Supplementary Lecture Notes: Chapter 1: Introduction

        © 2013-19 Imants Barušs

    A note about these "Supplementary Lecture Notes"

Please note that these "Supplementary Lecture Notes" are supplementary in that the textbook itself is actually the "lecture notes" (that happened to get published as a book). So these notes are not meant to replace the textbook. What you will find here is a list of the topics that are covered in each class (usually just a list of the sections of the textbook), a summary of some of the material that is covered in class that is not in the textbook, and some references to the material that is not in the textbook.


   Course Outline
   Additional Material
Introduction to Consciousness Studies
   Perspectives on consciousness
   Definitions of consciousness
   Beliefs about consciousness and reality
Anomalous phenomena
Scientism vs. authentic science
The politics of science


Welcome to the Altered States of Consciousness course! This is one of only a few university level altered states of consciousness courses in the world at the moment (and I have helped to set up some of the ones at other universities), so you are in a unique position to be able to learn this subject matter. This is my 31st year of teaching at King's and every year that I have been teaching here, I have taught at least one course in consciousness. I initially developed this course as a way of splitting off the altered states of consciousness material from the study of consciousness and then wrote the textbook specifically for this course. This is my 18th year of teaching this course. I am looking forward to sharing with you a bit about what I have learned about altered states of consciousness.

So, first, a few practical matters about the course:

Please see the course outline for which there is a link in the "Resources" box. Please let me know if you have any questions about it.

You need to know everything that is in the text. You need to know the names in the text, but not in parentheses. The names in parentheses are for citation purposes.

There are 49 sample test questions under the “Sample Test Questions” link in the “Resources” box on the course web site. The answers to those questions are on the bottom of this page.

With regard to class conduct: No talking, texting, tweeting, facebooking, emailing, messaging, watching movies, etc. Notebook computers are to be used only for taking notes or following on the course website during the class. You can check your phones and your email, etc. during the break in the class.

I use a “chalk and talk” style of teaching. I’m telling you a story and I want you to use your imagination to follow what I am saying. I will use PowerPoint and other media sparingly when it enhances our classroom experience, but I am not going to use it just for the sake of using it.

Here is a strategy that some students have found helpful in the past: Read each chapter before that class. Bring the textbook to class and follow along in the textbook making notes in the margin or separate sheets of paper when I say something that isn’t in the textbook. Remember, the textbook is my lecture notes.

Another helpful strategy is to make notes on file cards rather than sheets of paper. Write something that you need to know on the front of the card and the information about it on the back. E.g., You might write on the front of the card: “What was the hit rate for students from the Julliard School in the Ganzfeld studies?” and on the back: “10 out of 20.”

Please remember that if you need help, you need to come to see me before the tests and exam. I can help you to figure out how to better learn the material and perform on the tests, but once a test has been written, there is nothing I can do to change your mark (unless, of course, there is an error in grading, in which case you should not hesitate to draw that to my attention).


Our introduction to the study of altered states of consciousness begins with an introduction to the study of consciousness. There are three important topics that we need to cover:

Perspectives on consciousness
Definitions of consciousness
Beliefs about consciousness and reality

While I say a bit about beliefs about consciousness and reality in the textbook, in class I will probably go over a table that helps to explain these beliefs. The following is the table:

Table 1





Beliefs About Reality
























Extraordinary Experiences

Extraordinary Beliefs

Inner Growth


Mind-Body Problem


Physical Monism




Mental Monism










Religious Affiliation






Own Beliefs



Notions of







Altered States


Emergent Property


Evidence of Spirit


Ultimate Reality




Gives Meaning


Key to Growth


Significance of Consciousness






All There Is


Note: Correlations of Beliefs about Reality with Various Variables. Based on 334 completed questionnaires using various multivariate analyses including cluster and factor analyses. Adapted from p. 129 of Imants Barušs The Personal Nature of Notions of Consciousness (1990, University Press of America).

"An investigator's ideas about consciousness are intimately linked to her beliefs about the nature of reality, as Robert Moore and I found in a 1986 survey of academics and professionals who could potentially write about consciousness in the academic literature (Barušs, 1990a; Barušs & Moore, 1989). On the basis of 334 completed questionnaires using various multivariate analyses, we found a clear material-transcendent dimension of beliefs about reality with correlated notions of consciousness.

"We summarized the data by noting that there were three positions that could be identified along the material-transcendent dimension: the materialist, conservatively transcendent and extraordinarily transcendent. The materialist position is defined by a belief that reality is exhaustively physical in nature and that science is the proper way to know reality. The conservatively transcendent position is characterized by both the importance placed on meaning and religious ideation, the notion that reality has both physical and non-physical aspects and that herrneneutic knowledge may be more profound than scientific knowledge. The extraordinarily transcendent position consists of claims of extraordinary experiences such as mystical experiences, of extraordinary beliefs such as a belief in reincarnation and emphasis placed on examination of the inner experiential world and self-transformation. Those tending toward the extraordinary position believe that the physical world is an extension of a mental reality and that there are paranormal means of obtaining knowledge.

"These beliefs about reality were intertwined with notions of consciousness, so much so, in fact, that in subsequent discussions, Robert Moore and I simply referred to them as "beliefs about consciousness and reality" (Barušs & Moore, 1992). Those tending toward a materialist position are likely to think of consciousness as information in an information-processing system, as an emergent property of brains or computation, and as being characterized by always being of or about something, a property of mind that is known as "intentionality" in the philosophy of mind. Those tending toward a conservatively transcendent position emphasize subjective aspects of consciousness and see consciousness as giving meaning to reality and as being evidence of a spiritual dimension. For those tending toward the extraordinarily transcendent position, consciousness is the ultimate reality as well as the key to inner growth, and emphasis is placed on altered states of consciousness rather than objective or subjective aspects of the normal waking state. The significance of consciousness increases from being a by-product of information processing for the materialist to being critically important for the conservatively transcendent to being all that exists for the person at the extraordinarily transcendent pole. A summary of the results is given in Table 1.

"This brings up the first point about the future of science, namely, the necessity for scientists to examine their beliefs about consciousness and reality. In addition to mastering the body of literature in their respective disciplines and learning relevant research skills, scientists may need to undertake a process of self-examination to determine their personal beliefs and to learn how to set them aside in order to be free to examine the evidence. This is not as easy as it at first appears. Considerable effort can be required to understand oneself. However, there are techniques that have been developed in different traditions (e.g., Ferrucci, 1982) that can be used by someone interested in examining and changing her psychological nature (Barušs, 1996). It would not be difficult to introduce practices from this body of knowledge to scientists as part of their training in order to facilitate their self-exploration. Indeed, the implications of the availability of these techniques go beyond the matter of freedom from being constrained by one's beliefs in that they could be used for more profound self-transformation." (Barušs, 2001, pp. 58-59)

    Anomalous Phenomena

We can't get far in the study of altered states of consciousness without running into anomalous phenomena. Anomalous phenomena are phenomena that do not fit conventional explanations of reality. I chose a nice study by Daryl Bem and Charles Honorton as an introduction to the sort of thing that we are going to encounter in various forms in this course.

Something about which I do not talk about in the book, but that makes a second good example of anomalous information transfer are the early remote viewing studies at the Stanford Research Institute by Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ. Pat Price, the remote viewer, correctly described unique features of a facility in Semipalatinsk, East Kazakhstan that was used by the Soviet Union for nuclear tests from 1949 to 1990. More information, along with photographs, can be found in the following article:

Puthoff, H. E. (1996). CIA-initiated remote viewing program at Stanford Research Institute. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10(1), 63–76.

In order to see it, click here: jse-10-1.pdf, and then scroll down to pages 69–72.

For additional information, Dean Radin has created a "Show Me" page on his web site, titled "Selected Psi Research Publications," for those who want to see the scientific evidence for anomalous phenomena: These are articles in peer-reviewed academic journals of scientific research demonstrating the existence of anomalous phenomena. There is also a recent review article by Etzel Cardeña in the American Psychologist. The full reference is given below. Here is the abstract:

“This article presents a comprehensive integration of current experimental evidence and theories about so-called parapsychological (psi) phenomena. Throughout history, people have reported events that seem to violate the common sense view of space and time. Some psychologists have been at the forefront of investigating these phenomena with sophisticated research protocols and theory, while others have devoted much of their careers to criticizing the field. Both stances can be explained by psychologists’ expertise on relevant processes such as perception, memory, belief, and conscious and nonconscious processes. This article clarifies the domain of psi, summarizes recent theories from physics and psychology that present psi phenomena as at least plausible, and then provides an overview of recent/updated meta-analyses. The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms. The evidence for psi is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them. The article concludes with recommendations for further progress in the field including the use of project and data repositories, conducting multidisciplinary studies with enough power, developing further nonconscious measures of psi and falsifiable theories, analyzing the characteristics of successful sessions and participants, improving the ecological validity of studies, testing how to increase effect sizes, recruiting more researchers at least open to the possibility of psi, and situating psi phenomena within larger domains such as the study of consciousness.” (Cardeña, 2018, p. 663)

What does this tell us about the nature of consciousness? For one thing, such anomalous phenomena suggest that consciousness has non-local properties. Hence, any theory that fails to account for such properties has poor goodness-of-fit to the data. However, given that there is robust evidence for such phenomena, why do we not hear about them in our university classes? The answer lies in the beliefs about consciousness and reality, the social psychology of science, and the politics of science which are discussed in the textbook.


Barušs, I. (1990). The Personal Nature of Notions of Consciousness. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.
Barušs, I. (2001). The art of science: Science of the future in light of alterations of consciousness. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 15(1), 57-68.
Cardeña, E. (2018). The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review. American Psychologist, 73(5), 663-677. DOI:10.1037/amp0000236

Puthoff, H. E. (1996). CIA-initiated remote viewing program at Stanford Research Institute. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10(1), 63–76.

    Answers to Sample Test Questions

1. B 2. A 3. B 4. E 5. A 6. B 7. D 8. C 9. B 10. E 11. C 12. E 13. E 14. D 15. D 16. A 17. D 18. D 19. D 20. D 21. C 22. B 23. E 24. C 25. E 26. B 27. A 28. B 29. B 30. B 31. A 32. D 33. E 34. A 35. E 36. D 37. E 38. E 39. D 40. B 41. B 42. B 43. A 44. E 45. D 46. B 47. D 48. D 49. B



© 2013-18 Imants Barušs