Review: Astral Odyssey
by Carol Eby
Today I'm reviewing Astral Odyssey: Exploring Out-of-Body Experiences by Carol Eby. The book is copyrighted 1996.
I love this book, and I love the author, Carol Eby. Partway through the book, I actually found myself fantasizing about "what might have been" if I had met her before I met my wife of 32 years, Kathy, in 1988. It might have been a match made in, well, yes, Heaven. Or at least the astral plane. From her writing, she just seems like a kindred spirit. Why am I so enthralled? I suppose it's because she seems a lot like me, and her journeys seem to parallel my own. She shares my same scientific bent, my insatiable curiosity, and my same objectivity.
The book has many OBE narratives, which won my heart, none of which were over-the-top or ostentatious. They're just ordinary OBEs, chronicles of her experiments with the non-physical, and her personal observations. Like Robert Monroe or William Buhlman. From the start she tells us who she is (a chemist by profession) and how she got involved with OBEs.
Toward the beginning of the book, Eby lives alone in a cabin in the secluded forests of the Black Hills of South Dakota, not far from Mount Rushmore. I currently live in a forest in rural Minnesota and many of my early OBEs happened in my mom's cabin in a somewhat secluded forest of Minnesota.
Her first OBE was on May 5, 1978, just a year and a half prior to my own first OBE on November 2, 1979.
The first two thirds of the book are an introduction to the subject of out-of-body experiences, and like a good scientist, she cites references for important statements. Lots of references. And her references aren't for the timid: she presents findings from authors like H.J.Irwin, Herbert Greenhouse, D.Scott Rogo, Susan Blackmore, Sylvan Muldoon and others, and not just books, but scientific articles as well: Eby's really done her homework.
Eby spends a lot of time analyzing the various states of consciousness, both from a scientific point of view, and from her own personal experience. She spends a lot of time describing and analyzing the phases of sleep, especially the hypnagogic and hypnopompic states; a lot more than other OBE books. She discusses the various sleep states and the transitions from one to the other. For example:
"Sometimes when I go from an OBE into a dream, it is similar to going from a normal waking state into a dream..." (pg. 18)
"Passing from a dream to an OBE is similar to passing from a dream to physical wakefulness, only instead of awakening in my physical body, I awaken in my astral body, which can be in the same room as my physical body, in another part of the house, or farther away." (pg. 18)
I loved this passage:
"The first time I voluntarily left my physical body and entered the astral plane fully alert, I was astonished that my consciousness actually could exist outside my physical form. As is typical of others who have had even brief OBEs, I no longer believed I had a 'soul,' I knew it. I was amazed at how absolutely solid and real the astral plane appeared--as convincing as physical waking reality..." (pp. 125-126)
I know for sure Carol Eby speaks from experience because she describes things in the OBE state that many books don't, and things I've personally experienced. For example:
"I have also heard ordinary sounds distorted with a strange, eerie, off-key resonance; my voice and my piano have sounded tinny and out of tune." (pg. 130)
That's spot on, and it's something I've personally experienced, and is very rarely talked about.
She also talks about how, in an OBE, you kind of lose your sense of orientation. The walls or ceilings can seem like floors, and she describes that quite well too:
"The strange thing was that every position felt right side up, which made viewpoint and perspective confusing. I was amazed that I could become so disoriented in my own cabin, where I had been living for most of the previous five years." (pp. 165-166)
She's also one of very few people who, during an OBE, saw a figure who looked like depictions of Jesus Christ, which she never expected. (Pg. 134 and pp 204-205)
One thing I found interesting is that she describes a precognitive dream that was bathed in a strange blue light, which is much like Graham Nicholls's precognitive OBEs.
Another thing I found fascinating is how she made a distinction between visualization and hypnagogic imagery:
"It is important to distinguish between two types of mental imagery; one type, caused by the imagination, seems to originate and take place inside the brain, behind and above the eyes, and the other type, hypnagogic imagery, seems to manifest through the inside of the eyelids. Mental pictures caused by the imagination are more deliberate than hypnagogic imagery, which seems to appear by its own volition from outside the mind." (pg. 80)
Eby spends a lot of time explaining the hypnagogic (pre-sleep) and hypnopompic (post-sleep) states of sleep, and most of her OBEs seemed to be from the hypnopompic state.
"Even without a lucid dream, the hypnopompic state is conducive to an OBE. It is necessary to simultaneously prolong the waking process and prevent falling back to sleep." (pg. 99)
There's also a very personal touch. Many of her OBE narratives chronicle her many attempts to contact her friends, primarily "Judi," which often ended prematurely, ended in ADD distractions, or outright failure, which closely echo my own frustrated attempts to contact my friend "LD" (Lisa) in my first book.
Eby presents one OBE with veridical evidence from her friend, Sue. Sue was worried about her friend Bob, and apparently visited him in an out-of-body experience. Bob was working at a pharmacy at the time, and Sue saw him dressed in his white blazer:
"Bob said he knew she had been worried and apologized for the way he had dropped the previous phone conversation. Then he mentioned that while he had been at work, he had said out loud, "I'll call you between 5:00 and 5:30." The other pharmacist, a female, who had been working with him asked, "Why?" Bob, unaware that he had spoken out loud, asked, "Why what?" Puzzled, the female pharmacist asked, "Why are you going to call me between 5:00 and 5:30?" "What!?" Bob replied.
"When Sue heard this, she realized that she had actually been to the pharmacy--in astral form." (pg. 100)
In spite of this, most of Eby's OBEs had elements that did not match up with physical reality, and in a way that makes them more interesting. For example, she would lie down in bed snug under her blankets, but after leaving her body, she saw her blankets crumpled up in a ball on the floor. At the time, she knew full well that what she saw did not match physical reality. And that leads to some interesting discussion about the nature of out-of-body perception: Is it subjective or objective? Is it an echo of the physical world or just mind-stuff? I loved this passage:
"Susan Blackmore, who has written extensively about OBEs, contends that they are internal and that the mental constructions are based upon memory. According to Blackmore, the distortions, omissions, and additions to the astral world reported by so many projectors result from faulty memory, with gaps filled by imagination.
From my experience, I believe that during my OBEs, when aberrations appear in the astral world, my memory is working about as well as in physical waking. When I saw the framed print of the old woman on my fireplace mantel, I knew, from memory, that it was not there physically." (pg. 236)
In chapter 6, "Between Worlds," Eby describes exit symptoms and gives five procedures (techniques) to induce OBEs. In a nut shell, her techniques are:
- From a state of deep relaxation, she uses autosuggestion, visualization of a black screen, and imagination of vibration. If hypnagogic images appear, she "thinks" them away "so that my mental screen remains black." (pg. 153)
That's an interesting idea; I always assume control of them and use them as an anchor to the "other side."
- From the hypnopompic state, sink back and imagine you're rocking back and forth or side-to-side. (This is also one of my go-to techniques.)
- Count back from 10 or 20 to 1, using progressive relaxation and autosuggestion toward having a lucid dream, then dispel the dream.
- From full waking, drift into the hypnagogic state. She says that she either falls asleep or gets up, thinking she's in the physical world, but she discovers she's really in the astral.
- From the hypnagogic or hypnopompic state, visualize any place you want to go. (AKA the Target Technique).
As always, my short descriptions don't match the actual text that goes much more in depth, so by all means: read the book for yourself.
After reading a lot of mediocre-to-bad books on astral projection/out-of-body experiences, it's wonderfully refreshing to encounter a really good book like this.
The book is 244 pages with smallish margins and font (although I didn't need reading glasses), which means there's a lot of good content. The writing was engaging and professional. The grammar and spelling were flawless. There is nothing negative about this book to complain about.
I give this book 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. I would have given it 5 if the techniques section was a bit bigger.
18 July 2023
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