Growing up, I devoured fiction novels. Something within them sparked my spirit and I would take their inspiration to my other salvation, the computer, and let my mind run, wild and deep, into the unknown. Any why not? There was a webpage for every thing one could dream. And I had wild dreams.
I enjoyed the abstract and the more bizarre and uncommon the plot-line, the more I longed to sink my teeth into it. One of the many odd series I consumed was titled The Zack Files. Within these simple books, Zack would explore meta-physical phenomenon. In the book ‘I’m Out of My Body, Please Leave a Message’, he dabbles in Astral Projection.
Astral Projection is the belief that with enough patience, magic and focus, an individual may separate their ethereal souls from their physical bodies. Once free from the bodies fleshy confines, the soul is then permitted to explore the vastness of the Astral Plane. And within this plane, one may find bizarre locales and beings of unimaginable power, benevolence or malice.
Such concepts lit a strange coloured fire somewhere in my heart – the lush, unspoiled, and well-populated imaginations of the young are of the most beautiful places. As it was, I then ventured to the computer, intoxicated with wonder and possibility, to learn more. Within an archaic search engine, under the watchful eye of no agency or parental unit, I typed: How to Visit the Astral Plane.
In the 90s, Wikipedia did not yet exist to tell me how scientifically incorrect and silly my views were. Instead, the items that would populate the front-page were presented in pure, unfiltered, lo-fidelity madness. At that time search engines did little to screen for “quality”. If it was relevant to your keywords and visited by people, it was presented higher.
Today I wonder who created these obscure, mystical and out-right mad digital codexes. In my youth, with my filter undeveloped, I was quick to click on the first link and gobble up every word written as though it were gospel. One page is still vivid in my memory. It had large, cryptic text on a twilight background, speckled with planets and galaxies. GIFs of lashing flame and sparkling books danced in the margin, encasing the instruction I sought: “How to Visit the Astral Plane”.
Underneath several paragraphs of screaming capitalized words there was a strange picture. It was like a vortex, falling inward, with an eerie green dot in the centre.
“STARE AT IT AND BREATHE DEEPLY ”, the words told me,
“YOU WILL FEEL YOUR SOUL BEGIN TO SEEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR BODY.”
I stared. I breathed.
AndI felt it! I was sure! Fuelled by the rush of discovery, I tore through the remaining instructions. My perceptions had been fooled and the sensation I felt legitimized my faith and breathed my fictions to life. I was now committed to practicing this most mysterious art. I became determined to leave my flesh behind for moonlit adventuring within the Astral Plane.
“LIE HORIZONTALLY”, it said – mmm-hmm.
“CLOSE YOUR EYES”, it reminded – ‘course.
“BREATH DEEPLY AND REPEAT: I AM LEAVING MY BODY, I AM LEAVING MY BODY…”, it droned – mmmhmmm…
“DO NOT LINGER OR YOUR SOUL MAY BECOME LOST”, it hinted – ya-ya.
“BEWARE THE ASTRAL VAMPIRE” – … Uhhmm… Kay!
Ready to slice my tether to reality asunder, I sprinted back into my bedroom, shut the door, lay flat, squeezed my eyes shut and began breathing deeply: I am leaving my body. I am leaving my body.
Nothing yet. I will try again tomorrow, I promised myself.
Moons later, on one fateful evening whilst laying in my bed repeating this haunting mantra, I began to feel a tingle in my furthest appendages. My toes vibrated with an unseen energy… then my fingers… then the tip of my head.
“At last! It is working!“
My ankles, up my spine, then my elbows; my legs, and then my arms. Soon my entire being came alive with a warm and buzzing sensation. Electricity pulsed through every fibre of my watery vessel. At once, my stomach gave a sudden lurch and I flashed my eyes open for fear of rolling out of my bed. Yet instead of toppling onto the floor, I stared back into my own face which was smiling, relaxed in peaceful sleep.
With ghostly limbs flailing in every direction, I re-oriented myself in the ether. At last! My spirit was free to drift among the radiant lights of unfathomable new dimensions.
Here, there was no homework. Out in the Astral Plane, no one could boss me around or make me feel inadequate. My imagination burst open, imbuing the abstract night-world with a typhoon of eccentric characters and mystical locations. It was a spiritual paradise within my own mind.
I practiced this bizarre and imagined ritual until one day in my teenaged years all became forgotten. The allure of the Astral Realm weakened and the pull of the material became too great. With hormones aflame, I moved, lost friends, developed new interests, created relationships, bought things, and gave in to endless distraction.
My imagination dimmed and I lost touch with the desire to entertain the playful soul that existed within my flesh. No longer did I wish to explore the unknown mysteries of the cosmos. No longer did I travel the mesh of realities that intertwine with our own. Now, I wanted people to like me. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to make a million dollars and become a professional athlete.
It was during these years that something bad happened. A gradual change came about me as I entered into adulthood. I sunk into a deep depression. During my darkest moments I would wonder: Where did this curse come from? Why am I to live a joyless, loveless existence? Had I spent too much time on the Astral Plane? Did a vampire of incomprehensible rot commandeer my body and consume my once-bright soul in a dark dimension unknown?
Fun thought, but I did not believe in that world anymore. I was intelligent. I was rational. I knew I had been laying in bed, somewhere in-between being awake and being in-dream. I knew my imagination catalyzed all of my make-believe adventures. And I needed a scientific solution for my clinical depression.
I looked for answers in books. I scoured the Internet. I talked with friends and doctors. But there was no truth to be found. Take this pill: the best any medical professional could offer me. It took over a decade of meditation, personal growth, epiphanies, and a talented Peruvian medicine man to expunge the darkness.
Yet as years went by, the flame of spirit began to rekindle within my heart. Slowly, I stopped chasing things external to me and again started looking within myself. Soon after, I realized I had succeeded in separating my soul from my body in my youth. It had become lost, but not because it had spent too long in the Astral Plane or that it became a feast for an opportunistic Astral Vampire… I think.
It became lost because instead of exploring the magical realms of faith and silly belief that lived inside me, I became an empty, material vessel. I lost touch with myself. I stopped imagining. I abandoned introspection and I lusted after things and people, trying to fill a hole I had created in their pursuit. It was my physical being that decided it wanted no part of being whole, casting my soul adrift.
Yet my spirit did not hold a grudge. To rescue my ethereal other-half from the solitary abyss, I only needed to open my heart, extend an invitation and welcome it back. And, of course, promise to let it out to venture from time to time. Now, I am alive again, imagination glows anew. My body and soul are together and I feel complete.