In late June and early July 2020, a rumor on TikTok’s #witchtok hashtag held that the album Qabalista by Selki Girl “triggered astral projection” or other strange experiences; a video with hundreds of thousands of engagements involved one user relaying their experience:
@righteous_dragon##greenscreen I also got the craziest vivid images and strange messages, it was so weird! ???? ##witchtok ##qabalista ##fyp♬ original sound – righteous_dragon
In the above clip, user @righteous_dragon explained that they did not believe the rumors about Selki Girl’s Qabalista, that it would “apparently make you do things like astral travel.” But the user listened to the album, describing a range of unexpected sensations — such as a presence in the room, a “flick” at the center of their forehead, and other feelings around their “third eye chakra.”
Viewing the hashtag #qabalista showed a number of likely similar videos, in which users described their experience listening to the Qabalista album:
We located iterations of the rumor about Selki Girl’s Qabalista in Facebook groups, and it also appeared on Reddit’s r/Music:
Selki Girl herself shared a post about the album to Reddit’s r/druidism on March 30 2020. She said the album “documents [her] experiences with magick, ritual, gender expression, and transition over about a 13-month period of ritual actions spanning most of ,” and the :end result is a gapless 45-minute trip through western mysticism, as told from a working class, ground level perspective.”
She advised fellow users to “grab your favorite pair of headphones, set your space, and close your eyes” before listening to the album:
Has the Phenomenon Been Studied?
You have likely encountered the concept of “astral projection,” whether in esoteric literature or in pop culture — such as Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Defined simply, astral projection (also called an out-of-body experience, or “OBE”) is the disputed ability to separate one’s consciousness from their physical body:
astral projection, noun
: the ability of a person’s spirit to travel to distant places
A 2014 study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, “Voluntary out-of-body experience: an fMRI study,” involved a single subject and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) diagnostics. Its abstract summarized findings of the small experiment:
The present single-case study examined functional brain imaging patterns in a participant that reported being able, at will, to produce somatosensory sensations that are experienced as her body moving outside the boundaries of her physical body all the while remaining aware of her unmoving physical body. We found that the brain functional changes associated with the reported extra-corporeal experience (ECE) were different than those observed in motor imagery. Activations were mainly left-sided and involved the left supplementary motor area and supramarginal and posterior superior temporal gyri, the last two overlapping with the temporal parietal junction that has been associated with out-of-body experiences. The cerebellum also showed activation that is consistent with the participant’s report of the impression of movement during the ECE. There was also left middle and superior orbital frontal gyri activity, regions often associated with action monitoring. The results suggest that the ECE reported here represents an unusual type of kinesthetic imagery.
That research avoided the terminology “astral projection” or “astral travel,” referring to the woman’s claim instead as an “extra-corporeal experience (ECE.)” A separate section provided background for the subject, stating that the young woman was “surprised that not everyone could experience” astral projection:
The participant was a right-handed woman, age 24, who was a psychology graduate student at the time of testing. She signed an informed consent approved by the University of Ottawa Research Ethics Board. The participant was in an undergraduate class that presented data on body representation hallucinations in patients that report experiences of their body outside their physical body. The participant spontaneously reported after class that she could have a similar “out of body” experience. She appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this. The participant described her experience as one she began performing as a child when bored with “sleep time” at preschool. She discovered she could elicit the experience of moving above her body and used this as a distraction during the time kids were asked to nap. She continued to perform this experience as she grew up assuming, as mentioned, that “everyone could do it.” This was often done before sleep onset as an aid to enter sleep.
She described the experience as variable depending on her frame of mind. She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body. The participant reported no particular emotions linked to the experience. As an adult, the participant only infrequently “practiced” the experience; the experience does not occur spontaneously but is induced wilfully.
The participant describes the experience in the following terms: “I feel myself moving, or, more accurately, can make myself feel as if I am moving. I know perfectly well that I am not actually moving. There is no duality of body and mind when this happens, not really. In fact, I am hyper-sensitive to my body at that point, because I am concentrating so hard on the sensation of moving. I am the one moving – me – my body. For example, if I ‘spin’ for long enough, I get dizzy. I do not see myself above my body. Rather, my whole body has moved up. I feel it as being above where I know it actually is. I usually also picture myself as moving up in my mind’s eye, but the mind is not substantive. It does not move unless the body does.”
Researchers further noted that the subject’s ECE was self-reported — however, it correlated with unexpected activity in her brain:
Also, because the ECE was private to the participant, we have to rely on the participant’s descriptions to interpret the results. With these caveats in mind, we find that the brain functional changes associated with the reported ECE were different than those observed in motor imagery. The results suggest that the ECE reported here represents an unusual type of kinesthetic imagery that shares some features of previously described out-of-body experiences and some features of more typical motor imagery.
“Voluntary out-of-body experience: an fMRI study” was just one piece of research, and it involved an extremely small sample of one.
However, earlier and far more notorious inquiry into whether humans could, at will, separate their consciousnesses from their physical bodies and “travel” occurred — and wasn’t declassified until fairly recently.
The Central Intelligence Agency on Astral Projection
Famously among adherents of esoteric subjects are several declassified CIA documents about the agency’s attempts to verify or debunk the existence of astral projection, OBEs, or ECEs.
A 2017 Vice article, “The US Army Funded Astral Projection and Hypnosis Research in the 80s,” which began:
Human consciousness is nothing but an intersection of energy planes that forms a hologram able to travel through spacetime—across the universe, and into the past, present, and future.
I read about this idea in a CIA document about the US Army. Yes, the US Army. The institution that painstakingly crafts an image of commitment to pragmatic and logical objectives. When I was reading through the documents, I was certainly a bit surprised.
According to the declassified CIA documents that I read, the US Army was extremely interested in psychic experimentation. From the late 1970s into the 80s, it even paid for intelligence officers to go on weeklong excursions to an out-of-the-way institute specializing in out-of-body experiences and astral projection.
The documents were declassified as early as 2001, but they caught my eye when they appeared in a /r/conspiracy post earlier [in July 2017]. The psychic experimentation program, which was called “Project Center Lane,” interviewed Army intelligence officers in order “to determine attitudes about the possible use of psychoenergetic phenomena in the intelligence field,” according to the declassified CIA document from 1984.
That reporting went on to summarize the contents of some of the documents its author reviewed, recounting resources dedicated to and results derived from the research. The “Monroe Institute,” founded by Robert Monroe, still exists:
According to one of the declassified Army files, 251 Army intelligence candidates were selected for the first year of experimentation. Of those candidates, 117 were interviewed under the impression that they were taking a survey. The document gives no specifics about the survey itself, but does indicates that the interviewer asked fairly direct questions about “psychoenergetics.”
“Individuals who had objections to the military use of psychoenergetics were not considered for the final selection,” the document reads. “Additionally, individuals who displayed an unreasonable enthusiasm for psychoenergetics, occult fanatics and mystical zealots were not considered for final selection.”
Between 30 and 35 of the original 251 candidates were said to have “desired” traits, such as open-mindedness and intelligence, that made them suited for the program.
Intelligence officers who were accepted to the program were sent to the Monroe Institute. Officers would then listen to the “Hemi-Sync” audio. After this, one of the institute’s research associates would guide intelligence officers into the astral plane, a psychic space in which the institute said that the officers supposedly could heighten their sensory experiences, heal their bodies, travel into the past or future, or even solve real-world dilemmas without the restraints of a physical body.
Some of Monroe’s Hemi-Sync meditations — also rumored to trigger out-of-body experiences — are available on YouTube.
One of several declassified CIA documents, titled “Astral Projection Caper” [PDF] and originally published in August 1973, is available at CIA.gov. A Wikipedia page for the US Army’s Stargate project outlines some of the decades-long experiments, and a number of additional declassified documents are available on CIA.gov here.
Wikipedia’s introduction asserted the Stargate program was “declassified in 1995 after a CIA report concluded that it was never useful in any intelligence operation.” However, the security implications of any discoveries to the contrary seemed significant enough to consider whether all findings in the partly redacted documents were disclosed.
Is Astral Projection Real? Do People Have Out-of-Body Experiences?
It’s not uncommon to encounter articles or other content suggesting the subject is a matter of settled science, and that out-of-body experiences (or astral projection) has been debunked by science and the CIA.
Irrespective of widespread skepticism, serious inquiry into the topic continues. Dr. Sam Parnia, an associate professor of Medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center, is a well-known researcher into cardiopulmonary resuscitation and near-death experiences (NDEs).
Parnia co-authored November 2019 research, titled “Abstract 387: Awareness and Cognitive Activity During Cardiac Arrest,” in the journal Circulation. Its background states:
While 50% of cardiac arrest (CA) survivors report negative psychological outcomes including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety, 10% report a positive transformational outcome associated with recall of cognitive activity and 2-3% report external awareness during CPR. Though, often referred to using the poorly defined term of near-death experiences (NDE), this aspect of CA survivorship remains ill understood.
A “Conclusion” section adds:
External awareness and internal cognitive activity may occur during CA. However, it is unclear whether explicit recall sufficiently describes the entirety of cognitive processes during CA, or whether implicit memories may also form. In some survivors, memories lead to greater life-meaning and a positive transformation, which contrasts with negative psychological outcomes such as PTSD. In this context, in place of NDE a more appropriate term might be transformative experience of death (TED). Further studies, are needed to delineate the role of implicit and explicit learning and how cognitive activity during CPR may relate to brain resuscitation quality and overall psychological outcomes.
Parnia was one of several authors of 2014 research in Resuscitation, titled “AWARE-AWAreness During REsuscitation-a Prospective Study.” That broader research examined simply the presence of conscious recall where it was not expected to occur, concluding that cardiac arrest “survivors commonly experience a broad range of cognitive themes, with 2% exhibiting full awareness,” which “supports other recent studies that have indicated consciousness may be present despite clinically undetectable consciousness.”
Some patients in cardiac arrest appeared to demonstrate conscious awareness, despite clinical indication to the contrary.
There is also the possibility of musical synesthesia or chromesthesia, during which the listener involuntarily experiences shapes, colors, or movement — or tastes or smells or physical sensations — while listening to music. While it is thought to be especially strong in some individuals, it is also possible that some musical works evoke the experience of synesthesia more than others.
In June and July 2020, TikTok’s #witchtok community was awash in claims Selki Girl’s Qabalista “triggered astral projection” experiences. In one viral video, above, a user described intense sensations often reported in conjunction with out-of-body experiences, but did not “astrally project.” What seems likeliest is a type of synesthetic response to the music. Because of its subjectivity, we rate the claim Unknown — but Qabalista is widely available across streaming platforms for anyone who wishes to hear (or see, smell, touch, or taste) the music for themselves.