The astral plane is a colloquial, modern term for a type of space recognized by many cultures, spiritualities and metaphysical systems throughout history. In general, while it is not “the highest heaven”, it is the space between earthly waking life and the higher spiritual abode.
It is often thought to be the realm inhabited by lesser spirits, demons, and archons. Many speculate that under the influence of certain drugs or during dreams, or experiences of outer body or near death, that people go into these realms. It is often believed that magicians or witches gain their power from these realms as well.
It is possible that the dream work is a mixture of our subjective psyche and what our soul is experiencing in the astral realm simultaneously. In either case many traditions warn that the astral realm is deceptive and dangerous. The saying that things are not always as they seem applies doubly in the astral realm.
One could interpret many classical and medieval thinkers like Plato and Dante as having explored the astral planes in their various works. For example, Plato and the neo-Platonists schools understood a hierarchy of being that extended well beyond the realm of the physical and gradually became less material until it reached the divine empyrean–the house of the gods or God.
The astral planes would be what lies between earth and the heavens. Early Christian thinkers and philosophers borrowed this image in constructing the cosmology that would form the background for most of western history. In this sense, astral planes have been a concept behind much of the west’s conceptual history, even if it has been called something differently in the past.
Some Christian church fathers in the east speculated that after death the soul wanders in the astral planes for three days before being judged. Some speculate that souls recently departed or getting “stuck” in this stage of transitioning are what causes the appearances of ghosts to living mortals. It may be that when we are dreaming we are far more open to these planes than we are in waking life.
Knowledge of the astral planes experienced something of a renaissance in the mid 20th century thanks to tabletop gaming like Dungeons & Dragons and new age spirituality, but then gradually drifted out of public consciousness again. Lately, however, the public has become more aware of the astral plane yet again, due to its occurrence in popular culture in films like Doctor Strange.
The increased, collective awareness of the existence of the astral realms may bring with it further research. Philosophers like Madame Helena Blavatsky, a pivotal figure in the Theosophical movement, have written about the astral planes extensively in their works as well. It is speculated this realm serves as the meeting place for the “Great White Brotherhood.
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