It is said that Socrates was guided by singular inspirations and thoughts which on a occasion took the form of audible voices. When he was about forty years old he is supposed to have had trance-like states in which he would maintain a standing posture for hours.
He stood motionless from early morning on one day until sunrise on the next through a whole night when there was a very hard frost. Today this behavior would be considered a sign of serious mental illness, and even in his own time Socrates came to be considered a criminal.
Yet mystics through the ages have related the inspirational experience of divine sights and sounds, and they often undertook to open themselves to such experience in intensive and sometimes prolonged periods of concentration and meditation.
Hallucinations are imaging of the mind which has become fixed in intensity and interest. When that mental imaging is under control, it can result in the most profound creative thinking. Are hallucinations symptoms of the depths of mental illness, or are they the creative frontier of consciousness?
With the advent of LSD [lysergic acid diethylamide], the evocation of altered states of consciousness with hallucinations –the so-called psychedelic experience –become a fad among the youth of Western civilization and threatened to rupture the social fabric in some areas of Western culture. While the acid craze has passed, the fad of the psychedelic experience has taken root in a broader, worldwide quest for expanded consciousness and awareness.
The quest is not without risk. The shortcut provided by drugs –marijuana, cocaine and phencyclidine [PCP], to name a few –now produce many psychiatric causalities, from mild, insidious habituation up to the extreme of murder and mayhem.
In recognition of the source of human consciousness, we must observe that it is not the substance which is the cause of mental and physical hell. Rather, it is the ignorance of the principles of self-mastery which bears such bitter fruit.
In the mystical tradition, human consciousness is born of consciousness and proceeds through a process of individualization and maturity. In this process, human consciousness has the birthright and the potential to achieve divine fulfillment.
The nascent human consciousness, or soul personality, is a unique, personal consciousness, which has before it vast realms of experience and opportunity for self-realization. Through the instrument of objective individuality, it explores, tests, and tries a universe of physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences in the process of individuation and maturation.
In imagination, an experience having the characteristic of a sense perception –sight, sound, taste, touch, and so forth –may be evoked by toxic conditions, tumors, and chemicals. The subject cannot distinguish this experience from those evoked by natural sensory processes, even though the experience may be quite bizarre.
The perception is experienced as being real. In addition, hallucinations may be evoked by severe emotional and physical stress.
Patients in mental hospitals commonly describe hallucinatory experience in these words: “chemicals are being poured over me,” “I hear my name being called,” “voices are telling me to do things.” In one instance, a patient described voice directing him to stop his criminal behavior. He admitted ignoring the voices and he was subsequently arrested and incarcerated.
Some patients report the hallucinations as having been very meaningful for them at the time. But in retrospect they no longer recognize or appreciate the meaning. Some patients, with apparent deliberateness, cultivate ongoing conversations and relationships with voices, ignoring or even defying responsibility for their personal life in ordinary reality. Some of these individuals abuse metaphysical teachings and practices to achieve the artificial experience.