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What do the ancient Hindus, medieval civilizations, countless modern-day scientists and spiritual leaders have in common? They’ve all extensively documented the theory of astral projection, or out-of-body experiences (OBE)—the theory that it’s possible for a person to leave the physical body, and experience something beyond the physical realm.
The idea that humans can leave their bodies during dream states is an ancient one. Countless people — from New Agers to shamen around the world to 19th-century occult philosopher Madame Blavatsky — believe that it is possible to commune with cosmic intelligence through visions and vivid dreams experienced during astral projection, also known as out-of-body experiences.
This theory extends across the history of human civilization, touching virtually every corner of the globe—from the above-mentioned civilizations to Inuit, Amazonian and Japanese cultures. Various chapters in the Bible directly reference astral projection. The Yoga Vasistha, an ancient Hindu text, repeatedly speaks of leaving the confines of the physical body. In ancient Chinese scripture, the great Daoist sage Han Xiang Zi was said to have projected his consciousness into a room of people, as he lay fast asleep next door.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll realize similar experiences continue to be reported. The Dalai Lama has said that “consciousness can be trained to leave the physical body”. Studies have suggested that up to 5% of Americans have experienced some form of astral projection. And scientific journals have documented experiments where participants can be induced into an out of body experience.
Can you really induce an out of body experience?
Science Magazine, 24 August 2007
In August 2007, Science Magazine published a study by neuroscientist Dr. Henrik Ehrsson, who had devised an experimental method to induce an OBE in healthy participants. The experiment, involving a total of 42 people, was conducted at the UCL Institute of Neurology.
Dr. Ehrsson conducting an out-of-body experiment.
Participants were requested to sit in a chair and wear a pair of virtual reality goggles. The goggles had two small screens which showed live film recorded by two video cameras, placed side by side, two meters behind the participant’s head.
The image from the left video camera was presented on the left-eye display and images from the right camera fed to the right eye, allowing the person to see a stereoscopic (3D) image of their own image from behind.
In full view of the participant, Dr. Ehrsson stood beside them and used two plastic rods to simultaneously touch the participant’s actual chest out-of-view and the chest of the illusory body, moving the second rod towards where the illusory chest would be located, just below the camera’s view.
“It was quite a vivid experience for most people,” said Dr. Ehrsson. “Many of them giggled and said ‘Wow, this is so weird!’”.
“It’s like having your arm fall asleep.”
“There are several theories as to why people have OBEs,” says David Wilde, a scientist leading a study on OBEs at the University of Manchester. “A common link between them is the idea that in certain circumstances the brain somehow loses touch with sensory information coming in from the body. This triggers a series of psychological mechanisms which can lead to someone having an OBE.”
“It’s a little bit like if you sleep on your arm and lose sensation in it. Only with an OBE, the sensation loss is in the whole body and the brain’s response seems to be to create a feeling of separation from the self.“
How to induce conscious astral projection
In essence, astral projection is a conscious out of body experience – and it can be triggered through both meditation and hypnosis. Once you learn to master these modalities, you can start astral projecting whenever you want. And your astral projections aren’t a result of an external situation or circumstance which you have no control over, like surgery or with drugs.
Relax the body. According to Monroe, "the ability to relax is the first prerequisite, perhaps even the first step itself" to having an OBE. (out of body experience) This includes both physical and mental relaxation. Monroe does not suggest a method of attaining this relaxation, although Progressive Muscle relaxation, coupled with deep breathing exercises (inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3.... until 50 or 100) are known to work well.
Enter the state bordering sleep. This is known as the hypnagogic state. Once again, Monroe doesn't recommend any method of doing this. One way is to hold your forearm up, while keeping your upper arm on the bed, or ground. As you start to fall asleep, your arm will fall, and you will awaken again. With practice, you can learn to control the Hypnagogic state without using your arm. Another method is to concentrate on an object. When other images start to enter your thoughts, you have entered the Hypnagogic state. Passively watch these images. This will also help you maintain this state of near-sleep. Monroe calls this Condition A.
Deepen this state. Begin to clear your mind. observe your field of vision through your closed eyes. Do nothing more for a while. Simply look through your closed eyelids at the blackness in front of you. After a while, you may notice light patterns. These are simply neural discharges. They have no specific effect. Ignore them. When they cease, one has entered what Monroe calls Condition B. From here, one must enter an even deeper state of relaxation which Monroe calls Condition C-- a state of such relaxation that you lose all awareness of the body and sensory stimulation. You are almost in a void in which your only source of stimulation will be your own thoughts. The ideal state for leaving your body is Condition D. This is Condition C when it is voluntarily induced from a rested and refreshed condition and is not the effect of normal fatigue. To achieve Condition D, Monroe suggests that you practice entering it in the morning or after a short nap.
Enter a state of Vibration. This is the most important part of the technique, and also the most vague. Many projectors have noted these vibrations at the onset of projection. They can be experienced as a mild tingling, or as is electricity is being shot through the body. /their cause is a mystery. It may actually be the astral body trying to leave the physical one.
For entering into the vibrational state, he offers the following directions:
Remove all jewelry or other items that might be touching your skin.
Darken the room so that no light can be seen through your eyelids, but do not shut out all light.
Lie down with your body along a north-south axis, with your head pointed toward magnetic north.
Loosen all clothing, but keep covered so that you are slightly warmer than might normally be comfortable.
Be sure you are in a location where, and at a time when, there will be absolutely no noise to disturb you.
Enter a state of relaxation
Give yourself the mental suggestion that you will remember all that occurs during the upcoming session that will be beneficial to your well-being. Repeat this five times.
Proceed to breath through your half-open mouth.
As you breath, concentrate on the void in front of you.
Select a point a foot away from your forehead, then change your point of mental reference to six feet.
Turn the point 90 degrees upward by drawing an imaginary line parallel to your body axis up and above your head. Focus there and reach out for the vibrations at that point and bring them back into your body. Even if you don't know what these vibrations are, you will know when you have achieved contact with them.
Learn to control the vibrational state. Practice controlling them by mentally pushing them into your head, down to your toes, making them surge throughout your entire body, and producing vibrational waves from head to foot. To produce this wave effect, concentrate of the vibrations and mentally push a wave out of your head and guide it down your body. Practice this until you can induce these waves on command. Once you have control of the vibrational state, you are ready to leave the body.
Begin with a partial separation. The key here is thought control. Keep your mind firmly focused on the idea of leaving the body. Do not let it wander. Stray thought might cause you to lose control of the state. Now, having entered the vibrational state, begin exploring the OBE by releasing a hand or a foot of the "second body". Monroe suggests that you extend a limb until it comes in contact with a familiar object, such as a wall near your bed. Then push it through the object. Return the limb by placing it back into coincidence with the physical one, decrease the vibrational rate, and then terminate the experiment. Lie quietly until you have fully returned to normal. This exercise will prepare you for full separation.
Dissociate yourself from the body. Monroe suggests two methods for this. One method is to lift out of the body. To do this, think about getting lighter and lighter after entering this vibrational state. Think about how nice it would be to float upward. Keep this thought in mind at all costs and let no extraneous thoughts interrupt it. An OBE will occur naturally at this point.
Another method is the "Rotation method" or "roll-out" technique. When you have achieved the vibrational state, try to roll over as if you were turning over in bed. /do not attempt to roll over physically. Try to twist your body from the top and virtually roll over into your second body right out of your physical self. At this point, you will be out of the body but next to it. Think of floating upward, and you should find yourself floating above the body. Monroe suggests you begin with the lift-out method, but argues that both are equally efficacious.