Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Psychonaut: Sailor of the Mind

Psychonautics from the Greek psychē "soul", "spirit" or "mind" and naútēs "sailor" or "navigator" — "a sailor of the soul/mind"

Psychonautics is the exploration of the psyche. A person who uses altered states for such exploration is known as a psychonaut.

A psychonaut seeks to investigate their mind using intentionally induced altered states of consciousness" for spiritual, scientific, or research purposes.

A psychonaut often embarks on inner voyages with the aid of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), peyote, or mescalin.

This is why the term is often associated with drug use. Psychonautics need not be synonymous with psychedelics or new age metaphysics. The psychonaut is merely an explorer of the mind and there are multiple approaches to this end like techniques such as meditation, fasting, rituals, praying, hypnosis, lucid dreaming, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, oxygen deprivation, breath work, brainwave entrainment (by means of light, sound, or electrical impulses, including: mind machines, dreamachines, binaural beats, and cranial electrotherapy stimulation), trance inducing dance (like Sufi whirling can also be used to induce altered state of consciousness), and other mind-altering practices.

These may be used in combination; for example, traditions such as shamanism may combine ritual, fasting, and hallucinogenic substances.

The German chemist, Arthur Heffter, was the first to gain the title of psychonaut, a name given to him by Ernst Jünger in his logbook of personal drug experimentation Annaherungen: Drogen und Rausch (Drugs and Inebriation). Heffter was defined in this way as a result of his self-experimentation with the four pure alkaloids that he had isolated from peyotl in the late 1890s. His ingestion of these alkaloids revealed mescaline hydrochloride to be the active entheogenic principle of Lophora williamsii (peyotl/peyote), and his experience marked the world’s first ‘trip’ with a purified chemical compound. As a result of this, the Heffter Technique now refers to human self-experimentation with psychoactive compounds otherwise known as the psychonautic bioassay.

The American physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, writer and inventor John C. Lilly is another well-known psychonaut. Lilly was interested in the nature of consciousness and, amongst other techniques, he used isolation tanks in his research.

Philosophical- and Science-fiction author Philip K. Dick has also been described as a psychonaut for several of his works such as The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

Another influential psychonaut is the psychologist and writer Timothy Leary. Leary is known for controversial talks and research on the subject; he wrote several books including The Psychedelic Experience.

Another widely known psychonaut is the American philosopher, ethnobotanist, lecturer, and author Terence McKenna. McKenna spoke and wrote about subjects including psychedelic drugs, plant-based entheogens, shamanism, metaphysics, alchemy, language, culture, technology, and the theoretical origins of human consciousness.

Book recommendation: 

LSD My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism and Science by Albert Hofmann - a must read by the father of LSD

The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley (1956) - probably THE psychedelic classic

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary

True Hallucinations by Terence McKenna (1993)

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda (1985)

The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness by Alan W. Watts

Quantum Psychology: How Brain Software Programs You & Your World by Robert Anton Wilson

Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson.

Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic by Peter J. Carroll.

You can find some of these book on the right bar of our site.

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