Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D., Atlantic University
Another of my papers was just published. In “Explorations of the Features of Out-of-Body Experiences: An Overview and Critique of the Work of Robert Crookall” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2012, 76, 65-82) I review and critique aspects of the work of Robert Crookall.
As I wrote in the article’s abstract “geologist Robert Crookall published about out-of-body experiences (OBEs) during the 1960s and 1970s. Crookall presented hundreds of OBEs and analysed their features. His work was conducted to defend the existence of subtle bodies possessing different characteristics. Depending on the subtle body active in particular experiences, the OBE had specific characteristics. Furthermore, Crookall claimed to have identified basic recurrent features of the OBE, and he discussed factors that affected the content of OBEs such as the circumstances surrounding their occurrence. A critique of Crookall’s work is presented, considering definition problems, the low number of cases, and misclassification of experiences. Furthermore, analyses of new data are presented to test Crookall’s findings.”
I analyzed some of Crookall’s work for inner consistency and also compared his findings to those of my own OBE questionnaire studies. This included the reporting of specific OBE features and the claim that natural or gradually-produced OBEs had more features than enforced OBEs, or those OBEs provoked suddenly by factors such as accidents, drugs, or willful induction. “The comparison of Crookall’s percentages of general OBE characteristics with those of my studies suggests that his findings have some consistency. In addition, the reanalysis of my data regarding experiences at the beginning and at the end of the OBE support Crookall as well. Nonetheless, not only is there a need for more comparison studies, but it is clear from Crookall’s own numbers that some of his ‘basic’ characteristics are somewhat low in frequency . . . This suggests that some of them are not to be considered as primary characteristics of the OBE, as Crookall considered them . . . From my previous work . . . and analyses reported here, the natural and enforced comparisons do not seem consistent.”
The paper includes many detailed analyses, many of whch I cannot discuss here. One problem is the inflation of features such as cords seen between the physical body and the OBE location or subtle body. Many cases were counted by Crookall as cords without visual descriptions of such structure. One wonders how many other similar problems are in his research. “Consequently, doubts must be thrown on some of the patterns described by Crookall and on his theoretical framework, including the ‘workings’ of . . . [his] hypothetical subtle bodies . . .”
Nonetheless Crookall reminds us of the complexity of the features of OBEs. “His attempts to chart features of the OBE will always be remembered as a contribution to the development of a natural history of these experiences.”
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Alvarado, C. S. (1984). Phenomenological aspects of out-of-body experiences: A report of three studies. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 78, 219-240.
Crookall, R. (1961). The Study and Practice of Astral Projection. London: Aquarian Press.
Crookall, R. (1964). More Astral Projections. London: Aquarian Press.
Crookall, R. (1965). Intimations of Immortality. London: James Clarke.
Crookall, R. (1967). Events on the Threshold of the After Life. Moradabad, India: Darshana International.
Crookall, R. (1970). Out-of-the-Body Experiences: A Fourth Analysis. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books.
Crookall, R. (1972). Case-Book of Astral Projection, 545-746. Secaucus, NJ: University Books.
Crookall, R. (1978). What Happens When You Die. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe.
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