Colored Inklings: Altered States of Consciousness and Literature

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The phrase "stream of consciousness" to indicate the flow of inner experience was first used by William James in Principles of Psychology (1890) yet writers throughout the ages have described the altered states of consciousness which arise when this stream is diverted from its normal courses: from the visions and dreams described by mystics in the earliest religious texts, to the modern accounts written by neuroscientists. This chapter highlights the importance of literature for the study of consciousness and describes how the development of writing affected a shift in human experience second only to the development of language itself by extending our capacity to think beyond the here and now. It then goes on to explore how authors throughout the ages have explored altered states of consciousness in their personal lives and in their literary work with particular emphasis on religious experience, drug use, hypnosis and dissociative states.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAltering Consciousness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
EditorsEtzel Cardeña, Michael Winkelman
Volume1 (His
ISBN (Print)978-0313383083
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2011


  • Altered States of Consciousness
  • Consciousness
  • Psychology
  • Literature
  • Culture


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