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An altered state of consciousness (ASC),[1] also named altered state of mind, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking beta wave state. The expression was used as early as 1966 by Arnold M. Ludwig[2] and brought into common usage from 1969 by Charles Tart:[3][4] it describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is "altered state of awareness".

Altered states of consciousness can be associated with artistic creativity.[5] They also can be shared interpersonally and studied as a subject of sociological research.[6]



An altered state of consciousness can come about accidentally through, for example, fever, infections such as meningitis,[7] sleep deprivation, fasting, oxygen deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), psychosis,[8] temporal lobe epilepsy or a traumatic accident. Altered states of consciousness also occur in healthy women experiencing childbirth,[9] hence the introduction of the term gender-specific states of consciousness.[10]


An ASC can sometimes be reached intentionally by the use of sensory deprivation, an isolation tank, sleep deprivation, lucid dreaming, hypnosis, meditation, prayer, or disciplines (e.g. Mantra Meditation, Yoga, Sufism, dream yoga, or Surat Shabda Yoga).

ASCs can also be attained through the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol and opiates, but more commonly with traditional hallucinogens of indigenous cultures, plants such as cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, Peyote, and Ayahuasca. Other modern hallucinogens that some attempt to use for a similar purpose are (D)-methorphan, LSD-25, substituted phenethylamines, substituted tryptamines, and substituted amphetamines such as those listed in the books PiHKAL and TiHKAL by Dr. Alexander Shulgin, a former forensic and analytical organic chemist of the Drug Enforcement Administration. These drugs are often noted as "designer drugs" by authorities and professionals or as "research chemicals" by the hallucinogen-use and distribution underground, as an attempt to avoid prosecution under the Federal Analogue Act.

Another effectiveTemplate:Whom? way to induce an altered state of consciousness is using a variety of neurotechnology such as psychoacoustics, binaural beats, light and sound stimulation, cranial electrotherapy stimulation, etc.; these methods attempt to induce specific brainwave patterns, and a particular altered state of consciousness.[11]Template:Failed verification

States of consciousnessEdit






Template:Unclear section During an altered state of consciousness, brain waves occupy different categories of frequencies (i.e. Epsilon, Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma). These waves can be measured using an Electroencephalograph (EEG). Below is a list of wave types, along with their corresponding frequencies and states of consciousness:

Epsilon wave patterns have not been heavily studied, however they may be connected to intense meditative states.
Delta brainwave patterns characterize slow wave sleep.
  • Theta: 4–8 Hz Normal deep sleep state.
Theta waves are produced between dreams, and represent an "interlude" between dreams. The waves tend to last 15-30 minutes between REM states.
  • Alpha: 8–12 Hz Typical dream state.
Alpha waves can be seen in persons watching movies or television narratives in which they are fully engrossed, mostly unaware of their surroundings.
Beta waves correspond to normal conscious brain activity, ranging from calm and relaxed consciousness, to full fight-or-flight panic.
As the ability to measure brainwave frequency has significantly improved with advances in digital technology, it has become possible and practical to measure brainwave frequencies beyond 30 Hz. As more is learned about these brainwaves, a change in classifications may occur. The beta-wave level of consciousness seems to extend well beyond 30 Hz, but frequencies of 90 Hz or more (gamma waves), are shown to be associated with coordination of signals across longer distances within the brain, facilitating the completion of complex actions or associations which require the simultaneous use of multiple brain regions.

See alsoEdit







  1. Template:Cite journal
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. Template:Cite book
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  5. Template:Cite journal
  6. Spivak D. Altered states of society: a tentative approach // A World in Transition: Humankind and Nature. — Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999. — P. 33-42.
  7. Template:Cite journal
  8. Andrzej Kokoszka: States of consciousness: models for psychology and psychotherapy
  9. Gruzdev N. V., Spivak D. L. An exploratory investigation into the association of neuroticization, cognitive style, and spirituality to reported altered states of consciousness in women experiencing childbirth // International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. — 2006. — Vol. 25, No. 1. P. 56-61.
  10. Gender-specific altered states of consciousness / D. L. Spivak, N. P. Bechtereva, S. G. Danko, L. I. Spivak, K. Wistrand // International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. — 1998. — № 2. — P. 181-185.
  11. Template:Cite book

Further readingEdit

  • Hoffman, Kay (1998). The Trance Workbook: Understanding & using the power of altered states. Translated by Elfie Homann, Clive Williams, and Dr Christliebe El Mogharbel. Translation edited by Laurel Ornitz. ISBN 0-8069-1765-2
  • James, William The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) ISBN 0-14-039034-0
  • Roberts, T.B. (Ed.) (2001). Psychoactive Sacramentals: Essays on Entheogens and Religion. San Francisco: Council on Spiritual Practices.
  • Roberts, T.B. and P.J. Hruby. (1995–2002). Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments An Entheogen Chrestomathy. Online archive. [1]
  • Roberts, T.B. “Chemical Input—Religious Output: Entheogens.” Chapter 10 of Where God and Science Meet: Vol. 3: The Psychology of Religious Experience. Edited by Robert McNamara. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood, 2006.
  • Weinel, Jonathan. “Bass Drum, Saxophone & Laptop: Real-time psychedelic performance software.” eContact! 12.4 — Perspectives on the Electroacoustic Work / Perspectives sur l’œuvre électroacoustique (August 2010). Montréal: CEC.
  • Wier, Dennis R. Trance: From Magic to Technology. Transmedia, 1995. ISBN 1-888428-38-4Template:Link GA

de:Bewusstseinszustand el:Μεταβαλόμενη κατάσταση συνείδησης es:Estado alterado de conciencia fr:État modifié de conscience ja:変性意識状態 lv:Mainīgie apziņas stāvokļi pl:Odmienne stany świadomości ru:Изменённое состояние сознания

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