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The Creative Trance
Altered states of Consciousness and the Creative Process

by Tobi Zausner, PhD, LCSW

Discover the importance and influence of your inner world

Available in: Paperback


& Ebook

Cambridge University Press Blog

In those moments, or seconds, or hours, when focus on creative work overrides input from the outside world, we are in a creative trance. This psychologically significant altered state of consciousness is inherent in everyone. It can take the form of daydreams generating creative ideas in the arts and sciences, hyperfocus in sports, visualizations that impact entire civilizations, life-changing audience experiences, and meditations that may become gateways to transcendence.


The altered states of a creative trance have transformed our world. Albert Einstein’s daydream at age sixteen became a basis for his Theory of Relativity and Elias Howe dreamt the solution to his invention of the sewing machine. Mary Shelly envisioned her novel Frankenstein in the state between wakefulness and sleep, which was also when Thomas Edison received the ideas for his inventions. Nobel Prize winner, Barbara McClintock imagined she was inside the corn cells  that she studied for their genetic elements, and another Nobel Laureate, James Black, said of his creative process, “I daydream like mad.”


Diverse and inclusive, the creative trance is available to everyone of all backgrounds and abilities. In the Benin culture of Africa people believe the deity Olokun brings creativity in dreams and states of reverie, and Australian Aborigine artists depict their altered state of Dreamtime. What appear to be disabilities can affect the creative trance for the better as dyslexia and ADHD did for Leonardo da Vinci. Even dementia can have positive effects. Maurice Ravel composed his most famous music, Bolero, during the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. In this very readable book, we see that what are considered to be altered states are also basic states, and present throughout all humankind.

Praise for the Book


An instant classic. Such a deep understanding of consciousness and creativity has nowhere previously been seen.

Alan Leslie Combs, PhD, Director at Consciousness Studies Center, California Institute of Integral Studies

The Creative Trance will…provide you with deep insights into the lives of many famous people. A brilliant, deeply moving work that will help you think more effectively.’

Neil F. Comins, PhD, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Maine

The erudition and depth that Dr. Zausner has provided her readers in this remarkable book…marks a milestone in creativity studies.

Stanley Krippner, PhD, California Institute of Integral Studies

In her fascinating and inspiring book, The Creative Trance, Dr Zausner takes the reader on a ‘vision quest’ exploring this expansive territory of consciousness and its significance both culturally and individually. 

Pamela J. McCrory, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

The focus on individual stories and exploration of extraordinary experiences and abilities is captivating. A joyful, thought provoking, and inspiring read!

J. Kim Penberthy, PhD, ABPP,  Chester F. Carlson Professor, University of Virginia School of Medicine


This book is not only deeply insightful but also inspirational since it is interwoven with her own experiences of altered states of consciousness and courageous battles with serious illness and difficulties in life. Thus, it is valuable to both scholars and general readers.

Huping Hu, PhD, JD, Editor of the Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research


Here is a unique and engaging look at creativity and altered states across our lives. We humans are more amazing than we know. Be prepared to see things differently.

Ruth Richards, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Saybrook University

Our understanding of the creativity-consciousness relationship and why it is important just took another leap forward. The voice of the creative practitioner needs to assume a far more prominent role in the nature-of-consciousness quest, and this book helps us turn that corner.

Ed Sarath, PhD, Professor of Music and Co-Director of U-M Program in Creativity and Consciousness, University of Michigan

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