The Theosophists were an occult society founded by Madame Helena Blavatsky, who claimed to have received much of her learning from "hidden masters" — enlightened or highly evolved spirits who existed in various dimensions of the astral plane and instructed selected humans in occult knowledge and spiritual evolution. Theosophical teachings were a complex blending of multiple Eastern and Western occult traditions which Blavatsky claimed stemmed from a universal religion that existed during a previous Golden Age. Whether or not this was really the case, the popularity of Theosophy led to a revival of interest in the astral planes, and much of what they had to say about the astral dimensions has been independently confirmed by non-Theosophical researchers practicing astral projection.

For the most part the Theosophical view of the astral planes was similar to that of the Hermeticists. Theosophists referred to the astral dimensions as the "astral light," and postulated seven planes or levels that were said to overlay each other. These were all physical to some degree, but the energies of the higher levels were less densely concentrated than the energies of the planes composed of gross physical matter.

The Theosophist Charles Leadbeater wrote that: "when we speak of a man as rising from one plane or subplane to another, we do not speak of him as necessarily moving in space at all, but rather as transferring his consciousness from one level to another-gradually becoming unresponsive to the vibrations of one order of matter, and beginning instead to answer to those of a higher and more refined order; so that one world with its scenery and inhabitants would seem to fade slowly away from his view, while another world of a more elevated character would dawn upon him in its stead."

The densest level was located at the bottom, and considered an underworld, with "a sense of density and gross materiality about it which is indescribably loathsome to the liberated astral body, causing it the sense of pushing its way through some black, viscous fluid, while the inhabitants and influences encountered there are also usually exceedingly undesirable." The plane most closely related to the physical world was the sixth, apparently equivalent to the "Real Time Zone" described by modern astral projection author Robert Bruce. The next two levels are similar but increasingly more refined, and consequently correspond less to the physical plane. The three highest planes are further removed from the physical and were described as idyllic lands with forests, mountains, lakes, and flower gardens surpassing the beauty of any earthly equivalents. Leadbeater wrote that these planes had "a kind of magical, living beauty about them that entrances the visitor and makes him reluctant to leave. This has often been said of fairyland, where everything is more perfect and more beautiful than in life."

Astral Planes and Departed Human Souls

Theosophists thought that the departed soul of a person who had died must pass through each level and go to the level most in tune with their spiritual nature, where they would work out issues related to their individual spiritual evolution. Only the most debased souls become trapped in the lowest levels, but those still fixated on worldly matters might reside in the sixth level closely overlaying the physical plane, where they may even be able to interact with the living. More spiritually advanced souls live on the next planes, where it is possible to build villages, towns and cities that endure from generation to generation within the astral light. This shares similarities to some of the Germanic and Celtic concepts of the land of fairy or the home of the "Light Alfs," inhabited by the spirits of the human dead who have ascended to higher levels.

Theosophical Views on the Astral Body

The Theosophists recognized a distinction between the physical, etheric, and astral bodies. They believed each was progressively less densely concentrated, and that the etheric body was incapable of separation from the physical until after death. They believed it was the etheric body that became visible to trance mediums, and that its relatively dense concentration could cause various physical manifestations during seances. They also shared the view put forward since antiquity and re-emphasized by Paracelsus that the astral body is the form upon which they physical body is built, and that what affects one can affect the other in a sympathetic matter.

Theosophists believed the astral light contains impressions of every historical event that has ever occurred and that it could be accessed as a sort of archive in a library of the Universal Mind. This is what is commonly known as the "Akashic records." They also believed that the actual origin of the Akashic records was in a higher spiritual plane, which is why those who attempted to access from a lower plane in order to make predictions of future (or past) events tended to obtain a mixture of both profound and uncanny insights and noteworthy errors. This same phenomenon was later rediscovered by modern researchers of "remote viewing" at the Standford Research Institute, who (despite their desire to distance themselves as far as possible from any accusations of occultism) used autohypnosis to astral project to real world destinations and obtain information from this same universally available well of information, which they renamed "The Matrix."