Teacher and author Christopher Penczak speaks of twelve pathways for changing or shifting consciousness. He refers to them as gateways.
The first eight paths he adapted from the work of Gerald Gardner. The last four were of his own realization. You can learn more about these in his book “The Gates of Witchcraft.”
In this month’s blog post, I will do a quick summary and review of these 12 paths that one can use to make changes to their consciousness. When a person understands how these paths work, it provides them with many roads and opportunities for deepening their spiritual journey.
Understanding States of Consciousness
Consciousness can be divided into several states of awareness and realities. For the purposes of this article, the concern is only on waking consciousness and deeper levels of awareness. We are speaking here in “scientific” terms, not purely occult terms.
Waking consciousness is defined as the state of mind where you are awake and living in the physical world. In other words, the normal state of consciousness that a person operates from to perform their day-to-day activities is called waking consciousness. This normal state of awareness is also called the beta state, and it is here that the brain activity is between 13-16 Hertz.
Deeper than waking consciousness are the Alpha, Theta, deep Theta, and Delta states of consciousness. Let’s take a look at each of these. Before we do, please keep in mind that these various states of consciousness all overlap to some degree. Thus, while meditation will be mentioned under the Alpha state, it’s entirely possible to meditate into a Theta, Deep Theta, and yes, even Delta state. Likewise, hypnosis is mentioned under Theta, but that doesn’t mean hypnosis can’t occur at Deep Theta, Delta, or even in the Alpha state.
Alpha is a state of consciousness where the body is often relaxed, but the mind is fully awake. It is the state of awareness most often associated with meditation of all types. It is also the state where a person day-dreams and has easy access to their intuition. Brain activity in Alpha tends to be between 8 and 13 Hertz.
Theta is a slightly deeper state than Alpha. In Theta, you are barely aware of your physical body. You are also highly tuned into the images, sounds, and even feelings occurring within the mind. People that get hypnotized typically end up in the Theta state. It is also the state where deep meditation occurs, and light trance and journey work takes place. The brain is operating at 6-8 Hertz in Theta.
Deep Theta is the level of awareness that occurs right before one drifts off to sleep. It is also the level that a person operates when having dreams or nightmares. Deep trance also takes place in this state. The brain is usually at 4 or 5 Hertz when in Deep Theta.
Many people that excel in channeling or mediumship do sessions while in the Deep Theta state. In some cases, you can even see the “rapid eye movement” that is common in dreams, occurring while they are doing the session.
Delta is a sleep state. To better define this, think of it as the state of mind where you lose conscious awareness entirely. Thus, it is like being in a coma. The brain only operates at 1-4 Hertz here. While some deep trance work can occur in Delta, it is not normal.
To avoid any future confusion, people must understand that in sleep, the brain moves through varying levels of awareness. Theta to Delta states of consciousness are all possible levels of awareness the brain can operate in when one is “sleeping.” Likewise, one can technically be “awake” and still have their mind operating at Theta and Deep Theta levels of consciousness.
The Paths of Consciousness
To reach and achieve deeper levels of consciousness, people need to engage in certain acts or activities. This may occur either consciously or unconsciously. Some of them are passive in nature, and others are stimulating. Chris Penczak uses the words inhibitory and exhibitory.
Inhibitory means to quiet or slow down the mind. Exhibitory means to excite and stimulate the mind.
Of these twelve methods of changing consciousness, most people tend to focus on only one or two at the exclusion of others. All, however, are powerful ways of shifting consciousness. Each should be tried at least once consciously to determine which has the most powerful impact on you personally.
Likewise, these pathways can be stacked and used in conjunction with each other. Some would claim that the more techniques you combine together, the stronger the impact on your consciousness. Thus, the easier it is to help you shift consciousness awareness.
Meditation is the act of quieting and focusing the mind and is the most used inhibitory method of changing consciousness.
Some examples of the path of meditation include
- Any type of prayer work
- Creative visualizations
- Doing anything which results in a strong mental focus.
It is this last one that is perhaps most important.
When teaching meditation, I usually explain the meditation state as a state of focused concentration. Many people who claim they don’t meditate actually do and never realize it. If you’ve ever read a book or seen a movie and got lost in it, you were meditating. If you ever ran or played a sport and found yourself “in the zone,” you were meditating. This is the type of place the mind is in when one is in a “meditative state.”
- Watching a candle flame
- Progressive relaxation
- Body awareness techniques
- Silent affirmations
- Hypnotic count downs and count ups
- Focusing the mind on anything (including nothing at all)
– these are all part of the meditation path.
2: Breath Control
Anytime a person regulates their breathing, it tends to change consciousness. This regulation can involve holding the breath for a while, using alternate nostril breathing, and rapidly breathing in a particular pattern (think Lamaze breathing).
Other examples here which fall under breath control, and which are really methods of pattern breathing, includes
- Pranic breathing
- Positive breathing
- Negative breathing
- Neutral breathing
- Elemental breathing
- Pore breathing
- Serpent breathing
- Any variation of these
It’s interesting to note that for many, breath control is grouped with meditation. This is especially true when one speaks of various meditation techniques associated with the Eastern world.
Breath control is a close cousin to meditation and is a wonderful path for changing consciousness. In fact, many types of meditations and creative visualizations combine visualization elements with breathing elements.
Isolation is something monks are very familiar with. Not just monks, many shamanic apprentices are asked to experience some type of isolation for some time. There are also aborigine’s tribal rites of initiation that involve some form of isolation. Examples would include vision quests and most shamanic journeys.
It’s when we can be alone with ourselves that we are most able to go deep inside, and in so doing, the doorways of consciousness open up. Many a person has experienced an “epiphany” through being alone in isolation.
You don’t have to be in a monastery either – sometimes it is simply enough having a room you can retreat into where others know they can not reach you for a while.
Isolation can last hours, days, weeks, months, and in some cases even years. It all depends on the person engaging in the isolation and the reasons for doing so.
Another form of isolation is taking a vowel of silence. The act of choosing not to speak to anyone verbally will eventually heighten the senses and increases both inner and outer awareness.
Many times the ritual of fasting is attached to isolation. For those unfamiliar with it, fasting is when you choose to go without food and drink for some time. It is possible to fast from other things too – for example, you could fast from Facebook or Social Media. Fasting simply means to intentionally go without something.
Bondage and restricting the physical body from movement can also be part of the path of isolation.
Uses of intoxication to induce new states-of-consciousness have been around for a long time. Whether it be alcohol, herbs, or drugs, intoxication can and does change consciousness.
On the safer end of the spectrum is alcohol and wine which, are perfectly safe when drunk in moderation. There are many stories in ancient myths that talk about celebrations involving wine. Those who drink the wine have transformative experiences or visions.
Also on the safest end of the spectrum is the scent from incense, herbs, and flowers. Various scents have a way of inducing certain states of consciousness. For example, lavender is known for inducing deep relaxation and stress relief. Cinnamon and citrus, on the other hand, are known for energizing a person.
In certain aborigine cultures, the shaman or medicine man/woman will take certain substances to induce an intoxicated state. Stories about peyote and ayahuasca are well known among those who have studied shamanism. In fact, every culture has its own drug of choice for inducing an alerted state-of-consciousness. These drugs are supposed to help one be more open to visions and connecting with the spirit world.
In our modern society here in the United States, CBD oil and/or Marijuana are gaining in popularity. This is due to both their medicinal qualities and the spiritual insights that many say they bring.
Likewise, many pagans and avid herbalists know that certain plants and herbs will induce various states-of-consciousness.
Of all methods of shifting consciousness, this is the one that requires the most safety awareness. One should be very careful about the substances they inhale, drink, or consume internally. Some are highly dangerous and even deadly. Always consult with a professional on the safety aspects of what you are planning to intake. Also, consult with someone else who is experienced in using the method of intoxication you are considering.
It is also wise to use intoxication to change consciousness only when with another who can watch over you. Even in tribal cultures, someone is assigned to be the “watcher.”
Popular among Shamanic and Tribal people, sound can be used to induce various states of consciousness. This includes
- Sudden loud noises
- Virtually anything else that produces a sound
In the chakra system, every chakra has its own musical note and key associated with it. Thus, it is said that by playing through all music notes or keys, one can clear all the chakras and rebalance them.
Various types of music all have different ways they impact consciousness. Classical music is going to have a very different impact on your consciousness compared to rock music. Nature sounds are going to affect you differently than bells and choir music.
Mantras and verbal sounds can also induce changes in consciousness. The older the mantra or sound and the more often you use it, the more effective it will be.
Affirmations can also create a change in consciousness by verbally saying them out loud. The same holds true with prayer.
Having another person tell you something carries with it a much different feeling than saying it to yourself. Thus, even scolding, lecturing, and praising can all help to induce a change of consciousness.
There is a reason some people find meditating and doing creative visualizations easier with a recording. It’s not the meditation that is inducing the change of consciousness. It is the sound of the voice and or music. Thankfully, they do not have to be mutually exclusive to each other. They can be used to help train the mind for accepting and working with meditation without sound.
6: Body Movement
As with sound, body movement is quite popular among Shamans and shamanic practitioners. They use solo dance to enter into deep theta and do their healing and journey work.
Shamans aren’t the only ones to shift consciousness with body movement. Yoga, Thai Chi, and Mudras also all involve body movement and thus the shifting of consciousness.
Group dancing is another way of using body movement to change consciousness. This could be a one on one waltz with someone you’ve never met to a Maypole dance with a group you are highly familiar with.
Have you ever known martial artists? Martial arts and the body movements associated with it also result in a shift of consciousness.
Exercising is another way to engage in body movement and thus too, shifting consciousness.
Other examples of body movement changing consciousness include shaking, shivering, and rocking.
Of special mention here are signs given as passwords for entrance into or acceptance in fraternities, sororities, or magickal lodges or groups. A secret handshake or the way you hold your body can be a signal to others while at the same time inducing a change of consciousness related to the group.
It is unfortunate that for many, the topic of sex is considered taboo. We aren’t “supposed” to talk about sex. If you discuss sex, you are “perverted” or “naughty” or even “dirty.”
The truth is, any sexual act can serve as a gateway to shifting consciousness. It’s a valuable part of our humanity and not something we should be ashamed of or avoid. In fact, for many, the first time they masturbate or when one loses their virginity it is a life-changing experience. In some cases, it brings with it a sense of maturity, self-confidence, and empowerment.
Sex is a stimulating path that involves receiving intense pleasure resulting eventually in ecstasy. Examples include any type of foreplay, masturbation, intercourse, or oral sex.
Sex magick and tantra are two cases where sex plays a role in achieving a trance state through pleasure.
There are a lot of energy aspects that go with sex. Any sexual act is the ultimate exchange of energy between people. This is true regardless of if it is a physical act or a mental one. Some would argue that to even think about another sexually is to engage in an energy connection with them.
The orgasmic state is the ultimate state of release, creation, and empowerment. Many people who practice some form of sex magick believe that sex can improve manifesting ability. The technique involves a person engaging in a sexual act visualizing an outcome for something they desire in the physical world. At the moment of orgasm, this thought, this idea, “explodes” forth into creation. This would be true regardless of masturbation, sexual intercourse, or other forms of sexual play. Likewise, when both people visualize the same thing/outcome and simultaneously achieve orgasm, this only adds power to manifestation.
The bottom line – almost all forms of sex changes our consciousness. The question is, do we consciously realize this and make use of it?
Though many shy away from it, and even fewer will admit it works, pain is phenomenal for changing consciousness. For some, certain types of pain can be an almost “religious” experience.
Examples of types of pain that can change consciousness include
- Pricking the finger for blood
- Blood magick
To experience pain with another tends to be an intense bonding experience, regardless of the dynamic involved.
Some find pain an erotic experience. That is not what we are speaking of here.
Pain, of course, is an exhibitory method of shifting consciousness. The pain releases endorphins and causes a person to “zone out” or enter a very focused state of mind. The heart rate usually increases, as does breathing. Brain wave patterns tend to spike at least momentarily.
In ancient times, self-flagellation was often used in conjunction with prayers to bring about changes in consciousness. You want to remove guilt? Inflict pain on yourself. You want to change a bad habit? Inflict pain on yourself each time you think about the bad habit.
Many people involved in the BDSM lifestyle talk about a phenomenon called “headspace.”
BDSM is an acronym that has a few different variations in meaning. I was always taught it stood for bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism. Those who practice BDSM belong to an alternative lifestyle. Like all lifestyles, it has its own terminology, rules of conduct, and so forth. Think playing the bedroom game “master and slave” only playing for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Of course, this is a very simplified way of explaining an entirely different lifestyle in a matter of seconds.
Headspace is one such term that is part of the BDSM subculture. It is a state of being that a person receiving pain enters into, where everything else disappears. The person feels alone, with only their thoughts and the painful sensations to keep them company. It is often equated to a state of bliss, not unlike the state one enters into when having an orgasm. Like an orgasm, this state is a powerful state for attempting to manifest or create something.
Many initiation rituals and rites of passage that belong to aborigine cultures involve some form of pain. Tattooing, piercing, various types of mutilation and even branding are all used to help bring about a specific change in awareness and consciousness.
It’s important to mention before moving on that we are mostly talking about physical pain. While forms of psychological pain can induce and bring about the same changes in consciousness, the main focus here is on actual physical pain. Of course, any sort of traumatic ordeal also falls under the umbrella of pain. Trauma brings with it some change in consciousness.
Also, be aware that we are not speaking of creating lasting injury here. The path of pain doesn’t mean injuring yourself or another. It is typically a very controlled type of pain and not one that will cause lasting injury or damage.
Sacred sites are not new. Anyone who has ever entered a church or synagogue or any other religious site knows that when you do, there is a certain feeling and mindset that occurs. Locations can shift and change consciousness.
It doesn’t have to be a well-known or popular location for this effect to occur. Have you ever had a unique moment in your life take place in a specific building? Each time you think of that place or return to it, you will find that it evokes the memories, feelings, thoughts, and energies attached to the location.
If you’ve ever left a childhood home and later returned to it, you understand what is being spoken of here. The same holds true of returning to an old high school, college, or even elementary school. Going back to the location where your first date occurred will no doubt trigger a change in consciousness too.
The point is, location can and does impact our consciousness and is a valid path for working with consciousness.
Have you ever noticed that a specific date influences you in some manner?
Have you ever been aware that you work better at certain hours of the day as opposed to others?
Have you ever wondered why the full moon impacts some, but not others?
Time can be an excellent path for invoking a change in consciousness. When you do something at the same time, or on the same day, over and over again, you begin to draw a mental connection and feeling to it. Over time, you will notice that when that time of day or date comes around, you find yourself thinking in a particular manner. You may even find yourself in a specific mood.
Time can be used to reinforce habits, but it can also be used to commemorate certain events. All of this has an impact on consciousness.
11: Ritual Clothing
Many people do not realize that energy can be connected to items of clothing and jewelry. Each time you wear a piece of clothing, it causes energy to get stored in those clothes. The same applies to jewelry. If you wear them without energetically clearing them, you will unconsciously align with that object’s stored energy.
Many people that practice some form of magick, for example, have a specific robe, necklace, ring, or bracelet that they will wear when doing their ritual spellcraft. Over time this item becomes highly charged with the energy of spellcraft and ritual. Thus, when one puts it on, they quickly enter into the consciousness required and needed for said spell work.
A more mundane example is that of the lucky shirt or jersey. When a person wears the same shirt or jersey that has brought them success in the past, they unconsciously step into that energy of success each time they wear it.
Likewise, wearing the same thing in a group connects the group consciousness and purpose to that item. Thus, each time a group member puts on that item, they enter a specific state of consciousness. Examples of this would include any type of uniform for any organization.
This is perhaps the path most natural and normal to everyone.
There is a reason why many psychic development courses and classes will focus on dreams and dream work. There is a reason why most people who study any form of eclectic spirituality will keep a dream journal. It is because dreams are natural and normal for all people to experience. Even if you do not actively pursue any of the other paths, you WILL sooner or later have an encounter with the path of dreams.
The dream state is the state where spirit guides, allies, the higher self, the subconscious part of your mind, and even Universal Consciousness itself can communicate with you. This is done typically through imagery and is symbolic in nature. Thus, dream interpretation becomes a significant tool for working with this path.
Astral travel, healing, and even prophecy are other things that can occur while working on this path.
It’s a great path to study and work with, especially for the beginner.
Now that you know the 12 different paths you can use to change your consciousness, consider the following questions:
- Which ones are you already using?
- Is there one path you prefer over the others? Which one? Why?
- Is there a path you are afraid of or do not want to focus on? Why?
- Moving forward, which paths do you want to try that you may not have given much attention to in the past? Why?
As with all things in the eclectic spiritual world, these paths only provide more tools to add to your toolbox. Each one can be explored in much greater detail. All of them work. Some just happen to work better for one person as opposed to another. Find what works for you.
A saying I learned a long time ago is – “While your path may not be my path, that doesn’t mean your path isn’t valid for you.”
By remembering this, it has done tremendous good in helping me to understand and accept others whose spiritual journey may be quite different from my own.
The beauty of this world, after all, is that we all are not the same. We are capable of understanding each other even when our paths may appear to be quite different.