“Mega” Ecstatic States

By Paul Robear

Following the trail of more examples of  alternate reality experiences and ecstatic states of consciousness led us to the recent research on the influence of the group experience in what commonly is referred to as mega-churches. This research conducted by University of Washington Professor Jim Wellman found that attendance of a mega-church can have an effect on the brain similar to the high one gets from illicit drugs. The connection is a neurochemical called oxytocin, which “strongly influences the workings, thoughts, decisions, and tendencies of the prefrontal cortex”. A megachurch sermon can create an “oxytocin cocktail” in your brain that includes other neurotransmitters and hormones. These combine to build a “sense of recognition, trust, and a reduction of stress.”

The debate continues as to what causes this ecstatic state, whether it is the cadence of the sermon, the beat of christian rock performances or other factors. In recent years there has been significant neuro-acoustic research indicating the effects of rhythmic sound on the brain.

Dr. Goodman’s research established that rhythmic sound stimulation of the human body  can produce a profound change in consciousness, enabling one to experience different areas of the alternate reality. She went on to conclude that no belief system is required to reach an ecstatic state and that through the use of postures, we create a safe, dependable way to access these states.

History:  It was at Denison University that Dr. Goodman worked with her students as test subjects. She employed some of the methods (e.g., rhythmic sound stimulation) she had observed were inducers of trance in her earlier research in apostolic churches in Mexico. Although her students reported success in achieving “an altered state of consciousness,” Dr. Goodman was disappointed with the noticeable lack of common ground of the experiences. Shortly thereafter, she hit upon the missing ingredient that would give unity to religious trance experiences. After learning that the posture of the body in meditation practices can produce certain physiological changes, Dr. Goodman searched for postures that she could use in her trance research. She found what she was looking for in pictures and illustrations of small statues and cave art that were thousands of years old and that probably represented self-contained religious rituals. In practicing some of these body postures with volunteers, using a rattle as the rhythmic stimulus to induce trance, Dr. Goodman observed that their state of consciousness was altered in a remarkable way: They entered a trance-state that provided a gateway into the alternate reality, where they experienced ecstasy. The rattle’s or drum’s 210 beats-per-minute rhythm helps to break through a strategic barrier of the nervous system and achieve a changed state of consciousness, one that allows a trance experience, including visions.

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