Out-of-Body Experiences -- Real or Imagined?
By Mark Johnson / Source: Disinformation
I must admit that as a teenager I was fascinated by the idea of out of body experiences (OBEs), but after reading countless books and no success at leaving my body I came to the conclusion it was all hooey, that was until I met author Graham Nicholls and had a conversation that almost changed my mind.
I was immediately struck by the scientific way this 'OBEr' looks at things, he comes across as humble, even skeptical, despite having had out-of-body and other inexplicable experiences since his childhood.
It all started for Graham at around the age of twelve, when he began to have some initial out-of-body experiences. "I remember floating a few feet off the ground in an upright, or vertical position." He continues that these early events didn't last long, but he remembers they inspired him to learn more. He explains he even spent 6 months trying to induce an OBE intentionally. When he did succeed he says he still didn't know for sure that what was happening was real, so he spent the subsequent years exploring as much as he could to verify his experiences, or dismiss them.
He says that he was able to accurately perceive things at several locations over the years, the most recent of which was a visit to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia (where he now spends much of his time). Like we hear in accounts of near-death experiences he was able to see clearly many details about the building, which he shared with his partner and recorded before visiting the building physically to verify what he'd seen.
He explains, "I knew it was an important out-of-body state as I could see with a crystalline clarity, when that happens I know it's an experience that could potentially be verified. I wrote down all of the details and shared them with my partner to avoid confirmation bias (when we make the facts fit)." He photographed the details and his partner confirmed that every point he told her and recorded was correct.
I find this simple example of an accurate OBE fascinating and clearly not a dream or hallucination, but the skeptic in me wants more to really believe in it all. Then Graham described what for me has to be probably the most extraordinary OBE on record, an experience from that seems to even challenge conventional understandings of time.
Even though many might be skeptical of this precognitive OBE, it did not take place when Graham was alone and reported after the fact — as hardline skeptics might assume. There were in fact several witnesses on the evening of the vision. One of whom, a Portuguese man named Cristovão Neto, says, "I remember thinking it was quite far-fetched, but yes, the "vision" involved an explosion in Soho", that was on April 25th, five days before the actual bombing took place. Lawrence Brightman, from Florida who has lived in London for many years, was another witness present on the night of the OBE. He remembers Graham stating that what he'd seen was "a bombing at a bar in Soho, and he said it was a precognition before the actual bombing happened". These statements are intriguing and clearly support Graham's version of events.
Can We Really See the Future?
If this is true, then it does throw up a very difficult question to approach: can we really see the future in the present? And has this kind of thing been scientifically tested? I might argue that memory is fallible and that we make the facts fit after the event. Yet Graham points out that, "In many cases this is true, and I'm the first to admit that memory is fallible and that confirmation bias can play a major role. But the fact that I stated the things I saw were a precognition before the actual event–I had never made such a claim before—all the details were correct, and the witnesses support what I wrote in my journal at the time (within 2 hours), all makes the skeptical arguments unconvincing."
He doesn't feel this one experience alone is totally convincing, but finds the body of evidence throughout his life impossible to ignore. I'm inclined to agree, which leaves me a little unnerved by what this all means. But the more I learn about this subject and speak with Graham, and the witnesses, the more it seems the sheer weight of information is hard to simply dismiss. I think to myself maybe it was a form of telepathy, that seems more reasonable, right?
Graham also claims that there is scientific research supporting precognition, he cites Dean Radin, Daryl Bem, Edwin May, as well as Rupert Sheldrake, who he mentions he has worked with on a series of telepathy experiments. When I ask Graham if he has taken part in any of the experiments himself, it turns out that in fact he has taken part in some initial trials using Sheldrake's computerized precognition testing system, and according to Sheldrake gained, "the highest score ever" in a single trial. Graham is quick to point out this is inconclusive as many more trials would be required to really show anything. Maybe it was just luck, but if we put this together with the fact he has witnesses to his other experiences, I find this it at least highly suggestive of his abilities being genuine.
Can Anyone Leave Their Body?
So can anyone learn these abilities, to leave their body? Graham thinks they can and has devoted many years to helping the rest of us do just that. "The structure I call 'Epicene', which I designed and built in 1998 was my first attempt to really move things forward in that sense. Up until that point I'd focused on just using visualization methods–like most books and teachers do–but this seemed a limited view. I wanted to think outside the box and really see where techniques and methods could go."
Since that time he has worked with immersion, sensory deprivation, virtual reality, hypnosis, and his own sound technology he calls 'Infra-liminal'. "I began developing the infra-liminal technology in 1998 for my original immersive structures, Epicene and later LAM. Although, the versions I'm working with now have been fine-tuned and developed to a point that I hope will take OBE technology to the next level–especially when combined with the approaches in my second book."
His second book Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience, is a fascinating read, it is not like other books on the subject for several reasons, not least of which is its focus on the evidence from parapsychology. I ask him why he took this approach, "well, I wanted to remove the belief systems and preconceptions as much as possible, to take a bottom up approach–by which I mean starting with the experience itself and then looking at what science can tell us about it. I wasn't trying so much to explain what is happening in an OBE, but instead to offer the most powerful, personalized, and rational way of having one for yourself."
The book focuses on what he calls 'immersive' approaches, he explains, "It's because we don't live in a purely visual world, we live in a complex emotionally driven world. When you consider Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), it is clear that complete sensory hypnotic inductions are more affective. I wanted to draw on that understanding to get the best results. This is why I built structures like Epicene, mentioned earlier, it allowed me to add a physical aspect to the techniques I knew worked. For example, the structure lifts the person above the ground, rather than them just imagining it, the structure does it for them, allowing their minds to focus on other aspects of the process. It also sends a strong message to the unconscious that you are trying to 'float', essentially. This when combined with my Infra-liminal system and methods like the G-Technique, result in a vastly improved chance of having an out-of-body experience."
I find this focus on what we might call sensory deprivation and multi-sensory experiences quite unusual, I've not come across this kind of thing from OBErs before. I wonder where he looked for inspiration? "I guess I was drawing upon many areas going right back into the history of human beings exploring their consciousness through shamanism etc. We have always used some form of sensory immersion to reach altered states. But specifically I was very inspired by John Zubek's work. He wrote a book on his experiments called 'Sensory Deprivation: 15 Years of Research', that was an invaluable source of information. "
So sensory deprivation, and out-of-body experiences can help us reach the unconscious, to see the underlying reality maybe? "I think so yes, as long as we don't get drawn into assumptions and delusions. But that is why I try to approach all this in a very non-dogmatic way and explore the nature of the experience directly without appeals to esoteric interpretations." Esoteric or occult viewpoints seem quite alien to Graham, despite his extensive knowledge and understanding of them. " I try to focus on what a detailed examination of the experience can tell us, the concept of the larger consciousness system (LCS), largely in-line with Tom Campbell's work, makes sense to me."
Survival of Consciousness and the Afterlife
With all this talk of the larger reality etc., I can't help but wonder what Graham thinks of the afterlife? Can you experience these kinds of things through the OBE? He explains,"When we start talking about the afterlife we step into an area that is far more subjective. Much of what I talk about does have good supporting evidence–such as precognition and psi in general. Survival of consciousness or the personality after physical death is a much more complex issue. In my OBEs I have seen events that appeared to correlate with the idea of spirits or an afterlife, I have also experienced an apparition and an orb or opaque green form with a close friend. So this makes me more open to the idea. It does seem to me that consciousness does survive physical death and that this awareness can be experienced in some form by the living."
He also mentions that on a scientific level the work of the Windbridge Institute and Julie Beischel, who studies mediumship and other areas related to the survival of consciousness after death, produce some truly intriguing work. He goes on, "there is also the overview by Janice Holden who works at the University of North Texas, which found that 92% of near-death observations were 100% veridical, or objectively correct."
The descriptions of Graham's objective observations while 'out of the body' and those of individuals close to death makes me think of the now famous Stargate remote viewing military intelligence program, so I ask his view on how these things are related, he explains, "Ah yes, I do think there is a relationship. Altered states and trance states have levels of depth it seems, so I tend to think that remote viewing is a more conscious form of non-local perception, while a full OBE is when all of the sensory awareness is being experienced non-locally, in other words, what appears to be seeing and feeling but at a different location to the physical body. Remote viewing generally has more controllability than most OBEs, so it can be more effective when applied to targets."
He pauses and describes how remote viewing and OBEs have huge potential for personally exploring what is going on in the world politically. I ask does he mean as in conspiracies etc? "Well that, as we all know, is a loaded word and suggests something hidden or secret. For me in many ways it is plain and clear that governmental politics is not driven by the interests of the majority of people. I believe we should use the tools we have available to us, like remote viewing or OBEs, to examine the nature of the world around us, be that political or metaphysical. Someone who believes that their government would never lie is simply mistaken. That is not conspiracy theory, that is a fact of life. In my view power politics is incompatible with freedom, especially freedom of mind, or consciousness". He continues, "We should not be content with the ordinary, the everyday, we should question if that is really a choice, if living for consumerism, TV, and a job is really the best use of our potential. We have a consciousness capable of so much, when we don't make real, sometimes hard, choices we diminish our spirit in both senses of the word. In my opinion that is the real power of realizing our consciousness is limitless, it is empowering."
As my time with Graham is coming to an end I wonder how this all must have impacted his life on a day-to-day level–but in many ways it is clear to see as I know he had a harsh childhood –the person he is now seems so far from that."Yes, I have grown enormously—not just through my OBEs—but also other practices also. I talk about this whole process in my first book, Avenues of the Human Spirit, in many ways that book is about a attempt to show people that anyone, from any walk of life can experience more in this life than they ever imagined."
All in all I can't say I'm now a 'true believer', but I'm not a hardline skeptic either. I feel too many people believe the likes of James Randi and his foundation without question. And I wonder if maybe there is a middle ground when it comes to these things, and just maybe people like Graham Nicholls appeal to those in that middle area where we're still asking questions and wondering could it all be true?
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