with India to study the powers of yogis, were experimenting with telepathic messages to cosmonauts in space or on the moon and were directing their sciences to seek practical applications on all information obtained from psychical research. One of the most astounding results has been the development of the Kirilian field, in which the aura, or psychic shell—and all parts of the body’s psychic energies that emanate—can actually be photographed.

What could the long arm of SMERSH—or, for that matter, the LAPD—do with the power to get about in total invisibility, without barriers to obstruct them and with an arsenal of psychic weaponry? Surveillance is the first and most likely use. They could also clutter, or “jam,” the psychic atmosphere of their targets, to hinder their freedom to think and/or get about on the astral plane, as well as attacking them more viciously through obsession, possession, haunting, and so forth.

Thought, at the very least, could be made impossible for their enemies. Take away thought, and madness cannot be far behind. If strong power to affect the physical plane are developed, as the poltergeist phenomenon implies, every manner of mischief, mayhem and murder is possible. Monroe reports a single instance of having been able to pinch someone, and leaving a bruise, as well as causing him to cry out in pain.

Even if astral research is declassified and astral projection made available to every citizen, the governments of the world may try to extend their jurisdiction to the spirits and vapors. If we eventually learn to leave our bodies, what’s to guarantee that we won’t have a pair of ethereal bracelets slapped on our ghostly wrists? And—moreover—what’s to prevent our worst enemies from zapping us earthbound types when we least expect it?

The last worry is admittedly hard to deal with. Maybe lead shields would work, maybe lead underwear. Garlic necklaces? Maybe. Force fields sound good, and you can always try a good exorcist to get THEM off your back, or enlist the aid of a friendly ghost, or even a dog whistle.

But the best way is to become an astral traveler yourself. Get your footing in the Second State, and you’ll stand a ghost of a chance.

Without exception, every metaphysical, religious, philosophical or parapsychological approach to astral travel emphasizes that the initiate be mature. As a prerequisite to any esoteric training, you must be able to control your desires, and have no serious hangups. Without this requirement, a traveler would run aground on reefs of desire-thought-form realms that immediately confront a soul leaving the body. Fixations on mundane goals at this point could hang the astral persona up indefinitely.

One’s motives for traveling generally have to be pure. Sexual motives, by the way, are not seen as impure, and many a traveler has sexual encounters either carnally or psychically. Erections during sleep, in fact, are a sure sign in men that they are astrally traveling or have just returned. Sexual drives can be a hindrance, but only in that they return you to the physical; other, far less evolved motivations will keep you at the desire reef indefinitely. Patriotism, machismo, militant racism gain nothing in the translation to ethereal energy; it is still the selfsame subhuman desire to display ultimate power over others. Impure motives dissolve and break down into their real psychoelectric components when you have no body.

On the astral plane, the moral becomes the mechanical. By remaining clearly associated with the higher of human yearnings and strivings, by conquering desires that are demeaning, you annihilate the strictest limitations on your freedom of movement.

There are also reefs of negative desire: irrational fear, absolute terror and unreasoning blind panic. Early experiences—and even occasional trips of experienced travelers—can give the impression that you’ll never get back into your body, that horrors and noxious visions await and that, surely, you will die. You have to be a strong person, not just rid of irrational fears in waking life, but also free from unreasonable guilt, to convince yourself that you are in control of the whole experience. Monroe claims that the Second State contains all dead souls who, depending upon the convictions they formed in life about their just desserts upon dying, will be residing in a heaven or a hell, as each happens to see it. This is in keeping with the Tibetan Book of the Dead: if you can convince yourself that you are undeserving of hellfire and damnation, and worthy of bathing in the light of the Eternal Deity, you will transmit your soul out of darkness and into eternal contentment.

At all times, the astral tripper can return the physical body. Slight changes in breathing can do it; movement of a finger has been known to extract people from the tightest spots. Mostly, it’s just a matter of thinking of yourself. This latter method is also the way one astrally travels: you think of people, not places.

The realms of exploration seem endless. There is, of course, the planet Earth. But the ability to eclipse illimitable domains of time and space makes mere Earth a bore. Men like Ingo Swann and Monroe have reported outer space travel—the former like a satellite full of recording equipment, the latter often accomplishing the feat by ‘‘elating’’—or becoming so immense that he held entire galaxies in the palm of his hand. But even these experiences pale in face of quantum leaps into the fourth dimension.

The least impressive, yet most curious, of these is what many have referred to as the “Parallel Universe.” This realm has been described as an almost carbon-copy world in which each of us has a living counterpart. Travel to that realm means occupying their bodies, paying the bills on their 1977 steam-powered Bonanzas—seven-door, perfectly square autocars—and the like.

A third possibility is a plane that is no plane, a place that is no place, and all planes and all places, at the same time. It is the land inside the looking-glass—a realm where no natural law operates, where only thought exists and where imagination instantly becomes fact. The ancient Greeks may have been referring to this realm as Chaos, whence all things spring. Thought is primal matter; order is only a function of the physical universe. The hells and heavens I have mentioned, pulling trippers onto the shoals of desire and fixation, emanate from this primal realm. It contains the future, the present and the past, and can be explored endlessly. Thought never dies there. But the general tone of the explorations one undertakes—or has thrust upon one—is decidedly personal. Free of the embodied contradictions of the physical realm, we are what we think.

In some ways, this threefold distinction of astral realms may make no sense. Yet, metaphysically, three is a very important number. The Christian Trinity, Marx’s thesis-antithesis-synthesis—we are born, germinate our thought forms, die to the great chaotic storehouse of psychic energy, then reappear once again in a parallel universe, only to repeat this process.

The purpose of life in the face of such possibilities? Monroe sees man as cattle of the gods—producers of emotional-psychic energies that are like a milk of life for higher intelligences. Perhaps we are meant to whirl about in the infinite figure eight of eternity ever refining our emotional and intellectual output until, like Buddhas, we cease to relate to the physical planes that pull us like magnets from either side. Free of the ‘‘meat wheel,” as Jack Kerouac called it, we are free to associate with those higher intelligences in the great vortex of the realm of Chaos.

But…you have to get there first. Even if you start by floating on the ceiling like a balloon. Seasoned astral travelers disdain the use of drugs and alcohol to float up to the Second State: the chemical imbalances that result lessen control of your usual cheap-thrill state of mind. However, it is through the widespread use of disorienting mind drugs in recent years that astral travel has come to the attention of the public, so a quick survey may be in order.

Almost any state of hallucinosis is characterized by periods of withdrawal from everything going on around you, the feeling that a part of you is observing your own behavior with detached irony, pleasure or alarm. This is common with kava-kava, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, hashish, THC and many other fine drugs, not omitting good whisky and beer.

Hash seems to be the strongest and most effective of the Second State generators. Hash dreams may be real, or sidereal, in secondary worlds of the mind; it is possible that murders by the thousands were undertaken by beings in the Second State, and may still be occurring today. Modern humanity may be more or less immune to such hashish assassins, living in the 110-volt force field that is our modern living quarters. Hauntings usually occur in old houses, especially in those where the power goes unexplainably off every now and then. As many are aware, the term “assassin” comes from the Arabic “hashishin,” or hash head. Historically, we are led to believe that the hash the Arabs smoked emboldened them and made them great in stealth, the better to slay their infidel foe. But what about this: Since “assassin” implies an unseen slayer, the term may have an esoteric meaning; they may have struck from the astral plane.

Those of us who have enjoyed hash, however, know that it does not make us murderers. On the contrary, all sorts of nice things, especially loving things, can happen under its influence. And, in sufficient quantities, it can cause you to leave your body. In short, while full conscious faculties are preferable in most astral traveling, simple OOBEs may be experienced through hash or other strong concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol.

But there is no easy way to get good at astral maneuvering. If you want to do more than catapult yourself into the unexplainable, and if you want to recall and record and grow by what you experience, you’ll do it “clean.” Below are some basic exercises.

Exercise One

Lie down in a quiet, dark, warm and comfortable place with your head pointing to magnetic North. Keep your eyes closed for 20 minutes without falling asleep. The first several attempts to complete this exercise will probably end in failure, so don’t give up too quickly.

When you finally concentrate enough on accomplishing this seemingly simple feat, you will get past the pull of sleep and be able to remember the images that flashed through your mind while your eyes were closed.

Exercise Two

Record those thoughts. In the early stages this will prove a tremendous help in distinguishing normal thoughts from dreams lapping the shores of the conscious mind. Later, you’ll see how thinned-out all thought images become as your log progresses.

Exercise Three

Fear and Desire. To overcome these may take years or minutes, depending on the individual and the method of psychic repair; anything from psychoanalysis to Zen might be necessary. But it is best to vanquish these demons before you begin serious astral traveling, because there are plenty more pitfalls where you’re going.

Exercise Four

Lie back, as prescribed. and think of nothing for 20 minutes. How do you tell exact time when your eyes are closed? It may be best, during basic training, to have someone gently knock on the door when the time has elapsed. Once you’ve developed the ability to lie back and instantaneously “get off,” you will lose almost all sense of time while in the astral state. Above all, when doing these exercises, be sure you are not pressed for time. Do everything with no respect whatsoever for the passage of time.

Once you have mastered the art of relaxation in this manner, you are ready to let things happen. Remember, astral projection is hardly unnatural; accounts go back to the beginnings of recorded history of people “flying” and performing the feats now attributable to the astral body.

To be ready to leave our bodies, we need only satisfy the prerequisite of getting out from under the psychological addiction to so-called reality. Much of this is the conditioning of centuries that tells us we cannot do what we are attempting, or that we are really trying to die. We are told that the “death wish” is always unhealthy. However, in the light of parapsychology we may have to begin to study the death wish as a natural human urge to leave the body on occasion.

The Vibrational State

You always knew there was something pure and true in the vague notion of “good vibes,” right? Instinctively, a whole generation picked up on the occulted truth behind the concept. The nature of the universe is vibration.

Once the relaxed state has been mastered, breathe slowly and deeply. You will feel the vibrations coming on. Some people can simply put their heads down and close their eyes and it begins, just like that. It needn’t take anywhere near 20 minutes. That figure was arbitrary to accomplish the difficult initial steps; you may be able to totally relax in half a minute. All that went before was simply to prepare your body to feel the vibrations—or, metaphysically speaking, to convince your soul that your body’s demands have been stilled long enough for it to become the center of attention and the focal point of the will.

Numbness creeps over your limbs from toe to head, you will feel as though you are unable to will any part of the body to move. If you can avoid panic at this point, the vibes will begin. They sweep over you like furtive ripples at first. Train yourself to modulate the frequencies— to speed them up so that you won’t have to wait through several toe-to-head-to-toe “waves.” How? You simply will it to speed up, and it does.

The surge has been described in various ways by various log-keeping trippers—a sheath of electricity, a round doughnut of energy sweeping up and down (or, over a prone body, north and south), etc. What matters is that you’re now ready to leave your body.

Keep your eyes closed. There’ll be less to distract you. (If you really don’t want to be distracted, put a Gerald Ford speech on TV.) Roll gently out of your body, left, right, left, gently… soon you’ll be doing the hustle, the bump, the frug, the monkey and the only dance there is. Or just reach slowly down and put your hand through the floor. The first time out, don’t try to fly around Mount Everest—better stay close to home.

You’re on your own. Nothing stands between you and the traumatic annihilation of your sanity but common sense and whatever kind of karma points you’ve been racking up. Free-associate. Think warm thoughts. Signal before making a turn. You will to have a wonderful time. Prepare to beam down.

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