Robert Monroe (1915-1995) was an American businessman who in 1958 found himself having spontaneous out of body (astral travel) experiences. His 1971 book Journeys Out of the Body was the first to truly popularise this phenomenon outside of the Theosophical and Occult subcultures. Wishing to avoid the metaphysical bias associated with the term "astral", he and Charles Tart coined the term "out-of-body experience" (OBE). The book sold more than a million copies, and made the "out-of-body experience" a household word.
In 1978, Monroe founded The Monroe Institute. He developed the technology known as Hemi-Sync, which have helped people with everything from meditation and learning, to insomnia, quitting smoking, and pain control.
Like other explorers of subtle realms such as Max Theon, Robert Monroe sought to provide an understanding and mapping out of these realities that is not based on previous esoteric belief systems, and like Theon, he coined his own jargon that can be cionfusing until you get the hang of it. His later books explore themes of afterlife existence, alien intelligence, and multiple selves, and are less accessible and more threatening to the consensus paradigm. The simple fact is that the further one moves from gross physical reality, the more things seem bizarre to the rational mind. This is something that a writer of fantastical literature such as "New Weird" and " magical realism" would have no problem with, but that not just the consensus secular worldview but even alternatives such as New Paradigm, Evolutionaries, and Integral movement have problems dealing with. But reality is not only far stranger than we imagine, but far stranger than we can imagine, although the work of Monroe and others help in extending the boundaries of the Known.
I do not consider his books should be read as literal truth. Rather, they are the Truth as Monroe experienced it. Other astral travellers and clairvoyants and mystics may have different Truths. Or they may share the same Truth. Just as there would be the Truth as Blavatsky, Steiner, or Leadbeater experienced it, as Barbara Brennan experiences it, and so on. Every Truth is partial, yet valid. Some, such as the Truths experienced by Sri Aurobiondo and The Mother, are more expansive, others, such as the Truths of Scepticism/Scientism and Fundamentalism, are more narrow.
One thing that impressed me in reading his books, although it may not mean as much to others, is Monroe's obvious love of animals. To me, this is a sign of a great soul. Even if he did not have the empathy and gnosis to see the inner being of the animal (for example he presents thinking, love, etc as a human (well, higher) faculty, see Ultimate Journey, chapter 6). Also I am impressed by his dedication to understanding the larger nature of the realities he explored
Journeys Out of the Body by Robert A. Monroe (Paperback - Jun 29, 1989) - the original book which started it all. Less radical and hence less confronting than its two successors. There have been a large number of books along these lines written since. From the blurb:
"In 1958, a successful businessman named Robert Monroe began to have experiences that drastically altered his life. Un predictably, and without this willing it, Monroe found himself leaving his physical body to travel via a "second body" to locales far removed from the physical and spiritual realities of his life. He was inhabiting a place unbounded by life or death. His record of these explorations has comforted millions of people who have experienced paranormal incidents."
Far Journeys by Robert Monroe (Paperback - Dec 1, 1992). The sequel, in which Monroe describes the various "rings" or what one might call astral zones (he doesn't use the word astral) around the Earth, which are inhabited by disincarnate humans, and also by some human-equivaklent but nonterrestrial intelligences as well. This cosmology is strikingly reminiscent of that of Swedenborg and Leadbeater, even Dante (the whole idea of "rings", although in ultimate Journey they are described as transluscent spheres), but distinct enough that it is evident that they are the result of original observation. Includes Monroe's meetings with superhuman or superconscious nonphysical beings he calls INSPECS (Intelligent Species), which are apparently the same as some channelled entities. A considerable and quite intriguing part of the book is taken up with his friendship with an alien non-physical being he refers to as "BB", whose friend "AA" became trapped in the earth cycle of reincarnation. Other terms are introduced such as "rote", a thoughtball that is used for nonverbal communication. There is also a surprise ending, which i won't mention to avoid spoilers.
Ultimate Journey by Robert Monroe (Paperback - Aug 1, 1996) . Here Monroe describes his further development in understanding human and nonphysical aspects of consciousness. Again describes the various regions of "interstate" beyond teh local-immediate here-now astral experiences.
The Journey of Robert Monroe: From Out-of-Body Explorer to Consciousness Pioneer by Ronald Russell. Foreword by Charles Tart, (Hardcover - Jul 13, 2007). this is a biography of Robert Monroe, which I haven't yet read. Click on the link for reviews at Amazon com. Excerpt (deals with/summarises Far Journeys)
Cosmic Journeys: My Out-Of-Body Explorations With Robert A. Monroe by Rosalind A. McKnight, (Paperback - Mar 1, 1999). I haven't read this book either, but intend to. It seems interesting in that it records the experiences not of Monroe himself, but of one of his students. From the synopsis:
"Explorers are known for the journeys they take. Rosie McKnight explored the vast nonphysical dimensions of consciousness. With famed out-of-body researcher Robert Monroe, she helped to further the understanding of human consciousness, and to demonstrate beyond doubt that we are more than our physical bodies. Many of these pioneering sessions are presented here almost word for word, as they were taped, along with warm and inspiring observations of Bob Monroe and the early days of The Monroe Institute. Here are explorations of non-human energy systems, interactions with highly evolved beings, concepts about the makeup of the many levels of the universe, views of the afterlife and the animal dimensions, the nature of healing and guidance, a look at the future, and much more."
Robert Monroe - Wikipedia
The Monroe Institute
The Out of Body Experience as Gnostic Revelation by Jim Dekorne - commentary on Astral Projection / OBE from a Gnostic perspectice. Especial emphasis on Robert Monroe's books. From Gnostic Info. (essay originally appeared in New Dawn magazine