How Do You Make Sense of Altered States of Consciousness?
Here’s a dirty little secret…”altered states of consciousness” is a total misnomer.
Altered states of consciousness are necessary and inevitable milestones on the path to enlightenment and consciousness development.
In this series of blogs (this is the first), we’ll dive deeper into why consciousness expansion and altered states of consciousness are necessary on your spiritual path.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on…
What’s actually altering in your brain
Our real-time experience is colored or informed by our prior experiences. Whenever we experience something new, our physical brain ‘expands’ by strengthening neuronal connections, essentially voting for that perceived reality next time our brain has to discern what’s happening to us. If we encounter something similar in the future, our brain will go ‘Aha!’ I have a file for that, and will go activate that set of neurons in the brain.
This happens again and again until we’ve experienced that same experience so many times, we don’t even ‘think’ about it anymore. Our brains quickly fill in the gaps, so much that we’re likely to miss out on details from a new event that reminds us of a past event. If there is anything different about the experience, our brain will actually filter that information out and replace it with what it thinks is happening instead, and we misperceive our reality.
If we do happen to notice what doesn’t ‘belong’, and if our expectations are very different than the actual experience, we experience stress. This is your brain trying to figure out how it possibly could have made a mistake, because in its world, everything should be continuing to advance along a continuum toward sameness, predictability, and stability.
You see, the brain is trying to conserve resources. If we perceived and had to think about every detail of our experience all the time, it would be just way too much information. Our brain is constantly programming the subconscious to be able to take on responses and reactions to our environment so the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain engaged in conscious processing, can focus on more ‘important’ matters, like novel experiences.
What is consciousness?
Consciousness expansion can sometimes be misinterpreted to mean simply paying more attention, or mindfulness by people outside the industry. If you’re a psychonaut, shamanic journeyer, or other regular ‘explorer’ of conscious states, you’ll note that there is nothing really expanding here. We are simply using the full capacity of our current resources to better perceive our environment, ‘raising’ our awareness rather than relying on subconscious processes to navigate reality. Humans are notorious for underutilizing their existing resources.
Consciousness expansion, rather, is about whole new perceptions in the field of information and stimulus around us. It’s not about perceiving what we already CAN perceive, it’s about perceiving NOVEL stimuli we didn’t previously have access to before. It’s like perceiving a new color all of a sudden. The color was always there, yet we didn’t have the faculty to perceive it or discern it from the information field we are accessing through our consciousness. We didn’t see it as novel or unique.
For example, in Homer’s the Odyssey, the color blue is not mentioned once in the book. This is striking in that much of the book is about a sea voyage. Homer uses the term ‘wine-dark sea.’ Blue was also the last color to appear in many ancient languages like Greek, Japanese, and Hebrew (where the oldest sample of anything blue is less than 2,000 years old). It seems that Ancient Egyptians were the first to have a word for ‘blue’ in that they were the first to produce blue dye.
Does this mean ancient civilizations didn’t see blue? Or did they just not perceive it as unique or novel in their environment? I argue that ancient people needed, and we need now, to expand our consciousness in order to experience the full spectrum of what’s available to us as human beings.
So what about this misnomer?
Consciousness expansion is actually about shifting OUT of our consciousness and into pure awareness. Wisdom traditions of old have studied this shift in humans for millennia, and the Tibetan Buddhists, in particular, have extremely well-developed systems for helping humans make this shift.
If we shift too far out of reality into pure awareness, people think we’re crazy. If we never leave our current reality, we cannot grow. This is where NOT having a solid footing in social norms established by shared agreement with other humans can result in various types of psychological diagnoses related to levels of psychosis. If we can’t come back to a shared reality, we get locked up by today’s mental institutions.
Regardless of your ability to come back to this version of reality, however, it’s helpful to have a guide.
So where do I find a guide?
Go no further than the Western Mystery tradition. The reason why we call it a ‘mystery’ tradition is not because power-hungry white guys have a need to keep secrets (they may, but not because of mystical knowledge). On the contrary, we are in the ‘age of no more secrets.’ The information is available to all who would seek further knowledge and Light.
As a Guide in the Hermetic lineage of King Salomon, I’ve given my life to serve those who truly seek ‘consciousness expansion,’ or whatever you think that means. Now we know what I mean by that at least—for me, and for the mystery traditions, it’s about embodying limitless divinity, not doing more mental gymnastics with your brain (such as reading a bunch of books and thinking you understand ritual, or memorizing a bunch of correspondences but not applying them).
The term ‘mystery’ is used simply because no one has the right to tell you, a unique expression of divinity, how you ultimately will perceive reality through your pure awareness because we all have unique DNA. Thus we all have a unique perspective, both physical and spiritual, on the world. The opportunity is for you to discover your own uniqueness. To ‘Know Thyself’ (in the words of the Oracle at Delphi) and to thrive in your unique strengths and proclivities that make for a fulfilling life…for you and you alone to judge (with that know-it-all brain of yours).
Ready to dive deeper into the mystery? Download my complimentary tool, the Rapid Transition Workbook and get started on your transformational journey today!
Tune in next month for the follow-up on this topic.