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The Origins & Evolution of Out Of Body Experiences

An introduction to the origins of astral projection and lucid dreaming.


Despite being dismissed by modern science as pseudo-science, the phenomena of an accessible realm external to our physical bodies which a human can explore via means of spiritual practice or hallucinogenic substances been spoken about for thousands of years across different civilisations and experienced by a large number of people who have recounted similar experiences across millennia. Out of body experiences are typically defined by two phenomena: Astral Projection, the ability of a person’s consciousness to separate from their physical body and travel outside of it, and Lucid Dreaming, the action of a dreamer accessing waking consciousness whilst in a dream. In this article, we'll dive into the origins and beliefs surrounding both of these out of body experiences (obe's). We encourage each reader to embark on their own path of knowledge and use this article as a launch pad for further research as we can only attempt to brush the surface.


The Astral Man by Sacha Schneider (1903)

Essential to both experiences of astral projection and lucid dreaming is the concept that within a human being is a state of consciousness which can exist external to our physical body. In modern science the study of consciousness is still very much a mystery known as “the hard problem", despite being fundamental to all human life. This has sparked a revival in academic popularity of the universal consciousness theory, well established in religion, spirituality and philosophy - the latter addressing it through beliefs such as Panpsychism and Animism, the belief of an intrinsic force of consciousness that permeates all matter, also adopted by many early pagan spiritual beliefs and existing within forms of ancient religion.


Anima Mundi (Robert Fludd)

In Hinduism it is believed that Brahman, described as Sat-cit-ānanda (truth-consciousness-bliss) projected its consciousness into the material universe. Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul. In Hindu philosophy especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ātman is the first principle, the true self of an individual beyond identification with physical phenomena. In order to attain liberation, a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana), which is to realise that one's true self (Ātman) is identical with the transcendent self Brahman. The Vedas, one of Indian's oldest holy books, contains texts known as the Upanishads, philosophical works that convey spiritual truths. One of the most elaborate and important of these is known as Brihadaranayaka Upanishad, sometimes described as “cosmic meditation”. This text declares that essentially there are two states of being and it is while we are in the intermediary state (dreams) that we have the capacity to perceive the real world and the next simultaneously. In this context the dream state is considered to be more important than the waking state because it is then that we have access to realms of knowledge and experience denied to us when we are awake.


Brihadaranayaka Upanishad

The Tibetan book of the dead is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist text written to help prepare the soul for death, it describes death as a dream like condition. When the soul leaves the physical body it must pass through “Bardo” which has three distinct illusory states. As we pass through each state we face a multitude of self-created thought form which may be pleasant or fearful. By becoming aware at anytime that what we are experiencing is an illusion, the soul is elevated to a higher plane and avoids the constant cycle of death and rebirth. Consequently, learning to remain conscious while sleeping is seen by the Tibetan Buddhist's as a vital part of the spiritual preparation for death.


Tibetan Book Of The Dead

In Egyptian Mythology, a being's spirit is made up of five collective entities, such as personality, or "ba", name ("ren"), shadow ("Sheut", heart ("Ib") and life ("ka"). Ancient mystery schools such as Hermeticism, believed to trace back to Ancient Egypt, taught how the universe is created in the mind of God, and emphasised the infinite realms of possibility through exploring consciousness within the mind. In ancient Egypt there were a number of "sleep temples" throughout the land known during the reign of Imhotep in 2700bc in which dream incubation was practised, an intensely ritualistic procedure intended to encourage an especially informative dream from the gods whilst the subject was in a trance like state.


Ba and Ka: Book Of The Dead (British Museum)

In the West the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322bc) quoted that "when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which tells us that what presents itself is but a dream”. Later in 415 AD the Christian St. Augustine explains in a letter how one of his patients experienced a lucid dream in which he was aware of his consciousness, stating how a spirit guide who had appeared to him also the night before, explained to him the following lesson:


"As while you are asleep and lying on your bed these eyes of your body are now unemployed and doing nothing, and yet you have eyes with which you behold me, and enjoy this vision." - Gennadius's dream (415 AD)

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne (1650)

Paracelsus, the 16th century alchemist was convinced of what he called the “astral” or energy body that surrounds the physical body of humans, believing that the cosmos and microcosm (humans) consist of soul, sidereal body (also mortal spirit), and eternal body. Following the dark ages in Europe, the discussion of lucid dreams had a revival during the renaissance, notably with Sir Thomas Browne's 'Religio Medici' in 1643 in which he stated how "in one dream I can compose a whole Comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests and laugh my self awake at the conceits thereof". The first book to recognise the scientific potential of lucid dreams was Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys's 1867 Les Reves et Les Moyens de Les Diriger: Observations Pratiques. This French publication, translates as 'Dreams and the ways to direct them: practical observations'. It accounts for Saint-Denys' own experiences, but made also an extensive study of the phenomenon of lucid dreaming.”


Dreams And The Ways To Direct Them (1867)

In 1913, Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik (Willem) van Eeden (1860–1932) coined the term ‘lucid dream’ in an article entitled “A Study of Dreams”.


"The seventh type of dreams, which I call lucid dreams, seems to me the most interesting and worthy of the most careful observation and study…..In these lucid dreams the reintegration of the psychic functions is so complete that the sleeper remembers day-life and his own condition, reaches a state of perfect awareness, and is able to direct his attention, and to attempt different acts of free volition”

Frederik (Willem) van Eeden

In 1968 Cecilia Green first correctly associated lucid dreams with REM sleep, confirmed a decade later when scientists at the University of Hull in England were able to communicate with a dreamer whilst he was sleeping. This experiment was recently repeated in 2021, when Karen Konkoly, a PhD student at Northwestern University was able to achieve real time communication with participants in REM sleep, a study published in Current Biology.


The issue today is that consciousness still remains mostly unacknowledged by mainstream science because of Newtonian compartmental thinking, which placed ‘consciousness’ outside the realm of the sciences. However the idea of an inherent consciousness that exists in the universe has been put forward by many prominent scientists and thinkers such as British Mathematician Roger Penrose - a professor of Mathematics at the prestigious University of Oxford (England), who is often spoke of in the same sentence as Einstein and Hawking for reinterpreting general relativity to prove that black holes can form from dying stars. Penrose believes consciousness is fundamental to quantum physics in its relation to the spaces between neurons in the brain. He proposes that we may need to discover a new psychics model of understanding the universe, explaining how "In my view the conscious brain does not act according to classical physics. It doesn’t even act according to conventional quantum mechanics. It acts according to a theory we don’t yet have"


TrendinTech: Neural Networks of Scales

Expanding on this concept is an argument put forth by German-American astrophysicist Bernard Haisch that consciousness is produced and transmitted from quantum fields that permeate all of empty space.


"If evolution is to move smoothly, consciousness in some shape must have been present at the very origin of things" - William James (Philosopher)

In our next article, we will explore basic steps of how to practice both astral projection and lucid dreaming so that you can attempt to embark on your own journeys in the astral realm.


Stay tuned!


- ASTRAL MAGAZINE

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