An out of body experience, also known as astral projection, is supposed to be the phenomenon when a person's consciousness is detached from the physical body and travels or exists outside of the body. During these experiences, the person is aware of his surroundings and is often aware of what is being said around him.
Are Out of Body Experiences real?
There are a lot of reports from people who claim to have had various out of body experiences. The problem is testing them. Some people claim to have died during surgery, in emergency rooms, etc., who were aware of conversations going on in separate rooms while they were being worked on by doctors.
Some of these "astral projections" seem to be generated by trauma, death and then being revived, drug use, and occult practices where altered states of consciousness are sought. There are people who claim to be able to do it at will. Generally, they seem to occur at unpredictable times.
One of the explanations offered for out of body experiences is that the person has undergone a trauma or altered state of consciousness and is not actually traveling outside of his body but is imagining it the way a person will experience a dream but in a much more "real" impression than normal. The brain, after all, is highly complicated and can produce all sorts of images that can seem real.
What about 2 Cor. 12:1-4?
"Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows--4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak," (2 Cor. 12:1-4).
This Scripture is often used to support out of body experiences, but it cannot be properly used this way. In Jewish cosmology, there are three heavens. The first heaven deals with the atmospheric region (Deuteronomy 11:17, 28:12, Judges 5:4, Acts 14:17). The second heaven deals with the region of outer space (Psalm 19:4, 6, Jeremiah 8:2, Isaiah 13:10). The third heaven is God's dwelling place (1 Kings 8:30, Psalm 2:4, Matthew 5:16).
So, when Paul says that he knew someone who was caught up to the third heaven, he was speaking about entering into the dwelling place of God. What is important is that it occured either in the body or out of the body of which he did not know. Also, it is possible that this occurrence Paul speaks about, which is probably about himself, might very well be in reference to the instance when he was stoned and left for dead.
"But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead," (Acts 14:19).
Are out of body experiences harmful?
The Bible tells us that we are to avoid any occult practices. Astral projection is just such an event. Essentially, it amounts to what the Bible calls divination and sorcery and is to be avoided. In addition, it may very well open up individuals to demonic oppression since it is in violation of the Scriptures and is dabbling in the spiritual realm in a manner not approved by Scripture.
- Lev. 19:26, "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying."
- Lev. 19:31, "Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God."
- Deut. 18:9-11, "When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead."
- 2 Chronicles 33:6, "And he made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger."