The Unexplained Mystery of The Out of Body Experience
An out of body experience is the feeling that a person is floating outside of his or her own body. In some cases, the person is also looking down at his or her body. Out of body experiences are often associated with near death experiences. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. Out of body experiences have been reported by healthy individuals.
Evidence of out of body experiences is virtually all testimony on the part of individuals who have experienced them. They can apparently happen to anyone at any time, which lends credence to the idea that at least some are authentic and have a neurological or psychological origin. Some would say that an out of body experience is a short trip with one’s spirit. As of yet, there is no evidence that the soul or spirit exists, and it appears that out of body experiences may have a far simpler explanation.
Some people claim that they have experienced out-of-body experiences—aka “astral trips”—floating outside of their bodies and watching themselves from the outside. A team of scientists found someone who says she can do this at will and put her into a brain scanner. What they discovered was surprisingly strange.
Andra M. Smith and Claude Messierwere from the University of Ottawa described this subject’s ability in their paper, published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience:
She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body. The participant reported no particular emotions linked to the experience.
How is this possible? Can it be real? The researchers found that something dramatic, and consistent with her account, was happening in her brain: “strong deactivation of the visual cortex” while “activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery,” which includes mental imagery of bodily movement. This is the part of the brain that makes it possible for us to interact with the world. It’s what makes you feel where your body is in relation to the world.
This is the very first time that this type of experience has been analyzed and documented scientifically. Researchers know that out-of-body experiences can be induced “by brain traumas, sensory deprivation, near-death experiences, dissociative and psychedelic drugs, dehydration, sleep, and electrical stimulation of the brain, among others. It can also be deliberately induced by some.” But this may be the first documented case of someone who can get into this state at will.
There are several scenarios where out of body experiences seem more likely to happen. While this is not strictly evidence, it does seem to point to the fact that an out of body experience is a legitimate sensation, if not a physical or metaphysical occurrence. Near death experiences, extreme physical exertion, lucid dreams, near sleep and altered states of consciousness can all trigger out of body experiences. Both spiritual and non-spiritual individuals have reported them, so it would appear that at least some testimony is not biased or agenda-based.
Another fact that tends to make out of body experiences seem like a legitimate sensation is the fact that people can induce them. This has been noted in both scientific and pseudoscientific studies. Of course, just because people claim to be able to make them happen does not make it so. However, given that it is a mental/visual sensation, rather than an observable physical phenomenon, this is about as close to evidence as we can get. Furthermore, it is plausible, but more on that later.
Certain drugs can also cause out of body experiences. These drugs are typically hallucinogens. This begs the question: Are out of body experiences just hallucinations? Not only does this fit the bill, it is also completely plausible. Hallucinations are well-known phenomena that can happen in healthy people, mentally ill people, sick people and people who are on drugs. Sounds a lot like out of body experiences.
There is one problem with defining out of body experiences as hallucinations and that involves the spiritual and parapsychological ways of viewing out of body experiences. While not a hiccup in defining and proving out of body experiences, it contradicts the widespread idea that out of body experiences are proof of God, proof of spirits, proof of souls, etc. Some people say that they have been able to describe events that took place while they were having out of body experiences that they should not have had knowledge of. In order to call them hallucinations, we have to discount these claims or attribute them to overheard conversation and altered time perception.
In the end, out of body experiences cannot be confirmed until we find a way to measure them, so to speak. In the meantime, it is widely thought possible even outside of hokey science, so it cannot be dismissed. Whether or not it means there is a spiritual being inside of all of us depends entirely on a person’s belief system. At this point, there is no proving that either way, so there really is no argument on that front.