A state of unconsciousness or partial consciousness in which,
according to psychical belief, the human organism is being perpetually
replenished with energy from an unseen world. Hereward
Carrington, writing in Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop
Them (1920), notes ‘‘Various theories have been advanced
in the past to explain sleep, but no satisfactory theory has even
been fully accepted. Thus we have the so-called ‘chemical theories,’
which endeavor to account for sleep by assuming that certain
poisonous substances are formed in the body during waking
hours and are eliminated during sleep. Others have
suggested that sleep is due to peculiar conditions of the circulations
of blood in the brain; still others that the action of certain
glands explains sleep; others that muscular relaxation accounts
for it, others that the lack of external stimuli is sufficient to induce
profound slumber. All these theories have been shown insufficient
to explain the facts. We shall never arrive at a satisfactory
theory of sleep, doubtless, until we admit the presence of
a vital force and the existence of an individual human spirit which
withdraws more or less completely from the body during the
hours of sleep, and derives spiritual invigoration and nourishment
during its sojourn in the spiritual world.’’
In the paranormal phenomena observed in dreams and the
hypnotic state, F. W. H. Myers found indications that ‘‘the self
of sleep is a spirit freed from ordinary material limitations, and
this conclusion conforms to the hypothesis that we live in two
worlds; the waking personality is adapted to the needs of terrestrial
life, the personality of sleep maintains the fundamental
connection between the spiritual world and the organism, so as
to provide the latter with energy while developing itself by the
exercise of its spiritual powers.’’
Related to theories of sleep are theories on astral projection,
also known as OBE (out-of-body experience) or soul traveling,
in which the soul is said to leave its body, and travel about
the astral plane. People who experience this, claim OBEs eliminate
their fears of death, while convincing them of their connection
to the spiritual realm. Writer Sylvan J. Muldoon, explains
the theory through his own experience ‘‘the astral body
discoincides during sleep for the purpose of recharging and
the depth of sleep and the amount of recuperation depend
upon the distance between the astral and physical bodies; i.e.,
the greater the distance of separation, the freer the inflow of
cosmic energy, or prana, into it.’’ Precursors to astral projection
are lucid dreaming (an awareness of the self in dream
state) and interrupted sleep (in which the physical body arises
during the sleep state).
Considerable study is presently being conducted in the area
of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is said to constitute
between 20 and 50 percent of sleep activity. During this
type of sleep, the brain seems to behave as if the body is awake
brainwave activity is high, heart rate increases, and sexual stimulation
occurs. It is during this REM period that most of the
night’s dream activity—and perhaps paranormal activity—
While the increased neural activity during REM sleep may
facilitate the development and maturation of the nervous system
in infants, the role of REM in adults remains unclear. William
C. Dement of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic proposes
some of the possibilities
‘‘There is strong evidence that REM sleep plays a role in the
regulation of mood andor drive; that it is related in some way
to excitability of the central nervous system; and that its suppression
may in some way jeopardize the learning and memory
functions. The occurrence of large amounts of REM sleep
among newborn infants remains possibly the most provocative
puzzle of all; it suggests a very important role for REM in the
earliest stages of life.’’
Another subject currently receiving significant attention is
sleep deprivation. Murphy, in an article written for the Atlantic
Monthly (1996), asserts Americans living a century ago could
sleep 20% longer than the average American today. Ten million
Americans each year seek medical, alternative medical, or
therapeutic help for the treatment of sleeping disorders. Also
sleep deprivation is thought to be a greater contributor to traffic
fatalities than intoxication. Severe sleep deprivation is
known to cause substantial detrimental alterations in both behavior
and perception. Since a considerable amount of people
who have been deprived of sleep report paranormal experiences,
there exists the question of what role sleep deprivation
plays in perceived paranormal incidents.
Angoff, Allan, ed. The Psychic Force Essays in Modern Psychical
Research from the International Journal of Parapsychology. New
York G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1970.
Bigelow, J. The Mystery of Sleep. London Unwin; New York
Harper, 1903.
Braid, James. Neurypnology; or, The Rationale of Nervous Sleep.
London, 1843. Reprint, AMS Press, 1976.
Slawensik Poltergeist Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Cohen, D. Sleep and Dreaming Origins, Nature and Functions.
New York Pergamon Press, 1981.
Crookall, Robert. During Sleep The Possibility of ‘‘Cooperation’’
Between the Living and the Dead. New Hyde Park, N.Y.
University Books, 1974.
Dement, William C. Sleepwatchers. Stanford Stanford Alumni
Association, 1992.
———. Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep Exploring the
World of Sleep. San Francisco San Francisco Book, 1976. Reprint,
New York Norton, 1978.
Green, Celia E. Lucid Dreams. London Hamish Hamilton,
Hammon, A Christopher. ‘‘If You Don’t Snooze, You Lose
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep is Critical to Productivity and
Creativity.’’ September 27,
Jones, Richard M. The New Psychology of Dreaming. New
York Grune & Stratton, 1970.
Jyotir Maya Nanda, Swami. Waking, Dream, and Sleep.
Miami, Fla. Yoga Research Foundation, 1974.
Muldoon, Sylvan, and Hereward Carrington. The Projection
of the Astral Body. London Rider, 1929.
Murphy, Cullen. ‘‘Hello Darkness Dealing with Yet Another
Deficit.’’ Atlantic Monthly March 1996. 22–24.
Perl, James. Sleep Right in Five Nights. New York William
Morrow and Co., Inc. 1993.
Taylor, Albert. Soul Traveler. Covina, Calif. Verity Press,
Ullman, Montague, and Stanley Krippner. Dream Studies and
Telepathy An Experimental Approach. New York Parapsychology
Foundation, 1970.

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