By: William Ember
With Astral Projection you get into the Astral Plane direct from your physical body. When you have a Lucid Dream, you have simply 'missed' the initial projection. They are just two different ways of entering the Astral Realm. In either case you are still conscious in the Astral, however, as there are degrees of lucidity in dreaming, you may or may not be fully in control of your experience. But this is highly unlikely in an Astral Projection. There is still a difference, whether more slight or obvious.
The difference arises mostly because of the framework you are entering from. If you project from the waking state, you may encounter some difficulties due to restrictive ideas carried with you that don't apply to the Astral, and require some practice to adjust to the new environment. On the other hand, in a Lucid Dream, having accustomed to the expansiveness of the dream state, you can sometimes have the opposite problem, finding it hard to retain a conscious focus, and thus 'losing lucidity'. With practice of course, both of these will be overcome.
However, knowing this distinction can be helpful when choosing our experience. In one sense, when we are Lucid Dreaming we are within the 'creative state', and it is easier to consciously create what we desire. And in Astral Projection it is probably more productive to explore the other realities that already exist, relatively unhampered by specific desires for self-fulfillment.
There is some contention between defining the difference between Lucid Dreaming and Projection. It is not a matter of clarity or vividness as some people suggest, though typically Lucid Dreams will seem more substantial and realistic at least to begin with. But either experience can be poorly or highly developed. Having already distinguished Etheric Projection and Astral Projection, there remains a factor that does provide a feasible distinction.
This determining factor is memory. While there are no hard and fast rules, typically, in an Astral Projection you remember who you are, and there is a continuity of memory from waking through to projection. But in a Lucid Dream, this is not always the case. You can be consciously aware without fully remembering your identity, and there is often no continuity from the waking state, nor memory of what preceded the experience of becoming lucid.
There is also the term 'OOBE'. These Out of Body Experiences are just that. You, your consciousness, is out of your physical body. Again, these can be spontaneous episodes (not consciously called for) or intentional ones. As mentioned earlier, the term is often used instead of Etheric Projection. Or it can be used for an 'unconscious' separation or even for an Astral Projection, but again it is not the most helpful term. An 'OOBE' may or may not lead to experiences in the Astral Plane beyond the Etheric. This is the distinction I like to make anyway, as it really does avoid confusion.
A Near Death Experience (NDE) is a type of OOBE that is brought about when a person survives a close brush with death. It generally occurs during accidents or acute illness. Technically speaking it is an Etheric Projection, as when a person's body is near death, a large amount of etheric matter is channelled into the astral body in preparation for the death process. People often report seeing their life flash before them during an NDE. Many people also experience travelling inside a dark tunnel towards a light and/or floating over their physical body, aware of what is happening in real-time.
This pattern is unaltered by a person's culture or belief system, religion, race, education, or any other known variable. The massive amount of research on NDEs constitutes the most scientific proof that consciousness survives bodily death. A Gallup survey estimates that more than 8 million Americans have had NDEs. It is no wonder that after having an NDE, most people develop a strong belief in life after death.
Fortunately, we don't need to experience an N-D-E to have O-O-B-E. That would really S-U-C-K. (Of course that doesn't stand for anything, it's just these capital letters can really get out of hand. J) Projectors learn to consciously have an experience without needing to undergo life-or-death situations (unlike in the movie Flatliners, which is an interesting example of this. Check it out sometime.) Far more convenient really!
About the author
William Ember is an self-trained explorer of Lucid Dreaming and Astral Projection experiences, and has recently authored the most comprehensive and in-depth training guide to these experiences available anywhere. It is available at: http://www.ultimateastralexperience.com