Altered States and the Study of Consciousness – The Case of Ayahuasca.
The Journal of Mind and Behavior Spring 2003, Volume 24, Number 2 Pages 125-154
Benny Shanon The Hebrew University
This paper is part of a comprehensive research project whose aim is to study the phenomenology of
the special state of mind induced by the psychoactive Amazonian potion ayahuasca. Here, I focus on
those aspects of the ayahuasca experience that are related to basic features of the human
Consciousness. The effects of the potion are discussed in terms of a conceptual framework
characterizing Consciousness as a cognitive System defined by a set of parameters and the values that
they take. In various theoretical contexts, these values have been assumed to be basic, paradigmatic
properties of human Consciousness. The phenomenological data pertaining to ayahuasca indicate that
the features at hand can be modified. Following earlier suggestions by William James and Aldous
Huxley, I conclude that any general theory of Consciousness should be based not only on the study of
so-called ordinary Consciousness, but also on that of non-ordinary states.
Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences Abraham H. Maslow
Practically everything that happens in the peak-experiences, naturalistic though they are, could be listed under the headings of religious happenings, or indeed have been in the past considered to be only religious experiences.