The Astral Plane is a metaphorical level of existence with ties to the physical world which only psychic entities can visit. Doctor Strange has practiced astral projection since his inception in 1963. Other Marvel characters with no psychic powers are capable of astral projection through other sources, such as by magic spells - for example, Illyana Rasputina was able to astral project her own consciousness. Other mutants such as Professor X, Emma Frost, Jean Grey and other powerful psychics have access to the astral plane. As a means to prevent another powerful psychic from harming others, Professor X imprisons the Shadow King on the astral plane. There are beings who live in astral plane of existence such as the Mummudrai, an example being Cassandra Nova, who cannot exist on the physical plane without a body.
Some say it is an alternate universe in an equivalent space to our own, where all matter is composed of ectoplasm. On the astral plane, the life energies and consciousnesses of other beings are discernible to adepts. Adepts can reach the astral plane by psionic or magical means. The astral plane is also sometimes called astral dimension, astral realm, or spirit world. Powerful psychics and sorcerers can manipulate the astral plane e.g. turning there arms into weapons or gaining height.
In Earth-96173, the astral planes are "other dimensions within and beyond the material plane" [sic.]. Human dreamers visit the harmless lower astral planes, but trained wizards are able to visit the higher astral planes, inhabited by dangerous creatures such as the barbarian beast Balzaroth. The witch Morgan le Fay managed to ensnare sleeping college student Clea Lake and trap her in the higher astral planes, from which she could not escape by herself, as a bait for her enemies Sorcerer Supreme Thomas Lindmer and Doctor Stephen Strange. Lindmer, weakened by a previous duel with le Fay, feared that such a quest could destroy him, so he instead trained Strange to perform the rite, and taught him a plea to Raggadorr that repelled the dimension dwellers. Strange's ring with the symbol of light was useful for the spell that sent Strange to the astral plane. Strange had a psychic bond with Lake that he followed to find her. Le Fay was unable to stop them and she was thus chastened by her sponsor the Nameless One.
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