There is little difference between the modern Charismatic Movement and the Occult. One of the latest charismatic fads demonstrate this reality.
“Christian Spiritual Travel” is a concept being popularized by various segments of Charismania. It is not uncommon to hear Charismatic teachers talk about their out-of-body experiences in which they were transported to Heaven, another part of the earth, another time, or even another dimension.
New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) prophetess, Patricia King, claims that she has traveled through time “in the spirit” (and you can, too – link).
NAR Associate and one-time leader of the proto-NAR group, the Kansas City Prophets, Mike Bickel, explains the practice of spiritual travel with his own accounts of out-of-body experiences, saying in a 1988 recording “The Lord took my spirit out of my body… I don’t know how it operates but I know your body is where its at but you’re not there and you’re somewhere else. And its not a dream and its not a vision, you’re literally somewhere else…” Bickel then went on to describe a small room in Heaven in which he conversed with the Almighty.
Sid Roth, a popular charismatic broadcaster, highlighted one man’s regular teleportation to different times and places through a tent set up in his living room (link).
A man calling himself ‘The Praying Medic’ (he writes anonymously of all the people he has healed by prayer, for the sake of his patient’s confidentiality) has written a book on how to travel in spirit (link).
As with the Heaven Tourism fad of the last fifteen years, most claiming so-called “Soul Travel” are asserting out-of-body- experiences, not in-the-flesh experiences. And yet, the claim of out-of-body travel is different than claiming to have a vision. As Bickel says, “you’re literally somewhere else.” But if not in physical form, then in what form?
The term for the notion is Astral Projection, and it is occultic.
Astral Projection is a form of telepathy and is common in esoteric mystic traditions, mostly of the Eastern variety. Purporting a “soul consciousness,” a separation of the soul from the body that does not include physical death, the idea is that the soul (or spirit, consciousness, etc) can travel independently of the body. Typically, the means to achieve Astral Projection include deep meditation (like that taught in Surat Shabd Yoga), hallucinogenic drugs, contemplative prayer and hypnosis (including self-hypnosis).
Most Eastern Mystic gurus (sanskrit for “teachers”) have promoted Astral Projection as an important spiritual experience since at least the early twentieth century, and those of the Sant Mat variety of Hindu-Indian gurus have taught the practice even centuries earlier.
Aleister Crowley, the prominent English Occultist, promoted Astral Projection in his book, Body of Light, in which he argued that the feat could be accomplished by controlled breathing, deep meditation, and visualization.
Other traditions that teach out-of-body travel through the physical world include the Theosophists, Rosicrucians, the ancient Egyptians (in their teachings of the ka), Taoists, and other smaller tribal religions like those of the Inuits and the Waiwai of the Amazon.
For charismatics promoting Astral Projection, their method of accomplishing the feat is no different than any of the other religious traditions who similarly teach out-of-body travel. Chiefly, they teach that deep meditation, sincerity of heart, breathing techniques, and contemplative prayer will lead to traveling outside the body.
Second Corinthians 12:2 is usually credited by charismatics as a Biblical defense of the practice, but Paul did not assert definitively that his travel was out of body, neither did he assert the possibility in a definitive way. Rather, Paul’s teaching that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) would seem to negate any possibility of Astral Projection outside of the direct presence of God. Furthermore, the entire passage indicates that to be absent the clothes of flesh is to be synonymous with being dead (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
Astral Projection is not a practice supported by the Holy Scriptures, and yet is a practice supported by a wide swath of the Occult, which is the Father of modern day Charismaticism.