Trance denotes a variety of processes, techniques, modalities and states of mind, awareness and consciousness. Trance states may occur involuntarily and unbidden.

The term "trance" may be associated with meditation, magic, flow, and prayer. It may also be related to the earlier generic term, altered states of consciousness, which is no longer used in "Consciousness Studies" discourse.


Trance is from Latin 'transīre': "to cross", "pass over" and the multiple meaning of the polyvalent homonym "entrance" as a verb and noun provide insight into the nature of trance as a threshold, conduit, portal and/or channel.

Trance, n. [F. 'transe' fright, in OF. also, trance or swoon, fr. 'transir' to chill, benumb, to be chilled, to shiver, OF. also, to die, L. 'transire' to pass over, go over, pass away, cease; trans across, over + ire to go; cf. L. 'transitus' a passing over. See Issue, and cf. Transit.

An intransitive usage of the verb 'trance' now obsolete is 'to pass', 'to travel'.

Working models

Trance is increasingly used as a meta-paradigm and inclusive term for different states of consciousness and what has come to be known as altered states of consciousness. No value judgement on the states is intended. The trance as meta-paradigm model has been developing through the confluence of various fields and disciplines since the 1970s.

Hoffman (1998, p.9) writes "Over the past few decades, less of a value judgement has been made regarding whether these states are deeper or lighter or better or worse than ordinary consciousness. This means that usual, everyday consciousness no longer unequivocally ranks first, as it had for so long in the West."

Hoffman (1998: p.10) writes further that " the anthropologists and ethnologists (for example Felicitas Goodman) tell us, there are no traditional rituals or ceremonies that truly work and change our reality without the use of trance."

Wier, in his 1995 book, "Trance: from magic to technology", defines a simple trance (p.58) as being caused by cognitive loops which always result in various sets of disabled cognitive functions. With this simple definition, Wier defines meditation, hypnosis, addiction and charisma as complex forms of the simple definition. In Wier's 2007 book, "The Way of Trance," he elaborates on these forms, adds ecstacy as an additional form and discusses the ethical implications of his model, including magic.

John Horgan in "Rational Mysticism" (2003) explores the neurological mechanisms and psychological implications of trances and other mystical manifestations. Horgan incorporates literature and case-studies from a number of disciplines in this work: chemistry, physics, psychology, radiology and theology.

Critique of term usage

Some people respond passionately to the usage of the term trance. Trance has a parallel history of negative associations and connotations. This article seeks to embrace these differences and engage them as a mutually rewarding dialogue, rather than contrive a homogenous position. Brian Inglis (1989) provides an interesting literature review and overview of the absence and oversight of 'trance' in reference materials.

Working definitions

*Enchantment: a psychological state induced by (or as if induced by) a magical incantation
*a state of mind in which consciousness is fragile and voluntary action is poor or missing
*a state resembling deep sleep
*Capture: attract; cause to be enamored; "She captured all the men's hearts"; in the sense of entranced
*a condition of apparent sleep or unconsciousness, with marked physiological characteristics, in which the body of the subject is liable to possession
*an out-of-body experience in which one feels they have passed out of the body into another state of being, a rapture, an ecstasy. In a general way, the entranced conditions thus defined are divided into varying degrees of a negative, unconscious state, and into progressive gradations of a positive, conscious, illumining condition.
*a state of hyper or enhanced suggestibility.
*an induced or spontaneous sleep-like condition of an altered state of consciousness, which permits the subject's physical body to be utilized by the discarnate as a means of expression
*an altered state of awareness induced via hypnotism in which unconscious or dissociated responses to suggestion are enhanced in quality and increased in degree
*a state induced by the use of hypnosis; the person accepts the suggestions of the hypnotist
*a state of consciousness characterized by extreme dissociation often to the point of appearing unconscious.

Trance conditions include all the different states of mind, emotions, moods and daydreams that human beings experience. All activities which engage a human involve the filtering of information coming into sense modalities and hence, brain functioning and consciousness. Therefore, trance may be understood as a matter of functionality and efficiency ~ to economize consciousness resource usage.

Trance states may also be accessed or induced by various modalities and is a way of accessing the unconscious mind for the purposes of relaxation, healing, intuition and inspiration. There is an extensive documented history of trance as evidenced by the case-studies of anthropologists and ethnologists and associated and derivative disciplines. Hence trance, may be perceived as endemic to the human condition and a Human Universal. Principles of trance are being explored and documented as are methods of trance induction. Benefits of trance states are being explored by medical and scientific inquiry. Many traditions and rituals employ trance. Trance also has a function in religion and mystical experience.

Castillo (1995) states that: "Trance phenomena result from the behavior of intense focusing of attention, which is the key psychological mechanism of trance induction. Adaptive responses, including institutionalized forms of trance, are 'tuned' into neural networks in the brain and depend to a large extent on the characteristics of culture. Culture-specific organizations exist in the structure of individual neurons and in the organizational formation of neural networks."

Hoffman (1998: p.9) states that: "Trance is still conventionally defined as a state of reduced consciousness, or a somnolent state. However, the more recent anthropological definition, linking it to 'altered states of consciousness' (Charles Tart), is becoming increasingly accepted."

Hoffman (1998, p.9) asserts that: "...the trance state should be discussed in the plural, because there is more than one altered state of consciousness significantly different from everyday consciousness."

Origins and history

Temple of Epidaurus: healing sleep

According to Hoffman (1998: p.10), pilgrims visited the Temple of Epidaurus, an asclepieion, in Greece for healing sleep. A seeker of healing would make pilgrimage and be received by a priest who would welcome and bless them. This temple housed an ancient religious ritual promoting dreams in the seeker that endeavoured to promote healing and the solutions to problems, as did the oracles. This temple was built in honour of Asclepios, the Greek God of Medicine. The Greek treatment was referred to as incubation, and focused on prayers to Asclepios for healing. The asclepion at Epidaurus is both extensive and well preserved, and is traditionally regarded as the birthplace of Asclepius. (For a comparable modern tool refer dreamwork.)

Oral lore and storytelling

Stories of the saints in the Middle Ages, myths, parables, fairy tales, oral lore and storytelling from different cultures are themselves potentially inducers of trance. Often literary devices such as repetition are employed which is evident in many forms of trance induction. Milton Erickson used stories to induce trance as do many NLP practitioners.


From at least the 16th century it was held that march music may induce soldiers marching in unison into trance states where according to apologists, they bond together as a unit engendered by the rigors of training, the ties of comradeship and the chain of command. Conversely, the detractor may hold that they entrain as automaton. This effect was widely evident in the 16th, 17th and 18th century due to the increasing prevalence of firearms employed in warcraft. Military instruments, especially snare drum and other drums were used to entone a monotonous ostinato at the pace of march and heartbeat. High-pitched fifes, flutes and bagpipes were used for their "piercing" effect to play the melody. This would assist the morale and solidarity of soldiers as they marched to battle.


As the mystical experience of mystics generally entails direct connection, communication and communion with Deity, Godhead, deity and/or god; trance and cognate experience are endemic. Refer: Yoga, Sufism, Shaman, Umbanda, Crazy Horse, etc.

Christian mystics

Many Christian mystics are documented as having experiences that may be considered as cognate with trance, such as: Hildegard of Bingen, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Saint Theresa (as seen in the Bernini sculpture) and Francis of Assisi.

Mesmer and the origin of hypnotherapy

*Mesmer, an influential but discredited promoter of trance states and their curative powers.
*Milton Erickson, the founder of hypnotherapyFact|date=February 2008 who died in 1980, introduced trance and hypnosis to orthodox medicine and psychotherapy - hypnosis here, is something different from traditional clinical hypnosis.

Trance in American Christianity

Taves (1999) charts the synonymic language of trance in the American Christian traditions: "power" or "presence" or "indwelling" of God, or Christ, or the Spirit, or spirits. Typical expressions include "the indwelling of the Spirit" (Jonathan Edwards), "the witness of the Spirit" (John Wesley), "the power of God" (early American Methodists), being "filled with the Spirit of the Lord" (early Adventists), "communing with spirits" (Spiritualists), "the Christ within" (New Thought), "streams of holy fire and power" (Methodist holiness), "a religion of the Spirit and Power" (the Emmanuel Movement), and "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" (early Pentecostals). (Taves, 1999: 3)

Trance and Anglo-American Protestants

Taves (1999) well referenced book on trance charts the experience of Anglo-American Protestants and those who left the Protestant movement beginning with the transatlantic awakening in the early Eighteenth century and ending with the rise of the psychology of religion and the birth of Pentecostalism in the early Twentieth century. This book focuses on a class of seemingly involuntary acts alternately explained in religious and secular terminology. These involuntary experiences include uncontrolled bodily movements (fits, bodily exercises, falling as dead, catalepsy, convulsions); spontaneous vocalizations (crying out, shouting, speaking in tongues); unusual sensory experiences (trances, visions, voices, clairvoyance, out-of-body experiences); and alterations of consciousness and/or memory (dreams, somnium, somnambulism, mesmeric trance, mediumistic trance, hypnotism, possession, alternating personality). (Taves, 1999: 3)

Current practice

Today hypnotherapists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, sports psychologists and NLP practitioners, amongst others, use various forms of trances.

Neurolinguistic Programming (or NLP) is a further development of Milton Erickson's hypnotherapy, for which, however, he did not provide an orthodox methodology. Erickson would put his patients in trance with short stories. While keeping the ego of his patients occupied, he would target his healing messages straight at their unconscious mind, which he believed to have considerable self-healing powers. In this way he healed himself of the paralysis that affected him when young and to which he did finally succumb later in life.


Beta brain waves designate the general state of waking consciousness. As a consequence, this state has been 'normalized'. This normalization is a challengable value judgement. This consciously awake beta state may still be considered as a trance because it involves the selective of information and utilizes cognitive, awareness and mentation resources in specific ways.

William James (Neophytou, 1996): cquote|Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it by the flimsiest screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different…. No account of the universe in its totality can be final, which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.

Gurdjieff (Neophytou, 1996): cquote|Consciousness [normal waking] is a state of light Hypnosis and few people are ever truly awake.

Aldous Huxley (Neophytou, 1996): cquote|Normal consciousness is a narrow segment of our potential consciousness. He regarded the brain and sense organs as a kind of reducing valve thru ["sic"] which experience was funneled to protect us from being overwhelmed.

Trance induction and sensory modality

Trance-like states which are often interpreted as religious ecstasy or visions and can be deliberately induced using a variety of techniques, including prayer, religious rituals, meditation, pranayama (breathwork or breathing exercises), physical exercise, coitus (and/or sex), music, dancing, sweating (e.g. sweat lodge), fasting, thirsting, and the consumption of psychotropic drugs such as cannabis. Sensory modality is the channel or conduit for the induction of the trance. Sometimes an ecstatic experience takes place in occasion of contact with something or somebody perceived as extremely beautiful or holy. It may also happen without any known reason. The particular technique that an individual uses to induce ecstasy is usually one that is associated with that individual's particular religious and cultural traditions. As a result, an ecstatic experience is usually interpreted within the context of a particular individual's religious and cultural traditions. These interpretations often include statements about contact with supernatural or spiritual beings, about receiving new information as a revelation, also religion-related explanations of subsequent change of values, attitudes and behaviour (e.g. in case of religious conversion).

Benevolent, neutral and malevolent trances may be induced (intentionally, spontaneously and/or accidentally) by different methods:
*Auditory driving through the sense of hearing by chanting, auditory story telling, mantra, overtone singing, drumming, music, etc.;,
*Kinesthetic driving through the sense of feeling and movement through the kinesphere by dance, story telling by movement, mudra, embodying rituals, yoga, breathwork,oxygen deprivation, sexual stimulation etc.;
*Visual Driving through the sense of sight by yantra, visual story telling, mandala, cinema, theater, art, architecture, beauty, strobe lights, form constants, symmetry;
*Olfactory driving through via scent through the sense of smell by perfume, pheromones, incense, flowers, pollen, indeed any scent for which we have an association or memory, etc.;
*Gustatory driving through the sense of taste and indigestion; including: starvation, herbs, hallucinogens and drugs. As the intake of food and beverage entails intra-bodily chemical reactions through digestion, some infer that all food may be considered 'medicine' or 'drugs' and therefore contribute to the induction of discernible psycho-physical states (refer Ancient Medicine). It can be attained through the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol and opiates, or psychoactive plants and chemicals such as LSD, 2C-I, peyote, marijuana, mescaline, Salvia Divinorum, MDMA, psychedelic mushrooms, or datura (Jimson weed).; and
*Disciplines: Yoga, Sufism, Surat Shabd Yoga; meditation; and
*Miscellaneously: traumatic accident, sleep deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), fever, by the use of a sensory deprivation tank or mind-control techniques, hypnosis, meditation, prayer; and
*Naturally occurring: dreams, lucid dreams, euphoria, ecstasy, psychosis as well as purported premonitions, out-of-body experiences, and channeling.

Auditory driving and auditory art

Charles Tart provides a useful working definition of auditory driving. It is the induction of trance through the sense of hearing. Auditory driving works through a process known as entrainment.

The phenomenon of auditory driving is culturally still clearly evident and may be found in electronic dance music culture, which in many ways may be considered a modern version of shamanism. The same effect is caused by many jam bands. Churches which chant their services may also induce the same effects resulting in a trance state through the use of odd inflections and off-kilter or polyrhythmic structures. Similarly, white noise has been scientifically documented to assist neural connectivity, creativity and problem-solving.

Rhythmic induction

The usage of repetitive rhythms to induce trance states is an ancient phenomenon. Throughout the world, shamanistic practitioners have been employing this method for millennia. Anthropologists and other researchers have documented the similarity of shamanistic auditory driving rituals among different cultures.

Said simply, entrainment is the synchronization of different rhythmic cycles. Breathing and heart rate have been shown to be affected by auditory stimulus, along with brain wave activity. The ability of rhythmic sound to affect human brain wave activity, especially theta brain waves, is the essence of auditory driving, and is the cause of the altered states of consciousness that it can induce.

The music genre of Trance is supposed to have the same effect on the human mind as military drums, causing listeners to dance in unison with simple movements including head bobs, light bouncing/jumping and humming.

Visual driving and visual art

Charles Tart provides a useful working definition of photic or visual driving. It is the induction of trance through the sense of sight. Photic or visual driving works through a process known as entrainment.

Nowack and Feltman have recently published an article entitled "Eliciting the Photic Driving Response" which states that the EEG photic driving response is a sensitive neurophysiological measure which has been employed to assess chemical and drug effects, forms of epilepsy, neurological status of Alzheimer's patients, and physiological arousal. Photic driving also impacts upon the psychological climate of a person by producing increased visual imagery and decreased physiological and subjective arousal. In this research by Nowack and Feltman, all participants reported increased visual imagery during photic driving, as measured by their responses to an imagery questionnaire.

Dennis Wier ( Accessed: 6 December 2006) states that over two millennia ago Ptolemy and Apuleius found that differing rates of flickering lights effected states of awareness and sometimes induced epilepsy. Wier also asserts that it was discovered in the late 1920s that when light was shined on closed eyelids it resulted in an echoing production of brain wave frequencies. Wier also opined that in 1965 Grey employed a stroboscope to project rhythmic light flashes into the eyes at a rate of 10-25 Hz (cycles per second). Grey discovered that this stimulated similar brain wave activity.

Research by Thomas Budzynski, Oestrander "et al.", in the use of brain machines suggest that photic driving via the Suprachiasmatic nucleus and direct electrical stimulation and driving via other mechanisms and modalities, may entrain processes of the brain facilitating rapid and enhanced learning, produce deep relaxation, euphoria, an increase in creativity, problem solving propensity and may be associated with enhanced concentration and accelerated learning. The theta range and the border area between alpha and theta has generated considerable research interest.

Kinesthetic driving

Charles Tart provides a useful working definition of kinesthetic driving. It is the induction of trance through the sense of touch, feeling or emotions. Kinesthetic driving works through a process known as entrainment.

The rituals practiced by some athletes in preparing for contests are dismissed as superstition, but this is a device of sports psychologists to help them to attain an ecstasy-like state. Interestingly, Joseph Campbell had a peak experience whilst running. Roger Bannister on breaking the four-minute mile (Cameron, 1993: 185): "No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed." Roger Bannister later became a distinguished neurologist.

Mechanisms and disciplines may include kinesthetic driving may include: dancing, walking meditation, yoga and asana, mudra, juggling, poi (juggling), etc.

Sufism (the mystical branch of Islam) has theoretical and metaphoric texts regarding ecstasy as a state of connection with Allah. Sufi practice rituals (dhikr, sema) using body movement and music to achieve the state.
Idries Shah amongst others, have asserted that the source of G. I. Gurdjieff's teachings are the Naqshbandi Sufis.

Types and varieties

*Maenads and Bacchae: In Greek mythology, "Maenads" were female worshippers of Dionysus, the Greek god of mystery, wine and intoxication, and the Roman god Bacchus. The word literally translates as "raving ones". They were known as wild, insane women who could not be reasoned with. The mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy; they indulged in copious amounts of violence, bloodletting, sexual activity, self-intoxication, and mutilation. They were usually pictured as crowned with vine leaves, clothed in fawnskins and carrying the thyrsus, and dancing with wild abandon. They also were characterized as entranced women, wandering through the forests and hills.¹ The Maenads were also known as "Bassarids" (or "Bacchae" or "Bacchantes") in Roman mythology, after the penchant of the equivalent Roman god, Bacchus, to wear a fox-skin, a "bassaris".

*Viking berserkers were said to have often entered battle naked and entrenched in a state of primal rage, biting their shields and howling like wolves. This fanaticism was so powerful that they were known to continue fighting even after having lost limbs or being otherwise deeply wounded.

*Samadhi: Yoga provides techniques to attain a state of ecstasy called Samadhi. According to practitioners, there are various stages of ecstasy, the highest of which is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Different traditions have different understanding of Samadhi.

*Bhakti: (Devanāgarī: भक्ति) is a word of Sanskrit origin meaning "devotion" and also "the path of devotion" itself, as in "Bhakti-Yoga". Within Hinduism the word is used exclusively to denote devotion to a particular deity or form of God. Within Vaishnavism bhakti is only used in conjunction with Vishnu or one of his associated incarnations, it is likewise used towards Shiva by followers of Shaivism. Saints in these traditions exhibit different trance states or ecstasy.

*Agape or Divine Love: the term 'Agape' appears in the Odyssey twice, where the word describes something that creates contentedness within the speaker.
*Communion: In the monotheistic tradition, ecstasy is usually associated with communion and oneness with God. Indeed, ecstasy is the primary vehicle for the type of prophetic visions and revelations found in the Bible. However, such experiences can also be personal mystical experiences with no significance to anyone but the person experiencing them.

*Rapture or Religious ecstasy: is an altered state of consciousness characterized by greatly reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness which is frequently accompanied by visions and emotional/intuitive (and sometimes physical) euphoria. Although the experience is usually brief in physical time, there are records of such experiences lasting several days or even more, and of recurring experiences of ecstasy during one's lifetime. Subjective perception of time, space and/or self may strongly change or disappear during ecstasy.

*Siddhi: is a Sanskrit term for spiritual power (or psychic ability); it literally means "a perfection." It is known in Hinduism and Tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism. These spiritual powers or perfections supposedly vary from relatively simple forms of clairvoyance to being able to levitate, to degrees of omnipresence, to become as minuscule as an atom, to manifest or materialize objects, to have access to memories from past lives, access to the akashic records, and more. The term became known in the West through the work of H.P. Blavatsky. Siddhi powers are said to be obtainable by meditation, control of the senses, devotion, herbs, mantras, pranayama, or good birth.

*Peak experiences: is a term developed by Abraham Maslow and used to describe certain extra-personal and ecstatic states, particularly ones tinged with themes of unification, harmonization and interconnectedness. Participants characterize these experiences, and the revelations imparted therein, as possessing an ineffably mystical (or overtly religious) quality or essence.

*Stigmata: In his paper "Hospitality and Pain", iconoclastic Christian theologian Ivan Illich "Compassion with Christ... is faith so strong and so deeply incarnate that it leads to the individual embodiment of the contemplated pain." Illich's thesis is that stigmata manifests from exceptional poignancy of religious faith and desire to associate oneself with the suffering Messiah. Interestingly, stigmatics have manifested the Holy Wounds in different bodily locations possibly due to subjective interpretation or envisioning.

*Eschatology and the Messianic Age
*Rapture of the deep

*In Christianity, the ecstatic experiences of the Apostles Peter and Paul are recorded in Acts 10:10, 11:5 and 22:17.

*Some charismatic Christians practice ecstatic states (called e.g. "being slain in the Spirit") and interpret these as given by Holy Spirit.

*In hagiography (writings on the subject of Christian saints) many instances are recorded in which saints are granted ecstasies. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia [] , religious ecstasy (called "supernatural ecstasy") includes two elements: one, interior and invisible, in which the mind rivets its attention on a religious subject, and another, corporeal and visible, in which the activity of the senses is suspended, reducing the effect of external sensations upon the subject and rendering him or her resistant to awakening.

Play and learning

The activity and rite of play is endemic not only to the human species, but evident throughout nature. Play often involves trance elements. Many notables in consciousness studies and trance have been engaged in research on play and its role in cognitive development and learning, namely: Jean Piaget, William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Lev Vygotsky, etc. Indeed, 'lila' (Sanskrit) is the 'play', 'sport' and 'pastime' of 'gods' or deva (Sanskrit).


Trance states have also long been used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals, being particularly cultivated in some religions, such as Tibetan Buddhism.

Some anthropologists and religion scholars define a shaman as an intermediary between the natural and spiritual world, who travels between worlds in a trance state. Once in the spirit world, the shaman would commune with the spirits for assistance in healing, hunting or weather management. Ripinsky-Naxon describes shamans as, “People who have a strong interest in their surrounding environment and the society of which they are a part.”

Other anthropologists critique the term "shamanism", arguing that it is a culturally specific word and institution and that by expanding it to fit any healer from any traditional society it produces a false unity between these cultures and creates a false idea of an initial human religion predating all others. However, others say that these anthropologists simply fail to recognize the commonalities between otherwise diverse traditional societies.

Achieving ecstatic trances is a major activity of shamans, who use ecstasy for such purposes as traveling via the axis mundi to heaven or the underworld, guiding or otherwise interacting with spirits, clairvoyance, and healing. Some shamans use drugs from such plants as peyote and cannabis or certain mushrooms in their attempts to reach ecstasy, while others rely on such non-chemical means as ritual, music, dance, ascetic practices, or visual designs as aids to mental discipline.

Australian shamanism

Lawlor (1991: p.374) states that:

The supernormal, super sensory powers of Aboriginal wise woman and men of high degree, by their own accounts, comes directly from initiations administered by the ancestral sky heroes themselves and by the totemic spirits. Those who have gone through these initiations alone, in a deep trance that makes them lose their personal identities and confront manifestations of the ancestral powers, are held in the highest regard.

Lawlor (1991: p.303) states that:

One such animal dance ceremony was observed and photographed by Gillen and Spencer. More than 30 naked men gathered in a large circle. One by one, each man performed the dance of the animal to be hunted while the others sang and slapped their buttocks to create a percussive beat for the dancer. The slapping sound was so loud that it could be heard for miles across the surrounding desert. The dance continued for hours, with each man dancing frenetically until he dropped from exhaustion. The eyes of the onlookers soon became glazed with entrancement; their penises were erect in a state of ecstatic arousal. Finally, after the last man had performed the animal dance and collapsed in exhaustion, the entire group leaped on him, emitting a loud abandoned cry. The next day the hunt began.


Divination is a cultural universal which anthropologists have observed as being present in many religions and cultures in all ages up to the present day (refer sibyl). Divination may be defined as a mechanism for ascertaining information by interpretation of omens or an alleged supernatural agency [1] and as divination often entails ritual as different to fortune-telling is often facilitated by trance.

Nechung Oracle

In Tibet, oracles have played, and continue to play, an important part in religion and government. The word "oracle" is used by Tibetans to refer to the spirit, deity or entity that enters those men and women who act as media between the natural and the spiritual realms. The media are, therefore, known as "kuten", which literally means, "the physical basis".

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, still consults an oracle known as the "Nechung Oracle", which is considered the official state oracle of the government of Tibet. He gives a complete description of the process of trance and possession in his book "Freedom in Exile". [] .

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce (1877 – 1945) was an American psychic who claimed to channel answers to questions on subjects such as health, astrology, reincarnation, and Atlantis while in a kind of sleep trance. Cayce's methods involved lying down and entering into what appeared to be a trance or sleep state, usually at the request of a subject who was seeking help with health or other issues (the subjects were not usually present). The subject's questions would then be given to Cayce, and Cayce would proceed with a "reading". At first these readings dealt primarily with the physical health of the individual ("physical readings"); later readings on past lives, business advice, dream interpretation, and mental or spiritual health were also given.


Trance has been shown to be very psychologically beneficial, by helping to relieve built up stress, allowing one to reflect on life issues without censorship or guilt, and generally giving the psyche respite from operating at alpha or delta states. Trance forms though such as meditation may be contraindicated for certain individuals with a history of mental illness and people on certain psychotropic medications, for example. There have been studies published in defensible journal of peers (provide source) that grace and thanksgiving (for example) vocalised, enacted, thought and felt prior to consumption of meals may assist with digestion and nutrient uptake and utilization by the bodymind (refer Agape feast, eucharist, ganachakra, etc.) Generally, one is only in a theta state for a period of minutes, right before going to sleep, and when waking up. Being in a theta state for 15 minutes is considered to be an 'extended period'. With the use of auditory driving, or other meditative techniques, this time can be extended significantly.

Scientific disciplines

Convergent disciplines of neuroanthropology, ethnomusicology, electroencephalography, neurotheology and cognitive neuroscience, amongst others, are conducting research into the trance induction of altered states of consciousness resulting from neuron entrainment with the driving of sensory modalities. For example polyharmonics, multiphonics, and percussive polyrhythms through the channel of the auditory and kinesthetic modality.

Neuroanthropology and cognitive neuroscience are conducting research into the trance induction of altered states of consciousness (possibly engendering higher consciousness} resulting from neuron firing entrainment with these polyharmonics and multiphonics. Related research has been conducted into neural entraining with percussive polyrhythms. The timbre of traditional singing bowls and their polyrhythms and multiphonics are considered meditative and calminative and the harmony inducing effects of this potentially consciousness alterning tool are being explored by scientists, medical professionals and therapists.

Brain waves and brain rhythms

Scientific advancement and new technologies according to Wier such as computerized electroencephalography (EEG), EEG topographic brain mapping, positron emission tomography, regional cerebral blood flow, single photon emission computed tomography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, amongst others, are providing measurable tools to assist in understanding trance phenomena. All brain waves are analogous to different types of trance in that they utilise brain and consciousness resources differently and provide different input and information s.

Though a source of contention, there appear to be three current streams of inquiry: Neurophysiology, Social Psychology and Cognitive Behaviourism. The neurophysiological approach is awaiting the development of a mechanism to map physiological measurements to human thought. The social-psychological approach currently measures gross subjective and social effects of thoughts and some critique it for lack of precision. Cognitive behaviorialists employ systems theory concepts and analytical techniques.

There are four principal brain wave states that range from high amplitude, low frequency delta through to the low amplitude, high frequency beta. These states range from deep dreamless sleep to a state of high arousal. These four brain wave states are common throughout humans. All levels of brain waves exist in everyone at all times, even though one is foregrounded depending on the activity level. When a person is in an aroused state and exhibiting a beta brain wave pattern, their brain also exhibits a component of alpha, theta and delta, even though only a trace may be present.

Upon waking from a deep sleep in preparation for arising, your brain wave frequencies increase through the different stages of brain wave activity, moving from delta to theta and then to alpha and into beta.

Gamma waves

Gamma waves have the highest range of frequencies (around 40 Hz) and are involved in higher mental activity. They have also been detected during the process of awakening and during active rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Beta waves

Beta waves are the most common of the brain wave patterns that occur when awake. These occur during period of intense concentration, problem solving, and focused analysis. The frequency of beta waves is between 13-30 Hz (cycles per second).

Alpha waves

Alpha waves are any of the electrical waves from the parietal and occipital regions of the brain, having frequencies from 8 to 12 hertz (cycles per second). Some scientists consider the range 8 - 13 Hz and are most usual when we are mentally alert, calm and relaxed, or when day-dreaming. Alpha waves are a sign of relaxation, as they indicate a lack of sensory stimulation in a conscious person.

Theta waves

Theta waves occur when we are mentally drowsy and unfocused, during deep calmness, most daydreaming, relaxation or tranquility, as for example we make the transitions from drowsiness to sleep or from sleep to the waking state. The frequency of theta waves is between 4-7 Hz (cycles per second) though some researchers regard theta to be 5 to 8 cps.

In brain wave frequencies, theta is the frequency range where drowsiness, unconsciousness, dreaming states and deep tranquility happen. Most daydreaming occurs while in the theta range.It is normally a very positive mental state and prolonged states of the theta brain wave frequency while conscious can be extremely productive and a time of very meaningful/creative mental activity.

With practice, meditation can also lower a person's brain wave frequency to theta while allowing the meditator to remain conscious.

Delta waves

Delta waves occur primarily during deep sleep or states of unconsciousness. The frequency of delta waves is between 0.5-4 Hz (cycles per second).


The Vaishnava Bhakti Schools of Yoga defines Samadhi as "complete absorption into the object of one's love (Krishna)." Rather than thinking of "nothing," true samadhi is said to be achieved only when one has pure, unmotivated love of God. Thus samadhi can be entered into through meditation on the personal form of God, even while performing daily activities a practitioner can strive for full samadhi.


*¹ Wiles, David (2000). "Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction". Cambridge University Press. Source: []


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See also

* Altered state of consciousness
* Autohypnosis
* Channelling
* Consciousness
* Contemplative education
* Dhikr
* Dreaming
* Ecstasy (emotion)
* Ecstasy (philosophy)
* Entheogen
* Entrainment
* Hallucinations in the sane
* Henri Bergson
* Hesychasm
* Highway hypnosis
* Huston Smith
* Hypnagogia
* Hypnosis
* Immanence
* Jesus Prayer
* Meditation
* Milton Erickson
* Mysticism
* Nirvana
* Oneness (concept)
* Possession
* Religious experience
* Rigpa
* Samadhi
* Satchitananda
* Shamanism
* Transcendence
* Transpersonal psychology
* Unio Mystica
* Wajad

External links

* [ The Trance Institute]
* [ Trance Research Foundation]
* [] Exploring the science behind hypnosis and suggestion

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