By: Dawn Colclasure (Dawn@theshadowlands.net)
I used to wear this T-shirt that said, "Out of Body. Back in 5 Minutes." While it got the occasional chuckle from some people who read it, the subject of out-of-body experiences (or OOBEs or OBEs) is far from humorous. The experiences of people who have gone through OOBEs have been frightening, spiritually invigorating, confusing and, well, unexplained.
No one is entirely sure what an OOBE is. Some claim it is the soul's way of visiting the hereafter. Others claim that OOBEs are the subconscious' way of dealing with trauma (some speculate that this is what happened to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). Numerous books and articles have been written about OOBE, several documentaries have been made of people trying to explain them and fiction writers have taken advantage of this phenomena in the form of short stories, novels and episodes of TV series such as The X-Files.
What is an OOBE? An out-of-body experience, or OOBE/OBE, is when you are aware of being outside of your body. Sometimes you will see your body, sometimes not. Sometimes you will interact with others on the spiritual plane, sometimes you won't. The out-of-body experience is known by many other labels: Astral projection, astral travel and psychic travel. There is some speculation as to OOBEs being a part of the dream state yet more research needs to be done before this claim can be sound. The most common way to tell if you are indeed having an OOBE during your dreams is when you are either flying or being lifted.
The out-of-body experience has been occurring for hundreds of years. Proponents and researchers of OOBEs speculate that the OOBE happened during certain parts of the Bible (see http://www.plim.org/SPIRITCALLINGMODERNMAN.html ). This has actually been noted in scripture, as you can find references to out-of-body experiences in the book of Second Corinthians. The Greeks believed we have a "double body," which Plato and Socrates explored in their writing. The "double body," according to the ancient Greeks, is a second body within the physical one which can leave the physical world in search of answers to questions, solutions to problems, to peek into the future or to "see" things which the mortal body cannot see -- or understand.
Some have considered OOBEs to be a part of their religious experience, as when they think they are visiting with angels or receiving messages from God. Others more attuned to the New Age movement consider an OOBE to be a method of spiritual meditation or spiritual enlightenment. Shamans, for example, use OOBEs in their quest for healing. Buddhism extols the virtues of out-of-body experiences, as well, calling this state "nirvana." Additionally, Native Americans consider such experiences to be a beneficial part of their ceremonies, having OOBEs during their vision quests.
Despite the many perceptions and uses of the OOBE, one factor in every case is the silver cord. This barely noticeable cord is the spiritual body's attachment to its physical counterpart. No matter where our astral body may go during an OOBE, the cord keeps it connected to the physical body in order to ensure its safe return. Once this cord is severed, it is believed, the physical body dies and the astral body remains on the spiritual plane forever. Yet nothing seems to have the ability to break the silver cord unless circumstances in the physical world cause the death of the soul's physical body. For example, if a person is having an OOBE during their sleep and they die, the cord is broken and the astral body is free from its physical body. There is no limit to the length of this cord and some out-of-body regulars have claimed they have seen it. In fact, some have claimed that they even felt their astral bodies being "pulled" by this cord back to their physical bodies upon the completion of an OOBE.
What causes an OOBE? Some New Age members
claim they can cause an out-of-body experience at will, as with Shamans
or Yogis. Some believe that an OOBE will happen at any time and there's
no real way to predict when. Despite these beliefs, scientists in Switzerland
claim that an OOBE can be manually activated with the use of electrodes
on a region of the brain (see http://www.nature.com/nsu/020916/020916-8.html
). Narcotic drugs can cause an OOBE, as well as certain symbols and smells.
Is trauma at fault? It very well may be. It has been reported by crime
victims and by survivors of disasters that they suddenly felt like they
were "outside of themselves" during certain points of the crime or disaster.
While some think that perhaps this is the subconscious' way of coping with
trauma and that it can't really be called of out-of-body experience,
instances like this have also been seen as a way for the person's astral body to assist them or to help them "shut down" during these trying times.
Is an OOBE the same as a near-death experience? A near-death experience (NDE) is a spiritual phenomena that occurs right before a person dies. This can be where the astral body communicates with loved ones on the other side, observes what is happening to their physical body or sees a great light that signifies an awaiting paradise. Some believe that an OOBE and an NDE are the same thing yet this is not true since an OOBE can happen to anyone, whether you are near-death or not. Additionally, an NDE occurs only before you are about to cross over whereas an OOBE can happen at any time during your life. However, the only time an OOBE and an NDE can simultaneously happen is when you are having the NDE, because these are times you will really be outside of your body.
An out-of-body experience is supposed to be a peaceful time, where a great sense of peace, abandonment and a new sense of happiness is said to take hold of your astral body. Some who have experienced an OOBE, however, have often felt afraid during this state. It's important to recognize that you are having an out-of-body experience so that you can relax and enjoy your very unique experience. An OOBE doesn't just happen to everyone, after all, and they are the times where you can learn something new about yourself or see something which you may never otherwise see as a human being. (One woman claimed, for example, that she travelled across the planet Uranus during an OOBE.) We sometimes are given a heads-up of a pending OOBE, in which case we enter what is called the "vibrational state." During this time, you may feel inner vibrations or hear strange sounds in your head. There may be a ticking sound or a humming sound prior to the onset of an OOBE.
Some have come out of their OOBE feeling nervous or ashamed. Skeptics consider OOBEs to occur only for the New Age crowd yet reports of OOBEs have shown that an OOBE can happen to anyone, no matter what their religion or beliefs. Some devout religious followers feel that having an OOBE is evil and considered a sin. There is absolutely nothing evil about an OOBE; they are a natural part of your spiritual self and can open virtual doors to help you in your understanding of all things spiritual.
As we progress in this new millennium, exploring new technology and taking away the taboos preventing us from learning of new things, more research and discussion can be done about OOBEs. Until that time, more books will be written and more documentaries hoping for an explanation will be done. More writers will continue to explore OOBEs in fiction yet it is in the real world where we hope to one day know what an out-of-body experience truly is -- and what we can ultimately gain from having one.