Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Out of body experiences and astral traveling

  1. Sep 15, 2003 #1
    Perhaps this post is better suited for the pseudo-science or religion forum, but I think people here would be less biased and more inclined towards a scientific responce. I picked up a book about astral-traveling a couple of years back, when I wasn't as much of an atheist and materialist as I am now, and was very intregued by the idea. Does anyone here beleive that it its possible, and would it confirm the existance of a soul, or should we just accept that it is but a psychological illusion created by the slowing down of brain activity and a lack of sensory input?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2003 #2
    There is not much of a point in talking about something of which one has no experience -- especially in such a delicate subject matter. One might easily get lost in abstract word games.
  4. Sep 16, 2003 #3
    There's all kinds of evidence to support this, as reported by many of the near-death experiences which have occurred when people suffer a tramatic injury and undergo major surgery in the hospital.
  5. Sep 16, 2003 #4
    C0mmie, this thread would probably have been better recieved in the Pseudoscience forum, however, I will respond anyway (while it's here).

    For now, I'll answer your question with a question: What goes out of the body in an "out-of-body experience"?
  6. Sep 16, 2003 #5
    i would presume that the seat of awareness is what leaves the body.

    i had an experience once where i found myself halfway up, outside a tall building downtown about 15 miles away (unless it was in a downtown across the universe).

    i could see most of the building all at once and hear the sound of the wind as well as vehicles below.

    there are several labels and attributions one could place on the experience, including these: an illusion, a hallucination, my imagination, a dream, astral travel, teleportation, spirit bilocation, clairvoyance, etc.

    just to touch the tip of the iceburg, i have no way of proving that something is a hallucination or a non-hallucination.

    may your journey be graceful,
  7. Sep 17, 2003 #6
    Re: Re: Out of body experiences and astral traveling

    There was a thing on the discovery channel a while ago. Pilots exposed to extreme G forces experience the same floating and out of body effect due to a lack of oxygen in the brain.
  8. Sep 17, 2003 #7
    That was kinda my original question. Is there anything inside of us that is capable of leaving the body and exist independantly with no physical hardware. As far as I know, our consciousness is just software, with the hardware counterpart being neurons and synapses. So does that mean that our present view of neurology is completely wrong, or is the floating and stepping out thing just an illusion or a dream?
  9. Sep 17, 2003 #8
    I would say that if you are capable of learning any new information during the experience, that you can only attain through sensory input and would otherwise not have learned, then we can assume that its real. Was there anything that you learned that you didnt know, like the position of any of the buildings or their color or anything about the roads. or even anything located of the rooftops?
  10. Sep 17, 2003 #9
    Since I once experienced the so-called OBE, I'd like to offer my perspective on this issue:

    I woke up after a nap one afternoon and found myself completely paralyzed - couldn't move a single muscle in my body, not even my eyes. The only thing I could do was "wish" to move, which was odd because before then I never realized there could be a dissociation between wishing to move a limb and the movement itself. So I kept wishing to move until I started to feel that I was actually moving, but the problem was that I could only move so far and then found myself lying again in the same position - obviously I had not moved at all.

    I never got to see myself, so I can only use my experience to explain the feeling of being "out of the body". In my case I believe it was an illusion. Apparently if you wish for something and do not pay attention to your senses, your wishes come true - the mind is always looking for ways to fulfill its wishes, and sensory input often stands in the way. When I thought I was walking, I was actually experiencing my desire to walk unconstrained by the information given to me by my senses. As soon as I paid attention to my senses, I would immediately find myself back in bed.

    What I think I learned from my experience is the tremendous power we have to experience our imagination as if it were real. That's essentially what allows people to enjoy movies - if you look at a movie for what it is, there's no point watching it. In order to enjoy a movie you have to tell yourself that what you are seeing is real, and the better you are at doing that the more immersed in the movie you get. Yet movies only fool your sense of vision; can you imagine what would happen if you had total control of your sense of vision yourself? If you could tell yourself, "I want to see the Grand Canyon", and have the ability to control your vision so that an image of the Grand Canyon appears in your conscious mind.

    As I said, I haven't seen myself, but I can imagine the process is very similar. You already know what you look like; if your conscious mind is disconnected from your senses you can easily "see" yourself right in front of you.

    The OBE proves nothing about souls or life after death. That's not the best way to interpret the experience, in my opinion. What's really interesting are the philosophical implications. If you can experience your imagination as if it were real, how can you know that what you experience as real is not a product of your imagination? How do we know if our minds are not creating everything we experience, including the experience of having a body with five physical senses?

    I don't think there are answers to those questions, but I think it's worth entertaining them. If you do, you can easily see why a lot of assumptions behind materialism are without any foundation whatsoever.
  11. Nov 8, 2003 #10
    there have been alot of drug induced out of the mind experiences in our time. People have used peyote and other hullucinagenic plants to achieve this. Is out of the mind experiences a reality or an illusion? Are you experiencing or aren't you? Is basically the same question. I go with the assumtion if it feels real then it is real. Can your eyes decieve your mind or can your mind decieve your eyes? Are either really decieved. are you flying or aren't you? I feel it's up to you to know or not, not to the other.
  12. Nov 8, 2003 #11
    is it believed that the chemicals the brain operates on without drugs is reality but as soon as there are new chemicals the brain operates on with a drug then that is an illusion? how about antidepressants? if you add one to someone who is depressed, is it an illusion that they're not depressed anymore or are they really not depressed anymore? does it matter if it's real or an illusion?

    by the way, any experience anyone has had on drugs has, i think, been experienced by people who have never in their lives taken drugs. is the drug-"induced" experience an illusion while the non-drug-"induced" experience not an illusion?
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2003
  13. Nov 9, 2003 #12
    Whether reality or illusion is indeed the point here. Incidentally, talking about "out of the mind experiences" when meaning a mind that has "out of the body experiences" is really very revealing. And the question of which is real, a drug-induced experience or one without drugs, is really simple to solve: The body offers an equilibrium, if one listens carefully to it and gives it what it needs. The equilibrium liberates one's thoughts to what they really mean (when not taking care of one's body, one can't think clearly, i.e. freely; illnesses are of this sort). As soon as one introduces an element like a drug, one disequilibrates the body, making its natural equilibrium less easily achievable.

    Beyond that, on the one hand, an experience is as such no proof of anything, it is mere raw data that need to be interpreted. Many people perform automatized interpretations, fed by god knows what 'information' they happen to believe in. Real interpreting means to put consciously the content into the framework of a world view. Then the question is whether that world view is consistent, complete, etc.. That is where philsophy and science ought to come in.

    On the other hand, judging delicate phenomena of the self — like those that arise when a psyche becomes independent of the physical body — is not an easy thing that anybody can perform securely. Since it touches upon the innermost of onself, one can not come to terms with it in the same way as in technical questions. Beyond that it is necessary to be completely clear in the mind and open to all necessary links. Drugs are no good at all in this subject matter because they warp the mind. Then illusions and wild beliefs creep into the accounts. The idea that something is real when it feels real belongs to this slippery realm, it is a simplistic interpretation — a mere belief, no secure knowledge.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2003
  14. Nov 9, 2003 #13

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest and the Mystery of Consciousness

    http://www.datadiwan.de/SciMedNet/library/articlesN75+/N76Parnia_nde.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  15. Nov 12, 2003 #14
    My question to the initiator of the topic, do you believe it is possible?
  16. Nov 13, 2003 #15
    sorry about not responding in a while. a bit preoccupied with college apps

    When first introduced to this topic about a year ago, I was very naive about it, but since then I have learned more about physics and psychology, and my view of the world has changed from a dualist one to a strictly pysicalist view. So in my present outlook on life the answer would be no.

    Does it really matter whether the substances responsible for the exprience are foreign drugs or naturally occuring chemicals in the body? You can have a hallucination if you take LSD same way that you can hallucinate if you dont take LSD. Either way its just an illusion.
  17. Nov 14, 2003 #16
    It is obvious that out of body experiences and astral traveling are closely related to states of the mind. So those who close off their mind with world views that exclude this dimension are of course among those for whom it is impossible. But this limit does not prove anything general at all.

    The trouble with mainstream science these days is that it believes brain functions produce consciousness. This idea is a result of it presupposing that matter can be causal. But there is a conceptual mixup in this fundamental assumption. This science can't conceive that in fact the causal relations might work in quite another way. So this science will be astonished that the psyche / mind / .... is something else than the brain, while trying to explain the brain's origin and use by means of the genome does not work out completely. The categories of thinking are not up to the task.

    In fact matter on its own cannot be causal (see details on the thread "Why the bias against materialism?"). One should not mix up 'necessary material conditions' with 'actual causes'. In the usual debate of causality, for conceptual / categoreal reasons the two aspects are difficult to distinguish -- while the difference is crucial to a complete understanding of the mind.
  18. Nov 14, 2003 #17
    So you have just changed your belief. Will these new boxes you have created in your mind give you that which you search for? The boxes of this world are untrue no matter what they are or what they say. Only when there is no box can truth be found.
  19. Nov 15, 2003 #18
    What change of belief and what boxes are you talking about?
  20. Nov 15, 2003 #19
    Sascha, I was refering to commie's response, I do not quote that often, it is a waste of space.
  21. Nov 15, 2003 #20
    Ah, OK. -- BTW it would be sufficient to put the name at the beginning. Quoting is indeed rarely necessary.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook