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Ayahuasca and the concept of reality. Ethnographic, theoretical, and experiential considerations. (cont.)
By Luis Eduardo Luna, Ph.D., F.L.S.

Altered States of Consciousness

Consciousness in general was until recently almost a taboo in academic circles. Roger Penrose (1994:8) states, “a scientific world-view which does not profoundly come to terms with the problem of conscious minds can have no serious pretensions of completeness. Consciousness is part of our universe, so any physical theory which makes no proper place for it falls fundamentally short of providing a genuine description of the world.” Western rational thinking, as pointed out by Frecska (2005), marginalizes or even pathologizes ASCs (altered states of consciousness). It considers them deviant states, unable to differentiate between disintegrative and integrative forms, and cultivates only the basic state of consciousness. It is unfortunate that the theme of ASCs is still anathema in most learning centers, even more so in therapeutic practice.

In a much-quoted paragraph, William James (1929:378-9) affirms:

“Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential form of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality that probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded". [italics mine].

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