Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Are OBEs "Real?" - Part 1

Are OBEs "Real?" - Part 1

by Bob Peterson

Many people ask, “are out-of-body experiences (OBEs) real?”. In most cases what they really mean to ask is, “Does something really leave the body or is it a purely subjective experience?”. Or maybe "In an OBE, do we (or can we) witness people, things and events in the physical world?" It's an important question because it may suggest we survive the death of the physical body.

From the subject’s point of view, the OBE is very real. It’s often impossible to convince them otherwise. In fact they sometimes seem so real people convince themselves during the experience that they are actually awake and not in an OBE at all, at least until something happens to convince them otherwise such as floating, passing through walls, or otherwise breaking the laws of physics. This has happened to me many times.

In 2015 Alexander De Foe published the free eBook Consciousness Beyond the Body which examines a lot of the evidence regarding whether or not out-of-body experiences are "real." If you want a critical examination of the evidence, please download the book to your favorite device and give it a read.

At De Foe's request, I donated a chapter to the book. Since some of the evidence was covered by other authors, my chapter was understandably edited down.

In this series of articles, I'll present some of the evidence from the original uncut chapter, plus new evidence uncovered since De Foe's book was published. To be fair, I'm not just going to examine evidence to support the theory that OBEs are real. I'll also examine evidence to suggest OBEs may NOT be real. By the end of the series you can hopefully make up your own mind based on the evidence.

Two Questions

To find out if OBEs are veridical (a real perception of the physical world, not illusory) first we need to address two questions:

  • What qualifies as an OBE? and
  • What counts as evidence of its objectivity or reality? 

The first question, “what qualifies as an OBE?” leads us to the notion of a continuum or sliding scale of awareness. Strong physical evidence suggests that varying amounts of awareness (perceived as nonphysical) can exert influence away from our physical body. (There are many good examples in the book Entangled Minds by Dean Radin, Ph.D.) Studies of telepathy over the past hundred years have proven beyond reasonable doubt that one mind can affect another from a distance, and various theories have been asserted to explain that long-distance relationship. If something (such as quantum Higgs fields) actually leaves the body to transmit the information in cases of telepathy, can OBEs be just a larger, more involved version of the same process? 

Perhaps telepathy and OBEs are two different forms of remote sensory transmission on the same sliding scale. Remote viewing (where evidence is collected and remote locations are ’seen’ in the mind's eye while the subject is still awake and aware of his or her physical body) would lie somewhere in the middle. Perhaps as subjects lose awareness of their physical bodies in an OBE, their perception of this quantum field information is heightened to the point where the brain interprets it in terms of the five senses acting on a non-physical body (commonly called the “astral body” in the literature). 

Future scientific research may lead to the discovery of this quantum field information, but since this is only conjecture at this point, for the purposes of this discussion I'm going to restrict the evidence to OBEs in which there is no awareness of the physical body whatsoever). In other words, the physical body seems to be just another inanimate object in the room. Although OBEs with partial body control or awareness may be just as valid as other OBEs, I'm imposing this restriction to minimize the possibility that the information was obtained by remote viewing, clairvoyance, telepathy and other forms of "in-the-body" extrasensory perception (ESP). 

Evidence from Ingo Swann and Keith Harary

Although many might disagree, my definition of an OBE unfortunately disqualifies some of the best evidence, such as the many successes of the late psychic Ingo Swann (Swann, To Kiss Earth Goodbye, 1975, Mitchell, Out-of-Body Experiences, 1985). In one experiment, Swann claimed to have traveled to the planet Jupiter in one of his “OBEs” and identified rings around the planet in 1973, prior to the Voyager-1 probe's discovery of the actual rings in 1979. This is considered good veridical evidence of OBEs, but it doesn't pass my criteria, since he was still aware of his physical body during the experiment. 

It also disqualifies the OBEs of other famous psychics like Stuart ‘Blue’ (now known as Keith) Harary who did laboratory experiments while still able to narrate what was happening (demonstrating some degree of control over the physical body). In one experiment, Harary was apparently able to remotely affect the behaviour of his cat, Spirit, during some of his “OBEs.” Technicians filmed the animal and counted the number of meow sounds the cat made before, during and after his OBEs. The cat became noticeably more calm and meowed less during his OBEs.

It also disqualifies the “Focus Level” experiences described by proponents of The Monroe Institute (authors Rosalind McKnight, Bruce Moen, Thomas Campbell, etc.) In some cases the subject seems to have retained awareness of their physical body during these “OBEs” and can describe what's going on. Others have reported no bodily awareness, and yet they're somehow able to control their body, and even make it narrate the event remotely from the OBE state. 

The second question, “what counts as evidence of its objectivity or reality?” is a shaky one, and one with a sliding scale that varies from scientific to anecdotal evidence.

On one end of the spectrum is evidence obtained from controlled scientific experiments. Although acceptable by the average person, hardened skeptics can always discount it for any number of reasons: the senses can be fooled, eyewitness testimony is notoriously bad, memory is not reliable, shortcomings of the methodology, cheating, and so forth. 

On the other end, we have loose anecdotal hearsay evidence that equally hardened believers will accept as incontrovertible proof, despite its shortcomings. Yet even the loosest circumstantial evidence is not without value: it is enough to convince the average person, given that the evidence is piled into a high enough mountain. Case in point: most of us believe Pluto actually exists, despite the fact that we've never had direct experience of it, nor even done a critical examination of the evidence to support it. What makes us so sure? Only the mountain of indirect evidence (books and papers from scientists, photographs, gravitational measurements, etc.), almost all of which could have been faked. I might also add that OBEs have similar piles of evidence: more than 200 books, hundreds of papers and thousands of eyewitness testimonials. 

I'm going to break this series of articles into different categories of evidence based on this sliding scale:

  • Laboratory experiments
  • Anecdotal evidence from spontaneous OBEs and NDEs
  • Evidence from OBE adepts, and
  • Indirect evidence. 
Some of this was done arbitrarily, since some evidence fits into more than one category (for example, anecdotal indirect evidence). By indirect evidence, I mean evidence from a third party observer that suggests a subject's OBE may have been objective. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm using the term ‘adept’ simply as someone who claims to have induced multiple OBEs at will (in full disclosure: I fall into this category.) 

Next time, I'll examine evidence from laboratory experiments.

Bob Peterson
20 Oct 2020

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Review: Out-of-Body Adventures

Review: Out-of-Body Adventures

by Rick Stack

Today I'm reviewing Out-of-Body Adventures: 30 Days to the Most Exciting Experience of Your Life, by Rick Stack. The copyright is 1988, which is about when I bought it. I decided to re-read and review it at the request of one of my readers.

I was very excited when I first got this book by Rick Stack mainly because Stack was one of the early students of Jane Roberts and the "Seth" material, which makes him unique in the field of Out-of-Body Experiences, or OOBEs as he calls them. If you don't know Jane Roberts, she was one of the very first "channels" in modern times. She channeled an entity who called himself Seth, and his most fundamental tenant was "You create your own reality (from your beliefs)." This predates "The Secret," the "Law of Attraction," and hordes of others that followed. (If this interests you, my favorite Seth book is The Nature of Personal Reality).

So it stands to reason that Stack's book focuses mainly on changing your beliefs, assumptions, self-talk, etc., to induce OBEs. The book has gems like this:
"If you spur your imagination with belief, desire and expectancy, and train it to visualize your goals so that you see, feel, hear, taste, and touch them, you will get what you want. --Jose Silva" (pg. 28)
"If you want to learn how to induce OOBEs, the place to start is with your own metaphysical assumptions, that is, your opinions and attitudes about your existence and your universe. Individuals who encounter difficulty in their attempts to get out-of-body generally need to examine and alter their belief systems." (pg. 28)
Very "Sethian" indeed. He takes a similar stance on psychic protection and "astral wildlife", i.e. negative non-physical entities:
"Since you create your reality through your thoughts, if you believe strongly in such spooky creatures, you conceivably could manufacture them and then meet your own creations. They will not really be demons, of course, because demons per se do not exist. They will have no power over you, since it is always you and your own ideas, thoughts, and emotions that determine your experience--no matter what dimension you find yourself in." (pg. 54)
Likewise, he stresses the importance of feeling safe, not only in OBEs, but in ordinary waking life as well. Here's an old message for today's troubling times:
"Feeling safe in your world is important not only for work with OOBEs but for your overall spiritual fulfillment. Feeling consistently threatened leaves to the curtailment of creative energy. It's true that we are often bombarded by newspapers and TV programs that constantly try to tell us how powerless we are to affect events in a dangerous world. We do not, however, have to buy this bill of goods." (pg. 66)
As you might expect, affirmations play a big role in Stack's advice about inducing OBEs:
"I often do about eight different affirmations in less than twenty minutes. Experiment with what works best for you." (pg. 74)
Some of his affirmations are:
"Getting out is easy! Anybody can do it! All you really need is the desire!" (pg. 102)
Stack gives a lot of advice regarding how to induce OBEs, such as:
  • Explore your limiting beliefs
  • Use affirmations
  • Record your dreams
  • Analyze your dreams
That naturally leads to the subject of lucid dreaming. Stack's view of lucid dreams is basically that a lucid dream is an upgrade from an ordinary dream, and an OBE is an upgrade from a lucid dream. This is something I've always believed: A lucid dream is an experience in which you know you're dreaming, but an OBE is an experience in which you know you're not!

Stack gives a number of OBE techniques, including:

Technique #1: An early (and quite good) rendition of "Wake Back To Bed (WBTB)" before that term was even coined. He recommends interrupting your sleep after 3.5 to 4 hours of sleep, no longer.

Technique #2: Floating out from the hypnagogic stage (visualizations, etc.)

Technique #3: Inducing lucid dreams and OBEs from the dream state.

Technique #4: The Joy of Flight (Using triggers and dream incubation to induce lucidity)

Technique #5: From the Inner to the Outer, which is basically just waking your awareness up without waking up your body.

Technique #6: Reflection (repeatedly examining your current experience and asking yourself "Am I dreaming?" and such.)

Technique #7: Counting down, which is where you try to fall asleep while counting up: "One. I'm dreaming. Two. I'm dreaming. Three. I'm dreaming..." (Others have suggested "One. I'm leaving my body. Two. I'm leaving my body, etc....")

One of the most valuable lessons from this book is about expectations:
"Once you get going, you will begin to expect to have out-of-body experiences from the sleep state. Thus, you can begin developing a habit of having OOBEs." (pg. 110)
What I liked most about this book is Rick Stack's up-beat enthusiasm. For example:
"The greatest value in the study of OOBEs has little to do with electroencephalograms, rapid eye movements, or even the ability to describe a mountain thousands of miles away. The greatest value is in the exhilaration of being out-of-body oneself, intuitive comprehensions received, and the glimpses of the mysteries of the universe that are available to the bold explorer." (pg. 17)
Stack really understands the value of out-of-body experiences. I loved this quote. It's kind of long, but inspiring:
"Since I'm no longer afraid of or uncomfortable about death, I am more inclined to focus on the reality of life's temporariness and use it for inspiration. This focus makes me want to maximize my life in every way. It helps me understand that the moments I spend with the people I love are completely unique, and even if I will know them in other times or other universes, things will never again be quite the same. It helps me cut through all the nonsense and pettiness that is so easy to think is important. It helps me savor and use my energy instead of squandering it. It helps me give up worry and enjoy my day." (pg. 22)
Stack has a great mixture of personal OBE narratives, techniques, and basics. The book is 150 pages, in a strange double-page format, with small margins. There's a decent amount of content. The grammar and spelling are top-notch.

This is a pretty good book. It won't knock your socks off, but it's solid. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Bob Peterson
06 October 2020


If you want me to review a book about out-of-body experiences or astral projection, send me an email: bob@robertpeterson.org, but please check the index first to see if I've already reviewed it. Also, I've got a huge pile of books I'm planning to review, so don't expect a quick turnaround.

If you like my work, visit my website, robertpeterson.org, where you'll find lots of other free OBE advice and links.

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