OF BODY EXPERIENCE
Aphenomenon in which a person feels that they have stepped
out of or have separated from their physical body and have
the ability to travel to another location on earth or non-worldly
Approximately one in four adults believe they have had an
out of body experience [OBE] but despite this scientific evidence
for OBEs remains inconclusive, prompting skeptics to argue
that OBE's are nothing more than an altered state of consciousness.
Descriptions of out of body experiences or the separation
of the consciousness from the body [also known as astral travel
or astral projection or exteriorization] have been recorded
since ancient times and often show remarkable similarities.
Common to most OBE experiences is the existence of a second
body that is described as ghostly double of the physical body.
It is usually invisible to the eyes of others, though it may
be sensed or witnessed as an apparition. In some cases a silvery
cord connecting the astral body to the physical body is reported
and it is said that if this cord is severed death will occur.
In this astral form OBE travellers report floating around
the earth or to an astral plane and they say they travel so
fast as the speed of thought and feel no pain or anxiety.
Individuals claim that they leave their body through their
head or that they simply rise up and float away. Return occurs
by simply re-entering the head or melting into the body.
Its worth pointing out that even those who describe the experience
as something fantastic that occurs during sleep are very specific
in describing the experience as one which was clearly not
a dream. Many stress a sense of feeling more awake than they
did when they were normally awake.
An OBE can occur when a person is awake or before, during
and after sleep. It can also occur during times of stress,
illness, trauma and fear and can be induced by hypnosis and
meditation. The near death experience typically involves some
form of OBE when subjects report that they watched effects
to restore them to life while they lay close to death or were
Early research into OBE was conducted by Frenchman Yram [Louis
Fohan, 1884-1917], who believed that everyone was capable
of astral travel in a variety of guises and recorded his observations
in 'Practical Astral Travel'. Fohan claimed to have made astral
visits to a woman he later married, and to have experienced
astral sex. American Sylvan Muldoon was another early researcher
who investigated OBEs from 1915 to 1950. Muldoon, like Fohan,
claimed to have experienced astral travel himself and collected
his research in 'The Projection of the Astral Body' .
Between 1902 and 1933 Englishman Oliver Fox took research
into OBEs one step further, when he claimed to have succeeded
in inducing OBEs with lucid dreaming. He published his discoveries
in 1920 in 'English Occult Review' and later in a book, 'Astral
Projection'. Fellow Britain and OBE investigator, J H M Whiteman,
claimed to have had thousands of OBEs, sometimes in the form
of a woman or a child, between 1931 and 1953, which he described
as mystical experiences and reported in 'The Mystical Life'
Robert A. Monroe [1915 - 1995], former television executive
of Westchester County television New York, attracted widespread
interest in OBEs from both the public and the scientific community
when he published his account of OBEs in 'Journey out of the
Body' . His interest in OBEs has been triggered in 1958
when he began having spontaneous OBEs in his sleep. In his
book he described the experience as follows:
1958, without any apparent cause, I began to float out of
my physical body. It was not voluntary; I was not attempting
any mental feats. It was not during sleep, so I couldn't dismiss
it as simply a dream. I had full, conscious awareness of what
was happening, which of course only made it worse. I assumed
it was some sort of hallucination caused by something dangerous
- a brain tumour; or impending mental illness. Or imminent
death. It occurred usually when I would like down or relax
for rest or preparatory to sleep - not every time but several
times weekly. I would float up a few feet above my body before
I became aware of what was happening. Terrified, I would struggle
through the air and back into my physical body. Try as I might,
I could not prevent it from recurring."
research on OBEs has been inconclusive due to the fact that
experiences of OBEs do vary from individual to individual;
surveys have speculated that a quarter of the population has
had an OBE. Laboratory tests have been equally inconclusive,
even with individuals who claim to be able to project themselves
out of the body at will.
Those who believe that something leaves the body offer three
explanations: a physical double leaves the body and travels
the physical world; a non-physical double travels in the physical
world; and a non physical double travels in the astral world.
All these explanations are problematic, as they require the
existence of unknown matter, energy or realms. Those who think
nothing leaves the body suggest that OBEs are a combination
of imagination and psi or a hallucinatory experience. These
explanations are equally problematic as they assume that nothing
survives death, a concept many people refuse to accept.