The "Astral Body" (to give it the popular occult term) is a sort of psychic or spirit body, which is the body one exists in during the "Out of Body Experience" (OBE) or "Astral travelling". This body can thus separate from the lower bodies and journey to other worlds and realms, taking the consciousness with it. After death and separation from the physical body, the personality continues to exist for a period of time in the astral body.
The astral body can attain to the more material heavens (corresponding to the world of Asiyah according to Hayyim Vital, and the Ishraki Barzakh or "Interworld"), but the higher spiritual realms are beyond its reach. It corresponds to the Egyptian Ba, which is the principle able to leave the body and the tomb and also return to it at will, and the Tibetan Bardo body.
I would point out though that in using terms like "astral body", I have endeavoured to retain the already established occult jargon, even when such terms are not etymologically appropriate. The word "astral", as in "astral plane" and "astral body", is actually misleadingly, because there is nothing particularily "starry" ("Astral") about the subtle body or the occult plane of this name. The term itself came about due to Theosophical use of Renaissance and other old occult and esoteric material, the cosmology of which identifies astrological influences with the psychic worlds. Contemporary Theosophical and popular esotericism lacks this astrological cosmology, but justifies the term "astral (star) body" on the very dubious claim that this subtle body appears to clairvoyant vision to be scintillating and full of sparks. From there the word unfortunately entered the English language with this meaning (hence "astral travelling", etc).
Alternative terms have been used, such as "desire body" (from Blavatsky's Sanskrit neologism kama-rupa ("desire form"), which is quite valid, as occultly speaking one could say that this body is made up of that psychic stratum which we experience subjectively as physical and emotional desires and selfish needs. But it would be perhaps best to stick with the established word, no matter how inappropiate it may be, rather than create more confusion in this already very confusing subject by introducing more jargon than is absolutely necessary. So for the present, the popular term "astral" will be retained.
If we look at the Psychic being, but stepped up one level of transcendence beyond the Subtle Physical, just as the Subtle Physical is one level of transcendence beyond the Material-Physical. This takes us to the pure psychic plane, the "astral plane" of occultism, and the astral or spirit-double that pertains to this plane.
The doctrine of a spirit-form that is a sort of double of the physical body, and may survive the death of the latter, is an extremely widespread one. In addition to the idea of the shadow or spirit-double in many so-called primitive peoples, there is the Egyptian Ba, the Greek eidolon, the Theosophical kama-rupa ("desire-form"), and the "astral body" of popular occultism.
During life, this principle represents an over-riding but spiritually inferior psychic faculty: the Irrational Soul of Neoplatonism, the p'o soul of Chinese psychology, the nafs ammara or the soul "which commands evil, the passionate, sensual lower ego" of Sufism, the nefesh behemis or "animal soul" of Kabbalah, the id of Freud, the "Undersoul" of Ann Ree Colton, the "Vital" of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings, and the Subconscious or Unconscious of popular psychology (or to be more precise, the Middle Unconscious.
Ballabene`s OBE and Astral Pages - excellent and very comprehensive coverage - includes letters, methods, problems and hints, theories, historical, reports of experiences, and links. In English and German.
The Astral Experience - a really great site on out-of-body experience / astral travelling - includes filming your astral projection, true stories of out-of-body experiences, various real-life accounts of voluntary astral travel, animated examples of the consciousness leaving the body, 30 methods and techniques on how to astrally project helpful hints and tips for ideal experiment conditions, recommended books on astral projection online chat with other astral-ists
The On-Line Astral Projection Guidebook - Jonas Ridgeway - astral diary, out-of-body tips and techniques, FAQs, remote viewings, OBE bookshop, and more.
Out of Body Experiences (OBE) page by SpiritWeb Org; lots of useful links
images not loading? | broken links? | suggestions? | criticism?
content and html: M.Alan Kazlev
html editors used - Netscape Page Composer, then Arachnophilia
Bradsoft TopStyle Lite for CSS
subtle body icon © Martin Brofman