Updated: Jul 31
The dragon is the symbolic challenge that the hero must face in order to be granted the precious treasure that it guards in Joseph Campbell's heroes journey.
The idea of the heroes journey has helped me understand the psychedelic experience and its role in our lives and our healing processes a lot. It inspired me to offer you a little gift that may help you along on your own heroes journey. In psychedelic therapy they sometimes say that the music is the hidden therapist in the room. My gift is a playlist along with my suggestion for understanding and using it.
Though I initially set out to see if I could fashion my own playlist from some of the many many deeply beautiful and powerful songs that I myself have had the pleasure of experiencing in various states of consciousness, with time I found another interesting way to use this collection of music.
Let me get back to Joseph Campbell and the heroes Journey. Reading about the heroes Journey, it struck me that one of the functions of the journey or the adventure is to allow the hero to step out of the world that the hero knows so well, where they often live in deeply engrained habitual patterns of behaviour and relationship. On the adventure, out in the wild the hero can no longer rely on these habits and they are confronted with them selves. The adventure generally consists of a series of seemingly random and non-sensical events. It is not up to the hero to understand the events, what they need to do is to trust the wisdom of the adventure and allow its experiences to change them.
In an interview ( https://youtu.be/XbHJeLbwg7c ) Joseph Campbell referred to this as a sacred place that allows ‘creative incubation’, for something new to come out. And as our lives grow towards more and more predictability we need the new to revitalise us.
This, I found, is an interesting and powerful way to use this playlist.
I have collected a wide range of songs in this playlist over the years. All songs I like for some reason but not just because they are all nice or because they make me feel wonderful in a deeply altered state. A few are cheesy, irreverent, silly, far too intense, dark or downright depressing. I have ignored many accepted rules for psychedelic playlists; there are many with lyrics and narrations, there are pop songs, different religious songs, electronic dance music.
And to make things worse, the playlist is not in order. It does not support the different phases of a typical psychedelic experience.
Partly, I have done this because there is no typical psychedelic experience. Yours will be unique and I do not want to suggest that I know what you will need. To carefully curate a perfect psychedelic playlist to proudly share with the world seems a bit of an illusion for me. Though there are a few very good playlists out there (I recommend Mendel Kealen’s three psychedelic therapy playlists: https://open.spotify.com/user/kybtarhq4n84xiyacpbuapck4?si=49aec0f075514ef9)
...I prefer to focus on helpful ‘flight instructions’ in stead of a given order.
Those instructions would be the following:
play this playlist on shuffle.
In the spirit of giving the divine a chance to communicate with us through randomness, like the ancient diviners understood when they cast sticks and drew tarot cards at random. See if you can allow yourself not to understand why this particular song needed to appear at this moment in your proces. Like the Arthurian knights who let go of the reigns of their horse because they knew to trust the adventure to take them to where they needed to go, see if you can trust ‘RNGesus’ to choose the experience you need to change you in the way you need to be changed. And see if you can allow yourself to be changed in the way that it does.
Obviously, this playlist benefits from being experienced in an altered state and obviously, if you choose to take this approach I expect you to take care of this wisely.
A few songs, especially when you are in a deeply altered state may stretch, batter, poison and/or mangle you. They certainly did so with me. But I have tried to select songs that when they do mangle it is with soft edges and enough compassion so they do not wound, when they poison it is to wake up your immune system or when they cut, it is keen enough and with sufficient depth to reveal the light lost deep inside.
The random nature will play tricks on you, you may get taken to a great place and have it taken away from you by one or even a few horrid songs. Trust that I have picked a varied enough collection of songs that even after what may seem like an endless series of challenges, at some point there will be peace, joy, love, bliss, awe, maybe even some childlike playfulness. Or when you are just easily cruising on a series of gentle songs, know that the next one may be more interesting.
With, currently, over 13 hours of music you will most likely not hear half of it in a single experience. It contains enough music to create two completely unique playlists and more than enough to offer you many, many very distinct experiences.
Having said all of this, this playlist is not suited for any psychedelic experience. This is not the kind of playlist that offers a gentle space to allow you to just do your thing. This playlist is meant to engage you, to help you feel a range of different emotions, trigger varying different memories, confront yourself in new ways. It is to be stepped into bravely and willingly and it will reward you accordingly. This is why I have named it the Shuffle Dragon; the symbolic challenge of the hero.
Finally, as I have chosen these songs based on my instincts, experiences and wisdom, this playlist reflects my tastes and my history. You will get to know a part of me in a different way. There are usual suspects like Deva Premal, Krishna Das, Byron Metcalf. There are nods to childhood heroes like Henry Hall, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner and later Jamiroquai. There are warm memories of my own first experiences like Gary Malkin, Lisa Gerrard, Shimshai, Omkara. Private gems that I have never heard in other psychedelic settings like Shye Ben Tzur or Michael Banabila.. etc.
I predict there will be choices you disagree with but I hope there are a few that will inspire.
Also, this playlist will evolve. As I remember and discover songs this playlist will grow and as I listen to it more others will be dropped.
Take care and enjoy: