Monthly Archives: November 2011

Back from the Dead?

Have you ever had a close brush with death, or been brought back to life after having been declared “clinically dead”? If so, you may have had a near death experience (“NDE”). The term was coined in 1975 by Dr Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life, in which he sets out the following elements of a composite “model” NDE:

  1. Hearing sounds such as buzzing
  2. A feeling of peace and painlessness
  3. Having an out-of-body experience
  4. A feeling of travelling through a tunnel
  5. A feeling of rising into the heavens
  6. Seeing people, often dead relatives
  7. Meeting a spiritual being such as God
  8. Seeing a review of one’s life
  9. Feeling a reluctance to return to life

Dr Moody based his book on about 150 case histories. Many more cases have been reported since the book was published, and there have been no doubt innumerable unreported cases since the dawn of history. In fact, the earliest report of an NDE can be found in The Republic, written by Plato in around 380 BC.

My copy of Dr Moody’s book has the following tag line on the front cover:

“Actual case histories reveal that there is life after death.”

Is this true? Is that what these (and other) case histories reveal?

Well, as with any other paranormal research, the answer is – maybe! Certainly it seems that anyone who has been through an NDE believes that he has had a glimpse of an afterlife. On the other hand, super-sceptics such as Dr Susan Blackmore, whom I have mentioned before, will tell you that:

  1. By definition no-one who has had an NDE has actually died; and
  2. NDE phenomena are hallucinations caused by medicinal drugs and the malfunctions of a dying brain.

Perhaps the most convincing – to non-sceptics – published case is that of Pam Reynolds, who featured prominently in a BBC documentary (you can currently find the segment on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNbdUEqDB-k ) and in the 1998 book Light and Death by Dr Michael Sabom. Pam was rendered “dead” for a difficult brain operation – her body was chilled and her brain completely shut down – before being successfully resuscitated. During the operation she experienced an NDE and was later able to give a detailed description of the surgical procedures. Sceptics have argued that the NDE took place before Pam’s brain was flatlined, and this may well have been the case for at least part of it. She did however describe one event which took place while her brain was inactive and in any case the rest of her experience is extremely difficult to explain away (especially as her eyes were taped shut and her ears blocked). Both Pam and her neurosurgeon were interviewed for the BBC documentary; Pam describes her experience and the surgeon comments that he is unable to explain her description of the surgical procedures. So far it’s the closest that we have come to an experimentally induced and controlled NDE and I recommend the YouTube clip if you haven’t seen it before.

Like the other paranormal phenomena which I have discussed in my earlier blogs, NDEs may not be conclusive proof of an afterlife – but taken together with reincarnation studies, mediumship and out-of-the body experiences – not to mention ESP, which I haven’t covered yet – one gets the strong impression that it can’t all be explained away…

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Have you ever been out of your body?

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.

NSAD 2011: The Signs of Stress

Today, 2 November 2011, is National Stress Awareness Day, organised by the International Stress Management Association UK. I am an Approved Stress Adviser for the day. Full details are available here:

http://www.isma.org.uk/national-stress-awareness-day/

How do you know if you’re stressed? Here are ISMA’s suggestions for identifying the signs of stress:

Psychological & Emotional signs

  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling out ofcontrol
  • Tearful / Irritable
  • Anger / Guilt
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetful
  • Worrying
  • Low confidence
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor decisions

Physical signs

  • Muscle tension
  • Frequent colds
  • Skin problems
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion /IBS
  • Heartburn
  • Weight loss or gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems

Behavioural signs

  • No time for relaxation
  • Accident prone
  • Workaholic
  • Poor time management
  • Change in appearance
  • Withdrawn
  • Relationship problems
  • Insomnia
  • Increase in e.g. alcohol/ smoking

If you recognise yourself in this list, I’d be pleased to help!