Out-of-Body experience and Near Death experience

An Out of Body Experience describes the feeling of being outside your own body and believing that you can observe your own body from the outside.

The modern term Out-Of-Body Experience (OBE) and near-death experience (NDE) have replaced esoteric terms such as out of body experience or out of body experience.

Out-of-body experiences can be created artificially and repeatably in the laboratory, both through a certain falsification of perception through multimedia simulations, as well as through targeted physical influencing of the brain's nerve activity from outside.

In history, ideas of a possible separation of body and soul are often fraught with religion.

In 1979, a comparative study of more than 50 cultures was carried out, which showed that most of them have the idea that the mind or soul can leave the body.

In a survey, around 10 percent of those surveyed stated that they had had an out-of-body experience once in their life. The philosopher Thomas Metzinger estimates that around 8 to 15 percent of the world's population has had such an experience.

For many of the people affected, the results are evidence of life after death.

History and esoteric views

There are various - not scientific - spiritual, transcendent and metaphysical systems of interpretation from Christian mysticism and also esotericism.


The idea of a soul migration has been known and manifested since Pythagoras and Plato and Neoplatonism and Pliny the Elder, but was only discussed more intensively from the Age of Enlightenment and increasingly since the 19th century. This was triggered, among other things, by reports on the OBE of shamans and other ghost summoners. But above all the interest in esoteric occultism, in which special media in seances made contact with "supernatural beings" such as deceased in the hereafter or went on a soul journey themselves, constantly fueled interest in the topic. Under the names "astral projections" or "astral visions", access to an imagined world memory, the Akashic Chronicle since the late 19th century in the Theosophical Society and in its environment (Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) was a popular subject of esoteric teachings.

Robert A. Monroe

In 1971, the American Robert A. Monroe published his first book Journeys Out Of The Body. In it he describes (believing in God but without a denomination) his OBE experiences and his research on how to bring them about artificially. According to his depiction, the astral body of each person and also of animals separates from the body during REM sleep, "learns" in the meantime at higher levels of consciousness, can travel indefinitely in terms of location and time, and returns to the sleeping body. In his view, a protective mechanism prevents it from being remembered. Monroe developed and disseminated in the "The Monroe Institute (TMI)" he founded, the so-called Hemi-Sync method, with which he promised deep relaxation and rememberable OBE experiences for everyone. There is no scientific evidence for such effects. TMI is listed on the international "Association for Transpersonal Psychology".

Raymond Moody

The discussion about OBE was also sparked by the 1975 book Life After Life by the American doctor Raymond Moody, which processed numerous reports from his patients and called for the widespread dissemination of the phenomenon. Scientists were mostly skeptical about the book.

Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross

Psychiatrist and "death researcher" Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross published intensively on the subject of AKE, especially (but not only) in the form of near-death experiences, which she addressed in her numerous books. After 1975, it sparked violent controversy over the claim that it could scientifically prove life after death.

Dr. Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross: "I do not only believe in a life after death, I know with certainty that there is such an existence. Humans do not only have one life. Rather, they are born again and again."

The American psychiatrist Dr.med. Raymond Moody interviewed 1,000 people who were clinically dead; the Swiss doctor Dr. Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross interviewed 20,000.

The experiences during an out of body experience

Typical of an out-of-body experience (OBE) is the feeling that the mind releases itself from the body; Painlessness; weightless hovering; Invisibility; Can penetrate doors, objects, living things, walls or the ceiling.

The OBE phenomenon occurs during sleep or when falling asleep or when tired, meditating, epileptic seizures and vascular brain damage. Such experiences are often described by people who are in extraordinary states of consciousness, e.g. under hypnosis, in trance or ecstasy or near death (near-death experience).

Out-of-body experiences have also been observed under the influence of drugs, for example when consuming LSD, ketamine, psilocybin, salvinorin A or mescaline. According to their statements, some people can also cause OBE at will.

Scientific explanations for out-of-body experience (OBE) and near-death experiences (NDE)

The causes of out-of-body experiences and near-death experiences are the subject of brain research and are described there as a disruption to certain brain functions, such as from accidents or temporary circulatory failure, but also from fatigue or stress.

Scientifically, out-of-body experiences are mostly explained as illusions, flight dreams, lucid dreams or hallucinations. According to this pattern of explanations, experiences are the result of (whatever) psychological or physiological disorganization of the human brain. According to this, the OBE is a misinterpretation of cognitive processes, which in the form of a nervous reaction to real stimuli (or residual stimuli in the state of death) leads to experiences that are perceived as real and relived memories.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) does not classify out-of-body experiences as a disorder in its own system of diseases (ICD 10), it is a typical symptom of a depersonalization disorder, which is classified in ICD-10 under depersonalization and derealization syndrome (F48.1) is.

Linguistically, OBE is classified as the result of a certain impaired memory, which is constructed from a bird's eye view, for which studies provide evidence.

Research groups from Switzerland and Sweden also demonstrated experimentally in 2007 that OBE-like phenomena can be artificially caused by simple technical experimental arrangements using video glasses. This also points to the disturbance of perception processes as the cause of the experiences.

If you would like to deal more closely with the topic, we also recommend the topics derealization, dissociation (psychology) and falsification of memories.

Neurologically, the OBE phenomenon is described as a dissociation between the ego and the body, which arises due to a lack of integration of proprioceptive, tactile and visual information from the body in connection with an additional vestibular dysfunction. The importance of multisensory mechanisms for the development of OBE has been proven in recent years by various neurobiological and brain physiological studies, which have helped to clarify the processes and the brain structures involved with the help of artificial stimulation. The following observations were made:

Studies have shown OBE to stimulate the angular gyrus on the cerebral cortex.

According to research, stimulation of the temporal lobe also causes OBE. According to an investigation, these processes also involve other structures involved in the limbic system with the memory process, such as the almond kernel and the hippocampus. According to this thesis, the stress in the death process leads to the release of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, especially endorphins, which also cause the feeling of happiness that is often observed in the near-death context.

The anesthetic ketamine can also set these phenomena in motion.

During brain surgery during wakefulness, targeted stimulation of the white matter of the left temporoparietal transitional cortex repeatedly caused an OBE. The patient experienced every time he hovered over the operating table and looked down at himself.

Near-death experiences (NDE)

Around 20 percent of survivors of cardiac arrest report typical near-death experiences.

The experiences largely coincide: the person affected has the feeling of hovering over his body and watching what is happening. Many report of a tunnel, at the end of which a bright light can be seen. On the other hand there is a beautiful garden or paradise. Those affected are often picked up by relatives or supernatural figures.

Some report a life picture show, including a life review or life film, in which events from one's own past take place in the mind's eye.

Many report a border or wall that they must not overwrite if they are not to die permanently.

Others report that fears take shape immediately. Those who suffer from the persecution of persecution are constantly harassed by terrible monsters. Anyone who dislikes spiders will encounter nasty bugs everywhere. If you occasionally twitch nervously, you won't find peace over there. Many experience these experiences as purgatory, because when all low instincts and neuroses are defeated, the flames extinguish and the way to paradise is cleared.

Lack of oxygen in the brain

Specific studies have shown that near-death experiences can be attributed to an absence of oxygen in the brain (cerebral anoxia), a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) or an excess of carbon dioxide (hypercapnia). In the case of artificially induced fainting spells due to lack of oxygen in the brain in 42 healthy test persons, NDE-like experiences were very often triggered at the Rudolf Virchow University Hospital in Berlin: 16% had out-of-body experiences, 35% feelings of peace and painlessness, 17% light appearances, 47% experienced someone else World, 20% encounter with unknown creatures, and 8% tunnel experiences.

Parapsychologist Dr. Susan Blackmore has experienced out-of-body experiences on her own body and there is no question about the "research I have spent a lot of time on. I have had such experiences myself ... I was a first semester student in Oxford and studied psychology. I was Head of the psychological research community at the university, after a conference it was very late at night ... I was really, really tired and I smoked a little dope - not much - and just sat there and listened to The Grateful Dead someone asked me: 'Where are you, Sue?' And suddenly I was floating under the ceiling and looking down, I got the full program with all the baffles: a beautiful, white, somehow airy and fluffy, transparent, misty body and a pretty gray-silvery cord that snaked down in my head found that I could do whatever I wanted with my so-called astral body, I flew out of the window over the rooftops of Oxford ... but soon I began to have doubts about the paranormal aspects of my experience, so I looked at them the next day Looking closer at the roofs of Oxford, the shape of the gutters and chimneys, and I realized that they didn't look the way I had seen them. That gave me seeds of skepticism ... and I decided to become a parapsychologist."

Susan Blackmore explains the tunnel experience, which often occurs in near-death experiences (NDE) and out-of-body experiences (OBE), as a reaction of the body: "I believe that is ... to the structure of the cortex visualis (the visual cortex) In our sense of sight, an infinite number of sensory cells are assigned to the visual center and only a few to the periphery or the external field of view strong brightness, while it gets darker towards the periphery.This phenomenon can be explained in terms of phylogenetic history, because nature always tries to use nerve cells as sparingly as possible. To visualize what we see in front of us in a sharp and detailed manner, an enormous number of sensory cells are required The external field of vision, on the other hand, has far fewer sensory cells equips. This is how it developed in the course of evolution in humans. This does not mean that the tunnel effect in OBE's and NDE's has an evolutionary function. It's just a side effect of our vision."

Today it is assumed that near-death experiences are defined programs that take place in the brain under certain conditions. Nevertheless, only five to ten percent of all people experience these experiences in a life-threatening situation. Those who had these experiences were not really dead. There may have been a cardiac arrest, but no zero-line EEG yet. To generate such visions, certain parts of the brain must be extremely active. Processes in the limbic system, in the hypocampus and in the temporal lobe are likely to be involved.

Usually, a near-death experience begins with an out-of-body experience. The person suddenly feels light, is no longer in pain and begins to move away from his body. He then watches doctors and nurses try to reanimate his body.

With extreme injuries and great pain, the brain protects our consciousness from these negative stimuli. The body's own opiates act like narcotics and create a intoxicated state. At the same time, body awareness is lost. Through the eyes and ears, sensory impressions continue to reach the brain. They are also processed there, but differently than usual. This also includes a shift in perspective. The brain plays this trick on us more often than we think. Many people who remember a visit to the swimming pool have a similar picture in mind. They watch from top to bottom as they swim lane after lane.

An equally common element of near-death experiences is the so-called life film. Those affected see their entire lives again in a rapid run. Processes in the brain's memory structure are probably responsible for this. There the activity of the nerve tissue spreads in an uncontrolled manner. Any souvenir pictures are called up at random. Often the patients find themselves in a dark transition zone, a staircase, a tunnel, a corridor or something similar. Due to the lack of oxygen, more and more nerve cells fail in the visual center of the brain. Every single point on the retina is represented there by nerve cells. However, inputs from the center of our visual field are processed by significantly more cells than the points located further out. Light stimuli can therefore be processed there for the longest time. They appear as bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. Pilots who fly loopings experience the same thing. In the short term, your brain is no longer supplied with oxygen. These processes also take place in your vision center.

At the end of the transition zone, those affected then immerse themselves in the light. You are in a bright room, a beautiful landscape or just in the light. There she masters a feeling of "deep peace", "all-embracing calm" or "being one with God". Our language is probably too limited to describe this experience. Similar experiences are also possible by taking drugs such as ketamine, cannabis and LSD. Presumably there are messenger substances in our brain that dock at the same binding sites as these substances. A binding site for cannabis has already been identified. The researchers gave it the appropriate name: Annandamid. This is Sanskrit and means "inner bliss". ∎