Out of body experiences have been reported for at least five millennia of human history. The picture below is an ancient Egyptian painting showing the soul of a person in the form of a bird hovering above the deceased physical body. This is the earliest known image of an out of body experience. Many people think such separation of soul and body only occurs at death, but most out of body experiences also occur during situations where people are very much alive: usually in people who suffer no diseases, or physical disorders whatsoever.
When do out-of-body experiences occur?
A video about out-of-body experiences
Properties of the "separated" consciousness
No memory in the "separated" consciousness
Proof of disembodiment?
Out-of-body experiences during anesthesia
An excellent survey performed by Twemlow in 1982 revealed the surprising information that most out of body experiences occur during a state of relaxation, and that only a relative few occur during near death experiences (10%). Even more surprisingly, out of body experiences sometimes also occur in states of extreme arousal such as: during severe pain, sexual orgasm, or fever. This means that out of body experiences occur during states of relaxation as well as excitement, which is a real surprise. Here is an extract of the table in the article of Twemlow showing the relative frequencies of the situations during which out of body experiences occur.
|Feeling physically relaxed||78%|
|Severe pain / childbirth||6%|
|During an accident||4%|
Traditionally, peoples of all times and all cultures have believed that out of body experiences were a manifestation of the separation of an immaterial and immortal soul, from the physical body. Even now, most people believe that out of body experiences are proof that the conscious mind can somehow separate from the physical body, and that this experience is proof of the reality of the ancient belief in the human soul. Indeed, such experiences are wondrous. During the out of body experience, the separated soul is able to pass through windows, through brick walls, is able to fly, can see and hear things occurring in the physical world, and has thoughts and mental activity which are clearer than those of the physical body.
But is this ages-old idea of out of body experiences true? Does the immaterial consciousness of a person undergoing an out of body experience truly leave the physical body? Or is the out of body experience a wonderful hallucination induced by the functioning of the body?
One way to answer these questions is to first carefully define the properties of the consciousness that apparently, and so wondrously separates from the body during out of body experiences. An extensive analysis of this the properties of the separated consciousness during out of body experiences can be found in chapter 10 of the book Mortal Minds, as well as in Chapter 14 of Illusory Souls. Here we read that the properties of the separated consciousness during an out of body experience are:
This list of properties of the makes it possible to determine whether out of body experiences truly are due to separation of the consciousness from the body, or whether this experience is simply a wondrous hallucination. And indeed, these basic properties of the disembodied consciousness of people undergoing out of body experiences provides the evidence needed to decide between these two choices.
Clinical observations of the effects of drugs commonly used during medical practice on many millions of people all over the world each each year conclusively prove that the "soul", or "separted consciousness", has no memory ability. This means the that the brain is the repository of all memories, and not the soul (see extensive discussion here and in Illusory Souls). Absence of memory function in a disembodied "soul", or "separted consciousness", means that the out-of-body experience is a hallucination undergone by physically conscious persons who only appear unconscious.
So how can de consciousness of a person undergoing an out of body experience hear and see? Let us go to the basic properties of the out of body experience. An out of body experience is indisputably a conscious experience. After all, an unconscious person has no experiences. An unconscious person hears nothing, sees nothing, and experiences nothing. There is only a gap in the continuity of consciousness. So even though the physical body of a person undergoing an out of body experience is seemingly unconscious, they are nonetheless very conscious, and only appear unconscious (see the extensive discussion of this phenomenon of apparent unconsciousness in Chapter 2 of Illusory Souls). And a conscious, although seemingly unconscious person, can hear and can see. Accordingly, veridical perceptions of seeing things, people and events, as well as hearing sounds and speech during out of body experiences are due to the apparently unconscious person actually seeing and hearing these things. Nonetheless, an examination of the evidential nature of these apparent proofs of the reality of this experience is well worthwhile.
Most people reporting out of body experiences, and nearly all those hearing of these experiences seemingly accept all the elements of these experiences at face value. They say that in the absence of other proof, that out of body experiences truly are evidence of a separation of the immaterial consciousness. As proof, they say that the physical body of a person undergoing an out of body experience is unconscious, and therefore unable to observe anything, while the disembodied consciousness is able to make two types of verifiable observations.
People who believe that the consciousness separates from the physical body during the out of body experience, claim these verifiable observations are solid proof of the reality of this belief. However, the fact that the disembodied consciousness of a person undergoing an out of body experience can hear and see is actually solid proof of the error of this belief.
How can this be? It is very curious, but no believers ever seem to ask themselves how an invisible and immaterial consciousness, able to fly and pass through solid walls, can possibly hear and see. Just examine the reality of the world in which we live.
Yet people reporting their out of body experiences say they actually saw the persons in their surroundings, saw the colors of their clothing, saw the type of clothing, saw the hair colors, and their make-up, whether there were men and women present, etc. Moreover, people reporting their out of body experiences can sometimes accurately report what was said by people in their vicinity, as well as accurately describing other sounds during these experiences. These things are verifiable, and are often confirmed to be true and to have occurred by other people present in the surroundings of these people at the time of their out of body experiences. This is a crucial observation. Observers see with physical light waves, and hear with physical sound waves. So the very fact that people do report observing verifiable things during out of body experiences, means that the apparently disembodied consciousness of a person undergoing an out of body experience sees with physical light waves, and hears with physical sound waves. After all, if this were not the case, observations made during out of body experiences could not be confirmed by observers present near the person at the time of the out of body experience.
The mechanisms by which the body generates the hallucination of the out of body experience are extensively discussed in Mortal Minds, and in Illusory Souls. The clear conclusion of this article is that the conscious mind remains firmly within the body during the out of body experience, which means this experience is a wonderful hallucination generated by the functioning of the human body.