Experience of the subtle realms: Contents
3. Visits to the other world
the most remarkable of two worlds phenomena are out of the body experiences (OOBEs),
which have been widely reported in the literature on psychical research.
A full-blown OOBE can scarcely be called ambiguous. It has too much
the tang of action and
intentionality about it to be properly classified as an as if experience. So I
shall speak of it more directly.
ago I lived in a remote cottage alone in the Isle of Man, and through the use
of dietary control, ritual and meditation, I obtained for a period a measure
of command over the process of going out of the physical body in the subtle
body. I will describe the
experience in the present tense, as if it is happening now.
in bed, it does not matter in what position as long as I am very deeply
relaxed both mentally and physically. I
then imagine all the energy in my body being drawn to a central point around
the area of the solar plexus: I consciously 'withdraw' energy from all the
extremities and focus it, condense it, in this one place - which is really, of
course, a subtle space within the physical body.
hold this conscious focus of energy in the subtle region of the solar plexus,
without any distraction of attention to, or any 'leaking' back of energy to,
the extremities. The challenge is to sustain the focus for a sufficient time,
in a state that combines intense alertness with deep relaxation. The activity
of consciousness is contracted to a central point, without drifting back to
the limbs - which remain totally inert, dispossessed. Then, after a certain
period of charging up, the process of going out begins.
out is a dramatic experience. There
is a very powerful and very rapid
spiral thrust of energy, an intense vortex of motion in subtle space, that
hurtles my consciousness from the solar plexus region up to and out through my
head. It is like being carried
off in a rushing whirlwind.
is no way this process can be confused with phantasy or delusion or anything
of the sort. It is a vertiginous
encounter with the profound reality of inner space.
The potent vortex of subtle energy ruthlessly detaches me from the safe
moorings of my physical body, and I surge into the world beyond.
this vortex has begun to whirl me out, the only thing that stops it is fear.
If I fear the loss of control; if I am afraid of where I may go; if I
am afraid that dubious powers and presences may be lurking about; then the
vortex stops dead, instantly. To give way to any kind of fear is like throwing
a switch that cuts the current in a trice, and I drop back immediately into
ordinary physical awareness. See
also Monroe (1972: 205).
whole phenomenon occurs in subtle space which in some sense is within, interpenetrates,
physical space. The subtle body
loosens from its normal very close identification with the physical body and
is whirled off into its own domain.
It is not as if it is happening. It
most very definitely is happening. Hence
the considerable challenge of
trusting the process, acceding to the drama, of not giving way to fear.
it is only on a small number of occasions that going out of the physical body
has been under my voluntary control. On
the greater number of occasions, it has just happened to me, always in bed on
the borderline of sleep, with no conscious effort on my part at all.
Quite unbidden, the whirling vortex suddenly starts to go: a remarkable
phenomenon in which my only choice is whether or not to dissociate from fear
and surrender to the process. I do not understand what factors precipitate
this involuntary subtle travel. But I always welcome it - for the exhilaration and liberation
have transcended fear and surrendered to the powerful energy of the process, I
am out of the physical body and start to travel. My experience of travelling
to subtle domains has always been that of moving at very high speed, in
something like a rushing energy wind, with all my subtle senses occluded so
that I have no awareness of what sort of spaces I am travelling through.
I only feel the presence,
but have no perception, of those who are conducting me on the journey.
While there is undoubtedly a sense of very rapid movement in another
space, it is at the same time an experience of a subtle shift in
while there is a sense of the seriality of time, that is, of the flow of time
from the past through the present to the future, it is a somewhat specious and
contracted seriality. It is the
polar opposite to the specious present of ordinary life. In everyday experience,
the present moment seems to expand a bit to include some of the immediate past
and future. In out of the body
travel it's the opposite: the grand simultaneity of past, present and future
seems to contract into an apparent bit of serial time - in order to
accommodate the experience of travel. Well, that's about as close as I can get
to it with words.
when travelling, is there any real sense of having a subtle body or vehicle.
It is almost as if, for a brief time, I am doubly disembodied - no
physical body, not much of a subtle body.
I am definitely conducted, borne, carried almost, by persons unknown,
in travelling to other domains. But
I do not know why it occurs when my extrasensory awareness is so occluded;
nor do I know how or why my guides, whose presence is unmistakable,
nevertheless remain so totally imperceptible and unidentified.
instances of travel, I have had no control at all over where I go to.
I am conducted in a direction chosen for me by beings veiled from me.
This is a passive hierarchy of the third
kind: it takes place entirely in subtle domains.
sense of arriving is that of reaching a certain level or grade of being.
Extrasensory perception commences. My guides have entirely disappeared,
and I have no idea where they have gone.
I see an environment, and I am aware of my subtle body or vehicle.
And I now become more cautious in my account.
It is as
if my experience of the subtle domains is:
see a whole range of things.
I have a viewpoint and see what I see from a certain position.
I see is distributed in space.
Events in this space occur in temporal
I see is out there in a world.
What I see are buildings, landscapes, vistas, persons.
I can choose where I look and where I go - but only after I have
arrived at the place to which I have been taken.
these respects, experience of a subtle domain is similar to experience of the
physical world. But this list of similarities is a little misleading.
For further exposure suggests that some of them, at any rate, are a
contraction, a limiting case, of more expanded modes of encounter with the
other world. In other words, you
can choose to observe a subtle domain as you do this world, but that is not,
as it were, the supernatural way to do it. For there are clearly critical
respects in which the mode of apprehension is different:
have access to only one physical world set in just one
constant band of energy frequencies, but I can access many different
subtle domains, as if each has its own range of frequencies.
state domains. Which subtle domain I enter is a function of my state of
consciousness, so only when my awareness is altered to the energy
frequency of a subtle domain can I enter it.
subtle body appears to function more in the mode of levity, of lifting and
lightness, than the physical body which functions in the mode of gravity, of
sinking and heaviness; it is as if it is moved by expansive and centrifugal
forces, rather than by contracting and centripetal forces.
is as if phenomena perceived in a subtle domain are illuminated as much from
within themselves, as if refracting internal light or as if compounded of
light, as from without.
It is as if my consciousness participates much more fully with the energy
that comprises a subtle domain than appears to be the case with my
consciousness and the physical domain. I have liberating sense of my
consciousness inhabiting, dwelling in, the subtle domain it perceives; or, to
put it the other way, of the other world emerging out of and revealing the
creativity of a consciousness of which I am part, but which is wider than the
immediate focus of my awareness. So my consciousness participates with
self-revealing exhilaration in the clarity, luminosity,
textures of what is perceived in a subtle domain.
is as if I go where
and when I think to go; as if thinking and intention as such can
directly determine locomotion. Similarly, just concentrating and focusing my
attention on something I see in the other world, will directly alter the
structure and content of my perception of it - by bringing more of it and more
perspectives of it into view.
widely, it is as if my conceiving and imagining can directly influence, within
limits that are not quite clear to me, the actual structure
and content of my percepts. Subjective and objective, concepts and
percepts, are much more overtly interwoven and interactive than is the case in
physical perception, where the effect is largely limited to the perceptual
constancies. In subtle domains, I
see much more of what I think.
I participate in a
reality where there is an obvious dynamic interdependence of subjective and
Perspectives on a subtle domain can become rapidly heterogeneous, with
a quickly shifting, kaleidoscopic succession of different views, especially if
the seer's consciousness is undisciplined and untrained. If the will
is inherently unstable, a subtle domain can tumble into awareness in a
baffling array of variegated images.
undisciplined state, all sorts of different things appear.
But the heterogeneity can manifest positively: when the will is
disciplined and concentrating on one thing being perceived, then you may have
a series of different perspectives of that same thing.
It is as if the thing turns itself around for you, under the impact of
your concentration; or as if your awareness is out there all around it, having
simultaneous peripheral views that are somehow cooordinated into a composite
image. I discuss this more technically in section 4, chapter 7.
As I look at something in a subtle domain, it may change its form and
appearance becoming a different shape. This,
I think, reflects the more overt interaction between subjective and objective
components of perception. In turn
this generates a sort of perceptual inconstancy:
the imagination of the seer is continuously varying the percept. So to
look at something in the subtle mode is to participate in the continuous
recreation of its mode of appearing. This
does not mean there is nothing objectively there, but only that there is no
set constancy in its mode of appearing to any subject. However, there may be
deeper and subtler invariants that underlie all the differing modes of
appearing. As in projective
geometry: a figure retains certain invariant properties whatever the
variations of projection and section. In
a chapters 7 and 10, I talk more
about the geometry of inner space.
with heterogeneity, there is both undisciplined and disciplined metamorphosis.
If the seer's consciousness is untrained, then the changing percept may
incorporate a lot of subjective distortion of the object. If the seer's
consciousness is trained, then the seer's imaginative transformations of the
percept may reveal more of the reality of the object. But this reality is a
reality inseparable from its dialogue with that particular subject.
In subtle domains, it looks as if there is no necessary restriction, as
there apparently is in the physical world, to this point in space and time.
In ordinary life, our perceptual experience is confined to here and
here only in space, and now and now only in time.
In psi perception in subtle domains, it is as if you can access both
here and there at pretty well the same time.
This follows from the heterogeneity of other world perspectives,
getting different views of the same thing from different positions, and all
this in the continuous present within which the same act of perception occurs.
You are not dashing around looking at the thing from different angles in
different acts of perception, but receiving different perspectives in one act
of encompassing perception - as if the third eye can coordinate several
simultaneous views from various points around the object, yielding
many-faceted awareness of it. You don't have to psi-perceive in this way, because
you can contract your vision into the single-perspective mode. But you can
choose to do so. Also
it can happen spontaneously and then be rather disorienting - if you
are only familiar with physical
not have enough experience to know whether in psi perception you can have access
to all possible combinations of the basic spatiotemporal coordinates.
For as well as being here now (the conventional physical coordinates),
and being both here and there now, there is also: being here then (in the past
or the future); being here now and here then; being here now and there then;
being here then and there now; and so on and so on.
The combinations are too numerous, and baffling, to list.
what seems clear enough is that
our experience needs to be cast in spatiotemporal form for us to have a proper
sense of encounter with subtle domains. What
is not so clear is whether in principle there need be any restriction to only
one or two coordinate sets for us to have a proper sense of this, that or any
other world. Maybe one reason we don't notice subtle domains is because we
haven't practised thinking of a world out there beyond the restricted here-now
focus of physical perception. In section 8 of chapter 11, I suggest a model of
transcendental or subtle time whose expansive structure is the polar
complement to the serial restriction of physical time.
points I am less clear about above are those to do with heterogeneity,
metamorphosis and spatiotemporal extension. I am much more sure about the
previous five points - manifold domains, altered states, levity, inherent
illumination, participation. And
certainly as a beginner on early visits to subtle domains, I encountered a
relatively constant environment, perceived in a relatively conventional mode.
have found myself kneeling on what seemed like sand, running the sand between
my fingers and marvelling at the way it had what I can only call the texture
found myself passing a long, large building, then appearing suddenly in one of
its rooms, which was a child's room, with unusually interesting sorts of toys
on a table top. After a short
period, a female figure in something like nurses' clothes came in, with an
expression of surprise and pleasure on seeing me.
had an enormous sense of elevation in the travel, and a related shift of consciousness
toward great subtlety of being, and found myself in a high frequency domain
that also seemed to be a long way physically from the earth.
I looked out over a vastly spacious and exalted perspective of 'water',
'sky', 'mountains' - an immense spread of
'landscape' echoing with ineffability.
I have written above of 'things' and 'objects' in subtle domains as if
they had the discrete, separate and physically alienated status of material
objects in everyday life. But
this is misleading. The whole notion of a thing as we understand it is not
quite right for characterizing what is encountered in the other world. For
there I am aware of the interconnectedness of phenomena: they are brilliant
differentiations within a common field or ground of being and consciousness.
And paradoxically, their distinctness and uniqueness of being is enhanced by
their corporate resonance within the unifying field.
Once again, this kind of account does not quite get to the heart of the
matter, but it is as near as I can get.
when I am out of the body it is as if
I am in the subtle space 'next' to the physical world, looking at it with psi
vision. But this clairvoyant view
of the everyday world is never quite like the ordinary view of it.
Either psi vision gives a different account of physical phenomena than
physical vision; or looking from a more rarefied medium into a more dense
medium causes some distortion to objects in the latter - analogous to the laws
of refraction in simple physics; or I'm looking at the subtle matrix or double
of the scene.
once in the Isle of Man, I was out of the body up above the cottage where my
physical body was sleeping. I
recognized the cottage and the fields behind it and the stone walls, yet the
whole configuration looked too psi, too other-worldly, as if it had been
repainted or redesigned in a somewhat idealized form with much of the detail
and the lay-out wrong.
while there was nothing ambiguous about being out of the body, there was
considerable ambiguity about the status of what I was looking at. Was it the physical world as such, even if distorted by my
vision of it? Or was it a subtle
double of the physical world? Or something else?
or two ago, I had a striking experience of this double ambiguity. My physical
body was in bed in the early hours of the morning in London.
It was as if I was out of the
body in another kind of space but very like physical space.
I was floating just above ground level, attending very precisely to the
shifting perspective, noting on my right side how things nearer to me moved in
relation to things further away from me as I went forward.
I kept checking this, thinking at the time that the relative shifts
were just like those which occur when moving in physical space, although I
knew this wasn't physical space as ordinarily experienced.
in a kind of forecourt which I recognised as the forecourt of Redhill railway
station, a few miles south of London, which I had not visited for many years.
Now this recognition was baffling, because the forecourt was certainly not
identical with the forecourt I remembered from my last physical visit. But the
recognition was a real remembrance of the Redhill I had previously known.
It was more than just being strongly reminded of Redhill while still
knowing the place to be somewhere different.
I was as
if I was moving south toward the exit of the forecourt, looking intently
at the buildings on my right as I moved.
They were one or two storey bric-a-brac-like buildings, crowded
together, with chimney pots and other small structures cluttering their roofs.
It was the changing spatial relations of these pots (further away) and
structures (nearer) that I was studying as I moved along.
It was quietly exhilarating to feel my effortless movement combined
with the sense of spatial coherence and lucidity.
way ahead of me on the horizon in the middle distance and slightly to my right
I saw two tall buildings like elegant high-rise apartment blocks, each about
twenty storeys high. I remember
thinking that to my recollection Redhill had no such buildings in that sort of
location. A short way ahead of me, slightly to my left and inside the
forecourt, was a small group of three or four people standing and talking.
I then became aware of a presence seemingly following me at a constant
few paces behind and slightly to the left.
This made me feel nervous and I wondered whether the presence was benign
or not. The anxiety made me turn
round to have a look.
a male figure and really only noticed the face.
It was long and thin and had a pointed jaw. I noted particularly that the jaw and lips, which were
smiling, appeared to be made of rough-cast concrete filled with sand-coloured
small pebbles. This alarmed me, I
felt frightened, and immediately switched back into ordinary consciousness,
awake in my bed.
what sort of explanation is to be given of this experience?
I will consider a number of possibilities.
What differentiated the experience from an ordinary dream was the sense
of clarity, control and intentionality in perceiving the given environment, in
moving through it and taking spatial bearings within it. It was simply that I was functioning as a fully purposive and
intelligent person in an unusually lucid setting - which was both objective
and yet more intimate to consciousness than the physical world appears to be.
I was awarely encountering a place, not dreaming of it.
the pebble-dash concrete face at the very end was more like the stuff of
dreams: indeed, like the nightmare image of a bad dream. And this could well have been a projected image of my fear
catching up with me. But for the most part the ordinary dream hypothesis I reject, for
the reasons given.
A lucid dream is a fully ambiguous experience: it hovers on the interface
between an ordinary dream and an out of the body experience. The events,
persons and story line have something of the bizarre quality of ordinary
dreams - there is an improbability about what is going on.
On the other hand, it is as if I the dreamer am conscious and
purposive, as if my perceptions have the coherence and lucidity of an objective
dream-like improbability can stem from the fact that the unusual event going
on in the dream - often to do with levitating, flying, floating in the air -
seems to be going on in the physical world.
So I am dreaming that my physical body is floating in a physical
environment. Whereas in an out of the body experience, I am conscious of functioning
purposefully in a non-physical vehicle, a subtle body, of some kind - and this
was so in the Redhill out-of-the-body experience.
view of a lucid dream is that it is what it seems to be, a mix up between
dreaming and being out of the body, as if the waking recollection of being out
of the body gets distorted by dream material and recast as a phantastic
in-the-body event. This did not apply to the Redhill experience.
The out of the body experience was nothing to do with Redhill or any other
physical town. I was visiting an independent subtle domain and town which
simply reminded me of Redhill. This
is certainly possible. But I
still want to discount it, for the experience seemed more authentically one of
recognition than of mistaken identity. And
this sense of recognition persisted even when what I saw didn't seem to match
up properly with what I knew of Redhill - a baffling kind of recognition since
it survived partial claims to mistaken identity.
may say that this persistence of mine in seeing the town as Redhill was just a
defence: a way of reducing my insecurity in the other world by assimilating a
subtle town to a familiar physical town.
But I have not noticed any such defensive tendency at work when I have
clearly been in independent other world places.
On the contrary, I am interested and fascinated rather than defensive.
Also the way of looking, so clearly like the unilateral views of physical
vision, suggests that my clairvoyance was contracting itself to the claims of
a physical environment.
I was visiting a subtle double of Redhill: Redhill as it is reflected in
subtle form in the other world - not perhaps an identical reflection, but one
with significant correlations of form and lay-out.
And this subtle counterpart is somehow close to, overlays or
interpenetrates, the physical town. Redhill is in physical space in physical
form; and Redhill is manifest in subtle space, but in distinctively subtle
form, which is in some respects similar to, and in other respects different
from, the physical form.
is plausible from the point of view of the actual out of the body experience.
It explains the baffling kind of recognition; and at the same time, the
feeling of being in subtle space and looking at another world environment with
its special intimacy to consciousness.
I am not sure it explains the contraction of my clairvoyance to the form of
subtle view of physical space.
My final hypothesis is that I was in my subtle body in the subtle space
interpenetrating the physical Redhill, but looking directly at or into the
physical Redhill. And that this
was like looking from a more refined medium at something in a more gross
medium, with the result that the psi perception of the physical Redhill
underwent certain characteristic distortions.
In order to check on this, and compare exactly how my out of the body
experience of Redhill fitted with the physical present-day Redhill, I took a
train to Redhill the day after the experience.
arrived at 2.15 pm. I hadn't
visited the place for many years. A
lot had changed. The old
buildings on the edge of the forecourt opposite the station exit had been
demolished and a new road put there. On
the other side of that road there was a large construction site with a new
shopping centre or some such just starting to appear in the middle of the
site. I walked to the north end of the forecourt and into the car
park behind it, and then moved south toward the exit of the forecourt, in a
line like the one I took in my out of the body visit.
of the body view was somewhat confirmed.
As I moved south and looked to my right, there immediately on the other
side of the new road were a crowded mixture of one or two storey site cabins
of the construction company. Behind
them in my line of vision were the roofs and chimney pots of buildings on
site cabins could have been the bric-a-brac-like buildings whose structures
moved relative to the chimney pots behind them, and
relative to my forward movement, as in the out of the body view.
Furthermore, on rising ground in the middle distance was a high-rise
twelve storey apartment block in two vertical parts divided by a deep, shaded
recess. This could have readily
been misperceived in my out of the body view as two separate blocks.
However, this double block was not ahead of me and only slightly to my
right as I had seen it in my out of the body experience: rather it was fully
to my right, due west instead of south-west.
were other features of the physical body view that
seemed to disconfirm the subtle view. Next to the site cabins, beside
the new construction work, was the old five storey, rather bulky Surrey Mirror
building. This very obvious large
structure had not appeared at all in my subtle view, yet it was physically in
a place where it certainly should have done so. And there were six very tall
cranes on the construction site; and two of these at least should have been
right in the middle of the subtle view.
there is the problem of illumination. To
my out-of-the-body vision the
scene had been clearly delineated as in full daylight.
Yet my out of the body visit must have been during the night or at the
very first hint of dawn. And the
group of people in the subtle view were of the day rather than of the night.
only way to save the hypothesis that in my out of the body visit I was getting
clairvoyant perspectives of the physical Redhill - would be to suppose that
when you take an out of the body look from subtle space into the physical
world, certain systematic distortions of your clairvoyance can occur, as
Physical forms may appear to be rather more elegant and refined than
they actually are when physically viewed: they undergo distortion in the
direction of idealization and simplification.
Physical distance and direction are distorted: to subtle view, things
in the physical foreground may seem nearer than they actually are, and things
in the physical background may
seem further away; and the physical direction of something can be out by
several degrees of arc in the subtle view.
subtle view of physical space can be patchy and selective: some things are
seen and others not at all. There
is no comprehensive panoramic sweep as in physical vision.
The subtle view is more blinkered, more tunnel-like.
You get a restricted perspective on what you focus your attention on.
The perceptions are piecemeal. Some things you simply don't notice.
subtle view of physical space my undergo a temporal shift: it may be displaced
by several hours (or days or months?) from the clock time of ordinary physical
distortions could be a function of at least four things: difference of density between the subtle domain and
the physical domain (similar to being in the air and looking at something
submerged in water); difference of spatiotemporal gearing between the subtle
domain and the physical domain; psychological interference
from both emotional and cognitive material; lack of skill and practice
in taking a subtle view of the physical.
also may be that when clairvoyance contracts into the single perspective mode
typical of physical vision, in order to peer at physical environments from
subtle space, it actually becomes less proficient than physical vision itself.
I doubt that there is any real need for it to contract like this.
And later on (section 13, chapter 7) I consider more expansive ways of
taking a subtle view of the physical world.
don't really know how to choose between the hypotheses of the subtle view of a
subtle Redhill, and a subtle view of the physical Redhill - except to
say that I find the first a bit odd, and temperamentally prefer the
second, even though it seems to be more complicated intellectually to make it
mentioned the lucid dream experience in the previous section.
I will now give an example of its systematic ambiguity, of how it
seems to be an out of the body experience in dream disguise. The supposition
of this account of a lucid dream is that the dreamer has had a real out of the
body experience in the subtle body, but recollects it as a dream of, say,
levitating or flying in the physical body.
So it is as
if I was dreaming - but really I wasn't,
I was having an out of the body experience. A sort of reverse
following lucid dream occurred about two years ago. I was, in the dream, with a waking life friend and colleague,
William, in a men's consciousness raising group, in a large stone built room.
There was a break in the proceedings, during which we were all seated
on the floor around the sides of the room, leaning our backs against the
walls. I invited William to stand and I placed my right cheek against his
right cheek. He reponded with warmth and we held each other in a light
embrace. Then I started to move
and we engaged in a slow, very elegant dance - to our own and everyone else's
danced, we slowly levitated together above the heads of the other people.
It was a tall room and we moved magically, floating just below the
ceiling. With my left hand I
reached up and touched the ceiling lightly, propelling us across the room. The
men in the room were stunned. Two
or three of them, especially one tall man, became very agitated, saying
that we should stop immediately, that what we were doing was dangerous,
alarming. I pacified them and
asked them just to accept and witness what was going on. They did so. My
recollection of the dream fades with William and me still in the air, and the
men looking on.
criteria for this being a covert out of the body experience are: the clarity
of awareness; the purposive and intentional nature of the action; the
experience of levity and liberation in the movement.
The criteria for this being a dream are: the experience was cast as if
it all occurred in physical bodies in a physical setting; the bizarre and
improbable 'event' of physical levitation; a certain wish-fulfilment
flavour of the happenings.
questions remain. If it really was an out of the body experience, what was
actually going on, what was the true event which was veiled by the disguise of
the dream? Why does an out of the
body experience get disguised as a dream ?
relation to the first question, it could have been that William and I were
actually meeting in our subtle bodies, engaging in some kind of work in the
other world that reflected back on issues of men's liberation in this world,
and finding the co-operative endeavour very harmonious and agreeable.
In relation to the second question, this sort of subtle work might have
stirred up a certain amount of psychological material about men's issues which
wrapped itself as dream imagery around the out of the body recollection.
But the possibility that real out of the body experiences can be veiled
in this way suggests something more.
conscious and purposive out of the body experience can be partially occluded
by dream imagery, there is the possibility that it can be totally obscured by
a dream in which the latent out of the body content is simply not noticed by
the person recollecting the dream. Or
the possibility that such an out of the body experience is not represented in any form, explicit or implicit, to the
which case, a person could have a double identity, being conscious and
purposive in the physical world during ordinary waking life; being conscious
and purposive in the subtle world while the physical body is asleep; but the
existence and identity of the suble self being quite occluded from the
ordinary self, by some physiological and/or psyhological mechanism. This is
a curious possibility, but it could be the case.
not had this experience since I have not been near death at any time in my
life, but there is nowadays quite extensive
literature and research on near death experinces (Moody, 1977; Noyes, 1980;
Ring, 1984). People who have
nearly died physically, but have revived or have been clinically resuscitated,
have reported in detail on OOBEs. They find themselves in a subtle body in the other world.
are certain common features of these experiences: the tunnel-like exit from
the physical body and physical world; the review of life events; being
received by some kind of mentor or counsellor; an assessment of learning from
the life just lived; the feeling of levity and exhilaration in the new
environment. People are more and more overcoming the cultural repression of
owning and talking about experiences of the other world, and coming out into
the open about such things.
an out of the body experience, I undergo the experience of returning to the
physical body. This is like a
falling away, a dropping out of subtle space, a draining and drawing back of
energy into the physical body. It
is also like coming back down a rather narrow cone. There are two minor
hazards about this return.
there is a slight fear about getting back.
This is a fear that the return energy route might be blocked by someone
or something; or even permanently severed thus precipitating a disturbing kind
of premature death. But I have found this to be only a minor fear, one that is
just noticed in passing. It never
has had the effect of actually inhibiting or interrupting the return, in the
way that the fear of going out can pull one instantly back into the physical
other and more noticeable hazard which has occurred to me several times is
that I get back into the body and find it paralytic - I am unable to move it.
When this happens it seems to take some seconds before I can reassert command
and infiltrate my will into the muscles and nerves. Sometimes a flicker of fear accompanies this experience, but
I usually brush it aside and get on with the business of taking charge of the
motor cortex again.
interesting that the body goes so totally cataleptic when one is out of it.
But after I return to it, get up from the bed and go about my daily
business, it invariably feels subtly refreshed, sweetly attuned, its tissues
somehow liberated - as if it carries within it the levity of the subtle body.
It seems that going out of the body is good for you, regenerating and
invigorating at the level of subtle energy.
several points in this book I make a distinction between the subtle matrix and
the subtle body (see especially section 6, chapter 7). It is clearly relevant to the mechanism of out of the body
experiences. The subtle matrix,
which is the generative and supportve field of the physical body,
continues to sustain life while the subtle body is on its travels in the other
order to practise going out of the body, the subtle body needs to become
developed to become an independent vehicle for consciousness, intention and
perception. In the past I have done this by diet, ritual, meditation and by
the use of those twin keys of the adept - imagination and will.
the subtle body is built up enough, then the practitioner needs to acquire the
knack of creating a temporary separation of the subtle body from the subtle
matrix - within which it is normally embedded. I described my simple but
demanding technique in the opening section of this chapter.
There are other techniques, and various manuals on the subject
think you need some friends and helpers in the other world, who will generally
supervise and facilitate the going out and the travel.
It is a vast and multidimensional place out there, and competent
presences who know the lay of the land are an invaluable resource.
called Descartes the father of modern philosophy. This is so, but he is rather
more than that. He is the primary author of our ordinary everyday way of
perceiving the world. He created the conceptual framework for the development
of modern science by dividing the world into
the independent substances of matter and mind. Matter only has the
property of extension in space, and has no mind; and mind only has the
property of thinking, and has no extension.
this framework, science could get on with quantifying an external reality
only as a self-contained mechanical system of matter in motion in space. By the time science had dominated the
world with its achievements, Cartesian duality had permeated general culture
so that it became part and parcel of everybody's way of looking at things.
While Cartesian philosophy has been long since abandoned as a philosophy, it
stills lives powerfully today as a conceptual framework embedded in the very
act of perceiving the world.
the world out there extended in a single universal space, a space which has
nothing to do with mind or
consciousness, and we as observers are private and limited centres of
consciousness looking out on this space. Now let us turn this conceptual
framework inside out and replace Cartesian duality with a non-Cartesian unity.
suppose that instead of each of us being a limited consciousness in a
non-mental universal space, each of us is a limited mental space in a
universal spatial consciousness. So that, instead of there being one
non-mental space and many different non-spatial consciousnesses, there are
many mental spaces in one universal spatial consciousness. On this view,
universal space is a form of universal consciousness, and each
individual mind is a restricted spatial locus within it. The
Cartesian duality between space and mind is overcome, and the individual mind
is a spatial set within universal mind.
experience is always spatial in form and as such is a local and limited aspect
within the space of universal consciousness. And because there are several
quite distinct modalities of human experience, a person is a set of interconnected classes of mental spaces of
different sorts. There is the (1) class of sense perceptions, (2) the class of
mental introspections, (3) the class of extrasensory perceptions, and (4)
the class of dreams. These four classes of experience overlap, although not
totally otherwise they would be identical. Each has a distinctive body or
sheath, and each has a spatial form: the first has the form of physical space,
the third the form of subtle space; the second and fourth are half-way houses,
staging posts between the other two. I recount now an experience of moving
between all these four spaces, and it includes a curious confusion at one
stage between two of them.
lying bed after dawn, awake with my eyes closed and in introspective space
within a background context of phsyical space. I was mentally intoning a
mantra and kept it going for quite a long while. Then I fell asleep and was
in dreaming space: I was in a house with a friend who was lying in bed waiting
for me to serve a sweetmeat I was preparing in the kitchen.
I realized the house belonged to someone else and we were borrowing it
or renting it. I heard a neighbour
come in with a child.
suddenly found myself busy with extrasensory perception in subtle space. I was
clearly out of the physical body in a subtle body and on a branch looking down
onto an irregular pyramidal shaped mound or stone in an open stretch of sand
in some subtle domain. I was about ten feet above the small mound which was only a few inches high and square, and
willed myself to go onto the sand and examine the mound close up. I was then
kneeling on the sand in front of the mound and I stretched out my arms to let
my hands go through the sand and enjoy its subtle texture. I thought to myself
that I would not look up because the extent of the horizon might alarm me and
interrupt the experience.
started to fear, in introspective space, that I was getting so absorbed in
this subtle environment that I was getting totally dissociated from my
physical body. Strangely - and this is the curious error - I thought of it
lying in the borrowed house in the dream
and feared that someone might disturb or damage it. I was also afraid I would
get so thoroughly dissociated from my physical body that I would never be able to find my way back to it. So I started
to will myself back with a faint nervous uncertainty about being able to
do it, but I managed it quite quickly and found myself in my actual bed in
that I go from introspective space within physical space to dream space to
subtle space then back to physical space; and that introspective space is also
present within both dream space and subtle space. In dream space,
introspective space does not know it is within dream space; and in subtle
space introspection mistakes the recently vacated dream space for physical
space, but is quite clear that subtle space is what it is, that is, neither
physical nor dream nor introspective space.
3.1 shows a possible route somewhat similar to mine. It goes from being awake
in physical space to the introspective space in bed before sleep, thence into
dream space. Next it assumes there is some sort of passage from the
introspective space that is within dream space out into subtle space. And from
the introspective space within subtle space there is a direct route back into
physical space, as when I became anxious and willed myself back. The subtle
space here is equivalent to the four dimensional matrix shown in Figure 10.1
at the end of Chapter 10.
rogue space is dream space, since you don't know you are in it while you are
in it, but only after you wake up in physical space. But 'waking up' in subtle
space does not necessarily guarantee that you will realize that the dream
space you have just come from was, in fact, dream space and not physical
space. In section 5 above, I mentioned the reverse problem, in which you can't
recall that you have been in subtle space and translate the experience into a
is some important learning in all this. It suggests that there is an art, a
skill, in moving between these four mental spaces; that there are different
routes and journeys you can take, with different techniques of passage from
one to the other; and that it needs some practice to know what you are about
and not get confused. Since dream space is perhaps a central locus of
confusion, one basic preparatory technique may be to learn to dream
consciously, so you know you are in dream space while you are in it. A variety
of methods are available for acquiring this competence (LaBerge, 1985).
class of introspections is of special interest. It is a movable class. It
interpenetrates whatever body a person is conscious in: the physical body, the
dream body, the subtle body. To
say that it interpenetrates one of these bodies, is to say that it is in a
local field within and around that body and transcending it in terms of energy
and frequency. In itself it includes different energies and frequencies:
thus the introspections that interpenetrate the physical body include
after-images and idio-retinal lights, desires, emotions, thoughts, images
introspective body, if we may call it that, is the most subtle sheath despite
its sometimes gross mental occupants. These occupants can alter their
frequencies in order to operate within and transcend whatever other body it is
within. The introspective body pure and simple, unsullied by gross mental
occupants, is the soul body. It talks naturally to its immanent divine
source; and is open to indwell the many spatial forms of universal consciousness, each of which clothes the soul in an appropriate body or lens or
viewpoint or knowing sheath. It then retains its distinctness of being while
participating in the wider reaches of cosmic reality.
3.1 A journey through the four spatial forms of consciousness
Experience of the subtle realms: