Out-of-body experiences are among a few ways in which people can consciously assess their spiritual progress, writes Hingori
My maternal uncle would live to tell the tale of his own Out- of-body experience (OBE) during a near death experience (NDE). He was diagnosed with cancer after he collapsed at Heathrow airport upon his return from India. As the detection happened at a time when his cancer had spread to a few of his organs, the doctors informed the family that there was a very slim chance of him living beyond a couple of months at most. Due to complications from the disease, he was hospitalised soon after. One afternoon, as his vitals dropped, my uncle saw his own listless body lying on a hospital bed as he floated near the ceiling of the hospital room. He saw the doctors trying to resuscitate him while his wife and children wept. He could hear every word that was spoken and see every expression, before being pushed back into his body by what he described as a huge ball of white light.
He would live for another five years, much to the surprise of his doctors, before succumbing to a recurrence of the disease.
An OBE, also known as ‘extra-corporeal experience’ (ECE), is a phenomenon where the consciousness detaches and moves away from the human body, thus being able to experience a reality that is far subtler than this ordinary one. This phenomenon is also known as astral projection, astral travel, and soul travel.
Researcher Robert Crookall compiled thousands of out-of-body experience accounts to see if he could find common elements in the unique experiences that were shared with him. His conclusions were that OBEs are not a result of belief systems of any kind and are independent of cultural upbringing.
The seven most common elements preceding an OBE are: sleep paralysis; an increased heart rate; heat sensations; vibrations or tingling in the body; a buzzing sound; pressure (mild to severe) on the head; a feeling of sinking or floating, or of a sudden descent and the Silver Cord.
Many near-death and out-of-body experiencers have described seeing an umbilical-like cord connecting their spirit body to their physical body. Many religious traditions describe this spirit-body-connecting cord, which is commonly known as the ‘silver cord.’
The silver cord has been described as being smooth, very long, very bright, like an elastic cable made of light, about an inch wide and attached to one of several possible locations on the physical body. Many experiencers have felt the pull of the silver cord when it is stretched near its limit.
OBEs are classified in to two categories — spontaneous and induced.
Spontaneous OBEs include experiences that happen during or near sleep. In many cases, people who claim to have had an OBE report being on the verge of sleep, or being already asleep shortly before the experience. In most of these cases subjects perceive themselves as being awake; about half of them note a feeling of sleep paralysis.
Another form of spontaneous OBE is the near-death experience (NDE). Some subjects report having had an OBE at times of severe physical trauma, such during an accident, major surgery or from complications due to near-fatal illness. NDEs may include impressions of being outside the physical body.
Along the same lines as an NDE, extreme physical effort during activities such as high-altitude climbing and marathon running can induce OBEs. A sense of bilocation may be experienced, with both ground and air-based perspectives being experienced simultaneously.
Many people have reported OBEs during deep meditation. Such OBEs often include travel to different astral realms and meeting spiritual guides and mentors.
Induced OBEs: OBEs can be induced by chemical hallucinogens, particularly dissociatives. There are also several mental induction techniques like meditation, deep trance as well as visualizations like climbing a rope to “pull out” of one’s body, floating out of one’s body, getting shot out of a cannon, and other similar approaches.
Spiritual travel is sometimes called transcendent or ecstatic experience because it deals with the ‘inner’ senses rather than the physical senses. It also deals with states of being seemingly independent of the physical world. Spiritual travel is a tool for the spiritual seeker. An individual can engage in a spiritual practice designed to induce spiritual travel experiences. It is possible for the advanced spiritual traveller to control the contents of a spiritual travel experience.
Life Changing Benefits of OBEs
People report an inner awakening of their spiritual identity, and a complete transformation of their concept of self. They see themselves as more aware and alive — as being one with the universe. Many claim to no longer fear death. Precognition, telepathy, premonitions, prophecy, the ability to see auras and many other psychic abilities are often reported to be enhanced by out-of-body experiences. The reason for this is currently unknown but many believe it’s simply a natural result of us becoming more open and in tune with our internal energy systems.
There are numerous reports of individuals healing themselves and others when out-of-body. Often this healing is initiated by a focused thought directed to a specific area of the body.
Our limited scientific understanding of human consciousness and the limitless capabilities of the soul is the reason we still classify experiences such as OBEs as paranormal, even though more and more evidence points to a great percentage of humanity having an out of body experience at least once in their lifetime.
Having personal experiences which point to the fact that we continue to exist after death tends to make us wiser and more determined.
The implications of understanding life and death — two great mysteries we witness and experience regularly but have always struggled to fully grasp — would be far reaching for all of humankind.”
The writer is the author of Hingori Sutras series of spiritual books