Some of the earliest research into OBEs was conducted by Frenchman Yarm Louis Forham (1884-1917), who believed that everyone was capable of astral travel in a variety of guises, recording his observations in Practical Astral Travel. Forham claimed to have made astral visits to a woman he later married and to have experienced astral sex. Between 1902 and 1938, Englishman Oliver Fox took research into OBEs one step further when he claimed to have succeeded in inducing OBEs with lucid dreaming (see INTRODUCTION). He published his discoveries in 1920 in the journal English Occult Review and later in a book, Astral Projection. A fellow Englishman and OBE investigator, J. H. M. Whiteman claimed to have had thousands of OBEs, sometimes in the form of a woman or a child, between 1931 and 1953, which he described in The Mystical Life.
Robert A. Monroe (1915-1995), former television executive of Westchester County, New York, attracted widespread interest in OBEs from both the public and the scientific community when he published his account of OBEs in Journeys out of the Body (1971). His interest in OBEs had been triggered in 1958 when he began having spontaneous OBEs in his sleep. In his book, he described the experience as follows: "In 1958, without any apparent cause, I began to float out of my physical body.
It was not voluntary; I was not attempting any mental feats. It was not during sleep, so I couldn’t dismiss it as simply a dream. I had full, conscious awareness of what was happening, which of course only made it worse. I assumed it was some sort of hallucination caused by something dangerous—a brain tumor, or impending mental illness. Or imminent death. It occurred usually when I would lie down or relax for rest or preparatory to sleep—not every time but several times weekly. I would float up a few feet above my body before I became aware of what was happening. Terrified, I would struggle through the air and back into my physical body. Try as I might, I could not prevent it from recurring."
In his books, Monroe sets out an astonishing range of experience, some of which was unpleasant and involved meeting entities or thought forms that attacked him. He also described an overwhelmingly powerful energy: meeting the astral forms of other humans and sexual experiences on the astral level. He outlines his belief that there were various levels of existence in the OBE state. Locale I is earth, the here and now. Locale II is the infinite astral plane where everyone goes to sleep and dreams, and where countless entities exist. <p>Locale III transcends space and time and is a parallel universe. In his writings, Monroe described a technique for triggering out-of-body states and here is a brief description of it:
If Monroe’s theories are correct, the implications for dream interpretation would be enormous. Even though surveys suggest that one quarter of the population believes they have had an OBE, recent research on OBEs has been inconclusive. This may be because OBEs vary from individual to individual. Laboratory tests have been equally inconclusive, even with individuals who claim to be able to project out of body at will. Tests with animals have been a little more promising, with kittens showing a change in behavior during out-of-body efforts to comfort them; skeptics, however, argue that this was achieved through telepathy or clairvoyance. Although OBE’s cannot be disproved, to date there has been no solid evidence that anyone has actually left their body during sleep or while dreaming.The Element Encyclopedia | Theresa Cheung