I Wanna Fly Away

I knew it was going to be an interesting evening when, browsing the hosts’ bookselves, I saw the title Astral Projection.

“I’m a pagan,” explained the hostess, and suddenly I wished I had a hidden camera.

Learn how to leave your body–walk through walls–fly around your neighborhood–meet your deceased loved ones and astral spirits–communicate with your guides and teachers–experience other dimensions–and even travel through time to witness past or future events! And Much Much More! 100 percent Guaranteed…

Later in the evening, I overheard the hostess saying, “When I mention love spells, people ask me, ‘Oh, you can cast spells?! Can you make that cute guy fall in love with me?!’ I just laugh and say, ‘It doesn’t work that way.'”

It works, just not that way. How, pray tell, would a “love spell” work, then?

Of course, I wandered around the ‘net for a while the next day. I found this:

Hi. My name is Bob. I’m slowly becoming more and more interested in astral travel but have a few questions. Would you please help me with these?? I included all of you after reading the testimony you gave on machoneaudio.com. Serious responces [sic] only please.

  1. Are you ever in any danger when you are having an OBE? (i.e. demons, evil spirits, danger of not being able to come back, …)
  2. Can you use these OBE for the purposes of becoming a person more loving??
  3. Do you meet angels/gardian [sic] spirits??? If so, what do they say to you??
  4. Have you ever attempted to draw near to the heavenly realms, and what happened if you did??

Again, please bare with me. I always was under the impression that this kinda thing was either dangerous or unhealthy.

I simply have some questions that I want to ask people who have done this theirselves, instead of simply reading a book.

I would appreciate your time and advice, whatever you think I should hear!

I knew that he didn’t want a smart-ass response, and I realized as I typed away, giggling, that I was being very childish…but I couldn’t resist:

Some tips about astral project/travel:

  1. It’s the 21st century, so don’t get caught up in silly gimmicks. Stick to the basics when it comes to obe.
  2. Because it’s only something that exists in your mind, you need to bear in mind that everything you see is not what it seems but only an illusion produced by your gullibility.
  3. It’s the 21st century, so remember that most people have replaced superstition for scientific knowledge. Keep that in mind during your travels.
  4. If you encounter a fellow traveler or a demon, it’s probably just an acid flashback.
  5. It’s perfectly safe to leave your body — nothing will hurt it — as long as you leave a shotgun by your body’s side so it can protect itself.
  6. The body has a mind of it’s own, so always lock the door before leaving your body.
  7. If you’re tempted to take this all as a joke, you’re probably too intelligent to be messing with astral projection.
  8. It’s the 21st century. Remember that.
  9. If you’ve had as much fun reading this as I have writing it, you’re probably too intelligent to be messing with astral projection.
  10. It’s the 21st century. Remember that all religious hoaxes have been cleared by the bright dawn of scientific literacy. If you’re tempted to believe this, you’re probably not firmly in the 21st century.

Hope this helps.

In the exchange that followed, I got called “sagaciously stupid,” “sophmoric [sic],” “childish,” and he referred to my thoughts as “the luminous pearls of wisdom you so enlightened me with.”

Guilty on most counts, I guess.

Astral projection makes objective claims that should, in theory, be testable: your spirit can leave your body. As a non-believer, I have a great problem with the whole notion of a ghost in the machine, but that aside, it’s still problematic. If astral projection is possible, where’s the proof? If it’s this great feat that anyone, with a bit of training and practice, can master, why not prove it?

How could we do this? Easily. Early in the NASA program, before any probes had made it to a foreign planet, an astral projectionist (I don’t know the correct term.) could have “gone” to Venus, for example, an given a detailed account of what we’d find there. Then, when we send a probe ourselves, we check it. If astral projection is true, bingo: we have the evidence.

Funny thing is, something like this was indeed done, only not with Venus but with Jupiter. Of the claims made, something like 15-20% were true, but obvious from current knowledge (i.e., it’s gaseous, there are storms on the surface). A small proportion were unverifiable because either the claim was ambiguous or the data received was ambiguous. The vast majority of the astral projectionist’s claims were dead wrong. Proof that it doesn’t work? Not really. But it certainly makes it extremely suspect. (You can read more about this in James Randi’s Flim-Flam.)

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15 thoughts on “I Wanna Fly Away

  1. Thud says:

    Oh, you and Mr. Mursak.

    Such an attitude rests on the assumption that currently available tests or measurement tools are sufficent for measuring the effects of magic. If, as many occultists believe, magic relies on the existence of and interaction with an entirely other plane of existence, it’s not unreasonable to see why science cannot prove the existence of magic or magicians cannot prove the existence of magic under current scientific structures.

    If this seems like dodging the question, try proving how virus multiply and make us ill using eigtheenth century equipment and scientific practice.

  2. Gary says:

    Thud, if you want to start talking about “other plain of existence” and such, well you just assert just about anything, can’t you? That my bowl of Jello, for example, actually is in a higher state of enlightenment than anything else on the planet.

    Astral projection, magic, etc. come from a time when a dream was inexplicable any other way, and folks thought banging on pots and pans could drive away an eclipse. Ditto for demon possession (amazing what a drop of blood on the brain can do), astrology, divining for water, psychic mind reading, fairies, etc.

    Finally, there’s the experiential test—if magic does exist, why hasn’t someone used it in a major way, for good or evil? Or, as I suggested in my post, pop over to another galaxy and tell us what we’re going to find there when technology catches up with their imagination astral projection abilities.

  3. Thud says:

    I might have to take this to my own blog, but I think you miss my point. Just because something is not currently observable does not mean that it will not some day be observed. And just because science is not yet aware of something does not mean it does not yet exist. And just because something can be explained another way does not make that the whole explanation.

    And regardless of whether or not science recognizes something as reality, people can and do still experience it as real even if they cannot explain it or prove it.

    Again, consider bacteria. That’s an entire plane of existence, not plane in the occult sense but in a more metaphorical sense—that was recently opened to us. And when the existence of bacteria was hypothesized it was mocked in just the same way you mocked the idea of other planes of existence. Doctors refused to wash their hands, actually laughed at the idea of sterilization, because they did not believe in invisible monsters. And lots of people died, including a US President, because of that.

    You are not just being skeptical of magic. If you were, that would be fine and for the most part I’d be right there with you. But you are insulting and deriding people’s religious and spiritual beliefs and experiences on the basis of the weakest of scientific evidence, which is the lack of scientific evidence.

    As far as I am concerned, if you do not think astral projection or magical practice is real, when one of these folks try to publish a paper on it in Lancet or Nature or Science you can feel free to scoff at them then. But visiting other communities, either online or physical-life, to laugh and point probably earns you whatever you get. Especially when you really have nothing backing your laughing and pointing but bare belief yourself.

  4. Gary says:

    I should have pointed out that this whole incident occurred several years ago. Secondly, it was immature—I admitted that. In the end, I didn’t tell the whole story, partly because for some reason I thought it looked better with me appearing kind of foolish. In the end, I had quite a pleasant, and fairly long, exchange with the individual in the email. As for the party, I kept my mouth shut and just observed. I was laughing inside, but didn’t say anything. I’ve not behaved so childishly since — just recently found the email exchange and thought I’d share…

    You wrote that “And regardless of whether or not science recognizes something as reality, people can and do still experience it as real even if they cannot explain it or prove it.” My friend, the first time he took acid, saw his hamburger talking to him. Later, as he was walking down the street, he saw a gentleman’s face gently side off his skull. Did these things happen? For him, yes. But it was an entirely interior experience for him. Are these people experiencing some altered interior state? No doubt. Are they leaving their body? Chances are, they are staying put.

    I stand by my assertion that astral projection, defined as the ability to leave willfully your body and travel “around the neighborhood” so to speak, is all but proven false. James Randi has dealt with this and other paranormal claims at length—and in fact offers a cool million to anyone who can prove any paranormal claim in laboratory conditions (James Randi Educational Foundation).

    And astral projection would be so easily proven. Stick Randi in a sealed room with video surveillance and some books and other materials to keep him busy for the weekend. Stick the astro-traveler in another room, same conditions. Have the astro-travel pop out of his body during the evening, hop over to Randi’s chamber, observe him for an hour, then go back to his body, write down what he saw. Bingo—proof.

    Now, I readily agree that “Just because something is not currently observable does not mean that it will not some day be observed.” Fairies have never been observed either, but we have fairly good reasons for believe that don’t exist. Brain imaging and evolutionary biology are slowly eliminating the ghost from the machine, and so then what are we left with to do this astral projection? What’s leaving the body if we’re all a bag of chemical reactions? So while I am certainly can’t say with certitude that this is impossible, I can certainly say that, given the state of scientific knowledge today, it is extremely unlikely.

  5. Thud says:

    Perhaps I will need to make a post called “Why I am not a Scientific Materialist.”

    Your friend’s experience with acid and someone else’s experience with astral projection may or may not be the same, but no one is asking that question in a serious research environment and they should. Instead it’s assumed people’s spiritual experiences are either imagined or fabricated. That kind of incurious attitude costs us much.

    Randi’s offer is not science, it’s a goad. An adversarial relationship between researcher and subject is certain to color the interpretation of any data, regardless of subject, and anyone who takes Randi up on it is a fool begging to be mocked. I would no longer vie for Randi’s money than I would debate my politics on the Rush Limbaugh show.

  6. Gary says:

    James Randi does have a significant bias against the paranormal, and I was not suggesting (nor would he, I think) that any “experiment” conducted under his auspices would be “science.” Yes, he does make reference to the “scientific method” in his “goad,” but he would be, I think, the first to admit that he is not a scientist, and that anything “proven” in his challenge would only be a starting point for other, more professional research. Data are data, and I think (perhaps naively) that if someone were able to fulfill, according to Randi’s specifications, the requirements of the “experiment” I suggested above, he would pay.

    The question that needs to be answered is why Randi and others are so — dare I say it — violently anti-paranormal. If someone is making money by dubious means, claiming one thing and doing another, should that person not be exposed? The truth is, many people dupe others out of their cash by claiming to be psychics, to be able to divine for water, to teach you how to “walk out of your body,” etc, etc, ad nauseam. That’s not to mention the effect such charlatans can have on health, for example, when someone goes to a “miracle healer” and gets a bit of chicken gristle pulled out of his belly by some slight-of-hand con-artist, thereby leaving the true illness untreated.

    “Anyone who takes Randi up on it is a fool begging to be mocked.” Not so fast. If some paranormal ability — astral projection in this case — is genuine, wouldn’t the individual(s) able to do this virtually owe it to humanity to prove it once and for all, for the betterment of mankind (not to mention womankind and cummings’ manunkind)? And what better way to draw attention to it than to convert a skeptic like Randi? After all, one of the reasons for offering this “goad” as you call it is “To raise public awareness of these issues.”

  7. Thud says:

    Charlatans do exist. But the existence of, say, a Syliva Brown does not justify out-of-hand dismissal, mockery, and derision of thousands of years of cross-cultural magical, shamanic, and religious experience and practice. Especially since science has its hands full keeping its own house in order—scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo sells more anti-aging creams and diet pills than any high-holy-roller.

    As far as providing proof—to what end and value? Actual scientific research into the nature of magic is tackled only by those on the fringes of science because scientists—more focused on a culture of rationalism than rationalism itself—brand anyone who seeks such information a kook. A scientist willing to treat the subject seriously puts his career at risk. So someone who wants to help demonstrate the reality of occult knowledge to science gets to choose between either a hostile audience or fringe groups who are discredited by their very interest. For magic to be properly researched, scientists are going to have to take it as seriously as they do anything else. Science is simply too dismissive of non-scientific experience or knowledge to listen.

    That’s assuming proof can even be provided at this point, especially in an intellectual climate where primary experience is so casually discarded. I mean, this is a world where people struck by lightning can’t convince doctors it happened because the evidence doesn’t show up on an MRI—another example of “if you can’t measure it, it’s not real.” (http://www.slate.com/id/2120260) Even complaints of chronic pain or illness are dismissed—“well, the blood work came back normal,” they say, and then after nine months of pain and double-vision they insist you don’t have, someone realizes you have lyme disease. So how do you expect someone saying “I can leave my body” is going to be received?

    Science is perfectly capable of seeing the effect of something and mistaking the effect for the entire event; and I have no doubt that magic has happened time and again in front of doctors and scientists and they have attributed it to something else, or disregarded evidence as statistical weirdness, or hypothesized other causes without examining further just so they can put the whole silly mess behind them. You may be able to prove something to a skeptical audience; but an openly hostile one? Not a chance.

  8. Gary says:

    Perhaps you’re right—an openly hostile audience isn’t very receptive. Attempts by Christian missionaries in, say, Saudi Arabia would prove that pretty conclusively. Which would be all the more reason to convince a skeptic, wouldn’t it? You’re saying a repeated, reproducable positive result would be dismissed by everyone out of hand? I’m a skeptic of objectivity in science, but not that skeptical. Not all scientists have ideological chips on their shoulders.

  9. Thud says:

    Surely skepticism would cave under overwhelming statistical evidence. It’s never easy to prove anything scientifically. It takes decades—and magic, if it is real, certainly violates known physics. Trying to change our understanding of physics tends to meet with amazing resistance. Science is very conservative and for good reason.

    I just wish the scientists wouldn’t be so derisive at the same time. It’s one thing to say “we don’t have any evidence for magic,” which is true, or “as far as we can tell, astral travel is impossible,” which is also true, but quite another to say “shit man, you still believe that magic crap? This is the 21st century, ferchrissake.”

    This kind of attitude not only irritates non-scientists, it makes it difficult for science to learn anything about why people believe they can do magic, which is sad because I think that would be an interesting question.

  10. Isabella says:

    Your point #6, “The body has a mind of its own.” — I’m still laughing.

  11. Gary says:

    “I just wish the scientists wouldn’t be so derisive at the same time. It’s one thing to say “we don’t have any evidence for magic,” which is true, or “as far as we can tell, astral travel is impossible,” which is also true, but quite another to say “shit man, you still believe that magic crap? This is the 21st century, ferchriss.”

    True enough—point taken. But you also have to remember historically where magical notions came from. The very distant past. Pre-pre-pre-scientific man. The same folks who believed in magic believed any number of notions that can only be called “wacko” in the 21st century. Perhaps that’s why magic fares no better than voodoo. Or wait, are they essentially the same?

  12. Thud says:

    Language comes from pre-scientific man. Just because magical practice has it’s first practicioners in pre-history certainly doesn’t mean it stopped developing. In fact, science came out of a school of highly codified magical thought: alchemy.

    As to voodoo, yes: that is a school of magical practice. So is kaballah, and the rights of the Order of the Golden Dawn, and various and sundry other schools both ancient and modern. Some have very little in common with each other in practice, but to the extent that any of them work I am sure they use a similar mechanism which science will one day be capable of understanding.

  13. Gary says:

    Your analogy is faulty: language is not an attempt to explain anything; magic is. Science doesn’t try to explain something that language formerly explained, but it does just that with some forms of magic.

    Re: kaballah—I highly doubt Jewish mystics would agree with your lumping kaballah in with neopaganism, given the commands in the Torah to avoid sorcery.

  14. Andy B says:

    Gary as far as im aware, you have not researched AP very throughly. From you posts, I can see your an Intelligent Person, but from every account of Astral Projection (100’000’s) you’re basically saying none of them are true. Science chooses to ignore what it can’t understand, and thats what driven me from science itself, it simply refutes to believe any data which challenges most of what science has accomplished today which is pretty sad really. If you do alot of reading into Paramormal (AP, etc) you’ll find a few subjects (Nina the russian PK women) who have been in highly controlled scientific experiments which have also been dismissed because science simply refuses to accept or believe what challenges its current shared belief. Science is too skeptical to me, and until it starts opening its eyes to new frontiers, it will never learn anything new.

  15. Gary says:

    “Nina the russian PK women”

    Could you be a little more specific?

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