Review: Astral Dynamics - Part 1
by Robert Bruce
Every so often I like to re-read a classic in OBE literature. It's been a while since I've done this, and Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce is a well-deserving classic I've not reviewed yet. It's surprising, since I listed it as #5 in "Bob's Top Ten OBE Books."
First I need to apologize in advance for the length of this review: the book says a lot, so I need to say a lot about it. For that reason, I decided to split the review into two parts, and I'll post part 2 in my next blog entry.
The previous book I reviewed seemed like a cheap ripoff of Astral Dynamics. I had recognized many of these elements because I'd just spent the past several weeks re-reading Astral Dynamics. It also explains why my recent reviews have covered small books: I needed a buffer zone while I got through this hefty volume.
The first thing to note is that it's big: Not only is the physical footprint big (6 by 9 inches), it's also 560 pages. It's not to be undertaken lightly. But it's worth the effort. I like to flag interesting parts in every OBE book, and this time I added 33 flags; a new record.
The first time I read this book back around 2001, I wasn't impressed. Yes, it was good, but I thought it was a little boring, and I didn't agree with everything Bruce said. This second time through, I liked it a lot more and found very little to disagree with. With no further ado, here's what I flagged:
Flag 1: In chapter 2, Bruce talks about nonphysical bodies, such as the "Real-Time" Body (for Near-Earth OBEs), the Astral Body (for Astral Projection), and so forth. He describes the Etheric body as a bioenergetic body, closely associated with (and inseparable from) the physical body. Not many OBE books talk about this, but it matches my experience with ASP (Awareness during Sleep Paralysis.) It's a good discussion.
Flag 2: On page 53, Bruce talks about his theory of "Shadow Memory". He makes it seem like your non-physical body (whether "Astral" or "Real-Time") has completely separate memories that are "downloaded" to the physical brain when you return to your body. At the same time, he says, your physical body is also producing memory imprints, and the most dominant memory becomes permanently stored. All others are permanently lost. So there are tricks you need to do to allow your astral experiences and its "shadow memory" to be "downloaded" and become dominant in your brain, otherwise you're likely to lose the memory of your out-of-body adventures. I'm not sure I agree with this theory. I like to think of any "human experience" as more integrated than that, but I can't prove it's wrong either. Dream memories often fade away quickly if you don't reinforce them, but OBEs are usually pretty memorable, at least for me. I've never noticed any kind of download process. At the very least, this shows the depth at which Bruce treats OBEs: most OBE authors don't even talk about these important matters. Bruce revisits the topic again on page 298 (flag 12) and page 300 (flag 13).
Flag 3: On page 102, Bruce talks about blind people who have OBEs, which is, again, something you can't find elsewhere in the literature. In my first book, I wrote about a mode of sight I call "Astral Mind Sensing." It's hard to describe, but you can feel everything around you with your mind, kind of like a bat's echolocation. Compare that to this fascinating description from an OBEr who has been blind from birth:
"The area around me is extremely vivid in my mind, in all directions, and is very detailed. This awareness is much stronger than my normal awake perceptions are in my own home. When I project it's like I can feel everything around me, as if I am continually touching everything with my fingers, with my mind, with my senses..." (pg. 102)It made me wonder: Is that how a blind person would describe "vision" without any experience of it? Or is it my "astral mind sensing"? Intriguing.
Flag 4: On page 250, Bruce talks about doing "Bounce Loosening" exercises. This is where you use your imagination to pretend to bounce your awareness away from your body. This is similar to many exercises I sometimes do to improve my OBE skills (for example, see the yoyo exercise I gave in chapter 9 of my first book). This is good stuff:
"Again, once you get this bounce action going, allow the feel of your physical body to slide into the background and concentrate on the exterior bounce action." (pg. 250)Flag 5: On the next page, I found an exercise I also liked a lot. He talks about "Breathing Loosening" exercises, coordinating your imagination with your breath:
"At the end of the OUT breath, briefly feel the spacial coordinates of the entire room as being far, far away, as if you were a minute point of consciousness, a tiny spark in a giant, oversized room." (pg. 251).Flag 6: On page 254, Bruce gives his now famous "Rope Technique" which is "tactile imaging" (focusing more on the sense of touch than vision). This technique was pioneering and has helped a lot of people achieve OBEs, especially those who don't visualize well. Most OBE techniques in the literature (including mine) focus on visualization, but not everyone can visualize well.
Flag 7: Bruce talks about motivation and enthusiasm. Early OBE pioneers like Muldoon and Lancelin emphasized this, especially motivating the subconscious. Bruce says:
"The most important ingredients for any successful projection are enthusiasm and motivation. Without these, there will not be enough mental energy to succeed; you will either fail the exit or give up and fall asleep." (pg. 260).Flag 8: He talks about the "racing-heartbeat sensation" which is a scary thing that happens in many early OBEs, but is hardly mentioned in the OBE literature. His advice is the same as mine: "Totally ignore this. It will not hurt you in any way." That's because it is a sensation of your nonphysical body (and often a subconscious scare tactic), not the physical body.
Flag 9: Like me, Bruce has been asked many times to assist others out of their body. His beliefs (and experience) exactly match mine in this regard:
"I do not believe it is possible to directly assist another person out of body. I have tried many times and it does not seem to be feasible." (pg. 277).Flag 10: He talks about traveling out-of-body to meet a specific person. In my first book, I wrote about my many failed attempts at this when I was a newbie. Many OBE books claim all you have to do is think about a person and you'll be magically transported to him or her. My experience has shown it's more complex than that. I eventually learned the trick, but it's extremely hard to describe: You have to "feel" for the person at the other end, then mentally pull yourself there. Bruce describes it like this, but words fail him as well:
"When you are in the trance state and/or close to the exit, imagine your target person. Everyone has a distinct essence of personality. This feeling can be used to tune in to and locate other people. Hold the image of your target firmly in mind and call his or her name several times, voicing this strongly in your mind." (pg. 279)Well, calling out someone's name never worked for me either. It's just something you have to learn by trial and error.
Flag 11: He talks about lunar cycles, which you normally don't find in the literature. I've never noticed a correlation between the moon cycles and my OBEs (and yes, I've analyzed it), but it matches what some people (for example, Jason Kish on Facebook) have said:
"I find the best time for OBE to be the week surrounding the full moon, with the first night of the full moon being my prime projection time." (pg. 291)Flag 14: He talks about lucid dreams and their relationship with OBEs. I've written, blogged, and lectured about the differences (and similarities) between the two. In a nutshell, I believe a lucid dream is an OBE in which you're trapped inside a self-created hallucination (an almost completely subjective experience). Bruce says a very similar thing:
"A lucid dream is a genuine type of OBE, although the dimensional gate traveled through to achieve it is best thought of as being internal." (pg. 322).Flag 15: He also writes:
"Lucid dreams differ from OBEs in that they often seem much more substantial and realistic. A powerful lucid dream can be indistinguishable from reality, even if entered from the full waking state." (pg. 324).By comparison, OBEs often have a strange quality to them, even though they are often just as conscious and lucid.
Flag 16: Bruce talks about another kind of lucid dream:
"One of the most powerful experiences I know of results from deliberately projecting into a lucid dream environment from the full waking state, with no break in consciousness. I call this mind-blowing experience lucid dream projection, although others have also called it WILD (wake induced lucid dream). Although this is technically a lucid dream, it can aptly be called the ultimate out-of-body experience as it has many similarities with a conscious-exit OBE."
"A lucid dream projection is essentially no different from a conscious-exit projection...The only difference of note is that lucid dream projections are far more realistic and true to life than are projections or normal lucid dreams." (pp 329-330).I'm not sure I agree here. In my point of view, a lucid dream is an OBE in which you're trapped, as I said, inside a self-created hallucination. So my question is: which is it? In this "lucid dream projection" are you in a separate objective reality or a self-created hallucination? It doesn't seem possible to have it both ways or half-way in between (despite the fact that there can be bleed-through both ways: dreams in which astral events disrupt the dream, and also OBEs in which unintended dreams elements disrupt the OBE). So I'm not sure what to make of this claim.
Flag 17: Chapter 24 talks about yet another kind of experience which he calls "Virtual Reality Projection." The idea here is that you enter into a mirror, a picture, a painting, etc., from the OBE state. In other words, you use it as a gateway into another level of experience.
"The projector then moves into the target rather than passing through it. This seems to trick the subconscious mind into creating a virtual astral realm around the projected double, identical to that shown in the picture or mirror being approached." (pg. 337)It makes me wonder if this is just another form of passing into a lucid dream, a self-created hallucination.
I'm halfway through my flags, so I'm going to cut it off here and save the rest for next time.
Astral Dynamics is a classic in OBE literature and well worth reading. It's chock full of techniques, exercises, and good information on OBEs. It's also very well organized, professionally edited and comprehensive. In other words, it contains just about everything you need to know about astral projection.
This book is not fun, exciting, entertaining or amusing. There are just a few (four or five) OBE narratives; just enough to keep it interesting and not stale. It is, however, very informative. If you want to learn about astral projection and how to accomplish it, this book is an excellent resource for any serious OBE student. Even though I listed it as number 5 in my top ten, if you only had enough money to buy one OBE book, you would not go wrong spending it on this volume.
I'll post part 2 of my review next time.
14 April 2015