I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. II Corinthians 12:1-4
It seems as though scientists have discovered that some people have voluntary out-of-body experiences, and that he experiences are related to brain activity. As reported by Lucy Scholey of Metro News, March 10, 2014:
An out-of-body experience might sound like something from a paranormal movie or a religious cult, but a pair of researchers from the University of Ottawa have the science to back the curious case.Click on the link to see the full text of the original article Voluntary out-of-body experience: an fMRI study from Human Neuroscience, February 10, 2014.
Claude Messier and Andra Smith conducted a study on a woman who can voluntarily have an out-of-body experience. It had become common practice for the 24-year-old, who said she started doing it when she was a child to help her fall asleep.
Messier and Smith conducted functional MRI scans of the woman while in this state and found that there’s brain activity linked to the feeling of being lifted out of one’s body or seeing one’s body while outside of it. They had her imagine she was doing jumping jacks or roll over while in this out-of-body state.
Normally, when one imagines doing jumping jacks, both sides of the brain are active. But in this woman’s out-of-body state, the scanned images showed activity predominately on the left side of the brain.
“That was a cue to us that we were just doing something different than just regular imagery,” said Messier.
“It was a bit of a surprise and we certainly didn’t expect anything special,” he said, adding that they tested her twice. “We were a bit unsure, skeptical, that this was actually happening.”
This woman was an interesting case, said Messier, because most people have out-of-body experiences following a traumatic event or drug use. While typically frightening – especially for those experiencing them for the first time – this woman was able to do it on her own terms.
Since this study was published, Messier said he’s heard from other people who say they can voluntarily have out-of-body experiences. He’s also seen blog articles that link this study to religion or paranormal activity, but he said those are misleading.
“There’s science that backs the idea that the brain generates our body image and that changes in the brain, very often pathological, can induce the out-of-body experience,” he said.
In the case of the experience reported by the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 12, it should be kept in mind that he didn't know if he was in or out of his body when he had the experience. More important, Paul didn't initiate the experience--it was a revelation given to him by God--and nowhere are Christians encouraged to seek such experiences. To deliberately attempt to have out-of-body experiences may make a person vulnerable to spiritual deception.