Psychic Self Defense, by Maria Mangini
It is not uncommon in modern life to find oneself daily exposed to various kinds of mental and psychic manipulation. Sales techniques, ways of fascinating sexual partners, attempts to make oneself popular and dominant, and schemes for attracting money and success are all commonplace in our daily exposure to media and to other peoples’ ideas and desires. Most advertising that we encounter is based on a promise that some product or practice will help us with one or another of these goals. In some facet of our lives, most of us would like to acquire power over situations and people which we might use to benefit the general welfare, our close associates and favorite schemes, or ourselves directly. The implication of many ordinary advertisements is that we can somehow acquire power over others or obtain the objects of our desire. For the most part, this kind of manipulation is considered to be benign and commonplace, and most of us have developed some degree of resistance to its effects. Most pitches, appeals and advertisements have relatively harmless objectives and we do not reprehend the practice of trying to control the behavior or thought patterns of others in these ways.
But what about persons and programs that are less benign in their intentions? What if someone covets his neighbors wife, or her ox or his ass or her other valuables? What if one wants something to which one is emphatically not entitled? What if one is on the dark side of an ethical or moral principle in one’s desires? What about people who are motivated by a love of power for its own sake, or simply “experimenting” to see what kinds of power they can wield and what they may be able to entice others to do? In the 1950s, the bestselling author of The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, examined how we react to sales and advertising and identified eight of what he called “compelling needs:” Emotional security, Reassurance of worth, Ego gratification, Creative outlets, Love objects, A sense of power, Roots, and Immortality.
Packard’s theory was that these needs are so irresistible that they can be used to sculpt our expectations and convince us that we require products and services that hold out the promise that they will help us satisfy them. Skillful manipulators may employ the promise of fulfilling one or more of these needs in order to induce susceptible persons to obey their will and conform to their standards and practices.
When one ventures into realms of consciousness that are different from ordinary waking consciousness, there is a possibility that the everyday self-protective practices which enable us to self-determine how much and what kind of persuasion we will allow and what we will resist may not immediately be as well developed as those that we use in our ordinary daily activities. The openness and vulnerability that highly permeable states of consciousness promote can be used by selfish and unscrupulous, power-seeking individuals in highly detrimental and damaging ways. There is a growing awareness that there have been and continue to be instances where psychedelic medicines that can be used safely and productively in stable and sacred contexts and settings may also allow unprincipled or corrupt “healers” “guides” or “shamans” to take advantage of the consequent vulnerability of psychedelic adventurers for their own ends.
For some time, WVC has been working to assist users of psychoactive materials to become more careful and discerning psychonauts. The wealth of knowledge and experience of wise women and men of our community has been collected and posted a list of thoughtful and practical Safety Tips for those participating in ceremonies that use psychoactive substances which first appeared on our website in December 2012.
In many spiritual traditions, this information might be provided by a spiritual teacher or leader. In his book A Path With Heart, Vipassana teacher Jack Kornfeld points out that in the Christian, Sufi and Jewish traditions there are sacred texts and maps that describe
the mystical realms that can be entered, and that Buddhist scriptures describe hundreds of techniques for opening consciousness. Sri Aurobindo and Rudolph Steiner both described spontaneous awakenings of consciousness which could be either healing or dangerous, depending upon how they were approached and managed. Psychics and practitioners of Western traditions of ceremonial magic have also given practical advice on how to consolidate the benefits that may be obtained.
In addition to the Safety Tips list of twenty thoughtful considerations for exercising discretion and diligence in deciding beforehand when and with whom to participate in explorations of consciousness, we would also like to offer some practical tips and practices that are based in the advice of experienced teachers and psychonauts for remaining psychically safe and centered during and after the experience. Because psychedelic psychonauts are often on the leading edge of a cultural transformation, the resources that other spiritual traditions have developed and taught for how to move safely and productively in non-ordinary states of consciousness may not be accessible or familiar. As a corollary to the discussion previously presented in our Terra Firma blog about the ongoing mass-market commercialization of psychoactive substances and the need for cultivation of personal power and knowledge, we would like to offer some simple practices for "psychic self defense" (Fortune, 1930) that have been taught to us and members of our community by experienced sadhakas, visionaries, psychics, occultists, meditators, siddhas and psychonauts over a period of decades.
There are generally three ways in which problems arise for voyagers in non-ordinary realms: as the product of physical disease, due to malicious human action or due to non human interference. Resources for dealing with physical disease are generally more abundant in our familiar social world that than they have been at other times and places where psychonauts have ventured out. Suggestions for dealing with some kinds of malicious human action have been discussed in WVC’s list of Safety Tips, and we continue to add to this list as new suggestions and information is submitted and acquired by our community members. Practices for dealing with non-human interference are more difficult to access, and even to open the discussion of problems of this kind may create various kinds of resistance. Many traditional communities consider it to be an extreme form of bad manners to talk about topics such as haunting and sorcery. On the other hand, an educated, acculturated member of the modern developed-world social realm risks being discredited and derided for revealing a belief in the power of “supernatural forces” to cause harm and danger. One is taking a chance even to broach this topic in any serious way.
Because of these resistances, for those of us who choose to use psychoactive substances for personal growth and self exploration, access to traditional techniques may be less available than for practitioners in established spiritual disciplines or traditional cultural communities. However this does not prevent conceptually and emotionally challenging material being activated by ventures into the non-ordinary realms. While there are varying degrees of challenge presented, some very simple and straightforward practices may help voyagers to return intact from their adventures or regroup after difficult events. We therefore have compiled some specific practices that have proved beneficial to experienced psychonauts or which have been proposed or recommended by spiritual teachers or traditional practitioners whose work brings their followers to experience non ordinary states of consciousness, and who may require some assistance in remaining supported and healthy throughout.
In some cases, these are practices which were recommended specifically for a particular individual, a distinct situation or an explicit need. Therefore not all of these suggestions are likely to be useful to everyone, or to be applicable to all kinds of perceived difficulties. Some of these practices have been personally found to be useful, and some are merely interesting approaches to maintaining psychic intactness when voyaging in unfamiliar realms. Some suggestions derive from the teaching of guides who may be working with a student or follower who has already had some other specific training or instruction upon which these practices can then build.
1.) If there is a concern about physical disease, begin by consulting a practitioner who is skilled in evaluating the physical body, and preferably one who is knowledgeable about the sacred medicines and their effects as well.
2.) Sunlight is very valuable, and can be used to renew and strengthen the aura and energy body.
3.) Games, massage, physical exercise or any activity that focuses on the body is helpful.
4.) Garden work (without gloves) and barefoot walking has been recommended for persons experiencing up-rushing energy such as Kundalini
5.) A non-vegetarian diet, particularly one that includes red meat, especially lamb. 6.) Regular meals (do not go more than 2 hours without eating something) 7.) Putting the feet in hot water with mustard added.
8.) A large heavy hot water bottle or a large flat warmed stone placed over the solar plexus
9.) Concentration on mundane things such as arithmetic or Sudoku problems, folding laundry, coloring books, or weaving.
10.) Consider the timing of any episodes of fear, threat or discomfort associated with unwelcome energy. These may be affected by the phase of the moon, the tide tables, equinoxes and solstices. Increase the use of the practices noted here at critical times if exacerbations of ill-feeling occur in a predictable pattern.
11.) Remove any souvenir or power object associated with the problematic person or experience from the home
12.) Any act performed with intention becomes a rite. So, for example, bathe not just for physical cleanliness but also to clear any unpleasant influences. Add a small amount of salt to the bath water.
13.) Do not place outdoor clothing, which may have picked up energy from strangers, on a bed. Thoroughly air clothing that has been worn in the presence of problematic or unknown persons.
14.) Place a small saucer of vinegar and salt or carefully burn a mixture of rubbing alcohol and Epsom salt in a metal vessel in the room where one works, practices or meditates.
15.) Dispose personally of hair-combings and nail clippings, preferably by burning.
16.) Include root crops in the diet every day.
As we have stated before, we firmly believe that the best way to secure ones’ safety when entering non-ordinary states of consciousness is to take steps to educate oneself and develop ones own plan to address potentially hazardous situations. We suggest that our participants and constituents cultivate their own power and knowledge, rather than depending on outside groups or individuals who offer promises of safety. The unseen world is full of potential perils, but we have it within our ability to take proactive measures and effectively address potential threats.
Fortune, D. (1930) Psychic self-defense. Aquarian Press.
Kornfeld, J. (1993) A path with heart: A guide through the perils and promises of spiritual life. Bantam.
Packard, V. (1959) The hidden persuaders. Pocket Books.
Women’s Visionary Council. (2012). Twenty Safety Tips for those participating in ceremonies that use psychoactive substances.