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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 realms.

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 unconscious.

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' [1929].

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' [1961].

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' [1971]. 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:

"In 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."

Recent 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.



Triggering the out of body state

In his book 'Journey out of the Body' Robert Munroe described a technique for triggering out of body state. Here is a brief description of this technique:

1. Lie down in a darkened room in a relaxing position
2. Loosen your clothing and remove all jewellery.
3. Enter into a very relaxing state and consciously tell yourself that you will remember everything     that happens to you.
4. Begin breathing through your half open mouth.
5. Concentrate on an object.
6. When other images start to enter your mind, just passively watch them.
7. Try to clear your mind and observe your field of vision through your closed eyes.
8. Do noting more for a while; simply look through your closed eyelids at the blackness in front of you.
9. After a while, you may notice patterns of light.
10. When these cease, a state of such relaxation will happen in that you lose all awareness of the body.
11. You are almost in the state where your only source of stimulation will be your own thought.
12. It is this relaxed and refreshed condition where out of body journeys are triggered.
13. To leave your body, think of yourself getting lighter and of how nice it would be to float upwards.

With sufficient practice Monroe claims that a wide variety of experiences can occur.
























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