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An out-of-body experience (OBE or sometimes OOBE), 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-body experience was introduced in 1943 by G.N.M
Tyrrell in his book Apparitions, and adopted by, for example, 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. Some researchers have managed to recreate OBE in a
laboratory setup by stimulating a part in the human brain. One in
ten people has an out-of-body experience at some time in their
lives. OBEs are often part of the near-death experience. Those who
have experienced OBEs 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, and other natural 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 OBEs can be induced by direct brain stimulation.
Some of those who experience OBEs 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 recipient saw their
own bodies almost by accident. OBEs often occur during the
borderline stage between REM sleep and arousal when sleep paralysis
may persist and dream imagery may mingle with sensory input.
Some neurologists have suspected that the event is triggered by a
mismatch between visual and tactile signals. They used a virtual
reality setup to recreate an OBE. The subject looked through goggles
and saw his own body as it would appear to an outside observer
standing behind him. The experimenter then touched the subject at
the same time as a rod appeared to touch the virtual image. The
experiment created an illusion of being behind and outside one's
body. However, both critics and the experimenter himself note that
the study fell short of replicating "full-blown" OBEs.
The earliest recorded reference to an OBE is in the Holy Bible, 2
Corinthians 12:1–4, in which the apostle Paul describes this kind of
experience. Many other visions of God recorded in the Bible appear
to be similar in nature.
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
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 body.
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 other objects.
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".
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