|Imagine for a moment that it is possible for you to leave your body. You feel a blissful sensation of peace and excitement as the nonmaterial part of your self rises from its physical shell. You gently ascend about eight feet into the air and look back down at the "you" that still lies in bed. That "you" is sleeping contentedly. But you, who exist apart (though a sort of silver cord seems to connect the two yous), are alive, alert and sensitive not only to the environment that immediately surrounds you but to other environments that await you elsewhere.
You think of a friend who lives in the next town, and the next thing you know, you see yourself standing by the door of a familiar house??"your friend’s house. Should you knock? You try to do so but your hand goes right through the wood. You chuckle at your foolish mistake; you are not in your body and now the rules are entirely different. You confidently walk through the door. Somehow you know in which room your friend sits. You find her in the den reading a book whose title you note. She is eating a ham sandwich, drinking a glass of buttermilk and wearing a blue and white robe. (The next day, when you tell her what you saw in your "dream," she gasps, "Why, that’s exactly right!")
But your adventure is just beginning. You think of a South Pacific island that has always enchanted you even though you’ve never been able to afford to vacation there. Suddenly, in the flashing of an eye, you are moving rapidly through space. Beneath you, you see rivers, mountains, forests, cities and towns as they pass by. Then there is the deep blue ocean and beyond that the shiny white beach of the island, to which you traveled??"in seconds??"merely by thinking you would like to be there.
As you ponder the implications of that, a new thought comes to you: if you can travel this earth so easily, can you also leave it? Before you know it, you are somewhere outside the earth’s atmosphere gazing at the blue, cloud-covered planet you recognize from satellite photographs??"only you are seeing it in person. But as if all this were not enough, you become aware, at first intuitively, then with the clarity of vision, of other dimensions of existence
populated by wondrous beings. . . . .
You are back in your bedroom and inside your body. You know positively that you were not dreaming.
Out of the Body
But of course we’ve been told that such things cannot be, that the existence of a soul apart from the body is no more than a religious doctrine to be accepted only through faith, that in hard scientific reality consciousness is embedded in the brain and it is absurd to suggest it could ever stray from there.
Absurd or not, there is good reason to believe that one person in every three has at one time or another had an experience in which a conscious part of the self split from the body and for a period of time went its own way through this world and even other worlds. The individuals to whom these things have happened insist that their experiences were so vivid that they could not possibly have been dreams??"and in any case many of them were wide awake at the time. No, these people are not crazy; to the contrary, as the famous University of Chicago sociologist Andrew Greeley learned when he studied the subject, people who have had these experiences (and other psychic experiences) are as a rule mentally healthier than those who have not.
The story recounted on the previous page is fictitious but it contains no elements that have not occurred in various forms in real-life out-of-body experiences (OBEs); the phenomenon is also known (for reasons we’ll get into later) as astral projection. Our story is more dramatic than most but not as dramatic as some??"as we shall see.
The typical OBE is of short duration and it occurs unexpectedly, often to somebody who has no idea that such a phenomenon exists. In a large number of cases the event happens when an individual, lying down or sitting comfortably in a chair, is shocked to discover that "he" and his body do not share the same space. The alarm this unanticipated development engenders is sufficient in itself to end the incident, and the person "snaps back" into his body.
If he has not instinctively panicked, however, he might have been able to remain for a while in his "astral body." And if he had, he might well have opened himself to life-enriching, consciousness-expanding knowledge. At the very least he would have found himself in for an unusually interesting time. His fear, understandable though it may have been under the circumstances, was without foundation. OBEs are in no way psychologically or spiritually harmful.