"I got up from the ground where
I lay, surprised that I felt no pain or bruising, and moved away.
I saw people running and looked around to see why.
"Then I saw that my body was
still laying in the road and they were running toward that...some
of them passed me as I stood there. I could hear shouts and a woman's
voice crying 'She's dead.'
"And then a feeling (I can
still feel the awful shock of this whenever I recall the incident)
of terrible fear came to me. I knew I had to return to me
body before it was touched. There was a dreadful sense of urgency,
or it would be too late. It is this sensation of dread that remains
"I went back and lay down on
top of myself. And as I did so I felt the hardness of the road beneath
me and all the terrible pains of bruising, lacerations, and concussion
that I was subsequently found to be suffering from...
"I was moving about thinking
I was my normal body...Everything looked normal...my "floating
self" behaved exactly as my physical." 2
The above statement was given by a
woman after she recovered from being hit by a car while on her bicycle.
This experience is commonly called an out-of-body experience, or
An OBE typically consists of the feeling
that one's consciousness is located away from the physical body,
and often this includes an omniscient visual perspective. OBE's
generally last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, though
there have been cases reported in which the OBE lasted much longer.
more esoteric approach to OBE's claim that it is a detachment of
the soul, or the astral body, from the physical body. Supposedly,
the astral body wanders through the physical world, or exists in
an astral plane, which, while encompassing the physical world, extends
to other dimensions. The astral body is thought of as the double
of the physical--it even wears the same clothes--but it has a translucence
which makes it seem like an apparition. It can also pass through
walls and travel at incredible speed. 3
The process of leaving the body is
very similar in many cases. Often, travelers report leaving their
body through the head or the solar plexus, or simply just rising
from their bodies and floating away. Often a silver cord is perceived
attaching the astral body to the physical. Many believe that if
the cord becomes detached or cut, the soul is unable to return to
the body, resulting in death. The idea that one should not wake
a sleepwalker stems from this belief. 3
Once in the OBE state, the experient
typically reports that the experience was vivid and realistic, and
that they were able to see through obstacles and pass through walls.
They also noted that they seemed to be floating or flying, and that
attempts to interact with the physical world, such as picking up
an object or gaining the attention of others, generally fail. 2
While many OBE's occur close to death
or after injury (called induced or enforced OBE's), not all OBE's
occur at life-threatening times. They may sometimes occur when one
is extremely stressed, relaxed, or tired (called natural OBE's).
Induced, enforced, and natural OBE's are what is termed spontaneous
OBE's, and though the majority are spontaneous occurrences, a few
people claim the ability to induce an OBE at will (usually while
in an altered state of consciousness, such as during yogic meditation).
This ability is also called astral traveling. 2
Generally, people who experience spontaneous
OBE's remain in the vicinity of their bodies. However, skilled OBEers
(or astral travelers) often report visits to all sorts of foreign
cities. Despite never having visited those cities, they are able
to describe scenes with such accuracy that it would have been impossible
for them to gather the information from a travel guide. Other travelers
claim to have visited heavenly bodies, or, more commonly, the astral
While some claim that OBE's are nothing
more than brief sensory hallucinations, this explanation does not
account for the cases in which people reportedly traveled afar,
or gained information that they could not have possibly learned
from a hallucination.
Examples of this include OBE's in which
a patient is having surgery; they report afterwards that they were
watching the surgery from above and are often able to give such
detailed descriptions of the events that the surgeons themselves
are flabbergasted. Considering that the patient should have been
unconscious, hallucinations do not adequately explain this phenomena.
interested early psychical research because of what they suggested
about the nature of a soul or some type of consciousness that co-exists
with the physical body. Indeed, OBE experiences often leave the
person with a strong conviction that their 'souls' left their bodies.
In some cases, people who were visited by an OBEer reported seeing
an apparition or feeling a presence at the exact time of the OBE.
Some experiments into OBE's consisted
of a subject who was hooked up to a "plethora of monitors,
registering everything from brain waves to heartbeats," and
a set of objects that were placed out of view of the subject. The
subject was told to achieve an OBE and describe the objects upon
his return. Several successful experiments with Ingo Swann provided
some strong evidence for the existence of OBE's. 3
One series of investigations conducted
by Dr. Robert Morris and astral traveler Keith Harary involved Harary
astral traveling to another room in which a kitten (name Spirit)
was being monitored. During the times that Harary was instructed
to visit Spirit, the kitten's behavior changed drastically.
One interesting point is that, unlike
a dreaming state, Harary's OBE state consisted of slightly faster
heart and respiration rates. And, while Spirit and several other
people in the vicinity were able to sense Harary's presence, it
could not be detected by any physical equipment. 2
However, later experiments aimed at
detecting an OBEer with physical equipment had more promising results.
One experiment, conducted by Karlis Osis of the American Society
for Psychical Research, involved a strain gauge ("which detects
extremely subtle physical movements") that was set in front
of an optical device which concealed the target. "The setup
was such that the image could only be perceived [when one was directly
in front of] the...strain gauge...otherwise, from a different angle,
a viewer would only see overlapping lines." 6
"The psychic Alex Tannous, who
was not told about the strain gauge, was asked to attempt to [astral]
project in front of the optical apparatus [and] describe what he
saw. Osis found that the strain gauge registered significantly more
movement in those trials in which Tannous [was astral projecting.]"
These results suggest that some part of Tannous' mind was indeed
projecting itself. 6
One explanation for an OBE claims that
no part of the mind actually leaves the body, but rather the mind
"expands" to perceive the world from an outside perspective.