Consciousness and altered states


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Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Consciousness regained

After years of deep therapeutic pessimism, emerging therapies offer hope for patients trapped between coma and wakefulness

Aurore Thibaut

Photo courtesy Wellcome Images

Essay/
Neuroscience
Frames of consciousness

Can electrical impulses in the brain explain the stuff that dreams are made on? What a new consciousness-detector reveals

Joel Frohlich

Detail from Self Portrait (1500) by Albrecht Dürer. The text to the right broadly translates as ‘Thus I, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg, created myself with characteristic colours at the age of 28 years.’ Courtesy Wikipedia/Alte Pinakothek München

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Consciousness is real

Consciousness is neither a spooky mystery nor an illusory belief. It’s a valid and causally efficacious biological reality

Massimo Pigliucci

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians pray on the last day of ‘Abiy Tsom’, fifty-five days of fasting ahead of Easter, at Medhane Alem Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 7 April 2018. Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty

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Rituals and celebrations
Divine transports

Whether via music, dance or prayer, the trance state was key to human evolution, forging society around the transcendent

Mark Vernon

Detail of Picture from 8 Sides (1930-6), by Kurt Schwitters; oil and wood relief on panel. Courtesy Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
The consciousness illusion

Phenomenal consciousness is a fiction written by our brains to help us track the impact that the world makes on us

Keith Frankish

A Huichol culture yarn painting from Zacatecas, Mexico. Photo by Charles Mahaux/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
The whole-planet view

Psychedelics offer a sense of expansive connectedness, just like astronauts have felt looking back to Earth from space

Rosalind Watts, Sam Gandy & Alex Evans

Thomas Merton outside the hermitage at Gethsemani in the early 1960s. Used with permission of the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Disturbing the silence

The writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton embodied a paradox, chasing both the purity of silence and the need to break it

Jane Brox