From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

A psychonaut (a modern portmanteau of the Greek ψυχή (soul) and ναύτης (sailor), that is, a sailor of the mind/soul) is a person who experiences intentionally induced altered states of consciousness in an attempt to investigate his or her mind, and possibly address spiritual questions, through direct experience. Psychonauts tend to be pluralistic, willing to explore mystical traditions from established world religions, psychedelic drugs (entheogens) meditation, lucid dreaming, technologies such as brainwave entrainment and sensory deprivation. Because techniques that alter consciousness can be dangerous, and can induce a state of extreme susceptibility, psychonauts generally prefer to undertake these explorations either alone, or in the company of people they trust. Therefore, they are averse to using altered consciousness in a "party" context. Psychonauts generally regard the latter sort of use as irresponsible and dangerous.

Goals of psychonautic practices may be to answer questions about how the mind works, improve one's psychological state, answer existential or spiritual questions, or improve cognitive performance in everyday life.


[edit] Term

While some psychonauts abstain from psychoactive drugs and discourage their use, others encourage it, and the term "psychonaut" is often misinterpreted as implying frequent drug use. Most psychonauts maintain that their use of altered consciousness is different from social or recreational use, and their use may or may not have a religious or spiritual significance to them.

According to Jonathan Ott, the word psychonaut was originally coined by the German author Ernst Jünger.

[edit] Use of the term

Psychonaut is a modern term used to describe one who uses trance technologies and, more specifically mind-altering substances, more for their ability to act as entheogens than for their inebriating (or social) effect. In effect, they are used as a means to achieve states of mind in which different perceptions, unhindered by everyday mental filters and processes, can arise. Psychonauts believe that when a mind-altering substance is used with this intent, its effects can be life altering and are not mere hallucinations. An alternate description is that while some aspects of the experience may be hallucinatory, the realizations caused by those hallucinations and the mental, emotional and long term impact of the experience are real, usually positive, and enduring.

The term is often associated with neoshamanic practices; however, many distinguish between the mental exploration of the psychonaut and healing-oriented shamanic practice.

[edit] Associated concepts, technologies, and practices

[edit] Concepts

[edit] Brain function

Psychonautics may be considered an attempt to generate a user's manual for the human brain. Unlike psychology, which is concerned with understanding other people, psychonauts are more concerned with understanding themselves, and the process of self exploration; accordingly, they engage in direct exploration of themselves and their own thought processes.

As such, psychonauts seek to experientially understand mental process and functioning and employ such knowledge in their activities. Key to this is auto-modification of brain wave frequencies, which can lead to quite distinct perceptual states; a detailed examination and understanding of one's own thought processes, habits, and beliefs is also sought.[citation needed] Hallucinatory states, drug-induced or otherwise, are seen as a form of subliminal symbolism or as a real but distinct reality; as with other processes of the mind, psychonauts seek to understand these. These states often simultaneously dissociate the mind from the ego and offer a subjective view of one's mental processes. Psychological theories and concepts are also often taken into account, particularly those of Carl G. Jung and Abraham Maslow.

This is also ideally practically applied in bettering one's self through the knowledge of one's own thought processes; with this understanding and heightened perception of one's own internal dialogue, it is thought that one is more able to control his own ego, and detach oneself from what is seen as a herd mentality common to modern culture.

[edit] Mythical archetypes and concepts

Psychonauts, as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, place emphasis on various mythical archetypes and concepts, believing that these are useful to coming to understand one's own thought patterns and the nature of existence, reflecting realities and meanings that should be understood, rather than being irrelevant fantasy. As in shamanic practice, the Axis mundi is often employed, often overlaid with chakras and other relevant concepts of bodily function; the Kabbalist Tree of Life and its chakra-like sephirot is one notable example of this in mythology. The nature of karma is often explored in trying to understand one's own situation, actions, and relation to the outside world.

[edit] Metaphysics

Psychonauts are often interested in metaphysics, the branch of philosophy dealing with the ultimate nature of reality or existence; it is thought that in coming to some understanding of how the universe functions and the nature of existence, one would be better able to govern themselves accordingly and integrate their life experiences.

[edit] Technologies and practices

[edit] Hallucinogens/entheogens

The technology and practice most often associated with psychonauts is the use of psychedelic drugs for mental exploration. The method of use varies widely; such usage is often (but not always) entheogenic and informed by traditional shamanic uses of psychedelic drugs and rituals surrounding such usage.

Some psychedelics and dissociatives commonly used by psychonauts include:

Less common:

Though avoided by most modern psychonauts, certain species of the Nightshade family have been used for psychoactive purposes throughout human history. The most common of these is Datura stramonium, which is classified as a deliriant, not as a psychedelic. Datura is rarely used by psychonauts because control and lucidity are lost in a delirious state, and the experience is often not remembered. Similarly, psychonauts often prefer to consume salvia via the "quid" method, rather than inducing an intense, short-lived trip associated with smoking extracts. With deliriants like datura, self-inflicted injury and even death can occur. Nevertheless, deliriants are still occasionally employed in psychonautics.

[edit] Cannabis

Cannabis is often used individually, or in combination with many hallucinogens to amplify and extend the experience. The chemical THC (the main psychoactive chemical in Cannabis) is technically classified as a hallucinogen with both sedative and stimulant properties. Though it is generally considered a "light hallucinogen," its synergistic effect with other hallucinogens is rather potent and at higher doses it can be a powerful psychedelic experience.

[edit] Dreams

As dreams are considered by psychonauts to be a window into thought processes, many keep dream journals in order to better remember dreams and further their understanding of their own symbolic internal dialogue. Many attempt to not only remember their dreams, but engage in lucid dreaming, in which one is consciously aware of their state while dreaming.

[edit] Meditation

There are various forms of meditation though the most commonly practiced is 'concentration meditation' where the meditator seeks to quiet the activity of his/her mind by concentrating/focusing attention upon a single object, sound, sensation or thought.

[edit] Ritual

Ritual is often employed for purposes of grounding and centering one's self, to set one's focus and intentions, and to instill a conception of the significance and depth of psychonautical practice. Repeated use of ritual may also train the brain to associate certain activities and states of consciousness with specific situations, creating deeper experiences and allowing one to more easily enter altered states of consciousness.

[edit] Neurotechnology

Specific technologies employed include:

These devices attempt to induce specific brainwave patterns using brainwave entrainment (brainwave synchronization) through light and sound, or through direct electrical stimulation.

[edit] Practices

Practices employed include:

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Personal tools