This is a subject I hate discussing. It's just...eugh. I also hate discussing human origins, the afterlife, whether or not there is a god etc. I just don't know and I don't pretend to know. I'm rather apathetic actually. I just don't care.
Many people have different beliefs regarding what astral projection is. Some believe it's a way for you soul (spirit, consciousness, whatever you would call it) to leave your body and travel around anywhere in the world like a ghost. Some have very specific beliefs, about different levels of astral planes and a silver chord which attatches to your body. Some people of different religions connect astral projection with their own dogma, sometimes giving it a different name, you can find sects of buddhists, witches, even christians that practice astral travel under a different guise. Some people think it's merely a very intense form of lucid dreaming. Some people think it's merely a hallucination of the mind, I've read more than one explanation from a scientist claiming to know exactly what it is.
But none of these people know anything at all, they're just theories. All I know is that it's a very, very real experience. Whether it's a spiritual thing or trick of the mind, it's very real. I don't know what causes it, and never will. That's the beauty of it, in a way, there's no way I could ever know so I can neglect the boring study of what it is and how it works and just go ahead and experience it. It's the same kind of open-minded approach I take to most thing, same would go for human origins. I don't know how we got here...evolution? Intelligent design? No way I could know but I don't care enough to waste time studying it anyway when I could just enjoy it. And same with astral projection, I love the experience and I love learning little things at a time with out forcing myself into a belief system before I've barely even experienced it myself.
This is one thing that holds a lot of people back. The more spiritually minded are held back because of skeptics putting them down and telling them it's just their mind tripping out. And the more skeptical people are put off practicing all together due to their beliefs. Why? What difference does it matter at all? The experience remains the same.
So to answer the question of what is astral projection is, I don't know. I will never know. You will never know. And neither of us should care. Just enjoy the practice and experience. All I can confirm from my own practice is that it's real, and that it is a different experience from lucid dreaming. If you feel you need a belief to back it, then figure that one out on your own and be happy that you have your own personal belief system.
Next post we're getting started. Something that helped me out tenfold - dream recall. Stay tuned.