Art by Nikki Radan: Manila
Gili Karev
I was put on this earth for nothing more than to live and let live.
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Testing the Origins of Consciousness: Sleepless Sanatorium

By Gili Karev

The unknown nature of the subconscious breeds the desire to find answers...

In 1954, an eccentric neuroscientist by the name of John C. Lilly decided to test the origins of consciousness.  By conducting experiments where subjects were placed inside  a lightless, soundless tank filled with salt water, Lilly’s goal was to determine brain waves and measure energy sources of subjects when disconnected from all external stimuli.

When studying brain waves, Lilly discovered that an unstimulated brain transitions from beta or alpha waves – the brain’s state when awake – to theta – a stage typical to sleep and dream states. Similar to the dreamlike phenomenon of enhanced creativity and imagination, the tank invokes a theta state in which the mind can tap into sub-conscious activity.

By tapping into the subconscious, our minds are able to reach altered states of consciousness where we no longer function at a beta wave state. Dreams, sensory deprivation tanks, psychedelic drugs and trance music all have the capacity to change our mental states.  Trance parties and heated demonstrations each invoke the feeling of ‘losing yourself’ – a common way of expressing the effect the theta state has on our minds.

Today, sensory deprivation tanks create this heightened state consciousness without psychedelics or high intensity environments. Used for both relaxation and therapy, these tanks allow subjects to enter controlled states of hallucination. Many spas offer tank treatments for patients suffering from anxiety or physical ailments.

Another benefit of entering a sensory deprivation tank? Elevated creativity. Altered states of consciousness are often associated with innovation and inventiveness. Dreams, in particular, are an illusion of the imagination and often consist of imagery and emotional delusions unfiltered by rational or ‘expected’ behavior – a state that can lead to original thought patterns and ideas. Sensory deprivation tanks work in much of the same way, as they invoke a similar dream-like state and hallucinatory visions that we experience when we sleep.

In a society obsessed with knowledge, the unknown nature of the subconscious breeds the desire to find answers through psychedelics and heavy music. Sensory deprivation tanks are another method of altering our fixed way of thinking and creating to reach an elevated level of consciousness.

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