Imaginal Rave

humans are domesticated animals

Wasn’t it Timothy Leary who noted that “psychedelic drugs have been shown to cause paranoia, confusion, and total loss of reality – in [people] who have never taken them.”?

humans are domesticated animals?

THIS IS LESS ABOUT WHAT RAVES ARE OR AREN’T,?THAN ABOUT WHAT THEY MIGHT BE.?So don’t bother here looking for a rehash of the obvious: that raves are the coolest thing in underground parties; about having fun/feeling good/Energy/Unity/Community. . . all of which IS true, needless to say, but there remains so much more to be said, so much more to BE!CUT through the clouds of fashion and commercialization that wrap themselves around any major new mutation in culture.

What wants to be invoked (What I want to invoke-what I hope YOU want to invoke) is that imaginal, incandescent core out of which all the smoke and noise is generated; what a rave can truly be, for some people in some situations – what it could BECOME; and then, peeling away at the sides, falling off one by one, duller flatter, greyer. . . and ever so much more TAME. . . all those would-be and almost raves, unavoidable byproducts of anything too real.

An old Sufi saying has it that “Where there’s counterfeit, there must be true gold. “

So next time you go to something that calls itself a rave but isn’t, don’t just write it all off. Trust me , the real ones exist, and why SHOULD they be so easy to find? And after all, it’s up to YOU to make them real.

Alright, we already know that raves are THE space-age tribal youth ritual, the return of the Dionysian energy that first emerged in 50’s rock ‘n’ roll and erupted in full force in the late 60’s with the intertwining of music and psychedelic drugs. But the rave current is itself only the more visible crest of something broader and deeper. It’s no coincidence that it hits the States at the same time as a major resurgence of psychedelic usage.

You can take the toying with neo-60’s motifs – day-glo, flowers, smiley faces, flares – as mere fashion recycling by a generation born largely post Summer of Love. Or you can see these themes as the instinctual recovery of a project left hanging, a next breath after a decade-long lull.

Or you can go even further – and why not!? – and see “the ’60s” as only one recent intrusion within the Flatland of (take a deep breath now) Gravity-Bound-Domesticated-Humanoid-Industrial civilization, (got that?) of a future that is already happening, a future that beckons us towards itself and sends its echoes spiralling back through the dark and narrow tunnels of terrestrial time to make itself come true. . . But only with your help, of course!

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Picture a wave forming on the horizon, a big one (I’m talking late ’50s, early ’60s here): the psychick surfers coasting out there, the beatniks, the non-conformists, oddball academics bored with the small town life at the shore and all its dismal soap-opera games, looking for something to carry them away into a wilder, richer world; the first swells of energy carry with them a tide of psycho-active algaes. . .

Hoffman/Huxley/Burroughs/Ginsberg/Watts/Leary/Kesey and Co.,?sending back their first reports and manifestoes.

computer music

Munching on the junk food of the gods; hallucinogens, our proto-mutants are initiated into the mysteries of the Vortex; they glide back down to the cardboard facades of Main Street with their evocations of kaleidoscopic infinity, eyes lit with the light of alien suns. Their news answers a gnawing hunger among so many people trapped within the greypastelboxroutines of the industrial-consumer-democratic hive.

More, they activate dormant circuits of the hive’s nervous system, and spawn a burst of deviance, of mutation: forms of rebellion less interested in disputing what varieties of greypastelboxroutines are preferable and what’s right and wrong for everybody, than in setting up scouting parties for heading out to sea. . .?Underline the word parties.

Dosed to the gills, beatniks in existential black mutate into rainbowed-hued hippiedom. Up with the Flower Children, hedonistic and ‘escapist’ – so-called because they withdrew from the arena of domesticated primate aggro-sports, known as ‘politics’ in favor of actually learning about the infinite kingdoms within their own bodies and nervous systems.

Drop into the Haight Street district of San Francisco, turn off the powertrips, tune out conformism and competition.

Meltdown ensues. All the accelerated bondings through Be-Ins, Love-Ins, & communes. Awash in the incense of oriental exoticism and occultist bric-a-brac, a renaissance of the spirit decks itself out in threads of psychic kitsch.

And how can we fault them, really, if their Love & Peace trip undercut itself by becoming a denial of the Darkness; after all, they are there for us to learn from. But just as everyone is tumbling about in the cosmic froth, anticipating revolution or millennium tomorrow afternoon at latest, the Wave suddenly evaporates beneath them. Opps, the Earth Egg didn’t quite hatch yet. . . just some stirrings.

And so the children of the Vortex find themselves hurtling through the air like Wil E. Coyote, wrapped up in all their newfound lifestyles, but the vital juice is gone, and it all becomes so tame and lame so quickly; and in any case, a lot of people couldn’t handle the intensity so it comes time to settle back into a safe routine – in some cases, lay the groundwork for those who come after, and all around are the Mr. Jones of many guises, panicked at the imminent collapse of Normalville; some take their chances and cash in on what they can of it, a lot of others are wholly freaked, and so begins a Counter-Reformation. On the one hand, a retreat from direct encounter with the Abyss crystallizes into the New Age, and on the other, it’s back to the Bible, dumb drugs, white-bread and Family Values.

And all the hipsters left posing without a clue, all the burnouts/f*ckups/addicts and victims of some invisible multi-dimensional bogeying elephant; over there in the ivy towers, the blind men scribble their learned tomes, dissecting some stray paisley footprints; but something far stranger has happened, and it’s awfully hard to make out just what, ’til the next, bigger cousin of that wave starts to surface offshore.

Meanwhile, even many devotees of the Vortex ascribe it to the decline in quality of their psychoactive goodies, mistaking the portal for the vista beyond (but how do they enter the vista without the portal?) Hmmmm. . . “BE THY VISION!” a distant curl of the Vortex whispers back.

Credit it all to upsurges of the Gaian mind, long-schemed scams of the giggling DNA-consciousness, or the flotsam and jetsam cast down by That Transcendent Novelty Item at the End of Time; choose your metaphors – the more the merrier, there’s a mystery-in-progress here that all the nice rationalistic analysis will never get at. Here I’ll echo a point once made by Mr. Tim Leary: the most subtle form of conservatism is that which views the present only through the prism of the past!

Pass through the eye of a needle

And yes, to those for whom it’s not patently obvious, IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN. At the heart of the rave (or call it what you want) is a modern, technologically clad form of non-verbal, ecstatic communion.

The ethos of openness, sharing, intimacy, touch and empathy – not to mention the pure intensities of trance itself – facilitated by the use of LSD and MDMA (hey, the fact that you have to take these things to loosen up is just a sign of how far down and lost we all are!!!), in tandem with the all-night long pulsation of bodies to the same sound source, can and does create a context where layers of armoring and conditioning are shed, where those willing can find the joyous and mysterious realm of their bodies free of oh-so many enculturated ego trips and bullsh*t, while also opening the “post terrestrial” circuits of their psyches. (Whew! Pause, rewind, read paragraph again, slowly). In other words, a safe space where we can be as weird as we want to be. A collective molting ritual for the new species.

Or take it from another angle: compare the rave thing to a chemical reaction; a half-dozen ingredients (make your own list), inert and ordinary in the normal course of things, but combine them in the right proportions, at the right time and place, apply the CATALYST (and what could that be?) and BOOM!, you’ve set off an explosion, a chain reaction producing ENERGY, lots of it, and in the process, a dynamic that continues to transform many of the original ingredients into new and unknown qualities. No question, of course, that sceptical bystanders can look in from the distance and reduce it all to something familiar; escapism, consumerism, fashion parade, whatever. But we’ll leave them to their nervous calculations. . .

OK, so you want a dictionary definition of TECHNO-SHAMNISM, that catch phrase everybody like to invoke, but no one seems to be able to actually explain?

Prepare to jump levels: As the individual shaman/ess evicts demon and excises magical darts from the sick person through a mixture of sound & motion, so on the level of the diseased and crisis-ridden ‘global village’, raves aim to heal the collective body by shaking it loose of its neurotic fixations and death-fetishes. EXORCISM THROUGH DANCE. Unhooking the talons and shadowy webs of societal control, through a physical unlearning of a few thousand years worth of social programming and downright BAD HABITS. Learning to be at once a little more human and a little bit more alien.

Healer, leader, visionary, outcast; the shaman/ess’ role is multi-faceted, both at the center, but also relegated to the margins of the community. The use of rhythmic sound and/or psychoactive compounds are central to shamanism. The shaman/ess chants, hums, drums and dances as a way of programming their voyage into the “spirit realms” (AKA HYPERSPACE), as well as of healing the mind and bodies of others, way lo-tech scale, of course.

So there, chew on that for awhile.

It’s a pretty sad but predictable fact that the so-called radicals of our counter culture society have been so oblivious to this phenomenon, just because it seems to be emanating out of NITEKLUBLAND; too bad – when will they figure out that all social alienation is ultimately grounded in an alienation from the body – that realm of nature closest to us, but oh-so far away. Their counter-culture heroine, Emma Goldman, once proclaimed to the grim socialist militants of her day, “If I can’t dance in your revolution, I want no part of it!”

And what if dance could be a modality of social change?

A heretical thought, no doubt. “Free you ass and you mind will follow,” so said George Clinton. But hey, he was just another crass capitalistic rock star, right?

Not to resuscitate however, that burdensome word ‘Revolution’. Scratch the R, highlight the E; Evolution. . .

Quote an obscure graffito from a wall in Paris, May 1968 – “This is not a Revolution, but a Mutation!” And say rather, TAZ – Temporary Autonomous Zone.

Like the TAZ, the rave is wild, nomadic, outside the maps of Power. At its best, the rave opens onto a realm of free-form behavior and perception, one in which there is no hierarchy, no leaders or followers, at most the DJ and the light-show artists, (hopefully benign – be careful who you leave your sensorium with!).

Not unlike the Situationist International’s notion of the “situation” (sorry, I just had to drag them in here!), a space of liberated interactions. . . but where the participants are the art and the show, the synergy between them all the event. If the insurrection was supposed to realize itself in a festival, we might ask, why shouldn’t the festival turn into a insurrection – an insurrection of Love?

Anyone who has been pat of a REAL rave, if only once, briefly even, knows that it’s insane, insanely beautiful ferocity is something that exceeds all the contrived parlor-games that pass for alternatives, social or political. The simple fact of this ferocious hedonism is, without words or slogans, A REFUTATION OF DOMESTICATED EXISTENCE!

So f*ck IT if most of the rave-scene is still ensnared in niteklubism. Invade the pseudo-raves, instigate roving micro-raves. Doesn’t take more than a ghetto blaster and a handful of courageous revellers to start a rave on any street corner or park, see how long it takes to catch on. . . or to be shut down. . .

This is OUR form of protest – our style of dance is angry and combative as well as loving and celebratory. To free our bodies first from this rotting carcass of history. . . and from there, who knows where we’ll go?

music is freedom

DANCE – If you had just ONE metaphor for it all to live by and through, wouldn’t that just be it? The spiral dance of life. . . sound so cliched, but cliched only in words, in words – DANCE, but (and rave friends can detour here for a second, these are words for those who’ve never raved and longed stopped even going out), DANCE – this kind of dance – is freeing motion.

Not just moving to the beat, but letting the beat help you throw off all the constricted robotic movements that have been imprinted into your heart, your eyes, your ears, your arms, your ass, your dreams, by all the tricks, traumas and seductions of a society gone awry, and find the Real You! Dancing with the world, but dancing off the consensus-trance, that narrow-greyout-rightangle-robotic-updown-freezeframe-psuedo-reality.

Raves signal the return to Western culture of sacred dance. A dance that balances discipline with excess, ecstasy with focus. Look at the three great monotheisms that have molded our psycho-somatic matrix: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; none of them possess any tradition of sacred movement.

They have all been scared sh*tless of the Body, and have instituted its repression in a thousand and one subtle ways. How appropriate that the advent of a spiritualized form of movement to the center of Civilization should present itself in a totally decadent, seemingly profane form. And people wonder why raves are actively suppressed in the UK? Don’t be surprised if the establishment tries to ban them everywhere.

And let’s get this out of the way too: dancing on a decent dose of a psychedelic is something else again; communing with the animal spirits encoded into the depths of your DNA, letting them out of their millennial cages, learning how you can be each of them when you need to be, learning how to fly, to turn yourself inside-out into a spinning, glowing disk, though that is a little harder. . . and then, once we’ve got that under our belts, we can do it TOGETHER.

So what if all this commercial prepackaged ravitis costs too much?! Don’t leave it to them and whine about how commercialized it all is: THROW YOUR OWN! AND MUTATE WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!

So some of the dinosaurs may not be happy seeing their way of life superseded, and will want to stamp out those noisy critters scampering between their feet; more intelligence and greater maneuverability will be our response. Haven’t we gotten sick enough of the Enemy-Production Line?

Social transmutation can be fun too, right? There’s fun. safe, vapid alcoholic-nicotine hedonism, letting off steam so you can return to Monday; and then there’s fun that aims high, fun allied with Will.

Citizen of the Dance floor, look a little ways forward; have you wondered yet, what happens once you’re burnt out after a year or two of intensive clubbing, once you’ve lost half your hearing, once the beats become stale, and the Energy has leaked away. Well, what then?Define the rave for me. What does the verb ‘to rave’ really mean to you?

But first, let’s list all the stuff that seems to go with it: Acid/techno/deep house music; dancing from dusk-till-dawn; hi-tech light shows; lollipops, floppy hats, dayglo pendants, smart drinks; 500Kc tickets; zillion gigawatt sound systems; drugs; goofy sci-fi outfits; so many inane and beatific smiles. . .

Shall we ask together, “Just what IS the essence of a rave?”

Suppose for a second that we subtract one, by one, each of the above elements. Stretch your imagination to the limit, and take away all, even, yes even, THE MUSIC; till all we have left are the people, all those people who have found each other in this beat, in these hidden gatherings, but without the beat, just heartbeat, pulse-rate, breath. . . and the exchange of love-energies (isn’t that what sex is, ultimately?), radiant and revelling in our unearthly beauty.

So here we are; much as we adore it, do we really need the dance music to affirm our commonalty, the patent fact that we are siblings of the same spiritual family, who through the raves have managed to find one another, and in that finding, we remember who each of us truly is; an orphan child of eternity. Do we need to confuse the rave with quality of our common presence, our moving, loving together; can’t we take the essence of the rave, freed from all the externals we associate with it, and transfer and apply that energy to other parts of out lives, to just about anything?

It comes down to a challenge, a challenge posed in that leap from normal space to hyperspace that kicks in when the ‘rave’ really starts to rave; those altered moments when each of us in being truest to our uniqueness enters into a harmonious whole. Elusive as this may be, it calls out, and asks to be realized in every moment of our lives. It asks for creation, creation of life, for the nurturing of real communities that last deeper and longer than a few hours on the dance floor. . .

All that creative energy, apply it not just to your style of dress, but to your mode of BEING. Free Eros and intimacy from the socially programmed sexuality’s (gay vs. straight, male vs. female), from monogamy and the neurotic fixation on genital sexuality.

TURN DOWN THE VOLUME, listen to the silence, tune in to your inner rhythms, follow the energy pulse that connects you to your Self, to others, to Gaia, to the stars. Yes, celebrate, celebrate your arrival here at last after a long trek, but don’t forget, this is only our point of departure.

These parties are our loading docks and shipyards. And don’t worry, there is plenty of work to be down, enough healing and cleaning for us all. Here is where we will build not just a house, but a ship, a ship of dreams, a starship. Woven out of LOVE, CHAOS, LAUGHTER, IMAGINATION, WILL and each other. And embark; post-nuclear families setting sail out along the unwinding, multi-dimensional origami strands of alternity. . . Our motto: UTOPIA OR BUST.?


– Cinnamon Twist, the Barbary coast.