The two approaches to the transformative path of the Psychonauts Quest.
For millennia, different cultures have used consciousness altering techniques in ritualistic settings. A few selected priests and shamans would venture into altered states and retrieve information that might turnout useful for the community they served. Some, but not all, use entheogens to lay down these pathways into the unknown. We could call them the original Psychonauts.
One can argue that consciousness altering substances and techniques have functioned as catalysts for cultural evolution over the course of human history. The social roles psychonauts had in their communities allowed them to function differently from the rest of the tribe. They accessed altered states for the purpose of oracles, healing and magick, their special mission exempting them from the chores necessary for taking care of survival needs.
The societal paradigm currently at rule in the west, does not provide special roles for psychonauts. We do not honor their quest as meaningful or useful to us, to make practical use of the insights of their journey, nore do we acknowledge the risk and special needs involved in venturing into this kind of exploration. There’s not much organized support for psychonauts who might experience dysregulation, alienation and inability to navigate the societal requirements outside of psy-care at festivals or mental institutions, when things go really wrong.
Being held in lower regard and expectations than the old shamans has its perks, though. The direct access to secret wisdom without the responsibilities of community leadership offers a greater opportunity to play with the power it offers. We enjoy a greater cognitive liberty, and an increased capacity to influence our lived reality, which we gain by questing for a deeper understanding of our inner and outer cosmos.
The Quest of the Psychonaut consists in the exploration of the filters we operate with and the wiring of our own central nervous system on different levels of consciousness. We can achieve this with and without substances, we can go high or dry. Once we understand how our nervous system operates, we can begin to play around with it, which gives us the power to manipulate our filters and our perception of reality and thus change the experiences we have of it. If we do not like the experience we are having, we can change the channel, tune into a different reality… to some extent. This experience can feel as liberating as it can feel terrifying.
If we as individuals can master the art of reality selection and learn to collaborate in synergy, then we can also create a different reality tunnel for the collective. Psychedelic festivals and communities often provide the kind of environment needed for such expeditions to be acknowledged as a path of transformation. These function as temporary autonomous zones that allow for experiments in different cultural paradigms. We honor and play with the inner evolution which can lead to the emergence of a new cultural paradigm for our human collective.
As a path of liberation, Chaos Magick I see as a form of neuro-hacking. Using altered states of consciousness, we can reprogram our nervous system and liberate ourselves from cultural conditioning and our developmental programming. By changing the paradigms of thoughtware we operate with, we can make our experience of reality more malleable.
One can use psychedelic substances to alter consciousness for magick. But also any method of sensory inhibition or excitation and any shift in paradigm or belief system we can use to create rituals providing an experience of altered state to anchor an intended change of reality filters in our central nervous system, by bypassing our rational critical minds and its array of bias, which determine our current perception of reality.
Inhibitory methods include breath retention and immobility, concentrative meditation, sleep deprivation, fasting, exhaustion, gazing, hypnosis, sensory deprivation tanks, darkness retreat and trance inducing drugs.
Excitatory modes include sexual arousal and orgasm energy, extreme emotional arousal, pain, torture, dancing, drumming, chanting, sensory overload, hyperventilation, disinhibitory and hallucinogenic drugs.
The advantage of using a technique instead of a drug consist in the more controllable ride. With a drug we might embark for ours on a journey, with one of the “dry” techniques, we have more control over the duration of the trip into an altered state allowing for more precise operations.
Knowing and applying this gives us power over the narratives that play out in the game worlds we immerse ourselves into and the liberty to change the gameworld, if we cease to have fun playing in it.
At the end of the day, I believe that the psychonauts and chaotic edge-dwellers of our times hold the keys for our paths to a solar punk future. Even though we have been living on the edges of society, feeling alienated and misunderstood, yearning for a belonging that only gets saciated during the times of the festival, it is from our weaving of spaces and networks that a new culture emerges.
As the network of regenerative communities and visionaries gatherings spreads like a mycelium all around urban centers and other hot spots in more paradisiac places, the paths for the whole of society to land in a solarpunk utopia rather than a cyberpunk dystopia begin taking shape. These more permanent autonomous zones can function as bridges to a new system.
The mission consists in grounding the visions and embodying the change we want to see in the world. For that we need to work with the Ego and make it flexible instead of deluding ourselves with the notion that we can kill it or lose it.