by Richard Alan Miller, c1974

The phenomena known as astral projection or out-of-body experience (OBE) has become increasingly important to the research direction and study of the paranormal. An out-of-body experience is now defined as one in which the subject appears to view the external world from some position other than that of his or her physical body.

Traditionally in the field of Parapsychology out-of-body experiences are grouped into two main types: "parasomatic" and "asomatic." The parasomatic type of experience is that in which the subject appears to himself to be located in a duplicate body, more or less resembling his physical body. In the second type of experience, the asomatic, the subject does not appear to himself to be associated with a body, rather he or she is just a disembodied consciousness or a "pin-point of presence."

It is important at this point to consider the definition used. Namely, once a structure or classification is structured, the way in which the data is gathered immediately sets up limits in which the phenomena can be studied. It would seem almost unnecessary to point out that the "mystical tradition" underlying most of the major religions have certain similarities. In surveying these coincidences, the phenomena of astral projection is one of the most overt.

Psychical phenomena exert a strong influence on the foundation of religious heritage. The appearance of astral projection among them is probably the most common of the various genres. As an allusion to Dr. Robert Crookall's classic STUDY AND PRACTICE OF ASTRAL PROJECTION, the late Professor Hornell Hart states: "Initiates into ancient mystery cults clearly included the deliberate production of astral projections....Catholic saints and Quaker ministers have reported undergoing such projection." The Egyptian script PERETEMHERU speaks of the Ba and Ka (often incorrectly thought to be analogous to each other), which are ancient suggestions of what we call the astral and fluidic bodies, respectively. Qabalism also has a parallel. In the ZOHAR, reference to the silvery "astral cord" is made.

Referring to this allusion, A.E. Waite writes: "When the good soul is preparing to leave this world, and while it is suspended from the body only at the larynx, it beholds three angels to whom it must confess its sins." Even Christianity is not exempt from this phenomena. St. Paul's description of the astral body and the Old Testament reference to the astral body are classics (1 COR. 15:44, and ECCLES. 12:6), and the appearance of Peter's double before Rohda may be found in ACTS 12:14-17 (A.V., KING JAMES version).

One of the most significant esoteric scripts discussing astral projection is the BARDO THODOL, somewhat incorrectly translated as the TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD. The BARDO THODOL states that the initiate, during the altered state of consciousness, can produce mind-body separation. This seems to have a bearing on those prolific instances where LSD voyages (who experience a journey very close to the bardo trip as describes in the TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD) appear to have such projection experiences. One such incident was related to the author by an LSD user who, during the trip, discovered that his consciousness was not in his body, but next to it.

The most asked question about the out-of-body experience is: How does one know that they are simply not dreaming? A more fundamental question to ask, however, would be to counter-question: How does one know that the waking experience is real? To answer the first: the subjective out-of-body experience differ from the typical dream state principally in the following ways:

(1) There is continuity of some sort of conscious awareness.

(2) Intellectual and/or emotional decisions are made during the experience.

(3) Multivalued perceptions occur via sensory inputs or their equivalents.

(4) There is a non-recurrence of identical patterns.

(5) The experience of time duration, based on long-term memory.

The most certain statement that can be made by the subject is that when the condition exists, he/she is as aware of "not dreaming" as when he/she is awake.

Dr. Robert Crookall had advanced a theory linking astral projection to survival. He agrees with Professor Hart that the survival of the human personality after death is nothing more than permanent projection of the astral body. He sees various degrees of projection involving two distinct portions of the human psyche. One, he states, is conscious but immaterial, has some objective existence. In OBE either or both of these portions may be projected.

Dr. Crookall's beliefs have some interesting parallels in the Ba and Ka concepts of the ancient Egyptians. They believed that the Ka was a "double" of the individual and that it was composed of very tenuous matter. It was supposed to live for some time after death and both the process of embalming and various funerary practices were intended to ensure that it lived on in the tomb. If the required practices were neglected the Ka was thought to emerge from the tomb to haunt those responsible.

The Ba was the soul of the Egyptians. It was conscious but immaterial. In life it was contained within the Ka. In death it left both the Ka and the body. There is some scientific evidence to support this concept. Dr. Duncan McDougall of Haverhill, MA arranged to have dying patients placed on a sensitive weighing apparatus. He found that there was a weight loss of from 2.0 to 2.5 ounces at the moment of death. The data could not be explained except in terms of something having left the body. Two Dutch Physicists, Dr. J.L.W.P. Matla and Dr. G.L. Zaalberg Van Zelst report similar observations and data. They further reported that the proposed "astral body" appears to have a specific weight of 12.24 mg., that it responds to gravitation, and that it appears to be composed of particles that are small, heavy, but very widely separated.

Dr. Charles Tart, University of California at Davis has been conducting bio-physical measurements on individuals who can astrally project at will. His research indicates that out-of-body experiences occur in conjunction with a non-dreaming, non-awake brain wave stage characterized by predominate slowing alpha activity from the brain and no activation of the autonomic nervous system. OBE experiences seem to occur during a rather poorly developed State I pattern of sleep which was dominated by alphoid activity and often mixed with transitory periods of wakefulness. This alphoid activity was always 1.0 to 1.5 cycles per second lower than normal alpha rhythm. There seems to be also no REM (rapid eye movement) accompanying these experiences. It is concluded that it is in the hypnagogic state where OBE experiences occur.

There is one sleep study by Drs. Lester and Guerrero-Figueroa in which considerable alphoid activity was reported in the sleep records as a result of chlorpromazine administration. Clorpromazine is a fairly commonly used tranquilizer known under the trade name of Thorazine. It is now being speculated that drugs which tend to slow alpha frequency might promote OBE experiences, and this could be a possible fruitful line of experimental inquiry.

The author has experimented with a number of available legal herbs and found that Jimson weed when smoked works quite well for inducing OBE with persons untrained in the technique. Care must be taken with this herb as it belongs to the Datura or Nightshade family. The active constituents are scopolamine, atropine, hyocyamine and other tropanes. If ingested, as reported by numerous Indian tribes of the Southwest, the herb can be quite toxic. It is recommended that only one to two grams be smoked at one time and prolonged use is not recommended. The herb has also been called thorn-apple or loco weed.

Religion has been defined in terms of a commitment to something beyond the self (Garnett, 1942). Thus, the religious experience can be one of man's most meaningful life adventures. This powerful and profound experience is often associated with levels of awareness similar to those aspects of human existence perceived as "creative," "religious," "mystical," and/or "paranormal."

The Western world has institutionalized religion and has codified religious dogma while neglecting religious experience. This neglect has many roots, among them would be Plato's emphasis on reason to the near exclusion of feeling, Aristotle's division of philosophy into science and metaphysics, St. Augustine's separation of the "body" from the "mind," as well as Descarte's division of man's inner life from his outer life.

These division run counter to reports of the religio-mystic experience which, at its most profound, involves the subjective feelings of an integration of man's total being with the universe about him. Dr. Krippner and Dr. Ullman at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory have indicated the feasibility of experimentally inducing dream patterns telepathically. They indicate that a person sleeping is open to impressions and thoughts of others about that person, that these impressions can be and are incorporated into the main body of the dream experience.

Daily experiences touches on various unresolved conflicts from one's past, arousing unconscious feelings and wishes and memories to a preconscious level. Dreaming integrates and again make unconscious the aroused feelings, wishes and memories from the past, along with those aspects of the recent experiences which have stimulated or touched upon the material from the past. In the dream process, each person uses his characteristic defense to deal with the particular aroused feelings and impulses. If the new experiences are growth-promoting in nature, i.e., correct previous distorted wishes or fears, a modification in ways of dealing with the previously unconscious material may result when the dream brings the new experience into relation to the past. Thus, dreams can be used to predict future events in that they program attitudes and behavior patters.

In light of the above, a new model for the nature of consciousness begins to develop. Astral projection apparently requires an altered state of consciousness similar to Stage I of sleep. There also appears to be some very subtle but important differences between Stage 1 of sleep and that required for an OBE. Those differences can be discussed physiologically, vis. the EEG, the tape recorder, the rating scale, statistical procedures and the like. However, with some of the new research available, the concept that the brain is a transducer of information becomes useful.

Dr. Gowan's work at the University of California at Northridge on the Collective Preconscious indicates that there is a possible body of information or knowledge which is available with slight adjustments in tuning, or alteration of consciousness. This concept could be applied to such ideas as pre-natal memory, language and other observable paranormal phenomena. This body of information is a universal one which does not require a time/space co-ordinate system, rather it functions on a more holistic level as the dream telepathy studies might indicate. Astral projection appears to require a state of consciousness which does not use a space/time co-ordinate system. Rather, OBE are those where space and time are not critical for the assimilation of information. The point seems to go back to the occult concept that your awareness is everywhere, but your consciousness is a limited or special case of awareness.

Astral projection is apparently a special case of ESP (extra-sensory perception) where the information is brought into consciousness via certain special co-ordinates, i.e. OBE. The real point is that the information was already present but needed some mechanism to be experienced on a conscious level. The development of those mechanisms over other possible ones available form the new field called Noetic sciences. The real issue or question which now arises is: Why have we chosen a particular co-ordinate system over another to call this system a "normal" conscious state? The fact that Western society perceives astral projection, religio-mystical experience, and dream states as deviant from a "normal" state may hold the key to another stage in the development of Man.


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