It’s one of the most unusual types of phenomena—leaving your body and flying off in a second body. These experiences typically happen spontaneously, are startling, and short-lived. They may occur once or twice, then never again. But some people learn to master the technique for entering OBEs and directing their adventures.
Others are naturals, such as Robert Monroe, founder of the Monroe Institute which explores the nature of consciousness, especially out-of-body experiences (OBEs). Monroe, who wrote Journeys Out of the Body, the seminal text on the subject, was concerned that he was going crazy in the 1950s when he started lifting from his body as he lay in bed trying to sleep. Eventually, he heard about yogis who traveled out of body, and decided not to fight it any longer. He was worried that he might die, but he committed himself to going with the experience. After that, he gained more confidence and soon was able to initiate the experience and even explore realms beyond the physical world.
One day in the spring of 2004, our daughter came home from high school and told us that one of her friends was going out of body all the time. We asked what she meant by all the time. “Like almost every night when she lies on her back.” Megan replied. “She lifts straight up and she can see herself lying on the bed below her.”
The teenage girl was frightened and disturbed by the repeated out-of-body experiences and so was her mother, who took her to a neurologist. She was given a CAT scan and to the relief of the girl and her family, there was no sign of a tumor or other brain disorder. She was told that her “imaginary” experiences were probably related to stress, and she was prescribed a drug to block any further OBEs. The neurologist thought the experience was related to the functioning of the girl’s brain, not her spirit.
However, science writer Michael Talbot in his book, Beyond the Quantum, offered another point of view when he described an out-of-body experience from his teen years. At first, he thought he was dreaming, but everything in his dream seemed real. Nothing was distorted and nothing about his appearance on the bed below him or the furnishings of his room had changed.
“I floated weightlessly out of my bedroom and into the living room, still marveling at the fact that all of the features of the house seemed identical to how I knew them in my waking state….Suddenly, as I swam like some airborne fish through the rooms, I found myself heading on a collision course with a large picture window. But before I had time to panic, I drifted through it, effortlessly, and looked back in astonishment to see that my passage had not affected it in the least.”
He continued drifting along looking, looking at the dewy grass below him, then suddenly he saw a book in the grass. He moved closer to it and saw that it was a collection of short stories by the nineteenth century author Guy de Maupassant. While he was aware of the author, he had no knowledge of the book or any particular interest in it. After that, he lost his awareness and fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning on his way to school, a neighbor girl joined him and said she’d been walking in the woods near his house and said she thinks she might’ve lost a library book. She told him it was a collection of short stories by Guy de Maupassant and asked him if he’d seen it. “Stunned, I related to her my experience of the night before, and together we strolled to the spot where I had seen the book in my dream,” he wrote. “And there it was, nestled in the grass exactly as it had been when I had lazily floated over it.”
Talbot thought his OBE could have been a dream that, in a remarkable coincidence, mirrored a real-life incident—the lost book and its exact location. A second possibility was that information about the lost book had entered his consciousness even though he didn’t realize it. Talbot noted numerous studies that show the mind has a remarkable ability to pick up information without our consciousness awareness of it. In other words, Talbot might’ve seen the missing book in his peripheral vision without realizing it. However, he wrote that he had not walked in the area during the time the book was missing, nor had he talked to his neighbor between the times when she lost the book and they recovered it.
The other explanation was that a part of his consciousness left his body during his sleep and he’d actually seen the book. Talbot added that the explanation was the most likely of the three, based on the impact of his own experience as well as cases that he’d read about.