Dr. Raynor C. Johnson

Obtained a First Class in the final Honour School of Natural Science, then worked under Professor T. R. Merton, FRS, in the field of spectroscopy, and continued this research at the Queen's University of Belfast, where he was appointed Lecturer in Physics in 1923. In 1927 he left Belfast for a Lectureship in the University of London, King's College. He was awarded the Doctorate in Science of this University. In 1934 he was appointed Master of Queen's College in the University of Melbourne.

Experience Outside the Body

 - Raynor C. Johnson -

"We must hold fast to the fundamental insight that through the medium of illusion we can relate ourselves to Truth."
Lawrence Hyde: The Nameless Faith, p. 55.

"There are seas to be explored, and I can only sail a little way out and come back with a report that the sea stretches infinitely vast beyond them."
Edmund Gurney (in the Willett scripts).

... from this wave-washed mound,
Into the furthest flood-brim look with m;
Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd;
Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond -
Still, leagues beyond those leagues there is more sea.
D. G. Rossetti: The Choice.

1. Some Questions and Definitions

          IN THE study of apparitions in the preceding chapter we saw that the phantasm was a joint product of certain mental levels of the agent and percipient, and that its behaviour was generally suggestive of automatism or the expression only of one or two animating ideas. No one supposes that apparitions are vehicles of consciousness, but rather that they bear the same kind of relation to the agent's self as a thought-image does to the mind that gives it birth. The question that arises in the speculative mind is this: May we not expect to find sometimes apparitions which embody a real mental structure, and possibly a centre of consciousness? Expressing it from the agent's standpoint, is it possible for the agent to transfer his consciousness in some greater or lesser degree into a vehicle which may or may not be visible to others, leaving his physical body without consciousness or with only a residium of it? The appeal must be to experience: mere speculation has no merit in the field of enquiry or experiment. In this chapter we shall consider some cases which support this possibility.

A few words may be appropriate at this point about the use of certain terms. Is there any meaning in talking of consciousness being in one point of space as distinct from another? Is not consciousness extra-spatial? Where is consciousness? There is no doubt that the term is used ambiguously, and we shall therefore state the sense in which for the future we shall use it. Consciousness is a fundamental idea which cannot be defined - yet without it nothing else can be defined. It is unlike all else in that it is at once subject and object. It is, and it knows that it is. To talk of perceptions, feelings, thoughts, memories, etc., as the stream of consciousness, is wrong: they are a stream of experience. Consciousness, or the "I", is conscious only of itself, but it is aware of that which constitutes the not-self. Perceptions, feelings, thoughts and memories are parts of "I's" experience; they are an intimate part of it, for they constitute his empirical self or personality or Ego. His central, unchanging, transcendental self or essence is what we have called "I" or the true Self. The "I", then, is conscious of itself and aware of the not-Self. (The term self-consciousness might have been used for the first, and "consciousness of" for the second, but we shall strictly avoid doing this.) "Consciousness belongs to the order of the 'One' and awareness to the order of the 'Many'," says Warner Allen(1). To sum up, then, we shall use the following terms as equivalent: Consciousness, "I", the true Self. On the other hand, the sum of memories, thoughts and experiences will be designated by such terms as the Ego, the empirical self, the personality. The relations of the true Self and the Ego are discussed in a later chapter.

(1) I am indebted to Warner Allen's book The Timeless Moment, Chapter I (Faber & Faber, 1946) for much clarification of these terms. It is important, however, to note that my own use of "Ego" as equivalent to the empirical self is quite different from his. I have made this use of it because of the association of Ego with Egotism which has to be outgrown on the spiritual path.

An answer to our questions can now be attempted. Consciousness by its very nature is not in space at all. It is true, if properly understood, to say rather that all space is contained in it; for space is only a concept of great practical convenience in our everyday life. Because of the increasing degree of limitation placed upon an aspect of consciousness as it enwraps itself in the many structures of the self the mind, the psychic aether, and finally organic matter-it does become aware of that which is other than itself at a particular point of space and time. This limitation, indeed, seems to me the only process by which the Self could initially become aware of the not-Self at all. Such awareness can be moved about in space by movement of the physical organism, as we do when we travel: it also appears that it can be transferred from one place to another by a process which seems to be a temporary withdrawal from the physical organism. We shall look at the evidence for this now.

2. Involuntary Transfer of Full Awareness

Case I. Sir Auckland Geddes(2). In an address to the Royal Society of Medicine on February 26th, 1927, entitled "A Voice from the Grandstand", Sir Auckland Geddes gave the experience of a man for whom he vouches. Tyrrell's abridged version is here given:

(2) Tyrrell: The Personality of Man, pp. 197-8 (Pelican Books).

"On Saturday 9th November, a few minutes after midnight, I began to feel very ill, and by two o'clock was definitely suffering from acute gastro-enteritis, which kept me vomiting and purging until about eight o'clock... By ten o'clock I had developed all the symptoms of acute poisoning; intense gastro-intestinal pain, diarrhea; pulse and respirations, became quite impossible to count, I wanted to ring for assistance, but found I could not, and so quite placidly gave up the attempt. I realised I was very ill and very quickly reviewed my whole financial position. Thereafter at no time did my consciousness appear to me to be in any way dimmed, but I suddenly realised that my consciousness was separating from another consciousness which was also me. These, for purposes of description, we could call the A- and B-consciousnesses, and throughout what follows the ego attached itself to the A-consciousness. The B personality I recognised as belonging to the body, and as my physical condition grew worse and the heart was fibrillating rather than beating, I realised that the B-consciousness belonging to the body was beginning to show signs of being composite - that is, built up of 'consciousness' from the head, the heart and the viscera. These components became more individual and the B-consciousness began to disintegrate, while the A-consciousness, which was now me, seemed to be altogether outside my body, which it could see. Gradually I realised that I could see, not only my body and the bed in which it was, but everything in the whole house and garden, and then realised that I was seeing, not only 'things' at home but in London and in Scotland, in fact wherever my attention was directed, it seemed to me; and the explanation which I received, from what source I do not know, but which I found myself calling to myself my mentor, was that I was free in a time-dimension of space, wherein 'now' was in some way equivalent to 'here' in the ordinary three-dimensional space of everyday life."

The narrator then says that his further experiences can only be described metaphorically, for, although he seemed to have two-eyed vision, he "appreciated" rather than "saw" things. He began to recognise people he knew, and they seemed to be characterised by coloured condensations around them.

"Just as I began to grasp all these," he continues, "I saw A enter my bedroom; I realised she got a terrible shock and I saw her hurry to the telephone. I saw my doctor leave his patients and come very quickly, and heard him say, or saw him think, 'He is nearly gone.' I heard him quite clearly speaking to me on the bed, but I was not in touch with my body and could not answer him.

I was really cross when he took a syringe and rapidly injected my body with something which I afterwards learned was camphor. As the heart began to beat more strongly, I was drawn back, and I was intensely annoyed, because I was so interested and just beginning to understand where I was and what I was 'seeing'. I came back into the body really angry at being pulled back, and once I was back, all the clarity of vision of anything and everything disappeared and I was just possessed of a glimmer of consciousness, which was suffused with pain."

Case 2. F. S. Smythe(3). This is abbreviated from an account of his own experience. The late Mr. Smythe was a distinguished mountaineer, and his books will be known to many readers. He was climbing in the Dolomites with a friend E. E. Roberts.

(3) F. S. Smythe: The Spirit of the Hills, pp. 277-8 (Hodder & Stoughton, 1937).

"It was a perfect morning, a morning on which to enjoy the beauty of creation, a morning on which to realise to the full the supreme joy of health and life... A sudden startled shout, a frightful crash of falling rocks, a convulsive leap and jerk of every nerve and muscle, an instinctive bracing of every bone of my whole body to receive a shock.

"A few instants before, the rope had lain idly against the rock or slid gently upwards as I took it in. Now, like a sleeping snake stirred by a stick, it sprang into furious activity. It whipped, as though alive, across the rocks to the right, and I realised in the fraction of a second that it took to do so that Roberts was not directly beneath me and that the strain would come sideways as well as downwards; it tightened in my hands and tore cruelly through them, it tugged at my shoulder and body, tugged irresistibly, and snatched me from my holds as casually and easily as a man brushes an insect from his cheek. In another moment I was sliding down the slabs, at first on my side, then on my back, driving my heels, elbows, forearms and palms of my hands against the rocks in an endeavour to stop myself. For 10 or 12 feet I slid thus, then shot over the edge of the precipice.

"I remember no jerk, but I found myself hanging on the rope a few feet below the crest of the ridge. I turned, snatched at the rocks and clawed my way back to the ridge. I had fallen altogether about 20 feet, and the rope, which was a comparatively new one, had held.

"I had scarcely regained the ridge when I heard Roberts's voice. He was safe and sound...

"So much for events. I will now describe in detail my feelings from the moment when danger intervened to the moment when I found myself oscillating on the rope against the face of the precipice.

"When I heard Roberts's shout and the crash of falling rocks, my body, as already described, instinctively braced itself to receive a shock. The shock came; I was unable to resist it, and found myself on my back sliding and bumping helplessly down the slabs of the ridge. Now, one half of my brain must have known subconsciously that 20 feet of slack rope separated me from the belay, but if it did know this, it was singularly reticent on the subject, and it was the other half that took charge, and this told me that I had been secured close to the belay, that the rope had come off and that I was certain to be killed. In view of my subsequent sensations, the certainty which existed in my mind that nothing could stop me falling and that I was to be killed, is interesting and important. Nevertheless, even though I had assumed thus early that I was as good as dead, I made desperate attempts to stop myself, as I have already described. During the time that I was doing this, a curious rigidity or tension gripped my whole mental and physical being. So great was this tension that it swamped all pain and fear, and rendered me insensible to bumps and blows. It was an overwhelming sensation, and quite outside my experience. It was as though all life's forces were in process of undergoing some fundamental evolutionary change, the change called death, which is normally beyond imagination and outside the range of ordinary human force or power. Think of the force required to knit an atom, and the equal and opposite force required to split that atom. What an experience for that atom to have such vast forces concentrated on its evolution - the supreme power of the universe concentrated to one end. I was the atom on the Grohmannspitze, and I felt that power which alone can separate spirit from body - death. I know now that death is not to be feared, it is a supreme experience, the climax, not the anti-climax, of life.

"For how long I experienced this crescendo of power I cannot say. Time no longer existed as time; it was replaced by a sequence of events from which time as a quantity or quality in terms of human consciousness no longer existed. Then, suddenly, this feeling was superseded by a feeling of complete indifference and detachment, indifference to what happened to my body, detachment from what was happening or likely to happen to that body. I seemed to stand aside from my body. I was not falling, for the reason that I was not in a dimension where it was possible to fall. I, that is my consciousness, was apart from my body, and not in the least concerned with what was befalling it. My body was in the process of being injured, crushed and pulped, and my consciousness was not associated with these physical injuries, and was completely uninterested in them. Had the tenant already departed in anticipation of the wreck that was to follow? Had the assumption of death - when my slide was not checked by the rope I assumed death as certain - resulted in a partial dissolution of the spiritual and physical? Was it merely a mental effect due to a sudden and intense nervous strain? It is not within my province to discuss that which only death can prove; yet to me this experience was a convincing one; it convinced me that consciousness survives beyond the grave."

Case 3. This is one of several similar cases given in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research recently.

"I was stationed in Aden in 1913 and was seriously ill with dysentery. I got to the stage of having to be lifted from side to side, as I was too weak to move myself in bed. From the instructions I heard the M.O. give the orderlies (we had no nurses in Aden then) I gathered that a collapse was expected and that in the event of the occurrence I was to be given a saline injection via the rectum.

"Shortly afterwards, I found myself lying parallel to the bed, about three or four feet above it and face downwards. Below me I saw my body and witnessed the giving of the rectal injection. I listened to all the conversation of the two orderlies and of a strange M.O. who was directing affairs and was indeed a very interested spectator of the whole business. I remember well that the saline came from an enamel kind of vessel which was connected to a rubber tube - the vessel being held up at arm's length by an orderly.

"I found myself next back in bed, feeling much better. I told my story to the orderlies, who were quite sceptical. I particularly enquired about the strange M.O. I found there had been one; he was en route for Bombay, I think, and had called at the hospital in time to help. I never saw him again.

"I have always been convinced that my spirit (or soul if you will) had actually left my body but returned as a result of the injection. When kindred subjects have cropped up I have told friends of my experience. They have listened in a tolerant fashion, but I have always felt that my story was really being received 'with nods and becks and wreathed smiles'. You may imagine then how delighted I was to hear you narrate an almost similar experience - and I sat down immediately and wrote to you...

"On reading the above I find I have omitted to mention that the orderlies said I couldn't possibly have any knowledge of the matter, as I was quite unconscious before and after the operation."

Case 4(4) is related by an army Colonel.

(4) Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 34, pp. 206-11 (1948).

"Six years ago I had pneumonia and pleurisy combined, and I remember the doctor saying (whilst in my room) that he could do no more and I must fight it out myself. I cannot think I was supposed to hear this aside. With what strength I had, I pinched myself and said, 'You shall get better'. Now this was the crisis. I feel quite certain that I left my body. I felt it getting heavier and heavier and sinking into the bed. I was sitting on top of a high wardrobe near the door looking down on my bed at myself, and the nurse sitting by me. I was disgusted at my unshaven appearance. I saw everything in the room - the mirror on the dressing-table and all small details. Fear was absent entirely. The next thing I remember was my nurse holding my hand and shortly afterwards heard her say, 'The crisis has passed.'

"Some time after all this, I told the nurse what had happened to me, described what she was doing at the time and the details of the room. She said I was given up and that it was because I was delirious.

"No, I was dead for that time, but made myself go back."

Case 5(5). Wilmot. This frequently quoted case was checked as far as possible. Here is Mr. Wilmot's account.

(5) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 7, p. 41; or Human Personality, Vol. I, pp. 682-5.

"On October 3rd, 1863, I sailed from Liverpool for New York, on the steamer 'City of Limerick', of the Inman line, Captain Jones commanding. On the evening of the second day out, soon after leaving Kinsale Head, a severe storm began, which lasted for nine days. During this time we saw neither sun nor stars nor any vessel; the bulwarks on the weather bow were carried away, one of the anchors broke loose from its lashings, and did considerable damage before it could be secured, and several stout storm sails, though closely reefed, were carried away, and the booms broken.

"Upon the night following the eighth day of the storm the tempest moderated a little, and for the first time since leaving port I enjoyed refreshing sleep. Toward morning I dreamed that I saw my wife, whom I had left in the United States, come to the door of my stateroom, clad in her night-dress. At the door she seemed to discover that I was not the only occupant of the room, hesitated a little, then advanced to my side, stooped down and kissed me, and after gently caressing me for a few moments, quietly withdrew.

"Upon waking I was surprised to see my fellow-passenger, whose berth was above mine - but not directly over it, owing to the fact that our room was at the stern of the vessel - leaning upon his elbow, and looking fixedly at me. 'You're a pretty fellow', said heat length, 'to have a lady come and visit you in this way.' I pressed him for an explanation, which he at first declined to give, but at length related what he had seen while wide awake, lying in his berth. It exactly corresponded with my dream.

"This gentleman's name was William J. Tait, and he had been my room-mate in the passage out, in the preceding July, on the Cunard steamer 'Olympus'. A native of England, and son of a clergyman of the Established Church, he had for a number of years lived in Cleveland, in the State of Ohio, where he held the position of librarian of the Associated Library. He was at this time perhaps fifty years of age, by no means in the habit of practical joking, but a sedate and very religious man, whose testimony upon any subject could be taken unhesitatingly.

"The incident seemed so strange to me that I questioned him about it, and upon three separate occasions, the last one shortly before reaching port, Mr. Tait repeated to me the same account of what he had witnessed. On reaching New York we parted, and I never saw him afterward, but I understand that he died a number of years ago in Cleveland.

"The day after landing I went by rail to Watertown, Conn., where my children and my wife had been for some time, visiting her parents. Almost her first question when we were alone together was, 'Did you receive a visit from me a week ago Tuesday?' 'A visit from you?' said I, 'we were more than a thousand miles at sea.' 'I know it,' she replied, 'but it seemed to me that I visited you.' 'It would be impossible,' said I. 'Tell me what makes you think so.'

"My wife then told me that on account of the severity of the weather and the reported loss of the 'Africa', which sailed for Boston on the same day that we left Liverpool for New York, and had gone ashore at Cape Race, she had been extremely anxious about me On the night previous, the same night when, as mentioned above the storm had just begun to abate, she had lain awake for a long time thinking of me, and about four o'clock in the morning it seemed to her that she went out to seek me. Crossing the wide and storm sea, she came at length to a low, black steamship, whose side she went up, and then descending into the cabin, passed through it to the stern until she came to my stateroom. 'Tell me,' said she, 'do they ever have staterooms like the one I saw, where the upper berth extends further back than the under one? A man was in the upper berth, looking right at me, and for a moment I was afraid to go in but soon I went up to the side of your berth, bent down and kissed you, and embraced you, and then went away.'

"The description given by my wife of the steamship was correct in all particulars, though she had never seen it."

Mrs. Wilmot in reply to a question said "I know that I had a very vivid sense all the day of having visited my husband; the impression was so strong that I felt unusually happy and refreshed to my surprise.'

The shipping information was checked with the files of the New York Herald, and Mr. Hodgson got into touch with both Mr and Mrs. Wilmot and Mr. Wilmot's sister, who was on the ship with him. Miss Wilmot remembered Mr. Tait asking her if she had beer to see her brother - and on her replying in the negative, told he what he had seen.

The cases 1, 3 and 4 were all produced by extreme illness, fever or weakness of the body. Case 2 was provoked by the intense shock and anticipation of immediate death. Case 5 differs in several interesting - points. The originating cause seems to have been the extreme anxiety in Mrs. Wilmot's mind, and the projection was accompanied by a sense of travelling with full consciousness. The most interesting point, however, is that she was visible to her husband in a dream and to his companion, Mr. Tait, who was wide awake. We shall postpone discussion of the implications of this until we have surveyed all the typical cases.

I give below one more case out of a wide range of choice. It is one of Prof. E. Bozzano's cases and was experienced by Guiseppe Costa, a distinguished engineer.

Case 6. "It was an airless torrid night of June, when I was working hard for my examinations... I had been obliged to yield, completely exhausted, to an imperative need for repose, and had thrown myself on the bed, fainting rather than asleep, without extinguishing the paraffin lamp. An unconscious movement of my arm probably overturned the lamp between the table and the bed, and instead of going out it gave off a dense smoke which filled the room with a black cloud of heavy, acrid gas... I had the clear and precise sensation of finding myself, with only my thinking personality, in the middle of the room, completely separated from my body, which continued to lie on the bed. I saw - if I may call by that name the sensation I experienced - the objects around me as though a visual radiation penetrated the molecules of the objects on which my attention rested, as if matter dissolved at the contact of thought. I saw my body perfectly recognisable in all details, the profile, the figure, but with the clusters of veins and nerves vibrating like a swarm of luminous living atoms... I saw the objects, or rather their almost phosphorescent outlines, melt together with the walls, under the concentration of my attention, allowing me to see in the same manner the objects in the neighbouring rooms. My thinking self was without weight, or rather without the impression of the forces of gravity or the notion of volume or mass. I was no longer in the body, since my body lay inert on the bed; I was like the tangible expression of a thought, an abstraction, capable of transferring itself to any part of the earth, sea or sky more swiftly than lightning, in the same instant that I formulated the wish, and therefore without any notion of time and space.

"If I were to say I felt free, light, ethereal, I should not express at all adequately the sensation I experienced in that moment of boundless liberation. But it was not a pleasant sensation: I was seized with an inexpressible anguish from which I felt instinctively that I could only free myself by freeing my material body from that oppressive situation. I wanted therefore to pick up the lamp and open the window, but it was a material act that I could not accomplish, as I could not move the limbs of my body, which I felt should move with the breath of my spiritual will.

"Then I thought of my mother, who was sleeping in the next room. I saw her clearly through the dividing partition, quietly asleep in her bed; but her body, unlike mine, seemed to emanate a luminosity, a radiant phosphorescence. It seemed to me that no effort of any kind was needed to cause her to approach my body. I saw her get hurriedly out of bed, run to the window and open it, as if carrying out my last thought before calling her; then leave her room, walk along the corridor, enter my room and approach my body gropingly and with staring eyes. It seemed as though her contact possessed the faculty of causing my spiritual self to re-enter my body; and I found myself awake with parched throat, throbbing temples, and difficult breathing, while my heart seemed to be bursting in my chest." The narrator rules out any possibility of suggestion as responsible for the experience, and continues, "Neither could it have been a dream ... because never have I had so vivid a sensation of existing in reality as in the moment when I felt myself separated from the body. My mother questioned by me soon after the event, confirmed the fact that she had first opened the window, as if she felt herself suffocating, before coming to my aid. Now the fact of my having seen this act of hers through the wall while lying inanimate on the bed entirely excludes the hypothesis of hallucination and nightmare during sleep."

The detail of these observations by a careful observer with a scientific training makes this account particularly interesting and valuable. William Gerhardi in his book Resurrection and Arnold Bennett in The Glimpse give experiences of their own which all have a remarkable degree of consistency about them.

3. Involuntary Divided Awareness

Below are given two cases which do not differ in principle from the previous group, but where it appears from the account that some slight measure of control of the bodily structure was still retained.

Case 7(6). "I was an armoured-car officer engaged in medium- and long-range reconnaissance work with the 21st Army Group. At about 2.30 p.m. on August 3rd, 1944, I was in a small armoured scout car which received a direct hit from a German anti-tank gun. Our car, which was full of various explosives, grenades, phosphorus bombs, etc., blew up. I might mention that it was stationary at the time, having just halted. The force of the explosion threw me about twenty feet away from the car and over a five-foot hedge. My clothes, etc., were on fire, and there were various pieces of phosphorus sticking to me which were also burning. Now my immediate reaction to the explosion, which appeared to me from the middle of it like a great white cold sheet, with a strong smell of cordite, was (naturally enough) fear. I imagined for a split second that I had gone to hell, and I quickly tried to recollect some particular vice which might have been my qualification. It is interesting to notice that I did not see any rapid 'trailer' of my past life as, I believe, drowning persons report. All this took a fraction of a second, and the next experience was definitely unusual. I was conscious of being two persons - one, lying on the ground in a field where I had fallen from the blast, my clothes, etc., on fire, and waving my limbs about wildly, at the same time uttering moans and gibbering with fear - I was quite conscious of both making these sounds, and at the same time hearing them as though coming from another person. The other 'me' was floating up in the air, about twenty feet from the ground, from which position I could see not only my other self on the ground, but also the hedge, the road, and the car which was surrounded by smoke and burning fiercely. I remember quite distinctly telling myself, 'It's no use gibbering like that-roll over and over to put the flames out.' This my ground body eventually did, rolling over into a ditch under the hedge where there was a slight amount of water. The flames went out, and at this stage I suddenly became one person again.

(6) Loc. cit. Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 34, p. 207, 1948.

"Of course, the aerial viewpoint can be explained up to a point as a 'photograph' taken subconsciously as I was passing over the hedge as a result of the blast. This, however, does not explain the fact that I saw 'myself' on the ground quite clearly and for what seemed a long time, though it could not have been more than a minute or so.

"Naturally there can be no witnesses as to this, and the fact that I have told the occurrence to a number of people since, might have led me to exaggeration of those details - though I do not think this is the case. I can still remember all the details quite clearly as they happened at the time."

Case 8. N. F. Ellison(7). Mr. Ellison sent this account of his personal experience to Sir Oliver Lodge.

(7) Jour. S.P.R., Vol. 25, p. 126.

"The worst trenches we had ever been in. No repairs had been done to them for months and months. At worst, they had collapsed inwards and did not give head-shelter; at best they were a trough of liquid muck. H. and I in the same traverse and straight away on sentry duty. We were both too utterly fed up even to curse. Bodily exhausted, sodden and chilled to the bone with icy sleet, hungry and without rations or the means of lighting a fire to boil a dixey of water; not a dry square inch to sit upon, let alone a square foot of shelter beneath which to have the solace of a pipe, we agreed that this was the worst night of concentrated physical discomfort we had come across hitherto - and neither of us were strangers to discomfort.

"Several hours of this misery passed and then an amazing change came over me. I became conscious, acutely conscious, that I was outside myself; that the real 'me' - the ego, spirit or what you like - was entirely separate and outside my fleshly body. I was looking in a wholly detached and impersonal way, upon the discomforts of a khaki-clad body, which, whilst I realised that it was my own, might easily have belonged to somebody else for all the direct connection I seemed to have with it. I knew that my body must be feeling acutely cold and miserable, but I, my spirit part, felt nothing.

"At the time it seemed a very natural happening - as the impossibilities of a dream seem right and natural to the dreamer - and it was only afterwards that I came to the realisation that I had been through one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

"In the morning H. remarked to me upon my behaviour during the night. For a long time I had been grimly silent and then suddenly changed. My wit and humour under such trying circumstances, had amazed him. I had chatted away as unconcernedly as if we had been warm and comfortable before a roaring fire - as if there was no war on' were his exact words I remember.

"I never mentioned a word to H. or to anybody else about my spiritual adventure that night. He would not have understood and would have laughed at it all, but nothing will shake my inward belief and knowledge that on this particular night my soul and body were entirely separated from each other."

In Case 7 the projected self retained enough control over the separated body to cause it to roll over into the ditch. In Case 8 the projected self was able to maintain the body presumably in its normal attitudes and use it as the vehicle of speech.

Case 9. Miss M. A. B.(8). This lady had to undergo a slight operation, and ether was being administered. Her brother had recently died, and she says:

(8) From H. F. P. Battersby: Man outside Himself, p. 56 (Rider & Co.).

"Almost at once I had the strong idea, 'This is what brother felt like when he died. I won't die. I won't.' I struggled violently so that two nurses and the specialist were unable to hold me, and were obliged to hurry for chloroform and try that... The next thing I knew was some piercing screaming going on, that I was up in the air and looking down upon the bed over which the nurses and doctor were bending.

"What specially struck me, and remains particularly in my mind, were the white crosses on the nurses' backs, where the bands of their white uniforms cross at the back. I was aware that they were trying in vain to stop the screaming, in fact I heard them say: 'Miss B., Miss B., don't scream like this. You are frightening the other patients.' At the same time I knew very well that I was quite apart from my screaming body, which I could do nothing to stop. I said to myself, 'Those silly idiots! if they had but enough sense to send for E. (a great friend of mine waiting below in the hospital), I know she could stop it.'

"And just then the strangest thing happened. At my thought that was exactly what they did! One of the nurses rushed downstairs and begged her to come up. She touched my physical body, spoke to me, and immediately the screaming ceased... In a short time I was physically conscious again."

It is as well to admit that we do not know enough to attempt an explanation of such a group of facts. The increased facility for using telepathy, and the immediate effectiveness of it in the projected state will be noted, however. Many other cases demonstrate this feature. There are also quite a number of recorded cases where the administration of anaesthetics was the cause of projected awareness. The particular anaesthetic used, and some peculiarity of the person anaesthetised, appear, however, to give rise to very varying results. Thus William James(9) has recorded instances where consciousness has been liberated from the enfolding structures resulting in a definite mystical experience; a mode of separation quite different from those we have described above.

(9) William James: Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 389 (Longmans, Green & Co., 1943).

4. Voluntary Projection: Muldoon's Work

One of the most interesting of circumstantial accounts of out-of-the-body experience is that of Sylvan J. Muldoon, given in his books The Projection of the Astral Body (1929) and The Case for Astral Projection(10). It is a record of many years of experimenting, and bears the stamp of being a true and simple account of personal experience. Dr. Hereward Carrington wrote an introduction to the first book. The account given is very detailed, but some attempt must be made to give an impression of Muldoon's work. Among other things, he claims to be able, at will, to leave his physical body, which then lies inert upon the bed, and to retain full consciousness in a subtler vehicle. He claims to become aware of events and things while in this subtle body of which he had previously no knowledge, and later to be able to verify the facts. On some occasions he claims that while in this subtle body he has moved physical objects. He gives, moreover, details about the mechanism of projection which should enable others who desire to experiment in this field to attempt the same thing. The literature of the subject, such as it is, is given in Dr. Carrington's introduction to Muldoon's book - and I shall not attempt to review it here.

(10) Muldoon and Carrington: The Projection of the Astral Body (Rider, 1929); Muldoon: The Case for Astral Projection (Aries Press, 1936).

Muldoon says that in sleep it is normal for the "astral body" to be displaced slightly out of coincidence with the physical body - since by so doing the former can charge itself with vital energy more freely. He remarks that many people must occasionally have had the experience, when waking up, of coming to consciousness, but finding themselves cataleptic - that is, temporarily paralysed - and unable to move their physical body.

Most people get fearful at this, and a conscious desire soon passes down to what Muldoon calls the "subconscious will" and produces normal alignment of the "astral" and physical bodies. If, instead, the emotion of fear or alarm is controlled, and the person thinks of rising slowly upwards towards the ceiling, Muldoon says that the exteriorising process may continue. The process he describes is slow; the phantom or astral body is rigid, and remains so during the process. It rises to from 3 to 6 feet above the body - in a horizontal position, then moves feet forward, and finally begins to take the vertical position with a swaying motion. He says that there is an astral cable or cord linking together the heads of the physical and astral body - of great elasticity. This exerts a considerable pull or control up to a variable range of about 8 to 15 feet. Once outside this range there is a feeling of freedom, but the cord is always present, even though quite thin, and it retains the same thickness indefinitely. This "astral body", he maintains is the exact duplicate of the physical. While within cord-activity range, a deep breath in the astral body will produce an identical breath in the physical. If the person is conscious at this stage, considerable control of all emotion and effort of will is necessary to get outside the cord-activity range Fear, or a noise, or any emotion will bring back the astral body into the physical with great rapidity, and a rather violent shock may result which he calls repercussion.

Dreams of falling and of flying through the air are, in Muldoon's view, occasioned by the sensations of interiorisation of the projected astral body, and I shall mention shortly the technique which Muldoon suggests for causing projection. Once the astral body gets to the limit of cord-activity range, the deeper mind apparently frees the astral body from the catalepsy characteristic within this range. If it is released from catalepsy within this range, it finds itself staggering or swaying badly.

The sense of touch, so far as material objects are concerned, is not felt by the astral body, which can pass through solid objects, but Muldoon says that within cord-activity range any movement of, or thing touching the physical body is felt as if experienced by the astral body. He cites an occasion when his dog jumped up on the bed while he was exteriorised within cord-activity range. This resulted in oscillations of the astral body, which were then followed by the sense of pressure against the side of the astral body.

Muldoon says that it is possible to "dream" of moving an object and actually to do so, such movement being delayed some two seconds after the dream action. He is disposed to think that some type of energy can be externalised and used as a rod. Clearly we are here coming to the field of psycho-kinetic or poltergeist phenomena, about which we shall speak later.

Once the astral body has moved beyond cord-activity range it is free, and no longer liable to eccentricity of the senses, instability of the body, etc. The cable then diminishes to a fine, thread-like structure and, as might be expected, the flow of energy from the astral to the physical body is greatly reduced.

Muldoon says that where projection is distant and prolonged the physical body may almost have the appearance of being dead, and may undergo a substantial temperature fall - a phenomenon closely resembling hibernation in animals. If the projector tries to stay away too long, he finds that he cannot retain consciousness in the astral body. The deeper mind is obviously in control of the situation, with a greater wisdom than the superficial mind. Muldoon says he has noticed himself brought back at intervals to within cord-activity, when, of course, the larger cable permits stronger respiration of the physical body. If we are to believe the accounts of yogis and fakirs, being buried alive for periods of up to thirty days, and being resuscitated by their friends at the end of such periods, it is to be presumed that it is achieved by some such projection of the astral body.

Death of the physical body is presumably caused by the severance of the astral cord.

It appears that in the majority of cases of astral projection, whether there is consciousness associated with the vehicle or not, is a matter of chance. It seems that where consciousness appears in the astral state, a good deal of energy is used up, and the projector feels very tired after the experience. On the other hand, astral projection without awareness is said to be very refreshing. While Muldoon found it sometimes possible to have full awareness from the beginning of exteriorisation, more commonly the earlier part was achieved in sleep, and awareness emerged only outside cord-activity range as the result of a special sort of dream. When dreaming, says Muldoon, we are partially conscious on the astral plane. The body in sleep is always to some extent out of coincidence with the astral body, and we are in some degree of correspondence with both the physical and astral planes. It is through the reception of impressions from both these planes that many dreams originate. The dream-state lies between complete consciousness and complete unconsciousness on the astral level. If you dream, therefore, while projected, it is only a question of the right step to secure consciousness there.

Muldoon says, on the basis of his experience, that when the action of the dream corresponds to the action of the astral body, the dream causes the latter to exteriorise. The clue to projection is, then, what might be called "dreaming true". Presumably the semi-conscious mind of the dreamer uses the dream to convey a "suggestion" to the subconscious will, which then displaces the astral body. If, however, the physical body is not already sufficiently incapacitated by being slightly displaced from the "astral body", then somnambulism will result instead of projection. This, then, is the technique:

1. For some nights practise watching yourself during going to sleep. Try to keep a state of awareness right up to the last minute.

2. Construct now a dream, and hold this in mind while going to sleep. The dream constructed must be one in which you are active, and moreover one in which the action gone through corresponds to the route taken by the astral body when first projected. (It should consist of movement upwards and forwards.) It should be as pleasant and enjoyable as possible; for example, the dream might be of lying on your back - in an elevator, which starts to rise slowly. At the top you are going to get to your feet, walk out of the elevator, look out and walk around - enjoying everything; then reverse the procedure. The same dream must be used over and over again. The idea is that you should begin to dream this just as the transition to sleep comes over you. It is important to plan a pleasant dream.

3. To bring about consciousness in the projected phantom it is necessary to use suggestion and to pre-determine that in a particular place in the dream, you will wake up. Muldoon says that especially with the nervous, temperamental person, many dreams of a vivid kind in which we seem to be active are astral somnambulistic dreams, and by identifying these and planning in advance to wake up at a given place in the dream, consciousness may arise.

Muldoon goes into a great deal of detail on the precise conditions which favour success. The fundamental law of projection he states thus: "When the subconscious will becomes possessed of the idea to move the body [i.e., the coinciding bodies], and the physical body is incapacitated, the subconscious will moves the astral body out of the physical. Habit, Desire and Dream, says Muldoon, are the three factors which can, in certain circumstances, produce enough stress to bring about astral projection - just as they may give rise to physical somnambulism if the physical body is insufficiently incapacitated. The incapacitation - as Muldoon calls it - of the physical body is facilitated by slowing down the heart rate, which can be done by auto-suggestion. I suggest that anyone proposing to experiment in this field would do well to study the detailed experience of Muldoon set out at length in several chapters.

The impression left on the reader's mind will, I think, be that we are in fact dealing with genuine experiences - of a kind which many others have described. But whereas the majority were uncontrolled experiences associated with shock or extreme weakness of the body, Muldoon's were controlled and experimental, and they are, I think, worthy of study for the light they throw on the structure of the human individual.

We have used the term "astral body" without comment: we shall consider its significance later.

5. Voluntary Projection: Work of Others

We shall conclude in this section a survey of a few typical experiences of others, before we ask ourselves how the facts are to be interpreted. Oliver Fox(11) has written a book which is worthy of study.

(11) Oliver Fox: Astral Projection (Rider & Co., 1939). 

His first projection was associated with a dream at the age of sixteen. He dreamed he was standing outside his home, and noticed that the paving-stones were not set as he remembered them. In his dream he then realised he was dreaming, and with this realisation the quality of the dream changed to one of intense awareness. He says:

"Instantly the vividness of life increased a hundredfold. Never had the sea and sky and trees shone with such glamorous beauty, even the commonplace houses seemed alive and mystically beautiful. Never had I felt so absolutely well, so clear-brained, so divinely powerful, so inexpressibly free! The sensation was exquisite beyond words, but it lasted only a few minutes and I awoke ..."

He came to realise that one method of projection was to make the discovery in a dream that he was dreaming, by keeping a measure of the critical faculty awake to detect some incongruity. He discovered that he was unable to stay out of his body very long without the gradual development of a pain in the head. He observed in the last phase of prolonging the experience, when the pain was considerable, that he had dual consciousness. "I could feel myself standing in the dream and see the scenery; but at the same time I could feel myself lying in bed and see my bedroom."

About a year later, with considerable courage, he tried the experiment of enduring the pain and willing to remain out. A point was reached where he seemed to hear a "click", the pain vanished and he was free from the pull of his body. He found himself walking on the sea-shore half a mile from his home; people were walking past him, and he tried to stop one man to ask him the time, but could not attract his attention. He found, to his alarm, that willing to return to his body had at first no effect, and it was only after great effort that he seemed to hear again a "click" and found himself in his body - but paralysed. This cataleptic state alarmed him, and only by further intense effort was he able to get his muscles working again. He later found that when awaking in the cataleptic state, he had only to doze off 'again to find himself normal on waking.

On one occasion, experimenting with chloroform, he noticed clearly the silver thread which appeared to link him with his physical body, and he had a sense of dual consciousness. He remarks, "When I spoke, it seemed to me that my words travelled down the thread and were then spoken by my physical self-but the process was instantaneous." Mr. Fox subsequently found two other methods of projection which he calls the use of the "Pineal Door" and "Instantaneous Projection". These different methods appeared to provide him with slightly different kinds of experience, into the detail of which it is unnecessary to go here. In some circumstances he was at the mercy of "currents" which would sweep him away to places he did not know; at other times this was rare. Sometimes he was visible to persons he met and could converse with them; at other times he was invisible! On some occasions he could stay away from his body for a longer time than at others.

Yram(12), a French investigator, appears to have had considerable natural facility for projection, and remarks on the possibility of projecting a "double" of very varying density, so that under some conditions physical objects (such as a wall) could not be penetrated, while under others there was no difficulty. His experience appears to have taken him to levels remote from the material world, but he confirms the general views of Muldoon and Fox about the less remote levels.

(12) Yram: Practical Astral Projection (Rider & Co., 1935).

"After having roamed about in space, I came back close to my physical body, and without completely reincorporating myself, I found myself at the exact point of balance where the anatomical sensitivity passes into the next body or plane. By a mere act of will I found myself able to incline the balance towards one point or the other... As soon as I brought my mind back to my physical body the intensity of the projection diminished. My body was as heavy as lead and my breathing slowed down... I could hear noises from the street. Taking my mind back towards the idea of projection, the equilibrium immediately went the other way. All these physical sensations disappeared with lightning-like speed. I once more found myself in the state I had just left, and began to enjoy the peace, the cool sweetness and the inexpressible sense of well-being of this state. The phenomenon is not therefore a state of sleep natural or induced. It has a clarity far superior to that of terrestrial life."

I propose to include only one further witness of this type of phenomenon. The extract below is from a book of Miss L. Margery Bazett(13).

(13) L. Margery Bazett: Beyond the Five Senses (Blackwell, 1946).

"There is another type of this clairvoyance which I shall call travelling clairvoyance; because when entirely quiescent one seems to move out of this physical body; in my experience, it felt like moving through and out of a tunnel, as a train does. I have undertaken this experiment only under the direction of an expert in these matters; it is not advisable to do so otherwise. As I experienced it, I found it most exhilarating; and I appeared to visit various parts of the globe in a surprisingly short time. I set forth on these visitations to other parts of the globe from a room that was dimly lighted, and at the time of the year when the weather was dull and over-clouded. Projecting myself to a distance in space, I was deeply interested to find myself in bright sunshine over the Mediterranean, looking down from a considerable height on a beautiful city. I particularly noticed a magnificent church, which I could see in detail. I knew I was over the Mediterranean, though how I knew, I could not say; neither was I aware of other places en route; actual movement was my only sensation... I was not moving in any ordinary way but rather felt as if I were floating. The keenest sense of adventure I experienced on another occasion, when after passing through the 'tunnel' I arrived, so to speak, in the East; here again I knew that I was in Tibet. I mounted higher and higher until rocky landscape was observable everywhere. It was very dark, yet I noticed a few stars; and later, as I neared the summit, there was a clear sky, evidently at dawn. I came upon certain temples... Deep meditation was taking place within; and I was exceedingly interested to see that according to the depth and quality of the meditation, so the figure created and radiated light of a rare character; with some, this was very marked. The darkened temple was lit by no lighting save the self-created lighting of each individual person. I remember, too, hearing the deep-toned bells that I believe are used in these temples; they, too, varied in depth and fineness of tone according to the quality of the meditation. Someone who knew Tibet was greatly interested in all that I had seen of it, and could corroborate the visions."

6. Discussion of the Data

When we were dealing with apparitions we had to rely on the evidence of human testimony and decide whether there was a sufficiently coherent body of facts. These "facts" were in the case of apparitions, sense-data - visual, auditory, tactile, etc. In the present chapter we have to consider another mass of human testimony and decide whether it is coherent and trustworthy. The data in this case are subjective; we are called to assess what people say they have experienced. We have, in fact, to determine two things: 1) Are the narrators telling the truth or telling lies? and 2) If telling the truth, are they suffering from illusions? (in the technical sense, of wrongly interpreting their experience). We are assisted to determine this by assessing the quality and variety of the narrators and the relative consistency of their descriptions. The latter is quite remarkable. In Cases 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8, some fever, weakness or shock to the body preceded the experience, in Case 2, mental shock, and in Case 5 acute anxiety. The observations made independently and in common were that the physical body could be seen from outside, that while thus separated, persons were insensitive to pain in the latter, and that the experience out of the body was one of intense vividness and pleasantness. (Only in Case 6 was there an element of unpleasantness, arising, we may suppose, from the will-to-live and the danger of asphyxiation.) All convey a novel sense of freedom in space, and several of them demonstrate the immediate accessibility and effectiveness of telepathy and clairvoyance in the state of projection. Cases 1 and 6, as well as the accounts of Gerhardi and Arnold Bennett and most of the experimental projectors, refer to a quality of "vision" or apprehension which is sustained and vivid to a degree which impressed them when contrasted with normal vision in the body, but which might naturally be supposed to occur when the observing mind is not restricted by the organs of sense.

It might be urged that the knowledge of Mrs. Wilmot and Miss Bazett might be accessible to a well-developed clairvoyant faculty without there being any question of actual projection from their physical bodies. It may be so, but if others' testimony is convincing in the matter of out-of-the-body experiences, there seems no very good reason to deny the correctness of these two observers' sensations. The lines of explanation of Case 5, by Tyrrell's theory, would be as follows(14). Mr. Wilmot was really the agent. He had the knowledge of the cabin shape, disposition of berths, presence of Mr. Tait, etc., and by an elaborate piece of constructional work between the mid-levels of the minds of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot, this information was presented to her with hallucinatory vividness. A different hallucinatory percept by the same two minds, to which the mind of Mr. Tait was related, created the apparition of Mrs. Wilmot in the cabin. But Mrs. Wilmot was mistaken in believing she was present in the cabin in the proper sense, while Mr. Tait (and Mr. Wilmot) were mistaken in supposing she was in the proper sense "there".

(14) Vide Apparitions: Myers Memorial Lecture, pp. 84-5.

I find this explanation far-fetched; it requires the postulate that the different hallucinatory percepts were created simultaneously by the minds of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot and each saw one of these. I would suggest rather that Mrs. Wilmot was the agent and that it was a case of projection such as others have described. This accords with her feeling of conviction, not that she had "seen" her husband merely, but that she had visited him. The rather unusual feature of the projection was that she was visible to Mr. Tait, who did not know what she looked like (although Mr. Wilmot did, with whose mind Mr. Tait's may have been en rapport). I do not deny to a "projected mind" the same facility for constructing apparitions in co-operation with another mind, as it might normally possess. I cannot, however, find any good reason for not supposing that the vehicle of Mrs. Wilmot's consciousness was itself made visible to the perception of Mr. Tait, in just the same way as created apparitions have been regarded hitherto as being made perceptible.

Looking at the whole evidential picture of this and the preceding chapter, it is obvious that they include data of profound significance for an understanding of the structure of the human self. In the present state of our knowledge (or ignorance), theorising must necessarily be tentative and speculative. Muldoon and other experimenters use the term "astral body", others use the term "aetheric double". There is a definite Hindu teaching of a subtle body which is the duplicate of the physical one, in some "finer substance". Those who have studied Theosophical ideas will be aware that Theosophists believe in several bodies, vehicles or principles of which a complete synthesis gives the human self. There is an almost inevitable scientific prejudice against beliefs held on any other grounds than that they constitute the minimum hypothesis necessary to explain the data of observation. We must, however, be courageous enough to accept suggestions from any quarter, as long as they keep this scientific principle firmly in mind, and offer us clues to the unification of so complex a field of enquiry.

It is difficult to formulate any hypothesis which does not look too definite, precise and material; we are faced with the use of words or diagrams which are only symbols, after all; and which are not particularly fitted to convey the ideas and concepts of those orders of reality which pertain to the non-physical self. Every description or diagram embodies concepts of space, time or matter, and leaves the thinker with what Whitehead called the sense of "misplaced concreteness". For my own part, I am convinced of the wisdom of Tyrrell's dictum, "There is no more fundamental way in which reality inheres in anything finite, than as an aspect of something which lies a step nearer to the absolutely real". The diagram used in Chapter 9 to convey the conception of individuals and their relatedness on different significant levels is obviously imperfect, but it is an attempt to convey the fact that the world of ultimate reality lies far above, and that successive worlds or strata as we move downwards are "aspects of" or "creations of" the one higher. We saw at the time that analysis of what we meant by perception of a material object led us to the conclusion that the whole supposedly material world is a construction of Mind.

The diagram below is not to be taken precisely or literally (certainly not spatially), and is intended only to be an indication of a way of thinking about the human self. The concentric circles represent different worlds, or levels, or planes of experience. They are of increasing remoteness from the ultimately real (6), as we move outwards. The flask-shaped loop represents an individual whose structure participates in all these worlds of varying significance. The level on which the individual is aware is determined by the flat termination. This may be withdrawn from the physical level where it normally remains in the waking state. In certain forms of clairvoyance it is withdrawn to the aetheric level; in other clairvoyant states, farther still. In light dreaming a measure of diffused awareness probably exists on the aetheric and astral levels; in deep, dreamless sleep awareness is probably withdrawn to the mental level or thereabouts. No memory of awareness on this level can be recovered in the waking state by an ordinary person. The withdrawal of awareness to more interior levels than this is characteristic of mystical experience.

It is the level on which awareness is focused which determines what world will be described as objective: experience on levels interior to this will then be described as subjective. This distinction is one of great convenience, but it does not correspond to anything significant in the levels themselves: it describes only the relationship of an individual to these levels or worlds.

The shape of the individual loop is drawn to isolate different extents of each level, and illustrates thereby the different degrees of evolutionary development of the self on the several levels. On the buddhic level, for example, little development is yet found in the ordinary person - though quite obviously individuals differ enormously. I picture the aetheric world as a bridge - world having properties such as Professor Price describes intermediate between those of matter and mind. (We are talking like this for the sake of clarity, having admitted that, on ultimate analysis, we believe the material world to be but an aspect or construct of mind.) There are actually no clear-cut dividing lines or circles such as we have drawn in the diagram; but many gradations as we proceed inwards. Thus it would seem likely that in the projection of consciousness the vehicle, may correspond to a cleavage - i.e., a circle - at many points in the region "aetheric-astral", and according to the particular point, so different types of experience outside the body may be forthcoming. The level (3) marked "astral" (which seems rather a strange term, though widely used) is commonly supposed to be the level of cleavage at death of the physical body: the "astral body" then becoming the outermost vehicle of consciousness and the "astral world" is then normally objective. There is obviously a good deal of unverified speculation here, but as long as the diagram is not pressed too far or taken for more than it is, I find this general scheme of some help in facing the enormous complexity of the self. In Chapter 12 we shall look in more detail at the scheme.


The article above was taken from Raynor C. Johnson's 1953 book "The Imprisoned Splendor" published by Hodder & Stoughton.


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