Out-of-Body Experiences

A quick search with online retailer Amazon.com brings up hundreds of books, CDs and DVDs — ranging from how-to guides to philosophical treatises — on out-of-body traveling or "astral projection" for connoisseurs. Web sites for out-of-body enthusiasts list hundreds of testimonies from those claiming to have traveled outside their skin and willing to pass on their knowledge.

William Buhlman, author of the best-selling guide "Adventures Beyond the Body: How to Experience Out-of-Body Travel," teaches seminars on how to travel beyond oneself in locations all over the world. He says out-of-body travel helps people understand some of life's biggest mysteries.

"It's the great question of our time," Buhlman told ABC News from his home in Shanghai, China. "What happens after death?"

Buhlman, 57, says he has taken "hundreds" of journeys beyond his physical self. He teaches 40 different methods, including hypnosis and visualization, to achieve out-of-body states.

"Once you experience yourself separated from your body," Buhlman said, "no matter what anybody says, you know that you will continue beyond the body."

Karolinska's Ehrsson also expressed excitement at the no-medical possibilities of having people leave their bodies at will.

"This is essentially a means of projecting yourself, a form of teleportation," he said. "Just imagine the implications. The experience of playing video games could reach a whole new level."

Other practical applications might include doctors performing surgery from remote locations, Ehrsson said.

As to whether the studies published this week explain "spontaneous out-of-body experiences," as the nonlaboratory variety are called by both medical experts and lay enthusiasts, the studies' authors are careful not to draw any conclusions.

"We don't know if it's the same mechanism involved," Ehrsson told ABC News, adding that the absence of cameras or other equipment distinguishes spontaneous OBEs from those triggered in his study.

"But," he said of people who report having traveled beyond their physical selves and then return to tell the tale, "I think we have to take them seriously."

"Now we have a biological framework," Ehrsson said, "and we can start to talk about these things in a scientific context."

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