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Human beings enter altered states of consciousness everyday. Three prominent conditions in everyday life that furnish a fertile field for investigation are sleep, hypnotic trance states, and drug induced altered states of consciousness. Sleep remains an unexplained necessity, and is clearly the most frequently attained altered state by consciousness. We humans for example spend a third of our lives trying to catch some z z z’s. Hypnotic trance states can occur without a moment’s notice. An example would be driving on a long stretch of highway with a resultant temporary amnesia or lost time between clock glances. According to one authority, “What happens regularly and frequently often remains unobserved or unrecognized, so that light trance states in daily life occur, pass unnoticed, and remain unrecorded” (LeCron, 1952. p4)
Probably the most popular method of entering an altered state is that induced by drugs. Illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and L.S.D., are used quite frequently, but just as common is the use of legally prescribed agents, such as pain killing narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants, and peyote, mushrooms, or ayahuasca stemming from traditional native cultures both in the Americas and in other places around the world. These practices are among others such as D.M.T experiences which have grown in popularity in recent years. You would think that after two hundred years of study that science would understand hypnosis and other altered states of consciousness better than it does, but unfortunately the opposite is true. The fact that altered states, induced by any of these three methods, is not clearly understood deserves further discussion.
Sleep affects us all, and as stated previously, it is the most frequently attained altered state known to man. Most people give up fully a third of their lives to sleep and think very little of it unless it becomes a problem. Though the abundance of current information conveys the impression that science is on the verge of a discovery that could affect millions of lives, it remains clear that sleep research is still a maze of conflicting ideas, theories, and speculations. Indeed, understanding sleep is one of man’s most challenging puzzles. There are many theories attempting to explain why we sleep. The adaptive theory claims that man’s need for sleep results from evolution.
Wilse B. Webb, one of the foremost sleep researchers, believes that over millions of years each species developed a sleep pattern that best enabled it to survive. His hypothesis is simply that, “Sleep, evolved in each species as a form of non-behavior, when not responding in the environment would increase survival chances.” (Webb. 1974, p.p. 158-59). Sleep reflects the species’ need for safety. In pre-historic times it would have been safer to stay in the cave and sleep than to prowl in harm’s way. According to some theorists sleep is the original and basic state of life. “At first it is continuous; but as development proceeds, this perpetual sleep may be interrupted by what we term arousal stimuli” (Hoffman-Larouche, 1966. p 7)
I believe that Ernest Hartmann is on to something in his belief that sleep has a restorative function. He believes that sleep consolidates disruptive, stressful events of the day into a person’s normal emotional and learning systems. Interestingly, most people do require more deep sleep, and dream sleep after a stressful experience. (Hartmann, 1974. p. 145) It’s also interesting to note that many people from prize fighters to presidents have found it beneficial to take short naps in the daytime to refresh and give them new energy for their activities. Hartmann’s theories are very close to those of Sigmund Freud’s theories on sleep. Also, Carl Jung’s collective unconscious theories and belief that sleep provides a more appropriate context for non linear synthesis of conscious & unconscious material as well as, resulting in almost para-normal predictive capabilities with some individuals proves Hartmann is probably on the right track.
Perhaps the Chinese are on to something in their belief that sleep has a restorative function, and that dreams are extensions of reality. They believe that the soul is involved in dreams and that it can and does wander fronm the body while the person is sleeping. Hence, to this day a sleeper is not hastily aroused in China (Dement, 1974. p. 3) Some people claim that during sleep they leave their body and visit far away places and friends, and often they can describe in great detail the surroundings they visited. Out of body experiences or OOBE’s are universal human experiences. Not in the sense that they happen to large numbers of people, but in that it has happened throughout recorded history. “There are marked similarities in the experience among people who are otherwise extremely different in terms of cultural background .” One can find reports of OOBE’s from ancient Egyptian sources that closely resemble accounts from housewives in Virginia Beach, VA. (Monroe, 1985. p. 5) People who have had OOBE’s insist that they are different than normal dreams or waking fantasies. Jung would call these, “Numinous” or nightly important dreams.
Whatever sleep’s purpose may be, it seems that primitive societies have a better grasp of it’s functions than does modern science. It seems that the only thing modern researchers can agree on about sleep is that it is an altered state of consciousness. While it is a fact that Psychologists regard dreams of patients as clues to the malfunctionings of their personalities, even in this application dreams and other nocturnal experiences are not regarded as real in any sense by specialists. And that brings us to our next discussion, light trance and hypnotic states of consciousness.
There are trance conditions in everyday life worth investigation. For example, driving an automobile on a long stretch of highway, a highway made for maximum smoothness combined with driving at night with little traffic to stimulate you so there is few to no distractions. Add these things to the constant hum of the engine, the gentle swaying back and forth combined with the road noise or ‘white noise’ and it can create conditions conducive to a hypnoidal state. “Some have developed an acute fear of such conditions and seek aid for what they consider to be recurrent attacks of amnesia. (LeCron, 1952. p. 5) On more than one occasion in my life I have been startled by the gravel and roughness of the shoulder of the road due to driving too long and starting to drift off. That brief nod off and the car goes off the burm just enough to hit something making a different sound is all it takes to shake one up to rise above drifting off. I am sure more than one person has left this life just this way though so I was lucky.
Another condition conducive to a light trance state is fishing, especially fishing from a boat on a calm sheet of glass like water with only the gentle breeze and slight ripples now and then to move the boat ever so gently. The reflection of the sun glinting off the water, the gentle rock of the vessel in the water combined with nature can cause even a wide awake person with coffee in his belly to space off into a daydream. In the far north the Eskimos experience what they term “kayak disease,” which is feeling of paralysis accompanied by a feeling of separateness from themselves. It is thought to be the result of many hours of sitting idle on the ocean waiting for seals to surface. (LeCron, 1952. p. 15)
Abraham Maslow would agree here at least in part, as humans have stimulus needs and if deprived of sensory input for too long the mind begins to create it’s own reality depending on and related to his theories on hierarchy of needs. In his theory from 1943 titled, A Theory of Human Motivation and his later book from 1954 titled Motivation and Personality discuss and lay out the pyramid for his hierarchy of needs from the most fundamental of needs to the most advanced in the species development apexing at morality and creativity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
Due to some of these discoveries from various cultures around the globe we have every reason to believe that primitive peoples had knowledge of hypnotic and other trance like states. In the Eskimo tribes the Inuit peoples. made extensive use of trance. We know from old writings that Eskimo and Araucano medicine men are able to hypnotize their entire audience to the extent that it appears that the medicine man opens up the body of the patient and handles the intestines or other afflicted part and then closes the body without leaving any traces save for some small amounts of blood droplets here and there on occasion. This practice has caused many white travelers to think the medicine men to be great surgeons, when they are not great surgeons but simply great hypnotists! (LeCron, 1952.p.16)
Hypnosis it seems, is as old as man. (LeCron, 1952.p9.) In early history, hypnosis appears as a fairly well developed art. We have evidence of trance being practiced in China in the eighteenth century B.C. induced by singing and dancing. At the opening of the Christian era it was possible for the Chinese to get information not otherwise available and to do so by the aid of a forked stick held by two people during ceremonies. Many people in the United States are drinking from wells that were found by a diviner using a diving rod or ‘forked stick’. Usually these gifted people claim to be in a neutral or other state of mind when performing this task. (Sugrue, 1973. p. 101.)
Others like the late Edgar Cayce, also referred to as the sleeping prophet, saw sleep and trance states as a way to garner knowledge otherwise unavailable to the human perception. The Japanese developed the art of listening to insects across the country side. The Greeks interpreted the wind as it whisped through the trees and we have countless records of various ways fire has been used ceremonially for just such a thing also, probably since it’s discovery by primitive man. (Wolfberg, 1945.p.48).
Even primitive cultures noted the uses of hypnosis. It was no secret that hypnotic states aided in memory recall, and acted as an anesthetic and analgesic, as well as a way of expanding mental awareness. ‘It has been claimed that strange telepathic powers could be evoked under hypnosis’ (Wolfberg 1945.p.52) In the 1700’s when Franz Anton Mesmer was conducting his therapeudic sessions dealing with trance states, he called it animal magnetism. One patient of Mesmer’s while under hypnosis, not only saw his lost pet dog, but actually gave specific instructions enabling a gendarme to locate and retrieve the animal for it’s owner. (LeCron, 1952.p.362). Now even though Mesmer was discredited his methods and theories have survived and they prosper! In 1846 a Scottish doctor, James Esdaile reported on 345 major operations performed with hypnosis as the only anesthetic. (Hilgard, 1975.p.4)
Today, dentists across the nation use hypnosis and other mild relaxation techniques to work on patients on occasion calling in specialists to relax patients known for a lot of fear issues while in the operatory chair. (personal interview) Sigmund Freud is known to have used hypnosis quite regularly, thinking it a great tool for unlocking sub-conscious blocks from past mental and emotional traumas. (Professor Gabrial Rupp -personal interview El-Reno CC> OK 1989). It is also widely reported that Freud experimented with drugs, particularly cocaine. While cocaine may not be a trance inducing drug, it does allow one to enter into an altered state of consciousness, and that is our next topic of discussion, drug induced altered states.
Drugs alter our vibration, thus altering our bodies and our minds as well as our perceptions. The Native American Church uses peyote ritualistically to ‘talk to god’. It is true that this is done under controlled circumstances and it is used here to make a point. Human beings like being in altered states of consciousness! One researcher has stated that “I am a great believer in the value of being high”. High states of consciousness show us the potential of our nervous systems. They help us to integrate mind and body” (Weil, 1980. p. 87)
One need not look too much for further proof that we like being in an altered state if you check alcohol sales and the volume consumed worldwide on an annual basis.
Today it is not uncommon for a physician to prescribe any number of drugs to a patient for all manner of symptoms and even hand out samples of various drugs, some quite powerful, like they were candy! As stated above, drugs alter our vibration, changing our state of consciousness as well as our physical body. By altering the vibrational frequency of the body the body heals. It can be argued that this ‘healing device’ or mechanism to change the frequency of the body can be done in other ways such as through neuro linguistic programming or NLP. We can alter our vibration and our perception simply by wiping the disc, reformatting and simply re-writing the program in our own minds thus changing our bodies and our reality in minutes. (Anthony Robbins, 1986) Cannabis is one of the world’s oldest useful plants.
The history of cannabis is so long it is difficult to say if this plant’s relationship with man is older or younger than his relationship with the wolf which was bred to become the modern canine. Isn’t it strange that truly wild hemp or plants grown independent of man’s help is virtually unknown? We find evidence of primitive societies using hemp based drugs for their medical uses to induce light trances with evidence of controlling doses to get the desired effects. (LeCron. 1952). Modern psychiatry has utilized drugs for well over 70 years. It has been proven that the drug Evipan, when injected intravenously can produce a state indistinguishable from a verbally induced hypnosis. (LeCron. 1952. p. 141) In 1936 the drug Sodium Pentothal was first used in psychiatry. After this many questions arose as to whether narcosis and hypnosis are identical.
Controversy still exists over this question. I find this subject interesting and would like to see further studies and experimentation on subjects who have been drugged with a narcotic, and see if hypnosis can be employed to take the person out of the effects of the drug., and or eliminate the effects all together. If this could be done I think the question of narcosis and hypnosis being the same would be answered.
It seems the only real benefit to the narcotic is the speed with which it takes effect where a verbal session and hypnosis could be anywhere from five minutes to hours and hours of trying. (LeCron, 1952.p.142) Personally I believe the one difference between a narcosis and a hypnosis is the psychic or para-normal aspect seems to be a non issue with drugs. Very rarely does a doctor observe strange psychic output or witness the patient display exceptional control over the body and it’s functions as has been witnessed and repeated to be proven in hypnotized patients. (Lecron 1952, p.142)
In the end life and history teaches us that there are many ways to achieve a high. One can get high from music, dance, sports activities, sex, gambling, drugs, or even from running! Surprise surprise we find that even pain can get some people high!
Many people believe that because one can get the same result from so many various methods that it indicates strongly that the experiences come from within us and not from the drug but that quite simply the drug is the placebo or trigger to cause the release of the endorphins by the body to cause the high. According to one authority on the subject, any experience induced by drugs can be experienced without drugs because the bodies natural endorphins are responsible for the resulting feelings of being altered not the drug. In other words it is the bodies reaction to the drug that produces the high. (Beck, 1987.p.8) They contend that the euphoria of a great accomplishment has the same effect physiologically as a drug induced sense of euphoria.
These experts also contend that anything strongly visualized can cause the body to react and respond as if the event actually takes place. Hence, the response of a mental patient’s body when he or she is hallucinating. To the patient in these instances the events perceived are real, yet the hallucination is an altered state of cosciousness of course and not real. The question of what is real and what is not certainly becomes vague at best in some settings.
While this treatment may be the best for some patients, I feel a guided visualization technique could be devised and adapted to each specific person’s needs. If developed and brought to fruition this could surpass the results seen from drugs. Perhaps those too restless for verbal hypnosis could be relaxed using a narcotic first, and then taken into a guided visual relaxation guided by images of normalcy to aid bringing them back to reality again. It seems to me that patients generally live up to the labels they are given. If a person cannot live out the label given them by society sooner or later they do live up to it. I contend that the patient can be reprogrammed to normalcy by seeing himself often as normal in visualization exercises.
Altered states and man seem to go hand in hand. Society today has a vast array of choices for how to achieve their preferred high. History shows us that humans like being high. Perhaps feelings of freedom or the thrill of overcoming fear, or imagining you are flying are just too much to turn down when offered or perhaps its just human nature to never be satisfied and always seek satisfaction regardless of what it takes. Whatever the case it appears altered states are a common theme in many lives and that regardless of where we come from on the planet we share this common aspect experiencing this aspect of consciousness through various means, using various tools, techniques and routines each day and night of our lives from the moment of our awakening at birth to our last breath.
Copyright 1989 Stephen Troy Rice. (Es-tepn Tiroi Ra-ice/Ra-Is , in the old language)
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Copyright 1986 By TNT