Review: Out-of-Body Experiences
by Janet Lee Mitchell
Today I'm reviewing the book Out-of-Body Experiences: How science is helping us to understand the experience of living beyond the body by Janet Lee Mitchell. The copyright is 1981. I'm proud to say that my copy is signed by the author.
People who know me well know that I only have two heroes I idolize: Leonardo Da Vinci and Charles Tart. Both men attempted to bridge the gap between left brain and right brain, the spiritual and the scientific. Both were (or are) scientists, way ahead of their time. Both yearned to understand the relationship between the physical and the non-physical.
Da Vinci is best known for his priceless paintings, but in fact he was an inventor who wanted to invent and sell weapons, among other things. He only painted to make money.
Tart is famous for having done some of the earliest laboratory experiments on out-of-body experiences with the likes of Robert Monroe, and "Miss Z". As a pioneer in consciousness research, and author of famous books like Altered States of Consciousness, I was speechless when I first learned that Tart wrote the foreword to my first book.
Why do I bring this up? Because if I was pressed for a third name, I would have to list the author of this book, Janet Lee Mitchell, and for the same reasons. With a Ph.D. degree, Mitchell is also author of several books on consciousness, and she's conducted lab studies of out-of-body experiences with famous psychics like (the late) Ingo Swann and Alex Tanous. And that's what this book is all about. The book covers not only her own work, but similar studies done by other scientists (including Tart, Celia Green, and many others).
Regarding Swann, Mitchell writes:
"I was convinced of his ability after about six months of working closely with him 2 or 3 days a week." (pg. 4)
Mitchell notes that Swann could make his physical body speak, even when far away from it. She would send him out on missions to report on distant locations. Later, his targets were compared by impartial judges with double-blind standards. Many of Swann's amazing successes are documented in his book, To Kiss Earth Goodbye (which I haven't reviewed) including photos of some of the targets. It's pretty convincing stuff.
One of the first questions Mitchell had to ask was: Was Swann just using ESP, telepathy, or "remote viewing" to describe the targets, or was he "really there" during his out-of-body experiences? To answer that the scientists devised special optical devices that would display different images through different filters and mirrors. If Swann described the contents of the box, he should describe a bunch of discs, mirrors, prisms, wheels, and such. But if he described the image itself, in the proper color and in the proper quadrant of the device, he must be actually "seeing" the image as through the optical box, and therefore he's more likely to have actually "been there." Well, guess what? He described the images.
The book contains a lot more than stories about Ingo Swann. Mitchell writes about OBE author D. Scott Rogo, who had OBEs himself, and how he manipulated hypnagogic images to induce OBEs. In one example, Rogo saw a hypnagogic image in which he was driving a car, so he took conscious control of the image, intentionally crashed the car, and found himself out-of-body. She also says that Rogo's book, Mind Beyond the Body (which I also haven't reviewed) is required reading for anyone interested in OBEs.
Mitchell covers the history of OBEs, with valuable information, (much like Anthony Peake's book) citing some of the earliest OBE reports in modern times, and referencing OBE books I've never even heard of, like My Experiences While Out of My Body by Cora L.V. Richmond.
She also compares OBEs to other well-documented phenomena in psychology such as autoscopy, lucid dreaming, and various body-boundary disturbances. She also covers references of similar things in folklore like the doppelgänger, fylgje, and vardoger.
But much of the book is devoted to the science. Chapter 5 is Evidence from the Lab, and it's not only her lab but others as well. She spends considerable time analyzing the statistics from various studies done throughout the years. She talks about the studies done by Dr. Karlis Osis and Donna McCormick on Alex Tanous. She talks about the studies done on Stuart "Blue" (Keith) Harary in which they counted the meows of Harary's cat, Spirit. It turns out the cat meowed a lot less when Harary was visiting Spirit in an out-of-body state. The cat meowed 37 times during the eight control periods, and not once during Harary's out-of-body visit.
There are also fabulous OBE narratives. One of my favorites is this:
"Sometimes a person will not only be able to see from another location in space but will actually be able to create an effect at a distance, if we can believe the numerous claims. The Landau case is one of the best examples of this. A Mr. Landau reports that in 1955 his wife-to-be often told him about her OBEs. One night he gave her his diary weighing 38 grams and ask her to transport it to his room in her next OBE. Early dawn the next day he awoke and followed her apparition, which backed out of his room across a landing to her room. There he saw her body asleep in bed and then watched the apparition vanish. When he returned to his room he found her rubber toy dog, which weighed 107.5 grams, lying beside his bed. He had last seen it on a chest of drawers in her room. She said the dog was easier for her to transport despite its additional weight, because she had been taught, as a child, never to handle other people's letters or diaries." (pgs. 45-46)
Best of all, Mitchell cites references. At the end of every chapter, she provides a list of references to back up what she says. This is not fluff. This is science.
She also goes into a little of the philosophy behind the scientific findings. For example, she questions: if most scientists are convinced that we're nothing but our physical bodies, why do we speak as if our bodies are our possessions? Why, she asks, do we say things like "My head hurts" rather than "I hurt up here"?
One of my favorite quotes from the book is about the potential dangers of OBEs. I remembered this from when I first read the book in the 1980s:
"My parents did not keep me from walking or tell me I couldn't, even though they knew I might accidentally walk in front of a moving vehicle; they did teach me how to cross the street safely." (pg. 84)
Another poignant quote is a solid counter to the question, "Why in the world would you want to have OBE?"
"If our only experience is in a body, we may well continue to believe that we are a body. If one were born and raised entirely in an automobile, it might have its advantages, but one would never know the joys of being outdoors and feeling the cool grass or warm sunlight directly on the skin. It seems certain that granted the ability to get out of the car just once, one would want to do it again and again to exercise new-found experiences and freedom." (pg. 87)
The book is 128 pages, and is professionally written and edited.
I give the book four and a half stars. It's a must read for anyone interested in the scientific study of out-of-body experiences. Unfortunately, it's probably out-of-print and hard to find. I think I
wrote to the editor to get my copy, and that was a long time ago.
26 July 2022
If you want me to review a book about out-of-body experiences or astral projection, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.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.