Belief: A state or habit of mind in which trust confidence, or reliance is placed in some person or thing: FAITH.
Gnosis: Of, relating to, or characterized by knowledge or cognition.
When Robert Monroe began having his first out-of-body adventures in 1958 only two scholarly, scientific books had been written about the phenomenon in English: The Projection of the Astral Body, by Sylvan Muldoon & Hereward Carrington, and Astral Projection: a Record of Out-of-Body Experiences, by Oliver Fox. These books, for the most part, were couched in the turgid prose of their era, and had a relatively limited readership within parapsychological and occult circles.
To read these treatises today (especially Muldoon’s), is to wade through highly detailed accounts of how the author exited his body, wandered around his home or neighbourhood, then returned. They’re valuable for the carefully recorded details of separation from the physical body, but make for often tedious reading because of the mundane circumstances described – which actually gives them verisimilitude, since anyone would imagine more interesting out-of-body trips if their accounts were fictional.
These gentlemen, perhaps because of their Victorian upbringing, did not have (or did not admit to having) the same kind of adventures that Monroe did. Monroe, for example devotes an entire chapter in Journeys Out of The Body to “Sexuality in the Second State,” because, as he says:
My only fully conscious OOBE certainly corroborates this observation, and all of the authors above, especially Monroe, state explicitly that command of the emotions (especially the sex-drive) is absolutely essential if we are to have any control over our out-of-body projections.
So Robert Monroe definitely broke new ground in the sparse OOBE literature of his day because his modern, scientific training would not allow him to leave anything (no matter how personally delicate), out of the narrative. As Journeys Out of The Body approaches its conclusion, we’re confident that we’re reading an accurately rendered, erudite account of a highly anomalous state of consciousness. Then, in the next-to-last chapter, following a dry (and very inconclusive) attempt to analyse his OOBEs statistically, Monroe offers a hypothesis for how these experiences might fit into a wider paradigm – an obvious, “What does it all mean?” summation of his data.
This hypothesis (pages 254 to 259) comes as something of a shock because it is written in a “fictional” narrative style very different from his previous prose. In this brief detour, Monroe describes the earth as being under more or less continuous observation by extraterrestrial intelligences – a conception somewhat resembling the plot-line in Doris Lessing’s novel Shikasta (1979).
Now, there’s a huge chasm separating Sylvan Muldoon’s contemplation of his living room furniture while out-of-body, and Monroe’s hypothesis of god-like entities influencing life on planet earth! Assuming that Monroe is telling the truth as he perceived it (and there is no reason to believe that he isn’t), then we’ve moved into deeper territory, indeed. As stated, our initial shock comes as a result of his use of an omniscient, “science fiction” point of view to describe it: (“The researchers discovered the source to be the third planet in a Class 10 star system. As they orbited the planet itself, measurements and observation indicated that it did not follow the norm for propagation of intelligent life... etc, etc.”)
This brief stylistic lapse, inserted into the next-to-last chapter of Journeys out of the Body becomes predominant in Monroe’s next book, Far Journeys (1985), where he defends his recourse to “allegory” with the explanation that it is the only way he knows how to communicate an essentially non-verbal reality:
In this transition, we have suddenly shifted from a straightforward (if unusual) “psychological” treatise about out-of-body experiences (a-la Fox and Muldoon) into the realm of metaphysics. (In common usage, “metaphysics” has come to denote arcane philosophical speculation unrelated to anything scientifically provable, but I use it here in its most literal meaning of: “beyond the physical.”) Considering Monroe’s subject matter, this is probably unavoidable: When subjective awareness perceives the material world “objectively” (i.e. outside of the physical body), by definition it must perceive from a “metaphysical” dimension, such as “Locale II” (discussed in the previous article). This is the land of dreams we visit while asleep, which is often impossible to translate with complete accuracy into physical terms. Anyone who has ever tried to interpret a numinous dream will understand the problem: some dreams are so “other” that they defy all description in words. Hence, Monroe is forced to use a style of writing usually associated with fantasy or science fiction to communicate a feeling for what such experiences are like.
Once the reader gets used to it, this approach seems natural enough, though one suspects that any author with less integrity than Monroe might be tempted to embellish his narrative: I confess that at times it feels like I’m reading a novel. Fortunately, in the Epilogue to Far Journeys, he returns to more scholarly prose when summing up what he had learned in the thirteen years since the publication of Journeys Out Of The Body.
That first book, as noted in the previous article, is the story of a shamanic initiation. This second book describes how the shaman is inducted into a realm of understanding which closely corroborates the general world view of the Gnostic religions of the first and second centuries C.E. Gnostic thought has become quite popularised in recent years, but at the time Far Journeys was published it was still the relatively uncelebrated pursuit of a handful of academic specialists. To understand the truly amazing correspondence between Monroe’s out-of-body observations and the world view of a few long-dead “heretics,” let’s briefly review the gnostic conception of reality.
To begin with, the term “Gnostic” refers to one who “knows” as contrasted with one who “believes.” There is a substantial (though often extremely tricky) difference between “knowing” that you know something and “believing” that you know something – for example, “knowing” that the sun will come up tomorrow morning, and “believing” that God created the universe in six days. The difference is that the gnostic has actually experienced the reality he espouses; he doesn’t have to rely on belief because he has gnosis – he knows. Unfortunately, the Gnostic’s form of “knowledge” is not always (or even very often) available to most people:
It is highly probable that this “revelation” was obtained while in the out-of-body state because of the close correlation between Robert Monroe’s descriptions of hyperspace (Locale-II) and the Gnostic Cosmos. This, of course, opens up an epistemological can of worms because such knowledge is not “scientifically provable.” Which doesn’t invalidate it, but does make it difficult to prove to anyone who hasn’t experienced the revelation.
For example: those who have had a fully conscious OOBE know that human consciousness can perceive from outside of the physical body. Those who haven’t had the experience, and who refuse to believe that it’s possible, can argue all they want to against it, without affecting the experiencer’s gnosis in the least. Either you know or you don’t know. (As one who has had an OOBE I am disinclined to dispute the reality of the phenomenon with skeptics who have not, though I confess that if I hadn’t had the experience I’d probably be a skeptic myself!) It is my intention here to supply evidence from a number of sources to at least open the possibility of out-of-body awareness and the reality it reveals to any open-minded “agnostic” – literally: one who “doesn’t know.”
In his last book, Ultimate Journey (1994), Monroe repeats the words “Know,” and “Known” (usually in caps) again and again. Though he never uses the word “Gnosis,” it is obvious that he is familiar with the deepest meaning of the term and that the entire concept is essential to his approach to experience. The following is the sort of statement that a Gnostic makes when describing the process of moving through belief toward knowledge:
We can eliminate a huge problem if we replace the word “belief” with “hypothesis” – an hypothesis is a tentative description of reality, subject to modification by new data. This is a more accurate mind-set than belief, because belief quickly ossifies into dogma. Although beliefs facilitate tranquil living (because they “protect” us from having to constantly re-evaluate our experience), they can all too easily block our perception of new realities. In the quotation above, Monroe is actually describing the scientific method for how any hypothesis must be subjected to proof. If the word “gnosis” is to have any meaning at all, it must always emerge from this process.
I have emphasised the distinction between gnosis and belief because it is essential for evaluating Monroe’s out-of-body corroboration of the Gnostic world view. The most striking thing one discovers about Gnostic cosmology is its singularly dark view of human experience. For the Gnostic, the world was created, not by a benevolent Supreme Being, but by a tyrannical demiurge: a demonic entity whose main goal is to keep humans trapped in matter:
What is the purpose of such enslavement? Why would “God” and his agents, called by the Gnostics “Archons” (Gk.: “Rulers”), want to imprison the human soul in matter? Their answer to this question (presumably obtained via revelations such as out-of-body observation), is that human beings generate a form of energy which the gods need for food.
This idea is also found in the Vedic tradition of India, where it is explicitly stated in the Upanishads that the “Devas” (gods) feed off of human energy:
In contemporary terms, spiritual intelligences (“gods”) preside over life on earth in much the way that we maintain cattle feed-lots or cultivate broiler chickens on factory farms. Essentially, they’re “soul-eaters.” It’s a heretical and shocking idea – diametrically opposed to the reality promulgated by our World Monotheisms. (Which is one of many reasons why the Gnostics didn’t last long: by the fourth century C.E. the “Archons” of the Christian Church had effectively persecuted all organised Gnostic sects into extinction!)
Robert Monroe gets a first inkling of this “Different Overview” in Journeys Out of The Body when he describes a sequence of events which took place in 1960 – about two years after he began having regular out-of-body experiences. In the first event, he experienced an energy probe that entered his forehead (third-eye chakra?) and began exploring his mind for something he couldn’t comprehend:
About a week later, the same thing occurred again, only this time he became aware that the “something” that the entities were searching for was related to some form of energy within his psyche:
This high-energy substance, “something like oil,” of course relates directly to the gnostic conception of “dew” extracted from the human soul, quoted above. About two weeks later, the entities again invade Monroe’s psyche. After they’ve finished their mind probe and leave his body, he describes it thus:
This, if nothing else, is a Gnostic initiation – undoubtedly similar to thousands that have occurred to isolated individuals throughout human history. But we don’t read of Monroe’s complete discovery until Far Journeys – that’s where the full force of the ancient Gnostic world view emerges in chilling detail...