Known by the older term “astral projection,” the term “out of body experiences” (OBE for short) was originally coined by Robert Monroe. It is a phenomenon where the astral or energy body leaves the physical body in a type of consciousness bi-location. During OBE episodes people commonly report that they are able to view themselves from outside the body or other people or activity in a remote location through having “traveled” there. It can happen during periods of prolonged involuntary unconsciousness (in a coma, for example), or it can happen spontaneously during sleep cycles. It can also be taught, and Robert Monroe, founder of the Monroe Institute, was the foremost pioneer on teaching OBE techniques in the United States.
Robert Monroe was unwittingly one of a group of significant spiritual teachers that emerged during the 20th century, greatly influencing the New Age spiritual movement. In the 1950’s Monroe was an executive in the radio broadcasting business when the firm he founded began studying the effects of sound on human consciousness. Using himself for the experiments, he began having spontaneous experiences of leaving his body. He would write in this book “Far Journeys,” “without any obvious reason, I began to ‘go’ out of my body in the fall of 1958. In the light of later historical events, it is important to state that no drugs or alcohol were involved.” Initially thinking he was having a mental breakdown, he sought the help of a psychiatrist friend to help explain what was happening to him but who was also at a loss to frame the experience in familiar psychological terms. Not suffering any adverse physical reactions, in time Monroe was able to not only embrace the experience but to consciously direct it, gradually traveling greater and greater distances in time and space. What he brought back from his “travels” eventually filled three books and culminated in the Monroe Institute and curriculum for teaching his OBE methods.
Monroe’s books (Journeys Out of the Body, Far Journeys and Ultimate Journey) constitute some of the most fascinating knowledge in the literature on paranormal phenomenon. They track the succession of his experiments based on the copious notes of his journals. His initial experiences recount his ability to “roll” out of his body, floating around the room, the house and even the neighborhood, viewing events that he was later able to corroborate as actually happened. As he gained expertise in negotiating non-physical reality, he was able to leave the planet and travel in deep space and beyond the dimensions of space and time. He details encounters with other beings who served as guides on his journeys and who revealed metaphysical knowledge on origins of the earth and the universe. He experienced multiple alternate universes in which his life appeared as potential scenarios. He found the experiences he was having so profoundly different than anything in his normal waking consciousness that he had no language to convey the messages he was being given so he created his own lexicon to translate the experiences into an intelligible description.
In 1974 Monroe’s research company was reformed into the Monroe Institute. It would go on to develop technology that aids a person to achieve an altered state of consciousness conducive to astral traveling. Called Hemi-Sync© (short for hemispheric synchronization), the patented technology is an audio guidance system that alters consciousness through sound. Monroe passed away in 1995 at the age of 80 but the Institute continues today, organized as the Nancy Penn Center and the Roberts Mountain Retreat, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The Institute provides an opportunity to escape the distractions of modern life, providing a supportive environment to learn the skills of expanded consciousness.
While astral projection or OBE’s, whatever you choose to call them, may have been a new revelation to Robert Monroe, is a phenomenon that has been documented by spiritual traditions and has been well-known to metaphysicians and psychics alike for millennia. It is a technique commonly used by spiritual teachers and guides for gathering information for the benefit of their students and clients.