A non-physical double travels in a non-physical, but ‘objective,’ astral world) Each of the theories presented thus far support a conclusion that OBEs do not take place in the physical world at all, but in a thought-created or mental world. Each of the next three types of theory start from this premise, but they are very different and lead to totally different conceptions of the experience. The term ‘mental world’ could mean several different things. It could mean the purely private world created by each of us in our thinking. One possibility is that there is another world (or worlds) which is mental but is in some sense shared, or objective and in which we can all travel if we attain certain states of consciousness. The important question now becomes whether the OB world is peculiar to each individual, or shared and accessible to all.
Occultists have suggested that there is a shared thought world. There are many other versions of this kind of theory. The pertinent features of this idea are that there is a non-physical OB world which is accessible by thought, that it is manipulable by thought, and that it is the product of the mind of more than just one person. Tart, as one of his five theories of the OBE, suggests what he calls the ‘mentally-manipulatable-state explanation.’ He raises here the familiar problem of, as he puts it ‘where the pajamas come from.’ That is, if the OBE involves the separation of a ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ we have to include the possibility of spiritual dinner jackets and tie pins. Of course any theory which postulates ‘thought created’ world solves this problem.
Tart therefore suggested that a non-physical second body travels in a non-physical world which is capable of being manipulated or changed by ‘the conscious and non-conscious thoughts and desires of the person whose second body is in that space.’
In 1951 Muldoon and Carrington had come to a similar conclusion . Muldoon states ‘… one thing is clear to me — the clothing of the phantom is created, and is not a counterpart of the physical clothing.’ Through his observations he came to the conclusion that ‘Thought creates in the astral, … In fact the whole astral world is governed by thought.’ But he did not mean it was a private world of thoughts. Also relevant here is the occult notion of thought forms.
Theosophists Besant and Leadbeater describe the creation of thought forms by the mental and desire bodies, and their manifestations as floating forms in the mental and astral planes. All physical objects are supposed to have their astral counterparts and so when traveling in the astral one sees a mixture of the astral forms of physical things and thought created, or purely astral, entities. There are other versions of a similar idea. For example Whiteman questions the ‘one-space theory’ of OBEs , and Poynton follow him suggesting ‘… what is described is not the physical world as actualized by the senses of the physical body, but a copy, more or less exact, of the physical world’ . Rogo suggests that the OBE takes place in a non-physical duplicate world which is just as ‘real’ to the OBEer as our world is to us.
The idea of shared thought world, attractive as it is, has some serious problems. The first problem relates to how the thoughts of different people could be combined together to create an astral world and the second problem concerns the storage of ideas. The idea that thoughts can persist independently of the brain has been a cornerstone of many occult theories, but also parapsychologists have used a similar idea to try to explain ESP.
According to Blackmore the problem is essentially one of coding. We know that when a person remembers something he has first processed the incoming information, thought about it, structured it, and turned it into a manageable form using some sort of code. We presume that the information persists in this form until needed when the person can use the same coding system to retrieve it and use it. Even if we don’t understand the details of how this system works, there is in principle no problem for one person because he uses the same system both in storing the material and retrieving it.
But if thoughts are stored in the astral world, then we have to say that one person can store them there and another can get them out again. And that other person may have entirely different ways of coding information. So how can these thoughts in the astral possibly make sense to him?