An excerpt by Ed Kellogg from Consciousness Beyond the Body: Evidence and Reflections
[Author‘s note: This excerpt includes the introductory and concluding sections only, about 15% of the chapter. To check out the chapter in its entirety, which includes reports of the author‘s OBEs, you can download the chapter at https://independent.academia.edu/EdKellogg.
Excerpt from ‘Chapter 3: OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCES AND LUCID DREAMS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH,’ by Ed Kellogg © 2016
Some controversy has arisen on the nature of outof-the-body (physical) experiences (OBEs) and lucid dreams (LDs), which many people lump together into a single category. Although OBEs and LDs have similarities, they also exhibit significant differences. In this chapter I‘ll primarily focus on the phenomenology of my own experiences, although other reports of OBEs as contrasted with lucid dreams, generally show good agreement with the phenomenology I shall describe.
So how do OBEs differ from LDs? To begin, many people who have had OBEs vehemently deny not only that they had a dream, but also claim to have actually left their physical bodies. By the first criterion alone OBEs fail to meet the most basic definition of lucid dreaming, that individuals realise that they dream while they dream.
Do people really leave their physical bodies? From a phenomenological point of view, the question of ‘what really happens‘ in a hypothetical ‘objective reality‘ seems beside the point. From this perspective, OBEs and IBEs (in-the-body experiences) have the same ontological status. But do OBEs differ in significant ways from LDs with respect to their phenomenological characteristics? In my experience, they do.
Researchers in the fields of inner experience, subtle energies, and of anomalous phenomena in general often find themselves handicapped by unrecognised personal and cultural prejudices about the subject matter under study. No matter how rigorously one applies the scientific method, hidden assumptions can obscure promising avenues of approach, as well as the significance of collected observations. The disciplines of phenomenology and of general semantics can provide methodological tools that can significantly reduce covert personal and cultural biases.(1)
In my case, by systematically keeping me aware of the depth of my ignorance and the fallibility of my assumptions, it has kept me open to possibilities I would have otherwise closed off. By directly applying the tools of phenomenology and of general semantics to inner experience, I believe that researchers can enhance their mindfulness of covert prejudices, foster a more open-minded attitude, and gain a better understanding of the phenomena they study.
[ . . . Methods, and Experiential & Analytical sections not included.]
Table 2 sums up nine experiential variables that differ significantly between my OBEs and LDs:
Table 2. Characteristics of OBEs and LDs based on personal observations
|Typical physical body position
during the experience:
|Lying on my back.||Lying on my side or stomach.|
|Experience often begins with:||Sleep paralysis.
|Normal sleeping sensations.|
|Identified as a dream during the
|Reality tone:||Very high, even hyper-real. Also feel a very strong sense of embodiment.||Variable, but while typically vivid, often lacks ‘solidity‘ and fine detail. Usually seems a bit sketchy.|
|Environmental stability:||Almost as stable as physical reality.
If I leave a room and later return, the
room typically remains the same.
|Mutable. If I leave a room and later return, the room usually will have changed, often drastically.|
|The phenomenal body:||Stable. A close counterpart to my physical body, stable in form, made of some sort of elastic semitransparent whitish material.||Mutable. Usually humanoid, but can vary widely in size, shape, colour, and even species.|
|‘Waking up‘ sensation after the experience:||No. I already feel fully awake during an OBE, and instead simply experience a change of location of consciousness into my physical body.||Yes. At the end of even the most fully lucid dream I still ‘wake up‘, with a significant alteration of consciousness, just as I do from other dreams.|
|Memory of the experience:||Compared to LDs, my memories of OBEs seem almost indelible.||Memories of LDs, like any dream, tend to fade right after waking up.|
|Losing the fear of death after the experience:||Yes. After my first fully conscious OBE as an adult I lost my fear of death because I now knew, in some sort of inarguable way, that I could exist without a physical body.||No. I had a number of lucid dreams before having any OBEs as an adult, and they did not have this effect.|
Given the limited number of OBEs I have to work with, the phenomenology detailed here may not prove definitive even in my own case, let alone for others. Having a critical mass of systematically descriptive reports from a broad range of experienced practitioners might go a long way in clearing away confusion in this area, in finding robust common denominators, and also in bringing to light new and important variables.
Despite compelling evidence to the contrary (Ullman et al 1973, Sherwood & Roe, 2003; Van de Castle, 1994), many people still consider dreams as strictly subjective fantasies manufactured by the sleeping brain. Conceptually reducing OBEs to dreams – even to lucid dreams – even now serves as an effective way to discount their objective value and potential ontological significance. However, in this chapter I hope to have clearly shown that in my own case that OBEs belong to a category of experience easily differentiated not just from dreams, but from lucid dreams. Neither ‘fish nor fowl‘ – the OBE realm has similarities to both the physical environment and lucid dream state, while also having characteristics different from both.
1. For more information about the phenomenological method, general semantics, and their application to dreamwork, see Kellogg, 1989 and 1999. Also, you can find all of the author‘s papers cited in the reference section online at https:// independent.academia.edu/EdKellogg
Selected References [for excerpted text only]
Kellogg III, E. W. (1989). Mapping Territories: A phenomenology of lucid dream reality, Lucidity Letter, 8(2), 81 – 97.
Kellogg III, E. W. (1999, October) Lucid Dreaming and the Phenomenological Epoché, paper presentation at the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences conference in Eugene, OR.
Sherwood, S. J., & Roe, C. A. (2003). A review of dream ESP studies conducted since the Maimonides dream ESP programme. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(6-7), 85-109.
Ullman, M., Krippner, S., & Vaughn, A. (1973). Dream telepathy: Experiments in nocturnal ESP. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books.
Van de Castle, R. L. (1994). Our dreaming mind. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.