According to occult teachings the astral plane can be visited consciously through astral projection, meditation and mantra, near death experience, lucid dreaming, or other means. Individuals that are trained in the use of the astral vehicle can separate their consciousness in the astral vehicle from the physical body at will.....
In early Theosophy|theosophical literature the term "astral" may refer to the aether (classical element)|aether. Later theosophical authors such as Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater make the astral finer than the etheric plane but "denser" than the mental plane. In order to create a unified view of seven bodies and remove earlier Sanskrit terms, an etheric plane was introduced and the term "astral body" was used to replace the former kamarupa - sometimes termed the ''body of emotion, illusion or desire''.
According to Max Heindel's Rosicrucian writings, ''desire-stuff'' may be described as a type of force-matter, in incessant motion, responsive to the slightest ''feeling''. The desire world is also said to be the abode of the dead for some time subsequent to death. It is also the home of the archangels. In the higher regions of the desire world thoughts take a definite form and color perceptible to all, all is light and there is but one long day.
In his book ''Autobiography of a Yogi'', Paramhansa Yogananda provides details about the astral planes learned. Yogananda reveals that nearly all individuals enter the astral planes after death. There they work out the seeds of past Karma through astral incarnations, or (if their karma requires) they return to earthly incarnations for further refinement. Once an individual has attained the meditative state of nirvikalpa in an earthy or astral incarnation, the soul may progress upward to the "illumined astral planet" of Hiranyaloka. After this transitionary stage, the soul may then move upward to the more subtle causal spheres where many more incarnations allow them to further refine before final unification.
Astral projection author Robert Bruce (author)| describes the astral as seven planes that take the form of planar surfaces when approached from a distance, separated by immense coloured "buffer zones". These planes are endlessly repeating ruled cartesian grids, tiled with a single signature pattern that is different for each plane. Higher planes have bright, colourful patterns, whereas lower planes appear far duller. Every detail of these patterns acts as a consistent portal to a different kingdom inside the plane, which itself comprises many separate realms. Bruce notes that the astral may also be entered by means of long tubes that bear visual similarity to these planes, and conjectures that the grids and tubes are in fact the same structures approached from a different perceptual angle.