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Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are sensations that one is viewing the world—and especially one’s own body—from a position outside the physical body. Persons who have undergone OBEs were usually asleep or under anesthetics at the time, but OBEs can also occur under ordinary, waking circumstances. Some people claim to have experienced OBEs since adolescence or early childhood. The similarity among reports of OBEs—often widely separated by geography and even history—is sometimes proffered as proof of the reality of travel of consciousness out of the body.
OBEs manifest in a variety of forms. In the most elaborate, people sense their consciousness escaping from their body, which is then perceived as a lifeless object. Usually a mist or ball of light or ethereal body seems to surround the escaping consciousness and to be attached to it by a silvery or white cord. In his highly popular book Journeys Out of the Body, Robert Monroe gives instructions on how to produce OBEs. Monroe’s work more than any other popularized the expression “out-of-body experience,” supplanting the older term astral projection. Acceptable scientific proof of the ability of human consciousness to leave the physical body has yet to be demonstrated.