An out-of-body experience, is an experience that
typically involves a sensation of floating outside of
one's body and, in some cases, perceiving one's physical
body from a place outside one's body (autoscopy). The
term out-of-the-body experience was introduced in 1943
by G.N.M Tyrrell in his book Apparitions, and adopted
by, Celia Green, and Robert Monroe as a bias-free
alternative to belief-centric labels such as "astral
projection" or "spirit walking". Though the term
usefully distances researchers from scientifically
problematic concepts such as the soul, scientists still
know little about the phenomenon. One in ten people has
an out-of-body experience at some time in their lives.
OBE's are often part of the near-death experience. Those
who have experienced OBE's sometimes claim to have
observed details which were unknown to them beforehand.
In some cases the phenomenon appears to occur
spontaneously; in others it is associated with a
physical or mental trauma, use of psychedelic drugs,
dissociative drugs, or a dream-like state. Many
techniques aiming to induce the experience deliberately
have been developed, for example visualization while in
a relaxed, meditative state. Recent studies have shown
that experiences somewhat similar to OBE's can be
induced by direct brain stimulation. Some of those who
experience OBE's claimed to have willed themselves out
of their bodies, while others report having found
themselves being pulled from their bodies (usually
preceded by a feeling of paralysis). In other accounts,
the feeling of being outside the body was suddenly
realized after the fact, and the experiencer's saw their
own bodies almost by accident. OBE's often occur during
the borderline stage between REM sleep and arousal when
sleep paralysis may persist and dream imagery may mingle
with sensory input.
OBE's are sometimes reported to be preceded by and
initiated from a lucid dream state, though other types
of immediate and spontaneous experience are also
reported. In many cases, people who claimed to have had
an OBE reported being asleep, on the verge of sleep, or
already asleep shortly before the experience. A large
percentage of these cases referred to situations where
the sleep was not particularly deep (due to illness,
noises in other rooms, emotional stress, exhaustion from
overworking, frequent re-awakening, etc.). In most of
these cases, the subjects then felt themselves awake;
about half of them noted a feeling of sleep paralysis.
Consciously controlled and pre-meditated OBE methods
(examples of which are widely available in many popular
books on the subject) are also reported. Some people
have attempted to develop techniques to induce OBE's.
Falling asleep physically without losing wakefulness.
The "Mind Awake, Body Asleep" state is widely suggested
as a cause of OBEs, voluntary and otherwise. Thomas
Edison used this state to tackle problems while working
on his inventions. He would rest a silver dollar on his
head while sitting with a metal bucket in a chair. As he
drifted off, the coin would noisily fall into the
bucket, restoring some of his alertness. OBE pioneer
Sylvan Muldoon more simply used a forearm held
perpendicular in bed as the falling object. Salvador
Dali was said to use a similar "paranoiac-critical"
method to gain odd visions which inspired his paintings.
Deliberately teetering between awake and asleep states
is known to cause spontaneous trance episodes at the
onset of sleep which are ultimately helpful when
attempting to induce an OBE. By moving deeper and deeper
into relaxation, one eventually encounters a 'slipping'
feeling if the mind is still alert. This slipping is
reported to feel like leaving the physical body. Some
consider progressive relaxation a passive form of
sensory deprivation. Waking up mentally but not
physically. This related technique is typically achieved
through the practice of lucid dreaming. Once inside a
lucid dream, the dreamer either shifts the subject
matter of the dream in an OBE direction or banishes the
dream imagery completely, in doing so gaining access to
the underlying state of sleep paralysis ideal for
visualization of separation from the body.
Deep trance, meditation and visualization. The types of
visualizations vary; some common imageries used include
climbing a rope to "pull out" of one's body, floating
out of one's body, getting shot out of a cannon, and
other similar approaches. This technique is considered
hard to use for people who cannot properly relax. One
example of such a technique is the popular Golden Dawn
"Body of Light" Technique.
OBE's induced with drugs are sometimes considered to be
hallucinations (i.e., purely subjective), even by those
who believe the phenomenon to be objective in general.
There are several types of drugs that can initiate an
OBE, primarily the dissociative hallucinogens such as
ketamine, dextromethorphan (DM or DXM), and
phencyclidine (PCP). It has also been reported under the
influence of tryptamine psychedelics including
dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from ayahuasca. Salvia
divinorum has been known to produce symptoms in which
the user is said to be able to leave their bodies and
travel to many places at once. Many users also claim
that they feel as if their "soul" falls out of their
OBE's tend to fall into two types, categorized by Robert
Monroe as Locale 1 and Locale 2 experiences.
In Locale 1 experiences the environment is largely
consistent with reality; other common labels for this
form are etheric, ethereal or RTZ (Real Time Zone)
projections. The onset of this type can be frightening
as intense physiological sensations may be perceived,
such as electrical tingling, full body vibrations and
racing heartbeat. Confusion is common in spontaneous
Locale 1 experiences; the person can believe he has
awakened (or died) physically and panic can be caused by
the realization that ones limbs appear to be penetrating
Locale 2 experiences are less overtly physical in nature
and have much subjective overlap with lucid dreaming.
The subject is immersed in unrealistic worlds, modified
forms of reality exhibiting physically impossible or
inconsistent features. Bright and vivid colors are a
common feature of this form. Robert Bruce considers this
type of OBE to be an Astral Projection.
The OBE may or may not be followed by other experiences
which are self-reported as being "as real" as the OBE
feeling; alternatively, the subject may fade into a
state self-reported as dreaming, or they may awake
completely. The OBE is sometimes ended due to a fearful
feeling of getting "too far away" from the body. Many
end with a feeling of suddenly "popping" or "snapping"
and sometimes a "pulling" back into their bodies; some
even report being "sucked back" into physical form. A
majority describe the end of the experience by saying
"then I woke up". However it's worth noting that even
those who describe the experience as something fantastic
that occurs during sleep, and who describe the end of
the experience by saying "and then I woke up", are very
specific in describing the experience as one which was
clearly not a dream; many described their sense of
feeling more awake than they felt when they were
normally awake. One compared the experience to that of
lucid dreaming, but said that it was "more real".
above courtesy of wikipedia: