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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Charles T. Tart - States of Consciousness (A)


States of Consciousness
  Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.
  Contents
          Introduction to the Web Edition
 
        Introduction
Section I: States
 
  1.   The Systems Approach to States of Consciousness
 
  2.   The Components of Consciousness: Awareness,
 
          Energy, Structures
 
  3.   Conservative and Radical Views of the Mind
 
  4.   The Nature of Ordinary Consciousness
 
  5.   Discrete States of Consciousness
 
  6.   Stabilization of a State of Consciousness
 
  7.   Induction of Altered States: Going to Sleep,
 
          Hypnosis, Meditation
 
  8.   Subsystems
 
  9.   Individual Differences
 
10.   Using Drugs to Induce Altered States
 
11.   Observation of Internal States
 
12.   Identity States
 
13.   Strategies in Using the Systems Approach
 
14.   The Depth Dimension of a State of Consciousness
 
15.   State-Specific Communication
 
16.   State-Specific Sciences
 
17.   Higher States of Consciousness
Section II: Speculation
 
18.   As Above, So Below: Five Basic Principles
 
          Underlying Physics and Psychology
 
19.   Ordinary Consciousness as a State of Illusion
 
20.   Ways Out of Illusion
 
        Bibliography
Introduction to the Web Edition, 1997
I am very pleased that the Schaffer Library  is now making this book available over the World Wide Web. The greatly increasing interest in the nature of consciousness in the last few years makes this material even more relevant than when it was originally published in 1975.
States of Consciousness  ©1975 by Charles T. Tart
First published by E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, in 1975.
ISBN 0-525-20970-0
States of Consciousness appears in The Psychedelic Library by permission of the Author
Unfortunately too much of the current scientific and popular interest in consciousness tends to be simplistically reductionistic, a "Consciousness is nothing but……" approach, where the particular "nothing but" may be brain functioning, language, philosophical abstractions, etc. All these approaches have valuable things to offer our understanding, but do grave injustice to the richness and complexity of our consciousness with such oversimplification. My systems approach presented in this book is not simplistic, but tries to deal with the whole, rich range of conscious functioning, particularly as it is expressed in altered states of consciousness (ASCs) like hypnosis, dreaming, meditation, drug-induced states, etc.
While my approach is primarily scientific, the book was written clearly to be accessible to all educated people (indeed, I have sometimes gotten in trouble with the University, which has "reasoned" that if my writings can be understood they must not be really scholarly….). Many of the students in my altered states classes over the years have also found considerable personal relevance in this approach. As one young woman put it, at first she didn't understand what all these diagrams of mine were about and then one day she suddenly realized that I had been talking about the way her mind actually worked!
The basic systems approach I developed to understanding ASCs in this book is still my basic approach to working with consciousness. In my (undoubtedly biased) opinion, it is still superior in important ways to the simplistic approaches that have preceded and followed it. In the past 20 years I have developed this approach further, using computer generated virtual reality systems to illustrate how consciousness creates a biological-psychological virtual reality (BPVR) in which we experientially live, a semi-arbitrary construction, a simulation of the world, which we naively mistake for straightforward and accurate perception of external reality. This expansion of the systems model can be found in my writings listed below.
For those who prefer the pleasure of a real book to reading from a screen (I still do!), there are still some soft cover copies of the second edition of States of Consciousness available at $ 12.95 (plus sales tax for California residents) and $ 3 for shipping within the US, $ 10 for air shipping outside the US. Checks or money orders must be denominated in US currency. Other books and tapes of mine are also available, and $ 1 will bring a catalog. Write to PPI, Box 8385, Berkeley CA 94707-8385.
Incidentally I made a great literary mistake in naming this book States of Consciousness after earlier publishing my Altered States of Consciousness (1969), as readers get the two books confused, If they've read the one, they think they've read the other. Altered States of Consciousness is an anthology detailing the rich variety of what can happen in ASCs. States of Consciousness is my attempt to make some coherent sense of this vast spectrum of experiences. Altered States of Consciousness is also available from PPI for $ 16.95 plus shipping (and tax if the book is shipped to a California address), as above.

Charles T. Tart
Berkeley, California        
September 1997



Further developments of the Systems Approach:
Charles T. Tart, An Emergent Interactionist Understanding of Human Consciousness Brain/Mind and Parapsychology: Proceedings of an International Conference, held in Montreal, Canada, August 24-25, 1978 under the auspices of the Parapsychology Foundation, New York, NY. Available over the web from http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ (66K)
Charles T. Tart, Consciousness: A Psychological, Transpersonal and Parapsychological Approach Presented at the Third International Symposium on Science and Consciousness in Ancient Olympia, 4-7 January, 1993. Available over the web from http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ (27K)
Charles T. Tart, Mind Embodied! Computer-Generated Virtual Reality as a New, Dualistic-Interactive Model for Transpersonal Psychology,, Based on a speech given at the L. E. Rhine Centenary Conference on Cultivating Consciousness for Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness and Healing, Durham, North Carolina, November 9, 1991. A modified version was later published in K. Rao (Editor), Cultivating Consciousness Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness and Healing. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1993. Pp. 123-137. Available over the web from http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ (44K)
Charles T. Tart, The World Simulation Process Approach. Portions of this paper were originally presented in an invited address at the Seventh International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States, November 7-11, 1990, Chicago, under the title, "Life in the World Simulator: Altered States, Identification, Multiple Personality and Enlightenment." This is the published version of the paper, which appeared as Multiple Personality, Altered States and Virtual Reality: The World Simulation Process Approach, in the journal Dissociation, Vol. 3, 222-233. Available over the web from http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ (80K)
Many other publications of mine are available on my web archives at http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/
Introduction


This is a transitional book. 
    It is transitional, first, because our society is in the midst of many vital transitions. As this book shows, our ordinary or "normal" state of consciousness is a tool, a structure, a coping mechanism for dealing with a certain agreed-upon social reality—a consensus reality. As long as that consensus reality and the values and experiences behind it remain reasonably stable, we have a fairly good idea of what "normal" consciousness is for an individual and what "pathological" deviations from that norm are. Today, as many of the religious, moral, and emotional underpinnings of our civilization lose their guiding value for our most influential people, the concepts of normal and pathological begin to lose their meanings. 
    Because we have begun in recent years to question the foundations of our consensus reality and the value of our normal state of consciousness, some of us have tried to alter consciousness by experimenting with drugs, meditation, new kinds of psychotherapies, new religious systems. My own reading of history suggests that some of the experiences people have had in altered states of consciousness, generally called mystical experiences, have formed the underpinnings of all great religious systems and of the stable societies and consensus realities that were formed from them. Now we not only question our inherited social systems, we go directly to the sources, to altered states of consciousness, in our search for new values and realities. This is a very exciting, very dangerous, and very hopeful undertaking. We are in a social transition, and no one of us knows precisely where it is going. Yet we have, perhaps, a chance to understand our own transition and possibly to guide it—things no society in the past has been able to do. 
    This opportunity is granted us by science, particularly the young science of psychology. Instead of being blindly converted to ideologies created by the powerful experiences encountered in altered states of consciousness, or avoiding them because of fear, we may be able, through science, to gain a broader understanding f our own minds and of these forces and to exert some intelligent guidance. 
    This book is transitional in a second way because psychology itself is entering a state of rapid transition. Once defined as the study of the mind, psychology made little headway as a science; it lacked the elegance, precision of understanding, and power of doing of the physical sciences. So it was redefined by many of its practitioners as the study of behavior. Overt behavior is easier to study than experience, and the examination of overt behavior has given us many useful tools for predicting and changing behavior. 
    Now I see psychology once again becoming a science of or the study of the mind. This trend seems undesirable to many of my older colleagues, but is welcomed by many younger psychologists and by most current students of psychology. We cannot shun the study of the nature of the human mind simply because it is difficult, and confine ourselves to the easier analysis of overt behavior. We are now developing many tools for more precise study of the mind. 
    Yet this second transition is unfinished. At the moment I am optimistic that a science of consciousness and states of consciousness will be developed within this decade. But I cannot be certain that this transition in contemporary psychology will definitely lead to a science of consciousness. The interest among younger psychologists and students is not simply a function of some linear progress in the psychological knowledge available to s; it is also a reflection of the transition in our society that has prompted our search for values. If there is a marked change in society, such as an authoritarian, repressive shift to buy security rather than to endure the stress of transition, the new science of consciousness may be aborted. 
    This books presents a new way of viewing states of consciousness—a systems approach. it is a way of looking at what people tell us about and how they behave in various altered states of consciousness that I have been slowly developing in a decade of research. I have worked out the major dimensions of this way of understanding to a point of great usefulness to myself, and I believe the method can be useful to others, as well. It is now clear to me that the need is great for some kind of paradigm to make sense of the vast mass of chaotic data in this field, and I offer this systems approach to others even though this approach is still in transition. It will take me another decade to think out all the ramifications of this approach, to begin the broad-scale experimental tests of its usefulness, to adequately fit all the extant and evolving literature into it. But I do not think we have time for such slow and orderly work if, given the first two transitions, we are to understand enough scientifically about states of consciousness to have some influence on the powerful transitions occurring in our society. Thus I present this systems approach now, even though it is unfinished, in the hope that it may lead us toward the understanding we need. 
    This book is transitional in still another sense; it represents a variety of personal transitions for me. One of these transitions is a professional one—from experimentalist to theoretician. I am not entirely comfortable with this change. My style has been to conduct small-scale experiments in various areas of the psychology of consciousness where I can stay personally involved with the factual data and not lose track of them in the course of pursuing intriguing abstractions. Yet the systems approach presented here has evolved in the course of that experimentation, and it seems so promising that I have chosen to de-emphasize my immediate involvement in experimentation to look at the larger picture of the nature of states of consciousness. A forthcoming book, Studies of States of Consciousness [132], will collect some of that research for convenient reference. References to all of my research can be found in the Bibliography [61-139]. 
    Another personal transition is that I have lately given more attention to direct experience of some of the phenomena associated with altered states of consciousness. While much of what I write about here is intellectual or theoretical knowledge based on reports from others and on the experimental literature, some of it comes directly from my own experience—enough so that the systems approach I describe clearly makes basic experiential sense to me, even though many of its ramifications are beyond the scope of my personal experience. 
    My personal experience of some of the phenomena associated with altered states of consciousness may be both advantageous and disadvantageous. In the early days of research with LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), scientists often downgraded the work of a researcher who had not taken LSD himself on grounds that he did not really understand the phenomena he was researching. On the other hand, if he had taken LSD himself, his research was suspect on grounds that his judgment probably had been warped by his personal involvement. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. So I have tried to steer a middle course—not presenting a personal theory, but also not presenting ideas that have no experiential basis at all for me. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage must be judged by the long-term usefulness of these ideas. 
    This book is addressed to everyone who is interested in states of consciousness, whether that interest is personal, professional, or both. Each of us lives in his ordinary state of consciousness, each of us experiencers at least one altered state of consciousness (dreaming), and few of us are immune to the currents of social change that make us ask questions about the nature of our mental life. Understanding consciousness is not the exclusive task or desire of scientists or therapists. Because this is a subject of interest to all of us, I have tried to keep my writing straightforward and clear and to resist the temptation to talk in scientific jargon. I introduce only a few technical terms, usually where the common words we might use have acquired such a wide range of meaning that they are no longer clear. 
    This book is also addressed to practitioners and researchers who will see where this way of looking at consciousness is helpful and will refine and expand it, and who will also see where this way of looking things is not helpful and does not fit their experience and so will alter it. I believe what is presented here will be useful to many of us now, but I hope that in a decade the progress made by others in the refinement and application of this approach will allow a far more definitive book to be written. 
    The book is organized into two sections. The first section, "States," describes my systems approach to states of consciousness, discusses some of its implications, and gives an overview of what we know about states of consciousness today. The second section, "Speculations," presents ideas that, while consistent with the systems approach, are not a necessary part of it and are more unorthodox. 
    My own thinking in evolving this systems approach has depended heavily on the contributions of many others. To name only the ones most prominent in my mind, I am indebted to Roberto Assagioli, John Bennet, Carlos Castaneda (and his teacher, Don Juan), Arthur Deikman, Sigmund Freud, David Galin, George Gurdjieff, Arthur Hastings, Ernest Hilgard, Carl Jung, Thomas Kuhn, John Lilly, Abraham Maslow, Harold McCurdy, Gardner Murphy, Claudio Naranjo, Maurice Nicoll, Robert Ornstein, Peter Ouspensky, Idries Shah, Ronald Shor, Tarthang Tulku, Andrew Weil, and my wife, Judy. I also wish to express my particular to Helen Joan Crawford, Lois Dick, and Irene Segrest, who have done so much to aid me in my research.

  1.   The Systems Approach to States of Consciousness


    There is a great elegance in starting out from simple ideas, slowly building them up into connected patterns, and having a complex, interlocking theoretical structure emerge at the end. Following the weaving of such a pattern, step by step, can be highly stimulating. Unfortunately, it is easy to get bogged down in the details, especially when the pattern has gaps to be filled in, and to lose track of what the steps are all about and what they are leading toward. This chapter gives a brief overview of my systems approach to state of consciousness—a brief sketch map of the whole territory to provide a general orientation before we look at detail maps. I do not define terms much here or give detailed examples, as these are supplied in later chapters. 
    Our ordinary state of consciousness is not something natural or given, but a highly complex construction, a specialized tool for coping with our environment and the people in it, a tool that is useful for doing some things but not very useful, and even dangerous, for doing other things. As we look at consciousness closely, we see that it can be analyzed into many parts. Yet these parts function together in a pattern: they form a system. While the components of consciousness can be studied in isolation, they exist as parts of a complex system, consciousness, and can be fully understood only when we see this function in the overall system. Similarly, understanding the complexity of consciousness requires seeing it as a system and understanding the parts. For this reason, I refer to my approach to states of consciousness as a system approach. 
    To understand the constructed system we call a state of consciousness, we begin with some theoretical postulates based on human experience. The first postulate is the existence of a basic awareness. Because some volitional control of the focus of awareness is possible, we generally refer to it as attention/awareness. We must also recognize the existence of self-awareness, the awareness of being aware. 
    Further basic postulates deal with structures, those relatively permanent structures/functions/subsystems of the mind/brain that act on information to transform it in various ways. Arithmetical skills, for example, constitute a (set of related) structure(s). The structures of particular interest to us are those that require some amount of attention/awareness to activate them. Attention/awareness acts as psychological energy in this sense. Most techniques for controlling the mind are ways of deploying attention/awareness energy and other kinds of energies so as to activate desired structures (traits, skills, attitudes) and deactivate undesired structures. 
    Psychological structures have individual characteristics that limit and shape the ways in which they can interact with one another. Thus the possibilities of any system built of psychological structures are shaped and limited both by the deployment of attention/awareness and other energies and by the characteristics of the structures comprising the system. The human biocomputer, in other words, has a large but limited number of possible modes of functioning. 
    Because we are creatures with a certain kind of body and nervous system, a large number of human potentials are in principle available to use. but each of us is born into a particular culture that selects and develops a small number of these potentials, rejects others, and is ignorant of many. The small number of experiential potentials selected by our culture, plus some random factors, constitute the structural elements from which our ordinary state of consciousness is constructed. We are at once the beneficiaries and the victims of our culture's particular selection. The possibility of tapping and developing latent potentials, which lie outside the cultural norm, by entering an altered state of consciousness, by temporarily restructuring consciousness, is the basis of the great interest in such states. 
    The terms states of consciousness and altered state of consciousness have come to be used too loosely, to mean whatever is on one's mind at the moment. The new term discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC0 is proposed for greater precision. A d-SoC is a unique, dynamic pattern or configuration of psychological structures, an active system of psychological subsystems. Although the component structures/subsystems show some variation within a d-SoC, the overall pattern, the overall system properties remain recognizably the same. If, as you sit reading, you think, "I am dreaming," instead of "I am awake," you have changed a small cognitive element in your consciousness but not affected at all the basic pattern we call your waking state. In spite of subsystem variation and environmental variation, a d-SoC is stabilized by a number of processes so that it retains its identity and function. By analogy, an automobile remains an automobile whether on a road or in a garage (environment change), whether you change the brand of spark plugs or the color of the seat covers (internal variation). 
    Examples of d-SoCs are the ordinary waking state, nondreaming sleep, dreaming sleep, hypnosis, alcohol intoxication, marijuana intoxication, and meditative states. 
    A discrete altered state of consciousness (d-ASC) refers to a d-SoC that is different from some baseline state of consciousness (b-SoC). Usually the ordinary state is taken as the baseline state. A d-ASC is a new system with unique properties of its own, a restructuring of consciousness. Altered is intended as a purely descriptive term, carrying no values. 
    A d-SoC is stabilized by four kinds of processes: (1) loading stabilization—keeping attention/awareness and other psychological energies deployed in habitual, desired structures by loading the person's system heavily with appropriate tasks; (2) negative feedback stabilization—correcting the functioning of erring structures/subsystems when they deviate too far from the normal range that ensures stability; (3) positive feedback stabilization—strengthening activity and/or providing rewarding experiences when structure/subsystems are functioning within desired limits; and (4) limiting stabilization—restricting the range of functioning of structures/subsystems whose intense operation would destabilize the system. 
    In terms of current psychological knowledge, ten major subsystems (collections of related structures) that show important variations over known d-ASCs need to be distinguished: (1) Exteroception—sensing the external environment; (2) Interoception—sensing what the body is feeling and doing; (3) Input-Processing—automated selecting and abstracting of sensory input so we perceive only what is "important" by personal and cultural (consensus reality) standards; (4) Memory; (5) Subconscious—the classical Freudian unconscious plus many other psychological processes that go on outside our ordinary d-SoC, but that may become directly conscious in various d-ASCs: (6) Emotions; (7) Evaluation and Decision-Making—our cognitive evaluating skills and habits; (8) Space/Time Sense—the construction of psychological space and time and the placing of events within it; (9) Sense of Identity—the quality added to experience the makes it a personal experience instead of just information; and (10) Motor Output—muscular and glandular outputs to the external world and the body. These subsystems are not ultimates, but convenient categories to organize current knowledge. 
    Our current knowledge of human consciousness and d-SoCs is highly fragmented and chaotic. The main purpose of the systems approach presented here is organizational: it allows us to relate what were formerly disparate bits of data and supplies numerous methodological consequences for guiding future research. it makes the general prediction that the number of d-SoCs available to human beings is definitely limited, although we do not yet know those limits. It further provides a paradigm for making more specific predictions that will sharpen our knowledge about the structures and subsystems that make up human consciousness. 
    There are enormously important individual differences in the structure of the d-SoCs. If we map the experiential space in which two people function, one person may show two discrete, separated clusters of experiential functioning (two d-SoCs), while the other may show continuous functioning throughout both regions and the connecting regions of experiential space. The first person must make a special effort to travel from one region of experiential space (one d-SoC) to the other; the second makes no special effort and does not experience the contrast of pattern and structure differences associated with the two regions (the two d-SoCs). Thus what is a special state of consciousness for one person may be an everyday experience for another. Great confusion results if we do not watch for these differences: unfortunately, many widely used experimental procedures are not sensitive to these important individual differences. 
    Induction of a d-ASC involves two basic operations that, if successful, lead to the d-ASC from the b-SoC. First, we apply disrupting forces to the b-SoC—psychological and/or physiological actions that disrupt the stabilization processes discussed above either by interfering with them or by withdrawing attention/awareness energy or other kinds of energies from them. Because a d-SoC is a complex system, with multiple stabilization processes operating simultaneously, induction may not work. A psychedelic drug, for example, may not produce a d-ASC because psychological stabilization processes hold the b-SoC stable in spite of the disrupting action of the drug on a physiological level. 
    If induction is proceeding successfully, the disrupting forces push various structures/subsystems to their limits of stable functioning and then beyond, destroying the integrity of the system and disrupting the stability of the b-SoC as a system. Then, in the second part of the induction process, we apply patterning forces during this transitional, disorganized period—psychological and/or physiological actions that pattern structures/subsystems into a new system, the desired d-ASC. The new system, the d-ASC, must develop its own stabilization processes if it is to last. 
    Deinduction, return to the b-SoC, is the same process as induction. The d-ASC is disrupted, a transitional period occurs, and the b-SoC is reconstructed by patterning forces. The subject transits back to his customary region of experiential space. 
    Psychedelic drugs like marijuana or LSD do not have invariant psychological effects, even though much misguided research assumes they do. In the present approach, such drugs are disrupting and patterning forces whose effects occur in combination with other psychological factors, all mediated by the operating d-SoC. Consider the so-called reverse tolerance effect of marijuana that allows new users to consume very large quantities of the drug with no feeling of being stoned (in a d-ASC), but later to use much smaller quantities of marijuana to achieve the d-ASC. This is not paradoxical in the systems approach, even though it is paradoxical in the standard pharmacological approach. The physiological action of the marijuana is not sufficient to disrupt the ordinary d-SoC until additional psychological factors disrupt enough of the stabilization processes of the b-SoC to allow transition to the d-ASC. These additional psychological forces are usually "a little help from my friends," the instructions for deployment of attention/awareness energy given by experienced users who know what functioning in the d-ASC of marijuana intoxication is like. These instructions also serve as patterning forces to shape the d-ASC, to teach the new user how to employ the physiological effects of the drug to form a new system of consciousness. 
    This book also discusses methodological problems in research from the point of view of the systems approach: for example, the way in which experiential observations of consciousness and transitions from one d-SoC to another can be made and the shifts in research strategies that this approach calls for. The systems approach can also be applied within the ordinary d-SoC to deal with identity states, those rapid shifts in the central core of a person's identity and concerns that are overlooked for many reasons, and emotional states. Similarly the systems approach indicates that latent human potential can be developed and used in various d-ASCs, so that learning to shift into the d-ASC appropriate for dealing with a particular problem is part of psychological growth. At the opposite extreme, certain kinds of psychopathology, such as multiple personality, can be treat as d-ASCs. 
    One of the most important consequences of the systems approach is the deduction that we need to develop state-specific sciences. Insofar as a "normal" d-SoC is a semi-arbitrary way of structuring consciousness, a way that loses some human potentials while developing others, the sciences we have developed are one-state sciences. They are limited in important ways. Our ordinary sciences have been very successful in dealing with the physical world, but not very successful in dealing with particularly human psychological problems. If we apply scientific method to developing sciences within various d-ASCs, we can evolve sciences based on radically different perceptions, logics, and communications, and so gain new views complementary to our current ones. 
    The search for new views, new ways of coping, through the experience of d-ASCs is hardly limited to science. It is a major basis for our culture's romance with drugs, meditation, Eastern religions, and the like. But infatuation with a new view, a new d-SoC, tends to make us forget that any d-SoC is a limited construction. There is a price to be paid for everything we get. It is vital for us to develop sciences of this powerful, life-changing area of d-ASCs if we are to optimize benefits from the growing use of them and avoid the dangers of ignorant of superstitious tampering with the basic structure of consciousness.

 2.   The Components of Consciousness: Awareness, Energy, Structures



People use the phrase states of consciousness to describe unusual alterations in the way consciousness functions. In this chapter we consider some of the experiences people use to judge what states they are in, in order to illustrate the complexity of experience. We then consider what basic concepts or components we need to make sense out of this variety of experiences.
    I have often begun a lecture on states of consciousness by asking the audience the following question: "Is there anyone here right now who seriously believes that what you are experiencing, in this room, at this moment, may be something you are just dreaming? I don't mean picky, philosophical doubts about the ultimate nature of experience or anything like that. I'm asking whether anyone in any seriously practical way thinks this might be a dream you're experiencing now, rather than you ordinary state of consciousness?" How do you, dear reader, know that you are actually reading this book now, rather than just dreaming about it? Think about it before going on.
    I have asked this question of many audiences, and I have only occasionally seen a hand go up. No one has stuck to defending this position. If you take this question to mean, "How do you know you're not dreaming now?" you probably take a quick internal scan of the content and quality of your experience and find that some specific elements of it, as well as the overall pattern of your experience, match those qualities you have come to associate with your ordinary waking consciousness, but do not match the qualities you have come to associate with being in a dreaming state of consciousness.
    I ask this question in order to remind the reader of a basic datum underlying my approach to consciousness—that a person sometimes scans the pattern of his ongoing experience and classifies it as being one or another state of consciousness.
    Many people make distinctions among only a few states of consciousness, since they experience only a few. Everyone, for example, probably distinguishes between his ordinary waking state, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. Some others may distinguish drunkenness as a fourth state of consciousness. Still others who have personally experimented with altered states may want to distinguish among drug-induced, meditative, and emotion-induced states.
    Without yet attempting to define consciousness or states of consciousness more precisely, suppose we ask people who have personally experienced many states of consciousness how they make these distinctions. What do they look for in their experience that alerts them to the fact that they are in a different state of consciousness from their ordinary one? A few years ago I asked a group of graduate students who had had fairly wide experience with altered states, "What sorts of things in yourself do you check on if you want to decide what state of consciousness you're in at a given moment?" Table 2-1 presents a categorization of the kinds of answers they gave, a categorization in terms of the systems approach I am explaining as we go along. A wide variety of unusual experiences in perceptions of the world or of oneself, of changes in time, emotion, memory, sense of identity, cognitive processes, perception of the world, use of the body (motor output), and interaction with the world were mentioned.
    If we ignore the categorization of the experiences listed in Table 2-1, we have an illustration of the current state of knowledge about states of consciousness—that people experience a wide variety of unusual things. While the experiencers imply that there are meaningful patterns in their experiences that they cluster together as "states," our current scientific knowledge about how his wide variety of things goes together is poor. to understand people's experiences in this area more adequately we must develop conceptual frameworks, theoretical tools, that make sense out of the experiences in some more basic way and that still remain reasonably true to the experiences as reported.
    We can now begin to look at a conceptual framework that I have been developing for several years about the nature of consciousness, and particularly about the nature of statesof consciousness. Although what we loosely call altered states of consciousness are often vitally important in determining human values and behavior, and although we are in the midst of a cultural evolution (or decay, depending on your values) in which experiences from altered states of consciousness play an important part, our scientific knowledge of this area is still sparse. We have a few relationships, a small-scale theory here and there, but mainly assorted and unrelated observations and ideas. My systems approach attempts to give an overall picture of this area to guide future research in a useful fashion.
    I call this framework for studying consciousness a systems approach because I take the position that consciousness, as we know it, is not a group of isolated psychological functions but a system—an interacting, dynamic configuration of psychological components that performs various functions in greatly changing environments. While knowledge of the nature of the components is useful, to understand fully any system we must also consider the environments with which it deals and the goals of its functioning. So in trying to understand human consciousness, we must get the feel of the whole system as it operates in its world, not just study isolated parts of it.
    I emphasize a psychological approach to states of consciousness because that is the approach I know best, and I believe it is adequate for building a comprehensive science of consciousness. but because the approach deals with systems, it can be easily translated into behavioral or neurophysiological terms.
    Let us now look at the basic elements of this systems approach, the basic postulates about what lies behind the phenomenal manifestations of experience. In the following chapters we will put these basic elements of awareness, energy, and structure together into the systems we call states of consciousness.

Awareness and Energy

    We begin with a concept of some kind of basic awareness—an ability to know or sense or cognize or recognize that something is happening. This is a basic theoretical and experiential given. We do not know scientifically what its ultimate nature is,[1] but it is where we start from. I call this concept attention/awareness, to relate it to another basic given, which is that we have some ability to direct this awareness from one thing to another.
    This basic attention/awareness is something we can both conceptualize and (to some extent) experience as distinct from the particular content of awareness at any time. I am aware of a plant beside me at this moment of writing and if I turn my head I am aware of a chair. The function of basic awareness remains in spite of various changes in its content.
    A second basic theoretical and experiential given is the existence, at times, of an awareness of being aware, self-awareness. The degree of self-awareness varies from moment to moment. At one extreme, I can be very aware that at this moment I am aware that I am looking at the plant beside me. At the other extreme, I may be totally involved in looking at the plant, but not be aware of being aware of it. There is an experiential continuum at one end of which attention/awareness and the particular content of awareness are essentially merged,[2] and at the other end of which awareness of being aware exists in addition to the particular content of the awareness. In between are mixtures: at this moment of writing I am groping for clarity of the concept I want to express and trying out various phrases to see if they adequately express it. In low-intensity flashes, I have some awareness of what I am doing, but most of the time I am absorbed in this particular thought process. The lower end of the self-awareness continuum, relatively total absorption, is probably where we spend most of our lives, even though we like to credit ourselves with high self-awareness.
    The relative rarity of self-awareness is a major contributor to neurotic qualities of behavior and to the classification of ordinary consciousness as illusion or waking dreaming by many spiritual systems, an idea explored in Chapter 19. The higher end of the continuum of self-awareness comes to us even more rarely, although it may be sought deliberately in certain kinds of meditative practices, such as the Buddhist vipassana meditation discussed in Chapter 7.
    The ultimate degree of self-awareness, of separation of attention/awareness from content, that is possible in any final sense varies with one's theoretical position about the ultimate nature of the mind. If one adopts the conventional view that mental activity is a product of brain functioning, thus totally controlled by the electrical-structural activity of brain functioning, there is a definite limit to how far awareness can back off form particular content, since that awareness is a product of the structure and content of the individual brain. This is a psychological manifestation of the physical principle of relativity, discussed in Chapter 18. Although the feeling of being aware can have an objective quality, this conventional position holds that the objectivity is only relative, for the very function of awareness itself stems from and is shaped by the brain activity it is attempting to be aware of.
    A more radical view, common to the spiritual psychologies {128}, is that basic awareness is not just a property of the brain, but is (at least partially) something from outside the workings of the brain. Insofar as this is true, it is conceivable that most or all content associated with brain processes could potentially be stood back from so that the degree of separation between content and attention/awareness, the degree of self-awareness, is potentially much higher than in the conservative view.
    Whichever ultimate view one takes, the psychologically important concept for studying consciousness is that the degree of experienced separation of attention/awareness from content varies considerably from moment to moment.
    Attention/awareness can be volitionally directed to some extent. If I ask you to become aware of the sensations in your left knee now, you can do so. but few would claim anything like total ability to direct attention. If you are being burned by a flame, it is generally impossible to direct your attention/awareness to something else and not notice the pain at all, although this can be done by a few people in the ordinary d-SoC and by many more people in certain states of consciousness. Like the degree of separation of attention/awareness from content, the degree to which we can volitionally direct our attention/awareness also varies. Sometimes we can easily direct our thoughts according to a predetermined plan; at other times our minds wander with no regard at all for our plans.
    Stimuli and structures attract or capture attention/awareness. When you are walking down the street, the sound and sight of an accident and a crowd suddenly gathering attract your attention to the incident. This attractive pull of stimuli and activated structures may outweigh volitional attempts to deploy attention/awareness elsewhere. For example, you worry over and over about a particular problem and are told that you are wasting energy by going around in circles and should direct your attention elsewhere. but, in spite of your desire to do so, you may find it almost impossible.
    The ease with which particular kinds of structures and contents capture attention/awareness varies with the state of consciousness and the personality structure of the individual. For example, things that are highly valued or are highly threatening capture attention much more easily than things that bore us. Indeed, we can partially define personality as those structures that habitually capture a person's attention/awareness. In some states of consciousness, attention/awareness is more forcibly captivated by stimuli than in others.
    Attention/awareness constitutes the major energy of the mind, as we usually experience it. Energy is here used in its most abstract sense—the ability to do work, to make something happen. Attention/awareness is energy (1) in the sense that structures having no effect on consciousness at a given time can be activated if attended to; (2) in the sense that structures may draw attention/awareness energy automatically, habitually, as a function of personality structure, thus keeping a kind of low-level, automated attention in them all the time (these are our long-term desires, concerns, phobias, blindnesses); and (3) in the sense that attention/awareness energy may inhibit particular structures from functioning. The selective redistribution of attention/awareness energy to desired ends is a key aspect of innumerable systems that have been developed to control the mind.
    The concept of psychological energy is usually looked upon with disfavor by psychologists because it is difficult to define clearly. Yet various kinds of psychological energies are direct experiential realities. I am, for example, full of energy for writing at this moment. When interrupted a minute ago, I resented having to divert this energy from writing to dealing with a different issue. Last night I was tired; I felt little energy available to do what I wished to do. Those who prefer to give priority to observations about the body and nervous system in their thinking would tell me that various chemicals in my bloodstream were responsible for these varied feelings. But "chemicals in my bloodstream" is a very intellectual, abstract concept to me, while the feelings of energy and of tiredness are direct experiences for me and most other people. So we must consider psychological energy in order to keep our theorizing close to experience.
    I cannot deal in any detail with psychological energy at this stage of development of the systems approach, for we know little about it. Clearly, changing the focus of attention (as in trying to sense what is happening in your left knee) has effects: it starts, stops, and alters psychological processes. Also, attention/awareness is not the only form of psychological energy. Emotions, for example, constitute a very important kind of energy, different in quality from simple attention/awareness shifts, but interacting with attention/awareness as an energy. So while this book deals concept of psychological energy is much more complex and is one of the major areas to be developed in the future.
    Note that the total amount of attention/awareness energy available to a person varies from time to time, but there may be some fixed upper limit on it for a particular day or other time period. Some days, we simply cannot concentrate well no matter how much we desire it; other days we seem able to focus clearly, to use lots of attention to accomplish things. We talk about exhausting our ability to pay attention, and it may be that the total amount of attention/awareness energy available is fixed for various time periods under ordinary conditions.

Structures

    The mind, from which consciousness arises, consists of myriad structures. A psychological structure refers to a relatively stable organization of component parts that perform one or more related psychological functions.
    We infer (from outside) the existence of a particular structure by observing that a certain kind of input information reliably results in specific transformed output information under typical conditions. For example, we ask someone, "How much is fourteen divided by seven?" and he answers, "Two." After repeating this process, with variations, we infer the existence of a special structure or related set of structures we can call arithmetical skills. Experientially, we infer (from inside) the existence of a particular structure when, given certain classes experienced input information, we experience certain transformed classes of output/response information. Thus, when I overhear the question about fourteen divided by seven and observe that some part of me automatically responds with the correct answer, I infer an arithmetical skills structure as part of my own mind.
    We hypothesize that structures generally continue to exist even when they are not active, since they operate again when appropriate activating information is present. I again know that fourteen divided by seven equals two, even though I stopped thinking about it for a while.
    The emphasis here is on the structure forming something that has a recognizable shape, pattern, function, and process that endure over time. Ordinarily we are interested in the structure's overall properties as a complete structure, as a structured system, rather than in the workings of its component parts. Insofar as any structure can be broken down into substructures and sub-substructures, finer analyses are possible ad infinitum. The arithmetical skill structure can be broken down into adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing substructures. Such microscopic analyses, however, may not always be relevant to an understanding of the properties of the overall system, such as the state of consciousness, that one is working with. the most obvious thing that characterizes an automobile as a system is its ability to move passengers along roads at high speed; a metallurgical analyses of its spark plugs is not relevant to an understanding of its primary functioning and nature. Our concern, then, is with the psychological structures that show functions useful to our understanding of consciousness. Such structures can be given names—sexual needs, social coping mechanisms, language abilities.
    Note that some structures may be so complex that we are unable to recognize them as structures. We see only component parts and never understand how they all work together.
    A psychological structure may vary in the intensity and/or the quality of its activity, both overall and in terms of its component parts, but still retain its basic patterns (gestalt qualities) and so remain recognizably the same. A car is usefully referred to as a car whether it is moving at five or twenty-five miles an hour, whether it is red or blue, whether the original spark plugs have been replaced by spark plugs of a different brand. We anticipate an understanding of a state of consciousness as a system here.
    Some structures are essentially permanent. The important aspects of their functioning cannot be modified in any significant way; they are biological/physiological givens. They are the hardware of our mental system. To use an analogy from computer programming, they are fixed programs, functions built into the machinery of the nervous system.
    Some structures are mainly or totally given by an individual's particular developmental history; they are created by, programmed by, learning, conditioning, and enculturation processes that the individual undergoes. This is the software of the human biocomputer. Because of the immense programmability of human beings, most of the structures that interest us, that we consider particularly human, are in this software category.
    Permanent structures create limits on, and add qualities to, what can be done with programmable structures: the hardware puts some constraints on what the software can be. The physiological parameters constituting a human being place some limits on his particular mental experience and his possible range of programming.
    Our interest in relatively permanent structures,[3] one that are around long enough for us conveniently to observe, experience and study. But all the theoretical ideas in this book should be applicable to structures that are not long-lasting, even though investigation may be more difficult.
    Structure, for the outside investigator, are hypothesized explanatory entities based on experiential, behavioral, or psychological data. They are also hypothesized explanatory concepts for each of us in looking at his own experience: I know that fourteen divided by two equals seven, but I do not experience the arithmetical skills structure directly; I only know that when I need that kind of knowledge, it appears and functions. Since I need not hold on consciously to that knowledge all the time, I readily believe or hypothesize that it is stored in some kind of structure, someplace "in" my mind.

Interaction of Structure and Attention/Awareness

    Many structures function completely independently of attention/awareness. An example is any basic physiological structure such as the kidneys. We infer their integrity and nature as structures from other kinds of data, as we have no direct awareness of their functioning.[4] Such structures do not utilize attention/awareness as energy, but use other forms of physiological/psychological activating energy. Structures that cannot be observed by attention/awareness are of incidental interest to the study of consciousness, except for their indirect influence on other structures that are accessible to conscious awareness.
    Some structures require a certain amount of attention/awareness energy in order to (1) be formed or created in the first place (software programming), (2) operate, (3) have their operation inhibited, (4) have their structure or operation modified, and/or (5) be destructured and dismantled. We call these psychological structures when it is important to distinguish them from structures in general. Many structures require attention/awareness energy for their initial formation. The attention originally required to learn arithmetical skills is an excellent example. Once the knowledge or structure we call arithmetical sills is formed, it is usually present only in inactive, latent form. An arithmetical question directs attention/awareness to that particular structure, and we experience arithmetical skills. If our original programming was not very thorough, a fairly obvious amount of attention/awareness energy is necessary to use this skill. Once the structure has become highly automated and overlearned, only a small amount of attention/awareness energy is needed to activate and run the structure. We solve basic arithmetic problems, for example, with little awareness of the process involved in so doing.
    Note that while we have distinguished attention/awareness and structure for analytical convenience and in order to be true to certain experiential data, ordinarily we deal withactivated mental structures. We acquire data about structures when the structures are functioning, utilizing attention/awareness energy or other kinds of psychological energies.
    Although we postulate that attention/awareness energy is capable of activating and altering psychological structures, is the fuel that makes many structures run, our experience is that affecting the operation of structures by the volitional deployment of attention/awareness energy is not always easy. Attempts to alter a structure's operation by attending to it in certain ways may have no effect or even a contrary effect to what we wish. Attempts to stop a certain structure from operating by trying to withhold attention energy form it may fail. the reasons for this are twofold.
    First, if the structure is (at least partially operating on energy other than attention/awareness, it may no longer be possible to change it with the amount attention/awareness energy we are able to focus on it. Second, even if the structure still operates with attention/awareness energy, complete control of this energy may be beyond our conscious volition for one or both of the following reasons: (1) the energy flow through it may be so automatized and overlearned, so implicit, that we simply do not know how to affect it; and (2) the functioning structure may have vital (and often implicit or hidden) connections with our reward and punishment systems, so that there are secondary gains from the operation of the structure, despite our conscious complaints. Indeed, it seems clear that for ordinary people in ordinary states of consciousness, the amount of attention/awareness energy subject to conscious control and deployment is quite small compared with the relatively permanent investments of energy in certain basic structures composing the individual's personality and his adaptation to the consensus reality of his culture.
    Since the mount of attention/awareness energy available at any particular time has a fixed upper limit, some decrement should be found when too many structures draw on this energy simultaneously. However, if the available attention/awareness energy is greater than the total being used, simultaneous activation of several structures incurs no decrement.
    Once a structure has been formed and is operating, either in isolation or in interaction with other structures, the attention/awareness energy required for its operation can be automatically drawn on either intermittently or continuously. The personality and normal state of consciousness are operating in such a way that attention is repeatedly and automatically drawn to the particular structure. Personality can be partially defined as the set of interacting structures (traits) habitually activated by attention/awareness energy. Unless he develops the ability to deploy attention in an observational mode, the self-awareness mode, a person may not realize that his attention/awareness energy is being drawn to this structure.
    There is a fluctuating but generally large drain on attention/awareness energy at all times by the multitude of automated, interacting structures whose operation constitutes personality, the normal state of consciousness. Because the basic structures composing this are activated most of a person's waking life, he perceives this activation not as a drain on attention/awareness energy, but simply as the natural state of things. He has become habituated to it. The most important data supporting this observation come from reports of the effects of meditation, a process that in many ways is a deliberate deployment of attention/awareness from its customary structures to nonordinary structures or to maintenance of a relatively pure, detached awareness. From these kinds of experiences it can be concluded that attention/awareness energy must be used to support the ordinary state of consciousness. Don Juan expounds this view to Carlos Castaneda {12} as the rationale for certain training exercises ("not doing") designed to disrupt the habitual deployment of attention/awareness energy into channels that maintain ("doing") ordinary consensus reality. And from experiences of apparent clarity, the automatized drain of attention/awareness energy into habitually activated structures is seen by meditators as blurring the clarity of basic awareness, so that ordinary consciousness appears and dreamlike.

Interaction of Structures and Structures

    Although the interaction of one psychological structure with another structure depends on activation of both structures by attention/awareness energy, this interaction is modified by an important limitation: that individual structures have various kinds of properties that limit and control their potential range of interaction with one another. Structures are not equipotent with respect to interacting with one another, but have important individual characteristics. You cannot see with your ears.
    Information is fed into any structure in one or more way and comes out of the structure in one or more ways.[5] We can say in general that for two structures to interact (1) they must have either a direct connection between them or some connections mediated by other structures, (2) their input and output information must be in the same code so information output from one makes sense to the input for the other, (3) the output signals of one structure must not be so weak that they are below the threshold for reception by the other structure, (4) the output signals of one structure must not be so strong that they overload the input of the other structure.
    Now let us consider ways in which psychological structures may not interact. First two structures may not interact because there is no direct or mediated connection between them. I have, for example, structures involved in moving the little finger of my left hand and sensing its motion, and I have structures involved in sensing my body temperature and telling me whether I have a fever or a chill. Although I am moving my little finger vigorously now, I can get no sense of having either a fever or a chill from that action. Those two structures seem to be totally unconnected.
    Second, two structures may not interact if the codes of output and input information are incompatible. My body, for example, has learned to ride a bicycle. While I can sense that knowledge in my body, in the structure that mediates my experience of riding a bicycle when I actually am doing so, I cannot verbalize it in any adequate way. The nature of knowledge encoded in that particular structure does not code into the kind of knowledge that constitutes my verbal structures.
    Third, two structures may not interact if the output signal from one is too weak, below the threshold for affecting another. When I am angry with someone and arguing with him, there may, during the argument, be a still small voice in me telling me that I am acting foolishly, but I have little awareness of that still small voice, and it cannot affect the action of the structures involved in feeling angry and arguing.
    Fourth, two structures may not interact properly if the output signal from one overloads the other. I may be in severe pain during a medical procedure, for instance, and I know (another structure tells me) that if I could relax the pain would be lessened considerably; but the structures involved in relaxing are so overloaded by the intense pain that they cannot carry out their normal function.
    Fifth, two structures may be unable to interact properly if the action of a third structure interferes with them. An example is a neurotic defense mechanism. Suppose, for instance, your employer constantly humiliates you. Suppose also that part of your personality structure has a strong respect for authority and a belief in yourself as a very calm person who is not easily angered. Now your boss is humiliating you, but instead of feeling angry (the natural consequence of the situation), you are polite and conciliatory, and do not feel the anger. A structure of your personality has suppressed certain possible interactions between other structures (but there may well be a hidden price paid for this suppression, like ulcers).
    Now consider the case of smoother interaction between structures. Two structures may interact readily and smoothly with one another to form a composite structure, a system whose properties are additive properties of the individual structures, as well as gestalt properties unique to the combination. Or, two or more structures may interact with one another in such a way that the total system alters some of the properties of the individual structures to various degrees, producing a system with gestalt properties that are not simple additive properties of the individual structures. Unstable interactions may also occur between two or more structures that compete for energy, producing an unstable, shifting relationship in the composite system.
    All these considerations about the interactional structures apply to both hardware (biologically given) and software (culturally programmed) structures. For example, two systems may not interact for a lack of connection in the sense that their basic neural paths, built into the hardware of the human being, do not allow such interaction. Or, two software structures may not interact for lack of connection because in the enculturation, the programming of the person, the appropriate connections were simply not created.
    All the classical psychological defense mechanisms can be viewed in these system terms as ways of controlling interaction patterns among perceptions and psychological structures.
    Remember that in the real human being many structures usually interact simultaneously, with all the above-mentioned factors facilitating or inhibiting interaction to various degrees at various points in the total system formed.
    Thus while the interaction of structures is affected by the way attention/awareness energy is deployed, it is also affected by the properties of individual structures. In computer terms, we are not totally general-purpose computers, capable of being programmed in just any arbitrary fashion. We are specialized: that is our strength, weakness, and humanness.

Table 2-1
EXPERIENTIAL CRITERIA FOR DETECTING AN
ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS

EXTEROCEPTION (sensing the external world)
   Alteration in various sensory characteristics of the perceived world—glowing lights at the edges of things, attenuation or accentuation of visual depth
INTEROCEPTION (sensing the body)
   Alteration in perceived body image---shape or size changes
   Alteration in detectable physiological parameters---accelerated or retarded heart rate, respiration rate, muscle tonus, tremor
   Perception of special bodily feelings not normally present---feelings of energy in the body, generally or specially localized, as in the spine; change in quality of energy flow in the body, such as intensity, focus vs. diffuseness
INPUT-PROCESSING (seeing meaningful stimuli)
   Sensory excitement, involvement, sensuality
   Enhanced or decreased sensory intensity
   Alterations of dominance-interaction hierarchies of various sensory modalities
   Illusion, hallucination, perception of patterns and things otherwise known to be unlikely to actually exist in the environment
EMOTIONS
   Alteration in emotional response to stimuli---overreacting, underreacting, not reacting, reacting in an entirely different way
   Extreme intensity of emotions
MEMORY
   Changes in continuity of memory over time---either an implicit feeling that continuity is present or an explicit checking of memory that shows current experience to be consistent with continuous memories leading up to the present, with gaps suggesting an altered state
   Details. Checking fine details of perceived environment (external or internal) against memories of how they should be to detect incongruities
TIME SENSE
   Unusual feeling of here-and-nowness
   Feeling of great slowing or speeding of time
   Feeling of orientation to past and/or future, regardless of relation to present
   Feeling of archetypal quality to time; atemporal experience
SENSE OF IDENTITY
   Sense of unusual identity, role
   Alienation, detachment, perspective on usual identity or identities
EVALUATION AND COGNITIVE PROCESSING
   Alteration in rate of thought
   Alteration in quality of thought---sharpness, clarity
   Alteration of rules of logic (compared with memory of usual rules)
MOTOR OUTPUT
   Alteration in amount or quality of self-control
   Change in the active body image, the way the body feels when in motion, the proprioceptive feedback signals that guide actions
   Restlessness, tremor, partial paralysis
INTERACTION WITH THE ENVIRONMENT*
   Performance of unusual or impossible behaviors---incongruity of consequences resulting from behavioral outputs, either immediate or longer term
   Change in anticipation of consequences of specific behaviors---either prebehavioral or learned from observation of consequences
   Change in voice quality
   Change in feeling of degree of orientation to or contact with immediate environment
   Change in involvement with vs. detachment from environment
   Change in communications with others---incongruities or altered patterns, consensual validation or lack of it
*This category represents the combined functioning of several subsystems.

Foototes

    [1] The reader may ask, "How can we study awareness or consciousness when we don't know what it basically is?" The answer is, "In the same way that physicists studied and still study gravity: they don't know what it is, but they can study what it does and how it relates to other things."
    [2] Something we can only know retrospectively.
    [3] I suspect that many of these relatively permanent psychological structures exist not just in the nervous system but as muscle and connective tissue sets in the body, and can be changed radically by such procedures as structural integration {54}
    [4] We should be careful about a priori definitions that certain structures must be outside awareness. Data from the rapidly developing science of biofeedback, and traditional data from yoga and other spiritual disciplines, remind us that many processes long considered totally outside conscious awarenesS can be brought to conscious awareness with appropriate training.
    [5] For complex structures, we should probably also distinguish among (I) inputs and outputs that we can be consciously aware of with suitable deployment of attention/awareness, (2) inputs and outputs that we cannot be consciously aware of but that we can make inferences about, and (3) inputs and outputs that are part of feedback control interconnections between structures, which we cannot be directly aware of. Further, we must allow for energy exchanges, as well as informational exchanges, between structures.

        3.   Conservative and Radical Views of the Mind



An almost universal theory in Western scientific circles, sunk to the level of an implicit belief and thus controlling us effectively, is that awareness is a product of brain functioning. No brain functioning—no awareness, no consciousness. This is the conservative view of the mind. It is dangerous as an implicit belief for two reasons. First, many experiences in various altered states of consciousness are inconsistent with this theory, but implicit faith in the conservative view makes us liable to distort our perception of these phenomena. Second, parapsychological data suggest that awareness is at least partially outside brain functioning, a condition that leads to very different views of human nature. The radical view of the mind sees awareness as this something extra and postulates that physical reality can sometimes be directly affected by our belief systems. We must be openminded about the radical view to guard against maintaining too narrow and too culturally conditioned a view of the mind.
    Although in general speech we tend to use the terms awareness and consciousness to mean basically the same thing, I use them here with somewhat different meanings.Awareness refers to the basic knowledge that something is happening, to perceiving or feeling or cognizing in its simplest form. Consciousness generally refers to awareness in a much more complex way; consciousness is awareness as modulated by the structure of the mind. Mind refers to the totality of both inferable and potentially experiencable phenomena of which awareness and consciousness are components. These are not precise definitions because the three key words—awareness, consciousness, and mind—are not simple things. But they are realities, and we must deal with them whether or not we can give them precise logical definitions. Since logic is only one product of the total functioning of the mind, it is no wonder that we cannot arrive at a logical definition of the mind or consciousness or awareness. The part cannot define the whole.
    Awareness and consciousness, then, can be seen as parts of a continuum. I would use the word awareness to describe, for instance, my simple perception of the sound of a bird outside my window as I write. I would use the word consciousness to indicate the complex of operations that recognizes the sound as a bird call, that identifies the species of bird, and that takes account of the fact that the sound is coming in through my open window. So consciousness refers to a rather complex system that includes awareness as one of its basic ingredients, but is more complex than simple awareness itself.
    Few psychologists today would argue with the statement that consciousness is awareness resulting from the brain's functioning. But if you ask what is the basic nature of awareness, the simple basic behind the more complex entity consciousness, you meet the common assumption in Western culture generally and scientific culture in particular that awareness is a "product" of the brain. When psychology was fond of chemical analogies, awareness was thought of as a sort of "secretion" by the brain.
    I believe that seeing consciousness as a function of the brain is sound, but I think that explicitly or implicitly assuming that awareness is only a function of the brain, as accepted as that theory is, can be a hindrance, for two reasons.
    First, as psychology deals more and more with the phenomena of altered states of consciousness, it will more and more have to deal with phenomena that do not fit well in a conceptual scheme that says awareness is only a product of the brain. Experiences of apparently paranormal abilities like telepathy, of feeling that one's mind leaves one's body, of mystical union with aspects of the universe outside oneself, of supernormal knowledge directly given in altererd states, fit more comfortably into schemes that do not assume that awareness is only a function of the brain. I have nothing against competent attempts to fit such phenomena into our dominant Western scientific framework, but the attempts I have seen so far have been most inadequate and seem to work mainly by ignoring major aspects of these altered states phenomena. Thus the assumption that awareness is only a function of the brain, especially as it becomes implicit, tends to distort our view of real phenomena that happen in altered states. We dismiss their possible reality a priori. We cannot build a science when we start with such a selected view of the data.
    The second reason for questioning this assumption is the existence of first-class scientific data to suggest that awareness may be something other than a product of the brain. I refer to excellent evidence of parapsychological phenomena like telepathy, evidence that shows that the mind can sometimes function in ways that are "impossible" in terms of our current, physical view of the world. I review our knowledge of the paranormal in Studies of Psi {131}. "Impossible" means only that these phenomena are paraconceptual, that our conceptual schemes are inadequate because they exclude this part of reality. These same conceptual schemes underlie the belief that awareness is only a product of the brain, and if we question these conceptual schemes we question that assumption. This book is not the place for detailed argument, but I have discussed the subject at greater length inTranspersonal Psychologies {128}, which reviews the impact of the spiritual psychologies on the evolving science fo consciousness. 
    This view that awareness is only a function of the brain—the conservative or physicalistic view of the mind—is diagrammed in Figure 3-1. The brain (and nervous system and body) are depicted as a structure that has hardware qualities on the one hand and software qualities on the other. The hardware qualities are those inherent in the physical makeup of the brain itself, as dictated by the physical laws that govern reality. This dictation of limitation is shown as a one-way arrow from the physical world to the brain. The software qualities are the programmable aspects of the brain, the capacities for recording data and building up perception, evaluation, and action patterns in accordance with programming instructions given by the culture. The arrows of influence are two-way here, for even though the programming is largely done by the culture to the individual, occasionally the individual modifies some aspects of the culture. Awareness is shown as an emergent quality of the brain, and so awareness is ultimately limited by the hardware and by particular software programs of the brain. Consciousness is the individual's experience of awareness diffused through a tiny fraction of the structure of the brain and nervous system. 
    The radical view of the mind is diagrammed in Figure 3-2. Two changes have been made to incorporate the radical view. First, awareness is shown as something that comes from outside the structure of the physical brain, as well as something influenced by the structure of the brain (thus giving consciousness) and the cultural programming. In religious terms, this is the idea of a soul or life/mind principle that uses (and is used by) the body. This is a most unpopular idea in scientific circles, but, as I have argued elsewhere {129}, there is enough scientific evidence that consciousness is capable of temporarily existing in a way that seems independent of the physical body to warrant giving the idea serious consideration and doing some research on it. 
    The second change incorporated in the radical view is shown by the two-way arrow from the physical world to the hardware structure of the brain. The idea, held in many spiritual systems of thought that have dealt with altered states of consciousness, is that physical reality is not a completely fixed entity, but something that may actually be shaped in some fundamental manner by the individual's beliefs about it. I am not speaking here simply of perceptions of reality, but of the actual structure of reality. Pearce {49}, for example, describes an experience as a youth where he accidentally entered an altered state of consciousness in which he knew he was impervious to pain or injury. In front of witnesses he ground out the tips of glowing cigarettes on his cheeks, palms, and eyelids. He felt no pain, and there was no sign of physical injury. The consventional view can easily account for the lack of pain: by control of the structures involved in sensing pain (nerve tracts and certain brain areas), pain would not be perceived. But a glowing cigarette tip has a temperature of about 1400F, and his skin should have been severely burned, despite his state of consciousness. From the radical point of view, his beliefs about reality in the altered state actually altered the nature of physical reality.
    To argue for or against the radical view of the mind would take a book in itself, and this is not the one. (I recommend Pearce's book and my Studies of Psi {131} for data on paranormal phenomena) I wnat to emphasize that the radical view of the mind, in various forms, is often reported as an experience from altered state of consciousness. If we are going to study states of consciousness adequately, we hall have to confront the radical view, not automatically dismiss it as an illusion or a product of inferior brain frunctioning, but take it as data. I would personally prefer not to: I do not like the radical view that our belief systems may actually alter the nature of reality even though I can comfortably accept parapsychological data that show that reality is more complex than our current physical world-view believes. But we should stay open to that view and make a decision for or against its probability on scientific grounds, not simply because we have been trained to believe that there is an ultimate, immutable physical reality. Don Juan put it pithily: "To believe that the world is only as you think it is is stupid" {10}.
    I sympathize with reader who finds himself rejecting the radical view of the mind. I suggest, however, that he honestly ask himself, "Have I rejected this view as a result of careful and extensive study of the evidence for and against it, or because I have been trained to do so and rewarded by social approval for doing so?"


  The Nature of Ordinary Consciousness



If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
    appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
    narrow chinks of his cavern.
 William Blake,
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The prejudice that our ordinary state of consciousness is natural or given is a major obstacle to understanding the nature of the mind and states of consciousness. Our perceptions of the world, others, and ourselves, as well as our reactions to (consciousness of) them, are semi-arbitrary constructions. Although these constructions must have a minimal match to physical reality to allow survival, most of our lives are spent in consensus reality, that specially tailored and selectively perceived segment of reality constructed from the spectrum of human potential. We are simultaneously the beneficiaries and the victims of our culture. Seeing thins according to consensus reality is good for holding a culture together, but a major obstacle to personal and scientific understanding of the mind.
    A culture can be seen as a group which has selected certain human potentials as good and developed them, and rejected others as bad. Internally this means that certain possible experiences are encouraged and others suppressed to construct a "normal" state of consciousness that is effective in and helps define the culture's particular consensus reality. The process of enculturation begins in infancy, and by middle childhood the individual has a basic membership in consensus reality. Possibilities are partially shaped by the enculturation that has already occurred. By adulthood the individual enjoys maximum benefits from membership, but he is now maximally bound within this consensus reality. A person's "simple" perception of the world and of others is actually a complex process controlled by many implicit factors.
    One of the greatest problems in studying consciousness and altered states of consciousness is an implicit prejudice that tends to make us distort all sorts of information about states of consciousness. When you know you have a prejudice you are not completely caught by it, for you can question whether the bias is really useful and possibly try to change it or compensate for it. But when a prejudice is implicit it controls you without your knowledge and you have little chance to do anything about it.
    The prejudice discussed in this chapter is the belief that our ordinary state of consciousness is somehow natural. It is a very deep-seated and implicit prejudice. I hope in this chapter to convince you intellectually that it is not true. Intellectual conviction is a limited thing, however, and to know the relativity and arbitrariness of your ordinary state of consciousness on a deeper level is a much more difficult task. 
    Consciousness, not our sense organs, is really our "organ" of perception, and one way to begin to see the arbitrariness of our consciousness is to apply the assumption that ordinary consciousness is somehow natural or given to a perceptual situation. This is done in Figure 4-1. A man is looking at a cat and believing that the image of the real cat enters his eye and is, in effect, faithfully reproduced on a screen in his mind, so that he sees the cat as it is. This naive view of perception was rejected long ago by psychologists, who have collected immense amounts of evidence to show that it is a ridiculously oversimplified, misleading, and just plain wrong view of perception. Interestingly, these same psychologists seldom apply their understanding of the complexity of perception to their own lives, and the person in the street does so even less.
    While there are a great many simple perceptions we can very well agree on, there are many others, especially the more important ones in human life, on which there is really little agreement. I would be that almost all adult, non-institutionalized humans in our society would agree that this object in your hand is called a book, but as we define more complex things the bet gets riskier. If you go to a courtroom trial and listen to the testimony of several eyewitnesses, all of whom presumably has basically the same stimuli reaching their receptors, you may hear several different versions of reality. Or, if you discuss the meaning of current events with your acquaintances, you will find that there are many other points of view besides your own. Most of our interest is directed by complex, multifaceted social reality of this sort.
    Most of us deal with this disagreement by simply assuming that those who disagree with us are wrong, that our own perceptions and consciousness are the standard of normality and rightness, and that other people cannot observe or think well and/or are lying, evil, or mentally ill.
    A Sufi teaching story called "Bread and Jewels" {58, p. 113} illustrates this nicely:
    A king once decided to give away a part of his wealth by disinterested charity. At the same time he wanted to watch what happened to it. So he called a baker whom he could trust and told him to bake two loaves of bread. In the first was to be baked a number of jewels, and in the other, nothing but flour and water.
    These were to be given to the most and least pious people whom the baker could find.
    The following morning two men presented themselves at the oven. One was dressed as a dervish and seemed most pious, though he was in reality a mere pretender. The other who said nothing at all, reminded the baker of a man whom he did not like, by a coincidence of facial resemblance.
    The baker gave the bread with jewels in it to the man in the dervish robe, and the ordinary loaf to the second man.
    As soon as he got his loaf the false dervish felt it and weighed it in his hand. He felt the jewels, and to him they seemed like lumps in the loaf, unblended flour. He weighed the bread in his hand and the weight of the jewels made it seem to him to be too heavy. He looked at the baker, and realized that he was not a man to trifle with. So he turned to the second man and said: "Why not exchange your loaf for mine? You look hungry, and his one is larger."
    The second man, prepared to accept whatever befell, willfully exchanged loaves.
    The king, who was watching through a crack in the bakehouse door, was surprised, but did not realize the relative merits of the two men.
    The false dervish got the ordinary loaf. The king concluded that Fate had intervened to keep the dervish protected from wealth. The really good man found the jewels and was able to make good use of the. The king could not interpret this happening.
    "I did what I was told to do," said the baker.
    "You cannot tamper with Fate," said the king.
    "How clever I was!" said the false dervish.

    The king, the baker, and the false dervish all had their own views of what reality was. None of them was likely ever to correct his impression of this particular experience.
    Consciousness, then, including perception, feeling, thinking, and acting, is a semi-arbitrary construction. I emphasize semi-arbitrary because I make the assumption, common to our culture that there are some fixed rules governing physical reality whose violation produces inevitable consequences. If someone walks off the edge of a tall cliff, I believe he will fall to the bottom and probably be killed, regardless of his beliefs about cliffs, gravity, or life and death. Thus people in cultures whose belief systems do not, to a fair degree, match physical reality, are not likely to survive long enough to argue with us. But once the minimal degree of coincidence with physical reality necessary to enable physical survival has been attained, the perception/consciousness of an action in the complex social reality that then exists may be very arbitrary indeed.
    We must face the fact, now amply documented by the scientific evidence presented in any elementary psychology textbook, that perception can be highly selective. Simple images of things out there are not clearly projected onto a mental screen, where we simply see them as they are. The act of perceiving is a highly complex, automated construction. It is a selective category system, a decision-making system, preprogrammed with criteria of what is important to perceive. It frequently totally ignores things it has not been preprogrammed to believe are important. 
    Figure 4-2 shows a person with a set of categories programmed in his mind, a selection of implicit criteria to recognize things that are "important." When stimulated by one of these things he is preprogrammed to perceive, he readily responds to it. More precisely, rather than saying he responds to it which implies a good deal of directness in perception, we might say that it triggers a representation of itself in his mind, and he then responds to that representation. As long as it is a good representation of the actual stimulus object, he has a fairly accurate perception. Since he tends to pay more attention to the representations of things he sees than to the things themselves, however, he may think he perceives a stimulus object clearly when actually he is perceiving an incorrect representation.
    This is where perception begins to be distorted by the perceiver's training and needs. Eskimos have been trained to distinguish seven or more kinds of snow. We do not see these different kinds of snow, even though they exist, for we do not need to make these distinctions. To us it is all snow. Our one internal representation of snow is triggered indiscriminately by any kind of actual snow. Similarly, for the paranoid person who needs to believe that others are responsible for his troubles, representations of threatening actions are easily triggered by all sorts of behaviors on the part of others. A detailed analysis of this is given in Chapter 19. 
    What happens when we are faced by the unknown, by things we have not been trained to see? Figure 4-3, using the same kind of analogy as the previous figure, depicts this. We may not see the stimulus at all: the information passes right through the mind without leaving a trace. Or we may see a distorted representation of the stimulus: some of the few features it has in common with known stimuli trigger representations of the known features, and that is what we perceive. We "sophisticated" Westerners do not believe in angels. If we actually confronted one, we might not be able to see it correctly. The triangle in its hands is a familiar figure, however, so we might perceive the triangle readily. In fact, we might see little but the triangle—maybe a triangle in the hands of a sweet old lady wearing a white robe.
    Don Juan, the Yaqui man of knowledge, puts it quite succinctly: "I think you are only alert about things you know" {10}.
    I mentioned above the curious fact about psychologists, who know about the complexities of perception, almost never seem to apply this information to their own perceptions. Even though they study the often large and obvious distortions in other people's perceptions, they maintain an image of themselves as realistic perceivers. Some psychologists even argue that perception is actually quite realistic. But what does "realistic" mean?
    We like to believe that it means perception of the real world, the physical world. But the world we spend most of our time perceiving is not just any segment of the physical world, but a highly socialized part of the physical world that has been built into cities, automobiles, television sets. So our perception may indeed be realistic, but it is so only with respect to a very tailored segment of reality, a consensus reality, a small selection of things we have agreed are "real" and "important." thus, within our particular cultural framework, we can easily set up what seem to be excellent scientific experiments that will show that our perceptions are indeed realistic, in the sense that we agree with each other on these selected items from our consensus reality.
    This is a way of saying that our perceptions are highly selective and filtered, that there is a major subsystem of consciousness, Input-Processing discussed at length later, that filters the outside world for us. If two people have similar filtering systems, as, for example, if they are from the same culture, they can agree on many things. But again, as Don Juan says, "I think you are only alert about things you know." If we want to develop a science to study consciousness, and want that science to go beyond our own cultural limitations, we must begin by recognizing the limitations and arbitrariness of much of our ordinary state of consciousness.
    I have now mentioned several times that we believe certain things imply because we were trained to believe them. Let us now look at the training process by which our current "normal" or ordinary state of consciousness came about.

Enculturation

    Figure 4-4 illustrates the concept of the spectrum of human potential. By the simple fact of being born human, having a certain type of body and nervous system, existing in the environmental conditions of the planet earth, a large (but certainly not infinite) number of potentials are possible for you. Because you are born into a particular culture, existing at a particular time and place on the surface of the planet, however, only a small (perhaps a very small) number of these potentials will ever be realized and become actualities. We can think of a culture[1] as a group of people who, through various historical processes, have come to an agreement that certain human potentials they know of are "good," "holy," "natural," or whatever local word is used for positively valuing them, and should be developed. They are defined as the essence of being human. Other potentials, also known to the culture, are considered "bad," "evil," "unnatural." The culture actively inhibits the development of these potentials in its children, not always successfully. A large number of other human potentials are simply not known to that particular culture, and while some of them develop owing to accidental circumstances in a particular person's life, most do not develop for lack of stimulation. Some of these potentials remain latent, capable of being developed if circumstances are right in later life; others disappear completely through not being developed at an early, critical stage.
    Most of us know how to do arithmetic, speak English, write a check, drive an automobile, and most of us know about things, like eating with our hands, which are repellent to us (naturally or through training?). Not many of us, though, were trained early in childhood to enter a d-ASC where we can be, for example, possessed by a friendly spirit that will teach us songs and dances as is done by some cultures. Nor were most of us trained to gain control over our dreams and acquire spirit guides in those dreams who will teach us useful things, as the Senoi of Malaysia are {88 or 115, ch. 9}. Each of us is simultaneously the beneficiary of his cultural heritage and the victim and slave of his culture's narrowness. What I believe is worse is that few of us have any realization of this situation. Like almost all people in all cultures at all times, we think our local culture is the best and other peoples are uncivilized or savages.
    Figure 4-4 shows two different cultures making different selections from and inhibitions of the spectrum of human potential. There is some overlap: all cultures, for example, develop a language of some sort and so use those particular human potentials. Many potentials are not selected by any culture.
    We can change the labels in Figure 4-4 slightly and depict various possible experiences selected in either of two states of consciousness. Then we have the spectrum of experiential potentials, the possible kinds of experiences or modes of functioning of human consciousness. The two foci of selection are two states of consciousness. These may be two "normal" states of consciousness in two different cultures or, as discussed later, two states of consciousness that exist within a single individual. The fact that certain human potentials can be tapped in state of consciousness A that cannot be tapped in state of consciousness B is a major factor behind the current interest in altered states of consciousness.
    Figure 4-4, then, indicates that in developing a "normal" state of consciousness, a particular culture selects certain human potentials and structures them into a functioning system. This is the process of enculturation. It begins in infancy, possibly even before birth: there has been speculation, for example, that the particular language sounds that penetrate the walls of the womb from outside before birth may begin shaping the potentials for sound production in the unborn baby. 
    Figure 4-5 summarizes the main stages of the enculturation process. The left-hand column represents the degree to which physical reality shapes the person and the degree to which the person can affect (via ordinary muscular means) physical reality. The right-hand column indicates the main sources of programming, the psychological influences on the person. The main stages are infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and senescence.

Infancy

    We tend to think of a newborn infant as a rather passive creature, capable of little mental activity, whose primary job is simple physical growth. Recent research, on the contrary, suggests that a person's innate learning capacity may be highest of all in infancy, for the infant has to learn to construct the consensus reality of his culture. This is an enormous job. The cultural environment, for instance, begins to affect the perceptual biases described in Chapter 8 as the Input-Processing subsystem. Most Westerners, for example, are better at making fine discriminations between horizontal lines and vertical lines than between lines that are slanted. At first this was thought to result from the innate hardware properties (racial, genetic) of the eye and nervous system, but recent evidence shows that it is probably a cultural effect. Cree Indians, who as infants live in teepees where there are many slanted lines, can discriminate slanted lines as acutely as horizontal and vertical ones{2}. "Civilized" Westerners, on the other hand, grow up in environments where vertical and horizontal lines predominate. In more ways than we can even begin to think of, the enculturation process affects perception, and ultimately consciousness, even in infancy.
    Note also that the structuring/programming of our consciousness that takes place in early infancy is probably the most persistent and most implicit of all our programming and learning, for at that time we have no other framework to compare it with. It is the only thing we have, and it is closely connected with our physical survival and our being loved and accepted. It gives us a loyalty and a bond to our culture's particular world-view that may be almost impossible for us to break, but again, one whose limitations we must be aware of if we are really to understand the workings of our minds. Another Sufi teaching story, "The Bird and the Egg" {58, p. 130}, illustrates the power of this early programming:
    Once upon a time there was bird which did not have the power of flight. Like a chicken, he walked about on the ground, although he knew that some birds did fly.
    It so happened that, through a combination of circumstances, the egg of a flying bird was incubated by this flightless one.
    In due time the chick came forth, still with the potentiality for flight which he had always had, even from the time he was in the egg.
    It spoke to its foster-parent, saying: "When will I fly?" And the landbound bird said: "Persist in your attempts to fly, just like the others."
    For he did not know how to take the fledgling for its lesson in flying: even how to topple it from the nest so that it might learn.
    And it is curious, in a way, that the young bird did not see this. His recognition of the situation was confused by the fact that he felt gratitude to the bird who had hatched him.
    "Without this service," he said to himself, "surely I would still be in the egg?"
    And, again, sometimes he said to himself: "Anyone who can hatch me, surely he can teach me to fly. It must be just a matter of time, or of my own unaided efforts, or of some great wisdom: yes, that is it. Suddenly one day I will be carried to the next stage by him who has brought me thus far."

Childhood

    By the time an ordinary person reaches childhood, he has attained a basic membership in the consensus reality of his culture. A normal child has a pretty good idea of the dos and don'ts of his culture and behaves in a generally acceptable fashion. Many of the potentials present at the time of his birth are gone by now, but consensus reality has been formed from the few that have been cultivated.
    One of the main ways in which consciousness is shaped to fit consensus reality is through the medium of language. The word for an object focuses a child's perception onto a specific thing considered important by the culture. Social approval for this kind of behavior gives words great power. As a child gradually grows in his mastery of language, the language structure and its effect on consciousness grow at an exponential rate. The tyranny of words is one of the most difficult things from which we must try to free ourselves.
    A child's basic membership in consensus reality is not complete. The mind of the child can still do many strange (by adult standards) things. As Pearce {49, p. 56} comments:
    The child's mind is autistic, a rich texture of free synthesis, halluncinatory and unlimited. His mind can skip over syllogisms with ease, in a non-logical, dream-sequence kind of "knight's move" continuum. He nevertheless shows a strong desire to participate in a world of others. Eventually his willingness for self-modification, necessary to win rapport with his world, is stronger than his desire for autonomy. Were it not, civilization would not be possible. That we succeed in moulding him to respond to our criteria shows the innate drive for communion and the flexibility of a young mind. It doesn't prove an essential and sanctified rightness of our own constructs.
    Maturity, or becoming reality adjusted, restricts and diminishes that "knight's move" thinking, and tends to make pawns of us in the process. The kind of adult logic that results is dependent on the kinds of demands made on the young mind by parents and society.

    It is precisely this kind of childish strangeness that both frustrates us adults when we try to deal with children and excites our envy when we realize children have a certain freedom we do not have.

Adolescence

    Adolescence is a different stage from childhood, not just a continuation of it, because the influx of sexual energies at puberty allows considerable change in the ordinary consciousness of the child. for most adolescents this is a time of turmoil (at least in our culture) as they strive to adjust to bodily changes and to learn to satisfy their sexual needs within the mores of the culture.
    For many there is a continuity with childhood, and after a transitional period of being difficult, the adolescent settles into a pattern of being a grown-up version of the child he was. For others a conversion of some sort occurs: the sexual and other energies unleashed at puberty become sublimated into a belief system that may be radically different from what they had as children. If this is traumatic or sudden, or if the belief system is radically at odds with that of the parents, we notice this conversion. If the sublimation of the energies is into a socially accepted pattern, we are not as likely to perceive it.
    Conversion is a powerful psychological process that we do not understand well. It bears some similarity to the concept of a discrete state of consciousness (introduced later) but more basically refers to a psychological process of focusing, of giving great energy to selected structures, that may take place in any state of consciousness.
    I do not believe that the conversion process is completely free to go wherever it will. By the time a person has reached adolescence (or later, if conversion takes place later), many human potentials he possessed at birth are, for lack of stimulation, simply no longer available. Of the latent potentials that still could be used, cultural selection and structuring have already made some more likely than others t o be utilized in a conversion. Thus even the rebels in a society are in many ways not free: the direction that rebellion takes has already been strongly shaped by enculturation processes.
    The adolescent is very much a member of the consensus reality of his culture: his ordinary state of consciousness is well adapted to fit into, and he has a fair degree of control over his physical environment. For most "ordinary" adolescents, there are far fewer possibilities for unusual functions of consciousness than there were in childhood.

Adulthood

    Adults are full-fledged members of the consensus reality: they both maintain it through their interaction with their peers and are shaped by it and by parts of it. Adults are, as Don Juan taught, always talking to themselves about their ordinary things, keeping up a constant pattern of information flow in their minds along familiar routes. This strengthens and maintains their membership in the consensus reality and their use of their ordinary state of consciousness as a means for dealing with consensus reality.
    Because of the power over physical reality given them by their consensus reality state of consciousness, adults are the most free; yet, because they are the most thoroughly indoctrinated in consensus reality, they are the most bound. They receive many rewards for participating in the consensus reality in an acceptable way, and they have an enormous number of external and internalized prohibitions that keep them from thinking and experiencing in ways not approved by the consensus reality. The Sufi teaching story, "Bayazid and the Selfish Man" {58 p. 180}, shows how difficult it is for an adult to free himself from the power of ordinary consciousness and consensus reality, even when he believes he wants to:
    One day a man reproached Bayazid, the great mystic of the ninth century, saying that he had fasted and prayed and so on for thirty years and not found the joy which Bayazid described. Bayazid told him that he might continue for three hundred years and still not find it.
    "How is that?" asked the would-be illuminate.
    "Because your vanity is a barrier to you."
    "Tell me the remedy."
    "The remedy is one which you cannot take."
    "Tell me, nevertheless."
    Bayazid said: "You must go to the barber and have your (respectable) beard shaved. Remove all your clothes and put a girdle around yourself. Fill a nosebag with walnuts and suspend it from your neck. Go to the marketplace and call out: 'A walnut will I give to any boy who will strike me on the back of neck.' Then continue to the justices' session so that they may see you."
    "But I cannot do that; please tell me something else that would do as well."
    "This is the first move, and the only one," said Bayazid, but I had already told you that you would not do it; so you cannot be cured."

    I stress the view that we are prisoners of our ordinary state of consciousness, victims of our consensus reality, because it is necessary to become aware of this if we are to have any hope of transcending it, of developing a science of the mind that is not culturally limited. Enormous benefits result from sharing in our consensus reality, but these benefits must not blind us to the limits of this reality.

Senescence

    The final stage in a person's life comes when he is too old to participate actively in the affairs of his culture. His mid may be so rigid by this time that it can do little but rerun the programs of consensus reality while his abilities diminish. If he is aware of other possibilities, he may find old age a way of freeing himself from cultural pressures and begin to explore his mind in a new way. There are cultural traditions, in India, for example, where a person who has fulfilled his main tasks in life is expected to devote his remaining years to exploring his own mind and searching out spiritual values. This is difficult to think about in the context of our own culture, however, for we have so overvalued youth and the active mode of life that we define older people as useless, a defining action that often affects those older people so that they believe it.

The Complexity of Consciousness

    This chapter opened with a drawing showing the naiveté of the view that perception and consciousness are means of grasping physical reality. It ends with a drawing (Figure 4-6)that shows a truer and more complex view of perception (and, to some extent, of the consciousness behind it). In the center of the drawing are depicted various stimuli from others and from the physical world impinging on the individual. These stimuli produce effects that can be classified as mental, emotional, and bodily. The innermost reaction circle represents clearly conscious experiences. At this moment, as I write, I hear a pneumatic drill being used to break up the pavement outside my window. I mentally speculate about the air pressure used to operate such an interesting tool but note that it is distracting me; I emotionally dislike the disturbance of my writing; the muscles of my face and ears tighten a little, as if that will reduce the impact of the noxious sound on me.
    While the three-part classification of effects provides a simplification, in reality the mental, emotional, and bodily responses to stimuli interact at both conscious and less than conscious levels. My mind notices the tension around my ear and interprets that as something wrong, which, as a minor emotional threat, aggravates the noxiousness of the sound, etc.
    Immediately behind fully conscious experiences are easily experienceable phenomena, represented by the second circle. The mental effect of these phenomena relates to the individual's explicit belief system: I believe that noise is undesirable, but I am fascinated by the workings of machines. Their emotional effect relates to the things he readily knows he likes or dislikes: loud noises generally bother me and make me feel intruded upon. Their bodily effect relates to consciously usable skills and movements: I can relax my facial muscles. These phenomena affect the individual at a level that is not in the focus of consciousness, but that can be easily made conscious by paying attention.
    These two levels are themselves affected and determined by a more implicit level of functioning, implicit in that the individual cannot identify its content simply by wanting to and paying attention. Where did I get the idea that noise is an intrusion? Why am I fascinated by the workings of machines? I do not know. I might be able to find out by prolonged psychological exploration, but the information is not easily available, even though these things affect me. Why do I have an immediate emotional dislike of noise? Is there some unconscious reaction behind it? How have I come to maintain certain muscle sets in my face that are affected by stress in certain ways?
    The outer circle in Figure 4-6 represents basic learnings, conditionings, motor patterns, instincts, reflexes, language categories, and the like, which are so implicit the individual can hardly/ recognize their existence. This is the level of the hardware, the biological givens, and the basic enculturation processes. The distance of these things from consciousness makes it extremely difficult for him to discover and compensate for their controlling influences: they are, in many ways, the basis of himself.
    If the stimulus in the middle of Figure 4-6 is a cat, this whole complex machine functions, a machine designed by our culture. We don't "just" see the cat! Our ordinary state of consciousness is a very complex construction indeed, yet Figure 4-6 hardly goes into details at all. So much for the naturalness of our ordinary state of consciousness.

Figure 4-6


Footnote

    [1] For simplicity here, we will ignore subcultures and conflicts within a culture. 

 5.   Discrete States of Consciousness



The terms state of consciousness and altered state of consciousness have become very popular. As a consequence of popularization, however, the terms are frequently used in such a loose fashion as to mean almost nothing in particular. Many people now use the phrase state of consciousness, for example, to mean simply whatever is one one's mind. So if I pick up a water tumbler and look at it, I am in "water tumbler state of consciousness," and if I now touch my typewriter, I am in "typewriter state of consciousness." Then an altered state of consciousness simply means that what one is thinking about or experiencing now is different from what it was a moment ago.
    To rescue the concepts of state of consciousness and altered state of consciousness for more precise scientific use, I introduce the terms and abbreviation discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC) and discrete state of consciousness (d-ASC). I discuss in Chapter 2 the basic theoretical concepts for defining these crucial terms. Here, I first describe certain kinds of experiential data that led to the concepts of discrete states and then go on to a formal definition of d-SoC and d-ASC.

Mapping Experience

    Suppose that an individual's experience (and/or behavior and/or physiology) can be adequately described at any given moment if we know all the important dimensions along which experience varies and can assess the exact point along each dimension that an individual occupies or experiences at a given moment. Each dimension may be the level of functioning of a psychological structure or process. We presume that we have a multidimensional map of psychological space and that by knowing exactly where the individual is in that psychological space we have adequately described his experiential reality for that given time. This is generally accepted theoretical idea, but it is very difficult to apply in practice because many psychological dimensions may be important for understanding an individual's experience at any given moment. We may be able to assess only a small number of them, and/or an individual's position on some of these dimensions may change even as we are assessing the value of others. Nevertheless, the theory is an ideal to be worked toward, and we can assume for purposes of discussion that we can adequately map experience. 
    To simplify further, let us assume that what is important about an individual's experiences can be mapped on only two dimensions. We can thus draw a graph, like Figure 5-1. Each small circle represents an observation at a single point in time of where a particular individual is in this two-dimensional psychological space. In this example, we have taken a total of twenty-two binary measures at various times.
    The first thing that strikes us about this individual is that his experiences seem to fall in three distinct clusters and that there are large gaps between these three distinct clusters. Within each cluster this individual shows a certain amount of variability, but he has not had any experiences at all at points outside the defined clusters. This kind of clustering in the plot of an individual's locations at various times in experiential space is what I mean by discrete states of consciousness. Put another way, it means that you can be in a certain region of experiential space and show some degree of movement or variation within that space, but to transit out of that space you have to cross a "forbidden zone"[1] where you cannot function and/or cannot have experiences and/or cannot be conscious of having experiences; then you find yourself in a discretely different experiential space. It is the quantum principle of physics applied to psychology (see Chapter 18). You can be either here or there, but not in between.
    There are transitional periods between some d-SoCs; they are dealt with in more detail later. For now, being in a d-SoC means that you are in one of the three distinct regions of psychological space shown in Figure 5-1.
    Now let us concretize this example. Let us call the vertical dimension ability to image or hallucinate, varying from a low of imaging something outside yourself but with nothing corresponding in intensity to a sensory perception, to a high or imagining something with all the qualities of reality, of actual sensory perception. Let us call the horizontal dimension ability to be rational, to think in accordance with the rules of some logic. We are not now concerned with the cultural arbitrariness of logic, but simply take it as a given set of rules. This dimension varies from a low of making many mistakes in the application of this logic, as on days when you feel rather stupid and have a hard time expressing yourself, to a high of following the rules of the logic perfectly, when you feel sharp and your mind works like a precision computer.
    We can assign names of known d-SoCs to the three clusters of data points in the graph. Ordinary consciousness (for our culture) is shown in the lower right-hand corner. It is characterized by a high degree of rationality and a relatively/ low degree of imaging ability. We can usually think without making many mistakes in logic, and our imaginings usually contain mild sensory qualities, but they are far less intense than sensory perceptions. Notice again that there is variability within the state we call ordinary consciousness. Logic may be more or less accurate, ability to image may vary somewhat, but this all stays in a range that we recognize as ordinary, habitual, or normal.
    At the opposite extreme, we have all experienced a region of psychological space where rationality is usually very low indeed, while ability to image is quite high. This isordinary nocturnal dreaming, where we create (image) the entire dream world. It seems sensorily real. Yet we often take considerable liberties with rationality.
    The third cluster of data points defines a particularly interesting d-SoC, lucid dreaming. This is the special kind of dream named by the Dutch physician Frederick Van Eeden {88 or 115, ch. 8}, in which you feel as if you have awakened in terms of mental functioning within the dream world: you feel as rational and in control of your mental state as in your ordinary d-SoC, but you are still experientially located within the dream world. Here both range of rationality and range of ability to image are at a very high level.
    Figure 5-1 deliberately depicts rationality in ordinary nocturnal dreaming as lower than rationality in the ordinary d-SoC. But some nocturnal dreams seem very rational for prolonged periods, not only at the time but by retrospectively applied waking state standards. So the cluster shown for nocturnal dreaming should perhaps be oval and extend into the upper right region of the graph, overlapping with the lucid dreaming cluster. This would have blurred the argument about distinct regions of experiential space, so the graph was not drawn that way. The point is not that there is never any overlap in functioning for a particular psychological dimension between two d-SoCs (to the contrary, all the ones we know much about do share many features in common), but that a complete multidimensional mapping of the important dimensions of experiential space shows this distinct clustering. While a two-dimensional plot may show apparent identity or overlap between two d-SoCs, a three-dimensional or N-dimensional map would show their discreteness. this is important, for d-SoCs are not just quantitative variation on one or more continua (as Figure 5-1 implies), but qualitative, pattern-changing, system-functioning differences.
    A d-SoC, then, refers to a particular region of experiential space, as shown in Figure 5-1, and adding the descriptive adjective altered simply means that with respect to some state of consciousness (usually the ordinary state) as a baseline, we have made the quantum jump to another region of experiential space, the d-ASC.[2] The quantum jump may be bothquantitative, in the sense that structures function at higher or lower levels of intensity, and qualitative, in the sense that structures in the baseline state may cease to function, previously latent structures may begin to function, and the system pattern may change. To use a computer analogy, going from one d-SoC to a d-ASC is like putting a radically different program into the computer, the mind. The graphic presentation of Figure 5-1 cannot express qualitative changes, but they are at least as important or more important than the quantitative changes.
    Figures 5-2 and 5-3 illustrate the qualitative pattern difference between two d-SoCs. Various psychological structures are show connected information and energy flows into a pattern in different ways. The latent pattern, the discrete altered state of consciousness with respect to the other, is shown in lighter lines on each figure. The two states share some structures/functions in common, yet, their organization are distinctly different. 
Figure 5-2. Representation of a d-SoC as a pattern of energy/awareness flow interrelating various human potentials. Lighter lines show a possible d-ASC pattern.
Figure 5-3. Representation of a d-ASC as a reorganization of information and energy flow pattern and an altered selection of potentials. The b-SoC is shown in lighter lines.
 

    Figures 5-2 and 5-3 express what William James {30, p. 298} meant when he wrote:
Our ordinary waking consciousness... is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are all there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question—for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness.

    It is important to stress that the pattern differences are the essential defining element of different d-SoCs. Particular psychological functions may be identical to several d-SoCs, but the overall system functioning is quite different. People still speak English whether they are in their ordinary waking state, drunk with alcohol, stoned on marijuana, or dreaming; yet, we would hardly call these states identical because the same language is spoken in all.

Definition of a Discrete State of Consciousness

    We can define a d-SoC for a given individual as a unique configuration or system of psychological structures or subsystems. The structures vary in the way they process information, or cope, or affect experiences within varying environments. The structures operative within a d-SoC make up a system where the operation of the parts, the psychological structures, interact with each other and stabilize each other's functioning by means of feedback control, so that the system, the d-SoC, maintains its overall pattern of functioning in spite of changes in the environment. Thus, the individual parts of the system may vary, but the overall, general configuration of the system remains recognizably the same. 
    To understand a d-SoC, we must grasp the nature of the parts, the psychological structures/subsystems that compose it, and we must take into account the gestalt properties that arise from the overall system—properties that are not an obvious result of the functioning of the parts. For example, the parts of a car laid out singly on a bench tell me only a little about the nature of the functioning system we call an automobile. Similarly, a list of an individual's traits and skills may tell me little about the pattern that emerges from their organization into a personality, into a "normal" state of consciousness. But understand adequately either the car or the individual, I have to study the whole functioning system itself.[3]
    To illustrate this, let us go back to the question I asked at the beginning of Chapter 2 about whether you are dreaming you are reading this book rather than actually reading it in your ordinary d-SoC. To conclude that what was happening was real (I hope you concluded that!) you may have looked at the functioning of your component structures (my reasoning seems sound, sensory qualities are in the usual range, body image seems right) and decided that since these component structures were operating in the range you associate with your ordinary d-SoC, that was the condition you were in. Or you may have simply felt the gestalt pattern of your functioning, without bothering to check component functions, and instantly recognized it as your ordinary pattern. Either way, you scanned data on the functioning of yourself as a system and categorized the system's mode of functioning as its ordinary one.

Discreteness of States of Consciousness

    Let me make a few further points about the discreteness of different states consciousness, the quantum gap between them.
    First, the concept of d-SoCs, in its commonsense form, did not come from the kind of precise mapping along psychological dimensions that is sketched in Figure 5-1. Rather, its immediate experiential basis is usually gestalt pattern recognition, the feeling that "this condition of my mind feels radically different from some other condition, rather than just an extension of it." The experiential mapping is a more precise way of saying this.
    Second, for most of the d-SoCs we know something about, there has been little or no mapping of the transition from the baseline state of consciousness (b-SoC) to the altered state. Little has been done, for example, in examining the process by which a person passes from an ordinary d-SoC into the hypnotic state,[4] although for most subjects the distinction between the well-developed hypnotic state and their ordinary state is marked. Similarly, when a person begins to smoke marijuana, there is a period during which he is in an ordinary d-SoC and smoking marijuana; only later is he clearly stoned, in the d-ASC we call marijuana intoxication. Joseph Fridgen and I carried out a preliminary survey asking experienced marijuana users about the transition from one state to the other. We found that users almost never bothered to look at the transition: they were either in a hurry to enter the intoxicated state or in a social situation that did not encourage them to observe what was going on in their minds. Similarly, Berke and Hernton {6} reported that the "buzz" that seems to mark this transitional period is easily overlooked by marijuana users.
    So, in general for d-SoCs, we do not know the size and exact nature of the quantum jump, or indeed, whether it is possible to effect a continuous transition between two regions of experiential space, thus making them extremes of one state of consciousness rather than two discrete states. The important factor of individual differences is discussed in Chapter 9.
    Because the science of consciousness is in its infancy, I am forced to mention too frequently those things we do not know. Let me balance that a little by describing a study that has mapped the transition between two d-SoCs—ordinary waking consciousness and stage 2 sleep. Vogel et al {143}, using electroencephalographic (EEG) indices of the transition from full awakeness (alpha EEG pattern with occasional rapid eye movement, REMs) to full sleep (stage 2 EEG, no eye movements), awoke subjects at various points in the transition process, asked for reports of mental activity just prior to awakening, and asked routine questions about the degree of contact with the environment the subjects felt they had just before awakening. They classified this experiential data into three ego states. In the intact ego state, the content of experience was plausible, fitted consensus reality well, and there was little or no feeling of loss of reality contact. In the destructuralized ego state, content was bizarre and reality contact was impaired or lost. In the restructuralized ego state, contact with reality was lost but the content was plausible by consensus reality standards. 
    Figure 5-4 (reprinted from G. Vogel, D. Foulkes, and H. Trosman, Arch. Gen. Psychiat., 1966, 14, 238-248) shows the frequency of these three ego states or states of consciousness with respect to psychophysiological criteria. The psychophysiological criteria are arranged on the horizontal axis in the order in which transition into sleep ordinarily takes place. You can see that the intact ego state is associated with alpha and REM or alpha and SEM (slow eye movement), the destructuralized ego state mainly with stage 1 EEG, and the restructuralized ego state mainly with stage 2 EEG. But there are exceptions in each case. Indeed, a finer analysis of the data shows that thepsychological sequence of intact ego —> destructuralized ego —> restructuralized ego almost always holds in the experiential reports. It is more solid finding than the association of these ego states with particular physiological stage. Some subjects start the intact —>destructuralized —> restructuralized sequence earlier in the EEG sequence than others. This is a timely reminder that the results of equating psychological states with physiological indicators can be fallacious. But the main thing to note here is the orderliness of the transition sequence from one discrete state to another. This kind of measurement is crude compared with what we need to know, but it is a good start.
    The intact ego state and the restructuralized ego state seem to correspond to bounded regions of experiential space, d-SoCs, but it is not clear whether the destructuralized ego state represents a d-SoC or merely a period of unstable transition between the b-SoC of the intact state (ordinary consciousness) and the d-ASC of the restructuralized state (a sleep state).[5] We need more data about the condition they have labeled destructuralized before we can decide whether it meets our criteria for a d-SoC. The later discussions of induction of a d-ASC, transitional phenomena, and the observation of internal states clarify the question we are considering here.
    We have now defined a d-SoC for a given individual as a unique configuration of system of psychological structures or subsystems a configuration that maintains its integrity or identity as a recognizable system in spite of variations in input from the environment and in spite of various (small) change in the subsystems. The system, the d-SoC, maintains its identity because various stabilization processes modify subsystem variations so that they do not destroy the integrity of the system. These stabilization processes are discussed in Chapter 6.
    In closing this chapter, I want to add a warning about the finality of the discreteness of any particular d-SoC. In Chapter 21 stated that the particular nature of the basic structures underlying the human mind limits their possible interactions and so forms the basis of d-SoCs. Note carefully, however, that many of the structures we deal with in our consciousness, as constructed in our personal growth, are not ultimate structures but compound ones peculiar to our culture, personality, and belief system. Later chapters, particularly Chapter 9 on individual differences, clarify this. Meanwhile I want to emphasize the pragmatic usefulness of a maxim of John Lilly's {35} as a guide to personal and scientific work in this area: "In the province of the mind, what one believe to be true either is true or becomes true within certain limits, to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are beliefs to be transcended." Lilly's work comparing the mind to a human biocomputer {34}, as well as his autobiographical accounts of his explorations in consciousness {35}, are essential reading in this area.

Footnotes

    [1] Forbidden zone applies under circumstances of a stable personality structure, and should not be taken too absolutely: personality sometimes changes, and a person sometimes finds himself in an extraordinary situation. 
    [2] I want to emphasize the purely descriptive nature of the adjective altered. It means simply "basically different" or "importantly different," without implying that the d-ASC is better or worse than any other d-SoC. The first business of science is accurate description. Valuation cannot be avoided, but must not be confused with description. This is discussed at greater length in Chapter 17.
    [3] A practical limitation on our understanding of d-SoCs is that they must have some reasonable stability over time: we could imagine d-SoCs that would hold a particular pattern for only a second, but this time would be too short for us to make many useful observations. All the d-SoCs about which we have some knowledge last for periods ranging from minutes to hours to a lifetime.
    [4] Some preliminary psychoanalytic investigations by Gill and Brenman are of interest here {19}.
    [5] We should not equate the restructuralized ego state with ordinary nocturnal dreaming, as this state is usually associated with stage 1 EEG and REMs later during the night.
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