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Related: religion - trance

The Ecstatic Virgin Anna Katharina Emmerich (1885) - Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840 - 1915)


Ecstasy, from the Greek ekstasis, to be outside oneself, is a category of trance or trancelike states in which an individual transcends ordinary consciousness and as a result has a heightened capacity for exceptional thought or experience. These may include profound emotional feeling, intense concentration on a specific task, extraordinary physical abilities, and especially awareness of non-ordinary mental spaces, which may be perceived as spiritual (the latter type of ecstasy often takes the form of religious ecstasy). This heightened capacity is typically accompanied by diminished awareness of some other matters. For instance, if one is concentrating on a physical task, then one might cease to be aware of any intellectual thoughts. On the other hand, making a spirit journey in an ecstatic trance involves the cessation of voluntary bodily movement.

Achieving ecstatic trances is a major activity of shamans, who use ecstasy for such purposes as travelling to heaven or the underworld, guiding or otherwise interacting with spirits, clairvoyance, and healing. Some shamans use drugs from such plants as peyote and cannabis in their attempts to reach ecstasy, while others rely on such non-chemical means as ritual, music, dance, ascetic practices, or visual designs as aids to mental discipline. The rituals followed by some athletes in preparing for contests are dismissed as superstition, but this is a device of sports psychologists to help them to attain an ecstasy-like state.

In Buddhism espicially in the pali canon there are 8 states of trance also called absorption. The first four of these states are called Rupa or materially oriented. The next four are called Arupa or non-material. These eight states are preliminary trances which lead up to final saturation which apon return to the phenomenal world manifests as enlightenment.

It takes great effort, years of sustained meditation ,to reach even the first absorption when the meditator characteristically notices the sustained lucidity of a non-material light enveloping him/her. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstasy [May 2005]

Religious ecstasy

Religious ecstasy is a trance-like state characterized by expanded mental and spiritual awareness and is frequently accompanied by visions, hallucinations, and physical euphoria. Such an experience usually lasts about a half-hour. However, there are many records of such experiences lasting several days, and some people claim to have experienced ecstasy over a period of over three decades, or to have recurring experiences of ecstasy during their lifetime.

Religious ecstasy can be distinguished from spirit possession and hypnosis in that ecstasy is not accompanied by a loss of consciousness or will on the part of the subject experiencing it. Rather, the person experiencing ecstasy notices dramatic changes in his or her physiological responses and psychological perceptions. In some instances, ecstasy is induced accidentally or spontaneously, thereby creating intense fear and doubts about the mental health of those who experience it.

Religious ecstasy can be deliberately induced using a variety of techniques, including prayer, meditation, Gospel music, breathing exercises, dancing, fasting, thirsting, and the consumption of coffee, wine, and/or psychotropic drugs. The particular technique that an individual uses to induce ecstasy is usually one that is associated with that individual's particular religious and/or cultural traditions. As a result, an ecstatic experience is usually interpreted within the context of a particular individual's religious and/or cultural traditions.

Kriya yoga, a type of yoga popularized in the West by Paramahansa Yogananda, provides techniques to attain a state of ecstacy called Samadhi. According to practitioners, there are various stages of ecstasy, the highest of which is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

In the monotheistic tradition, ecstasy is usually associated with communion and oneness with God. Indeed, ecstasy is the primary vehicle for the type of prophetic visions and revelations found in the Bible. However, such experiences can also be personal mystical experiences with no significance to anyone but the person experiencing them.

In hagiography (writings on the subject of Christian saints) many instances are recorded in which saints are granted ecstasies. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, religious ecstasy (called supernatural ecstasy) includes two elements: one, interior and invisible, in which the mind rivets its attention on a religious subject, and another, corporeal and visible, in which the activity of the senses is suspended, reducing the effect of external sensations upon the subject and rendering him or her resistant to awakening. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_ecstasy [May 2005]

Ecstasy (drug)

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), most commonly known today by the street name ecstasy, is a synthetic entactogen of the phenethylamine family whose primary effect is to stimulate the brain to rapidly secrete large amounts of serotonin, causing a general sense of openness, empathy, energy, euphoria, and well-being. Tactile sensations are enhanced for some users, making general physical contact with others more pleasurable, but contrary to popular mythology it generally does not have aphrodisiac effects. Its ability to facilitate self-examination with reduced fear has proven useful in some therapeutic settings, leading to its 2001 approval by the United States FDA for testing in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There have been several fatal overdoses of MDMA, resulting in hyperthermia and serotonin syndrome. Acute dehydration is a risk among users who are highly physically active and forget to drink water, as the drug may mask one's normal sense of exhaustion and thirst. Also the opposite, "water intoxication" resulting in acute hyponatremia has been reported. By far the biggest danger comes from the fact that other, more dangerous chemicals (such as PMA, DXM or methamphetamine) are either added to ecstasy tablets, or more often simply sold as ecstasy. Long-term effects in humans are largely unknown and the subject of much controversy —particularly with regard to the risks of severe long-term depression as a result of a reduction in the natural production of serotonin. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstasy_%28drug%29 [May 2005]

Party drug

1985: The Face magazine runs the first in-depth article on MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), which is the basis for the party drug Ecstasy. It was first synthesised and patented before World War I by German company Merck as a diet aid. In the 60s it was rediscovered by Alexander Shulgin, a US biochemist, who used it for theraputic purposes. It was banned in the USA in 1985.

House Music

Ecstasy is to house music what cannabis is to reggae, what speed is to punk and what alcohol is to rock.

Adorno on Dance Music

"Their ecstasy is without content.... The ecstasy takes possession of its object by its own compulsive character. It is stylised like the ecstasies savages go into in beating the war drums. It has convulsive aspects reminescent of St Vitus's dance or the reflexes of mutilated animals. ... The same jitterbugs who behave as if they were electrified by syncopation, dance almost exclusively the good rhythmic parts" --Theodor Adorno "On The Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening"


  1. Simon Reynolds - Generaton Ecstacy (1998) [Amazon US]
    According to Spin editor Simon Reynold's well-researched book about the global dance-music scene, "Generation Ecstasy," a Euro fascination swept through Detroit in the '80s, elevating continental acts such as Front 242, Depeche Mode, and Meat Beat Manifesto as well as new-wave American groups such as Devo, the B-52's and Talking Heads to star status. The Euro attitude can best be summed up in the title of a recent song by Underground Resistance: "Afrogermanic."

    "So the kids take a pill to feel the funk and the DJ takes a pill to feel the funk. I don't take a pill to feel the funk." -- Derrick May

    read a review by Kim Cascone

  2. Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House (1998) - Matthew Collin, John Godfrey [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Although it probably over-emphasizes the London scene, this book provides a well-written introduction to the history of house music as well as to 20th-century dance music in general. Citing the Stonewall Riots as a cultural turning point, Matthew Collin shows how the emerging gay rights movements created innovative clubs that demanded a newer, more vibrant music. Finding other pieces of this hidden history in Jamaican dub, mainstream disco, rap, European electronic music, and New York club mixes, Collin develops an interesting and previously undocumented narrative of contemporary hip sounds. --Amazon.com

    When Ecstasy was first mixed with house music in the 1980s, the reaction triggered the most vibrant and diverse youth movement ever seen. The shock continues to reverberate culturally and politically, affecting music, fashion, the law, government policy, and countless other areas of public and private life. "Altered State" is the first book on the history of Ecstasy and House Culture and the politics surrounding it, a subject that has garnered much media attention. Appalled by the idea of media lunches but driven by the desire to create a cultural critique that would live long after the pages it had appeared on had disappeared from newsstands, Matthew Collin set about documenting the social history nobody else thought was worthwhile. Not only a talented editor with a flair for spotting and nurturing young talent, and a killer instinct for a story about to break, Collin was also a concerned, informed writer with passion for music and was responsible for the first articles on milestones like acid house, Detroit techno, and the new British electronica.

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