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States of Consciousness, by Charles Tart

  States of Consciousness

    Charles T. Tart

        7.   Induction of Altered States: Going to Sleep, Hypnosis, Meditation

    We have now seen that a d-SoC is a system that is stabilized in multiple ways, so as to maintain its integrity in the face of changing environmental input and changing actions taken in response to the environment. Suppose that the coping function of the particular d-SoC is not appropriate for the existing environmental situation, or that the environment is safe and stable and no particular d-SoC is needed to cope with it, and you want to transit to a d-ASC: what do you do?
    This chapter examines that process of inducing a d-ASC in general from the systems approach, and then considers its application to three transitions from ordinary consciousness: to sleep, to hypnosis, and to meditative states.


Inducing a d-ASC: General Principles

    The staring point is the baseline state of consciousness(b-SoC), usually the ordinary d-SoC. The b-SoC is an active, stable, overall patterning of psychological functions which, via multiple stabilization relationships (loading, positive and negative feedback, and limiting) among its constituent parts, maintains it identity in spite of environmental changes. I emphasize multiple stabilization, for as in any well-engineered complex system, there are many processes maintaining a state of consciousness: it would be too vulnerable to unadaptive disruption if there were only a few.
    Inducing the transition to a d-ASC is a three-step process, based on two psychological (and/or physiological) operations. The process is what happens internally; the operations are the particular things you do to yourself, or someone does to you, to make the induction process happen. In the following pages the steps of the process are described sequentially and the operations are described sequentially, but note that the same action may function as both kinds of induction operation simultaneously.


Induction Operations: Disruption and Patterning

    The first induction operation is to disrupt the stabilization of your b-SoC, to interfere with the loading, positive and negative feedback, and limiting processes/structures that keep your psychological structures operating within their ordinary range. Several stabilization processes must be disrupted. If, for example, someone were to clap his hands loudly right now, while you are reading, you would be somewhat startled. Your level of activation would be increased; you might even jump. I doubt, however, that you would enter a d-ASC. Throwing a totally unexpected and intense stimulus into your own mind could cause a momentary shift within the pattern of your ordinary d-SoC but not a transition to a d-ASC. If you were drowsy it might totally disrupt one or two stabilization processes for a moment, but since multiple stabilization processes are ongoing on, this would not be sufficient to alter your state of consciousness.[1]
    So the first operation in inducing a d-ASC is to disrupt enough stabilization process to a great enough extent that the baseline pattern of consciousness cannot maintain its integrity. If only some of the stabilization processes are disrupted, the remaining undisrupted ones may be sufficient to hold the system together; thus, an induction procedure can be carried out without actually inducing a d-ASC. Unfortunately, some investigators have equated the procedure of induction with the presence of a d-ASC, a methodological fallacy discusses in Chapter 13.
    Stabilization processes can be disrupted directly when they can be identified, or indirectly by pushing some psychological functions to and beyond their limits of functioning. Particular subsystems, for example, can be disrupted by overloading them with stimuli, depriving them of stimuli, or giving them anomalous stimuli that cannot processed in habitual ways. The functioning of a subsystem can be disrupted by withdrawing attention/awareness energy or other psychological energy from it, a gentle kind of disruption. If the operation of one subsystem is disrupted, it may alter the operation of a second subsystem via feedback paths, etc.
    Drugs can disrupt the functioning of the b-SoC, as can any intense physiological procedure, such as exhaustion or exercise.
    The second induction operation is to apply patterning forces, stimuli that then push disrupted psychological functioning toward the new pattern of the desired d-ASC. These patterning stimuli may also serve to disrupt the ordinary functioning of the b-SoC insofar as they are incongruent with the functioning of the b-SoC. Thus the same stimuli may serve as both disruptive and patterning forces. For example, viewing a diagram that makes little sense in the baseline state can be a mild disrupting force. But the same diagram, viewed in the altered state, may make sense or be esthetically pleasing and thus may become a mandala for meditation, a patterning force.


Steps in the Induction Process

    Figure 7-1 sketches the steps of the induction process. The b-SoC is represented as blocks of various shapes and sizes (representing particular psychological structures) forming a system/construction (the state of consciousness) in a gravitational field (the environment). At the extreme left, a number of psychological structures are assembled into a stable construction, the b-SoC. The detached figures below the base of the construction represent psychological potentials not available in the b-SoC.
    Disrupting (and patterning) forces, represented by the arrows, are applied to begin induction. The second figure from the left depicts this beginning and represents change within the b-SoC. The disruptive (and patterning) forces are being applied, and while the overall construction remains the same, some the relationships within it have changed. System change has about reached its limit: at the right and left ends of the construction, for example, things are close to falling apart. Particular psychological structures/subsystems have varied as far as they can while still maintaining the overall pattern of the system.[2]
    Also shown is the changing relationship of some of the latent potentials outside consciousness, changes we must postulate from this systems approach and our knowledge of the dynamic unconscious, but about which we have little empirical data[3] at present.
    If the disrupting forces are successful in finally breaking down the organization of the b-SoC, the second step of the induction process occurs, the construction/state of consciousness comes apart, and a transitional period occurs. In Figure 7-1 this is depicted as the scattering of parts of the construction, without clear-cut relationships to one another or perhaps with momentary dissociated relationships as with the small square, the circle, and the hexagon on the left side of the transition diagram. The disrupting forces are now represented by the light arrow, as they are not as important now that the disruption has actually occurred; the now more important patterning forces are represented by the heavy arrows. The patterning stimuli/forces must now push the isolated psychological structures into a new construction, the third and final step of the processes in which a new, self-stabilized structure, the d-ASC, forms. Some of the psychological structures/functions present in the b-SoC, such as those represented by the squares, trapezoids, circles, and small hexagon, may not be available in this new state of consciousness; other psychological functions not available in the b-SoC have now become available. Some functions available in the b-SoC may be available at the same or at an altered level of functioning in the d-ASC. There is a change in both the selection of human potentials used and the manner in which they are constructed into a working system.
    Figure 7-1 also indicates that the patterning and disrupting forces may have to continue to be present, perhaps in attenuated form, in order for this new state to be stable. The d-ASC may not have enough internal stabilization at first to hold up against internal or environmental change, and artificial props may be needed. For example, a person may at first have to be hypnotized in a very quiet, supportive environment in order to make the transition into hypnosis, but after he has been hypnotized a few times, the d-ASC is stable enough so that he can remain hypnotized under noisy, chaotic conditions.
    In following this example you probably thought of going from your ordinary state to some more exotic d-ASC, but this theoretical sequence applies for transition from any d-SoC to any other d-SoC. Indeed, this is also the deinduction process, the process of going from a d-ASC back to the b-SoC. Disrupting forces are applied to destabilize the altered state, and patterning forces to reinstate the baseline state; a transitional period ensues, and the baseline state re-forms. Since it is generally much easier to get back into our ordinary state, we usually pay little attention to the deinduction process, although it is just as complex in principle as the induction process.[4]
    It may be that some d-SoCs cannot be reached directly from another particular d-SoC; some intermediary d-SoC has to be traversed. The process is like crossing a stream that is too wide to leap over directly: you have to leap onto one or more stepping stones in sequence to get to the other side. Each stepping stone is a stable place in itself, but they are transitional with respect to the beginning and end points of the process. Some of the jhana states of Buddhist meditation may be of this nature (see Goleman's chapter in Transpersonal Psychologies {128}). This kind of stable transitional state should not be confused with the inherently unstable transitional periods discussed above, and we should be careful in our use of the words state and period.
    Let us know look at examples of three inductions of d-ASCs, all starting from a b-SoC of the ordinary waking state—the process of falling asleep, the induction of hypnosis, and the practice of two kinds of meditation toward the goal of reaching a meditative state. These examples are intended not as final analyses from the systems approach, but simply as illustrations of how the systems approach to states of consciousness deals with the induction of d-ASCs.


Going to Sleep

    You begin by lying down in a quiet, dimly lit or dark room. the physical act of lying down, closing the eyes, being in a quiet place, immediately eliminates much of the loading stabilization that helps to maintain your ordinary d-SoC. Since there are far fewer sensory stimuli coming in from the quiet environment, energy is not required for dealing with these stimuli, and some this psychological energy is freed. Some of it may, for example, go to enhancing imagery. Further, incoming stimuli tend to pattern the kind of psychological energies that maintain your active, waking state; they activate you. Without this stimulation, then, certain kinds of psychological energies are no longer generated. When these activation energies are generated, they ordinarily circulate through and further stabilize the waking state by loading it.
    Lying down and relaxing eliminate another major source of loading stabilization, the familiar, expected pattern of input from your body. Almost all your kinesthetic receptors for telling you what your body is doing respond primarily to change, and when you are relaxed and still for long periods, these receptors stop sending messages into the central nervous system. Your body, in a neural impulse sense, disappears; it is no longer there to pattern consciousness.
    You adopt an attitude that there is noting to accomplish, no goals to be attained, no problems to solve, nothing important to deal with. Your attitude is that there is no normative pattern to hold your consciousness.
    It is usually futile to try to go to sleep. The active attitude that works so well in doing things within your ordinary waking d-SoC does not help here. Taking this passive attitude further withdraws attention/awareness energy from many of your feedback stabilization processes. If there is no norm to hold to, there is no need to monitor for and correct deviation from the norm. This is important for allowing thought processes and other psychological processes to drift into the hypnagogic mode.
    So far these attitudes (nothing is important) and physical actions (inactions really, lying still and relaxing) are similar to the start of many other procedures for inducing various d-ASCs. What tips the balance toward inducing the particular d-SoC of sleep are the physiological factors (not well understood, in spite of two decades of intense research on sleep) we call tiredness, or need to sleep. These tiredness factors constitute both a further disrupting forces for the waking state and a patterning force or forces for shaping the transitional period into the sleep state. Their intensity is important in determining whether the induction is successful: if you are not at all tired, sleep will probably not occur. If you are very tired, sleep may occur even if the other disrupting operations (lying down, reducing sensory input, taking a "nothing is important" attitude) have not been carried out.
    The study by Vogel and his colleagues of ego states during the transition to sleep, described in Chapter 5, showed how the experiential mapping of consciousness fell into two (or perhaps three) distinct clusters, two (or perhaps three) d-SoCs. For a time after lying down, the subjects retained a feeling of contact with the environment and their thoughts remains plausible by consensus reality standards. This was the intact ego state. The subjects then moved into the destructuralized ego "state," losing contact with the external environment and with their thoughts deviating greatly from consensus reality standards of normality. They regained plausibility of thought in the restructuralized ego state. The destructuralized ego "state" is transitional between the intact ego state and the restructuralized ego state. Whether it constitutes a d-SoC by our definition is not clear from Vogel's data: we do not know whether there was a coherent pattern or just constant change.


Inducing Hypnosis

    The procedures for inducing hypnosis are many and varied but certain steps are common to most of these procedures. The first such step usually involves having you sit or lie comfortably, so you do not have to exert any effort to maintain your bodily position, and telling you not to move and to relax your body as much as possible. This step has a variety of effects. For one thing, if you are somewhat anxious about what is going to happen, your anxiety which intimately related to bodily tension, is at least partially relieved if you relax. You limit your ability to feel anxiety. This makes it easier for you to alter your state of consciousness. Also, when your body is in a relaxed position and lying still, many of the kinesthetic receptors adapt out, as in going to sleep. Thus the body as a whole begins to fade out as a conscious experience; this known, patterned stimulation fades and no longer serves as a load and patterning force to help stabilize your b-SoC.
    Second, the hypnotist commonly tells you to listen only to his voice and ignore other thoughts or sensations that come into your mind. Ordinarily you constantly scan the environment to see if important stimuli are present. This constant scanning keeps up a continuous, varied pattern of information and energy exchanges among subsystems, which tends to keep subsystems active in the waking state pattern: as varied perceptions come in, you must decide whether they are important, you must draw on memories from the past in making these decisions, etc. By withdrawing attention/awareness energy from this scanning of the environment, you withdraw a good deal of psychological energy and activity from a number of subsystems: a major loading and patterning process is attenuated.
    A third common instruction is that you should not think about what the hypnotist is saying, but just listen to it passively. If the hypnotist says your arm is feeling heavy, you are not to think, "He says it's feeling heavy, I wonder if it really will get heavy, I remember it got heavy a long time ago but that's because there was a weight on it; well, I guess I shouldn't be doubting..." In the ordinary d-SoC you constantly think about what is being said to you and what is happening to you, and his maintains a great deal of evaluative and decision-making activity and again activates other subsystems. Thus, this step also slows down the constant thinking that helps to maintain your ordinary d-SoC through loading stabilization.
    Fourth, you are frequently told to focus your attention on some particular thing in addition to the hypnotist's voice. Let us take the example of your being asked to look fixedly at some simple object like a candle flame or a bright, shiny disk. This fixation serves to reduce further your scanning of the environment, with the same effects mentioned above, but it has an additional effect. It is unusual for you in your ordinary d-SoC to stare fixedly at one thing. If you do, all sorts of unexpected (to most people) visual effects occur because the retina becomes fatigued. Colored halos start to appear around the object being stared at, shadows appear and disappear, apparent movements occur, parts of the object fade. To the extent that these are not part of your usual experience, they constitute a kind of input that the Input-Processing subsystem (discussed later) is not used to handling, and so they tend to disrupt the normal functioning of this subsystem.
    Further, because the hypnotist earlier stated that he has the power to make you have unusual experiences, the fact that you are now having unusual experiences enhances the prestige of the hypnotist and gives you more trust in him. This is a kind of trick: by using physiological effects that you do not realize are the expected result of staring at anything, the hypnotist manages to take credit and so enhances his psychological effectiveness. The importance of this will become even clearer later when we discuss the Sense of Identity subsystem.
    Fifth, the hypnotist commonly suggests to you that you are feeling sleepy or drowsy. This elicits a variety of memory associations that help the induction process. Since going to sleep means that your b-SoC breaks down, this suggestion acts as a disruptive force. And since going to sleep is associated with a fading out of your body image, this suggestion enhances the fading of the body image that is already occurring because of the adaptation of kinesthetic receptors to your relaxed, still posture. Further, since going to sleep is a passive activity, the suggestion encourages a sense of passivity on your part and so reinforces the earlier instructions not to think about what the hypnotist is saying but simply to accept it. the references to sleep also draw up memories and expectations of your identity fading, so energy is not required to keep evaluating the situation in terms of your personal values.
    Sixth, as well as suggesting sleep, the hypnotist often further indicates that this sleep is not quite the same as real sleep because you will still hear him. The hypnotist may not need to suggest this overtly: everyone in our culture knows enough about hypnosis to realize that the subject can still hear the hypnotist. This is a specific patterning force. The suggestions telling you that what is happening is like sleep primarily serve to disrupt your d-SoC, but since the hypnotist does not want you actually to go to sleep, he adds a patterning force to produce a passive sleeplike state in which communication with the hypnotist is still effective.
    Seventh, once you appear passive and relaxed, most hypnotic procedures go on to simple motor suggestions, such as having you hold an arm horizontally out in front of you and telling you it is getting heavy. Motor suggestions like this are relatively easy most people to experience, and as you begin to respond to these suggestions, the hypnotist's prestige is further enhanced.
    This automatic response to suggestion affects your Sense of Identity subsystem. Ordinarily it is your own "voice" inside you that tells you to do a thing that you then do. Now the hypnotist's voice takes over this role, and your sense of self begins to include the hypnotist. The special modulation from this subsystem that constitutes the ego sense (discussed later) is added to the stimuli that would ordinarily be perceived as the voice of an outsider. Psychoanalysts call this the transference element of hypnosis, especially when some of the transference involves parental transferences onto the hypnotist. The deliberate or implicit encouragement of identification with the hypnotist's voice is an application of patterning forces.
    Success with simple motor suggestions also produces a novel kind of body stimulation: you feel your body moving, but with different qualities than ordinarily. Your arm, for stance, feels exceptionally heavy and seems to move by itself. This kind of datum again does not fit the habitual input-processing patterns, and so tends both to disrupt the stabilization of your d-SoC and to help pattern the hypnotic state.
    As you respond well to simple motor suggestions, the hypnotist usually goes on to harder and more impressive motor suggestions and various kinds of cognitive suggestions, and continued success leads to increasing inclusion of the hypnotist within your ego sense.
    Finally, we should note that an important factor in understanding the hypnotic induction technique is the subject's implicit expectations of what it is like to be hypnotized and how a hypnotized subject behaves. Shor {59} did a survey showing that among college students there is a fairly good general knowledge of what hypnosis is like, in spite of some misconceptions. So if a subject agrees to be hypnotized and believes that the hypnotist can do it, he has implicit expectations that affect his reactions t o the particular thing the hypnotist does.


The Hypnotic State

    If the induction is successful and the neutral hypnotic state is developed, the result is a d-ASC characterized by a quiet mind {78}; most of the structures are inactive, many of the psychological subsystems discussed in Chapter 8 are not actively functioning. Typically, if a deeply hypnotized subject is asked what he is thinking about or experiencing, the answer is "Nothing." However, this state is also characterized by greatly enhanced suggestibility, a greater mobility of attention/awareness energy, so when a particular experience is suggested to the subject he usually experiences it far more vividly than he could in his ordinary d-SoC, often to the point of total experiential reality. Thus the hypnotic state shows a high flexibility of functioning, even though it is relatively quiet between particular functionings. The state is also characterized by a quality called rapport, a functioning of the Sense of Identity subsystem to include the hypnotist as part of the subject's own ego.
    It is easy to see how the various techniques mentioned above destabilize the ordinary pattern and operate on various psychological subsystems to push them toward extreme values of functioning. But where is the actual transition? We do not know. Studies of hypnosis have generally paid little attention to the transition between hypnosis and waking. Some psychoanalytically oriented case studies {19} have reported marked transitional effects, but no study has tried to map the exact nature and extent of the quantum jump.
    Much modern research that has tried to determine whether hypnotic suggestibility is indeed greater than waking suggestibility has committed an important methodological error (discussed in Chapter 9): using group data without examining individual data. Thus, unless every individual makes the transition at exactly the same point on the appropriate measure of psychological subsystem functioning, no transition point would appear in the group data. Put another way, if there were some one variable on which the jump was made from the normal state into hypnosis, and one subject jumped from a value of two to six to make his transition, and a second subject jumped from three to seven, and a third from four to eight, etc., the group data would show absolute continuity and no evidence for a transitional phase. Superimposing many maps destroys the patterns. The systems approach stresses the importance of examining the transitional period of hypnotic phenomena.
    One further idea should be mentioned. Because most or all subsystems in the unprogrammed deep hypnotic state, so-called neutral hypnosis, are idling or relatively inactive, the hypnotic state may be better than the ordinary waking state as a b-SoC with which to compare other states. The ordinary waking state seems an incredibly complex, active, and specialized construction compared with the hypnotic state.


Meditation and Meditative States

    Meditation refers to variety of techniques that may or may not induce a d-ASC at a given time.
    Meditation techniques are varied, but Naranjo and Ornstein {39} have classified them into three basic types: (1) concentrative meditation, (2) opening-up meditation, and (3) expressive meditation. Here we consider the first two and begin by analyzing a technique common to both before further distinguishing between them.
    Most meditation techniques involve, as the initial step, sitting absolutely still in a posture that is not only comfortable, but that involves keeping the head, neck, and spine in a straight vertical line. A small but significant amount of muscular effort is needed to maintain this posture. Like the comfortable position assumed for inducing sleep or hypnosis, the comfortable posture in meditation allows various kinesthetic receptors to adapt out, so the body image generally fades. In contrast with going to sleep, the fact that a slight amount of muscular effort is needed to hold the body in this upright position prevents sleep from occurring for most people. Hypnotic induction procedures can allow the subject to slip in and out of actual sleep, but this is usually quite disruptive in meditative procedures, as the person begins to fall over.
    Since much of a person's sense of identity comes from his body image, the fading of the body in a comfortable, steady posture also tends to reduce his sense of identity, thus helping to destabilize his b-SoC and to free energy.
    Sitting absolutely still, not acting, also frees energy that would otherwise be automatically absorbed in acting: meditation is a technically simplified situation in this way.
    The vertical posture for head, neck, and spine is also of theoretical importance in meditation systems that believe that a latent human potentiality, the Kundalini force, is stored at the base of the spine and may flow upward, activating various other postulated latent potentials, the psychic energy centers or chakras, as it rises {128, ch. 6}.
    Since the meditator is sitting absolutely still, his muscular subsystem similarly has little to do beyond postural maintenance. This further reduces loading stabilization. Thus many sources of activity that maintain ordinary d-SoC fade out when the meditative posture is assumed.


Concentrative Meditation

    Concentrative meditation techniques basically instruct you to put all of your attention on some particular thing. This can be an external object that is looked at fixedly or some internal sensation such as the rise and fall of the belly in breathing. As in hypnotic induction, the meditater is told that if his mind wanders away from this focus he is to bring it back gently[5] to this focus, and not allow it to distracted.
    This greatly restricts the variety of input to the system, inhibits thinking about various stimuli that come from scanning the environment, and in general takes attention/awareness energy away from and reduces the activity of the various subsystems of ordinary consciousness.
    The meditater fixes his attention on one thing, usually an external or internal sensation. This can produce unusually phenomena due to various kinds of receptor fatigue, as in the induction of hypnosis, but most meditation systems stress that these anomalous perceptual phenomena should not be taken as signs of success or be paid any special attention. In Zen Buddhism, for example, there is a teaching story of a student excitedly rushing to his roshi (master) to describe a vision of gods bowing down to him and feelings of ecstasy that occurred during his meditation. The roshi asks him if he remembered to keep his attention fixed on the rise and fall of his belly in breathing during the vision, as per the meditation instructions, and when the student says no (who would care about the rise and fall of your belly during such a vision?), the roshi reprimands the student for allowing himself to become distracted! Thus while anomalous perceptual phenomena may act as a disruptive forces for our ordinary state, they do not attract the same amount of attention in meditation as they do in hypnosis and so may have different effects.[6]
    As in any induction technique, the person preparing to meditate has explicit and implicit expectations of what will come about. His explicit expectations stem from his immediately conscious memories of what he knows about meditation and his goal in doing it. His implicit expectations range from the implicit but potentially conscious ones that come from other knowledge about meditation he could recall but is not recalling at the moment, to more implicit ones that he has absorbed over a longer time and of which he may not be consciously aware. The more implicit expectations may or may not accord with the teachings of the particular meditative system, for they may have come through personality-induced distortions of teaching situations in the past. The discussion(in Chapter 4) of the construction of ordinary consciousness and how it affects our perception of the world is relevant here.


State Resulting From Concentrative Meditation

    Naranjo and Ornstein {39} describe the meditative state[7] of consciousness that can result from concentrative meditation as a discrete state characterized as "voidness," "blankness," or "no-thingness." There seems to be a temporary nonfunctioning of all psychological functions. In some sense, difficult to deal with verbally, awareness seems to be maintained, but there is not object of awareness. The appearance of this meditative state seems to be sudden and to clearly represent a quantum leap. The practice of meditation quiets down the various subsystems, but there is a sudden transition to this pattern of voidness.
    The meditative state may or may not be valued in and of itself, depending on the particular spiritual discipline and its philosophy. What does generally seem to be valued is its aftereffect, generally described as a great "freshening" of perception or increase in feelings of aliveness. In terms of the systems approach, a major aftereffect of the concentration-produced meditation state is a decrease in processing and abstracting of sensory input from what occurs in the ordinary d-SoC. Much more raw sensory data are passed to awareness, instead of the highly selected abstractions usually seen, and this produces a great intensification of sensory perception of both the external world and one's own body. this is usually felt as quite joyful. As Wordsworth put it in Ode on Intimations of Immortality {147}:
    There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth and every common sight,
            To me did seem
        Apparelled in celestial light,
    The glory and the freshness of a dream.
Going on to contrast this with perception in his ordinary d-SoC, he said:
    It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
        Turn whereso'er I may,
          By night or day,
    The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
I suspect that if Wordsworth were alive today he would be quite interested in altered states of consciousness.
    This is a good place to remind ourselves that a state of consciousness generally has many processes stabilizing it. Many of you have had the experience of sitting down and trying to meditate according to some prescription and finding that rather than reaching some desirable d-ASC you only obtained a sore back! Sitting still in the correct position and trying to do the technique may indeed disrupt some of the customary feedback processes that stabilize your b-SoC, but if others are still active, such as continual thinking, no actual shift in state of consciousness will result.
    Confusion results when the word meditation is used to describe many different things. It is probably too late to prevent sloppy usage, but ideally, the phrase tried to meditate means that the meditater attempted to carry out the instructions but was not successful at concentrating or holding the posture. The phrase did meditate means the meditater felt he was relatively successful in following the instructions, event though no meditative state developed. The phrase reached a meditative state means that the meditater actually did so.


Opening-Up Meditation

    Opening-up meditation refers to a variety of techniques whose aim is to help you achieve full sensitivity to and awareness of whatever happens to you, to be a conscious observer observing what is happening to you without being caught up in your reactions to it. It is a matter of being aware of what is happening without thinking about what is happening to the exclusion of perceiving what is happening, or becoming identified with reactions to what is happening. Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation of this sort. The word means something like bare attention—bare attention to sensations, feelings, thoughts, and reactions to these things as they occur. The "simple" rule[8] is to notice anything and everything that happens, to neither reject anything as unworthy of attention, nor welcome anything as worthy of more attention than anything else. This includes being aware of "failures," such as thoughts, rather than fighting them.
    Opening meditation is usually practiced in the same sort of posture as concentrative meditation, so all the effects of posture on disrupting the b-SoC are similar.
    This non-identification with stimuli prevents attention/awareness energy from being caught up in the automatic, habitual processes involved in maintaining the ordinary d-SoC. Thus while awareness remains active, various psychological subsystems tend to drift to lower and lower levels of activity. Traditional accounts indicate that after a high level of success is achieved, there is a sudden shift into a meditative state of consciousness characterized by a great freshening of perception and deautomatization of the subsystem of Input-Processing. This is the meditative state itself, rather than an aftereffect of it, as in concentrative meditation. Almost all psychological energy is present in the awareness function, and there seems to be far less input-processing, so things are perceived more directly.[9] The meditater experiences things as much more intense and clear; whether this means that he perceives the external more accurately has not, to my knowledge, been tested.
    Although meditation has been a neglected topic of scientific research, this is changing rapidly: the interested reader should see the bibliography on research in this area put out by Timmons and Kamiya {141}, as well as the recent updating of that bibliography by Timmons and Kanellakos {142}.
    This concludes our brief survey of the process of inducing a d-ASC. In some ways it is too simplified: the actual situation in which a person, either by himself or with the help of another, sits down to induce a d-ASC is influenced by many variables that affect our lives, especially those implicit factors stemming from our personal and cultural histories that are so hard for us to see.
    One final example to illustrate the importance of these implicit and expectational factors. When phonograph recordings were still something of a novelty, George Estabrooks {16}, one of the early researchers in hypnosis, decided to see if hypnosis could be induced by simply recording the verbal procedure on a record and playing it to a group of volunteer subjects. He recorded an induction procedure and got some volunteers from one of the college classes he taught. At the time for the experiment, he put the record on and, to his consternation, found he has brought the wrong record from his office: he was playing a record of Swiss yodeling! Deciding to let it entertain his subjects while he got the right one, he said nothing but left and went to his office.
    When he returned, he found one subject was in a deep hypnotic state! The professor had said this record would hypnotize him, the student went into hypnosis.



    [1] This particular example is true for your ordinary d-SoC. But if you had been asleep, you might have been awakened as a result of the hand clap. It might have been sufficient in a sleep d-SoC to disrupt stabilization enough to allow a transition back to ordinary waking consciousness. Also, if the expectational context were right, it could cause a transition from your ordinary d-SoC to a d-ASC. The Abbe de Faria, in the early days of hypnosis, "hypnotized" ignorant peasants by leading them through dark passages into a dark room, then suddenly setting off a tray of flash powder while striking a huge gong {38}. This must be one of the most authentic ways of "blowing one's mind." (back)
    [2] There is a depth or intensity dimension within some b-SoCs (discussed in Chapter 14). So we could speak of the b-SoC having reached its deepest (or shallowest) extreme. (back)
    [3] Psychoanalytical studies {19} of hypnotic induction give us inferential information on such activities: experiential phenomena reported during induction are interpreted as indicators of changes in unconscious forces, drives, and defenses. (back)
    [4] We might hypothesize that because the ordinary d-SoC is so tremendously overlearned compared with almost any other d-SoC, whenever there is a transitional period the dominant tendency is to repattern the ordinary d-SoC mode. Sleep would also be likely. Only the presence of special patterning forces allows some d-ASCs to be structured from a transitional state. (back)
    [5] Gently bringing attention back to the concentration focus is important: if you violently bring it back, fight the distractions, this sends large quantities of attention/awareness to them, and so keeps attention/awareness energy circulating through the system generally. This stabilizes the ordinary d-SoC, which involves many Rows of attention/awareness energy to a variety of things. (back)
    [6] Another important difference is that in hypnosis induction the hypnotist takes credit for these anomalous effects, thus helping to incorporate himself into the subject's own psyche We have given little attention to the role of the hypnotist as "outsider," for he only becomes effective as he becomes able to control the subject's own attention/awareness energy. The meditator in the Buddhist tradition is seeking to free himself from control by external events or persons, and so does not value particular phenomena (back)
    [7] We speak here of a single state resulting from concentrative meditation because our rudimentary scientific knowledge goes only this far. But we should remember that spiritual disciplines distinguish many states where we see one. In Buddhist terms, for example, eight distinct states of samadhi (concentration) are described, each of which may be a d-SoC (see Chapter 17 and [128]). Whether these are actually useful descriptions of eight d-SoCs or only descriptions of techniques is a question for the developing science of consciousness to research (back)
    [8] "Simple" to say, extremely difficult to do! (back)
    [9] We do not know enough at present to adequately describe how the d-ASC reached from opening meditation, characterized by freshened perception, differs from the feeling of freshened perception occurring within one's ordinary d-SoC as an aftereffect of concentrative meditation. (back)

Chapter 8

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