Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Review: Practical Astral Projection

Review: Practical Astral Projection


by Yram

Every so often, I go back and revisit one of the old classics of the out-of-body experience genre. This time I'm reviewing Practical Astral Projection by Yram. Yram was a pseudonym for a Frenchman named Marcel Louis Forhan.

The French were really the first non-occultist pioneers of the modern era, starting with Charles Lancelin's book M├ęthode D├ędoublement Personnel (published in the late 1800s or early 1900s; the earliest I found was from 1910), and then Forhan's/Yram's book. And Forhan was way ahead of his time.
I first read Practical Astral Projection in the early 1980s; so long ago that I didn't remember anything about it. I used to think of the book as an "occult" book, but that's completely wrong. The author even says so:
"In the present work we are not concerned with occultism nor with mysterious or sectarian operations of magic." (pg. 25)

One of the biggest downfalls of this book is that the book was written in French and translated into formal British English. And while the English is flawless, it's difficult to read.

Unfortunately, Yram doesn't really give any OBE techniques. He does give some tips and advice, such as:
"Excess of any kind must be avoided. Eat in wise moderation, avoiding highly alcoholic drinks. (This includes strong spirits like whisky, brandy, gin, etc., but allows a moderation of wine and beer, though the latter is not so good." (pg. 27)

To induce OBEs, Yram simply stresses the need for absorption, the stopping of your thoughts and blanking of your mind (something I call quiescing the mind) and to focus your mind inward (which is a bit different than concentration). He writes:
"The power to concentrate one's thoughts on a single object without being distracted by outside stimuli; the practice of rhythmic breathing; nervous and muscular relaxation; and finally, the ability to suspend thought completely." (pg. 29)
Above all, he stresses (and even harps on it for countless pages) the need to "raise your vibrations" by being spiritually loving, upright, moral, etc., and to avoid all negativity and bad thoughts, especially egotism. This, he says, is necessary in order to induce OBEs in the first place:
"Egotism will hold [the potential explorer] back to lower planes. it hinders the radiation of energy towards the matter side." (pg. 178)
And it's also true during the OBE itself:
"All ideas relating to money or fortune must disappear. All thoughts of vanity and egotism must be avoided. All pictures which have any idea of evil, or hatred, all malevolent thoughts must be forgotten." (pg. 92)
As an example, he did an experiment in which he wanted to study the effects of prayer during an OBE. So he recited the "Lord's Prayer" taught by Jesus, which he refers to as the "Paternoster" (very old word; I had to look it up). He writes:
"When I thought of the words 'Deliver us from evil' I felt such a loss of strength, was so overcome, that I was forced immediately to return to earth. This expression [Deliver us from evil] held a negative idea. What I should have said was 'Strengthen us in good,' so that vibrations of a similar nature to my words might have been created." (pg. 93)
Yram also talks about how, with OBEs, you have direct access to spiritual knowledge, so there is no more need for organized religions, which he humorously calls "religious trade unions":
"Since access to the higher worlds is the effect of our own decentralization, and it is enough to learn to love a higher and more perfect order of things, the dogmas enunciated by religious trade unions break down lamentably." (pg. 163)
He talks a lot about the phenomena and what he's observed in his out-of-body travels. Usually it's not complete OBE narratives, but in the form of brief examples like this:
"We must be ready for the strangest surprises. During one experiment, when I had used more effort than usual to project myself, I was hardly out of my body when I received a terrific slap in the face without being able to find whence it came." (pg. 52)
Like others, he talks about the invisible helpers, whom he calls "Friends," saying that they sometimes do appear, but disguise themselves:
"In passing, note the white dog as a symbol of the means used by the Friends who help us during our psychic experiments. Actually, unless one has a special connection with them, the guides rarely show themselves." (pg. 61)
He makes some interesting out-of-body observations, such as:
"Sexual differences are no more. Men or women, young or old, are no more than centres of life radiating different qualities of energy which they have assimilated during their successive incarnations." (pg. 198)
He tries to explain some of his observations in terms of science, but the science of the 1800s was primitive compared to today. He tries to explain things in terms of electricity, nuclear reactions and such. It's way outdated, but interesting from a historical perspective. Remarkably, some of his writings foreshadow the existence of what today's scientists now call "Dark Matter." He does OBE experiments with it, pushing his arms through it and such. Absolutely fascinating stuff!
"The virgin matter into which I projected myself exhibited no ties like those mentioned above. Neither thought, desire, will, nor any attraction of our own world has power over this matter, and equally, the matter has no magnetic effect on us....Seen in bulk, this matter has the colour of freshly cut ebonite. It gives out no vibration. It has no elasticity." (pg. 182)
And:
"The existence of a substance so material led me to suppose that it might well be the root of matter." (pg. 183)
He talks about the numerous OBE experiments he did, such as repeatedly trying to move a piece of paper in the physical world:
 "...I blew on that decidedly recalcitrant piece of paper...Then to finish up, I re-entered my body. The piece of paper had not moved at all." (pg. 71)
He also gives his theory of "twin flames." He met a young woman, whom he eventually married. He did OBE experiments, meeting "astrally" with his then-fiancee. He traveled to her residence ("several hundreds of miles away") without knowing the town or the house in which she lived, and then got physical confirmation:
"My fiancee was able to confirm, by letter, the exactness of the details about which I wrote." (pg. 205)
Yram also gives us a theory he calls "Unity-Multiplicity" with regard to his twin flame. After they were married, he gives probably the earliest written account of "astral sex," and gives it in great detail! It's consistent with many other accounts that came later (no pun intended!). Like others, he describes it not so much in physical terms, but of a melding or combining of souls:
"It was as if an ocean of love was taking possession of the bed. When the individuality of my wife united with mine, she brought a shade which was hardly perceptible, which then melted into my love, giving it a considerable expansion. The aura, the atmosphere thus generated became myself. By the exercise of the powers attached to this spiritual state, all our faculties are melted into a unity of conscious life. The radiation of consciousness, thus universalized, awakened in every atom of my being a kind of quivering which augmented the delicacy and sweetness of the spiritual harmony in which I found myself immersed." (pg 208)
I was surprised to read that, like a handful of others, he also describes having met Jesus on more than one occasion. I had forgotten all about that.
"On three different occasions have I been able to contact Him in a stratum where His manifestation was possible. It is quite beyond my powers to describe the many thousands of attractions which emanate from such a presence." (pg. 212)
Having seen a whole new level of reality, in the true spirit of Frenchmen of today (think "yellow vest movement"), Yram was also kind of a pioneer of "conspiracy theory" and warns us to beware of abuses of society and our governments:
"Realize the abominable way in which you are being exploited materially, morally, and intellectually. Decide, once and for all, to conquer the routine existence and preconceptions of our social state. Believe me, you will never regret having made the effort." (pg. 192-193).
That's quite a statement for 1910 France, don't you think?
Probably my favorite quote of the whole book comes near the end:
"...I insist on the need of personal work if we wish to arrive at any results of permanent worth. Start by realizing that magical powers have no existence. No one can give you a lasting power unless you have developed it for yourself." (pg. 225)
The book is 253 pages, with small margins and small font, so despite its smallish footprint, there's a lot of content.

I'm giving this book 3 and a half stars out of 5. On the good side, there were no grammar or spelling mistakes whatsoever. On the bad side, the text is a bit cumbersome and difficult to read. There's lots of good information and a few tips, but hardly any actual complete OBE techniques.

Bob Peterson
19 March 2019

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Astral Travel for Beginners

Review: Astral Travel for Beginners

by Richard Webster

Today I'm reviewing the book Astral Travel for Beginners: Transcend Time and Space with Out-of-Body Experiences by Richard Webster.

This book was published in 1998, so it's a bit dated (there are references to making and using cassette tapes, for example), but a lot of the information still applies.

Webster speaks from experience: He's had many OBEs over numerous years and he's taught many classes on the subject. He doesn't give any personal OBEs in the book, but you can tell from the way he writes that he's experienced. It's not just "textbook knowledge." It's obvious, for example, when he describes the invisible helpers:
"Some people experience "helpers" when they astral travel. Helpers are people who gently look after the person while he or she is out of the body. However, I have never seen them. Maybe they are there and I have been unable to see them, or perhaps the people who do see them are experiencing their astral travel in a different way than I do." (pg. 96)
They're invisible for me too. I can talk to them and ask for their help, and they're always unemotional and happy to lend a hand, but I never see them, and they usually don't help unless I ask.

It's also obvious from the way he describes astral sex:
"However, astral sex is not the same as physical sex. There is an exchange of energy and a feeling of ecstasy, but although it is satisfying, it is still different than sex on the physical plane." (pg. 98)
Not many authors talk about this, but that matches my experience. (But wait until you read my next review!)

This is your average run-of-the-mill book about astral projection. It makes the same basic assumptions that many OBE books make, namely, that there's an actual non-physical astral body "double" that leaves the physical body to travel to other worlds. In that respect, it's not very scientific, but most of the books in the genre make that assumption too. When I say "run-of-the-mill" what I mean is: he tends to over-simplify a lot of things. For example, he writes:
 "You can instantly visit any place you want by simply thinking about it." (pg. 90)
Well, in my opinion, it's not quite that simple. I bitched about this in my first book. I've had countless OBEs in which I "simply thought" about a person or place, and fully expected to teleport, but was not transported anywhere. I tried visualizing a place. Nothing. I tried verbalizing a place. Nothing. I tried verbalizing my intent: "I want to go to X. Take me to X". Nothing. Get the picture? It took me a couple years to actually get the hang of traveling to an intended place (as opposed to just walking or flying there, which usually takes too long and almost always ends in distraction or failure).

It's hard to describe the actual mechanism. It's like trying to describe the taste of strawberries. "Kinda sweet, kinda tart" but nothing does it justice. In a futile effort, I often describe it as setting an intention, almost like setting an anchor point at a distant place, then pulling myself to that location with an act of will. Now that works.

Webster gives a really good history of OBEs from Ancient Egypt on. He cites not only references from ancient sources, early pioneers like Sylvan Muldoon, Oliver Fox, and Yram, but also scientific experiments done with super-psychics like Keith / Stuart "Blue" Harary and Ingo Swann.

He has some good dietary suggestions for aiding OBEs, such as:
  • Eat lightly on the days you intend to astral travel.
  • Eat a vegetarian diet on days you intend to do it, or if you must eat meat, eat fish or chicken: no red meats and as little fatty foods as possible.
  • He provides the entire Minnie Keeler diet that appears in various sources, such as Robert Crookall's The Techniques of Astral Projection, and D. Scott Rogo's book Leaving the Body. According to Webster, Ms. Keeler was a medium and this was originally somewhat disorganized channeled information that was first published by Prescott Hall, then later reworked by Robert Crookall (makes me want to re-read Crookall's books).
With regard to diet, I found this bit interesting:
"Sylvan Muldoon, author of The Projection of the Astral Body, recommends deprivation. He feels that you are more likely to leave the body if you are feeling hungry or thirsty. I found the opposite to be the case. When I tried to follow his suggestion I was so preoccupied with my feelings of thirst that I could not leave the body. I eat lightly, but am not starving or thirsty." (pg. 72)
Webster gives a good description of other phenomena similar to OBEs, namely:
  • Mind Travel (traveling clairvoyance)
  • Remote Viewing
  • Lucid Dreaming

He gives some good suggestions for lucid dreaming, such as:
"Telling yourself that dreams are not real before falling asleep will alert your mind to the numerous incongruities that occur in every dream." (pg. 41)
The book has a decent number of OBE techniques, but Webster is a professional hypnotist, so many of them are hypnosis-based. He gives several good hypnosis scripts you can record and use yourself, including scripts for personal use (self-hypnosis), scripts for partner (two-people) OBEs, and scripts for larger group OBEs.

There aren't any radical, revolutionary, or startling new OBE techniques. All of these appear elsewhere in the literature. Still, it's a decent collection that includes:
  • The aforementioned hypnosis techniques.
  • The "Christos Technique" which was made famous by Aussie Gerald Glaskin. (I've read his books long ago, but not given any book reviews)
  • Progressive relaxation, telling yourself to leave the body, deep slow breathing, visualization, etc.
  • Meditation techniques.
  • Target technique (found in several sources, such as William Buhlman's Adventures Beyond the Body)
  • Swing technique (similar to several of my own motion-based techniques)
  • The Whirlwind Method (aka the tornado technique, found elsewhere)
  • The Cone technique (forcing yourself up through the top of an imaginary cone) and several of the other techniques from D. Scott Rogo's Leaving the Body.
  • Affirmation techniques (found in a lot of OBE books, including mine.)
  • Chakra / Kundalini techniques.
Webster recommends you avoid alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, tea, coffee, marijuana before attempting an OBE. He also suggests an empty stomach when you make an attempt:
"It is better if people do not eat at this time, but a piece of fruit is fine, if the person absolutely has to eat something." (pg. 172)
Curiously, he then says:
"Chocolate, in particular, must be avoided." (pg. 172)
Wait. What? No chocolate? That's the first time I've heard that.

Curiously, he devotes an entire chapter to Numerology and claims that OBEs are more likely on certain "Personal days." I'm sorry, but as a science-oriented guy, I just cannot swallow that. Since humans arbitrarily assigned numbers to the years (i.e. since Christ was born), days of the month (based roughly on the cycles of the moon, but warped based on the whims of various Roman Emperors), and days of week (based mostly on Norse Gods) I simply cannot accept that mathematically reducing all these very-arbitrary numbers can tell you anything of any significance. Unless, of course, it's all psychology: Your belief that they have significance definitely will influence the likelihood of OBEs, because your belief creates your reality (and I say that based on personal experience). That's why rituals work.

The book is 227 pages with decent sized font and margins, which means there's a good amount of content. It's professionally written and edited, clear and concise, which means I found no typos or grammar problems.

Other nice things about the book:
  • It cites proper references for most of his claims.
  • It has a decent index at the end.
  • It has a glossary of terms.
  • It has a list of recommended reading near the end.

I'll give it 4 stars out of 5. Good effort, above average, but nothing that makes it stand out.

Bob Peterson
05 March, 2019

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Review: Multidimensional Traveler by Khartika Goe

Multidimensional Traveler

by Khartika Goe

Today I'm reviewing the book Multidimensional Traveler: Finding Togetherness, or How I Learned to Break the Rules of Physics and Sojourn Across Dimensions and Time by Khartika Goe. What kind of name is Khartika Goe? Well, she's an upbeat young woman of Indonesian heritage. She's witty, intelligent, spiritual, and well-traveled (both physically and astrally!). She also had help writing this book from her friend Katy Kara.

Let me just say that this book started out fabulous, but by the end I was disappointed.

The book starts out with Goe's earliest "multidimensional travels," in other words, out of body experiences. She's unexpectedly pulled out-of-body and gets taught a few things by various non-physical beings. Things like:
"Never fear, for fear is the worst destruction of the self. We are always within you, never fear." (pg. 19)
and this:
"But every life is simply a lesson and a cycle. You have to see it as a mere lesson, quite like a classroom." (pg. 31)
Naturally, she doesn't understand what's going on, so she hides her OBEs from her friends. But through them she finds her calling, and she stresses the need to be of service:
"In order for you to embark on a journey that will unleash the greatest knowledge of the universe, you must make it your intention to be of service to humanity." (pg. 52)
Throughout the entire book, Goe stresses the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and "high vibrations." This is the one recurring theme of the book, and it's the biggest point I took from the book. For example:
"It's worth noting here that if your emotions and thoughts are not positive and your subconscious is not tamed after an out-of-body journey, you will retain little to no memory of the experience upon returning to your physical body." (pg. 59)
She occasionally gives some good pointers and helpful hints for the would-be out-of-body traveler. For example:
"An important component of this exercise relies on your ability to create scenarios and inner narratives that are actually possible, as opposed to those that are obviously fantasy...The key is to construct scenarios that make you feel lost in the moment and that drawn [sic] on all your senses. My closest friends have found that the most useful and successful scenarios for tricking the mind are those that incorporate real people from their daily lives, such as their annoying mother screaming at them during breakfast or their crush taking them on a date and kissing them under a tree." (pg. 98)
I think this goes back to a concept I called "The Fantasy Trap" in my first book: If you start playing "What if" and fantasizing scenarios while attempting to have an OBE, you'll likely get sucked into the fantasy and lose consciousness. That's how dreams start. But if you use "goal-directed" and planned scenarios, you're more likely to stay focused, which is key to achieving OBE.

She talks about hypnagogic hallucinations, although she doesn't call them that:
"As you are falling asleep and changing into your energetic body, at times you may hear snippets of different types of music in the background, for only a few seconds or possibly longer. This music should not be ignored, as it serves as a useful and accurate signal for detecting which dimensional existence your energy body is slipping into." (pg. 102)
Again, I'd say that's good advice, just because you want to maintain focus and not "lose yourself."

Goe gives several somewhat scary OBEs, but luckily, she keeps her head and reacts appropriately. For example:
"I quickly looked over my shoulder in search of the source of the pain, only to find the same woman I had seen earlier on the balcony of the house, staring sickeningly at me. I telepathically ordered her to let me go, to which she viciously declared that I was hers to keep." (pg. 132)
But she always manages to make it back safely to her body.

She describes several interesting OBEs in which she meets interesting people, and even seemingly travels to the future. One of the most interesting things I thought about the OBEs to "the future" was when a man told her:
"Currently, earth is much less populated than it was during your time. In fact, we learned that earth was most densely populated during the clouded period that you live in." (pg. 163)
That matched my own observations in a "Time Travel OBE" in which I was supposedly taken to the year 2049: I expected to see overcrowding, but despite that, I saw very few people (and no vehicles). Goe didn't give any year for her OBE. She was told "There is no year; we don't count by year anymore." I found that hard to believe.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, the narrative of the book seems to change. It kind of devolves into what sounds like a conspiracy theory. (I've met a lot of OBE fanatics; why does it always seem to draw the conspiracy theorists?) She starts talking about psychic "weapons" and "brutal technologies" designed to lower everyone's vibrations, steal our energy, and keep us inside the body. She talks about energetic leeches and the need to do energetic shielding exercises every night before bed.

Then she starts receiving lessons from a soul "collective" who calls itself "Togetherness." At that point the book degenerates into the same kind of narrative I disliked so much in Astral Projection as a Bridge to the Spiritual by Luiz Roberto Mattos. In other words, it was a series of her asking "My great being, can I ask one more thing?" followed by a spiritual discourse that would be too impossibly long for anyone to remember from an OBE, unless you have eidetic (photographic) memory.

She doesn't say how she's able to remember such large amounts of dialog. She just mentions near the beginning of the book that she used some special technique to recall it word for word, verbatim. Hmm.

In other words, her experiences at the beginning of the book seem genuine, but at the end of the book, they seem highly implausible, even bordering on paranoid. She dwells on the negative way too much, in my opinion, even while reminding us readers to remain positive.

The book was, however, very well written. She's a good writer and a good story teller. Goe's command of English was flawless, elegant and even flowery. I only found two or three tiny mistakes in the entire book, which says a lot. It seemed professionally written and edited. That made it mostly enjoyable.

As for the book's subtitle: Does she find togetherness? If you count the "collective" called "Togetherness" then yes, otherwise No. Is she breaking the laws of physics? No such thing, as far as I'm concerned. Did she sojourn across dimensions and time? Well, maybe.

The book is 263 pages, so there's a good amount of content. Unfortunately, there was almost nothing in there for OBE techniques, except for a one-page appendix in which she says to keep your vibrations high and do the energy shielding exercises and such.

I'll give it 3 stars. It's entertaining, but I've read better: it just wasn't satisfying.

Bob Peterson
19 February 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 2

Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 2


by Bob Peterson
Here is the second half of the previous blog article. Enjoy! If you missed part 1, here's a link: Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 1.
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Develop Synaesthesia: Bleed-thru of the senses
People who use hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, psilocybin, or cannabis often “hear” colors or “see” shapes in sounds. The technical term for when the senses bleed together like this is synaesthesia, and it’s not confined to hallucinogenic experiences. I bring this up because according to scientists, there’s a high correlation between people who experience synaesthesia and people who rate high on the Tellegen Absorption Scale.

What I’d like to suggest is that while you listen to music, try to visualize its ups and downs. Some music apps made for phones and computers have a “visualization” mode that changes colorful patterns on the display with the music. Close your eyes and try to do that in your head. Again, I’ll talk more about that in chapter 53.

Visualizing music is like practicing or developing a kind of self-induced synaesthesia, which increases your level of absorption to more easily achieve OBEs.

Play Video Games
Scientists have known for a long time that people who play video games tend to have more OBEs. That’s because video games train you to change your focus from the body’s five physical senses to a computerized experience, an alternate “story of experience,” which is a subject I’ll cover in the next chapter. The same goes for virtual reality (VR) apps and games, or drones that feed real-time video data to a VR mask.

Engage in Creative Activities
People who have mystical experiences are often more creative. So one of the things you can do to bolster your creativity is to draw, doodle, or paint (without a template). If you’re more auditory than visual, you can try to compose music. Another exercise is to make up gibberish nonsense sentences.5 In my book Answers Within I give lots of different exercises designed to teach you how to get your subconscious to communicate, and since the subconscious is usually the source of creativity, many of them are helpful exercises for OBEs as well. For example:
  • Ask yourself, “If I was a guru on top the mountain, (or the Dalai Lama, Jesus, or some other wise person), how would I answer this question?”
  • Ask yourself, “What is love?” and try to make up a “wise answer.”
  • Ask yourself to “Say something wise” and think up the wisest thing you can imagine.
  • Go on a “metaphor walk” and ask yourself the “meaning” of the things you see. For example, “What’s the meaning of this street light?”
  • Look at people and try to guess their story: “Where did she grow up?” “What’s his favorite sport?” “What will she be doing when she’s 85 years old and what will she look like?”
Keep a Dream Journal
People who keep a dream journal are more prone to having (and remembering) out-of-body experiences. When you keep a dream journal, it trains your brain to retain a small thread of awareness during sleep. It learns to pay attention to what happens (your "story of experience") while you're dissociated from your body, and to carry those memories across the boundary between waking and sleeping. (More details in this blog article: Why Keeping A Dream Journal Helps OBEs.)


Lose Some Weight
If you’re overweight, it might help to trim up and lose some weight. I’ve always had better luck when my weight is down. I’ll go into more details about that in chapter 70.

If you’re a left-brained logical thinker like me, it may seem unproductive, tedious, uninteresting or unappealing to spend hours engaging your creative mind, daydreaming, reading, playing video games and such, but they will make you a better candidate for OBEs.

Don’t do any of these exercises halfheartedly or they simply won’t work. A single event, like reading a novel, may exercise the right neural pathways, but it won’t rewire your brain unless you do it repeatedly. It’s a lot like physical exercise: you won’t develop strong muscles by going to the gym (or biking, hiking, etc.) once a month. You’ve got to develop a habit and keep at it. Every time you do it, the neural pathways get stronger, making you a better and better candidate for OBEs. And of course, you also need to give it some time to take effect. Experts say it takes 21 days to form a habit.

Whether you’re naturally a good candidate for OBEs, or became one with these exercises, that may still not be enough to attain them because you still need to tweak your brain to make it happen. First, we need science to tell us what happens to the brain during an OBE, then we can develop exercises to replicate that. That’s the subject of the next chapter.

22 January 2019
1 What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Compassion, Carolyn Gregoire, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-neuroscience-can-tea_n_5268853
2 Out of Body Experiences, Robert Peterson, Hampton Roads Publishing, 1997, pg. 40.
3 Seeing Myself, Susan Blackmore, Robinson, 2017, pg. 117.
4 Lessons Out of the Body, Robert Peterson, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2001, pg. 221.
5 How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, Penguin Random House, 2016, pg. 124.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 1

Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 1


by Bob Peterson
For this blog article, I'm presenting another excerpt from my new book, Hacking the Out of Body Experience, which is still unpublished. Due to its size, I've broken this chapter into two articles. This is the first half.
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Can we use science to transform ourselves into ideal (or at least better) candidates for OBEs? I believe the answer is yes. We start by examining what scientists know about the people who are predisposed to OBEs. Then we change our habits to “reprogram” our brains for OBE using a concept neuroscientists called neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to rewire itself.

There are two kinds of OBE habits we can develop: habits that make OBEs more likely to occur (which I’ll talk about throughout the entire book), and habits to make you a better candidate for OBEs, which I’ll cover now. There are also bad habits you should break (like watching too much television) but we’ll get into those later.

Daily Meditation
The first way to become a better candidate for OBEs is to meditate daily. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques, and all of them can make you a better candidate for OBEs.

In a way, direct OBE induction itself is a very specific kind of meditation where you focus your mind in a certain way (more about that in chapter 17). Some OBE authors achieve their OBEs entirely through meditation. For example, pretty much all of Jurgen Ziewe’s OBEs were the result of his meditation, even though his goal in meditating wasn’t specifically for that (he was after more lofty goals like Nirvana, Satori, oneness with God, or whatever you want to call it.)

While it’s important to practice OBE techniques, that’s not what I mean here. Here I want to talk about “normal” meditation; the kind where you just sit quietly, clear your mind and still your thoughts. For example, one of the most simple and powerful meditation techniques is “mindfulness meditationin which you simply sit and cultivate a focused awareness on the present moment, and extend a loving awareness toward others.

I usually meditate twice a day: A fifteen-to-twenty minute silent “mindfulness” meditation early in the morning after I wake up, and a “binaural beat” meditation under headphones in the evening. I’ll go into more details about binaural beats and other sound technologies in chapter 65.

There’s ample scientific evidence that meditation rewires your brain. For example, a 2014 article in the Huffington Post1 talks about the work of psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel, executive director of the Mindsight Institute. According to the article:
As Siegel explained, the concept of "neural integration" refers to the interaction between various disparate parts of the brain. And through mindfulness practices like meditation, we can actually grow integrative fibers in the brain -- studies have shown that mindful awareness increases the connectivity of separate areas of the brain.”
 
Can that make you a better candidate for OBEs? Everything I know about OBEs says yes. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have OBEs. Renown skeptic Dr. Susan Blackmore has meditated every day for more than 30 years, and she claims it hasn’t helped her induce any OBEs. So think of meditation as just one piece of the puzzle.

Strengthening your active imagination
Another thing science tells us is that OBEs happen more often to creative people, people who use their imaginations. In other words, people who focus on “inner events” more than “outer events.” In terms of brain science, they spend a lot of time on “task negative” brain events (mind-wandering, daydreaming) and less time on “task positive” brain events (focused tasks). In terms of neuroscience, this means they exercise, or even over-use, the “default mode network” (DMN) which I’ll cover in more detail in chapter 71.

A lot of people tell me, “I used to have OBEs when I was a child, but then they stopped.” So what changed? Why do children have more OBEs? I believe it’s because they use their active imagination more than adults. Kids use their active imagination constantly. I once read an article about a 9-year-old girl who could self-induce OBEs. Someone asked her how she did it. She said something like, “It’s easy. Just pretend you’re on a roller-coaster, then try to move but don’t really move. Eventually, you’ll start to get faster and faster, and you’ll actually feel like you’re shaking. At some point, you’ll just pop out of your body.” She figured out that using her active imagination while she’s relaxed is a key factor. Her instruction to “move but don’t really move” sounds very much like an OBE technique I developed called the “Almost Move Technique” which I explain in chapter 30.

As we get older, our brains and belief systems tend to, for lack of a better word, “solidify” and become more rigid. Our brains develop habitual patterns (think of them as ruts) and we use our active imagination less. So the first step is to break out of these ruts.

The more you use your active imagination, the easier it will be to achieve OBEs. In my first book, I have an exercise calledPretend Day.”2 The whole point was to get you to use your active imagination as much as you can by pretending weird things happen. For example, imagine you pull out a gun and shoot a stoplight that’s holding you back. Or pretend there are purple dragons circling in the sky above you, or balls of light encircling your head. It doesn’t matter what you fantasize about; just that you do fantasize.

So to become a better candidate for OBEs, make every day “pretend day.” Learn to actively engage in playful fantasy. Don’t consider this a waste of time; consider it a necessary part of rewiring your brain for OBEs.

Developing absorption
Science tells us one of the most important attributes of OBE-susceptible people is absorption.3 I wrote about this in my second book.4 Absorption is commonly measured by the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS) by psychologists to test how absorbed people get in their own mental imagery, or how focused they are on inner events. According to scientists, people who rate high on the TAS also tend to be more easily hypnotized. They’re also typically better at an important OBE skill: visualization. Absorption is also strongly correlated with openness to experience. (This may suggest drugs used to treat ADD might help you focus more on OBEs.) So another way to rewire your brain for OBEs is to develop absorption.

Many scientists seem to treat absorption and suggestibility as a static and unchanging trait, but I know of at least two ways to develop absorption. The first is to read (or write) fiction stories and books. I especially favor science fiction and fantasy novels that conjure up images of strange new worlds and the creatures that inhabit them, like elves, trolls and gnomes. You can lose yourself and become absorbed in a television show or a movie, but they don’t have the same effect because they feed your brain with both visual and auditory data: there’s not much creativity left for the viewer. They lead you by the nose and tell you exactly what to think and feel. When you read fiction, you do something different: you create a mental image of the events occurring in the story.

As you read, try to imagine the faces of the people in the story. Try to visualize the circumstances they’re in. Try to become absorbed into the story’s plot to the exclusion of everything else in the outside world. Again, this is not a waste of time; it’s a technique to rewire your brain.

The second way to develop absorption is to listen to music. I’m not talking about background music; that’s actually counterproductive. Listen intently, under headphones. Don’t combine it with anything else. Put your phone down and give it your full attention. Try to get totally lost in the music. Focus on its ups and downs, and how the music makes you feel. It’s better to listen to instrumental songs rather than songs with lyrics. Some genres of music are more conducive to this process than others. For example, as appealing as they might be to you, Country and Folk music might be poor choices for this because they tend to emphasize stories conveyed in words, using the music only to emphasize the story. Classical / Baroque music emphasizes the music only, which is better for this purpose. It’s is highly creative and can drag you up and down in wonderful ways. Unfortunately, I find most Classical music boring, so I tend to favor music with some lyrics, but where the music overpowers the lyrics, and not the other way around. I like long progressive rock songs by Yes that are heavy on music, with lyrics that are nothing more than poetry (like “Close To The Edge”), or the earlier, more progressive songs by Pink Floyd (like “Echoes.”) I also listen to progressive metal that’s music-heavy (like Dream Theater), and symphonic metal (like Epica). Bands that are “trippy” like “Dead Can Dance” are also good for getting entranced. I’ll talk more about OBE music in chapter 53.


(To be continued)

Bob Peterson
22 January 2019
1 What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Compassion, Carolyn Gregoire, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-neuroscience-can-tea_n_5268853
2 Out of Body Experiences, Robert Peterson, Hampton Roads Publishing, 1997, pg. 40.
3 Seeing Myself, Susan Blackmore, Robinson, 2017, pg. 117.
4 Lessons Out of the Body, Robert Peterson, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2001, pg. 221.
5 How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, Penguin Random House, 2016, pg. 124.



Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Book Review: The Initiation by Tom Llewellyn

Book Review: The Initiation

by Tom Llewellyn

It's been a long time since I've done a book review for my blog. That's probably because I was so busy last summer that I hardly took any time to read. I always read more in the winter months.

Today I'm reviewing The Initiation: A Progressive Spiritual Manual by Tom Llewellyn. The author was kind enough to send me a review copy. While it's not specifically about lucid dreaming, OBEs, or astral projection, the book progresses toward that end. The last couple chapters are about those things.

I really liked this book. It's spiritual, but well grounded. It's practical, meaning it has lots of easy to understand instructions. It's progressive, meaning each chapter builds on the next and the whole book is a step-by-step journey of becoming.

The book presents something the author calls "The Initiation," which is broken into four doors that have keys, although I don't remember him saying exactly what that is. But each chapter contains part of a key, and builds on the last. Every chapter ends with a sentence to describe which part of which key it represents. For example, chapter 3 ends with this one:
"If you feel you have a clarity about the nature of the false self and an inner commitment to awaken your humanity and see through the illusions of the false mind-matrix then you have in your hands the third part of the key of the first door of The Initiation." (pg. 36)

Llewellyn has good "deep" philosophy based on a number of different spiritual traditions. For example, I really liked this quote:
"In this mysterious paradoxical world, losing yourself and finding yourself go hand in hand. You become lost to the false self and you find the true self. The kind of seeming contradiction that states that, as human beings, we are both nothing and all, can be resolved within the simplicity of our soul's inner smile and child-like understanding." (pg. 5)
And:
"The purpose of the darkness is to make the light stand out." (pg. 7)
It's not about what to do, but also what not to do. No one's more guilty of this than me:
"Spending too much time on the computer or smart phone would also be strong modern examples of habits that lead to unconsciousness." (pg. 16)
It's not just about the practices, but how to integrate it:
"If we are finding it hard to process the weight of our experiences and sense input we will find practices like meditation, time spent in nature, creative art work, therapy and relaxation helpful, as they will help us to sift through our unconscious mind and regain contact with the present moment." (pg. 20)
Here's another quote I liked:
"Searching for a playfulness of heart can help, so that you can learn to rekindle that child-like understanding, which knows and appreciates the sacredness and interconnectedness of life." (pg. 23)
The book isn't so much about exploring out-of-body states, but a complete transformation of the self. For example, I really liked chapter 4, Transcendence, because it talks about shaking ourselves out of our normal patterns:
"In this chapter I will show that there is a lot of suffering in this world and that a normal material life can leave you empty of energetic resources and so you need to have transcendence through turning to the world of spirit." (pg. 37)
I also liked this quote:
"It seems like a paradox, that when we take ourselves out of the net and seemingly put distance between ourselves and others, we actually bring ourselves much closer to them. It's as if only when we free ourselves from the mud, can we see the mud and see how others are caught in it." (pg. 39)
A lot of people resist a spiritual path because they feel like they have to give up their comfortable lives and start living a life of sacrifice and discipline. Llewellyn shows us some middle-ground:
"Although it is clear that sense desire can cause people a lot of suffering we must beware of concepts such as becoming 'desire-less'. Perhaps we should talk more about 'refining' desire. Not only for the above reasons, but also because there is a great need for social and environmental action in this world, and so what we don't necessarily need is a lot of people feeling 'desire-less', 'goal-less', and lacking motivation to positively act in this world. The core principle should always be, in our practice helping us to feel more conscious, awake, connected and loving." (pg. 42)
"The reality is that the more you help others on this planet the more the world of spirit will help you. If you isolate yourself from others, it would be naive to assume that your emotional wellbeing will be supplied by your connection with spirit alone." (pg. 47)
Most of the chapters also contain aphorisms, or things to meditate and reflect on, or affirmations to consider. For example, I liked this one:
"Let the word 'transcendence' pass your lips a thousand million times, yet know that you do not need to transcend the 'True Self', for the nature of the 'True Self' is transcendence itself." (pg. 54)
Chapter 6 is titled "Prayer" and it contains gems like this:
"Prayer in a sense is only a clarifying of the intention that we can then express in action. Prayer will always have power but it gains a far deeper divinity if we are actually expressing our sentiments in our actions." (pg. 69)
I also liked this aphorism:
"For every prayer you say for yourself, say ten for others." (pg. 71)
I've always believed that if we change our beliefs and attitudes, we change our circumstances (as in the Jane Roberts / Seth adage "You create your own reality.") Here's one of the author's "Eckhart Tolle" moments:
"In other words we always want things to be other than what they are. If only that person or situation was a bit different, if only the weather was better if only I was more attractive or younger, if only...then I would be happy. There is a bright light that we can bring into this situation and that light is an 'acceptance of the present moment.' Once you accept the nature of your present moment experience you take a huge chunk of the ego's power away." (pg. 78)
Chapter 9 is "The Path." Llewellyn lists these elements of the path: Fasting, Giving, Discipline, Ethics, Love, Pain, Fear, Persistence and Positive Attitude.

I especially liked what he said about love. He told the story of a well-known Indian Baba called Neem Karoli Baba:
"Once a western disciple came up to him and asked him 'How to meditate.' Initially the Baba told him to go away but as the Westerner was leaving the Baba said "Just meditate like Christ."
"Later the disciple came to him and asked him what he meant. The old Baba closed his eyes and seemed to disappear for a few minutes. When he came back and opened his eyes, he had tears in his eyes. "He lost himself in love. He loved everyone, even those that crucified him. That is the way to meditate, just be like Christ or Gandhi. Just lose yourself in love." (pg. 105)
As for pain, he wrote:
"We always hold one jewel in the face of suffering and pain. This jewel, is the way we can respond."
I also loved this quote about death:
"It is not possible to be really vividly alive unless you are aware of death, because death is woven up into the very fabric of life. The essence of everything is eternal but at the same time transience is woven into all. Death is the other side of the coin of awareness. Everything brightly shivers in the transience of this world." (pg. 122)
In the "third door" section, Llewellyn has lots of meditation exercises, and he's got a lot of them. He has dynamic energy exercises like Robert Bruce. He has breathing exercises like Bhastrika: Bellows Breath, and Kapalabhati: Cleansing Shining Skull Breath. He has lots of exercises, mostly geared toward different kinds of meditation. They're all very solid, and different from most exercises you find in ordinary OBE books, but he uses a lot of these exercises to supplement his OBE techniques.

The "fourth door" is all about inducing lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. He makes some interesting observations. I've always believed that lucid dreams are basically OBEs with a hallucinated dream environment. Llewellyn has a different take:
"Lucid Dreaming body of consciousness and the Astral body of consciousness are like different zones in the same sea. The experience will be different depending on the vehicle and level of consciousness that is being utilized." (pg. 187)
I think he comes closer to the truth when he tries to clarify it later:
"[Lucid dreaming] is like a man sitting in a room watching events on the TV that are happening in the street outside. The events are being represented very well on the television screen, but still it is not the same as being outside." (pg. 189)
That's not to say lucid dreams are less valuable:
"It is wrong to believe that astral projection experiences are necessarily always superior in some way to lucid dream experiences, as this is not the case at all. Lucid dreaming offers a safer, more usual and more protected route of exploration than astral projection, at least in its initial stages does..." (pg. 190)
I really only disagreed with one thing the author said:
"There is no real clear boundary between lucid dreaming and shamanic journeying, so both states, which may very well be the same in essence can be used to explore the same terrains of the spirit." (pg. 193)
In my opinion, lucid dreaming is completely different from shamanic journeying. Lucid dreams occur when the body is completely asleep and inanimate, and your conscious awareness is firmly anchored in the self-created hallucination called the dream. Shamanic journeying is more like Robert Monroe's "Focus Level" experiences in which your conscious awareness remains centered mainly in the physical body, but you observe and even interact using a remote mechanism, much like remote viewing.

Llewellyn also writes about being careful when interacting with spirits, especially those who claim to be guides or masters. He also talks about the need to stay grounded and centered:
"Having said that we should not fall into the trap of abandoning our human spiritual friends and community in some kind of persuit [sic] of a purely non-physical community of enlightened friends." (pg. 199)
This is what he says about transitioning from a lucid dream to an OBE:
"If you want to shift from a lucid dream into an astral projection experience, all you need to do is activate and bring your astral body with you." (pg. 215)
I found that confusing, but he does say that as you get more experience with both, lucid dreaming will start to "phase" into the astral projection state.

The last chapter of the book is about astral projection, and he does give some good exercises. For example, he gives a technique called "Pulsing" which is basically the same as Akhena's "The Fire and the Diamond" technique in which you shift your attention from chakra to chakra, but Llewellyn uses multiple chakras whereas Akhena only used two: the root chakra (Fire) and the third eye (Diamond). He also recommends doing hundreds of "perineum mula-bhanda contractions."

Beginners often ask what to do when "the vibrations" hit. Llewellyn basically recommends the same thing I do, which is:
"Just allow the vibrational waves and energy to build up until it has reached its peak, perfect pitch tone, and this will shift you to the threshold. When this happens you can now exit." (pg. 258)
Achieving OBEs represents the final door of "The Initiation." There's one more chapter about psychic self-defense (or as they say in the UK, "defence") which is largely based on Robert Bruce's teachings.

I liked this book. The writing is mature and well done. It's 282 pages, so there's a good amount of content, and it's high quality. And there are lots of practical exercises.

My only complaint is that there are a lot of small mistakes. I didn't even notice it in the first half of the book, but by the last third I found a mistake on almost every page. I'm not talking about grammar-Nazi mistakes like spelling or even grammar; things like the wrong word (like physic where he meant psychic),  missing words, extra words, etc. Things that a good editor would have caught, but it's easy for authors to miss because they get too close to the work. Still, the content and principles are solid.

I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Bob Peterson
08 January 2019