Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the psychological state. For other uses of this term, see ecstasy (drug) and religious ecstasy.
Ecstasy, from the Greek ekstasis, to be outside oneself, is a category of trance or trancelike states in which an individual transcends ordinary consciousness and as a result has a heightened capacity for exceptional thought or experience. These may include profound emotional feeling, intense concentration on a specific task, extraordinary physical abilities, and especially awareness of non-ordinary mental spaces, which may be perceived as spiritual (the latter type of ecstasy often takes the form of religious ecstasy). This heightened capacity is typically accompanied by diminished awareness of some other matters. For instance, if one is concentrating on a physical task, then one might cease to be aware of any intellectual thoughts. On the other hand, making a spirit journey in an ecstatic trance involves the cessation of voluntary bodily movement.
Achieving ecstatic trances is a major activity of shamans, who use ecstasy for such purposes as travelling 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 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. The rituals followed 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.
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