John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology

States of Consciousness: Course Outline

(PSY 372)

Dr. John Suler
Science and Technology Center
Rider University

This course explores the variety of states that comprise "normal" and "altered" consciousness. It highlights how these states are determined by complex interactions between conscious and unconscious mental functions. Key psychological concepts are applied in an investigation of various states of consciousness, especially meditative states and dreams. The course examines both the psychopathological aspects of these states, as well as their potential beneficial effects on creativity and the development of the self.


Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Our Dreaming Mind, by Robert van de Castle
Working and Playing with Dreams , by John Suler
The Evolution of Consciousness, by Robert Ornstein



In this first section of this course (approximately 4 weeks), we will explore different types of meditation, with an emphasis on "mindfulness meditation."We will practice meditation in every class. In our first class meeting we will try out meditation. If you think it's too uncomfortable, a waste of time, or for any reason you strongly dislike it, I suggest that you don't take this course. Videos and audio recordings for this part of the course might include:

- The Illuminated Chakras
- Breathing: The Master Key to Healing
- Creative Visualization Meditations
- Chi Kung Meditations: Taoist Inner Healing Exercises
- The Soul of Healing Meditations

In this second section of the course (approximately 4 weeks), you will be working with your dreams and those of other students. In your journal, you will be getting written feedback about your dreams from other students. If you do not dream often, or at all, that's OK. This is something you can investigate and perhaps change. However, this component of the course may at times be frustrating for you. If this is the case, or if dream work is uncomfortable for you, consider not taking this course. Videos for this part of the course might include:

- What are Dreams?
- The Secret World of Dreams

In this last section of the course (approximately 4 weeks), we will examine a variety of other altered states of consciousness, such as drug-induced experiences, extrasensory perception, psychosis, near-death experiences, sensory deprivation, peak experiences, and religious experiences. Videos and audio recordings for this part of the course might include:

- Life after Life
- Afterlife
- Altered States (see class handout)
- Getting High: A History of LSD
- The Man from Earth
- Neuropop

You will pursue a creative activity that will lead to a creative work. You will present your work to fellow students. This project can be anything of your choice - painting, short story, poem, music, dance, an original "scientific"work, etc. Hopefully, your meditation practice and dream-work will enhance your creative pursuit. If you want to see the creative works of past students, see:

The States of Consciounsess Creativity Gallery

Your journal will contain all your writings for this course. Within the guidelines listed below, feel free to write whatever you want - your opinions, speculations, feelings, imaginings, experiences, memories, etc. Feel free to be as creative as you want.

SOME RULES (points will be deducted for not following them!):

-- use a tight binder that securely holds the journal together
-- use standard size looseleaf paper
-- put each entry on a separate page
-- for each entry put a title on the top line of the page. Be creative!
-- put a page number and the date on each entry
-- at the beginning of the journal put a table of contents that includes the title, date, and page number of each entry
-- put a divider between each section of the journal


1. MEDITATION (you must have 10 entries on 10 separate pages)
In these entries, discuss your ideas about meditation. For example: What are your reactions to the meditations we are doing in class? Are you trying meditation on your own? How is it going? Are your opinions about meditation changing? Do you see meditative states of consciousness at other times in your life.... etc.

2. DREAMS (you must have 10 entries on 10 separate pages)
In these entries, discuss your dreams and your ideas about dreams. Simply describing your dreams is not sufficient. You must WORK with the dream. You might also discuss your attempts to remember dreams, events in your life that might be affecting your dreams, your opinions about dreams and dream interpretation. What reactions do you have to our in-class work with dreams?... etc.

3. CREATIVITY PROJECT (10 entries on 10 separate pages)
In these entries write about your progress on your creative project. What ideas are you considering? How do those ideas come to you? What is the creative process like for you? How do you get stuck and unstuck? What does the project say about your personality?

4. REACTIONS TO THE BOOKS (10 entries on 10 separate pages)
In these entries, describe your reactions to the books. What did you like or dislike about them? What did you find useful or interesting in them?

5. DIALOGUES (10 entries on 10 separate pages)
During the semester you must give 10 entries from your journal to other students (NOT writings we passed around in class!). On the entry, they will write their reactions to what you said. In this Dialogue section, you create new entries where you RESPOND to what the person wrote. Be sure to indicate on each of these new entries which original entry you are referring to (title & page #). Do not put those original entries in this section.

6. MISC STUFF (any other writings or materials from class)

Each entry must be at least half of the standard looseleaf page!
(don't try to cut corners by skipping lines or making big margins!)

A point in deducted for each entry that is missing or incomplete (no title, date, insufficient length, describing a dream without working on it) Journals are due on the last day of classes and will be returned to you on the day of the presentations (the date of the final exam). 5 points will be deducted for every day a journal is handed in late. No exceptions!

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