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Journeys Out of the Body

Journeys Out Of The Body - Robert A. Monroe Har, har, har... Have your "let's all laugh at the crazy people" moment, and get it out of your system. ...Okay, can we be serious now for a sec? You know how many people have reported out-of-body experiences over the years? ...Erm, me neither, but they're pretty common; ask any anesthesiologist. Patients recount out-of-body experiences (OOBE's) all the time, especially in association with near-death events. What is it? Some kind of primative hallucination? Maybe a bad trip on an oxygen-deprived, adrenaline-fueled natural high? Maybe something more supernatural?Then there's the pharmaceutically induced experiences. LSD, Ecstasy and similar substances also trigger OOBE's. And on one documentatary about the old Soviet space program, cosmonauts reported out-of-body experiences when riding in a high speed centrifuge (an exercise designed to simulate high-gravity). Are all these people just making it up? Could there be some scientific explanation? Something rooted not in culture, age or gender, but maybe hardwired into our psyche? Let's hear what author Robert Monroe has to say. Beginning in the late 1950's, Monroe started having (or so he says) instances where, in a state of semi-sleep, his consciousness would leave his body and wander around under his active direction. Sometimes he would hang around the neighborhood and evesdrop on his friends' conversations. Other times he would travel hundreds of miles from his sleeping self. As he describes it, he had an immaterial form only vaguely resembling a human body, which could float, pass through solid objects, see and hear. This is what some people call "astral projection", and yeah, it seems kind of magical or occult, and highly unlikely. But is it a hoax? It could be, no doubt about it, but consider the epilogue: after this book's original publication (1971) Monroe underwent neurologic examination to study his experiences, and was found to have reproducable electroencephalogram (EEG) changes during his "journeys". The findings were nonspecific, but nonetheless suggest an organic process to correlate with the subjective experience. This raises the question of something like temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). It isn't TLE exactly, because TLE has characteristic EEG findings which did not match Monroe's patterns, but something biochemical/biophysical was going on. Also different from TLE is the fact that Monroe seemed to be able to consciously control his experiences. So is this a variant sort of TLE, or something else? Psychiatry has an entire cluster of dissociative disorders which have overtones of the out of body experience. Maybe Monroe's "astral projections" are related to these.If the EEG can't be more specific, maybe putting Monroe in a PET scanner during one of his "astral projections" would shed more light on the phenomenon. Eventually, somebody is going to elucidate the hard science behind these subjective incidents, and it may lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of TLE and/or dissociative psychiatric disorders. Oh! I'm sorry....Did you think this review would have more of this in it?Well, I won't lie to you; there is that too. Moroe's adventures have all the hippy-trippy voyeuristic appeal you might imagine... he visits silvery-bodied humanoid entities lounging next to floating lakes in ethereal planes of the mind. He battles soul-sucking Lovecraftian spirit-monsters, and has bodyless sex with ancient ghosts. In one memorable scene, Monroe even encounters the disembodied spirit avatar of astrally-traveling (then living) President Kennedy... but he isn't able to commune with him. Apparently VIP's are well-guarded, even in the freaky psychadelic realms of mindspace. Good stuff. There's lots of "let's laugh at the crazy people" material here, if that's what you're looking for. If not, I think the freaky stuff can be reconciled with the science. If Monroe's astral adventures are a hallucination, or a temporal lobe seizure, these images are probably some dream-like amalgam of memories and imagination... a subconscious projection of some kind, or maybe random synaptic firings. It doesn't have to be mumbo-jumbo, and I'll admit: some of it is crazy-cool reading.Could this be something more fantastic? Something beyond our understanding? Something which qualifies as "supernatural"? Well, if it's happening, it's natural, not supernatural -but sure, there's always the possibility of a new and unexamined phenomena. There are a lot of scientific angles to explore first, before I'd be willing to make any leaps like that, though. Here's a pretty respectable article about out-of-body experiences.