Monday, March 15, 2010

OBEs: Astral Projection or Asinine Perspective?

An out of body experience is usually described as having the sensation of floating outside of one's body. It can also manifest as perceiving one's self from a place outside of the body. There are different types of OBEs including: spontaneous, near/during sleep, and near death experiences. OBEs are sometimes referred to as "astral projection". Those who support the idea of astral projection believe that OBEs are the astral body's or soul's ascent to higher realms.
According to, when Jerry Gross, an out-of-body teacher "wants to travel long distances, he doesn't bother with the time and expense of catching a plane. He just uses a different kind of plane, and travels there astrally." He also claims that everyone leaves their body at night during sleep, they just don't remember it when they wake up. This argument makes sense because, who truly knows what happens during their time asleep? However, this type of argument is also typical of a pseudoscience perspective because it is not testable through empirical research.

So what has research found out about OBEs? Well, Research by Olaf Blanke found that it is possible to reliably elicit experiences somewhat similar to the OBE by stimulating regions of the brain called the right temporal-parietal junction. These elicited experiences may include perceptions of transformations of the patient's arm and legs and whole-body displacements. Further, Henrik Ehrsson successfully induced an out-of-body experience in healthy participants. The experiment was performed as follows:

"The study participant sits in a chair wearing a pair of head-mounted video displays. These have two small screens over each eye, which show a live film recorded by two video cameras placed beside each other two metres behind the participant's head. The image from the left video camera is presented on the left-eye display and the image from the right camera on the right-eye display. The participant sees these as one "stereoscopic" (3D) image, so they see their own back displayed from the perspective of someone sitting behind them. The researcher then stands just beside the participant (in their view) and uses two plastic rods to simultaneously touch the participant's actual chest out-of-view and the chest of the illusory body, moving this second rod towards where the illusory chest would be located, just below the camera's view. The participants confirmed that they had experienced sitting behind their physical body and looking at it from that location." (

Once again: Psychology, 1, pseudoscience, none.

1 comment:

  1. I'm also doing a post on astral projection and what I took from my reading is that the circumstances surrounding supposed astral projection often seem stressful or when someone might not be completely in control of their cognition. I read a lot of people claim to have OBEs alongside near death experiences, but logically their perception of the event could be colored by stress or interpreted differently after the fact. And as far as people claiming to have OBEs while they sleep...I just find it hard to believe it's anything more than a dream.