Altered States of Consciousness.

Altered States of Consciousness.

The study of altered state of consciousness is a science in itself in so far as it
studies the data of a state of changed perception.

An altered state of consciousness is any state which is significantly different from a normative waking beta wave state. The expression was coined by Carlos Castaneda and describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is "altered states of awareness".

An altered state of consciousness can come about accidentally through indigestion, fever, sleep deprivation, starvation, oxygen deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), or a traumatic accident.
It can sometimes be reached intentionally by the use of a sensory deprivation tank or mind-control techniques, hypnosis, meditation, prayer, or disciplines (e.g. Mantra Meditation, Yoga, Sufism or Surat Shabda Yoga). It is sometimes attained through the ingestion of psychoactive drugs.

Naturally occurring altered states of consciousness include dreams, lucid dreams, euphoria, ecstasy, psychosis as well as purported premonitions, out-of-body experiences, and channeling.
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The question is whether it is desirable to have such changed states of consciousness?

In modern day psychology, one finds a good deal of debate and discussion on Altered State of Consciousness brought about by meditation and contemplation. Significant research work, both in the Eastern and Western scientific circles, is underway in this field.

Controversies concerning the brain, mind, and consciousness have existed since the early Greek philosophers argued about the nature of the mind-body relationship, and none of these disputes has been resolved. Modern neurologists have located the mind in the brain and have said that consciousness is the result of electrochemical neurological activity. There are, however, growing observations to the contrary. There is no neurophysiological research which conclusively shows that the higher levels of mind (intuition, insight, creativity, imagination, understanding, thought, reasoning, intent, decision, knowing, will, spirit, or soul) are located in brain tissue (Hunt, 1995).

Western science of psychology defines altered states of consciousness (ASCs) as those states in which the individual feels a qualitative (and also probably quantitative) shift in the pattern of his mental functioning - both of cognition and expression. Such a pattern may be clearly observed closely and reliably in his/her daily life by his/her close associates or in an experimental settings.
In fact, modern psychologists have documented hundreds of altered states of consciousness besides the three obvious states: waking, sleeping and dreaming.

There are hundreds of theories put forth to define consciousness, but none have fully explained it because it is not physical even though it manifests through the brain. In fact, the motory/sensory impressions of an infant, the first consciousness that humans understand, emerges through the brain and the nervous system. Modern science has begun to understand altered states of consciousness as a structural arrangement of the brain cells and a biochemical process in the brain

I once had a dream
and when i awoke
I did not know whether
I was then a man
dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I am now a butterfly
dreaming I am a man.

Can one measure consciousness in the brain?

Medical science has been able to measure consciousness as the product of the brain’s activity. There are four levels of brain-wave activity with corresponding Greek letters to designate each: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. The electroencephalogram (EEG) machine measures these brain-wave activities.

The Beta Level
The Beta Level defines our normal waking consciousness. Now 75% of waking consciousness is consumed with monitoring the body's physical functions. The other 25% of the Beta State deals with the thinking and planning state of the mind. The brain waves range from 14 to 27 cycles per second.

EEG Recording. Spectrogram View (4-30), ~1.2 minute time lapse, middle of an Alpha-focused session

The Alpha Level
The Alpha State is the “resting state” of the brain. It is a passive state where one is non-critical and non-analytical. Listening to music and relaxing is reflexive of this state. One is aware of stimuli. Mystical states of consciousness happens in the alpha state and they usually occur prior to and just after sleep. The Alpha State also occurs voluntarily during light hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, day dreaming, hypnogogic and hypnapompic states. The brain waves activity range from 8 to 13 cycles per second.

"Mystical states of consciousness happen in the alpha state ... The Alpha State also occurs voluntarily during light hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, day dreaming, hypnogogic and hypnapompic states."
Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D

"Mystical states of consciousness happen in the alpha state ... The Alpha State also occurs voluntarily during light hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, day dreaming, hypnogogic and hypnapompic states."
Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D

"If you feel we live in a purely physical universe, you will view meditation as a good way to obtain a consistent alpha brain wave pattern" Richard Foster in
Celebration of Discipline

Penfield, an eminent contemporary neurophysiologist, found that the human mind continued to work in spite of the brain’s reduced activity under anesthesia. Brain waves were nearly absent while the mind was just as active as in the waking state. The only difference was in the content of the conscious experience. Following Penfield’s work, other researchers have reported awareness in comatose patients (Hunt, 1995)

Theta Level
The Theta State is the “Reverie State” of conscious that is open to intuition and inspiration. Now stimuli are often ignored in this state. Theta occurs during light sleep. It is accessible during biofeedback and meditation. During this level, one is unaware of one’s surroundings. The brain wave-activity ranges from 4 to 8 cycles per second.

"...almost everyone has the potential, to one degree or another, to cultivate shamanic abilities if he or she wishes to do so. Researchers ... have found that entrainment of the brainwaves to the alpha and theta rhythms ... induce similar trance and visionary experiences.
By Sarah Belle Dougherty
(Music and Healing Arts)

The Delta Level
The lowest level of brain activity is the Delta State. In this state the individual is unreceptive to any stimuli. The Delta State usually occurs during a deep sleep.
These four levels of brain-wave activity enable science to understand the various components of consciousness

Left and Right Brain

Paul Maclean discovered in his research on the human brain that by far, most of Western Society never escapes the trap of the Left Brain and its Ego. Consequently, all types of illnesses result because of the lack of contact with the Right Brain, which contains the Self. Because of the polarity between the Left Brain and the Right Brain techniques must be used to make contact between them and begin the Integration process.

Left and Right Brain


Logical - responsible for logic functions such as mathematics, computations, logical deductions

Analytic - examines things part by part, and relates to small details

Computational - uses sums and computations to reach estimates

Sequential - does things one at a time

Factual - deals with details, items, particulars, features of a thing

Insular - works within the parameters of the individual's existent data


Imaginative - responsible for imagination, visualisation and 'open ended' creative thinking.

Synthetic - arranges the parts to form the whole; can perceive the whole

Intuitional - uses intuition to sense or get a feeling of a situation,( including hunches)

Holistic - does different tasks at once

things Visual /visuo-spatial - uses imagery, colours; perceives shape and dimension

'Open-ended' - in touch with, and can tap into, unlimited 'collective consciousnesses'


By connecting a subject to an Electroencephalograph (EEG), his/her brain waves can be measured in cycles per second (c.p.s.). This is not so much a quantitative measure of mental activity as it is of a state of mind. There are essentially four states - beta, alpha, theta and delta. Although these have only been scientifically studied with the advent of modern equipment, I was intrigued to unearth mention of these four states in ancient eastern texts. It seems that some ancient societies have long known how to exploit the mind's unlimited potential. But whereas in the past such knowledge was limited to a privileged few, today it has been made more accessible, and streamlined with modern scientific knowledge.

At an average of 20 c.p.s., the beta state is the normal, everyday waking state. In this state we are predominantly engaged in left brain activity. Lowering the brain wave frequency to around 15 c.p.s. brings us into the alpha state, and it is here that right brain activity is engaged. Lower still are theta and delta, but these do not concern us as they are really only accessed during sleep. Lowering frequency simply means cutting out unnecessary stress and brain 'chit-chat'. Besides engaging creative abilities, this makes the individual more alert,allows clearer thinking and enables mental faculties which the beta level does not. Although we talk of lowering frequency, the effect is more of an altered state.

Go here To Generate Alpha - Theta waves

We are particularly interested in the alpha state, as this is where right brain activity can be actively engaged. This state brings into play our imaginative and creative faculties, as well as our intuitive mind. It is the state at which ideas will flow more readily. In everyday life, we go through alpha at least twice a day - in the evening as we drift off to sleep, and in the morning when we wake up. This explains why many top inventions were conceived early in the morning, or during a state of relaxation. Einstein came up with the theory of relativity not in his laboratory but while sunbathing on a hillside. Although mathematics is predominantly a left brain activity, he allocated time to relaxing his mind, and advised his students to do likewise. Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Wolfgang Mozart, Einstien and other successful thinkers and geniuses employed similar techniques. Our aim naturally, is to produce alpha frequencies while fully alert. A state of alpha does not put one to sleep, on the contrary, it confers a whole spectrum of benefits.


The following are some of the principal benefits of right brain activity towards personal effectiveness of human resources:

1. Enhanced creativity and imagination
The right brain can be thought of being connected directly to the source of creativity, and the alpha state is hence more conducive to innovative thinking and generation of new ideas.

2. Problem-solving and trouble-shooting
With the mind in a more relaxed state and access to its immense creative resources, it is naturally better disposed to deal with crisis and solve problems constructively.

3. Less stress
The alpha state has a built-in fringe benefit in that it actually releases accumulated stress and tension from both body and mind. In our hectic lifestyles, this makes for more harmonious working conditions on both micro and macro levels, with resultant improved teamwork, drops in absenteeism, improved well being and other long-term benefits

4. Heightened intuition
Studies at Harvard revealed that the majority of presidents and managers of multi-national companies attributed up to 80% of their success to intuition. Intuition - the legendary hunches and gut feelings of the seasoned businessperson - can indeed be a very important element in business. Yet because it defies tangible description, intuition is hardly ever mentioned in conventional training programmes, with the exception of a few mind dynamics systems. Open-minded, right brain thinking is highly conducive to intuition, particularly in deep states of alpha.

5. Easier implementation of personal change
The quest towards personal effectiveness often involves effecting changes in disposition or attitude, enhancing constructive traits and eliminating unconstructive ones, as described earlier. The alpha state very much facilitates these processes. During powerful workshops that promote change, I often find it useful to induce states of alpha in order to catalyse new awareness at deeper subconscious levels of synthesis.

6. Enhanced study / learning abilities, and memory retention
Another important benefit of right brain patterns is that they greatly facilitate learning and study, as well as memory retention. This explains the effectiveness of accelerated learning methods.

7. Better rapport and negotiation skills
Establishing rapport with others during meetings and negotiations can mean the difference between agreement or non-agreement, deal or no deal. Even the most powerful NLP rapport skills work better if one has accessed a state of alpha. The subject can then be 'paced and led' to follow suit, creating a resonant state of mind which makes for better bilateral agreement.

8. Other mind skills
Possibly the most outstanding applications of right brain methodology lie in the use of specialised techniques which present new, often astonishing possibilities. Examples of applications are the gaining of new mental information, establishing non-localised rapport, boosting goal achievement through visualisation, solo brainstorming and mental 'market-testing' of concepts. These are some of the applications reportedly experienced around the world from light and sound users. The advantage of these light and sound tools is, that they enable onewith practice to access a peak performance state at will, a state which is then gradually integrated into daily life.

You can encourage the Brain to peak performance