Because the out-of-body experience (OBE) strongly suggests we have a soul, it's surprising so little has been written on this topic. The first OBE book was published in 1850. A hundred and forty years later in 1990, there were about 75 books on the subject, with only a few having substance. The count today is about 150, with around 30 books being published in the last five years. This article will briefly discuss the latest books and comment on their contribution.
Projections of the Consciousness (Self-Published, 1995), by Waldo Viera, was published in Portuguese ten years ago. Released in English, Viera used this book to launch the small but striving Institute of Projectology, the first international effort devoted to promoting the OBE. The author relates his OBEs which began occurring at age nine. In diary-format, Viera tells what he was doing prior to an OBE, what happened during the OBE, and his post-OBE observations. It's unfortunate Viera didn't update this book prior to it's English release so we can see how Viera's excursions, and his analysis of his psychic voyages have changed in the ensuing years as he gained more experience and perspective.
William Buhlman, has written Adventures Beyond the Body (Harper SF, 1996). Intrigued by a neighbor's comment about having an OBE, Buhlman experimented and had his first experience in 1972. His book gives excerpts from his OBE journal. There's a section relating what Buhlman and others speculate regarding the nature and physics of consciousness. Of the books being discussed, Buhlman's is the only one that which gives 'advanced' OBE techniques - and they are quite good. The book has a helpful Q&A section, where the author tells what to do when out of the body to answer spiritual and cosmological questions.
Albert Taylor, an aeronautical engineer, has written Soul Traveler (Verity Press, 1996), giving background on the "witch rides" he took as a child, and then moves us into his current thinking about the OBE. In an easy read, culling from short journal entries, Taylor's book walks the reader through the last two years of his 35 years of 'soul traveling', and his conclusions about the spiritual element of the OBE. Taylor comes across fatherly, especially in his radio interviews, making one feel comfortable about seeking an OBE. Considering Tayor is an engineer though there is relatively little analysis of the OBE. Also, at his website Taylor is identified as having a PhD. However despite repeated requests Taylor would not tell me where he attained his PhD, so maybe one might consider caveat emperator until Taylor's academic background can be confirmed.
Carol Eby's Astral Odyssey (1996) is one of seven recent OBE books written by women. Eby too is a "traveler". As a matter of fact in the Acknowledgement section, when thanking those who helped her with her book, Eby includes friends who live on the astral planes. Eby learned about the OBE in her early teens from her aunt, but did not begin having OBEs until her late 20's. The first part of the book is a very good walk-thru of OBE history, and current research and theory. Eby aptly comments on the better open and academic literature and contributes her own elevated insight on the various research and theory, to include an analysis of the "OBE-or-only-a-Dream" argument. The last part of her book, in journal form, is a sample record of her OBEs… and though her OBE experiences are interesting, the last journal entries are in 1992. What's been happening up to 1997, a year prior to the publication of her book? ..
Robert Peterson has written Out of Body Experiences (1997). Dr. Charles Tart, author of "the classic" on altered states of consciousness - and also a pioneer OBE researcher, has written the forward for Peterson's book. Peterson had an NDE when he was about 12 years old. A being who Peterson felt was God told Peterson "it was time to go", but he didn't want to die, so God asked Peterson what would he do if he were allowed to return to his body. Peterson replied he'd tell everybody that death is painless and somewhat joyful, and via his book he's doing a super job of it. One of the strengths of this book is that Peterson offers a section on "What Other OBE Books Didn't Tell Me", and Peterson addresses such issues in a superb way. Via an OBE journal, Peterson relates some interesting OBEs, and also provides affirmations at the end of each section which helpfully establish practiced focus on ensuring an OBE.
In Astral Love (Llewellyn, 1996), D.J. Conway tells how to find a satisfying relationship on the astral plane. Rather than sexual, Conway emphasizes building an intimately mature relationship. In explaining how to become involved with an astral resident, Conway (who also wrote, Flying without a Broom, (Llewellyn, 1995) warns all is not divine ecstasy, but one has to work hard at finding the right companion… and the same issues existing between people on earth apply when dealing intra-dimensional. There is even rejection. Plus, she says, one can be molested/assaulted by slimy, lower entities. So why bother…? Conway says because the astral experience is so amplified and sublime.
Bruce Goldberg, a dentist, psychologist, metaphysical lecturer and author has self-publishedThe Astral Travel Workbook (1996). Anyone whose seen Goldberg on the talk circuit knows how brash and energized he is... taking easily to task the uninformed skeptic... and captivating the audience with his knowledge of psi subjects. Though his books contain much information, they lack the stimulation of the live, animated Bruce. An astral projection instruction book needs to "pump" the reader up so they can't wait to have an OBE, but Goldberg falls flat here (the best motivator in this area would be Rick Stack's audio tape). Too most of Goldberg's OBE induction techniques are hypnotically-oriented, while there are many other diverse techniques available in the literature which are just as effective, and need to be mentioned. Over the years, there's been attempts to produce an effective OBE workbook, but none have stuck to a simple, occult-unfettered, approach, Goldberg no exception.
In Explorations Out of the Body (Kroshka Books, 1997), Eddie Slasher covers ground other OBE books do but in a more abbreviated manner. He also writes in a very informal, and a somewhat more motivating style than do other OBE authors being discussed. Slasher says he's had thousands of OBEs beginning in 1975 when he did a sixth grade project on dreams using the book Lucid Dreams, by Stephen LaBerge. He and a friend even had simultaneous OBEs and compared notes when returning to the body. Slasher says the OBE has solved two eternal philosophical questions regarding the human quest… and these are alluded to in the book's concluding Q&A section.
Joe Slate, a PhD psychologist, has written Astral Projection and Psychic Empowerment (Llewellyn, 1998). He articulates well the psycho-spiritual elements of the out of body experience. At times Slate seems to make the experience more complex than maybe it has to be made, and using academic-speak Slate fashions new language for old OBE concepts and appears to want to incorporate these ideas as uniquely his. The best value of his book is that among his professional colleagues, he might perform the same service for the OBE as did Moody for the Near-Death Experience. Slate might make the OBE more professionally palatable. Also, though other psychologists have analyzed the OBE, they more or less kept it at a distance because of its controversy, but Slates boldly embraces all the metaphysical/spiritual implications of the OBE, and even goes a step further by drafting therapeutic and/or adjustment strategies for psychologists to consider when working with people who announce they're having OBEs. I'd be a bit leery however about the "research" coming out of Slate's "lab" because I don't remember seeing any of it being published in the more critical publications.
Bruce Moen, a student of the late Bob Monroe (the "Godfather of the OBE") has written Voyages into the Unknown, 1997, and Voyage Beyond Doubt, 1998, (both Hampton Roads Publishing), where he talks about his experiences at the Monroe Institute. Moen says the only difference between him and most of those reading his books is he already knows what the afterlife is like. He first began writing his books right after visiting the Oklahoma bombing and doing some "rescue" with those who died there. That is, while out of his body, he helped calm and explain the afterlife to those killed in the bombing. Moen's first book talks about his incipient experiences with the OBE. His second book deals more with his rescue work. More than the other authors, Moen conveys the angst in dealing with OBEs (for instance neglecting other important areas of his life, encountering intense family conflict, or confronting a radical change in religious perspective). Readers will benefit from Moen's exposition so they might avoid either the same mistakes Moen makes in his pursuit and/or at least be better prepared to face the same issues.
Along with OBEs, Remote Viewing (RV) is discussed in Angela Thompson Smith's, Remote Perceptions (Hampton Roads Publishing, 1998). RV is the 'sanitized' term for clairvoyance these days. Smith says she experienced both phenomena when a child and later put her abilities toward practical application as she worked either directly or indirectly with both private and government psi research organizations. Smith is to be commended for arranging her life to give her maximum exposure to the major psi research labs, and though she covers a broader range of topics associated with the OBE/RV than do the other authors, the coverage is sometimes disjointed and incomplete. Also, I would have enjoyed reading more about OBE specifics than autobio stuff. For instance, how well did she feel each lab was designing, controlling, and reporting research? And instead of reading that she "heard" the Rand Corporation and Motorola 'expressed an interest' in psi research, I want to know the intensity level of such "interest", and the source of the "rumor".
A very needed book is Doubles: The Enigma of the Second Self (Robert Hale, 1998), written by Rodney Davies. This book is the first effort to survey the literature on all phenomena that could classified as a double: the astral body, apparitions, 'doppelganger' (double-goer), 'vardogr', (following spirit), bi-location, and even animal doubles. Two items Davis did not include which also might be related to the subject of doubles is 'teleportation' and the 'incubi/succubi' phenomena. Though somewhat of a scholarly work, Davies' informal writing style (as informal an educated Englishman can get) allows for an easy read. He references a variety of sources as he discusses each phenomenon. He also gives a variety of examples so one can examine each phenomena from a different angle. Just when one thinks a pattern might be forming Davies gives another example that throws a wrench in the works. Truly, the ancient and contemporary sources of these phenomena proves to be almost as interesting as the phenomena itself. One is struck by how prevalent and well-witnessed these phenomena are. There's a major letdown in this book. One anticipates Davies will tie it all together in the end... how these phenomena create a sum, but for some reason Davies drops the ball. Instead it appears Davies wrote a brief "non-conclusion" which leaves the reader dangling. Maybe the phenomena are so diverse and inexact Davies really just could not get a handhold on them... or maybe he had to meet a publishing dead-line? In any case Davies has produced a one-of-a-kind book and it will be "the" classic, but only until someone who can better "put it altogether" comes along.
Another student of Robert Monroe's, Patricia Leva, has written Traveling the Interstate of Consciousness (Q Central Publishing, 1998). In this thick, large-size paperback, Leva offers the analogy of the astral body as a car which travels the consciousness "Interstate" (i.e., the continuum of consciousness experiences). Leva's book is a driver's manual where one learns to prepare for a trip to non-ordinary reality. The reader is told how to start his car, set it in motion, become familiar with the rules of the road, and how to how find the on/off ramps. Using such a device Leva is really extending the language Monroe uses in his program to help convey metaphysical concepts. Leva also draws comparisons to the OBE vis a vis Castaneda's and Ousspensky's cosmology. Leva's book is too complex for the beginner and too simplistic for the seasoned traveler, and will not interest those who aren't as endeared to the Monroe system as is she.
Another author who got her "wings" at the Monroe Institute is Rosalind McKnight. She's delivered Cosmic Journeys: Out of the Body Explorations with Robert A. Monroe (Hampton Roads Publishing, 1999). More than a student of Monroe's, McKnight was a close friend and one of the first "Explorers" at the Monroe Institute (Explorers were/are proficient Christopher Columbus type OBE-ers who attempt to "map" other-dimensions terrain). Rather than OB-ing, though, it appears McKnight was engaging more in a mix of Remote Viewing and Channeling. She'd enter an altered state of consciousness, and responding to Monroe's directions and questions, McKnight would voice onto a tape recorder answers to metaphysical and cosmological issues - - some quite interesting, but no stunning revelations. The sessions date 70's thru 80's, and also predict events to the year 3K. Along with intimate details of Monroe's life, McKnight also describes the sad mood when he died in 1994 and his touching funeral service.
Naked Soul: Astral Travel and Cosmic Relationships (Llewellyn, 1998) is penned by Marlene Druhan. Marlene was raised in a metaphysical home and began having OBEs at 15. Since, she like the psychic voyager, Ingo Swann, has translated her celestial sojourns onto canvas. Additionally, she conducts a variety of spiritual workshops. As with D.J. Conway's "Astral Love", Druhan centers on how to have an "intimate" relationship on the astral plane. While Conway's exposition is somewhat superficial, Druhan's is detailed and quite sensuously intimate. Druhan opens the reader's eyes more to the possibility of negative entity influence (and how to avoid experiences that sound as bad as Dante's Infernal). She also offers a very helpful list of "guides" one can call upon to stay both safe and to help one locate an 'astral mate'. For both physical and astral sex Druhan references Tantra, a sexual experience based on subtle energy transfer/melding. As does Conway, Druhan allows that other-dimensional sex mirrors earthly relationship issues, both in responsibility and commitments, and she agrees astral sex can be intensely sublime. Druhan talks candidly about her other-worldly lovers. As a matter of fact her first boyfriend was an astral affair that lasted for three years when Druhan was 17. Because of its detail and breadth Naked Soul can become a referenced classic, not in a scholarly sense, or because it is the first to allude to cosmic relationships, but because Druhan has brought into the book detailed insight not yet surpassed.
Edain McCoy, the seventh female OBE author, has written four other popular, spiritual type books, and now writes, Astral Projection for Beginners (Llewellyn, 1999). Though others may not agree, McCoy says there's a broad range of experiences which count as an OBE:
"Any time that you are wholly involved in a time or place removed from your physical body, or are simultaneously aware of both your physical self and a self that seems somehow distanced from your body, you are astral projecting (i.e., intense daydreaming)"
McCoy tells the reader how they can prepare for an OBE and mentions accessories such as candles, incense, oils and herbs, and even gives a recipe for a 'flying ointment'. She also talks about the role chakras play in her concept of astral projection. When it comes to discussing fears and anxieties of astral projection some books offer a quick, dismissing statement saying there's little to worry about, while McCoy offers a 26-page chapter about such dangers - real or imagined. Even though she does not offer anything unique in the way of astral projection techniques, she offers a quite insightful "Checklist" which will help the projector to become more aware (not to be confused with conscious) of what the experience entailed. This Checklist more will give definition to an otherwise amorphous experience. The last section of this book mentions things people can do once projected.
Rounding out this recent spate of OBE books... and in the top-three, is Graham Dack's, The Out of the Body Experience (OOBEX Publishing, 1999). Dack had an OBE at the age of 10, then there was a long gap until the early 70's, when he had a short, uncontrolled OBE. Another long gap until Dack read Sylvan Muldoon's, The Projection of the Astral Body, which bolstered his confidence to deliberately seek the experience. He now reports OBEs on a regular basis and holds workshops to help others learn the process. The appeal of Dack's book is that he does not avoid inconsistencies in the OBE as others do. He confronts the inconsistencies, trying to analyze why the experience is not fluid. Dack gives a more in-depth appraisal of the "astral cord" than most have, conducting "hands-on" experiments with the cord. Dack also makes marked observations regarding the difference between an 'etheric' and an 'astral' projection (which may explain some OBE inconsistencies). He explains how the OBE might be related to "neural energy", epilepsy, and general mental/physical health. His book follows the same inviting format that Robert Monroe gave us 30 years ago, intriguing us with the OB ventures themselves, and then offers post-comment. His analysis is better than Monroe's... but only by default because he has the advantage Monroe's legacy to build upon, and also does not have to spend so much print on the angst of having such strange experiences. Dack for the most part keeps the OBE relatively simple, not getting into the matrix of cosmological/energy systems issues Monroe began to discuss in his latter books. Finally Dack tells us how the OBE can serve us in making the 'Earthly experience' more practically and spiritually harmonious. One weakness, though, but which may ultimately be a strength... is that Dack appears mostly unaware of the latest OBE lit, but this also solidifies his independent observations, having no outside contamination. It'd be interesting though to see how he'd comment on the thinking found in the above books.
With these above books (along with internet) there is no longer an information vacuum in this area. Each book gives a slightly unique approach to the OBE, but unless future books can offer improved substance or a novel angle on the OBE (i.e., "Astral Projection for Dummies", or "That Astral Bitch Took My Incubus".... Next on Jerry) then redundancy is going to occur as has occurred for Near-Death Experiences. As a collective these books are valuable because they continue to bring to the public the idea that one is certainly more than their physical body, and gradually more people will more seriously look at that possibility... which eventually might cause a "critical mass spiritual shift".
I hate to end on a skeptical note, but I observed that although each author gave examples where they could leave their body at will and travel to any place and easily give proof that they had been there (or were even seen there by others), each writer could not say they do the same under controlled conditions so as to give 'non-anecdotal' proof that some quasi-physical aspect of them could actually leave the body. For whatever reason, if Robert Monroe, the "Godfather of the OBE" could not concretely establish that "something" leaves the body, then sadly it's doubtful any of his students or other hardy astral traveler can do so. Hopefully, though, that'll be the theme of the next OBE book...?