Psychonautics, or the science behind opening your mind.
Psychonautics is an esoteric field of study involving altering a person’s state of mind. It stems from two Greek words, Psyche, meaning ‘the mind’, and Nautes, ‘sailor’ or ‘navigator’. Practitioners are known as psychonauts. The standard research method here is for the researcher to fully immerse in psychedelic experiences. Experiences that could be of relation to substances, or through techniques that don’t require intoxication. The purpose is to open their mind, therefore exploring the boundaries of human existence and experience.
This is a term that could be described as an ‘umbrella term’. As in, it can be applied to any activity that helps a person reach an altered state. To which, such a state is used for spiritual purposes, and to explore the nature of the human condition. Examples of psychonautical methods are shamanism, sensory deprivation and lamas of Tibetan Buddhism. Contemporary drug users utilise entheogenics to acquire depth and insight into their own psyche.
Ernst Jünger, famed German author, was attributed as the first person to reference the term psychonaut. It has been said it was initially to describe Arthur Heffter, in the 1970 essay Annäherungen: Drogen und Rausch. In English, that is Approaches: Drugs and Inebriation, and it detailed Jünger’s own drug use. Peter J. Carroll used the term for his seminal 1982 book. Here, he detailed ritual, meditation and drugs. Using these tools in an experiment to explore consciousness and psychic phenomena.
The term, psychonautics, was defined by clinical psychiatrist Jan Dirk Blom. His definition lies here; "the exploration of the psyche by means of techniques such as meditation, prayer, lucid dreaming, brainwave entrainment, sensory deprivation, and the use of hallucinogenics or entheogens". As such, a psychonaut seeks to examine their own mind, by the way of altered states, for scientific, religious, or research purposes. Dr. Elliot Cohan sees that this study of psychology explores consciousness and unconsciousness. Yet, he noted that to study human consciousness is to transform it.
Distinction From Other Fields
As far state-altering substances are involved, psychonauts are distinguished from recreational drug users. The distinction is that the psychonaut utilises such substances for research purposes. Although, such research or ‘exploration’ doesn’t need require drugs. It could also be done within a religious means. As per Cohen’s consideration, this is closer to wisdom traditions. Although substances aren’t needed, there is a distinct overlap between the two. Within this field of research, addiction, drug misuse, and toxicology are taken into account.
There are a number of methods in this field of research. They are listed below;
• Hallucinogens. Mainly psychedelics, such as LSD, magic mushrooms and DMT, are additives.
• Psychological disruption. Sleep or sensory deprivation and fasting are examples hereof.
• Ritual. Religious and spiritual traditions play into this.
• Dreaming. Lucid dreaming is the best utility in this. Some people keep dream journals for this exact reason.
Psychonautics may seem too esoteric for mainstream consciousness. Yet, this field of study benefits the individual and the people of them, when used correctly. For, this expands the mind and the ego beyond any form of evolution.