technoshamanism, neotribalism, and the collective neural net

My virtual wandering through the thousands of bulletin boards that make up exposed me to two terms I’d never heard of before, but instantly caught my attention: technoshamanism and neotribalism. Both terms evoke a somewhat romantic notion of merging modern technologies with our ancient tribal past. For instance, certain kinds of electronic music are claimed to have the capacity to induce trance-like states that are shared by a group of people through ecstatic dance, evoking images of shamanic tribal rituals in various parts of the world (such as South America, India, and Africa). Synthetic drugs such as LSD (“acid”) and MDMA (“ecstasy”) are frequently ingested as well, to aid in inducing trance-like states, altering visual and auditory perceptions, and enhancing feelings of connectedness to others and the “divine within”. In the words of one member:

“To me, [technoshamanism] is getting in touch with the past and uniting it with the present. Our species has danced the night away to a rhythm and beat for as long as we have had consciousness to do so. Whether it be an animal hide-based drum, or a drum machine the sound is the same. If music in general was compared to say, the English language, its beat and rhythm would be the vowel sounds that make up every word in existence. Understood by all who hear it regardless of ethnicity or creed.”

Various parallels with these ideas/beliefs can be found with religious movements: prophetic figures have emerged throughout the past half-century (such as Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna, Alex Grey and Daniel Pinchbeck), some of whom espouse the belief (traces of which can be found throughout the site) that the world will either come to an end in the year 2012, or become embroiled in a global spiritual transformation (this theory is rooted in the Mayan Calendar, but I won’t get too gritty with the details. It’s all widely disputed by Mayanist scholars). “The tribes and the primitive people will survive,” predicts a 50-year old Californian man, “know how to get all that you need from the earth. Nothing else can be expected to survive.” Like the Back-to-the-Land movement of the 1960’s, neotribalists seek a return to humanity’s “ancestral roots” through developing local, self-sustaining communities, with an emphasis on creating a global network of interconnected tribes. The Internet is, quite naturally, one of those modern technologies that is utilized by technoshamans as a means of tapping into the collective neural network.

Underlying the ideology of neotribalism is the concept of a universal consciousness that has been forgotten in the wake of civilization, and that must be rediscovered if humanity is to survive. A technoshaman, then, is a guide, one who integrates modern technology into primordial practices in order to induce transcendent experiences. Now, such a description evokes remnants of that anthropological black mark- the noble savage. From my vantage point, it feels a bit shameful- white hippies “going tribal,” attempting to appropriate cultural practices that have developed over centuries.

[Edit: Thanks for the feedback. My feelings about its shamefulness extend from my own personal experiences with such practices, and wondering, at times, if we are being duped into the sense of communitas- often brought about only through the aid of drugs. I’ve thrown many such parties, where I provided no drugs, in an attempt to see if *it* could be spontaneously generated without such additions… I failed, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying…

I agree, we are enculturated to look down on such practices. And that’s fucked up.]

Your feedback is strongly encouraged… tap into my neural network, damnit!