Disclaimer - This is a copy/paste of my response to a survey on energy posted in my coven. Some folk not in my coven wished to read this, so I'm posting it here. If anyone would like to respond to the survey themselves or simply add to the discussion, they are welcome to. Secondary Disclaimer - unless otherwised mentioned, these are all my beliefs, which pull from the schools of thought I was initially taught in as well as the understandings I have come to today.It is scientific fact that we cannot experience sensations without our brains interpreting first, so I hold that this is true for spiritual experience as understood in a physically conscious manner (which is where we experience most of spirituality in terms that we can actually retain; ASCs are the exception, but still follow the interpretation rule). That being said, it's logical that every sensation we experience has a mental and physical explanation, but that sometimes there is also spiritually reasoning alongside explaining the circumstances. Because of all this, I absolutely hate it when people say "Such and such caused this!" or "This is how primitives explained away things" because we don't know for certain and I don't use my spirituality to explain existence beyond cosmological models that form a basis of the idea I hold to about subtle reality as we cannot measure subtle existence at this time; and thus, not be able to prove or disprove anything about such matters. Going more into cosmological models, I hold to the following:
The absolute closest density to the Physical Plane, this is what most directly affects it. For example, Out of Body Experiences that involve stopping of the physical heart happen here. It is the hardest subtle energy to work with as it is the densest. Events that happen here are manifested, rather than instigated.
Things like psychometry (psychic energy involving physical events, places, people, and time) and projection to physical places that don't directly affect the physical body can fall under this form. While not the hardest energy to work with, it is often the most sought after by newbies and is still hard to manage if you have no prior conscious experience with it. However, skills can be developed through exercises and awareness.
Somewhere in between the prior two, we have realms that are called Otherworld and Underworld. Otherworld is sort of like a direct mirror of the Physical Plane. Phenomena with mirrors/reflections can be used to "see" into the Otherworld and the folklore I'm most familiar with involving this happens to be Celtic. Underworld is more of the modern Shamanic understanding of the core of our Earth and the deep recesses of nature and mass, manifested subconsciousness. It is more underlying than overlapping or mirroring.
This is what is referenced when most people talk about astral phenomena in that our minds and energy can manifest rather easily in any intended form. I don't really delve into work here, but it involves the mind and subtle planes that connect. Any of the Cosmic Planes begin to blur together at this point.
Higher / Cosmic
This is what I would actually consider the Astral Plane and it deals with concepts like our Higher Selves, which is just a fancy way of saying our Instinctual Spirit. When I say Astral, I mean Cosmic in actually involving celestial energy in a subtle manner. The "Psychic Tides" of celestial bodies such as the Sun, Moon, planets, and other stars manifest here.
This is where I believe core spiritual essences are made. I believe that everything is of divinity, so the difference between a Soul and a God is really just terminology and how it is treated. I feel I have to make some disclaimers here in that "Creative Force" is divine/soul energy and that the Souls and Gods are made from it, but that we, as human expressions of existence, are not Gods (though our spirits and Souls are capable of aligning with Gods, which is where we get our religious affinities).How would you express your experience with contact of magical energies as a sensory perception? I believe that we experience the understandings of our Subtle Bodies in an interpretation that our Physical Consciousness can comprehend, which often centers around the brain and mental experiences. To go further into it, I believe that our "spiritual sensations" are a whisper of physical and mental sensations that the brain produces alongside with our instinct and subconscious, which I believe is a gateway to and from our Subtle Bodies in terms of translating Physical and Subtle experiences of overall existence. What I experience most often are visions, which are mental manifestations of how my brain interprets energy. Not all of the visions are spiritually related, but they are all psychologically related and because a good chunk of my practices deal with the mind, I don't actually exclude mundane visions from my practice. They look like swirls of color and sometimes have more manifested shapes; I can physically see them, but I know what I'm seeing is not physical. Impressionable imagery is similar to a vision in function, but I don't see it physically; it's like picturing something in your mind. I can "see" an image in my mind that I don't physically see. The "ghost sensations" are what I call feeling energy through touch. It doesn't actually have anything inherently to do with ghosts, but it describes it in that I know it's not a sensory experience caused by the outside physical world. However, there are times where physical expressions can align with spiritual experiences. The same goes for hearing - I can physically hear it in my head, but I know it's not a physical sound from the outside world. Mostly I get clairaudience in trance. Taste and scent are actual, physical sensations, but I'm not smelling or tasting anything outside your brain. Even if I don't experience something via a physical/mental sense, instinct is always present during spiritual experiences. It's like a deep understanding of things tied into my subconscious. Where does the energy you work with or sense seem to originate from most often? I work with and sense lighter etheric energy most often. Being that the Soul Body is present in all other Bodies, I also work with my Soul Body quite often. I've also found that Soul energy is much more effective than Spirit energy in terms of spiritual workings (mostly through aligning a portion of your Soul energy with other energy; the other part of that practice is Sillieh's Soul Sprigs, which are portions of Soul energy manifested during times of pure wonder and pure being). I also spiritually and mentally travel and it is most often to the Underworld, Otherworld, and some of the realms of Yggdrasil. The entities whose energies I work with most often are Dokkalfar, Hrimthursar, Landvaettir, and entities aligned with the Underworld. Do you think that without a way of study, construct of society, mysticism, or religion it would still be within the human existence to experience spirituality in a deep manner? What sort of experience would you imagine it would be? People experience things in a deep and involving manner even before they know what words exist to describe it, so I think it is very possible and also very natural. As linear based adult humans, we feel the need to categorize and term things, but words are mere expressions and methods of communication and they aren't the only forms. Despite that, I think that words can be used specifically as a form of worship and spiritual experience; they are similar to tools in that they can be important, but they are not necessary (unless you practice a tradition that involves either).