OBE and Meta-science

"Universal Intelligence"
Ingo Swann, 1981

I spent many hours last weekend listening to some fascinating recordings provided by The Monroe Institute (TMI) of "Out-of-body Experience" (OBE) sessions with some of the people they worked with in isolation using their Hemi-Sync technology (the "Explorer Series"). As the subjects reached various "levels", described by Monroe, they often encountered spirits that have lived as humans on earth. In more than one case, the spirits offered details about who they were on earth -- details such as names, city, date of death, where they went to school, where they worked, how they died, etc. Apparently, these were never able to be verified.

I've worked through the entire "Gateway Voyage" series of recordings from TMI that are the basis of a 1-week residential course offered both at the campus in Virgina and at IONS in Petaluma, CA. They utilize the Hemi-Sync binaural beat technology for brainwave entrainment. As the binaural beats slow to the what I presume is the Theta level (it's "patented technology", so we don't really know what they're doing), the mind enters a deep meditative state, from which the moderator, Robert Monroe in most cases, coaches you to experience higher and higher levels of OB awareness. There's definitely some degree of suggestive hypnosis going on. I reached very deep states of meditation, but I don't think I experienced OB -- certainly, not to the extent that subjects recorded in the "Explorer Series" did. It's very eerie, though -- one feels very close to drifting off to another realm. However, what often happens is that you drift off to sleep -- termed "clicking out" in TMI terms. So, one must practice becoming VERY relaxed while staying fully awake. The 1-week course is only intended to be an introduction to the experience.

The hard science approach was done decades ago at
SRI and SAIC. Much of the research was funded by the CIA and some of it was "declassified" in 1995. Much has been written by people close to the projects (see: Superpowers of the Human Biomind).

The default scientific position is skepticism. I suspect that most reported OBE's are actually lucid dreams or other illusions of the mind caused by loss of sensory awareness. Yet, I tend to think that this is possible -- perhaps, not in the way we usually think about it.


  1. Personal experiential science (PES) is that inquiry methodology which uses the human being as instrument and researcher. Obviously, personal experience cannot be replicated and, therefore, the inquiry process cannot either. As such, in mainstream science, most PES would be discounted.

    Yet, many "scientific" breakthroughs occurred when current thought and beliefs were challenged. Robert Monroe speaks to the importance of beliefs and so does Kuhn.

    Thomas Kuhn is a hero of mine. He wondered aloud if scientific thinking was much more than a myth, simply given credence by the throng that supported it. He was the one who coined the word "paradigm". Perhaps it's time to adopt new paradigms for knowing. I wonder what Monroe might say.

  2. Yes, but science is open to theory even if it is not testable. The problem that I have with out-of-body experience (OBE) is that I have not found anyone able to verify an event. It seems that it would be a simple task: exit your body, pass through a wall or two, read a message that was left for you, return to your body and report the contents of the message. I talked to an instructor at the Monroe Institute (TMI) to see if any of the events described in the “Explorer Series” had been verified and was told that they hadn’t been able to. I listened to and practiced the entire “Gateway Series” produced by TMI and had what I would describe as interesting meditative experiences, but nothing I would call OBE. Presumably, there is some evidence of OBE verification in the SRI/CIA reports – there’s a lot of material there to go through – some publically available, reportedly some still classified (one has to wonder about that). My casebook hasn’t yet closed on this.

    Deep meditation has the sense of being out-of-body, but I think that’s more a shutting down of sensory awareness to allow for more subtle awareness. I did a 10-day retreat with Ajahn Jumnian, a Thai monk, last year. He told many stories of leaving the body to travel to both earthly and astral realms. My experiences have been similar, but I have the sense that they are deep within rather than out – perhaps tapping into more intuitive or receptive regions of the mind.

    It’s been too long since I read “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. The book was given to me by a math professor at Berkeley – sort of a remnant from the time Kuhn spent there. Unfortunately, I missed Kuhn on campus by about 20 years.