SOME THOUGHTS ON THE PHENOMENA OF ASTRAL PROJECTION
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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