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Psychonautics (from the Greek ψυχή (psychē “soul/spirit/mind”) and ναύτης (naútēs “sailor/navigator”) – a sailor of the mind/soul) refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness, including those induced by mind altering substances, and to a research paradigm in which the researcher voluntarily immerses him/herself into an altered state by means of such techniques, as a means to explore human experience and existence.

The term has been applied diversely, to cover all activities by which altered states are induced and utilized for spiritual purposes or the exploration of the human condition, including shamanism, lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sensory deprivation, and archaic/modern drug users who use entheogenic substances in order to gain deeper insights and spiritual experiences.

A person who uses altered states for such exploration is known as a psychonaut.


● Hallucinogens and especially psychedelics like LSD, DMT, psilocybin mushrooms, and Peyote/mescaline, but also dissociatives like ketamine (used extensively in psychonautic endeavors by John C. Lilly).

● Disruption of psychological and physiological processes required for usual mental states – sleep deprivation, fasting, sensory deprivation, oxygen deprivation/smoke inhalation.

● Ritual, both as a means of inducing an altered state, and also for practical purposes of grounding and of obtaining suitable focus and intention.

● Dreaming, in particular lucid dreaming in which the person retains a degree of volition and awareness, and dream journals, both in order to better remember dreams and to further their understanding of their own symbolic internal dialogue.

● Hypnosis.

● Meditation.

● Prayer.

Biofeedback and other devices that change neural activity in the brain (brainwave entrainment) by means of light, sound, or electrical impulses, including: mind machines, dreamachines, binaural beats, and cranial electrotherapy stimulation

These may be used in combination; for example traditions such as shamanism may combine ritual, fasting, and hallucinogenic substances.


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