Global Psyculture

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Graham Peter St John
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With a focus on virtual reality, techno-rave culture, and “psychedelic trance,” this chapter explores practices of consciousness alteration within contemporary countercultures. By contemporary, I mean the period from the 1960s to the present, with the chapter addressing the continuing legacy of earlier quests for consciousness expansion. Central to the discussion is the development and application of spiritual technologies (cyber, digital, and chemical) and the appeal of traditional cultures in the lifestyles of those sometimes referred to as “modern primitives.” I also pay attention to specific individuals, “techno-tribes,” cultural formations and events heir to and at the intersection of these developments, with special observations drawn from the Boom Festival—Portugal’s carnival of consciousness. Furthermore, the chapter considers the prevalence of DiY consciousness echoed in practices of modern shamanism. As the contiguity between altering consciousness and altering culture is explored, the chapter considers the psychological and political dimensions of that which has been variously held as “consciousness” among spokespersons and participants within visionary-, arts-, and techno-cultures.
Born from extensive international research, Global Tribe documents a little understood global dance culture that has mushroomed all over the world since its beginnings in diverse psychedelic music scenes flourishing in Goa, India, in the 1970s and 1980s. From small parties to major international events such as Portugal’s Boom Festival, the paramount expression of this movement has been the festival. Via first-hand accounts of the scenes, festivals and music of psychedelic trance (psytrance) in Australia, Israel, Italy, the UK, the US, Germany, Turkey and other places, the author explores this transnational movement with attention to its diverse aesthetic roots, national translations and internal controversies. As a thoroughly engaging multi-sited ethnography and an intimate examination of the digital, chemical, cyber and media assemblage of psytrance, Global Tribe studies the integrated role of technology and spirituality in the formation of this visionary arts movement. The book demonstrates how the event-culture of psytrance accommodates rites of risk and consciousness, a complex circumstance demanding revision of existing approaches to ritual, music and culture.