What are out-of-body experiences?

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(This section was composed by Jouni Smed and is not part of the 1995 alt.dreams FAQ.)

What are out-of-body experiences?

A. Out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) are those curious, and usually brief, experiences in which person seems (to himself) to leave his body and to observe the world from a point of view other than that which he would have were he still 'in' his body. In some cases the experients claim that they 'saw' and 'heard' things (objects which were really there, events and conversations which really took place) which could not have seen or heard from the actual positions of their bodies.

OBEs are surprisingly common; different surveys have yielded somewhat different results, but probably about one person in twenty has had such an experience at least once. Furthermore, it seems that OBEs can occur in almost any circumstances. They are most frequent during sleep, during unconsciousness following anaesthesia or a bang on the head, and during stress. Not all OBEs occur spontaneously. Some people have, by various techniques, cultivated the faculty of inducing them more or less as desired, and a number of people have written detailed accounts of their experiences. These accounts do not always square with accounts given by persons who have undergone spontaneous OBEs.

OBEs, especially spontaneous ones, are often very vivid and resemble everyday waking experiences rather than dreams. They may make a considerable impression on those who undergo them. Such persons may find it hard to believe that they did not in fact leave their bodies, and may draw the conclusion that we possess a separable soul, perhaps linked to a second body, which will survive in a state of full consciousness or enhanced consciousness after death. Death would be, as it were, an OBE in which one did not succeed in getting back into one's body.

Such conclusions present themselves even more forcefully to the minds of those who have undergone the variety of OBE known as a 'near-death experience' or NDE. It is not uncommon for persons who have been to the brink of death and returned - following, say, a heart stoppage or serious injuries from an accident - to report an experience (commonly of a great vividness and impressiveness) as of leaving their bodies, and traveling (often in a duplicate body) to the border of a new and wonderful realm. Reports suggest that the conscious self's awareness outside the body is not only unimpaired but enhanced: events which occurred during the period of unconsciousness are described in accurate detail and confirmed by those present.

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