Shamanism in the Age of Reason : Chapter 06
Group Mind and Fluid Tribal Dynamics
The physical theory of group mind begins with some basic assumptions about oscillators and wave mechanics: If the mind is an multi-phase oscillator for processing information, and two oscillating minds can be synchronized through harmonic or resonant wave interference, then two minds entrained in a synchronized state should be able to pass information from one mind to the other. This theory sounds like potential telepathy, but the reality is more subtle and complex. The kind of information that can be shared between oscillators is non-verbal and non symbolic; it exists in the realm of frequencies, wavelengths, and amplitudes. The most common information passed between entrained oscillators is synchrony testing and error correction, self-correcting mechanisms to maintain oscillator coupling stability. Intuitive synchrony testing and error correction between two or more minds coupled in the same circuit is subjectively perceived as nonverbal communication, group mind, intuition, telepathy, or psi.
Examples of synchrony testing and error correction exist in all forms of communication. When information is flowing smoothly between oscillators the data transfer has high speed and synchrony; when information transfer from one oscillator fluctuates and becomes ambiguous the other instantly corrects to resolve the instability and regain synchrony. If automatic synchrony testing and error correction did not exist, any fluctuation in signal fidelity across the circuit would make the oscillator decouple. Synchrony testing and error correction can happen in a verbal conversation, a digital packet transfer, a cellular coding system, the harmonic chiming of bells, and so on; synchrony testing and error correction allows entrained oscillators passing information in coupled in a circuit to retain stability through mutual feedback control. Individuals bound in a group activity use intuitive synchrony testing and error correction to maintain behavioral coordination and unitary cohesion.
Group Trance and Entrainment Technology
A practicing shaman must be a master of at least one ritual entrainment technology, and must be a master of putting himself and others into a targeted trance state; this is the bare minimum, the rest happens naturally. Some shaman simply provide total quiet and let the medicine do the work; some shamen put on elaborate shows which include singing, chanting, or live musical performance. The jam band phenomena started by adapting the dynamics of medicine drum circles to 1960s psychedelic party culture; hence the Grateful Dead and the growth of the Rainbow Family. In the 1990s the shamanic entrainment ritual was reduced to something as mundane as playing records on a loud stereo system with heavy bass, and this mundane task blossomed into the celebrity DJ profession which fuels modern global party culture. Any live musical performer can tell you that the feedback circuit between musician and audience fuels the energy of the entire performance, culminating in the moments when the performer and audience all sing the same chorus or move to the same beat in unison. It is the same with churches; it is the same with sporting events; it is the same with the military. When the audience participates in the performance, either dancing or clapping or singing in unison, it drives the amplitude of the entire circuit. This is spirituality, religion, and group transcendence reduced to wave mechanics.
There are two steps to entraining group mind. You must first demand focus of group attention, and then you must masterfully apply the entrainment technology; these rules are immutable and are the same for the hypnotherapist, the shaman, the musician, the salesman, the politician, the TV programmer, and so on. Demanding the attention of a large group of people is perhaps the hardest part, but the ritual entrainment technology can arguably be purchased at retail. In a club setting the focus of attention is commanded by the DJ, who applies pre-fabricated entrainment rhythms (dance grooves) to the crowd. When the crowd responds favorably to a specific groove by dancing with exuberance, the DJ rewards them by finding more grooves that fall into the same tempo, and then uses dynamic filters to isolate and boost the resonant frequencies of the walls in the room, pushing the music over the top with tremors that literally rattle the earth. When the DJ establishes a strong feedback control circuit with the crowd there is phase transition where the crowd ceases to be individuals and they cohere into a single fluid unit. At this point the crowd becomes synchronized in audio-motor synesthesia with the music, almost like puppets. (Fig. 1) The physical dynamics of a group of people engaged in trance dancing defies formal social descriptions and can best be described as a coherent wave interference pattern.
Group Mind and Behavioral Phase Transitions
This spontaneous movement of a group of individuals into a coherent organism can be described in terms of phase transition from solid state to a liquid state of group dynamic. In the solid state there is ego, language, etiquette, social hierarchy, and rules of one-on-one engagement that keep individuals separated and egos solid; in the liquid state individuals drop social pretenses and merge seamlessly into the flock, navigating instinctively via environmental cues and mutual feedback. When a group of individuals moves from a solid to a liquid state there is a sense of transcendence that is subjectively perceived as joyful, cathartic, and spiritual. Subjects in a liquid group state feel unity, love, and purpose as the energy of the crowd flows through them like a transistor in an electrical circuit.
A similar example of social dynamics passing from solid to liquid state occurs in flocks of birds; on the ground birds assume pecking orders which create the dynamic for mating and nesting, in the air they become a fluid unit that navigates as a seamless whole. This social phase state transition is observable, repeatable, and may be measured generally in terms of global power across alpha bands of the entire group. In the ego-driven beta state the solid norms of society and hierarchy apply, but in the relaxed alpha state behaviors become more fluid and intuitive. In the beta state the individual is concerned only with fulfilling their own rational agenda; in the alpha state the individual moves seamlessly with the flow. When the tribe adopts a fluid social state it becomes a temporary autonomous zone for interpersonal experimentation, identity play, and other ego-blurring experiences that reinforce intimacy and group loyalty.
Informational Capacity of Group Mind
Shamanic mythology tells us that tribe members synchronized to group mind enter a telepathic dream-space where they can all share thoughts and visions. The sensation of bonding and becoming one with the group is real, but the level of telepathic ability achieved in group states is debatable. In a group trance the rational ego is detached and non-verbal intuition is fully engaged; empathy bonding is high and the hallucinogenic medicine turns group intuition into concrete visions. This enhanced non-verbal intuition can be called telepathy, psi, or a shared dream-space, but it would be wrong to assume that each member of the tribe is automatically sharing the same thoughts or visions just because they are all synchronized to the same hallucinogenic control frequency.
Group mind can accurately be described as a form of distributed cognition, where the units of a group are coherently bound in a larger function or process. From a distributed standpoint group mind is not telepathy, it is instead a form of cooperative thought emerging simultaneously throughout the coherent group process. Distributed functioning in the insect kingdom is commonplace; in the animal kingdom it takes the form of group movements like flocking, herding, and schooling, but sometimes emerges in more complex actions like hunting and stalking. The information shared in distributed tasking is limited to intuitive coherence of motor behavior to fulfill specific tasks and group functions. Behavioral cooperation and functional stability in group mind states is mediated through intuitive, nonverbal synchrony testing and error correction between coupled peers. In team sports and military operation this highly intuitive group state is sometimes called being in the zone.
Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Chapter 06, 'Group Mind and Fluid Tribal Dynamics'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.
Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.