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                          OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE FAQ
   written by Jouni A. Smed (
   Contents of OBE-FAQ:
     * [1]Introduction
     * [2]What is an out-of-the-body experience?
     * [3]What are ESP, PK and psi?
     * [4]What theories have been put forward to account for the OBE?
     * [5]What is an astral projection?
     * [6]Is astral projection an adequate explanation?
     * [7]What is animism?
     * [8]Can the OBEer be seen as an apparition?
     * [9]How can one find out what an OBE is like?
     * [10]What is an average astral projection like?
     * [11]What is an average OBE like?
     * [12]How common are OBEs?
     * [13]What are the prerequisites for inducing an OBE?
     * [14]How to induce an OBE?
          + [15]Imagery Techniques
          + [16]Inducing a Special Motivation to Leave the Body
          + [17]Ophiel's 'Little System'
          + [18]The Christos Technique
          + [19]Robert Monroe's Method
          + [20]Ritual Magic Methods
          + [21]Meditation and Chakra Meditation
          + [22]Hypnosis
          + [23]Drugs
          + [24]Dream Development
          + [25]Palmer's Experimental Method
     * [26]What are lucid dreams?
     * [27]What is the physiology of dreams and lucid dreams?
     * [28]What is the physiology of OBEs?
     * [29]What are near-death experiences and are they some kind of
     * [30]Is the OBE some kind of mental illness?
     * [31]Are people who have greater imagery skills more likely to have
     * [32]Are OBEs some kind of hallucination?
     * [33]What are the features of OB vision?
     * [34]How can the OBE be explained?
          + [35]Something Leaves the Body
               o [36]Physical Theories
               o [37]Physical Astral World Theory
               o [38]Mental Astral World Theory
          + [39]Nothing Leaves the Body
               o [40]Parapsychological Theory
               o [41]Psychological Theories
          + [42]Other approaches
     * [43]Out-of-Body Tools
     * [44]References

   Much of the discussion of out-of-body experiences has centered around
   the recounting of experiences and speculation on the nature of those
   experiences. Some articles have questioned whether the experiences are
   of an hallucinatory nature or purely a function of biochemical
   processes that occur in the brain, and, at the other extreme, some
   have linked them with notions of the existence of an immortal soul and
   other ideas generally associated with religious interpretations of
   human existence. Most readers are intrigued by the thought of being
   able to have and control OBEs, and see them as a potentially
   interesting experience, though some smaller number of people taking
   part in discussions are interested in trying to figure out their
   nature and function and their possible implications for the
   understanding of what it means to be fully human.
What is an out-of-the-body experience?

   Out-of-body-experiences (OBEs) are those curious, and usually brief
   experiences in which a person's consciousness seems to depart from his
   or her body, enabling observation of the world from a point of view
   other than that of the physical body and by means other than those of
   the physical senses. Thus, an out-of-the-body experience can initially
   be defined as 'an experience in which a person seems to perceive the
   world from a location outside his physical body' [Bla82]. In some
   cases experients claim that they 'saw' and 'heard' things (objects
   which were really there, events and conversations which really took
   place) which could not have seen or heard from the actual positions of
   their bodies.
   OBEs are surprisingly common; different surveys have yielded somewhat
   different results, but some estimates indicate that somewhere between
   one person in ten and one person in twenty is likely to have had such
   an experience at least once. Furthermore it seems that OBEs can occur
   to anyone in almost any circumstances. Researchers have approached the
   question of the timing of OBEs by asking people who claim to have had
   OBEs to describe when they happened. In one of these, over 85 percent
   of those surveyed said they had had OBEs while they were resting,
   sleeping or dreaming [Bla84]. Other surveys also show that the
   majority of OBEs occur when people are in bed, ill, or resting, with a
   smaller percentage coming while the person is drugged or medicated
   [Gre68a, Poy75]. But they can occur during almost any kind of
   activity. Green cites a couple of cases in which motor-cyclists,
   riding at speed, suddenly found themselves floating above their
   machines looking down on their own bodies still driving along.
   Accidents did not ensue. Pilots of high-flying airplanes (perhaps
   affected by absence of vibration, and uniformity of sensory
   stimulation) have similarly found themselves apparently outside their
   aircraft struggling to get in. One might well struggle frantically
   under such circumstances.
   More curious still are reciprocal cases of OBE and apparition: the OBE
   subject, aware that he is operating in some kind of duplicate body,
   travels to a distant location where he sees a person and is aware of
   being seen by that person; this person confirms that he saw an
   apparition of the OBEer at the time that the OBEer claimed to be in
   his presence. Thus the two experiences corroborate each other.
   Not all OBEs occur spontaneously. Using various techniques, some
   people have apparently cultivated the faculty of inducing them more or
   less as desired, and a number have written detailed accounts of their
   experiences. These accounts do not always in all respects square with
   accounts given by persons who have undergone spontaneous OBEs. For
   instance the great majority of those who experience OBEs voluntarily
   state that they find themselves still embodied, but in a body whose
   shape, external characteristics, and spatial location are easily
   altered at will, and an appreciable number refer to an elastic 'silver
   cord' joining their new body to their old one. A much smaller
   percentage of those who undergo spontaneous OBEs mention being
   embodied, and some specifically state that they found themselves
   disembodied. The 'silver cord' is quite rarely mentioned. It is hard
   to avoid suspecting that many features of self- induced OBEs are
   determined by the subject's reading and his antecedent expectations.
   Common aspects of the experience include being in an 'out-of-body'
   body much like the physical one, feeling a sense of energy, feeling
   vibrations, and hearing strange loud noises [GT84]. Sometimes a
   sensation of bodily paralysis precedes the OBE [Sal82, Irw88, MC29,
   Fox62]. OBEs, especially spontaneous ones, are often very vivid, and
   resemble everyday waking experiences rather than dreams, and they may
   make a considerable impression on those who undergo them. Such persons
   may find it hard to believe that they did not in fact leave their
   bodies, and they may draw the conclusion that we possess a separable
   soul, perhaps linked to a second body, which will survive in a state
   of full consciousness, perhaps even of enhanced consciousness, after
   death. Death would be, as it were, an OBE in which one did not succeed
   in getting back into one's body.
   Such conclusions present themselves even more forcefully to the minds
   of those who have undergone a 'near-death experience' (NDE). It is not
   uncommon for persons who have been to the brink of death and returned
   -- following, say, a heart stoppage or serious injuries from an
   accident -- to report an experience (commonly of a great vividness and
   impressiveness) as of leaving their bodies, and traveling (often in a
   duplicate body) to the border of a new and wonderful realm. Reports
   suggest that the conscious self's awareness outside the body is not
   only unimpaired but enhanced: events which occurred during the period
   of unconsciousness are described in accurate detail and confirmed by
   those present. The subject sometimes 'hears' the doctor pronouncing
   him dead when he feels intensely alive and free from physical pain,
   and finds himself returning unwillingly to the constrictions of the
   physical body. If OBEs show the capacity of the conscious self to have
   experiences and perceptions outside the physical body, near-death
   experiences seem to suggest that this capacity still obtains when the
   physical body is totally unconscious.
   The idea that we all have a double seems to spring naturally out of
   that of the OBE. If you seem to be leaving your physical body and
   observing things from outside it then it seems natural to assume that,
   at least temporarily, you had a double. It also seems obvious that
   this double could see, hear, think and move. This interpretation is
   not necessarily valid. As Palmer has so carefully pointed out [Pal78a]
   the experience of being out of the body is not equivalent to the fact
   of being out.
   According to the English psychologist Susan Blackmore the definition
   of the OBE as an experience may not be a perfect definition but one of
   its major advantages is that it does not imply any particular
   interpretation of the OBE. The consequences of this definition are
   important. First, since the OBE is an experience, then if someone says
   he has had an OBE we have to believe him. Conceivably in the future we
   might find ways of measuring, or establishing external criteria for,
   the OBE, but at the moment we can only take a person's word for it.
   Another related consequence is that the OBE is not some kind of
   psychic phenomenon. As Palmer has explained, 'the OBE is neither
   potentially nor actually a psychic phenomenon.' This view is a natural
   consequence of any experiential definition. A private experience can
   take any form you like. This experience may turn out to be one
   associated with ESP and paranormal events, but it may not.
What are ESP, PK and psi?

   'Extrasensory perception' (ESP) is a term coined by Dr. J. B. Rhine of
   Duke University. It covers any instance of the apparent acquisition of
   non- inferential knowledge of matters of fact without the use of the
   known sense organs. ESP is usually said to have three varieties:
   'telepathy,' in which the knowledge is of events in another person's
   mind, 'clairvoyance,' in which the knowledge is of physical objects or
   states of affairs; and 'precognition' (telepathic or clairvoyant),
   where the knowledge relates to happenings still in the future. The
   word 'knowledge' is, however, not entirely appropriate, for there may
   be telepathic or clairvoyant 'interaction,' in which a person's mental
   state or actions may be influenced by an external state of affairs,
   though he does not 'know' or 'cognize' it.
   Another American term is 'psychokinesis' (PK), the direct influence of
   mental events on physical events external to the agent's body. 'Psi'
   (from the Greek letter) is 'a general term to identify personal
   factors or processes in nature which transcend accepted laws' [Gay74].
   It is sometimes used to cover both ESP and PK.
What theories have been put forward to account for the OBE?

   The notion of the human double has a long and colorful history. Plato
   gave us an early idea. He believed that what we see in this life is
   only a dim reflection of what the spirit could see if it were released
   from the physical. Imprisoned in a gross physical body, the spirit is
   restricted; separated from that body, it would be able to converse
   freely with the spirits of the departed, and see things more clearly.
   Another idea which can be traced to the Greeks is that we have second
   body. The spirit or some subtle body would be able to see better
   without its body. Aristotle taught that the spirit could leave the
   body and that it is capable of communicating with the spirits, while
   Plotinus held that all souls must be separable from their physical
   bodies. This 'doctrine of the subtle body' runs through Western
   Homer regarded man as a composite being comprising three distinct
   entities, namely the body (soma), the 'psyche,' and the thumos; this
   last term is untranslatable, but is always closely associated with the
   diaphragm/midriff (phrenes), which was considered to be the seat of
   the will and feeling, perhaps even of the intellect. At this stage
   (800 - 750 BC) the term psyche had not come to mean personal soul, but
   rather it represented the impersonal life-principle which dwells in
   the body but which is unrelated to the intellect and the emotions. A
   fourth component, the 'image' ('eidolon'), might also be included in
   human make-up; it was this aspect of self which acted and appeared in
   dreams, where it was considered as a real figure.
   Dionysus' early followers in Thrace reenacted his death and
   resurrection in a gruesome ceremony, where they tore a live bull to
   pieces with their teeth, and then roamed about the woods shouting
   frantically. Later rituals were hardly less barbaric and frenzied; all
   were calculated to induce a stage of religious madness or mania. They
   took place at night to the accompaniment of loud music and cymbals,
   thus exciting the chorus of worshippers who soon joined in with shouts
   of their own. Dancing was so violent that no breath was left for
   singing, and eventually the worshippers induced through their excesses
   a state of such exaltation and rapture that it seemed to them that the
   ordinary limits of life had been transcended, that they were
   'possessed,' their soul having temporarily left the body. The soul was
   in a condition of enthousiasmos (inside the god) and ekstasis (outside
   the body); liberated from the confines of the body it enjoyed
   communion with the god.
   Perhaps the most pervasive idea relating to other bodies is that on
   death we leave our physical body and take on some subtler or higher
   form. This notion has roots not only in Greek thought and in much of
   later philosophy, but also in many religious teachings. Some Eastern
   religions include specific doctrines on the forms and abilities of
   other bodies and the nature of other worlds; and in Christianity there
   are references to a spiritual body. Some religious works can be seen
   as preparing the soul for its transition at death.
   The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thodol (meaning Liberation by
   Hearing on the After-Death Plane) was first committed to writing in
   the eighth century AD, although the editor, Dr W. Y. Evans-Wentz, has
   no doubt that it represents 'the record of belief of innumerable
   generations in a state of existence after death.' It is thought that
   its teachings were initially handed down orally, then finally compiled
   and recorded by a number of authors. The book is used as a funeral
   ritual, and is read out as a guide to the recently deceased. It
   contains an elaborate description of the moment of death, the stages
   of mind experienced by the deceased at various stages of post-mortem
   existence, and the path to liberation or rebirth, as the case may be.
   The Bardo body, also referred to as the desire- or propensity-body, is
   formed of matter in an invisible and etheral-like state and is, in
   this tradition, believed to be an exact duplicate of the human body,
   from which it is separated in the process of death. Retained in the
   Bardo body are the consciousness-principle and the psychic nervous
   system (the counterpart, for the psychic or Bardo body, of the
   physical nervous system of the human body) [Eva60]. Due to its nature,
   the Bardo body is able to pass through matter, which is only solid and
   impenetrable to the senses, but not to the instruments of modern
   physics; and the fact that the conscious self is not embedded in
   matter enables it to travel instantly where it desires. Flights of the
   imagination become objectively real, the wish comes true.
   In his introductions to The Egyptian Book of the Dead -- called in the
   language of that people 'Pert Em Hru' ('Emerging by Day') -- Wallis
   Budge points out that its chapters 'are a mirror in which are
   reflected most of the beliefs of the various races which went to build
   up the Egyptians of history.' As all commentators have hastened to
   indicate, the Book of the Dead is not a unity but a collection of
   chapters of varying lengths and dating from different ages. A
   selection of these would be made for the deceased, and would be copied
   on the walls of the tomb or inscribed on the sides of the sarcophagi;
   or they might even be written on scrolls of papyri which were then
   laid within the folds of the bodycloths. The extracts meant to benefit
   the deceased in a variety of ways.
   In the Egyptian Book of the Dead the perishable physical body,
   preservable only by mummification, is called the khat. Next comes the
   ka, which is generally translated as 'double,' and is defined by
   Wallis Budge as 'an abstract individuality or personality which
   possessed the form and attributes of the man to whom it belonged, and,
   though its normal dwelling place was in the tomb with the body, it
   could wander about at will; it was independent of the man and could go
   and dwell in any statue of him.'
   The ba, or heart-soul, is depicted as a bird and is often translated
   as 'soul.' It is sometimes conceived of as an animating principle
   within the body, but elsewhere it is hinted that one only becomes a ba
   after death, when it either dwells with the ka in the tomb or with Ra
   or Osiris in heaven. The ba is often referred to in connection with
   the spiritual soul (khu), which was regarded as imperishable and
   existed in the spiritual body (sahu). The sahu was originally
   considered to be a more material body, and may have formed a part of
   an early and literal view of the resurrection, whereby the sahu, ba,
   ka, khaibit (shadow) and ikhu (vital force) all came together again
   after 3,000 years, and the man was reanimated. Gradually the sahu came
   to be regarded as more spiritual in its compositions, and the idea of
   physical resurrection lost its prominence. It was believed that this
   sahu was germinated from the physical body, provided that it was not
   corrupt, and that the appropriate ceremonies had been performed by the
   The Egyptians agree with the Primitives and the Tibetans in asserting
   a form of continued existence after physical death. Their notions are
   less psychologically consistent and subtle than those of the Tibetans,
   but much more complex and symbolically developed than those of the
   Primitives, whom they resemble only in the earliest stages of their
   civilisation. Their unique features center round the overwhelming
   dread of physical corruption and corresponding longing for the
   germination of the indestructible sahu in which the khu will exist
   'for millions and millions of years.'
   One of the directly relevant ideas derives from the teachings of
   Theosophy. Within a scheme involving several planes and several
   bodies, the OBE is interpreted as a projection of the 'astral body'
   from the physical body. Theosophical ideas have influenced the
   thinking and terminology of many OBE researchers since many people
   reporting OBEs have found terms like 'astral projection' which derive
   from Theosophy to be useful in describing their experiences. Other
   researchers, however, find such terminology and the model it has been
   devised to describe to be unnecessarily biased in favor of a certain
   'esoteric' interpretation of the actual experiences.
   The idea that we have a double also appears in popular mythology.
   Often these doubles have sinister overtones, or are associated with
   the darker side of the psyche, but usually they are supposed to be
   quite harmless. These phenomena seem to be related to the OBE in that
   they involve a double, but there the resemblance ends.
   Dean Sheils [She78] compared the beliefs of over 60 different cultures
   by referring to special files kept for anthropological research. Of 54
   cultures for which some information was reported, 25 (or 46%) claimed
   that most or all people could travel outside the physical body under
   certain conditions. A further 23 (or 43%) claimed that a few of their
   number were able to do so, and only three cultures expressed no belief
   in anything of this nature. In a further three cultures the
   possibility of OBEs was admitted but the proportion of people who
   could experience it was not given. From this evidence, we can conclude
   that some form of a belief in out-of-body experiences is very common
   in various cultures.
   Apparently, as many cultures interpret dreams as OBEs as those which
   do not. The notion that one may induce an OBE deliberately is not
   entirely absent from the cultures included by Sheils, though it is
   usually confined to certain types of people. Often only shamans can
   achieve OBEs, sometimes by using special drugs or methods for inducing
   a trance. Of those cultures described by Sheils, there were several in
   which there was a common belief that the soul could travel in earthly
   places, while in others the general belief was that the soul could
   only move in the world of the dead or spirits, and in others both
   kinds of soul travel were accepted.
   There are stories of bilocation in which the physical body exists and
   acts in two separate places at once. But physical effects in OBE are
   rare. Also related to OBEs are the phenomena of traveling
   clairvoyance, ESP projection and remote viewing. 'Traveling
   clairvoyance' was used to describe a form of clairvoyance in which a
   medium or sensitive seemed to observe a distant place, therefore it
   included both OBEs and experiences in which the clairvoyant
   'perceived' the distant scene but without any experience of leaving
   the body. In both 'traveling clairvoyance' and 'ESP projection' the
   occurrence of ESP is presupposed, but the experience of leaving the
   body is not. Remote viewing is a recent and better-defined term.
   Typically a subject describes or draws his impressions while an
   'outbound experimenter' visits randomly selected remote locations.
   Later the descriptions and the locations are matched up. Remote
   viewing has often been compared with OBEs, and sometimes subjects who
   can have OBEs are used in remote viewing experiments.
   Many people have argued that the OBE itself is some kind of dream and
   involves no double other than an imaginary one. However, an ordinary
   dream does not have those important features of the experient seeming
   to leave the body and being conscious of perceiving things as they
   occur. In this sense OBEs are better compared with lucid dreams, which
   are dreams in which the sleeper realizes, at the time, that he or she
   is dreaming. In such an experience, the sleeper may become perfectly
   conscious in the dream, which makes the experience very much like an
   The experience of seeing one's own double has been called 'autoscopy'
   or 'autoscopic hallucinations.' Here again the double is not the
   'real' or conscious person. It is seen as another self, but the
   original self still appears the most real. In the OBE it is the
   'other' which seems most alive.
   It has been argued that the OBE is an hallucination, and any other
   body or double is likewise hallucinatory. There are in fact many
   similarities between some kinds of hallucinations and OBEs.
   Among other experiences difficult to disentangle from OBEs are a
   variety of religious and transcendental experiences. People may feel
   that they have grown very large or very small, becoming one with the
   Universe or God. Everything is seen in a new perspective, and may seem
   'real' for the very first time. It is difficult to draw a line between
   a religious experience and an OBE and any line one does draw may seem
   artificial or arbitrary.
What is an astral projection?

   Superficially, the idea of having a double may seem to explain the
   OBE. However, as soon as this idea is pursued, problems become obvious
   and the system has to get more complicated to deal with those
   problems. One of the most complex, and certainly the most influential,
   of such systems is the theory of astral projection, based on the
   teachings of theosophy. In 1875 Madame Blavatsky founded the
   Theosophical Society in New York, to study Eastern religions and
   science. From her teachings, brought back from her travels in India
   and elsewhere, a complex scheme evolved. According to the
   Theosophists, man is not just the product of his physical body, but is
   instead thought to be a complex creature consisting of many bodies,
   each finer and more subtle than the one 'below' it. These bodies
   should be thought of as an outer garment which can be thrown off to
   reveal the true man within.
   Although there are variations in the details, it is commonly claimed
   that there are seven great planes and seven corresponding bodies or
   vehicles. The grossest of all is the physical body, of flesh, with
   which we are all familiar. There is supposed to be another body also
   described as physical known as the 'etheric double,' or 'vehicle of
   vitality.' Etheric double is the manifestation of physical vitality.
   It is constant and does not change throughout the cycles of life and
   death, but it is not eternal, for it is eventually re-absorbed into
   the elements of which it is composed. This 'double' acts as a kind of
   transmitter of energy, keeping the lower physical body in contact with
   the higher bodies. Etheric substance is seen as an extension of the
   Next up the scale is supposed to be the 'astral world' and its
   associated 'astral body', or the 'vehicle of consciousness'. These
   entities are thought to be finer than their etheric counterparts and
   correspondingly harder to see. Astral body is thought to be 'a replica
   of the physical body (the gross body), but of a more subtle and tenous
   substance, penetrating every nerve, fibre and cell of the physical
   organism, and constantly in a supersensitive state of vibration and
   pulsation' [Gay74].
   The astral world consists of astral matter, and all physical objects
   have a replica in the astral. There is therefore a complete physical
   copy of everything in the astral world, but in addition there are
   things in the astral which have no counterpart in the physical. There
   are thought forms created by human thought, elementals and the lowest
   of the dead, who have gone no further since they left the physical
   world. All these entities and many others are used in ritual magic,
   and thought forms can be specially created to carry out tasks such as
   healing, carrying messages, or gaining information.
   In the scheme just described, those who have the ability are supposed
   to be able to see the nature of a person's thoughts by changes in the
   color and form of the astral body. All around the physical can be seen
   the bright and shining colors of the larger astral body, making up the
   astral aura. The aura is multi-colored and brilliant, or dull,
   according to the character or quality of the person and therefore 'to
   the seer, the aura of a person is an index to his hidden propensities'
   All these conceptions are of special relevance because of the fact
   that the astral body is supposed to be able to separate from the
   physical and travel without it. Since the astral is the vehicle of
   consciousness, it is this body which is aware, not the physical. It is
   said that in sleep the astral body leaves the sleeping body. In the
   undeveloped person, little memory is retained and the astral body is
   vague and its travels are limited and directionless, but in the
   trained person the astral can be controlled, can travel great
   distances in sleep, and can even be projected from the physical body
   at will. It is this which is called astral projection.
   In astral projection the consciousness can travel almost without
   limitation, but it travels in the astral world. It therefore sees not
   the physical objects, but their astral counterparts, and in addition
   the beings that live in the astral realms. The astral world has been
   known as the 'world of illusion' or world of thoughts. The unwary
   traveler can become confused by the power of his own imaginings. In
   this state one can appear, as an apparition to anyone who has 'astral
   sight.' Indeed one can appear to other too, but to do so requires some
   involvement of lower matter, for example of etheric matter, as in
   ectoplasm. Ectoplasm is considered to be the materialization of the
   astral body and is described as 'matter which is invisible and
   impalpable in its primary state, but assuming the state of a vapour,
   liquid or solid, according to its stage of condensation' [Gay74].
   An aspect of astral traveling which has become important in later
   writings, though it appears little in early theosophy, is the silver
   cord. It is held that in life the astral body is connected to its
   physical body by an infinitely elastic but strong cord, of a flowing
   and delicate silver color. Traditionally the cord must remain
   connected or death will ensue. As one approaches death, the astral
   gradually loosens itself, lifts up above the physical, and then the
   cord breaks to allow the higher bodies to leave. Death is thus seen as
   a form of permanent astral projection.
   Beyond the astral Theosophy distinguishes a further five levels. These
   include the mental or devachnic world, the buddhic, the nirvanic, and
   two others so far beyond our understanding that they are rarely
   described. The task of every person is to progress through all of
Is astral projection an adequate explanation?

   Many investigators are convinced of the reality of astral projection.
   Among the best known are Muldoon and Carrington, and Crookall. Sylvan
   Muldoon claimed to be able to project at will and described his
   experiences in The Projection of the Astral Body [MC29] written in
   collaboration with the psychical researcher Hereward Carrington.
   Together these two collected many cases of spontaneous OBEs which they
   amassed as support for the reality of astral projection. Many years
   later Robert Crookall [Cro61-78], in more systematic fashion, did much
   the same thing. Many of the people who report OBEs have found the
   notion of astral projection helpful, and describe their experiences in
   these terms.
   There are several serious problems with the theory of astral
   projection, as pointed out by Susan Blackmore [Bla82]. The first is
   that many OBEs simply do not fit well into the astral projection
   framework. Celia Green [Gre68a] has collected many cases in which the
   person describes no astral body, indeed no other body at all. Also
   very few people actually report any cord, let alone the traditional
   silver cord.
   Of course this type of experience can be fitted in by saying that the
   experient's astral vision was clouded, or the astral body or cord too
   fine to be seen, but these methods of attempting to account for actual
   experience begin to weaken the theory. Blackmore criticizes the
   complexity of the theory of astral projection as it tries to account
   for new facts. And this relates to the second problem, its
   'stretchability.' In her opinion the theory is so complicated and
   flexible that almost anything can be stretched to fit it and it makes
   hard to draw definite predictions from the theory. If you don't see
   the features you should, your astral vision is not clear enough, or
   memory was not passed on from higher levels. If you fail to make
   yourself visible to someone else then not enough etheric matter was
   involved and so on. In this way the 'theory' is in danger of
   explaining everything and nothing. Furthermore, any theory which is
   untestable is useless in scientific terms.
What is animism?

   A school of thought has grown up within parapsychology, and around its
   fringes, which takes very seriously the idea of death being an OBE in
   which one did not succeed in getting back into one's body. Gauld
   [Gau82] refers to this school of thought as the 'animistic' school
   (anima = soul), 'animism' being the view that every human mind,
   whether in its before death or after death state 'is essentially and
   inseparably bound up with some kind of extended quasi-physical
   vehicle, which is not normally perceptible to the senses of human
   beings in their present life' [Bro62]. An argument which one commonly
   hears from members of the animistic school runs as follows: OBEs and
   near-death experiences are, so far as we can tell, universal. They
   have been reported from many different parts of the world and in many
   different historical eras. The experiences of the persons concerned
   therefore must reflect genuine features of the human constitution; for
   we cannot possibly suppose that they derive from a common stream of
   religious tradition or folk-belief -- the societies from which they
   have been reported are too widely separated in space and time for the
   common-origin idea to be a serious possibility.
   The most powerful shot in the the animist's locker remains, however,
   still to be mentioned. There are some cases -- by no means a
   negligible number -- in which a person who is undergoing an OBE, and
   finds himself at or 'projects' himself to a particular spot distant
   from his physical body, has been seen at that very spot by some person
   present there. Such cases are generally known as 'reciprocal' cases.
   Thus the animist, starting from his study of OBEs and NDEs, claims to
   have direct evidence that after death we remain the conscious
   individuals that we always have been and that the 'vehicle' of our
   surviving memories and other psychological dispositions is a surrogate
   body whose properties (other perhaps than that of being malleable by
   thought) are, he would admit, largely unknown.
   In addition to taking OBEs and NDEs as themselves evidence for
   survival, the animist might well feel able to offer the following
   argument in support of regarding a further class of phenomena as
   evidence for survival of consciousness following physical death. There
   is in the literature on apparitions a substantial sprinkling of cases
   of apparitions of deceased persons, some of which have been seen by
   witnesses who did not know the deceased in life. An extensive
   statistical investigation by the late professor Hornell Hart [Har56]
   strongly suggests that apparitions of the dead and the phantasms of
   living 'projectors' in reciprocal cases are, as classes,
   indistinguishable from each other in what may be called their
   'external characteristics' -- such as whether the figure was solid,
   dressed in ordinary clothes, seen by more than one person, whether it
   spoke, adjusted itself to its physical surroundings, etc. Now we know
   that in reciprocal cases the phantasms of the projector is in some
   sense a center of or a vehicle of consciousness, namely the
   consciousness of the projector. Since apparitions of the dead and of
   living projectors manifestly belong to the same class of objects or
   events, we may properly infer that since the apparitions of living
   projectors are vehicles for the consciousness of the person in
   question, this must be true of apparitions of the dead also. Hence the
   consciousness of deceased persons survives and may either have, or
   make use of, a kind of body.
Can the OBEer be seen as an apparition?

   The study of apparitions formed an important part of early physical
   research, and many different types of apparition have been recorded,
   but the ones which primarily interest us here are those in which a
   person having an OBE simultaneously appeared to someone else as an
   apparition. There are many cases of this kind in the early literature
   and they have been quoted again and again but a relatively small
   number of them really form the mainstay of the anecdotal evidence on
   OBE apparitions. Crookall [Cro61] and Smith [Smi65] give some recent
   cases but they too concentrate on the older ones. Green [Gre68a]
   discusses the similarities between apparitions in general and the
   asomatic body perceived by OBEers, but she does not give any examples
   from her own case collection in which another person saw the
   exteriorized double. By contrast, about 10% of Palmer's OBEers claimed
   to have been seen as an apparition [Pal79b] and Osis claims that from
   his survey OBEers 'frequently' said they were noticed by others and in
   16 cases (6% of the total) he was able to obtain some verification
   through witnesses, although he does not expand on this remark.
   Obviously it would be very helpful if much more evidence of this sort
   could be collected, and recent cases thoroughly checked.
How can one find out what an OBE is like?

   One of the easiest ways to find out what OBE is like is to collect a
   large number of accounts of cases and compare them. In this way any
   common features can be extricated and variations noted. A great deal
   can be learned about the conditions under which the experiences
   occurred, how long they lasted, and what they were like. Accounts by
   people who have had OBEs fall, roughly speaking, into two categories.
   There are the many ordinary people to whom an OBE occurs just once, or
   a few times; and there is a small number of people who claim to be
   able to project at will.
   The limitations of this method are that there are many important
   questions which cannot be answered by collecting cases. Since the
   people voluntarily report their experiences, the sample necessarily
   ends up with a bias. Many accounts are given many years or even
   decades after the event and it is then impossible to determine how
   much of the story has altered in memory with the passage of time. For
   such reasons it is not possible to determine, for example, how common
   the the experience actually is. Second, many OBEers claim that they
   were able to see rooms into which they had never been, describe
   accurately people they had never met, or move physical objects during
   their experience. Such reports are of great interest to parapsychology
   but they cannot be tested by collecting cases.
What is an average astral projection like?

   Accounts of OBEs have been collected since the beginning of psychical
   research. The first collection of cases of spontaneous apparitions,
   telepathy, and clairvoyance published in 1886 as 'Phantasms of the
   Living' [GMF86]. Frederic Myers also collected similar cases for his
   'Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death' [Mye03].
   The first major collection was made by Muldoon and Carrington and
   published in 1951 [MC51]. Nearly a hundred accounts were categorized
   according to whether they were produced by drugs or anaesthetics,
   occurred at the time of accident, death or illness, or were set off by
   suppressed desire. Finally they gave cases in which spirits seemed to
   be involved. By categorizing the cases in this way, Muldoon and
   Carrington were able to compare and interpret them in the light of
   their theories of astral projection, but they did not go beyond this
   rather simple analysis. These researchers implied that we do have a
   double, and that it is capable of perceiving at a distance and even of
   surviving without the physical body.
   The largest collections of accounts of astral projection have been
   amassed by Robert Crookall. In his many books [Cro61, 64a] he has
   presented hundreds of cases which show the kinds of consistencies as
   Muldoon and Carrington found. He also divided the cases according to
   how they were brought about. First there were the 'natural' ones which
   included those people who nearly died or were very ill or exhausted,
   as well as those who were quite well. Contrasted with these were the
   'enforced' cases, being induced by anaesthetics, suffocation and
   falling, or deliberately by hypnosis.
   Typical features of Crookall's accounts were the mysterious light
   illuminating the darkness, the white double, the ability to travel at
   will and inability to affect material objects. Crookall cited typical
   elements of the natural projection being the cord joining the two
   bodies, feelings of peace and happiness and the clarity of mind and
   'realness' of everything seen. By contrast with what Crookall calls
   'the enforced' OBE, by which he means one which is entered into
   deliberately by the experient, he argued the person typically finds
   himself not in happy and bright surroundings but in a dream or
   conditions reminiscent of popular conceptions of 'Hades.'
   In projection two aspects can be exteriorized: in natural OBEs the
   soul body or the astral body is ejected free of the vehicle of
   vitality and the vision of the experient is clear, but when the OBE is
   the result of a conscious effort to have an OBE some of the lower
   vehicle is shed at the same time and clouds the vision. The same
   principles apply in death: natural deaths according to NDE accounts
   usually lead to an experience of paradisaical conditions, but the
   victim of an 'enforced' death is likely to find himself in Hades with
   clouded vision and consciousness.
   The implication of Crookall's argument is that there is an astral
   body, a vehicle of vitality and a silver cord, and that we survive
   death to live on a higher plane. He believed that insofar as such a
   thing could be proved, the many cases he had collected proved the
   existence of out other bodies.
What is an average OBE like?

   The previous case collections were made by researchers who believed
   implicitly in the astral projection interpretation of the OBE. A
   properly analyzed case collection can provide a rich source of
   information about what the OBE is like. The collections used here
   include those by Hart, Green, Poynton and Blackmore and the analysis
   is made by Blackmore [Bla82].
   Hornell Hart, a professor of sociology at Duke University in North
   Carolina, collected together cases of what he called 'ESP projection'
   [Har54]. He required that the person not only have an OBE, but also
   acquire veridical information, as though from the OB location. This
   excludes many OBEs in which the information gained was wrong or could
   not be checked. He also rated the cases. The best possible case would
   gain a score of 1.0, but in fact the highest score given was .90. No
   higher scores were gained because the cases show a curious mixture of
   correct and incorrect vision which seems to be common in the OBE.
   Through this research, one assumption is crucial, that ESP projection
   is a single phenomenon which might have any or all of Hart's eight
   features. Rogo [Rog78b] and Tart [Tar74a] have both suggested that
   several different types of experience may have been lumped together
   under the label 'OBE.' It could be that astral projection, traveling
   clairvoyance, and apparitions are quite different and need different
   interpretations, or other distinctions might be more relevant. The
   reason Hart gave why the non- evidential cases should be excluded is
   far from satisfactory: if there was no evidence of ESP they did not
   count in his analysis. Hart was ruling out the majority of cases on
   the basis of a very shaky criterion.
   Perhaps the most thorough, and certainly the best-known case
   collection was carried out by Celia Green of the Institute of
   Psychophysical Research [Gre68a]. Her definition of an OBE was an
   experience, defined as follows, '... one in which the objects of
   perception are apparently organized in such a way that the observer
   seems to himself to be observing them from a point of view which is
   not coincident with his physical body.' J. C. Poynton [Poy75], like
   Green, advertised in the press, and circulated a questionnaire
   privately, and on the whole Poynton's results, although less detailed,
   are similar to Green's. Susan Blackmore [Bla82] has analyzed the cases
   collected by the SPR and by herself.
   Table: Some Results of Case Collections [Bla82]

                       Green      Poynton     SPR cases   Blackmore

Proportion of           61%         56%         69%         47%
  'single' cases

Some features of 'single' cases:
  Saw own body          81%         80%         72%         71%

  Had second body       20%         75%         --          57%

  Definite sensation   'majority'   25%         36%         --
    on separation         none

  Had connecting         4%          9%          8%         --

   Apparently most people have had only one OBE, but the frequency of
   subjects claiming many OBEs is high enough to conclude that if a
   person has had one OBE he or she is more likely to have another. Also
   many people learn to control their OBEs to some extent, even if they
   never learn to induce them reliably at will.
   OBEs are occurring in a variety of situations. Green found that 12% of
   single cases occurred during sleep, 32% when unconscious, and 25% were
   associated with some kind of psychological stress, such as fear,
   worry, or overwork. Some cases show that it is possible to have an OBE
   while the body continues with complex and co-ordinated activity.
   However, OBEs are far more common when the physical body is relaxed
   and inactive.
   Most of Green's cases occurred to people whose physical body was lying
   down at the time (75%). A further 18% were sitting and the rest were
   walking, standing or were 'indeterminate.' In fact it seemed that
   muscular relaxation was an essential part of many people's experience.
   Just a few found that their body was paralyzed. A feeling of paralysis
   was found to be only rarely a prelude to an OBE.
   A difference is found between the 'single' cases and the multiple
   cases. The latter tended to have had experiences in childhood, and
   learned to repeat them. The single cases tended to occur mostly
   between the ages of 15 and 35. Poynton found that many more of his
   cases came from females, but among the SPR cases there are more males
   than females. This sort of difference is most likely to be due to
   sample differences.
   Floating and soaring sensations are certainly common. Poynton also
   found that most of his OBEers saw or felt their physical body. On the
   contrary, catalepsy rarely occurred. Some subjects mentioned noises or
   a momentary blacking out, but this did not seem to be the rule. The
   majority just 'found themselves' in the ecsomatic state. As for the
   return, for most it was as sudden as the departure. An interesting
   finding by Green was that more of the subjects who had had many OBEs
   went through complex processes on separation and return.
   Green separated her cases into those she called 'parasomatic,'
   involving another body, and those she termed 'asomatic' in which there
   was no other body. Her surprising finding was that 80% of cases were
   asomatic -- they had no other body. She asked her subjects whether
   they had felt any connection between themselves and their physical
   bodies. Under a third said they had, and only 3.5% reported a visible
   or substantial connection such as a cord. Poynton's results tell a
   similar story. There seems to be little evidence from the case
   collections to support the usual details of astral projection.
   Green found that on the whole perceptual realism was preserved.
   Subjects saw their own bodies and the rooms they traveled in as
   realistic and solid. Even when the scene appears to be perfectly
   normal there may be slight differences. Some her subjects said that
   everything looked and felt exaggerated. The experience is typically in
   only one or two modalities: vision and hearing. Green found that 93%
   of single cases included vision, a third also had hearing, but the
   other senses were rarely noted. Another interesting feature of the OBE
   world is its lighting. In some mysterious way the surroundings become
   lit up with no obvious source of light visible, or else objects seem
   to glow with a light of their own.
   Perhaps the most important question about the OBE is whether people
   can see things they did not know about -- in other words whether they
   can use ESP in the course of an OBE. Among Green's subjects, some felt
   as though they could have seen anything, but lacked the motivation to
   test out such an ability. Another related question is whether subjects
   in an OBE can affect objects, or have the power of psychokinesis. On
   the whole the evidence is against that possibility.
   The last feature which Celia Green found to be common in OBEs is that
   a spontaneous OBE can have a profound effect on the person who
   experiences it. Sometimes OBEs can be very frightening, sometimes
   exciting and sometimes they provide a sense of adventure.
   Interestingly, Green found that fear was more common in later, not
   initial experiences. Pleasant emotions are also common.
How common are OBEs?

   Two surveys have used properly balanced samples drawn from specified
   populations. The first was conducted by Palmer and Dennis [PD75,
   Pal79b]. They chose the inhabitants of Charlottesville, Virginia, a
   town of some 35,000 people and selected 1,000 of these as their
   sample. The question on OBEs was worded as follows: 'Have you ever had
   an experience in which you felt that "you" were located "outside of"
   or "away from" your physical body; that is the feeling that your
   consciousness, mind, or center of awareness was at a different place
   than your physical body? (If in doubt, please answer "no".)' To this
   25% of students and 14% of the townspeople said 'yes.'
   Further data from this survey reveals that no relationship between age
   and reported OBEs was found. Palmer found a significant positive
   relationship between drug use and OBEs and concluded that this could
   account for the higher prevalence of OBEs in students. This
   relationship receives confirmation from work by Tart [Tar71]. In a
   survey of 150 marijuana users he found that 44% claimed to have OBEs.
   It seems possible that the use of this drug facilitate OBEs.
   The second survey using a properly constructed sample was carried out
   by Erlendur Haraldsson, an Icelandic researcher, and his colleagues
   [HGRLJ76]. For the survey a questionnaire was sent to a random sample
   of 1157 persons between ages of 30 and 70 years. There were 53
   questions on various psychic and psi-related experiences including a
   translation of Palmer's question. To this, only 8% of the Icelanders
   replied yes.
   Table: Surveys of the OBE [Bla82]

Author     Year   Respondents              size of       N         %
                                           sample      'YES'     'YES'

Hart       1954   Sociology students        113          28        25
                  Sociology students         42          14        33

Green      1966   Southampton University
                    students                115          22        19

           1967   Oxford University
                    students                380         131        34

Palmer     1975   Charlottesville
                    Townspeople              -           -         14
                    Students                 -           -         25

Tart       1971   Marijuana users           150          66        44

Haraldsson 1977   Icelanders                 -           -          8

Blackmore  1980   Surrey University
                    students                216          28        13

                  Bristol University
                    students                115          16        14

Irwin      1980   Australian students       177          36        20

Bierman &
Blackmore  1980   Amsterdam students        191          34        18

Kohr       1980   Members of Association
                    for Research and
                    Enlightenment            -           -         50

   Those vague statements about OBEs being 'common' are now backed up by
   a variety of figures. Blackmore gives a personal estimate of the
   incidence of OBEs, based on all the available evidence, putting it at
   around 10%. She thinks we can say with more conviction that the OBE is
   a fairly common experience.
   The surveys show that if a person has had one OBE he or she is more
   likely to have another. All these figures are far higher than you
   would expect if OBEs were distributed at random in the population.
   Green went on to compare different groups to see whether they had had
   different numbers of OBEs. Her only finding was that OBEers were more
   likely to report experiences which they thought could only be
   attributed to ESP. Palmer and Kohr found that subjects who reported
   one type of 'psychic' or 'psi-related' experience also tended to
   report others.
   Palmer also, like Green, found that many simple variables were
   irrelevant. Sex, age, race, birth order, political views, religion,
   religiosity, education, occupation and income were all unrelated to
   Palmer found significant relationships between OBEs and practising
   meditation, mystical experiences and, as we have already seen, drug
   experiences. Palmer had over 100 people reporting one or more OBEs,
   and asked them various questions about the experience. They were asked
   whether they had seen their physical body from 'outside' and this was
   reported for 44% of the experiences and by nearly 60% of the OBEers.
   Fewer than 20% of experiences involved 'traveling' and fewer than 30%
   of OBEers reported it. Still fewer reported that they had acquired
   information by ESP while 'out- of-the-body,' about 14% of people and
   5% of experiences, or had appeared as an apparition to someone else
   (less than 10% or OBEers). These results confirm the findings of the
   case collections: that few OBEs include all the features of a
   classical astral projection.
   Overall the OBE seemed to have had a highly beneficial effect on its
   experiencers. Many claimed their fear of death was reduced, and their
   mental health and social relationships improved. Ninety-five per cent
   said they would like to have another OBE.
What are the prerequisites for inducing an OBE?

   Many of the inducing methods use as a starting point techniques
   designed to improve the novice's powers of relaxation, imagery, and
   concentration. The ideal state appears to be one of physical
   relaxation, or even catalepsy, combined with mental alertness.
   One of the easiest ways to relax is to use progressive muscular
   relaxation. In outline this technique consists of starting with the
   muscles of the feet and ankles and alternately tensing and relaxing
   them, then going on up the muscles of the calves and thighs, the
   torso, arms, neck and face, until all the muscles have been contracted
   and relaxed. Done carefully this procedure leads to fairly deep
   relaxation within a few minutes, and with practice it becomes easier.
   Relaxation usually leads to state of paralysis or catalepsy. When you
   go to sleep, your brain deactivates the mechanism by which you are
   able to use your limbs, so that you become incapable of physical
   activity corresponding to your dream images when you dream. Quite a
   few people have found themselves in this paralysis state as soon as
   they have gotten up after sleeping.
   The first type of paralysis, known as 'type A,' is a condition
   encountered when approaching a deeper layer of consciousness from a
   light trance state. The second, type B paralysis, is the reverse of
   type A, in that it happens during the return home to physical reality.
   The first type A 'paralysis' goes something like this:
   "Mmmmmm.... I know I am awake; I can think ..... Mmmmmmm but my body
   is asleep ..." (Robert Monroe labelled it Focus 10 consciousness)
   "Wait a minute here, there is something going on here, I just can't
   seem to...."
   "Yes, I can't seem to move my limbs; they seemed to be laden with
   lead, why can't I move at all? Hey, what's happening here! (Panic!)"
   A typical type B 'paralysis' goes something like this:
   "Mmmmm... I am feeling groggy, absolutely. What was that just now, oh,
   it must be some dream..."
   "Mmmm...... hang on a minute, was that a noise I heard? It must have
   come from the door... I need to check it out, could be a burglar.....
   but I am so tired... and sleepy..."
   "I need to wake up, it could be important.... Hey, I can't seem to
   wake up, why are my legs not waking up, why can't my hands respond?"
   "PANIC!!! I need to wake up!!! I don't want to die... I need to exert
   more will on this... Hey, body, wake up, eyes open, ... WAKE UP!"
   "Gosh, NOW, I can move my limbs, I am awake now, body covered with
   perspiration, sitting at the edge of the bed, wondering why just now I
   simply couldn't wake up..."
   "Phew -- Thank goodness, it is finally over. Am I glad to be back to
   the familiar physical environment."
   However, type A paralysis is the type that should not be resisted; if
   the person can allow himself to 'go with the flow,' then some kind of
   altered state of consciousness is bound to happen, which is what the
   person is hoping to achieve anyway.
   Many astral travelers have stressed the importance of clear imagery or
   visualization for inducing OBEs and of course imagery training forms
   an important part of magical development. Progressive methods of
   imagery training are often described in magical and occult books, and
   helpful guidance can be found in Conway's occult primer [Con72], and
   in Brennan's 'Astral doorways' [Bre71]. Most involve starting with
   regular practice at visualizing simple geometrical shapes and then
   progressing to harder tasks such as imagining complex
   three-dimensional forms, whole rooms and open scenery.
   Practice 1: Read the description slowly and then try to imagine each
   stage as you go along: Imagine an orange. It is resting on a blue
   plate and you want to eat it. You dig your nail into the peel and tear
   some of it away. You keep pulling on the peel until all of it, and
   most of the pith, is lying in a heap on the plate. Now separate the
   orange into segments, lay them on the plate as well, and then eat one.
   If this task doesn't make your mouth water, and if you cannot feel the
   juice which squirts from the orange, and smell its tang then you do
   not have vivid or trained imagery. Try it again, the colors should be
   bright and vivid and the shapes and forms clear and stable. With
   practice at this and similar tasks your imagery will improve until you
   may wonder how it could ever have been so poor.
   Practice 2: This is a rather harder one: Visualize a disc, half white
   and half black. Next imagine it spinning about its center, speeding up
   and then slowing down, and stopping. Next imagine the same disc in
   red, but as it spins it changes through orange, yellow, green, blue
   and violet. Finally you may care to try two discs side by side
   spinning in opposite directions and changing color in opposition too.
   Other useful skills are concentration and control. Not only do you
   need to be able to produce vivid imagery, but also to abolish all
   imagery from your mind, to hold images as long as you want and to
   change them as you want, both quickly and slowly.
   Practice 3: Brennan suggests trying to count, and only to count. The
   instant another thought comes to mind you must stop and go back to the
   beginning. If you get to about four or five you are doing well, but
   you are almost certain to be stopped by such thoughts as 'this is
   easy, I've got to three already,' or 'I wonder how long I have to go
   All these skills, relaxation, imagery and concentration, are suggested
   again and again as necessary for inducing an OBE at will. Other aids
   include posture. If you lie down you might fall asleep, although
   Muldoon [MC29] advocates this position. On the other hand discomfort
   will undoubtedly interfere with the attempt. Therefore an alert, but
   comfortable posture is best. Some have suggested that it is best not
   to eat for some hours before and to avoid any stress, irritation or
   negative emotions.
How to induce an OBE?

     It is possible to use imagery alone but it requires considerable
     a) Lie on your back in a comfortable position and relax. Imagine
     that you are floating up off the bed. Hold that position, slightly
     lifted, for some time until you lose all sensation of touching the
     bed or floor. Once this state is achieved move slowly into an
     upright position and begin to travel away from your body and around
     the room. Pay attention to the objects and details of the room. Only
     when you have gained some proficiency should you try to turn round
     and look at your own body. Note that each stage may take months of
     practice and it can be too difficult for any but a practiced OBEer.
     b) In any comfortable position close your eyes and imagine that
     there is a duplicate of yourself standing in front of you. You will
     find that it is very hard to imagine your own face, so it is easier
     to imagine this double with its back to you. You should try to
     observe all the details of its posture, dress (if any) and so on. As
     this imaginary double becomes more and more solid and realistic you
     may experience some uncertainty about your physical position. You
     can encourage this feeling by comtemplating the question 'Where am
     I?', or even other similar questions 'Who am I?' and so on. Once the
     double is clear and stable and you are relaxed, transfer your
     consciousness into it. You should then be able to 'project' in this
     phantom created by your own imagination. Again, each stage may take
     long practice.
     You can trick yourself into leaving your body according to Muldoon
     and Carrington [MC29]. They suggested that if the subconscious
     desires something strongly enough it will try to provoke the body
     into moving to get it, but if the physical body is immobilized, for
     example in sleep, then the astral body may move instead. Many
     motivations might be used but Muldoon advised against using the
     desire for sexual activity which is distracting, or the harmful wish
     for revenge or hurt to anyone. Instead he advocated using the simple
     and natural desire for water -- thirst. This has the advantages this
     it is quick to induce, and it must be appeased.
     In order to employ this technique, you must refrain from drinking
     for some hours before going to bed. During the day increase your
     thirst by every means you can. Have a glass of water by you and
     stare into it, imagining drinking, but not allowing yourself to do
     so. Then before you retire to bed eat 'about an eighth of a
     teaspoonful' of salt. Place the glass of water at some convenient
     place away from your bed and rehearse in your all the actions
     necessary to getting it, getting up, crossing the room, reaching out
     for it, and so on. You must then go to bed, still thinking about
     your thirst and the means of satisfying it. The body must become
     incapacitated and so you should relax, with slow breathing and heart
     rate and then try to sleep. With any luck the suggestions you have
     made to yourself will bring about the desired OBE. This is not one
     of the most pleasant or effective methods.
     Ophiel [Oph61] suggests that you pick a familiar route, perhaps
     between two rooms in your house, and memorize every detail of it.
     Choose at least six points along it and spend several minutes each
     day looking at each one and memorizing it. Symbols, scents and
     sounds associated with the points can reinforce the image. Once you
     have committed the route and all the points to memory you should lie
     down and relax while you attempt to 'project' to the first point. If
     the preliminary work has been done well you should be able to move
     from point to point and back again. Later you can start the
     imaginary journey from the chair or bed where your body is, and you
     can then either observe yourself doing the movements, or transfer
     your consciousness to the one that is doing the moving. Ophiel
     describes further possibilities, but essentially if you have
     mastered the route fully in your imagination you will be able to
     project along it and with practice to extend the projection.
     Ophiel states that starting to move into OBE will produce strange
     sounds. He says that this is because the sense of hearing is not
     carried over onto the higher planes, and that means that your mind
     tries to recreate some input, and just gets subconscious static. He
     asserts that the noises can take any form, including voices,
     malevolent, eerie, and get worse and worse, more and more
     disturbing, until eventually they peak and then just fade to a
     constant background hiss while one has OBE. Apparently, his 'final
     noise' sounded like his water heater blowing up. He says, anyway, to
     ignore the noises, voice or otherwise, as they are only static or
     subconscious rambling, and do not represent any being in any way,
     not even the self really.
     G. M. Glasking, an Australian journalist, popularized this technique
     in several books, starting with Windows of the Mind [Gla74]. Three
     people are needed: one as subject, and two to prepare him. The
     subject lies down comfortably on his back in a warm and darkened
     room. One helper massages the subject's feet and ankles, quite
     firmly, even roughly, while the other take his head. Placing the
     soft part of his clenched fist on the subject's forehead he rubs it
     vigorously for several minutes. This should make the subject's head
     buzz and hum, and soon he should begin to feel slightly
     disorientated. His feet tingle and his body may feel light or
     floaty, or changing shape.
     When this stage is reached, the imagery exercises begin. The subject
     is asked to imagine his feet stretching out and becoming longer by
     just an inch or so. When he says he can do this he has to let them
     go back to normal and do the same with his head, stretching it out
     beyond its normal position. Then, alternating all the time between
     head and feet, the distance is gradually increased until he can
     stretch both out to two feet or more. At this stage it should be
     possible for him to imagine stretching out both at once, making him
     very long indeed, and then to swell up, filling the room like a huge
     balloon. All this will, of course, be easier for some people than
     others. It should be taken at whatever pace is needed until each
     stage is successful. Some people complete this part in five minutes,
     some people take more than fifteen minutes.
     Next he is asked to imagine he is outside his own front door. He
     should describe everything he can see in detail, with the colors,
     materials of the door and walls, the ground, and the surrounding
     scenery. He has then to rise above the house until he can see across
     the surrounding countryside or city. To show him that the scene is
     all under his control he should be asked to change it from day to
     night and back again, watching the sun set and rise, and the lights
     go on or off. Finally he is asked to fly off, and land wherever he
     wishes. For most subjects their imagery has become so vivid by this
     stage that they land somewhere totally convincing and are easily
     able to describe all that they see.
     You may wonder how the experience comes to an end, but usually no
     prompting is required; the subject will suddenly announce 'I'm
     here,' or 'Oh, I'm back,' and he will usually retain quite a clear
     recollection of all he said and experienced. But it is a good idea
     to take a few minutes relaxing and getting back to normal. It is
     interesting that this technique seems to be very effective in
     disrupting the subject's normal image of his body. It then guides
     and strengthens his own imagery while keeping his body calm and
     In his book Journeys out of the Body [Mon71] Monroe describes a
     complicated-sounding technique for inducing OBEs. In part it is
     similar to other imagination methods, but it starts with induction
     of the 'vibrational state.' Many spontaneous OBEs start with a
     feeling of shaking or vibrating, and Monroe deliberately induces
     this state first. He suggests you do the following. First lie down
     in a darkened room in any comfortable position, but with your head
     pointing to magnetic north. Loosen clothing and remove any jewellery
     or metal objects, but be sure to stay warm. Ensure that you will not
     be disturbed and are not under any limitation of time. Begin by
     relaxing and then repeat to yourself five times, 'I will consciously
     perceive and remember all that I encounter during this relaxation
     procedure. I will recall in detail when I am completely awake only
     those matters which will be beneficial to my physical and mental
     being.' Then begin breathing through your half-open mouth.
     The next step involves entering the state bordering sleep (the
     hypnagogic state). Monroe does not recommend any particular method
     of achieving this state. One method you might try is to hold your
     forearm up, while keeping your upper arm on the bed, or ground. As
     you start to fall asleep, your arm will fall, and you will awaken
     again. With practice you can learn to control the hypnagogic state
     without using your arm. Another method is to concentrate on an
     object. When other images start to enter your thoughts, you have
     entered the hypnagogic state. Passively watch these images. This
     will also help you maintain this state of near-sleep. Monroe calls
     this Condition A.
     After first achieving this state Monroe recommends to deepen it.
     Begin to clear your mind and observe your field of vision through
     your closed eyes. Do nothing more for a while. Simply look through
     your closed eyelids at the blackness in front of you. After a while,
     you may notice light patterns. These are simply neural discharges
     and they have no specific effect. Ignore them. When they cease, one
     has entered what Monroe calls Condition B. From here, one must enter
     an even deeper state of relaxation which Monroe calls Condition C --
     a state of such relaxation that you lose all awareness of the body
     and sensory stimulation. You are almost in a void in which your only
     source of stimulation will be your own thoughts. The ideal state for
     leaving your body is Condition D. This is Condition C when it is
     voluntarily induced from a rested and refreshed condition and is not
     the effect of normal fatigue. To achieve Condition D, Monroe
     suggests that you practice entering it in the morning or after a
     short nap.
     With eyes closed look into the blackness at a spot about a foot from
     your forehead, concentrating your consciousness on that point. Move
     it gradually to three feet away, then six, and then turn it 90
     degrees upward, reaching above your head. Monroe orders you to reach
     for the vibrations at that spot and then mentally pull them into
     your head. He explains how to recognize them when they occur. 'It is
     as if a surging, hissing, rhythmically pulsating wave of fiery
     sparks comes roaring into your head. From there it seems to sweep
     throughout your body, making it rigid and immobile.' This method is
     easier than it sounds.
     Once you have achieved the vibrational state you have to learn to
     control it, to smooth out the vibrations by 'pulsing' them. At this
     point, Monroe warns it is impossible to turn back. He suggests
     reaching out an arm to grasp some object which you know is out of
     normal reach. Feel the object and then let your hand pass through
     it, before bringing it back, stopping the vibrations and checking
     the details and location of the object. This exercise will prepare
     you for full separation.
     To leave the body Monroe advocates the 'lift-out' method. To employ
     this method think of getting lighter and of how nice it would be to
     float upwards. An alternative is the 'rotation' technique in which
     you turn over in bed, twisting first the top of the body, head and
     shoulders until you turn right over and float upwards. Later you can
     explore further. With sufficient practice Monroe claims that a wide
     variety of experiences are yours for the taking.
     Most magical methods are also based on imagery or visualization and
     use concentration and relaxation. All these methods require good
     mental control and a sound knowledge of the system being used, with
     its tools and symbols. Charles Tart, in introducing the concept of
     'state specific sciences' [Tar72b] also considered state specific
     technologies, that is, means of achieving, controlling and using
     altered states of consciousness. Many magical rituals are really
     just such technologies. In a typical exercise the magician will
     perform an opening ritual, a cleansing or purifying ritual and then
     one to pass from one state to another. Once in the state required he
     operates using the rules of that state and then returns, closes the
     door that was opened and ends the ritual.
     This technology varies almost as much as the theory, for there are a
     multitude of ways of reaching the astral. One can use elemental
     doorways, treat the cards of the tarot as stepping stones, perform
     cabbalistic path- workings or use mantras. The techniques are very
     similar to all others we have been considering, so we can see the
     complexities of ritual magic as just another related way achieving
     the same ends.
     Meditation has two basic functions -- achieving relaxation and
     improving concentration. Therefore the ideal state for OBE is
     familiar to meditators and indeed OBEs have occasionally been
     reported during meditation and yoga. The two main types of
     meditation are concentration meditation (focusing) and insight
     meditation (mindfullness). Most kinds of meditation are the
     concentrative type. One simply focuses his attention upon a single
     physical object, such as a candle flame; upon a sensation, such as
     that felt while walking or breathing; upon an emotion, such as
     reverence or love; upon a mantra spoken aloud or even silently; or
     upon a visualization as in chakra meditation. Concentration
     meditation is, simply put, a form of self-hypnosis.
     The other main type of meditation, insight meditation, is the
     analysis of thoughts and feelings in such a way as to cause
     realization of the subjectivity and illusion of experience. Such
     meditation is done in an effort to attain transcendental awareness.
     Chakra meditation is a special type of concentrative meditation
     which is basically kundalini yoga -- the practice of causing psychic
     energy (kundalini) to flow up sushumna, energizing the various
     chakras along the way. A chakra is 'a sense organ of the ethereal
     body, visible only to a clairvoyant' [Gay74]. As each chakra is
     energized by this practice, it is believed to add occult powers
     (sidhis), until at last the crown chakra is reached, and with it,
     full enlightenment is attained.
     According to East Indian philosophy, man possesses seven major
     chakras or psychic centers on his body. In theosophical scheme there
     are ten chakras, which permit those trained in their use to gain
     knowledge of the astral world (three of the ten are used in black
     magic only). Each of the chakras forms a bridge, link, or energy
     transformer; changing pure (higher) energy into various forms, and
     connecting different bodies together. The chakras are located along
     the nadies (a network of psychic nerves or channels) and follow the
     autonomic nervous system along the spinal cord.
     The first chakra, located at the base of the spine at the perineum
     is the root chakra, muladhara. The second chakra, known as the
     sacral center, svadhisthana, is located above and behind the
     genitals. Third of the chakras is the solar plexus, manipura,
     located at the navel and it is said to correspond with the emotions
     and also with psychic sight (clairvoyance). The heart chakra,
     anahata, is the fourth chakra, located over the heart and
     corresponding with the psychic touch. The fifth chakra is the throat
     chakra, vishuddha, located at the base of the throat (thyroid) and
     corresponding with psychic hearing (clairaudience).
     The remaining two chakras are believed to relate mostly to elevated
     states of consciousness. The frontal chakra, (or 'third eye') ajna,
     the sixth chakra, is located between, and slightly above, the
     eyebrows. Ajna is the center of psychic powers and it is believed to
     be able to produce many psychic effects. Finally, the crown chakra,
     sahasrara, located atop the head, (pineal gland) is the seventh
     chakra. It is referred to as the thousand-petaled lotus and
     corresponds with astral projection and enlightenment.
     To practice this chakra meditation, you simply concentrate on the
     chakras, beginning with the root chakra, and moving progressively
     up, as you visualize psychic energy from the root chakra traveling
     up shushumna and vivifying each higher chakra. As mentioned above
     the chakras have certain properties associated with them, so that
     this type of visualization may 'raise consciousness,' promote astral
     projection, and other things -- once you have reached ajna and
     eventually the crown chakra.
     In the early days of psychical research hypnosis was used a great
     deal more than now to bring about 'traveling clairvoyance,' but it
     can still be used. All that is required is skilled hypnotist with
     some understanding of the state into which he wants to put the
     subject, and a willing subject. The subject must be put into a
     fairly deep hypnotic state and then the hypnotist can suggest to him
     that he leaves his body. The subject can be asked to lift up out of
     his body, to create a double and step into it, to roll off his bed
     or chair, or leave through the top of his head. He can then be asked
     to travel to any place desired, but hypnotist must be sure to
     specify very clearly where he is to go, and to bring him safely back
     to his body when expedition is over. If this is not done the subject
     may have difficulty reorientating himself afterwards.
     There are some drugs which can undoubtedly help initiate an OBE.
     Hallucinogens have long been used in various cultures to induce
     states like OBEs, and in our own culture OBEs are sometimes an
     accidental product of a drug experience. In absence of any further
     information we might already be able to guess which are the sorts of
     drugs likely to have this effect. They might be those which
     physically relax the subject while leaving his consciousness clear
     and alert. Drugs which distort sensory input and disrupt the
     subject's sense of where and what shape his body is ought to help,
     and so may anything which induces a sense of shaking or vibration.
     Imagery must be intensified without control being lost and finally
     there must be some reason, or wish, for leaving the body.
     Considering these points hallucinogens might be expected to be more
     effective than stimulants, tranquillizers or sedatives. The latter
     may aid relaxation but help with none of the other features just
     mentioned. Few other types of drug have any relevant effect. This
     fact fits with what is known about the effectiveness of drugs for
     inducing OBEs. Monroe states that barbiturates and alcohol are
     harmful to the ability, and this makes sense since they would tend
     to reduce control over imagery even though they are relaxing.
     Eastman [Eas62] states that barbiturates do not lead OBEs whereas
     morphine, ether, chloroform, major hallucinogens and hashish can.
     Relatively little research has carried out in this area, partly
     because most of the relevant drugs are illegal in the countries
     where that research might be carried out. It seems that certain
     drugs can facilitate an OBE but what is not clear is why drug
     experience should take that form rather than any other. Part of the
     answer is that usually it does not. There is no specific
     OBE-creating drug, and OBEs are relatively rarely a part of a
     psychedelic drug experience. Drugs may help in inducing the OBE but
     they are not recommended as a route to the instant projection, they
     are no alternative to learning the skills of relaxation,
     concentration, and imagery control.
     Many OBEs start from dreams and since, by definition, one has to be
     conscious to have an OBE, they tend to start from lucid dreams. The
     dreamer may become aware that he is dreaming and then find himself
     in some place other than his bed and able to move about at will. He
     may have another body and may even attempt to see his physical body
     lying asleep. This topic is covered separately in the later section
     on lucid dreams.
     In the search for a simple and effective method of inducing an OBE
     Palmer and his colleagues [PL75a, 75b, 76, PV74a, 74b] use
     relaxation and audio- visual stimulation. Subjects went through a
     progressive muscular relaxation session and the heard oscillating
     tones and watched a rotating spiral. One of the interesting findings
     was that many of the subjects claimed that they had been 'literally
     out of' their bodies, and there were indications that their
     experiences were very different in some ways from other those
     encountered in OBEs.
What are lucid dreams?

   The term lucid dreaming refers to dreaming while knowing that you are
   dreaming. It was coined by the Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden
   in 1913. It is something of a misnomer since it means something quite
   different from just clear or vivid dreaming. Nevertheless we are
   certainly stuck with it. That lucid dreams are different from ordinary
   dreams is obvious as soon as you have one. The experience is something
   like waking up in your dreams. It is as though you 'come to' and find
   you are dreaming. This experience generally happens when you realize
   during the course of a dream that you are dreaming, perhaps because
   something weird occurs. Most people who remember their dreams have had
   such an experience at some time, often waking up immediately after the
   realization. However, it is possible to continue in the dream while
   remaining fully aware that you are dreaming.
   One distinct and confusing form of lucid dreams are false awakenings.
   You dream of waking up but in fact, of course, are still asleep. Van
   Eeden [Van13] called these 'wrong waking up' and described them as
   'demoniacal, uncanny, and very vivid and bright, with ... a strong
   diabolical light.' The one positive benefit of false awakenings is
   that they can sometimes be used to induce OBEs. Indeed, Oliver Fox
   [Fox62] recommends using false awakenings as a method for achieving
   the OBE. For many people OBEs and lucid dreams are practically
   indistinguishable. If you dream of leaving your body, the experience
   is much the same.
   LaBerge's studies of physiology of the initiation of lucidity in the
   dream state have revealed that lucid dreams have two ways of starting.
   In the much more common variety, the 'dream-initiated lucid dream'
   (DILD), the dreamer acquires awareness of being in a dream while fully
   involved in it. DILDs occur when dreamers are right in the middle of
   REM sleep, showing lots of the characteristic rapid eye movements.
   DILDs account for about four out of every five lucid dreams that the
   dreamers have had in the laboratory. In the other 20 percent, the
   dreamers report awakening from a dream and then returning to the dream
   state with unbroken awareness -- one moment they are aware that they
   are awake in bed in the sleep laboratory, and the next moment, they
   are aware that they have entered a dream and are no longer perceiving
   the room around them. These are called 'wake initiated lucid dreams'
   For many people, having lucid dreams is fun, and they want to learn
   how to have more or to how to induce them at will. One finding from
   early experimental work was that high levels of physical (and
   emotional) activity during the day tend to precede lucidity at night.
   Waking during the night and carrying out some kind of activity before
   falling asleep again can also encourage a lucid dream during the next
   REM period and is the basis of some induction techniques. Many methods
   have been developed and they roughly fall into three categories.
   One of the best known techniques for stimulating lucid dreams is
   LaBerge's MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming). This technique
   is practiced on waking in the early morning from a dream. You should
   wake up fully, engage in some activity like reading or walking about,
   and then lie down to go to sleep again. Then you must imagine yourself
   asleep and dreaming, rehearse the dream from which you woke, and
   remind yourself, 'Next time I have this dream, I want to remember I'm
   A second approach involves constantly reminding yourself to become
   lucid throughout the day rather than the night. This is based on the
   idea that we spend most of our time in a kind of waking daze. If we
   could be more lucid in waking life, perhaps we could be more lucid
   while dreaming. German psychologist Paul Tholey [Tho83] suggests
   asking yourself many times every day, 'Am I dreaming or not?' This
   exercise might sound easy, but is not. It takes a lot of determination
   and persistence not to forget all about it. For those who do forget,
   French researcher Clerc suggests writing a large 'C' on your hand (for
   'conscious') to remind you [GB89]. This kind of method is similar to
   the age-old technique for increasing awareness by meditation and
   The third and final approach requires a variety of gadgets. The idea
   is to use some sort of external signal to remind people, while they
   are actually in REM sleep, that they are dreaming. Hearne first tried
   spraying water onto sleepers' faces or hands but found it too
   unreliable. This sometimes caused them to incorporate water imagery
   into their dreams, but they rarely became lucid. He eventually decided
   to use a mild electrical shock to the wrist. His 'dream machine'
   detects changes in breathing rate (which accompany the onset of REM)
   and then automatically delivers a shock to the wrist [Hea90].
   Meanwhile, in California, LaBerge [LaB85] was rejecting taped voices
   and vibrations and working instead with flashing lights. The original
   version of a lucid dream-inducing device which he developed was
   laboratory based and used a personal computer to detect the eye
   movements of REM sleep and to turn on flashing lights whenever the
   REMs reached a certain level. Eventually, however, all the circuitry
   was incorporated into a pair of goggles. The idea is to put the
   goggles on at night, and the lights will flash only when you are
   asleep and dreaming. The user can even control the level of eye
   movements at which the lights begin to flash. The newest version has a
   chip incorporated into the goggles, which will not only control the
   lights but will store data on eye-movement density during the night as
   well as information about when and for how long the lights were
   flashing, making fine tuning possible.
   There are two reasons for associating lucid dreams with OBEs. First,
   recent research suggests that the same people tend to have both lucid
   dreams and OBEs [Bla88, Irw88]. Second, as Green pointed out [Gre68b]
   it is hard to know where to draw the line between an OBE and a lucid
   dream. In both, the person seems to be perceiving a consistent world.
   Also the subject, unlike in an ordinary dream, is well aware that he
   is in some altered state and is able to comment on and even control
   the experience. Green refers to all such states as 'metachoric
   experiences.' It is possible to draw a line between these two
   experiences, but the important point to realize is that that line is
   not clear, and the two have much in common.
   But there is an important difference between lucid dreams and the
   other states. In the lucid dream one has insight into the state (in
   fact that fact defines the state). In false awakening, one does not
   have such insight (again by definition). In typical OBEs, people feel
   that they have really left their bodies. Those experiencing NDEs may
   have a sense of rushing down a long tunnel, which some perceive as
   being an entryway into a world beyond death. It is only in the lucid
   dream that one realizes it is a dream.
   Just as in the case of OBEs, surveys can tell us how common lucid
   dreams are and who has them. Blackmore estimates that about 50 percent
   of people have had at least one lucid dream in their lives [Bla91].
   Green [Gre66] found that 73% of student sample answered 'yes' to the
   question, 'Have you ever had a dream in which you were aware that you
   were dreaming?.' Palmer found that 56% of the townspeople and 71% of
   the students in his sample reported that they had had lucid dreams and
   many of these claimed to have them regularly [Pal79b]. Blackmore found
   that 79% of the Surrey students she interviewed had them [Bla82].
   Beyond producing these kinds of results, it does not seem that surveys
   can find out much. There are no very consistent differences between
   lucid dreamers and others in terms of age, sex, education, and so on
   [GL88]. All these surveys seem to agree quite closely, showing that
   the lucid dream is a rather common experience -- far more common than
   the OBE.
What is the physiology of dreams and lucid dreams?

   The electrical activity of the brain has been observed and classified
   with EEG (electroencephalograph) equipment; signals are picked up from
   the scalp by electrodes, then filtered and amplified to drive a graph
   recorder. Brain activity has been found to produce specific ranges for
   certain basic states of consciousness, as indicated in 'Hz' (Hertz, or
   cycles/vibrations per second):
   delta -- 0.2 to 3.5 Hz (deep sleep, trance state) theta -- 3.5 to 7.5
   Hz (day dreaming, memory) alpha -- 7.5 to 13 Hz (tranquility,
   heightened awareness, meditation) beta -- 13 to 28 Hz (tension,
   'normal' consciousness)
   In the drowsy state before falling asleep, the EEG is characterized by
   many alpha waves while the muscles start to relax. Gradually this
   state gives way to Stage 1 sleep. Three more stages follow, each
   having different EEG patterns and marked by successively deeper states
   of relaxation. By Stage 4 the sleeper is very relaxed, his breathing
   is slower, and skin resistance high. He is very hard to wake up. If
   the dreamer is awakened, he may say that he was thinking about
   something or he may describe some vague imagery, but he will rarely
   recount anything which sounds like a typical dream.
   But this is not all there is to sleep -- increasing oblivion. In a
   normal night's sleep, a distinct change takes place an hour or two
   after the onset of sleep. Although the muscles are still relaxed, the
   sleeper may move, and from the EEG it appears that he is going to wake
   up and he returns to something resembling Stage 1 sleep. Yet he will
   still be very hard to wake up, and in this sense is fast asleep. The
   most distinctive feature, however, is the rapid eye movements, or REMs
   and the stage is also called REM-sleep. In earlier stages the eyes may
   roll about slowly, now, however, they dart about as though watching
   something. If woken up now the sleeper will usually report that he was
   Lucid dreams implied that there could be consciousness during sleep, a
   claim many psychologists denied for more than 50 years. Orthodox sleep
   researchers argued that lucid dreams could not possibly be real
   dreams. If the accounts were valid, then the experiences must have
   occurred during brief moments of wakefulness or in the transition
   between waking and sleeping, not in the kind of deep sleep in which
   REMs and ordinary dreams usually occur. In other words, they could not
   really be dreams at all.
   This contention presented a challenge to lucid dreamers who wanted to
   convince people that they really were awake in their dreams. But of
   course when you are deep asleep and dreaming you cannot shout, 'Hey!
   Listen to me. I'm dreaming right now.' During REM sleep, the muscles
   of the body, excluding the eye muscles and those responsible for
   circulation and respiration, are immobilized by orders from a nerve
   center in the lower brain. This fact prevents us from acting out our
   dreams. Occasionally, this paralysis turns on or remains active while
   the person's mind is fully awake and aware of the world.
   It was Keith Hearne [Hea78], of the University of Hull, who first
   exploited the fact that not all the muscles are paralyzed. In REM
   sleep the eyes move. So perhaps a lucid dreamer could signal by moving
   the eyes in a predetermined pattern. Lucid dreamer Alan Worsley first
   managed to do this in Hearne's laboratory. He decided to move his eyes
   left and right eight times in succession whenever he became lucid.
   Using a polygraph, Hearne could watch the eye movements for sign of
   the special signal. The answer was unambiguous. All the lucid dreams
   occurred in definite REM sleep. In other words they were, in this
   sense, true dreams.
   A typical lucid dream lasted between two and five minutes, occurred at
   about 6.30 a.m., about 24 minutes into a REM period and towards the
   end of a 22-second REM burst. The nights on which lucid dreams
   occurred did not show a different sleep pattern from other nights,
   although they did tend to follow days of above average stimulation.
   It is sometimes said that discoveries in science happen when the time
   is right for them. It was one of those odd things that at just the
   same time, but unbeknownst to Hearne, Stephen LaBerge, at Stanford
   University in California, was trying the same experiment. He too
   succeeded, but resistance to the idea was very strong. In 1980, both
   Science and Nature rejected his first paper on the discovery [LaB85].
   It was only later that it became clear just how important this
   discovery had been.
   Some conclusions can be drawn from this information. In both OBEs and
   lucid dreams, the person seems to have his waking consciousness, or
   something close to it. He is able to see clearly, but what he sees is
   not quite like the physical and it appears to have many of the
   properties of a dream world or imaginary world. But there are
   differences as well: the lucid dream starts more often when the
   subject is asleep, and the dream world is less distinct and real than
   the OB 'world,' allowing less control and freedom of movement; in
   addition, the person who has an OBE starting from the waking state
   never actually thinks he is dreaming. Most lucid dreams involve only
   the subject, but there are cases on record of 'meetings' in lucid
   dreams. The important question is whether the OBEer is observing the
   same world as the lucid dreamer. Are the two experiences essentially
   aspects of the same phenomenon?
   According to Stephen LaBerge it seems possible that at least some OBEs
   arise from the same conditions as sleep paralysis, and that these two
   terms may actually be naming two aspects of the same phenomenon
   [LL91]. In his opinion the survey evidence favors this theory. There
   is also considerable evidence that people who tend to have OBEs also
   tend to have lucid dreams, flying and falling dreams, and the ability
   to control their dreams [Bla84, Gli89, Irw88]. Because of the strong
   connection between OBEs and lucid dreaming, some researchers in the
   area have suggested that OBEs are a type of lucid dream [Far76, Hon79,
   One problem with this argument is that although people who have OBEs
   are also likely to have lucid dreams, OBEs are far less frequent, and
   can happen to people who have never had lucid dreams. Furthermore,
   OBEs are quite plainly different from lucid dreams in that during a
   typical OBE the experient is convinced that the OBE is a real event
   happening in the physical world and not a dream, unlike a lucid dream,
   in which by definition the dreamer is certain that the event is a
   dream. There is an exception that connects the two experiences -- when
   we feel ourselves leaving the body, but also know that we are
   LaBerge organized a study which consisted of analysis of the data of
   107 lucid dreams from a total of 14 different people. The
   physiological information that was collected included brain waves,
   eye-movements and chin muscle activity. In all cases, the dreamer
   signaled the beginning of the lucid dream by making a distinct pattern
   of eye movements. After verifying that all the lucid dreams had eye
   signals showing that they had happened in REM sleep, they were
   classified into DILDs and WILDs, based on how long the dreamers had
   been in REM sleep without awakening before becoming lucid, and on
   their report of either having realized they were dreaming while
   involved in a dream (DILD) or having entered the dream directly from
   waking while retaining lucidity (WILD). Alongside the physiological
   analysis each dream report was scored for the presence of various
   events that are typical of OBEs, such as feelings of body distortion
   (including paralysis and vibrations), floating or flying, references
   to being aware of being in bed, being asleep or lying down, and the
   sensation of leaving the body.
   Ten of the 107 lucid dreams qualified as OBEs, because the dreamers
   reported feeling as if they had left their bodies in the dream. Twenty
   of the lucid dreams were WILDs, and 87 were DILDs. Five of the OBEs
   were WILDs (28%) and five were DILDs (6%). Thus, OBEs were more than
   four times more likely in WILDs than in DILDs. The three OBE-related
   events which were looked for also all occurred more often in WILDs
   than in DILDs. Almost one third of WILDs contained body distortions,
   and over a half of them included floating or flying or awareness of
   being in bed. This is in comparison to DILDs, of which less than one
   fifth involved body distortions, only one third included floating or
   flying, and one fifth contained awareness of bed.
   The reports from the five DILDs that were classified as OBEs were
   actually much like those from the WILD-OBEs. In both the dreamers felt
   themselves lying in bed and experiencing strange sensations including
   paralysis and floating out-of-body. Although these lucid dreams sound
   like WILDs, they were classified as DILDs because the physiological
   records showed no awakenings preceding lucidity. However, it is
   possible that these people could have momentarily become aware of
   their environments (and hence been 'awake') while continuing to show
   the brainwaves normally associated with REM sleep.
   The laboratory studies show that when OBEs happen in lucid dreams they
   happen either when a person re-enters REM sleep right after an
   awakening, or right after having become aware of being in bed. Could
   this relationship apply to OBEs and lucid dreams that people
   experience at home, in the 'real world'?
   Not being able to take the sleep lab to the homes of hundreds of
   people LaBerge conducted a survey about OBEs and other dream-related
   experiences. The difference between his survey and previous ones is
   that in addition to asking if people had had OBEs, he asked
   specifically about certain events that are known to be associated with
   WILDs, namely, lucid dreaming, returning directly to a dream after
   awakening from it, and sleep paralysis.
   A total of 572 people filled out the questionnaire. About a third of
   the group reported having had at least one OBE. Just over 80 percent
   had had lucid dreams. Sleep paralysis was reported by 37 percent and
   85 percent had been able to return to a dream after awakening. People
   who reported more dream-related experiences also reported more OBEs.
   For example, of the 452 people claiming to have had lucid dreams, 39
   percent also reported OBEs, whereas only 15 percent of those who did
   not claim lucid dreams said they had had OBEs. The group with the most
   people reporting OBEs (51%) were those who said they had experienced
   lucid dreams, dream return, and sleep paralysis.
   In this survey, people reporting frequent dream return also tended to
   report frequent lucid dreams. Thus, LaBerge believes that the fact
   that dream return frequency is linked with OBE frequency in this study
   gives further support to the laboratory research finding that WILDs
   were associated with OBEs. On the other hand he stresses that the
   proof that some or even most OBEs are dreams is not enough to allow us
   to say that a genuine OBE is impossible. However, he suggests that if
   you have an OBE, why not test to see if the OBE-world passes the
   reality test. Is the room you are in the one you are actually sleeping
   in? If you have left your body, where is it? Do things change when you
   are not looking at them (or when you are)? Can you read something
   twice and have it remain the same on both readings? LaBerge asks 'If
   any of your questions and investigations leave you doubting that you
   are in the physical world, is it not logical to believe you are
   dreaming?' [LL91].
What is the physiology of OBEs?

   Clearly there are similarities between OBEs and dreams. In both we
   experience a world in which imagination plays a great part and we can
   perform feats not possible in everyday life. But the OBE differs in
   many important and obvious ways from what we have called an ordinary
   dream. For a start, it usually occurs when the subject is awake, or at
   least if drowsy or drugged, not sleeping. Second, the imagery and
   activities of an OBE are usually much less bizarre and more coherent
   than those of an ordinary dream, and most often the scenery is
   something from the normal environment rather than the peculiar setting
   of dreams. Third, OBEers are often adamant that their experience was
   nothing like a dream. Finally, there is the great difference in the
   state of consciousness. Ordinary dreams are characterized by very
   cloudly consciousness at best, and are only recognized as dreams on
   waking up.
   But these differences are not enough. You may argue that in a lucid
   dream both the imagery and the state of consciousness are much more
   like those in an OBE. So perhaps the OBE is a kind of lucid dream
   occurring in the midst of waking life. One way to find out might be to
   determine the physiological state in which the OBE takes place. Such a
   finding can only be made by means of laboratory experiment; but first
   we need to catch an OBE in the laboratory.
   Observing an OBE in the laboratory setting is not easy. Most people
   who have an OBE have only one, or at most few, in a lifetime.
   Capturing an OBE requires a special kind of subject, one who is both
   able to induce an OBE at will, and willing to be subjected to the
   stress of being tested. Fortunately there are such subjects.
   One of the first to be tested was a young girl called Miss Z., by
   Charles Tart who studied her OBEs [Tar68]. Her OBEs all occurred at
   night. She used to wake up in the night and find herself floating near
   the ceiling. With Miss Z. as subject Tart initially wanted to test two
   aspects of the OBE: first, whether ESP could occur during an OBE, and
   second what physiological state was associated with the experience.
   Altogether, Miss Z. spent four non-consecutive nights sleeping at the
   During her first night Miss Z. had no OBEs. During the second night
   she woke twice and reported that she had been floating above her body.
   During the first experience Miss Z. had not yet fallen asleep when the
   OBE occurred, and the EEG showed a drowsy waking pattern followed by
   waking when she told Tart about the experience. All the time the heart
   rate had been steady and there were no REMs. Then at 3.15 a.m. Miss Z.
   woke up and called out 'write down 3.13.' Apparently she had left her
   body and lifted up high enough to see the clock on the wall. At that
   time the EEG showed various patterns but predominantly theta and
   alphoid activity. There were few sleep spindles (a feature of the EEG
   pattern in certain stages of sleep), no REMs, no GSRs (galvanic skin
   response) and a steady heartbeat.
   On the third night Miss Z. had a dramatic OBE. She seemed to be
   flying, and found herself at her home in Southern California, with her
   sister. Her sister got up from the rocking chair where she had been
   sitting and the two of them communicated without speaking. After a
   while they both walked into the bedroom and saw the sister's body
   lying in bed asleep. Almost as soon as she realized that it was time
   to go, the OBE was over and Miss Z. found herself back in the
   laboratory. Tart was not able to contact the sister to check whether
   she had been aware of the visit, but the physiological record showed
   that there was mostly alphoid activity with no REMs and only a couple
   of minutes of Stage 1, dreaming sleep, with REMs.
   The last night was in some ways the most exciting, for on that
   occasion the subject was able to see an ESP target provided; but the
   EEG record was obscured by a lot of interference. Tart described it as
   somewhat like Stage 1 with REMs, but he added that he could not be
   sure whether it was a Stage1 or a waking pattern.
   Amongst all these confusing and changeable patterns, some certainty
   does emerge. In general the EEG showed a pattern most like poorly
   developed Stage 1 mixed with brief periods of wakefulness. For this
   subject at least OBEs do not occur in the same state as dreaming. Tart
   would have liked to have continued working with Miss Z. but this
   proved impossible as she had to return to Southern California.
   However, Tart [Tar67] was able to work with another subject, Robert
   Monroe, well known from his books. Monroe was monitored for nine
   sessions with EEG and other devices. In this environment Monroe had
   difficulty inducing an OBE. Electrodes were clipped to his ear, and he
   found them very uncomfortable. During all the time that he was trying
   to have an OBE his EEG showed a strange mixture of patterns. There was
   unusually varied alpha rhythm, variable sleep spindles, and high
   voltage theta waves. On the whole Tart concluded that Monroe was in
   Stages 1 and 2 and was relaxed and drowsy, falling in and out of
   sleep. His sleep pattern was quite normal and he had normal dream
   periods and sleep cycle.
   During the penultimate session Monroe managed to have an OBE. Tart
   concluded that Monroe's OBEs occurred in the dreaming state; but this
   idea presented him with a problem. Monroe claims that for him,
   dreaming and OBEs are entirely different. Tart finally concluded that
   perhaps the OBEs were a mixture of dreams and 'something else.' This
   'something else' might, he thought, be ESP.
   One of the next subjects to be tested in this way was Ingo Swann. In
   several experiments at the ASPR [OM77] Swann was attached to the EEG
   equipment while he sat in a darkened room and tried to exteriorise, in
   his own time, and to travel to a distant room where ESP targets were
   set up. He did not fall asleep and was thus able to make comments
   about how he was getting on. After some months of this type of
   experiment Swann suggested that he might be able to leave his body on
   command and so he was arranged to receive an audible signal to tell
   him when to go, and when to return. Apparently he succeeded in this
   effort, which meant that OBE and other times could easily be
   determined and compared.
   During the OBE periods, the EEG was markedly flattened and there were
   frequency changes, with a decrease in alpha and increase in beta
   activity. While these changes took place, the heart rate stayed
   normal. These findings are rather different from those with previous
   subjects in that Swann seemed to be more alert during his OBEs.
   Perhaps this just confirms what was learned from case studies, that
   the OBE can occur in a variety of states. But perhaps most important
   is that in no case so far did there seem to be a discrete state in
   which the OBE took place. There were no sudden changes in either EEG
   or autonomic functions to mark the beginning or end of the OBE. Any
   changes were gradual; unlike dreaming, the OBE does not seem to be
   associated with a discrete physiological state.
   The one other subject who has taken part in a large number of OBE
   experiments is Keith ('Blue') Harary. The experiments in which his
   physiological state was measured were carried out at the Physical
   Research Foundation [Mor73, HJH74, JHHLM74, MHJHR78]. The findings
   were different again from those of previous studies. Here there were
   no changes in EEG. The amount and frequency of alpha were the same in
   OBE and 'cool down' periods and there were only slightly fewer eye
   movements in the OBE phases. These measurements alone show that Harary
   was awake and that his OBEs did not occur in a sleeping, dreaming or
   borderline state.
   Other measures did show a change. Skin potential fell, indicating
   greater relaxation, and it was this measure which provided the best
   indicator that an OBE had begun. Both heart rate and respiration
   increased. These changes are surprising because they imply a greater
   degree of arousal; the opposite of the finding from skin potential. So
   in some ways Harary was more relaxed, but he was also more alert.
   Great differences between subjects tend to obscure any clear pattern
   in the states, but in all this confusion it is clear that the start of
   an OBE does not coincide with any abrupt physiological change. There
   is no discrete OBE state. The OBE does not, at least for these
   subjects, and under these conditions, occur in a state resembling
   dreaming. The subjects were relaxed, and even drowsy or lightly
   asleep, but they were not dreaming when they had their OBEs.
What are near-death experiences and are they some kind of OBEs?

   Much publicity has recently been given to research on near-death
   experiences (NDEs), experiences of those who survive a close encounter
   with death. More people now survive close brushes with death. The
   near-death experience has been defined as the 'experiential
   counterpart of the physiological transition to biological death'
   [Sab82]: it is the record of conscious experience from the inside
   rather than the outside, from the point of view of the subject rather
   the spectator.
   Raymond Moody [Moo75, 77] interviewed many people who had been
   resuscitated after having had accidents and he then put together an
   idealized version of a typical near-death experience. He emphasized
   that no one person described the whole of this experience, but each
   feature was found in many of the stories. Here is his description:
     A man is dying and, as he reaches the point of greatest physical
     distress, he hears himself pronounced dead by his doctor. He begins
     to hear an uncomfortable noise, a loud ringing or buzzing, and at
     the same time feels himself moving very rapidly through a long dark
     tunnel. After this, he suddenly finds himself outside of his own
     physical body, but still in the immediate physical environment, and
     he sees his own body from a distance, as though he is a spectator.
     He watches the resuscitation attempt from this unusual vantage point
     and is in a state of emotional upheaval.
     After a while, he collects himself and becomes more accustomed to
     his odd condition. He notices that he still has a 'body,' but one of
     a very different nature and with very different powers from the
     physical body he has left behind. Soon other things begin to happen.
     Others come to meet and to help him. He glimpses the spirits of
     relatives and friends who have already died, and a loving, warm
     spirit of a kind he has never encountered before -- a being of light
     -- appears before him. This being asks him a question, non-verbally,
     to make him evaluate his life and helps him along by showing him a
     panoramic, instantaneous playback of the major events of his life.
     At some point he finds himself approaching some sort of barrier or
     border, apparently representing the limit between earthly life and
     the next life. Yet, he finds that he must go back to the earth, that
     the time for his death has not yet come. At this point he resists,
     for by now he is taken up with his experiences in the afterlife and
     does not want to return. He is overwhelmed by intense feelings of
     joy, love, and peace. Despite his attitude, though, he somehow
     reunites with his physical body and lives.
     Later he tries to tell others, but he has trouble doing so. In the
     first place, he can find no human words adequate to describe these
     unearthly episodes. He also finds that others scoff, so he stops
     telling other people. Still, the experience affects his life
     profoundly especially his views about death and its relationship to
   The parallel between this kind of account and many OBEs is clear.
   There is the tunnel traveled through as well as the experiences of
   seeing one's own body from outside and seeming to have some other kind
   of body, and the ineffability is familiar. One is tempted to conclude
   that in death a typical OBE, or astral projection, occurs, and is
   followed by a transition to another world, with the aid of people who
   have already made the crossing, and that of higher beings in whose
   plane one is going to lead the next phase of existence. Although
   Moody's work gave a good idea of what dying could be like for some
   people, it did not begin to answer questions such as how common this
   type of experience is.
   After Moody there have been studies by cardiologists Rawlings and
   Sabom. The most detailed research has been carried out by Kenneth
   Ring, a psychologist from Connecticut [Rin79, 80]. From hospitals
   there he obtained the names of people who had come close to death, or
   who had been resuscitated from clinical death. Almost half of his
   sample (48%) reported experiences which were, at least in part,
   similar to Moody's description. Of Ring's subjects, 95 per cent of
   those asked stated that the experience was not like a dream (the same
   result appears in Sabom): they stressed that it was too real, being
   more vivid and more realistic; however some aspects were hard to
   express, as the experience did not resemble anything that had happened
   to them before.
   One of Ring's most interesting findings concerned the stages of the
   experience. He showed that the earlier stages also tended to be
   reported more frequently. The first stage, peace, was experienced by
   60% of his sample, some of whom did not reach any further stages. The
   next stage, of most interest to us here, was that of 'body
   separation,' in other words, the OBE. Thirty-seven per cent of Ring's
   sample reached this stage and what they reported sounds very similar
   to descriptions of OBEs. Not all the 'body separations' were distinct.
   Many of Ring's respondents simply described a feeling of being
   separate or detached from everything that was happening.
   Ring tried to find out about two specific aspects of these OBEs. First
   he asked whether they had another body. The answer seemed to be 'no':
   most were unaware of any other body and answered that they were
   something like 'mind only.' There was a similar lack of descriptions
   of the 'silver cord.' We can see that an OBE of sorts forms an
   important stage in the near-death experience.
   After the OBE stage comes 'entering the darkness' experienced by
   nearly a quarter of Ring's subjects. It was described as 'a journey
   into a black vastness without shape or dimension,' as 'a void, a
   nothing' and as 'very peaceful blackness.'
   For fifteen per cent the next stage was reached, 'seeing the light.'
   The light was sometimes at the end of the tunnel, sometimes glimpsed
   in the distance but usually it was golden and bright without hurting
   the eyes. Sometimes the light was associated with a presence of some
   kind, or a voice telling the person to go back.
   Finally there were ten per cent experiencers who seemed to 'enter the
   light' and pass into or just glimpse another world. This was described
   as a world of great beauty, with glorious colors, with meadows of
   golden grass, birds singing, or beautiful music. It was at this stage
   that people were greeted by deceased relatives, and it was from this
   world that they did not want to come back.
   A completely different kind of analysis was applied by Noyes and
   Kletti [Noy72, NK76] to accounts collected from victims of falls,
   drownings, accidents, serious illnesses, and other life-threatening
   situations. They emphasized such features as altered time perception
   and attention, feelings of unreality and loss of emotions, and the
   sense of detachment. They found that these features occurred more
   often in people who thought they were about to die than in those who
   did not. This fitted their interpretation of the experiences as a form
   of depersonalization (i.e., the loss of the sense of personal identity
   or the sensation of being without material existence) in the face of a
   threat to life; that is as a way of escaping or becoming dissociated
   from the imminent death of the physical body.
   Two other aspects have yet to be dealt with. First, there is the
   absence of any trips to 'hell.' Neither Moody nor Ring obtained any
   accounts of hellish experiences. However, cardiologist Maurice
   Rawlings [Raw78] has suggested that the reason for there being no such
   reports is that although patients may recall such hellish experiences
   immediately afterwards, they tend to forget them with time. In other
   words, their memories protect them from recalling the unpleasant
   aspects. According to Rawlings it is only because they have been
   interviewed too long after the brush with death that all the
   experiences are reported as pleasant. It does seem to be the 'good'
   side of experiences which makes the greater impact.
   Another feature which needs mention is the 'life review.' It has often
   been found that a person close to death may seem to see scenes of his
   past life pass before him as though on a screen, or in pictures. Ring
   found that about a quarter of his core-experiencers reported a life
   review, and that it was more common in accident victims than others.
   The general effects of undergoing an NDE are of two kinds:
   philosophical and ethical. The main philosophical changes are in
   attitudes towards death and afterlife. Sabom's figures are extremely
   interesting in this respect: he asked those who had and those had not
   had an NDE when unconscious whether there was any change in their
   views of death and the afterlife. Of the 45 who had not had any
   conscious experience, 39 were just as afraid of death as before, 5
   more afraid and 1 less afraid; while of the 61 with an NDE none were
   more afraid, 11 just as afraid and 50 less afraid. The patterns were
   similar concerning belief in an afterlife: of the non- experiencers,
   none had any change of attitude; while of the experiencers, 14 found
   their attitude unchanged and 47 stated that their belief in the
   afterlife had increased [Sab82]. Ring found a correlation between loss
   of fear of death and what he called the core experience, broadly that
   with a positive transcendental element in it. Moody comments that
   there is remarkable agreement about the 'lessons' brought back from
   NDEs: 'Almost everyone has stressed the importance in this life of
   trying to cultivate love for others, a love of a unique and profound
   kind' [Moo75]. And he adds that a second characteristic is a
   realization of the importance of seeking knowledge, of not confining
   one's horizon to the material.
   A number of reductionist physiological explanations have been advanced
   to account for NDEs: the two most common are 'cerebral anoxia' and
   'depersonalization'. Cerebral anoxia accounts for the experience by
   saying that it is a hallucination due to an oxygen shortage in the
   brain. We have seen that such 'hallucinations' frequently turn out to
   correspond to the physical events actually occurring -- can the NDE
   therefore be labelled a hallucination? Perhaps it can, but certainly
   not as a delusion. Ring and Moody both point out that patterns of
   experiences are no different when there is clearly no shortage of
   oxygen. Noyes starts by pointing out that none of the subjects can
   really have been dead if they were resuscitated, so that their
   reported experiences cannot be taken as 'proof' of survival of
   consciousness. Moody never actually states such a position, but rather
   confines himself to asserting that the experiences have a suggestive
   value; even if for the subjects themselves the experience is proof.
   The common factor underlying all the physiological explanations of the
   NDE is the attempt to avoid the prima facie interpretation of the
   experience as an OBE. Sabom concludes that this hypothesis is the best
   fit with the data, while Ring concludes that 'there is abundant
   empirical evidence pointing to the reality of out-of-body experiences;
   that such experiences conform to the descriptions given by our
   near-death experiencers; and that there is highly suggestive evidence
   that death involves the separation of a second body -- a double --
   from the physical body' [Rin80].
   Just as many different interpretations have been presented for all
   aspects of the near-death experience. The most important of them have
   been usefully summarised by Grosso [Gro81]. Most people seem to agree
   that the near-death experience presents remarkable consistency varying
   little across differences in culture, religion, and cause of the
   crisis; what is in dispute is why there should be such a consistency.
   Rawlings steeps all his findings in the language of Christianity,
   involving heaven and hell and the possibility of being saved. Noyes
   interprets NDEs in terms of depersonalization; Siegel in terms of
   hallucinations, and Ring, within a parapsychological-holographic
   model. But broadly speaking there are two camps. On the other side are
   those who see the near-death experience as a sure signpost towards
   another world and a life after death; on the other, those who have, in
   various different ways, interpreted the experience as part of life,
   not death, and as telling us nothing whatsoever about a 'life after
Is the OBE some kind of mental illness?

   If the OBE is to be seen as involving psychological processes, rather
   than paranormal ones, we need to look at what those processes could
   be. Let us begin with a psychiatric approach and ask whether the OBE,
   or anything like it, is found in any mental illness.
   Noyes and Kletti likened near-death experiences to the phenomenon of
   depersonalization. Related to depersonalization is derealization, in
   which the surroundings and environment begin to seem unreal and the
   sufferer seems to be cut off from reality. Depersonalization is the
   more common of the two, and involves feelings that the person's own
   body is foreign or does not belong. He may complain that he does not
   feel emotions even though he appears to express them, and he may
   suffer anxiety, distortions of time and place, and changes in his body
   image, and the subject may seem to observe things from a few feet
   ahead of his body. His conscious 'I- ness' is said to be outside his
   body. The patients characterize their imagery as pale and colorless,
   and some complain that they have altogether lost the power of
   This description does not sound like that of someone who has had an
   OBE or a NDE. There are distortions of the environment and alterations
   in imagery in OBE and NDE experiences, but it seems that imagery
   typically becomes more bright and vivid, colorful and detailed, rather
   than pale and colorless. There are changes in the emotions -- but
   rather than a perishing of love and hate, many OBEers report deep love
   and joy and positive emotions. The phenomena of derealization and
   depersonalization do not in the least help us to understand. Any small
   similarities are outweighed by overwhelming differences.
   One syndrome specifically involving doubles is the unusual 'Capgras
   syndrome.' A person suffering from this illusion may believe that a
   friend or relative has been replaced by an exact double. Since this
   double is like the real person in every discernible way, nothing that
   the 'real person' says or does will convince the patient otherwise. In
   this way the patient can avoid the guilt he feels at any malicious or
   negative feelings towards a loved one. From even this very brief
   description it is obvious that this illusion bears no resemblance to
   the OBE.
   More relevant may be the kinds of double seen in autoscopy, literally
   'seeing oneself.' Although the OBE is rarely distinguished from
   autoscopy in the psychiatric literature, other distinctions are made
   instead. The main distinction is that OBE involves feeling of being
   outside the body while autoscopy usually consist of seeing a double.
   Some people see the whole of their body as a double; some see only
   parts, perhaps only the face. There is an internal form in which the
   subject can see his internal organs; and a cenesthetic form in which
   he does not see, but only feels the presence of his double. There is
   even a negative form in which the subject cannot see himself even when
   he tries to look into a mirror.
   An entirely different way of looking at autoscopy is through the
   physical problems with which it is sometimes associated. One of these
   is migraine, the most obvious symptom of which is the debilitating
   headache. During, before or after the pain some migraine suffers
   apparently experience autoscopy. In any case, a number of examples of
   people who have suffered both migraine and a simultaneous experience
   of either autoscopy or an OBE, does not prove any particular kind of
   connection between the two.
Are people who have greater imagery skills more likely to have OBEs?

   OBEs might be expected to be more frequently experienced by people
   with the most highly developed skills of conceiving mental images if
   the experience is one constructed entirely from the imagination. Irwin
   [Irw80, 81b] was interested in whether OBEers differ from other people
   in terms of certain cognitive skills or ways of thinking, including
   imagery. He found 21 OBEers and to these he gave the 'Ways of thinking
   questionnaire' (WOT), the 'Differential personality questionnaire'
   (DPQ) and the 'Vividness of visual imagery questionnaire' (VVIQ). For
   each he compared the scores of the OBEers with those expected from
   studies of larger groups of the population.
   The imagery questionnaire a self-rated measure of vividness of just
   visual imagery. The scores of these few OBEers were unexpectedly found
   to be lower than normal, and significantly so. It seems that they had
   less, not more, vivid imagery than the average. The next test, the
   WOT, aims to test the verbalizer-visualizer dimension of cognitive
   style. Irwin's OBEers obtained scores no different from the average.
   So there was no evidence that OBEers are either specially likely to
   use visualization or verbalization.
   Although not directly relevant to the subject of imagery, the results
   of the DPQ were interesting. One of the various dimensions of
   cognitive style which it measures is 'Absorption.' This relates to a
   person's capacity to become absorbed in his experience. For example,
   someone who easily becomes immersed in nature, art or a good book or
   film or a computer game, to the exclusion of the outside world, would
   be one who scored highly on the scale of 'Absorption.' Irwin expected
   OBEers to be higher on this measure and that is what he found. His
   OBEers seemed to be better than average at becoming involved in their
Are OBEs some kind of hallucination?

   There is no single accepted definition of hallucinations and it is not
   clear just how they relate to sensory perception, illusion, dreams and
   imagination. However, let us define an hallucination as an apparent
   perception of something not physically present, and add that it is not
   necessary for the hallucination to be thought 'real' to count. Into
   this category come a wide range of experiences occurring in people,
   not suffering from any mental or psychiatric disturbance. Visual
   imagery may occur just before going to sleep (hypnagogic), on first
   waking up (hypnopompic) or they may be induced by drugs, sensory
   deprivation, sleeplessness, or severe stress. They may take many
   forms, from simple shapes to complex scenes.
   Although it is possible to have an hallucination involving almost any
   kind of imagery, it has long been known that there are remarkable
   similarities between the hallucinations of different people, under
   different circumstances. Hallucinations were first classified during
   the last century during a period when many artists and writers
   experimented with hashish and opium as an aid to experiencing them. In
   1926 Kluver began a series of investigations into the effects of
   mescaline and described four constant types. These were first the
   grating, lattice or chessboard, second the cobweb type, third the
   tunnel, cone or vessel, and fourth the spiral. As well as being
   constant features of mescaline intoxication in different people,
   Kluver found that these forms appeared in hallucinations induced by a
   wide variety of conditions.
   In the 1960s, when many psychedelic drugs began to be extensively used
   for recreational purposes, research into their effects proliferated.
   Leary and others tried to develop methods by which intoxicated
   subjects could describe what was happening to them. Eventually Leary
   and Lindsley developed the 'experiental typewriter' with twenty keys
   representing different subjective states. Subjects were trained to use
   it but the relatively high doses of drugs used interfered with their
   ability to press the keys and so a better method was needed.
   A decade later Siegel gave subjects marijuana, or THC, and asked them
   simply to report on what they saw. Even with untrained subjects he
   found remarkable consistencies in the hallucinations. In the early
   stages simple geometric forms predominated. There was often a bright
   light in the center of the field of vision which obscured central
   details but allowed images at the edges to be seen more clearly, and
   the location of this light created a tunnel-like perspective. Often
   the images seemed to pulsate and moved towards or away from the light
   in the center of the tunnel. At a later stage, the geometric forms
   were replaced by complex imagery including recognizable scenes with
   people and objects, sometimes with small animals or caricatures of
   people. Even in this stage there was much consistency, with images
   from memory playing a large part.
   On the basis of this work Siegel constructed a list of eight forms,
   eight colors, and eight patterns of movement, and trained subjects to
   use them when given a variety of drugs (or a placebo) in controlled
   environment. With amphetamines and barbiturates the forms reported
   were mostly black and white forms moving aimlessly about, but with
   THC, psilocybin, LSD and mescaline the forms became more organized as
   the experience progressed. After 30 minutes there were more lattice
   and tunnel forms, and the colors shifted from blue to red, orange to
   yellow. Movement became more organized with explosive and rotational
   patterns. After 90 - 120 minutes most forms were lattice-tunnels;
   after that complex imagery began to appear with childhood memories and
   scenes, emotional memories and some fantastic scenes. But even these
   scenes often appeared in a lattice-tunnel framework. At the peak of
   the hallucinatory experience, subjects sometimes said that they had
   become part of the imagery. They stopped using similes and spoke of
   the images as real. Highly creative images were reported and the
   changes were very rapid. According to Siegel [Sie77] at this stage
   'The subjects reported feeling dissociated from their bodies.'
   The parallels between the drug-induced hallucinations and the typical
   spontaneous OBE should be obvious. Not only did some of the subjects
   in Siegel's experiments actually report OBEs, but there were the
   familiar tunnels and the bright lights so often associated with
   near-death experiences. There was also the 'realness' of everything
   seen; and the same drugs which elicited the hallucinations are those
   which are supposed to be conducive to OBEs.
   There have been many suggestions as to why the tunnel form should be
   so common. It has sometimes been compared to the phenomenon of 'tunnel
   vision' in which the visual field is greatly narrowed, but usually in
   OBEs and hallucinations the apparent visual field is very wide; it is
   just formed like a tunnel. A more plausible alternative depends on the
   way in which retinal space is mapped on cortical space. If a straight
   line in the visual cortex of the brain represents a circular pattern
   on the retina then stimulation in a straight line occurring in states
   of cortical excitation could produce a sensation of concentric rings,
   or a tunnel form. This type of argument is important in understanding
   the visual illusions of migraine, in which excitations spread across
   parts of the cortex.
   Another reasonable speculation is that the tunnel has something to do
   with constancy mechanisms. As objects move about, or we move relative
   to them, their projection on the retina changes shape and size. We
   have constancy mechanisms which compensate for this effect. For very
   large objects, distortions are necessarily a result of perspective,
   and yet we see buildings as having straight wall and roofs. If this
   mechanism acted inappropriately on internally generated spontaneous
   signals, it might produce a tunnel-like perspective, and any
   hallucinatory forms would also be seen against this distorted
   In drug-induced hallucinations there may come a point at which the
   subject becomes part of the imagery and it seems quite real to him,
   even though it comes from his memory. The comparison with OBEs is
   interesting because one of the most consistent features of spontaneous
   OBEs is that the experiencers claim 'it all seemed so real.' If it
   were a kind of hallucination similar to these drug-induced ones then
   it would seem real. Put together the information from the subject's
   cognitive map in memory, and an hallucinatory state in which
   information from memory is experienced as though it were perceived,
   and you have a good many of the ingredients for a classical OBE.
   But what of the differences between hallucinations and OBEs? You may
   point to the state of consciousness associated with the two and argue
   that OBEs often occur when the person claims to be wide awake, and
   thinking perfectly normally. But so can hallucinations. With certain
   drugs consciousness and thinking seem to be clearer than ever before,
   just as they often do in an OBE. An important difference is that in
   the OBE, the objects of perception are organized consistently as
   though they do constitute a stable, physical world. But such is not
   always the case; there are many cases which involve experiences beyond
   anything to be seen in the physical world.
   Consideration of imagery and hallucinations might provide some sort of
   framework for understanding the OBE. It would be seen as just one form
   of a range of hallucinatory experiences. But (and this is a big but)
   if the OBE is basically an hallucination and nothing actually leaves
   the body, then paranormal events ought not necessarily to be
   associated with it. People ought not to be able to see distant unknown
   places or influence objects while 'out of the body'; yet there are
   many claims to such an effect.
What are the features of OB vision?

   In the late 1960s Charles Tart began the first laboratory tests with
   subjects who could have OBEs voluntarily [Tar67, 68]. In addition to
   his physiological research he also tested subjects' ability to see a
   target hidden from their normal sight. His first subject, Miss Z., was
   tested in a laboratory where a target was placed on a shelf about five
   and a half feet above the bed where she lay. The target was a
   five-digit number prepared in advance by Tart and placed on the shelf.
   Miss Z. slept in the laboratory on four occasions. On the first she
   had no OBE; on the second, she managed to get high enough to see the
   clock, and on third night she had an OBE but traveled elsewhere.
   However, on her fourth and last night she awoke and reported that she
   had seen the number and it was 25132. She was right on all five digits
   which has a probability of only one in 100,000 of being right by
   Tart himself seemed reluctant to conclude that it was paranormal.
   Tart's second subject was Robert Monroe, who came to the laboratory
   for nine sessions, but he was only able to induce an OBE in the
   penultimate session, and then he had two. During the first of these
   OBEs he seemed to see a man and a woman but not to know who or where
   they were. In the second he made a great effort to stay 'local' and
   managed to see a technician, who was supposed to be monitoring the
   apparatus. With her he saw a man whom he did not know was there and
   whom he later described. It turned out that this was the husband of
   the technician, who had come to keep her company. Since Monroe did not
   manage to see the target number, no real test of ESP was possible.
   In 1971 Karlis Osis began to plan OBE research at the American SPR.
   One of the first subjects to be tested there was Ingo Swann, who went
   to the laboratory two or three times a week where Janet Mitchell
   tested him to see whether he could identify a target placed out of
   sight. A platform was suspended from the ceiling about 10 feet above
   the ground and divided into two. On either side of a partition various
   objects were placed and Swann was asked to try to travel up to see
   them. The reason for the partition was to see whether Swann would
   identify the correct target for the position in which he claimed it to
   be. Bright colors and clear familiar shapes seemed most successful and
   glossy pictures or glass did not work well for the experimental
   After his OBE, Swann usually made drawings of what he had 'seen.'
   Although these drawings were far from perfect renderings of the
   original objects, they were similar enough that when eight sets of
   targets and respondes were given to an independent judge she correctly
   matched every pair; a result which is likely to happen by chance only
   once in about 40,000 times [Mit73].
   The results of all these experiment were most encouraging. From Tart's
   results especially it seemed that although it was very hard for the
   subject to get to see the number, and that if the number was seen, it
   was seen correctly. Further research showed that OB vision could be
   just as confused and erratic as ESP has always seemed to be. For
   example Osis [Osi73] advertised for people who could have OBEs to come
   to the ASPR for testing. About one hundred came forward and were asked
   to try to travel to a distant room and to report on what objects they
   could see there. Osis found that most of them thought they could see
   the target but most were wrong. He concluded that the vast majority of
   the experiences had nothing to do with bone fide OBEs. This conclusion
   means that Osis was using the ability to see correctly as a criterion
   for the occurrence of a genuine OBE.
   Much of the recent research on OBEs has been directed towards that
   important question; does anything leave the body in an OBE? On the one
   hand are the 'ecsomatic' or 'extrasomatic' theories which claim that
   something does leave. This something might be the astral body of
   traditional theory or some other kind of entity. Morris [Mor73] has
   referred to the 'theta aspect' of man which may leave the body
   temporarily in an OBE, and permanently at death. On the other hand
   there are theories which claim that nothing leaves. Some of these
   predict that no paranormal events should occur during OBEs, but the
   major alternative to consider here is that nothing leaves, but the
   subject uses ESP to detect the target. This concept has been referred
   to as the 'imagination plus ESP' theory.
   This last theory is problematic. The term ESP is a catch-all, is
   negatively defined, and is capable of subsuming almost any result one
   cares to mention. How then can it be ruled out? And given these two
   theories, how can we find out which, if either, is correct? In spite
   of the difficulties several parapsychologists have set about this
   task. Osis, for example, suggested that if the subject in an OBE has
   another body and is located at the distant position, then he should
   see things as though looking from that position. If he were using ESP
   he should see things as though with ESP.
   This general ideal led Osis to suggest placing a letter 'd' in such
   way that if seen directly (or presumably by ESP) a 'd' would be seen,
   but if looked from a designated position a 'p' would appear, reflected
   in a mirror. Following this idea further he developed his 'optical
   image device' which displays various pictures in several colors as in
   four quadrants. The final picture is put together using black and
   white outlines, a color wheel, and a series of mirrors. By, as it
   were, looking into the box by ESP one would not find the complete
   picture. To do so can only be achieved by looking in through the
   viewing window [Osi75].
   Experiments with this device were carried out with Alex Tanous, a
   psychic from Maine. Tanous lay down in a soundproofed room and was
   asked to leave his body and go to the room containing the device, look
   in through the observation window and return to relate what he had
   seen. Osis recounts that at first Tanous did not succeed, but
   eventually he seemed to improve.
   On each trial Tanous was told whether he was right or wrong and was
   thus able to look for criteria which might help to identify when he
   was succeeding. On those trials which he indicated he was most
   confident about, his results 'approached significance' on the color
   aspect of the target. Osis claimed that this aspect was most important
   for testing his theory because some of the colors were modified by the
   apparatus and would be very hard to get right by ESP. The next tests
   therefore used only a color wheel with three pictures and six colors.
   This time overall scores were not significant but high-confidence
   scores for the whole target were significant and in the second half of
   the experiment Tanous scored significantly on several target aspects,
   especially the one which Osis claimed required 'localized sensing.'
   Blue Harary, who has provided so much interesting information about
   the physiology of the OBE, was tested for perception during his OBEs,
   but according to Rogo [Rog78c] he was only 'sporadically successful'
   on target studies and so research with him concentrated on other
   aspects of his experience.
   Apart from all these experiments there is really only one more
   approach which is relevant to the question of ESP in OBEs and that is
   work done by Palmer and his associates at the University of Virginia
   in Charlottesville. They tried to develop methods for inducing an OBE
   in volunteer subjects in the laboratory and then to test their ESP.
   One can understand the potential advantages of such a program. If it
   were possible to take a volunteer and give him an OBE under controlled
   conditions, when and where you wanted it, half the problems of OBE
   research would be solved. It would be possible to test hypotheses
   about the OBE so much more quickly and easily, but alas, this approach
   turned to be fraught with various problems.
   First Palmer and Vassar [PV74a, b] developed an induction technique
   based on traditional ideas of what conditions are conducive to the
   OBE. Using four different groups of subjects in three stages, the
   method was modified to incorporate different techniques for muscular
   relaxation and disorientation. Each subject was brought into the
   laboratory and the experiment was explained to him. He was then taken
   into an inner room to lie on a comfortable reclining chair and told
   that a target picture would be placed on a table in the outer room.
   The stage of the induction consisted of nearly fifteen minutes of
   progressive muscular relaxation with the subject being asked to heard
   a pulsating tone both through headphones and speakers which served to
   eliminate extraneous noises and produce a disorientating effect. At
   the same time he looked into a rotating red and green spiral lit by a
   flashing light; this stage lasted a little under ten minutes. In the
   final stage he was asked to imagine leaving the chair and floating
   into the outer room to look at the target, but here several variations
   were introduced. Some subjects were guided through the whole process
   by taped instructions while other were simply allowed to keep watching
   the spiral while they imagined it for themselves. For some the spiral
   was also only imagined and for some there was an extra stage of
   imagining the target.
   When the procedure was over the subject filled in a questionnaire
   about his experiences in the experiment and completed an imaginary
   test (a shortened form of the Betts QMI). Then five pictures were
   placed before him. One was the target, but neither he nor the
   experimenter with him knew which it was. When he had rated each of the
   pictures on a 1 to 30 scale, the other experimenter was called in to
   say which was the target.
   One of the questions asked was, 'Did you at any time during the
   experiment have the feeling that you were literally outside of your
   physical body?' Of 50 subject asked this question 21, or 42%, answered
   'yes.' As for the scores on the targets, overall scores were not
   significally different from chance expectation. When the scores were
   compared for the 21 OBEers and the others there was no significant
   difference between them. The OBEers did get significantly fewer hits
   than expected by chance, but this result difficult to interpret.
   Palmer and Lieberman [PL75a, b] took the techniques a stage further.
   Forty subjects were tested, but this time they had a visual ganzfeld:
   that is, half ping-pong balls were fixed over their eyes and a light
   was shone on them so as to produce a homogenous visual field. Half the
   subjects were given an 'active set' by being asked to leave their
   bodies and travel to the other room to see the target, while the other
   half were given a 'passive set' being asked only to allow imagery to
   flow freely in their mind.
   As expected more of the 'active' subjects reported having felt out of
   their bodies: 13 out of 20 as opposed to only 4 in the passive
   condition. The active subjects also reported more vivid imagery and
   more effort expended in trying to see the target, but when it came to
   the ESP scores both groups were found to have scores close to chance
   expectation and there were no significant differences between them.
   However, those subjects who reported OBEs did do better than the
   others and significantly so. This result is quite different from the
   previous ones and is the opposite of what Palmer and Lieberman
   predicted, but it is what one would expect on the hypothesis that
   having an OBE facilitates ESP.
   Palmer and Lieverman put forward an interesting suggestion as to why
   more subjects in the active condition should report OBEs. Their idea
   is related to Schachter's theory of emotions, which has been very
   influential in psychology. This theory suggests that a person
   experiencing any emotion first feels the physiological effects of
   arousal, including such things as slight sweating, increased heart
   rate, tingling feelings, and so on, and then labels this feeling
   according to the situation as either 'anger,' 'passionate love,'
   'fear' or whatever. In the case of these experiments the subject feels
   unusual sensations arising from the induction and then labels them
   according to his instructions. If he were told to imagine leaving his
   body and traveling another room he might interpret his feelings as
   those of leaving the body. Of course this suggestion has far wider
   implications for understanding the OBE than those relating to the
   evaluation of the results of these experiments.
   In the next experiment Palmer and Lieberman tested 40 more subjects,
   incorporating suggestions from Robert Monroe's methods for inducing
   OBEs. The was no ganzfeld and instead of sitting in a chair the
   subjects lay on beds, sometimes with a vibrator attached to the
   springs. This time time 21 subjects reported OBEs; and, interestingly,
   these score higher on the Barber suggestibility scale, but they did
   not have better ESP scores.
   In the final experiment in this series 40 more subjects were tested,
   20 with ganzfeld and 20 were just told to close their eyes [Pal79a].
   This time 13 in each group claimed to have had on OBE, but whether
   they did or not was not related to their ESP scores. This time EEG
   recording was also used, but it showed no differences related to the
   reported OBEs. All in all it seems that these experiments were
   successful in helping subjects to have an experience which they
   labelled as out of the body, but not in getting improved ESP scores or
   in finding an OBE state identifiable by EEG.
   In an experiment designed to look at the effect of religious belief on
   susceptibility to OBEs, Smith and Irwin [SI81] tried to induce OBEs in
   two groups of students differing in their concern with religious
   affairs and human immortality. The induction was similar to that
   already described, but in addition the subjects were given an
   'OBE-ness' questionnaire and were asked to try to 'see' two targets in
   an adjacent room. Later their impressions were given a veridicality
   score for resemblance to the targets. No differences between the
   groups were found for either OBE-ness or veridicality, but there was a
   highly significant correlation between OBE- ness and veridicality.
   This result implies that the more OBE-like the experience, the better
   the ESP.
   All these experiments were aimed at finding out whether subjects could
   see a distant target during an OBE. Although the experimental OBE may
   differ from the spontaneous kind, a simple conclusion is possible from
   the experimental studies. That is, OBE vision, if it occurs, is
   extremely poor.
How can the OBE be explained?

   Most theories of the OBE either claim that something leaves the
   physical body, or that it does not. Then within these two major
   categories there are several different types of explanation, and there
   is perhaps a last possibility; that any such distinction is
   meaningless and artificial. The theories can be divided up as follows

A. Something leaves the body.
   1. Physical theories
   2. Physical astral world theory
   3. Mental astral world theory

B. Nothing leaves the body
   1. Parapsychological theory
   2. Psychological theories

C. Other

    Physical Theories
     (a physical double travels in the physical world)"
     First there is the kind of explanation which suggests that we each
     have a second physical body which can separate from the usual one.
     There are two aspects to consider, one being the status and nature
     of the double which travels, and the other being the status and
     nature of the world in which it travels. In this theory both are
     material and interact with the normal physical world. You may
     immediately dismiss this notion, saying that the double is
     To make this theory even worth considering it is necessary to assume
     that this double is composed of some 'finer' or more subtle material
     that is invisible to the untrained eye. This kind of idea is
     sometimes expressed in occult writings. The idea appears, for
     example, as the 'etheric body' of the Theosophists. Objections to
     this type of theory are numerous, and are made on both logical and
     empirical grounds. First, what could the double be made of? The
     possibilities seem to range between a complete solid duplicate and a
     kind of misty and insubstantial version. Another problem with this
     kind of double is its appearance. If all have a second body why does
     it appear to some as a blob or globe, to other as a flare, or light,
     and to yet others as a duplicate of the physical body? Muldoon and
     Carrington [MC29] wrestled with this problem and so has Tart
     If the notion of a physical double is problematic, the notion that
     it travels in the physical world is just as much so. First there are
     the types of errors made in OB perception. These tend not to be the
     sort of errors which might arise from a poor perceptual system, but
     seem often to be fabricated error, or additions, as well as
     omissions. Then sometimes the OB world is responsive to thought,
     just as in a dream the scenery can change if the person imagines it
     changing; and lastly, there is the fact that many OBEs merge into
     other kinds of experience. The OBEer may find himself seeing places
     such as never were on earth, or he may meet strange monsters,
     religious figures or caricature animals. All these features of the
     OBE make it harder to see the OB world as the physical world at all,
     and lead one to the conclusion that the OB world is more like a
     world of thoughts.
    Physical Astral World Theory
     (a non-physical double travels in the physical world)"
     Many theories have suggested that the double is not physical but
     non- physical, even though it travels in the physical world. Many
     occultists believe there to be a whole range of non-physical worlds
     of differing qualities. Let us look at some examples of this sort of
     theory to try to find out what is meant by it. Tart [Tar74b, 78]
     refers to it as the 'natural' explanation. He describes this theory
     of the OBE as follows '... in effect there is no need to explain it;
     it is just what it seems to be. Man has a non-physical soul of some
     sort that is capable, under certain conditions, of leaving the
     physical seat of consciousness. While it is like an ordinary
     physical body in some ways, it is not subject to most of the
     physical laws of space and time and so is able to travel at will.'
     The 'theta aspect' has been mentioned in connection with detection
     experiments. Morris et. al. [MHJHR78] explain that '... the OBE may
     be more than a special psi-conductive state; they hold that it may
     in fact be evidence of an aspect of the self which is capable of
     surviving bodily death. For convenience, such a hypothetical aspect
     of the self will hereafter be referred to as a Theta Aspect (T.A.).'
     According to Osis and Mitchell [OM77] it is possible that '... some
     part of the personality is temporarily out of the body,' and many
     occult theories involve a non- physical astral double rather than a
     physical one.
     Blackmore criticizes this view [Bla82]. She claims if the 'soul' is
     to interact with the objects of the physical world so as to perceive
     them then it should not only be detectable, but all the other
     problems of previous theories arise. On the other hand, if this
     'soul' does not interact with the physical, then it cannot possibly
     do what is expected of it in this theory, namely travel in the
     physical world. She sees no escape from the dilemma. Moreover, she
     claims there is already evidence that what is seen in an OBE is not,
     in any case, the physical world.
    Mental Astral World Theory
     (a non-physical double travels in a non-physical, but 'objective,'
     astral world)
     Each of the theories presented thus far support a conclusion that
     OBEs do not take place in the physical world at all, but in a
     thought-created or mental world. Each of the next three types of
     theory start from this premise, but they are very different and lead
     to totally different conceptions of the experience.
     The term 'mental world' could mean several different things. It
     could mean the purely private world created by each of us in our
     thinking. One possibility is that there is another world (or worlds)
     which is mental but is in some sense shared, or objective and in
     which we can all travel if we attain certain states of
     consciousness. The important question now becomes whether the OB
     world is peculiar to each individual, or shared and accessible to
     Occultists have suggested that there is a shared thought world.
     There are many other versions of this kind of theory. The pertinent
     features of this idea are that there is a non-physical OB world
     which is accessible by thought, that it is manipulable by thought,
     and that it is the product of the mind of more than just one person.
     Tart [74b, 78], as one of his five theories of the OBE, suggests
     what he calls the 'mentally-manipulatable-state explanation.' He
     raises here the familiar problem of, as he puts it 'where the
     pajamas come from.' That is, if the OBE involves the separation of a
     'spirit' or 'soul' we have to include the possibility of spiritual
     dinner jackets and tie pins. Of course any theory which postulates
     'thought created' world solves this problem. Tart therefore
     suggested that a non-physical second body travels in a non-physical
     world which is capable of being manipulated or changed by 'the
     conscious and non-conscious thoughts and desires of the person whose
     second body is in that space.'
     In 1951 Muldoon and Carrington had come to a similar conclusion
     [MC51]. Muldoon states '... one thing is clear to me -- the clothing
     of the phantom is created, and is not a counterpart of the physical
     clothing.' Through his observations he came to the conclusion that
     'Thought creates in the astral, ... In fact the whole astral world
     is governed by thought.' But he did not mean it was a private world
     of thoughts.
     Also relevant here is the occult notion of thought forms.
     Theosophists Besant and Leadbeater describe the creation of thought
     forms by the mental and desire bodies, and their manifestations as
     floating forms in the mental and astral planes. All physical objects
     are supposed to have their astral counterparts and so when traveling
     in the astral one sees a mixture of the astral forms of physical
     things and thought created, or purely astral, entities.
     There are other versions of a similar idea. For example Whiteman
     questions the 'one-space theory' of OBEs [Whi75], and Poynton follow
     him suggesting '... what is described is not the physical world as
     actualized by the senses of the physical body, but a copy, more or
     less exact, of the physical world' [Poy75]. Rogo [Rog78b] suggests
     that the OBE takes place in a non-physical duplicate world which is
     just as 'real' to the OBEer as our world is to us.
     The idea of shared thought world, attractive as it is, has some
     serious problems. The first problem relates to how the thoughts of
     different people could be combined together to create an astral
     world and the second problem concerns the storage of ideas. The idea
     that thoughts can persist independently of the brain has been a
     cornerstone of many occult theories, but also parapsychologists have
     used a similar idea to try to explain ESP.
     According to Blackmore [Bla82] the problem is essentially one of
     coding. We know that when a person remembers something he has first
     processed the incoming information, thought about it, structured it,
     and turned it into a manageable form using some sort of code. We
     presume that the information persists in this form until needed when
     the person can use the same coding system to retrieve it and use it.
     Even if we don't understand the details of how this system works,
     there is in principle no problem for one person because he uses the
     same system both in storing the material and retrieving it. But if
     thoughts are stored in the astral world, then we have to say that
     one person can store them there and another can get them out again.
     And that other person may have entirely different ways of coding
     information. So how can these thoughts in the astral possibly make
     sense to him?
    Parapsychological Theory
     (imagination plus ESP)
     The OBE might involve only imaginary traveling in a private
     imaginary world. According to this type of theory, nothing leaves
     the body in an OBE. The advantage of such a theory is that it avoids
     all the problems of the previous ones since it involves no astral
     worlds and other bodies. Certain parapsychologists have tried to
     incorporate the evidence that ESP occurs during OBEs by suggesting
     that the OBE is 'imagination plus ESP' or PK. For example, one of
     Tarts's five theories is the 'hallucination-plus- psi explanation.'
     According to this theory, 'For those cases of OBEs in which
     veridical information about distant events is obtained, it is
     postulated that ESP, which is well proved, works on a nonconscious
     level, and this information is used by the subconscious mind to
     arrange the hallucinatory or dream scene so that it corresponds to
     the reality scene' [Tar78].
     Osis [Osi75] contrasts his 'ecsomatic hypothesis' with 'traveling
     fantasy plus ESP' and Morris [MHJHR78] compares the theory that
     'some tangible aspect of self can expand beyond the body' with what
     he call the 'psi- favorable state' theory. In parapsychology many
     states have been thought to be conducive to ESP. They include
     relaxation, the use of ganzfeld or unpatterned stimulation, and
     dreaming. There are many reasons why an OBE might be thought of as a
     psi-conductive state. Palmer suggested that it might induce
     attitudes and expectations consistent with psi, thereby facilitating
     its occurrence [Pal74].
     This sort of theory is not satisfying. It appears to avoid all the
     previous problems and yet to be able to cope with the paranormal
     aspects of the experience. According to Blackmore 'Calling the OBE
     imagination or hallucination tells us very little, and adding the
     words 'plus ESP' adds nothing. We know little enough about ESP. It
     is defined negatively, and we cannot stop and start it or control it
     in any way.'
    Psychological Theories
     This theory amounts to the statement that all the details of the OBE
     are to be accounted for in psychological terms. Nothing leaves the
     body in an OBE, the astral body and astral world are products of the
     imagination and the OBE itself provides no hope for survival. Osis
     has called the followers of such theories 'nothing but-ers,'
     reducing the OBE to 'nothing but a psychopathological oddity'
     Among psychological approaches there have been psychoanalytic
     interpretations, analogies between the 'tunnel' and the birth
     experience; the creation of the double has been seen as an act of
     narcissism or as a way of denying the inevitable mortality of the
     human body. Then there have been theories which treat the near-death
     experience as a form of depersonalization or regression to primitive
     modes of thinking, and those which treat it as involving an
     John Palmer used a mixture of psychological and psychoanalytical
     concepts in his account [Pal78a]. He made the crucial point that the
     OBE is neither potentially nor actually a psychic phenomenon. An OBE
     may be associated with psychic events but the experience itself,
     just like any other experience, is not the kind of thing which can
     be either psychic or not. He went on to suggest that the OBE almost
     always occurs in a hypnagogic state. Within this state it is
     triggered by a change in the person's body concept which results
     from a reduction or other change in proprioceptive stimulation. This
     change then threatens the self concept and the threat activates deep
     unconscious processes. These processes try to re-establish the
     person's sense of individual identity as quickly and economically as
     possible in a way that follows the laws of the Freudian primary
     process. According to Palmer it is this attempt to regain identity
     which constitutes the OBE.
     Since the whole purpose of the OBE is to avoid a threat, the person
     will usually remain unaware of that threat and of the change in body
     image which precipitated it. However, Palmer adds that it is
     possible, with practice, to gain ego-control over the primary
     process activity. Of course the OBE is, at best, only a partial
     solution to the threat and both ego and primary process strive to
     regain the normal body concept. As soon as they succeed the OBE
     ends. For Palmer any psychic abilities which manifest themselves
     during an OBE do so more because of the hypnagogic state than
     because anything leaves the body.
     This theory has much in its favor. It has no need of astral bodies
     or other worlds and so avoids all the problems of the earlier
     theories. It makes sense of the situations in which the OBE occurs,
     and the way it varies with the situation, and it relates the OBE to
     other experiences. However, the theory is not without its own
     problems. It depends heavily on the idea that the OBE is a means of
     avoiding a threat to the integrity of the individual and the anxiety
     which such a threat would arouse. But it is not clear that the OBE
     would not provide an even greater threat than the original change in
     body concepts. Sometimes OBEers are terrified that they will not be
     able to 'get back in' which is surely also a threat.
     Susan Blackmore [Bla82] bases her theory on the claim that the
     evidence of paranormal events during the OBE is limited and
     unconvincing. She therefore asserts that the claims for ESP and PK
     in OBEs are not impossible but there is actually not very much
     evidence which has to be 'explained away' in this fashion. Blackmore
     suggests that the OBE is best seen as an altered state of
     consciousness (ASC) and is best understood in relation to other
     ASCs. Everything perceived in an OBE is a product of memory and
     imagination, and during the OBE one's own imagination is more
     vividly experienced than it is in everyday life. In other words the
     experience is a kind of privileged peek into the contents of one's
     own mind.
     Blackmore suggests that in the case of the OBE the following are
     necessary: vivid and detailed imagery; low reality testing so that
     memories and images may seems 'real'; sensory input from the body
     reduced or not attended to; awareness and logical thinking
     maintained. She shows how these prerequisites can lead to an altered
     state of which one form is the semi- stable OBE and indicates
     related states, such as lucid dreaming, and shows how experience can
     change into others when conditions, or ways or thinking, change.
     This theory accounts adequately for cases of so-called traveling
     clairvoyance, where the subject does not necessarily see his body,
     but is aware of a distant scene. It accounts less well for cases of
     conscious projection, where the subjects feels himself to be at a
     distant location and is actually perceived by a person at that
     location. It also underestimates the veridical aspect of perception
     in cases where there is no apparent distortion by the imagination,
     in other words when the scene viewed from another point of space
     corresponds exactly with what one might expect to observe from that
     point; for instance a room seen from the vantage point of the
     ceiling. The question of perceptual distortion is related to the
     degree of interference by the imagination: the greater the
     imaginative element, the less veridical the perception of the place.
     Stephen LaBerge describes a theory in which OBEs occur when people
     lose input from their sense organs, as happens at the onset of
     sleep, while retaining consciousness [LL91]. This combination of
     events is especially likely when a person passes directly from
     waking into REM sleep. In both states the mind is alert and active,
     but in waking it is processing sensory input from the outside world,
     while in dreaming it is creating a mental model independent of
     sensory input. This model includes a body. When dreaming, we
     generally experience ourselves in a body much like the 'real' one,
     because that is what we are used to. However, our internal senses
     reside in the physical body, which when we are awake inform us about
     our position in space and about the movement of our limbs. This
     information is cut off in REM sleep. Therefore, we can dream of
     doing all kinds of things with our dream bodies -- flying, dancing,
     running from monsters, being dismembered -- all while our physical
     bodies lie safely in bed.
     During a WILD, or sleep paralysis, the awake and alert mind keeps up
     its good work of showing us the world it expects is out there --
     although it can no longer sense it. So, then we are in a mental
     dream world. Possibly we feel the cessation of the sensation of
     gravity as that part of sensory input shuts down, and then feel that
     we are suddenly lighter and float up, rising from the place where we
     know our real body to be lying still. The room around us looks about
     the same as it would if we were awake, because such in image
     represents our brain's best guess about where we are. If we did not
     know that we had just fallen asleep, we might well think that we
     were awake, still in touch with the physical world, and that
     something mighty strange was happening -- a departure of the mind
     from the physical body.
     The unusual feeling of leaving the body is exciting and alarming.
     This, combined with the realistic imagery of the bedroom is enough
     to account for the conviction of many OBE experients' that 'it was
     too real to be a dream.' Dreams, too, can be astonishingly real,
     especially if you are attending to their realness. Usually, we pass
     through our dreams without thinking much about them, and upon
     awakening remember little of them. Hence, they seem 'unreal.' But
     waking life is also like that -- our memory for a typical, mundane
     day is flat and lacking in detail. It is only the novel, exciting,
     or frightening events that leave vivid impressions. If we stop what
     we are doing, we can look around and say, 'Yes, this world looks
     solid and real.' But, if you look back and try to recall, for
     instance, brushing your teeth this morning, your memory is likely to
     be vague and not very life-like. Contrast this kind of event to a
     past event that excited or alarmed you, which is likely to seem much
     more 'real' in retrospect.
     Perhaps all the distinctions and problems are artificial, perhaps
     the mind is neither 'in' nor 'out' of the body. Grosso argues the
     possibility [Gro81] that one is always 'out' and in an OBE just
     becomes conscious of that fact. Should the distinction between
     normal and paranormal then be dropped?
     Let us consider the state of affair that is considered normal: the
     'in-the- body' experience. What does it mean to be in a body?
     LaBerge [LL91] argues that saying that one is in a body implies that
     the self is an object with definite borders capable of being
     contained by the boundaries of another object -- the physical body.
     However, we do not have any evidence that the self is such a
     concrete thing. What we think of as 'out-of-body' in an OBE is the
     experience of the self. This experience of being 'in' a body is
     normally based on perceptual input from the senses of both the world
     external to the body and the processes within the body. These things
     give us a sense of localization of the self in space. However, it is
     the body, and its sense organs, that occupy a specific locus, not
     the self. The self is not the body or the brain. If we think that
     the self is a product of brain function, even this does not make it
     reasonable to state that the self is in the brain -- is the meaning
     contained in these words in this page? It may not make any sense on
     an objective level to say that the self is anywhere. Rather, the
     self is where it feels itself to be. Its location is purely
     subjective and derived from input from the sensory organs.
     Putting aside the question of the essential nature of the self,
     perception is undeniably a phenomenon tied to brain function. So,
     when we find ourselves experiencing a world that seems much like the
     one we are used to perceiving with our usual equipment -- eyes,
     ears, etc., all things linked to our brains, it would be logical to
     assume that it is our usual brain creating the experience. And, if
     we were to really leave our bodies -- severing all connection with
     them -- it would be illogical to assume that we would see the world
     in the same way. Therefore, LaBerge points out, although no amount
     of contradictory evidence can rule out the possibility of a real
     'out of body experience,' in which an individual exists in some form
     entirely independent of the body, it is highly unlikely that such a
     form would utilize perceptual systems identical to those of the
     physical human form.
     Spiritual teachings tell us that we have a reality beyond that of
     this world. LaBerge concludes that the OBE may not be, as it is
     easily interpreted, a literal separation of the soul from the crude
     physical body, but it is an indication of the vastness of the
     potential that lies wholly within our minds. 'The worlds we create
     in dreams and OBEs are as real as this one, and yet hold infinitely
     more variety. How much more exhilarating to be "out-of-body" in a
     world where the only limit is the imagination than to be in the
     physical world in a powerless body of ether! Freed of the
     constraints imposed by physical life, expanded by awareness that
     limits can be transcended, who knows what we could be, or become?'
Out-of-Body Tools

   Most people taking part in discussions of OBEs seem primarily
   interested in developing and ability to do so themselves and to learn
   to control the experience. Aids to people wanting to develop such
   abilities, which include books, audio tapes which are claimed to
   assist in the process, and training programs are available from:

        Monroe Institute
        Route 1, Box 175
        Faber, Virginia 22938-9749
        Phone:          804-361-1252
        Product Orders: 800-541-2488


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