Mark Juhan Schunemann

Mark Juhan Schunemann

Born in Britain to an Estonian witch and a German priest, my upbringing has been liberal, magical and theological. At Oxford, my research concerned the Christian criticisms of mystical-thrill seeking and the democratisation of religious experience – these ‘Christicisms’ were heeded more as warning than as theological prohibitions. During my masters I have been conducting interviews for a future ethnography of psychonauts in Britain, recording their psychedelic experiences in order to find out the link betwixt positive, life-affirming, and psycho-socially integrative experiences and ‘sociality.’ I enjoy ranting, raving, exploring and expanding! I play the Jews harp, piano, guitar, bassoon and bicycle.

The Dark Side: Sociality and Friendship as crucial determining factors

Having conducted a social study – involving participant observation and semi-structured interviews – of psychonauts in Britain as part of my masters degree, there seems to be a correlation between people’s relationships to psychedelics and their relationship to others. In most of the interviews conducted, people either equated or closely associated their spiritual health with the health of their social partnerships, relationships and friendships. This talk will be a brief overview of my darker findings and a theory which I call, socio-spiritual triangulation: that a psychonaut’s relationshipyto the spirit world – that is, the extent to which their experiences are positive, fulfilling, psycho-socially integrative, mystical or theological and constructive – might depend crucially on the quality and health of their relationship to ‘this-worldly’ others: humans, friends, family. If these relationships are exploitative, dubious, disloyal or mistrustful, then the experience both under and post-psychedelics will tend to be a horror story. Whilst this might intuitively seem like a platitude, it is encouraging to find tentative empirical evidence for the idea. As one informant put it: the only thing which takes you out of a bad trip is love. Hippy-go-lucky as it seems, this theory seems to have evidential merit.