Evolution is a continuing process of purposeful change.
Human Evolution is not limited to, or even primarily focused on, changes in the physical body. The "body"—any body—is a vehicle for consciousness.
It is as a "sphere of consciousness" (an alternative term, perhaps, for "self" or "soul") using its several vehicles as a means to gain experience within a manifest environment that purposeful human evolution can be initiated at the personal level.
With focus on conscious observation and experience of our personal world, we grow in personal awareness of its substance and corresponding energies, and then, gaining knowledge through their direct application we attain understanding of the laws of manifestation, and thus grow in conscious awareness.
Growth In Awareness
It is "Growth in Awareness" that is the real purpose of Human Evolution.
Consciousness is everywhere and in everything, and exists within the human as conscious mind, sub-consciousness, super-consciousness, the personal-unconscious, the collective-unconscious, and universal-consciousness, as well as other names and concepts. But it is through personal-awareness that we experience and work with our own "sphere of consciousness" and initiate both personal evolutionary growth and add to universal human evolutionary development.
(In this discussion I am deliberately not using such words as "soul" and "spirit" and various other terms to avoid confusion with theological and mystical associations. While Theosophists and others resort to Sanskrit, Latin, and Hebrew terminology for the specificity those languages provide, much of that value is lost for those of us unfamiliar with those languages as a whole. I feel that more can be accomplished with the use of compounding and adjectives applied to familiar words in our everyday language.)
Evolution likewise is everywhere in everything, and happens all the time, and not just in the distant past and "other places." Sometimes relatively substantial changes appear to happen in a single leap over a short (historically speaking) time frame; other times changes occur at a very slow pace or hardly at all. It happens in combinations of Matter and Energy that make up the Forms of Manifestation and the Vehicles for Evolving Consciousness.
As another way of putting it, evolution occurs in both the external world and in our internal world. We can say its external study is in the sciences of quantum physics, biology, botany, and astronomy, while its internal study involves the sciences of psychology, the paranormal, Kabbalah, and alternative medicine, and in the practices of yoga, tantra, meditation, and magick.
Personal Growth and Development
Some people fear change and deny evolution as a process; others embrace it and take joy in change. Some people "live in the Past," where familiarity offers certainty and comfort; others live for the Future, where "Progress" promises a better world. In truth we all live in the present, founded on the past, and building the future. Change happens and evolution continues, but individuals can accelerate their personal growth and development through intentional actions at higher levels of consciousness.
Everything in the Cosmos "vibrates," including levels of manifestation and consciousness. Different rates of vibration manifest in specific forms of Matter/Energy, and likewise in forming the vehicles for conscious experience and action. Matter is generally perceived as "frozen" energy, but is in fact always vibrating and releasing energy at rates ranging from very slow (as in rotting vegetation) to explosive change (as in nuclear power).
In our personal consciousness, rates of vibration change with activities at each level, the level at which attention is focused, and through the particular dynamics of the four vehicles that make up the Whole Person—the Physical and its Etheric Energy Double, the Astral or Emotional, and the Mental and Causal.
At the same time, it is somewhat deceptive to think that we can arbitrarily change vehicles in the same manner as going out to our four-car garage and taking out our favorite red sports convertible instead of the usual black SUV. As "spheres of consciousness" we use all four of our vehicles in their equivalent levels (or planes or worlds) of manifestation all the time, but at any one moment our focus is primarily in just one vehicle, and that is usually the physical (in this example, the equivalent of that conservative, all-terrain, black, SUV). What is "focused" is attention otherwise known as a "field of awareness"—and it always involves Will, Mind, Feeling, Body Chemistry, and the Physical Brain. Mind, Emotion, and Will all work together whether centered in the physical body, the astral body, the mental vehicle, or the Casual Body.
In practice, the physical body is always accompanied by its Etheric (Energy) Double, and we rarely project in the Etheric Double, but we can extend it. We can also focus our awareness in the Etheric Double and direct the particular energies of the chakras through the various meridians for special applications in Diagnosis, Healing, Magick, Psychic Actions, and in Sexual Intercourse. There are many aspects of the Etheric Double that can be studied in particular relation to what happens during and after Physical Death (though that would be the subject for an entire book).
Sometime after Physical Death, the Etheric Double normally "decomposes," just as does the physical body, but there are methods (usually categorized as "Black Magic") for the Sphere of Consciousness to keep "living" in it. That, again, could be the subject of an entire book, but not one I am interested in. In popular lore, this would deal with earthbound souls, vampires, zombies, ghouls, certain kinds of ghosts, specters, wraiths, phantoms, etc. Not a very wholesome lot.
Vibratory Rates as Conditional
The Cosmos—consisting of both the visible Physical Universe and the six "higher" levels often broadly, but misleadingly, called "the Spirit World"—is our real home. We are not just inhabitants of a single small planet but of all there is: the Cosmos. However, our concern here is limited to the Physical and Astral Levels of our immediate environment.
Each "level" of manifestation (also known as a "plane" or "world") is made up of seven sub-planes, each measured in a range of vibrations corresponding to particular forms of "Substance" and Energy. The word "substance" is used in relation to all seven levels, but the word "Matter" is specific to the substance of the Physical level or Material World.
"Plane" is another misleading word when applied in this context, which is why I prefer alternatives of "level" and "world." Plane, and sub-plane, suggests that these are fixed strata stacked one on top of another, as if steps on a stairway that you can simply ascend or descend. There is no point where you suddenly ascend from the physical to the astral plane, or move from on specific sub-plane to another.
A simplistic concept—almost as naive as that of strata or steps—is to say, "You go where your attention goes." And, yet, there is truth in that even though you will not go to heaven merely by wishing to, nor return to physical earth from the "Land of Oz" by clicking your heels as Dorothy did in the fabulous The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
The need is two-fold: 1) To better know where you want to go other than "the Astral Plane, Sub-Plane #3." You need to know the reality of your chosen destination, and more specifically what you are seeking; and 2) You need to "raise your (consciousness) vibrations to correspond to your destination." It's not like turning a dial to "Vibe Rate XX-YY," but to become that state of awareness through a combination of knowledge and focus.
This is not a "how to" article on astral projection, as the subject is far more complex that what can be said in a few words. Please see the book recommendations at the end of this article.
The densest plane is that we know as the Physical Universe. It is our "home base" during physical life/incarnation. As a Sphere of Consciousness we primarily function by means of "vehicles" on the three lowest planes: Physical/Etheric, Astral, and Mental. Our "focus," or Field of Awareness, is primarily on the lower three sub-planes of the Physical World that manifest in 3-dimensional combinations of "Form" we perceive as Solid, Liquid, and Gaseous aspects of the World of Action and experience through the Physical Action Body.
"Above" the lower three dimensions of Form are the four energizing forces inclusive of the five familiar five Tattvic Elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Spirit, each of which can be manipulated in particular intentional ways. We perceive these four levels together as the Etheric Plane or the World of Life Force that we experience through the Etheric Energy Double and perceive as the Human Aura (also known as the "Magical Mirror of the Universe").
Together, these seven sub-planes and levels compose the Physical World of Matter/Energy and the Physical/Etheric Vehicle of Consciousness used to experience and, and thus to learn, the nature of the Material World.
During Astral Projection, a very small portion of the Etheric Double—mostly in the form of the "Silver Cord"—extends from the resting or sleeping physical body to the Astral Vehicle. This connection serves many functions, but one of the more important is to provide for a physical memory of the astral experiences.
There are two points being made in this article: 1) Personal Growth (evolution) is an expansion of Awareness—now moving beyond the physical dimensions to add the increased awareness and knowledge of the Astral World, and 2) it is by this very function of projection to a higher level of consciousness that you "become more than you are," and hence more of the Whole Person you actually are.
In other words, you are a sphere of consciousness with as yet only partial awareness, and through astral projection you are expanding the area of awareness of this higher dimension. It is as if you are sphere only half filled with Light, and your goal is to increase the amount of Light in your sphere. Of course, in the process you gain in knowledge and understanding, of the astral dimension and its relation to the physical world, you gain in mental and emotional self-discipline to handle the excessive emotional reactions all too common in today's world (witness the daily news of violence, aggression, appeals to fear and hate, the excess emotionality of the entertainment and sports industries, and the war of ideologies), and you gain in the practical powers intrinsic to Mind and Spirit to bring healing and strength to the physical body and greater success and happiness to your physical world.
Indeed, your mission is to Become More Than You Are, and All You Can Be! You must take that Next Step for your own benefit, and for the benefit of all humanity.
Carl Llewellyn Weschcke