In a recent interview with 'Voyageur de la Conscience', we delved into the fascinating world of out-of-body experiences (OBEs), from the Science of brain waves to using Lucia Lights to induce OBEs, we talked about the elusive vibrational state, as well as the exploration of the personality of veteran experiencers:
1. First question: Has Science established precise Hz values for the brain waves of different altered states of consciousness?
To answer this question, we would need to go deeper into the foundations on which this question is based and, as such, to better understand the characteristics of brain waves from a neurophysiological standpoint. For example, when we say that Delta waves are associated with sleep, it does not mean such waves cannot be seen in the waking state. In fact, these are recorded in electroencephalography (EEG) experiments where they are reported in the prefrontal cortex during states of extreme concentration and absorption in specific tasks. For example, in our studies with the Vibrational State (VS), we reported Delta increase across all brain areas. Nonetheless, delta waves are one of the neurophysiological markers of sleep.
As such, we generally can't indistinctively establish such correlations between specific brain waves without further mentioning their associated states. Other characteristics, such as synchronization, desynchronization, correlations between waves, and brain areas where these are seen, must be equally examined.
But it is even more complex than that. Even when discussing specific non-ordinary states, such as hypnosis, we can see that different types of hypnosis can lead to different neurophysiological correlates. Hypnosis is a complex phenomenon that can be induced in various ways, including verbal suggestion, guided imagery, and other forms of cognitive manipulation. Different types of hypnosis may therefore involve different neural mechanisms and produce different patterns of brain activity .
The same is true for other states, such as hypnagogia, that are often deemed simpler phenomenologically speaking. Although we know such a state is associated with Theta waves, it has neither received an accepted scientific neurophysiological consensus nor is always well defined in terms of phenomenology. More so, most people don't know they are different types of hypnagogia (e.g., in terms of their phenomenology) which could, in theory, because of that, have different neurophysiological correlates.
So associating a specific brain wave with a specific state is a very limited way of looking at things. What is important is in which areas they appear at which time, depending on what is experienced.
Finally, when looking at Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs), it would be incorrect to suggest they are specifically associated with a unique type of brain waves because there isn't only one doorway to enter such a state. This condition is exemplified in studies of Tart on the gifted subject Mr X and Miss Z. For example, Miss Z, during her famous perception of the 5-digit display, was associated with a 60 Hz. In comparison, Mr X's EEG recorded a non-specific N-Rapid Eye Movement (N-REM) state. In other words, not a normal N-REM state .
2. Second question: Does the French scientific community takes OBEs seriously, or does this state continues to be discredited?
I do not know if, within the French or Francophone community, anyone specifically studies OBEs. I have not seen any papers suggesting so, although some researchers study Near-Death Experiences. But I like the work published by the Swiss Institut of Noetic Sciences (ISSNOE) on the subject [only published in French], which corresponds to my OBEs and my knowledge of phenomenology.
The fact, nonetheless, is that OBEs are not very much studied experimentally worldwide. Most studies date a few years back, and most do not look at OBE phenomenology as they should (reductionism). More so, most of the research has been done without studying gifted subjects. This condition is essential to develop OBE research as expert subjects may generally be more knowledgeable and self-critical about what they have experienced or not without falling into experiential delusions .
3. Third question: What do you think about pulsed lights (e.g., Lucia) to induce OBEs?
It is not a methodology that has been thoroughly studied to understand and infer their potential to induce OBEs. Such stroboscopic types of lights have been known since the 50s. They have been used clinically to test for epilepsy, for example, and we know they induce Alpha waves. These waves are well-studied and have been seen in different types of states, but it is unclear how, in such circumstances, they would be inducing an OBE.
I tested different apparatus in different settings to see if it was conducive to OBEs and had no results. Of course, that doesn't mean anything, as it is not because I didn't have any that others would not. However, from a conceptual standpoint, as an approach to OBEs, I feel an experimental issue needs to be addressed or answered. These lights induce a hyper-sensorial stimulation of a mostly visual nature that does not allow for more objective experimentation. For example, the experiencer that would start going out of the body initially seeing a tunnel would not have a more objective capacity to define what is coming from the stimulation and perceived reality. That is a problem.
Two studies were made, one in 2021 and another in a student thesis in the UK a few years back. Both studies indicated interesting things, but above anything else, that these stimulations mostly induced dissociative states (pathological in nature). For example, in both studies, the participants subjected to these lights expressed difficulties in thinking and experienced disorganized thoughts, typical of dissociated states referred to in the DSM-V. In the 2021 study, there are a few more interesting things. This study reported high absorption levels, meaning the person may have experienced a narrowed state of attention . Such absorption does not necessarily happen during OBE-onset as we can be extremely focused but open to relevant external stimuli.
Now, it does not mean that during such stimulations, there are no OBEs. I used to joke that I had a friend who was always travelling with a magic pillow he would carry all over Brazil to induce his OBEs. Imagine the state of the pillow. So if the pillow would induce OBEs, I believe the Lucia lamp can too. True story. More seriously, what is interesting here is that these lamps induce hallucinatory states during Alpha states deemed similar to those perceived while taking psychedelics. But to understand this, we must understand how these hallucinations are stimulated. Alpha waves have reduced activity in the waking state. Although they are seen during visual attention, they generally have a decreased activity in eyes open conditions. These alpha waves are reduced when the organism is open to any stimulation from the environment in a state where we see an increase in Beta waves. When we close our eyes, there is an increment of Alpha waves in the absence of stimulation, in a condition where we are less prone to respond to external stimuli or input. However, the Lucia lamp visually stimulates the cerebral cortex in a condition where the organism is not normally supposed to have these visual stimulations. This mechanism is proposed to create the hallucinations associated with stroboscopic lights interfering with the natural neurophysiological mechanism associated with closed eyes. In such cases, the thalamus, which processes visual stimuli from the retina, is hyperstimulated when no stimuli should be perceived, leading to an antinomical condition leading to hallucinations. As such, I would rather say that Lucia lamps are more prone to induce hallucinations than OBEs. However, both mentioned studies suggest they have had participants that reported OBEs in such conditions.
Now we could equally ask ourselves if such a state is hypnotic or not, considering, as some studies report, that increased Alpha may more easily lead to hypnosis. In any case, Alpha has not necessarily been reported during OBEs but is reported in Remote Viewing (e.g., Ingo Swann's study).
To conclude, I don't think we know enough about it to be able to tell. Nonetheless, I don't think these are the best conditions to experiment with OBEs, specifically for novel experiencers, because these states do not lead to higher levels of lucidity and objectivity but also because, phenomenologically speaking, based on the lasted study, such lamps seems to induce states that do not relate necessarily to normal OBE states (e.g., the reported dissociative states). In any case, it would be undoubtedly interesting to study it more.
4. Fourth question: People experience the VS without being impregnated with such a notion. Does that mean that the VS is an objective phenomenon? Are they any studies about it in Neuroscience?
This state has always been considered, until now, as a hallucinatory state. People reporting the perception of strong electric waves moving inside their bodies were always considered to hallucinate such conditions completely. In a study I have finalized, I did an extensive review of the literature on the subject, looking at the phenomenology of what people reported experiencing during the VS, proposing that the VS cannot be seen as a pathology or a hallucination but as a unique state with a specific typology. The study also looks at the fact that people report the VS in different states of sleep equally (e.g., in Non-Rapid-Eye Movement (N-REM) and Rapid-Eye Movement (REM)), as well as transitional states of sleep and in the waking state, perceived spontaneously or not.
This state is characterized by the perception of undulations or vibrations (of non-mechanical nature) observed going up and down the body in different frequencies and intensities, leading to the VS, which can be seen as a final state of the incrementation of the vibrations. This is important because both states, the one preceding the VS and the actual VS, are often confused, as much as the state preceding the VS is often confused with ordinary shivers. However, such states completely differ in the intensity of feelings perceived. And indeed, studies have reported that in some instances, the VS was so strongly felt that it was reported to be as intense as psychedelics. This state is equally confused with the perception of intracranial sound (e.g., Exploding Head Syndrome), which may be experienced independently or not from the VS and has a specific phenonology different from the VS. My second coming article this year will explore and look more specifically at the neurophysiological correlates of the VS in volunteers that were able to induce such a state.
5. Fifth question: If you are an experiencer that does experimental research in OBE experiments, does that not create a confirmation bias in scientific studies? If so, how to prevent it?
This very good question shows lucidity regarding the experimental settings associated with OBEs. So, I would respond yes, yes and no, and no. Yes, because participative research is indeed criticized in current standards of Science. And rightly so. In Science, we want to create experiments that are neutral and, in our case, that allow an objective comprehension of OBE phenomena. So we create experiments to test a specific hypothesis. So if the person is testing herself, will she be biased and prone to express a confirmation bias about what she believes is the result of the experiment? Yes, but it depends greatly on the criteria the scientist uses, his integrity, and the level of criticism that will be applied to such an experiment. But yes and no, because we must remember that independent of participation or not in an experiment, we are subjective and emotional beings before anything else. This condition applies in every experimentation, willingly or not. Can't we say that a religious physicist may be influenced by his religious perception when developing physical theories? What about the scientists who study meditation and are affiliated with a religious or philosophical group that requires them to take vows? Can't they, through this process, be biased in their scientific judgment of meditation? They are many examples. What about the psychologists studying self-induced cognitive trance states studying under the umbrella of a person they accept as a spiritual leader who has taught them such a trance? Are they going to express any cognitive dissonance when others propose that the results of their research may suggest, in fact, that some sort of hallucination is at play? So we are all biased in one way or the other. That is part of being human. This is the reason why we do Science. To be criticized.
And finally, I would say no, because, nonetheless, when we design an experimental study, we do so with a specific hypothesis we want to test—registering a hypothesis before doing the experiments. More so, the data is very specific when doing particular EEG research. Whether you believe in it or not, it does not affect the reality of the EEG data. And unless you deliberately temper with the data, if you ascribe a specific different reality to it, you will need to explain why you did so and confront your peers about why you did so. All this prevents biases and increased objectivity.
In the case of experiments where I did electrostimulations to study the hypothesis of the temporoparietal junction of the brain as an explanatory mechanism of OBEs and study the phenomenology associated with it, I did so before experimenting with these on myself to avoid influencing my thinking and perception about it. It is only then, after analyzing the data, that I may experiment on myself to compare what has been reported by the participants to what I know from my own experiences as an experiencer with many years of experience. But it may be considered a two-sword edge. I think it is as enlightening and unavoidable as the scientist who studies vision cannot become blind to be objective. As mentioned, we are always biased either way.
6. Sixth question: As a hardened experiencer, what is your methodology to induce OBE? Do you have any advice?
Before discussing the methodology, I think it is important to discuss personality. This subject is important because this is what leads us to be more objective about our experiments. For example, how can we test, for ourselves, any hypothesis we may have about OBEs in a controlled way? These sorts of empirical experiments are necessary because we have very little experimental and scientific data about the reality of OBEs. So they are many things we still don't know and can begin to understand better by being critical of our self-experimentations. So to achieve such a condition, we need a specific experimental methodology. That means being more critical. More scientific about our experimentations. It requires a certain frame of mind—a certain mindset to stay objective and true to our experience without fantasizing about it while remaining open-minded to compare our experiences with what is known phenomenologically speaking of such experiences. What is reported by other experiencers. And the data collected in experimental settings of experiments like the ones I'm doing or developing. Does our experience explain the phenomena better? Why does it differ from empirical consensus? Was there inside of me any psychological condition that could explain it better?
I often compare this mindset with a study on the personality of remote viewers many years ago, showing that participants with more consistent and verified perceptions had increased personality scores on traits associated with conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness. Indeed, being conscientious about doing things right, what is observed, and how our emotions may influence our perceptions is paramount here. These aspects are important because they increase our diligence and prudence about judging things we have never experienced. So we need to calibrate our personality to analyze our experimentations critically—as I extensively articulated in my book. This condition is very different from what is seen in schizotypal personalities who lack a critical perception of reality and have known difficulties appreciating it. And this is a real problem in developing the OBE field of research because we see a lot of so-called public experts who either completely lack having had such experiences or, indeed, express schizotypic traits showing narcissistic traits and lack critical appraisal of their own experiences.
Following such personality steering, people must experiment with different techniques to develop their projective capacity, initially avoiding imaginative techniques to develop an objective outlook about their perceptions and the experiences they achieve. The person also needs to know their personality. What works for them with time, although they need to continue to explore and even come back to techniques that were previously thought not to work but which may be more suited when the person has matured.
This level of experimentation means, in a way, to develop a more polyphasic brain, as referred to in Anthropology, meaning here we train our brain to achieve different non-ordinary states or indeed achieve OBEs through different techniques and means. This condition is important because they are no single doorway to achieving OBEs. The more we train, the more we explore, and the more we will evolutionarily adapt the nervous system to achieve such a state and be prone to reach them more easily and spontaneously, making us more prone to experience such states as natural sleep states.
For example, in the experiments with the VS in expert subjects, we see that they can induce, from the onset, in less than a minute, a state of high Gamma in the range of up to 240 Hz, as recorded in their EEGs, when in fact, these Gamma waves are considered relatively "infrequent" in day-to-day brain activity, as they typically occur during specific tasks, eureka moments, or states of consciousness, such as meditation or intense concentration but generally seen at a much lower Gamma wave ranges (usually 30-80 Hz, although it is known some types of meditation achieve higher levels of Gamma waves). The voluntary induction of the VS state through training may lead to an increased capacity to more naturally induce Gamma Waves in such individuals and, as such, an adaptation of the nervous system to that effect as it is seen in long-term meditators (e.g., who express increased Gamma waves in their waking states). A condition I have hypothesized in my previous article to specifically lead to an increased expression of lucid and spontaneous OBEs during sleep states.
Sleep Consciousness Researcher,
1] That being said, some evidence suggests that hypnosis is associated with changes in neural activity in certain brain regions. For example, studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that hypnosis is associated with changes in activity in the prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the insula, among other regions. These changes in brain activity are thought to reflect alterations in attention, perception, and self-awareness characteristic of the hypnotic state.  Although it should be mentioned that these were equally reported in Miss Z and Monroe did not achieve an OBE during such a testing.  I have mentioned in previous interviews how I find it surprising that for meditation research, we use expert meditators with inclusion criteria of 15 years or more, or with other criteria such as more than 3000 hours of meditation, while we only use people who have experienced “one or two” OBEs for OBE research.  It should be noted that attention is a complex cognitive process that involves different components, such as selective attention, sustained attention, and divided attention. As such, when a person expresses a narrow focus of attention or is absorbed in a specific situation that they are fully engaged and focused on, it does not always mean that that they are completely unaware of their surroundings or other stimuli as attentional resources can be allocated dynamically to different stimuli depending on their relevance and importance.