Altered States, Imagery and Healing

Monday, 7th September, 2009 - Health, Mental Health and Exceptional Human Experience Conference 

                                              Liverpool Hope Univeristy, Liverpool  


Forthcoming Talks:

August 2009:

Liberté, légalité, éternité 

September 2009:  

Luck, Psi and Belief in the Paranormal

Altered States, Imagery and Healing



Psi-verts and Psychic Piracy

Brazilian Psi and Altered States Conference: A Review


Paranormal Phenomena and Psychoactive Drugs

Species Connectedness and Psychedelics 

Parapsychology and Psychedelics

Inner Paths to Outer Space

Entheogenic Entity Encounters 

Inducing Near-Death Experiences with Chemicals

Psychonautic Misadventures in Time

Obituary: Duncan Blewett

Tribute: Albert Hofmann 

An Interview

A Preliminary Survey

Paranormal Experiences and Psychoactive Drugs

Paranormal Phenomena and Psychoactive Drugs

Parapsychology: Magic and Science:

A Magical Perspective on Parapsychology

A Parapsychological Perspective on Magic


Recent Talks:

Liberté, légalité, éternité

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes

Psychology and Superstition

Pagan Entheogens

Hofmann, LSD & Parapsychopharmacology

The Neurochemistry of Psi

Entoptics: More Than Meets the Eye?

Parapsychology: Science of the Future or the Past? 

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes 

Luck as a Euphemism for Psi?

Does Psilocybin Cause Psi? 

Death and the God of a Thousand Eyes 

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes

The Neurochemisty of Psi 

Psi may look like luck 

Testing for Precognition

Entheogens: The Religious /Paranormal Bridge

Sacramental Plants and Psi

The Shaman, The Vision and the Brain

Visionary Encounters and Neurochemical Mythology

Psychedelics, Parapsychology and Exceptional Human Experiences

DMT Entities: Deities or Delusion?

Research in Parapsychology: Academic Studies of Magical Phenomena

Superstition, Magic and States of Mind

You Never Know Your Luck: The Psychology of Superstition


Altered States, Mental Imagery and Healing                                  Dr. David Luke

10am, Monday, 7th September, 2009                                          Health, Mental Health and Exceptional Human Experience Conference Liverpool Hope University

The long-standing practice of using mental imagery for healing is inseparable from the use of techniques for altering states of consciousness, be it through hypnosis, ingestion of psychoactive substances, breathing, chanting, dancing, drumming or any other means. Dreaming is one of the earliest documented types of altered state used to induce imagery to bring about healing. The ancient Greeks, for instance, constructed dream temples, called asclepions, sacred to Asclepius, the God of healing. Patients would enter the temple after a period of ritual and lie on a sacred skin called a klínè (from which the term “clinic” is derived). During their dreams either the god would appear to them and, under auspicious circumstances, heal them directly, or else they would receive the rudiments of their own healing within the dream and in the morning an attendant called a therapute (from which the term “therapist” is derived) would help them decipher their dream to identify the appropriate treatment for their sickness. 

Similar processes for invoking mental imagery for healing to those conducted in the Greek asclepions are still used today, particularly within the context of shamanism.


Virtually all shamanic healing rituals make use of altered states of consciousness to produce imagery, and shamanism has been defined by some as the ability to access such states of consciousness at will. This paper explores some of the issues surrounding these shamanic practices, such as the types of ways in which healing might be mediated through the use of mental imagery, be it through psychic diagnosis, psychic healing, catharsis, autosuggestion, or mediating entities. Considering the variety of ways in which healing through such imagery may or may not occur, special discussion is given over to the ontology and epistemology of the shamanic experience, especially in relation to the ostensible phenomena of encountering discarnate entities, plant and animal spirits, synaesthesia, extradimensional percepts, shared visions, out-of-body perceptions and psi. Additionally, in relation to the mental percepts derived from these practices, a brief discussion is made of the different theories that have been put forward to explain shamanism, such as the Ritual Healing Theory. Finally, a brief contrast and comparison will be made between traditional shamanic practices and modern psychotherapeutic uses of imagery in altered states, such as the recent revival in research investigating the use of psychedelic substances in the treatment of addictions and anxiety disorders.