Saturday, February 4, 2012

Out of Body Experiences: Real or Just a Dream?

              Many people around the world claim to have out of body experiences or OBE's. The question that arises is are these experiences real or are they perceived? Some people believe OBE's to be proof for spirituality, some sort of afterlife, or at least a concept of consciousness where the mind and body are severable. While other people believe that these people are simply dreaming, hallucinations, and in some cases completely making up an experience that never really happened.
            Much of the information on this subject is collected during carefully observed studies and also from personal experiences. Studies into OBE's began with Robert Monroe. In 1958 he had his first experience, the experience was so profound to him that he spent the rest of his life trying to scientifically figure out what happened to him. Robert Monroe readily subjected himself to be scientifically studied at the Topeka VA hospital in 1977. Dr. Stuart Twemlow completed the study and declared Robert Monroe a sane individual with no evidence of psychological disturbance or other mental imbalances. The doctor had found him sane but was still unable to find a cause or explain why this phenomenon occurs or even if it does occur at all. Another study was conducted by Dean Shields, in 1978. The study included almost 70 non-Western cultures around the world. Out of the 54 cultures that responded, 46% claimed that most or all people could travel outside the physical body under certain conditions. 43% claimed that a few people could have OBE's, and only 3 cultures claimed that OBE's do not happen.
        The most common assumption I found  regarding OBE's is that most of them occur while the person is sleeping. As i dug deeper into the subject i found that some people believe that this phenomenon can occur at almost anytime. Researchers have investigated when an OBE is most likely to occur and in one study found that over 85% of those surveyed said they had OBE's while they were resting, sleeping or dreaming. A smaller percentage said they had their experience while drugged or on medication. There are even some people who believe a person can induce an OBE on themselves. Robert Monroe even has a web page with the instructions on how to do this. I also came across a few people who believe it is possible to have an OBE while awake.
      It is my point of view that the majority of OBE's are simply a person's dream or possibly an over-active imagination. I am open to the idea that such an experience is possible, but until it can be scientifically proven or I experience an OBE myself, I will remain skeptical.




  1. From The New York Times:

    Studies Report Inducing Out-of-Body Experience

    August 24, 2007

    Using virtual-reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences — the sensation of drifting outside of one’s own body — in ordinary, healthy people, according to studies being published today in the journal Science. When people gazed at an illusory image of themselves through the goggles and were prodded in just the right way with the stick, they felt as if they had left their bodies. The research reveals that “the sense of having a body, of being in a bodily self,” is actually constructed from multiple sensory streams, said one expert on body and mind, Dr. Matthew Botvinick...

    The out-of-body experiments were conducted by two research groups using slightly different methods intended to expand the so-called rubber hand illusion. In that illusion, people hide one hand in their lap and look at a rubber hand set on a table in front of them. As a researcher strokes the real hand and the rubber hand simultaneously with a stick, people have the vivid sense that the rubber hand is their own. When the rubber hand is whacked with a hammer, they wince and sometimes cry out. The illusion shows that body parts can be “separated” from the whole body by manipulating a mismatch between touch and vision. That is, when a person’s brain sees the fake hand being stroked and feels the same sensation, the sense of being touched is misattributed to the fake.

    The new experiments were designed to create a whole-body illusion with similar manipulations. In Switzerland, Dr. Olaf Blanke asked people to don virtual-reality goggles while standing in an empty room. A camera projected an image of each person taken from the back and displayed that image as if it were six feet in front of the subject, who thus saw an illusory image of himself. Then Dr. Blanke stroked each person’s back for one minute with a stick while simultaneously projecting the image of the stick onto the illusory body. When the strokes were synchronous, people reported the sensation of being momentarily within the illusory body. When the strokes were not synchronous, the illusion did not occur.

    In another variation, Dr. Blanke projected a “rubber body” — a cheap mannequin bought on eBay and dressed in the same clothes as the subject — into the virtual-reality goggles. With synchronous strokes of the stick, people’s sense of self drifted into the mannequin.

    A separate set of experiments was carried out by Henrik Ehrsson. Last year, when Dr. Ehrsson was “a bored medical student at University College London,” he wondered, he said, “what would happen if you ‘took’ your eyes and moved them to a different part of a room.”

    “Would you see yourself where your eyes were placed?” he said. “Or from where your body was placed?” To find out, he asked people to sit in a chair and wear goggles connected to two video cameras placed six feet behind them. The left camera projected to the left eye, the right camera to the right eye. As a result, people saw their own backs from the perspective of a virtual person sitting behind them.

    Using two sticks, Dr. Ehrsson stroked each person’s chest for two minutes with one stick while moving the second stick just under the camera lenses, as if it were touching the virtual body. Again, when the stroking was synchronous, people reported the sense of being outside their own bodies, in this case looking at themselves from a distance where their “eyes” were situated.

    Then Dr. Ehrsson grabbed a hammer. While people were experiencing the illusion, he pretended to smash the virtual body by waving the hammer just below the cameras. Immediately, the subjects registered a threat response as measured by sensors on their skin. They sweated, and their pulses raced. They also reacted emotionally, as if they were watching themselves get hurt...

  2. I am a medical student and i was doing a study on phantom limbs. Some reference material i was using pointed out that OBEs can be induced using a mirror which reflects half of your body twice, creating an illusion that you are seeing your full body, where in reality it is just the reflection of say the right side of your body. The subject is then asked to move the arm that he can see in the mirror and keep the other one stationary. This breaks down the association between the visual feedback and the proprioceptive sensations you are getting from your hands, producing an OBE in most of the subjects within 10-15 minutes. We use a similar method to relieve amputees of the pain in the phantom limbs. It is called Mirror Therapy.

  3. Hi my name is Louis and I have had many out of body experiences after reading Robert Monroe's books. I have tried to be as scientific as I could as I logged many of my experiences. I have my posted out of body experiences journal online for your review at Thank you!!