idea of an astral
body is not new, it is mentioned in ancient Indian writings which claim
that a supernatural power described as "flying in the sky" can be
acquired through a type of yoga called Pranayama. The Western idea of
astral travel appears to have originated in classical Greek philosophy
independently of oriental influences.
to accounts given by those who claim to have experienced it, liken it
to a physical waking state with a feeling of well¬being and
buoyancy in which there is a general sensation of floating and looking
down upon the world. A widely held belief is that a fine silver cord
links the physical and metaphysical bodies during astral travel, and a
person can view their own body from a vantage point above. These
occurrences are frequently reported during operations, serious illness,
while under the influence of hallucinatory drugs and during meditation.
They are often called "out of body experiences."
have been reports
of people who through the agency of their astral body, have been able
to read messages written on pieces of paper placed beyond their reach
and who have given descriptions of places visited during their astral
travels. Distance appears to be no problem when it comes to astral
travel, psychic Ingo Swann claims to have made an out of body
exploration of the planets Mercury and Jupiter.
travel is taught
by organizations such as the Inner Peace Movement and belief in it was
given a boost by Shirley MacLaine in her book and TV mini series Out
idea of leaving one's
physical body and travelling unconstrained by time and space is
certainly fascinating and appealing, but what evidence is there to
support the claims of those who purport to have done so? Until
recently, the evidence relied solely on a priori speculation and
anecdotal evidence. Today, although the evidence still remains
anecdotal, it is possible to investigate the claims more thoroughly
using scientific methodology.
case where it was
possible to check the claims of astral travel against the known facts
was in 1978, when an article appeared in the April edition of the American
Psychic News. In the article, US astronaut, Edgar
and astronomer, J. Allen Hynek, claimed that Ingo Swann had proven that
he had astrally travelled to Jupiter. Mitchell said Swann "described
things and gave details which were not known to scientists until the
Mariner 10 and Pioneer 10 satellites flew by the planets and got the
information." Hynek concluded that, "these are matters which Swann
couldn't have guessed about or read. His impressions of Mercury and
Jupiter cannot be dismissed."
claimed observations were
compared with scientific determinations however, a different picture
emerged. Of the 65 revelations 30 were wrong, 2 were probably untrue,
11 were fact but the information was obtainable from reference books, 7
were fact but obvious, 9 were unverifiable due to vagueness, 5 were
probable fact (that is, in accord with scientific speculation), and
only 1 was fact not obtainable from reference books, even giving Swann
the benefit of the doubt his accuracy was only thirty seven per cent.
travel the 438,000,000
miles from Earth to Jupiter and return at 32,000 mph (the same speed as
the Voyager II space satellite), would take just under four years and
in the absence of a sophisticated navigational system, protection from
radiation and the problem of an astral body obtaining an escape
velocity of 37.1 miles/sec to free itself from Jupiter's gravitational
pull would, I suggest, present a few problems, not to mention the
deterioration of the physical body left behind in a comatose state for
such a long period of time. The improbability of this feat is further
compounded by the "cord" which allegedly connects the astral body to
its physical body and which was graphically portrayed in Shirley
MacLaine's TV mini series, Out on a Limb. Some claim that the
invisible, others that it is silver in colour. Either way, no plausible
explanation is ever offered to explain the mechanics of such a
part that breathing plays in allegedly projecting oneself astrally is
borne out by the importance attached to it by America's best known
astral traveller and author Sylvan Muldoon (1971). First, the building
into the subconscious a strong desire to be conscious in the astral
body; next, attention is to be centered on the heartbeats, which
through mental suggestion should be slowed down. Muldoon's experiments
hinged on his abnormally slow heartbeat and his general frail health.
He emphasises that it is the feeling of suspense in the mind, not the
actual projection of the astral body that is unpleasant. He says that a
really intense study of, and a desire for astral projection, will
always bring results because the force built up in the subconscious
will inevitably express itself.
medical explanation for
the phenomenon can be found in a basic understanding of the function of
the human brain. Joseph Barcroft, (1914), in The Respiratory
Function of the Blood, states: "There is no instance in which it
proved that an organ increases its activity under physiological
conditions without also increasing its demand for oxygen."
of the brain even when at rest, is high. Although the brain only
comprises about two per cent of the body weight, it uses approximately
twenty five per cent of the oxygen taken up by the body under
conditions of complete mental and physical rest. When the brain's
oxygen requirement is reduced by a decrease in the arterial blood
pressure caused by a slow heart beat, or the cerebral vessels are
constricted by hyperventilation (overbreathing), it causes among other
conditions mental confusion, loss of consciousness, and transitory
disturbances of vision.
be seen therefore,
that when a person has psyched themselves into believing that
their "other body" can leave its physical home and travel the
cosmos, it takes only a little imagination embellished with prior
knowledge and an induced change in cerebral blood circulation to
produce the illusion of astral travel – it's all in the mind.
From: Skeptoon an
illustrated look at some New Age Beliefs 1994, Harry Edwards,
by Harry Edwards Publications.