What is it like to have a near-death experience? What and how do mediums communicate with disembodied souls? What is the inner experience of the mystic? Where does a deep meditator go when they reach higher consciousness? What is a psychedelic, Shamanic experience and what are these drug-induced experiences anyway? When the term "ineffable" is used it means no words can describe these experiences. Yet they refer to an altered states of consciousness which reflect the inner experience of some of us.
It is interesting that most spiritual traditions, from Hindu, Buddhist, Christian mystic and Kabbalistic describe these altered states with considerable caution and definite warning. They are not only "dangerous" in that they can lead one to a place from which they cannot return, but psychological damage can ensue.
Perhaps it is just that mystery which surrounds them which attracts metaphysical seekers. The danger, according to the teachers and gurus, is that these states become the goal rather than the effect of deep spiritual work and years of study and commitment.
The goal, as described by professor of religion Huston Smith is the altered traits which all spiritual traditions promote–compassion, charity, kindness, balancing the physical world of objects and possessions with spiritual goals, love of Spirit and all beings.
In fact the altered states can be regarded as traps. The seeker can become attached to them and lose sight of the true goal of the spiritual journey. They appeal to the ego's sense of mastery and therefore are misguided.
When the seeker becomes obsessed with these states and/or the paranormal abilities that may come with them they often lose their way. They will never progress towards their goal of spiritual evolution unless they regard these abilities as secondary and a curious by-product of their journey.
The altered traits are goals which we can all seek and actually attain…..regardless of how much we desire altered states.