Half-finished, Half-assed ideas about ‘Consciousness Expansion’

Now here’s a topic with which I have little practical experience. Perhaps I should get the opinion of RageBoy, who has…some familiarity with the subject.

The concept of ‘consciousness expansion’ via hallucination has been practiced across cultures and across times. Catalysts have included chemicals, hunger, sleep deprivation, and more, I’m sure. Two concrete examples I can think of are the Native American practice of ‘Vision Quest’ and the LSD counterculture in America in the 1960s. I thought I remembered hallucinitory elements to the Australian Aboriginal ‘Walkabout’ practice, but quick Googling did not turn up such. I am certain that similar practices abound in other cultures throughout history.

What is of import to me is the nature of these experiences. All of my information is secondhand, so, please, correct me if I have it all wrong. It would appear that within cultural groups there are many similarities of experience, but these similarities do not frequently cross cultural boundaries. From users of LSD I hear much talk about ‘seeing sound’ and ‘understanding color’ and paranoic images of creatures on the prowl. Vision quest imagery, on the other hand, seems to be imbued with sprit creatures who guide you through your life.

And so I am wondering…to what can we attribute these differences? The possibilities I see include: culture in which the subject exists, expectations of the experience based on tales from others who have been there, peculiar effects of the cause of the hallucination, Jungian archetypes that are represented in differing ways…I’m sure there are more.

What got me thinking about this is the implication that some new aspect is brought into your everyday life after one of these experiences. And I don’t doubt this to be the case…just makes me wonder: from where does it come?

The obvious answer, to me, is out of the subconscious or unconscious, out of a part of the mind that exists and has been fermenting and growing over the course of a life or a civilization. Atheism and the mind of an engineer keep me from believing any supernatural alternative; there is certainly enough buried in the mind without that.

So how different would the experience be for two people of the same time and place but of vastly different backgrounds? Sheltered versus experienced? Conservative versus liberal? Intelligent versus stupid? It seems like anything that comes up from below must have been seeded down there at some point. There might be something to hardwired archetypal images, but specific knowledge would seem to be overwhelmingly imporatant.

How much does background play into it? Are expectations or current situation the real key?

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