chapter  14
18 Pages

Altered states and transformation

In the last paragraph of his Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), William James says that “the whole drift” of his education persuades him “that the world of our present consciousness is only one of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also.” Altered states of consciousness are what have given us access to those other meaningful worlds-at least since the cave painters of the last Ice Age. Over the past 500 years, however, Western culture has not been receptive to the idea that there may be anything of value in mystical or other altered states, even though a genuinely “scientifi c” spirit ought to be open to investigate every sort of phenomenon.