First of all, yes, you should buy this book. Whether you are a "weekend warrior" OBEer or a full-time consciousness explorer, Explorations in Consciousness is full of information which will greatly enrich your personal explorations. Furthermore, Fred's writing style is excellent, and this book is a pleasure to read.
Fred Aardema takes a truly new and original approach to the out-of-body experience. He straddles the fence between outright skeptic and glossy-eyed believer, approaching the subject with an entirely open mind. While it is clear that Fred has been influenced by the Monroe school of thought, he takes nothing for granted. Fred makes his conclusions only on the basis of his own personal experiences.
The conclusions Fred makes in this book-- or rather, the lack thereof-- may frustrate readers who have taken a concrete stance on the nature of OBEs. You will not find extensive cosmologies or revelations regarding the nature of the meaning of life that are present in other works. Rather, this book should be viewed as a big step in the right direction: a completely open-minded approach where conclusions are not drawn unless supported by evidence.
In Chapter 1, we are treated to Fred's first personal OBE experiences at the age of 17. Fred recounts his ever-increasing skepticism towards OBEs over the years, especially in light of the convincing theory that OBEs are merely lucid dreams.
We then move on to Part 1, where Fred addresses basic issue and controversies regarding OBEs. He considers different definitions of OBEs put forth by various individuals, both believer and skeptic. We are then given an overview of occult, contemporary, materialistic, and nonlocal approaches to OBEs. The strengths and weaknesses of all these approaches are given equal consideration. What I found most interesting was Fred's thorough debunking of the lucid dream theory, which has gained popularity on the internet.
Ultimately, Fred seems to favor nonlocal approaches such as those put forth by various researchers and, interestingly, Robert Monroe.
Chapter 3 is a gem-- the transition process. The nature and induction of energy sensations and various pathways to the OBE state are addressed. This chapter answered many questions I had regarding the transition process, including a very basic one-- what are those famous vibrations and where do they come from?
Additionally, we are introduced to the concept of parasomatic (with a second body) and asomatic (without a second body) transitions, which does not bode well for the notion of subtle bodies put forth by theosophists.
Part 2 deals with explorations in the physical field of consciousness. Fred addresses the basic question of whether a projector is roaming the physical world like a ghost, or if he is "elswewhere." Reality fluctuations are explored in detail-- Fred details the basic causes of reality fluctuations and gives strategies for dealing with each.
Fred segues into the subject of veridical perception. His struggle to obtain veridical perception in the physical field is long, frustrating, but ultimately promising with his final "nail test."
Part 3 addresses the human spectrum of consciousness, which Fred divides into the personal and collective fields.
The personal field is where one is projecting into his own psyche, where all objects and persons encountered are extensions of one's own self. In this respect, the personal field is very similar to the lucid dream environment. Fred notes that the personal field exerts a powerful pull, and it is therefore very easy to get sucked in unintentionally.
I respectfully disagree with Fred on some of his conclusions regarding the personal field. He states that many who think that they are astral projecting in collective environments are really inside the personal field. This becomes clear when Fred gives techniques for entering the personal field; included is R. Bruce's technique of flying towards the horizon when in a real-time zone projection. Furthermore, Fred states that Monroe's early Locale II was Monroe's personal field, but Monroe clearly states in Far Journeys that Locale II equates to the the "central rings" that he observed around earth.
Still, Fred's observations and experiences in the personal field are extraordinary. We are treated to Fred's many selves, including probable and higher selves. Techniques are given for utilizing the personal field for growth, such as mindscaping. Fred also recounts a fascinating contact with Monroe himself, where Monroe leads Fred to "clean up" a dirty pond in his personal field.
Section 3 addresses collective fields of consciousness. Fred notes that venturing beyond the personal field is difficult. The personal field creates all kinds of obstacles that seem designed to prevent an aspiring projector from leaving. This is perhaps the most convincing argument for the existence of collective fields-- why doesn't the personal field just create a false collective field? Fred also addresses the notion that the personal field is a training ground for the "real thing," as put forth by William Buhlman and Frank Kepple.
Fred addresses the issue of differentiating between personal and collective fields, including techniques offered by various projectors.
Fred discusses the notion of afterlife environments, and recounts his visit to what seems to be what Monroe calls The Park. Fred also discusses the notion of repository fields, which seem to be information storage areas. These would seem to equate to the Hindu concept of the Akashic records or Tom Campbell's Reality Wide Web.
Fred never fully concludes that collective fields exist. After all, it is difficult to gather evidence. However, he notes that one cannot discount the idea altogether. Extraordinary things happen in these supposed collective fields. Fred mentions a brief visit from his deceased grandmother before he knew she had died.
I am curious as to why Fred didn't attempt to gather verifiable information from supposedly deceased persons. This is the approach advocated by afterlife researcher Bruce Moen. If one projects into an afterlife environment and obtains verifiable information from a deceased person therein, would that not be evidence for the existence of collective fields? It would be interesting to see Fred undertake such an endeavor.
The following chapter offers a preliminary hypothesis for the nature of consciousness and perception. Fred also addresses exploring beyond human consciousness, and the difficulties inherently involved, including his own experience where he felt he had projected into an environment where three-dimensional space did not exist.
Chapter 9 is a treasure-- the vigil method. I see no need to dive into an explanation, as it is available as a free excerpt on Fred's website.
The final chapter covers the issue of navigating in the OBE state. Fred offers a pragmatic mode of travel centered around the void, including techniques for phasing into and out of environments from the void. Monroe's quick-switch method is also discussed.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Explorations in Consciousness. Not since Astral Dynamics has such an encylcopedic and informative book on OBEs been available to the public. Regardless of your stance towards OBEs, your beliefs will be challenged by Fred's extensive observations and sound theory.
The reader is left with the sense that there is much work to be done in understanding OBEs and consciousness in general. However, Explorations in Consciousness is a gigantic leap in the right direction.
At the end of the day, I retain my mystical view on OBEs. However, Fred has given me much to consider. I extend my sincere thanks to Fred for taking the time and energy to write this book.