Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: The Out-of-Body Experience: An Experiential Anthology

Review: The Out-of-Body Experience: An Experiential Anthology

Edited by Rodrigo Montenegro

One my facebook friends, Mr. Nélson Abreu of the IAC (International Academy of Consciousness) was kind enough to send me a review copy of this relatively new book, The Out-of-Body Experience: An Experiential Anthology, edited by Rodrigo Montenegro.

For people who don't know about the IAC, it's a non-profit, multicultural, and universalistic (i.e. not religious) organization dedicated to the research and education in "conscientiology" (the study of consciousness) and its subdisciplines, one of which is out-of-body experiences. They give classes all over the world, and their work is mainly based on the teachings of the late Waldo Viera (author of the hefty tome Projectiology) of Iguazu Falls, Brazil. One of the main things they teach is out-of-body experiences.

If you've been following my blog, you know how much I love OBE narratives, and this book is mainly just that: a collection of OBE narratives from a plethora of people from all walks of life.

Many of the OBE narratives come from people who have taken the IAC's OBE classes. Consequently, they often use IAC terminology. For that reason, many pages have (by necessity) footnotes from the editor, explaining various words, ideas or concepts from IAC. The IAC-speak is the only drawback to this book. I've written about this in book reviews from other IAC authors (Luis Minero and Sandee Gustus come to mind.) In fact, there are so many terms tossed around, the book's glossary of terms is 37 pages long! But don't worry: not all those terms are used in the book. The terminology is actually not heavy, nor confusing. It's tastefully done, and explained well by the editor's footnotes.

I've said it before: I never get bored reading OBE narratives because they bring back the excitement of discovery, plus I use them to train my subconscious (as explained in my previous blog post).

I especially enjoyed the narratives where there was verifiable evidence to suggest the OBE was "real" (i.e. more than just a hallucination). My favorite one involved a guy named Ron Smedts from the Netherlands. In his OBE, he floated out the window of his second-story apartment. Looking for proof that he was seeing the physical world from a non-physical perspective, he drifted down to the parking lot and tried to find his car. He couldn't find his car, then became disillusioned when he noticed that every car in the parking lot was white; a very unlikely scenario. But after he returned to his body:
"As I passed a window I glanced out and stopped in my tracks: I was shocked. Every car in the lot was entirely covered with a fresh and uninterrupted layer of pure white snow." (pg. 65)

I also really enjoyed a narrative from Jean-Pierre Bastiou, an 84-year-old man of Brazil in which the author met with his dead mother, who appeared young and radiant.

Now comes the surprise. The OBE narratives end on page 227. On page 228 is an article about Near-Death Experiences (contributed by Nelson Abreu, guy who sent me the book). After that is another article that explains the IAC's "projectarium" which is a special facility they set up for the purpose of inducing OBEs. I've always wondered what the IAC facilities were like; now I know. (I've never taken their classes.) These are special small spherical buildings, each of which is like the Monroe Institute's CHEC Units, but perhaps given more forethought.

I really enjoyed this book. As OBE books go, this one meshes well with my belief system. It didn't say anything I strongly disagreed with. For example, their whole concept of an "existential program," in other words, life-lessons and life-plans matches my beliefs rather well.

The margins are small and the font is small, which means there's a lot of content, but it's a quick read; not heavy at all. The book is a good size--336 pages--but a lot of that can be skipped, like the glossary, the index, descriptions of the IAC's programs, and so forth. There are a few grammar problems (especially "OBE's" vs. "OBEs") but all-in-all it was very well done and professional.

You won't find any "secret" teachings, stern warnings, superstitions, or esoteric nonsense. In fact, there weren't any OBE instructions or techniques. Nonetheless, it was an entertaining collection of OBE narratives that demonstrates the wide diversity of the out-of-body experience.

I give it a thumbs up.

Since this book is not available in amazon.com (at the time of this writing), I'll just mention that you can buy a copy directly from the IAC at the U.K. IAC's book store or by sending email to: california@iacworld.org. Hopefully in the future, it will be available for sale at: store.iacworld.org.

Bob Peterson
24 November 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Using OBE Narratives To Induce OBEs

Using OBE Narratives To Induce OBEs

by Bob Peterson

The last OBE book I reviewed was Boundless: One Woman's Journal of Her Out-of-Body Experiences by Anita Gamba, which was basically a collection of OBE narratives from the author and what she learned from her OBEs.

I never get tired of reading OBE narratives, even though I've read thousands with the same basic features. Why? I've said a few times in my blog that I read OBE books and use OBE narratives to program my subconscious. You can also leverage OBE narratives to increase your own OBEs.

Your subconscious is a powerful thing. It has much more control and intelligence than most people realize. It's not a mindless zombie waiting to be programmed. It is another part of you, a real living, breathing "you" who sits back behind the scenes and watches what you do.

But don't think of it so much as a process running in the back of your mind, even though it is. Think of it like a full grown dog who is holding your leash. It's very intelligent and has a will of its own. Even though it's still technically "you," it can think and act independently. It has its own motivations and desires.

The first important thing to realize is that your subconscious can pull you outside your body any time it sees fit. While the "conscious" you may need to spend hours carefully quieting the mind, relaxing the body and tricking your awareness away from the body, it's child's play to the subconscious. It can pull you out almost instantaneously. The problem is: it's not motivated to do so. That's where the programming comes in.

So how do you program your subconscious for OBEs? In many respects, it's like training a dog. There are several methods. One way (not applicable to dogs) is hypnosis. Another way is rewriting your self-talk / internal dialog; you know, the little things you say to yourself throughout the day, like "Man, I'm tired," or "I'm really bad at this." A third way is direct communication, and that's what I want you to start doing. It's not too different from the self-talk; it's blatant reminders to the subconscious. And since you are really one person, its will is your will. As long as your goals and its goals are compatible, it won't have a problem helping you out.

So here's what you do. Read a book or website that has a lot of OBE narratives. It doesn't matter which one; almost every OBE book has them. Gamba's book is a good example. Author Robert Crookall studied OBEs and wrote several books about it, and a lot of his books contain hundreds of OBE narratives, such as The Study and Practice of Astral Projection or Case-Book of Astral Projection, 454-746.

Just read OBE narratives one by one and as you do, perform these steps for each:
  • Read the OBE narrative.
  • As you read, imagine yourself doing the same things. So if the narrative talks about feeling the vibrations, imagine yourself feeling vibrations. If the person puts their arm through a wall, imagine you do the same. If the person walks through a wooden door and floats down a hallway, imagine yourself doing that too. If they did some flying, imagine yourself flying too. Imagine every little detail and aspect of the OBE, including exit and reentry.
  • Next, silently tell yourself, "Yes! That's what I want to do!" Be exuberant.
  • If you read a narrative that's scary or uncomfortable, think to yourself, "That really doesn't apply to me" then imagine yourself having a fun OBE instead, flying around, exploring the astral world.
  • When you get to the end of the narrative, think to yourself, "Yeah, I'd like to have an OBE like that too."
  • It helps to ask yourself, "Do I really want to do that?" Then answer, "Yes! That's exactly what I want to do. I'd like to have an OBE tonight, and I'll be fully conscious and remember everything!"
That's basically it. The important thing is that you imagine yourself out of your body, performing OBE actions, and stay focused on it for a while. Don't just brush it off with a "Yeah, that'd be cool." Use your imagination as much as possible, and use as much detail as possible because, like a dog, the subconscious doesn't think with words as much as it thinks in terms of your imagination. (Although the subconscious can understand words, much like a dog can understand words.)

Performing these steps can increase your OBEs dramatically.

One last thing: I recommend you also give yourself one last affirmation (or five!) before you go to sleep. Tell yourself, "I really should really have a conscious OBE tonight."

See you out there.

Robert Peterson
10 Nov 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Boundless by Anita Gamba


by Anita Gamba

Today I'm reviewing the book Boundless: One Woman's Journal of Her Out-of-Body Experiences by Anita Gamba.

This book is simple. It is almost entirely OBE narrations. There's also some theory and basics, plus a few notes about her primary OBE technique (which is more about relaxation and setting intentions than anything), but mostly it's just narrations. That's okay because I've always loved OBE narrations; they always take me back to that magical thrill of discovery. It also helps program your subconscious mind to induce OBEs.

Gamba's OBEs started when she gave birth to her son. Since then she's recorded "over one hundred and fifty out-of-body experiences." At first, she tried to figure them out in terms of quantum physics (as did William Buhlman in Adventures Beyond the Body), which led her to more research than the average person. She became quite knowledgeable in the stuff, which is not an easy task. In the end, she gives a curious mixture of science and philosophy.

She is honest, genuine and up-front about her OBEs. She openly admits her shortcomings and when she doesn't understand something. Her OBEs are pretty basic and typical. She experiments with floating and flying. She finds out she can breathe underwater. She looks in the mirror. She encounters other people and animals. On the one hand, they're not quite thrilling to someone who's been studying and practicing OBEs for 35 years. They're certainly not tedious though. On the other hand, there's nothing startling, controversial or surprising in there either, so I know she's not making this stuff up: she's really been there.

What I liked most about the book is that she always tries to find lessons in her OBEs, even the ones that are mundane. Maybe it's my vanity/ego because it reminded me of my second book, Lessons Out of the Body, although she doesn't get too "heavy" or preachy with her lessons. They are often quite simple, like "Social Masks: Be Real." Sometimes there are many lessons to be learned from a simple OBE. For example, she writes:
"This OBE journey has reminded me that:
  •  When I am patient and stay focused I am successful at anything I choose.
  • I know how to hold my focus whilst the world is trying to pull me back to its reality.
  • I need to trust my own judgment and I can always call on my inner power to protect me.
  • I have always had the courage to move through doors of change, not knowing what is on the other side.
  • I have always had the presence of mind to make firm decisions about moving on if the present situation proves to be too macabre for me.
  • The voice that told me not to go to the past reminds me that the voice of my inner wisdom should be listened to even if it sounds harsh.
  • Furthermore, I must leave behind the skeletons of my past because they will kill me if I continue to give them validity." (pg. 64)
The book is pretty basic. You're not going to find any startling revelations or the depth of, say Jurgen Ziewe or Frederick Aardema. Perhaps I'm a bit jaded because I recently read and reviewed Ziewe's latest book, Vistas of Infinity, and that's a tough act to follow.

This book is 119 pages long. The size is normal, the typeset and margins are good. It's quick and comfortable (not heavy) to read, but there's enough content that I didn't feel short-changed. I don't recall any grammar or spelling errors, so the book is well executed. There was nothing offensive, nor anything I disagreed with.

I'll give it a thumbs up, but there are better narration books.

Bob Peterson
28 October 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: Vistas of Infinity by Jurgen Ziewe

Vistas of Infinity

by Jurgen Ziewe

Today I'm reviewing the book Vistas of Infinity by Jurgen Ziewe.

If you read my blog, you may already know that Jurgen Ziewe wrote my favorite OBE book, Multidimensional Man (MM) and its sequel The Ten Minute Moment. You may also realize that it's been a long time since I've posted an OBE book review. That's because I wanted to read this book slowly, a little at a time, savoring each sentence. Consequently, this book review is a bit long winded. The book covers a lot, so I have a lot to say about it; sorry!

This book is about the author's further explorations into the non-physical realms, afterlife territories, and cosmic consciousness. It's a natural progression from Multidimensional Man (aka MM) explaining where the author has gone and what he's witnessed firsthand (mostly) since the first book was published. This book builds on and complements the first two books perfectly.

Ziewe took this opportunity to rectify several shortcomings of the first book. For example, on page 11, he lays it all on the line and spells out exactly what he used to judge his out-of-body experiences:
"1. I had to have full waking Consciousness while out of my body.
2. I had to be fully aware that my physical body was in another place.
3. I had to have full awareness of my waking life's social identity.
4. I had to be fully aware that the experience was not even part of a lucid dream, let alone a dream." (pp 11-12).
Those four statements say a lot about the clarity and awareness of his OBEs. It's more than apparent that his OBEs were not dreams or flights of imagination. As it was for MM, it's amusing how he almost runs himself out of superlatives to describe his experiences and level of awareness. For example:
 "The richness and complexity I discerned was staggering, seeing swirling particles of matter. This is how deeply our minds can view without the use of an electro-scanning microscope....The only thing more staggering was the exhilaration that my waking awareness had reached a new peak level. It had arrived at a super-level of clarity, something never to be found in physical wakefulness. The physical world, I pondered, is a clear second when it comes to an experience of clarity and reality awareness." (pg. 65)

Here are some more examples of how the book goes the extra mile:
  • Although he doesn't describe the techniques themselves, he does describe the procedures or meditations he used to induce each OBE, whether it started as a lucid dream, a meditation or other induction technique.
  • He goes beyond normal reporting of what he saw: he advances some theories as to how the multidimensional reality works and its structure.
  • He compares and contrasts his observations with the few historic reports of higher (beyond the astral) states of consciousness, such as Theosophists like author C.W. Leadbeater.
  • He describes OBE encounters with alien life forms, which is rare in the literature (also see Darryl Berry's book).
  • He also talks about his "Silent Companion" and where that's led him. This perfectly fits what I call my "inner voice."

I came across many really good quotes that exactly matched my beliefs about life, OBEs, and religion. For example:
"The Out-of-Body state in full waking Consciousness is undoubtedly the biggest miracle in human Consciousness we can ever experience, and every time I am blessed with this miracle my life is transformed anew." (pg. 19)
I've always maintained that experience and knowledge trump belief and faith, and OBEs can provide direct experience that religions only hint at. Ziewe is unafraid to challenge religious dogma (and not just Christian) with direct experience.
"Traditionally, religion rather than science has claimed the authority of knowledge of what our future beyond the physical has in store, but all too often our religions have been misunderstood and misappropriated, uncompromisingly, for propaganda purposes to serve invested power structures and control its followers, often with horrendous consequences." (pg. 22)
In his latest adventures, he separates fact from fiction with regard to karma, and visits many of the places people go after they die. This includes places most Christians would be quick to call "Heaven" and "Hell," even if they are still on the Astral Plane.
"I assume that some church mystics might have honed in on these extended stays in a negative mindset and referred to them as eternal hell. On closer inspection these are just illusions and states of mind." (pg. 50)

He even visited the afterlife of a suicide bomber, which is a fascinating encounter. Mostly what he found was ordinary people living ordinary life-after-death in very exotic places, places that best fit their own vibrational level. His adventures sometimes lead to some humorous encounters:
"I approached and mixed with the group. Trying clumsily to strike up a conversation with a couple next to me, by asking them whether they knew that they were dead, they looked at me as if I was some kind of simpleton, so I simply took that as a 'yes' and moved on." (pp. 107-108)

He also talks about encounters with the dead, including his own deceased mother, which is very interesting.

His OBEs also go far beyond the Astral Plane to some hard-to-reach places, Heaven-like worlds that some would describe as higher planes of existence. To do that, he had to abandon all concepts of "self."
"Getting into these levels beyond the Astral is an undertaking that requires a mindset free of all its previous identification and attachments. It is simply impossible to enter this state still connected to any of our cherished fixations of self-importance. If we are not prepared to do that, it would be like attempting a balloon ride with all the heavy weights and ropes keeping it anchored to the ground." (pg. 194).
Ziewe uses direct firsthand experience to correct misconceptions about OBEs. For example:
"There was plenty to learn from this short episode. For a start, the old belief that there are seven levels on the Astral plane needs to be instantly deposited into the bin of misinformation." (pg. 50)
The reality of it is much more complex:
"Sometimes it is possible to approach these elevated regions from the air during OBEs and they show themselves up first as a bright light in the distance, like dawn breaking in the morning. As we get closer, we find increasing discomfort when facing these brighter territories until we get acclimatised. This is another reason why I found it hard to accept that dimensional levels are in some way stacked vertically on top of each other. Although we can enter higher dimensions via a shift in Consciousness, we can also literally travel towards them." (pg. 186).
His descriptions of helpers and guides also matches my experience perfectly. For example:
"Other Out-of-Body experiencers have reported meeting a very specific personal guide, who was dedicated to them and always appeared as the same entity. Except for one stage during my OBEs, where I had a regular Chinese sage training me to reach higher dimensional levels, I seemed to be blessed with different helpers more on the basis of whoever happened to be available or suited for the specific nature of my request." (pg. 120)

Another thing that struck me when reading this book is how some of his experiences matched the movie Astral City, both in the scenery and the people he encountered.

Ziewe's OBEs also partly explain an oddity reported by author Robert Bruce: he talked about how the astral plane can appear with repeating patterns, almost like it had floor tiles. (See the cover of his book Astral Dynamics for example.)
"Frequently, when choosing to go for a stroll in these pre-Heaven realms and looking at the ground, a number of curious phenomena may be observed, such as the ground organising itself in a geometric and symmetric pattern, so it may appear as if one is walking on some kind of Persian rug, but these patterns will keep changing in accordance with one's feelings. I noticed the same phenomena when walking on our physical Earth after an hour or so of deep meditation. My explanation is that the inner experienced symmetry during meditation is projected through the eyes into the world and reorganises everything more symmetrically." (pg. 191)

Where does this all lead us? To Consciousness with a capital C, and something I've always maintained: The person you think you are is really only a very tiny fragment of who you really are. As Ziewe puts it:
"Consciousness was clearly showing me that my physical life was just a small part of many other life experiences and that, at night, possibly in deep dream state, or even parallel to my waking state, I had been busy pursuing one or more alternative existences. With this thought, I sank into a semi-meditative state and I began to remember more and more detail with astonishing clarity; I gained the realization that the life I am leading back in my physical body is only the tip of the iceberg, one of many lives I am leading - or, perhaps better, Consciousness is leading - each one of equal significance." (pg. 169).

So what is at the core of Consciousness when you drill down deep enough?
"From the viewpoint of Singularity this lonesome being that we consider to be us, which struggles to survive, has in reality never been an independent unit, but always been part of a whole, no matter how it perceives itself or on which level of reality it is focused on. It has always been part of a greater unifying Consciousness, but as long as we struggle, want, desire (even desiring to be united with our Singular Source), we experience ourselves as separate. In this state of perceived division, Singularity cannot reach us and bestow its blessings of reunion because we've erected the artificial barriers of separation via our personalised viewpoint. When the barriers are gone, the blessing starts flooding in and we then firmly experience our natural connection to our original and authentic Source. As far as Source is concerned, we have never been separated, not for a single moment, even if we were to dwell in abject spiritual poverty and darkness." (pg. 195)
Here's another quote I liked a lot because it reminded me of my novel, The Gospel According to Mike:
"In reality we are all 'chosen ones', linked to our Source. but because we are all, it doesn't make us anything special." (pg. 197)
So how can we get there ourselves? Ziewe suggests daily meditation, and gives us a lot of important clues. For instance:
"We may be meditating until the cows come home, but we cannot will ourselves into the position because the thing that wills is the very thing that needs to be surrendered. Singularity decides when we are ready to receive it and it does so by administering an intense experience of ecstasy and rapturous blessing. All we are then able to do is completely surrender any trace of our old mocked-up or inauthentic persona." (pg. 199)
Still, according to Ziewe, this experience is open to anyone:
"We also need to liberate ourselves from the idea that this is a state of Consciousness reserved for some spiritual elite. Quite the opposite: it is humility and surrender that will grant the humblest of people residency here if their heart is pure, committed to authenticity and surrendered to its Source." (pg. 226)
If Multidimensional Man left you hungry for more, Vistas of Infinity will satisfy you, but please read MM first. MM is still at the top of my OBE book list, but only because it touched on some nerves that actually made me cry. More than once. (I did not cry for Vistas of Infinity.) Nonetheless, Vistas transformed me as I read it. Somehow it brought about subtle changes in my awareness. I feel like a different person; more authentic, more connected. It's like an old friend has been whispering in my ear, reminding me who I am; who I want to be, who I can choose to be again. I can't promise it will do the same for you, but it has that potential.

The book's content and length are both good: it has both quantity and quality. The grammar is flawless. The presentation is professional and the writing is eloquent.

In short: Vistas of Infinity is exactly the book I was hungry for when I read William Buhlman's book Adventures In The Afterlife. Buhlman's book is mostly hypothetical and fictionalized, whereas Vistas is a firsthand eyewitness account. (Not to say that Buhlman's book isn't good; I still recommend it; it just didn't meet my admittedly high expectations.)

Thumbs way up.

Bob Peterson
13 October 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: Untold Story by Dennis Leroy Stilwell

Review: Untold Story

by Dennis Leroy Stilwell

Today I'm reviewing the book Untold Story by Dennis Leroy Stilwell.

This book is pure fiction: a novel. In my review of William Buhlman's Adventures In The Afterlife I mentioned that I am primarily a nonfiction reader and how I burned myself out on visionary fiction. Now I only read fiction occasionally and reluctantly because it seems like such a waste of time to read "something that's made up" when there are so many good nonfiction books out there. Why did I read this one? Mostly because the author, Dennis Leroy Stilwell, sent me a review copy and asked me to review it, and I never turn down books. He insisted that it prominently featured out-of-body experiences throughout the story, and so it did.

I wasn't too excited about diving into a novel, but I started reading it anyway. As the pages flew by, something strange happened. Although it wasn't as engaging, powerful or riveting as some novels, I found myself somehow drawn in. Deep down in my soul, I somehow felt like I was meant to read this book, and that its message was meant for me. I can't explain it. I kept being drawn back to it, and I enjoyed it to the very end.

The story centers around Alex and Patricia (as well as several peripheral characters) who work at a rural zoo. Lately, they've had several camels miscarry, and Alex gets blamed for the deaths. In search of answers, Alex goes to New Guinea where he meets a local shaman (known as a "glas man") called "Gapa" and his apprentice, a boy named Pida. There, Alex learns out-of-body travel and other important lessons.

The characters were colorful and believable. Part of what I found so fascinating about this book is the author's descriptions of New Guinea, its culture, customs and its unique kind of shamanism. I've done a lot of international travel and even met shamans in the jungles of Peru, but I've never been to New Guinea.

I never candy-coat my feelings in these reviews, so I have to be honest: Although they kept recurring throughout the book, the OBEs were just a little bit flat and lackluster. They were an important part of some scenes, but only features of the story, and not the book's primary focus.

The good news is that the book was well written. The writing was mature, seasoned and professional, although I did find one or two mistakes. The bad news is that there were some scene transitions that weren't very smooth.

The first problem I had with this book is that there wasn't enough tension or conflict between the characters. Many of the characters just agreed with one another and there was little show of emotions. Although there was some, there could have been more banter. The second problem is that there wasn't enough conflict. The author didn't focus enough on the bad guys, their motivations or goals. The evil wasn't evil enough. In that respect, it felt kind of like a "Chick Flick" at times. There was "enough" conflict, but if there had been more, it would have been a better book. It could have used more plot twists too.

I did enjoy this book. Like I said; I felt repeatedly drawn to it. The OBEs in the story were enough to keep me interested. I especially liked it for the fascinating glimpses into New Guinea culture and shamanism (the one thing that all flavors of shamanism have in common is OBEs).

If you're looking for other novels that focus more on OBEs (rather than just a feature of the story), I also recommend:
  • The House Between The Worlds by Marion Zimmer Bradley (a fantasy novel about a scientist who stumble on a drug that induces OBEs and leads to the discovery of a parallel dimension.)
  • Flying In Place by Susan Palwick (about a woman who uses OBEs to escape from an abusive situation), or
  • Nightflyer by Christopher Fahy (a young adult novel about a teen who uses OBEs to exact his revenge on the bullies who pick on him).
None of the aforementioned are "spiritual" books, but they are fun if you're looking for fiction. And if you know of other good fiction books about OBEs, let me know.
Bob Peterson
01 September 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Keeping A Dream Journal Helps OBEs

Why Keeping A Dream Journal Helps OBEs

By Robert Peterson

"Why should I keep a dream journal? I usually don't dream, but when I do, my dreams are nonsense anyway."

I know keeping a dream journal is a pain in the ass. It takes a lot of time and effort, and some mornings you just don't want to mess with it. However, it does help your ability to Lucid dream and have OBEs. Many people don't understand the connection, so let me explain it. It's complex, so bear with me.

It all has to do with memory and the way humans compartmentalize information. Think about it: our brains are constantly bombarded with gigabytes (if not terabytes or petabytes) of information: visual data, audio data, tactile data, as well as taste and smell, plus feedback from our own body on its current state: hunger, thirst, oxygen levels, pain levels, etc. All this sensory data arrives simultaneously to the brain. But if it all got through to your "conscious self" at once, it would be overwhelming. You couldn't function normally. So your brain has very complex "data filters" (for lack of a better word) to make sure the only data passed from subconscious to conscious is the "important stuff." One of the reasons why drugs like LSD are so overwhelming is that they temporarily tear down your brain's natural data filters.

One of the ways our brains keep this barrage of information manageable is to compartmentalize it. It's like a computer's file system, broken down into many levels of subdirectories. All the information is automatically filed into different categories.

Sometimes our brains need to process this information as quickly as possible. For example, if there's a sound, you need to be able to instantly judge whether the sound is a threat, and often that involves memory. You can only identify the sound of a pistol being cocked based on your memory of that sound. So each category is assigned a priority, and each memory is also assigned a priority based on the likelihood of needing that information.

What does science know about this memory sorting? A 2011 article in Scientific American magazine talks about the "doorway effect". It explains a phenomenon known to many, especially when you get older: You walk into a room, then pause and ask yourself, "Now why did I come in here?" The article is based on the work of a team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame who published a paper titled:  “Walking through doorways causes forgetting.” The article explains:
"The doorway effect suggests that there's more to the remembering than just what you paid attention to, when it happened, and how hard you tried. Instead, some forms of memory seem to be optimized to keep information ready-to-hand until its shelf life expires, and then purge that information in favor of new stuff."
Well, it's not purged; it's just archived into deep "hard-to-fetch" storage. Our brains automatically prioritize or set aside memory based on perceived need. When you walk from room A to room B, it's less likely that you'll need to recall the information from room A, so room A's memories are filed away to longer-term storage, then dumped from short-term memory, making it harder to access. Only room B's information is important now, so you forget why you came.

If you walk back into room A, those memories are given a higher priority again and you can often remember your original goal.

This shuffling of information and memory is all done automatically by the subconscious, but the good news is: you can program your subconscious. You have control over the priority. You can reinforce the importance of carrying the information over, and you can practice it over and over to reinforce the programming, making it easier. If you tell yourself, "Now when I get to room B, I'm going to remember that I need to do this" your subconscious will learn to comply and give room A's memories easier access.

Why does this have anything to do with OBEs and Lucid Dreams?

It's because it's not just doorways. Although the magazine article doesn't say it, I believe there are many types of barriers used by the subconscious to compartmentalize. The biggest and most glaring is: your subconscious does the same thing when transitioning from a waking to a sleeping state, and from sleeping to waking. The information from our dreams and other non-local states of consciousness are automatically shuffled to the bottom of the heap as "unimportant nonsense." (Because we've reinforced that all our lives, but that's another topic.) So trying to consciously remember your dreams is a struggle, if not impossible. Conversely, trying to remember your waking life during a dream is also a struggle.

By keeping a dream journal, you are forcing your subconscious to carry memories and information from your body's sleeping state forward to your conscious self. The information is carried through the proverbial doorway.

In order to consciously recall a dream, you need a certain fragment of awareness in the dream: You need enough "conscious you" to pay attention to what's happening, in order to be able to recall it in the morning. You need a tiny connection from the sleep state to the conscious self. So basically, a dream journal trains your subconscious to allow more conscious awareness on the other side of the sleep barrier. And "conscious awareness" is exactly what you need for out-of-body experiences and lucid dreams.

So why bother with a dream journal if the contents of your dreams are (usually) not important? It's because your dream journaling programs your subconscious to carry the information across the threshold of waking/sleeping. It tells your subconscious to keep an open connection to the conscious self into sleep.

"But I don't dream. How can I keep a dream journal?"

Science has proven that everyone dreams, multiple times every night. It's just that you don't remember.

"Okay. How can I keep a dream journal if I can't remember my dreams?"

You've got to make it a habit. Here are some things to jump-start the process:
  1. Take vitamin B-6 before bed. Don't take more than 100mg per day. Don't take it every day. Take it for a few days, then stop for a few days. For some reason, this seems to help with dream recall.
  2. Before you go to sleep, tell yourself, "Tomorrow morning, I'm going to remember my dreams."
  3. After that, imagine yourself in the morning. You wake up. You sit up in bed and recall the dreams you just had.
  4. Tell yourself, "Yes, that's exactly what I'm going to do."
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 a few times. Then go to sleep.
  6. In the morning, sit up, close your eyes and try to remember anything you can about the dreams you just had. Focus on any little fragment that comes in. "It had something to do with a man" Then follow it where it takes you. "The man was trying to take me somewhere..." And so forth.
  7. Once you're up, write down your dream. If you're too busy, just write down some keywords that will trigger your memory later.
  8. Perform these steps every day so that keeping a dream journal becomes a habit.

Bob Peterson
18 August 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Out Of Body Experiences by Kensho

Review: Out Of Body Experiences

by Kensho

Today I'm reviewing the book Out Of Body Experiences by Kensho. The subtitle is "A practical guide to exploring the Astral Plane."

The book is a short 80 pages, with average margins, average font, average grammar, and 12 small chapters. The cover art is good, but I also found another book on amazon that has an almost identical cover.

I've got to be brutally honest. The book turned me off right away. The prologue, introduction and the first chapter were okay, I guess, but chapter 2, "The Different Dimensions" didn't sit well with me. He started talking new-age pseudo-science that made no sense to me. He talked about different planes of existence as if they were different dimensions. First, he talked about the physical world as the "Third Dimension" because of its length, height and width. But I know I'm not alone in believing that the passage of "time" is a fourth dimension, and yes, it does exist right here in our physical world. It seemed like a glaring oversight to me. Next, regarding the physical world, he wrote:
"There are 48 different divine laws that control every physical object in this dimension. This includes laws of physics like gravity, and dimensional laws like distance." (pg. 14)
Hmmm. That sounded familiar.

The next world, he said, is "The Vital World" (which most books commonly call the Etheric plane or the Real-Time Zone), and it supposedly has 36 divine laws. After that is the Astral World and Mental World (combined) and there are 24 laws. Where did I hear these kind of claims before? Oh yeah. It was the late Samael Aun Weor's book, Dream Yoga, which I reviewed almost a year ago. It was the undoubtedly the worse OBE book I'd ever read. I quickly thumbed to the back of this book and read the "About The Author" section. Sure enough, I found:
"Kensho's knowledge comes from the teachings of his guru Zen Buddhist Master Dharmapa Rimpoche, and Gnostic Master Samael Aun Weor, as well as his life experiences and anecdotes." (pg. 80) 
So he just admitted his "knowledge" is mostly secondhand, rather than being based on firsthand experience. Hm...

Who is this Kensho, anyway, I wondered. From his photo he looked like a normal white dude, not a Japanese teacher. The copyright in the front of the book was listed as "Kensho" but I found another copyright in the back that said Cyrus Kirkpatrick. It said Kensho got his name from the Order of the Yellow Dragon, an organization I know nothing about.

I've always had a deep seated distrust of OBE teachers who change their name to something esoteric. I feel like either they aren't happy being themselves, or else they're trying to impress me. I've always had this problem, and I need to apologize for it. I had the same problem with Ophiel (aka Edward Peach) in 1980. I had the same problem with Beelzebub (aka Mark Pritchard) ten years ago, and I had this problem with Akhena last year (but she definitely earned her credentials and my respect). Yeah, I know. I shouldn't be so cynical about teachers who change their name. I should just humbly recognize that sometimes people want to reinvent themselves, and changing their name is part of that. Maybe someday, once I learn to destroy the last vestiges of my ego, I'll even move to an ashram myself and change my name too. But I digress.

A lot of people know I'm skeptical about metaphysical claims; even my own. It's just that I've had too many OBEs and seen too many weird and unbelievable things in my life; I can't deny what I've witnessed firsthand. Still, I question everything and try to maintain a healthy skepticism. And that's a good thing. Especially when reading an OBE book, because there's too much crap on the market.

So back to the book. If you're going to make a claim about the physical plane having 48 laws, I want to see them. Spell them out. Let the reader evaluate them. How did you come to know about these laws of physics? Was it from your OBEs? I've got a book on physics that's 3 inches thick, so bring it. How many of the 48 are laws of thermodynamics? Of quantum mechanics? Show me where Planck's constant fits in. Unfortunately, the author doesn't. He seems to make these claims for two reasons: One, to make a point that the higher the plane, the fewer laws, and therefore the happier you are. And two, to make himself sound like a voice of authority who knows how it all works. To me it just seemed like hand waving.

Chapter 3, "Common Misconceptions About Astral Travel" is alright, but somewhat shallow.

Although very short, chapter 4, "The Difference Between Dreams, Lucid Dreaming and Astral Projection" was a bit more to my liking. I've always insisted they were two different things. (It's a very deep subject, but basically I believe lucid dreams are OBEs in which you experience a hallucinated dream world.) This chapter also talks about brain waves, and he agrees with me that Delta brain waves are not good for OBEs:
"The Delta brain waves stage is when we lose complete awareness, it is when we simple "black out" and this lasts some 30 minutes. The Delta ruins everything for us when we want to be conscious to have an OBE..." (pg. 25)

Chapter 5 is titled "Preparation for Astral Travel" and has some decent advice, such as avoiding television before attempting OBE, lying face up, having the right frame of mind, and so forth. However, he recommends practicing between 9:30pm (21:30) and 10:00pm (22:00) which I disagree with. In my experience, it's always best to practice first thing in the morning when you're alert and your mind is less cluttered.

Chapter 6 is "O.B.E. Techniques" and it's actually pretty decent. Like Weor, he likes to use obscure mantras. This chapter is a mixture of different OBE techniques, most of which are better described in other OBE books. For example, he reduces Robert Bruce's famous "Rope Technique" to one tiny (poorly worded) paragraph:
"Imagine there's a rope hanging on top of you, either visible or invisible. Imagine you grab it with your astral hands and start pulling your astral body up until you leave your physical body." (pg. 41)
That's it. Needless to say, that's sorely lacking in detail. His other techniques are not quite that bad though.

Chapter 7 is "More OBE Techniques". I'm not sure why he felt the need to break his OBE techniques into two chapters, but he did. This chapter contains more mantras and miscellaneous other techniques. It's not bad information.

Chapter 8 is "The Magical Technique of the Angel's Trumpet" which he claims is "real elemental magic." It also uses a mantra (Angel's Trumpet is supposedly a type of tree.) I don't believe in "real magic." I believe in laws of physics that we just don't understand yet.

Some of what he recommends is to pray to the divine mother or divine father, which is probably just a link to the subconscious (and not bad advice).

The rest of the book is not bad. It contains practical advice for lucid dreaming, dealing with astral situations, meeting astral people, and how to tell "real" people from hallucinated dream people and so forth. It's pretty basic stuff.

There's really only one OBE narrative and it describes how the author once met a co-worker in the astral plane before they met in real life. I would have liked to read more of his experiences, but unfortunately, there were none. The book is more like "This is how things work" (implied: based on what my guru told me) rather than my preference: "This is what I experienced and therefore know firsthand."

Okay, so maybe my early impressions of the book tainted my opinion. Maybe I just didn't like how the author made secondhand claims that obviously came from his guru rather than his experience. Maybe I just didn't like the way the author gave himself the voice of authority with no evidence or OBEs to back up his assertions. I guess the book's content was not that bad. It was just...average. But I've read a lot of OBE books that are a lot better.

Bob Peterson
11 Aug 2015
Index to all my OBE book reviews