The Traveller's Guide to the Astral Plane
by Steve Richards
Today I'm reviewing The Traveller's Guide to the Astral Plane: The secret realms beyond the body and how to reach them by Steve Richards. The book is copyright 1983.
I know I've said this before, but this book is unlike every other astral projection book in the genre. What makes it unique is that it tells OBE narratives, but from a wide variety of sources across time and many cultures. In fact, it doesn't get any wider scope than this. It draws information about astral projection from modern-era to ancient sources like:
- Robert Monroe
- Melita Denning and Osbourne Phillips
- Cornelius Agrippa
- Eliphas Levi
- Golden Dawn (MacGregor Mathers)
- Israel Regardie
- Theosophy (Blavatsky, Powell, etc)
- Rosicrucians (AMORC)
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (which he calls "the most complete manual of occult technique ever written." (pg. 80)--Meh, I read it a long time ago and wasn't impressed. Maybe I need to re-read it though.)
- And other more obscure sources, all the way back to the ancient Greeks like Herodotus and Plato.
At the end of the book are no less than three appendices covering the most ancient NDE (near-death experience) narratives from ancient Greek times from Plato and Plutarch. One of these is the oldest known historical mention of the famous Silver Cord.
Right from the start, it's self-evident that Richards has studied astral projection a great deal, probably for many years, although he doesn't admit to having any experiences of his own.
Chapter 2, "Are the Experiences Real?," discusses what criteria should be used to assess it:
"The projector must make his presence felt by some naive observer at a distant place, or else he must return from his trip with some knowledge that he could not have acquired except by psychic means. Either of these conditions is considered sufficient to establish veridicality. If neither is met, the experience is a fantasy." (pg. 28)
You know how I love a good OBE narrative, and Richards the gives lots of them, mostly taken from published literature, and they're very interesting indeed. Not from contemporary OBE authors like most of the books I've reviewed, but older sources. Like a narrative from famous philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Chapter 3 is titled "Swedenborg" because it focuses on the life and reputation of the famous 1740s mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg, who was the subject of some of Kant's writing. For many years I've thought I should study Swedenborg, but haven't gotten around to it. Richards' narratives make me want to study him more.
Chapter 4 is titled "Astral Sex." Yep, there's a whole chapter dedicated to the subject, and yep, it has several narratives. It talks about encounters with incubus and succubus, and more. He ends the chapter with words from Robert Monroe:
"Compared to the astral experience, he [Monroe] says, physical sex is a mere shadow." (pg. 49)
Chapter 5, "The Kama Loca" is about astral shells (think astral bodies that were discarded after death, but still manage to keep haunting the living), simulacra, and reincarnation, particularly the reincarnation story of a particular Japanese boy.
Chapter 6, "The World of Boundless Light" is about "heaven-experiences" in NDEs and the lore surrounding heaven. In other words, how "heaven" compares in various spiritual traditions: Christian, Hindu, Theosophy, etc.
Chapter 7, "Descent into Hell" is similar to chapter 6, but follows NDE and OBE narratives of various hellish encounters. Contrary to popular belief, not all NDEs are heavenly. Richards cites Dr. Maurice Rawlings book Beyond Death's Door in which he narrates his trip to "hell" as well as other sources such as Karlis Osis. What's so fascinating here is not the narratives, but how they match up compared to other spiritual traditions. For example:
"The similarities here are more striking, though, and there is a different focus. Whereas Swedenborg's Hell is merely depressing, Plutarch's Hell is genuinely terrifying--and so is the Hell of the Buddhists." (pg. 72)
Chapter 8 is "How to Get There." Richards doesn't give a concrete procedure to achieve astral projection, but he covers the basics and how to recognize that you're close, how to react, etc. He makes it sound downright unpleasant and because of that, questions why anyone would do it: ringing in your ears, sleep paralysis, and the vibrations, which he describes as:
"Gradually, his vital processes begin to start up again, and his muscles, oxygen-starved, go into violent convulsions. It is extremely important to maintain rigid self-control during this phase, since these convulsions can be dangerous. They are, in any event, extraordinarily painful." (pg. 77)
That seems a bit over-the-top fear mongering to me. Yes, the vibrations can feel like you're being electrocuted, especially when you're first starting out, but I'd never call them painful. Some authors, such as Nanci Trivellato, even describe them as pleasurable and compare them to orgasm. And they're certainly not convulsions. (My wife would have screamed bloody hell if they were!)
I found this quite amusing:
"I suspect that one has to be an incorrigible non-conformist to do astral projection successfully, and if you find after your first few 'trips' that you still panic, you may want to discontinue your experiments." (pg. 78)
Incorrigible? Hey, I resemble that remark! This was interesting too:
"Now it might be said that you will never find yourself able to project entirely at will. Psychic abilities are cantankerous, and as Israel Regardie pointed out in The Tree of Life, 'sometimes (the Astral Body) simply will not go.' For what it is worth, this problem is shared even by the Masters." (pg. 78)
I can't argue with that. Even the best of us has dry spells.
He does suggest an OBE technique I'd never heard of from any other source. He cites Vyasa's sutras as going further than Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, suggesting visualizing the Sun (in Wood's translation it's referred to as the "door") as ever-expanding and growing, much like Tattwa symbols are used as an astral doorway, as suggested in other books (like J.H. Brennan's Astral Doorways), then stepping through it (and closing the doorway behind you).
The book was fascinating from a historical point of view, and like I said, unlike any other book on the subject. It's worth it for the unique collection of historical OBE narratives alone. It's an older book, so it may be hard to find.
The book's margins are good and the font is very small, so there's plenty of content despite that fact that it's only 110 pages. I'll give the book 4 stars out of 5.
15 June 2021
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