By Hayden Ebert © 2014
Lucid dreams, Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), Astral Projection… as if the subject of consciousness were not complicated enough, we have all this terminology to decipher. There are hugely varying opinions on the subject of what defines one experience versus another and, as a result, many people remain confused. Ultimately, our own experience will be the best way to answer the questions we may have regarding the varying states of consciousness. However, there are certain characteristics that can perhaps define some of the notable distinctive traits of each type of experience.
But first, rather than looking at the differences, it may be more helpful for us to look at the similarities of the states:
The characteristics listed below are common to both OBEs and lucid dreams:
- The full waking awareness of the practitioner is present.
- A very definite sense of the solidity of the surroundings.
- The environment feels real and separate from ourselves, but it can be affected and influenced by our thoughts.
- Expectation plays a heavy role in the experiences we have.
- Our sense of body is usually present.
- We are able to navigate in ways not possible in physical reality, such as flying and walking through walls.
- We are able to communicate with the larger awareness directly.
- We have full cognitive function.
- We have full use of our 5 senses.
- We know the experience is not happening in physical reality.
- Induction methods for both experiences work equally well for each other.
- Increases in the frequency of lucid dreams will also naturally increase the frequency of OBEs and vice versa.
- Techniques for prolonging the non-physical state are the same for both experiences. These include using tactile sensations, commanding more awareness, etc…
As we can see, the similarities are fairly extensive. So what are the differences?
In my experience, the list below defines the differences between an OBE and a Lucid Dream:
- An OBE is entered directly from the waking state, either while going to sleep or after a period of sleep and a short awakening.
- OBEs can sometimes begin by entry into a void space with no imagery but only tactile awareness.
- A lucid dream is entered after a period of unconscious sleep and a trigger within the dream alerting the dreamer that they are dreaming.
- An OBE contains definite sensations of ‘leaving the body‘, which are often accompanied by vibrations, buzzing feelings and audible phenomena. A lucid dream, on the other hand, has none of these sensations, as the practitioner is already asleep when it happens.
- Generally in an OBE, the practitioner will find his or herself within a reflection of the immediate surroundings in which he or she fell asleep, (i.e. the bedroom) and will then navigate deeper into the dream/astral space.
- OBEs can sometimes begin by entry into a void space with tactile awareness, but no imagery
After the entry point phenomena and navigation away from the immediate surroundings which reflect the physical world while in an OBE, the experience becomes very much the same as a lucid dream. The lines between the two become blurrier by the fact that certain phenomena we would perhaps usually categorize as unique to one experience or the other become present during both experiences.
Examples of this include:
- The re-entry point: Many experienced practitioners will have multiple experiences during one session. When we have a lucid dream we can often re-enter it after a short awakening by staying completely still and focusing our intent. When we do this our re-entry is often accompanied by the sensation of leaving our body, but usually without any vibratory phenomena. Does this then make it an OBE or simply a continuation of the initial lucid dream?
- The Void: this is often experienced during OBEs immediately upon separation from the body, however it is also sometimes experienced between the collapse of lucid dream imagery and awakening.
This sharing of characteristics further bolsters the argument that they are largely the same state of awareness differentiated mainly by the entry point.
Trauma Induced Projections
What would at first appear to be a unique characteristic of the OBE is that they can occur during physical trauma such as a car accident, heart attack, drowning or an operation. However these OBEs are usually categorized as NDEs or Near Death Experiences.
Is whether we define the NDE as a form of OBE versus a lucid dream simply based on the manner of entry (i.e. entered directly from the waking state, a definite sense of leaving the body and the experience of being within the reflection of our immediate surroundings)? At first, this would seem to be the case. However, from reports of people who have had NDEs, the longer they are clinically dead, the more ‘dreamlike‘ the experiences becomes.
Once they move away from the reflection of their immediate surroundings they often report seeing light, having tunnel experiences, being within beautiful surroundings, meeting relatives and spiritual beings (dream characters?), having heavenly experiences, and more. All of which could also fall into the category of lucid dreaming.
So again, this draws us back to the same conclusion that the only definable differences between the NDE, OBE and lucid dream are:
- The entry point (whether we enter a non-physical reality directly from waking or after a period of unconsciousness).
- Whether the sensation of leaving the body is present or not.
- Whether or not we find ourselves within the reflection of our immediate physical surroundings.
Whether these differences are sufficient to require labeling the projections of our consciousness as separate experiences is questionable, and placing them in different categories can confuse people just as much as it can help them understand.
That said, there are also benefits to the confusion of terminology. The concept of consciousness projection can be communicated to various audiences based on what is more palatable to the listener. For instance, the more modern term lucid dreaming is often better received by those with limited knowledge of spiritual concepts, as it is a term people can more readily relate to. After all, it is an accepted norm that we ALL dream.
Therefore, explaining to someone that we can dream consciously, and backing this explanation up with scientific proof of lucid dreaming, is more relatable for many people than the concepts of Out of Body Experiences or Astral Projection.
Similarly, terms like ‘Dream Characters‘ tend to be better received by the general population than terms like ‘Beings,‘ ‘Entities‘ or ‘Spirits.‘ The same goes for referring to our non-physical environment as the ‘Dreamworld‘ instead of the ‘Astral.‘ This is all just semantics, but it can be useful to consider how we communicate depending on whom we are speaking with. Yet, all these terms refer to the same type of experiences: the projection of our consciousness into a non-physical environment beyond the body. The fact that we can all enjoy these amazing experiences is a fantastic gift, so let‘s not get bogged down by the need for a label.
Hayden Ebert has been exploring consciousness through the practice of Lucid Dreaming and the Out of Body Experience for over 20 years. He had his first experience at the age of 16. Through his practice he has developed a number of methods which allow reliable access to these states. He enjoys coaching people to have their own experiences and is happy to assist with any questions via mail. Outofbodystudies@gmail.com