Psychedelics, Visionary Art, Virtual Reality & Healing
Shout out to James W. Jesso, his podcast ATTMind Radio, and his recent interview with visionary artist Sander Bos, where they sparked my reflections on the evolution of art as it coincides with the progression of virtual reality technology.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH V.R.
Out the corner of my eye I spotted a man with long blonde hair in a patched black trench coat, wielding a chunky set of goggles that fit snuggly over his head. I knew what it was, and having been interested in virtual reality technology for some time, immediately walked over to experience it.
The Oculus Rift.
It was 2014, and I was attending a lecture by Graham Hancock, discussing his research on both ancient civilisations, and psychedelics, and someone had the fantastic idea of setting up their virtual reality creation for others to experience, while waiting in the foyer. I put on the goggles which completely covered my field of vision, and immediately entered a virtual world of colourful patterns and geometric shapes.
While the activity of physically walking wouldn't propel me through this psychedelic looking landscape, I could turn my head in any direction and visually explore his virtual creation. The graphics were average (think Playstation 2 quality), but I had a feeling that the exponential evolution of technology would eventually enable designers and artists to produce amazing virtual worlds of colour and sound.
It wasn't until I recently listened to visionary artist Sander Bos talk with James Jesso on ATTMind Radio, that I was reminded of the combination of technology, visionary art, and the psychedelic experience, with the new idea that was presented (at least to me anyway) to potentially create spaces of healing and exploration, through the melding of these mediums.
THE EMERGENCE OF NEW POSSIBILITIES AND A NEW CULTURE?
Virtual and Augmented Reality products like the Oculus Rift, Tilt Brush, HTC Vive and Magic Leap, are breeding the future of not only gaming and entertainment, but similar technological application through media, communications, productivity, and even healthcare. 1
In the short clip below, Step Into The Page, Disney animator Glen Keane uses VR technology to "step into the paper" taking his once flat animations, to the world of three dimensions. Applied to the field of medicine and science, the exploration of the physical structures inside the human body are becoming more detailed, with increasing possibilities to investigate the micro-world of cells, diseases, and carrying out virtual medical procedures in a 3D space.
It's fascinating to look at the current state of VR and where we're headed. When the exponential growth of technology is analyzed, we can see that extrapolating beyond the current creations through the wearing of a headset, reveals mind-blowing potentials. VR is already psychedelic enough as it is, but when visionary artists take control and wield their creative essence within the landscape of these virtual worlds, it opens the doors to incredible possibilities of entirely new cultures and modalities of healing.
THE NEW BREED OF VISIONARY ARTISTS.
It's clear to see that our culture and society are highly influenced by technology, and the reality is, that everything is becoming more and more fast paced. It’s easy to get swept up in the high speed connections and constant flow of new gadgets in the digital world, and forget that we haven’t been immersed in the Digital Era all that long.
The Digital Revolution of computers and technology began no earlier than the late 50's. That's less than 70 years of having computers and technology! 2
The very first flight to the moon was only 58 years ago, the Nintendo GameBoy Colour came out 19 years ago, and the very first iPhone was released only 9 years ago! That's crazy!! Technology has advanced an incredible amount in such a short time frame, AND, it's still in it’s infancy! Keeping that in mind, when we take a look at what some of the Visionary Artists are currently creating through VR, we can get a grasp of what’s possible and let our minds run wild into infinite potentials.
As mentioned, Sander Bos is one man from the Netherlands venturing into this realm. His beautiful trailer for the Occulus Rift titled Australium, is filled with light, geometry and psychedelic imagery, giving us a taste of what worlds could be possible to explore when we strap on a VR headset.
Raga Chromesthesia, is another of Sander's creations, in which he combines "live sitar music with immersive virtual reality environments." He states that the sitar produces a sound that is "a guiding aid that lets the viewer journey through completely new dimensions of light and beauty."
Another artist I stumbled upon was James R. Ead, who creates shimmering mushroom dreamworlds using the same technology that Disney artist Glen Keane uses: Tilt Brush. His instagram feed gives us a glimpse into some of the other mesmorizing psychedelic landscapes he crafts.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ALL THESE WORLDS COLLIDE?
Research through MAPS, PRISM, Johns Hopkins, The Beckley Foundation, UCLA, Imperial College and the Hefter Research Institute (to name a few) are paving the way when it comes to psychedelic science. Many of the studies are highlighting the efficacy of utilising psychedelic substances combined with therapeutic and healing modalities, such as the promising results of treating people with drug addictions and mental disorders.
What could transpire when visionary artists and their virtual worlds, align with therapists, and even psychedelics, to create places of healing and transformation? Sound a little far-fetched? Hear me out for a minute!
Dutch neuroscientist Mendel Kaelen has collected four years worth of data on the psychological and neurophysiological effects of music in combination with psychedelics3, which he presented at the recent Psychedelic Science 2017 Conference.
His research shows that music has a huge impact on the ability to guide psychedelic journeys and for it's potential to increase states of healing. In the future, visionary artists could create visually stimulating virtual reality environments that mimic those in psychedelic altered states of consciousness, in conjunction with known healing modalities, such as using specific sounds and frequencies, to give rise to entirely new therapeutic spaces.
Perhaps the practice of microdosing could be implemented. Through the introduction of tiny sub-perceptual doses of a psychedelic compound, subtle shifts in perception could be complimentary to these new systems, and because of the biochemical interaction with these psychedelic compounds, albeit tiny amounts, pronounced neurological changes such as 'rewiring' patterns and behaviours could occur when combined with virtual journeys.
There could be significant healing potential here for those who don't want to undergo a heavy flood dose of something like Ayahuasca, LSD, Mescaline, or Psilocybin, but would still like to take a small step towards having a psychedelic experience, whether for consciousness exploration, healing purposes, or as another tool to generally improve one's life.
Completely chemical free visionary virtual landscapes could also offer those who have never undergone a psychedelic experience, a stepping stone, to potentially transition into more intense experiences. Perhaps by only using certain visuals, sounds, and therapeutic modalities, levels of healing could be achieved without ever actually having to consume chemical compounds.
The addition of story telling, whether verbal, musical, or visual, could take people on specific journeys to induce emotional or mental states conducive to processing certain traumas or suppressed psychological issues. Maybe providing the right kind of sensory stimulation through these fields could allow for life-changing mystical experiences, without the need to ingest various psychedelics.
FLOOD DOSES & VIRTUAL REALITY?!
What on earth would it be like taking flood doses of a psychedelic compound and entering a virtual reality realm?! How would the visual experience unfold, already being inside a visionary artist's cosmic psychedelic creation?
Since we know that synesthesia (a blending of the senses) can occur during the psychedelic experience, would the resulting synesthesia give rise to a totally new and novel experience, since the visual cortex is already processing exogenous fractal patterns and visions?! I for one, have no idea, and probably pose more questions than I do well thought out ideas or answers!
All in all, it becomes super exciting to imagine the amalgamation of these domains to produce a wide variety of potential healing and life enhancing experiences. Like I mentioned, technology is only in it's infancy, and because consumer demand plays a definite role in larger companies and organisations investing time and money into the exploration and production of these ideas, it's hard to know whether any of these concepts would even come to fruition.
With visionary artists like Sander Bos and James R. Ead (and perhaps many others) taking the steps to explore these new technological realms, it seems that in the future, anything could be possible.
I invite you to keep your mind open to the many applications that psychedelics have. With the continual advancement of psychedelic research, and with the psychedelic renaissance upon us, I'm sure many more great minds will come up with many more great ideas.
LINKS & REFERENCES
James W. Jesso & Sander Bos on ATTMind Radio:
Sander Bos' Website & YouTube Channel
James R. Ead's Website & Instagram