Out-of-the-Body Experiences: What I Did and Didn’t Claim

Back in 1968, I published a pioneering study of out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) with a young woman who had experienced them since she was a child.

Tart, C. T. (1968).  A psychophysiological study of out-of-the-body experiences in a selected subject.  Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 62, 3-27.


I hoped my findings would demonstrate that it was feasible to study OBEs under laboratory conditions where we might learn a lot about their nature, and stimulate others to do so.  In the almost 50 years since publication – it was in a specialty journal where few people would see it – but hardly anyone has done studies like it, and the few done in the last decade or so strike me as misguided, taking some minor aspect of an OBE as if it were the whole experience when the studies are clearly not studying actual OBEs.  That’s a shame, as OBEs convince people, rightly or wrongly, that they will survive death so it’s really important to study them.

I constantly get people writing me or talking to me after lectures about that initial study (I’ve done others), often believing that I claimed something spectacular, something like “This proves that the soul actually leaves the body.”  They don’t like that apparent conclusion.  But either they heard about the study from some secondary source that left out information about it, or they are so strongly motivated to explain OBEs “away” as merely some sort of hallucination, that they pay no attention to what I write and claimed.  I’ve had to correct people so many times that I’ll do it once and for all here.

Here is the actual final paragraph of the published study.  Note it uses OOBE, an acronym I originally coined, rather than OBE, which I now use.  A proper British colleague chastised me, you don’t capitalize the “of” in an acronym – or at least it wasn’t proper back then.

“In summary, this brief study found a fairly clear-cut correlation between several of Miss Z’s reported 000B experiences and a physiological pattern characterized by a flattened EEG with prominent alphoid activity, no REM [rapid eye movement, characteristic of ordinary dreaming] or skin resistance activity, and normal heart rate.  Much more work remains to be done before we can begin to understand the psychophysiological and  parapsychological aspects of OOB experiences, and it is hoped that the present study, insofar as it has shown that these experiences can be studied by the techniques of modern science, will encourage other investigators to carry out further experiments.”

It’s normal human behavior to pay more attention to things you don’t like than to things you like, I do it all the time.  But if you’re going to criticize someone, it really helps your case to be accurate about what you’re accusing them of…

I’m happy to stick with my claim that we could study OBEs in greater depth with modern scientific methods, and grateful that I was lucky enough to “accidentally” find a person who could have OBEs almost at will so they could be studied in the lab.



  1. Dear professor Charles Hart

    I had a hundred of OOBEs in my life since 22 years old. I could contribute by adding interesting descriptions to the debate. ESP like clairvoyance, clairaudience are quite vivid in the state outside the body. I have “scientifically” verified the reliability of these experiences. There are also plenty of so called extraterrestrial realities, “subtle worlds” I have seen and they are similar, in a sense, to those described by John.C.Lilly, Robert Monroe.


  2. Dear Mr. Tart,

    I just wanted to say congratulations on a highly fruitful career and for being a pioneer in the field of parapsychology, within the global scientific community.
    I have recently gained a digital copy of your “Altered States of Consciousness “which i’m looking forward to reading in the future, especially the parts pertaining to mind altering substances and their effects on the brain. I liked your introduction in Robert Monroe’s first book “Journey’s out of the body” but
    I particularly liked your introduction in D.Scott Rogo’s “Leaving The Body.”
    It is probably my all time favourite book. Even nearly 40 years after being published it holds for us practical tools to discover for ourselves the truth about the out of body phenomena, regardless of whether it is scientifically legitimised or not.
    I agree with you that he has done us all a great service with his diligent research, sensibility and generosity in publishing such a practical, inexpensive and definitive volume on the subject as you put it “on material that is so easily sensationalised”.
    I hope to utilise his suggested techniques after a brief but provocative out of body experience I had many years ago in the hope of experiencing a more consistent rather than spontaneous result.
    I’d also like to share my response regarding your Wikipedia profile report of the OBE experiment you conducted with “Miss Z” and the criticism directed at you from the scientific community.
    I feel given the nature of your academic position and everything you have accomplished the statements and criticisms were unfairly harsh, disrespectfully slanted and quite counter productive.
    (Especially to newcomers researching parapsychology and the depth of it’s potential you have devoted so many years toward). It never ceases to amaze me how highly educated intelligent people seem to be so drawn to skepticism, and so quick to promote their findings with such certainty, even when they are given direct personal experiences to the contrary.
    My answer to the critics in short and to quote the sex pistols, “never mind the bollocks.”
    I feel science has a place (as does critical objectification) but people who seek to focus on projecting skeptical views tend to end up becoming their own worst enemies.
    Rather like focusing on proving whether Buddha levitated, rather than understanding his message and apply it experientially for themselves.
    My view (like you, Rogo and many others is that the mind is so much greater than the brain to which we are born a part of). Science/pseudoscience is an important but small part of a limitless consciousness framework which we are blessed to be experiencing.
    Constantly debating it may flatter someone’s ego in the short term but can eventually become akin to a semantical moot point stuck firmly in a spiders web. I remember asking God one day whilst working at a menial job what the purpose of the purpose of life was…….the only answer I got was a statement,
    “I’ll tell you, only when you can justify a genuine reason why you should know above anyone, and what you will realistically achieve when I give you the answer…”
    Still I can’t answer the question..lol
    It is my sincere reverence and thanks to you for your ongoing tireless and generous work (in spite of such criticism) and in supporting the Rogos, Monroes, Swanns, Hararys, Carringtons, Callaways, Lancelins and numerous searchers of our time that re awaken us to the magic that is our birth rite, ushering in the next generation of cosmic explorers.
    It’s amazing to think of the positive impact your work has had on so many people across the world.
    You too have done us all a great service with your service.
    Thankyou for your years of contributions as you embark on your next phase of consciousness exploration on what to quote Rogo is essentially “a spiritual quest.”
    I thoroughly appreciate your time in reading this.
    Though it would be wonderful to continue a correspondence (I have many questions and would love to hear more of your findings from over the years) I respect your time commitments. My main aim is to simply acknowledge your important presence as a fellow seeker keeping up the good work.
    In closing, I’d like to wish you and your loved ones a great Christmas, a prosperous new year, and every happiness in the future.

    Yours Sincerely and respectfully,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *