Friday, October 5, 2012

Out-of Body Experiences, Real and Fake. Don't be fooled by how-to books making false claims. Better Ways to Have a Genuine Paranormal Experience.

Six Studies of Out-of-Body Experiences by Charles T. Tart, Ph.D. (PDF HTML) is an interesting paper that describes six studies of out-of-body experiences (OBEs) that Tart conducted himself.

The excerpt below is from the Conclusions section of the paper. It gives a good summary of Tart's findings. He found that an OBE may be one of a variety of experiences. In some OBEs, the mind seems to leave the body. However some OBEs are just illusions. And, in other OBEs it appears that the experience is due to extra sensory perceptions. In these latter type of OBEs the experiencer seems to perceive without using his normal senses, but the mind does not leave the body. What is particularly important in assessing an OBE is whether the experiencer perceives anything that can be verified which he could not perceive with his normal senses. When that type of veridical information is obtained by an experiencer, it suggests the experience is more than an illusion.

The most important point to understand from this paper is that even for people who are experts at having OBEs, OBEs are very rarely veridical and even fewer OBEs are really cases where the mind leaves the body. Tart's findings have implications for people who are interested in trying to learn to have OBEs. Many people buy books and audio CDs that claim to teach how to have an OBE. However, many customers end up feeling cheated because all they experience are a few non-veridical dreams of being out of the body. Understandably, people buy these books because they want to have some type of paranormal experience. I don't mean to discourage people from trying them, they may work for some, but they should have realistic expectation and not be fooled by misleading claims.

My belief, from reading the literature, from personal contacts with other people who have OBEs, and from my own experiences with OBEs, is that spontaneous OBEs, where the OBE occurs without the experiencer trying to have the experience, are the most likely to involve the mind leaving the body and be veridical. The techniques described in books and audio CDs that claim to allow a person to learn to induce an OBE are more likely to produce non-veridical dreams of OBEs. This should not be surprising since most of these techniques involve going into a deeply relaxed state and doing some type of visualization of being out of the body or imagining leaving the body. It seems likely that this could lead to dreams of an OBE if the person drifted off into sleep. Some of these techniques are similar to techniques used for hypnotic induction, and they might induce a form of self-hypnosis. One form of OBEs Tart found to be illusory were OBEs induced by hypnosis.

While I don't endorse any teacher or institution, it is possible that working individually with a teacher or taking a class might produce better results than working alone from a book or CD. Those conditions have been shown to work well for other types of psychic learning. For example, my own experiences learning mediumship occurred in a group class. I also worked individually with a teacher. There is an effect from having a group of people working together that enhances psychic experiences and it is also possible that there may be spiritual entities working with a particular teacher that can help the student. Unfortunately, you can't put those things into a book like an audio CD tucked inside the back cover.

However, there are much better ways to have a genuine paranormal experience than trying to have an OBE and they don't cost money:

Here is the excerpt from the Conclusions of Tart's paper:

I believe that in some OBEs, the mind may, at least partially, really be located elsewhere than the physical body; this may have been the case with Miss Z. At the opposite extreme, as with my virtuoso hypnotic subjects whose experience was vivid and perfectly real to them but whose perception of the target room was only illusory, I believe an OBE can be a simulation of being out of the body, with the mind as much "in" the physical body as it ever is. In between these two extremes, I believe we can have OBEs that are basically a simulation of being out, but which are informed by information gathered by ESP such that the simulation of the OBE location is accurate and veridical. This is a messy situation in some ways, especially because all three of these types of OBEs may seem experientially identical to the person having them, at least at rough levels of description.

Here are some excerpts that from the different studies.

First study:

My participants' descriptions of the target had occasional resemblances to the target materials, but the similarities were much too vague for me to put any reliance upon them.

Second Study:

On the first three laboratory nights Miss Z reported that in spite of occasionally being "out," she had not been able to control her experiences enough to be in position to see the target number (which was different each night). On the fourth night, at 5:57 AM, there was a seven minute period of somewhat ambiguous EEG activity, sometimes looking like stage 1, sometimes like brief wakings. Then Miss Z awakened and called out over the intercom that the target number was 25132, which I wrote on the EEG recording.


The number 25132 was indeed the correct target number. I had learned something about designing experiments since my first OBE experiment and precise evaluation was possible here. The odds against guessing a 5-digit number by chance alone are 100,000 to 1, so this was a remarkable event!

Third Study:

Thus we have only weak evidence that Monroe was actually "out" on this occasion, a result he found as unsatisfactory as I did

Fourth Study:

When Monroe finished his brief OBE he got out of bed to telephone me: it was 11:05 PM, our time. Thus he experienced a tug pulling him from his body within one or two minutes of the time we started concentrating. The portion of his account that I have omitted, on the other hand, his description of our home and what my wife and I were doing, was quite inaccurate. He perceived too many people in the room, and perceived my wife and me performing actions that we did not do.

Fifth Study:

Again we have that frustrating pattern of my research with Monroe of no ESP results clear enough to be conclusive, but not results so clearly inaccurate that I would feel comfortable saying nothing at all happened.

Sixth Study:

All the participants reported vivid OBEs that seemed like real experiences to them. They included journeys to places they knew, like downtown Davis, that were vividly experienced, as well as vivid experiences of journeying to the target room. None of their reports of what they saw on the target table bore any clear resemblance to the targets. A formal analysis was not worth the trouble.

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