Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Astral Projection by Oliver Fox

Review: Astral Projection

by Oliver Fox

Every now and then I like to go back and re-read the classics in out-of-body experience (OBE) literature. This is one. This is probably the second or third book I ever read on Astral Projection, so I didn't remember anything about it.

It's unclear to me exactly when the book was written. The earliest copyright date in my copy is 1962, but Fox's earliest written articles about his OBEs appeared in Occult Review in 1920 and his OBEs were from around 1902, which predates even Sylvan Muldoon's OBEs. Some might argue Muldoon was the first, but while Muldoon's book may have preceded Fox's, I think Fox's articles in Occult Review preceded Muldoon's classic 1929 book The Projection of the Astral Body.

Back then, OBEs were considered so far beyond the norm that authors often hid their identity lest they be ostracized. OBEs were considered so rare that only a handful of people in the world had ever written about them: two Frenchmen named Charles Lancelin and Marcel Louis Forhan (who wrote under the pen name "Yram") and "Oliver Fox", whose real name was Hugh George Calloway. Fox/Calloway was really the first guy to write about it in a somewhat scientific fashion. In other words, Fox didn't try to make it out to be some kind of esoteric occult super-power. Like Muldoon, Monroe, Buhlman, and other good OBE reporters, Fox just reported what he had experienced, and advanced theories about it. Although he studied Theosophy, the book doesn't really digress into occult beliefs. In fact, near the end of the book he says:
"So hard it is to kill the sceptic in me, nor do I want to altogether; for scepticism is very useful as an aid to preserving mental equlibrium." (pg. 157) [The British spellings are his, not mine.]
The first thing that struck me about this book is something I don't recall reading in any other OBE book: a nightmare from Fox's childhood that is eerily similar to one from my childhood. Here is Fox's description:
"I dreamed that my grandfather and I were sitting at the supper-table. Suddenly he took a threepenny-bit [coin] from his pocket and held it between his finger and thumb across the table for me to see. 'A little threepenny-bit!' he exclaimed, 'but it will grow and grow and grow and nothing can ever stop it!' His voice grew steadily louder until it ended in a scream: 'It will grow and grow and grow until it cuts the world in two!' Now, in my dream, though the threepenny-bit did not increase in size, something in me seemed linked with an invisible coin and was being stretched as it grew larger and larger in obedience to my grandfather's horrible monologue. There was the same awful sense of inevitability and helplessness, ending in panic. I echoed his scream, and that broke the nightmare." (pgs 16-17)
Compare that to my own childhood nightmare:
"When I got sick, I only remember a strange sensation that used to terrify me: When I drifted off to sleep, I had a terrifying "nightmare." I would "dream" that I held a tiny grain of salt in the palm of my hand. Then my consciousness would shrink to a terrifyingly small size until the grain of salt looked like a skyscraper. Terrified of being crushed by the salt, I would wake up screaming." (Out of Body Experiences, Peterson, pg. 10)
One of the earliest OBE pioneers, Fox discovered three different methods to induce out-of-body experiences:
  1. A "Dream of Knowledge" (What we now call a Lucid Dream)
  2. The Pineal Doorway, and
  3. The "Instantaneous Projection" Method
Although most of the book is centered on Fox's OBE narratives, he does give several pieces of advice for inducing OBEs (although not as much as some books, for example Jonas Ridgeway's Exploring Your Inner Reality which I previously reviewed.) The book is very similar to Robert Monroe's first book, Journeys Out of the Body in that respect.

Fox's advice for lucid dreaming ("dreams of knowledge") is basically this:
"Before going to sleep I must impress upon my mind the desirability of not allowing the critical faculty to slumber; it must be kept awake, ready to pounce on any inconsistency in the dream and recognize it as such. It sounds simple; but in practice I found it one of the most difficult things imaginable." (pg. 34)
As for the Pineal Doorway method: he basically just vividly imagined his entire awareness is concentrated in the pineal gland. [The pineal gland is a tiny gland in the center of the brain, which produces melatonin, a brain drug related to sleep. It is the size of a pea, and shaped like a pine cone.] He found that if he did that long enough, his entire awareness would suddenly whoosh up and seemingly go through some kind of doorway, after which he had incredible clarity of consciousness. But this method came at a cost:
"Until one has become accustomed to it, the actual process of passing through the 'Door' in the pineal gland produces an effect of extreme mental confusion and a terrible fear. Indeed, one feels that one is heading straight for death or insanity." (pg. 87)

Eventually, this method stopped working, though he tried many times over the course of ten years. Some people in OBE circles talk about the pineal gland and its supposedly magical properties. There are even products designed to "decalcify" the pineal gland [calcium buildup in the pineal gland over time is well known in the medical world, but I don't I buy into these; don't waste your money]. Fox doesn't let occult beliefs cloud his discussion:
"The reader is warned not to take my statements on the pineal gland too literally; indeed, if it please him, he is welcome to look upon the Pineal Door as purely imaginary; but, at least, this conception forms a very useful aid to a mental exercise which undoubtedly leads to a new form of consciousness--even if the [astral] projection theory is rejected. The result I obtained is beyond all question; but my explanation of the actual process involved may be more symbolical than accurate." (pg. 76)

The third method is the "Instantaneous Method" which is more like traditional methods of inducing OBEs: The use of active imagination to trick your awareness away from the body. This would include Robert Bruce's "Rope" technique, William Buhlman's techniques, and many others, mine included.

Another thing that's very interesting is that Fox learned to detect when his body was calling him back, and resisted that call, especially from lucid dreams. As he fought the pull of his body, he'd feel a pain in the center of his forehead. The more he fought, the worse it became:
"I fought against my body by steadily willing to remain in the Dream World. The pain in my forehead gradually increased, reached a maximum, and then, to my delight, suddenly ceased. As the pain vanished, something seemed to "click" in my brain. I had won the battle. My body pulled no longer, and I was free." (pg. 38)
But then he discovered a terrifying consequence: He couldn't reanimate his body again! Well, at least not for some time. Eventually it was like Sleep Paralysis sufferers: the body eventually woke up and pulled him back in.

Another noteworthy thing is that Fox talks about "skrying" but he has his own interpretation of what that means. To most occultists, skrying means something akin to crystal ball gazing (for example, see Donald Tyson's book Scrying for Beginners). To Oliver Fox, it meant shooting into space like a rocket, in an out-of-body state.

Another interesting topic is that of projecting while in bed with someone. I've always found it extremely difficult (but not impossible) to induce the OBE state from my bed if my wife is sleeping beside me. William Buhlman has told me the same thing. But Fox didn't seem to have any problem with it at all.

The book also has some of the earliest descriptions of pre-OBE symptoms, and good advice on how to deal with them:
"There may also be flashes of light, apparitions, and (almost certainly) terrifying noises. He may have the illusion that someone is trying to wake him or dissuade him from making the adventure. He should tell himself that such apparitions are subject to his will and powerless to harm him; and he should disregard any interrupting influence--even if it seems to proceed from his wife!" (pg. 127)

The writing is very eloquent and flowery; the polished work of a seasoned writer. In fact, Fox tried to make a living as a writer, but was never very successful.

The book is 160 pages, but with large margins. So there's a decent amount of content. It's not as good or as long as the books in my top ten list. But it's a classic, and an important look into OBE history; a "must have" for all serious OBE book collectors like me.

Bob Peterson
19 January 2015

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review: Exploring Your Inner Reality

Review: Exploring Your Inner Reality

by Jonas Ridgeway

Today I'm reviewing the book Exploring Your Inner Reality by Jonas Ridgeway. Although it isn't on the front cover, the back cover clearly says A Guidebook For Out-of-Body Travel.

I enjoyed this book very much. It's 167 pages, but its small margins and decent font gives it a lot of content. I apologize in advance if this article runs long, but I put tabs on lots of pages, so there's a lot to talk about.

The book doesn't have any fluff, nonsense or wasted space, although the order is a bit confusing. The author starts out describing his first OBE, which is great, but the second chapter jumps directly to Questions and Answers, which I thought was a bit strange. The questions and answers are very helpful though. One of the questions is "How will I know that I had an out-of-body experience and not dreaming?" In part of his answer, he says:
"If I were to tell you right now that you are asleep and lucid dreaming, you would laugh and say "hogwash!" because you know with every ounce of your being that you aren't dreaming - YOU KNOW THIS - and no one would be able to convince you otherwise. It is the same with a fully conscious OBE - you are certain that you aren't dreaming. The level of consciousness one uses with a lucid dream is not of the same quality as that of an OBE." (pg. 28)
Question 16 is "My OBEs are too short - how can I stay out longer?" His answer is kind of humorous; something I'd never heard of before:
"I have never heard of any projector doing this, but my best technique for staying out longer is by singing." (pg. 34)
Question 24 is "Are things solid to the touch while out of body?" His answer has some interesting observations:
"As far as the etheric body itself, it is solid to the touch. I've touched and pulled on my tongue, stuck my fingers in my ears, licked my arm to see what it tastes like (yes, it was salty, extremely so that it startled me; I'm not sure if I detected the salt in my physical body via an inner sense or if this was a prank from my subconscious)." (pg. 42)
Ridgeway has lots of interesting observations. For example:
"Robert Bruce, in his online "Treatise on Astral Projection", says that if you look at your hands, for example, they will melt away quickly (as a rule, he seemed to be saying). However, I have never experienced any melting of any of my body parts - on close inspection it remains solid, and no mental effort is exerted whatsoever in order to keep it this way. If anything, I would think looking at your hands would reinforce its form, not dissipate it, as you are drawing your attention to what you expect to be there - your hands." (pg. 46)
Chapter 3 is Out-of-Body Predicaments, which is basically about OBE problems and problem solving. Some of these display the author's unique sense of humor, which gives him a warm approachable feeling. For example, he notes:
 "You can put too much emphasis on a command and get more than you bargained for. Usually you will need minimal thought power to get the job done. For example, when you initiate the rolling out of the body method of projection, you may just keep on rolling...off the bed, onto the floor, through the wall or door, and into the next room or even outside. You could even keep on rolling way beyond your house if you don't get a grip and tell yourself to stop. Of course, if you enjoy rolling rather than walking or flying, then fine, be a freak." (pg. 65)
Another interesting observation is this. I've always maintained that trying to consciously increase the vibrations only makes them fade away, and that you need to remain completely passive. Not so, says Ridgeway:
"Some have taken the position that increasing the rate of the vibrations by mental impetus is not possible - that thinking (pushing) the vibrations to increase doesn't do anything. I maintain that it does, as it is obvious the rate of speed accelerates as soon as I "lock in" and exert my will for a quicker pace, nudging it along incrementally, persuading it to gather momentum." (pg. 78)
Readers of my first book may remember the problems I used to have with out-of-body transportation. Ridgeway has some sound advice for that:
"[With regard to flying] You have to learn that proper thinking is your only savior. Thus, a courageous, high-spirited disposition will keep you airborne; a spineless, lily-livered inclination will drop you with no remorse." (pg. 81)

Another interesting and insightful thing is this: Ridgeway normally deliberately flies backwards as a tool to keep his conscious mind from getting distracted and/or interfering with his goals.

Chapter 4 is "Preparations / Preliminaries" and it contains a lot of good advice. He says something I've maintained for a very long time:
"To go through [the astral "doorway"], you must be able to fit - meaning, you must shrink your mental girth (fears, mainly) to an appropriate size. Since you will be conscious, getting a handle on thought control is what will enable you to move out and beyond the body for any extended period." (pg. 87)

I did encounter this oddity:
"Another requirement is a warm environment. Your room temperature should be around 68 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Your body needs to be moderately toasty and comfortable." (pg. 91)
He's right that you need to be warm and comfortable, but to me, warm and toasty is about 73F. If the room is 68F, I'm uncomfortably cold.

Chapter 5 talks about vegetarianism and veganism. Like author Graham Nicholls and others, Ridgeway says that it helps to not eat meat. (I've always been on the other side of the fence, along with author William Buhlman).

Chapter 6 is "Techniques for Out-of-Body Travel" and I found it to be very good, as OBE books go, although much of his chapter is not so much technique as it is general tips and advice. For example:
"You need to become obsessed with OBEs and the idea that YOU can experience them. This is important. You can't just want to leave your body, you must desire it. You should read everything of quality you can about OBEs. You should think about it every free moment that you have. Pound it into your head!" (pg. 107)
This chapter also includes tips for when you achieve the OBE state. This paragraph also shows the author's unique sense of humor:
"Now, once your basic awareness and I-AMness has been acknowledged, in order to turn on the total waking self you should do the following (in addition to the above): realize that while your physical body is asleep, YOU are awake; affirm that you are completely conscious and in complete control; state your full name, address, phone number, and your parents' names; do a few jumping jacks (I'm not kidding), shouting "I'M OUT OF BODY!", and then, finally, when arms akimbo, throw your head back and laugh maniacally (okay, you may skip the cazed laughing part). Yes, I actually do all of these things. The idea here is to reinforce that you have your critical faculties full operating, kind of locking it in, so you don't slip into a regular dream mode again (which is easy to do if you're not careful)." (pg. 112)
Here's another important piece of advice from the "techniques" section that I never gave thought to previously:
"As you feel yourself coming out of sleep do not move your physical body and keep the eyes closed." (pg. 116)
This is a very powerful piece of advice.

The next chapter is "Summary: 7 Steps to a Conscious Projection." It's basically just a bunch of more advice and helpful hints. The 7 steps, which are accompanied by lots of good dialogue, are:
  1. Belief reconstruction
  2. Keep a journal
  3. Read OBE literature
  4. Affirmations (planting the seed)
  5. Body relaxation
  6. Don't try too hard
  7. Separation
The book also talks about the author's attempts at validation. He did some experiments that reminded me of author Frederick Aardema's. He created a deck of 25 pages of notebook paper labeled "1" through "25". Every night for a week, he shuffled them, then put them in a pile with one face up, under his bed. After leaving the body, he crawled down there and tried to see the number. Unfortunately, his attempts at validation failed every time.

It occurred to him that his own expectations might be interfering with his out-of-body perceptions, or perhaps there was bleed-through from the other pages. He even tried to pick up the top page once, and:
"...the target number began sliding around on the paper like an egg in a frying pan." (pg. 148)

He had some pretty insightful discussion about why his attempts failed (although I thought Aardema's discussion about this topic was more fascinating). He noted, for example, that the room appeared quite foggy, which makes me wonder if the problem was due to being too close to his physical body (i.e. inside "cord activity range").

Ridgeway's attempts at validation were not as persistent as some authors (Fred Aardema, and Eddie Slasher come to mind), but he comes to the conclusion that the best evidence always comes when you're not really trying:
"By randomly discovering proof, you have not created any expectation beforehand and are seeing the environment mostly unmodified. Your psyche has not been given the chance to overlay the proof with a false envisage because you have already seen and noted the proof (the grubby paws of expectation was simply not in attendance to mess with your evidential data)." (pg. 145)
This interference caused by expectations is one of the main reasons he likes to fly backwards.

Despite his failed attempts at validation, he shares a few awesome validation stories. In one, he traveled in an OBE to his parent's home, and into his brother's bedroom. He saw a piece of paper atop his dresser with a phone number and a girl's name: "Catherine". He didn't try to memorize the phone number, but later, when he checked with his brother, he confirmed that there was indeed a piece of paper on top the dresser with a phone number and a girl's name. Oddly, the name on the physical piece of paper was "Cathy" not "Catherine," which brings up more interesting discussion.

Ridgeway's mother also had occasional OBEs. The first one was so realistic that she insisted doctors perform a brain scan (which showed nothing unusual). Another piece of validation came from one of his mother's OBEs. She projected from Oregon to Arizona to visit her daughter, Ridgeway's sister. She found her daughter, but was surprised to see that she was now shockingly overweight. A few weeks later, when she visited the daughter in Arizona, she discovered the daughter was pregnant; a fact that she had kept concealed.

Another fascinating report by the Ridgeway is something he calls "The Astral Jukebox." Basically, he discovered that in an OBE, he could listen to any song he wanted, with absolutely perfect reproduction. Eventually, he discovered that he could also play songs (in their entirety) that hadn't been recorded physically. This brings up some interesting discussion: If you hear a Janis Joplin song that was never recorded, is it (a) manufactured by your own subconscious mind? (b) recorded on the astral plane by Joplin herself, (c) a song she recorded once that was lost? or (d) something else? It's all very fascinating. It's definitely added plenty to my astral "to do list."

The grammar, punctuation and spelling were nearly perfect.

This book is very fascinating, insightful, and very helpful for people who want to have OBEs. I found very little with which I disagreed. This is one of the better OBE books out there. It doesn't have many narratives, but every page has lots of good information. I give it a big thumbs up.

Bob Peterson
05 January 2016