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Essay: Ecstasy – Expedition to an Unknown Land in Spektrum der Wissenschaft Spezial: Rituale. Was unser Leben zusammenhält

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.