Of Lucid Dreams and Astral Projections.

Around April of 1995, I began having experiences that I initially could not stretch my mind to fathom — quite an accomplishment for that period, too, as my life had become replete with other flavors of weirdness. Though I had achieved these experiences through effort and experiment, my intention had been to induce an out-of-body experience (OOBE or OBE) in which I could exit my corporeal form by means of the coexisting subtle body, a nonphysical vehicle through which it was said I could explore the physical universe without ever leaving the comfort of the bedroom. I listened to a tape that claimed to teach me this ability, with one side blatantly offering instructions on how to do so while the other offered those same instructions, only subliminally, over the liminal sound of waves crashing upon a beach.

The result was not what I expected. Rather than waking up outside of my body, I awoke in a seemingly endless series of alternate versions of my bedroom: nested false awakenings, I later learned them to be called. And when I ceased listening to the tape I began having what at least experientially constituted OBEs, only I found myself not disembodied in the familiar, physical landscape but alternate versions of familiar physical environments. It seemed to be a different reality entirely, and I later discovered it fit the descriptions many attributed to what they called the astral plane, which essentially fits the description of what others refer to as a parallel universe.

As I came to understand it shortly after these experiences began, the astral plane was the name some people gave to a supposed parallel universe that both echoes and extends beyond the physical universe with which we are familiar. It contains alternate versions or different renditions of familiar, physical environments as well as realms that are unique to that reality. In this place intention was the vehicle; while you could navigate in the environment much as you do in the corporeal form, you could also focus on an aspect of the environment, or even focus on a distant environment, and you would immediately be catapulted there. The objects on this plane were also described as being self-luminous, requiring no external light source. All of this seemed to describe my experiences, most of all those initial experiences, damn near perfectly.

Later I came to suspect that they might instead be what are known as lucid dreams (and more rarely, waking dreams), which are dreams in which the dreamer becomes awake within the dream environment, though there are at least three reasons why lucid dreams did not seem to be a suitable explanation.

First is the fact that during my “astral projections” experiential time often seemed compressed. In his lectures, Stephen LaBerge speaks of the well-known sleep studies, where the rapid eye movements (REM) of subjects were monitored in their sleep. He cites a case in which one subject was recorded to have very regular left-right eye movements in their sleep, and upon being awakened and asked what they had been dreaming about, they reported that they had been watching a ping-pong ball go back and forth across a table. Evidently, at least in some cases, the REM of a sleeping subject was not random but rather followed the movements being made by the subject within the dream. From this LaBerge got the ingenious idea to have subjects consciously commit a series of agreed-upon eye movements when they successfully entered into a lucid dream state during these studies. As a result of this, lucid dreaming was suddenly scientifically respectable; they could also determine at what stage of sleep lucid dreaming occurs. What this also suggests to me is that dream-time, at least when one is lucid, is perfectly aligned with real-time, which puts the lucid dreaming experience at odds with my “astral projections.” An experience in the other realm can last a seeming hour and I awaken to find perhaps fifteen minutes had passed — which shouldn’t even be long enough for me to fall asleep, let alone achieve my first REM cycle.

Second is the fact that in nearly all the cases I’ve read about the issue with lucid dreaming is staying within the dream, whereas my issue has always been waking myself up and out of it. This was particularly true during my initial experiences, though the issue may have continued unabated and the only difference now is that I have come to enjoy the experience and don’t seek to exit as soon as I can. In those initial experiences, however, I was frantically trying to wake up, but the best I could do was exit the otherworldly landscape and enter my paralyzed, corporeal body or a dark, endless void before falling back into another strange environment.

Both of these qualities don’t necessarily disqualify lucid dreaming as an explanation, though it seems as though other factors may be present. It could mean, for instance, that these experiences of mine may be generated by some dissociative disorder or seizure that left my mind awake as it thrust my body into a state of sleep paralysis and total sensory deprivation, inspiring my mind to compensate for the sensory lack with spontaneous, unconsciously-generated material of its own. Maybe the rapidity of my mental processes during these episodes (which might make more sense if it was indeed a seizure of some sort) squeezes a large amount of dream-time experience into a comparatively small amount of real-time. My inability to wake up from this sort of special-case lucid dream could be due to the fact that the seizure or dissociative episode had yet to run its course.

A third though entirely subjective and so less convincing reason I felt resistant to the notion that these experiences may merely be lucid dreams were their astounding sense of hyperreality. Though I ultimately came to explain the experience as constituting a “different kind of real,” I originally and perhaps more honestly described it as hyperreal, as more real than the reality I experienced in my mundane, waking existence. Not only was the environment far more vivid than waking experience, but I felt far more awake, alive or aware in these circumstances than I did during so-called waking life. It continues to be difficult to articulate the distinction, but it remains nonetheless. This other world clearly operated in accordance with a distinct set of laws that distinguished it from mundane existence, but the quality of perception and awareness were heightened. This became a dilemma for me. Was I to judge the mundane world as real and the other world as fantasy or dream simply due to the difference in their guiding laws despite the fact that things seemed more real and I felt more aware in the other world? This perspective seemed flawed, which is perhaps why I came to settle on that other world as being merely a different kind of reality than the mundane one.

A former objection of mine that arose when considering whether these were lucid dreams used to be that I was unable to control the environment, merely my position within the dream (much as in waking life). During my first or second experience, during a break period in my fighting and fleeing from the entity that would go on to plague me during these episodes for years, I wondered if I was in a lucid dream and attempted to test the idea by willing something into manifestation. Though with considerable effort I was capable of manifesting a mute, translucent, animated image of a barking dog, it only held as long as my concentration could and I was never able of even getting that far ever again. I have since learned that there are various levels of lucidity and one is not always granted absolute power once one awakens; despite this, I find it suspicious that despite my painful awareness during those initial experiences and my deliberate attempt, this was as far as I was able to get.

Another former objection was that while I am wide awake during these experiences, at least for a time, I wasn’t necessarily certain that I was dreaming, just that I wasn’t awake in the mundane reality, and the act of being awake within a dream while knowing that you are dreaming is, well, the working definition of lucid dreaming. I have since accepted that this just might be a semantic argument, however.

I suppose the real question becomes how one could ever hope to distinguish whether an experience is taking place on the astral plane or in a lucid dream. The only difference in definition seems to be that the astral plane is considered a parallel universe, an objective reality much like our physical world, which is to say a neighboring space composed of a different set of dimensions, and the lucid dream is merely a mind-generated environment. One could add that an additional distinguishing feature is that the astral plane is a single universe accessible to all of us in just the same way the physical universe is, and so it should be possible for two people to independently travel there, share experiences, come back to their physical bodies, document their experiences and then confirm them to one another, thereby providing evidence that such a plane actually exists. This ignores stories where people claim to share the same dream, presumably telepathically, and sometimes in tandem with one or both of them being lucid within the mutual dream in question.

One might also add the argument that the astral plane depends upon dualism in the philosophy of the mind, on the notion that our physical bodies are but one of perhaps numerous transient vessels for our consciousness, and that the living and deceased can mingle on this plane, but this would be ignoring cases of visitation dreams, when the living has a dream of the deceased which provides information that seems to validate it was actually a mutual dream between the living and dead. It would also require ignoring what Dr. Ian Stevenson, in his research into reincarnation, called departure dreams, where the recently deceased visit the living to inform them where they will be incarnating next, and arrival dreams, where the deceased visit the living members of the family into which they will be subsequently incarnating. If the living can share dreams with one another and death is truly not the end of consciousness but merely a period of transition, it is not a leap to assume that the dead and disembodied can dream, and even share dreams as well.

It seems frustratingly unsatisfactory to conclude that there are no potential means of distinguishing between astral projections and lucid dreams, that it is all a matter of interpretation, but this seems to be the case — at least to my eyes, at least so far.

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Of Astral Planes & Entities.

The astral projections, or whatever label you wish to throw on them — they began for me in May, 1995. Before that, before I began slipping down the fault lines of corporeal reality, I had been concerned about ending up in a rubber room because I was having memories and real-time encounters with what appeared to be alien beings. With this additional strata of insanity, I did not foresee contact with a mental health professional resulting in anything less than a new, sleeveless jacket and a small, well-padded room.

I did, however, have a peculiar circle of friends who were willing to listen.

When I had explained these out of body experiences to a friend of mine during high school, he remarked that they sounded eerily reminiscent of people’s experiences when they took various kinds of psychedelic drugs. This was a comment I found intriguing. Until twenty years of age I would not so much as drink a beer or smoke a cigarette, though I was already — spontaneously and against my will, free of charge or foreign substance — having the kinds of experiences that some people paid to have delivered to them by means of inhalation, injection or ingestion. To top it all off, knowledge of this did not even make me feel privileged.

Subsequent research confirmed his allegations: not only did many psychedelic experiences bear the qualities of my OBEs, some of the most potent ones — namely Salvia Divinorum and DMT — seem to comprise all of them. I also found that the world I experienced closely corresponds to the allegedly parallel, non-physical worlds described by many out of body travelers, among them Robert Monroe and William Buhlman. They described this world, popularly referred to as the astral plane, as being “thought-responsive” or sensitive to consciousness, effectively molded by the conscious and unconscious aspects of the out-of-body traveler. Even later, I would find that my otherworldly experiences — and so the astral plane and some full-sensory psychedelic experiences — also fit the characteristics of some lucid dreams.

Whatever the experience was, then, it did not require psychosis, psychedelics or death to get there, though that is not to say that they were not effective avenues. All one really required, however, was a slumber of appropriate depth, a snooze that sufficiently inhibited our senses receptors and brought on sleep paralysis while keeping conscious awareness acute.

From this one might conclude that lucid dreams might be mistaken for trips to the astral plane or vice versa, but what it really reveals is that the two are indistinguishable. The attempt to find distinctions has proven to be futile. Meeting up with a fellow out of body explorer in a predetermined otherworldly locale could be interpreted as evidence in support of a parallel universe, for instance, but it could just as easily be presented as further suggestion of what is variously called a shared, mutual, meeting or telepathic dream. This is a dream shared between two people, presumably through the medium of telepathy. Some are allegedly even shared lucid dreams.

Some of these dreams are shared between two living individuals, but there are also reports of dreams between the living and deceased. From this we might presume they can be shared between the dead as well. This would suggest that in death we not only retain access to the physical locale, but the capacity to dream. Even the dead, then, could not determine whether the world I am evidently dealing with is a network of dreamscapes or another plane of existence. If death is a transitory state, though, and both the physical worlds and telepathic dream worlds are constants, isn’t the distinction ultimately arbitrary? There are perhaps two different kinds of real which we have access to, be us alive or dead, much as the entity in my initial experience had gone to such lengths to convince me.

Of course, that still leaves the nature of that entity open to question, and if that was the same entity that later went on to attack me for years as I continued having these experiences. Dream characters are manifestations of your own mind, but that seemed more akin to a real conversation, and the later incidents felt like real, excruciatingly painful interactions. Was this another person, and were they living or dead? Was this a dissociated aspect of my personality?

I’m not sure how I could ever know for sure.

OBEs & the Child.

Merging
(6/3/03).

After I awoke, I was on the side of the house smoking a cigarette, wondering why I felt so exhausted and weird. Suddenly I remembered that during sleep I had fallen out of body and down into that zero-gravity void. I remembered rushing through the void, falling downward and then floating around erratically in many different directions.

Something was on me, attached to my subtle body. I felt certain that it was the entity I had encountered the last time that took the form of Ken and “Satan.” Here it was in energy form, however. It wasn’t just on me, but going through my body, merging with me. As it did so, I felt as if I was rearranging, changing in form and consciousness.

More had happened, though I was unable to recall what. The next thing I remember is waking back up in my body, aware but exhausted and unable to convince myself to write the experience down on the notebook beside my bed. I felt I needed to do it before I fell back out of body again, which I for some reason felt certain was going to happen, though I could recall nothing of it.

Resonance.
(6/24/03)

After a long night of fighting sleepiness with coffee to get some writing done, I went outside, had two cigarettes, and stared out into space. My consciousness seemed altered and I felt very strange, which led me to wonder if I might have another OBE. I went to my bedroom, wrapped myself in Afghan blankets, went to the side of the bed nearest the wall and closed my eyes.

The blackness of my mind was soothing, relaxing me as my consciousness seemed to widen. There may have been a gap in consciousness, but if so I swiftly became aware of a blackness again, but it was a different blackness: that of the exosomatic void. Now out of body, I found this energy waving through me that seemed alive. It was soothing and I tried to harmonize my energy with it, merge with it, reminding myself that if I kept control all would be fine. As I did so, I felt us align with each other, which made me feel good, peaceful, energetic, aware.

As we synchronized completely, I felt myself fade out of the void and into a dark room. I was certain I had been in this exact room during one of my more recent experiences, perhaps during my former OBE on June 3rd.

My confusion came when I realized I was breathing: this had never happened during an OBE. It took me making some involuntary noise for me to realize out loud: “Oh, wow, I can talk.” I then tried to secure anchors in the environment that would keep me here for awhile so I might explore. I used the same methods I used when anchoring my consciousness in the physical body after an OBE: I felt my face, my skin, stretched and flexed muscles, made noises, spoke. They all acted as equivalents of stretching, wiggling, and otherwise maneuvering your hand into a glove that didn’t quite fit right.

In this case it failed, however, as there was some force trying to push me out of that body in that room; to kick me out of that reality altogether. I would attach to the body’s senses, receive a fullness of clarity comparable to the fully-functioning physical body, and them this wave if energy would come and throw me back, away from that body’s senses and into the void from whence I had come. It was like the world had a gag reflex, a bouncer, an energetic wave that acted as a guardian of the threshold.

Fighting against it brought me to a blurry, indefinite environment dream-like in quality that, as with the initial room, I felt as if I had been to before. I was at a table with two people who I seemed to take for granted were my parents, though they were not my parents at all.

I suddenly was pulled back into my physical body and after regaining control I was sure to immediately write down the experience this time.

Play.
(7/1/03)

I did some reading and, once upstairs in my room, began feeling very tired. The bed seemed to call out for me to crash on it, and I dutifully complied.

I felt the out-of-body sensations in no time, and before I knew it I was forced into a gold-tan void of zero-gravity. It had a ceiling, however, which was something I had never experienced before. Having decided to enjoy my time here, I began doing swaying motions, elegant dancing, trying to enjoy the underwater-like sensations.

It was not long, however, before I came to the realization that I was not alone. I felt hands on my feet at first, which immediately got me wondering. Then whoever it was began tugging at me. I pulled away, it tugged at me harder, and then we began to have a struggle. I couldn’t see who it was, and I was getting slightly panicky.

Almost on instinct, I slipped out of the void and closer to my physical body — not re-attaching with the sensation of my body, but getting just close enough to get a general `feel’ for it. I then tried to relax and ease myself back into the void, and it worked.

Once back down there, I looked up towards the ceiling and saw that from where I had entered through my physical body there was this oblong portal, vagina-like, with it’s outer edges rung with a red-yellow fire.

I still felt the presence, knowing it was down there and it would be on me again in no time. I demanded that it show it’s face. Whatever it was, it was on me again in no time, as predicted. It started going through my other-body, and I still struggled with it, but refused to panic again. I got the impression that the entity was playful, that it was trying to engage in a game with me.

When it began going through my body again, I looked down at it and again demanded that it show me it’s face. It had taken the form of something resembling a small, thin, snake-like creature with a shark’s face. It looked up at me with it’s black eyes and it gave me this wide, frightening grin.

Around then I began getting concerned with this tightness I felt in my chest. I was certain that it came from my physical body; the feeling of elastic being pulled to the point where it’s about to snap. I was slightly worried that I might stop breathing, so I floated towards my body close enough to ensure I was still inhaling and exhaling. I certainly felt my body doing so, but it was from the perspective of a detached observer. It was then that I wondered if it was really my physical body, as I recalled how I had been breathing in the other-body in my last experience.

I was slightly afraid that the creature might possess my body while I was away or try to hitch a ride back with me so, as I often do, I said the word only I know three times in succession, which helps me focus envisioning a white ball of protective energy around me. That seemed to force me into my physical body again.

It seemed to, but did not. Instead, I found myself in what seemed to be an alternate timeline. Once realizing I was in the wrong place, I sort of faded out, returning to the void, and tried again. It was another alternate timeline.

This went on for some time, with me continually fading in and out of alternate bodies belonging to other versions of myself corresponding to these alternate realities. I knew from experience that no matter how lost I thought I was, I always ended up back home in the end, so I just tried to relax and take it as a challenge rather than freaking out about it.

I could control my fading in and fading out to a degree, but when I came too close to a body, I would slide completely in; likewise, when I was too far away from a body, I was likely to slip totally out and back into the void. I was able to maintain conscious awareness most of the time, but it did take a great deal of concentration and it kept petering in and out a bit. It was hard to maintain a continuous memory and an acute awareness in between all the rapid shifting. Sometimes I couldn’t see anything right away save for a black or brownish blur, but I knew I was out of the void because I had a sense of gravity, of my feet being on the ground, and was able to touch things. So I would just walk around and touch things, trying to ascertain what they were. Other times I would fade in or awaken within a body and experience it all as clear as waking reality and just walk around the setting.

After this happened an uncertain number of times, I found myself in a sunny park setting where I was chased by a dog that I was sure was the same entity from the void.

The only other specific setting I recall was a kitchen. There was a group of people in the kitchen preparing for dinner. There was a parallel version of my mother, my father and my uncle there as well as some unknown girl. They weren’t surprised at my presence and seemed to take it with a grain of salt, and I suddenly figured that this was because I was merely within the body of one of my alternates. To them, it might seem as if I was acting odd, but only if they really paid attention. I figured they probably wouldn’t notice I wasn’t their son (or the version of their son specific to this universe) and I probably wouldn’t remain in this body for long anyway.

At first, I tried to play it cool as usual and was very serious. Then I suddenly began thinking: why I should spend all my time trying so desperately to be careful, fearing the repercussions of acting unusual and then regretting later on that I hadn’t taken advantage of these experiences?

I decided to just let go. I went up to the dinner table and reached out for the vase that had been placed at the center of it. I turned it upside down, watching as the flowers fell out and it toppled over onto it’s side. I looked at their faces, curious about any reactions they might have. I assumed they would be angry, but they just seemed confused, and perhaps even a little amused. I suddenly realized I had been afraid all this time for nothing. I suddenly got this sense of freedom and playfulness and began hopping atop chairs, jumping around and acting altogether weird. They didn’t know what to do. They were totally unprepared for any of this.

I opened the fridge nearby the table, got out a jug of milk, grabbed a nearby fork and jabbed it into the jug. The unknown girl asked what it was that I was doing.

“I’m making a milk sprinkler,” I said. I walked around the table a bit, pointed the jabbed end of it towards her and, with a broad smile, squeezed the milk jug as hard as I could.

The parallel-uncle character was right behind me when she picked up a large bowl of something which I believe was ice cream. She signaled me to duck below the table as she threw it at parallel-uncle, and I dropped to the ground. I then faded out.

The place I faded to next was an outside setting. I knew I was close to home, and I was approaching a house wherein I, for some reason, believed my body was lying asleep. Someone was walking along side of me, talking with me, but I cannot remember who: to them, I merely explained that I needed to go back into my body and wake up.

As I was turning the corner I saw an area of the yard squared off by a chain link fence, like some might put their dog in.

Inside, however, I didn’t see a dog. I saw a small boy. He was in a red and orange polyester jumpsuit and had his back turned to me. I crouched down to take a look at him, and he turned around slowly and looked me dead in the eyes.

He looked just like the apparently telepathic Cheshire kid I had seen in the fast food restaurant where I work on December 15, 2001. Here his eyes were deep set and cast with shadows, and when the light caught them they were revealed to be wide, frightening, and very un-human-like. The sight of those eyes gave rise to a fear in me, and that’s what finally set me back to my body.

I faded into physicality completely and instantaneously, with much more speed and ease than usual, and then sat up in bed with a shock. I assured myself that this time I was really home. I quickly grabbed a nearby sketchbook and wrote down everything I could possibly remember.

Of Two Worlds.

During the experiences written of in “Evolution of Intrusions” I retained my ability to distinguish the sensory from the imaginary. It was only that there were forces in my imagination that were out of my control, and that seemed to make the imaginal a different kind of real. If it stopped here maybe I would consider it be a product of extreme fantasy-proneness, but I have two memories of disturbing episodes that sound like a form of partial dissociation between host and alter.

The autonomy of my imagination may have repeated itself later in life, specifically after the flashbacks during high school, and this time in an abrupt and extreme fashion: the out of body experience.

It generally happens the same way every time. During a period of intense inner tension, a sudden exhaustion comes over me, an impulse to hit the sack, after which I’m out like a light for perhaps a moment before I reawaken into a paralyzed body. I slowly drift out of and descend from my physical body.

Translated into controversial psychology, the typical OBE involves depersonalization, or more specifically dissociation from the body. The world to which your body belongs remains the same. Your body is at a distance, but otherwise the same.

My OBEs went more than a few degrees further in distance and distortion, however, as they involved both depersonalization (bodily dissociation) and derealization (sensory dissociation). More specifically, my experiences comprised dissociation from both my body and sense perceptions (sleep paralysis), both of which were replaced with their respective compensatory sensory simulations.

Or I was locked out of my body and left to find an immaterial monster in another reality, which is certainly what it felt like.

In the initial experiences, when I was still stuck in a state of heightened awareness and high tension, the experiences were at their most fantastic: the objects themselves required no external light source, but were self-luminescent. Later I caught on that there seemed to be a correspondence between the degree of my conscious attention and the clarity of either the dreamscape around me or my non-corporeal extrasensory perceptions of an alternate reality.

When I awoke from these experiences, I tried to immediately write down the details before the memory faded. The episodes of exhaustion can provide fair enough warning for me to note the time, too, and when I have done so and checked the time after I have found that rarely so much as a half an hour has passed, despite how long it seemed in mind-space. This was the reverse of missing time.

Often I am extremely thirsty afterward, too, and feeling brain strain. My physical body does not seem to move on the numerous occasions I’ve paid close attention.

It seems most likely to me that these alternate realities I experienced in my OBEs were simulated sensory representations of implicit memories.

On the whole, implicit memories are cumulative patterns of structure and association established by exposure to intense and/or redundant patterns of stimuli. This is why we can execute all the motions at a job with the most meager amount of attention: in implicit memory we have our behaviors preprogrammed. This why we can drive to work or walk around a room in the dark, too: in implicit memory we have our “mental maps” of familiar, external territory.

By nature, however, implicit memories would provide the structure but not the explicit substance for experience.

How I found myself referring to these environments as “abstract planes” and “alternate realities” confused me at the time, though it now makes sense to me in retrospect when I think of it in terms of abstract art. This is essentially art that depicts varying degrees of dissociation from the visual field and the expressive filler formed from the noise.

The products could be interpreted as “nonobjective abstractions” of my explicit, episodic memory. They would be sensory simulations based on, though not imitations of, my familiar sensory experience. Hence my arrival in environments based on places familiar to me from my life with varying degrees of artistic license.

It is no mistake that I often initially “awoke” in an alternate version of my bedroom, either, as my bedroom was where implicit memory would place me most recently in the waking state. The other environments were either common ones or altered renditions of environments in which my “alien-related” memories had occurred. These realities were full-sensory and three-dimensional, and entirely void of any sign for a living population save for myself — and, of course, the
enemy I came to face during my very first experience.

Of Dreams and Alternate Realities.

What I lacked was conscious understanding, any semblance of a context, mental map or model of the out-of-body experience. 
 
There is, however, a relevant childhood encounter I had with my “teacher,” for whom I later would adopt the name Nimi. Though I must have remembered the encounter by the hypnosis session of April 27, 1995, it was not until some time afterward that I would begin to catch hints of the significance inherent in what she was conveying to me.
 
I confessed to her that I had always felt as if I had a foot, and perhaps half of me, in another world. As I told her this, I imagined my body wedged between a paper-thin membrane separating two worlds. In essence, I was, albeit involuntarily, painting a mental picture for her to go along with my telepathic voice-over just as she so often did with me. 
 
She responded with a soft, “in a way, that is true,” which made me immediately suspicious. I feared from her mental tone that perhaps it was just an adult’s way of humoring a child. It was not, as she did what adults never proceeded to do after casting out those words: she actually explained to me just in what way that was true.
 
With her inner voice, she told me that there were what she called “planes of existence” and that some people can function on these other planes better than others. Atop her telepathic voice I received the subjective image of perhaps four flat, rectangular sheets hovering a few inches above one another in a bluish-black void.
 
Though I have no recollection of it, she must have indicated that these planes separately or collectively constituted “the world,” as this produced immediate confusion in me. My understanding, I told her, was that the world was round, not flat. Her response seemed to clear things up for me, though that is all I could recall regarding the remainder of the conversation.
 
Like many of the things she had told me, however, it would have relevance to experience later in life, in this case with reference to the “astral projections” that began occurring outside my control around May of 1995.
 
The projections happened on several occasions with that remarkable intensity I experienced in the initial one, and continue to this day in a calmer way. I could never consciously will them to happen – they always happened of their own accord, be it by chance, accident, or the design of some outside force. 
 
While I believe there is sufficient evidence of disembodied consciousness, having an out of body “experience” is not necessarily synonymous with an exosomatic actuality. In some cases, it undoubtedly is, judging from the mass of accounts, but I can unfortunately not say the same, with any confidence, of my own.
 
In my own experiences there has never been any instance I recall in which I was roaming in a disembodied state through the familiar, physical landscape; a disappointment, I might add, as that was my original intention in pursuing the out of body state and in fact the only form I understood. Instead, I appear to only have access to what many others have referred to as other worlds, alternate realities, parallel universes, other dimensions or planes of existence. Is that truly what they constitute? 
 
After long bouts of contemplation in which I considered these experiences to perhaps be “nothing more” than what are known as lucid or waking dreams, I realized that the characteristics did not at all match. Despite being more aware than I could ever recall being in corporeal reality, I was unable to will the scenery to change. All that was within my capacity to do was exit the realm by turning inward, or imploding, and one of three things would happen.
 
Sometimes I would wake up in my body, finding it in a state of paralysis. Occasionally, I would be pulled down yet again into the “astral plane,” though always into a different environment than before.
 
Often enough I would experience, or recall experiencing, a place I have come to call limbo, however. Usually this place was a seemingly infinite black void, though sometimes one of a gold-tan color instead, and in some cases tunnels or wells of black or white color.
 
In limbo, sensations are always difficult to describe. On the whole, in seems to be an “electric” space. Here, the visual sense is at best peripheral in awareness and sometimes absent entirely, with the sensory field dominated with subtle energy sensations. This is the cheesy terminology I have adopted to designate what could otherwise only be described, perhaps, as a hybridization of the typical sensations known as touch, taste and movement. 
 
The curious thing about limbo is that it seems to serve as a multidimensional antechamber that leads, essentially, everywhere. I could somehow successfully execute a kind of bilocation, existing in my immobilized physical body and in the void I somehow sensed was “below” me at once, and so hover in-between the worlds. Being in my vacant, immobilized body did not involve use of my senses in most cases, but when I did occasionally hear something, like the radio or the hum of my computer, it sounded as one would expect it to if they were listening to it from underwater. By focusing on the muffled sound, however, I could use my attention as an anchor to the physical world as well as a rope by which I could pull myself back. 
 
The limbo could also lead me to other worlds, however, and I could linger in-between those other worlds and the limbo as well.
 
The quality of these alternate realities vary, or so it seems. It may be that some of these other worlds are dreamlike, others so rich they could almost be mistaken for the physical world, and still others hyperreal, experienced as being even “more real” than the physical world. Alternatively, it could be that the quality of the environment does not change, but only the quality of my means of sensing it and “being present” there.  
 
Even in my initial experiences in May of 1995 it was clear that the rich and intensely vivid quality of my surroundings was entirely relative to the degree of emotional intensity behind my attention. Objects and the environment as a whole seem to have their own self-luminescence, no evident external light source required — only the investment of one’s attention. This goes not only for the visual sense, either, but tactile as well, and presumably all the rest.
 
Indeed, my very existence there seemed somehow dependent on my attention on it. I could never decide whether or not this was due to its nature as a lucid or waking dream or due to the necessity of heightened awareness to activate the senses of that thought-responsive subtle body. It certainly felt that I drifted farther away when my attention slacked, that there was distance between me and that other body and that I was brought closer to the world with corresponding clarity of the senses when my attention sufficiently increased.
 
As with the first experience, spawned by the vision of a woman’s bare breast, acute attention seemed to “turn the lights on” behind this peculiar reality. If awareness spawned the realm’s full-sensory quality, did this not imply that it was indeed a product of my own mind? 
 
It later struck me, however, that this could indeed be a reality and my senses in the corresponding body on that plane of existence may have merely atrophied from lack of use, which may explain the initial blurriness I experienced. It was much like being tired or being under the influence of a downer drug and then being blasted into acute wakefulness. Perhaps my sudden and intense attention spawned my otherworldly senses into acute attention rather than the reality itself. 
 
Yet there were still other qualities that seemed to distinguish these experiences from the lucid dreams so many have reported. As an example, there was my mode of movement or travel within the context of the environment. Especially during the first experience, from the moment I became aware I seemed to be in a constant state of high-speed motion driven by where I focused my attention. The problem seemed to be that my attention was too intense and easily distracted, which led me to zipping about the surreal environment. 
 
Though I did not often see myself, during these experiences I felt as if I shifted between three distinct forms. In one, I was merely a ball, a center of condensed awareness. Occasionally I felt like smoke, a cloud, or amorphous mass. There were also occasions in which I felt as if I had what is more recognizable as a body, but this body seemed to be made out of something I can only relate to electricity. I later came to note that these three forms were more than slightly similar to the three forms apparitions are often described as manifesting as. Was it somehow the same body?
 
Though these alternate realities seem distinct from the dream, they are undoubtedly connected with them. The ultimate nature of the distinction has root, as William Buhlman has suggested, in their degree of sensitivity and responsiveness to consciousness.
 
Though our dreams constitute environments or spaces that are highly sensitive and responsive to conscious will and the unconscious mind of the dreaming individual, the alternate realities appear to have considerable resistance to such manipulation, though to some degree, at least, experience has shown it to be possible. 
 
This does not seem to be a repository of just my memories and imagination, however. It led me to wonder if each of us, outside of our personal mind, shared a greater mind, and so I was dreaming, even lucid dreaming, only it was of a higher order than personal. It was sort of a collective database for sensory perception and simulation.
 
Perhaps what I’m visiting are places which have been remembered or imagined by groups of people — perhaps these places serve as manifestations of the memory and imagination of the species. That so many have so often perceived the environments in our waking world would have the effect of ingraining their memories there complete with all their misperceptions, poor spatial intelligence, false memories and imagined environments as well. 
 
Memory would be built up, maintained, evolved through group reinforcement of experience and imagination through repeated and/or intensely emotionally-fueled exposure and/or execution. Such  “weight” of memory could not be changed without repeated or intense focus that culminates in a match to its power. Old habits die hard. Environments would resist fundamental manipulation by consciousness with the strength of its own memory.
 
Additionally, this collective mind may have qualities and processes similar to the individual minds that feed and draw from it, such as the disjunctive cognitions and interobjects of dreams — both constituting a mutation of association that either thrives or dies out in the ecosystem of the mind. If so, perhaps these alternate realities are mutations of the moments we have experienced; schemas we call cultural memory which we can experience as if through the ordinary senses as prototypes procured from collective “attractors”.
 
Though it took me some time to realize it, the strange atmosphere I felt when I awoke into those alternate bedrooms spawned from this sense that the world was on pause. 
 
Everything was silent, as if this was a freeze-framed still image — a free-floating, three-dimensional alternative version of my bedroom unhinged by temporal constraints. It was as if they were defective time-slices; moments rejected because they lack flow with the causality or chronology of reality. The probability wave never crashed in their favor, and so now each of these moments have been condemned to land of existential continuity errors, in which I have so often become lost.
 
Rather than absorptive focus on my physical body, which would once again ensnare me, lock in key, to biological, spatiotemporal constraints, I instead traverse the associations between the alternate frames by seeking instead the right environment, sometimes flipping through reality-channels like mad.
 
Though we experience 4-dimensional spacetime in a seemingly seamless sequence of 3-dimensional cross-sections which appear to be woven together by causality, then, could it be that reality as we experience it is really akin to a film in which various freeze-framed stills we could call “moments” are spliced together sequentially due to their degrees of similarity and difference to one another, which in turn produces the illusion of causality when experienced through the embedded material medium of the corporeal body?
 
Outside of that body, consciousness would traverse the frames by means of association through absorptive focus, able to explore mutant and literally timeless moments that never made it and even poke around in alternate sequences that do not jive well at all with the sequence of events we identify as home. Some of these frames might be single frames that carry only slight discrepancy with your home reality, others might be entirely off in left field and bear little to no correspondence with familiar experience