Over the years I have listened to discussions about, and read the various opinions surrounding, whether or not an out of body experience (OOBE) is a form of lucid dreaming. Paul and Charla Devereux, authors of The Lucid Dreaming Book: How to awake within, control and use your dreams, dedicated a chapter on this subject titled, Astral Projection and the OOBE, which presents the viewpoints of several of the leading authorities on lucid dreaming regarding this debate:
On the other side of the argument, some researchers are fairly certain that lucid dreams and OOBES are versions of the same basic mental phenomenon. They see some fundamental psycho-physiological core with subjective elements added.
Paul Tholey’s laboratory research in Germany has indicated similarities between lucid dreams and at least some kinds of OOBES.
I have had OOBEs without the conscious awareness that I have maintained in lucid dreams, so this, in part, is one incidence that has led me to regard lucid dreaming as distinct from astral projection. I am recounting an abridged version of a childhood OOBE, which I also included in an earlier blog on this topic titled, Out of Body Experiences: Just a Mind Trip? :
I am standing over my sleeping body yelling, “wakeup, wakeup!” The bedroom looked just as it did in waking life. I move towards my parents’ bedroom and stand over my mother’s sleeping body yelling, “Mommy wakeup… wake me up!”
I did not have the typical awareness found in a lucid dream, and when I awoke I wasn’t sure what had happened, although I asserted “it was NOT just a dream” in response to my mother’s curt explanation for my nocturnal wanderings.
When I was a young adult I resided in the mountains of North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. My, then, husband and I had a temple room constructed in our new home with skylights installed overhead; a place where I could practice dream incubation techniques, and to create consecrated space for my daily meditations, healing work and sacred rituals.
One day I spoke with a friend of mine, a Wiccan High Priestess, whom told me about an upcoming vision quest that one of her coven members was to endure before her Third Degree elevation. I thought to myself, “This would be the perfect time to test if an ‘awake individual’ could sense the astral body of a ‘projecting individual.’”
I knew the person going on the vision quest quite well, and thought her psi abilities would be heightened during this period of meditation, fasting and sleeplessness. I didn’t mention the plan to my friend because I didn’t want her to unintentionally plant the seed of my experiment into her coven member’s subconscious. I thought it would be especially revealing if she was able to see, hear or feel my astral body without anticipating its / my presence.
I used a child’s foldout futon to sleep on, abiding by a principle I learned from Tibetan Dream Yoga, the practice of not sleeping too comfortably in order to maintain awareness. Before lying down I gazed at a giant glow-in-the-dark spiral, a three to four foot circular mandala painted with luminous black and white concentric circles, to induce a trancelike state while performing meditative breathing. I lie down and close my eyes; I could see the spiral swirling with my eyelids shut. I am affirming that I will astral travel to see D in LV’s temple room. I am holding the vision of the spiral while slipping in and out of consciousness; I am enjoying the hypnogogic hallucinations and astral project:
I see my temple room from a disembodied perspective, D and LV are squatting by my head; now I’m back in my body looking out from my own eyes into their eyes. I slip in and out of consciousness; in and out of my body. At some point I am moving about my temple room and go over to the spiral; I am able to enter it like a tunnel and exit thru the mirror located in LV’s temple room in Florida, and it looks exactly as it does in waking life. I see D struggling to stay awake – she is in the Northern quarter of the room near the altar – I am squatting next to her saying, “D if you hear me, it’s Mia, you got to call me.” I move from one side of her to the other, muttering this statement repeatedly from ear to ear for some time.
Prior to entering the spiral I could not tell if I was dreaming or awake at times; but once I went into LV’s temple room I was both lucid, remembering to carry out the task, and out of body.
The next morning I awoke to the sunrise shining through the skylight. I made coffee and got the laundry started. I was surprised to hear the phone ring so early in the morning; I answer the phone to the sound of D’s voice with a serious tone, she sternly says, “You have been heavy on my mind all night long. Do you need to tell me something?” I gasped! She continued to tell me how she had heard my nickname repetitiously and to call me (one of her gifts is clairaudience), and that she felt my energy enter the room in the early predawn hours. This was the most convincing support for OOBEs being different from lucid dreams in that the person whom was “awake” felt my “dream body” almost eight hundred miles away unaware of my experiment, and she heard my voice vacillating from ear to ear, which corresponded to my movement when I visited her out of body.
I am utilizing a more recent dream from early two thousand ten, titled The Three Me's, to illustrate how getting lucid can lead to an OOBE; lucidity began in sleep paralysis, was followed by a false awakening, and later progressed into an OOBE most sublime:
I hear sounds downstairs like a dog’s nails clicking across the tile, and the jingling sounds of dog tags; I muse on the fact I don’t have dogs anymore. I hear the sound like a ting-ting repeatedly, and wonder if it’s the ceiling fan; and soon recall I didn’t turn it on before bed because it's cold outside. I feel the sensation of separating from my body and hear rushing / whooshing sounds. I hear whispering voices calling my name; it seems as if they are at my ear. I can't move. I say to myself, “I'm in sleep paralysis, go back into sleeping-dreaming mode.” I wake up (FALSE AWAKENING). I feel a weight on the bed as if a dog jumped onto the mattress, or a person sat down. I think, “Wait, I'm dreaming and in sleep paralysis again.”
I see my physical body in bed lying motionless, I see a “Shadowy Me” (Etheric Body perhaps) guarding the “Physical Me,” not going more than a few feet from my corporeal body. I see this all from a prone position at ceiling level. My bedroom looks exactly as it does in waking reality. I can see my “Light Body” (Astral / Dream Body) at ceiling level in the mirrored dresser; I am light, a brilliant white radiance with a blueish hue.
A female shadowy figure with elfin ears enters the room from out of the floor and leaps onto the bed. I feel a weight shift upon the mattress again. The elfin-eared being is trying to get to the “Physical Me;” but the “Shadowy Me” is aggressively protecting my sleeping body – even hissing at the creature. “Shadowy Me” sits at the foot of the bed facing the floor in the Celtic “Sheela na Gig” posture, and eventually, “Shadowy Me” jumps onto the elfin / impish being as she vanishes back into the floor (the foot of the bed area, into the carpet).
The “Light Me” is observing all of this impersonally, yet marveling (a feeling of both joy and wonder) at the sight of “The Three Me’s,” and I wake up during sleep paralysis, sort of peering through a fleshy sarcophagus. Finally I am able to move, and I awaken feeling invigorated.
In the beginning of The Three Me’s I had the awareness typically found in a lucid dream, yet I no longer viewed what I was “witnessing” as a dream as the experience progressed, despite having initially identified it as such; however, while in my “Light Body” I was simply “Being” and observing, cognizant of the multi-layers of “Self,” each having their own level of existence.
I have discovered many of my OOBEs have involved mirrors, which really did not surprise me given their historical associations to being magical, oracular, connected to the dead, and doorways to other worlds. After much scrutiny and “reflection” upon my own lucid dreams and OOBEs I have come to the conclusion these are two distinct, though not mutually exclusive, phenomena.
Scientists at the University of California in Berkeley have developed brain imaging technology that can record our dynamic visual experience, meaning as we watch a movie, for example, our visual perception of what we are seeing on the screen can be recorded. I am sure someday scientists will create a hi-tech device that can record the astral body during OOBEs; until then I suppose we will have to settle for personal, albeit subjective, experiences of such phenomena.