An altered state of consciousness, also called a non-ordinary state, dream state, or trance, can be any state that is generally different than a normal state of consciousness. There is no clearly defined boundary between “normal” and “altered” states of consciousness, but it’s generally understood that in an altered state, a person feels “awake” but in a manner different than a person normally experiences it. This state can be reflected physically—in how one senses one’s own body—and mentally—in how one is processing information. Though they are most commonly associated with the use of psychedelic drugs, altered states can sometimes purposefully be brought about by hypnosis, hallucination, or meditation or accidentally through witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, undergoing a brain injury, or suffering from oxygen deprivation, among other triggers. Many report having religious, mystical, or spiritual experiences while in an altered state, though the experience is not always pleasant or enlightening. There is great interest in both the scientific and spiritual community in the interplay between consciousness and the physical body that occur during altered states.
When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most...
Jamie Wheal is the Executive Director of the Flow Genome Project and expert in the neuro-physiology of human performance. For over a decade he has advised Fortune 500 companies like Google, Nike, and Red Bull, as well as the U.S. Naval War College, on strategy, execution, and leadership.
Cited by the L.A. Weekly as "the culture's foremost spokesman for the psychedelic experience," Terrence McKenna is an underground legend as a brilliant raconteur, adventurer, and expert on the experiential use of mind-altering plants.
Charles T. Tart, PhD, is emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, as well as the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Here he discusses a number of altered states including marijuana intoxication, dreaming, hypnosis, and out-of-body experiences.