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Trance may refer to:

Trance: origins and etymology

Trance is from Latin 'transpire': to cross, pass over and the multiple meaning of the polyvalent homonym "entrance" as a verb and noun provide insight into the nature of trance as a threshold, conduit or channel.

Trance: synonyms & related terms


Verb or process synonyms for trance:

  • Enchant: (en- + cantare) or sing (see chant) {from French 'en-chanter' and Latin 'incantare'}: (a) transitive. To exert magical influence upon; to bewitch. Also, to endow with magical powers or properties. Also figuratively, (b) To influence as if by a charm; to hold spellbound; in bad sense, to delude. (c) To charm, enrapture.
  • Enthrall: (en- + thrall) also (in+ thrall): To hold in thrall; to enslave. Also figuratively, now chiefly in sense 'to hold spellbound by pleasing qualities'.
  • Entrance: as a verb may refer to: (a) transitive. To throw into a trance. (b) To put 'out of oneself'; to overpower with delight, fear, etc.; to carry away in or as in a trance (from, to).
  • Enrapture
  • Glamour
  • Mesmerise
  • Spell
  • Transport


  • Dispel
  • Antispell

Related terms

Trance: working models

Trance is increasing used as a meta-paradigm and inclusive term for difference states of consciousness. No value judgement on the states is intended. The trance as meta-paradigm model has been developing through the confluence of various fields over the last few decades.

Trance: critique of term usage

Some people respond passionately to the usage of the term trance. Trance has a parallel history of negative associations and connotations. This article seeks to embrace these differences and engage them as a mutually rewarding dialogue, rather than contrive a homogenous position.

Trance: working definitions

  • Enchantment: a psychological state induced by (or as if induced by) a magical incantation
  • a state of mind in which consciousness is fragile and voluntary action is poor or missing
  • a state resembling deep sleep
  • Capture: attract; cause to be enamored; "She captured all the men's hearts"; in the sense of entranced
  • a condition of apparent sleep or unconsciousness, with marked physiological characteristics, in which the body of the subject is liable to possession
  • A state in which the soul seems to have passed out of the body into another state of being, a rapture, an ecstasy. In a general way, the entranced conditions thus defined are divided into varying degrees of a negative, unconscious state, and into progressive gradations of a positive, conscious, illumining condition.
  • One of the most common altered states of consciousness Trance is characterized by extreme disassociation often to the point of appearing unconscious.
  • A state of hypersuggestibility.
  • An induced or spontaneous sleep-like condition of an altered state of consciousness, which permits the subject's physical body to be utilized by the discarnate as a means of expression
  • an altered state of awareness induced via hypnotism in which unconscious or dissociated responses to suggestion are enhanced in quality and increased in degree
  • a trance induced by the use of hypnosis; the person accepts the suggestions of the hypnotist
  • meditation is a form of trance

Trance and Consciousness

Beta Waves designate the general state of consciousness. As a consequence this state has been 'normalised' due to its prevalence. This consciously awake Beta State may still be considered as a trance because it involved the selective filtering of information and utilises cognitive and awareness and mentation resources in specific ways.

William James (Neophytou, 1996):

Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it by the flimsiest screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different…. No account of the universe in its totality can be final, which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.

Gurdjieff (Neophytou, 1996):

Consciousness [normal waking] is a state of light Hypnosis and few people are ever truly awake.

Aldous Huxley (Neophytou, 1996):

Normal consciousness is a narrow segment of our potential consciousness. [He regarded the brain and sense organs as a kind of reducing valve thru which experience was funneled to protect us from being overwhelmed.


Trance: NLP, Hypnosis, Possession, Channelling, Altered States of Consciousness

Trance induction and sensory modality

Trance-like states which are often interpreted as religious ecstasy can be deliberately induced using a variety of techniques, including prayer, religious rituals, meditation, pranayama, breathwork or breathing exercises, physical exercise, coitus and sex, music, dancing, sweating, fasting, thirsting, and the consumption of psychotropic drugs. Sensory modality is the channel or conduit for the induction of the trance. Sometimes an ecstatic experience takes place in occasion of contact with something or somebody perceived as extremely beautiful or holy. It may also happen without any known reason. The particular technique that an individual uses to induce ecstasy is usually one that is associated with that individual's particular religious and cultural traditions. As a result, an ecstatic experience is usually interpreted within the context of a particular individual's religious and cultural traditions. These interpretations often include statements about contact with supernatural or spiritual beings, about receiving new information as a revelation, also religion-related explanations of subsequent change of values, attitudes and behaviour (e.g. in case of religious conversion).

Benevolent, neutral and malevolent trances may be induced (intentionally, spontaneously and/or accidently) by different methods:


Auditory Driving; trance and music

Charles Tart provides a useful working definition of auditory driving.

Trance music (Trance_(music)) is a subgenre of electronica that developed in the 1990s.Perhaps the most ambiguous genre in the realm of electronic dance music (EDM), trance could be described as a melodic, more-or-less freeform style of music derived from a combination of techno and house. Regardless of its precise origins, to many club-goers, party-throwers, and EDM adherents, trance is held as a significant development within the greater sphere of (post-)modern dance music.

Photic or visual driving

Charles Tart provides a useful working definition of photic or visual driving.

Nowack and Feltman have recently published an article entitled "Eliciting the Photic Driving Response" which states that the EEG photic driving response is a sensitive neurophysiological measure which has been employed to assess chemical and drug effects, forms of epilepsy, neurological status of Alzheimer's patients, and physiological arousal. Photic driving also impacts upon the psychological climate of a person by producing increased visual imagery and decreased physiological and subjective arousal. In this research by Nowack and Feltman, all participants reported increased visual imagery during photic driving, as measured by their responses to an imagery questionnaire.

Dennis Wier ( Accessed: 6 December 2006) states that over two millenia ago Ptolemy and Apuleius found that differing rates of flickering lights effected states of awareness and sometimes induced epilepsy. Weir also asserts that it was discovered in the late 1920s that when light was shined on closed eyelids it resulted in an echoing production of brain wave frequencies. Weir also opined that in 1965 Grey employed a stroboscope to project rhythmic light flashes into the eyes at a rate of 10-25 Hz (cycles per second). Grey discovered that this stimulated similar brain wave activity.

Recent research by Budzynski, Oestrander and others, in the use of brain machines suggest that photic or direct electrical stimulation of the brain in the theta range appears to facilitate rapid learning, produce deep relaxation, euphoria, an increase in creativity, problem solving propensity and may be associated with enhanced concentration and accelerated learning.

Kinaesthetic Driving

Charles Tart provides a useful working definition of kinesthetic driving.

The rituals practiced 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. Interestingly, Joseph Campbell had a peak experience whilst running.

Mechanisms and disciplines may include kinesthetic driving may include: dancing, walking meditation, yoga and asana, mudra, juggling, poi (juggling), etc.

Sufism (the mystical branch of Islam) has theoretical and metaphoric texts regarding ecstasy as a state of connection with Allah. Sufis practice rituals (dhikr,sema) using body movement and music to achieve the state. Idries Shah amongst others, have asserted that the source of G._I._Gurdjieff's teachings are the Naqshbandi Sufis.

Trance: types and varieties

  • Maenads & Bacchae: In Greek mythology, Maenads were female worshippers of Dionysus, the Greek god of mystery, wine and intoxication, and the Roman god Bacchus. The word literally translates as "raving ones". They were known as wild, insane women who could not be reasoned with. The mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy; they indulged in copious amounts of violence, bloodletting, sexual activity, self-intoxication, and mutilation. They were usually pictured as crowned with vine leaves, clothed in fawnskins and carrying the thyrsus, and dancing with wild abandon. They also were characterised as entranced women, wandering through the forests and hills.¹ The Maenads were also known as Bassarids (or Bacchae or Bacchantes) in Roman mythology, after the penchant of the equivalent Roman god, Bacchus, to wear a fox-skin, a bassaris.
  • Samadhi: Kriya yoga, a type of yoga popularized in the West by Paramahansa Yogananda, provides techniques to attain a state of ecstasy called Samadhi. According to practitioners, there are various stages of ecstasy, the highest of which is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Different traditions have different understanding of Samadhi.
  • Bhakti: (Devanāgarī: भक्ति) is a word of Sanskrit origin meaning devotion and also the path of devotion itself, as in Bhakti-Yoga. Within Hinduism the word is used exclusively to denote devotion to a particular deity or form of God. Within Vaishnavism bhakti is only used in conjunction with Vishnu or one of his associated incarnations, it is likewise used towards Shiva by followers of Shaivism. Saints in these traditions exhibit different trance states or ecstasy.
  • Agape or Divine Love: the term 'Agape' appears in the Odyssey twice, where the word describes something that creates contentedness within the speaker.
  • Communion: 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.
  • Rapture or Religious ecstasy: is an altered state of consciousness characterized by greatly reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness which is frequently accompanied by visions and emotional/intuitive (and sometimes physical) euphoria. Although the experience is usually brief in physical time, there are records of such experiences lasting several days or even more, and of recurring experiences of ecstasy during one's lifetime. Subjective perception of time, space and/or self may strongly change or disappear during ecstasy.
  • Siddhi: is a Sanskrit term for spiritual power (or psychic ability); it literally means "a perfection." It is known in Hinduism and Tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism. These spiritual powers or perfections supposedly vary from relatively simple forms of clairvoyance to being able to levitate, to degrees of omnipresence, to become as miniscule as an atom, to manifest or materialize objects, to have access to memories from past lives, access to the akashic records, and more. The term became known in the West through the work of H.P. Blavatsky. Siddhi powers are said to be obtainable by meditation, control of the senses, devotion, herbs, mantras, pranayama, or good birth.
  • Peak experiences: is a term developed by Abraham Maslow and used to describe certain extra-personal and ecstatic states, particularly ones tinged with themes of unification, harmonization and interconnectedness. Participants characterize these experiences, and the revelations imparted therein, as possessing an ineffably mystical (or overtly religious) quality or essence.
  • Stigmata: In his paper Hospitality and Pain, iconoclastic Christian theologian Ivan Illich "Compassion with Christ... is faith so strong and so deeply incarnate that it leads to the individual embodiment of the contemplated pain." Illich's thesis is that stigmata manifests from exceptional poignancy of religious faith and desire to associate oneself with the suffering Messiah. Interestingly, stigmatics have manifested the Holy Wounds in different bodily locations possibly due to subjective interpretation or envisioning.
  • Eschatology and the Messianic Age
  • Rapture of the deep
  • In Christianity, the ecstatic experiences of the Apostles Peter and Paul are recorded in Acts 10:10, 11:5 and 22:17.
  • Some charismatic christians practice ecstatic states (called e.g. "being slain in the Spirit") and interpret these as given by Holy Spirit.
  • In hagiography (writings on the subject of Christian saints) many instances are recorded in which saints are granted ecstasies. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia[1], 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.

Tools of trance

Trance and shamanism

  • Shamanism, witches, paganism, esoterica, magic.

Trance states have also long been used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals, being particularly cultivated in some religions, such as Tibetan Buddhism.

Some anthropologists and religion scholars define a shaman as an intermediary between the natural and spiritual world, who travels between worlds in a trance state. Once in the spirit world, the shaman would commune with the spirits for assistance in healing, hunting or weather management. Ripinsky-Naxon describes shamans as, “People who have a strong interest in their surrounding environment and the society of which they are a part.”

Other anthropologists critique the term "shamanism", arguing that it is a culturally specific word and institution and that by expanding it to fit any healer from any traditional society it produces a false unity between these cultures and creates a false idea of an initial human religion predating all others. However, others say that these anthropologists simply fail to recognize the commonalities between otherwise diverse traditional societies.

Achieving ecstatic trances is a major activity of shamans, who use ecstasy for such purposes as traveling via the axis mundi 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 (also see cannabis (drug)) or certain mushrooms 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.

Trance and divination

Divination is a cultural universal which anthropologists have observed as being present in many religions and cultures in all ages up to the present day. Divination may be defined as a mechanism for ascertaining information by interpretation of omens or an alleged supernatural agency[1] and as divination often entails ritual as different to fortune-telling is often facilitated by trance.

Nechung Oracle

In Tibet, oracles have played, and continue to play, an important part in religion and government. The word "oracle" is used by Tibetans to refer to the spirit, deity or entity that enters those men and women who act as media between the natural and the spiritual realms. The media are, therefore, known as kuten, which literally means, "the physical basis".

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, still consults an oracle known as the Nechung Oracle, which is considered the official state oracle of the government of Tibet. He gives a complete description of the process of trance and possession in his book Freedom in Exile. [2].

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce (1877 – 1945) was an American psychic who claimed to channel answers to questions on subjects such as health, astrology, reincarnation, and Atlantis while in a kind of sleep trance. Cayce's methods involved lying down and entering into what appeared to be a trance or sleep state, usually at the request of a subject who was seeking help with health or other issues (the subjects were not usually present). The subject's questions would then be given to Cayce, and Cayce would proceed with a "reading". At first these readings dealt primarily with the physical health of the individual ("physical readings"); later readings on past lives, business advice, dream interpretation, and mental or spiritual health were also given.

Trance and scientific disciplines

Convergent disciplies of neuroanthropology, ethnomusicology, electroencephalography, neurotheology and cognitive neuroscience, amongst others, are conducting research into the trance induction of altered states of consciousness resulting from neuron entrainment with the driving of sensory modalities. For example polyharmonics, multiphonics, and percussive polyrhythms through the channel of the auditory and kinesthetic modality.

Trance, brain waves & brain rhythms

Scientific advancement and new technologies according to Wier such as computerized electroencephalography (EEG), EEG topographic brain mapping, positron emission tomography, regional cerebral blood flow, single photon emission computed tomography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, amongst others, are providing measurable tools to assist in understanding trance phenomena. All brain waves are analogous to different types of trance in that they utilise brain and consciousness resources differently and provide different input and information filters.

Though a source of contention, there appear to be three current streams of inquiry: the neurophysiological, the social-psychological and the cognitive behaviorialist. The neurophysiological approach is awaiting the development of a mechanism to map physiological measurements to human thought. The social-psychological approach currently measures gross subjective and social effects of thoughts and some critique it for lack of precision. Cognitive behaviorialists employ systems concepts and analytical techniques.

Alpha waves

Alpha waves are most usual when we are mentally alert, calm and relaxed, or when day-dreaming. The frequency of alpha waves is between 8-12 Hz (cycles per second).

Beta waves

Beta waves are the most common of the brain wave patterns that occur when awake. These occur during period of intense concentration, problem solving, and focused analysis. The frequency of beta waves is between 13-30 Hz (cycles per second).

Delta waves

Delta waves occur primarily during deep sleep or states of unconsciousness. The frequency of delta waves is between 0.5-4 Hz (cycles per second).

Gamma waves

Gamma waves

Need's thumbnail description.

Theta waves

Theta waves occur when we are mentally drowsy and unfocused, during deep calmness or relaxation, as for example we make the transitions from drowsiness to sleep or from sleep to the waking state. The frequency of theta waves is between 4-7 Hz (cycles per second).

Trance and spirituality

God Good Godspell Gospel Spell Hymn Chant Mantra Overtone Overtone singing Transcendence Immanence Union Sat-cit-ananda Samadhi Rigpa Entrainment

The Vaishnava Bhakti Schools of Yoga define Samadhi as "complete absorption into the object of one's love (Krishna)." Rather than thinking of "nothing," true samadhi is said to be achieved only when one has pure, unmotivated love of God. Thus samadhi can be entered into through meditation on the personal form of God, even while performing daily activities a practitioner can strive for full samadhi.


  • ¹ Wiles, David (2000). Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. Source: [3]

See also


  • James, William The varieties of religious experience (1902) ISBN 0-14-039034-0
  • Tart, Charles T., editor. Altered States of Consciousness (1969) ISBN 0-471-84560-4
  • Tart, Charles T. States of Consciousness (2001) ISBN 0-595-15196-5
  • Wier, Dennis R. Trance: from magic to technology (1995) ISBN 1-888428-38-4
  • Hoffman, Kay (1998). The Trance Workbook: understanding & using the power of altered states. Translated by Elfie Homann, Clive Williams, and Dr Christliebe El Mogharbel. Translation edited by Laurel Ornitz. ISBN 0-8069-1765-2
  • Piers Vitebsky, The Shaman: Voyages of the Soul - Trance, Ecstasy and Healing from Siberia to the Amazon, Duncan Baird, 2001. ISBN 1-903296-18-8
  • Nowack, William J & Feltman, Mary L. (date?) "Eliciting the Photic Driving Response". American Journal of Electroneurodiagnostic Technology. Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 43–45.
  • Von Gizycki, H. , Jean-Louis, G., Snyder, M., Zizi, F., Green, H., Giuliano, V., Spielman, A., Taub, H. (1998). “The effects of photic driving on mood states” in Journal of psychosomatic research. Vol. 44, N. 5, pp. 599-604. New York, NY: Elsevier. ISSN 0022-3999
  • McDaniel, June (1989). The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal. University of Chicago Press. ISBN-10: 0-226-55723-5 (Paper); 0-226-55722-7 (Cloth) & ISBN-13: 978-0-226-55723-6 (Paper); 978-0-226-55722-9 (Cloth).
  • Michaelson, Jay (1997). "Paths to the Divine: Ecstatics and Theology in R. Dov Baer of Lubavitch". Source: (6 December 2006).
  • Neophytou, Charles (1996). The Encyclopedia of Mind Body and Spirit. Millennium Edition. Yanchep, Western Australia: Lindlahr Book Publishing. ISBN 0-646-26789-2

External sites


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