OUT of BODY EXPERIENCE
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Studies of OBEs
The first extensive scientific study of OBEs was made by
Celia Green (1968).
She collected written, first-hand accounts from a total of 400 subjects,
recruited by means of appeals in the mainstream media, and followed up by
questionnaires. Her purpose was to provide a
taxonomy of the different
types of OBE, viewed simply as an anomalous perceptual experience or
leaving open the question of whether some of the cases might incorporate
information derived by
Previous collections of cases had been made by Dr
Ernesto Bozzano (Italy) and Dr Robert Crookall (UK). Crookall approached the
subject from a spiritualistic position, and collected his cases predominantly
from spiritualist newspapers such as the Psychic
News, which appears to have biased his results in
various ways. For example, the majority of his subjects reported seeing a
connecting the physical body and its observing counterpart; whereas Green found
that less than 4% of her subjects noticed anything of this sort, and some 80%
reported feeling they were a "disembodied consciousness", with no external body
In 1999, at the 1st International Forum of Consciousness
Research in Barcelona, International Academy of Consciousness
research-practitioners Wagner Alegretti and Nanci Trivellato presented
preliminary findings of an online survey on the out-of-body experience
answered by internet users interested in the subject; therefore, not a sample
representative of the general population.
1,007 (85%) of the first 1,185 respondents reported having had
an OBE. 37% claimed to have had between two and ten OBEs. 5.5% claimed more than
100 such experiences. 45% of those who reported an OBE said they successfully
induced at least one OBE by using a specific technique. 62% of participants
claiming to have had an OBE also reported having enjoyed nonphysical flight; 40%
reported experiencing the phenomenon of self-bilocation (i.e. seeing one's own
physical body whilst outside the body); and 38% claimed having experienced
self-permeability (passing through physical objects such as walls). The most
commonly reported sensations experienced in connection with the OBE were
falling, floating, repercussions e.g. myoclonia (the jerking of limbs, jerking
awake), sinking, torpidity (numbness), intracranial sounds, tingling,
clairvoyance, oscillation and serenity.
Another reported common sensation related to OBE was
temporary or projective catalepsy, more commonly known as sleep paralysis. The
sleep paralysis and OBE correlation was later corroborated by the Out-of-Body
Experience and Arousal study published in
by Kevin Nelson et al. (2007). Also noteworthy, is the
Waterloo Unusual Sleep Experiences Questionnaire that further illustrates
The University of Manchester has conducted yet another
OBE survey. The psychologists at U. of Manchester are investigating the idea
that out-of-body experiences, commonly thought of as paranormal phenomena, may
in fact have their roots in how people perceive and experience their own bodies.
William Buhlman, an author on the subject, has conducted an
informal but informative
online survey as well.
There are several possible physiological explanations
for parts of the OBE. OBE-like experiences have been induced by stimulation of
the brain. OBE-like experience has also been induced through stimulation of the
posterior part of the right superior temporal gyrus in a patient.
Positron-emission tomography was also used in this study to identify brain
regions affected by this stimulation. The term
OBE-like is used above because the experiences
described in these experiments either lacked some of the clarity or details of
normal OBEs, or were described by subjects who had never experienced an OBE
before. Such subjects were therefore not qualified to make claims about the
authenticity of the experimentally-induced OBE.
[the professional sceptic who gets paid to be one as does James Randi they are
paid too well to be the way they are they cannot change because they would loose
their income] suggests that an OBE begins when a person loses contact with sensory input from
the body while remaining conscious. The
person retains the illusion of having a body, but that perception is no longer
derived from the senses. The perceived world may resemble the world he or she
generally inhabits while awake, but this perception does not come from the
senses either. The vivid body and world is made by our brain's ability to create
fully convincing realms, even in the absence of sensory information. This
process is witnessed by each of us every night in our dreams, though OBEs are
claimed to be far more vivid than even a lucid dream.
pointed out that OBEs appear to occur under conditions of either very high or
very low arousal. For
found that three quarters of a group of 176 subjects reporting a single OBE were
lying down at the time of the experience, and of these 12% considered they had
been asleep when it started. By contrast, a substantial minority of her cases
occurred under conditions of maximum arousal, such as a rock-climbing fall, a
traffic accident, or childbirth. McCreery
has suggested that this paradox may be explained by reference to the fact that
sleep can supervene as a reaction to extreme stress or hyper-arousal.
He proposes that OBEs under both conditions, relaxation and hyper-arousal,
represent a form of "waking dream", or the intrusion of Stage 1
sleep processes into waking
Van Lommel studies
The first clinical study of
near-death experiences (NDE's) in cardiac arrest
patients was by
Pim van Lommel, a cardiologist from the Netherlands, and his team (The
Of 344 patients who were successfully resuscitated after suffering cardiac
arrest, approximately 18% experienced "classic" NDE's, which included
out-of-body experiences. The patients remembered details of their conditions
during their cardiac arrest despite being clinically dead with flatlined brain
stem activity. Van Lommel concluded that his findings supported the theory that consciousness continued
despite lack of neuronal activity in the brain. Van Lommel conjectured that
continuity of consciousness may be achievable if the brain acted as a receiver
for the information generated by memories and consciousness, which existed
independently of the brain, just as radio, television and internet information
existed independently of the instruments that received it.
interpretation of Van Lommel's study, that it demonstrated that the mind was not
separate from the brain, has been criticized by Deepak Chopra
and also by Jay Ingram of
the Canadian Discovery Channel. Ingram commented: "[Shermer's] use of this study
to bolster his point is bogus. He could have said, 'The authors think there's a
mystery, but I choose to interpret their findings differently'. But he didn't. I
find that very disappointing."
Olaf Blanke studies
Research by Olaf Blanke in Switzerland found that it is
possible to reliably elicit experiences somewhat similar to the OBE by
stimulating regions of the brain called the right temporal-parietal junction
(TPJ; a region where the
temporal lobe and
parietal lobe of the brain come together). Blanke and his collaborators in
Switzerland have explored the neural basis of OBEs by showing that they are
reliably associated with
lesions in the right TPJ region
and that they can be reliably elicited with electrical stimulation of this
region in a patient with epilepsy.
These elicited experiences may include perceptions of transformations of the
patient's arms and legs (complex somatosensory responses) and whole-body
displacements (vestibular responses).
In neurologically normal subjects, Blanke and colleagues
then showed that the conscious experience of the self and body being in the same
location depends on
multisensory integration in the TPJ. Using
event-related potentials, Blanke and colleagues showed the selective
activation of the TPJ 330---400 ms after stimulus onset when healthy volunteers
imagined themselves in the position and visual perspective that generally are
reported by people experiencing spontaneous OBEs.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation in the same subjects impaired mental
transformation of the participant's own body. No such effects were found with
stimulation of another site or for imagined spatial transformations of external
objects, suggesting the selective implication of the TPJ in mental imagery of
one's own body.
In a follow up study, Arzy et al. showed that the location and timing of brain
activation depended on whether mental imagery is performed with mentally
embodied or disembodied self location. When subjects performed mental imagery
with an embodied location, there was increased activation of a region called the
"extrastriate body area" (EBA), but when subjects performed mental imagery with
a disembodied location, as reported in OBEs, there was increased activation in
the region of the TPJ. This leads Arzy et al. to argue that "these data show
that distributed brain activity at the EBA and TPJ as well as their timing are
crucial for the coding of the self as embodied and as spatially situated within
the human body."
Blanke and colleagues thus propose that the right
temporal-parietal junction is important for the sense of spatial location of the
self, and that when these normal processes go awry, an OBE arises.
In August 2007 Blanke's lab published research in
Science demonstrating that
conflicting visual-somatosensory input in virtual reality could
disrupt the spatial unity between the self and the body. During multisensory
conflict, participants felt as if a virtual body seen in front of them was their
own body and mislocalized themselves toward the virtual body, to a position
outside their bodily borders. This indicates that spatial unity and bodily
self-consciousness can be studied experimentally and is based on multisensory
and cognitive processing of bodily information.
Michael Persinger studies
has undertaken similar research to Olaf Blanke using magnetic stimulation
applied to the right
temporal lobe of the brain, which is known to be involved in visuo-spatial
functions, multi-sensory integration and the construction of the sense of the
body in space.
Persinger's research also found evidence for objective neural differences
between periods of remote
viewing in two individuals thought to have psychic abilities. Persinger
undertook his research on Sean Harribance and Ingo Swann, a renowned
remote viewer who has taken part in numerous studies.
Examination of Harribance showed enhanced EEG
activity within the alpha band (8–12 Hz) over Harribance's right
parieto-occipital region, consistent with neuropsychological evidence of early
brain trauma in these regions. In a second study, Ingo Swann was asked to draw
images of pictures hidden in envelopes in another room. Individuals with no
knowledge of the nature of the study rated Swann's comments and drawings as
congruent with the remotely viewed stimulus at better than chance levels.
Additionally, on trials in which Swann was correct, the duration of 7 Hz (alpha
paroxysmal discharges over the right
occipital lobe was
longer. Subsequent anatomical
examination showed anomalous subcortical white matter signals
focused in the perieto-occipital interface of the right hemisphere that were not
expected for his age or history.
In August 2007
Henrik Ehrsson, then at the Institute of Neurology at
University College of London (now at the
Karolinska Institute in Sweden) published research in
Science demonstrating the first experimental
method that, according to the scientist's claims in the publication,
induced an out-of-body
experience in healthy participants.
The experiment was conducted in the following way:
The study participant sits in a chair wearing a pair of head-mounted
video displays. These have two small screens over each eye, which show a
live film recorded by two video cameras placed beside each other two
metres behind the participant's head. The image from the left video
camera is presented on the left-eye display and the image from the right
camera on the right-eye display. The participant sees these as one
"stereoscopic" (3D) image, so they see their own back displayed from the
perspective of someone sitting behind them.
The researcher then stands just beside the participant (in their
view) and uses two plastic rods to simultaneously touch the
participant's actual chest out-of-view and the chest of the illusory
body, moving this second rod towards where the illusory chest would be
located, just below the camera's view.
The participants confirmed that they had experienced sitting behind
their physical body and looking at it from that location.
The experiment fits a three-point definition of the
out-of-body experience (OBE). The OBE as reported in spontaneous cases can be
phenomenologically more complex as commented in
Dr. Sam Parnia – University of Southampton study
In the fall of 2008, 25 UK and US hospitals began
participation in a 3 year study, coordinated by Dr. Sam Parnia and
Southampton University. Following on the work of
Van Lommel in the Netherlands, the study aims to examine
near-death experiences in 1,500
survivors and so determine whether people without a heartbeat or brain activity
can have documentable out-of-body experiences.
OBE training and
The Monroe Institute's
Nancy Penn Center is the oldest and most established facility specializing in
out-of-body experience induction. The
Center for Higher Studies of the Consciousness in Brazil is another large OBE
training facility. The International Academy of Consciousness in southern
Portugal features the
Projectarium a spherical structure dedicated exclusively for practice and
research on out-of-body experience.
Olaf Blanke's Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience has
become a well-known laboratory for OBE research.
Astral projection is a
of out-of-body experiences that assumes the existence of one or more
non-physical planes of existence and an associated body beyond the physical.
Commonly such planes are called astral,
spiritual. Astral projection is often
experienced as the
spirit or astral body
physical body to travel in the
spirit world or
Evidence for objective reality of projection on to the
etheric plane (a near-copy of the physical plane) is sometimes suggested when
people, such as patients during surgery, describe OBEs in which they see or hear
events or objects outside their sensory range (for instance,
Pam Reynolds reported experiencing an OBE during brain surgery and described
a surgical instrument she had not seen previously, as well as conversation that
occurred while she was under anethesia).
has disputed whether anything leaves the body during an OBE.
If OoBEs are held to the stringent criterion of a laboratory demonstration of
some spatial dislocation of mind from brain,
experiments have turned up no significant evidence of OoBEs.
From the book Dawn of the Awakened Mind
John S. King, M.D.
Founder and President of the Canadian Society of Psychical
I have also learned among other matters of psychical interest
to myself, and possibly to others, that by strong concentration of mind, and
exercise of will power, I can withdraw myself from my physical body, at a given
fixed time, and thereupon present, in my astral body, at a place I desire to
reach, and be recognized there; though apparently debarred, or at least am
unable to exercise connected and detailed memory of what I saw and heard during
my presence in my astral body; and this psychic demonstration has been verified
verbally, in writing, and in a printed book, after its accomplishment.
Before making an astral flight in recent years, I have
received assurances from my guides, whom I have frequently tested, and in whom I
have confidence, that my body would be protected, and my flight aided, as well
as my re-entry of my physical body on return.
I so stated on the public platform in St. George's Hall,
Toronto, on Sunday evening, 28th November, 1915; and there promised I would
demonstrate it to be a fact sometime in Toronto. Three evenings later I did so,
before a private Circle for trumpet voices (everyone present knowing me). It was
my first effort for that particular phase. On the afternoon preceding the
evening seance, I sent a brief intimation to the place for the Circle, simply
stating, I hope to be at the seance tonight; but don't wait for me. You will
hear from me later.
Full particulars have been published by Herbert G. Paull, in
a booklet, The Voice of the Spirit. Chapter V or the fifth seance will verify my
statement, and my demonstration through a trumpet, and that I was reported by
the spirit control of the medium as present in my astral body. However, my
astral was escorted to and from the place by Spirit Guides who had me in my home
in time to reply to the spokesman over the 'phone, who cross-examined me, and
gave my replies to others present with him. My arrival at the seance was a
sudden surprise, and my demonstration produced the conviction of proven.
As promised over the 'phone, I prepared a written explanation
of my experiences of the evening, a copy of which was called for the next day,
and appears along with the records of particulars, at the seance in question,
which is numbered V in the booklet. I include here all that I had then to say,
Sitting in the occult Circle of seven, comprised of the
Toronto Bureau Committee, listening to discarnate Spirits' voices, at a recent
seance with Hugh Gordon Burroughs, trumpet psychic, I was spoken to and
questioned by his control.
Dr. King, why are you so quiet tonight? I replied, 'I
This was true, for I was cogitating the trial of another new
experiment, which if successful, could be confirmed by my colleague sitters, and
thus prepare further evidence of value to prove what I had previously asserted
several times regarding astral flights.
Two features I had listed as proven already, viz.: my flight
to New York State, where my Spirit-picture appeared on a photograph along with a
mortal one of my brother's wife.
Again another psychic phase I had succeeded in, by making an
astral flight and appearing along with other personalities at a materializing
séance held by the Intellectual Circle in Kansas City, on the night of January
25th, 1910. On that occasion my astral body was visible, and my voice was
audible to judge Dill, and the other sitters. I there told them I was Dr. John
S. King of Toronto, and I would make another visit and would then have
sufficient strength, I thought, to sign my name for them. What I here affirm has
been verified in writing, and can be corroborated by judge Dill and others among
the then sitters.
I introduce another similar instance to the above here, as a
matter of convenience and preservation of a more recent experience, viz.: On May
14th, 1916, I appeared at a seance held at J. B. Jonson's, Toledo, and noticed
present a Toronto gentleman friend, James Poole, a well-known business man to
whom, owing to conditions being unfavorable (a thunder storm had been
prevailing) I could not speak, but as I had promised him before he left home
that I would meet him there in my astral body, by walking from the cabinet
during the seance as others do. I did so and tapped him on his thumb with a
small stick I carried, just to remind him that I had kept my promise to him.
Hypatia and des Asia, two of my guides, and my wife May were
there also and materialized. I was present in my astral body. The sitters signed
a written declaration affirming my presence and demonstration. This ends the new
demonstration added, which did not appear in the written record promise over the
'phone, and handed out the following day, and occurred nearly four and a half
months later. I now resume the statement as handed out the day after my first
experience of speaking through the trumpet: My thinking, alluded to in the
beginning, resulted in my decision to absent myself from a seance, and then
surprise my colleague sitters by coming in my astral body and trying to talk
with them through the trumpet if conditions permitted.
My preparations consisted in turning out all my front lights
at 8 pm., then retired to my bedroom and lay on my bed, when I remembered that
the instructions of my Spirit Guide that our Spirit party would reach the seance
room somewhere near nine o'clock. I lay awake thinking, but could not then
sleep, and when the time was nearly 9 o'clock, I got up and closed my bed-room
door to shut off the light from the adjoining hall, and hurrying back, spoke
aloud: This is just about the time for my Spirit friends to call for me. Then
with my head on the pillow, I closed my eyes, still having many proofs of my
personality in mind to use. I quickly became asleep. I soon awakened suddenly,
and felt satisfied I had just returned, turned on the light, and found the time
9.35 p m., and so went forward to my office, and with my telephone near at hand,
felt sure it would ring. Presently it rang. 'Hello!' and I recognized the voice
I had expected. 'What are you doing, doctor?' 'I have been asleep and have only
been seated here a few minutes,' I answered.
Mr. Paull then told me I had been at the seance room in my
astral body, and that the sitters were greatly surprised. He jocularly charged
me with having been playing a sharp trick on them. He wanted me to tell him my
experience. I mentioned briefly a few incidents, which appeared to be correct
from his acknowledgement (and concluded to go into the matter more fully next
day). As it was getting late, he said he would call and see me in the morning;
and I promised to write for him a description of my experiences, but told him I
was not permitted to tell him everything I knew.
When he called the next day, it seemed to me as if a curtain
had been drawn in front of my memory; and I could not comply with my promise
made to him to give my experience of the experiment.
Did you ever have a most wonderful experience in a dream, and
fully realized at the time that it was only a dream, but worth telling at the
breakfast table next morning; but when you tried to relate the incidents they
had most of them vanished from your memory? This is the situation in which I
find myself, with a very few exceptional incidents.
The modus operandi of my 'astral flights' as described in my
book by my guides will be interesting reading. Whether or not I succeeded in
this my first effort to speak as a carnate Spirit through the trumpet, I leave
the decision to those of my colleagues present in the séance room on Wednesday
night, 1st December, 1915, as they were purposely kept in ignorance of my
intention so as not to disturb conditions.
Notwithstanding, I am informed that so very anxious were they
to verify something said, that the light was turned on (to see the time),
conditions were affected, and I was unfortunately prevented from presenting
further proofs, and thus not completing what I have earnestly, and honestly,
contemplated accomplishing; but I am hoping that I shall next time be more
successful. Thus endeth the statement handed out, and known in the booklet as my
After the phone conversation was concluded all repaired to
the seats they had vacated, lights were turned off and the seance resumed. As to
what most immediately followed, I quote from the booklet's record:
SPIRIT MURPHY (the control of the medium) : 'There, ladies
and gentlemen, I did all I could to help that manifestation.'
SPIRIT BLACK HAWK (an Indian who can also control the Medium)
: 'Say, everybody, wasn't that a good idea of the doctor's---ain't he funny.'
SPIRIT HYPATIA: 'I give you greeting, friends, tonight. I am
pleased to be here, my dear ones, especially to please my friend the doctor, and
help in his interesting experiment. We have done this for a purpose, and I must
say I am pleased and gratified at the result. It will have two distinct
influences, as it represents before the world the distinction between the
physical and the Spirit side of life; and proves demonstrably that there is an
astral body, which can and does leave at times the physical temple---I leave, and
I greet you all, dear, ones, with a message of help and love---goodnight.
Having thus demonstrated an important psychic fact in my home
city, as well as in four different places in the United States, I concluded that
even though I had done so and that my guides were agreeable to my doing it, they
were compelled to prevent me from seeing, hearing and remembering too much, in
case that I might not wish to return to my body; and they would encounter
difficulty in inducing me to do so.
As the psychic fact had been well established in the presence
of sufficient credible witnesses, and my object attained, I shall abandon
further efforts in the future; but am fully convinced that after I have passed
to spirit realms, and spent a short season there, as a free spirit, I shall be
permitted by the Infinite Spirit---and aided by his ministering spirits, who act
as my guides---to return and demonstrate through some of the good mediums of
earth---as scores of my relatives, friends and strangers have done, to convince
me. And if so be that I may, the reader can rest assured that I shall, beyond
every doubt, do so; and still try to prove to the skeptic and disbelievers in
the spiritualistic creed that they are still in error, as I again prove by my
presence, when they recognize me in a transient body speaking, or hear my voice
through a trumpet, or hear me as a spirit writing independently on a slate; or
through some person's hand automatically these words : 1, Dr. John S. King, have
kept my promise as made in Dawn of the Awakened Mind, for I have proven, and do
now prove, Continuity, Return and Communion, all true.