"I'm not in my body right now, but if you'll leave a message..."
Astral Projection is a magic/mystic practice which allows a character to detach either his soul or his conscious mind (the distinction is important
) from his body and let it wander freely, either invisibly
in the material plane or out in the Spirit World
As, essentially, a living ghost
, the character can go just about anywhere, see and hear anything, and potentially engage in Invisible Jerkass
behaviour, depending on whether he can move objects telekinetically
. Also like ghosts, characters who are Astral Projecting may use Demonic Possession
to take over host bodies, though this doesn't necessarily allow them to pry into their mind
. Most victims usually have no idea what happened afterward.
Unfortunately, the freedom of the soul comes at the expense of the body, which usually lies in a Convenient Coma
, utterly helpless and vulnerable to attack
or neglect. In many cases the body will die
if the soul is separated from it for too long. Another danger is that, like a ghost, the soul/mind might be unable to find its way back. This is especially risky if the Astral Projector loses the "tether" that connects him back to his body, or if another person moves his body while he is "away."
Some darker uses of this practice will forcibly evict the Astral Self from its host body. If the spirit doesn't know their body is still alive, they may even confuse themselves for an actual ghost
It's entirely possible for an Astral Projector to separate from his body by accident. Perhaps he misused an Ancient Artifact
that forced him into an Astral Projection without telling him how to undo the state
or return to his body. Or he might accidentally end up in the wrong body
, or someone else might take possession of his. On the upside, being Made Of Air
makes him indestructible to everything (except angry ghosts, exorcisms
, irate housewives with vacuum cleaners...)
Many people believe they have had experiences similar to these in Real Life
. Astral projection is a serious part of belief systems like Spiritualism and Theosophy. There are several books on technique. Sylvan Muldoon's 1929 classic Projection of the Astral Body
is still recommended for beginners.
Compare Animal Eye Spy
, where the character can see other locations through an animal's eyes.
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Anime And Manga
- Only the most powerful Newtypes in the various incarnations Gundam have this ability. Examples include series protagonist Camille Vidan and main villains Paptimus Scirocco and Haman Kahn of Zeta Gundam, Judau Ashita in Double Zeta, and Amuro Rei by the time of Char's Counterattack.
- Something like this happens in the Pokémon episode where Ash visits the Pokèmon tower in hopes of catching a ghost type Pokèmon that can help him beat Sabrina. While trying to capture one, he and Pikachu get knocked out by a falling chandelier and Haunter takes the oppurtunity to pull their spirits out of their bodies. Ash discovers that the ghost Pokèmon just wanted some friends to play with, but tells them that he can't stay with them because he has to continue his quest to become a Pokèmon master. The ghost Pokèmon are disappointed by this, but they allow Ash and Pikachu to return to their bodies.
- Production I.G.'s Ghost Hound features a group of teenage boys who each gained the ability to enter the "Unseen World" after a traumatizing experience they went through in their own childhood. For the former half of the series, they use it to investigate their own past trauma.
- The bedridden Grove in Vampire Hunter D has the power of astral projection, his soul becoming a powerful entity, though doing so drains his life.
- Schierke of Berserk uses this to communicate with the elemental spirits that power her magic and occasionally to go into Guts' mind to snap him out of the influence of his Superpowered Evil Side.
- In One Piece Perona uses this to counter Ussop's immunity to her negative hollows.
- In the Ranma ½ manga an old man has this ability and uses it to enter and alter Ranma's dreams to date her.
- In the first movie of Kara no Kyoukai, Kirie Fujou, though bedridden, can project a double of herself on top of the Fujou Buildings, which her family used to own.
- The Silver Tribe of Heroic Age frequently does this, and are capable of it across the vastness of the galaxy. Dhienalia, the human princess, is also capable of it, and makes use of it for long-distance communication, or guiding the ship through uncharted space. It's apparently pretty well-known, as no one shows the slightest surprise when someone does it.
- KEY Visual Arts love this trope. Both Fuko in CLANNAD and Ayu in Kanon are actually comatose for a large part of their respective series.
- Johann Kraus in Hellboy was a spiritualist whose body was killed while during a seance. His soul had nowhere to return to, so he has to live in a containment suit to avoid completely evaporating.
- Being the world's most powerful telepath, Charles Xavier does this frequently.
- Despite not having any Psychic Powers of his own, Xavier's sometimes-ally, sometimes-enemy Magneto can do this as well.
- Xavier's Arch-Enemy the Shadow King also specializes in astral projection. It was eventually retconned that he's a purely astral being who possesses human hosts (specifically, other mutants with telepathic powers that can amplify his own). When Xavier and the Shadow King (at the time using the body of an Egyptian named Amahl Farouk) first met, to any outside observes they seemed to be just sitting motionless at their tables in a tavern. In reality, the astral forms had left their bodies to duel. Once his astral form was defeated, his body slumped over, seemingly braindead. This encounter was what led Xavier to conclude he needed to create a team of mutant superheroes in order to deal with mutant supervillains like Farouk.
- As the picture indicates, this is one of the many mystic arts Doctor Strange has mastered. He can also pull someone else's astral form out of his/her body, though the other person usually freaks out and needs constant reassurance that everything is okay.
- On the DC Comics side, magic users like Doctor Fate, Zatanna, and Raven can do this.
- Wonder Woman as written by her creator William Marston often involved astral projection. A villain once forced Wonder Woman out of her body with electricity ("What a queer feeling... like falling!"). Other times, characters learned the art of deliberately leaving the body.
- A form of astral projection called hypnokinesis is used on Johan and Peewit in The Smurfs story "The Smurfs And The Magic Flute". The main difference is that their projected forms have physicality, so it's as if they have actually been transported into the Cursed Land (or to the Smurf forest, in the Animated Adaptation of the story).
- The thematic foundation of Insidious.
- After getting caught by the police, the Big Bad of Nine Seven Six Evil II The Astral Factor uses his One Phone Call and receives this power from the title phone number to continue his wrongdoings.
- In the movie Just Like Heaven we think one of the characters is a ghost through most of the film, but it turns out the character in question is in a coma and the "ghost" is this trope. The latter part of the movie is trying to prevent the person's life support from being shut off.
Live Action Television
- In Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles and Lives of the Mayfair Witches powerful vampires and some human psychics can do this. David Talbot contends that anyone could do it with the proper training or guidance. In The Tale of the Body Thief an unscrupulous telepath guides a catatonic man into doing this so that he can switch bodies with him.
- Discworld: Esmeralda Weatherwax can move her consciousness away from her body and share an experience with a target, or several as in Lords and Ladies when she possessed a swarm of bees. In A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany Aching learns a similar trick but remains disembodied.
- Is a central theme in James Herbert's Nobody True.
- The telepathically-gifted on Darkover do this a lot; there's a psychic plane called the Overworld where they do various kinds of work (and occasionally engage in mortal combat...)
- Seems to be John Carter of Mars's primary method of traveling to Barsoom.
- Willie Connolly in the 1972 thriller Daughter of Darkness is accustomed to sneaking out of her body to skip boring classes. She gets more than she bargained for when she slips out late one night to see what her parents are up to.
- The Jedi Academy Trilogy has an involuntary example, when Exar Kun forcibly separates Luke Skywalker's spirit from his body.
- In the Zoë Martinique series, this is the eponymous character's main ability as well as a central theme of the story.
- Dennis Wheatley's supernatural thriller The Ka of Gifford Hillary concerns a man whose spirit is seperated from his body and foced to walk the Astral, invisible to almost all. The ka is the ancient Egyptian term for the astral body.
- Used as a means of space travel by Arundel Lowdham in J. R. R. Tolkien's unfinished story The Notion Club Papers. The story is partly written as a commentary on and criticism of Tolkien's friend C. S. Lewis' The Space Trilogy novels, and Tolkien - who disliked the idea of spaceships - was using this to suggest an alternative for how such an adventure could take place.
- My Trip To Alpha 1 by Alfred Slote uses a technological version called Voya-Code, where a person's mind and personality are transmitted through space to appear in a highly-functional android duplicate of the traveler's body so they can travel across the galaxy, while their original bodies remain in sleep storage until they return. (An android duplicate differs from the original body in that a small scar called the Computer Entry Scar appears on the small of the android's back.) The main protagonist of the story, Jack, uses this to visit his Aunt Katherine on Alpha 1, only to discover that the Aunt Katherine he is visiting is actually a Voya-Code android being used by her house servants, the Arbos, to give away all her property to them. The real Aunt Katherine is still in sleep storage on Alpha 1 and assumes that she is now on Earth and feels like she's been traveling forever when Jack finds her and has her awakened.
- In the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Fitz's mum can do this, prompting her to mention the times she's seen Fitz in his room doing something too embarrassing to mention.
- As the title might suggest, astral projection features prominently in The True Story of the Bridgewater Astral League, a concept album by The World Inferno Friendship Society. The narrative (such as it is) follows the rise and fall of a group of teenagers in suburban New Jersey who use astral travel to commit a series of poetic crimes with impunity, until their leader is attacked by their astral guide for his arrogance. And it all really happened. Maybe.
- This is one of the main themes of the Mastodon concept album Crack the Skye.
- Older Than Print: Iron Crutch Li, one of the Chinese Eight Immortals, was once a handsome man with the power of astral projection. He told his apprentice to wait seven days before cremating his body, but when the apprentice had to go visit his dying mother he had to cremate his master's body early, leaving his master with no choice but to enter the body of a recently deceased old cripple.
- Dungeons & Dragons had spells that allowed Astral Travel, usually with a "silver cord" of infinite length that connected the wandering soul to its body; it made the soul virtually indestructible unless the cord was broken, which only very few beings or objects could do.
- Astral travel exists in Shadowrun, but there's also "decking," when a character with the proper cyber implants sends his consciousness onto the Internet.
- This is pretty common in the Old World of Darkness, just about every gameline has one version of this.
- It's the whole point of Orpheus.
- RuneQuest allows players to become shamans, whose souls travel in the spirit world to commune with greater spirits and capture lesser spirits for their magic or other powers. Usually an ally spirit called a Fetch guards the shaman's body. At least as of Mongoose's RQII (RQ 5?) advanced shamans can carry other characters' spirits along with them, either voluntarily to journey together or forcibly to engage in spirit combat.
- In World of Warcraft, when players die, they control their characters' spirits until they're revived.
- In the video game Prey, Tommy's spirit can be projected from his body. Players can use the ability to pass through forcefields, dangerous obstacles, and attack enemies.
- Also, when the player dies, they can shoot down spirits and regain health in the Spirit World to return.
- In BioShock 2, the Scout plasmid allows Delta to astrally project himself, as well as cast plasmids and, with some upgrades, hack machines. The plasmid automatically cancels if his body is harmed, though.
- One of the psychic toys from Sam & Max: The Devil's Plahouse is the "Astral Projector". A reel projector that allows Sam and Max to spiritually enter the bodies of their respective Grandparents. As well as allowing Sam to posses any cloned body.
- Naturally, Doctor Strange uses this at the beginning of his Level 3 super in Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3.
- In the ZX Spectrum games Avalon and Dragontorc, the protagonist is an astral projection.
- In The Night Of The Rabbit the old magician A. Molena uses Astral Projection to help the hero. In this game it is called "active sleep", but it is the same thing.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court going out-of-body allows to see other Etheric entities and magic in colour, over grey shapes of the material world, and even communicate "invisibly" — unless there's another observer in the same state, of course. Strong reactions translate to the body — Antimony and George during the memory-dump didn't move, but wept. Later when Annie saw Lindsay and Bud kissing and when Red was surprised by Annie's trick this reflected in appropriate grimaces on their bodies. At least Gillitie Wood creatures turned humans can leave their bodies "on autopilot" speed-typing the lesson in the real world while they fly around and are distracted by something more interesting ("We's don't need our minds to learn dis junk!") and create illusions from memory if they concentrate a little.
- In the Chakona Space stories Skunktaurs of House Blackpaw have this ability, as do Chakats sired by them and some other individuals of different species.
- The sheep talisman in Jackie Chan Adventures does this. Lead to a Crowning Moment of Funny when someone tried to use it in battle.
- In the third season when the talismans are destroyed, the power ends up being given to an actual sheep, who uses it to fly about and enter people's dreams.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang can astral project into the spirit world (or accidentally into the material one). It's suggested normal people might have this happen to them on rare ocasions.
- Doctor Orpheus in The Venture Bros. can do this, usually for the sake of communicating with Jefferson and/or The Alchemist.
- Unfortunately, he cannot double project, which leads to some difficulty when talking to them both at the same time.