Altered States of Consciousness

Dreams themselves are an altered state of consciousness. The term – ASC – refers to a significant change in what is considered a normal waking awareness. Therefore a dream is an excellent example of an ASC. For instance in dreams or in a state where the sense of self is diminished, people can sometimes do or experience things they cannot in ‘normal’ waking consciousness. Problems can be solved in an intuitive way; perception is heightened; some people look ahead to future events, or experience a view of things far distant from their physical body; there is also the possibility of generally impossible healing processes released in the body; memories of early childhood or even life in the womb are more readily accessible in a dream or ASC state than in normal life. Of course, it has to be said that although such things are possible, the run of the mill altered state in dreams of fantasies, has little or nothing of these splendid possibilities. Therefore part of the study of ASC’s is to discover how we can, as humans, learn to use our own potential more adequately. See:esp in dreams; the definitions of dreaming under Freud; out of body experience; dream yoga.

The strange or unusual phenomena met in ASC’s are no longer seen as something simply believed by the gullible. Researchers have been able to witness or record many of them, but there is still no commonly held theory to explain the more radical phenomena such as extraordinary healing or separation of ones self awareness from the body’s location. For instance the yogi Swami Rama demonstrated an altered state in the laboratory conditions of the Menninger Foundation. While wired to record alterations in brain and body he held his right hand in front of him palm up, and while observed by several scientists, caused the left side of his hand to turn bright red, and the right side to become ashen grey. The measuring instruments showed that he had managed to create a temperature difference of 10 degrees Fahrenheit between the two sides of his hand. In explaining what he does, yogi Rama says that ‘All of the body is in the mind, but not all of the mind is in the body.’

In 1947 a Dutchman, Mirin Dajo, demonstrated to audiences in the Corso Theatre in Zurich, that he could allow an assistant to plunge a fencing foil right through his body, even through vital organs, without any apparent harm. Dajo did not bleed at the removal of the foil, and only a faint red line marked where the foil had pierced. A Swiss doctor, Hans Naegeli-Osjord, hearing of Dajo’s alleged wild talent, induced him to allow scientific investigation of what happened when he was pierced. In the Zurich Cantonal hospital many people, including doctor Naegeli-Osjord, doctor Werner Brunner, the chief of surgery at the hospi­tal, and a number of other doctors, students, and journalist observed and reported on the experiment. In front of them Dajo stripped to the waist and after spending some time in meditation, had his assistant once more plunge the steel through him. This should have damaged vital organs, but there was no apparent harm, although the witnesses were shocked. Dajo was then asked to allow an x ray to be taken with the rapier still in place. He agreed, walked to the x ray theatre with the foil still in place. The result of the x ray undeniably showed Dajo was pierced through vital organs. At a later date Dajo was again examined by scientists in Basel, and this time allowed the doctors themselves to pierce him. Each time there was no apparent harm. This case was reported by the German physicist Alfred Stelter in his book Psi-Healing.

Many other people than Dajo have demonstrated the same ability and others abilities equally strange. In most cases the person has found a way through prayer or meditation, or perhaps through the excitation caused by an extreme situation, to radically alter their state of mind and emotion. While in the ASC their body or mental abilities are radically different to when in an everyday state of mind.

This is demonstrated by a witnessed account of ASC in St. Bernadette of Lourdes. Dr. Dozous, the municipal physician of Lourdes was present with other people while Bernadette was in an ecstasy brought on by prayer and love of God. Dr. Dozous reports that he saw Bernadette’s hand move while she was in ecstasy, becoming so close to a burning candle the flame licked around her fingers. Dozous timed the event and says it was a full ten minutes before Bernadette came out of her trance – ASC. There was no observable damage to her hand. Dr. Dozous says ‘I saw it with my own eyes. But I swear, if anyone had tried to make me believe such a story I would have laughed him to scorn.’

A dream itself IS an ASC. In most dreams however, we do not often demonstrate such radically altered talents. Nevertheless, there are differences we can all note. Foremost is the fact that with eyes closed we have managed to create an apparently real world surrounding us which is purely personal and not witnessed by other people in the same room. In this world of our conjuring we feel ourselves completely involved, capable of experiencing all the emotions and responses we would feel if in fact the events we meet in the dream occurred in the waking world. If we make love in our dream we not only feel real passion, our body may also produce all the signs of actual love making, such as ejaculation, that would occur if one had a physical partner. Technically this ability to see a dream as an external reality is called hallucination. Occasionally this occurs while we are awake or using a drug.

Although dream hallucination is taken for granted, it has enormous potential. In our nightly dreams we often touch only a tiny part of this potential. This is understandable if one considers that in the sexual dreams mentioned our body fully takes part in what is being dreamt. This could mean that if we dreamt of our body being hot on one side and freezing on the other, there is the likelihood that we would, like Swami Rama, produce a marked difference of temperature on the opposite sides of our body. In fact people who have learned biofeedback techniques can do this in some measure.

Making one part of our body hot and another cold may not be of great practical benefit, although it probably has a marked healing effect if the extra blood is directed to sick parts of the body. Supposing however, we could dream in a way enabling us to see what was happening in our body, to recognise signs of illness and heal them. This would be a wonderful addition to our natural healing process. This is not a fantasy, it happens with a few people, and understanding the process can help us conscious work with it. Similarly, people have learned to work with the dream process to ‘dream’ traumatic episodes of their birth, babyhood or childhood. In doing so they uncover the powerful reactions that were experienced or decisions made which have subsequently influenced their lives negatively. They also manage to meet the person or baby they were at that period of their life, and help it integrate more fully with the present situation. See: Lucid Dreaming; lucidity – awake in sleep; dream yoga.


Realistic Time Travel

This may sound strange. How does one meet the baby that one was all those years ago? Fortunately present day computer simulation has helped us to understand some of the talents we ourselves have but seldom use. A dream of flying an aeroplane is a sort of computer simulation of the event. It is in fact far more realistic than the present day simulators. We feel totally involved. Our dreaming mind can take all the factors and memories it has in store, rather like the computer in Star Trek which creates holographic scenes the crew can choose to exist within, and likewise produces holographic simulations. Most commonly we do this not with aeroplane flight but by simulating actual people. With its own mysterious processes, our mind produces apparently exterior people in our dreams. These people of our dreams have their own independent action and idiosyncrasies. We might like them, love them or be frightened of them while we dream. Some of these ‘people’ are simulations of our own youth, childhood, and baby self. Through such dream simulation we have a far more profound experience of that part of our life than we ever would by simply thinking about ourselves at that age. By interacting with the simulations one can more fully learn about the difficulties and experiences of oneself at that period. We can discover the subtleties of how we are relating to that part of our experience now. From such knowledge we can then re-program the results of our own past. See Processing Dreams; Acting on Your Dream.

Although we are often not in the habit of believing that we can usefully interact with a dream image – which in our culture is frequently seen as ‘only imagination’ – we can nevertheless produce powerful personal changes in this way, and there are plenty of examples in psychology and in everyday life of the power and reality of such interaction. In computer use for instance, it is now commonplace to have an image on the screen that connects us either with information stored on the hard disk, or will evoke a programmed response linked with the image. So by moving our cursor to an image and clicking on it we can start a program such as a word processor; or we can cause to be displayed information such as a book, music or a photograph, that is stored on the hard disk. In a similar way, by learning to use an ASC, such as the dream state or a condition in which you are engrossed in a directed fantasy – such as meditation or prayer – and by using a dream image in such fantasy, you can evoke responses from parts of you usually inaccessible.


The World Beyond The Senses

An ancient graphic illustration showing a man breaking through the world shown by our physical senses into an altered state of consciousness

The creation of a fully dimensional world, filled with varied and complex scenes, objects, plants, animals and people with which we can interact, is only one of the aspects of the ASC we call dreaming. The shutting down of the input from the physical senses is equally important and offering interesting possibilities.

While awake we are bombarded by impression pouring in from eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin. We know from experience that if we ignore these messages we place ourselves in peril of dire physical injury or social mistake. If we fail to notice the object at the head of the stairs, we may well fall and suffer injury affecting us for the rest of our life. Such consequences lead us to consider what the senses and our brain’s interpretative faculties present to us as very REAL. So real that many people cannot believe there can be any other way the universe and the world can appear. However, instead of calling the world as we know it through the senses the ‘real world’, it would be more accurate to call it the world as it appears due to our size, composition, culture and the senses we commonly use. The world seen through a powerful microscope or telescope is very different, and our senses only show us very limited aspects of the universe that can be enhanced by such instruments.

If we were the size of an atom, or even a molecule for instance, reality would appear completely different to us. The incredible speed with which we, as an atom, interact with our environment would give us a totally different view of time and space. Years of activity for our atomic self would be only a second of time to our bodily self. The solid surfaces of our bodily view of the world, would become easily penetrable by our atomic self. Vastly different attractions and repulsions, would apply. Gravity and space would be totally different experiences.

Again, if we were completely a water being, once more, surfaces that are solid to us in our physical body, would easily be penetrated by our water body. A tree would not be a dense object from which we were totally separate. Instead we would participate in its life, flowing through its whole structure, being an intimate part of it, then passing on to other experiences radically different.

Similarly, the closing down of our sensory impressions in sleep and dreams, produces an ASC that opens us to a completely different relationship with reality. (By reality I here mean the universe as it is, rather than how we perceive it. This reality can be related to in an infinite number of ways.) If met consciously rather than in the unconsciousness of sleep, the experience of sensory shutdown is so different to waking awareness that at first our interpretative faculties – the functions in the brain that attempt to put meaning to the impressions received – often fall back onto a sensory or materialistic view of the experiences occurring. See Dimensions of Human Experience; The Next Step.

This can be illustrated by an experience I had while working in Japan. After being in Japan for some weeks, and not understanding the language I was surrounded by, I had gone with a group of Japanese students to a restaurant for lunch. As we approached the door it was opened by one of the restaurant staff. I heard him greet the females with the words ‘Bonjour Madame’. I thought it must be fashionable to speak in French in the restaurants. On later mentioning it to the people I was with everyone was mystified. No one apart from myself had heard anything spoken in French. Some days later in similar circumstances while actually sitting at table I heard a waiter say to one of the women ‘Merci Madame.’ I immediately said to them something like, ‘You see, they do speak in French.’ Once more everyone was mystified as no one had heard any French spoken. But no one was more mystified than myself. I had clearly heard the man speak in French.

I believe the explanation is that surrounded by a foreign language, my brain’s interpretative faculty was working overtime to put meaning to the sounds constantly directed at me by obvious attempts to communicate by the Japanese I was meeting. Occasionally the setting and situation – as in every conversation – were taken as major clues, and my brain interpreted the sounds as foreign, and yet ones I understood – therefore putting them into French. I literally ‘heard’ the words spoken.

Although unusual, this must happen to many people. After all, our brain is constantly creating the sounds we hear and putting meaning to them. If this were not so all spoken sounds would remain meaningless. Similarly we are constantly constructing an image of the world from the impressions given by our senses or our inner workings of the mind. In connection with the loss of sensory input, the impressions we gain via senses other than our physical ones, are likewise ordered by our mind into forms of perception that will have some sort of meaning to us. The radio and TV signals in the atmosphere are meaningless to us until we interpret them through the circuit of the receiving set. See Magical Dream Machine.

Something illustrating this happened to me while working with a friend, John, who owned a hotel. I was mending something for him on a flat roof of his private house. Meanwhile he had driven away to the hotel. About twenty minutes after he had gone I heard him shout my name with great urgency. In fact he called me twice. I was puzzled and thought he must have returned without me noticing. As the tone of voice carried urgency I climbed off the roof and went in search of him. Moments later the telephone rang in his house. It was John, still at the hotel. He had just turned the water on for the first time after a spell of cold weather, and bad pipe bursts were apparent all over the hotel. He had rushed to the phone to call me for help. In some way I had ‘heard’ him call before he reached the telephone.

The hotel was about a mile away on the other side of the town. There was obviously no way I could have heard his voice with my physical ears. So whatever signal John’s anguished desire for my presence created, my mind had turned it into what appeared to be his actual voice calling me. That was understandable to me, while the subtle energies generated by John’s anguish, although obviously apprehended by some part of my mind, were not sensible to me. That John had not actually spoken my name until he reached the telephone is an important detail. Through it we gain some clarity of how this subtle side of our mind works. It was not a sound that I had in some way psychically heard at a distance. It was a powerful emotion and a desire to contact me in John that my mind sensed and presented as the actual sound of my name being called. I had experienced an ASC. See The Next Step.

For the sake of carrying this into realms about which a lot of confusion exists, let us say that John is no longer a physical being. He has no body, and so therefore has no physically apparent voice, no hands to signal, and no legs to move across the surface of the world. For the sake of the example let us define John as a bodiless self awareness who has impulses and realisations as we do, but with no means of expressing them in the dimension of physicality we know through the size, composition and senses of our body. Therefore we cannot see John, we cannot hear him or sense him with any of our five body senses. He doesn’t have any shape or weight, and he doesn’t take up any space in the generally accepted way. Like a radio signal without any means of translation into physical sound, John apparently doesn’t exist – at least not if we look for him with our eyes, ears, nose, touch or taste. This strange experience of existing and yet not being seen occurred to me once during an out of body experience in which I stood in front of my mother. I could witness all that she was doing and what was happening in the room, but was deeply frustrated because despite calling her name, she appeared to have no awareness of me at all. See: Talking With the Dead.

Considering the example of my hearing John calling me while he was a mile away, his unspoken call was known by me. So there is the possibility that John as a bodiless mind could also be known by a similar process. Whatever desire or communication he generated as a personal impulse might be sensed by my mind and translated into a sensory experience. In the actual event I ‘heard’ him. Or to put it another way the part of my mind that can create apparent speech in dreams was possibly at work and caused a waking experience of ‘dreaming’ or hallucinating the sound. Sometimes the word hallucination is defined, as in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, as ‘the apparent or alleged perception of an object not actually present.’ Hallucinate is defined as ‘produce illusions in the mind of (a person).’ And the etymology of the words is from the Latin ‘hallucinari’ – to wander in mind, and the Greek ‘alluso’ – to be uneasy. But if we accept the experience of ‘hearing’ a distant person when they call silently but with anguish, then hallucination does not mean an illusion. It means the creation of a consciously knowable experience from something that was not perceptible with physical senses. It means the translation into apparently audible sound, of something that was previously intangible physically. See Explain Hallucination.

Time has been taken to explain this at length because many altered states of consciousness produce phenomena which seem irrational unless we understand clearly that what we experience as common in dreams – the production of apparently real sounds, sensations, sight, taste, smell and emotions – is the simplest answer to what is seen, heard, felt or experienced during an ASC such as occurs in sensory deprivation. See: The Two Powers; lucidity – awake in sleep; yoga and dreams.

When sensory input is decreased, there is greater likelihood we will be aware of impressions arising from this mental realm. There is quite a big difference however, between the sensory deprivation produced artificially by placing a person in a sound proofed room or special sensory deprivation chamber, than there is through the dropping of sensory impression during sleep. Artificial sensory deprivation frequently produces great confusion or deepened feelings of despair or depression. Researchers have often thought of this as meaning that beneath the surface of the human psyche there was a fundamental chaos, only ordered by the physical brain and its rational components. For instance individuals who had experienced some form of psychosis but recovered, would often exhibit marked worsening of their condition if placed in sensory deprivation. From the experience of those who have deeply explored their own unconscious contents however, such statements only suggest that the person still carries many internal traumas and unresolved conflicts – perhaps deeply etched memories of childhood, such as a difficult birth. When these have been dealt with the chaotic experiences disappear. But I know from personal experience that as the unconscious clutter is cleared b such methods a LifeStream there is no madness but clear consciousness. See People’s Experience of LifeStream.

I have seen that prior to my own inner explorations and meeting with childhood traumas, if illness led me to become delirious I would be totally lost in the whirl of emotions and imagery that arose. In later years however, after meeting many aspects of myself in a healing way, and again delirious, although the imagery arose as before, it was no longer threatening or overwhelming. If one has never experienced this meeting with one’s own childhood self, even if one has taken drugs or experienced hallucinations through other means, it is very difficult to understand the immensely powerful role such past experiences play in producing current hallucination and mood swings. In a certain sense, people who have never cleaned out the Aegean Stables of their own childhood or adult trauma are under a constant ASC caused by internal trauma. Such permanent ASC’s produce a view of the world related to the underlying traumas or habit patterns. A common example is that the opposite sex may be forever figures of tension or threat; or if not that, then producing in us enormous dependent longings and desires.

Even though the sleep form of sensory deprivation is generally less threatening than the artificial, in either case one comes face to face with ones own internal content. For any real exploration of self which goes beyond the limits of the physical senses and cultural norms, these internal contents – our own history and its results – must be met and integrated. It is this meeting that gives the fuel or material for the emergence of a wider awareness growing out of the limitations of everyday experience. See: guardian of the threshold.


What Produces An ASC?

When Charles Tart, the writer/editor of the book Altered States of Consciousness, investigated the subject in the 60’s, it was difficult when the evidence was gathered in, to say exactly what can stimulate an ASC. The reason being that almost anything can be the trigger. It has been said that to list the triggers becomes comic in that one has to include almost everything from scratching ones ear to taking a drug such as alcohol or LSD. Even something as common as a drink of coffee can produce an altered state. Sometimes there is apparently no obvious trigger at all. My experience of hearing John’s voice calling occurred without me even knowing what it was until the telephone call. Perhaps many experiences of altered state happen in this way and go unnoticed.

However there are classic ways of producing ASC’s, and each culture has its own traditional methods. But because there are so many different ‘places’ an ASC can take us – everything from apparent time travel to contact with the dead – it has to be understood that some of the techniques relate to specific areas of experience. Alcohol for instance has a general tendency to make one less capable physically and to deaden ones sensitivity. Some of the best known techniques are listed below.

*        Meditation and prayer in their many forms. These may use imagery and fantasy; the mental repetition of a phrase, question or prayer; the stilling of the thoughts and emotions; the evoking of love and passion for a god or God; the directing of attention along particular pathways. This latter may be done by concentrating deeply on a question or problem. In these ways one calls on what is ‘out of sight’ within the psyche to respond. One that I have successfully used is called Enlightenment Intensive.

*        Body postures, movements and dance. Experiments with some body postures in particular setting have produced marked changes in states of awareness. See Body Posture and Religious Altered States of Consciousness by Felicitas D. Goodman which appeared in The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Summer 1986. Also see Magnetism and Magic by Baron Du Potet De Sennevoy.

Allowing spontaneous body movements, as occurs in many forms of sacred practices such as early Pentecostalism, Shaktipat in India, Subud in Indonesia, Setai in Japan, can quickly lead to pronounced ASC’s. See: movements during sleep. Given movements, such as the dance of the Dervishes, is also a way many cultures use to produce particular forms of ASC. In many of these practices, the results may be due to the movements or posture helping the person to let go of their thinking and will, enabling an easier emergence of unconscious material usually suppressed by dominant processes. The whirling of the Dervishes is particularly expressive of this. See The LifeStream.

*        Consciously directing the breathing in some way. See: yoga and dreams. Because the breathing is so intimately connected with body processes, mood and emotion, consciously changing it can be a powerful form of producing an ASC. In general, fast full breathing is an accelerator. It speeds heart, over oxygenates, and reproduces the sort of physical state of excitement, high activity and high emotion such as laughing or crying. It reduces the muscular and psychological barriers we may habitually hold to prevent ourselves openly expressing emotions through the physical movements of sobbing or laughing. This is why it is used a great deal in popular therapy movements such as Rebirthing and Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork. Its use may produce the release of long held emotions or spontaneous fantasy, including powerful body movements and emotions. The fantasies are explained in many ways, such as memories of past lives, release of childhood trauma. This needs careful handling. See: martial art for the mind.

In the opposite direction slowing the breath brings control of emotions, a slowing of the mental processes, and when used successfully produces an ASC where the thoughts stop and one moves into a completely different experience of oneself.

*        Use of stress, such as fasting, isolation, warfare, disorientation, etc. Any form of stress can trigger a marked ASC. Fasting was often used probably because it is a fairly controllable form of stress, and might even produce a sense of dying. Many people have an ASC following a car accident, or during any natural upheaval such as an earthquake or flood, or after a medical operation. In R. D. Laing’s book ‘The Politics of Experience.’ the ASC of Jesse Watkins is quoted. The barriers between Jesse’s known self, and wider self had been broken down by a change of job and lifestyle, overwork, fatigue, a dog bite, and a visit to hospital. Jesse describes part of his experience as follows:-

‘I had a feeling at times of an enormous journey in front, quite, er, a fantastic journey, and it seemed that I had got an understanding of things which I’d been trying to understand for a long time, problems of good and evil and so on, and that I had solved it inasmuch that I had come to the conclusion, with all the feelings that I had at the time, that I was more, more than I had always imagined myself, not just existing now, but I had existed since the very beginning, from the lowest form of life to the present time, and that that was the sum of my real experiences, and that what I was doing was experiencing them again. And that then, occasionally I had this sort of vista ahead of me … ahead of me was lying the most horrific journey, the only way I can describe it is a journey to the final sort of business of being aware of all – everything. It was such a horrifying experience to suddenly feel, that I immediately shut myself off from it because I couldn’t contemplate it, because it sort of shivered me up – I was unable to take it…’ See Jesse Watkin’s ASC.


*        Penetrating ones dreams through learning to move beyond their surface imagery to the underlying emotions, past experiences and realisations from which they emerge, is a classic way of experiencing ASC’s. The reason for this has already been described above in the example given of the image on the screen of a computer which links to a program on the hard disk. The dream image has direct links with memories or processes that are not on the screen of waking awareness until accessed via the image.

In fact dreams can be thought of as a computer game with full surround virtual reality. In such games you can be killed a thousand times and yet you survive to deal with the monsters again. That is unless you learn a way through and go on through the levels. But unlike those games in dreams there is a wonderful intelligence behind the dreams we have, and if you listen and learn from it you will find a real mastership – not a false one of denying any fear or repressing anything that threatens you.

Example: Once I had got into the dream image I was working on, my emotions started flowing easily in response to what I was considering in the dream. This wasn’t like crying about something, but more like a stream of feelings that let me really know what my deepest reactions were. This led me to experience something I will have to describe in pictures, but was really more like directly knowing something without any pictures or fantasy. Also I don’t know why looking at the dream led me to this. Perhaps it was simply that I had opened my eyes to it in some way. What happened was that I seemed to go through the ground to what lies underneath. I don’t literally mean under the earth, but underneath people, underneath the events in life, what is usually hidden, only I felt it as like going into a vast place underneath everything – the unconscious.

The first thing I saw was my youngest son. He was crouched just below the surface, unable to break through to the outside – what we call everyday life. This was a revelation because it explained so much about his behaviour. It showed me exactly what difficulties he was facing. Lots of people never get to even glimpse this hidden world of beings and energies, but my son had always known it and been held by it, almost like he had never been born from it. Seeing him at first deeply concerned me. But I understood that this was his life. Although it was difficult he would learn things denied to most people. He would know them instinctively because he was a native to this underneath world, the place inside us. So I stored the memory and moved on.

I found that I could think of anyone I knew and gain insights into what they were like inside. This was because this place, or condition I was in was like a space underneath a town. From here you could get into anyone’s house. You could touch the roots of trees and all living things, because they all emerged from here. My own sense of myself was different too. I knew without doubt that I had existed throughout all time. If I asked a question about the past, I knew just what had happened then, the whole struggle of humanity to grow, to meet itself. I knew because my central self had been a part of it all.

Then I came to what I called the Temple of The Animals. Again I have to describe it as a picture, a scene, but it was more like a direct knowing or experience. Here all that lived was gathered together. Not only as rank upon rank of animals in a great amphitheatre, but gathered in being linked as one mind, one spirit, knowing each other. So that when I walked into the temple I met this vast spirit which was as ancient as life, and had experienced all that life had done on this planet, and knew all the wisdom of its immense experience. And this great spirit looked upon me and knew me. It entered my own spirit looking to see if I knew how to love my mate and care for my children. It did this, as I understood it, because central to all that life had done in its many forms, was this great theme of self giving in caring for offspring and mate. It had learned how to love, and if I had not learned that lesson, I couldn’t receive the blessing it could give. As it was, it judged I had sufficiently learned the lesson of giving myself. Then I received the blessing of sharing a small part of its wisdom and ancient love. A. T.

*        Herbs, drugs, and various forms of diet have been associated with altered states of consciousness since the beginning of history. Some people believe that drugs such as psilocybin were the source of many religious visionary teachings and divine insights. This seems unlikely considering how many things can lead to an ASC. The readiness with which some drugs, or herbs containing hallucinatory drugs, can lead to powerful ASC’s, does however, make them one of the major pathways toward the wealth of experience provided by ASC’s. As with anything which can provoke powerful hallucinations and emotions, there are dangers attached to the use of such drugs. When we want to drive a car, which is also a dangerous undertaking, society provides means of learning how to safely handle the vehicle, but such drugs are easily accessible, and yet there is no schooling in their safe usage. See: hallucinations and hallucinogens.

*        Excitation of various forms, whether sexual, emotional, physical such as described in rapid breathing, can lead to experiencing an ASC. Some of these forms of excitation are described in the other sections above.

*        Not interfering with the workings of ones psyche is probably the simplest and most fundamental form of allowing ASC’s. This approach is taught in many of the traditional schools such as Buddhism, Christian mysticism, Islamic mysticism, Subud, and most recently by Carl Jung in his methods of accessing the unconscious. In Buddhism Vipassana meditation is the way of not interfering, not giving oneself a goal in meditation. One simply observes what the mind and emotions do when one stops forever editing or directing. In Christian mysticism the book The Cloud of Unknowing describes a similar process, but from a very different standpoint.

Carl Jung clearly writes about this approach. In describing what some of his patients did to outgrow what appeared to be insoluble problems, he writes, ‘What then did these people do in order to achieve the progress which freed them? As far as I could see they did nothing but let things happen… The art of letting things happen, action in non action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Master Eckhart, became a key for me… The key is this: we must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us, this becomes a real art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be a simple enough thing to do if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things. It consists solely in watching objectively the development of any fragment of fantasy. Quoted from Jung’s commentary in the book Secret Of The Golden Flower, by Richard Wilhelm, published by Routledge and Kegan Paul.

The possible reason for the efficacy of this approach may be twofold. Firstly through simple self-observation one gradually arrives at a form of insight which leads to a transcending of ones ego as it stood prior to the insights. One may even arrive at a massive ASC – an insight into the impermanence of the ego, and the experience of liberation arising from it. Also, considering that dreams are spontaneous, and according to some theories, self-regulating, any success at non interference will give greater freedom to the process which produces dreams.

My own experience with many people suggests there is an inbuilt process in us which attempts to move toward a form of self realisation beyond the boundaries of the ego and the sense impressions. As this pushes ones inner content to the surface, and as such content may include very painful infantile experience, most of us persist in ‘interfering’ – or as Jung says, ‘helping, correcting, and negating’. See Life’s little Secrets

While ASC’s, such as those arising in an LSD session, may appear strange, wonderful or frightening, recent attempts to understand the forces at work producing them suggests they arise from something other than random fantasy. In most cases investigation usually links them either with a self-regulating process in the psyche, or with the overall process of personal growth, such as we face when passing through adolescence. Writing of the latter in Jung’s book Man and His Symbols, Marie von Franz says, ‘Thus our dream life creates a meandering pattern in which individual strands or tenden­cies become visible, then vanish, then return again. If one watches this meandering design over a long period of time, one can observe a sort of hidden regulating or directing tendency at work, creating a slow, imperceptible process of psychic growth-the process of individuation. Gradually a wider and more mature person­ality emerges, and by degrees becomes effective and even visible to others…. The organising centre from which the regu­latory effect stems seems to be a sort of ‘nu­clear atom’ in our psychic system. One could also call it the inventor, organiser, and source of dream images. Jung called this centre the ‘Self’ and described it as the totality of the whole psyche, in order to distinguish it from the ‘ego,’ which constitutes only a small part of the total psyche.’

*        Spontaneous mental images while awake which later prove to reflect reality in some way whether past present or future.

Example: While at work I was waiting for the process in the photographic tanks to run its course and started thinking about whether one could make the mind receptive. I tried and immediately had a clear picture in my mind of a friend’s daughter, Diana. She was someone I seldom ever thought about, so I felt it interesting she would come to mind as soon as I tried to be receptive. Suddenly the picture changed and was replaced by a baby. Again it changed, rather like a slide show, and now the baby had a crown on its head and was obviously a boy.

This all impressed me because I couldn’t see any personal associational links between what I had been thinking and Diana, and then between Diana and a baby. So when, about ten days later I had reason to telephone Diana’s mother, and after dealing with business told her I wanted to check something, and asked if Diana was pregnant. She laughed, and when I asked why said, ‘We don’t know. She has just gone to the doctor today to find out.’ It turned out Diana was pregnant and she later gave birth to a son. Justin E.

*        The hearing of sounds, or people talking to one, without any physical presence being responsible for the sounds or voices.

Example: I had been meditating a great deal without any apparent results. This led to the question of just how did God manifest if you opened your life to the spirit. One night I had woken because I needed to go to the toilet. Just as I was approaching my bed again I heard a voice speaking to me. It was very clear and seemed to come from everywhere in the room. It said, ‘You have asked how God touches a human life. Now watch closely.’

This was an extraordinary experience and nothing like it had happened to me before, so I was naturally fascinated to see what happened. I couldn’t sleep that night, expecting something else as dramatic to occur. Nothing did, but shortly afterwards I began to experience the release of painful emotions and memories from years back. It was like being cleansed. This went on for years and led to a full meeting with God. It was my first experience of LifeStream

*        Experiencing the past as if it is happening.

*        Holding an object and having an inner perception of its past, along with the people and events it was involved with. Some people with this ability have been working with archaeologists with marked results.

*        Being a catalyst for massive healing change in someone else’s body or mind. See the book I Believe In Miracles by Kathryn Kuhlman for examples.

*        Producing a change in the seeming reality of the present environment. In his book The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot describes an experience of his own where this happened, and gives cases of other people. This form of ASC involves a transformation of what we experience as reality. So a person producing the ASC might make it appear as if the room one was sitting in was suddenly a meadow.

*        Extending awareness to any point outside ones own body. Reports have said that both the Russian and American secret investigation services were using people to remotely view each other’s activities. Projection of consciousness – OBE, or out of body experience – is something many people have at some time, so is a common form of ASC. See: out of body experience; and the book The Field by Lynne McTaggart in which she describes this very fully.

*        Realisation of oneself as an integral part of the universe, and as having existed infinitely and eternally. See: spiritual life in dreams; spiritual path in dreams.

*        Insight into how past events prior to your own are intimately connected with your present life. This is often called memory of past lives, but if carefully examined might better be called memory of connection with lives prior to this present ego.

*        Ability to connect with an apparently infinite mind, containing all that has ever existed, and the potential of all that will exist. Aurobindo, exploring this form of ASC has written that this level of awareness is not as it first appears an infinite mind, and is not God. Rather it is the sum total of all that has happened so far. Therefore, as the example about music in inspiration in dreams shows, this collective consciousness holds an available living presence of everybody who has ever lived, which can be drawn upon in further creativity or expression.

*        Going beyond paradox. In this ASC a state of consciousness is reached where all the opposites of life are resolved, where everything is true and untrue at the same time. It is what Buddhists call the Void, in which there is no form, no ego, no certainty, no past, no future, no beginning to move from and no goal to reach. Although it can be a disturbing experience when first met, it has the possibility of bringing enormous liberation. This is because our ego and our usual values are usually embedded in concepts that can only ever be either this or that; only ever be partially true; only ever be a fragment of reality. One might for instance develop ones identity out of being male or female, out of being honest or a villain. The Void strips all this away. Nothing one can think, nothing one can aim at as a standard, is anything more than an insignificant molecule of information in the vast ocean of energy and consciousness. It doesn’t matter whether we think about the sun or a mote of dust, a thought is never ever more than a definition from a particular viewpoint of something that is multidimensional and beyond any final definition.

*        An experience of energy flowing from the base of the trunk, or the feet, right to the top of the head. As this happens one is aware of the mind suddenly functioning in a way one may never have experienced before. It is as if we have flown high and now have an overall view of things, therefore reaching insights one could never achieve before. This is because all the information is available so easily and quickly, as if one were an eagle flying and taking in vast areas at the same moment. See: aura.

*        Meeting the great AUM or AMEN, the essence of life itself, which may announce itself as ‘I AM THAT I AM’.

*        Sensing the presence of the dead, and perhaps receiving information from them in some form. The information may be in the form of a feeling, such as that we are loved. Or it may be in the form of insight or words.

*        Finding lost objects, dowsing for water or other minerals, extending the sense in a variety of ways.

*        Experiencing great creativity. This is sometimes like being possessed so powerfully by the creative impulse that while it is upon one there is nothing else one wishes to do. So people may go for long periods without eating, drinking or sleeping. See: creativity dreaming and problem solving.

*        Being able to meet fire without being burnt, injury without being injured, wounds without pain, poison without reaction, death without fear.

*        Insight into those around you. This is like one suddenly is able to see not simply the physical form of people and the colour of their skin and clothes, but in some strange way one also ‘sees’ what they are thinking and feeling, what quality of person they are, what attitudes they carry, what relationship they have with others, what cosmic forces have shaped their body, what dead people are connected to them, what the state of their physical body is – i.e. what health status. This may include the seeing of the aura or energy fields. See The Gift by Mia Dolan, in which she describes clearly her experience of these abilities.

*        Creating an electric current or a burning force, or an energy that can move physical objects or heal people of illness.

*        Causing to appear on ones body what one meditates. Padre Pio, the stigmatist, caused to appear on his hands the nails he meditated upon in the hands of his saviour. Some people are able to make any image quickly appear on their skin. In his book My Six Convictschapter 16, Dr. Donald Powell Wilson describes how Hadad, one of the convicts he studied, was able to make any shape appear as a welt on his skin. But Hadad also demonstrated to several doctors at Leavenworth Penitentiary, how he could cause a three day halt in the seizures suffered by cases of severe epilepsy in the prison’s psychiatric ward.

In older cultures, ASC’s were frequently sought as a part of the person’s life; as a way to heal psychological or physical illness; as a way of solving a problem, such as where to hunt or whether and where to fight an invader. I believe it is Charles Tart who says in the early part of his book Altered States of Consciousness, that in fact such older cultures felt that if a person could not experience an ASC they were in some way crippled. It is a great misfortune or misunderstanding that in our Western culture, people seek such experiences often for no other reason than ‘an experience – a trip’, something to provide a distraction. It is dangerous to play with the creative forces of ones own personality. But it is a great blessing to approach them to seek ones own essential spirit and expanded possibilities. See Going Beyond

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved