The astral body is a subtle body posited by many philosophers, intermediate between the intelligent soul and the mental body, composed of a subtle material

In many recensions the concept ultimately derives from the philosophy of Plato though the same or similar ideas have existed all over the world well before Plato’s time: it is related to an astral plane, which consists of the planetary heavens of astrology

The term was adopted by nineteenth-century Theosophists and neo-Rosicrucians

The idea is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife in which the soul’s journey or “ascent” is described in such terms as “an ecstatic

, mystical or out-of body experience, wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or dreambody or astral body) into ‘higher’ realms”

Hence “the “many kinds of ‘heavens’, ‘hells’, and purgatorial existences believed in by followers of innumerable religions” may also be understood as astral phenomena, as may the various “phenomena of the séance room”

The phenomenon of apparitional experience is therefore related, as is made explicit in Cicero’s Dream of Scipio

The astral body is sometimes said to be visible as an aura of swirling colours

It is widely linked today with out-of-body experiences or astral projection

Where this refers to a supposed movement around the real world, as in Muldoon and Carrington’s book The Projection of the Astral Body, it conforms to Madame Blavatsky’s usage of the term

Elsewhere this latter is termed “etheric”, while “astral” denotes an experience of dream-symbols, archetypes, memories, spiritual beings and visionary landscapes