In Darwin’s Pharmacy by Richard Doyle (one of my English Professors from my undergrad days!) notes that: “Even ‘ordinary’ consciousness is essentially alterable consciousness, and when asking after the evolution of our capacities it it worth recalling which altered consciousness is repeated (in this instance memories, memories troped and recalled through repetition).” It’s an interesting point he makes, and it got me to thinking about ordinary consciousness as a state of altered consciousness.
The truth is that what is considered consciousness could be considered a fairly diverse form of consciousness. After all, if you are recalling a memory or day dreaming about the future that can be considered a form of ordinary consciousness, as can the consciousness one exhibits when grocery shopping, and yet each of the examples I mentioned is different from the others in terms of how consciousness is experienced and exhibited. Could it be that they are really are altered forms of consciousness?
Typically when people think of altered consciousness they think of a state of consciousness altered by entheogens or by ritual, or by sex of some kind or another. And all of those states of consciousness are very obvious forms of altered consciousness. But the magician knows that even ordinary consciousness is just a state of consciousness and one that can worked with as intentionally as any other. A person can achieve gnosis in an ordinary state of consciousness with the right triggers. For example if you get by a car, your state of consciousness will change as you feel shock, fear, and anger over what happened. Indeed, if a person says an insult to you, the anger you feel will still cause an altered state of consciousness that could have aspects of gnosis associated with it, under the right circumstances.
Likewise an experience of joy can also be an altered state of consciousness. The experience of runner’s high, or the joy you feel when your favorite team wins can be just as useful as the other examples I’ve mentioned above. Ordinary consciousness is not a static form of consciousness and can have little shifts and changes that nonetheless can be useful for magical work.
I’d argue that “ordinary” consciousness is anything but ordinary. What makes altered states of consciousness stand out has to more due to with an experience of the extreme as opposed to anything else, and yet ordinary consciousness can be used for magical work and can be alterable in its own right, if one is willing to be creative enough.