I was pondering the concept of the astral and its use in magic, and wanted to throw some thoughts to the forum-at-large, to solicit your viewpoints.
In the occult writings of people like Levi, Crowley and the Golden Dawn, the astral plane was (is) considered paramount for magical workings. Ritual takes place not only on the physical, but on the astral. The imaginative workings of the magician are built atop the physical ritual, and I suppose are what supplies the true power of any given ritual. The body of light is something that is built up via imagination until the magician can step into it and work in it. (I'm speaking from theoretical knowledge ! )
Many modern authors (and most of my learning is from authors) infuse imagination into magical work. However, some word this concept as "just" vivid imagination, not necessarily anything "astral." I suppose there is some overlap, because I believe astral is perceived through the imagination. But the visualization is what's stressed, regardless of how it's labeled.
The class of astral work that inspired this post is the viewpoint that astral "stuff" is fueled by the mage's personal essence. I was contemplating an exercise supplied by John Michael Greer last night. It's a method of building an astral temple for use in ritual, which is superimposed over the physical space. The practice involves first imagining that you are working in this superimposed temple (effectively using a body of light?) while sitting stationary. Over time the exercise is expanded to working in the physical body while holding the imagined temple space; and culminates with interacting with an imagined (astral?) object superimposed over a physical object. He states this is the basis of all ceremonial.
The key point of Greer's exercise is that the temple expands from oneself, and that he stresses that it all must be re-absorbed back into oneself at the end. Otherwise imbalance (such as exhaustion and physical symptoms) could occur.
Denning & Philips also have written of the astral this way. I remember they talked about building an astral body via "nephesh substance," which is emitted via imaginative will from the solar plexus. This substance must be pulled back into the body when done. I think Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki has written similarly, and gone further to say that this body develops a will of its own. (By the way, her book on thoughtforms is really good. I admit to being unwilling to follow her program of study though.)
Who's right? Maybe everyone is? I don't know, and I don't know if you do either, but I'd like to hear from people with practical experience. I could use some guidance on this topic. Particularly on the part where personal essence is utilized and revoked.