Dreams, lucid dreams, OBEs and psychotropic drugs

 

 

Collective consensus on reality

In English speaking countries, the acronym ASC (Altered States of Consciousness) is used to indicate those particular psychic experiences that some people have access to, going beyond what is commonly experienced by the conscious Ego in the waking state. Instead of altered states of consciousness, it seems to me preferable to call them non-ordinary psychic experiences, since it is not a matter of highlighting an alteration in the state of consciousness, but rather a peculiar quality of the psychic experiences, which are determined by mental tunings different and anomalous compared to the ordinary ones.

In the ordinary state of waking, we have frequent opportunities to interact with our likes, human beings who have, as us, a conscious Ego involved in psychic experiences, and in any case we feel that we interact with an objective reality, taking for granted that what we perceive in the external world with our senses is perceived in a similar way by the others as well. This creates a collective consensus on the reality of the world, which is constantly transmitted and confirmed through socio-cultural learning and conditioning programs. The contents of collective consensus can be different from one culture to another, but within each culture they play a fundamental role in defining social behavior and the way by which each member who shares that culture perceives the world.

The perception of a subjective reality

Non-ordinary psychic experiences, on the other hand, are typically subjective, even though they may appear definitely real to the experimenter. The term used in our culture to indicate an event or a vision that is experienced as real by a person, without an objective basis for that reality, is hallucination. It is, however, a definition reserved maily for experiences in the waking state, since in relation to what is perceived by an individual when he/she is sleeping we speak of dreams. The example of dreams is particularly effective in describing the difference between objective and subjective reality: from an objective point of view, what is perceived is the dormant body that can stand still, or perform movements or sounds: events that can be observed by other people and also recorded by suitable equipment. Of these events related to her/his body, however, the dreamer almost always does not have the slightest consciousness, while is well conscious of her/his dreams, which can leave a deep trace in the memory in the waking state. On the other hand, all external observers have no idea what the dreamer is dreaming of.

The different states of dreaming

Although dreaming is such a common activity that can be considered ordinary, the quality of dreams and the ability to remember them can be very different from one person to another, so that some people are excellent dreamers (or, to use a the term recently entered into language, especially in relation to lucid dreams, true onironauts), while others can not even remember their dreams. In addition to the complexity of dreams and their plot, what changes from one person to another, but also to the same person from one period of life to another, is the intensity of the level of consciousness with which the dream is experienced: a level of consciousness that in some cases makes the dream indistinguishable from the ordinary reality of the waking state, and sometimes even more intense. By dreaming, therefore, the dreamer can access psychic experiences not available in the waking state, which can also arouse internal conflicts and a feeling of estrangement towards the real world, similarly to what happens to those who use psychoactive substances to obtain non-ordinary psychic experiences. Almost all of us experience, during the state of waking, psychic contents that can be attributed to fantasy or imagination, but usually these are experiences with which our consciousness does not have the same level of focus that it reaches towards reality: these psychic forms, more or less evanescent, almost always escape the intentional control of the Ego. The same applies to ordinary dreams, and also to some of the drug-induced experiences. But in other cases, as has been said, both dreamlike psychic experiences and those induced by hallucinogens are perceived by the conscious Ego as real, and can be purposely determined and directed.

Paranormal events

There are however not-ordinary states that do not conform to the peculiar subjectivity of dreams, hallucinations or other experiences: beyond the so-called collective hallucinations (a contradictory and not scientifically valid expression that should indicate those things and events perceived in a coherent way by a group of people, without having the requisite of objectivity), many mediumistic phenomena or certain types of apparitions have all the requisites of objectivity, also because they can be recorded by suitable instruments. In these cases, then, instead of states of altered consciousness, it is preferable to speak of events not belonging to ordinary reality or, as is usually said, paranormal.

Non-ordinary psychic experiences

The role of the brain as the instrument that determines the non-ordinary psychic experiences of the conscious Ego appears largely confirmed, although there may be some doubt about some NDE cases and paranormal events, as highlighted in the sections dedicated to these experiences. The effect of psychoactive substances on the functioning of the brain – as substitutes, inhibitors or stimulants of natural neurotransmitters – is studied in a specialist field and is excluded from the topics discussed in this site. The important aspect of certain non-ordinary experiences is the emotional impact produced on the experimenter's conscious Ego: it is as if the expansion of the psychic experiences available to the Ego went beyond the simple curiosity to experiment and was linked to the search for something that deeply involves our being, far beyond what we commonly experience in ordinary reality.

The needs for survival and adaptation to the reality of the world, probably deriving from the rules that govern the evolution of life and from the socio-cultural transformations with which these laws have been reworked in the human sphere, greatly select and reduce the psychical experiences we can ( and normally we have to) access in the ordinary reality. At the same time, many humans have the feeling that they lack something fundamental, such as a denied right to a more advanced mental state, against which the world and real life can only offer palliative and surrogate, which, in addition, are also paid at a fair price. As we have seen with reference to scientific knowledge, the laws concerning life and its evolution up to now accredited and spread are part of an interpretative framework based solely on nature. Non-ordinary psychic experiences seem to orient the Ego towards something that goes beyond this interpretation.

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Quality of dreams
Examples of dreams
Lucid dreams
A  study of dreams
Out of Body Exp.
Psychoactive drugs