Have you ever seemed to see the physical world from a location outside your body? If so, you’re among the 10% or so of people who have had an out of the body experience (“OBE”). Many of those have also apparently seen their own body from another point in space. This can be frightening when it happens for the first time, but generally speaking these experiences are not only harmless but also make you feel good afterwards; you don’t need to wonder whether part of you can live on when your body eventually dies – you know that it can. This is especially so in the special case of the Near Death Experience (which may be the subject of my next blog…).
Terminology has changed over the years. The early writers, such as Sylvan Muldoon, Oliver Fox, “Ophiel” and “Yram” called the phenomenon astral projection, on the assumption that we all have an “astral body” as well as a physical one, and that this second body can be projected spontaneously or deliberately. Later, parapsychologists referred to travelling clairvoyance or ESP Projection. Currently the neutral term OBE (or occasionally OOBE) is preferred as it doesn’t imply any particular explanation.
The first experience of an OBE is usually spontaneous – it’s accidental and unexpected. There are cases, for example, of road accident victims finding themselves floating above the scene looking down at their own injured bodies, and of patients who are able to describe everything which went on in the operating theatre while they were under general anaesthetic. Oliver Fox began with lucid dreams and false awakenings (discussed in my earlier blogs); Sylvan Muldoon and Robert Monroe, a more recent writer, began their experiences while lying awake in bed. The experience may take place (apparently) in the physical world, a close copy of it with differences from “reality”, or in another completely different “plane” or “dimension”.
One thing which is immediately clear from reading accounts of OBEs is that there is a wide variety of experience. Writers such as Fox, Muldoon and Monroe learnt to induce OBEs deliberately; they all give detailed descriptions of their own experiences, and detailed instructions based on them – but their experiences, and therefore their techniques, are all different.
What is an OBE?
Well, it’s unlikely that a second body is physically projected, firstly because it wouldn’t have sense organs such as eyes and secondly because it usually seems to “travel” in a pseudo-physical world, a reconstruction, rather than the real one. It’s more likely to be a product of the “mind” (whatever that is), possibly involving an element of ESP.
How do you deliberately induce an OBE?
The most comprehensive examination of the subject that I’ve come across, summarising the experiences of all the above writers, is Beyond the Body (1982), the first book by Dr Susan Blackmore. (I mention that this is her first book because I can’t recommend her later ones; she is now one of the “super-sceptics” and her opinions have become extremely biased.) She suggests the following techniques, most of which assume that the body is extremely relaxed and therefore immobilised:
- Imagery – imagine yourself floating, or visualise a duplicate of yourself and “transfer your consciousness” into it;
- Inducing a special motivation to leave your body – Muldoon suggested extreme thirst;
- Ophiel’s “little system” – memorise a familiar route and try to project yourself along it;
- The Christos technique – described in detail in one of my earlier blogs;
- Monroe’s fairly complicated techniques, beginning with “vibrations”;
- Ritual magic methods – advanced visualisation techniques such as the use of “astral doorways”;
- Hypnosis – requires a skilled hypnotist and a fairly deep trance (and doesn’t work for everyone); and
- Dream development, starting with a lucid dream.
For more details you should of course refer to the original sources; I particularly recommend the classic The Projection of the Astral Body, by Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington, and Journeys Out of the Body by Robert Monroe.
My own OBEs…
…have started either from lucid dreams or from the hypnopompic state, the half-awake state when you’re just waking up from sleep. For me this usually starts with the feeling that I can see the room even though I know my eyes are closed, and I can occasionally move my non-physical arms and apparently roll out of bed, leaving my body behind. Once I “walked” around what seemed to be my bedroom – finding objects that I knew shouldn’t be there – then onto the landing and downstairs. On other occasions I have passed through the closed window into the garden. These examples can be regarded as lucid dreams, but they qualify as OBEs if, as Dr Blackmore does, you define an OBE as the experience of being outside your body.