Out-of-body experience is a fascinating topic. The idea that we can leave our physical body and allow our consciousness to roam free on a non-physical plane of existence is liberating for some, scary for others, and just plain impossible to believe for the rest of us. But is out-of-body experience genuine? Can it be scientifically proven?
I recently learned of a group at OpenSourceScience.net investigating out-of body experiences (OBEs) from an objective point of view. They were using tightly controlled experiments to discover whether out-of-body travel is really possible and whether it might be useful in alleviating grief for the bereaved. Here’s what they did, and what they found.
The experiment began in January 2009 with Marilynn Hughes, an authority on out-of-body travel who claimed to be able to leave her body on a regular basis. The first hurdle was determining how a controlled experiment on something so intangible could be approached.
Marilynn told investigators she often encountered people who have passed away during her OBEs. She also claimed to receive messages for grieving families and friends — most often from those who died leaving unresolved issues for themselves and their families. The investigators decided to test this claim.
They designed an out-of-body experiment modeled after the work of researchers, Dr. Gary Schwartz and, Dr. Julie Beischel, at the University of Arizona. The experiment was simple:
• A volunteer unknown to Marilynn was chosen. Investigators chose a mother who had tragically lost her daughter to suicide at age 20.
• Marilynn received the first name of the deceased, the month and day (but not the year) of her birth, and the date of her passing.
• Marilynn was asked to communicate with the deceased and relay back relevant messages via email.
• All information passed through the investigators and Marilynn was not allowed to ask questions about the subject.
From barest of personal details, Marilynn began her out-of-body travels and returned with her first installment of information: she accurately described the girl’s age, her connection to her mother, her state of mind, and details of her college environment.
Impressed by these results, investigators sent Marilynn photos of the girl and a favorite hat. Marilynn came back with more details on the circumstances surrounding the young woman’s passing. She also relayed details of a spiritual crisis before her death, and provided surprising details of the woman’s final days.
At the end of the two-month investigation, investigators interviewed Marilynn and revealed the accuracy of her reading and the profound effect her messages had on the girl’s family. She was delighted and even a little surprised at her astounding accuracy.
While investigators are slow to draw too many conclusions from this single trial they do believe the experiment established a couple of things:
• Marilynn picked up a level of detail about the girl, her circumstances and emotional state that was far too much to be mere guesswork and “cold reading” generalizations.
• The messages conveyed to the bereaved family brought them a huge amount of healing and understanding
However skeptical you may be of out-of-body experiences, results like these show that this is an area worthy of much more scientific investigation, both for the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and for the practical aim of helping the grieving.