Inner Space, Out of Body - A Quantum Theory of Astral Travel
One in five of us will experience an out-of-body experience, according to research quoted in a book by the consciousness theorist, Anthony Peake. Despite the fact that I have never completely left my body, I count myself as most definitely in that 20 per cent.
Reductive scientific explanations for the phenomenon never interested me. I was always intuitively drawn to a more meaningful explanation. However, Peake’s book, The Out of Body Experience: The History and Science of Astral Travel, skilfully combines both approaches and goes so far as to forge a new hypothesis, the Intrasomatic Model, which, if true, indicates the mystics were right – the answers lie within.
When my out-of-body, or ‘astral’, experiences began I had actually been trying to attain them via techniques imparted by a group of modern day Gnostics. The main technique involved chanting while falling asleep; except that the chanting is intended to keep the consciousness awake as only the body falls asleep. This technique is difficult, however, and, in spite of yourself, you will often simply fall asleep. I suspect, though, that the intention alone, whether it be programming the unconscious or signalling to discarnate beings, is enough to begin on the road to success.
The technique which brought success for me, and within only a few weeks of beginning the course, did so on the very evening of its introduction by the lecturer. He told our eager group that if we ever found ourselves in a dream in which we realised we were dreaming, we should avoid waking but instead attempt to slowly move the body. We would then, he said, if all went well, move the astral body out of phase with the physical. Incredibly, I was able to do so during that evening’s sleep, and it worked.
The astral state is quite different to waking, dreaming, or even lucid dreaming. One’s mind is extremely clear and quite peaceful. I was able to pull my ‘astral’ limbs from my physical body on several occasions and see right through them. On one occasion I put my legs through the solidity of a low ceiling. But, in all my experiences I never managed to pull away from the weighty gravity around my core, which was perhaps a translation of subconscious trepidation about leaving my familiar, corporeal anchor. Awaking from even my very first experience, I noticed a sudden new realisation: we do not really ever die. After a handful of similar experiences, I lost the desire to go further, though I remained fascinated by the phenomenon. I was therefore intrigued to see how Peake might attempt to make sense of it all.
In his book, Peake begins his investigations with the established lore on the topic, covering Shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism, Kabbalism and Theosophy. ‘Throughout the millennia, mystics, magicians and saints have encountered this alternative world and experienced it on their own terms, and in doing so have devised techniques and processes whereby this place can be entered and left at will,’ he writes. ‘These “travellers” have reported back to their associates a geography and a structure of these “Astral Planes” that are surprisingly consistent.’
Examining the science around the subject, Anthony became frustrated by the lack of veridical evidence for consciousness being able to survive outside the body. He experienced a breakthrough following an encounter with Lucia, a mysterious, new ‘sci-fi’ style machine for changing consciousness. Designed by the psychologist Dr Engelbert Winkler and his associate, the neurologist Dr Dirk Proeckl, the Lucid Light Stimulator emits specially calibrated stroboscopic light to stimulate the brain and invoke healing states and experiences akin to the mystical and the ecsomatic (a technical term used by researchers to denote ‘out-of-body’).
After just several minutes with the machine, Anthony found himself both in his body and simultaneously elsewhere, ‘I was looking down on a vast plain made up of a chessboard-like series of black and white squares. I could see the squares running off to a distant horizon that seemed to glow with a faint bluish light. I then realized that I was suspended many thousands of feet above the surface of the plain. … Whatever had happened to me, and wherever I had journeyed to … it was not in what we term “consensual space” – the place we share with others as part of our everyday experience of the world – this was another location altogether.’
‘My experience made me realize that I had been asking the wrong questions. To try to discover if the out-of-body experience is real or imagined is to miss the point entirely,’ he comments. ‘What I should have been doing was enquiring into the very nature of perception itself and, by implication, the nature of the phenomenal world that our senses tell us is so real.’
The theory behind the LL-Stimulator’s ability to invoke ecsomatic states is that it acts upon the brain’s pineal gland, theorised to be responsible for the body’s production of dimethyltryptamine (DMT). This powerful psychedelic compound is actually more potent than LSD. Experiments by Dr Rick Strassman, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico Medical School, have demonstrated that large doses of DMT consistently engender out-of-body experiences and meetings with other intelligences akin to the kinds reported in near death experiences.
In the final section of the book, Peake invites the reader on a mind-bending trip of his own, into the labyrinthine wonderland of quantum physics. Here, one of the key points he invokes is the experimentally verified concept of ‘non-locality’ which demonstrates that once two particles are linked together, or entangled, one will immediately react if something is done to the other. This means that at a deeper level of reality than we are aware, everything is linked to everything else. Therefore, all information could potentially be available at all locations within the universe.
Peake’s Intrasomatic Model of the out-of-body experience proposes that DMT acts as the facilitator, switching the brain into compiling a different reality for itself via information pulled from tiny ‘quantum mechanical black holes’, theorised to exist by Stephen Hawking, within what is called the Zero Point Field (ZPF), the base energy field pervading the universe. It is the ZPF which could be the means via which all the information about every location within space-time is accessed or stored, thereby equating to the Akashic Record of occult lore.
In Peake’s model, experiencers are moving into ‘inner space’ via the theorised quantum processes of the brain.‘So when the person enters the ZPF they may find themselves located anywhere as a point of consciousness,’ he says. ‘In this part of the ZPF they are not trapped in a body, as they are in their usual Locale, and they can ‘travel’ within this facsimile and perceive information and interact with others.’
The model is a bold attempt at an explanation and a worthy hypothetical framework for future researchers and psychenauts alike. No less a figure than Ervin László – the renowned systems philosopher and Nobel Prize nominee – has recognised the contribution. He writes in the foreword, ‘[Anthony Peake] brings us closer to understanding the mystery of the real world, and of the many ways that we can apprehend it. This is what this book is all about. It is about a great deal, as much or more than any book I have ever read. Reading it is a mind-expanding experience that must not be missed.’
My old esoteric teacher, Mark Pritchard – who online is known by the name Belzebuub – however, casts doubt on whether science will ever truly get to grips with the phenomenon. He points to an alternative method. According to Mark, 60,000 ultimately enrolled in his esoteric courses that ran both online and in study groups. Of those who responded to his survey, 67 per cent claimed to have had an out-of-body experience while on the course, many who had never had one before. ‘People should study this phenomenon for themselves—it's the only way to find out more. [L]ife is a personal experience.’
Personally, it is enough now for me to know that such amazing states of consciousness are possible, and such knowledge comprises an important piece in my own personal philosophy. Others may be drawn to experience the out-of-body state for themselves, as I once was, and the techniques are there. But though I may no longer seek such experiences, I have a feeling that they will someday once more come looking for me. And, perhaps, ultimately, for us all.