Human Spiritual Structure: States of Consciousness
Notes in progress © 1998-2002 Alan McAllister  

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In yogic philosophy there are six states of consciousness:

The best text on these states in the Vedantic Psychological tradition is said to the the Mandukya Upanishad.

Some research suggests that both the waking and dreaming states involve a constant dialog between the cerebral cortex and the thalamus, a dance of images and feelings. Lessons of the thalamus and the diencephalon can produce dreamlike states. [AM]

Sleep Cycle

The usual sleeping cycle includes both dream sleep and deep sleep. The brain activity gradually slows as the sleep deepens going through a brief dream state into deep sleep. After perhaps half an hour the activity picks up again and rises into dream sleep, before again slowing down. This cycle repeats 3-4 times in the first six hours of sleep, with the bottom of the cycles becoming less deep and shorter as sleep progresses. Conversely the dream part of the cycle becomes more extensive, and the peak closer to waking. After six hours there is generally no more deep sleep, and most of the time is spent in the dream state.

The amount of time spent in the dream state is related to the amount of unconscious material that needs to be processed. This need will increase when more of the mind is kept unconscious. People who have repressed a great deal may feel generally tired, and need more sleep. On the other hand people who have lost the ability to separate the normally unconscious from the conscious mind (psychotics) and who hallucinate etc. have a reduced need for sleep. When normal people are deprived of the dream sleep they become irritable and nervous, then suspicious and may eventually start to hallucinate as the unconscious puts pressure on the conscious mind for equal time.

When people do mediation, or therapy, etc., which allows repressed material to come forward and integrate in consciousness often the need for sleep is reduced. On the other hand the need for deep sleep appears to vary little from person to person and is not changed by integration of the unconscious.

Yoga NidraAdvanced yogis can go directly to the state of deep sleep and stay there, without the normal cycle. This allows them to reduce the need for sleep to 2-3 hours a night. It is said to be a semi-samadhi, approaching the state of turiiya. This was demonstrated by Swami Rama in a laboratory setting. He was apparently asleep, producing delta waves, and yet he was able to recall conversations and other noises that occurred while he was in that state. By withdrawing the mind fully into the casual kosas, the body and brain may be completely relaxed, while the practitioner is still fully alert and aware of their surroundings.

If one was to spend all night disturbed by continual dreaming, or "on the astral", essentially in a controlled dreaming state, then they will be tired the next day.

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Page Created, February, 1998.
Last updated March 28, 2001.
© Alan McAllister

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