Syllabus: Dreams & Altered States of Consciousness

Instructor: Loyd Auerbach & Ryan Hurd

This unique eight week course will be broadcast live on Tuesday evenings, but many students choose to watch the recordings of the classes if they cannot attend them live. The first broadcast will be on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 7:00pm, and the course continues through Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Besides the weekly class broadcasts, there is an online discussion forum for students to share their ideas, answer questions about the lectures, and communicate with the instructors.

About the Course

This course will introduce student to the concepts of altered states of consciousness (ASC) including those induced by meditation, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, music, and substances. ASCs will be explored from the perspectives of neuroscience, psychology, consciousness research, parapsychology, and anthropology. As this is a survey course, it provides essentially an overview of a spectrum of ASCs, with a deeper focus on sleep, dreams and dream research.

Required Text: Articles will be assigned and provided in the classroom, or linked from the classroom.

Course Outline


      • Overview of the Course

      • What is Consciousness?

      • What is an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC)?

      • The Importance of Perception to ASCs

      • Overview of Specific ASCs and Techniques to Induce Some of Them

 Week 2: Meditation, Hypnosis, & Sensory Deprivation

      • Types of Meditation

      • Effects of Meditation on States of Consciousness

      • Effects of Meditation on the Brain

      • Hypnosis: An Overview

      • Is the Hypnotic State Really an Altered State?

      • Effects of Hypnosis on Perception, Memory and the Body/Brain

      • Sensory Deprivation Techniques

      • Effects of Sensory Deprivation on States of Consciousness

Week 3: Sleep and Dreams

      • Sleep Around the World

      • The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

      • Quantitative Methods and the Cognitive Theory of Dreaming

      • Normative, Repetitive and Impactful Dreams

      • Understanding Nightmares and Night Terrors

Week 4: Psi and Extraordinary Dreaming

      • Psi Dreaming: Research Overview

      • Dream Telepathy: Maimonedes and Recent Follow up Studies

      • Precognition in Dreams: The Rhine Letters and Recent Research

      • Spiritual, Healing and Transcendent Dreams

      • Beyond Interpretation: Ways of Working with Dreams

      • Mid-Term Quiz Available

Week 5: Sleep Paralysis and Other Night Weirdness

      • Overview of Sleep Maladies: Disorders and Parasomas

      • Sleep-walking, -Talking and –Sexting: When the Unconscious is in Control

      • Sleep Paralysis and Hypnagogic Visions

      • Mare, Succubus and Supernatural Assault Traditions

      • Working with Sleep Paralysis

Week 6: Lucid Dreaming and Out of Body Experiences

      • Characteristics of OBEs: Research Overview

      • Methods of Inducing OBE

      • Lucid Dreaming in History and Around the World

      • Scientific History of Lucid Dreaming

      • Methods for Inducing Lucid Dreams

Week 7: Consciousness Altering Substances and Technology

      • Overview of Mind-Altering Substances

      • How is the Brain Affected?

      • Food & Nutrition

      • Alcohol

      • Psychedelics & Hallucinogens

      • Stimulants & Depressants (Legal and Illegal)

      • PsychoTechnology: Biofeedback, Magnetic Fields (Natural & Man-Made) and More

Week 8: Additional ASC Inductions, Summary, & Wrap-up

      • Music/Sound as an ASC Induction Technique

      • Movement/Dance as an ASC Induction Technique

      • Disease and Illness as Inducing ASCs

      • Overview of Uses of ASC Induction: from Shamans to Modern Medicine

      • Parapsychology and ASCs

      • Summary and Wrap-Up

      • Final Quiz

Grading for this course

All students are considered to be auditing the courses, but students may choose to take this course for a letter grade. Whether being graded or not, all students are encouraged to participate fully in this class and join in the online discussions. This provides an opportunity to get the full experience of the online class and learn the most about the topics that are presented.

Students taking this course for a letter grade will be evaluated using the following information.

Grading and Assessments
Discussion Participation (40% of your grade)

Engagement with discussion forums throughout the course

  • 5% for each discussion question for the 8 weeks of the course  (total 40%)
  • Besides answering the discussion questions, students should participat in the discussions by posting responses to the posts of other students.
Assessment I (30% of your grade)
Multiple Choice and/or short answer test (submitted online).
Assessment II (30% of your grade)
Multiple Choice and/or short answer test (submitted online).

All information contained on this page is the sole property of the Rhine Education Center and the Rhine Research Center. This information cannot be reproduced or reused without the expressed written permission of the Rhine Research Center.