Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
One of my most recent publications is an article about Sylvan J. Muldoon and Hereward’s Carrington’s The Phenomena of Astral Projection that appeared in the online encyclopedia of the Society for Psychical Research (The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951). In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research, 2016. The book, a modern classic about what today is generally referred to as out-of-body experiences, was published in 1951 and consisted of discussions of the “doctrine of astral projection,” and of presentations of cases.
Today there are many books about out-of-body experiences, but this was not the case when The Phenomena of Astral Projection appeared. Muldoon and Carrington’s work became an important reference work that presented many cases.
As I wrote: “Muldoon and Carrington believe ‘astral projection’ implies that the mind is independent of the physical body, something that supports the idea of an etheric brain. This, they write, ‘certainly seems but a short step to the acceptance of an etheric body, separate and apart from the physical, which body we may inhabit at death, and which constitutes the vehicle of the mind in astral projections.’ ”
Muldoon and Carrington discussed evidence for the existence of a subtle body:
“First, there is the massive weight of human belief and testimony, from the earliest times to our own day, in all parts of the world, and among civilized and uncivilized peoples. Second, we have those cases of apparitions in which the phantom-form seems to exhibit a mind of its own—often imparting information unknown to the seer at the time, but afterwards verified. Third, we have those cases in which material effects are apparently produced by the phantom, or its image appears upon photographic plates. Fourth, we have instances of materialization, at séances… Fifth, we have cases of astral projection, in which the subject sees his own phantom body, and is occasionally seen by others. In these last instances especially, we have evidence that the phantom form possesses a mind of its own, separate and distinct from the physical brain and body, which latter may be seen resting upon the bed. The cumulative mass of such testimony is, we submit, most impressive, and gives us the right to believe that such a ‘spiritual body’ exists—as St. Paul long ago stated.”
The authors present many cases classified as those of deliberate projections, and those that took place while using drugs, in emotional conditions, as well as during accidents, various illnesses, sleep, and during physical activity, a topic I have discussed before.
One of the physical activity cases they presented was the following:
“I was conscious of rising higher and higher, with each gliding step, until I ‘levitated’ about the height of a one-storey building…I was dumbstruck to see ‘myself’ left behind some distance… Looking down at my physical body… I had a great pity for it… I was…fully conscious in my astral body…and saw the eyes in my physical body moving and scrutinizing ‘me’ with a look of wonderment… A moment later my consciousness suddenly shifted to my physical body and, looking through its eyes, endeavouring to figure out the situation, I saw my astral body in space… This occurred several times…”
They also had a chapter entitled “Projections at the Time of Death” in which they presented the testimony of people around deathbeds that saw lights, mista and subtle bodies come out of the body of the dying persons. There is also a chapter with cases in which spirits were seen.
Muldoon and Carrington felt that the cases they presented supported the idea of survival of death:
“The universe seems to be, at basis, rational and spiritual in nature, and there is assuredly a narrow gulf between these phenomena and death itself. As Myers expressed it years ago, ‘death is but the irrevocable projection of the spirit.’ In the one case it is temporary; in the other permanent. But death is no more ‘terrible’ and no more ‘miraculous’ than these projection phenomena, and we have seen that, in many of these cases, the experience proved so delightful that the subject did not want to return to earth life at all! The transition into the spiritual world proved both easy and pleasant, while the experience in that world was little less than ‘blissful.’ ”