“Psychotechnology” is John Vervaeke’s fancy cognitive science word for spiritual practice. Psychotechnologies are intentional, sustained mental techniques designed to disrupt ordinary patterns of thought in order to make way for new ones. Strictly speaking, they are a form of mind training, but the most powerful and transformative ones are also types of spiritual training.
The principal psychotechnologies I use in Shamanic Christian Zen training are mantras. However, the mantras are more than just sounds or words – they point to specific mental actions. I will briefly describe some of them here.
Dosa Nirodha Karuna
Tanha Nirodha Karuna
Dukha Nirodha Karuna
What makes a Diva, Demon, Victim, Addict, Muppet or Muggle? Beyond and beneath the particular behaviours associated with each archetype is a particular emotional moodscape – a certain cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters is activated, creating a different feeling tone associated with each ego state.
The higher the activation, the more you will be in the grip of that state. If your nervous system is flooded with adrenaline and catecholamine, for example, the rage and murderous impulses you experience will make you feel and perhaps even act like a Demon, especially if you have anger management issues.
The Pali word dosa means aversion or hatred. It covers the whole spectrum of negative feeling states from violent rage to simmering resentment. Tanha means thirst or craving. It covers the spectrum of desire, from burning lust to subtle greed. Dukkha means suffering and refers to all states of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and general discomfort.
If you have ever tried to meditate after a flaming row with your partner, you will recognise how difficult it is. In fact, it’s impossible. Until the adrenaline has left your system, you will inevitably just sit there seething. You will encounter a similarly insurmountable difficulties if you try to meditate after looking at pornography, or after hearing some bad news which confirms your suspicions about the terrible state of the world.
If you are wound up, fed up or turned on, you will be unable to focus your energy on constructive tasks or on spiritual practice. You will just have to wait patiently for the effects of your inner drugs to wear off, while at the same time refraining from producing any more. This is, of course, a practice in itself. It is the practice that makes all other practice possible, by preparing an empty space of “apatheia”, in which both the brain’s default mode network and the sympathetic nervous system are deactivated. (For the full mantra, see the blog The Clearing Meditation).
The next family of psychotechnologies is the mindfulness and “headlessness” practices. These are well known and widely available. I like to use a mantra adapted (or “exapted”) from Kashmir Shaivism:
These refer to transcendent consciousness, immanent consciousness and qualitative phenomena, the immediately given objects of consciousness.
I also use a sequence of seven mantras called The Ray of Creation:
Amun Ra Atum Ka Ba Gaia Jah
where each mantra represents a stage in the evolution of the universe: Emptiness (Amun); Energy (Ra); Form (Atum); Life (Ka); Mind (Ba); Global Consciousness (Gaia) and Universal Consciousness (Jah).
Then there are the Transcendentals:
Peace Love Goodness Beauty Truth Consciousness Bliss
and the various psychotechnologies associated with each of the spiritual archetypes:
Mystic Shaman Warrior Monk Philosopher King
and their corresponding yogas:
Dhyana Kundalini Karma Bhakti Jnana Raja.
Unlike the emotionally activated ego states (Diva Demon Victim Addict Muppet Muggle) their spiritual counterparts are characterised by a state of “cool flow”. Compare the manic rants of a Muppet with the dispassionate reflections of a Jnana Yogi Philosopher, for example.
The most visible demonstration of “cool flow” is in the coordinated physical movements of the Warrior, who channels the Chi (energy) in a consummately controlled and natural way, even in the heat of battle.
To sum up then, the various psychotechnologies can be grouped under three broad headings in Shamanic Christian Zen training:
- Cool flow