An Out-of-body Experience

8 November 1970

In Beyond the Body and many of my other writings on OBEs I have referred to the experience I had as a student in Oxford in 1970. Three days later I felt able to write down all that I could remember of this vivid and life-changing event. This is a copy of what I wrote then (typed on my little portable typewriter). In 2001, this account was posted on Charles Tart’s ‘Taste’ website along with some further comments that he invited me to add.

Sunday November 8th, 1970: Causes

I had been taking part in a séance, or rather a ouija board group, and as a consequence was very tired. Three of us, Kevin, Vicki and myself, decided that we’d go up to her room two floors up and smoke some hash. This we did and at first it just seemed like normal. However after a few minutes, I began to get even more cut off from the others than usual and to experience very strange sensations. These I thought were still just part of the drug experience. The music appeared in some sense most akin to sight, but although having colours it was not a normal sight at all. I had my eyes closed. I moved from the chair I was sitting on to the floor and sat there cross-legged for the rest of the time.

1. I began to move through tunnels in my mind, very brightly coloured and getting more and more real. There began to be places, which appeared very, very clearly. In more detail than if I had seen them real. This kind of thing went on for about half an hour – 12:00 to 12:30 – and then the transition came.

2. I was thinking how high I was, in the sense that on looking down my feet seemed a very long way away. This I had experienced before but this time it was much more vivid. Also the feeling of there being a white wall behind me and through the centre of me was much more pronounced than usual. As I kept looking down, with my eyes shut most of the time but occasionally opening, I suddenly realized that I really was high up and looking down on my own body. I think had it not been for the drug, I would have been worried at this, however it didn’t worry me at all and I continued to look at myself with interest but still just enjoying the sensations.

I think at this point I was at about ceiling level and gently drifting about. My eyes were shut and remained shut for most of the time. If I had opened them the conflict would have been too great. I seem to remember that I did open them at times, but that nothing I saw made any sense, so I shut them again. I wanted to tell the others about what I was doing, but I was a little embarrassed about what they would think of me interrupting their conversation, which I could hear if I listened. So I kept silent, or more or less so. I kept looking around me and making slight exclamations and looking terribly excited. I could see only the room and then the outside and the roofs, but I preferred to stay inside the room.

3. At this point Vicki went out to make some coffee and Kevin said to me “Where are you?” I still didn’t think it at all odd that I could be in one place and yet still in control of the body below and able to speak through it. It was almost like watching a cinema screen and relating the picture to someone who couldn’t see it. I told him where I was and from that time I kept on talking, almost continuously, for the next three hours. The fact that I was talking to Kevin and that I was not alone gave me much more confidence and I was able to go on from there and see more. At all times I was fully aware of what my body was doing, I was somehow quite able to conceive of being in the two places at once, or rather to be in one place but to still have the knowledge and perception of the body in another.

4. Soon after I had begun talking I saw the cord. I looked down from where I was and saw, apparently coming from where my tummy should be, a cord. It was not really any colour, but closest to a slightly shiny grayish-white and it was bendy and slowly moving. I had great fun with it because I decided to try and move it. I reached out my hand but found two things. Firstly, if I wanted a hand I could have one, or as many as I liked. Secondly, it wasn’t necessary to have a hand, I could move the cord at will, and had great fun doing it too. I was quite consciously talking all this time but very fast, as I wanted to say so much and tell them every thing I was doing.

I looked harder at the cord and the body and saw that the cord entered my physical body at the neck and there appeared to be no head on the body. I seem to remember that it didn’t look very much like a normal body but then I wasn’t really interested in it so I didn’t look very carefully. I was more conscious of what I was actually like. At this time I was still more or less the shape of my body, or hadn’t yet discovered that I could be anything else. I was made of the same kind of whitish moving stuff that the cord was made of, but a little more dense than the cord and, at this stage, more solid and constant in shape.

5. I then found that I was moving, not really conscious of whether I was in control or not. I moved up and out and saw below me all the roofs of Oxford. I think I knew even then that they weren’t the roofs that I should have seen were I really there, it seems now that they were merely a symbolic representation of how roofs in general should look, but to me they represented the roofs of St. Hilda’s. On looking down, I could, if I wanted, look through the roof and intervening floors to the room from which I had started, but as I gained confidence I became less reluctant to let go of that sight and move away.

6. I became aware that I was moving away fairly fast but it wasn’t really clear where I was going, nor did I have any conscious control over it. I didn’t even take much notice of where I was going until I was suddenly aware that I was somewhere in the vicinity of the Mediterranean. I am not sure how I knew this but it seemed quite obvious at the time. I saw below me an island and I thought that it would be good to go and have a look at it. As a consequence of this thought, I found myself closing in on it. All this time I was aware of the music that my body could hear, and again it didn’t at all seem odd to me that I could listen to it, nor did it seem at all difficult to concentrate on so much at once. This could have been a result of the drug as it does seem to make it possible to see and hear so much more at one time than is usual.

As I approached the island I could see its shape, which was almost star shaped with very sharp points, but the shape seemed to be changing all the time and pulsating with the music. I became even more excited and tried to tell the others what I was seeing as I got closer and closer. It was at this point that I discovered what was to be of such importance later on – that I could change shape at will. So far I had been aware that I could produce hands at will, but now I was able to lose my bodily shape altogether and become any shape I wanted. I stretched out over the island and watched it changing shape. Then from being a flat thin shape, I thought my way down in among the trees. For the first time I got a little scared as I thought the cord might get tangled up and broken in the trees: however I soon found that it could pass among or through the trees with no difficulty whatever and that I wouldn’t have to worry about it at all. I was then again a little scared because it was all dark and, as I then described it, treacley, under the trees. Feelings of pleasure and displeasure were very exaggerated and the feeling of being in that thick darkness was intense. However as soon as I discovered that I could move up again at will, I lost the fear and was enjoying going into and out of trees. Another impression I had of the island was that it had one hundred trees. I was really excited by the funny idea of there being exactly that number and kept on talking about it.

7. I made my first conscious decision to go somewhere else and left the island, but was still unable either to control where I was going or to even bother to try to go somewhere specific. Soon, I saw that I was traveling over Europe. Again I don’t really know how I could tell where it was, but I think in this case the outline from a long way up was very like a map. I thought I went over Italy, Switzerland and then France. There I saw all the people working very, very hard. I was too far up really to see them at all, but I had a very distinct impression of lots of people working and I felt terribly sorry for them. I kept saying “Don’t they realize they don’t have to work?” but at the same time realizing myself that I would have to too, and that I was only being permitted to see that it was possible to live and move by thought alone.

8. I moved over the sea and immediately wanted to go down to it. I gradually got closer to the sea and to the land too. I tried to get right down to the water and had the rather pleasant experience of being flat again and floating above the water being lifted and buffeted by the waves. In this uncomfortable way I came into a beach and after some difficulty landed on to the sand and looked around. Again I got a little scared because I was down below very high cliffs and I couldn’t see how to get out. Of course as soon as I tried I found that I didn’t have to climb the rocky cliffs but could just be at the top, with apparently no motion, that is with instantaneous movement, there being no time required for it. I continuously kept trying to explain to Kevin and Vicki how I could do it and saying things like “I’m going to go up that cliff, oh, but I don’t have to get up it, I can just be there”, “I’m going to walk over there, oh, but I don’t even have to walk, I can go as fast as I like!” etc. There seemed to be two kinds of movement possible. If I wanted to move to somewhere quite close and of which I had a good mental image, I could be there instantaneously, or in short hops. For longer distances, especially those which I was not directing, I moved very high up but apparently normally, and the speed was more or less beyond my control.

9. I was still very close to the ground and all the grass and plants were terribly clear, but I decided that I’d try and get back to Oxford. Whether this decision was prompted by fear, interest or a desire to get back into my body, I don’t know. However I was soon back over Oxford and managed to get into the vicinity of the room. My body’s eyes opened and Kevin said “Hello” and I replied “Hello.” “So you’re really here.” “Yes, I’m really here. Hello Vicki” and then “Goodbye.” I had found during this brief return to my body that although I could easily see with my own eyes, what I did see didn’t really make much sense. I had been able to get to a good position in which the two visual fields corresponded for only short periods of time and it required a lot of effort.

10. So, having ascertained that my body was still accessible, I again left, and this time consciously decided that I’d like to go to somewhere that I had in fact been to with my body, to see if it looked the same. I chose New York for some reason, and very quickly found myself there. All my movements were becoming more deliberate and much faster, even the unintentional movements were now much faster than at the start. It was sunny in New York and I moved, as a large, almost ellipsoid shape over the buildings until I came to the top of 5th Avenue. The thought of what was below me made me shoot down to street level, becoming much smaller. After a short second looking at the cars and people, which I couldn’t see as clearly as I’d have expected, I got really scared. This was the first time I had been really afraid and it was some struggle before I was able to think my way up the buildings and emerge in space again. Between the tall buildings I could move quite easily up and down. If I looked down I would move up and vice-versa. Thus movement at will was a combination of thinking myself hard into the right place and also looking in the right direction. This was really only so for vertical movements. For horizontal movements, as far as I can remember, I had to look in the same direction I wanted to go in.

11. After New York I had no clear idea of where I wanted to go and I found myself heading, ever faster, for South America. There I amused myself in the childish pastime of using the coastline as a giant slide. The curly bit at the southern tip of the continent was the end of it and from there I shot round the bend and off up into the Atlantic. This was tremendously exciting and I was laughing all the time and telling them all about it. I wanted to do it again and went back and did. Then I headed up towards England again, and got back to Oxford and the room my body was in.

12. This time I could not get into the body at all, at least not in the usual sense, as I had almost done before. I was only able to hang over it and this time what I could see from this position was very much clearer. I think possibly the confidence I now had allowed me to see this strange scene without either becoming afraid, or not being able to comprehend it and so dropping back in. I could see Vicki and Kevin very clearly, and after looking at the room for some time I got around to looking at myself . What I saw was rather odd. The body was now very clear but not much like me really. It was brownish in colour, but I think I thought it was quite normal at the time. I could very distinctly see the cord, which was now very much thicker, and more solid, but not proportionately to the way it had been before. With interest I looked at my body and, with no apparent effort, this led to my going closer and closer to it. This was, however, a very different feeling to that of coming back into the body. This time I still was very detached from it even though I was so close, in distance, to it. I looked carefully at the jagged edges around the neck, from where the head had apparently been removed and seemed to be like a fly landing gently on the edge. From there it was no big step to move inside and soon I found myself in the curious position of being right inside my own body. It was all varying shades of brown, a little greenish in some places and shaded almost like a drawing. I slowly wandered around inside looking at the outside of the body, it appeared to have no contents whatever, to be just a hollow shell. I went down one of the legs, balanced on the knee joint and then, as if under the influence of gravity, whizzed down the leg into the foot, like going down a slide. I began to be terribly excited and made a lot of noise all this time. The most exciting thing of all was being inside the foot. There I could look into any one of the openings made by the toes and see light streaming in through the window-like toenails. From one foot I scrambled up the leg and slid all the way down to the middle and up the other leg and down to the foot, all in one swoop.

13. I think it was at this time that I made so much noise that Vicki very loudly had to tell me to be quiet. Her urgent voice made the visual image of an elephant appear low down and to the left of my visual field. It disturbed me somewhat and I had a short struggle with myself. I don’t remember what I said or felt in detail, but soon I found myself again above my body a little above ceiling level I think, and talking to Vicki. I told her to “Take that body away.” I said “I know you don’t like that body, why don’t you send it away, take it down to its own room, I can’t move it, you take it away.” It was always that body and not “my body” or “me”. I could almost see the dislike going across from Vicki’s body to mine as a sort of visible repelling force. Needless to say she did not move it and I lost the will to stay there and try to persuade her to move it.

14. I simply found myself getting bigger. This was rather a pleasant feeling and I actively helped it along at some stages, As I got bigger I obviously had to incorporate many things in to the area of my body (not physical body!) and the first things to go were Kevin and Vicki. They became a part of my body, still separate entities but within the space occupied by “me.” Then the whole of the room and the buildings and, as I got still bigger, I began to sink into the earth. The part of me that was still above the earth felt quite as before but below I felt slightly cold and a strange sensation that I suppose felt like being in the same place as earth, that is being between closely packed particles but still a coherent entity.

I became larger than the whole earth quite quickly and had the wonderful experience of being able to look at the earth from being all round it. That is, I could see all sides of it at once in spite of its being spherical. This is obviously a little difficult to explain but it was just a question of my whole consciousness being around the earth and so able to see all parts of it with that consciousness. I didn’t stop there, I got bigger and bigger and incorporated the moon. This was yet another strange experience, having the earth at my centre was not too hard to understand, but having an object in a position inside me that was not symmetrical was a little harder to comprehend, at least I don’t suppose it was then, but it is harder to form a picture of now. From there I expanded through the planets of the whole solar system, I wasn’t particularly aware of where or which one they were. Then came our whole galaxy and, as I was moving and expanding faster and faster, I had soon enveloped many other galaxies. I cannot remember at all how many there were, or even what order of number, but there were very many. With distance out their density decreased and towards the outside of the universe, as I presumed it to be, there were very few with large distances between them and so I went on expanding.

Finally I reached what I took to be the limit of the universe, however silly that sounds now! It is rather hard to explain this edge. It was as if I was traveling at the speed of light and could travel no faster and so was static in the sense of not accelerating. But in spite of moving at that speed, I was getting no bigger, nor moving. It seemed that nothing could possibly get outside of where I was. If I reached out one of the “arms” that I had been able to create at will, it simply did not appear. It felt there all right, but just could not be outside of that boundary. The whole feeling of the situation was as if it were a sphere in four dimensions, time having somehow totally changed in concept. It seemed to me to be a very sensible picture of the state of the universe and I wasn’t at all worried about the implications of a universe expanding at the speed of light and yet not getting any bigger.

15. Kevin had become a little worried by this time and was talking to me and asked me if I could see anything beyond this end. I tried to see if I could. Obviously there could be nothing actually outside that boundary in spatial terms but I found I could look into a whole new field of reference. I would like to call it another dimension, but it was more like a whole new set of dimensions, possibly being reached, as it were, by going along in one new dimension. What I can describe now is not really a picture in three dimensions, but that is the only way in which I can describe it. It was like two white and very shining cliffs above me with an opening between them which seemed to lead up to a kind of sky, but not the sort of sky that goes on forever, just sky. It was a real struggle to get up those cliffs, like fighting against something intangible, almost like swimming against a current, always achieving a little and then slipping back and only just hanging on. I got a very, very brief glimpse out of the top. What I “saw” was again indescribable in three dimensional terms, but was like either hundreds of eyes, or one huge eye, staring at me from every direction at once. Not that it seemed to take any notice of me, it was just a static seeing thing all around. Then I slipped back, Kevin was talking to me all this time, trying to make me come back again and he began to succeed. I genuinely wanted to come back and began trying.

16. I had every confidence that I would in fact be able to come back to my body easily if I so desired, and indeed for a while it was quite easy, I had soon got back into normal orders of size and from there into the room, but there the struggle began. I tried very hard to get down into my body but couldn’t get any nearer to it than about five or six feet above it. The cord was there again. I don’t know what had happened to it before, but I presume that as my body was within me I had no need for any other form of attachment. Now, however, the cord was even in the way. Kevin tried to tell me to coil it up so that I could get nearer but I scorned this idea. I had to struggle to get some sense of time back. I had a sense of a progression of events, but not of time being a necessary part of continuous movement and consequently I found I could not move properly. I had to think my way down in very slow stages, thinking myself at each step into a new position with the cord just a little shorter each time and myself a little closer to the body. After some time I finally achieved the first stage, I was no longer joined by a cord and separate, but was more or less with my body. However all I had achieved was some sort of overlap with the body, I was not outside of it, but was still moving about, totally unstable and just maintaining contact by always overlapping at some point.

17. I am not at all sure of the separate times taken by each stage, but this last part, of trying to get back, took about 3/4 hour until I could finally control my physical body again. I still had the desire to get back, I think I realized the necessity of it, although I am not really sure if I had any better reason for coming back, it certainly was lonely outside and possibly I wanted to come back to people again. I kept on trying and Kevin kept on encouraging me to come back in.

As I got nearer I was able to open my eyes and briefly saw what corresponded to what I was actually looking at, but that didn’t last because, of course, I followed my thoughts, and as I looked at the ceiling I shot off up to the ceiling again and as I looked down at the floor I found myself sinking into the floor. As the two images ceased to make sense together it was always the physical one which was forgone and only my real self saw. I was still trying very hard, and at times came close to being inside my body, but even though I was getting there sometimes I always went away again, quickly, and it was getting no better. Kevin took my hands and this did some good, until gradually I became a little more stable. It all took so long though that at last I began to give up. I had got terribly tired with all the effort and almost felt that I just wanted to float away again, but with Kevin talking to me and keeping my attention I managed to keep the desire to come back and went on struggling. I got to the state where I was fairly well inside and although I was moving about a lot still, I could more or less see with my eyes alone. I did still move a little towards where I looked but could control my position well enough to keep seeing with my eyes.

18. For the first time since I began, one of the hardest things to do was to understand that I was only in one place. I told myself out loud, to try to realize that I was only in that one place and that Kevin and Vicki were separate. That if I wanted to move anywhere I would have to make some effort and take the body with me. To look at the corners was a great problem because I could not yet understand the three dimensions and a corner presented more problems to my mind than even trying to force myself to stay within a ceiling and a floor had done. However, it was accomplished, and I finally felt almost at ease with the three-dimensional world and the earthly concept of time.

19. It was then that I could look at my own body with my own eyes. What I saw was a little different from usual. I could still see the substance of which I had been made before. It was more or less in the right place but did not fit my body at all well. On the other hand the same part of Kevin was exactly the same shape as his body and extended beyond it for about three inches all around. He tried to persuade me to let go of his hand and I tried. With our hands about an inch apart I could see the two etheric bodies joined and the greyish-white substance was flowing very rapidly between the two hands. I could still see it joined when they were about three or even four inches apart but I didn’t dare let go completely even then. When I did finally let go I felt fairly safe but still very afraid that I would move on again. As I moved away from Kevin and then back towards him I realized that I could feel, but not see another body. This was about 18 inches to 2 feet away from him and around Vicki it was about one foot away. I felt all around it with my hands, it seemed to me to feel very solid and it was a very strange sensation to put my hand through it, as I knew I could. Finally I practiced walking about, and although I found it scaring at first, I soon gained confidence and was rapidly back to some kind of normality. Kevin thought it might be dangerous for me to sleep and so he kept me awake for a few more hours. At about 7 a.m. I did sleep a little, but found that I couldn’t get into proper sleep at all.

20. I had thought that I was back to normal by this time, but in fact it took another two days to do it. During that time I was able to walk around quite all right and to appear reasonably normal to most people, even to go to tutorials, but at any time I found myself drifting up out of myself and I had little power of concentration, and was therefore unable to do any work. I could also go inside Kevin’s body more or less at will. At first it was hollow as my own had been but as time went on it got more solid. First the heart appeared, then all internal organs and finally stringy muscles and I was no longer able to do it.

On Tuesday afternoon I found myself back to normal, quite able to sleep properly and to think normally.