Altered States of Consciousness - A four part series

Throughout time and across cultures, people have been employing altered states of consciousness (ASC) to commune with the spiritual world in order to gain knowledge, favour and an understanding of awareness. 

KhoiSan Shaman entering trance by taking on form of Eland in Kamberg Nature Reserve Rock ArtThese altered states have been explored via a wide range of methods, including dancing, drumming, meditation or through the use of psychoactive substances.  Even today, in a modern world, our drive for attaining altered states remains strong. Whether it is for escapism, recreation or further spiritual understanding, our methods for attaining altered states are as varied as our ancestors. 

Unfortunately, in a society where objective, rational and reductionist thought are predominant, our understanding of how to enter into altered states and why we choose to, has become limited and constrained.  This prevents us from realising what can be fully gained from the experience.

This series of workshops attempts to address these issues, by examining the practices and spirituality of traditional cultures that still rely heavily on attaining altered states of consciousness and comparing them to our own.  Is there anything from their wisdom that we can learn and incorporate, in order to understand our consciousness in modern times better?  By doing so, perhaps we can gain insights into other ways of dealing with the stresses and ordeals of a modern world.

Altered States of Consciousness Series Workshop Outline

The Altered States of Consciousness series is broken down into 3 x 4-day workshops, (Friday to Monday) followed by a journey over 5 Saturdays to different sites around Melbourne for the 4th workshop.

It is not necessary to attend all four workshops, however as each workshop in the series expands on ideas, concepts and work undertaken in the previous workshops, all previous workshop in the series must be completed in order to attend the following workshop in the series.  Therefore, there is no requirement to commit to subsequent workshops, until the previous ones have been completed. 

All workshop days will commence at 9:30am and complete around 4:30pm.

Dates for each of the workshops are as follows :

    # ASC Workshop Description Venue 2018 Dates
    1. Altered States : A Shamanic Perspective Ceres - Brunswick East Fri 6th July - Mon 9th July
    2. Altered States : Tools for the Journey Ceres - Brunswick East Fri 24th Aug - Mon 27th Aug
    3. Ancestors, Totemic Beings & Spirit Guides Ceres - Brunswick East Fri 28th Sept - Mon 1st Oct
    4. Nature as Medicine & Medicinal Objects Ceres & around Melbourne 5 Saturdays over Nov/Dec

Cost and Registration

Booking and registration essential.

In order to keep the workshops small and intimate, the maximum amount of attendees per workshops will be limited to 12-15 people. So please book in early to ensure a spot in the workshop if it speaks to you.

The course series workshops will cost $475 per workshop.  There will also be an additional cost of $20 per Sweatlodge Ceremony  which will be payable on the day of the ceremony.  $375 will be required as a deposit and the $100 balance will be made payable on the first day of each workshop.  Deposit must be paid 2 weeks before the workshop start date.

To register please download and complete the ASC registration form.  To stay notified on upcoming further workshops, or any queries, please email to discuss further details. 

Altered States of Consciousness Series Workshop Details

Details of the contents of each of the four workshop in the ASC series is as follows :

1. Altered States : A Shamanic Perspective

The first workshop focuses more on theory and a conceptual investigation that provides a solid foundation of understanding for various models of altered states of consciousness, traditional methods for inducing altered states and differences between contemporary and shamanic journeys.  The workshop is broken up into 4 general sections and will be run over 4 consecutive days.

Notions of Ego, Self and Identity

One's identity of self is transformed considerably during altered states of consciousness, so this provides an opportunity for investigation of the transformations that might occur in an altered state. Psychological models are compared to conventional and shamanic notions of the self.  Religion, mythology and spiritual beliefs or lack thereof are also investigated to determine how they affect ones sense of identity when undergoing an altered state of consciousness.

Induction Methods and Traditional use of EntheogensShipibo Textile Art

Various induction methods (triggers for an altered state of consciousness) are analysed and entheogens (psychoactive substances that induce spiritual experiences) across various traditional cultures are investigated.  Here, we will separate fact from fiction, dispel romantic notions and attempt an objective and honest discussion of how and why hallucinogenics (such as peyote, mushrooms and ayahuasca, iboga etc.) are traditionally used.  We will also discuss the value, complications and dangers of entheogen use within the framework of a modern contemporary society. 

Navigation into an Altered State of Consciousness and the importance of the return.

Here we will explore views of the shamanic journey into an altered state of consciousness and compare it to contemporary practices and attempt to map out themes that might generally be encountered in an altered state journey.  While much focus is usually on the experience of an altered state, we will also discuss the importance and difficulty of the return from an ASC, grounding and factors to consider when attempting to integrate the experience within an ordinary world. 

Sweatlodge Ceremony (Optional)

SOTEMS SweatlodgeA sweatlodge ceremony will be performed to experience a purification ceremony that induces an altered state of consciousness.  This will assist to investigate and solidify the notions that have been discussed over the course of the workshop.  If you have not experienced a sweatlodge ceremony previously, please read the linked page on sweatlodges at SOTEMS to ensure you are familiar with what to expect and how to prepare.



2. Altered States : Tools for the Journey

Whenever one enters an altered state of consciousness, it is best to have the landscape mapped out in order to know how to navigate and what to expect within the journey.  This workshop aims to introduce the notions of what to expect and why.  We will investigate what is required to navigate into these landscapes and return in a manner that promotes vitality and wholesome outcomes, while understanding what causes ego fragmentation and ongoing problematic separations from reality.

The Emotional Landscape

This section discusses how and why our emotional content, both conscious and unconscious affects our inner landscape and thus gets projected within the altered state of consciousness.  We examine emotions such as fear and anxiety and investigate their impact on a spiritual landscape and how we might engage, in a more constructive manner, with these aspects when they arise.

Myth and Mythology

Hermes - Messenger of the godsWe will also examine the nature of myth and mythology as both a spiritual belief structure and a tool for navigation of spiritual landscapes. We will look at common motifs from mythologies across the world, such as creation stories, the axis mundi, apocalypse stories and death & resurrection (journeys into the underworld).  Is mythology just ancient superstition or does it provide clues and maps on how to journey, engage and return from journeys into an altered states of consciousness?

A Map and Compass for the Journey

Map and CompassHere, we will investigate the Spirit of the Earth Medicine Society Dreaming Wheel as an example of a map and a compass that can be used to engage with the landscape of an altered state of consciousness.    The Dreaming Wheel can be used as a map to represent physical and spiritual aspects of both the inner and outer worlds and also provides a compass with which to orientate ourselves in spiritual landscapes, especially hostile or overwhelming ones.

Sweatlodge Ceremony (Optional)

Building on our experience and learnings from the first and second module, another sweatlodge ceremony will be offered to experience a purification ceremony that induces an altered state of consciousness.  This will further assist in solidifying the notions that have been discussed over the course of the workshop. 

3. Ancestors, Totemic Beings and Spirit Guides

Sangoma Dancing in Celebration of his ancestorsThis workshop investigates the nature of those that can inhabit an altered state or spirit world and how to interact with them.  A common factor across cultures is the adoption of very strict and precise protocols in engaging with the spirit world, and this workshop aims to address why this is the case.  How do we, as contemporary Australians engage with these resources, when many of us don't have a strong cultural background which defines our spiritual behaviour nor provides the necessary guidelines of engagement ?

Ancestors as a Bloodline Spiritual Resource

Across a diverse range of cultures and across time, people have honoured their ancestors in the belief that they have a continued existence passed death.  Many cultures believe that their ancestors continue to have a strong influence over the day to day lives of their descendants and can act as a intermediary to the spirit world, if the proper respect and protocols are undertaken.  This includes offering of prayers, food & drinks (libation), sacrifice, songs or honouring them through a specific cultural or ancestral context.  We investigate these notions to see whether this is merely antiquated superstition or whether we can gain resources for our own lives through the practice of honouring the deceased, whose bloodline we share.  We also ask the questions whether we inherit more than just our physical makeup from those that came before us ?

Totemic Beings & Spirit Guides

In non-diasporic shamanic traditions, the land upon which we reside and interact with in our daily lives, very strongly determines the nature of the spiritual world that we engage with.  As we reside on a land which is not necessarily that of our ancestors, how do we engage with totemic beings of this land as contemporary Australians ?  Is there a way for us to develop a uniquely Australian spirituality that can speak to modern Australia about our issues and lives that doesn't encroach on, nor appropriate the aboriginal culture of this land ?

Sweatlodge Ceremony

Building on our experience and learnings from the previous modules, another sweatlodge ceremony will be offered to experience a purification ceremony that induces an altered state of consciousness.  This sweatlodge will be specifically themed on honouring and engaging with our ancestors and some specific totemic beings of this land.

4. Nature as Medicine and Medicinal Objects

Mountain Ash TreesThis workshop will be very experiential and we will visit various parts of Melbourne that look very ordinary at first, however using a different lens of perspective, we will see how we can engage with the spirits of these areas.  We will learn how to use these spaces for solace and further developing  resources for our daily lives.  We will also build sacred & personal medicinal objects that can be used as a powerful source of healing, medicine and anchoring during altered state journeying.

This workshop will be held over 5 Saturdays.   The timing of this workshop will be based on the collective input of all participants that have completed the first three workshops and wish to continue with the fourth.

Drug Policy

While these workshop will very much be focused around altered states of consciousness and a certain amount of subject matter will focus on the use of entheogens in traditional cultures, please note there will be no illicit use of any psychoactive substances in these workshops whatsoever.  The focus of these workshops is to understand altered states of consciousness in their entirety.  If your aim is to find out about or promote any illicit activities within an Australian context, then this series of workshops is probably not for you.  Likewise, anyone suspected of being under the influence or subsiding from effects of illicit substances will be asked to leave the workshop without reimbursement. 

Course Facilitator

Guy is a traditionally trained and initiated sangoma.  A sangoma is a traditional healer of Southern Africa, effectively a shaman of the Zulu and related Nguni cultures.Shamanic Initiation for Sangoma

Born and raised in South Africa, he is one of only a handful of westerners that have undergone the long and intense ordeal of thwasa (the formal traditional training and initiation process) in order to become initiated into the traditions of the Southern African traditional healers.   

Now working from the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne, Guy offers a very unique, but powerful and profound to help deal with the stresses and ordeals that modern life exerts upon our soul's journey through life.  This modality can be suited for personal, couples or group work.

Guy is also a Ceremonial Leader and initiated shaman in the Spirit of the Earth Medicine Society [SOTEMS], a non-profit Australian organisation which is dedicated to developing new forms of Australian Spirituality and healing based on traditional healing (shamanic) methods for contemporary Australians.

Last modified: 21-Apr-2018