The astral projections, or whatever label you wish to throw on them — they began for me in May, 1995. Before that, before I began slipping down the fault lines of corporeal reality, I had been concerned about ending up in a rubber room because I was having memories and real-time encounters with what appeared to be alien beings. With this additional strata of insanity, I did not foresee contact with a mental health professional resulting in anything less than a new, sleeveless jacket and a small, well-padded room.
I did, however, have a peculiar circle of friends who were willing to listen.
When I had explained these out of body experiences to a friend of mine during high school, he remarked that they sounded eerily reminiscent of people’s experiences when they took various kinds of psychedelic drugs. This was a comment I found intriguing. Until twenty years of age I would not so much as drink a beer or smoke a cigarette, though I was already — spontaneously and against my will, free of charge or foreign substance — having the kinds of experiences that some people paid to have delivered to them by means of inhalation, injection or ingestion. To top it all off, knowledge of this did not even make me feel privileged.
Subsequent research confirmed his allegations: not only did many psychedelic experiences bear the qualities of my OBEs, some of the most potent ones — namely Salvia Divinorum and DMT — seem to comprise all of them. I also found that the world I experienced closely corresponds to the allegedly parallel, non-physical worlds described by many out of body travelers, among them Robert Monroe and William Buhlman. They described this world, popularly referred to as the astral plane, as being “thought-responsive” or sensitive to consciousness, effectively molded by the conscious and unconscious aspects of the out-of-body traveler. Even later, I would find that my otherworldly experiences — and so the astral plane and some full-sensory psychedelic experiences — also fit the characteristics of some lucid dreams.
Whatever the experience was, then, it did not require psychosis, psychedelics or death to get there, though that is not to say that they were not effective avenues. All one really required, however, was a slumber of appropriate depth, a snooze that sufficiently inhibited our senses receptors and brought on sleep paralysis while keeping conscious awareness acute.
From this one might conclude that lucid dreams might be mistaken for trips to the astral plane or vice versa, but what it really reveals is that the two are indistinguishable. The attempt to find distinctions has proven to be futile. Meeting up with a fellow out of body explorer in a predetermined otherworldly locale could be interpreted as evidence in support of a parallel universe, for instance, but it could just as easily be presented as further suggestion of what is variously called a shared, mutual, meeting or telepathic dream. This is a dream shared between two people, presumably through the medium of telepathy. Some are allegedly even shared lucid dreams.
Some of these dreams are shared between two living individuals, but there are also reports of dreams between the living and deceased. From this we might presume they can be shared between the dead as well. This would suggest that in death we not only retain access to the physical locale, but the capacity to dream. Even the dead, then, could not determine whether the world I am evidently dealing with is a network of dreamscapes or another plane of existence. If death is a transitory state, though, and both the physical worlds and telepathic dream worlds are constants, isn’t the distinction ultimately arbitrary? There are perhaps two different kinds of real which we have access to, be us alive or dead, much as the entity in my initial experience had gone to such lengths to convince me.
Of course, that still leaves the nature of that entity open to question, and if that was the same entity that later went on to attack me for years as I continued having these experiences. Dream characters are manifestations of your own mind, but that seemed more akin to a real conversation, and the later incidents felt like real, excruciatingly painful interactions. Was this another person, and were they living or dead? Was this a dissociated aspect of my personality?
I’m not sure how I could ever know for sure.