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Astral Projection

Journey to Other Worlds

Jim DeKorneThe second part of an article in which Jim DeKorne compares the elements of his own out-of-body experience with the research of Robert Monroe and the ancient shamanistic texts of Tibet.

In his initial out-of-body travels then, Monroe corroborates the shamanic worldview as a tripartite structure. Although at this early stage of his initiation he perceives Locale II as one realm (because he includes both heaven and hell within it), I am separating them for the sake of comparison. (Locale III is something else again: a possible "fourth world" which strangely is never mentioned again in either of his succeeding books.) In another chapter I will speculate on what Locale III may refer to, but for now let's stay within the shamanic cosmology.

Locale I, the Middle World of shamanism, is how normal spacetime reality appears to someone perceiving it from the Second Body: that is, from a position transcending physical matter. We know immediately that this is a dimensional separation because although he can see other people from this position, they cannot see him: to them, he is invisible. (A three-dimensional observer can distinguish one, two and three spatial dimensions, but not four. Physicists regard time as a fourth dimension, but it is not "spatial" in any way that we can access physically.) Monroe, obviously perceiving from what must be a fourth spatial dimension, labels our realm "Locale I" because, proceeding linearly from what is regarded as normal awareness, it was the first world he entered when he began having OOBEs.

The Shamanic Middle World (corresponding to Locale I), on the other hand, is sandwiched between the Lower and Upper Worlds: a hierarchical progression conforming to our mythological notions of hell as "below" and heaven as "above." Human beings reside in the middle, where the shamans among us have access to either realm. We can see then, that the only significant difference between Monroe 's and the shaman's point of view is one of conceptual arrangement. Since their content is identical their "differences" may be regarded in the same way that a glass of water can be described as either half-full or half-empty.

Shamanism, the aboriginal religion of humankind, is currently confined almost exclusively to moribund tribal cultures. Although considered by some to be naive, shamanic cosmology, as I will attempt to show, is arguably a more accurate view of our transmaterial essence than any provided by the world's monotheistic religions. Monroe's portrayal of what he calls the " Second State" therefore, is a contemporary interpretation of an archaic and fundamental human reality.

Unfortunately, most shamanic cultures are pre-literate; our knowledge of them depends largely upon the second-hand reports of anthropologists - outside observers who generally do not partake of the experiences they describe. In addition, the tribal shaman's preoccupations revolve around nature spirits, animal and plant deities and other phenomena which are redundant to the technological reality in which most of us live. Though the overall structure of the worlds and the experience of visiting them are the same for everyone, the cultural expectations of the shaman generally determine his or her destination. These realms (as far as anyone knows) are infinite: one would not normally expect Peruvian shamans to visit New York City (though there are recorded instances of such contact); neither would one expect an American business executive to find himself floating around in the Amazonian rainforest.

Rather than limit ourselves to second-hand anthropological accounts of shamans' oral descriptions of their OOBEs then, let's proceed to evidence found in the only "shamanic" religion I know of that possesses its own literature: Tibetan Buddhism, where it is easy to find almost exact paraphrases of passages from Journeys Out of the Body.

Lamaism, the unique form of Buddhism which emerged in Tibet during the 7th Century C.E., was deeply influenced by the indigenous (pre-Buddhist) Bon religion, which was pre-eminently shamanic in content:

Lamaism has preserved the Bon shamanic tradition almost in its entirety. Even the most famous masters of Tibetan Buddhism are reputed to have performed cures and worked miracles in the purest tradition of shamanism. 9

If the shaman is, by definition, a master of the out-of-body experience, then we can expect the literature of a religion influenced by shamanism to describe this condition. Tibetan Lamaism has documented in exhaustive detail what it's like to experience the Second Body in the Second State - in the process differentiating the original three worlds of Shamanism into a vast spectrum of discrete realities. The most immediately accessible testimony in English translation is found in the Bardo Thodol, or Tibetan Book of the Dead: a volume intended to be read aloud over the corpse of a recently deceased human. The purpose of this ritual is to advise the soul of the departed about the various dimensions (the Bardo realms) which it is now encountering:

Bar-do literally means 'between (Bar) two (do),' i.e. 'between two [states]' - the state between death and rebirth - and, therefore, 'intermediate' or 'transitional [state].' The translator, in certain instances, favoured 'Uncertain [state]' as its English rendering. It might also be rendered as 'Twilight [state].' 10

The Transitional State of awareness consists of the perception of a kind of multidimensional vestibule providing access to many focused realities. For ease of visualisation, we might imagine the Bardo as crudely analogous to outer space which, although nominally "empty," offers the possibility of travel to an infinity of focused material worlds floating within that space: stars, planets, etc:

The Bardo is the intermediate state whence one may be reborn in this world in a human body, or in the ghost-world in ghost body, or in one of the paradise realms, such as the deva-loka , in a god body, or in the asura-loka in an asura body, or in one of the hells in a body capable of enduring suffering and incapable of dying there until the purgation is complete. Following death in a hell, or in any other of the after-human-death states, the normal process is to be reborn on earth as a human being. The True Goal, as the Bardo Thodol repeatedly explains, is beyond all states of embodiment, beyond all hells, worlds, and heavens, beyond the Sangsara , beyond Nature; it is called Nirvana . 11

It is important to emphasise that it is not necessary to die before one can visit the Bardo realms: those with shamanic abilities can do it at will:

The art of going out from the body, or of transferring the consciousness from the earth-plane to the after-death plane, or to any other plane, is still practiced, in Tibet, where it is known as Pho-wa . 12

It is of great significance to realise that classical shamanic out-of-body techniques have been adapted by, and are being performed within, a predominantly Buddhist culture. Even the nomenclature is similar - Monroe's "Second Body" is described this way in the Bardo Thodol:

When on the second stage of the Bardo, one's body is of the nature of that called the shining illusory-body... This is the ethereal counterpart of the physical body of the earth-plane, the "astral body" of Theosophy. 13

So infinite are the dimensions accessible from the transitional state that the Tibetans have identified at least six different entry points:

There are six states of Bardo, namely: the natural state of Bardo while in the womb; the Bardo of the dream state; the Bardo of ecstatic equilibrium while in deep meditation; the Bardo of the moment of death; the Bardo [during the experiencing] of Reality; the Bardo of the inverse process of sangsaric existence. (i.e. the state wherein the Knower is seeking rebirth.) 14

For our comparison with Monroe's Locale I, the Sidpa Bardo is of immediate interest. This is the Bardo of "seeking rebirth," though it seems to be more than just that, since Monroe has obviously been there while out of his body - i.e., far from dead in the physical world:

It's a little disconcerting when you rush headlong toward a building or tree and go right through it... You never quite get over the physical-body conditioning that such things are solid... I still have the tendency to move in the direction of the door to leave, only to realise again the situation when my Second Body hand goes through the doorknob. Irritated with myself, I then dive through the wall rather than the door to reinforce my awareness of the Second State characteristics. 15

Compare this with the Tibetan description of the Sidpa Bardo :

Thine intellect having been separated from its seat - is not a body of gross matter, so that now thou has the power* to go right through any rock-masses, hills, boulders, earth, houses, and Mt. Meru itself without being impeded... That, too, is an indication that thou art wandering in the Sidpa Bardo.... 16

Author's note: This power, supernatural in the human world, is normal in the fourth-dimensional after-death state. In the human world, such powers, innate in all persons, can be developed and exercised through proficiency in yoga.

In comparing my own experience with these accounts, it is plausible to me that my initial OOBE took place (for the most part anyway), in Locale I. Although my hand went right through the first entity I met there, there was certainly an analogue of "physical" contact with the second entity. This suggests that we may operate on "different wavelengths" within these larger dimensions, Bardos or Locales. I have always intuited that the first entity was physically deceased: her "aura" was very weak and sickly. Perhaps she was a "ghost" dreamily drifting around an apartment she'd lived in once: a Locale II being, wandering in Locale I.

Or something like that - all we can do is describe our empirical observations and measure them against analogous information recorded by others. In comparing many diverse, yet obviously parallel descriptions in the literature I have come to the conclusion that precise distinctions are very difficult to pin down: by definition, these realms of awareness do not conform to physical matter conditioning. Locales I and II probably interpenetrate at times, and the Bardo Thodol commentaries explicitly acknowledge that the Tibetan differentiation is culturally determined in content.

Rationally considered, each person's after-death experiences, as the Bardo Thodol teaching implies, are entirely dependent upon his or her own mental content. In other words, as explained above, the after-death state is very much like a dream state, and its dreams are the children of the mentality of the dreamer. 17

Monroe's Locale II, containing both the Lower and Upper Worlds of shamanism, is a seemingly infinite hierarchy of worlds, realms, and states of being. He describes a layer in which "hungry ghosts" pull and bite at the disembodied explorer, and (because he is presumably unfamiliar with the shamanic differentiation between the Upper and Lower Worlds), speculates on what this place might be:

Could this be the borders of hell? It is very easy to conclude that a momentary penetration of this nearby layer would bring "demons" and "devils" to mind as the chief inhabitants. They seem subhuman, yet have an evident ability to act and think independently. 18

He goes on to differentiate what can only be regarded as a location in the shamanic Upper World - a heaven if there ever was one:

To me, it was a place or condition of pure peace, yet exquisite emotion. It was as if you were floating in warm soft clouds where there is no up or down, where nothing exists as a separate piece of matter. The warmth is not merely around you, it is of you and through you. Your perception is dazzled and overwhelmed by the Perfect Environment... Each of the three times I went There, I did not return voluntarily. I came back sadly, reluctantly. Someone helped me return. Each time after I returned, I suffered intense nostalgia and loneliness for days... So great was (this sadness) that I have not tried to go There again. 19

Unquestionably, the most important distinction that Monroe makes about Locale II is the observation that it is a realm where one's thoughts take on a kind of "physical" reality - "physical," at least, in the terms of the laws of that dimension.

Superseding all appears to be one prime law. Locale II is a state of being where that which we label thought is the wellspring of existence. It is the vital creative force that produces energy, assembles "matter" into form, and provides channels of perception and communication. I suspect that the very self or soul in Locale II is no more than an organised vortex or warp in this fundamental. As you think, so you are. 20

The Bardo Thodol, composed a world away and centuries before Robert Monroe was born, makes a nearly identical observation:

This is highly important. Hence be extremely careful... Thy present intellect in the Intermediate State having no firm object whereon to depend, being of little weight and continuously in motion, whatever thought occurs to thee now - be it pious or impious - will wield great power. 21

Monroe restates this even more forcefully in what is a quintessentially shamanic observation, for only an adept can consistently command the level of control referred to: an accomplishment as rare as the prevalence of shamans among us.

There seems to be nothing that thought cannot produce in this new-old other life. This invites a note of caution in large red letters: be absolutely sure of the results you desire, and constantly in control of the thoughts you engender. 22

Obviously, whether labeled Bardo, "Second State," "Upper World," "Lower World," or "Locale," Robert Monroe, the shamans and Tibetan Lamas are describing the same general phenomena within the same perceptual matrix. We will examine the implications of these and many other correlations later. For now, suffice it to say that the purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how Monroe's descriptions of his out-of- body journeys are consistent with data from other sources worldwide, both ancient and modern; how, although considered anomalous (at best), by mainstream psychology, the OOBE phenomenon reveals a fundamental reality buried within the awareness of every one of us. This reality is so basic to our human-beingness, that the general cultural denial of it, worldwide, is a matter of extraordinary significance: another topic we will explore in detail later on.

Monroe's second book, Far Journeys, appeared eight years after his first, and is significantly different in conception and content: in it we see a fully accomplished shaman entering deeper realms of experience, in which Locale II becomes differentiated into discrete levels which have much in common with the ancient Gnostic conception of reality. The shamanic cosmos has not been abandoned: far from it - it has become considerably more sophisticated. We will examine these themes in the next chapter.

FOOTNOTES

1. Fox, Oliver (1962). Astral Projection: A Record of Out-of-the-Body Experiences , University Books, New Hyde Park, NY, pp. 34-35

2. DeKorne, Jim (1994). Psychedelic Shamanism , Loompanics, Port Townsend, WA, pg 7

3. Monroe, Robert A. (1977). Journeys Out Of The Body , Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, NY, pg 179

4. Walsh, Roger (1990). "Shamanic cosmology: a psychological examination of the shaman's worldview," ReVision , Vol. 13, No 2, pg 86

5. Monroe, op cit, pg 60

6. Ibid, pg 73

7. Ibid, pg 94

8. Halifax, Joan (1990). "The shaman's initiation," ReVision , Vol 13, No 2, pg 55

9. Eliade, Mircea (1964). Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy , Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, pg 434

10. Evans-Wentz, W.Y. (1960). The Tibetan Book of the Dead , Oxford University Press, NY, pg 28

11. Ibid, pg xxxiii; 12. Ibid, pg xiii; 13. Ibid, pg 100; 14. Ibid, pg 102

15. Monroe, op cit, pg 63

16. Evans-Wentz, op cit, pg 158

17. Ibid, pg 34

18. Monroe, op cit, pg 121

19. Ibid, pg 74; 20. Ibid.

21. Evans-Wentz, op cit, pg 172

22. Monroe, op cit, pg 183

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Keywords: astral projection, astral projection technique, astral free projection, learn astral projection, astral beginner projection, out of body experience, astral travel, out of body experience, astroplane, astrotravel, astraltravel

 
 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim DeKorne is a writer, gardener, and explorer of the "imaginal realm." His book, Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation and Use of Psychotropic Plants, offers a theoretical foundation for voyagers of inner-space.
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Far Journeys
Far Journeys
by Robert Monroe

The sequel to Monroe's Journey Out Of The Body is an amazing parapsychological odyssey that reflects a decade of research into the psychic realm beyond the known dimensions of physical reality.
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