Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Out-of-Body Exploration

Review: Out-of-Body Exploration

by Jerry Mulvin

I've had this book in my collection for so long that I had forgotten I'd already read it. I've been pretty busy lately, so I decided to reread it just because it's small (78 pages). My review will be small, too, because there's not much to say about it.

Please do NOT buy this book. Let me explain.

At first the author, Jerry Mulvin, sounds just like Eckankar. Starting on page 1, the book talks about surrendering to "The Master" (in other words, Mulvin):
"You must approach the Spiritual techniques with a child-like innocence, the anticipation of taking a journey with the Master."
He writes about how "Soul Travel" is supposedly superior to astral projection or projections to other planes of existence. He talks about how:
"Astral traveling is just another very clever trap perpetrated by the NEGATIVE FORCE to keep Soul identified with the Astral world. Do all your inner traveling in the Soul body with the Master. That is the safe and natural way to travel outside one's physical body." (pages 16-17)
He doesn't mention Eckankar (or any of their supposed nonphysical masters), but just like them, he talks about how his "Divine Science of Light and Sound" is an ancient science and the only true path to God (Eckankar makes similar claims).

Like any good cult leader, Mulvin claims to be the soul representative of God on Earth:
"The Master is the vehicle as designated by SAT-NAM for the GOD FORCE . . . that which flows downward from the Supreme Being to SAT-NAM. The Master acts as a transformer for the GOD FORCE throughout the lower worlds for his students." (pg. 27).

I didn't want to bias my reading too much by the Internet, so I didn't google Mulvin until after I'd finished reading the book. A simple search produced several articles of unknown repute, claiming Mulvin was:
  • At one point a high-up official of Eckankar being groomed to replace Paul Twitchell.
  • Broke away from Eckankar, claiming he was given the role of "Master" by the non-physical masters themselves. This supposedly created quite a controversy in the ranks of Eckankar.
  • Appears in the Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects and New Religions.
  • A registered sex offender in the state of Arizona. You can even find Mugshots. I don't know if this is true or not.

This book is a confusing mixture of half-truths (such as discussing kundalini and the chakras) geared toward reverence to "The Master" (Mulvin), if necessary, breaking ties with friends and family.

Make no mistake: This is a cult book written by a cult leader. Stay far far away from it.

Bob Peterson
22 January 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Turning Lucid Dreams into OBEs

Turning Lucid Dreams into OBEs

by Bob Peterson

Many people ask, "I can do lucid dreaming, but I can't do OBE, so how do you convert a lucid dream into an OBE?"

This topic recently came up in an email conversation I had with lucid dreaming expert Robert Waggoner. My response to his question was the basis of this article.

The difference between Lucid Dreams and OBEs is complex. So complex that I did a long-winded nearly two-hour presentation last year for INACS (Institute for Neuroscience and Consciousness Studies) in Austin, Texas. There are many things to consider, but the crux of the matter is this:

We leave our bodies every night during sleep, but we are unaware because we're unconscious. How do I know this? I've seen it firsthand.

When we sleep, there are basically four out-of-body states, depending on whether you're (1) conscious or unconscious and whether you're (2) hallucinating or not. The four out-of-body states are:
  1. In a normal "dream" we're both unconscious and hallucinating. We're out-of-body, but we just float there above our body, completely engaged in the dream hallucination.
  2. In a "lucid dream" we're still hallucinating, but now we're completely conscious.
  3. In an "OBE" we're also conscious, but not hallucinating. We're experiencing an objective "non-physical" reality (not to say that has any relation to our physical reality.)
  4. The fourth state is "shared dreaming"; in other words, unconscious experiences that happen in an objective "astral" reality (not a hallucination).
The four states are shown on this diagram:

So the only difference between a Lucid Dream and an OBE is that in an LD, we're experiencing a self-created "dream" hallucination. Our perception is completely focused on that hallucination, and our dream senses seem mostly normal / physical. For example, in a lucid dream, you'll have a normal body image and normal senses of sight, sound, touch, etc.

In an OBE, we're not hallucinating. Our senses are not focused on the dream, so our perception is often very different: we have trouble seeing, or can see with 360-degree "astral" vision. Our senses often don't engage unless we focus specifically on them. In an OBE, your body image will often be distorted or "on demand".

Since dream hallucinations are self-created (by your subconscious) you have the power to stop and disassemble the hallucination, and that's how you get to the OBE state.

Shifting from a lucid dream to an OBE is easy for me, but I can only describe it as an act of will. I "will" the dream hallucination to disengage, and it feels like I'm waking up, but my body doesn't wake up. There's just a sudden, complete shift of attention to a different kind of experience, different environment, and different perception. The dream-hallucination dissolves in front of me, but it's fast, like waking up, or like turning off the television.

My eyesight shifts from normal "dream vision" to a mode of OBE sight, often with 360-degree perception. This is the "mind sensing" mode of eyesight I wrote about in my first book. I sometimes find myself hovering about a foot or two above my physical body, almost as if I was floating in a shallow pool of warm liquid, with my body somewhere below the surface. Often my arms and hands are loose and limp, gently swaying, as if in some kind of astral current. Sometimes it's still like that, but these days it's more common for me to find myself in some kind of void or gray area, suspended upright in space.

In a lucid dream, I know I'm dreaming, and that what I'm experiencing isn't "real". I know it's a self-created hallucination. It's like watching a movie on television. After I dissolve the dream-hallucination, I know that I'm in an OBE, and the reality of it is qualitatively very different. I know I'm not dreaming.

Bear in mind that I don't often lucid dream. It's more common for me to consciously induce OBEs directly. Here is a journal entry from September 2014, in which I turned a lucid dream into an OBE, just as an example:
10 September 2014 OBE – Deerwood, MN

I was dreaming I was in a large shopping mall-like area. I had been in this place a long time and something had happened that made me increasingly concerned for my safety. “Bad guys” were slowly taking over the mall and they were hunting down and killing anyone who wasn't one of them. I had been avoiding them successfully for probably more than an hour, with some friends. Eventually we got split up and I was on my own. My pursuers were becoming increasingly more aggressive and persistent. I managed to get away from a bad guy by running up a flight of stairs. As I rounded a corner, I heard singing. I knew it was a giant. I stopped to plot my next course of action. Should I go back down the stairs? Or face this giant and somehow try to slip by him?

Then it occurred to me: Now, wait a minute; I'm never running away from bad guys except in my dreams. Come to think of it, I had recently reminded myself that I should periodically do reality checks for lucid dreaming purposes, so I should do one now. That's it! I must be dreaming! And so my dream became a lucid dream and I became conscious.

By this time I saw two of my dream characters, including the giant, who had just discovered me, and an innocent bystander (a young blonde woman) who was in the same situation as me (being hunted). I smiled, pointed at the two dream characters and, as if firing actors from the set of a play, said, “Sorry, guys, but not this time. This is a lucid dream.” I turned my attention away from the dream and commanded myself to go up. I ascended the walls of the shopping mall as the illusion of the dream dissolved. Now it was like an etheric projection. I wasn't seeing clearly. I could perceive my body, which was just below me. I was struggling to get away from it, making swimming motions upward, clawing at the gray cloudy atmosphere. It felt like I was caught in my body's gravitational pull. I said, “I could use a little help, guys!” hoping that an invisible helper would lend a hand. No reaction. After a few minutes of struggling, I managed to break free of my body. Unfortunately, I woke up in my physical body after that.
So the trick is to use an act of will to turn your attention away from the dream hallucination without waking up your physical body. That's the best I can do to describe it.

06 January 2015

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: Out-of-Body Workbook

Review: Out-of-Body Workbook

By Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler

This time I'm reviewing the book Out-of-Body Workbook: The Ultimate 5-Step Guide to the Astral Projection Experience.

This is not a big book. It's 124 pages in length, but the font is big and there's a lot of wasted space, so there's not a lot of information. It's a quick read.

The author bills herself as "a pioneer mind/brain & consciousness researcher, doctor of psychology and metaphysician with an interest in higher mental states" so I expected high quality material. Unfortunately, it was disappointing.

She lost me even before the first chapter. The introduction poses the question, "What are out-of-body experiences all about?" To answer, she uses an example that is not an OBE at all, but rather remote viewing. She says, in part:
"Here's a true story to give you a glimpse of one type of OBE... Somehow the woman has been able to see Jack in her mind's eye, although common sense says this is impossible..."
"Doctor Roe, a parapsychologist  based at the University of Northampton, is investigating whether it is possible to project your mind to a distant location to observe what is happening there. 'Our results are significant,' he says. 'Remote viewing is something that should be take seriously.'" (pg. 16)
While some people may think that remote viewing can be classified as "out of body experience" I disagree. It's not commonly accepted as such in the literature. In fact, such claims are rare, and experts in the field of remote viewing, such as Joseph McMoneagle, make no such claims. What's the difference? In an out-of-body experience, your consciousness seems separate from your physical body. In remote viewing, your consciousness is completely inside your physical body, but you're psychically "seeing" visions of a distant location. Big difference. She reiterates this position again in a chapter titled "Research Overview" where she writes:
"In 1970 the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DOD) began secret undercover research into astral projection/OBE using the term "Remote Viewing." (pg. 107)
Again, in my opinion, they're two separate things, and remote viewing is performed while "in the body." Oddly, in the questions and answers section, she describes clairvoyance this way:
"A clairvoyant impression is usually seen as a mental image in front of or behind the eyes. There is no sense of having been at the actual scene, and the feeling is that the image was 'received.'" (pg. 117)
That aptly describes remote viewing as far as I'm concerned, and yes, I've read a few books on the subject, taken RV classes and done RV myself. Maybe I'm just being stubborn with my definition of an OBE, but to me it seems pretty straightforward.

The book's subtitle talks about being a "5-Step Guide," so what are the five steps? They are:
  1. All about OBEs. This is basic information and some preparation tips. It's good but basic.
  2. Planning Your Experience. This talks about hypnosis, hypnagogic entry, meditation entry, shamanic entry, and drugs (pharmacological entry).
  3. Selecting a method. This has some basic OBE techniques, mostly found in other books: (a) Buhlman's "Target" technique, (b) Muldoon's "Thirst as Subconscious Motivation" technique, (c) Glaskin's "Christos Technique"--outrageously misspelling his name!, (d) Bruce's "Rope" technique, (e) Monroe's "Lines of Force" technique (from Journeys Out of the Body). (f) She ends with her "Preferred Method" (explained below).
  4. OBE Skill Refinement. This covers basics of relaxation, visualization, and energy body awareness. Again, good information, but basic.
  5. Creating an OBE. This is where she talks about the actual separation process after the OBE has been induced: floating out, rolling out, visualizing a duplicate body, and so forth.
So what is her preferred OBE method? She describes it in steps:
  1. She waits until she wakes up in the middle of the night (google WBTB: Wake Back To Bed). Then she begins "her" Energy Flow Visualization, although this is pretty much the "VELO" exercise developed by the IAC (think Luis Minero).
  2. Mental Focus. Basically she sets her intention with an OBE affirmation (as taught by Buhlman and others).
  3. She maintains Bodily Awareness, basically trying to stay aware while watching herself fall back to sleep.
  4. Record Keeping (writing down your OBEs and also keeping a dream journal to improve recall).
I'm pretty sure she's had OBEs herself, but she doesn't really give any narratives and her knowledge seems pretty basic, not very deep (as in Frederick Aardema's book). Even her research into OBEs seems sketchy to me. For example, she states:
"Furthermore, many people accurately report 'seeing' events taking place at a time when the brain doesn't function, such as during cardiac arrest. These cannot be explained by brain changes, since the brain had shut down and flat lined." (pg. 25)
As Dr. Eben Alexander explained in his book Proof of Heaven, just because your heart has stopped (cardiac arrest) does not mean your brain has shut down. Alexander is a brain expert, and his information seems accurate, from other books I've read. Interestingly, his NDE did occur when his brain was shut down completely, by E.Coli Bacterial meningitis. So it does happen, but it's not always the case.

Toward the end of the book, the author talks about brainwaves and brainwave entrainment, barely skimming the surface of the subject. She doesn't talk about binaural beats, hemi-sync technology, infra-liminal sounds, or even much about how or why these things work. Instead, she gives a sales pitch, which was disappointing to see:
"To correct this "brainwave gap problem," I have created a special Schumann frequency brainwave training audio. People who have used it reported better dream recall, increased lucid dreaming, improved intuition, and more achievable OBE practices."
"This is included in a special MP3 brainwave training audio collection available at a discounted cost to readers of this book. Additional information is included in the back of the book." (pg. 101)
The book had several typos and grammatical problems. For example, in many cases she refers to the OBE as an "OBE Experience" which I translate in my mind as "Out of Body Experience Experience." Her spelling was okay for the most part, but I doubt if she even used a simple spellchecker. On page 120, I found the word "then" misspelled as "yjrn."  I expected more from a doctor of psychology. She's apparently the author of more than 30 books, so maybe she's just pumping them out too quickly.

Is this the "Ultimate 5-Step Guide to the Astral Projection Experience" as the subtitle says? No. The bottom line is that this book gives some good basics, but doesn't go into enough depth on any subject.

Bob Peterson
23 December 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Have an Out-of-Body Experience in 30 Days

Review: Have an Out-of-Body Experience in 30 Days

By Keith Harary, Ph.D., and Pamela Weintraub

This time I'm reviewing Have an Out-of-Body Experience in 30 Days: The Free Flight Program by Keith Harary, Ph.D. and Pamela Weintraub. There are several books out there that promise to teach you how to self-induce OBEs in a fixed time frame. This is the first one I remember. It's copyrighted 1989, and I'm pretty sure that's when I bought it.

So rewind to 1989. When I first got the book, the thing that excited me most was the authors: Keith Harary is actually famous in the field of OBEs and parapsychology. In the early 1970s, when he was still in college, he hooked up with the Psychical Research Foundation and did many OBE laboratory experiments at Duke University. He quickly became a star psychic.

Using the name Stuart "Blue" Harary (before he changed it to Keith), his experiments tried to establish veridical proof of OBEs. In some of the experiments, he would travel in OBEs to another room where his cat (Spirit) was filmed. The scientists assessed his ability to remotely affect the cat by counting the number of meow sounds it made. And they got good results. The scientists noted that when Harary was visiting the cat in his out-of-body state, it became much more quiet, which seemed to indicate there actually was a real-world component to his OBEs.

So I was excited when I first cracked open the book in 1989. Unfortunately, I quickly became bored with it and put it down. I tried several times to finish reading it, but always got bored, until it landed back on my bookshelf.

Flash forward to 2014: I decided to try it again. After all, it's a short book; about 100 pages. This is Blue Harary; it's got to be good, right? After all, I loved Ingo Swann's OBE book, To Kiss Earth Goodbye, which has a similar history.

This time I got through it, but man...I was still bored. It just didn't hold my interest. I kept finding excuses to put it down and do something else.

So what is it with this book? It is entirely devoted to teaching the skills of inducing an OBE. That's okay. The problem is: that's all it is. It's just a bunch of instructions of what to do on each of the 30 days. There are no OBE narratives, no theories, no scientific examinations, and no discussions. There are a few suggested experiments, I guess.

One problem is, most of the exercises are geared toward increasing the ability to visualize and the use of imagination. That's not a bad thing, but it felt like paragraph after paragraph of explaining how to accomplish "The Target Technique." The Target Technique, described in a few OBE books, is where you lie down, close your eyes, relax, and then try to visualize a place you are very familiar with, as vividly as possible. For example, visualize standing in your living room, or at the front door to your house, apartment or flat. Try to look around you and see all the details of that location, in your imagination. If necessary, visit that place physically a few times to ingrain it into your memory, and try again. Buhlman describes it quite well, and gives easy instructions. Harary and Weintraub take it further by immersing you in different senses: taking baths, trying to imagine the past or future of a location; all kinds of variations. It's not a bad thing. It's just...tedious.

Each day's exercise builds off the previous, which means there aren't really any new or innovative techniques or approaches. It doesn't mention the vibrations or how to induce them. It doesn't mention binaural beats. It doesn't mention herbs, drugs, crystals or things like that. It doesn't mention mantras, mudras, or chanting. It doesn't mention subconscious conditioning, really. It doesn't mention lucid dreaming. It just seemed like it was geared toward the one (Target Technique-like) approach, rather than giving a variety of techniques (as do books like mine, Buhlman's or D. Scott Rogo's Leaving the Body, for example.)

I only "flagged" two things in the book that interested me. First, they recommended an affirmation, "I'll allow myself to have an out-of-body experience." I liked that for many reasons. Unlike many OBE affirmations, this one can cut through subconscious roadblocks. It seemed...innovative...because I think a lot of people have subconscious reservations about OBEs.

Another innovative idea was an exercise in which you go to sleep at an unusual location, like a hotel, and when you awaken in the morning, you lie still and imagine you're at home in your own bed. That seemed like it was worth a try.

Another interesting thing is that, with many of the exercises, they recommend imagining your own face looking back at you from above. I can't remember other books recommending that, so it struck me as interesting.

The spelling and grammar were professional; I only recall one typo.

This book is alright, but it's not high on my list. It might be good for someone who needs to work on their visualization skills. In my opinion, it just lacks flavor.

Bob Peterson
09 December 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: Out-of-Body Exploring by Preston Dennett

Review: Out-of-Body Exploring

by Preston Dennett

Not long ago I went into my metaphysical library and spotted an OBE book I couldn't recall ever reading. It was from 2004, a book called Out-of-Body Exploring by Preston Dennett. I just finished it, and here's my review.

First of all, there's a good amount of content. This is not one of those lightweight OBE books. It's 182 pages. The font is a little on the small size, but that's a good thing: there is lots of information packed in, and no wasted space.

I liked Dennett's style and what he was saying right from the start. First, he agreed that OBEs and Lucid Dreams are two distinct things, although they're related. As early as page 2, he states:
"The main difference between the two, I think, is that with out-of- body experiences, you perceive the environment outside of you as being externally created and independent of mental influences. In lucid dreams, your environment is internally created, and is composed of mental projections." (pg. 2)
That's very well put and it's what I've been saying for years. Later, he echoes my sentiments exactly:
 "In the lucid-dream state, we become aware that we are in fact manifesting our thoughts, and we can manipulate the dream state, thereby exploring the inner world. The out-of-body state is the flip side--you explore the outer world." (pg. 45)
Another important point he makes is that it's easy to transition from a lucid dream to an OBE. So one way to have an OBE is to first induce a Lucid Dream, then dispel the self-created hallucination of the dream. He offers solid advice on the first part, inducing the lucid dream:
"I am convinced that critical thinking is essential to becoming lucid and having out-of-body experiences. By keeping a constant awareness of where you are and what you are doing, you carry this attitude into the dream state, and hopefully not only remember what you are doing, but become aware of it while it is happening." (pg. 10)

He also talks about inducing OBEs that don't start as LDs. For example:
"What worked best for me seems to be a combination of intense willpower, desire, focus and intent. Only by obsessing myself with the subject was I able to generate out-of-body events." (pg. 8)
This goes back to the subject of motivating the subconscious mind. That's why I like to read so many OBE books: it feeds my obsession and keeps my subconscious mind trained on the idea of leaving my body. It really does help, especially for beginners.

Dennett gives lots of very short OBE narrations to illustrate the points he makes. It's not only effective at driving his point home, it also brings OBE images to your mind that influence and motivate your subconscious. I really appreciate that, and it's uncommon in the genre. I can't stress this point enough: Reading OBE narrations like this makes you imagine yourself in out-of-body scenarios, and that goes straight to your subconscious mind and helps make OBEs more likely.

In the beginning, many of his narrations illustrate the same kind of beginner problems I wrote about, like (1) difficulty maintaining lucidity and control, (2) encountering barriers, (3) learning to control emotions, (4) the almost irresistible joy of flying, and so forth. That gave the book a feeling of genuineness. It was quite amusing to hear about his playfully gobbling up astral food or going berserk and destroying things in a grocery store. At least until he learned control.

The book has many fascinating experiments, ranging from the simple to the complex. Some of his many experiments include trying to sing, making his astral arms melt away, trying to visit the site of the Titanic, flying to the moon, visiting the Akashic library, time travel, talking to his dead mom, trying to meet God, and many many more. They're all very fascinating. It's not simple wish-fulfillment or fantasy, because most of the experiments yielded unexpected results and in many cases, he did not achieve his goal.

One of his experiments had veridical evidence: on page 75, he described flying under a bridge at the L.A. river which has banks lined with concrete. In the out-of-body state, he saw what looked like two feet of dirt lining the banks. After the OBE, he visited the site physically and was shocked to find dirt lining the banks at that exact spot. This seemed to suggest that his OBE was "real" because what he witnessed directly contradicted both his knowledge and his expectations.

Also, I like his style. Dennett isn't dictating facts as an expert. He writes like we're all on the same team, and he often quotes several other OBE authors (William Buhlman, Robert Bruce, Sylvan Muldoon, and much to my surprise, even me!) to explain a point. It makes the discussion seem very homogeneous and not self-centered.

Dennett gives some very good (but basic) advice for achieving OBEs. He crams it in a bit tight, but it's more than most. He includes several basic foundations (such as relaxation) and techniques found in other books, plus a few of his own tricks, such as "The Flash" where you imagine that you are running extremely fast, like the comic book (& movie) character The Flash. It was solid, although it could have been twice as long.

The part I liked best (besides the narrations) was actually the epilogue. It's kind of like an "Oh my God, I almost forgot to say this" section. He tightly crams a lot of spiritual stuff in that one small chapter. Here's just one small example to give you the flavor:
"Today, nearly twenty years of out-of-body experiences has taught me many things. Like most projectors, I learned early on that privacy is an illusion. I learned that the universe is far more vast than I can possibly imagine. I learned that beliefs unsupported by experience can lead to delusion and retard your spiritual growth. I learned that thoughts and emotions have far-reaching effects." (pg. 174)

From the office of the grammar Nazi: this book is very well written, clear, concise, and easy to understand. The flow and organization are professional. Its grammar and spelling at both perfect; I did not find one single mistake or typo, and believe me, that's very rare indeed.

I really enjoyed this OBE book and give it a big thumbs up.

25 November 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bob's Top Ten OBE Books

Bob Peterson's Top 10 OBE Books

by Bob Peterson
11 November 2014

I've been doing OBE book reviews for two years now. I've done 32 to date. That's still only 18 percent of my collection, which is now up to 175 OBE books. That's just OBE books and does not include books on NDEs, lucid dreaming, remote viewing or other peripheral topics.

Someone recently asked me what my top ten OBE books were, so I thought I'd try to figure that out. It's really a tough call because there are different categories of OBE books. I love some of them for their spirituality, some for their scientific analysis, some for their narrations. So it's really hard to quantify; it would be much easier to give my top 3 of several categories, but I'll do my best.

Just a reminder that this is a moving target: I may have to revise my picks as I keep reading and reviewing books.
1.  Multidimensional Man by Jurgen Ziewe
When it comes right down to it, I guess this is my number one favorite OBE book. I loved it for its spirituality. Ziewe really pushes the OBE to the limits and shows us where it can take us, spiritually. It doesn't have a very scientific approach, but it is an excellent view of the non-physical dimensions. In my book review, I wrote something to the effect that if this book had been written 2000 years ago, it would have changed the course of history and the face of the world's religions. I think today's religions are mostly based on ancient people's OBEs and their opinions of the afterlife, but its been clouded by the distortions of time and language. Today they're so cast in stone that people are unwilling to examine the evidence on which these beliefs are actually based. This book exposes the afterlife for what it is: a multidimensional multiverse. And if today's religions had been based on it, I'm convinced this would be a happier, more enlightened world. It's truly inspiring. Its biggest shortcomings are the lack of scientific method and lack of instructions.
2. Journeys Out of the Body by Robert Monroe

This is the book that started it all for me, so I have a certain fondness and nostalgia for it. It has a more analytical approach to the OBE. This is a book of discovery. Monroe stumbled onto the OBE by accident and explored it in depth. He didn't judge it. Like an explorer standing on the brink of a new world, he explained what he had encountered and what he could conclude from it. I loved his scientific approach. He used plenty of examples and his personal OBE narratives to make points. Best of all, he said not to take his word for it, but to try it yourself; that's the best proof. It's well worth reading. I view this book as the 1970's answer to Muldoon's first book (#3).
3. The Projection of the Astral Body by Sylvan Muldoon & Carrington

This is one of the earliest books ever written about the out-of-body experience, from the 1920s. Muldoon had lots of OBEs and he explored the state in great detail. He did this at a time when little was really known about the subject. Looking at the subject objectively (as opposed to the occultism of his contemporaries), he blazed a trail for all of us and reported his findings. I'm sure Monroe read this book when he started having OBEs, and it influenced him greatly. It was groundbreaking and fundamental in our modern understanding of the OBE, and is still very much relevant.
4. Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman

I kind of view this book as the 1990's answer to Monroe's first book (#2). Like Muldoon and Monroe before him, Buhlman gives OBE narratives and explains what he discovered in his numerous OBEs. He points out many things that aren't explained well in prior books. This book was published around the same time my first book, which I wrote for the same reasons: to point out observations overlooked by most OBE books. Since our books point out many of the same things, I've always said that if it had been published two or three years earlier, I might not have felt the need to write mine.
5. Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce

Aussie Robert Bruce was on the Internet promoting OBEs and methods to achieve it for a long time (for free) before publishing this book. It quickly became a classic. The book is big and chock full of good solid information about the subject. He approaches the subject with a certain amount of occult lore (and possibly some superstition) and I don't agree with everything he says, but he is an expert at OBEs and his methods are valid. This is a must-have for every OBE book collection.
6. Explorations In Consciousness by Frederick Aardema

I loved this book, probably because it shares many of the same traits as Monroe's, Muldoon's and Buhlman's. It's one of the most underrated OBE books in the genre. Aardema induced numerous OBEs, did many very creative experiments and took OBEs further--scientifically--than the others. His narratives and discoveries were fascinating, insightful and unique. He approaches the OBE with the heart of an explorer, but the critical mind of a scientist. It displays incredible insight into the OBE.

7. Out of Body Experiences by Akhena

Akhena has been described as the William Buhlman of France. She's been teaching OBEs for a very long time. She's adept and very knowledgeable. Her book contains some of the best evidence in the genre to indicate that OBEs are "real." It's big, and it's good. Its only shortcoming is some minor grammatical issues. Don't let that stop you from buying it.
8. Leaving the Body by D. Scott Rogo

This book is not very big, but it's entirely dedicated to presenting OBE tips and techniques, and it explains them well. It goes into the background or history of each technique, explains how to do it, and why it works. If you want to learn how to induce OBEs, this book is a good place to start.
9. Soul Traveler by Albert Taylor

It's been many years since I read Dr. Taylor's book, but I remember I was impressed (and as an long-time OBEr, it takes a lot to impress me). Dr. Taylor was an aeronautical engineer and scientist working on top secret government projects (such as the F-117A Stealth Fighter) when he came across out-of-body experiences. He prefers to call it "soul travel" (I don't think it's related to Eckankar which uses the same term). Taylor gave up his high-dollar career in engineering to focus on exploring OBEs and doing motivational speaking and many other things. To my knowledge, this book is the only pure-OBE book to reach #1 on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. (I could be wrong about that). I've met Al and heard him speak in front of audiences, and he's very inspiring.
10. Out of Body Experiences by Robert Peterson

I gave this a lot of thought: Should I include my own book in the list, or will that be tacky? People who know me know that I'm not arrogant. And I'm not trying to sell you a book here: The entire text of this book is available on my website for free. I wrote the book between 1986 and 1995 (published in 1997) because I felt like the OBE books available at the time were inadequate: There was so much overlooked, so much more that needed to be said. So I wrote the book to be as good as I could. The problem now is that it's dated. There have been a lot of good OBE books written since, and they fill in a lot of the gaps I thought needed filling. Buhlman's, Bruce's, Aardema's, Akhena's, Ziewe's and many others were all published after this one, and probably do a better job. Still, I put my heart and soul into this book, so it's still one of my favorites. Besides, it's my list and I'm allowed to like my own book! If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have put my name on it.

There are lots of other good OBE books out there. This list is by no means exhaustive and it doesn't mean the others are bad. It just means these are my top picks.

Bob Peterson
11 November 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: Astral Projection & Sceptical Occultism by Nick Dutch

Review: Astral Projection & Sceptical Occultism

 by Nick Dutch
Book review by Bob Peterson

I never get tired of reading out-of-body experience books, and that's because everyone has a different perspective. This book is really different from other books on the subject, and for that reason I found it enjoyable.

When I first picked up the book, I was concerned. The back cover has a photo of the author sporting a baseball cap and looking positively angry. That's not a good first impression. Second, the cover was almost completely black: the face in the photo above is not visible unless you look really hard on my copy. On the other hand, it's 162 pages, and it's in a decent font, so there's actually a good amount of content there.

The title was intriguing. The term "Sceptical Occultism" (British spelling; for me it's Skeptical) seemed like an oxymoron: a self-contradiction. I haven't known any occultists who were skeptical (enough), and I haven't known any skeptics who were also occultists. So how can the two concepts be reconciled? It has elements of both. Sometimes the author sounds very grounded and skeptical, and yet his OBEs are just as "out there" as most books in the genre. I'm skeptical too, yet I can't deny my own experiences. That's how it works.

When I first started reading, I gained a certain amount of respect for the author for his honesty. He openly admits that we will never be able to prove things like a nonphysical world, the existence of a soul (or astral body), life after death, or anything else for that matter. We can never disprove the arguments of an atheist. All we can really say for sure is that people have the experience. Despite all the faith (or doubt) in the world, people do have OBEs, but Dutch insists that's all we can say: We can't necessarily imply the existence of a soul, the afterlife, nonphysical reality, or any of it based on the experience. But the experiences do happen. The author drives this point a bit too far, talking about it for at least the first 50 pages of the book. That's a long time to make that argument.
 "But we must always remember that "Proof" and "Evidence" are just stages in an academic debate." (pg. 47)
That's not to say the experience is without value. He argues that OBEs are still well worth having.
"...there are atheists who believe that if you criticise the intellectual fallacies of a superstitious person that is sufficient to honestly make a hard truth claim that the phenomena of which they speak or believe in, can't have any reality at all rather than just being a misinterpretation of something that could be real. To destroy an argument is not to destroy the natural phenomena in question! If you destroy an argument about what is real in the world, you have destroyed the argument, but you cannot destroy nature." (pg. 50)
In other words, even if a skeptic shoots down somebody's implications based on their OBEs, they haven't disproved anything: The person still had the experience. Even if it wasn't "real" it was still an experience, and it still has value for that reason.
 "In order to try and get these strange experiences it is quite common for the newcomer to the occult to get themselves too hard and fast involved with occultists, people who say they know, but in reality, these people who say that they know just have beliefs and a complete lack of ability to deploy scientific thinking to any strange phenomena that they might experience. Many of them are would be cult leaders and use the alleged authority of their alleged religion or beliefs to control the seeker of the truth." (pg 57).
The discussion was honest and fascinating, but it got old after a while. At first I thought the whole book might be a dry philosophical discussion, but it wasn't. The book gets much better after that. He does talk about OBEs, admitting that his major influence was the book The Projection of the Astral Body by Muldoon and Carrington (I have a book review of that one too). He talks about firsthand observations from his own OBEs, and that's where I perked up. For example:
"It is rare to see spirits in the astral world, but sometimes they do appear, and they can be summoned by calling them in the spirit world." (Pg. 66)
I don't agree. In my experience, seeing spirits is really quite common. However, there's a difference between ordinary spirits (which I often see) and guides or helpers (which I often can't see). They're not rare for me, anyway! Oddly, that's about the only place where I disagree.

Next, Dutch dives into the deep end of the pool and starts talking about how to induce OBEs. He has an excellent discussion about conditioning. He talks in detail about good relaxation methods. He points out things that are overlooked by many, like the importance of doing OBE walk-throughs:
"Rehearsal is also important. Work it out. How you are going to do the projection. Get familiar with the whole process. "Walk" yourself through it in visualisation or even physically around the flat, apartment or house where you live. Tell yourself, "As I fall asleep, I am going to start from my bed, rise parallel to my sleeping physical shell and then slide through the air from Here and then slowly descend and right myself so that I am standing up Here." (pg. 74).
I'm not talking about an OBE technique here (although it can work); I'm talking about using your imagination to impress the idea of OBEs on your subconscious mind (which is talked about by Muldoon and many other experts).

On page 89, Dutch slipped once again into his discourse about how you have to see this as just an experience, and that you can't imply anything from it about religion, etc. However, I cheered for him equally when he talked about how doing so can lead us into meaningless conjecture:
"...people go off on to the useless tangent of arguing about religion and different beliefs. Arguments that are by their very nature, arguments in a circle as no matter what, people from all sides of the debate won't be willing to concede that they might be wrong. All scientific reasoning goes out of the window and we end up with warring sectarian tribes attacking each other over cyberspace and no real scientific progression at all. Try and focus your attention on the experience and how to generate it." (pg. 90)
The "Astral Projection" Facebook group has been mired by too much of this type of useless bickering about religion, and no good ever came of it. He revisits this idea at the end of the book, stressing that focus should be placed on studying the experience itself, both scientifically and from a firsthand point of view.

I found Dutch's approach to OBEs to be fresh. For example, unlike many of the OBE books out there, he recommends using mantras to produce OBEs. He goes into fairly good detail about it. He doesn't try to make it some deep secret "occult" mystery. He explains why mantras work: they get you into the right frame of mind. He explains what to use: something simple that will give you an uplifting positive feeling. One example he uses is the mantra "HE - LI - UM". In other words, helium, the gas used to fill balloons to make them float. This is not rocket science. Helium is simple, can give you an uplifting feeling, has connotations of being lighter than air, able to float, etc. Sheer genius!

I really liked the book for its honesty. Nick Dutch is not trying to make himself out to be some kind of guru, occultist or something special. He admits that it took him a full two years of trying before he had his first OBE. He was persistent and tried everything before he found combinations that worked. And he's eager to share what he learned, without an air of superiority.

He talks about how belief is not necessary: All you need is "suspension of disbelief." Even if you don't believe in God or the supernatural, you can at least suspend your disbelief long enough to do OBE attempts, and that may indeed help you reproduce the experience. It's really kind of an enigma:
"Yes, I do believe that religious people may get more spiritual sensations and experiences, but they ascribe the experience to God, whereas I ascribe it to nature.
Incidentally, I have tried in the past, to use the concept of God to help me in reaching the state of mind for an astral projection. I chose the mantra "I am ascending slowly to reach God" and found it really rather powerful. Whether God exists is an irrelevance, the words had a degree of power to help me generate the experience." (pg 112-113).
On page 117, Dutch starts giving some of his OBE history and OBE narrations. This makes it all the more genuine. These aren't mind-blowing OBEs, but they definitely have a quality of authenticity. For example, he describes the OBEs as having "bluish yellow creamy light" and he writes about how objects in the room don't cast a shadow, and are illuminated from their own light. His descriptions are rich and often quite entertaining. Sometimes he went too far and scared himself. In one experiment, he tried to experiment with OBE-lycanthropy: trying to turn himself into a werewolf. It wasn't mind-blowing but it was interesting.

In college he was fond of going to the library to do his OBE work. He wrote:
"I probably spent more time in the library when out of the body then [sic] I did when in the body, or so it seems." (pg. 142)

Despite the word "Occultism" in the title, Dutch does not really talk about the occult. He doesn't give any incantations, spells or occult information. He doesn't talk about the history of the occult, except in passing. (Innocuous, but enough to prove he's studied the occult).

The converse is also true. Despite the word "Scepticism" in the title, he doesn't try to refute any claims, or present any scientific evidence. What he does do is tell you what he experienced and what worked for him.

It was not comprehensive. When it comes to inducing OBEs, there's a lot he did not cover, but what he did cover, he covered well: his discussions were not light-weight by any means. 

As a grammar Nazi, it made me cringe. There were probably a hundred or more typos and grammatical problems. Like so many self-published books, this one definitely needed both a proof-reader and an editor. And no, it's not just because I'm American and he's English. These are things like "then" versus "than" (as the quote above proves), or "an" where he meant "and" or "mediation" where he meant "meditation."

Despite the grammar issues, it's a decent book. I found this book to be very informative, honest and helpful for learning the art of inducing OBEs.

Bob Peterson
28 Oct 2014