I have included my dissertation here because it gives a great overview of the aspects of shamanism, psychedelics, and social change that my practice draws from and the world I inhabit. That being said I have many issues with this essay that need to be stated before your reading. Many parts, including the introduction to shamanism and psychedelics withing capitalism need further evaluation and explanation. I leave out a great deal of the colonial aspect to the formation of shamanic study within anthropology which would otherwise provide a great deal more context and perspective than is shown. On top of this I have quoted and referenced Eliade though his text on shamanism who, unknown to me at the time, was a fascist, something I wholly regret doing. his inclusion within my work goes against the intention of the essay and my own personal beliefs. Another mistake within the text is not including female and trans perspectives on the subject from secondary readings. I did this whilst also writing that there was a lack of such texts. Big mistake on my part was not reading the texts that where available before or during the writing of this essay, something that ultimately harms the argument I’m making in the work and will need rectifying in future attempts at articulating the potential of psychedelics. However, I will leave this iteration of my dissertation unchanged, this does not mean it is finished on the contrary I still believe what I have here is a good basis for further texts and more refined and expanded iterations.


Title Page

Student Number: 

Module Title: Dissertation

Module Code: FA3DIS-19-0A

Dissertation Supervisor:  

Dissertation Title: Art and Shamanism,

Reviving the Archaic and

Avoiding the Spectacle

Word Count: 7901

Statement of Originality: All content within this dissertation, are, to the best of my knowledge, my own. This thesis has not been submitted anywhere other than the Turnitin portal.

I clarify that the intellectual content of this work are the result of my own investigation and all sources used in assisting this work have been appropriately acknowledged.

Lewis Paul Mckay.

Table of Contents

Title page………………………………………………………………………………………1

Table of Content……………………………………………………………………………….2

Part 1: Manifesto 1.1…..………………………………………………………………………3

Problems with the Word; Hallucination…………………………………………………..6

Part 2: Shamanism and Entering the Entropic………………………………….……..………7

Part 3: The Origins of Art are Found in the Psychedelic…………………………..………...12

Part 4: Brief Encounters, Great Revelations.……………………………………..…..……...15

Part 5:Avoiding the Grasp of the Spectacle…………………………………………………19

Social Capital and Psychedelics…………………………………………………………19

       Sacred Substance as Commodity……………………………………………………..…21


Entropic Phenomenon Illustrated…………………………………………………………….27


Part 1: Manifesto 1.1

This essay and all material involved in its manifestation are at the congruence of a powerful calling, a beckoning to the archaic, an innate yearning that cannot be ignored nor supressed. This seemingly alien energy is pulled forth through those among us who have gazed in bewilderment, at the iridescent shadow of a higher dimensional object. Left alone or few in numbers, spouting Poetic Eddas in glossolalic convulsions we find this summoning, this negotiating of experience spilled onto the floor of historical record, seeping into the cracks between the carefully laid tiles; we wait for those who have also seen or those with a particular eye for the mystery, to understand the signs; we delve into this strange and viscous material which is both history and myth, material and magic, and conscious and unconscious to emerge wielding the alchemical stone, the lapis lazuli, the higher dimensional object. This hypothetical body of current indefinability will leave whatever culture it contacts forever changed we have seen this object partially manifest before in our ancient past, serval religious becoming’s and more recently in the 1960’s however each time incomplete its ripples and effect are still felt today. For when wielded with proper care, pontification and through shamanic practice this object acts as the cultural event horizon a point of no return, which will aid in the healing of the collective over mind and in turn halt our destructive actions.

I wish this essay to be that object, however, I know how unlikely that may be, so this work must be both attempted alchemical stone and tool of initiating the mystery to others a true manifesto for the psychedelic experience. My drop into the pool of collective literature which threatens to overflow into the streets of modernity, drowning those in the revolution which they for so long ignored. For this is not a recently learned behaviour for the human animal. Something I wish to illuminate through this work is that changing our consciousness is our birth right, our tool for contacting our inner worlds and the progenitor of our art practices. By collecting and assessing a range of works from likeminded psychonaughts, who have mused art and consciousness through the lens of the psychedelic experience, I wish to present a case for the reconnecting of these two practices (art and shamanism) as a revolutionary tool, a centre of personal and communal initiation into the other and outside of current social and economic stagnation, which has left so many waning in spiritual dissolution.

For we are, all of us, at the convergence of a multitude of ecological crises, economic dissolution and political catastrophe. We are, now more than ever, forced by the hand of an ever-growing list of blunders and emergencies to look at ourselves, what it is we are doing and who we are. Whilst our effect on the planet asks us to evaluate our relation to nature, the increasing visibility of our Trans siblings offers us an opportunity to ponder if and how the human body defines us. What I propose is a need for a shift in consciousness, a prevailing change in the paradigm of mind. In this work I seek to lay bare the severed lineage of ritual psychedelics and art practice. The yearning for its return and a warning, for if you believe this force possible of change then it must be kept from annexed conscription into the Capitalist spectacle which would seek to rob it of power through material profit. I wish this new thought generating ritual emergence to be far removed from the materialist mindset[1], which bore many of our problems and fails to grapple with newer and bigger questions. For it is what the materialist brick and morter mind needs, a good shaking loose from the well tread path.

This is a rallying cry, for once you leave this work newly imbued with the knowledge, I gift to you my wish, for you to continue your venture into the mysterium trimendum and my hope that what you will find there, will empower you to start your own community of shamans and initiates alike. For the road travelled is not for the individual to bear alone, it is an experience to be shared and replicated among those you hold dear and those whose seek the greatest of mysteries.

After reading this some of you may view of my presentation of psychedelic as this universal panacea to all of our problems. This is not my intention, implementation of psychedelics into a society and culture that does not view them as a beneficial force to the human matrix, in fact it is seen as an agent of disruption and destruction, will never be without its growing pains, ideological disputes and wars fought over conscious autonomy. However, I do believe the battle just, for what is fought for is not access to the universal panacea but access to a perspective and experience outside of traditional thought generating mechanisms. The altered state from which we will find ourselves will in turn alter the world around us. What I will demonstrate through is work is how the world around us has been altered in response to contact with the “other”, the higher dimensional object, the mysterium trimendum and my wish is for you to ponder the possibilities. The potentialities for art, science, philosophy, community; how these institutions and fields of thought will be altered when contacted by the alien familiarity of the psychedelic experience.

By the end of this thesis I will have introduced all relevant aspects of shamanism as a spiritual practice and its connection to altered states of consciousness. On top of that, I will have properly explored the historical evidence which seeks to explain the origins of our creative endeavours and how they are linked with shamanism and altered states. Whilst including personally collected evidence that correlates with such findings. This will be my argument for the reconnecting of art and psychedelics, for I believe art as an expression is the best candidate for the negotiation between waking, rational consciousness and altered consciousness. I will also dedicate a part of this thesis to documenting the accounts of those who have encountered the paradigm shifting effects of psychedelics, from a perspective outside of shamanic societies, to demonstrate the potential of such an experience as well as compare their new perspective to that of the ancient shamanic tradition. Finally, I will explore the effects capitalism may have on an emerging psychedelic and shamanic community, this will be to outline what should be avoided in constructing and organising around this practice.    

Problems with the Word; Hallucination

Throughout this dissertation I will be referring to phenomenon encountered in altered states of consciousness attempting to communicate first-hand accounts of the aesthetics, imagery and archetypal figures involved. This is for the purpose of comparison to other similar accounts and Neolithic cave art as well as outlining the techniques involved to act as models for our own journey into the entropic space. However, this is where one encounters the trappings that surround subjects of consciousness and altered states of consciousness. As a phenomenon that continues to elude the complete mapping of materialist science the language which we use to navigate the psychedelic space proves to be wholly inadequate and in the case of word’s like hallucination, hallucinogen and hallucinogenic, dismissive of the validity of the experience. 

Hallucination’ derives from the Latin deponent or half-passive verb alucinari, to wander in the mind…. In careful present-day usage, hallucination indicates a false appearance, in sensory form, hence seemingly external, but occasioned by an internal condition of the mind, the central suggestion of the term being its subjectivity and groundlessness…”  (Barre, 1975)

For the purpose of this essay I would like to state that any use of the word’s hallucination, hallucinogen or hallucinogenic on my part, is not to minimize the importance of the accounts and reports described, including the affects they have on the people experiencing them and how they take their encounter into the physical world. In fact, any mention of “other worlds”, “shamanic journeys”, “spirit encounters” as well as any such magic-like phenomena will be treated as genuine encounters otherwise inaccessible without the aid of altering one’s conscious state. Ideally, I would not use these words and substitute them for something that more precisely demonstrates the reality of these conscious diversions. But alas, I am left with a limited pool of descriptors and verbs that vaguely elude to the object hidden in linguistic indefinability. And so, hallucination stays already imbedded in the cultural logos as an adequate “good enough” indicator, although one can hold out hope, as psychedelic was created out of the necessity to describe the phenomenon of the sixties, perhaps we can force the hand of linguistic communication, to broaden its horizons once again in the emergence of an irrefutable presence. 

Part 2: Shamanism and Entering the Entropic

Shamanism is a practice defined by the religious historian Mircea Eliade, as mastery over “archaic techniques of ecstasy” (Eliade, 1964). The progenitor and manipulator of these techniques has thus been gifted the title of shaman by western anthropology. Qualifying as a shaman is to demonstrate a specific set of phenomena and archetypal roles within a community. Each observed community that practices shamanism will have their own word or title to signify the people displaying such techniques Eliade gives the example of oyuna (Yakut), buga,boga (Mongolian) and udagan (Buryat). However, because the techniques and roles demonstrated are not culture-bound, but widely dispersed through both time and space an umbrella term is manifest. Enter shaman and shamanism which is derived from the Tungusic word saman or: to know. Of course, these techniques and teachings do not present themselves unchanged by the specific cultural lens, which is presenting and interpreting it, but the underline phenomenon is the same and, in most cases, universal.

This universal phenomenon which the shaman wields, will be the axis mundi from which I wish to re-launch are connection to psychedelics and art practice. For this purpose, it is necessary to explore the parameters of such shamanic feats and phenomena to better understand the stance from which I preach. Let us first unpack the somewhat vague descriptor of “archaic techniques of ecstasy”. What Eliade is gesturing at, is the primary field from which the shaman works in and around. That is the ecstatic states of consciousness and techniques of entering the ecstatic state. For the purposes of his investigation into Neolithic rock art, David lewis-Williams set out his definition of shamanism in antiquity, specifically to that of hunter gatherer shamanism both practiced today and recorded in historical lexicon;

“hunter-gatherer shamanism is fundamentally posited on a range of institutionalised altered states of consciousness. The visual, aural and somatic experience of those states give rise to perceptions of an alternative reality that is frequently tiered……people with special powers and skills, the shamans, are believed to have access to this alternative reality.” (Lewis-Williams, 2003)

Also known as trance states and hallucinatory journey the shaman can enter this altered state of mind through a multitude of methods and techniques. Primarily through psychoactive substances accessed through the community’s immediate environment for example the entheogenic brew ayahuasca; a combination banisteriopsis caapi and other plants indigenous to the Amazon basin. Another is the Amanita muscaria mushroom whose dried cap is consumed by many Siberian tribes for shamanic purposes. It’s important to note that these plants, mushrooms and other trance inducing substances are seen by the tribes and communities that use them, as medicine and tools of healing. Their consumption is always accompanied by a ritual or ceremony which specific rites and rules outline the intention of the trance journey. But what if the local ecology does not support any indigenous psychoactive substances? The drive to enter altered states of consciousness proves to be a prevailing force, for many shamanic societies implore alternative methods like ordeals of pain or rhythmic dances. One example is the San tribe of South Africa who accessed the ecstatic through dehydration, rhythmic drumming and prolonged sustained dancing. Eventually those who are skilled in recognising the signs and know the appropriate ways to respond fall in ecstasy, their noses bleeding, a result of the fragile blood vessels in the inner nose being strained to their limits. As their bodies fall to the ground their soul, mind at large or consciousness ascends to the sky in a journey of discovery. (Hancock, 2005)

But why find and cultivate these methods of entering altered states to begin with? As stated, this is the realm in which the shaman operates for the betterment of the community. Within the hallucinogenic state whether induced by plant or ordeal the shaman can enter a world unseen by others their training and frequent visitation granting them knowledge which aids their travels through this otherworldly landscape in search of spirits, helpers, plants or gods. Contacting these entities can help the shaman heal a sick member of the community and if the member is going through emotional or mental difficulty this journeying can help them reconcile their turmoil. Sometimes the shaman will also act as psychopomp, spiriting dead members of the community safely to the afterlife. If this evidence is too nebulous for anyone reading and desire a more tangible example of this journey for knowledge that the shamans embark, then let us turn once again to the ayahuascaro Shamans of the amazon basin. These people routinely demonstrate a knowledge and relationship with their surrounding ecology that western anthropology and pharmacology struggles to deconstruct when approached with its standard set of tools. Nothing establishes this more than the very brew which they use to induce ecstatic states of consciousness; ayahuasca. Author Jeremy Narby explains this very dilemma and its complexity:

“The chemical composition of ayahuasca is a case in point. Amazonian shamans have been preparing ayahuasca for millennia. The brew is a necessary combination of two plants, which must be boiled together for hours. The first contains a hallucinogenic substance, dimethyltryptamine,…but this hallucinogen has no effect when swallowed, because a stomach enzyme called monoamine oxidase blocks it. The second plant, however, contains several substances that inactivate this precise stomach enzyme, allowing the hallucinogen to reach the brain.” (Narby, 1998)

The high sophistication of this concoction has one of the most renowned ethnobotanists; Richard Evans Schultes in a position of dumfoundery commenting:

“One wonders how peoples in primitive societies, with no knowledge of chemistry or physiology, ever hit upon a solution to the activation of an alkaloid by a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Pure experimentation? Perhaps not. The examples are too numerous and may become even more numerous with future research.” (Narby, 1998)

In an environment of some 80,000 Amazonian plant species these community’s (as there is a vast and disconnected set of groups that inhabit the amazon to which most have knowledge of ayahuasca) have selected among them but a handful, from which they have developed, or been given knowledge of; a process to prepare a hallucinogen to enter an altered state of consciousness. The odds alone would leave a statistical analysist preaching the work of miracles. Since our best minds in their respected fields, fail to relay an explanation for such knowledge, whether through an unintentional underestimating of the “primitive” intellect or a set of tools that prove inadequate in comprehending what lays before them, we are left only with what the people who cultivate this knowledge respond, when pressed on this subject. In a study conducted by Luis Eduardo Luna on vegetalismo shamanism based on psychedelic plants, singing and dieting. He reports their opinions uninterpreted:

“They say that ayahuasca is a doctor. It possesses a strong spirit and it is considered an intelligent being with which it is possible to establish rapport, and from which it is possible acquire knowledge and power if the diet and other prescriptions are carefully followed.”  (Narby, 1998)    

These techniques of ecstasy and the material gained from such exploration are vital to shamanic practice. However, some caution should be stated, shamanism is not simply the act of taking psychedelic substances rather these psychedelic substances are one of many tools like diet, dancing, drumming, ect, that the shaman uses for journey. If lacking in substance, bodily rituals are substitute but function identically as a means to entering trance. Moreover, anyone has the capacity to be a shaman and practices shamanism, this is enabled by our own bodies’ neurology and our shared ability to alter our state of consciousness. All that has to be learned is how to enter such states (psychedelics) and techniques for traversing the “other world” that our altered consciousness enables us to experience. However, there are those, whether through birth right or neurological disposition, we do not know, who present themselves as chosen or destined for the shamanic role. In Eliade’s book he documents many anthropological studies which recount the “calling”. This calling is an encounter or series of experiences. That of entering an altered state of mind unintentionally, where one is greeted by their ancestors or other spirits telling them of their innate shamanic ability, this is accompanied with, but not always by ordeals of pain, surgeries, transformations into animals or human - animal hybrids and bodily dismemberment which all culminating in a metaphorical death and rebirth (although experienced as if genuine) that signify the individuals transition into the new role. (Eliade, 1964)

The relationships involved in shamanism are that of student, teacher, guide and facilitator. However, despite lacking centralised hierarchy those who come to a shaman with the intent to journey will, naturally have to impart a great dealt of trust in those who initiating the experience, in turn giving a lot of power to the shaman. With this exchange of power comes with the possibility for accumulation of this power and abuse of it. This consequence is something that needs further examination and will be in a later section (see: Social Capital and Psychedelics).

In summery shamanism as a practice offers a wealth of reliable and useful resources and models for traversing the ecstatic state, developed through and passed on by generations of initiates and shamans. As stated in my manifesto shamanism is the prime candidate for the mode on which the psychedelic revival will be carried, a driving force that helps guide us and keeps us from aimlessly wondering in the spaces of the psychedelic, disorganised and confused.

Part 3: The Origins of Art are Found in the Psychedelic

Where does shamanism and its use of the ecstatic states coincide with art and how can this connection positively transform art practices? To properly explore the potential implications this connection illustrates, we need to delve into archaeological record as well as accounts of shamanic journey. The crucks of this section’s arguments are that our earliest “artworks”, that of cave painting and engravings of the Upper Palaeolithic where achieved by and through ecstatic states of consciousness. To talk about this, we have to acknowledge that our current understanding and definition of art as it exists in society today will be radically different to that of our ancient kin. We have no way of ever knowing what these people thought about their work and how, if at all, it is translatable to what would be defined today as an art movement or practice. It would be a logical fallacy to conclude that the “art”, as I’m going to call it functioned identically to our own definition of the word. What I am primarily concerned with is how both present themselves as an internal phenomenon of expression that has left its mark on the external other of our environment. With this in mind we can explore the intriguing emergence of such phenomenon.

By some 196,000 year ago the human body achieved full anatomical modernity (although some argue earlier). This is to say that the humanity of 196,000 years ago are anatomically identical to humanity today, physically indistinguishable and neurologically interchangeable. Which makes the appearance of these cave paintings in the historical record some 40,000 years ago very surprising. (Anon., 17 February 2005 ) This vast gap in time between our emergence as our modern anatomical selves and our behaviours and actions makes one wonder what set us on the path of these divergent behaviours to begin with. Until the production of these cave paintings the only evidence found of our creative outlets was one of utility. Remains of scattered tools and hunting equipment, things with an obvious means to an end. Enter the paintings of El Castillo, Altamira, Tete du Lion, Pech Merle, and many others, all expressing a depth and purpose vastly more complicated than anything seen previously. There is no recorded anatomical change that can account for this rise in a new form of expression nor is there any archaeological evidence outside of the paintings themselves. So, for a long time all archaeologists and paleoanthropologists could deduce is they were depicting their surroundings things they saw, other theories sought to explain them as educational works showing young hunters where to hit their prey. Another explanation along a similar line was the “hunting magic” theory where these “artist” depicted their prey to hold some sort of power over the animal and give them an advantage. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these ideas. Sadly, all of these explanations would be discredited by the very caves themselves. (Hancock, 2005) If for instance it was for hunting education or magic why are there animals illustrated that we know from record where not prey animals. If these “artists” where depicting what they saw, then why are there strange patterns and crooked human - animal hybrids among those on the cave walls. And then there was location; some works being miles underground and unnecessarily difficult to reach. Clearly, we needed a theory which encompassed all the phenomenon encountered in this mystery.

Enter the neurological theory; perhaps these “artists” where depicting what they saw and not only that, but what they experienced. David Lewis-Williams the originator of this theory noticed a strong correlation between the anomalous and alien illustrations which had thrown so many pervious theory’s out the window, and the accounts given of ecstatic journey by shamans. (Lewis-Williams, 2002)The ones specifically studied where the accounts of the south African San tribe, who, until their genocide by the British colonists, still practiced shamanic trance and rock art. Of course, again it would be wrong to take the practice of the San people and paint all of upper Palaeolithic humanity with the same assumptions in behaviour, but it is a good indicator for further investigation. Where best to start than with the human body. As explained earlier we are anatomically no different from that of the “artists” who painted Tete du Lion or Pech Merle and our main suspect for inspiring these works is that of the psychedelic. So, we need look no further than experiences of the human neurological system under the influence of a psychedelic. What we find is very surprising, in the visual field of those under the ecstatic state, several stages of “entropic phenomenon” are seen. (see Entropic Phenomenon Illustrated). All of which can be found in various painted caves. This is early and regular part of the hallucinogenic stage but at later stages and especially in shamanic settings one experiences becoming other animals and strange impalements by other entities, all things also found in these caves. (see fig 1: Entropic Phenomenon illustrated). on top of that the decent required to get to the locations where these works are found mimics the ecstatic journey of traversal into other realms, the placement obviously chosen to physically and symbolically replicate the mental journey encountered in the psychedelic. (Dowson, 1993)

Ultimately this theory strongly suggests that the missing element in the initiating of our more nebulous creative outlets was the discovery and cultivation of entering altered states of consciousness. But why is this particular form of expression manifest and how is it relevant today? My thoughts are that this form of expression, one very similar to our own, was the only form which could help them reconcile with an experience unencountered in normal waking consciousness. If this could have been done through other means, then it would have been done so in language or another form, but it doesn’t. This close facsimile to art presents itself as the prime candidate in adding us gain full control over the experience, like the drums, dances and substances which act as the shamans tools, this too is added to the utility belt of the shaman helping them document what they experienced and develop their abilities to manipulate and hone there skills in symbology. Like in my manifesto art needs to play a pivotal role in the new shamanic emergence. a mastery of image and symbol to help enter these states and bring artefacts back from it, to negotiate with the environment around us and reconcile experiences with the “other”.  

Part 4: Brief Encounters, Great revelations.

Considering the collections of reports and evidence given above for the possibly beneficial effects of psychedelics and shamanism. As well as the historical use of both practices in the possible manifestation of current consciousness and likely progenitor of art. The rational mind, which the western sciences have build all their respected houses upon, would lead one to wandering why these substances are criminalised when challenged with such numerous evidences. While I am not going into depth on the West’s long and complicated history with psychoactive substances which is one of dismissive disgust, weapons of war and suppression, not just from and on the general public but from the equipment of scientific investigation and phycological analysis. It would be remiss for me to leave out the conclusions reached by the privileged few who have been granted permission to work with these materials, obviated from the looming threat of incarceration which all of us live under. For when in direct work with these psychedelics each person involved is left with a rare, unique and changed perspective on; what it is to be human, the relationship between brain and consciousness, and if the west is missing a fundamental part of the human experience. So, this section will be dedicated to those rare accounts and a brief overview of those involved, as they are cut from different intellectual cloth and accessed this new perspective with different psychoactive substances.  

William James the renowned psychologist and philosopher gassed in bewildering clarity at are reductive conclusions of mind when he inhaled a psychoactive dose of nitrous oxide in 1901. The experience would congeal on several writing attempting to communicate his opinions on the failings of these conclusions and an alternative to them.

“One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness very different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus and, at a touch, they are there in all their completeness . . . No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leave these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded . . . At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.” (James, 1902 (1985))

Automatously in 1953 the famous and celebrated author and philosopher Aldous Huxley reached a hauntingly similar yet novel hypothesis of mind, after consuming four-tenths of a gram of mescaline. This was attained through a psychiatrist acquaintance, Huxley eager to volunteer himself as a test subject. The experiment of which would lead Huxley to further self-administered journeys with mescaline, LSD and psilocybin, leaving him forever change. As well as leaving us with his thoroughly matured idea of the body; brain, nervous system and other sense organs as not producers but reducers of experience. The ‘reduction value’ of consciousness.   

“from being overwhelmed and confused by a mass of useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful . . . What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet . . . Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others, temporary by-passes may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate ‘spiritual exercises’, or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows . . . something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality.” (Huxley, 1994)

Anecdotally on his death bed Huxley asked is partner Laura Huxley to inject him with LSD. Laura would write about that moment, saying; “All five people in the room said that this was the most serene, the most beautiful death. Both doctors and the nurse said they had never seen a person in similar physical condition going off so completely without pain and without struggle.” (Fyfe, 2015)

Rick Strassman MD of the university of New Mexico is an American psychiatrist who was leading the first federally approved and funded research study with hallucinogens and human test subjects in two decades. Until he put an end to the study. Subjects were injected with varying doses of DMT (dimethyltryptamine), brain scans taken, body levels monitored and reports of the experience documented, but what they brought back with them left Strassman shaken so profoundly, so extraordinary and unexpected that it forced him to walk the path of completely re-examine his perceptions of reality just as Huxley and James before him. Where Strassmans report is interesting is that he never experienced DMT directly, all perspective changing experiences where encountered through his volunteers, who did not communicate with each other during the study, stopping them from influencing each other’s encounters. Yet they bring back the same stories. This is where the clinical nature of empirical studies lends their aid in legitimising the psychedelic phenomenon described by so many for so long. This brief moment, where reductionist, modern science tentatively dipped its toes into the psychedelic water provided enough evidence, in the eyes of Strassman, to re-asses our understanding of reality and find it false, all without the need for experiencing it himself. Strassman:

“No longer is the show we are watching everyday reality, Channel Normal. DMT provides regular, repeated, and reliable access to ‘other’ channels. The other planes of existence are always there. In fact, they are right here, transmitting all the time! But we cannot perceive them because we are not designed to do so; our hard-wiring keeps us tuned in to Channel Normal. It takes only a second or two – the few heartbeats that the ‘spirit molecule’ (DMT) requires to make its way to the brain – to change the channel, to open our mind to these other planes of existence. How might this happen? I claim little understanding of the physics underlying theories of parallel universes and dark matter. What I do know, however, causes me to consider them as possible places where DMT might lead us . . .” (MD, 2001)

What we have here in its totality are documented shifts in paradigm. Expressions of the mind, which has been culturally conditioned under a curtain understanding. An understanding that, in the face of the psychedelic experience, falls apart like a house of cards. Now suddenly aware of this fault they have used their fields of profession and creativity to negotiate a new cosmology, construct a new house with newly found cards which have been added to the deck. And what have they constructed? A house whose foundations converge on the understanding, or at least as close as an understanding as can be reached, that there exists an ‘other’, an ‘other’ that is both immediately accessible and exceedingly distant, definable only by its presence outside of known reality. Whose emergence has those who see it begging for further investigation. I can’t help but point out the very shamanic understanding of the mind and universe that these people have reached, independent of the cultures that still practice and participate in this understanding. This is where art, as the convergence point between all expressions of philosophy, phycology and any such possibility, steps in. Art is a house where everything and anything is potential material for creation and expression alike. As explored earlier in part 4, ecstatic journey was the originator of art and through art history movements have come and gone attempting to manifest the subconscious through there work. Although not directly inspired by the psychedelic the intention was non the less a drive to explore an energy ‘other’ to that of the normal reality.


Part 5: Avoiding the Grasp of the Spectacle

Social Capital and Psychedelics

Where does the ritual use of psychedelics intersect with the current socio-economical structures under capitalism and how could they possibly affect each other, if at all? This is an important question to explore because, as one would imagine, one can drastically change, or even implement the other in a way which could harm the intent of say, shamanic organisation or hierarchical systems. The possible outcome of this intersection can already be demonstrated with the accounts of the previous part. One may have noticed the gender ratio of the previous section is demonstrably male dominated. This is partially because of the accounts I could have selected; these more than others concisely communicate the results of educated minds interacting with psychedelics and the result of such contact. Here my point is made clear to best argue my stance on the transformative effects of psychedelics I have been forced to select accounts from those whose opinions we deem respectable and intellectually valuable. The bias towards these men created from there accumulation of cultural capital has rendered others, who would have otherwise communicated the same experience, lesser in comparison. This is not to say there works and statements are not valid however their unintentional utilisation of cultural and social capital as white academic males illustrates who the system values most. Another example of this would be the distinct lack of women and trans publications on psychedelic experiences, queer perspectives as well as racial others.  

This is where one of the dangers which lie for psychedelics under capitalism. The threat of the current cultures value system being implemented in or replicated by shamanic communities in a way that also replicates the problems with said value system. To explore the problem with the value metrics of capitalism as it stands now, we first need to define cultural and social capital as it expresses itself under capitalism. Primarily taken from Pierre Bordieu's forms of capital. Capital presents itself in three fundamental disguises, economical capital; money, commodity or property, cultural capital; which can be institutionalised like educational qualifications. An example of this besides the ones already given would be this very paper, in which I labour and ultimately exchange for a qualification, grade or credential. Something that is not directly economically viable but can be exchanged for academic statues and more social capital. Which brings us to social capital; which might take the form of social obligations, or institutionalised titles. In short social capital is the accumulation of potential resources which are connected or owned by a network of relationships, acquaintances or social connections. To put it even shorter, its not what you do, it’s who you know. (Bordieu's, 1986) If this where to be replicated the unjust hierarches that plague the current system will infect the new and fail as a force of total and equal inclusion. In order to not replicate the injustices of dominant society my manifesto needs to be expanded and outline an action for the tackling of patriarchal systems, transphobic or trans-exclusion, racism and homophobia. It must fight for social justice just has much as anti-capitalism or suffer undermining its own intentions. Through this lens future revisions will be necessary and plans of actions set out.

      Sacred Substance as Commodity

Another way that capitalism could, by nature of design, disrupt the revolutionary aspect of the psychedelic experience is commodification. Specifically, the commodification of the psychedelic substance or the ceremony at which the substance is taken or induced. The ability to gate keep accessibility to the sacred space of psychedelic ritual through money or statues runs counter to the right that everyone should have equal choice and ability in participation. If the substance whether it be LSD, DMT, psilocybin or ordeal becomes a sought-after object under capitalism, no matter how illegal it was previously, it will eventually be annexed into an economical mechanism which through the lens of capitalism, can only be viewed as a great potential resource for generating profit. The trade and exchange of these substances and knowledge of their production as they currently exist under capitalism is dangerously close to this model. However, as this trade is being conducted outside of the parameters of business and governmental oversite those of us who do own the means of producing them have a great deal more freedom in deciding the motives for their production. In the legal market, profit is the primary drive for production, any other motivating force, no matter how different must not affect the bottom line unless positively. This is where the underground market can be utilised against the system instead of for it. For not being held down by a bottom line or business endeavour allows us to choose where the money goes. In small psychedelic production circles, they are sold not to generate profit but to simply break even on the capital invested in their production, this allows for the constant manufacture of substances to be sustained without inflating the selling price. This also stops the emergence of those who do wish to make money in the market as they cannot compete with the prices of the anti-capitalist model. Another model seen is that of exchange or swap, instead of money the substance is exchanged for a different substance or the promise to gift a substance for the return of another substance in the future. These methods of production and distribution are both great at starting to find alternatives to capitalist form of exchange, unfortunately they still fall within the margin of “you must pay to enter”. whether with capital or the substance as proxy for capital as shown in the exchange method, one should not have to buy their way into a sacred space. This is because it will reduce the substance to yet another resource eventually leaving those lower on the economical class system choosing between spiritual healing or paying the bills, whilst those higher on the ladder hoard and partake at will.

Thankfully these are not the only models we have to examine, for another was attempted during the mid-1960’s by LSD manufacturers Nicolas Sand and Tim Scully with assistance from the group The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. In the The Sunshine Makers a documentary about their lives and mission of making psychedelics as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. They went into detail about how they attempted to use market economics as the vehicle of access. Although they ultimately failed due to prosecution and incarceration, they did make LSD vastly more available than before they started their goal. They explain that in the early parts of the 1960’s LSD was known of however very hard to obtain. At this time, it was not illegal however very restricted and mostly in the hands of psychiatrists, those who wanted to get a hold of it through unofficial means would have to do so at great expenditure. That is without mentioning the techniques of manufacturing LSD which was a relative unbreachable unless one has a background in chemistry. To solve this problem mass production was a necessity, this would affect acquisition and consumption relationships with the substance. If Tim and Nick could flood the market with an overabundance of LSD, its value would drastically diminish. Each time they produced batches of LSD it would be of greater and greater quantity until it would be so abundant it wouldn’t hold any capital value as commodity. Thanks to their unfinished work the price of LSD dropped radically and made it possible for more people to try it. (Feilding-Mellen, 2015)This is a model, if enough people could get together and organise, that can be used in freeing these substances from commodification on the other hand doing so also relinquishes a lot of control over where the substance goes.

Finally, where this interaction between substance and economic organisation gets complicated is that of societies in which shamanic practice has continued to the present but have recently come under pressure to adopt capitalist values. Returning for the last time to the ayahuasca shamans of the amazon their way of spiritual practice has altered due to western influence and intrigue. As information about their psychedelic rituals have spread more people from the west have travelled to south America in search of what these societies have that no other can offer, genuine access to an ancient, sacred and untouched practice. Untouched that is, until it was seen as a way to generate money. I need to take a moment to say, under the circumstance these people have been presented with, as the lower social and economical class who holds something highly sought after, I in no way decry them for trying the make their lives better by allowing foreigners to take part at a cost. In some cases, this can be argued as a good thing, however the transgression of the profane into the sacred is not a victimless action. This interaction is recorded in The Last Shaman, in this documentary we follow a man suffering from crippling mental health problems who, after exhausting all other avenues, travels to the amazon to partake in the ayahuasca ceremony’s in an attempt to be healed. This documentary captures a pivotal moment in the community they are staying with. At this time, they are gathering to decide what is to be done about the increasing number of westerners coming to them, some want to start charging for admission, where others want to keep the ritual open and free to everyone whiles keeping the integrity of the substance. Unfortunately, we already know what was decided, as ayahuasca retreats have become a large tourist attraction. But what of those who wished to keep them open? In “The Last Shaman” we see them expelled from the community, our interested have also brought our systems and with it our problems. (Degan, 2016)

In summery these substances and our current economic systems under capitalism are opposed to each other. Whether use of the substance be in place before hand or not capitalisms lack of acknowledgement or respect for the sacred will ultimately end in its transformation into a form of profit, robing it of any autonomy as a genuine form of conscious rebellion. Abdullah Ocalan wrote on capitalism that: “Capitalist modernity is a system based on the denial of love.” Love in this instance IS the sacred. (Ocalan, 2015) Thankfully there are some models of working within the system to undermine it, but they are incomplete and can have other possible negativities which have not yet been seen due to their severe lack of implementation. For those of you who want the return of the sacred and the return of the sacred substance, free from capitalism then capitalism must end, or everything will be rendered to its will.       


In part 2 of this thesis I have established the characteristics of the spiritual practise know as shamanism. As explored by Mircea Eliade and others to properly document the phenomenon one can expect to encounter in the trance state and methods used to navigate it. On top of this we have looked at the knowledge such shamans have gained from their trances journeys and how acquiring this knowledge seems to allude explanation from reductionist science.

In part 3 I have introduced the work of David Lewis-Williams and his finding in relation to trance states and the emergence of our earliest creative expressions. Now we have this evidence we have contemplated the implications it has for this purpose of this outlet as a mediator between differing conscious states and our symbolic development. I believe art will play a vital role in the new psychedelic emergence and on of the many shamanic tools wielded by the invigilators of the ecstatic.  

In part 4 we have examined the conclusions reached by western thinkers who have experimented with hallucinogens whether they be personal or professional. What we have found is that coming out of the encounter and examining there own stance of realty they have reached a new yet hauntingly familiar supposition of consciousness and experienced existence to that of the shamanic belief giving credence to the legitimacy of the accounts given by shamans for so long. This also demonstrated the thought transforming potential of psychedelics to the respective fields that each example worked in.

In part 5 we have looked into the possible effects that capitalism has on organising shamanic practice and models to be avoided if attempting to revive the psychedelic. We have explored the incompatibility between capitalism and ritual psychedelics as a sacred object, the profanity of capitalism by its own nature seeking to intrude on this space. Ultimately capitalism will need to be challenged if the revival is ever to be achieved.

Finally in the culmination of this manifesto and the evidence for it’s necessary existence I would like to reflect on not just the content of its pages but the work as a whole, a piece of writing that exists both as a part of the psychedelic experience and the result of the psychedelic. For when you look at this piece, what is it you are looking at? Evidence based research for the explanation of shamanic practice. Yes, an historical exploration of some of our earliest creative endeavours. Absolutely. However, what this piece truly is can be found in its intent. What am I doing? And what have I done to get hear? I have asked questions, questions that until contact with the psychedelic, I would have never asked. It’s an experience that demands the investigation of minds better than I to explore. It asks one questions that lead one down the paths of self-initiation an encounter that is evidently self-replicating. In short, the process that set me to writing and culminating this work is a process that works on its own. When encountered and the experience settles into the subconscious, it is a self-willing conversation. A conversation that has temporarily settled on the pages of this dissertation. In conclusion this thesis has outlined my wish for the return of the ritual use of psychedelics as well as its reconnection to art practices. It has also provided ample evidence for supporting the claims made in my manifesto and models to be followed if intended to be carried out.  

Entropic Phenomenon Illustrated

Fig. 1: Comparison of entropic phenomena with elements of the rock art of the San and Coso (Dowson, 1993)

All Figs below are drawings done by people in the early stages of trance depicting similar entropic phenomenon to that of Fig. 1.

Figs. 2, 3, 4 and 5 Below where collected by myself, either drawn by myself or by those I was facilitating an ecstatic journey for.

Fig. 2

        Fig. 3

Fig. 4

        Fig. 5



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[1] Here, I would define the Materialist mindset as the Oxford Dictionary does: ‘a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values’, not the philosophical monism of Materialism; that all things, including the mind and spirit are material objects.