New Insights into ESP, Hallucinations and ASC
Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, April 2018
10 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2017 Last revised: 24 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 27, 2017
Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) induced by meditation, psychedelic drugs, or physiological lesion are quite an important and fascinating field in the investigation of modern psychology. However, due to the difficulty in approaching subjective experiences through positive research, ASC are still puzzling and controversial. This paper attempts to develop a comprehensive framework to study ASC.
Our study starts from summarizing four essential phenomena (hallucinations, paranormal phenomena, mystical experiences and enhanced awareness) in ASC after a systematic analysis of numerous empirical materials.
Hallucinations are the most common phenomena in ASC. Different from most research focusing on the generation mechanism of hallucinations from the perspective of neurophysiology, we propose a universal model for hallucinations to reveal the formation mechanism of different states of hallucinations from a unique perspective. Our starting point is that there are two pathways through which to affect perception: When false internal stimulations and external objective stimulations affect perception together, the changes in their relative strength will result in the consistence, breakdown and re-consistence of the five senses, leading to three basic states of hallucinations (one can distinguish reality from fantasy, one cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, and reality and fantasy are totally reversed).
As an implication of this model, the third state of hallucinations suggests a novel hypothesis to interpret extrasensory perception (ESP): the essence of ESP is that false internal stimulations are mistaken as external objective stimulations which enter through sensory organs, while real external objective stimulations are mistaken as perceptions which do not result from sensory organs when one is in deep hallucinations. Moreover, in the second state of hallucinations, the inconsistence of the five senses can also explain the generation mechanism of out-of-body experiences, synesthesia and many other marvelous psychedelic phenomena in ASC. Thus, we arrive at a conclusion that paranormal phenomena are simply illusions that happen along with deep hallucinations.
Mystical experiences occur in Samatha. Although it is still unknown to the generation mechanism of Samatha, according to the experiential descriptions, we conclude that thinking activities halt because of non-duality and perception shuts down to activate a new mode of apperceiving, one totally different from the usual five sense mode of perception.
Compared with hallucinations and mystical experiences, enhanced awareness is often neglected when discussing ASC. However, it is highly significant. In ordinary conditions, perception has a natural threshold for its sensitivity for the purpose of biological survival. But in abnormal conditions, awareness becomes more sensitive because the perception-filtering function gets weakened to allow the influx of more details, resulting in various unusual capabilities, one of which is Buddhist Vipassana.
On the basis of above research, we develop an analytical framework for ASC comprising two dimensions: three mechanisms (hallucinations, enhanced awareness and Samatha) and three stages (the process of loss of the self, the obliteration of the self and the process of recovery of the self). By figuring out the complex relationship among them, we fortunately reveal the mystery between Buddhist tranquility and insight: Vipassana after Samatha is the path to attain enlightenment.
Keywords: extrasensory perception (ESP), hallucinations, altered states of consciousness (ASC), paranormal phenomena, filtering model
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation