“Psychonaut” by Peter J. Carroll

Psychonaut is the second text in this book (click here to read my thoughts on Liber Null, the first text). While Liber Null primarily focuses on individual uses of Chaos Magic, Psychonaut focuses on group practices, or what Carroll calls shamanistic work.

Rather than examining the ritualistic practices described in this text, I decided to instead write about the connections and contrasts between the mystical arts and conventional science, as addressed by Carroll in his book. Carroll begins by asserting that science is returning to magic, in a sense.

After some centuries of neglect, advanced minds are turning their attention to magic once more. It used to be said that magic was what we had before science was properly organized. It now seems that magic is where science is actually heading. Enlightened anthropology has grudgingly admitted that beneath all the ritual and mumbo-jumbo of so-called primitive cultures there exists a very real and awesome power that cannot be explained away.  Higher psychics now suggest that the universe runs on something more akin to sorcery than clockwork.

(p. 111)

Carroll follows up by positing that the next leap forward in human evolution and understanding will be in the realm of the psyche, an idea that I agree with. The new frontier for humanity is that of consciousness.

Science has brought us power and ideas but not the wisdom or responsibility to handle them. The next great advance that humanity will make will be into the psychic domain. There are many encouraging signs that this is beginning to occur. In this new field of endeavor we shall rediscover much of the magical knowledge that the ancient shamans once possessed. Of course, we shall know it under different guises and will eventually expand on their knowledge immensely.

(p. 113)

When exploring consciousness, the scientific method essentially fails, since consciousness is linked to perception and therefore cannot be observed in the traditional manner in which scientific observations are made.

Many scientific disciplines begin by not observing any sort of vital spark or consciousness in material events and proceed to deny that these things exist in living beings, including themselves. Because consciousness does not fit into their mechanistic schemes they declare it illusory. Magicians make exactly the reverse argument. Observing consciousness in themselves and animals, they are magnanimous enough to extend it to all things to some degree – trees, amulets, planetary bodies, and all. This is a far more respectful and generous attitude than that of religions, most of whom won’t even give animals a soul.

(p. 151)

Since the time of Carroll’s writing of this book in 1987, science has made many advances in the exploration of consciousness. Researchers using MRI imaging of the brains of people who meditate shows that meditation affects brain function. There has also been discovery in quantum physics that perception and consciousness have a direct effect on subatomic particles. Where will all this lead? Not sure, but it is certainly food for thought.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings.

8 Comments

Filed under Non-fiction, Spiritual

8 responses to ““Psychonaut” by Peter J. Carroll

  1. Sounds like another good book. Magic gets unfairly criticized to the extent that it is misunderstood, both in its practice and its place in history, but also in its value for exposing oneself to oneself. There’s a lot to be gained in the exploration of the will. It forces us to ask better questions about our motivation, I think. Science could certainly benefit with the inclusion of an examination of motivation along with an awareness of the place in the culture for its ideas and knowledge. My ten cents! 🙂

    I think I’ve heard of Peter Carroll before, but I can’t remember from where!

    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving, if you celebrate, Jeff.

    • Asking better questions about our motivations. Yes, we can all benefit from that level of self-examination. As always, thanks for your thoughtful comments. And yes, I had a nice Thanksgiving. Hard to pass up an opportunity to express gratitude while indulging in good food 😉 Cheers!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Jeff. I didn’t know that you could see the effects of meditation on an MRI, but I’m not surprised to hear that. It’s also interesting to think of consciousness as the new frontier for humanity. That definitely makes sense to me.

    • Yeah, I believe it was some Harvard researchers who discovered this. It was kind of interesting. You can Google it and find the report online if you are so inclined. Hope you and your family are well. Stay safe. A lot of people are getting sick out there.

  3. Meditation and MRI’s! Sounds like a band’s name! lol.

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