When surveying the metaphysical literature produced in the last century, it is impossible to overstate the importance of Robert Monroe.
Monroe (1915 – 1995) was a radio broadcasting executive who, in the late 1950s, began to spontaneously experience a phenomenon now commonly referred to as an Out of Body Experience (OBE).
OBEs were not new at the time. Numerous accounts of OBEs (often described via the more archaic term “astral projection”) can be found in both ancient and pre-20th century esoteric literature. But Monroe brought something new to the experience: he made a genuine effort to observe and record his OBEs as objectively as possible.
Journeys Out of the Body is the first of three books Monroe wrote in his lifetime about his OBEs and the effect they had on his life.
The book, which is still in print over 40 years since its original 1971 publication, begins with a chronological account of Monroe’s first OBE experiences. They were not pleasant. Monroe had never heard of the phenomenon and had no spiritual or religious frame of reference by which to understand it. He thought at first he might be having psychotic episodes of some kind, or that the OBEs were symptoms of a physical ailment such as a brain tumor.
But when medical and psychiatric evaluations found him to be both sane and healthy, Monroe’s curiosity took over. He began exploring the OBE phenomenon with as much of a scientist’s eye as was possible (given the fact that by definition, an OBE is a highly subjective experience).
One of the first things he set out to do — understandably! — was to try to obtain evidence that he was, in fact, separating from his physical body. Chapter 3, On The Evidence, describes several of these experiments: Monroe showed that he could “visit” living people during his OBE episodes, observe them, and then report what they were doing. In many cases, he was able to report information he could not known without being on the site at the time he made his observations.
The next several chapters of Journeys Out of the Body focus on the nature of the OBE itself: what the Second Body is like, and the things that happened to Monroe when he was out-of-body.
While some of Monroe’s journeys took place in what he identifies as our everyday, physical world, he came to believe that the Second Body’s “natural home” was elsewhere.
The Second Body is basically not of this physical world. To apply it to visits to George’s house or other physical destinations is like asking a diver to swim down to the ocean bed without scuba gear or pressure suit. He can do it, but not for long, and not too many times.
Instead, the Second Body’s natural home actually spans two environments, in the lexicon Monroe uses in this book: Locale II and Locale III. He defines Locale II as “a non-material environment with laws of motion and matter only remotely related to the physical world,” and describes it as vast beyond comprehension. Locale III is a “physical-matter world almost identical to our own.”
Much of the value of Journeys Out of the Body comes from reading Monroe’s accounts of what — and who — he encountered during his visits to these Locales. These accounts are all the more valuable because Monroe strives always to be as objective as possible. Readers, in other words, get the unvarnished truth about OBEs. We learn that OBEs can be frightening and chaotic. We learn that OBEs call into question many conventional notions about life, death, and the afterlife.
But OBEs also suggest that consciousness is not “merely” a byproduct of the physical brain. In that respect, OBEs may point to a new spiritual path — a path that may even be compatible with modern man’s post-Enlightenment embrace of empiricism.
Monroe suggests as much in the book. Beginning in Chapter 16, he also describes techniques readers can use to try to induce their own OBEs.
Journeys Out of the Body is a must-have book if you’re at all curious about OBEs, or if you want your metaphysical library to include seminal works.
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