Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: The Phase by Michael Raduga - Part 1 of 2

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:
Raduga writes:
"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!

Raduga's Story:

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.
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)
"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.

The good:

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?)

Raduga's Skepticism

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.
Alright, I'll get off that soapbox too.

The bad

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.
  • Rituals
    He seems to poo-poo rituals, although many books recommend it highly.
  • Meditation
    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.
  • Relaxation
    There's only lip-service payed to relaxation, which is of critical importance.
  • Imagination
    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. 
  • Supplements
  • 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
  • Deepening
  • Maintaining 
  • Other tips, suggestions and helpful hints.
I promise I'll be more positive.

Bob Peterson
28 March 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bob's Best of Breed OBE Books

Bob's Best of Breed OBE Books

by Bob Peterson

Many people ask for a good book on Out-of-Body Experiences or Astral Projection. It depends on what you're looking for, right? It's a tough question because each OBE book has a different angle. I haven't updated my Top Ten OBE Books list since November, 2014, so I'm long overdue. This time, I'm going to break it down into categories.

This time I've ranked my top eight OBE books in these three categories:
  • OBE Tips, Techniques & Instructions
  • General Info, Theory, & Speculation
  • OBE Narratives & Story Telling

In addition, I've ranked my top four in these additional categories:
  • Monroe Institute Based
  • Scientific & Skeptical
  • Occult
  • Wiccan
  • Fiction
Many of the books listed are links to book reviews from my blog, so click on them for a full book review.

Disclaimer 1: I own a lot of OBE books, and have read almost all of them. Unfortunately, for some of them it's been too many years. If I don't remember a book, I didn't include it in the list. That doesn't mean it's not good; it just means I don't remember. Eventually I plan to re-read them all, time permitting, and then I might need to adjust the list.

Disclaimer 2: Some books fit into multiple categories, and it was sometimes hard to choose, but I only wanted to list one book per author.

Best of Breed - OBE Tips, Techniques & Instructions

This is what every beginner wants to know--how to do it themselves--right? These are books that have good solid OBE techniques to get you out there exploring:

The Phase Michael Raduga Probably the best instructional OBE book I've read. A wealth of good advice. (Book review coming soon!)
Astral Dynamics Robert Bruce Lots of good techniques and advice. Stresses energy work.
Adventures Beyond the Body William Buhlman A well rounded balance of info, theory and a variety of techniques.
Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience Graham Nicholls A good assortment of creative OBE techniques and general OBE info.
Travel Far Darryl E. Berry Jr. A well-rounded book with general information and techniques.
Leaving the Body D. Scott Rogo An oldie but goodie. Techniques and OBE advice abound.
Out of Body Experiences Akhena OBE Information, techniques, advice, excellent narratives, and validation.
Out of Body Experiences Robert Peterson General information, narratives and exercises after every chapter.

Best of Breed - General Info, Theory, & Speculation

These books include general information about OBEs, speculation about what is "out there" and often contain some techniques and pointers.

Explorations In Consciousness Frederick Aardema One of the best and yet underrated OBE books. Creative and informative.
The Projection of the Astral Body Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington A Classic from the 1920s, but still very much relevant today.
Journeys Out of the Body Robert Monroe The book that got me started. A classic in the field. Powerful.
Out-of-Body Exploring Preston Dennett Good solid OBE information.
Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience Luis Minero Solid information. Brings the subject down to Earth.
Exploring Your Inner Reality Jonas Ridgeway Nice. Good solid info and OBE advice.
Astral Projection Oliver Fox Another classic from an early pioneer in the field.
Out-of-Body Experiences Janet Lee Mitchell, Ph.D. Chalk full of good information. It's been many years since I read it, but I remember it was good.

Best of Breed - OBE Narratives & Story Telling

These books are more geared toward telling the personal stories of those who have had out-of-body experiences, although light on techniques.

Multi-Dimensional Man Jurgen Ziewe Moving, touching, inspiring. A heart-warming ride into other dimensions. Still my #1 favorite OBE book.
The Out-of-Body Experience: An Experiential Anthology Edited by Rodrigo Montenegro A great collection of OBE narratives, many of which have validation.
Astral Projections Michael Ross Small, but well written and heart warming.
The Study and Practice of Astral Projection Dr. Robert Crookall Lots of good stories and speculation about their meaning.
Soul Traveler Albert Taylor It's been a long time since I've read it.
The Astral Projection Guidebook Erin Pavlina Amusing and well written, although a little far-out.
Persephone's Journey Vicky M. Short A heart warming journal of personal growth and out-of-body travel.
Loved Mary Deioma A touching personal journey.

Best of Breed - Monroe Institute Based

These books are for proponents of The Monroe Institute and Focus Level Experiences.

Ultimate Journey Robert Monroe Epic. Much more grounded than Far Journeys
Voyages Into the Unknown Bruce Moen Moen's whole series is good. Soul retrieval in the Monroe Institute tradition.
Cosmic Journeys Rosalind McKnight It's been a while, but I remember it was good.
My Big Toe Thomas Campbell I've never read it, but it comes highly recommended. I do own a copy. Big.

Best of Breed - Scientific & Skeptical

These books were written for the scientific, and often skeptical, person.

With The Eyes of the Mind Glenn Gabbard and Stuart Twemlow Compares OBEs to body boundary disturbances like autoscopy and schizophrenia. Fabulous. Highly recommended.
Beyond the Body Susan J. Blackmore A parapsychologist's view of OBEs. Level headed, although she became quite an outspoken skeptic in later years.
Flight of Mind H.J. Irwin Scientific and very dry, but very informative.
Out-of-the-Body Experiences Celia Green It's been a long time, but I remember it was good.

Best of Breed - Occult

These books are geared toward practitioners of western esotericism, magic and the occult.

Between the Gates Mark Stavish Some good solid out-of-the-box thinking and techniques on OBEs.
Soul Flight Donald Tyson I don't remember much about it, but Tyson's books are always solid.
Astral Projection, Ritual Magic and Alchemy S.L.Macgregor Mathers I own it, but I don't think I've ever read it.
Techniques of High Magic Francis King & Skinner I don't think I've ever read this one either.

Best of Breed - Wiccan 

These books are written for practitioners of Wicca, Druidism, and such. I've never been a fan of these, but I didn't want to discriminate against them either.

The Llewellyn Practical Guide to Astral Projection Melita Denning & Osbourne Phillips Maybe the second OBE book I ever read, in 1980.
Flying Without a Broom D.J. Conway Talks about astral lovers and such.
Astral Projection for Beginners Edain McCoy I don't remember much about this book, to be honest.

Best of Breed - Fiction

These books are purely fiction; novels that have OBEs as a primary theme. I'm sure there are more OBE-based novels, but I'm a nonfiction guy, so I don't focus on them. I have read and enjoyed every one of these, though.

The House Between the Worlds Marion Zimmer Bradley A parapsychologist's OBEs lead to incursions from another dimension! Love this book. Got Anteril?
Kindred Spirits Alan Brennert An OBE love story: Alan Brennert also wrote touching tales for The Twilight Zone.
Flying in Place Susan Palwick If I remember correctly, the main character uses OBEs to escape from her sexual abuse.
Nightflyer Christopher Fahy A teenage boy uses OBEs to get revenge on bullies at school. Maybe not uplifting, but definitely fun.

Of course, OBE books can only take you so far. I hope you explore the state yourself.

Bob Peterson
14 March 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: Practical Techniques of Astral Projection by Dr. Douglas M. Baker

Practical Techniques of Astral Projection

 by Dr. Douglas M. Baker

Today I'm reviewing the book Practical Techniques of Astral Projection by Dr. Douglas M. Baker.

This is one of the very first books I ever bought about astral projection. It has a copyright date of 1977; a couple years before my first out-of-body experience.

The author, Dr. Douglas M. Baker, was a medical doctor who was born in London, but grew up in South Africa where he came into close contact with a large Hindu population, and the native Zulu people. Reading the book, it's obvious that he was also influenced by some older occult traditions: Theosophy and who knows what else. The book is "Gratefully Dedicated to the Master R.B." No, not Robert Bruce. I'm pretty sure he was talking about the great American playwright Robert Browning, who is quoted in the book.

The book was written in another time, when OBEs were not well known, and only a dozen or so other books existed on the subject (Bord, Battersby, Brennan, Crookall, Fox, Muldoon, Ophiel, Shirley, Turvey, and a few others.) Now there are hundreds of books out there and many years of experimentation and experience to draw from. When this book was written, no one knew much about it, and that makes it interesting.

The book is only 96 pages long, but with small font and tight margins, there's an acceptable amount of content, although some of those pages are illustrations (most of which look like the book's cover). Due to the book's age, and the formal English prose, the text is a bit difficult to read, although not that obscure. This is a more formal English; quite a contrast to the vernacular slang of the previous book, Dreamism.

Early on, Baker makes it clear that he writes from personal experience:
"It is difficult to find language sufficiently adequate to describe what happens. I have had many thousands of astral projections and know the procedures well enough, but, nevertheless, must often falter in my explanations for lack of suitable nomenclature." (pg. 14)
Nonetheless, he doesn't narrate any of his own OBEs in the book. He mostly uses other people's OBEs as examples.

Chapter 1 is Leslie Sharpe's Experience, which serves as an introduction to the subject of astral projection.

Chapter 2 is Sensations and Symptoms. He makes some curious observations about the "silver cord":
"I can only speak from experience. In all my many projections, I have never seen a cord, either linked to me or to another person. This does not mean that the cord does not exist. It may be that with my nasty scientific mind, I don't or won't accept that a piece of material like the so-called astral cord can be extended indefinitely, perhaps as much as two hundred thousand miles, say, to the moon." (pg. 19)
He admits there can be a "feeling of linkage" and a source of tugging sensations, but not an actual cord. He goes on to say that the cord is often described "near the umbilicus" by men, but well-known psychic Eileen Garrett described it as "just above the breasts." Nowadays, many people claim people astral project from one of their chakras, thus the heart/solar plexus chakra versus the sacral chakra (or "dan tien" in Chinese/Taoist traditions) (just below the belly button) or the ever popular third-eye chakra.

Chapter 3 is titled Ectoplasm and Clairvoyance. The chapter talks mostly about trance mediumship and Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

Chapter 4 is Separation and the Desire Factor. Here Baker writes about how important desire is to achieving OBEs.

He also writes about two different kinds of astral projection:
"There are basically two types of astral projection. There is the projection which occurs whilst the subject is fully conscious and alert in his waking consciousness and there are the projections which happen whilst the physical body is asleep or unconscious. The types dealt with in this work fall into the second category." (pg. 35)
Or, as I like to think of it, "focus level experiences" (think Monroe Institute initiates like Rosalind McKnight, Bruce Moen, Tom Campbell. Also psychics Ingo Swann, Stuart "Blue" Harary, etc.) versus traditional "out of body experiences." So his book only applies to the latter. He breaks it down even further, saying there are five stages of astral projection:
  1. Just out of alignment with the physical (which happens to everyone when they go to sleep). This includes sensations of falling, The sudden jerk of awakening, etc., plus the fact that we are slightly out of alignment while we sleep.
  2. OBEs that occur near the physical body.
  3. OBEs where the person travels a few hundred feet to several miles away.
  4. OBEs that involve immense distances (like thousands of miles, into outer space, etc.) He claims travelers at this stage can reach the sun, but the distance they can travel depends on how spiritually advanced they are.
  5. OBEs that involve the help of an Adept or Master. He claims that this is the only way to reach very distant targets, like other stars.
Chapter 5, Distant Targets, talks about the last two stages. He writes about an experiment in which Eileen Garrett, whose body was in New York, astrally visited a man in Newfoundland. She correctly reported many facts that she couldn't have known otherwise, like the bandages on the man's head from a recent injury.

Chapter 6, Sleeping Wakefulness, is where Baker gives his first OBE technique. This is interesting because I don't remember anyone else talking about it quite this way. You make your body fatigued (like after a long day of driving), but your mind still alert. Then you lie flat on your back, close your eyes and relax yourself as quickly as you can:
"This must be done rapidly; as rapidly as your might have done at the end of that long drive in your automobile! It is just as if your body is a sack of corn that is suddenly thrown on the floor.
The next thing to do is to hold an attitude of rejection in your mind. You must reject, for the time being, the whole world and all its claptrap." (pg. 56)
Chapter 7 is another OBE technique called Visualizing the Target. This is basically the same as William Buhlman's "Target Technique" but Baker wrote about it almost 20 years before Buhlman. You pick a target object , memorize it, then use it as the subject of intense visualization.

Chapter 8 is Five Prerequisites for Success. The five are:
  • The Will
  • Reflex Visualization
  • Sleeping Lightly
  • Development of a Critical Faculty
  • Breathing
I agree that these are all very important things to bear in mind. You need a strong will and desire to get out. You need good skills at imagination (preferably visualization). The notes about "sleeping lightly" are interesting. He claims if you're a deep/sound sleeper, it will be hard to achieve OBEs:
"Sleeping lightly brings an awareness of spiritual planes. It is a prerequisite of controlled, efficient astral travel." (pg. 69)
The fourth prerequisite, "Development of a Critical Faculty" is basically a well-known lucid dreaming technique. You constantly question everything. You look for anomalies and discrepancies in life. You look for keys that might trigger lucidity when you're dreaming, then you turn the lucid dream (although he doesn't call it that) into an OBE, as famously described by author Oliver Fox in his book Astral Projection.

Oddly, Baker does not mention lucid dreaming at all, or anything remotely like it. Also, he always calls it astral projection, never an OBE. (I think my hero, Charles Tart, might have coined that phrase).

The fifth prerequisite, "Breathing" goes back to Pranayama techniques of the Yogis. He describes a technique called "Bellows Breath" which was supposedly a secret occult technique kept hidden for many years. This may be one of the earliest books to describe it in detail (although my brother Joe, who runs the website esotericarchives.com, might know of earlier descriptions).

Chapter 9, Adventures on the Astral Plane, is kind of a grab-bag of things.

On page 82, Baker writes about "The Dweller on the Threshold". Not many authors tackle this subject, but it's an important one. Basically, I've always believed the "dweller" is a variety of "fear tactics" your subconscious uses to make sure you don't achieve OBEs until you're ready to handle it. It will throw scary stuff your way, and you have to face it down and keep your emotions / fear in check. Baker writes:
"No man may take the third Initiation without confronting his Dweller, facing up to its challenge and destroying it. He destroys it when he knows it for what it is, an illusion constructed out of his own fears." (pg. 82-84).
Chapter 10 is Astral Influence on World Affairs. He talks about trying to influence members of the British government with regard to entering into an agreement (a precursor to a European Union, which Baker was against).

Lastly, let's talk about the subject of astral sex and lucid dream sex. Lucid dream experts have written extensively about using LD for exploring sexual fantasy and how convincingly real it feels (Patricia Garfield, Robert Waggoner, Charlie Morley, etc.)

On the other hand, not much has been written about sexual encounters in OBEs. Robert Monroe wrote about some sexual encounters in his OBEs, but it wasn't much like LD sex. Experts tend to agree that sexual encounters in an OBE are more like a melting or melding of souls, or a chemical reaction between the astral bodies, or even explosions of intense energy (that's been my experience). In other words, not anything like physical or lucid dream sex. Mind-blowing, perhaps, but not much like the real thing.

On page 90, Baker makes some curious observations about "The Sexual Factor in Projection". I said earlier about how Baker never mentioned lucid dreaming. This is born out in his writings. He claims that any kind of sexual desire will send you careening back to your body.
"All men know that the male dream of life is often filled with sexual themes. They also discover, very quickly, that the culmination of a sexual theme in its logical conclusion, orgasm and ejaculation, cannot be accomplished WITHOUT WAKING. The sharpness of sensory feeling on the astral plane of the dream world is nowhere near to the refined and exquisite capacity to feel on the physical plane. A man has to come through to physical wakefulness to complete his sexual experience."
"This consideration is important because experimentists in astral projection report that if temptation is not resisted there is a hasty return to the physical body." (pg. 90)
 He also writes:
"Both Sylvan Muldoon and Oliver Fox describe how yielding to the irresistible temptation (irresistible, at least to their astral forms) to attract the attention of a charming lady, had sent them hurtling back to their physical moorings." (pg. 92)
Though somewhat short, the book does make some interesting observations. It's interesting to read it in the light of how little was known about OBEs at the time it was written.

The writing is professional; maybe a little too formal, which makes it a bit stiff and sterile. It was professionally written, organized and edited. I didn't find a single problem with the grammar or spelling.

I'll give it 3 stars: It was good; it just wasn't great. I didn't find anything I greatly disagreed with. The information was solid, but now out of date. The book was a bit short and could have gone into more subjects and had a lot more detail. It would have been nice to get some narratives from the author's many OBEs. But considering I only paid $4.95 for it in 1980, it wasn't bad.

Bob Peterson
07 March 2017