The existence of a major fourth state of consciousness was proposed in the early 1970s when researchers in the physiology labs at UCLA first discovered the physiological effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique. This pioneering research on meditation was first published in Scientific American, American Journal of Physiology and the journal Science. Those initial findings were replicated and expanded by hundreds of subsequent studies on the TM technique conducted over the past 40 years in independent research institutes and medical schools and published in leading journals. The Transcendental Meditation technique’s distinct physiological state is now well established.
This proposed fourth state of consciousness may be a new discovery for modern science, but knowledge of it has existed for thousands of years in the Vedic tradition of meditation. In the ancient Sanskrit language, this state of restful alertness has long been called turiya, meaning simply ‘the fourth’ because it is distinct from the other three common states—waking, dreaming and sleep. Experiencing the fourth state repeatedly over time is traditionally said to be the natural stimulus for unfolding higher stages of human development.
Many scientists and physicians have heralded the discovery of the fourth state as a major breakthrough in health and human potential. “We propose that what happens during TM is a fourth state of consciousness because it’s very different from the other three states,” says Gary Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D., of New York University School of Medicine. “After forty years of research, we now know that TM produces a unique, wakeful, coherent state of deep rest—physiologically the opposite of stress. The science also suggests that experiencing this state twice daily through TM is the key to maximizing wellbeing and overcoming stress.”
When we’re deprived of sleep, we know what happens. Researchers have found that dream state is also essential for balance in life. If we are hardwired to experience a natural, major fourth state of consciousness, what is the result of omitting this state from daily life? Again, Dr. Gary Kaplan: “There’s a growing pandemic of stress. There’s a healthcare crisis. As a nation we have widespread anxiety, depression, hypertension and stress-related disorders that costs us billions every year, with untold costs in human suffering. This is what happens when life is lived without the restorative experience of transcending. Human history becomes the story of stress and suffering.”