Most of the time we talk about consciousness by referring to the classical state of consciousness, the one in which we think we are most of our existence. In short, this state is the one that constitutes the consciousness of ourselves and of our daily reality. This state of consciousness of everyday life includes the mind of the “I think therefore I am” and also all the identifications by which humans define themselves and represent the reality around them. This state of consciousness is by default considered principal, and all other states that the human mind is capable of listing are defined in relation to it. So usually we speak of altered, modified or alternative states of consciousness in the best case. So let’s go, let’s try to re-identify a number of these so-called alternative states to the “classic” consciousness…
Thus, for example, in-consciousness is defined as opposed to the state of consciousness. Unconsciousness (which is supposed not to contain consciousness) contains sleep, k-o and coma. For a long time, unconsciousness was not of interest, it was not supposed to happen there whatsoever important. Yet, through sleep, we would spend on average one-third of our life in a state of unconsciousness. And already our intuition awakens to the strangeness of the need for such a long time of unconsciousness in the life of a human. And when sleeping in fact, there is at least one notable phenomenon that we can be aware of, this is the dream. We can add to this that an increasing number of people relate the possibility of becoming conscious during the very course of their dream, which leads these people to be able to act and react “live” in their dream, we call it the lucid dreaming. Then there are many experiences of so-called “paranormal” states of consciousness that are also described during coma, during which supposedly nothing should happen since one is unconscious. The most amazing experiences take place in extreme states of “without” consciousness” since they happen in some cases of clinical death, the NDEs (“near-death experience” or in French “imminent death experience“). Many cases have been identified, where the person in full “unconsciousness” discovers the ability to think and perceive the outside environment, to get out of his body and to visit places close or very far, and even to communicate by non-verbal means with relatives or caregivers. This is absolutely not a delirium out of the feverish brain of a few people sounded by disease or drugs. Today, many cases are seriously documented from the experience of patients, doctors, nurses etc., all over the world.
Unconsciousness is therefore not a simple block of non-consciousness but is quite accessible to forms of consciousness that reveal us something else, another experience than the one related only to the continuity of a more classical perception of reality. And since one opens the field of “parallel” forms of consciousness, it seems to me that what is called the paranormal (again by definition to what is supposed to be normal and principal), includes many forms of facet perception of reality which are just non-conscious for most people. And whether we believe it or not how many of us have at least one anecdote of how their mind was blown away by one of those “inexplicable” phenomena whose list is endless?! Mediumity, premonitory truths, animal communication etc., here, from my perspective, the paranormal term is also to be used alongside all other conscious experiences. This point of view is opening our mind on a rather less consensual reality.
And if we continue the list, it turns out that the psychic states parallel to the classical state of consciousness never cease to show their omnipresence throughout the history of humanity and of everyone. Trance, for example, is one of the characteristics of its parallel states. The trance is noticeable from the outside as a kind of state of presence/absence, people are both there and not there, less aware of certain things of general social and material reality, but also often more present (more conscious, therefore) to other realities usually less noticeable (and therefore less conscious) for others. You should know that, in fact, we are often and daily in a state of trance without even noticing it, this is what makes us able to carry out complex actions such as walking or driving from one place to another without even noticing how we did it, without even remembering that we did it. If we don’t pay attention, these states of trance are easily obliviated, which means that they are not spotted by the classical consciousness. And so, without even noticing it we actually spend a lot of time in a trance. Depending on how it is experienced, the trance has historically led to the development of a very large number of field of knowledge that lead to infinite openings on the nature of reality. This reality, which is increasingly clearly broader than the mere reference to the normal consciousness of classical reality. Thus we could talk about the hypnotic trance, the sleepwalking trance, the psychic trance, the shamanic trance (the history of shamans being linked all over the world to the development of all human groups), and finally the ecstatic trance of mystics of all eras and cultures…
Note that since a while ago we speak more clearly of consciousness as a state of presence, and in this sense, we can awaken to states of consciousness, and therefore of presence, very varied, by experimentation and increased the attention that one leads to these states. Whether it is dreams, trance or just your breathing, just paying attention, in fact, changes your state of consciousness, and therefore your state of presence. This is the whole idea of mindfulness movements. The term mindfulness implies in fact that the classical state of consciousness, of everyday life, is only a partial state of consciousness often finally very unaware. This is what we automatically see as soon as we take the time to pay more attention to what is happening in ourselves in each of our actions. From there we naturally come to meditation, which is a millennial art involving states of consciousness over internal states that can lead, at certain levels of practice, to experiences of transcendence. Finally, if we speak of transcendence and spirituality what about the particular states of consciousness in which we can enter through the use of so-called psychedelic drugs (LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, hayawaska etc.) or also certain techniques (without any drugs) like holotropic breathing, which again opens up a radically different perception of reality.
So there is a world of levels of consciousness that is much more abundant and important than what the classical consciousness is willing to believe. And there we do not even talk about the Freudian unconscious that accompanies us all the time asleep or not. The unconscious as such is particularly interesting because it already poses that the classical consciousness (that of the mind) is only the visible part of an iceberg whose non-conscious part is otherwise wider and is molding our existence much more powerfully than the conscious reasons we give ourselves to justify that it is indeed we who “consciously” decide our actions. And again, one can increase one’s awareness of one’s non-conscious states by simply paying more attention to it (for example, therapeutic work..).
Thus the classical consciousness, even if it starts from a very limited representation of reality, still has the peculiarity of being able to extend its field of perception as it pays attention to itself. And in my own path of exploration (work on the unconscious, dream, trance, hypnosis, meditation, shamanism, spirituality and the “paranormal” …) it is clear that the further I go, the more I am aware of the infinity of what is not still reachable. It then makes objectively sense that what we usually sum up in the term consciousness is in fact only the small end of the eyeglass. It follows, of course, that instead of a simplistic conception that thinks that the rest is anecdotal, abnormal, altered, or even exists only in the minds of fools and wackos, it would be more logical to stop making of this classical mind the center of reference, and rather to understand all this infinity of states of consciousness as different states, of complementary nature, part of a more global whole. A kind of global universal consciousness that encompasses all forms of consciousness, unconsciousness and non-consciousness.
Is it said of the dog or bat that they have an altered view of reality because they perceive and integrate ultrasound? should we consider that infrared or ultraviolet are a minor part of reality because we are not equipped to see them directly just like the range of radio, TV and telephone waves that would remain invisible without specific equipment? It seems less presumptuous and more humble to consider that it is the visible and conscious part of the human being that is in the minority in view of all that he is not able to perceive from reality and which is infinitely larger than what everyone usually sums up his daily life. And even if we were left only on a purely scientific point of view, every day brings its share of modesty and humility. Far from the young years of the industrial era where we still pretentiously believed that humanity could become master and possessor of nature, we know better and better, the more we discover, that we know little about the infinity of all that we do not know.
There are therefore multiple dimensions of consciousness where none has supremacy over others (maybe some can be more useful or more accessible depending of which species, timeline and geographical place you belong) and which are part of an infinite whole that could be called Consciousness with a great C, and which encompasses them all. And so, in my opinion, there are no altered, or abnormal states, but a multitude of states that coexist in perfect harmony and perfect continuity in human beings. And it is possible to move from one state to another by agreeing to pay attention to it and allow yourself an unjudgmental exploration of these alternative bits of perception that are then as much possibility of exploring parts of reality unknown to us. In therapy, using exploration through dreams, hypnosis or other, is a way of appealing to all its dimensions of ourselves in the service of the possible evolution of each beyond the apparent blockages of the human being. However, these blockages are often linked precisely to a fixed state of limited representations of the conscious mind. Through this text, I hope to have contributed to the evolution of an often limited vision of consciousness, whose often totalitarian beliefs about the nature of our reality and of ourselves make our daily prison…