Astral Projection The traveler finds him- or herself in an apparently real domain, analogous to the "other worlds" experienced by traditional peoples, which have no parallel to any physical setting or to consensus reality, described by New Agers and occultists as the astral plane or "the astral". Environments here may range from populated to unpopulated, artificial to natural to completely abstract environments and from beautific to horrific. Here, normal physical laws often do not apply and humans can often, for example, float or fly. Quality of physical detail ranges from crude, non-detailed and depressing to bright, vivid and fascinating as detailed, among other writers, by Robert Bruce in his Astral Dynamics.
Travelers may travel from one realm to the other. Projectors may find access to visions of the past or future and to theAkashic Recordsaccessible from here. It has been said that space and time do not exist on the astral plane nor the higher planes, but no explanation is given as to how forms and entire environments can exist without spatial dimensions, nor why there can be a sequence of events and yet no such thing as time. Many travelers have theorized that people having dreams actually travel to the astral realms, unaware, and, again as reported in Astral Dynamics, travelers have reported seeing dreamers enact dream scenarios on the astral plane, unaware of the more extensive and varied non-physical environment surrounding them. Some also claim common movements in dreams, such as falling or feeling like you are walking through quicksand, is the astral body in action.
Etheric Projection In contrast to "astral" projection, the traditional understanding of out-of-body experiences involves the projector (or traveler) moving about in usually invisible or ghost-like form in a mundane physical realitythe etheric body. This world may, however, have minor differences between the physical reality world we know if strict mind control is not maintained. Proponents of the writings of Robert Bruce sometimes refer to this practice as "Real Time Projection" (RTP) and the mundane world as the "Real Time Zone" (RTZ). From the Real Time Zone, travelers can access "the astral" or remain in the RTZ and witness real time happenings.
In Western theosophy, each subtle body is functionally distinct. Since the etheric body and astral body are not the same, according to several sources (noted below), they can not possibly represent the same kind of psychic activity.
The Rosicrucian Fellowship has released several publications on the "etheric region" and the etheric body, as well as their integral relationship with the physical state of being (see Max Heindel, et al). The Theosophical Society, having several branches around the world, also has published literature on both the etheric and astral states. To them, the etheric body is actually the same as the physical; however, it "rests" at a slightly different frequency than regular matter.
Lawrence Bendit and Phoebe Bendit wrote a book called The Etheric Body of Man(Theosophical Publishing), in which the analysis of a psychiatrist meets the psychic visions of an alleged clairvoyant. Therein, the authors explain how the etheric body is a functionally separate body from the physical, and yet they share a mutual relationship, all of which seem to be consistent with how ether and etheric projection is believed to operate, as depicted in other literature.
Alice Bailey, inTelepathy and the Etheric Vehicle(Lucis Trust), stated that the etheric and astral bodies should not be confused. She indicated that "HPB" (Helena P. Blavatsky) had erroneously merged the two concepts, in order to cover a "mass of information anent the etheric [and] astral" (pages 140-141). The term was coined at least as far back as the 1940s, by Dion Fortune in her book Psychic Self Defense (Red Wheel/Weiser). She details how an etheric body (during etheric projection), once projected, is "sufficiently physical enough" to be mutually observed by on-lookers (pages 20-22).
James H. Brennan, in The Astral Projection Workbook (Sterling Pubishing), devotes an entire section of his book to etheric projection and its constituents (pages 17-28).
Annie Besant, in The Seven Principles of Man (Theosophical Publishing House) actually explained that the "etheric double" can be separated from the physical body: This etheric double is the exact double or counterpart of the [physical] body to which it belongs, and is separable [from it] ... When separated from the [physical] body it is visible to the clairvoyant as an exact replica thereof, united to it by a slender thread... (pages 8-9).
Stuart Wilde in The Sixth Sense (Hay House) wrote that the etheric body (not astral) is the "true" individual, and that its function is to allow psychic abilities to actually surface. He stated that astral projection is not at all part of the etheric body's actions, and that it is more a "mental state [of reverie] " (page 102). Further, he said that the etheric body is actually the vehicle used in an OBE, and that calling it astral projection is misleading (pages 102-103).