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Thread: Altered States of Consciousness

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Altered States of Consciousness

    I know Thal wants us to post 101s and info threads... but I'm not one for posting up articles as new threads (I'm much better at answering threads than starting them). I do want to see some action in here, though... so instead of 'Rae'ya's article about altered states of consciousness' I'm posting 'the thread for our collective experiences with altered states of consciousness'.

    For those who aren't familiar with the concept... an altered state of consciousness (ASC) is generally considered to be any state that is not your everyday operating consciousness, which can be measured through brain wave frequency (normal waking consciousness is usually beta wave). Usually it relates to things like a trance state, certain meditative states, ritual consciousness, and states where you may do ritual, divination, spirit communication, mediumship, magick or psychism. Specifically related to shamanism, it's usually the state (or states) where we perform spirit communication, soul retrieval, healing and/or journeying.

    Altering our state of consciousness can be done via a number of techniques: drumming or percussion, repetitive movements, dance, rhythmic music, chanting, breath work, swaying, enthoegens (drugs and alcohol, both legal and illegal), meditation, pain, sex, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, ritual, temperature changes, fasting, asceticism, sleep deprivation, kundalini rising... the list goes on.

    So tell me... what do you do to alter your state of consciousness? What altered state/s do you use? Are you a fan of excitatory methods or inhibitory methods, or both? What do you do in ASC? Do you have different methods for different purposes. What are your success stories? What are your failures? Talk to us about ASC... how, why, where, what... everything and anything you can think to add...

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    Bronze Member iflewoverthecuckoosnest's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    When you say altered states of consciousness, there are two main things that spring immediately to mind: psychedelics and meditation. My experience with both is relatively limited, however, I certainly engage in meditation far more often than I engage in psychedelic trips, because meditation is so much more practical and easily obtainable. I have found both to be profound and useful tools.

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Quote Originally Posted by iflewoverthecuckoosnest View Post
    When you say altered states of consciousness, there are two main things that spring immediately to mind: psychedelics and meditation. My experience with both is relatively limited, however, I certainly engage in meditation far more often than I engage in psychedelic trips, because meditation is so much more practical and easily obtainable. I have found both to be profound and useful tools.
    Entheogens (the umbrella psychedelics fall under) is something that I have almost zero experience in. The only entheogen I have ever partaken of is alcohol, and I don't use it in a spiritual sense at all. Which is odd in some ways, because when I am tipsy I can feel a distinct shift into an ASC and with that I gain some perceptions that I don't ordinarily have. But the control aspect is actually a hindrance to me... I actively dislike feeling drunk, and I feel that it is actually less conducive to spiritual work. I'm a bit of a control freak, which is honestly a disadvantage for someone who uses ASCs and is definitely a disadvantage for external journey (and one of the reasons that Otherworlds work does not come easy to me). Because of that, I've never been attracted to the use of entheogens as a tool for ASC. I know from what I've read and heard that the experience with some entheogens is very different to alcohol, but I just don't feel drawn to that method. I know of many people who find it incredibly profound and useful, though.

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    Bronze Member iflewoverthecuckoosnest's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    Entheogens (the umbrella psychedelics fall under) is something that I have almost zero experience in. The only entheogen I have ever partaken of is alcohol, and I don't use it in a spiritual sense at all. Which is odd in some ways, because when I am tipsy I can feel a distinct shift into an ASC and with that I gain some perceptions that I don't ordinarily have. But the control aspect is actually a hindrance to me... I actively dislike feeling drunk, and I feel that it is actually less conducive to spiritual work. I'm a bit of a control freak, which is honestly a disadvantage for someone who uses ASCs and is definitely a disadvantage for external journey (and one of the reasons that Otherworlds work does not come easy to me). Because of that, I've never been attracted to the use of entheogens as a tool for ASC. I know from what I've read and heard that the experience with some entheogens is very different to alcohol, but I just don't feel drawn to that method. I know of many people who find it incredibly profound and useful, though.
    It's one of those things that you shouldn't do unless you feel drawn to it and positive about it, to be sure. Trips are very, very different than being drunk and can certainly be much more profound (in the right context). It's all about set and setting, really, and a big part of set and setting is feeling comfortable with the idea of engaging in a trip.

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    I tend not to use entheogens as a rule but use other means of achieving altered mental states. Usually things such as sensory deprivation or sensory overload though occasionally things such as beat or rhythmic patterns to induce journey work. Though ironically drumming for me is a bust and induces agitation vice an altered state. I suppose I differ from many in that I clearly see a separation between journey work upon the internal landscape, external landscape using the notion of celestial and chthnoic worlds and the material or physical plain as a place of journey / workings. Being more aligned with animism (all things have an individual and unique spirit) and animatism (all things belong to a universal spirit sort of like the notion of the force in the Star Wars movies) I see the various peoples differently and how we interact with them. That would relate to guides, power animals, spirit animals, semi-divine and divine entities, etc

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    I suppose I differ from many in that I clearly see a separation between journey work upon the internal landscape, external landscape using the notion of celestial and chthnoic worlds and the material or physical plain as a place of journey / workings. Being more aligned with animism (all things have an individual and unique spirit) and animatism (all things belong to a universal spirit sort of like the notion of the force in the Star Wars movies) I see the various peoples differently and how we interact with them. That would relate to guides, power animals, spirit animals, semi-divine and divine entities, etc
    I think that different methods of ASC lend themselves more readily to Innerworlds vs Otherworlds journeywork, but that there is always some cross-over. When I was first learning, one of my neo-shamanist friends was pretty adamant that you had to reach the Otherworlds via excitatory trance and that it couldn't be done via meditation. I don't agree with the former, but I do tend to agree with the latter in that a standard meditative practice is unlikely to get you into the Otherworlds (though is good for Innerworlds work).

    My go-to method for faring forth is drumming and swaying. But by 'drumming' I don't mean listening to a drumming CD... I mean that I actually have a drum that is inhabited by a drum-spirit, upon which I beat myself. I can't seem to get very far with drumming CDs, while Torey can. But physically drumming myself, with my drum-spirit helping the process, is a VERY different experience for me.

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    I think that different methods of ASC lend themselves more readily to Innerworlds vs Otherworlds journeywork, but that there is always some cross-over. When I was first learning, one of my neo-shamanist friends was pretty adamant that you had to reach the Otherworlds via excitatory trance and that it couldn't be done via meditation. I don't agree with the former, but I do tend to agree with the latter in that a standard meditative practice is unlikely to get you into the Otherworlds (though is good for Innerworlds work).

    My go-to method for faring forth is drumming and swaying. But by 'drumming' I don't mean listening to a drumming CD... I mean that I actually have a drum that is inhabited by a drum-spirit, upon which I beat myself. I can't seem to get very far with drumming CDs, while Torey can. But physically drumming myself, with my drum-spirit helping the process, is a VERY different experience for me.
    I agree that standard meditative practices won't get you into the outerworlds. At times I'm not sure it really gets you into the internal landscape or at the logical mindscape for want of a better term. The logical mindscape to me is a place where you have some sense of the internal yet its feels very logical and created as you go.

    It's like if I use color regression 9 times out of 10 i'll end up on the logical mindscape and there is always a sense of inner and physical world all at once. Yet if I use a passageway such as a guided descent via the tree or earth through my guides or such then I loose all connection and time upon the physical but have descended into the internal landscape. The real realily of a loss of time and dimension and many times a "Feel" of an earthly body but shape shift or shift-shape while I am there.

    About the only time I connect via a drumming is when I am on the edge and I find sticks in my hands and I start to beat our a tune or rhyme and I almost fall in between the beats.

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Caveat: As always, opinions expressed are entirely my own, and based largely on my own experiences/experiments which may not match those of anyone else. Also, what I think today may not be what I think tomorrow, so don't expect long term consistency.

    I'll start with "entheogens" first, since I actually have had extensive experience with these guys...

    I came out of the 60s & 70s, when entheogens were still called psychedelics. I actually remember when the terms changed. First thing I want to make clear is that, for those who enjoy them, I have no moral problems - I may take a wee little trippy-trip every now and them myself (oh! Lookkit da colors!).

    As a, uhm..., spiritual aid, however, I think for most folks it's bad. Cultures with a history of entheogen use also have a pretty solid history of training trip guides who keep it all on track during some pretty wild mental circuses. You can not learn this from a book - it requires extensive on-the-job experience, knowledgeable guidance, and some deep doses. It is also one of the areas where being powerfully emerged in a system of cultural beliefs and symbols really IS necessary to avoid some pretty serious problems.

    The other problem is strongly related to the first. Along with the sought-for experience, mind altering chemicals produce a lot of "noise" (i.e.: one is ever-so-easily distracted by the jollies provided, and neglects, loses, or forgets the whole point of going where one has gone). One comes out of it with the feeling that one has had a powerful spiritual experience, but one actually hasn't done or learned much to move oneself further toward one's goal. In this way, they are very deceptive. People seem to get lost in the deception and will burn years of there life imagining they are going somewhere, when in actuality their minds are merely becoming increasingly disordered.

    The early 70s were jammed with "Acid Sorcerers" who would claim all kinds of juju powers, but were actually on the way to becoming street people... Fantasy powers for people destroying themselves...

    I suppose there are people who, without training, can use these things repeatedly and well, but I have yet to meet one.

    I'll be back with more about what I actually do in my work later. K'Roe in complaining about my lack of attentiveness...
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    Cannibal Rights Activist Ophidia's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    Caveat: As a, uhm..., spiritual aid, however, I think for most folks it's bad. Cultures with a history of entheogen use also have a pretty solid history of training trip guides who keep it all on track during some pretty wild mental circuses. You can not learn this from a book - it requires extensive on-the-job experience, knowledgeable guidance, and some deep doses. It is also one of the areas where being powerfully emerged in a system of cultural beliefs and symbols really IS necessary to avoid some pretty serious problems.

    The other problem is strongly related to the first. Along with the sought-for experience, mind altering chemicals produce a lot of "noise" (i.e.: one is ever-so-easily distracted by the jollies provided, and neglects, loses, or forgets the whole point of going where one has gone). One comes out of it with the feeling that one has had a powerful spiritual experience, but one actually hasn't done or learned much to move oneself further toward one's goal. In this way, they are very deceptive. People seem to get lost in the deception and will burn years of there life imagining they are going somewhere, when in actuality their minds are merely becoming increasingly disordered.
    This is extremely true.

    In June, I had an incredible experience through Hawaiian Baby Woodrose. The seeds contain LSA (d-lysergic acid amide). It's borderline legal - it's a DEA Schedule III drug, mainly because way too many things contain it, HBW & morning glories being the most well-known.

    I'm a plant person, but most of my experiences have been with more dangerous plants, ones a person would only choose if they were nuts or stupid or a teenaged witch with access to them. I honestly went into my experience with HBW wanting to see pretty colors, do some fingerpainting or sidewalk chalk drawings, relax & what not. It was the last day of my vacation, I was home safe w/the hubby & the dog...

    I started out chewing up 2 seeds. No effect - 2 hours later, 2 more seeds. Some effects - things got brighter, I started to feel a little silly. I was like, well, 2 more seeds and if nothing more happens, I'll stop. 2 more seeds, 2 hours later... wow. Everything got so damned beautiful. I went & looked at myself in the mirror (I've been fighting depression, suicidal ideation, low self-esteem, low self-worth, and I've only finally started to get my life back w/the assistance of Zoloft) and saw that I was pretty cute. As I looked at myself, and into my eyes, Rainbow Serpent appeared in my reflection - my eyes turned to snake eyes, I saw scales shimmer over my skin, my body got more serpentine - and all of a sudden my home here in our little desert became a hut in the South American rain forests. Granted, I've got a lot of calaveras & Day of the Dead decor, but I've also got Greek/Cretan stuff, paleolithic imagery, Egyptian stuff, it's pretty eclectic. I could hear exotic birds and monkeys calling, could see the shifting greens of the overhead canopy. I felt like my whole body just opened up with light. It wasn't like the world dropped away and I went someplace else (which I've done before through drumming & sleep/food deprivation) - I was still very aware of my surroundings, but it was like the jungle and the Rainbow Serpent sort of overlaid everything.

    Physically though - I don't have stereoscopic vision. I only see with one eye at a time, and they move independently, and my overall vision is poor. Normally, I can tell that things are in front of or behind other things, but I get no sense of space between things. It's all kind of flat & 2D. With the HBW, I got full-on 3D vision. I could see depth. The house seemed to get bigger - but only because it took on dimension. I got bigger & took up more space, but it was still relative to my surroundings. That's when the distraction started. Rainbow Serpent was still with me, and still is, but man, the colors. And the smells, and tastes and sensations and ideas. I wanted to do everything all at the same time. I'd pick something up, see something else, get distracted carrying both things over to another thing & wonder why I couldn't hold more things. I freaked the dog out because I wanted to touch all her fur, and at one point tried to braid my husband's hair, but couldn't decide how to braid it because it reminded me of Celtic knotwork. It was like I had developed a serious and acute case of ADHD. I was still feeling profoundly connected to everything, but was just unable to sink into it or do any real work. I tried to have a deep, meaningful conversation with the dog, and also with a pine tree. I was going to try to cook dinner over & over & over again (my husband ended up doing it, which was kind of a first for him - even though it was just heating up leftovers, lol).

    Most of my more spiritual work has been done in the aftermath of my experience, over the past 3 or 4 weeks. It's sort of settled into me, integrated. I don't feel a need to use the HBW seeds again to communicate w/Rainbow Serpent because She created a path for me. If anything, I'd try them again for sheer entertainment value. And the plant spirit is ok with that, as long as I leave myself open to receive messages if she has any for me.

    Now, I could explain to someone else how to safely use the seeds. I could watch over someone on the seeds if I was sober. But could I guide someone through a journey or serious spiritual work? Uh, no. Maybe using some other plant, or technique, but not HBW. And even if I and the plant got to know one another really well, I'd still be goofy as hell while affected by them. A person can do serious shamanic work via entheogens, but they should have experience doing it sober, too. Knowing the difference between having an entheogenic journey and just being high is kind of essential to the experience.
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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Altered States of Consciousness

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    As a, uhm..., spiritual aid, however, I think for most folks it's bad. Cultures with a history of entheogen use also have a pretty solid history of training trip guides who keep it all on track during some pretty wild mental circuses. You can not learn this from a book - it requires extensive on-the-job experience, knowledgeable guidance, and some deep doses. It is also one of the areas where being powerfully emerged in a system of cultural beliefs and symbols really IS necessary to avoid some pretty serious problems.

    The other problem is strongly related to the first. Along with the sought-for experience, mind altering chemicals produce a lot of "noise" (i.e.: one is ever-so-easily distracted by the jollies provided, and neglects, loses, or forgets the whole point of going where one has gone). One comes out of it with the feeling that one has had a powerful spiritual experience, but one actually hasn't done or learned much to move oneself further toward one's goal. In this way, they are very deceptive. People seem to get lost in the deception and will burn years of there life imagining they are going somewhere, when in actuality their minds are merely becoming increasingly disordered.
    I tend to agree with this. There is a trend in neo-shamanic circles to use the plant spirit itself as a guide and facilitator, but even then there is usually the caveat that you should have a sober human handler on deck as well. In the back of my mind there's a little niggle that entheogen use would still be a bit like alcohol... in that the lack of control and 'noise' seems... well counterproductive to me.

    Anthropologically speaking, the 'trained trip-guides' thing is spot on. My anthropological shamanism texts (as opposed to the neo-shamanism books) make this side of it fairly clear.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Ophidia View Post
    Most of my more spiritual work has been done in the aftermath of my experience, over the past 3 or 4 weeks. It's sort of settled into me, integrated. I don't feel a need to use the HBW seeds again to communicate w/Rainbow Serpent because She created a path for me. If anything, I'd try them again for sheer entertainment value. And the plant spirit is ok with that, as long as I leave myself open to receive messages if she has any for me.

    Now, I could explain to someone else how to safely use the seeds. I could watch over someone on the seeds if I was sober. But could I guide someone through a journey or serious spiritual work? Uh, no. Maybe using some other plant, or technique, but not HBW. And even if I and the plant got to know one another really well, I'd still be goofy as hell while affected by them. A person can do serious shamanic work via entheogens, but they should have experience doing it sober, too. Knowing the difference between having an entheogenic journey and just being high is kind of essential to the experience.
    You're probably already aware of this, Ophidia, but certain indigenous peoples of Central and South America have a long standing tradition of 'plant shamans'. I believe in areas of Peru there are actually mixed race 'plant shamans'... vegetalista or something along those lines. For some reason this sprang into my mind reading your post.

    I'd also like to second the point about being able to do shamanic work sober even if you usually use enthoegens. This was always a concern for me as well... avoiding the use of crutches. Which is kind of silly of me really, because all techniques that are external to yourself are a crutch to a certain point. But I know that I can trance and fare forth just from swaying and breath work... it's much easier and more stable if I drum... and maybe it would be even easier again if I partook of a chemical compound that separated my lich and hame for me... but I get a great deal of stability and confidence from knowing that I can do it on my own, with no tools other than my own breath and body. Though my spirit allies may not agree with that... early on I was chided for 'not being fully here' by my teacher (meaning there in the Otherworlds with her, not here in this realm) and told that I had to learn a better and more stable way to journey!

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