Childhood Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration

II. Related Experiences


A. Lucid/Witnessing Dreams/Sleep and Pure Consciousness

A1. Lucidity-Meditation Link

A2. Lucidity Witnessing Relationship

A3. Lucid Dreaming Experiences in Children

A4. Recap Sleep Consciousness

B. Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)

B1. Mental Models of Lucid Dreaming and OBE's

B2. Fantasy Prone Interpretation of OBE's

B3. Mystical Components of the OBE

B4. OBE's in Children

B5. Recap Out-of-Body-Experiences

C. Near-Death Experiences (NDE)

C1. NDE's and Lucid Dreams

C2. NDE's in Children

C3. Unidentified Flying Object Abduction Experiences (UFOE)

C4. Recap of Near-death Experiences

D. 'I-Am-Me' Experience

E. Related Experiences Summary

A. Lucid/Witnessing Dreams/Sleep and Pure Consciousness

In order to gain understanding it's necessary to place things in their series thus I will now look at closely related experiences to PC. It is useful to identify the similarities and differences between related experiences in order to understand the common state from which they may derive and/or common mechanisms or structures. Several experiences may be related to PC experiences. I will argue that these primarily include consciousness in sleep such as a lucid dream, which is a dream where you know you are dreaming while you are dreaming, and witnessing dreams/sleep, which has a quiet, detached quality to said consciousness in sleep/dreams. These experiences have the quality of de-embedding or turning around on our normal cognitive framing of self, here and now which is typical of dreaming and waking. Alexander et al. (1990) argue witnessing sleep is one of the primary unambiguous signals of the stabilization of higher states of consciousness. Building on Alexander's work, Gackenbach (1991; 1992; & Bosveld, 1989) has made a detailed argument elsewhere of how lucid dreams are bridges to the pure conscious experience a first step on the de-embedding, unity path.

Alexander and Gackenbach (Alexander, 1987; Alexander et al., 1985; Gackenbach, Cranson, & Alexander, 1986; Gackenbach, 1992) suggest a developmental relationship between these two forms of sleep consciousness with lucidity emerging prior to witnessing. By way of validating this proposed lucid-witnessing developmental relationship Gackenbach (unpublished data reported in Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989) found in a group of 80 TM meditators that prelucidity and lucidity occurred most frequently followed by witnessing dreams and that in those who had received instruction in the TM Sidhi program (an advanced technique) there was an increase in witnessing of dreams and deep sleep over those who had not been so instructed (parts of this data are reported in Gackenbach, Cranson & Alexander, 1986). In this section I will briefly review the work relating lucidity first to meditation then to witnessing. Both sets of connections include physiological as well as psychological aspects. Finally, lucid dreaming experiences in childhood will be examined.

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A1. Lucidity-Meditation Link

From virtually every level of analysis parallels, and in some cases potential causal agents, can be identified supporting the association of dream lucidity to the practice of meditation and thus on to the experience of pure consciousness. There are also now several studies of meditators and lucid dreamers which reveal important psychological and physiological parallels.

Some of the individual difference variables associated with the practice of meditation have also been found to be true of individuals who frequently dream lucidly while controlling for dream recall frequency. These include field independence (lucidity: Gackenbach, Heilman, Boyt, & LaBerge, 1985; meditation: Pelletier, 1974; Jedrczak, 1984),creativity (lucidity: Gackenbach, Curren, LaBerge, Davidson, & Maxwell, 1983; meditation: Orme-Johnson & Haynes, 1981);lower anxiety (lucidity: Gackenbach et al., 1983; meditation: Alexander, 1982); absorption (lucidity: Gackenbach, Cranson, & Alexander, 1986; meditation: Alexander, 1978; 1982); and private self-consciousness(lucidity: Gackenbach et al., 1983; meditation, West, 1982).

(The meditation findings are reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987, while the lucid dreaming findings are reviewed in Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988). A strong finding in both the lucidity (for review see Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988) and meditation (Reed, 1978; Faber, Saayman, & Touyz, 1978) literature's is that both are associated with enhanced dream recall despite decreases in REM time as the result of meditation (Banquet & Sailhan, 1976; Becker & Herter, 1973; Meirsman, 1989).

Of particular importance is that the waking practice of meditation is associated with the frequent experiences of lucidity in dreams (Hunt & McLeod, 1984; Reed, 1978; Sparrow, 1976) even when dream recall differences are controlled (Gackenbach et al., 1986; Gackenbach, Cranson, & Alexander, 1988). Further, reports of consciousness during deep sleep are related to clear experiences of transcending during meditation (reported in Alexander et al., 1987) as well as to breath suspension during meditation, the latter is thought to be a key physiological indicate of the experience of "pure" consciousness (Kesterson, 1985).

On a physiological level of analysis is further support for the meditation-lucidity link with the Hoffman or H-reflex, an electrically evoked monosynaptic spinal reflex which has been viewed as an indicate of the flexibility of central nervous system. Enhanced H-reflex suppression in REM (during lucid dreaming; Brylowski, 1986) and recovery in waking (as a function of meditation; Dillbeck, Orme-Johnson & Wallace, 1981; Haynes, Hebert, Reber & Orme-Johnson, 1976) both indicate a nervous system which is functioning maximally in accord with the needs of the state of the organism.

The EEG work with dream lucidity is unfortunately fairly limited at this point with the bulk having been done by Ogilvie, Hunt and associates (Ogilvie, Hunt, Sawicki, & McGowan, 1978; Ogilvie, Hunt, Tyson, Lucescu, & Jenkins, 1982; Ogilvie, Vieira & Small, 1988; Tyson, Ogilvie, & Hunt, 1984; Hunt & Ogilvie, 1988). The Ogilvie and Hunt group found, consistent with the meditation literature (West, 1980; Taneli & Krahne, 1987), variations in alpha as a function of stage of lucidity. Specifically, they found increased alpha in prelucid REM periods and early in lucidity and have likened this to the access phases of waking meditation.

West (1980) has pointed out that a more sophisticated examination of EEG changes in meditation should include the investigation of EEG coherence (COH). Meditation has been shown to increase COH especially in the alpha and theta bands relative to eyes closed, resting conditions. This work has been carried further to examine the relationship of COH to specific meditation experiences (for review see French & Beaumont, 1984). Farrow and Herbert (1982) reported that experiences of "transcending" to the state of pure consciousness during TM were associated with alpha, theta and beta global COH. In a recent paper (Gackenbach, 1992) I have argued that in terms of frontal leads, REM is interhemispherically coherent in the theta range relative to NREM, thus making it the state in which meditation like experiences (lucidity) would be most likely to occur. Several investigators have shown that lucidity primarily emerges out of REM (see LaBerge, 1988, for a review).

Clearly on several levels of analyses dream lucidity parallels waking meditation. Although lucidity can and does emerge spontaneously in nonmeditating populations, given these associations its not surprising that the average frequency of such experiences is considerably less than that in meditating adults (Gackenbach et al., 1986; Gackenbach et al., 1988).

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A2. Lucidity Witnessing Relationship

Although the association of lucidity to meditation can be made, of primary importance is the association of lucidity in dreams to witnessing dreams/sleep as the latter is defined as the experience of PC in sleep.

I shall now consider on a physiological level of analysis the relationship of lucidity to witnessing. Meirsman (1989) studied six advanced TM meditators (TM-Sidhi techniques) who reported witnessing sleep on the average of half the night. He argued that the practice of the TM-Sidhi's results in the "maintenance of ... alertness even during the inertia of deep night sleep" and that further " 'witnessing' of one's own sleep during the night seems to be the subjective experience of a physiologically more efficient (REM) sleep." Meirsman examined the incidence of an eye movement ratio (high frequency REM's/low frequency REM's [HF/LF]) from uninterrupted REM sleep, that is no prearranged eye movement signals were required. This ratio had been shown to be, "associated with cerebral maturation (age, intelligence, learning ability) and endocrinological maturation (age, second half of ovulatory cycle, second half of pregnancy)." Meirsman points out that this measure can be "defined as the capacity of the brain to structure 'order' from the 'noisy stream' of information." This researcher found that the REM sleep of the meditators who were conscious during it was more order-creating (higher HF/LF ratios) then that of the "unconscious" nonmeditators.

Unfortunately meditation practice in this study is confounded with reports of witnessing. According to the teachings of this meditation practice, a result of the practice will be sleep consciousness. Although spontaneous occurrences at this frequency (half the night) may occur, they are so rare as to be virtually nonexistent. Whereas my colleagues and I have shown in five samples that such high rates are not as unheard of in groups of TM meditators (Gackenbach et al., 1986; Gackenbach et al., 1988). It may be nearly impossible to separate sleep consciousness at this rate from the practice of meditation.

The most reliable physiological finding in the lucid dreaming literature is the association of high REM density to the lucid state in REM. Likewise, Meirsman reported that the total REM density was also significantly higher for the TM-Sidhi group when compared to controls. LaBerge (personal communication, March, 1989) compared the REM density of twelve lucid dreamers to that of Meirsman's six meditators. Although the means were about the same the variability among the lucid dreamers was quite high whereas it was notably small among the meditators. In other words, although both lucidity and witnessing (as a product of meditation) evidence the same average increase in REM density the meditators were more consistent across individuals, on a physiological level of analysis, in their experience.

Further in terms of the work of the Ogilvie and Hunt group who reported alpha in prelucid and early lucid episodes, so too Meirsman reports a large amplitude and lower frequency of alpha activity as associated with a higher HF/LF ratio and thus witnessing sleep. And more recently in pilot data on a long term TM meditator who reported witnessing sleep alpha was also observed. In fact, it was commented by the EEG expert in this study that the EEG sleep record of this meditator looked like one of a meditator while transcending in waking meditation (Charles Alexander, personal communication, July, 1989). LaBerge (1985) failed to find this alpha presence as did Tyson et al. (1984). However, in both cases the failure may have been associated with the disruption of REM sleep by the eye movement signal. There is some indication that when no signal was demanded or before a signal occurred alpha is associated with consciousness in sleep of both the lucid and witnessing varieties.

I cannot say if the Meirsman subjects also evidenced more somatic arousal, such as respiration and heart rate, as has been shown with LaBerge's lucid dreaming subjects. The single witnessing and signalling subject of Gackenbach et al. provides mixed data. On the one hand he was somatically less aroused but on the other hand his overall eye movement density was significantly less than two lucid dreamers who did not signal in the lab. Furthermore, when his heart rate, respiration and eye movement density were compared for pre and post eye movement signal differences, we found no significant pre-post signal differences for any of these variables from stages 2 or REM. However, for stage 1 eye movement and respiration showed significant pre-post signal differences. Eye movement density went up after the signal while respiration went down which together indicate the classic restful alertness claimed to occur as a result of the practice of TM.

Work on physiological associations of these states of consciousness in sleep is just beginning but early data show some physiological similarities and thus delineating the similarities and differences between lucidity and witnessing consciousness in sleep becomes important. Some understanding of this relationship can be found on psychological and phenomenological levels of analysis.

In conjunction with Cranson and Alexander (Gackenbach et al., 1986; Gackenbach et al., 1988) I have conducted several studies examining the relationship of dream lucidity to pure consciousness. The latter as expressed in the witness set during dreaming or dreamless sleep. We described each state to the subjects but by these descriptive sentences without labels:

Here are examples from the TM meditators of the three states of awareness:

LUCID DREAMING: "During a dream I will become aware of the dream as separate, then aware that I am dreaming. Then I begin to manipulate the story and the characters to create whatever situation I desire. At times, in unpleasant situations, I'll think as the dreamer 'I don't have to put up with this' and I change the dream or at least 'back out' of the involvement."

WITNESSING DREAMING: "Sometimes, whatever the content of the dream is, I feel an inner tranquillity of awareness that is removed from the dream. Sometimes, I may even be caught up in the dream but the inner awareness of peace remains."

WITNESSING DEEP SLEEP: "It is a feeling of infinite expansion and bliss and nothing else. Then I become aware that I exist but there is no individual personality. Gradually, I become aware that I am an individual but there are no details of who, where, what, when, etc. Eventually, these details fill in and I might awaken."

We found that although meditators reported experiencing more of all three types of sleep consciousness experiences, across samples lucid dreams were experienced more frequently than either witnessing dreams or witnessing deep sleep. This finding favoring the higher incidence of lucidity relative to witnessing also held across level of dream recall and supports the notion that lucid dreams are easier to access no matter what ones training or personal skills and therefore may represent a developmentally prior state of sleep consciousness leading eventually to the experience of pure consciousness.

As reported by Alexander (1988) in order to examine the differences between these three forms of sleep consciousness we did content analyses on these sleep experience reports collected from 66 males who were very advanced in their TM meditation practice. These were selected because it was believed that their training better equipped them as a group to be able to distinguish these subtle states of mind in sleep. Some validation for this assumption was gained when it was determined that only 17% of the 66 subjects lucid dreaming reports could not be used because they were either blank or questionable. This is compared to a loss of about 50% of nonmeditating subjects for the same reasons reported in my work with nonmeditators (for a review see Snyder and Gackenbach, 1988).

Most revealing of the content categories was feelings of separateness. In lucid dreaming only 7 percent of the cases were those in which people reported feeling separateness. Whereas in the witnessing dream experience, 73 percent of the cases reported in their dream description that the dream went on, but they were separate from it. On the other hand, dream control was much more frequent during lucid dreaming (47%) than witnessing dreams (5%). This is consistent with the claims that dream lucidity typically involves active information processing and manipulation of dream content. This is in contrast to the experience of pure consciousness where the Self does not act, but silently observes the changes occurring within waking, dreaming, and sleep.

Although each form of sleep consciousness was largely differentially characterized there were some characteristics which weren't so individual. In both lucid dreaming (11%) and witnessing dreaming (12%) experiences of the dream body flying were reported. Likewise state transitions were mentioned in both lucidity (20%) and witnessing deep sleep (55%) but not witnessing dreaming (2%).

Our work supports the notion that these three states of consciousness in sleep are qualitatively as well as quantitatively distinct existing along a developmental continuum with lucid dreaming emerging prior to witnessing dreaming or deep sleep. In fact, 19% of these elite TM meditators spontaneously mentioned the developmental relationship between lucidity and witnessing dreaming with comments such as witnessing dreaming, "is a clearer experience of ... [lucid dreaming]. The sense of self is more full and transcends the dream completely. It is large Self."

Alexander (1988) explains that, "the significance of the experience of pure consciousness is that it provides the foundation for the development of stable higher stages of consciousness or 'enlightenment'. Witnessing of deep sleep indicates that the inner wakefulness of pure consciousness is now beginning to be maintained even during the most extreme conditions of mental inertia dreamless sleep. Indeed ... the first stable higher stage of consciousness termed 'cosmic consciousness' is defined as the continual maintenance of pure consciousness throughout the 24-hour cycle of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep."

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A3. Lucid Dreaming Experiences in Children

Do children have lucid or witnessing experiences in sleep? There are several ways that we can answer this question, through self reports by children or adult memories, and through sleep laboratory inquiries.

Although there is ample anecdotal evidence that children can have these sleep experiences (LaBerge, 1985), only two studies have systematically examined such adult recall. Millar (1990) administered a questionnaire to 139 self professed psychic practitioners asking them about their psychological experience associated with the development of their psychic abilities. A large percentage (41%) said their lucid dream experiences began in childhood with most of the remaining reporting adult starts. Hunt (1991) recently reported on similar survey data on meditating and nonmeditating populations. He found that meditators reported more childhood experiences of lucid dreaming than nonmeditators but found no group differences in adolescence or adulthood frequencies.

Hunt, Gervais, Shearing-Johns, and Travis (1991) found high lucid dreaming frequency in childhood as part of a cluster of other positive transpersonal experiences during the same period. This cluster was associated in nonmeditators with superior spatial skills and lower neuroticism. In this study, especially high childhood levels of lucid dreaming were reported in meditators for whom many other healthful benefits have been noted. It is not possible to say to what extent this was a lucid dreaming/transpersonal predisposition or the practice of individual meditation. Although most meditation research concludes the latter, none that I know of has controlled for the childhood incidence of transpersonal experiences.

Only one study has validated the authenticity of lucid experiences in children. Armstrong Hickey (1988), surveyed 100 10 to 12 year old children about their lucid dreaming experiences. She chose this age range because of the work of Foulkes (1982), who found in his extensive work with children's dreams that at about 10 years they make a conceptual leap and come to recognize that they are creating the dream while awake.

Sixty-two percent of Armstrong Hickey's subjects reported remembering at least one lucid dreaming incident with the largest frequency of lucid dreams at the 10 year old level (63%) and the lowest at the 12 year-old level (36%). This drop in self-reported incidence may be that by age twelve children are more fully aware of western cultural norms that they should ignore dreams as unimportant.

She then went on to conduct a six week training program with 13 of these children. All but one of them reported at least one lucid dream during the training. This is illustrative:

I saw a giant Mickey Mouse that was pink and orange and yellow. At first I was scared. Then I realized that that couldn't be true, and I must be dreaming. I thought that it was funny then. I got to be as big as it.

In the firmest verification of childhood potential for lucid dreaming she took four of the children into the sleep laboratory and instructed them to signal with a prearranged set of eye movements when they knew they were dreaming. In four nights of sleep laboratory data for these four subjects, two of them were able to do this with their reports upon waking concurring with the eye movement signals identified on the polygraph.

One 10-year old girl was especially skilled. Although she reported only one lucid dream per year prior to Armstrong Hickey's study she had the most lucid dreams during the training program (n=7) and five signal verified lucid dreams while in the sleep laboratory. Armstrong Hickey (personnel communication, Oct. 1991) commented that she did not feel the child wanted to only do want adults wanted, rather the girl struck this clinical psychologist as competent with a good parental relationship and firm self esteem. Armstrong Hickey explained that the child really wanted to do the project because she was taking ballet lessons and had some trepidation about dancing on her toes. The child figured that if she could do it in her dream she could do it while awake. All of her lucid dreams in both the diary and the sleep lab components of the study were of ballet:

I told myself to dream that I was in the ballet and that I had point shoes on and that's what I did. I had a lucid dream because I knew that I really couldn't dance on point shoes.

Although she was a very playful child, the researcher noted, she was also very focused and seemed more mature than the other children.

On a more empirical note, the potential healthful benefits of lucid dreaming were also investigated in this study. Armstrong Hickey administered a children's self concept scale before and after the six week training program. She found no significant difference in self concept. Two things may have contributed to this finding, first although all of the children increased in their self concept scores during the course of training, one dropped dramatically. Secondly the training program may not have been long enough to show significant self-concept changes.

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A4. Recap Sleep Consciousness

In this section I have shown that consciousness in sleep is an expression of pure consciousness in sleep (witnessing) or a developmental precursor to it (lucid dreaming). As with pure consciousness/mystical experiences, consciousness in sleep is also seen in children.

I will now consider experiences which are related to or have in common two of the characteristics of the lucid dream-pure consciousness continuum. First is the deembedding or turning around on self characteristic of lucid dreaming/witnessing which is often spoken of in the meditative traditions as crucial to a heightened or broader self awareness. The much sought after "attitude" of detachment in most of the worlds spiritual traditions has not only a personality component but more centrally a spatial component. This aspect is often understated and thus the problem of detachment become a psychological operation often confused with denial without the appropriate psychological integration. The superior spatial skills of lucid dreamers (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988) and meditators (Alexander et al., 1987) is well established.

The second major characteristic shared by some of these experiences is the unity, merging, numinous quality of pure consciousness. The experiences which will now be discussed are the out-of-body (OBE); Near-death (NDE) and 'I-Am-Me" experiences (IAM).

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B. Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)

Immediately prior to the current work on lucidity, western references to this nocturnal experience were almost exclusively found in the literature discussing the OBE. OBE's have been known to occur in deep meditative states, while under the influence of psychedelics, commonly associated with near-death experiences, and occasionally while engaged in some waking activity (Irwin, 1985).

The majority of OBE's, however, arise at or near sleep with the next most frequent precipitator being periods of extreme waking stress. Of those associated with sleep Hunt and Ogilvie (1988) explain, "it is as if a dreaming sequence starts but, atypically, awareness of one's actual setting in time and space is dislodged as in most dreams." Rather, the dreamer integrates "the imaginal participation's of the dream with a detached self-awareness that knows one's actual context for what it is." Relatedly, LaBerge, Levitan, Brylowski & Dement (1988) propose a REM sleep hypothesis for OBE's.

Irwin (1988) argues that lucid dreams and OBE's are neither, "phenomenologically or neurophysiologically equivalent." None-the-less because of their strong statistical association, they reliably occur in the same people thus he too has searched for common mechanisms. Blackmore (1988) argues that they are both due to the same sort of mental model building process similar to the ones which have been developed for lucid dreaming.

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B1. Mental Models of Lucid Dreaming and OBE's

Several thinkers have used the mental model building process to account for lucid dreaming and the out-of-body experience (LaBerge, 1985; Blackmore, 1988; 1989; Tart, 1989; reviewed and summarized in Gackenbach, 1991). Although this is a somewhat different way of thinking of lucid dreaming it is not incompatible with the lucidity/meditation/pure consciousness links drawn earlier. This is especially evident in the work of Tart (1989).

One of the two best presentations of the information processing view of lucid dreaming/OBE's is that of Blackmore (1988; 1989). Blackmore's perspective places emphasis on a model of self in the world. She concludes about the model building process:

We create all the time a model of self in the world. It is continuously built up from and checked against sensory information and backed up by memory. The result is that we seem to be a person located inside a body, perceiving a stable external world. In other words, we have an effective "model of reality" (Blackmore, 1988; p. 377).

Since several models are possible it is the "stability" of a model which allows it to dominate as the current version of reality. Fluctuations in the strictness of our criteria for tolerating discrepancies between the existing model and new input determine which model takes ascendance. Strict criterion, for example, tolerate fewer discrepancies between the existing model and new input, and require the frequent model updating. This is allowed by the large processing capacities of the awake mind. Less strict criteria accept larger discrepancies. Thus we see more errors in perception for the sake of savings in processing. At the least strict criterion, as in sleep, the model shifts away from primarily externally generated input in order to ignore increasingly large discrepancies (Blackmore, 1988). Thus, for Blackmore, which model of reality takes dominance is a function of variations in both arousal, which allows greater (awake) or lesser (asleep) processing capacity, and sensory input (external or internal) which effects the strictness of criterion.

She also tackles the complex issue of selecting which model appears in awareness by first assuming that all mental models are conscious or, "consciousness is what it is like being a mental model" (Blackmore, 1988; p. 379). She continues, "why then am 'I' apparently conscious of some and not others? Because 'I' am only a model like everything else" (p. 379). Models that are part of my model of self for now are thus in "my" awareness. Other models are only in their awareness, which may be fleeting and ephemeral to me, now. Thus for Blackmore in normal states of consciousness, there is one overriding model of self in the world which she calls a "model of reality." In extreme ASCs [altered states of consciousness], other "models of reality", or chaos, or stillness might become the prevailing "model of reality". She argues that in some ASCs one can even gain insight into the constructed nature of the self.

In dreaming sleep, which she limits to REM, arousal increases without sensory input being processed thus no good input-controlled model is available. But because the dominant model at any one time will seem real, the model that now takes on "reality" status is whichever one happens to be the most convincing at the time. In dreams, of course, this could be anything at all that imagination can create. She suggests that this is why dreams are both so bizarre and yet so convincingly real because we are effectively stranded in a mental world without a stable input-controlled model of who and where we are.

In ordinary dreaming something can happen which can raise the idea of dreaming, such as a recurrent theme. Then a model is engaged which states 'this is a dream and you are asleep'. This model, according to Blackmore, can gain the advantage if enough information from memory is available. Thus memory is crucial for Blackmores view of how lucidity emerges.

With regards to OBEs, at two arousal points the system is forced to create a new mental model of experience thus resulting in the reorientation of the perception of the locus of "self" as "outside" the physical body. The most frequent condition is when one is denied sensory inputs as when one is at or near sleep. Without sensory inputs as to the appropriate location of "self" the system is more fluid in its model building process. Although in the case of sleep mentation "self" is still most frequently "located" in the dream ego body.

The other extreme is when the system is on overload, as with physical or mental stress. Due to the potential negative consequences of self being so strongly identified with the body it relinquishes such an identification and "locates" elsewhere. In other words, it rebuilds or selects an alternate mental model of self and body but this time self is outside of body. In the midrange of the arousal continuum we reliably construct self as inside our bodies, a useful and adaptive construction, but a construction none-the-less (Yates, 1985). When we move out of that "narrow band" the mental model building process easily breaks down. So overload (stress) and underload (sleep) facilitate more fluid reconstruction's of self relative to body, i.e. "out-of".

Let me illustrate, after 34 hours of labor I was fantasizing amidst loud shrieks, that if I could only jump off the labor table and run down the hospital hallway all would be fine. Quite suddenly I found my"self" on the ceiling of the labor room looking down on my husband rubbing my back. As I was all hooked up to fetal monitors this was the best "running away" I could manage. I recall thinking to myself, "Ah, this is much better!" But at that moment my daughter decided to enter the birth cannel and "I" was immediately "inside" my body again.

This understanding of the OBE shows that we can deconstruct our model of reality in an adaptive and nonpathological manner by turning around on self as needed it also sheds light on the constructed nature of all dreams and how lucid dreams allow a preliminary "waking up" to said constructions.

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B2. Fantasy Prone Interpretation of OBE's

Fantasy prone individuals have a "unique constellation of personality traits and experiences that coalesced around a deep, profound, and long-standing involvement in fantasy and imagination (Lynn & Rhue, 1988; p. 35)." It has been suggested that the fantasy prone personality can account for such "diverse phenomena as hypnosis; out-of-body, religious, visionary, parapsychological, and near-death experiences (p. 35)." The construct emerged out of the hypnosis literature with the work of Wilson and Barber (1981). However, Lynn and Rhue (1988) in a review of the literature concluded that fantasy proneness and hypnotizability are only modestly related with attitudinal and motivational factors moderating the relationship.

As for the developmental antecedents of fantasy proneness, it has traditionally been thought that there are two developmental pathways to extreme fantasy proneness and hypnotic susceptibility in later life. First, Lynn and Rhue point out that numerous studies have shown the importance of an adult support for the development of fantasy. Such adults tend to frequently read fairy tales to their children, treat their child's play objects as if they were alive and expose the children to theater. The second path to high fantasy proneness is due to loneliness and isolation and as an escape from an aversive environment. For instance in one study "6 of 21 fantasizers reported being severely physically abused as children (e.g., bruises, bleeding or broken bones), none of the other subjects reported comparable punishment (p. 40)." Furthermore this severe punishment continued more often and over a longer period of time than for nonfantasizers.

Finally they considered the relationship of fantasy proneness to psychopathology. Lynn and Rhue concluded there is "some degree of overlap between relative healthy imaginative tendencies and pathological ideational processes. Although a sizable minority (20 to 35%) of fantasy prone individuals exhibit significant signs of maladjustment, the majority show an "adequate balance between their inner life and the constraints of reality (p. 41)." So that this form of coping may be viewed as an adaptive "and perhaps compensatory function in relatively nondefensive individuals (p. 41)."

The association of fantasy proneness to parapsychological experiences has been recently supported in terms of its correlation to paranormal belief (Irwin, 1991). However, Ring and Rosing (1990) found no difference between controls and UFO or NDE experiencers on fantasy proneness. Irwin (1985) argues that OBEers are not high on fantasy proneness rather on absorption.

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B3. Mystical Components of the OBE

Irwin (1985) summarized the research on religion, religiosity, and spirituality as associated with the OBE. Based on several survey studies and one experimental manipulation he concluded:

In short there is no conclusive evidence that (intellectually) religious variables contribute to either the occurrence or the content of the OBE, although the bases of supernaturalistic elements in near-death OBEs warrant clarification in this regard (p. 189).

However, when interpretations of the experience are examined than a spiritual component emerges as they are commonly interpreted by the individual as spiritual. Two factors contribute to this interpretation. The first is the situation in which they occur; "if the experient was near death at the time the OBE is much more likely to be regarded in a religious connotation (p. 215)." Second is the individuals religiosity. Irwin concludes about this factor:

In the final analysis there probably is a two-way relationship between religiosity and the OBE. If the experient is religious the OBE is more likely to be recalled in spiritual terms. At the same time the OBE may have certain inherent spiritual connotations and these may function to counter or redirect the developmental tendency to abandon religion; in fact some elements of the experience even may produce an increase in religious concern (p. 216).

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B4. OBE's in Children

Several studies (reviewed in Irwin, 1985) have examined age of onset of OBE's although there was no difference as a function of age in his own data, there was an apparent dearth of experiences before age 5 years. Irwin notes that details of OBE's before age 5 are also rare. In Millar's (1990) survey of psychics, 37% reported OBE's in childhood while Hunt et al. (1991) found significantly more in meditators than in nonmeditators during childhood. All childhood OBE incidence estimates are from adult memories with no systematic research on children.

Stanford (1987) took a developmental perspective on those who have had out-of-body experiences. Undergraduate students with varying frequencies and types of OBE's were asked about the percentage of time during childhood they spent reading/read to, playing imaginary games alone, playing with imaginary playmates, playing with other children, use of a transitional object (doll/blanket), spanking and deprivation as punishment, and use of imagination to cope with punishment. By making a distinction between OBE's experienced while awake and while asleep he found a slightly different pattern of imaginal activities.

An early, strong involvement with reading seems particularly likely among individuals who report having typically (or exclusively) had an OBE while awake, and there was suggestive evidence that OBEers who report themselves as typically being awake during the experience are likely to have spent relatively little time as children playing with other children. Similarly, those who report an OBE as typically having occurred while they were falling asleep are more likely to have spent considerable time playing with one or more imaginary playmates. (p. 151)

Stanford (1987) found regarding parental discipline:

There was no evidence here that strict parental discipline, manifest in physical punishment and deprivation as punishment, favored the occurrence of OBEs during waking or while falling asleep (p. 152)

Although Stanford did not rule out the fantasy-prone hypothesis he did point out that although there may be predisposing familial circumstances for the OBE to occur it also requires a cognitive capacity, such as absorption.

In Irwin's (1985) comprehensive review of the OBE literature he concludes that although childhood or family religiosity or religion do not affect occurrence of OBE's nor the content, such religious related developmental variables do affect interpretation. He notes:

In my sample . . . despite no difference between childhood religiosity, nonexperients now tend to have abandoned their religion whereas experients have resisted this trend by remaining at least "slightly religious." Further, among those respondents who currently still are religious, the OBErs show a lower rate of affiliation with traditional Christian institutions, that is they are more inclined than nonexperients to adopt unorthodox religious beliefs . . . OBE in a near-death situation may not only arrest the religious decline with age but actually bring about an increase in religiosity (p. 216).

B5. Recap Out-of-Body-Experiences

In this section I have shown that OBE's are reliably associated with lucid dreaming and that similar cognitive (mental model building) mechanisms may account for them. Although, as with the other experiences discussed, OBE's are rare in childhood but they do exist.

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C. Near-Death Experiences (NDE)

NDE's, which typically occur during periods of the severest biological stress, can be conceptualized as an extreme case of the mental model building process which combines the intensified deembedding from self of the OBE with the unity aspect of the mystical experience.

In a recent review of the NDE literature, Groth-Marnat and Schumaker (1989; for another review see Glen & Owen, 1988) began by tracing the history of such inquiries to the late 19th century when there was intense interest in studying the last moments of dying. These early investigators found that, "deathbed visions occurred frequently and were usually accompanied by intense emotion (p. 111)." This interest dropped off in the mid-20th century but was picked up again with the popularization of Kubler-Ross's (1969) and Moody's (1975) work.

The protypical NDE has been mapped in four research studies following Moody's original descriptive work (Noyes & Slymen, 1979; Ring, 1979; Sabom, 1982; Greyson, 1983). Only two characteristics, "calm or peace" and OBE's, were found in all four studies while two characteristics, unearthly world and being of light, were identified in three of the four studies. These reviewers conclude that, "preliminary studies from different cultures suggest that the general pattern of the NDE is universal, even though there does seem to be some variation in detail and interpretation (p. 118)." In terms of frequency, Groth-Marnat and Schumaker (1989) point out that, "persons with serious illnesses were more likely to experience NDEs than persons experiencing near-fatal accidents (p. 113)."

Another area which has received considerable attention is the after effects of NDE's. These are likely to be powerful and include, "reduced fear of death and a more favorable view of life . . . increased belief in afterlife . . . greater self-acceptance . . . increased concern for others, less interest in material possessions . . . a religious awakening/philosophical reorientation . . . a greater orientation toward the present . . . and an increased openness to experiencing psychic phenomena (p. 118-119)." In summarizing this work Ring (1984; 1986) has theorized that NDE's may be modern releaser's for a spiritual awakening. Ring (1983) has found that NDEers move from a traditional Christian orientation to a "universalistically spiritual orientation" which he describes as:

1. A tendency to characterize oneself as spiritual rather than religious per se.

2. A feeling of being inwardly close to God.

3. A deemphasis of the formal aspects of religious life and worship.

4. A conviction that there is life after death, regardless of religious belief.

5. An openness to the doctrine of reincarnation (and a general sympathy toward Eastern religions).

6. A belief in the essential underlying unity of all religions.

7. A desire for a universal religion embracing all humanity (p. 146).

The range of this new orientation is powerfully described by physicist John Wren-Lewis (1985) after his own NDE which did not have many of the classical characteristics but which he described as "simply dissolved into an apparently spaceless and timeless void which was total 'nothing'ness' yet at the same time the most intense, blissful aliveness I have ever known (p. 4)." The after-effects of this apparent experience of pure consciousness he described as a "living void" which acts as a:

background to my consciousness and the effect is that I experience everything, including this sixty-year-old body-mind, as a continuous outpouring of Being, where-in every part is simultaneously the whole, manifesting afresh moment by moment from that infinite Dark. As 'John' I seem to have no separate existence, but am simply the Void knowing itself in manifestation, and in that process of continuous creation everything seems to celebrate coming into being with a shout of joy - 'Behold, it is very good!' Yet the experience is in no sense a high, for its feeling-tone is one of gentle equanimity. My impression is rather that I am now knowing the true ordinariness of everything for the first time, and that what I used to call normal consciousness was in fact clouded (p. 4-5).

The area of largest controversy is in explanations for NDE's. Theories range from evidence for the existence of afterlife to simply a subjective experience to epiphenomena of physiological processes. Groth-Manat & Schumaker (1989) conclude that although several physiological mechanisms have been identified which may contribute to the NDE experience these explanations fail to account for all the data and thus cannot be considered comprehensive. Psychological explanations include, "hallucinations based on expectations, depersonalization and regression in the service of the ego, replay of perinatal experiences, and the activation of archetypes (p. 122)." Related to these types of explanations are NDE like experiences which don't occur near death.

The near-death scenario is not limited to actually being near death. Gillespie (1985) reports a similar pattern in a dream, while Rogo (1990) tells of how he induced a NDE from a self induced OBE out of REM sleep. Siegel and Hirschman (1984) and Ring (1988) report on experiences of dying associated with hashish or LSD/hashish use. Finally in a detailed analysis of an NDE like experience, Holden and Guest (1990) tell of a protypical NDE while awake during a marital crisis. In a summary of Guests experience the authors note that although she was fully conscious during it she felt that it happened to her, completely out of her control. The content involved marital memories rather than all of life memories, was chronological and predominantly visual. Also like the classical NDE Guest's experience, "provided her with deep, new insight, and with a profound sense of love of self and husband, of responsibility that precluded blaming of others, and of forgiveness that precluded blaming of self (p. 15)." These sorts of NDE experiences outside of the realm of extreme bodily crisis (death) imply a psychodynamic function.

The most controversial explanations are the view that the NDE is an objective experience independent of biological functioning. These reviewers note that:

Persons using NDEs to support a survivalist position point to the invariance or universality of the experience . . . empirical verification of objective events during the out-of-body component of the NDE . . . parallels in ancient texts such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead . . . and the inability of current scientific theories to explain either the event itself or the beneficial effects following an NDE (p. 126).

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C1. NDE's and Lucid Dreams

In this brief review of the NDE literature we showed that it is related to mystical experiences (being of light and after affects) and OBE's. Several studies have looked directly at the NDE/lucid dream relationship. Kohr (1982) identified three groups of respondents, who differed in whether or not they had had a near-death experience. The experiencing group indicated they had come close to death, had a deep, moving personal experience, and had one or more of the six types of experiences described in the research on NDE's. A second group indicated that they had come close to death and may or may not have had a moving personal experience. The third group was referred to as the non-experiencing group, composed of persons who had never come close to death. In terms of dream states the experiencing group reported a greater frequency of unusual dream states including lucidity.

In a another study Greyson (1982) compared controls, those who were members of the International Association for Near-Death Studies but had never had such an experience to NDEers from that organization. He found that similar to normative studies 54% of his controls had lucid dreams. Among near-death experiencers, 13 out of 62 respondents (21%) reported having had lucid dreams prior to their NDE's while 33 (53%) reported having had lucid dreams since their NDE's. These two studies imply that NDE's increase lucid dreaming frequency.

The NDE is an experience which embraces both the sudden turning around on self, deembedding of the lucid dream, OBE, I-am-me (IAM) with the fusion, unity quality of the mystical/PC experience. The classic NDE, of course, involves an OBE and a moving toward (if not complete fusion with) a "being of light". That is not to say that in some sense all the other marker experiences might not also have components of both separation/unity but none in such apparent strength as an NDE.

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C2. NDE's in Children

Probably the earliest NDE reported is at birth from adult recall. Serdahely and Walker (1990) report on the case of a 23-year old woman who had a near-death experience at birth which was recalled as a recurring nightmare while a child. These nightmares ended about age six but what makes this of interest is that the girl had been born dead and revived after five minutes.

In a review of the NDE literature, Groth-Marnat and Schumaker (1989) concluded regarding childrens NDE's that:

the frequency and pattern for children's NDEs is the same as for adults . . . but they are less likely to have encounters with deceased relatives . . . and persons under 20 are more likely to report speeded and vivid thought, strange bodily sensations, and a feeling of being controlled by outside forces. . . Whereas [some] have reported fewer life reviews in younger populations [others] . . . have reported more (p. 117)

Gabbard and Twemlow (1984) report on several NDE's in children, two directly from preschoolers and one from an adult of an experience she had at age seven. For instance, two year old Todd bit into an electrical cord and upon arriving in the emergency room showed no heart beat and no respiration. After months of recovery to full functioning his mother asked him:

"Could you tell Mommy what you remember when you bit the cord of the vacuum cleaner?" Without even looking up, he told her, "I went in a room with a very nice man and sat with him." His mother asked him what the room looked like. Todd replied, "It had a big bright light in the ceiling," . . . Todd's mother then asked him what the man said to him, and Todd responded, "He asked me if I wanted to stay there or come back to you." Looking up at his mother, he said, "I wanted to be with you and come home."

Todd's mother wrote of these events in Todd's baby book in 1972, a few years before Moody's book appeared.

In all of the cases reported in Gabbard and Twemlow (1984) the child had not heard of NDE's yet evidenced many of the common features of adult NDE's. Gabbard and Twemlow compared two preschool accounts with two 7-year old accounts. In keeping with their developmental stage, the beings of light in the younger children's experiences are one-dimensional. They note that, "these two figures lack the richness and complexity of the adult NDE figure. They resemble ordinary, nonmystical parental figures (p. 165)". In contrast, those of the older children were much more well formed with "good and bad qualities, although they are still not integrated into one individual (p. 165)." They conclude:

In the adult NDE the being of light is closer to a whole object, ambivalently viewed as one would view a parent. This figure loves and accepts the NDEer while judging how the NDEer has lived his or her life and commanding the NDEer to return. This being of light is a well-rounded figure who evokes both love and fear in the subject. It is a coincidence that this figure is often taken to be God, since the Western anthropomorphized view of God is the powerful parent, that is, God, the Father, who evokes both fear and love in his subjects. . . whatever figure is perceived in the course of the near-death experience will be perceived through an individual filter or template of internalized objects, which is developmentally determined by the age of the child and the child's experience with significant objects in his or her environment (p. 165).

A couple of subtle variations on NDE's in children should be mentioned. Serdahely (1989-90) reported on a NDE of an 8-year old after near drowning. In it the boy was comforted by two recently deceased family pets rather than human type beings. This is consistent with developmental literature of animals in dreams as significantly higher in children then adults and supports the notion of NDE's phenomenon as being developmentally appropriate for the age.

Finally several investigators have examined the developmental antecedents of NDE's in adulthood. Serdahely (1987-88) reported on three cases of women with histories of child and sexual abuse and how the being of light was a female whose role was to provide comfort for suffering children. In a more comprehensive study Ring and Rosing (1990) report on a complex array of developmental antecedents in NDE's. They found that although as children they were not especially inclined toward fantasy proneness, "they are apparently already sensitive to non-ordinary realities . . . child abuse and trauma and other stresses, such as serious illness may contribute to this kind of sensitivity, but this study doesn't establish that they have a primary, much less exclusive, role in this regard (p. 71 & 73)." This study will be considered in more detail in the next section.

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C3. Unidentified Flying Object Abduction Experiences (UFOE)

It may seem surprising to find the UFO abduction experience included under NDE's or in this chapter at all. But in a recent study of the developmental antecedents of UFOE's, Ring and Rosing (1990) found a very similar pattern of childhood neglect in both NDE and UFOE experients which parallels in some respects that described by Goldenthal for psychics, Stanford (1987) for OBEer's, and Lynn and Rhue (1988) for fantasy prone individuals. The "reality" of the UFO scenario is not relevant to this discussion whereas the mental aspects of these experiences is and has been the focus of several contemporary psychologists, starting with Jung (1964).

UFOE's have been conceptualized as "confabulations, tapestries stitched together from actual experience, the stories of others who were there, events that have happened since, and perhaps a dash of wishful thinking (Bird, 1989)," but it is a major disservice to those who experience them to hold that "rational people view the stories with amusement (Bird, 1989)." Although the fantasy prone hypothesis or sleep related phenomenon may account for some of the mechanism of these experiences more sophisticated theories see these as the currently emerging myths of science (Grosso, 1985).

I would argue that OBE's, NDE's and UFOE's are generally inaccurate, if powerful, attributions of the state of the organism. Most, but not all, occur in states of either sensory underload (at or near sleep), or overload (physical or emotional stress). Even the UFO abductions from a car typically occur while the driver is in an deserted stretch of road, with many at night. Such low or constant stimulus driving conditions certainly induce hypnagogic or trance like states which are highly susceptible to fluid mental modeling processes. At these two extremes of the arousal continuum it is easier to reconstruct the mental model of lived world. Thus we see the face valid attribution by the experients of their apparent reality status ("I am out of my body", " I am dead", or "I am being abducted by aliens"). So too in nonlucid dreams there is an inaccurate attribution, "This is real, I am awake." However, in the case of the lucid dream the attribution process is accurate ("I am dreaming.").

These three experiences, OBE, NDE and UFOE, are some of the few imaginal realms that are more "real" than dreams (as are lucid dreams) but like nonlucid dreams they carry the same inaccurate attribution. For most of us dreams are the strongest experiences of the mind that appear to occur "outside" of consensus reality. When we are dreaming, while in the dream, it feels real. Even if we know it to be a dream while still in the dream, it still feels real or even hyper-real. But in the vast majority of dreams we suffer a peculiar "single-mindedness" (Rechtschaffen, 1978) in that we are sure we are awake. Typically we have no idea that we are dreaming while we dream. So too in the "dreams" (while awake, asleep or somewhere in between) of OBE's, NDE's, and UFOE's, we are certain that what is occurring is "real" in the same sense of waking consensus reality. In lucid dreams we "wake up" to the dream reality without loosing its felt sense of reality. And so too rarely might an experient of these other experiences accurately attribute the true nature of his or her state. But as with dreams these accurate attributions are the exception not the rule.

This experience from Worsley (1988), the first lucid dreamer to signal in a sleep laboratory from sleep that he knew he was dreaming, illustrates my point. In speaking about lucid dreaming, which he directly enters from the waking state by lying for up to 2 hours on his back and not moving, Worsley comments:

I am not given to superstition or believing in 'unnecessary entities' but perhaps the term "dream" is a little too bland to do justice to the ultra-realism of these experiences. For instance, if one "dreams," as I have, in rich tactile and auditory imagery of being examined in the dark by robots or operated upon by small beings whose good will and competence may be in doubt, or abused in various ways by life-forms not known to terrestrial biology, it can be very difficult to keep still. I have found that if I do not keep still this peculiar state of consciousness usually evaporates in a moment. That can be very useful as an escape route but it can be annoying to lose it when the success rate is not high and each attempt takes two hours or more. I like to regard myself as at least a moderately intrepid investigator, but I have to admit that in spite of being intellectually of the opinion that what was happening was only internally generated imagery, I have flinched during these episodes on more than one occasion . . . I suspect that many "UFO abduction" experiences, as well as out-of-body-experiences are examples of the same kind of thing. (p. 51).

I want to stress that the felt reality of these experiences, be they OBE, NDE, or UFOE, is profound and should not be understated. But a sense of hyper-reality has also been reported in lucid dreams (Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989). Because of it the relatively unsophisticated observer, which is probably most of us, often concludes that such experiences are "real" in the sense of consensual waking reality. Only in the case of the lucid dream does the experience feel real while we experience it even though we are fully aware at the time that it is not "real". Thus lucid dreaming represents a breakthrough of sorts for these types of experiences, in the sense of the "waking up" called for in the meditative traditions. These experiences, especially the NDE and UFOE are often reported as transformative. Further, Grosso (1982) points out that at deep levels they "seem to be phenomenologically similar to the mystical experience". This is supported by the NDE-lucid research reported on earlier showing that NDE's increase the frequency of lucid dreaming.

As for the developmental characteristics of the NDE and UFOE experients, Ring and Rosing (1990) surveyed 264 people of four types: UFO encounter group, interest in but no significant UFO experience, NDE group, and interested in NDE but no experience. They found no difference between the four groups in childhood fantasy proneness but did find significant superiority of the two experiencing groups in childhood psychic experiences and childhood sensitivity to nonordinary realities. Items which identified these latter two scales included, "As a child, I was aware of non-physical beings while I was awake" or "As a child, I was able to see into 'other realities' that others didn't seem to be aware of (p. 70)."

These investigators also looked at childhood abuse and trauma, specifically physical mistreatment, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and negative home atmosphere. Again both types of experiencers reported significantly more of all forms of abuse than interested nonexperiencers. Relatedly, experiencers of both forms also reported significantly more serious childhood illnesses than nonexperiencers. Despite the significant differences and similar to the OBE developmental antecedents, these authors caution that this may contribute to the later life experiences but other factors may also be of importance.

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C4. Recap of Near-death Experiences

In this section I have briefly reviewed the NDE literature with special attention to their relationship to lucid dreams, OBE's and mystical states. Here too they were seen in children and adults who have had them shown similar developmental antecedents as OBE and UFOE experients.

D. 'I-Am-Me' Experience

When I was 11 years old Russia sent Sputnik up and I was fascinated by our first reach to space. At about the same time my mother went through a very difficult emotional period which was so distressing for her that she had to be hospitalized. Needless to say before my father made the decision to hospitalize her there was a lot of yelling, screaming, and general emotional intensity around our home. At about this time I walked outside of our home in Pennsylvania on an especially clear evening in the summer. I looked at the stars and quite suddenly "woke up" in some sense. I felt like I did not belong in my body, that I was trapped there, that I had in fact come from the stars and wanted desperately to return "home". I shed tears and felt my heart ache in the name of an incredibly deep compassion for the human condition as "they" were trapped in these shells of which I was all too aware. How like a prison being in a body was, or so it seemed to me. The image of bars as I looked out of my eyes seemed to fit. I longed from the depths of my 11 year old soul to go home out there in the stars. Yet I knew that I had screwed up or that for some reason I had to stay here, in this body.

Now as a psychologist I can "interpret" this experience as a child/woman just emerging into her own body which somehow feels strange as the ravages of puberty took their toll (I began menstruating at 11 years). I would look to how my emotions may have seemed to be controlling me especially in the context of the out of whack emotional turmoil my mothers struggle was subjecting our family to. Surrounding my personal and familial turmoil was my cultures obsession with the space race. This combination of tensions is in some way contributory, it is also inadequate to explain the full meaning and power of those few moments on my front lawn. Somehow IN THE CONTEXT OF THAT PERIOD OF MY LIFE, I glimpsed, if however briefly, my "true" identity. That is the "me" that is more than just this body, this name, these roles. The me that does in some very real way want to go home even today.

Many years later I ran across an obscure article which seemed to address my experience. This rarely examined experience, which seems to represent another form of turning around on the self or deembedding which has been one of two key characteristics of these experiences. The I-am-me (IAM) experience was identified by Spiegelberg (1964) who explains:

I submit that especially in the context of its actual occurrence it is the outgrowth of a peculiar amazement, a vertignous feeling which is particularly acute in childhood but by no means restricted to it. It differs significantly from the mere everyday awareness of selfhood or individuality as signified by the use of the pronoun "I". For the I-am-me experience involves a peculiar centripetal movement not to be found in the ordinary outward turn of our "I"-consciousness or even in the simple statement "I am." (p. 3)

Spiegelberg illustrates this from Carl Gustave Jung's autobiography:

At that time another important experience occurred. It happened on my long walk to school from Klein-Huningen, where we lived, to Basel. There was a moment there in which I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling of having just come out of a dense fog with the consciousness: now I am me. At my back there was something like a fog bank behind which I had not yet been. But at that moment I became an event to myself. Before that I was also around, but everything had merely taken place. Now, however, I knew: now I am me, now I am really here. Before, things were merely done to me, but now I was the one who willed. This experience seemed to me enormously significant and novel. There was authenticity in it." (p. 7).

Spiegelberg argues that these experiences share common characteristics.

1) it is given to the inside observer 2) it is at the start "alarmingly unadjusted to its plight", disoriented 3) dissociation of the "me" from the body, thus very different from normal bodily and mental processes 4) occurs with sudden shock, anything but gradual 5) "the experience has no primary reference to past and future phases in its development nor to other comparable selves (p. 9)" 6) "an experience of self-identity in depth rather than in temporal length and social breadth (p. 9)"

He pursued the incidence of the IAM experience with a series of surveys. He gave informants a sample experience with many of the key characteristics. All but 8% of his first sample of 59 students found it understandable and 45% of these could back it up with a similar experience yet only 25% had heard of such an experience from others.

In Spiegelbergs work he broadened his conceptualization to embrace gradual experiences and found in a second survey that only 25% were of the sudden variety for our purposes it is the sudden variety which is of interest. Lucid dreams, OBE's, NDE's, UFOE's, mystical experiences like the IAM have that sudden quality. Although reports of gradual ones exist they are more often marked by a sudden shift in position/awareness of self/state. Spiegelberg concludes that, "the experience which is most intense in childhood and adolescence, gradually loses its poignancy as people get used to, and diverted from, the original phenomenon. (p. 19)" and suggests that "one might, for instance, suspect that the I-am-me experience is the result of some traumatic event (p. 20)."

In a rare study of religious experiences in childhood, Robinson (1983) spends a chapter talking about the emergence of "self" in childhood. His discussion was generated from this question which he administered to 362 adults:

Can you recall any particular moment or period when you had a feeling of emerging into self-consciousness, that is of feeling yourself to be an individual person with some degree of freedom and responsibility? And was this associated with any religious feelings or ideas?

Slightly less than half of his respondents indicated having such an experience and 50% of those said it was associated with religious feelings or ideas. Additionally, 55% of the yes responses occurred when the respondent was less than 12 years old with 46% of the religious overtone respondents say it happened at less than 12 years.

Here an example from a 31 year old woman who saw it as a religious experience:

I first became aware of this at the age of 3. In fact it made up the very first conscious thinking I ever did. There were two elements to it: (a) a feeling that I was in the world to do certain things, that I had been sent here to carry out these tasks, together with an awareness that I didn't yet know exactly what it was I was supposed to do and that I would first have to find out. I was convinced that sooner or later the "call" to do the right thing would come (it hasn't so far). (b) A "knowledge" that I had come from somewhere before I was born, and that I would one day return to that somewhere. My preoccupation with trying to find out where I had come from was strongest during my earliest years. Later I stopped thinking about it, and I haven't yet started thinking about the "somewhere" I'm going to after death. But as a very young child I had a very strong and distinct feeling that my life hadn't started at birth, and of being frightfully old. Both these feelings were on my mind throughout childhood, and only really began to recede during a period of acute poverty as a grown-up. I'm still, at the back of my mind, looking for that "something". But as I get older and gradually give up most of the things I hoped to do in life, my little "something" is turning into something I have to find, rather than something I have to do (p. 105).

An absorption component to these experiences is illustrated by this 63 year old male:

I remember instances in my childhood when I felt a unity with the world around me verging on mystical experience. I did not at first associate such feelings with religion. They were usually the result of a deep realization of beauty in nature or music. They were not so much a sense of self-consciousness as of absorption in something far greater than myself of which I was at the same time a part and glad and grateful to be so; an overwhelming sense of trust and gratitude to the world for letting me be a part of it. This was later amplified and deepened in periods of genuine spiritual experience when I and the world seemed to dissolve into a new and vastly more significant reality which had hitherto been only vaguely sensed but suddenly seemed to be revealed completely, so that one had the sense that it had always been there but that one had been unaware of it. Probably the first experience of this intensity of awareness came to me when I was a child of about 4 or 5 as I played on the terrace of our house in Sussex (p. 114).

Robinson argues that the "discovery that there is more to the self than its physical embodiment may be the first experience of transcendence (p. 108)" and concludes "what really matters is to recognize that the experience, the search for "my own special reality", is not confined to any particular stage of mental development, but is a characteristic of childhood at any age (p. 110)."

The IAM experience seems to epitomize the conjunction of the unity aspect of mystical with the turning on self aspect of the witness and clearly is something that can occur first in childhood.

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E. Related Experiences Summary

In this section I survey a range of experiences which are related to PC. In terms of correlates to these experiences, in a reading of the literature Rogo (1968) concluded that the out-of-body experiences (OBE) was a central feature of mystical experience which was empirically supported by Kohr (1980). In a later study Kohr (1983) found those who had an near-death experience (NDE) had significantly higher mystical experience scores than those who did not.

I argue that the central experience is sleep consciousness with lucid dreaming as the bridge to the experience of PC in sleep or witnessing. I then survey several experiences which show statistical and/or phenomenological similarity to sleep consciousness in one of two ways turning around on self and/or unity/fusion. Although this list is not a comprehensive list of all transpersonal experiences it does encompass those which focus on transformations in some manner of the construction of self.

In the next section I will review the few studies which have examined a complex of transpersonal experiences in childhood. These are from normal as well as special populations: meditators, psychics, and Natives. Although many transpersonally related variables are included in these studies, the focus of the discussion will be on the variables delineated thus far mystical, lucid dreaming, OBE, and NDE experiences. I've found no studies that include the IAM and UFO abduction experiences except as noted earlier. In fact, Millar (personal communication, June 27, 1991) commented that the inclusion of lucid dreaming in his questionnaire was a last minute decision because of a friends interest in it yet it was the only variable of 23 transpersonal ones that discriminated the disturbed from the nondisturbed psychic opening groups (associated with the nondisturbed) (Millar, 1990). This illustrates that the turning around on self and union aspects of focus in this chapter have not always been so associated with traditional parapsychological and transpersonal experiences.

Go to: III. Developmental Perspectives on Complex Sets of Experiences  (Next Section)

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