Thursday, June 09, 2011

altered consciousness is a many splendored thing

Video - Charles Tart discusses altered states of consciousness.

Journal of Cosmology | A discussion of altered states of consciousness (ASC), like one on politics or religion, invites strong emotional reactions. In this paper I question some assumptions about the accuracy and benevolence of the typical ordinary state of consciousness (OSC) while discussing some of the main functions of ASC. Three of the main arguments against ASC are that they: 1) go against what is normal and rational, 2) wreak havoc at personal and social levels, and 3) produce a delusional account of reality, as compared with the (OSC). Because we live in a monophasic (rather than polyphasic, see Laughlin, McManus, & d'Aquili, 1992; Whitehead, in press) society that primarily values our ordinary state of consciousness to the detriment of other states, these assumptions are rarely questioned.

1. Ordinary and altered states of consciousness

Regarding the first argument, we are immediately confronted by the relativity of what is "normal" and "rational." As various anthropologists have pointed out, what we consider "normal" in post-industrial, Western societies differs markedly from the experiences of other groups. Turnbull (1993, p. 74) gives a lucid example of how he could not even begin to understand the Mbuti of Congo until he transformed his consciousness to fully participate in their world:

"But the more it happened the more other things happened. Not only did seemingly incontrovertible oppositions disappear, such as joy and grief, noise and quietness… somehow the differentiation between my senses seemed to disappear and I began touching moonlight, smelling the sound of the songs, hearing the scent of the various kinds of woods blazing away... and seeing the truth, even if I could not understand what I saw."

As to rationality, Richard Shweder (1986) has cogently discussed how holding such ideas as reincarnation, which may at first blush strike the reader as irrational, may be based on a rational consideration of empirical evidence, although parting from different metaphysical axioms than those held by many in the secular West who hold different ones (and by definition axioms are not the result of rational consideration but a-priori assumptions).

As to the second issue, undoubtedly the search for and consequences of ASC can be destructive, as in the personal and social costs of drug addiction, which is why various traditional societies provide training on and ritualize the use of psychoactive drugs, which then cause no harm, in contrast with what occurs in our midst (Dobkin de Rios, 1984). Let me be clear that despite my cheery title it is not my contention that ASC are necessarily beneficent. Although evidence has accumulated that just having unusual experiences and ASC is not per se a sign of dysfunction (Cardeña, Lynn, & Krippner, 2000; Moreira-Almeida & Cardeña, in press), this does not deny that hellish ASC are also encountered in the ravines of a schizophrenic or otherwise seriously disordered mind (Cardeña, in press), or that ritually-induced ASC to form in-group cohesion may not be used for horrible purposes as in the Nazi Nuremberg rallies. The other side of the coin, however, is that the vast majority of atrocities have been planned while in an OSC, from decisions to wage unnecessary wars and genocides to the socially accepted mistreatment of non-human sentient beings to save some money.


nanakwame said...

Now you talking and under Cosmogly

Thus, not only consciousness as the capacity to have experiences and observe events, but also ASC must be taken into consideration as we ponder the nature of the universe. This suggests that the world is found not only in a grain of sand but in the state of consciousness that intuits that connection.

This was the heart of the Nagual - Planned Folly. Did you notice how so call rational, pragmatic minds under another ASC, become freighten. The fear of losing it, what a stepping stone to enjoying life. Once I thought it was mainly Euro-American business man, then I learned, it is the exceptional person, up to now, where things like six thinking hats or thinking out the box were conceptualized. Even the military has given more power to the individual soldier, proving  we turned our backs against quality public education.

This is also good in teaching project and problem solving: