Towards a Psychopolitical Method
Getting high as civic responsibility
I like to think of ideas as living entities one can form relationships with. They seem to be primarily interested in becoming visible, heard and otherwise present in our reality.
A political ideology, then, is an ecology of ideas about human society. They must be most interested in being expressed in the form of human societies; but barring that, in in the ways people relate to each other, in actions of individuals and movements of crowds.
One of the things I’m trying to do with PsyPol is to discover what my ideology is. Another is to find ways to express it. One more is to find people who share it.
There be dragons
According to politicalcompass.org, I’m some kind of an anarchist:
A Russian historical variation—“Who would you have been in the 1917 revolution?”—places me, all alone, in the democratic/right quadrant:
I don’t take these kinds of graphs seriously. They confine the landscape of ideas to a crowded two-dimensional area that’s not positioned anywhere in particular. I’ve visited these quadrants and met their inhabitants, but I usually spend my time somewhere else.
The immediate experience
An actual compass, unlike the political one, always shows its user in the center. That’s where all of us are at all times—at the center of our individual realities, at the very point where the world comes together as an experience.
Some of this experience is direct: my moods, pains, relationships, work, art, dreams, orgasms, the chopping and the burning of firewood, the heat this wood generates for my bania1 are the kinds of things that I trust the most.
It is to this domain of direct experience that I have the most immediate access in terms of both perception and influence. I’m trying to bend my knees and keep my back straight when I’m chopping wood now, and my back isn’t hurting.
Ideas of people
But I am also greatly affected by realities that I can’t perceive directly, and the characters that are said to inhabit them.
I’ve never met Vladimir Putin, for instance, and I suspect he’s much smaller than the shadow he’s casting onto the wall of my cave. But him and his shadow together make up a powerful entity. They make people do things.
A person who chose to make Putin his enemy—one that I’ve met a few times—was poisoned last year and spent 18 days in a coma. He was moved from Siberia to Berlin while unconscious. When he got better, he came back to Russia and was immediately put behind bars, to await trial for a crime he didn’t commit.
So other people—physical, with small shadows, including myself—gathered in central streets of their cities trying to exert some kind of influence onto this situation. Now many of them are sleeping on metal beds in detention centers around the country.
Navalny was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison.
The main agent in all of this—the poisoning, the arrests, the roughness of the police during protests—seems to be Putin. A person that, according to a popular myth, “doesn’t exist.”2
For the purposes of this email, I’m interpreting this notion like this: we only know Putin by media representations, and most of people carrying out his orders by what their direct superiors told them; he exists in our minds more as an idea—of power, either legitimate or corrupt—than a person with a complex inner existence; and there’s something of an intuition this remains the case even as you get closer to him.
When one of his mistresses reaches out to Vladimir, she might be hoping to touch the ruler of Russia, as advertised on TV. Instead, she‘s touching some 68 year-old man, of whom we know nothing about.
Ideas are something people can’t touch.
I wonder about the personal relationships and the balance of power between people and the ideas of them.
Say, was it Putin the man who decided to order shoes with hidden high heels because he wanted to cast longer shadows, or was it his shadow3 who made him do it?
A DMT mirror
When I think of ideas as living entities, I always remember my DMT trips: the beings I’ve met in the hyperspace are the closest I have to what ideas could look like if met face-to-face.
I usually do DMT lying down, with my eyes closed. One time though, I smoked something called “changa”4 while standing, butt-naked (a consequence of having a toke 15 min prior), in front of a mirror.
My hallucinatory, fantastically colored reflection was in constant flux. Age, facial features and general vibe kept changing, and yet all of these people I saw were myself. Our shared body was covered with shining letters of an unknown alphabet5—something like a space suit made of language, or a sequence of protective spells tattooed on my soul.
In my post-trip notes, I referred to this entity in the mirror as “meta-Nikita.” I think it was the idea of me, the archetypal Nikita, of which I am but one instantiation.
This idea itself is but one instantiation of the idea of man.
Some traditions regard the idea of man an instantiation of the idea of God. (The story of Jesus argues that this idea can be expressed perfectly well through the seemingly flawed medium of a human.)
I think it’s important for one’s well-being to be aware of these non-visible entities—personified ideas—that one is connected to, and to establish a kind of harmony between them and one’s physical self.
People as portals
Ideas come into this world through humans. There are multiple steps to this process.
Some people are better portals than others.
One is more imaginative: she notices more ideas and can express them in an interesting, multi-dimensional, non-shallow way. Another is more industrious and makes sure the project goes further than the brainstorming phase.
A third one has control of a state apparatus of a major nation, ties with the leadership of its main churches, an army and a police force, which can all come in handy as well.
The Russian idea
I wonder about the idea of Russia6 and its relationship to myself, Navalny and Putin, to the county’s cities and villages, to the 140 million Russians inside and 30 mil outside of its borders.
The collective Putin7 isn’t much of a visionary, but he has a lot of resources and an intuitive understanding of ritual magic. When channeled through Putin, the Russian idea becomes a play of observance, equal parts Soviet-style bureaucracy, Orthodox Christianity, and a WW2 cult.
Navalny has talent, courage, and a political vision—independent courts, decentralization, open elections and such—but not much in terms of tangible assets that the idea could utilize.
Putin’s Russia rests on its glorified past, and Navalny’s program is called “The Beautiful Russia of Tomorrow.” As has been the case for centuries, the idea of Russia struggles with now.
This is where I go back to the immediate experience.
When Navalny was sentenced to jail time—8 PM on a Tuesday—I was alone in a country house I’m renting some 40 km north of St. Petersburg. I couldn’t join the spontaneous protest that started to gather in the city. I was forced to sit with myself.
The initial feeling of helplessness—of needing to do something and not knowing if there’s anything I can do—slowly gave way to a conviction to do my part better, without a clear understanding what my part was.
I get high, write shit down, draw, talk to people in private and public, send out these letters. I didn’t end up here by accident. This is a result of my on-going search for the right mode of expression, for my role in engaging with individual and shared realities that I perceive directly or otherwise.
Since some of the people I feel connected to are sitting in cages right now, unable to do their part, I better do mine as well as I can.
So, after some time of switching between lying down in my bania, heated up to 100°C, and watching a live stream of a protest in Moscow, I smoked the tiny remainder of weed that I had in the house, and started writing things down.
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Consider also the Jungian meaning of the term “shadow”—the part of personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself.
A blend of dried herbs containing MAOI and DMT, sometimes referred to as smokeable ayahuasca.
I’ve heard about a book that could shine some light on this: Xenolinguistics: Psychedelics, Language, and the Evolution of Consciousness.
A common term used to highlight Putin’s relationship to the people and the set of approaches he represents.