Monday, March 25, 2013

Astral Projection Made Easy by Stephanie Sorrell

Astral Projection Made Easy

by Stephanie Sorrell
Book review by Bob Peterson

I've heard it said there are two types of musicians: the ones born with talent and the others have to work their asses off, studying, rehearsing and practising ten hours every day, just to be "good," or even just mediocre. It's the same way with out-of-body experiencers, and I'm the second type. As I said in my last book review, I was not born with any natural OBE talent. I've had to work very hard for my OBEs, and one of the ways I keep my subconscious engaged is to read OBE books. So I recently finished Stephanie Sorrell's book, Astral Projection Made Easy: and overcoming the fear of death. The "made easy" part really had some appeal.

Not long ago, I won a prize at work for doing an excellent job, and that included a gift card for a number of online stores. So once again I scoured amazon.com for books that weren't in my collection, and bought a bunch. I was expecting a massive, heavy box in the mail. Unfortunately, a very small box was delivered.

It was much too small because the books inside were small. Like Michael Beloved's book, Stephanie Sorrell's book was much too short. It's about half the thickness of Michael Beloved's book, and it is only 70 pages long (Beloved's was 140). Fortunately, this book has a smaller font and less wasted space, so word-for-word, the book probably is longer than Michael Beloved's book. Still, I've read chapters from other books longer than this.

Other than its size, I can't be negative about this book. The writing was clear, concise and well-organized. The OBE narratives were good. There just wasn't enough of it.

Like Beloved, Sorrell gives some good pieces of advice with regard to inducing OBEs: (1) Ensure that you won't be disturbed, (2) Wear loose clothing, (3) Be warm enough and comfortable, (4) Assume a proper position, preferably lying on your back. (5) Slow your breathing, (6) Relax your body, and so on.

As for her technique, there isn't much. She writes:
After some time and effort you will experience a 'hum' or 'buzz' in your head which will become weaker or stronger according to the level of your consciousness.
She gives some advice on how to handle that buzz. But in my opinion, that's more like advice than it is a technique. Then the book just abruptly ends. No wrap-up or conclusions; it just left me hungry for more.

So bottom line: I enjoyed the book a lot, but it was way too short.

It was an entertaining book and I do recommend it, but did it bring anything to light that "made it easy" as the title implies? No, not really. I guess I'll have to keep inducing my OBEs the old-fashioned way: with hard work, narrowing my conscious awareness into the tiniest of spaces.

25 March 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Astral Projection by Michael Beloved

Astral Projection by Michael Beloved


Book review by Bob Peterson

I've been actively studying (and practising) OBE since 1979. In that time, I've amassed a collection of more than 150 books on the subject (not counting peripheral topics like Near-Death Experiences, Remote Viewing, Lucid Dreaming, etc.) I collect them and I study them. Lately I've been writing book reviews on them as well. My point is, I had to buy Michael Beloved's book for my OBE book collection, and having read it, I decided to write a review like the others.

I write these book reviews for two reasons: First, I'm trying to give OBE fans some information as to what to expect before buying the various OBE books. Second, for my own sake: I can't remember all the highlights (and low lights) of all the OBE books I've read throughout the years; I wish I had done book reviews for every one, but I can't change the past. A few months ago, I decided it's never too late to start.

My blog readers know I don't candy-coat or pull punches. Some may say that because I'm an OBE author myself, I shouldn't criticize my competition. On the other hand, I have to be honest about my feelings. The fact of the matter is: OBE books are not created equal. Some are better than the others, and some are worse. So I have to be honest with you: I did not like this book. Maybe it's just that I had too high of expectations, especially since I've read (and reviewed) some excellent OBE books lately.

Here's what I didn't like about this book:

First, it was way too small. When I'm shopping on amazon.com and see a book cover, I imagine a nice thick book with lots of information. This one was only 140 pages, and the font size was bigger than normal type. Also, there are several large graphics that take up a lot of space. So it's a very small book, with very little information.

Second, it seemed very disorganized, like the author's mind was drifting from subject to subject without any order or cohesion. A lot of time he's not giving information as much as asking the reader questions. For example, pages 98, 100, and 101 (plus half of 99) are all questions that basically go unanswered. Questions like "What would that paradise be like?" and "How does an astral body deteriorate?" There are no answers; just questions.

Third, it makes unsubstantiated claims, without giving personal experiences to back up what it says, or references like Luis Minero's book.

Fourth, at times it doesn't even seem to make much sense, based on my experiences. To illustrate, here's an example paragraph from page 56:
I was conscious of astral projection since infancy. I was lucky. But that does not mean that you cannot have these experiences. Again I remind you that astral projection is not your deliberate action. It was not mine. It is not something that I commanded myself to do. It happened. Astral projection is happening but you have to achieve consciousness of its occurrence.
In the first sentence, he's admitting that he has natural-born OBE abilities. That's fine, but it isn't much use to someone like me who wasn't naturally talented, and had to work hard for all his OBEs. After all, if the author hasn't had to work for his experiences, and they just happen to him, how can he teach me his technique?

In the third sentence, he is saying that you can't produce OBEs through direct action; you just have to let them happen. You have to keep your mind "passive" to a certain degree when doing your technique, and maybe that's what he meant. But otherwise, that directly contradicts my experience: It took me years to learn how to focus my mind properly to achieve OBEs. It is something I command myself to do. It doesn't just happen.

Despite having said this, he goes on to suggest an OBE technique.

Maybe I just misunderstood him. Maybe it's just that his writing is unclear or that his English is not polished, but if I'm raising these questions, other people will too.

In the last sentence of that paragraph, he is saying that astral projection is happening but you have to become aware of it. I agree. In my experience, it happens to all of us in our sleep, and one technique is to learn to gain consciousness at that time. However, the author says nothing about sleep, and he doesn't offer a single suggestion as to how to achieve this "consciousness of its occurrence." He should have expounded on this. But the whole book is like this.

Things I liked about this book: Despite its shortcomings, the author does give some good practical advice, such as: (1) practice in a location different from your bed (because you're conditioned to fall asleep there). (2) Practice when you are fully rested (so you don't fall asleep) and free of stress. (3) practice in a dark room, or cover your eyes with a cloth. (4) Clear your mind of stray thoughts. (5) avoid painkillers and drugs that affect the central nervous system.

He also talks about the importance of visualization and he makes the (important) distinction not to confuse the visualization with an actual OBE: An OBE is a lot more realistic; visualizations are merely a means to an end.

His technique consists primarily of trying to mentally sink back to the back of your head, or to visualize yourself floating above your bed. He also gives some advice on how to handle pre-OBE sensations such as seeing clouds of energy, or hearing a high-pitch sound.

I'm not saying that this book is all bad. All I'm saying is that I've read much better OBE books. This one is much too short and disorganized. You'll do much better with authors like Fred Aardema, Luis Minero, Graham Nicholls, William Buhlman, Robert Monroe, and many others. They have more quantity, higher quality, better information and they're more entertaining.

17 March 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience by Luis Minero

Review:Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience

 by Luis Minero

Book review by Robert Peterson

I recently finished reading the book Demystifying the Out-of-body Experience by Luis Minero. Luis Minero is an instructor for the IAC, the International Academy of Consciousness. This is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization started by followers of Waldo Vieira. They have several spiritual centers across the world, and they teach out-of-body experience techniques.


As I've done for several other books, I'm posting my thoughts and feelings about the book so that others may benefit. My goal is not to praise nor tear down a competitor's book, but to give a fair assessment and assist others who might consider buying the book for their own research. I've done this with several other books, and readers of my blog know that I'm honest with my feelings. I don't pull punches. This is a somewhat long book, so I'm writing a long book review.

This was a very good book with very good information. Like all books, it had advantages and disadvantages, plus things I liked and things I didn't. Like Vieira's book, I tried really hard to find problems with this one, but in the end, I liked the book a lot (as I did Vieira's). First, what I didn't like:

First, in my opinion, it spent too much time on peripheral topics: More than half the book is about energy development, spiritual development, reincarnation, the study of consciousness (something they call "Conscientiology") and other side-topics, plus bibliography, glossary, and index. I would much rather have had more material directly relating to the OBEs themselves and what to expect. I wanted more "meat" to the book, and less side dishes.

Second, it read too much like a textbook. Especially the first half of the book made extensive use of "passive voice." I know this was intentional (it intentionally makes a book sound more like a textbook), but as a grammar Nazi, it drove me nuts. Will he please just use a pronoun? I like to hear personal experiences and personal perspectives, not matter-of-fact statements of how things work. (There are some OBE narratives, but I wanted more). But the further I got into the book, the better it got. It got more personal and less text-book, and that was good.

Third, I found his discussion of the Mental Body (or "mentalsoma," as he calls it) and the Mental Plane inadequate. He admits that experiences of the "mental plane" defy words; it's indescribable. Still, I wanted more information. As an out-of-body traveler, I've never experienced a projection out of my astral body into other mysterious dimensions or planes that are somehow "higher" than the astral. I wanted to learn what evidence there was for the existence of a mental body; people's descriptions of it. Minero says it "allows for the most lucid manifestation" but what does that mean? If it's such a hyper-lucid experience, why does it defy description? He says "Therefore, if, when we are projected with the mentalsoma, we are able to achieve 100% lucidity, then the recollection "should" be easier. In practice, however, the case is the opposite. Usually mentalsomatic projections are harder to recall than psychosoma [astral body] projections." He goes on to give explanations, but it still seemed lacking to me. I wanted a lot more information, more details, more firsthand accounts, otherwise it's not much better than Theosophists like Powell and Leadbeater who gave similar descriptions of multiple non-physical bodies beyond the astral with no substance to back them up; the reader is forced to take their word for it.

Fourth, it introduced too much arcane terminology. Readers learn about "velo," "thosenes," "holothosenes," "morphothosenes," "mentalsomas," "energosomas," "cosmoethics," "holomaturity," "penta" and on and on. The long list of new terminology seemed unnecessary, long and off-putting. Having said that, the use of new terminology is explained in the beginning, and it really does make some sense: The study of OBEs has been too long strangled by the stigmas of past terminology. For too long, we've been writing and talking in 19th century concepts: many terms (for example, "thought forms") are leftovers from Theosophy, Spiritualism and other traditions. Terms like "astral projection" and "astral body" are filled with questionable assumptions carried over from Occult traditions. Even common words like "death" are too emotionally charged to be put to good use, regardless of the context. So I do see the need for new OBE terminology. Still, it was off-putting.

The excessive terminology reminded me of my early years when I was checking out Eckankar (which is another topic), which seemed too much like a cult. Back then, when researching the difference between a religion and a cult, I remembered reading that a cult will try to suck you into their world by introducing their own terminology: it makes you feel special--like you're in on some secret--while alienating you from the rest of the world (because they don't get it). No, I don't view the IAC, Vieira, or Minero part of a cult; I'm just hyper-sensitive to the issue. (For one thing, cults typically teach that their path is the only way to God or that their leader is the sole representative of God on Earth. Eckankar taught that, but the IAC encourages people to do their own research and follow their own path: refreshing, in a world of preachers.) The book's use of strange terminology is effective, even if it is a bit too much for some people; now when I walk into a building, I find myself questioning the place's holothosenes!

Now for what I liked:

First, despite the early use of passive voice, Minero's book was very well written. His English was impeccable. The grammar was perfect. The information was useful and the book was very well organized. Everything was clear and concise, and followed logically from the last. The book was very well planned and executed. And he accomplished his goal: he demystified the OBE quite well. It could just have easily been a textbook about how your body's respiratory system works. (Read one of those medical books and I guarantee you'll get plenty of new terminology thrown at you!)

Second, unlike many OBE authors, Minero did not make unsubstantiated claims. He backed up everything he said with multiple references, and in some cases, personal experiences. At the end of every chapter, there was an extensive list of references. He's done his homework, and done it quite well. He's gone the extra mile, and is openly sharing the information. This is much more satisfying than many other OBE books, which make claims and you're left to judge their experiences and descriptions without any evidence or collaboration (you have to take their word for it).

Third, I really liked the fact that he acknowledged that our knowledge about OBEs is not static, but rather, dynamic and ever-changing. He acknowledged the need for further exploration, and stated that experience is the best teacher. He never claimed that our knowledge is complete or fixed; we will likely need to adjust our views as we gain more experience, just as science is supposed to adjust their theories to fit observations. This is another shining example of why the IAC should not be considered a cult.

Fourth, I liked the energy exercises and explanations. The "Velo" exercise is especially useful for people who are unfamiliar with energy work. The OBE exercises are straightforward too, although I wanted more substance here.

This book has a lot of information, and it's good information. If an OBE novice picked it up and started reading it, they might very well question many of the things that are written. Age-old concepts and assumptions are written as matter-of-fact as a textbook on physics. With new terminology thrown left and right, the innocent reader might ask him/herself, "Where in the heck did this assumption come from? Which hat is he pulling this rabbit from?" But having experienced OBEs myself for many years, I cannot argue with anything Minero has written (except where I have no experience like the mental body stuff). His experience perfectly matches mine, and given the same background, I could just have easily written the same things. The shining example of this is his description of nonphysical entities: astral guides and helpers (spirit guides, angels or whatever you want to call them). His description of what they're like, how they operate and how we interact with them perfectly matches my experience. Very well done.

All in all, I'd say this was a very good book.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sneaking Past the Gatekeeper

Sneaking Past the Gatekeeper





by Bob Peterson


Many times as people fall asleep, something goes wrong and they are startled awake. As they start exploring the edges of consciousness, they learn to pay more attention to the process of falling asleep and it happens more often. Then they wonder, "Is this related to out-of-body experiences? And if so, can I use it to achieve OBEs?" The answer to both questions is yes, but it's hard to explain.

To explain what's happening, you must first have a basic understanding of what happens when you fall asleep. Almost all OBE authors agree that we leave our bodies every night, but we are almost always unconscious and completely unaware of what's happening. As you gain skill in out-of-body exploration, you learn to retain consciousness for longer and longer periods of time, and thus, you learn to witness the process of falling asleep. So this is not conjecture; this is all based on my firsthand observations.

First, you sink into a more relaxed state of mind, and your mind begins to wander. For most people, your consciousness slips away pretty quickly and that's the end of the information. If you retain consciousness beyond that, you start to see hypnagogic images: random images pop into your mind. For example, you might see a river, then a toaster. The hypnagogic hallucinations are not just visual: You will often hear random voices saying random things; not coherent sentences, but bits and pieces. For example, you might hear a man's voice say "...was at the corner when I saw for the first time..." and that's it. Then you might hear a woman's voice say "...was twelve years old when Missy first walked to the..." and so forth. Just random sentence fragments, along with random visual images. This is called the hypnagogic state of sleep.

Normally, as you drift into unconsciousness, your "subconscious" (for lack of better words) assumes more and more control. This is the "Gatekeeper" I'm talking about. Perhaps it's more correct to call it your "Higher Self", but I tend to think of my Higher Self as something that extends well beyond the subconscious. I call it the Gatekeeper because your subconscious is responsible for taking you out-of-body every night during sleep, and it has several defense mechanisms to prevent your consciousness from spilling over. One of its primary responsibilities is to make sure none of your conscious awareness gets through to "the other side." I'm not talking about a subtle, mindless robotic self as most people like to think about the subconscious. In my experience, this other self is highly intelligent, highly aware and highly complex. It is another part of you, but it has its own goals, motivations and will.

As you approach the hypnagogic state, you have three choices to induce an out-of-body experience (1) Hold onto a visualization while drifting down into the hypnagogic state, (2) Allow yourself to drift down into sleep naturally, then control and manipulate a naturally occurring hypnagogic image. (3) Sneak past the gatekeeper. The three methods range in level of difficulty and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of #1 is that it's easier to retain awareness and not succumb to sleep, but the disadvantage is that it's hard to visualize with enough detail. The advantage of #2 is that it's easy: you don't have to do any complex visualization. It takes advantage of your own natural hypnagogic images, but the disadvantage is that it takes discipline to remain alert all the way down to the hypnagogic state. The advantage of #3 is that it doesn't involve any kind of complex manipulation of images like #1 and #2, but the disadvantage is that it's more difficult than the other two.

Here are more details:

Choice 1: The object here is to never give your subconscious the chance to take control. Before you're in the hypnagogic state, you visualize a small object. The example I gave in my first book is to visualize a cube, but it can be any small object. Then you can start spinning the object to stabilize it (a visualization tends to disappear unless you keep it moving). Next, start swinging the object back and forth, and imagine a kind of gravity between you and the object. Finally, you mentally grab onto the object and let the momentum of its swinging motion pull you out of body. You do all this as you inch ever closer to sleep, while at the same time, you narrow your consciousness down into a tiny pinpoint of awareness.

This method is medium difficulty for several reasons. First, because some people aren't good at visualization. Second, it's difficult to actively use your imagination this way while remaining passive. Third, your visualization may directly compete with your own natural hypnagogic images. The details of this method are in chapter 24 of my first book, Out of Body Experiences: How to have them and what to expect, so it's beyond the scope of this article. (No, I'm not trying to sell you a book: it's available for free on my website, http://www.robertpeterson.org). This method works best for people who can't seem to go deep enough to actually see hypnagogic images.

Choice 2: you can wait for a suitable hypnagogic image to appear, then take take control of it. This is easier than choice 1, but you must have patience. It's difficult to take control of some images: a landscape, a mountain, a face, or even a train, for example. But it's easy to take control of an ordinary object like a bicycle, a coffee cup or a pencil. Like choice 1 above, once a suitable object appears in front of you, focus on it and start making it spin. Then start swinging it back and forth. Same thing as before. The difference here is that you're letting your subconscious have a bit more control during the process, but you have to train yourself to remain alert.

Choice 3: This is where things get interesting. This is what I call "sneaking past the gatekeeper" and it's not easy at all. Basically what you do is simply keep your mind completely still. Just watch what happens. Make your awareness so quiet and so small that it seems almost nonexistent. You can watch the hypnagogic images, but don't get wrapped up in them. If you do, you'll be pulled unconscious and start dreaming.

In a normal night, what happens next is this that your subconscious (Higher Self, Gatekeeper) waits patiently for you to lose all conscious awareness. Within a few (five?) seconds of losing consciousness, it propels you out of your body. Many times, this feels as if the floor dropped out from under you, and you feel like you're falling as much as six feet (two meters) down. Despite the sensation of falling, you're really being pushed upward out of your body. Then your subconscious starts "recharging" your energy while you float quietly above your body, unconscious.


(As a side note: People with little energy usually float above their body and recharge for long periods of time. People with a lot of energy don't need to recharge as much; their subconscious often takes them far away from their physical body and they do astral work, like healing or spirit rescues, all while the person is unconscious and unaware.)

So the trick to this OBE method is to make your awareness so tiny and insignificant that you fool your subconscious into thinking you are "out cold". When your subconscious detects no activity from your conscious mind, it does its normal routine: it pulls you out-of-body. Once that process is complete, you can literally wrestle conscious control away from it and voila: you're having an out-of-body experience. You return your consciousness back to its normal condition, and go about having a fully conscious OBE.

But beware: If you try to wrestle control too soon, your subconscious will abort the OBE. Bewildered, it will think, "WTF? How did he (your conscious awareness) get through?" and WHAM! you get slammed back in your body.

The trick is to not get drawn into the fantasy of the hypnagogic images that appear, and to keep your conscious mind so quiet that it fools your subconscious into thinking you're unaware.

What happens if you wait too long before wrestling control? You can consciously watch the creation of a dream. I've personally watched this happen, so again, I'm speaking from experience. As you watch, you can see the background being created, the characters being placed into the scene. Then they're made three-dimensional, given artificial personalities, and everything. Then your own body-image enters the dream-hallucination, which then seems to come to life. And voila: You're dreaming.

Now, this whole falling-asleep process can "go wrong" at several stages, and with different results. People often get slammed back into their bodies during the falling sensation, and that's all they remember.

Sometimes, you'll see an ugly or startling face appear and scare the hell out of you, and again, you'll get slammed back into your body. I've never been able to figure out if these are mischievous "spirits" or just an artifact of my own subconscious, but they're scary nonetheless. Don't let this discourage you. Regardless, your subconscious aborts the OBE and brings you back to full consciousness with no harm done.

If you have trouble visualizing, you may want to try this method. As in all OBE practice, you must have a lot of patience. It took me a very long time to be able to extend my conscious awareness that far into the dream cycle. Just try to go a little farther each night until you get the knack of it.


2013 Mar 03