Trance Dancing – The Rave

rave-2From: Duversity – by Jason Keehn

Can trance-dancing save the planet

Can you imagine a crazier notion?

Thousands of bored youth pumping themselves up with drugs, going out to huge underground parties and dancing maniacally to electronic rhythms and psychedelic light-shows till dawn.

And this is supposed to help the world?

Shouldn't we be putting our time instead into ecological or political activism, or at least doing some kind of charity work? What about the serious spiritual disciplines that claim to offer the only true path to persona – and thereby social – transformation? What good does all our drug-taking and revelry do for the hundreds of millions of dispossessed, fucked over and starving around the world – not to mention all the untold species and eco-systems being destroyed?

Hard to answer. And yet some of us still have this inescapable feeling, maybe even faith, that what we are doing, confused, silly and commercialised as it often is, is at its core absolutely necessary. . . not just to us, but in the bigger picture, somehow. . .

Why is it that at the peak moments (admittedly rare) of the very best underground house/techno/rave parties, we get this miraculous sense of hope, of possibility, of transformation . . . a feeling that we're actually heading somewhere. . . together. . . towards a brighter future, one worth living in, one where we've returned to some kind of harmony with ourselves, with each other and with our planet as a whole?

Is it "just the drugs," a kind of consensus delusion, or might there be some basis in reality for these feelings, hard to justify as they may seem once we're back out in the normal world?

More dimly sensed than clearly expressed, the feeling for such a possibility permeates the entire global underground dance scene.

Thousands of promoters exploit it to inflate their party invites with cheesy techno-spiritual imagery. It inspires and guides much of the music, and some small but key fraction of the hard-core partiers. The rest of the crowds who fill the floors at parties get off on it as a second or third-hand charge that sets the party apart from being just another club, without ever thinking about taking it seriously.

At moments, some hundreds, and maybe even thousands or tens of thousands, of "ravers" have probably found themselves sensing/feeling/wondering that what they were doing might be something really big, something that could really change things at a larger scale.

But of course only people who turn themselves inside out with large amounts of drugs would even conceive the question: Can trance-dancing save the planet?

rave-1A few of us, myself included, have made public fools of ourselves already by answering in the affirmative, and even giving some tentative reasons why. Here I want to try to introduce a new way of thinking that complements and deepens what already been proposed by people like Fraser Clarke and Terence McKenna. They see psychedelicized mass trance dances as the only quick, viable antidote to the egotism at the base of the western, techno-industrial mega-machine maniacally chomping away at the life-fabric of the planet.

This different line of thought is based on a simple but profound idea first expressed by the philosopher and teacher of temple dances G. I. Gurdjieff, who died in 1949. His idea is almost completely unknown, outside of his hard to read book All and Everything.

If true, it has staggering implications for ourselves, for our planet, even for our entire solar system. I don't expect anybody to automatically take it as Goddess's given truth, but its worthy of some serious attention.


As all "ravers" know, there is a mysterious something that makes a rave different from just another club or party-scene. We call this "the vibe"--a mixture of intangibles impossible to find anywhere else, except maybe at a dead show or a rainbow gathering. Roughly put, the vibe consists of: an attitude of openness, sharing, empathy and playfulness; intense, unselfconscious dancing; a collective altered state of consciousness, thanks to the combined effects of specific rhythms, lights and psychedelic drugs; and, at its height, a melding of group feeling and energy into an ecstatic, orgasmic release that feels nothing less than spiritual or religious--albeit in a form that has little resemblance to any type of spirituality or religion we are familiar with.

We all know that "energy" is somehow key to all of this. We know we raise and release energy through our dancing, our feelings, and our interaction on the dance-floor. Energy was one of the main buzzwords of the early English rave scene. The vibe is all about energy – vibration, after all.

But what is this energy? What does it consist of, where does it come from, where does it go? Are there different kinds of energies? Do they have different purposes?

Back around the turn of the century, Gurdjieff and a group of friends travelled back and forth across the Middle East and Central Asia investigating humanity's true history, the nature of the cosmos, and the possibilities for humans to evolve consciously, from their own efforts. In the process, "the seekers of truth," as the group called themselves, also encountered the Masters of Wisdom still alive in that part of the world (the Khwajagan). The Khwajagan were considered to be the bearers of some of the highest spiritual knowledge on the planet, handed down continuously for thousands of years.

One of the focuses of Gurdjieff's research was the transformation of substances and energies – both chemical and subtle – in the human organism. He also learned a large number of temple dances, which he understood as databases in movement intended to preserve ancient knowledge.

Eventually, Gurdjieff returned to the West and presented his synthesis of these searches as a "system of ideas" and a practical method for self-transformation.

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