Review: The Phase - Part 1 of 2
by Michael Raduga
Today I'm reviewing The Phase by Michael Raduga. This is part one of a two-part review. Once again, I have to apologize for the length, but there's a lot to talk about in this book!
I first heard about Michael Raduga's work several years ago when a group of OBE-loving friends insisted I watch the author's video The Phase. My initial reaction to the video? I thought it was just over-sensationalized hype. I thought Raduga was trying to make Out-of-Body Experience into something it's not; that he was using a pretty blonde in bed with skimpy clothes to make it sell. He seemed like a self-important man with an over-inflated ego, trying to hijack and re-brand the timeless concepts of OBE to make them sound like his own important scientific discoveries. He says things like:
"It is probable that men and women of the future will have a conscious existence in two worlds. For now, however, this can only be accomplished using the special techniques described in this book." (pg. 56)Yeah. Right. Only his techniques, right? And not just OBEs: he was trying to hijack virtually every altered state of consciousness (ASC).
What did my OBE-loving friends think? Let's just say they weren't as nice! Still, lots of people vouched that the book was good. (And it is!)
I couldn't ignore the fact that Raduga offered the book for free online at his website: http://obe4u.com/, so maybe he's not in it for the money, right? I hate reading books online, but I read several pages and it was really good. I thought, Hmm...Maybe his motives are altruistic after all.
Then I went to amazon.com and found out the paperback cost $24.99! I thought, Hmm...Maybe his motives are simple greed after all. The price put me off a couple more years.
Finally, I broke down and just bought it. And guess what? It's the best OBE "technique book" I've ever read. As you can tell, I feel very conflicted about it. I wanted to hate this book, but instead I love it.
The Phase is so good that halfway through the book, I had flagged more pages than I had with Robert Bruce's Astral Dynamics, which is a tough act to follow. For a while, I was putting flags (sometimes multiples) on almost every page. I knew then I'd have to split the review into multiple parts or it would get too long. This week I'm going to focus more on the negative side of the book, but in part 2, I promise I'll focus more on the good things in the book: the techniques.
Terminology: What is the Phase?
"The Phase" is Raduga's term for pretty much every altered state of consciousness (ASC), including out-of-body experiences (OBEs), lucid dreaming (LDs), Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), Alien Abduction experiences, awareness during sleep paralysis (ASP), false awakenings, and more. According to Raduga, it's all the same thing: It's all "the phase".
It reminded me of the Ancient Aliens Meme guy. You know: the guy who says everything is because of aliens. This guy:
"The Phase is not some alternative to all the other jumbled terms out there, but is the unification of them all." (Pg. 11)That includes a wide variety of religious experiences as well:
"It's quite probable that some religious miracles are nothing more than misinterpreted spontaneous phase experiences. And since people in the 21st century still don't understand what happens to them upon awakening, that should come as no surprise." (pg. 35)Well, actually, I have to agree with this last part.
So Raduga calls almost every ASC "The Phase." He also calls the physical body the "Stencil Body." He calls a failed OBE attempt or a premature return-to-physical "a foul." I hate it when authors try to create their own special terminology for OBEs. I complained about it in my review of Luis Minero's (very good) book Demystifying The Out-of-Body Experience and others. I felt like he was trying to steal the phenomenon from everybody else, or dupe everyone into thinking that he has a special understanding that supersedes all other authors; that he is the definitive expert. (A similar tactic of introducing special nomenclature is often used by cults. Eckankar comes to mind, but I digress.) Still, as I've said before, OBE terminology does have too many obsolete and/or occult connotations, so who am I to judge, right? Thankfully, Raduga doesn't go overboard. These are really the only special terms he uses.
My "OBE versus Lucid Dream" Soap Box
I've always believed that OBEs are different from lucid dreams. Raduga insists they're the same:
"There are many reasons to classify lucid dreaming (i.e. dream consciousness) together with out-of-body travel. This is not only because existing research and a massive number of peoples' experiences easily prove it..." (pg. 87)Woah. Woah. Woah. Stop right there. I'm sorry, but that is conjecture, not proof. I want references, statistics, and scientific papers cited, plus cold hard facts, or it doesn't mean squat. Just because Stephen LaBerge or the Lucidity Institute says something, doesn't mean it's true. My belief that they're different is based not only on personal experience (turning lucid dreams into OBEs for 38 years), but also the findings of accredited experts such as professional psychiatrists Glenn Gabbard and Stuart Twemlow (With the Eyes of the Mind, 1985), lucid dreaming experts like Robert Waggoner (Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, 2008), and OBE experts like Graham Nicholls (Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience, 2012). My views are clearly explained in this blog article: Are OBEs the same as Lucid Dreams? Raduga goes on to say:
"(continued) There are a number of questions that adherents of dividing phase phenomena into various states cannot answer. First, why do lucid dreamers and out-of-body travelers use the very same techniques to achieve their states, but merely call the result by different names?..." (pg. 87)I'll bite. Answer #1: Some authors do seem to confuse the two for one simple reason: Unless you've made the transition from one to the other, it's hard to tell the difference. OBErs often don't use the same techniques. OBE techniques often approach the experience from a waking state (entering sleep), whereas lucid dreaming techniques are often a form of conditioning and take effect during REM sleep.
"(continued) Second, why are the fundamental properties of the out-of-body plane and lucid-dreaming world exactly the same?..."Answer #2: They're not, as explained in the article. For example, eyesight and body image are different. In a lucid dream, you have a lot more control over your environment and get pulled along a story line, whereas in an OBE, it's harder to change your environment, and there's no story line. He also asks:
"(continued) Third, if the world of dreaming can take on any external form with any properties, then how does one differentiate real exit of the soul from the body into the physical world - or a parallel astral one--from a simulated dreamscape?" (pg. 87)Answer #3: That's also answered in the article. Bear in mind that lucid dreams can be as realistic as waking life, so how do you tell the difference between LD and waking life? Sometimes you can't (resulting in false awakenings). In an LD, you know you're dreaming. In an OBE, you know you're not.
"Many can offer theoretical explanations, but not one that can be applied or proven in practice." (pg. 87)Nor can Raduga, LaBerge, or anyone else prove otherwise, right? Raduga later says:
"Notably, the phase is accompanied by rapid eye movement (REM), which every human experiences for up to 2 hours each night, and this begins to explain the phase experience as entirely safe and natural." (Pg. 97)While it's been proven that lucid dreams occur in REM sleep, OBEs often don't. Here are five different examples:
- In Charles Tart's lab experiments on OBEs, the EEG showed the subject in Theta waves, not Delta.
- Monroe Institute Focus Level "OBEs" (such as Robert Monroe, Bruce Moen, Rosalind McKnight, Tom Campbell).
- OBEs in which the body remains animated (such as Ingo Swann, Stuart "Blue" Harary, and Eileen Garrett).
- Scientific studies on brain blood flow during OBEs (such as Yasuhiro Inui and Hideyuki Kokubo, 2009).
- Countless Near Death Experiences (NDEs) featuring an OBE which occur outside of REM sleep, and sometimes with the brain's neocortex completely shut down (such as Eben Alexander's NDE).
Alright. I've harped on this enough. I had to get it out of my system. Don't get me started!
The book starts by talking about OBEs, how he got into it, and what he learned. This was actually quite entertaining.
He grew up in an unforgiving rural Russia where he became interested in OBEs. On page 9, he talks about reading "in one book" that you could pinch someone during an OBE and leave a real bruise, but the experiment has never been successfully replicated. He doesn't say whether he tried this experiment himself, but much later in the book he writes:
"...Nor is it possible to pinch someone in the phase and then to find a bruise on the person while in reality." (pg. 228)He didn't mention it was actually Robert Monroe in the classic Journeys Out of the Body who made this claim. So Monroe probably influenced Raduga (just as he influenced me). From that point on, he was hooked. Like me, he became an OBE junkie. He dedicated his life to learning and teaching how to get to "the phase." Through experimentation, he slowly figured out what led to successful OBEs and his skills improved. How good did he get?
"If at the beginning I was happy to have one experience a week or fortnight [every two weeks, for us Americans]; now I was able to enter the phase several times within 24 hours, although far from every attempt of mine was successful." (pg. 12)That was only the beginning. Chapter 2 is "The Search for an Answer".
Raduga moved to Moscow where he had a wider audience. He did what he could to survive, and could barely afford to eat. He wrote down what he learned, and eventually started teaching it. In his OBE seminars he quickly learned that the techniques that worked for him didn't always work for others. So he documented what worked and what didn't. He did hundreds of questionnaires, and refined his techniques to include what worked for others. Pretty soon he was able to get a remarkably high success rate at his classes.
"Having reached that level, I no longer took seriously any source of information on such subjects if it had been based only on its author's experience. Such sources were dead ends." (pg. 25)In other words, his techniques are superior because they've been proven effective by others, not just for himself. (Another dig against every other OBE author. But that doesn't make it false.) He did learn tricks and got better at it himself:
"The 70 percent success rate I achieved during my time in Moscow was considered to be the upper boundary. After all, seven successful attempts out of 10 are not bad. But now with the indirect method performed upon awakening, my success rate approached 95 to 99 percent. Unsuccessful attempts also started to surprise me, just as the phase itself had at the very beginning." (pg. 28)Chapter 3 is "The Answer". Much like William Buhlman, he tries to tie his phase theories to quantum physics:
"I gradually began to notice that even the small details of the phase space seemingly behave according to the rules of quantum physics. Moreover, if we look at quantum physics through the prism of the phase, then there's nothing strange about it!" (pg. 45)In fact, the book has several quips from quantum physics. They have little to do with OBEs, but they're still very interesting. On the next page, he writes:
"For example, back when I was 18 or 19 years old, I discovered the main law of the phase, and understanding it allowed me to use the phase and control it: the stability and realism of the phase are directly proportional to the degree of perception in it. As long as your senses are concentrated on something--that something is there." (pg. 46)This makes perfect sense to me: I've talked about how the "astral body" is very much like Schrödinger's Cat: it exists when you focus on it, but pretty much disappears if you don't. I sometimes call it "Schrödinger's Astral Body." That's because, regardless of whether you're "in" the body or not, you literally create your own reality. We literally form our experiences as we go, based on the sense data we receive (and a running commentary to go along with it).
This is more than just a new age/Jane Roberts/"Seth"/The Secret/Law of Attraction concept of creating your own reality. In fact, your brain is constantly building a virtual world which you interpret as "experience" whether in-the-body, in an OBE, or having any other experience.
"This and numerous similar experiments illustrate a very frequently used ability of the brain: The ability to immerse us in the virtual world that it is constantly building." (pg. 48)In the OBE state, we just receive different data.
"Scientists studying quantum physics and biology increasingly say that consciousness is not a product of our world, but its creator. The world itself does exist, but not in the way we're used to. The physical world with its tangible matter exists only in our pseudo-realistic perception of it. It's no coincidence that all the paradoxes of the quantum world consist in results being different when things are under observation, and when they are not under observation." (pg. 49).
"Either way, what we consider to be the "physical world" is in any case just the virtual reality of our minds. Everything that you see around you now is not the real world, but a copy or parody of it in your mind space." (pg. 49)It gets better:
"The phase is reality, or reality is the phase.And:
That is to say, either physical reality is nothing other than the phase, but with very stable phase space thanks to persistent signals from the sensory organs of the physical body, or--the phase is nothing other than physical reality, but with sensory organs deactivated, which collapses the absolutely stability of the space around us." (pg. 50)
"This brought me a chuckle, and even joy, as it pointed at my main mistake: The phase shouldn't be seen as a distinct entity from reality--they are one and the same." (pg. 51)And:
"We are always in the phase. The difference is that in the waking state, the phase space is straight-jacketed and stabilized by the external sensory organs." (pg. 52)That's deep. That might even be deeper than Frederick Aardema's (outstanding) discussion of the nature of perception.
Theories aside, most of the book is spent teaching valuable techniques, tips and pointers to get you to the "phase" state (More about that in part 2).
The margins are small, the font is tiny, and it's 340 pages, which means there's a lot of content, and it's almost all good content. There is almost no redundancy, no cutting corners, no nonsense, and nothing unnecessary. Most of the book is about achieving "the phase." If you want to experience an OBE, this is the book to buy. If you have enough dedication, this book will get you there. It's all about technique, what to do and what not to do, what works and what doesn't work.
Unlike almost every book in the field, this book has truly innovative and highly effective OBE techniques, tips, suggestions and helpful hints.
I liked that the author included several of his own "phase" narratives, as well as the narratives of others (There are even a couple OBEs from Facebook friend Jaime Munoz Lundquist, who also appears in the Phase movie.) He is definitely speaking from experience. He also critiques several OBE narratives to illustrate what went wrong, and why, so that you can benefit from the mistakes of others.
Raduga's own narratives were interesting, but, strangely, not any more so than countless others I've read. (Which begs the question: if Raduga has several "phase" experiences per day, why doesn't he brag about more interesting encounters on par with, say, Jurgen Ziewe or Frederick Aardema?)
Make no mistake: Raduga is careful to distance himself from metaphysical explanations of OBEs. He states:
"...it makes no difference at all what the practitioner considers the nature of the phenomenon to be, including if he sees esoteric or mystic motifs in it. Everyone has the right to their own outlook and it is by no means the aim of this book to influence any life philosophy or encourage it toward some theoretical bent. What's most important is that the reader be able to get real practice with the phenomenon." (pg. 86)Later in the book, his skeptical attitude is made more clear with passages like this:
"The phase space is similar to the physical world, and a practitioner may be inclined to think that the soul has left the physical body. Sometimes the phase takes on an absolutely unnatural form. As a result, the practitioner may decide that a parallel world has been entered: the world beyond, the astral plane, mental space, or the ether. Although travel in the phase can lead to many places, this does not mean that the phase allows travel through or use of actual, alternate worlds. The practitioner should be reasonable." (pg. 228)In chapter 13, Putting a Face on the Phenomenon, Raduga has photos of some of the pioneers of "the phase" along with a few paragraphs explaining their main contributions: Stephen LaBerge, Carlos Castaneda, Robert Monroe, Patricia Garfield, Sylvan Muldoon, Charles Leadbeater, Robert Bruce, Richard Webster, and Charles Tart. I was hoping this would be a tip of his hat to the Founding Fathers of OBE. Unfortunately, I felt like many of these descriptions were just an excuse to get in digs and point out the shortcomings of these other authors. For example, in his section on Sylvan Muldoon, he writes, in part:
"He had repeated experience with the phenomenon, but was still unable to become an advanced practitioner due to a lack of full control over the practice." (pg. 251)I disagree. In my opinion, few people today are as adept or advanced as Sylvan Muldoon was in the 1920s.
And what about all those other OBE pioneers he seems to have forgotten?
- What about Oliver Fox (aka Hugh George Calloway) who practically discovered lucid dreaming before it was called that?
- What about Robert Crookall who wrote many books about the symptoms, common factors and phenomenon of OBEs across time and culture?
- What about Glenn Gabbard and Stuart Twemlow, who did extensive analysis on OBEs in the field of psychology and psychiatry?
- What about Paul Twitchell who formed his own religion (some would say cult) around it?
- What about William Buhlman? Buhlman deserves to be on the list more than Leadbeater.
This book does have many shortcomings, and I'd be remiss if I didn't list them. The biggest thing is that, in my opinion, the author ignores, glosses over, or openly discourages some of the factors other authors find critically important to inducing OBEs, such as:
- Subconscious conditioning and desire
Raduga seems to treat the subconscious mind like some kind of drone, or robot to be ignored, or at best, programmed. There's a whole dimension of self-programming the author seems to gloss over.
He seems to poo-poo rituals, although many books recommend it highly.
There's no mention of meditation practices, such as clearing the mind and stopping the inner dialog.
- Focus Levels
There's nothing about other kinds of OBEs, such as Monroe's focus levels.
- Energy work
The author doesn't recommend any kind of energy work. There's nothing about chakras, T'ai chi, Qi-gong or anything remotely like Robert Bruce's energy bouncing exercises, which IMHO, are golden.
There's only lip-service payed to relaxation, which is of critical importance.
Like many other authors, I believe it's critical to develop and exercise a strong imagination, and the ability to visualize. The book ignores it completely.
- Breath Work
There's no mention of breath work, pranayama, bellows breath, etc.
- Diet, Exercise, Health, alcohol, and so forth, are barely mentioned.
- Lucid dreaming
Lucid dream induction is given lip-service, but not given enough attention.
As a matter of fact, he poo-poos most of these practices:
"It must be said that various diets, exercises, rituals, and so forth do not produce noticeable supplementary effects to proper practice of the phase...Thus, methods recommending overeating, undereating, or tormenting oneself with various diets and strange exercises are useless and ultimately detrimental to a practitioner's wellness and balance, invariably producing a negative impact on the effectiveness of the techniques taught in this guidebook. Additionally, no meaningful association has been found between practice of the phase and what may be construed as 'bad habits.'" (pg. 88)The same goes for drugs and herbal supplements such as Mugwort and African Dream Root:
"Various chemical substances and herbal supplements have been recommended to assist phase entrance, though using them is unlikely to do any good, and use of these has never yielded the effect that can be achieved through unadulterated practice. As such, the use of a chemical crutch is regarded here as completely unacceptable." (pg. 96)Don't be discouraged by my negativity or its shortcomings. This is definitely a five-star OBE book. It's top notch and well worth the price. Love it or hate it, this is probably the best "technique" book out there.
From the desk of the grammar Nazi:
Although the author is Russian, (not a native English speaker), the writing and editing are top-notch and professional, although I did find many mistakes; mostly just missing articles like "the." He uses passive voice way too much, which makes it harder to read: like a textbook. Even so, the writing was impressive for a second language. I expected the worst, but was actually very impressed with his writing.
Next time, in part 2 of my review, I'll cover "How to Enter the Phase Today". This is the technique section, where the book really shines. This will include in-depth descriptions of these topics from the book:
- The Indirect Method
- The Direct Method
- Becoming Conscious While Dreaming
- Non-Autonomous Methods
- Other tips, suggestions and helpful hints.
28 March 2017