Is the reality we live in the actual reality? But, what is reality? Could we say it is what we detect with our senses or with the help of technology? But, if we would say so, then what about the period when microorganisms were not known? They were real at that time, of course, even though they were not acknowledged.
And what about our sky? Does it look like this? Or like this? Perhaps like this? Or this? It turns out that all of these are real pictures of the exact same region of the sky, but the cameras used to take them captured different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. But would a non-informed person consider this our real sky? I’d say, most probably not. So, we see that defining reality is not so easy.
My own understanding of reality happened to be challenged when I was very young. And that one experience made me become a researcher of paranormal phenomena and non-ordinary reality. But I must say that it’s, somehow, a challenge for me, because as a researcher I see how complex it is to explain this sort of phenomena and even more complex it is to find concrete evidences of them.
But, as a person, I cannot deny the experiences that I had. So, that’s kind of a dilemma, and I deal with it thinking, “This is something that needs further study.” And I try to contribute to this. My experience happened when I was very young, about 7 or 8 years old, and an uncle and aunt of mine went on a trip to São Paulo, a big city I had only heard about at that time.
A few nights later, during my sleep, I felt myself floating upwards, and somehow I ended up in São Paulo, in a room where my uncle was lying on the bed. And I saw he had some little tubes inserted into his nostrils and there was a bag with a liquid that would be injected into his arms. I also saw something even stranger. He had a thin clear tube that was connected from his abdomen, as far as I could tell, to a glass jar placed on the floor, which held a slightly reddish liquid. That blew my mind.
I didn’t have a clue of what that was, because I’m from a very small town in Brazil, that you can see here. This is the whole town, compared to a little part of São Paulo, which you saw before. Wonderful people live there, but at that time, almost 50 years ago, it had no book stores, no libraries, no movie theaters, of course, no universities. But I must say I had a very happy childhood, because I grew up with six siblings, we were always playing around, but we had no illnesses in the family. We didn’t have either money enough to have a TV in our house or to buy books.
So, I had never seen anything like that before. When they came back from their trip I just said to my aunt, “Hey, I saw uncle Gino laying down on bed and in such room,” and I described what I had seen. She was baffled and just changed the subject. But later that day, I overheard her telling my mother, “How on earth could Nanci have known that if not even you or anyone else knew he was going for a bladder surgery? Because we didn’t tell anybody, as we didn’t want you to worry about it.” So, that experience, as well as others I’ve had, compelled me to seek further studies in this field.
I found out that this experience is called an OBE or out-of-body experience, which is a phenomenon, according to the current model, in which the consciousness moves away from the human body, being able to experience a reality that is subtler than this ordinary one. In my search for serious studies I found that science was – I’m afraid maybe it still is – far from understanding or even acknowledging a reality that is beyond the boundaries of this standard material world.
So I thought, “How are meaningful experiences such as mine examined?” And then I decided that one day I’d join the small group of individuals who were dedicated studying it. Among the bodies of work that I researched, one that I found to be among the most scientific at that time was that of Robert Crookall. He compiled thousands of OBE accounts in order to compare them and see if there were common elements.
He concluded that these experiences are not a result of beliefs of any kind and are independent of cultural aspects. Now, we must say that interpretation of the experience, yes, that may be influenced by one’s beliefs because, unavoidably, most individuals would interpret their experiences according to their own belief system. This is where current research on OBEs and expanded states of consciousness comes into play, because it may help reveal which elements make an experience reliable. And I’d say that education on this topic could also reduce this degree of subjectivity in the interpretation of the experience. There have been a number of surveys and laboratory experiments under controlled conditions to investigate OBEs.
I also have conducted several of them, with published results – interesting results, but no conclusive evidences yet. I’d love to share them with you, but we don’t have time. But, perhaps I can at least share with you what are some of the common sensations that one would experience when in partial or complete separation from the body. I myself have experienced many of these sensations since I was very young. For example, I vividly remember moments when I was relaxed, just lying in bed, and I would feel a very strong vibration inside my body, unusual, powerful, as if all my cells were connected to some sort of electricity or being activated by a live energy.