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Altered States of Consciousness Mental experiences that transcend ordinary experiences. –Literally an “altered state” deviating from one’s normal mental.

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Presentation on theme: "Altered States of Consciousness Mental experiences that transcend ordinary experiences. –Literally an “altered state” deviating from one’s normal mental."— Presentation transcript:

1 Altered States of Consciousness Mental experiences that transcend ordinary experiences. –Literally an “altered state” deviating from one’s normal mental state. –May induce emotions like: fear/anxiety, well-being, connection to supernatural entities. –Encouraged and interpreted by many different cultures as important religious experiences. Stroke of Insight: Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com –http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.htmlhttp://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

2 General signs of an Altered State of Consciousness (p. 107) Alterations in thinking: attention/concentration/memory/judgment, trouble distinguishing between cause and effect Disturbed time sense: time ceases to exist or goes by very quickly/very slowly. (Dreams) Loss of control: feeling helpless. (Need to do things, but just can’t – Left Hemisphere jumping in – something is wrong!) Change in emotional expression: emotional extremes or becoming detached/expressionless. Body image change: Boundaries between oneself and one’s environment is blurred. Parts of the body may seem strange/heavy/awkward. Perceptual distortions: “Seeing” sound, “Hearing” color, also hallucinations. Attaching increased meaning to experiences: Things become so profound! Sense of the ineffable: Amnesia/vivid memories/inability to describe experiences to someone who has not undergone something similar Feelings of rejuvenation: hope/feeling light, free euphoric. Also, becoming hyper-suggestible. In Hypnotism, this the ideal state of the “Hypnotee”

3 Altered States of Consciousness and the Brain Cerebral Cortex (when we think of “the brain” this is what usually comes to mind) Divided into right and left hemispheres, with each hemisphere's lobes responsible for specific functions: Frontal Lobes Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of arriving at school and not remembering driving there? The planning, organization and self-correction skills controlled by the frontal lobes are responsible for your safe arrival at school. If there had been a detour on the way, the frontal lobes' mental flexibility would have allowed you to alter your route and successfully complete your trip. Carrying out daily functions requires you to remain in control and generate alternatives when problems arise. Sensory Motor Strip Higher level motor behavior, such as the coordination of movement in walking. Parietal Lobes Allows you to find your way in the dark and sense your relationship with surroundings. Visual perception and analysis of space, as demonstrated by the ability to read a map or follow a maze, are also processed in these lobes. Location of the Orientation Association Structure Ex: If these are damaged, may not know where “you” end and the outside world begins. Occipital Lobes Control visual perception within both the right and left hemispheres. They receive the pattern for a picture, but do not interpret that picture. Damage to these areas results in a type of blindness. Ex: Numbers on the telephone/business card. Cerebellum Muscle coordination and balance. Brain Stem Life-sustaining functions such as regulation of blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and body temperature. The system that is responsible for the level of arousal and alertness is also in the brain stem and is known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS, referred to in the book as the Sympathetic System functions like a dimmer in a light switch, increasing and decreasing the responsiveness to the environment. If the RAS is damaged, like a light that has been dimmed…an altered state of consciousness such as a coma or a vegetative condition may result. An altered state may also result from overstimulation of this system. Limbic System In addition to the easily identifiable lobes, there are systems within the brain that connect the lobes. The system most sensitive to the results of head injury is the limbic system, which mediates mood, emotions, motivation, attention and memory. Injury to the system may be manifested in behaviors ranging from flat affect (no expression) to aggressiveness; from mild distractibility to the inability to pay attention for one minute; from almost imperceptible memory problems to the inability to recall dialing numbers on a phone (as in the video). Temporal Lobes -The ability to hum a tune (music), identify an airplane overhead (environmental sound), and recall a beautiful sunset (visual memory) = Right Temporal Lobe. This is the place for the senses, without worries, burdens, etc. produced in the Left Temporal lobe. It is this lobe that is stimulated most during an Altered State. -The ability to understand a teacher during a lecture (language comprehension), to name your friends and family (naming ability), and remember the words to The Star Spangled Banner (verbal memory) = Left Temporal Lobe. This is the area whose functioning is subdued/halted during an Altered State, to achieve the sense of euphoria felt in the Right Temporal Lobe. Also, if damaged, may result in “Golden Retriever” syndrome.

4 Entering an Altered State of Consciousness Sensory Deprivation or constant exposure to repetitive actions: Solitary Confinement and “Assembly-line” daydreaming Sensory Overload: Opposite of the above, brought on by sports/ecstatic dancing/chanting, extreme pain, getting “all worked up” via sounds, smells, sights. Continuous focus over long periods of time: Study/work for hours on end, mind may wander/dream. Decreased alertness: “Emptying the mind”, meditation, conscious relaxing of the muscles. Alterations to the Nervous System: Dehydration, sleep deprivation, hyperventilation, temporal lobe seizures (like video), recreational/prescribed drugs (e.g. Weed/Vicodin/Morphine)

5 Cultural Interpretations Culture lends meaning to an Altered State. –Ex: Migraine. The resulting “Aura” or haziness/hallucination may be seen as a vision, mystical experience, or as a simple annoyance caused by a really bad headache. –Ex: Les Trois Frères cave (French Pyrenees). Upper Paleolithic Cave Paintings from around 13,500 BCE. Popular theory: Painting appears to be coming “out of the wall.” This picture (top right) and others may have represented a link to the spirit world, an attempt by the shaman to pull these beings through the “membrane” of the cave wall into the realm of the living during a trance. –3 stages to Trance: »1. Focus on geometric shapes (found on the cave walls). These shapes are then enlivened by the brain, becoming entoptic phenomena or, Geometric visual images open to cultural interpretation. »2. In the second phase, ordinary symbols are allotted a specific meaning. »3. This is the “deep trance” stage where the entoptic phenomena are combined with images of the spirit world (like animals/people) and these combined are seen to mesh with the person in the trance. So the shaman will in a sense “merge” with the spirit world. The picture to the top right is called a therianthrope and represents this transformed or “merged” Shaman. Caves may have represented a “membrane” between two worlds, with the paintings and an Altered States of Consciousness acting as links. Animal bones/teeth (bottom right) wedged into cracks in attempt to penetrate to this other world? Same physiological symptoms (flying, being drawn into a vortex) cross-culturally, but interpretations differ.

6 Altered States of Consciousness and Religion Fasting: –Abstaining from food/water, eating little over a multi-day period. –In the absence of food, body will start to consume itself: Fat stores around organs, other fat deposits Muscle After a few days of no food, feeling of hunger disappears to be replaced with… –Aggression/impulsive actions, decrease in competence, hallucinations, fatigue, lethargy, confusion, dizziness. An Altered State of Consciousness –Fasting in response to religious rituals, cleansing the spirit/soul, worthiness before deities, training to become a religious specialist Ex: Moses 40 days/nights, 10 Commandments and communion w/ God. Ex: Yom Kippur “Day of Atonement” No food or water from sunset to sunset for all healthy adults. One of the holiest and solemn Jewish holidays. Purity/reconciliation with God is stressed. Ex: Ramadan (9 th month of the Islamic calendar when the Qur’an was revealed). One of the 5 pillars of Islam. Every day from sun-up to sun-down, no food or water for healthy men and women. Purity of both thought and action is stressed. Become more generous/humane and closer to God. –Ex:

7 Altered States of Consciousness and Religion Sacred Pain: –Revered, respected pain seen variously as; purifying, an enemy to be overcome, a weapon, a transformative agent, a source of supernatural power. As purifying –Papua New Guinea (Blood initiation): places/australia-and-oceania/newguinea-bloodinitiation-pp.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/regions- places/australia-and-oceania/newguinea-bloodinitiation-pp.html –Opus Dei and “mortification” »Offering up pain for God in repentance of sins. Can take the form of fasting/sleeping on the ground/remaining silent for certain periods or wearing a “cillice” around the upper left thigh. »Possession/Exorcism (later chapter) Pain as transformative –Ex: Rites of Passage ceremonies –Fulani of Northern Benin West Africa (whipping contest and tatooing): –Amazonian initiation with ants: As a sacrifice to God –Ex: Ancient Maya (book). Strings through the tongue (p. 110). –Hindu New Year in Nepal (Tongue boring): places/asia-southern/nepal_tongueboring.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/regions- places/asia-southern/nepal_tongueboring.html –Hindu festival Thaipusam in Malaysia: places/festivals-celebrations/malaysia-thaipusam-pp.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture- places/festivals-celebrations/malaysia-thaipusam-pp.html –Bali (self-stabbing): traditions/indonesia_selfstabbing.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture-places/beliefs-and- traditions/indonesia_selfstabbing.html In imitation of a God’s/religious figure’s suffering –Ex: Stigmata: Imitating Christ’s wounds on the cross (sometimes seen as appearing spontaneously). »Catholic Crucifixion in the Phillipines: traditions/philippines_crucifixion.html traditions/philippines_crucifixion.html –Ex: Matam »http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/countries-places/india/india-matam-pp.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/countries-places/india/india-matam-pp.html –Ex: Pilgrimage to Sabari Malai in South India. Walking in barefeet for 40 miles over rough ground with little food/water/celibacy in order to become closer to the Lord god Ayyappan. –Involves overloading of the tactile sense: Sensory overload

8 Altered States of Consciousness and Religion Drug-Induced Altered States Adaptive vs. maladaptive in a cultural context. –Adaptive: Usually within a controlled environment, definite end and beginning points. Only at a certain time/place/period. Includes prescription drugs to help rehabilitate/alleviate symptoms (ex. Vicodin, Sudafed?). In a ritual setting, promotes cohesion, elevation/reinforcement of position in religion/culture. Allows individual to thrive and be accepted. »Ex: Peruvian cactus drug (San Pedro): places/beliefs-and-traditions/peru_cactusdrug.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture- places/beliefs-and-traditions/peru_cactusdrug.html »Huichol’s use of Peyote: and-traditions/mexico_peyote.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture-places/beliefs- and-traditions/mexico_peyote.html –Maladaptive: Usually associated with secular drug use: when taken to extremes, leads to addiction, inability to function in society. No set beginning/end points, non-ritual, no one/thing to say “stop.” Also can relate to religious drugs taken outside of the ritual setting. Ex: cautions against Peyote/Wine used outside of their roles as sacraments. »Ex: Misuse of Ecstasy: states/us_ecstasy.htmlhttp://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/countries-places/united- states/us_ecstasy.html –Yanomamö of Venezuela. ebene (hallucinogenic snuff). Snorted through the nose. Used to entice hekura or tiny, humanlike spirits into one’s chest. –Rastafarians Afro-Caribbean religion, w/ roots in Christianity that venerates the former emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie (Jah Rastafari) as the messiah. Bob Marley ( ) took reggae (music that came from the Rastafarian movement and Jamaica) to a worldwide scene. Concept of Ital levity which emphasizes eating natural/vegetarian foods, rejecting Western consumerism and focusing on living in harmony with nature. Ganga: (Cannabis) The “Wisdom Weed” or “Holy Herb”. A religious sacrament taken to become closer to God, gain new understandings of the Universe/the Self.

9 Terms/Groups to know 2 main religious interpretations of an Altered State of Consciousness –1. Spirit Possession A supernatural force (a spirit/god) enters a person’s body. An individual may be able to control the spirit, to heal/divine or the spirit may control the body and heal/divine without the host’s knowledge. Spirit possession may also be negative or unwanted. In this case exorcism rituals may be needed. –2. Trance state in which the Soul has left the body. Interpretations of the Altered State are based around the Soul’s experience out of body. Holiness Churches (Appalachian mountains, West Virginia) –Long periods of intense prayer and loud music with a repetitive beat, ecstatic dancing, trance. Brings members into a Unitary State with God, a state in which the individual experiences a feeling of becoming one with the supernatural.


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