Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Yoga and the Art of Astral Projection

Review: Yoga and the Art of Astral Projection

by Jill Lowy

I recently finished the book Yoga and the Art of Astral Projection by Jill Lowy, and here's my book review.

It seems like there are two main approaches to the otherworldly: traditionalists and explorers. Traditionalists study the paths that others have followed, whether religious, mystic, or occult traditions. Explorers, on the other hand, care more about exploring and trail-blazing. Explorers rarely care about traditions, and traditionalists rarely care about exploring.

Oddly, my brother Joe and I fall into opposite camps. I've always been an explorer: I'd rather spend my time focusing on new teachings, new methods and, of course, blazing my own trail. That means I don't spend as much time studying the older traditions, valuable as they may be. I keep thinking I should read the works of Meister Eckhart or Emanuel Swedenborg, for example, because I could really learn from their mystical experiences, and yet somehow they never seem to rise to the top of my priorities.

Joe, on the other hand, is a traditionalist. He's the ultimate scholar when it comes to esoteric traditions. He could talk intelligently with you for hours about countless mystic, religious and occult traditions. Meister Eckhart? No problem. Swedenborg? Easy. Name any dead dude from the European renaissance like Johannes Trithemius, Giordano Bruno, or Dr. John Dee: he can talk about him or her for hours. All you have to do is visit one of his domains, like http://www.esotericarchives.com, to see what I mean. And I admire him more than he can ever know. (He's even published more books than me.)

What does all this have to do with Jill Lowy's book? Simply this: This book tries to bridge the gap between the two approaches. I was expecting the book to be focused strictly on OBEs and how they pertain to Yoga meditation, but I was pleasantly surprised. The book starts out with a crash course in esoterica and occultism, with depths that surprised me. I would have probably been blown away by the depth of her knowledge, except for the fact that I've already spent many hours talking to Joe about these things (No offense, but Joe could undoubtedly run circles around her).

Lowy talks about the Rosicrucians, Hermes Trismegistus, the Golden Dawn, Israel Regardie, Paracelsus and the like. She sounded remarkably like Joe, trying to give a crash course on esoterica. She doesn't stop there. She talks about Plutarch from ancient Greece, and cites St. Paul's observations from the Bible. She brings in Taoism (one of my favorite topics, which I've studied in depth), quoting from Lao Tzu. She explains about the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali (which I've studied). She talks about Paramahansa Yogananda (my favorite yogi, whose teachings I've studied in depth).

Then she starts to talk about the different schools and traditions of Yoga, patiently explaining how the branches differ. She moves on to explain all about the chakras.

From there, she gives an in-depth explanation of her favorite yoga meditation to induce out-of-body experiences. Then she gives some good narrations to illustrate what the experiences are like. (I love OBE narrations; I think they're an essential part of any good OBE book).

I was hoping to find a lot of information about OBEs and how they relate to yoga, and maybe some practical advice. Unfortunately, the book spends most of its time talking about yoga, its tenants, astrology and other peripheral topics, and way too little time on OBEs themselves. The information about OBEs was good (you can tell she's had a lot of OBEs). There just wasn't enough of it. If Lowy had spent as much time talking about OBEs as she did yoga, it would have been a great book. Unfortunately, she breezed through too many topics, spending too little time on each.

This book only has one OBE method, but it's explained in good detail. There again, the information was good, but I was hungry for more.

The book is only 150 pages long, which is kind of small, but bigger than many OBE books out there. However, the font is decent and the margins are very small, which means every page is chock full of information and there's little white-space or wasted space. But like I said, the information was mostly about yoga, and not OBEs.

Now, as is my custom, I have to put on my grammar Nazi hat. The book is fairly well written and succinct, although I found lots of simple punctuation problems, spelling problems and minor grammar problems. For example, in many places she has "mediation" where she means "meditation" (something a spell-checker wouldn't notice, but an editor would). Her worst offense is the misuse of the apostrophe. I'd say at least half of her apostrophes are wrong. Or maybe I just remember them more because I'm a grammar Nazi. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the book. It's definitely worth buying and reading, especially if you want some good information on the basics of yoga or esoterica.

In short, this book is everything I wanted Samael Aun Weor's book Dream Yoga to be. Weor's was ridiculous, condescending and full of misinformation. This book, by contrast, is useful and full of good information. And I'm looking forward to trying her OBE technique.

Jill Lowy would be a fascinating person to sit down with and have hours-long conversations with a cup of coffee. Better yet, sit her down with my brother Joe and watch the verbal ping-pong match! I only wish her book was two or three times as long so it didn't feel so rushed. I wish it went into more depth on each of the subjects, especially the OBEs.

Bob Peterson
September 30, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Loved by Mary Deioma

Review: Loved: A Transcendent Journey

by Mary Deioma

Author Mary Deioma was kind enough to send me a copy of her OBE book Loved: A Transcendent Journey. This is my review.

This book is mostly about the author's rather extensive transcendent out-of-body experience, what led up to it and what she experienced. In that respect, it's similar to Gary Wimmer's A Second In Eternity and reminds me of some of author Jurgen Ziewe's more mind-blowing experiences. It also has some similarities to Eben Alexander's book Proof of Heaven, although Deioma was not near death. Which brings up a good point: This book is another shining example of how an OBE can be as mind-blowing as a near-death experience.

The subtitle is "A Transcendent Journey" and that's very fitting. Unlike more typical OBEs, Deioma's experience was really "transcendent". It was one of those "God Experiences," an experience in which the person has a direct experience of what we might call "God."

What led up to her experience--a bitter betrayal of love--was all very interesting and entertaining. When the OBE actually occurred, she was apparently driving! And although it only took about a second and a half of real time, the experience was out of time: Like Wimmer's, Ziewe's and Alexander's experiences, the passage of time was highly distorted: a vast amount of subjective time can transpire in the space of one second.

Her journey was not unlike the others: she experienced oneness with everything. She passed through several layers of experience, different layers of differentiation, the illusion of separation, and experienced "Love" as all that exists.

After her main "Transcendent OBE" she naturally went to a bookstore to search for answers. She studied various things, and that was an interesting journey with intelligent and insightful discussion. Then she decided to try to induce another OBE to learn more. She was successful, but she didn't say how. (That was a real disappointment. It would have made the story better.)

She did mention (in passing) her friend Dr. Albert Taylor, author of the best selling book Soul Traveler, but it was only a name-drop. She didn't say whether Taylor helped her achieve her next OBEs or where that friendship led. The only thing I didn't like about the book is that she didn't explain how she managed to induce more OBEs. There was no struggle, no conflict, no learning process; it was just "poof" and she was out of body again.

The book is fairly short, weighing in at 137 pages. It's longer than some of the fluff books out there, but there was a lot of white space. The chapters were short, as if written for today's short-attention-span audience. That made the book draw you in and kept you reading. In that respect it was very entertaining. ("I'll go to bed after just one more chapter!")

Deioma has a very interesting take on "Hell," what it is and how it relates to everything else. I was fascinated, and it definitely makes sense. Let's just say that neither "Heaven" nor "Hell" (as most Christians think about it) are anywhere close to the truth.

She did digress from the topic of her OBE near the end of the book, where she talks about some peripheral topics like visitations and prophecy, but it didn't detract from the book. I'm guilty of that too with my second book.

The author used simple language, and explained things very well: It's very easy to understand. She does a stellar job of trying to explain the unexplainable, to get some very difficult points across.

I enjoyed this book very much.

Because I'm a grammar Nazi, I usually have to say a few words about the writing. The book is well written, and well organized. The spelling is good, the grammar is good, but there were a few punctuation problems: Missing or extra periods at the end of sentences. Meh; I've seen worse.

September 16, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Out of Body Ecstasy by Allie Theiss

Review: Out of Body Ecstasy

by Allie Theiss
Book review by Bob Peterson

Let's talk about OBE sex, shall we? The subtitle of this book is "The Anywhere, Anytime, Orgasmic Experience", and make no mistake: this book is about sex and how it pertains to out-of-body experiences.

There's a famous saying in advertising: Sex sells. In other words, you can sell just about anything just by advertising it with a picture of a sexy woman with bedroom eyes. It works because it's instinctual. Men especially think about sex a lot. I've often thought to myself that if men would casually think about OBE as much as they think about sex, they would have a lot more OBEs. So this book sounded like an exciting new twist to the OBE. (Plus, of course I had to have it for my OBE book collection.)

The subject of astral sex is an interesting one, and there hasn't been much mention of it in the OBE literature. Robert Monroe mentioned it his famous book Journeys Out of the Body. The only other mention I can recall off the top of my head is from D.J.Conway's books, and it was kind of hard for me to take them seriously.

I had some preconceptions when I started reading this book. For example, it's much more common to have sexual content in lucid dreams than in OBEs. In OBEs it's quite rare, and when it does occur, it's usually described as an ecstatic explosion, combining of energy, or a flash of energy exchange. Monroe described it as almost casual, like shaking hands. In other words, it's not much like physical sex. On the other hand, lucid dream sex is much more like physical sex, and is often very realistic.

So what is this book like?

First it gives some foundation, like "What is an Out of Body Experience?" She explains it this way:
"Out of body experiences are short-term episodes where the conscious mind, via the energy body, separates from the physical body enabling a person to engage in and observe the world from outside their physical perspective." (Page 24).
So right from the start I have an issue: As Susan Blackmore once pointed out the experience of being out-of-body is different from the fact of being out-of-body. I think it's much more accurate to say the OBE is an experience in which is seems like you are out of your body. It's a subtle but important difference. As much as we'd all like to believe that something actually leaves the body (and there's growing evidence to support it) I think we still need to make that distinction.

On page 24, she says:
There are three different methods to launch an out of body experience: a. Telepathy...b. Dream...c. Astral.
Okay, I disagree with that too. To me, an OBE is a conscious experience in which your physical body is just another inanimate object in the room: In other words, you're completely conscious and completely out. While I do believe that some aspect of you travels to another person during telepathy, that's not an OBE. I also believe that something travels out-of-body during our dreams, but we're unconscious and I also do not count that as an OBE. (In early 2014, I gave a long talk for INACS about the differences between dreams, lucid dreams, shared dreams and OBEs.)

After three chapters of the basics, chapter 4 is about telepathic sex. In other words, making a sexual connection with another person telepathically. While this may be interesting, I don't consider it related to OBEs. (However, while it may not be related to OBEs, it's not to be trifled with. If you have sexual fantasies about another person, you will make a nonphysical telepathic connection with that person, and it can have consequences, karma, etc. So be careful with your energy.)

Chapter 5 is about dream sex. In other words, having sex dreams about another person. Her instructions boil down to basically "Intend to have a sex dream about a target person." She does talk about lucid dreaming for three pages, but it's a very brief introduction to the subject, and not very satisfying. Not after having read Robert Waggoner's book, anyway.

Chapter 6 is about astral sex, but it starts on page 125 out of 216. That means she doesn't even start talking about real astral sex until more than half way through the book.

On page 133, she states:
"It is good to note that when the astral body separates--the current astral layer world will be an exact replica of the physical world. Therefore, if it is raining out--it is raining in the astral world."
Again, I disagree. It's often very similar to the physical world, but definitely not exact. For example, people will sometimes see the shades or curtains (or a door) open when, in physical reality, they are closed. The differences have been the topic of many interesting discussions in OBE literature. Many OBE authors agree that the first layer acts like some kind of energy echo of the physical, and that the differences are due to various thought-forms floating about.

I recently attended a OBE Intensive class at The Monroe Institute. In the class, Bill Buhlman told a story about a remodeling project where he and his wife were planning to transform a particular fireplace in his home. For many weeks prior to the physical work, he saw his fireplace mantle slowly transformed in his OBEs before the actual work was done: The OBE environment had echoes of the future plans (thought forms) overlaid with the physical, but the astral mantle was transformed weeks before the physical one. So the OBE environment (when near the physical) is close to the physical, but not exact.

I was also disappointed in the author's discussion about the methods of separation. She lists them as: floating out, sit up, rolling out, pull yourself out, climbing out, top of the head, and divine aid. For example, for the first method, floating out, she says:
"Focus in on the sensation of floating and allow your astral body to drift up and away from your physical body." (Page 134).
I'm sorry, but to me, that's not an OBE technique. Once you've become separated from your physical body, then yes, you can focus on floating and drifting away. But first you've got to do the separation, and she's missing that all-important step. There's no talk about relaxation, putting your body to sleep, sleep paralysis, inducing the vibrations or any of it. (Well, she talks about the vibrations, but not how to induce them).  Just "poof" (or "allow") and you simply drift away from your body. Or "poof" and you just sit up in the astral. If it was that easy, we'd all be having OBEs every day. It's a lot more involved than simply using your imagination. You have to play mind games (like visualization and such) to trick your mind into separating from the physical and then you can sit up or roll out.

On page 151, she suggests setting your alarm clock for "10 to 20 min." And somehow that's long enough to induce the OBE, have astral foreplay, and astral sex. Again, this doesn't make sense to me: When I induce an OBE, it often takes a long time get to the proper state. Yes, on my best day, I have induced an OBE in about a minute, but that was extraordinary: most of the time it takes me 30-45 minutes to get to the proper state. Often I fall off the tightrope of consciousness and have to start all over from scratch. Sometimes I lie in bed for hours (wife permitting!) before I'm successful.

There's another problem with setting an alarm clock (regardless of how long): it's a really bad idea because it's distracting. You're likely to start worrying "Do I still have time?" "Is the alarm going to ring?" and these worries pull your mind away from where it needs to be: focused, with all your thoughts stopped, while still retaining awareness. My advice is: Never set an alarm clock when inducing an OBE.

There's another problem with the concept of using OBEs for sex: Again, it goes back to distraction. To induce an OBE, you need absolute focus. Not concentration (which is doing) but focus (which is being). So if you try to induce an OBE while you're thinking about sex, it will never work; you'll be too distracted. Any "thought" is distraction. It's the same reason it's so difficult to contact a dead loved one during an OBE: Most of the time, you're too distracted by your goal to attain the proper OBE focus. My advice is: set OBE as your focus and nothing more. Focus on inducing the OBE alone. Once you are out of your body, then do whatever you want. Don't think about sex, or dead relatives, or anything else for that matter, until you're already completely out of your body.

The book is not all bad (like the previous one I reviewed!). In fact, there are some good things to be gleaned. For example, she has a decent section about psychic protection (although not as good as Erin Pavlina's book). She seems to have good ethics and cautions the reader not to try any kind of astral sex without the person's consent (for example, no stalking of celebrities.) She also passes on sound advice from William Buhlman in the form of "Clarity Now!" commands.

She also makes some accurate observations. For example, she mentions that it's easier to attain the OBE state after having (physical) orgasm. Although I don't recall it anywhere else in the OBE literature, I can vouch for this.

She also poses some interesting questions, like:
"Is OBE Sex Considered Cheating?" (Page 28).
Her answer is that "Cheating is all in the eyes of the partner." I'll admit it's a difficult question to wrestle with, but I wasn't very satisfied with her answer.

Near the end of the book, she has a section on "OBE Sex Grids" which are various crystals, herbs and even spices, arranged in specific patterns to boost your energy.  She also briefly goes into "sex magic" and the use of herbs, oils, incenses, sachets (charms). Call me closed-minded but I've never really bought into all that. I'll buy into basic energy work (such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Kundalini and the like) but I'm just not into potions and crystals.

As a grammar Nazi, I'm obligated to point out that there were several punctuation mistakes. For example, in several places she uses "Chakra's" (possessive) where she meant plural ("Chakras"). I also found one place where she used "there" where she meant "their."

The bottom line: Although the thought of sexual encounters in an OBE is enticing, this book did not live up to my expectations. Although there were some ahem--"creative" (shall we say)--OBE narratives, I was left unconvinced. There just wasn't enough "OBE" in this book.

September 2, 2014