I decided to include this post (even though it’s a long read) in my continuing series on this site. It offers some insight into the depth of research I devote to my stories and also how I tend to blend in personal experience.
I devoted a section in Heart of Fire Time of Ice to the Clovis hunter, Cadeyrin, as he had a spiritual experience. His experience was actually drawn from one of mine, although there are significant differences, since his was designed to blend in with the story.
I’d like to start with a warning: This post contains ideas that may run counter to your personal beliefs. These beliefs may be religious or rooted in the common opinion that out-of-body experiences (OBE) have no scientific basis.
My position on this is first, that religious dogma is something generated by men to control other men. Good religious teachings lead us towards the personal experience of divine spirit. Since I believe there is only one underlying divine reality, all good religious teachings are attempting to bring us closer to that reality. If your belief conflicts with reality, then your belief is most likely not serving you in the best possible way.
Secondly, science is always discovering heretofore-unknown things about the universe. If everything were settled and known, there would be no need for scientific inquiry. The experiences dealt with in this essay are well documented and offer enough consistency to allow one to draw some general conclusions. The scientific reason for them is still open for speculation.
If it’s true, it’s true, and it doesn’t matter what package it comes in. If there is conflict between belief systems, it’s because they arise from different cultures and because men put their own spin on the truths in an attempt to control their own followers.
Have you ever had a dream of falling or flying? Many people have these types of dreams. How about a dream where you believe you’re awake, but you cannot move your body? These dreams are almost always indicative of an out-of-body experience or a lucid dream. With a little practice almost all people can have dreams in which they become aware and able to control the dream to some extent. Here’s an example from my own recent experience:
About 4 a.m. I woke up, changed position, and then fell back asleep. Shortly I was walking down a sidewalk carrying a U-shaped piece of metal. There was a large pile of rocks located on the edge of a college campus. I went around them and entered a very small cave through a small opening. There was a bed inside. It had drawers under it, and I began looking into them but found nothing of interest, just some vague pieces of machinery. Then I became aware that there was an old-fashioned kitchen range beside the bed. It had drawers and I looked in them also. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but whatever it was, it wasn’t there. At this point I saw a dark door at one end of the cave. I went through, and suddenly the quality of the dream transitioned to a closer approximation of reality because I became aware that I was dreaming. As a result, I became “conscious” within the dream and had control of my actions.
I looked around at the room that was on the other side of the dark door. It looked like a large, dimly lit barn. There was another door to the right side of the room, and it was very dark. I looked inside the opening and made out the fact that it was a stall for horses, but there were no animals there. To the left, the room became lighter, and there was a large door that was open to the outside. I consciously bypassed that door since I felt that I would wake up if I went through it. After looking around the rest of the barn and deciding that I was satisfied and had seen everything, I decided to go outside. I jumped off a high step, and landed right in front of a young man. Our eyes met and we both smiled. Was he another dreamer or a figment of my dream? I don’t know. I certainly didn’t expect to see him there. I walked past and turned to the left on the far end of the building. At that point the dream faded, and I lost control and fell fully out of consciousness and into sleep.
A brief analysis of this dream shows that it 1) started as a normal dream, perhaps clearer and more coherent than most, and then at a certain point, 2) I became aware that I was able to consciously control my actions. This is different than most dreams, because we usually aren’t aware that we are dreaming, and we usually aren’t able to control what we do.
There is a slight difference here between my experience and most lucid dreams. In this dream, I didn’t exert any control over the elements in the dream. Usually, lucid dreamers are able to modify anything they encounter in their dreams. Many exert a large degree of control, forcing items to mutate or disappear and appear.
Carlos Castaneda’s mentor, Don Juan, warned Carlos that one of the dangers of becoming conscious in one’s dreams was that the infatuation with control could capture his attention.
In the above dream, after I was conscious, I had a feeling of elation and freedom. This was partly due to my feeling of mastery of the environment.
I met someone inside the confines of the dream who appeared to be self-directed. Was he another dreamer? This is an intriguing possibility.
At the end of the dream my conscious control faded, and I went into a deeper level of sleep. When this happened, the whole dream became fuzzy and disjointed and then disappeared.
Other people who have had lucid dreams report similar experiences. The key aspect is that we are able to become conscious and control our actions within the dream. I’ve found the book, “Lucid Dreaming,” by Robert Waggoner, to be comprehensive and a good summary of the phenomenon.
For additional discussion on lucid dreams, Wikipedia has a fairly good article.
Out of Body Experiences
There seems to be a slight variation in opinion among authorities in what differentiates a lucid dream from an out of body experience (OBE). Generally speaking, I think that OBEs are qualitatively different from lucid dreams. Lucid dreams can involve any dream environment, while OBEs usually involve what I call the RTE or Real Time Environment. This is local space near the experiencer’s body and usually involves them exiting their body and finding themselves in close proximity to it.
There are several clear signs of an OBE. The first is that it is usually accompanied by a strong feeling of vibration. The second is that it may be accompanied by physical body paralysis. The third is that the experiencer may see their physical body and the fourth is that the experiencer finds it very easy to fly and to pass through walls. OBEs are also often accompanied by sounds. OBEs also seem more real and are usually seen as objective reality.
Both lucid dreams and OBEs may be involuntary or induced. Some people awake in either of these experiences and some can actually induce OBEs directly from a waking state. Moving directly into an OBE becomes easier with deliberate practice.
Both states are dependent upon the brain’s being in the Theta state, often known as the hypnagogic state. In this mode, the brain is cycling at a frequency between 4 and 8 cycles per second. This state is the one most people fall into just before falling asleep.
When you are tired as you first go to bed, it’s difficult to maintain a hypnagogic state for very long because it quickly degenerates into deeper sleep. Most people go through several cycles of deeper sleep followed by lighter sleep or wakefulness in the course of a night. After two or three such sleep cycles it’s much easier to maintain a hypnagogic state and consequentially you are more likely to have an OBE or lucid dream between 4 and 6 AM.
Personally, I normally have lucid dream experiences, but I’ve had several memorable OBEs. My OBEs are almost always dream induced, meaning that I transition from a dreaming sleep into an out-of-body state.
Some might call this a lucid dream, but there is a qualitative difference between the two. Despite our extreme freedom of movement while experiencing an OBE, it is more like our daily experience in that we can’t deliberately morph items into other items the way we can in a lucid dream. Here’s a brief description of one of my OBEs:
Robert Bruce mentions an interesting technique in one of his discussions. Select a playing card from a deck, making sure you don’t see the card’s face. Place the card on a high shelf somewhere in your house. The shelf should be high enough that you won’t accidentally see the card. When you find yourself in an OBE, remember to go and look at the card. You can then cross check when you wake up.
I did this, but I was a little too enthusiastic and put out two cards one on each of two bookshelves on each side of our fireplace. Nothing happened for a few weeks. Finally, one morning, I waked and rolled over onto my left side and then started to go back to sleep. I suddenly became conscious that my face was bumping against the spines of a long row of books. I said to myself, I’m having an OBE and I’m near the shelf, so I’d better look at the card. I did and became aware that the card was a black four, but when I tried to see the suit, all I could see was a rectangle with a diagonal line crossing it. This was sort of like the international symbol for “No” that you often see across a picture of a cigarette. After trying to see the suit again, I woke up.
I immediately woke my wife and told her I’d seen the card. She suggested I check it and I went and got the first card. It was the four of spades! I took it and showed her. Then I decided to check the second card. It was the four of clubs! The shelves were separated by about 8 feet of space and were about 7 feet in the air. I concluded the reason I couldn’t make out the suit was that I’d been trying to see both at the same time.
It appears that our perception is not restricted to our common bodily-imposed limitations.
Somewhat more recently, I had another experience that illustrates four of the common symptoms of OBEs. Here’s a brief description:
I was drowsing in a recliner in our bedroom when I suddenly heard my name loudly called twice in a sort of nasal tone. I immediately decided to wake up and became conscious at that moment. I couldn’t move my body or extremities. I know that to recover from this type of paralysis, concentrating on moving your big toe almost always works. For some reason I was too panicked to remember this technique at the time. I saw that I was floating about 2 feet above my body and I kept trying to merge back into it. Suddenly, there was a loud buzz that happened on the surface of my chest right over my heart. It was so startling that I popped back into my body and opened my eyes at the same time.
A brief analysis highlights the four common symptoms. First, I heard a sound-my name. Second, I experienced physical paralysis. Third, I was floating outside my body and fourth, I experienced a strong buzz or vibration which led to me re-entering my body. The vibration was similar to that of an old-fashioned doorbell in speed. It was around 1000 cycles per second by my reckoning.
This type of vibration is attributable to the heart chakra becoming active and releasing enough energy to either start or stop the OBE. Many people feel a vibration on starting the experience.
In my experience, the toe moving technique is very effective at reuniting you with your body. The only problem is that you often panic when you can’t move, and it’s difficult to remember to concentrate on your toe. The take home lesson is to set your intent to remember to move your toe.
Another experience highlights a few of the features of a typical flying OBE.
I was still sleeping after the sun had risen when I shot upwards to what seemed about a thousand feet above the roof of my house. I then went down to tree level and proceeded to cruise down our drive and then up to the leaves of a tree. I moved close to the leaves until I could concentrate on the details of a single leaf. I was exultant over the sensation of absolute freedom of movement. Suddenly I started to become heavy and gradually sank to the ground. Once on the ground, no amount of effort could start me flying again. I woke up.
There are four aspects of this experience that are common. The first is that I was able to fly easily. The second is that I let my emotions run out of control. The third is that I focused my attention on intricate details and that close focus forced me out of the OBE. The fourth is the feeling of heaviness. Most people attribute this to the physical body recalling the astral body through the silver cord.
Some people think that OBEs are simply the result of our normal perception being shut off while we’re conscious. They believe that the brain then generates a semblance of reality. I don’t think this is correct because of my card OBE described above and because of this one:
I was sleeping and dreamed I was sitting on my back porch. I was throwing fireworks into some tall, dry grass and there was a lot of smoke. This is something I would never do in my daily life. The incongruity of my actions brought me to consciousness. I moved off the porch and went to investigate. It became apparent to me that I’d somehow incorporated the firework explanation to account for the “smoke” I saw. The grass was actually wet with dew, and the smoke turned out to be a dense fog when investigated from my OBE perspective. I relaxed and slipped back out of consciousness.
I awoke and dressed to take the dog out and was somewhat amused to see that it was, indeed, a very foggy morning.
This experience has some of the elements of a lucid dream, but once I became conscious within the confines of the dream state, I moved into an OBE state. In that state I was able to move about in the area near my home. My perception became more normal and I ascribed a correct cause to what I saw. I wasn’t able to mutate the fog back into firework smoke again. The tall grass, incidentally, was in front of the house and not in back as I’d dreamed.
My point is that dreaming, lucid dreaming, and OBE states can easily transition from one to the other. However, despite that mutability, the quality of the two types of experience is completely different, and the experiencer can easily sense this difference.
Robert Bruce provides an interesting explanation of the OBE. He states that what actually happens is that an OBE is a result of a mind-split. One part of the mind remains in the body, and as the physical body falls asleep, the mind splits and an image of consciousness is projected into the etheric body that is located in and around the physical body. While the physical mind dreams, the etheric mind can be held in a hypnagogic state. When this occurs, it may project yet another copy of consciousness into the real-time zone. When this occurs, the mind is then split into the dreaming mind that remains in the physical body and the second image of consciousness that is in the energy body projected into the real-time zone. This split-off consciousness is fully capable as a second entity. Bruce states that this split can occur several times, each split-off consciousness carrying a higher level of energy. This means that higher and higher levels of astral reality may be accessed.
The problem is that the consciousness of the etheric body doesn’t realize that the split has occurred and will usually believe that it has failed in the projection attempt and then go to sleep. At the time of reintegration of the split-off consciousness with that remaining in the etheric and physical bodies, the strongest set of memories will prevail. Unfortunately, the strongest set is usually that of the physical body, since its memories have already been recorded in the physical medium of the brain. Keeping projections very short is one step that Bruce recommends as helpful to remembering the shadow memory of the higher energy consciousness upon termination of the OBE.
Brainwaves: EEG and the brain’s state
EEG (Electroencephalography) technology is used to measure brain’s electrical vibrations from the scalp. The resulting EEG record will contain frequency elements that are categorized into four states as follows:
State of Mind
0.5Hz – 4Hz
4Hz – 8Hz
8Hz – 14Hz
Relaxed but alert
14Hz – 30Hz
Highly alert and focused
The dominant frequency in the EEG pattern is considered to be the current state of the brain. Meditation is about being able to alter one’s brain frequency to a desired state on demand. In the past it often took several years to learn the techniques of meditation, but now you can have the same effect with brainwave entrainment. The benefit is that no special training or discipline is required.
By listening to sounds of various frequencies, it is possible to shift the brain frequency from one stage to another. For example, if a person is highly alert and listens to a click stimulus of 4 Hz for some time, their brain frequency will change towards the stimulus frequency. The effect will be relaxing to the person. This phenomenon is called entrainment or frequency following response.
When the brain’s frequency starts close to the desired stimulus, entrainment works more efficiently. Thus, when doing a sweep from one frequency to another, the starting frequency should be as close to the current brain state as possible. This is why the frequency starts at a high rate and then gradually slows down. If the subject is wide-awake, a decreasing frequency will gradually bring his brain activity down to a drowsy, theta level. Of course, the effect is dependent upon motivation. Just as people can refuse to be hypnotized, they can refuse to submit to this effect for the most part.
The most common way of applying a frequency stimulus to the brain is via sound. One way of accomplishing this is simply to play a series of percussive sounds that gradually slow down to theta levels of about 4 per second. This technique can be used in conjunction with a guided meditation for good effect. The click sounds will usually conflict with music since there are then two rhythm sources with clashing beats. This brings us to Binaural-Beat technology.
Another way of applying a frequency stimulus is to play a pure sound that is at a low frequency. The brain can then adjust its frequency to that of the sound. This might work for higher states of consciousness, but it won’t work for slower brain states. The problem is that humans cannot hear sounds low enough to be useful for brain entrainment to theta levels. Fortunately, a special technique called binaural-beat frequency can be used.
The way binaural beat technology works is to present the left ear with a steady tone of a certain frequency and the right ear a steady tone of a different frequency. Within the brain, these two tones are combined into their beat frequency. This signal is formed entirely by the brain and can be adjusted to the exact speed required, so a frequency of 4 cycles per second is easily achievable. When using stereo headphones, the left and right sounds mix together in the brain and form what is called a binaural beat.
Just passively listening to binaural beats does not necessarily alter your state of consciousness. For example, willingness and ability to relax and focus attention determines how effective the binaural beat stimulus is for inducing state changes. This means that you must actively try to engage in the meditation and not fight or resist it.
The point of this technology is that experience and practice of a certain brainwave state will assist the brain in learning how to change its frequency. This makes it easier for the practitioner to produce the desired brainwave state at will. Using this technology, one can learn to achieve a deep level of meditation, and, after practice, this can be attained even without listening to the entraining sounds.
The Monroe Gateway Experience
Now you have the scientific basics behind the Monroe system, so we can go on to discuss the Gateway Experience. I’ll start with some additional background.
In the 1950’s, Robert Monroe was a radio executive living with his wife and family in Virginia. One afternoon he remained at home while his family went to church. He was drowsing when a bright ray of light came out of the north and illuminated him. He felt strong vibrations and also seemed to be paralyzed. When he finally forced himself to move, the light and vibrations ceased. Over the following few weeks, the same thing happened nine times. Since he’d never heard of such a thing, he became quite concerned and fearful that he was going crazy or was very ill.
He went to his doctor, but was told that his health was fine. The experiences continued, and he gradually became used to them and even began to anticipate them. One night, he was in bed when the sensations started. His arm was hanging over the side of the bed, brushing the carpet. As the sensations continued, his fingers seemed to go through the floor and brush a nail on the other side. Then they felt wet. This startled him, and he terminated the experience by pulling his arm back. The experiences progressed until he became aware that he was floating up against the ceiling of his bedroom. When he looked down, he could see his body in bed. He dived back in and opened his eyes. This experience was quite frightening to him, but after consulting a friend who happened to be a psychologist, he began to try to leave his body systematically.
He gradually became able to leave his body at will and then began to visit friends while he was out-of-body. He sought for validation of his experiences by comparing what he saw with his friends’ memories. He was usually partially correct in what was happening. Sometimes he saw other people who weren’t in the room, sometimes he heard his friends say something they had not said, but there was enough correspondence in their memories to allow him to feel confident in his abilities.
As a result of his years of practice, he developed a concept of the structure of the non-material world. He states that there are three locales. Locale 1 is closely related to what we call the real world. Travel in this locale is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. The experiencer finds that they have some unusual abilities which allow them to fly, to pass through walls, and to move almost instantly from one location to another.
Locale 2 is much deeper, and the experiencer is likely to meet predeceased people he knows. This is the level of thought, and the principles of thought apply. Like calls to like. When one desires to move, one simply thinks of the destination and is there. Inner desire to arrive at a location is most important. This is very similar to the law of attraction that allows us to successfully generate results in daily life. Monroe found that communication with entities he met at this level was usually by means of passing a “thought ball” of understanding from one to the other. Linear communication was not necessary. If you’ve meditated much, you might have found that you sometimes arrive at a complex understanding instantly without going through the linear sequence of thought. This is much the same thing as Monroe found in Locale 2.
Locale 3 is a level he found which seems to parallel that of our normal Earth. There were significant differences in technology, however. He explored this level mostly by merging with his double who lived there.
In his books, he gives a description of his ‘second body.’ It has some weight, is sometimes visible to his friends, and he can produce a sensation of touching his friends. The second body is formless but may take on any form required. He tried to locate the traditionally described silver cord connecting his second body with his physical body but was usually unaware of it.
Should you decide to read his three books, they must be read in sequence. If you were to start with the third book, you’d probably throw it down thinking that the author was crazy. One warning I will give is that the first book describes some of his more frightening experiences. He took his own biases and fears with him, and they show in his writings. For example, he recounts sensing some small, soft entities clinging to his back. He describes going through extreme maneuvers to dislodge them under the assumption that they meant him harm. Finally, he realized that they were his cats that had died and were clinging to him for their own security. This allowed him to deal with them without fear.
As an example of the odd sorts of experiences you may have, here’s another of mine:
I was sleeping, and it was well after midnight. I woke up lying on the floor beside the bed with my head at the foot of the bed. There was about five feet between the bed and the wall, so there was plenty of space for my body. I looked around a bit in surprise because I didn’t remember getting out of bed and certainly didn’t remember lying down on the floor with my head pointed towards the closet door. At this time, I realized that I was out-of-body. The room was dark, but there was enough light to see the furniture. As I looked, I saw a cat standing on the floor near my head. Without thinking I began to rub its head. It started to purr and acted very content that it was getting attention. At the time, we had a Siamese cat, but this was a strange cat. It was rather large and was marked in black and white tuxedo colors, except that the black was more tabby striped. I didn’t know the animal, but it was friendly, and I was happy to pat it. After awhile the cat left, and I moved back towards my bed. It was my intent to go back to sleep, and I must have reached that point prior to reintegrating with my physical body, since I don’t remember reentry.
The interesting thing about this experience was that my son, who was living over a thousand miles away, had just adopted a cat. I had no idea what it looked like, not having seen a picture at that time. When I finally visited him, his cat was marked exactly like the cat I’d seen in my OBE. The markings were not that common either. The black part of the tuxedo pattern was actually gray with tabby stripes appearing near the white part of its coat. My assumption is that the cat came to visit me, but I’m not sure why.
This experience was interesting but not exactly earth shattering in spiritual terms. Other times, I’ve received guidance in such a way that I was aware that it was coming from sources outside of my immediate body of knowledge. Usually, this type of guidance is accompanied with a spiritual boost that can lead to increases in insight.
Parallel Universe Theory
I have an alternate theory of OBE. Some of the reported experiences that I’ve mentioned above and that don’t have an easy explanation in conventional thinking may be reconciled with the aid of the concept of parallel universes.
The idea of parallel universes is supported by modern quantum physics. There is one theory that explains the odd ways in which quantum particles behave. Very briefly, it implies that the universe splits every time there is a choice made on a quantum level. For example, if a photon has the alternative of going through one slit or a second slit in the classic double-slit experiment, it will go through one in one universe and through the other in a second universe. The two universes may then merge into a single universe or not. This is a gross over-simplification, of course, but it’s adequate to advance my idea.
I first began thinking about this concept while rereading Robert Bruce’s description of the mind split effect. It seemed to me that since our brains operate at least partially on a quantum level, that it would be likely that any binary decision we make would result in two universes. In one universe, we would do one action and in the other, we would do the action corresponding to the other half of the binary decision.
What this might mean is that when we project out of our body, we don’t project into the same universe in which the part of us that remains in our body resides. This split allows us to move into numerous alternate universes. These universes have traditionally been classified as various levels of the real-time zone and the astral zone and others.
This provides a possible explanation of Monroe’s locales and the fact that he often saw things that did not occur in the “real” universe. In some universes, his friends might be saying the things he heard and reported. In others, they may not. In some, there might be additional people present, or the building or décor might be different. The implication I draw is that OBEs are real and possibly scientifically explainable events.