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Holotropic states of consciousness


Normal states of consciousness correspond to our usual consensus reality with the perceptions of a three-dimensional space and linear time and the reference to the ego-self.

Of the non-normal or altered states of consciousness, those are especially interesting that expand consciousness beyond the ego-self and acquire a mystical dimension. These expanded states of consciousness allow the realization to be more than 'skin-encapsulated egos' (Alan Watts), they allow changed perceptions of time and space, as well as the connection and identification with other forms of being such as plants, animals, minerals, stones, symbols, archetypes, myths, cultures, rituals and many more.

Terms such as 'extraordinary states of consciousness' or 'altered states of consciousness' are sometimes used synonymously. The term 'expanded states of consciousness' is intended to emphasize the opening character moving towards wholeness, as well as to make it clear that these states are neither abnormal nor completely separated from everyday consciousness.

Recognizing that these states do not have their own name in technical terminology, Stan Grof introduced the term 'holotropic states of consciousness' (HSC).



Since time immemorial, HSC have been used in an institutionalized framework across all cultures, regions and times for spiritual purposes, for healing and shaping one's own consciousness development, and for self-exploration. They belong to the oldest traditional cultural acts of mankind.


The metaphors for describing an experience that transcends the rational level of the word range from the hereafter, astral or consciousness journeys through otherworld, fourth or fifth dimension and multiverse to vision, trance and ecstasy. On these 'journeys' an 'area' is entered which is mostly closed to the understanding of the rational mind and for which only a few maps are available. These are the work of shamans, yogis, mystics and, more recently, transpersonal therapists, equipped with the 'cartography of the psyche' by Stanislav Grof.

Traditionally, HSC are triggered in ritual practices by a variety of possible techniques such as breathing techniques, fasting, meditation, prayer, drumming and many more, or by the use of psychoactive substances and plants. In moments of strong emotional and physical stress, HSC can also occur spontaneously. These include near-death experiences and visions, as well as in sports or with intense concentration, flow etc.

HSC allow a view of one's own life situation on an extended level. In this way they help to restore an inner balance between body, soul, spirit, society, nature and cosmos and to solve and reorganize systems that have gotten into disorder. HSC correspond to the basic human need to understand and transcend ordinary existence; they dissolve the usual forms of perception and thus open the view into another world, into another dimension.

It is by following, and then abandoning, the rational and emotional path of "word and discrimination" that one is enabled to enter upon the intellectual or intuitive
"path of realization."

Aldous Huxley



If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro 'narrow chinks of his cavern.

William Blake

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