Consciousness and altered states


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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

Essay/
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

Burning Man festival, Black Rock City, Nevada, 2002. Photo by Cristina Garcia Rodero/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Subcultures
The big empty

How an impossibly flat expanse of absofreakinglutely nothing inspires creativity and transformation at Burning Man

Graham St John

A shaman-healer prepares for an Ayahuasca ceremony in La Calera, Cundinamarca. Photo by Eitan Abramovic/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Caves all the way down

Do psychedelics give access to a universal, mystical experience of reality, or is that just a culture-bound illusion?

Jules Evans