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Online Reference For Body, Mind & Spirit

Surveying the OBE

In the 1970s three medical men from Kansas conducted a major research project intended to learn something about this nature of out-of-body experiences. Dr. Glen Gabbard of the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Dr. Stewart Twemlow of the Topeka V. A. Medical Center, and Dr. Fowler Jones of the University of Kansas Medical Center, described what they found in a presentation given at the annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association in May of 1980.

The research grew out of an interview Dr. Twemlow gave the National Enquirer in February 1976, during which he invited readers to submit reports of their OBEs to him. In the next weeks he received some 1500 letters. Typical of the reports is this one from a government employee, to whom the experience occurred when he was 10 years old:

"I was living together with my older brother at my uncle’s house, a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. One day I was reclined on my bed quite awake and was looking at the ceiling beams of the old Spanish building where the living quarters were located. I was saying to myself many questions such as what was I doing there and who was I. All of a sudden I got up from the bed and started walking toward the next room. At that moment I felt a strange sensation in me; it was a sensation of weightlessness and a strange mix of a sense of a feeling of joy. I turned back in my steps in order to go back to bed when, to my big surprise, I saw myself reclined on the bed. This surprising experience at that very small age gave me the kind of a jerk which, so to say, shook me back to my body.’’

In response Dr. Twemlow asked the letter-writers to fill in questionnaires and complete psychological profiles. In the end he was able to conduct a detailed analysis of 339 cases. From these he learned a number of interesting things about the phenomenon of the OBE.

Most reported out of body experiences occurred while the correspondents were in a calm, relaxed state (putting the lie to a popular psychiatric theory that these experiences are hallucinations occasioned by extreme stress). Twemlow found that persons who have practiced meditation were more likely than other persons to have had the experience. One-third of the respondents had never heard of OBEs before they underwent them.
See also:  Astral Projection
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