Psychedelic Information Theory

Shamanism in the Age of Reason

Shamanism in the Age of Reason : Chapter 02

An Overview of Physical Shamanism

Physical Shamanism is differentiated from Spiritual Shamanism in that physical shamanism relies on models of neural oscillators and resonant wave entrainment as opposed to spirit models of supernatural medium channeling, telepathy, or clairvoyance. The Control Interrupt Model of Psychedelic Action presents a description of physical shamanism based on the precision coupling of a multisensory hallucinogenic interrupt to a resonant environmental driver.1 Physical shamanism assumes the human brain in a destabilized state acts as a resonant oscillator, or a nonlinear information processing system; thus the application of periodic resonant drivers will drive complex phase transitions into multi-stable states.10,11 Physical shamanism can be described as the application of precisely timed rhythms and precisely shaped wave patterns to entrain both global and regional coherence of multi-stable neural oscillators. The techniques of physical shamanism are often used with a hallucinogen in order to entrance or hypnotize a subject or group of subjects into a targeted mystical state.   

Spirit Voices, Resonant Shamanic Songs, and Strange Attractors

When a shaman takes a psychedelic he or she hears the spirit voices and intuitively learns to sing the spirit songs. These songs are taken directly from the shaman’s head as the psychedelic begins to interrupt consciousness. In many ways these sacred songs, or icaros, are attempts to recreate the voice and tone of the subjective pharmacological interaction at various stages of the psychedelic experience. The voice of the shamanic medicine is not human in the typical sense, the psychedelic voice is described more in terms of a repetitive bleeping and blooping machine code; a biological thrumming; an electronic alien pulsation; a guttural river of slurping and squelching sounds; the great wheeze of a mystical reed organ; and so on. The hallucinogenic voice is often heard to resonate like the chirping of crickets, the croaking of frogs, or the fast-clicking communication of an insect intelligence.2,3 All of these colorful metaphors are the same in that they perfectly describe a standing wave in the alpha to gamma range driving amplitude along multisensory perceptual bands. As the hallucinogenic voice grows in strength, the resonance of its standing wave then couples with and drives the amplitude of all internal physiological processes.4

The Control Interrupt Model of Psychedelic Action posits that these spirit voices are the nonlinear artifacts of the hallucinogenic interrupt frequency overlapping into multisensory frame perception with a specific ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release) envelope. By modulating standing vocal waves the shaman can exactly match the periodic frequency of the hallucinogenic interrupt; by changing the shape of the lips, the speed of air through the glottis, and the speed of the tongue flicking towards the back of the throat, the shaman can replicate the slippery shape and feel of the hallucinogen’s interrupt envelope. Resonance is a term applied to oscillators when the shape and frequency of one standing wave harmonizes with and drives the amplitude, or energy, of another standing wave. By using the physical techniques of sound shaping and resonance the shaman can amplify the hallucinogenic interrupt of any psychedelic and, beyond that, drive standing wave coherence among multiple participants in a shamanic ritual. This process is intuitive if the shaman merely pays close attention to his or her internal physiology as the hallucinogen takes action.

In the nomenclature of chaos theory, when a chaotic system evolves towards a particular state over time, that state is called an attractor, or a strange attractor in fractal systems. According to PIT, nonlinear consciousness is multi-stable, which means it can have many strange attractors pulling it towards many different states; or it can become stable in a periodic phase transition between two or more attractors. In normal perception the primary attractor is linear consciousness; when consciousness is dramatically perturbed it will always find a way to return to the linear state after enough time, and consciousness tends to stay in the linear state even when momentarily destabilized. In nonlinear consciousness the attractor may be a manic state, a trance state, a disoriented state, a paranoid state, an enlightened state, and so on. As psychedelic consciousness becomes complex and begins to bifurcate, it gradually moves towards one of many multi-stable attractors, eventually locking into a complex stabilized state based on periodic drivers in set and setting. Once a subject under the influence of psychedelics finds an attractor state and locks into it, it becomes difficult to break the stabilizing pattern and move towards another attractor state. Navigating between strange attractors in the destabilized nonlinear state is a large part of shamanic singing and ritual; without the ability to self-navigate to a specific attractor, the subject may be pulled into a negative attractor, like an anxiety spiral or paranoid feedback loop.

Control Interrupt and Spirit Spaces

Figure 1 : A psychedelic painting by Pablo Amaringo of a young woman drinking ayahuasca and seeing the brightly colored spirit world infused over reality.

Mixing the Control Interrupt Model with traditional shamanic metaphors, it is accurate to say that the spirit space of each hallucinogen is literally erupting or interrupting into normal reality by carving out a distinct wave space where spirits can sneak packets of information to the subject in between normal frames. In physical terms, spirit information erupts into consciousness along the attack and decay of each psychedelic interrupt, then attenuates salient recognition and imprints itself into memory according to the sustain and release. As the interrupt’s ADSR envelope begins to influence multisensory perception, spirit information will appear to overlap onto the fabric of reality; bending towards the subject from a nearby dimension; trickling or gurgling over an invisible spillway; flickering in a stroboscopic film reel; parting through folds in a lattice or screen; becoming visible underneath a silken veil; and so on (Fig. 1).6 The subjective view of the spirit world is that it is an “invisible landscape” suddenly made visible to human eyes, and the addition of the hallucinogenic driver allows the veil of perception to be drawn open like perceptual shutters. These are all allusions to the boundaries of perceptual space changing as the hallucinogenic interrupt gains power, entrains sensory processing networks, and generates novel and complex interference patterns.

To clarify this process, in the realm of shamanism it may be helpful to think of serotonergic modulation as reality, and the frequency of the hallucinogen as the spirit world. If serotonergic reality is modulated in the beta range at 12-30hz, and the hallucinogenic interrupt of tryptamine Y is modulated to 24hz, then there will be a predictable 24hz frame flicker superimposed over normal perception when you ingest hallucinogen Y. The interrupt frequency of 24hz presumes a very fast interrupt, fast enough to produce film-like or fully animated cartoon hallucinations. The 24hz spirit interrupt then masks itself onto multisensory pathways and is perceived as an ontologically distinct spirit realm emerging as a phantom but embedded part of physical reality. The physical intensity and tactile sensuality of the hallucinogenic spirit overlay will depend on the speed, shape, and intensity of the interrupt’s ADSR envelope; higher doses of hallucinogen typically means harder attack, longer sustain, softer release, and more seamless merging between reality and hallucination.

Driving Interrupt Amplitude and ADSR Transitions

Figure 2 : Wave interference can both drive or dampen the amplitude of the standing interference pattern.

As a psychedelic chemical is ingested and metabolized the frequency and ADSR envelope of the hallucinogenic interrupt will transition slightly over time. This shift in modulatory interrupt can be described as a change in interrupt amplitude over duration of effect; higher amplitude of interrupt means stronger and more realized hallucinations. A shaman will instinctively modulate the tones of his or her chants and songs to match the interrupt frequency and envelope of the hallucinogen as it begins to take effect. This technique accurately describes the oscillating drones, throat singing, slurping, sucking, squelching, whooshing, whistling, guttural ululating, and other vocalizations associated with ayahuascero shamanism.2,3 If a shaman can drive interrupt amplitude through constructive vocal interference he or she should also be able to dampen interrupt amplitude through destructive vocal interference (Fig 2).5 This technique would manifest as the ability to snap a subject out of an intense psychedelic experience with a quick change in phase between vocal waves and hallucinogenic interrupt frequency to decrease and flatten interrupt amplitude.

Figure 3 : Flyer for a trance festival where the DJ inside a giant mushroom controls a synchronized crowd of dancers from his booth.

Techniques of using resonance to shape wave amplitude have been exploited by modern DJs and music producers to engineer the hard-attack bass lines associated with acid house and trance music. In the psychedelic musical genre known as Goa Trance, bass lines rip through crowds of thousands of dancers with the resonant wave shape and amplitude of saw blades. The intensely amplified resonant pulse drivers of Goa Trance music are, in fact, the current bleeding-edge ritual technology of physical shamanism. Goa Trance originated from India; Goa Trance DJs and producers are revered like gurus or techno-shamen; and fans of Goa Trance travel to global music festivals the way other spiritual adherents make sacred pilgrimages. Goa Trance music is the psychedelic essence of resonant hallucinogenic tryptamine interrupt expressing itself through modern technology. Using electrically amplified sound systems, a trance DJ can manipulate a tribe of thousands in the same way a traditional shaman manipulates a tribe of dozens (Fig. 3). It is the same technology applied on a vastly larger scale.

Cellular Automata and Fractal Imprinting

Figure 4 : Fractals generated by computer programs and nature are isoforms of nonlinear psychedelic hallucinations.

It may be difficult to understand how a simple periodic interrupt or modulatory frame flicker can create such dramatic perceptual results, but the periodic interrupt should be thought of as a linear resonant pulse driver which, over time, generates complex and salient nonlinear wave interference patterns. This would be a description of a dynamical information processing system generating complexity over time based on a simple repetitive algorithm, such as a fractal (Fig 4) or a cellular automata (Fig 5). Fractals or cellular automata are perhaps the best visual metaphors for the spontaneous recursive organization of psychedelic visual hallucinations, and there is a very fractal or cellular element to the psychedelic experience which evolves along the flickering periodicity of the hallucinogen’s interrupt. The endless unfolding of the infinite psychedelic fractal continues until the hallucinogen is metabolized, at which point the hallucinogenic interrupt wears off, fades away, and consciousness unwinds from the recursive spiral and stabilizes back into linear information processing.

Figure 5 : Examples of programmatic cellular automata. Repetition of simple formal rules can create complex patterns of archetypal beauty.

Biology is repetitive feedback patterns; consciousness is repetitive feedback patterns; shamanism is the interruption and re-modulation of those repetitive feedback patterns to produce spectacular experiential results. In a very real way shamanism is the art of shaping the fractal integrity of the individual from the genetic level up through personal memory and tribal identity. The hallucinogenic interrupt allows the shaman to break the subject’s habituated daily routines and place them into a self-referential programming loop that includes all layers of personal and transpersonal identity. The interlocking facets of biological-self and transpersonal-self are made explicit in the flickering spirit space, and by controlling the depth of immersion into this space the shaman can control how much of the subject’s existing identity is exposed, manipulated, and transformed in the process.

The fractal rendering of sub- and meta- consciousness in the shamanic space allows psychedelics to have a profound long-term effect on identity-based neuroplasticity.9 By applying a resonant multisensory driver that acts as a cellular automata or nonlinear fractal generator for archetypal symbols in memory and imagination, the psychedelic session compiles and imprints memory structures that appear to be more transpersonal, holographic, and durable than linear identity constructs imprinted in an average lifespan. To be clear, the nonlinear iterative nature of psychedelic information exploits archetypal symbol rendering to bypass linear ego and imprint a recursive, holographic view of the transcendent self within a larger idealized cosmic reality. This idealized, holographic representation of the self may be considered more “real” than the actual self, perhaps even experienced as the essential self, transpersonal self, or the eternal soul. The ability to produce and manipulate a representation of the idealized transpersonal self makes psychedelics viable in shamanic transformation, clinical therapy, and spiritual awakening.

The holographic image of idealized self does not emerge in a single moment or even in a single psychedelic session; the organization of a psychedelic meta-identity is a process that may take many hours of a single psychedelic session or possibly multiple psychedelic sessions to fully complete. However, once the self-activation of psychedelic metaprogramming and holographic imprinting takes hold, the subject may perceive their transformation to be an evolutionary expression of a hidden genetic instruction set, or perhaps as a more perfect or cosmically mature version of their self emerging through spiritual cleansing and rebirth.7 There is evidence that a single psychedelic session can enhance self-worth and have lasting beneficial impact on mood and outlook.8 There is also evidence that psychedelics can be used to imprint pathological, antisocial, and delusional identity constructs.9 Holistic identity expression is generally considered to be a positive spiritual technology, but it can also be used to manipulate anxiety and exacerbate pathological behavior. This duality is commonly expressed in the nomenclature of therapy vs. mind control, negative vs. positive neuroplasticity, or shamanism vs. sorcery and witchcraft.

Linear vs. Nonlinear Memory Imprinting

The limits of human memory present some challenges for accurately encoding or describing the information generated in psychedelic states. Waking memory encodes linear, semantic information; dreams encode associative eidetic information; psychedelics encode nonlinear fractal information. There are many factors which limit the ability to accurately remember or recall psychedelic information. The rush of information is too fast; the content of the experience is too ineffable; and the processes of dreaming and eidetic visual hallucination blocks the formation of new semantic memories. In order to remember a dream a subject must wake up and make some mental notes, then go back to sleep to finish the dream; but if the subject does not rouse to some level of lucidity the dream is almost always forgotten. The same can be said for psychedelic hallucination; if the subject is too overwhelmed to make mental notes the content totally bypasses linear semantic memory. However, if psychedelic hallucination employs the same spontaneous organization of eidetic information used to encode associative long-term memory through dreaming, then psychedelic fractal information may also imprint directly into long-term memory at a subconscious level.

Shamanic Information Compression

Figure 6 : Pictures of the shaman from four different traditions: Tartar, Native American, Siberian, and Yakut. All use drums to control the tempo of the sacred ceremony.

The functional limitations of human memory and expression have been problematic for high-dose psychedelic research from the beginning. The best writing, artwork, and video emulating the psychedelic experience must be created after the fact, sometimes painstakingly so. The visual reconstruction of psychedelic memory is a labor intensive process; a single subjective psychedelic frame may take weeks or months to visually render, and will still be lacking in context and complexity from the original experience. The one artistic medium which can be expressed immediately without disrupting the quality of the shamanic experience is music. A shaman can relate the tone and content of the psychedelic experience in real time by singing, vocalizing, or playing drums (Fig. 6); this is the traditional method for binding psychedelic memory into physical space. The act of singing, drumming, or dancing also drives feedback and amplifies the energy of the psychedelic experience, thus making music the primary medium of psychedelic information compression and transmission.

Figure 7 : Wave representations of one-second snippets of icaros from three different ayhuasca shamen. All employ a recurring 'na na na na' vocalization in the 5.5-6Hz theta range, potentially matching the hallucinogenic frame echo. Click to listen.

There is compelling evidence that spontaneous singing and verbalization is a form of psychedelic information compression. Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, is reported as a spiritual side effect of psilocybin. Glossolalia may be considered a form of nonlinear speech or psychedelic information transmission erupting spontaneously through psychomotor synesthesia. When the shaman wants to speak with the spirit voice, that voice comes out more like music or glossolalia than like words and grammar (Fig. 7). When a subject on psychedelics listens to music, the music expands from auditory signal into full multisensory synesthesia; every layer of emotional resonance in the song is laid bare for the subject to intimately see and feel. Claiming that psychedelics make music sound better or allow you to “see the music” is easy; this appreciation has fueled the global music festival and DJ scenes for decades. Shamanic music does not need to store visual information because under the influence of psychedelics the music naturally expands into visual perception. A sacred song from a rainforest shaman may not induce a strong reaction in a sober subject, but under the influence of ayahuasca that same song may open a window into the shaman’s spirit world. This phenomena goes beyond the level of mere music appreciation, it demonstrates a cross-cultural technology for real-time encoding and transmission of nonlinear psychedelic information.

By examining the wave properties of ayahuasca icaros is it possible to construct an experiential rendering of the synesthetic hallucinogenic effects. A shaman may make gurgling or retching noises to amplify modulatory interruption of 5HT receptors in the gut to drive purgation. A fast rustling or shushing noise, like a snake rattle or wind through tree branches, evokes alpha-range relaxation and mental fluidity, and may also create goose-bumps and a salient sense of supernatural mystery. A droning drum beat or chant drives theta-band trance and hypnogogic states. A whistling or high pitched melody drives beta and gamma coherence, creating sharp mustisensory synesthesia of rising eidetic images. A guttural croaking or a resonant bass line amplifies the attack and decay of stacking hallucinogenic frames. A shaman may employ one or all of these techniques at various stages of ceremony, and may use them repetitively or cyclically, like a winding stem that moves through deeper and deeper layers of hallucinogenic immersion. The shamanic technique of lulling and evoking mystical hallucination can be compared to the frenetic qualities of modern trance music, where the goal is to entrain and sustain a high-energy visual state that unfolds and recurses for extended periods of time. The wave analysis of both modern trance and traditional icaros indicates that these are not merely modes of cultural artistic expression, but are also formal technologies for mediating and navigating various levels of psychedelic hallucination.

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Notes and References

[1] See "Control Interrupt Model of Psychedelic Action"

[2] Beyer, SV, 'Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon'. University of New Mexico Press (October 31, 2009)

[3] Observations of shamanic rituals and vocalizations taken from first-hand and recorded accounts of shamanic ceremonies.

[4] Subjective reports of psychedelic intoxication include references to awareness of internal physiological processes achieving synchronized efficiency. It is unknown if psychedelics have a globally coherent effect over all physiological processes, but since there are 5-HT receptors distributed throughout the entire body it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

[5] WikiPedia.org, 'Interference (wave propagation)'. Internet Reference, 2010.

[6] Descriptions of entering into the spirit world or receiving information through a lattice, veil, or spiritual overlay taken from subjective reports.

[7] Themes of spiritual cleansing and rebirth are common in shamanism and psychedelic mysticism. Modern interpretations of these themes include genetic self-activation or evolutionary manipulation of DNA via psychedelic catalyst. While these descriptions feel authentic there is no evidence to indicate that psychedelics drive manipulation or programming at a genetic level.

[8] Griffiths, R.R., 'Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance'. Psychopharmacology (2006) 187:268–283

[9] Groups linked to the weaponized use of psychedelics include the Manson Family, the SLA, Aum Shinrikyo, the CIA, and the United States Department of Defense.

[10] Yu Jiang, 'Trajectory selection in multistable systems using periodic drivings '. Volume 264, Issue 1, 13 December 1999, Pages 22-29

[11] Chizhevsky VN, Corbalan R, 'Multistability in a driven nonlinear system controlled by weak subharmonic perturbations'. phycon, vol. 2, pp.396-402, 2003 International Conference on Physics and Control - Volume 2 (PHYCON'03), 2003

[12] Charing HG, 'Communion with the Infinite: The visual music of the Shipibo people of the Amazon'. SH, Winter 2005

Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Chapter 02, 'An Overview of Physical Shamanism'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.

Keywords: shamanism, oscillators, entrainment, interference patterns, resonance

Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.