Ecstasy derives from the Greek and means something like “being outside oneself” and “stepping out,” which means a temporary shifting of the personal coordinate system. This holds the chance of a new perspective, but also the danger of losing oneself. The general characteristics of altered states of waking consciousness include changes in self-, world-, and time-perception, especially emotionalization, intensification of visual and auditory experience, bodily perceptions, and intensified experience of meaning. As a rule, in such states the experience shifts away from the ego-like controlled, to the intoxicating being carried in a stream of fragmentary inner events. It is precisely this passive “being carried” that can have a seductive and “habituating” quality for unstable people.
To mark the launch of the research project “Ritual Dynamics and Salutogenesis in the Use and Misuse of Psychoactive Substances”, Henrik Jungaberle and Rolf Verres have written an essay on “Rituals of Intoxication”. In a brief cultural history, the tension between culture and medicine becomes visible. The topic was researched from 2002-20213 in a Collaborative Research Area of the German Research Foundation at Heidelberg University Hospital.