Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Review: The Secret of the Soul

The Secret of the Soul

by William Buhlman

Today I'm reviewing The Secret of the Soul: Using Out-of-Body Experiences to Understand Our True Nature by William Buhlman, copyright 2001. This is the first follow-on to his famous first book, Adventures Beyond the Body. It's hard to imagine the book is already 20 years old.

One of my blog readers asked me to review it, but in a way I already did! If you look closely on the back cover you can find this quote from me:

"Empowering and insightful. Contains important new information and techniques." --Robert S Peterson, author of Out of Body Experiences.

I stand by that. The first time I read this book was well before its publication. Buhlman and his publisher sent me a draft copy so I could offer my assessment, and that's where the back-cover quote came from.

According to Buhlman, out-of-body exploration is not just a novelty or some form of entertainment. It's an inevitable step in our spiritual evolution. He sets the stage with a brief preface in which he states:

"Eventually we must master the ability to explore beyond our dense limits, for transcending these limits is at the very heart of our spiritual evolution." (pg. xi)

Much later, he goes into more detail:

"Remember, the ultimate journey of soul is not death but the self-realization of our spiritual essence. Eventually we must make the important transition from religious believer to spiritual explorer. This is the path we all must travel sooner or later." (pg. 132)

And still later:

"It is essential that we take spiritual action in order to propel our consciousness away from the dense gravity field of matter. The great spiritual masters throughout history were well aware of this fact. Buddha instructed us to detach from the physical world and release the attachments and desires that bind us to matter. Jesus taught us to seek first the kingdom of God with all our heart and our entire mind. If you examine the teachings of any spiritual master you will hear a resounding call for spiritual action. Belief and faith are only the first steps of spirituality. Granted, belief is an important first step, but belief alone was never intended to be the sole core of religion and spirituality. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and other enlightened spiritual leaders never taught us to become dependent upon man-made beliefs. Their lives were vibrant examples of personal spiritual action and spiritual exploration." (pg. 141)

Buhlman also addresses the popular yogic teaching that OBEs are just distractions (or "siddhis") from the path of true spiritual evolution. Buhlman writes:

"Some assume that out-of-body experiences are simply a psychic development or power of the mind. As such they are considered a side step in our spiritual development and to be avoided. This narrow view of out-of-body experiences is not only inaccurate but also extremely detrimental to the ultimate goal of self- and God realization." (pg. 183)

I stand firmly with Buhlman on this.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 is "The Testamonies" in which the author primarily covers the results of his public out-of-body survey. The survey results themselves are detailed in appendix 1 and 2, but part 1 is a really good summary of the results and what we can learn from it. Best of all, each of the results is followed by an OBE narrative or two that drives his point home. For example, chapter 1 is all about encounters. There's a section on sexual encounters, contact with spiritual beings, contact with animals, and so forth. On pages 4 and 65 he talks about how people often describe consciously meeting departed loved ones in an OBE, both accidentally and deliberately, and each of his points is immediately followed by narratives from people to illustrate his point.

The survey results are interesting. For example, he found that young children often report a Biblical silver cord, suggesting it may really exist, despite the fact that many people insist it's not. (Pg. 42)

He cites sources not only from his survey, but other historical accounts. For example, he discusses a possible OBE by Charles Lindbergh on his historic transatlantic flight.

On page 75 he talks about "Higher-Self Experiences," foreshadowing his follow-on book "Higher Self Now." He also gives his powerful "Higher Self Now" technique.

In chapter 5, The Thought-Responsive Universe, Buhlman writes about the benefits of out-of-body exploration. I liked this quote:

"It is critically important for us to recognize that our thoughts shape and mold our personal reality." (pg. 81)

He's not just talking about our reality during an OBE, but in physical life as well. I've always believed this is true ever since I read my first Jane Roberts "Seth" book in the 1980s.

He talks about how blind people can apparently "see" during OBEs (as per the book Mindsight) but I found this narrative equally fascinating:

"It was night, and the stars were shining beautifully. Suddenly I heard a voice--I am deaf, and I cannot hear anything--for the first time: "Did you know that you don't have to fly, you just have to think and then you will immediately be there?" When I heard the voice, I panicked, which caused me to return to my body. Darn!" (pg. 87)

So apparently deaf people can hear in OBEs, and I don't recall reading that in any other OBE book.

In chapter 6, Buhlman talks about extraterrestrial contact and abduction, which is a fascinating subject. When I was writing my second book, Lessons Out of the Body, I also devoted a chapter to this fascinating topic. As a source for my comparisons, I used Dr. John Mack's book Abduction. Coincidentally, Buhlman uses the same book for his comparisons. At the time, I had given Buhlman a copy of my book to review at the same time he gave his to me, and I often wondered if he got some of his ideas for this chapter from me. Or could it just be that Buhlman and I are on the same wavelength? I've said many times that he and I are very much alike. Maybe he wondered the same about me!

Part 2 of the book is called "The Techniques" and it's roughly the same size as part 1. Here Buhlman writes detailed instructions for many out-of-body techniques. This is where the book really shines. It has a wider range of techniques than his first book.

Buhlman writes about inner-motion techniques on page 173. These have always been the most effective for me. This includes climbing ladders (and yes, ropes; a staple of Robert Buce), floating, ballooning, rocking (described in my first book), rolling (described in Robert Monroe's first book), rotating, whirlpool/whirlwind (described in D. Scott Rogo's book), elevator, bouncing and extreme-motion techniques. He also talks about chanting and mantras, breath control, visualization techniques, drumming, fasting, Shamanic techniques, sound-and-light technologies, and even plant medicine. This is a very well-rounded technique section: far better than the vast majority of books out there.

In the last chapter, Conclusion: The Courage to Be a Spiritual Explorer, Buhlman gives one of my favorite quotes:

"Eventually you will find that all beliefs are anchors to illusion and that you must break free in order to experience the truth of your existence." (pg. 241)


The book is 264 pages with smallish font, good margins and no wasted space: There's plenty of content to satisfy. It's well-written and professionally edited.

This is an outstanding book, chock full of out-of-body information and techniques. I'm giving it 5 stars out of 5.

29 June 2021

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.

Return to the index of my OBE Book reviews

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Review: The Traveller's Guide to the Astral Plane

The Traveller's Guide to the Astral Plane

by Steve Richards

Today I'm reviewing The Traveller's Guide to the Astral Plane: The secret realms beyond the body and how to reach them by Steve Richards. The book is copyright 1983.

I know I've said this before, but this book is unlike every other astral projection book in the genre. What makes it unique is that it tells OBE narratives, but from a wide variety of sources across time and many cultures. In fact, it doesn't get any wider scope than this. It draws information about astral projection from modern-era to ancient sources like:

  • Robert Monroe
  • Melita Denning and Osbourne Phillips
  • Cornelius Agrippa
  • Eliphas Levi
  • Golden Dawn (MacGregor Mathers)
  • Israel Regardie
  • Theosophy (Blavatsky, Powell, etc)
  • Rosicrucians (AMORC)
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (which he calls "the most complete manual of occult technique ever written." (pg. 80)--Meh, I read it a long time ago and wasn't impressed. Maybe I need to re-read it though.)
  • And other more obscure sources, all the way back to the ancient Greeks like Herodotus and Plato.

At the end of the book are no less than three appendices covering the most ancient NDE (near-death experience) narratives from ancient Greek times from Plato and Plutarch. One of these is the oldest known historical mention of the famous Silver Cord.

Right from the start, it's self-evident that Richards has studied astral projection a great deal, probably for many years, although he doesn't admit to having any experiences of his own.

Chapter 2, "Are the Experiences Real?," discusses what criteria should be used to assess it:

"The projector must make his presence felt by some naive observer at a distant place, or else he must return from his trip with some knowledge that he could not have acquired except by psychic means. Either of these conditions is considered sufficient to establish veridicality. If neither is met, the experience is a fantasy." (pg. 28)

You know how I love a good OBE narrative, and Richards the gives lots of them, mostly taken from published literature, and they're very interesting indeed. Not from contemporary OBE authors like most of the books I've reviewed, but older sources. Like a narrative from famous philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Chapter 3 is titled "Swedenborg" because it focuses on the life and reputation of the famous 1740s mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg, who was the subject of some of Kant's writing. For many years I've thought I should study Swedenborg, but haven't gotten around to it. Richards' narratives make me want to study him more.

Chapter 4 is titled "Astral Sex." Yep, there's a whole chapter dedicated to the subject, and yep, it has several narratives. It talks about encounters with incubus and succubus, and more. He ends the chapter with words from Robert Monroe:

"Compared to the astral experience, he [Monroe] says, physical sex is a mere shadow." (pg. 49)

Chapter 5, "The Kama Loca" is about astral shells (think astral bodies that were discarded after death, but still manage to keep haunting the living), simulacra, and reincarnation, particularly the reincarnation story of a particular Japanese boy.

Chapter 6, "The World of Boundless Light" is about "heaven-experiences" in NDEs and the lore surrounding heaven. In other words, how "heaven" compares in various spiritual traditions: Christian, Hindu, Theosophy, etc.

Chapter 7, "Descent into Hell" is similar to chapter 6, but follows NDE and OBE narratives of various hellish encounters. Contrary to popular belief, not all NDEs are heavenly. Richards cites Dr. Maurice Rawlings book Beyond Death's Door in which he narrates his trip to "hell" as well as other sources such as Karlis Osis. What's so fascinating here is not the narratives, but how they match up compared to other spiritual traditions. For example:

"The similarities here are more striking, though, and there is a different focus. Whereas Swedenborg's Hell is merely depressing, Plutarch's Hell is genuinely terrifying--and so is the Hell of the Buddhists." (pg. 72)

Chapter 8 is "How to Get There." Richards doesn't give a concrete procedure to achieve astral projection, but he covers the basics and how to recognize that you're close, how to react, etc. He makes it sound downright unpleasant and because of that, questions why anyone would do it: ringing in your ears, sleep paralysis, and the vibrations, which he describes as:

"Gradually, his vital processes begin to start up again, and his muscles, oxygen-starved, go into violent convulsions. It is extremely important to maintain rigid self-control during this phase, since these convulsions can be dangerous. They are, in any event, extraordinarily painful." (pg. 77)

That seems a bit over-the-top fear mongering to me. Yes, the vibrations can feel like you're being electrocuted, especially when you're first starting out, but I'd never call them painful. Some authors, such as Nanci Trivellato, even describe them as pleasurable and compare them to orgasm. And they're certainly not convulsions. (My wife would have screamed bloody hell if they were!)

I found this quite amusing:

"I suspect that one has to be an incorrigible non-conformist to do astral projection successfully, and if you find after your first few 'trips' that you still panic, you may want to discontinue your experiments." (pg. 78)

Incorrigible? Hey, I resemble that remark! This was interesting too:

"Now it might be said that you will never find yourself able to project entirely at will. Psychic abilities are cantankerous, and as Israel Regardie pointed out in The Tree of Life, 'sometimes (the Astral Body) simply will not go.' For what it is worth, this problem is shared even by the Masters." (pg. 78)

I can't argue with that. Even the best of us has dry spells.

He does suggest an OBE technique I'd never heard of from any other source. He cites Vyasa's sutras as going further than Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, suggesting visualizing the Sun (in Wood's translation it's referred to as the "door") as ever-expanding and growing, much like Tattwa symbols are used as an astral doorway, as suggested in other books (like J.H. Brennan's Astral Doorways), then stepping through it (and closing the doorway behind you).

The book was fascinating from a historical point of view, and like I said, unlike any other book on the subject. It's worth it for the unique collection of historical OBE narratives alone. It's an older book, so it may be hard to find.

The book's margins are good and the font is very small, so there's plenty of content despite that fact that it's only 110 pages. I'll give the book 4 stars out of 5.

Bob Peterson
15 June 2021


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.

Return to the index of my OBE Book reviews