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Section 8: Altered States of Consciousness (ASC)

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1 Section 8: Altered States of Consciousness (ASC)
By: Don Slack & Melissa Townsend

2 Chapter 22: Drugs & Altered States
Defining ASCs Objectively Defined “How they were induced” Drugs Various types Hypnosis Problem: “Very few ASCs are associated with unique physiological patterns or with physiological or behavioral changes that map directly onto changes in experience.” -Blackmore No defined correlations between physiological alteration and the experience perceived.

3 Defining ASCs (cont’d)
Subjectively Defined Pattern of mental functioning seems different to the person such that they feel that their state of consciousness is different from a “normal” state Problem: What is a normal state of consciousness? (SoC) Problem with sharing subjective definitions of ASCs with others

4 An Even More Basic Problem
Is there a consciousness to be altered? Could consciousness be defined as just behaviors and descriptions of subjective SoCs? (Eliminative materialism/functionalism)

5 Farthing’s List of Functions
These mental functions at least appear to change while in an altered state of consciousness: Attention Perception Imagery & Fantasy Inner Speech Memory High Level Thought Processes Meaning & Significance Time Perception Emotional Feeling & Expression Arousal Self-control Suggestibility Body Image Sense of Personal Identity Question: What mental functions are left? ASCs may only be definable by analyzing the whole system

6 Drugs!!!!!!! The book gives an extensive list of psychoactive drugs. Here are the major groups: Stimulants CNS Depressants Narcotics Antipsychotics Antidepressants Anesthetics Psychedelics What do you think of this: “Gregory’s unpleasant experience in the laboratory illustrates how important set and setting are in determining the effects of psychoactive drugs.” (p. 331)

7 Psychedelics Most psychedelics structural resemble one of the four neurotransmitters: acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Question: Are we just altering the hardware then? “Minor” Psychedelics Cannabis Effects differ very widely from person to person, and over a range of doses. Some commonly reported effects: Euphoria and relaxation at low doses Fear and paranoia at higher doses Enhancement of senses Altered experience of time Short term memory thought to be impaired. “Major psychedelics” Example: LSD Effects: Hallucinations “Deep Insights” Sense of going on a journey

8 Final Thoughts on Psychedelics
“Are any of these drug-induced ASCs valid, truth-giving, truly spiritual experiences, or are they just the ramblings of poisoned minds?” -Blackmore (337)

9 Chapter 23: Sleep, Dreams, & Hypnotic States
Questions: “What does it mean to say that ‘I become conscious’ in a lucid dream? Aren’t you conscious in ordinary dreams?” “Who is the dreamer?”

10 Waking and Sleeping REM and non-REM states of sleep are physiologically different REM: Brain is highly active Resembles waking state Motor function shut off Sleeper is harder to waken What do you think: Dream logic is wonderfully unlike waking logic, with people being composites, objects transforming into other objects, and people doing things for the strangest reasons. All this is accepted by the dreamer who neither notices how peculiar it all is nor realizes that it is a dream (Blackmore, 340). What does this say about a single, constant, consciousness?

11 The Evolution of Dreams
Why do we dream? NOT “Why do we sleep?” Do animals dream? Why not? Many have REM sleep. If they dream, are they conscious?

12 Dreams Lucid Dreams Definition: A dream in which you know during the dream that you are dreaming. Previously thought not to exist Hearne and LaBerge designed an experiment in which a man signaled to them (via a particular series of eye movements) that he was conscious while in a dream during REM. Are you conscious? Are you able to influence the content, or does it just feel that way? Subjects are able to retain roughly the same measure of time during lucid dreams as when they are awake. Are there levels of consciousness? “Becoming lucid feels like waking up or becoming more conscious” (Blackmore, 353)?

13 Chapter 24: Exceptional Human Experience
Exceptional Human Experiences (EHEs) Definition: a broad category encompassing psychic visions, hypnotic regression, lucid dreams, peak experiences, and religious/mystical experiences. Responses to EHEs Dismissed as inventions/lies Pathological states that need treatment Evidence that materialist science is wrong and must be expanded to include the paranormal, the existence of the soul, the power of consciousness to reach beyond the body or the existence of God. They are normal.

14 Out of Body Experiences (OBEs)
Definition: An experience a person seems to perceive the world from a location outside their physical body. Emphasis on the word experience; whether anything actually leaves the body or not is open to investigation.

15 Theories of OBEs Theories Dualist Monist Theosophy Problem:
We have more than one body: Astral, Etheric, Physical, and several other higher bodies, all of which can separate. An OBE is an “Astral Projection” Astral Projection: When consciousness leaves the physical in the form of the astral body sometimes remaining connected by a silver cord. Problem: If the astral body really sees the physical world during astral projection, then it must be interacting with it and hence it must be a detectable physical entity, yet it is supposed to be nonphysical and all attempts at detection have failed. Monist OBEs = imagination + ESP Nothing leaves the body

16 Theories of OBEs (cont’d)
OBEs = ASCs Not akin to dreams Many take place while awake. Does not resemble REM Body Image Disruption Sensory input and the body image are disrupted. In response, the cognitive system constructs a new body image, and a plausible world derived from memory and imagination, using the kinds of bird’s eye views that are common in memory and dreams. Attributable to disruption of temporal lobe function.

17 Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
Ingredients for an NDE: A tunnel An OBE A brilliant white or golden light Positive and loving emotions Visions of another world Meetings with other beings A life review The decision to return Some are peaceful, some are hellish

18 Interpreting NDEs The similarities across ages and cultures suggest that NDEs have something interesting to teach us about death and consciousness… but what? “Afterlife hypothesis” Proof of existence of a soul that can survive death. NDEs require a new science of consciousness NDErs describe clear states of consciousness with lucid reasoning and memory when their brain is severely impaired, or even in a state of clinical death. Some NDErs report knowledge of things/occurances that they could (according to our science) have known about. Dying Brain Hypothesis Severe stress, extreme fear, and cerebral anoxia all cause cortical disinhibition and uncontrolled brain activity. Tunnels and lights are caused by disinhibition in visual cortex.

19 Mystical Experiences James’ four marks that justify a “mystical” experience Ineffability The experience cannot be described in words and therefore cannot be a meme. Noetic quality The sense that mystical states are states of knowledge, insight or illumination. They carry a lasting sense of authority. Transiency Rarely last more than ½ hour – 1 hour before fading. Cannot be clearly remembered afterwards, but are easily recognized when they occur. Passivity Cannot be induced Once it begins, the mystic feels as though he/she is not in control.

20 Perhaps The deepest mystical insights are not only monist and non-paranormal, but are perfectly compatible with science “The universe is one, the separate self is an illusion, immortality is not in the future but now, everything is as it is and there is nothing to be done” – Blackmore 368.

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