The purpose of the study, according to the researchers at the Out-of-Body Experience (OOBE) Research Center
, was to substantiate reference to lucid dreaming in the Bible by reproducing a Biblical angel encounter as described in 1 Kings 19: 4-6 in an experimental setting using the indirect method for achieving lucid dreams. Impetus for the study was the observed hyper-realistic nature of lucid dreaming experiences when they occur just before or after sleep. The researchers noted that after spontaneously entering a lucid dream, a person often has no way of realizing that everything occurring is not a real experience in the physical world.
Elijah's encounter with an angel on the way to Beersheba
1 Kings 19:4-6, tells the famous story of Prophet Elijah's encounter with an angel on the way to Beersheba. According to the Book of Kings:
"But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I [am] not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise [and] eat. And he looked, and, behold, [there was] a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again."
Experimental mass recreation of Elijah's angel encounter
The OOBE study was conducted with 30 volunteers most without prior lucid dreaming experience, though some had had spontaneous experiences of lucid dreaming in the past. Almost 100 volunteers initially reported at UCLA to participate in the experiment but most of them resigned out of fear, religious objections or other concerns. 6 experienced practitioners participating remotely comprised the control group.
In the mass recreation of Prophet Elijah's Biblical angel encounter, the 30 volunteers (19 males/11 females) were instructed to perform certain procedures during morning awakenings in order to replicate the biblical account. The subjects achieved lucid dream using indirect methods developed by the OOBE Research Center over 2007-2011. The method consists of attempting to separate from the body immediately upon awakening. If the procedure was unsuccessful in a particular subject he was told to alternate other special techniques for 3-5 seconds over a period of a minute and keep to the technique which yields results for him.
The study found that 24 of 30 volunteers were able to achieve one or more lucid dreams over the course of 4 weekends (November 11 through December 11,2011). During the study 15 out of the 24 were able to reproduce the angel encounter described in 1 kings, in part or in full. Subjects were told to try to find an angel in their bedroom once they were able to experience the sensation of separating from the body. Indications of success in reproducing the Elijah angel encounter included: full conscious awareness, awakening/falling asleep, separation from the body, visual contact with an angel and consuming food. Six of the subjects were able to complete the task in full. The subjects were told to eat something in order to exactly reproduce the biblical account of Elijah's encounter with an angel in the book of Kings.
One of the subjects Debbie H., described her experience:
"…When I woke a second time and was doing this, it definitely felt like something different happened. The vibrations were very strong and I know my breathing got heavier and deeper. I tried levitation and I got flashes of being out of my body. I thought, 'This is it,' and immediately went to look for the angel. In the corner of my bedroom, it definitely felt like it was there…I asked the angel for any information, and it said it was Gabriel! It was a fairly traditional looking angel – large and with wings. I then went to look for food, found an apple in the kitchen, and took a bite…"
Another subject Yaroslav K., said:
"I awoke in a half-awake state, and immediately separated from my body by standing up. I was in my room, it was night outside the window, and a light shone in the kitchen. I grabbed an open can of corn from the refrigerator, and then went towards the balcony. I put my right hand back behind me, trying to feel for an angel. As soon as I had touched it, I turned around. The angel was hovering three feet off the floor right in front of me. He was bright white, had wings, and was about one and a half feet tall. He was looking at me. I felt a slight sense of shock and surprise. He disappeared after a few moments, and so I ate the corn and then went off to complete the rest of my plan of action…"
Another 9 of the participants were only able to complete the experiment partially. They saw an angel while in a fully conscious state but in some of the cases the angel did not take on a traditional appearance (i.e. with white robes and wings) although the participants identified them as angels. One of such participants was Victoria S., who described her experience:
"…. I woke up. It was dark in my room. I got up and went into the hallway, where there was light. I stood in the middle of the hallway and looked through the large window there…I saw one of my yellow-eyed cats, but now her eyes were blue. That’s when I realized that this wasn’t real life. It dawned upon me that I needed to look for an angel. I ran through the hall and thought about whether to go outside or out on the balcony. I went for the balcony. I stepped out on it, and it was dark outside. Right then, an angel came out from the darkness. It was a man in all white, with white wavy hair reaching to just below his shoulders. I could even make out his face. Once he came closer to me, I saw the large wings on his back. I greeted him and said that I had been looking for him. He told me, “Congratulations, you’ve found me.” I couldn’t have been happier. I left the balcony and then turned back around, but he was no longer there…"
The researchers said the Biblical event involving Elijah was chosen from among other events in the Bible akin to lucid dreaming due to its straightforwardness and relatively detailed description. They concluded that anyone could reproduce seeing a vision of God or an angel or demons. Seeing angels in out of body experience state was considered an ideal choice because Western culture already provides a well established picture of what an angel should look like: with wings, white robes and halos.
The probability of lucid dream
The study calculated the statistical probability of spontaneously experiencing an event like that described in 1 Kings 19: 4-6. The study also compared 1 Kings 19: 4-6 and three other biblical passages (Samuel 3:1-11, Job 4:12-16, and Genesis 15:12-13) with 620 first-time lucid dreaming experience accounts related by modern practitioners. To calculate the statistical probability of an Elijah-type angel encounter, the researchers used independently gathered statistical data and data from other sources. They obtained the percentage of the total population that say they have experienced lucid dream. The data was then used to determine the statistical likelihood of experiencing separation from the body and seeing an angel.
The study found that statistics show that experiences similar to Elijah's angel encounters will occur spontaneously at least once in the lifetime of 1 person in 5,000. When the biblical accounts were compared with first-time spontaneous lucid dreams it was found that the same situations and patterns were repeated, which include, the state of awakening or falling asleep, vibrations being felt, sleep paralysis, fear and full conscious awareness. The researchers noted that the biblical accounts of angel encounter demonstrate no patterns atypical of lucid dreaming.
Biblical angel encounters are lucid dreams
According to Michael Raduga, lead researcher in the study, the fact that anyone can re-experience the biblical miracle by following simple instructions indicates a high likelihood that it was the same process of lucid dreaming that occurred spontaneously when Elijah saw an angel and ate angel's food in 1 kings 19: 4-6.
According to Raduga: "Most biblical figures experienced visions while they were falling asleep, sleeping, or waking up. Meanwhile, they underwent sensations familiar to any practitioner of lucid dreaming: sleep paralysis, internal noise, fear, and so forth. Job 33:14-16 directly states that God comes to people while they sleep or dream."
Raduga explains that due to the fact that lucid dreams that occur when awakening or falling asleep feel like real-life experience it can be difficult for those who have lucid dreams but are not aware they are in lucid dream state to differentiate it from reality when it occurs spontaneously. Raduga says millions have such spontaneous encounters with the lucid dreaming phenomenon every year and there are clear evidence of its impact not only in the Bible but in human culture and history in general. Michael Raduga said further:
"Some might say that we have found God or discovered something about His nature. However, we only conducted this experiment in order to prove that the subject of our research can be found in ancient sources like the Bible. This has no bearing on religion itself. However, one may conjecture how wide an impact this phenomenon has had on all human culture and history".
The study concluded that:
"It can be asserted with a high degree of confidence that the majority of biblical events occurring at the threshold of sleep were the products of spontaneous lucid dreams (false awakenings)."