By Pam Sheppard
What is an altered state of consciousness or briefly an ASC? First of all, I believe it should be clarified that each of us has a different normal state of consciousness. Take driving to work for example. If you travel the same path for years on end to your job, you will find that if you are going to shop in a store within the vicinity of your former workplace, the familiarity of the road may trigger an “alter” of your state of consciousness. Instead of making the turn to the furniture store, perhaps you subconsciously drove towards your former job site. Minor “altered states” like this are triggered by familiarity but most of all by routine.
Keeping it simple, there are moments in time when our sensations, perceptions, thoughts and emotions are “altered” from our normal state and several events can trigger the alteration. In such cases, we experience a diminished executive control and our soul’s function of protection begins to change.
Everyone has experienced a mild trance like state from time to time where we strongly thought that we picked up our keys, but we really never touched them. Likewise, we can get caught up in a sports game on TV, a movie, cooking, even day dreaming.
So an altered state of consciousness is on a wide spectrum, from very mild daydreaming to deep trances that are induced by artificial means. The list is long— hypnosis, chanting, meditation, yoga, trauma, drugs, and sexual orgasm, to name but a few. In the mid 19th century, Max Weber, the Father of Sociology, defined the altered state in a way that very accurately portrays how altered states of consciousness are induced during congregate worship services.
Weber stated that an altered state of consciousness is entered into in two ways: by tradition and by charisma. He defines tradition as an automatic and unthinking repletion of a person who manifests passivity through lethargy and inertia. Traditional ASC”s are predictable and mundane, consisting of a life governed by routine. On the other hand, charisma is just the opposite. It is a quality of human personality that is extraordinary and treated as though it is endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least exceptional powers, qualities and abilities.
Astoundingly, I noticed that Weber described in the 19th and early 20th century our own present day church experience within his definition for simply put, there are two main churches: the denominational or “traditional” churches and the non- denominational or “charismatic” churches, whether they be Pentecostal or word of faith.
So when churchgoers holler out with piercing yells, when their heads bob back and forth like mechanical toys, when they groan, shake and vibrate uncontrollably, or race around the church at full speed ,or bang themselves into the church walls, screaming like they are literally on fire, or stagger around with slurred speech as if drunk, they have undoubtedly entered into an altered state of consciousness which resembles a panic attack.
With a panic attack, the heart starts to race, followed by uncontrollable shaking, convulsing, slurred words, an inability to walk, and hyperventilating will bring on fear, thus a panic attack. On the other hand, a similar description can be applied to a charismatic altered state as manifested in church, often referred to as “catching the Holy Ghost.” it has been described as an involuntary contraction of your ab muscles, similar to a quick jerk. Unlike a panic attack, the churchgoer passively embraces a supernatural manifestation because the churchgoer is deceived into believing that the Holy Spirit is upon them. Those standing might look like they were punched in the stomach.
How do these manifestations happen? Why do they occur? I suspect that they begin with the gathered assembly entering into an altered state through hypnotic music, followed by the maneuvers of a charismatic leader who either is intuitively in sync with group dynamics or who has been trained in the practices and techniques of hypnotism. By design and forethought, the leader purposefully triggers these outbursts, with the help of evil spirits loosed in the congregation.
The first time I saw slain in the spirit was in 1979, in a denominational church service of less than 100 people, where an unknown Pentecostal woman was the guest preacher. She had practically everyone laying on the ground, bouncing up and down like human balls, wailing, babbling and twerking. So people like John Crowder, Rodney Howard Brown, Patricia King and other 21 century contemporaries did not usher in Christian mysticism.in fact, Marie Woodworth Etter and some of her contemporaries, and then years later, strange manifestations occurred during the Asuza Street and the Wales Revivals. So the strangeness of today has its roots in the strangeness of yesterday. What commenced with others has catapulted over the last 10 years or so into a widespread phenomena.
Simply put, it is not the work of the Holy Spirit but the work of fallen angels and demons. .