article, "The Psychology of Ayahuasca", outlines
experiences that come about while under the influence
of a South American plant. These experiences appear to
be very similar if not identical to those experienced
by those having a mystical experience.
1. Alterations in Thinking.
To varying degrees, subjective changes in concentration,
attention, memory, and judgment may be induced in the
acute state, along with a possible diminution or expansion
of reflective awareness.
2. Altered Time Sense.
The sense of time and chronology may be altered, inducing
a subjective feeling of timelessness, or the experience
of time either accelerating or decelerating. Time may
be experienced as infinite, or infinitesimal in duration.
3. Fear of Loss of Control.
An individual may experience a fear of losing his hold
on reality or his sense of self-control. In reaction,
increased resistance to the experience may occur, causing
an amplification of underlying anxiety. If there is
a positive cultural conditioning and understanding of
the experience, mystical and positive transcendent states
4. Changes in Emotional
Expression. Along with reduction in volitional or conscious
control, intense emotional reactivity may occur, ranging
from ecstasy to despair.
5. Changes in Body Image.
Alterations in body image are frequently reported, often
associated with dissolution of boundaries between self
and others and states of depersonalization and derealization
where the usual sense of one's own reality is temporarily
lost or changed. Such experiences may be regarded as
strange and frightening, or as mystical, oceanic states
of cosmic unity, particularly when sustained within
the context of belief systems conditioned for spiritual
6. Perceptual Alterations.
Increased visual imagery, hyperacuteness of perceptions
and overt hallucinations may occur. The content of these
perceptual alterations are influenced by cultural expectations,
group influences and individual wish-fulfillment fantasies.
They may reflect the psychodynamic expression of underlying
fears or conflicts, or simple neurophysiologic mechanisms
inducing geometric patterns and alterations of light,
colors and shapes. Synesthesias, the transformation
of one form of sensory experience into another, such
as seeing auditory stimuli, may be experienced.
7. Changes in Meaning or
Significance. While in a powerful altered state of consciousness,
some individuals manifest a propensity to attach special
meaning or significance to their subjective experiences,
ideas or perceptions. An experience of great insight
or profound sense of meaning may occur, their significance
ranging from genuine wisdom to self-imposed delusion.
8. Sense of the Ineffable.
Because of the uniqueness of the subjective experience
associated with these states and their divergence from
ordinary states of consciousness, individuals often
have great difficulty communciating the essence of their
experience to those who have never had such an encounter.
9. Feelings of Rejuventation.
Many individuals emerging from a profoundly altered
state of consciousness report a new sense of hope, rejuvenation
and rebirth. Such transformed states may be short-term,
or conversely, may lead to sustained positive adjustments
in mood and outlook.
While in the throes of altered state experience, individuals
experience an enhanced susceptibility to accept or respond
uncritically to specific statements. Nonspecific cues,
reflecting cultural belief systems or group expectation,
may similarly assume directives of weighty importance.
Source: Ralph Metzner, editor.
Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness, and the Spirit
of Nature, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999).
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