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  • I don’t need to introduce alternative states of consciousness, as it will be within the alternative states category.

Alternative states of consciousness are nothing new.

When you drink a beer or glass of wine, or even if you daydream or don’t get enough sleep, your experience of the world can be changed enough for psychologists to say that you have entered an ‘alternative’ state.

The term ‘holotropic state’ was coined by Czech psychologist Stanislav Grof to describe a type of alternative state that he recorded in patients over four decades of study in transpersonal psychology and psychedelic therapy. The term means ‘oriented or moving towards wholeness’.

stanislav grof

Stanislav Grof, Czech psychologist and pioneer of early psychedelic research

The most reliable way to induce a holotropic state is through the use of psychedelics such as psilocybin (the active compound in β€œmagic mushrooms”) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), neither of which pose any apparent risk of addiction and are physically well-tolerate. But the state is also achievable through meditation and even controlled breathing. It is speculated that it occurs when the filters through which we perceive reality are temporarily inhibited.

It is associated with the sensation of moving towards a state of greater awareness, often accompanied by feelings of awe, ‘connectedness’ and ‘oneness’ with the universe, and the dissolution of a sense of self. Many have described the holotropic experiences as among the most profound of their lives, next to getting married, or the birth of a child.

There are of course many people who will live their entire lives without entering a holotropic state, just as there are people who will never ingest alcohol. The most similar ‘ordinary’ experience to the holotropic state that people may otherwise experience may be in seeing something incredible for the first time.

Overview effect.

except the experience is more sustained and enhanced.


Backdropped by New Zealand, astronauts Robert L. Curbeam Jr. and Christer Fuglesang conduct a spacewalk outside the ISS.

Holotropic states of consciousness are often characterised by changes in day-to-day sensory perception with profound changes in colour, shapes, sounds, smells and tastes, even for familiar objects. Typically the experience is very intense, even overwhelming, yet a person typically does not lose touch with everyday reality.

The emotions associated with holotropic states cover a broad spectrum that range from feelings of ecstatic rapture and heavenly bliss, through to episodes of terror and significant emotional suffering, often depending on the context of the experience.

A few lines about preventing these bad side effects.

the holotropic state visualization

Usually in holotropic states the intellect is not impaired but rather operates in a way significantly different from its day-to-day functioning. While we might not be able to rely in these states on our judgement in ordinary practical matters, we can be literally flooded with remarkable new information and insights on a variety of subjects, from our personal relationships, to careers and personal growth, to a overwhelming sense of wonder for the world around us.

In some cases we can also experience extraordinary revelations concerning various aspects of nature and the cosmos that transcend our educational and intellectual background. By far the most interesting insights gained through holotropic experiences involve philosophical, metaphysical and spiritual issues.

Evidence that substances have been used for thousands of years, though we don’t know for sure their nature.

But the holotropic state may be the most recent name for a tradition that dates back thousands of years. Holotropic states can have enduring emotional changes that can last for months, or even years and decades.

A number of potent psychedelic substances including DMT were found in this pouch from Bolivia, which dates back to between 900 and 1170 AD. Photo by Juan V. Albarracin-Jordan and Jose M. Capriles.

While understanding the risks associated with such altered states as the holotrophic state, reviving rituals that create a lasting connection with our planet at a time when it is at its greatest peril – from climate change, to deforestation, and coral reef bleaching, the holotropic state may be one of the most powerful tools we have to create sustainable change.

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