It is clear that altered states of consciousness have played a major role in the development of the human species and must play a pivotal role in our future. The merging of a technological-material society with the study of altered states truly began with the study of eastern philosophy by Europeans in the later 1800s and early 1900s. This led to parallels drawn between these ideas, the ancient and modern western occult practices, and experiences with psychoactive drugs. Europe was a hotbed for eclectic mystics including Crowley and Gurdjieff. Once mescaline was introduced in the study of abnormal psychology the interest in altered states exploded. This soon led to the discovery of new psychoactive ethno botanicals, synthetic chemicals, and native American shamanism. Soon all these seemingly disseperate ideas coalesced into an understanding that altered states were critical to humanity. But what role do altered states play besides the scientific study of the schizophrenic and the mystic?
Altered states of consciousness allow the exploration of five things, which often link together and overlap:
- Human psychology: Transpersonal psychology has opened the door for the use of altered states of consciousness to explore and integrate the subconscious mind.
- Spirituality: altered states of consciousness allow for the dissolution or near dissolution of the ego and an experience of divine ecstacy across all cultures and spiritual traditions
- Creativity: altered states of consciousness open up new pathways and new perspectives for thinking allowing ideas to flow forth. Examples include the discovery of DNA by Francis Crick, the admitted applied use by programmers in silicon valley, and of course, this book.
- Exploration of reality: beyond the realm of divine ecstacy, altered states of consciousness allow for the exploration of inner space that eerily parallel our knowledge of outer space. Contact with entities and visions reminiscent of deep space are conjured up in these spaces.
- Hedonism: sometimes the altered state can just be an experience of pure bliss and fun.
The next subject for consideration is how altered states operate. To understand this, one must look at the various ways altered states are induced. Here is a basic breakdown:
- Mind/Body Control:
- Kundalini yoga
- Holotropic Breathwork
- Tantric Sex/Sex Magick
- Sweat Lodge
- Sleep deprivation
- Mystical experience
- Out of Body Experience
- Near Death Experience
- Sleep States
- Drum and Dance
- Brain Machines
Clearly there is a plethora of ways to achieve an altered state. The states themselves are varied and some are better suited for specific purposes (of the five listed earlier) than others. There is an alchemical action at work, as a material action and a material change causes an experience of the non material. The nature of this alchemical process, however, remains a mystery. While endogenous DMT release has been posited as one of the possibilities, I do not think that this is the critical factor. Nor do I believe an altered EEG pattern is solely responsible. Rather, I think that somehow, endogenous chemical processes or altered brain wave states (which may cause endogenous processes to occur) cause a flow of kundalini energy. Thus, it is my belief that pranic/chi energy is solely responsible for altered states of consciousness. While many will argue that traditional shamanism does not employ the technology or paradigm of kundalini yoga, and will be correct in that argument, I will suggest that shamanic practices activate the energy. Now if all these methods use kundalini energy, why then do they derive different altered states and why, if kundalini yoga has complete mastery of bio-energy, do kundalini yogis not report similar experiences to practitioners of the other methods of altered states?
I see kundalini yoga as basically a shortcut to divine ecstacy, creativity and the exploration of reality. Drug induced shamanic states on the other hand unleash kundalini in an uncontrolled manner, which is why many followers of yoga and other natural more control oriented states suggest that use of such drugs is dangerous. Of course, if one is adept at navigating altered states, drugs can open pathways far easier and faster than using just kundalini yoga. I see the varied techniques as the difference between taking the highway, the scenic route, or skipping the drive and hopping on a jet. You are traveling and the destination is the same, but what you see along the way is going to be very different. Kundalini yoga takes some planning, maps, and you have to pay tolls. The shamanic path allows you to see all the sights along the country road but you could get lost and may never arrive at the final destination. Of course full mastery and full exploration of kundalini yoga is likely to allow the full exploration of all the possibilities of kundalini energy.
But how did these ideas originate? How were the technologies discovered? No doubt drugs and sex magick were discovered naturally. Yogic postures and breathing may very well have developed out of sex magick or fitness regimes. Or perhaps through spontaneous movements on drugs to help the flow of energy, which is a commonly reported symptom of kundalini awakening. The shamans’ development of rituals and symbols to work within the spirit world clearly led to the development of Magick as a separate technology. But what about drum and dance? Far more perplexing is the complexity and scientific understanding found in yoga. Questions like this are perhaps better left to ponder in the altered states themselves.
Where does this leave us? In our society we have neither the time no the patience for the rigorous training of yoga, we do not have the faith required in magick, nor the mythic framework for shamanism. The neoshaman of today is at once at a great advantage and a great disadvantage. Where once the secrecy of these arts ensured at the least that the knowledge was not diluted, now much of what passes for occult reality is nothing but new age trash. An ambiguous topic is whether the neoshaman is at a loss with the lack of a mythological framework. Without a mythological framework, it is difficult to traverse the realms of the altered state. Of course, the myths also limit the experience and the response to the said experience. The rational materialist framework has at once destroyed the myths but allowed for globalization and a profusion of new ideas and frameworks. While rationality can only bring us as far as we have objective data (which is lacking in the world of the Other) it has allowed the seeker to pick and choose from the vast spiritual database of all surviving cultures.
At times it seems as if the exploration of altered states was some type of networked project. Different scripts for the software of the soul were developed across the globe only now can finally be integrated into a cohesive methodology. Indeed, the idea of a networked software project reminds us that the future holds many possibilities for further exploration of altered states.
What will the future of mystic states feel like? Imagine getting high on information. Imagine comprehending the entirety of wikipedia in one glorious eternal moment of bliss when one merges with the spirit of the wiki. Such experiences are not far off. However, plugging into data sources will not provide us with the other aspects of the altered state, that is, self awareness and integration of the subconscious. Already we have mind machines and binaural beat brain wave entrainment technology. As we are better able to measure and map the processes of the mind, we shall dig deeper and deeper into the mysteries of consciousness. Nanobots, targeted drugs, advanced vibratory and audio entrainment, and the further study of the human nervous system will no doubt coalesce to create as of now unimaginable technologies that can trigger a variety of mystical states of consciousness.
Everyone will soon be able to experience states in which the past present and future is realized as only now. Everyone will be able to experience those brief, yet eternal moments of complete understanding where social programming dissolves and the underlying structure is exposed – where the links between concepts are seen and ideas flow faster than the speed of light. The archetypical structure that created certain ideas will be seen in relation to the ideas of the past. Soon, all imaginative people can speculate as to the future while the enlightened pioneers shall see the future.