Shamanism in the Age of Reason : Chapter 08
Spirits and Spiritual Communion
Spirit contact is a central part of many psychedelic practices. While the autonomy of spirit entities is a subject for some debate, the reports of seeing spirits under the influence of psychedelics are common enough to make some formal observations. First, psychedelic entities are anthropomorphic interfaces through which psychedelic information is generated or transmitted. Second, formal spirit types represent idealized versions of specific information matrices: cellular, insect, plant, animal, ancestral, mythic, alien, pagan, machine, cosmic, and so on, and each type of spirit reveals different insights into the ordered nature of life and the universe. Third, psychedelic spirits are tricksters; they often speak in riddles, communicate in visual rebus and pantomime, and typically never give you a straight answer to inquiries. From an information standpoint it does not matter if the spirits are real or delusion, the information they generate is real and can be analyzed from a formal perspective.
Habits and Customs of the Spirits
A study of the literature on shamanism and helper spirits tells us many things about their behaviors and habits. First, spirits do not generally like light; they will occasionally appear in the daytime, but they prefer to appear in dim light, at night, in an area illuminated only by candle or firelight. Second, spirits usually come only when you call them, only after you have called them, in the long moments of silence that follow the request for them to appear. Third, spirits do not like loud noises; keeping the entire local area perfectly quiet is the only way to ensure they will feel safe to appear. Fourth, spirits do not like foul smells, they are drawn to the perfumed scents of tobacco smoke and various types of incense, and are repulsed by the smell of meat-eating humans, alcohol drinking humans, and menstruating women.1 Finally, some spirits require the shaman to grovel, chant, sing, and produce offerings before they appear; this is not always required but is common enough to be considered typical. To call in the spirits the shaman must respect all these customs while taking the psychedelic medicine. The spirits will only come if the shaman calls them at the proper time and place, and only after he has dieted and purged and burned enough tobacco smoke or incense to make sure the scent of the area meets stringent requirements.
Interfacing with Spirit Information
If the shaman follows ritual protocol, ingests the psychedelic medicine, and manages to summon the spirits, he should not waste time bothering them with stupid questions. The spirits will typically answer only one question or perform only one task, and that task should be considered urgent and worthy of their participation or they will promptly dismiss the shaman and will not appear again for the rest of the session, perhaps not again for many weeks or months. Spiritual dismissal is reported often enough to be considered typical, so the formal spiritual quality of being offended by mundane inquiries should be noted when attempting to access their intelligence. By all accounts forging reliable relationships with specific spirit entities takes time and requires a fair amount of dedication to learning their habits and ways. The information in the spirit matrix should not be considered a database you simply plug into and access like the internet, but more like a network of individuals whose trust you must gain and keep over a lifetime in order to share their wisdom.
Gnosis, the All One, and Nonlinear Communion
Subjective accounts of psychedelic transcendence often include reports of a cosmic connection to a single unified force, a force which sometimes speaks to or through the subject. This force does not appear physically or anthropomorphically, but instead appears to be imbued in the fabric of all things. Typically the subject is meditating, is engaged in breathing exercises, or has detached focus when the voice begins to speak. When this force speaks it is through a layered nattering and murmuring arising from random and unrelated background noises. In a destabilized state these random background noises synchronize into a coherent pattern of linear, directed communication from one fundamental source. When the fundamental source energy senses the subject’s heightened awareness, it begins to coalesce and speak through his or her mind. This voice typically introduces itself in the subject’s language with the slowly repeating phrase, “I am the All One, all that is, was, and will ever be.”2
The All One is subjectively perceived as the mind, consciousness, will, and intent of the physical universe. There is an undeniable sense of love, acceptance, and unity infused with the contact. Formal accounts of communion with the All One date back to the origins of Hermeticism and Gnosticism, and depict a pantheistic, teleological view of the universe as the sacred physical body of an omniscient God. Formal accounts of the All One clearly depict the scale of timeless, omnipresent, omniscience we would come to expect from God. If we are to take the formal description of the All One literally it can be implied that the voice of God is always present, constantly repeating and speaking through the sounds and rhythms of the natural world. There is only one requirement for communing with the All One; the voice is only accessible to people who have destabilized linear perception and can parse environmental data in novel, nonlinear ways.
In accounts of mysticism and madness God only speaks to people in states of highly nonlinear destabilization: deprivation, psychosis, schizophrenia, stress, fever, and hallucination; because of this it is easy to assume that hearing the voice of God is a symptom of insanity. According to PIT, when the brain destabilizes due to hallucinogenic interrupt it will naturally seek coherence with the strongest local periodic driver. In some cases the strongest local driver may be the shaman, it may be the jungle, it may be the city, it may be the croaking frogs and crickets, it may be a jaguar stalking in the distance, it may be Gaia, or it may be God. Another way to look at it is this: God is a timeless nonlinear being, in order to hear his voice we must be able to perceive and parse longitudinal nonlinear input. Without debating the metaphysical existence of God, the formal techniques for subjectively communing with the All One are reliable and repeatable, and can be readily achieved through temporary, reversible destabilization of linear perception via psychedelic drugs.
Information Capacity of Spiritual Communion
A commonly repeated theme in spiritual shamanism is that spirits are fickle and their information should not always be trusted. This is perhaps a metaphor for all psychedelic information, or information revealed in a state of nonlinear destabilization. Common sense would dictate that if spirit information is unreliable it should be uniformly discounted as delusion or insanity, but subjective reports and clinical studies show that people find great value and utility in the information generated in psychedelic experience. Common sense also dictates that the information capacity of spirit information cannot exceed the existing knowledge of the subject, but subjective reports claim that plant allies reveal new wisdom all the time. The overall information value of psychedelic shamanism is therefore a subject for endless debate.
Since no studies exist to validate the authenticity of psychedelic spirit information it is impossible to estimate the actual information value. From a statistical analysis we can assume that nonlinear psychedelic information emerges into consciousness at speeds far greater than linear information, generating a large pool of abstract ideas in a very short period of time. Many of the ideas generated in a psychedelic session may be delusional or fantastical, but because of the sheer volume of ideas generated a small percentage are also destined to be insightful and genius. Within the flow of psychedelic information it is up to the subject to decide which bits are useful and which bits are not, and the trick of this disambiguation comes when attempting to translate nonlinear insight to linear concepts, beliefs, and behaviors. If nonlinear insights compress easily to linear concepts then spirit information may be of high value; if nonlinear insights are confusing or defy rationality then perhaps the spirits are up to their old tricks again. Either way, spirit information should always be carefully parsed and analyzed for trickery and deception before being integrated into belief.
 Akers B, 'The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts'. University Press of America, October 10, 2006.
 Accounts of communing with a singular universal force under the influence of psychedelics are taken from subjective reports. Direct quotes are paraphrased.
Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Chapter 08, 'Spirits and Spiritual Communion'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.
Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.