Astral Body Made in Mind: Out-of-Body Experiences and Meditation



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Daily, we usually experience our physical body and perceiving self as one unified entity. Yet at the same time, we are intuitive Cartesian dualists discriminating mind and body, supported by cultural concepts of Christian “soul”, Buddhist “manomaya-kaya”, or other notions of “astral body” across the religious traditions. Some authors, as Thomas Metzinger, hypothesize that these concepts originate in so-called out-of-body experiences (OBEs hereafter). Approximately 10% of population has experienced OBE form of distortion of mental representations of own body at least once in a lifetime. Some people are more predisposed than others. These states have been medically and psychologically well studied so far. They occur either spontaneously or can be deliberately induced. Some meditation-like cultural practices are even believed to be capable of bringing them about. Are there some particular mechanisms in concrete meditation techniques that are able to facilitate these states? And if so, do they function across the population equally or only in predisposed individuals? And what role does meditational training play in these matters? My research in progress tries to answer these still unanswered questions by conducting own experiment. The experiment will examine the effect of one of initial meditation techniques – the so-called body scan meditation – on distorting one’s bodily representations. As a way of observing the bodily distortions, the experiment incorporates measures of so-called rubber hand illusion (success rate of its induction). Experiment also considers the effect of predispositions to OBEs and previous meditation training on the measures of rubber hand illusion induction success rate depending on a given condition. This paper aims to present the problematics of operationalization of cultural practices for laboratory inquiry, associated population selection problematics and problematics of altered states of consciousness lab research on the case of own research in progress.
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