Neuroscientists, psychonauts and tribal cultures alike know that we've already got some animals inside us. Evolution has built up layers of brain tissue, so that the human brain can be seen as being composed of an old reptilian brain, an overlaying mammalian brain, and the most recent and explosive development, the uniquely human neocortex. It seems that this neocortex developed so rapidly that it failed to fully integrate with the older animal brain sections, leaving a neural discrepancy that has been held responsible for humanity's notorious inhumanity. And yet techniques for forcing integration of these layers have existed for many thousands of years.
Frequently, researchers have come to the conclusion that the copious animal mythologies of tribal cultures around the globe, and the many pagan human/animal hybrid deities, represent an ancient awareness of our animal inheritance. And perhaps the most direct method of contacting and integrating this inheritance lies in the shamanic practice of shape-shifting.
Besides providing ideal fantastic maps, SF and fantasy work in MUDspace because the magic and future science of these genres bend the same rules of reality that MUD code does. In MUDs, you can communicate telepathically, shape-shift, teleport, create little machine selves, and conjure birds and pleasure domes out of thin air. As Vernor Vinge recognized in the novella _True Names_, which placed his (pre-_Neuromancer_ ) vision of cyberspace in a world of D&D medievalism, magical imagery functions as paradoxically pragmatic metaphors for the odd laws that rule the digital astral planes of VR.
_The Fly_, the genetic splicing idea, and its subsequent developments represent a science-fiction model of this ancient consciousness-expansion technique, which finds its modern equivalent in Austin Spare's 'atavistic resurgence' (Spare's art contains numerous shape-shifting motifs). Using various techniques, a state of consciousness is induced which allows total identification with a certain animal. This may be used for achieving certain effects in the world, but often it functions as a method of psychic integration - balancing. It seems clear that Brundle's experiences propel him through an unexpected and violent process analogous to many aspects of the traditional shaman's vocation.
As befits a psychedelic god, Dionysus was given to a bewildering series of mutations and transformations. Again echoing shamanism, with its traditions of shape-shifting, Dionysus variously appeared as a girl, a man, a woman, a lion, a bull, and a panther. He was also an occasional cross-dresser, and was the god of the theatre, masks and illusion. Use of psychedelics inevitably reveals the role-playing nature of identity, and the story of Dionysus shows that we may take advantage of this shifting quality of the masks we wear to the world. The metamorphic god persistently used his transformations to conquer foes and work his way out of difficult situations.
Archon is quickly described as a fantasy chess game where the pieces fight over who takes the square. There is thankfully more to it than that simple explanation: The shifting tide of the game that distributes power from light to dark adds challenges (attack, or run?), and each piece has specific strengths and weaknesses (don't use the shapeshifter if you aren't a better player than your opponent). In other words, you can define your own strategy when playing.
A tired mind become a
Everybody need a mood lifter
Everybody need reverse polarity
Everybody got mixed
About the function and the form
Everybody got to deviate
From the norm
- _Vital Signs_ MP3 by Rush
off of _Moving Pictures_ 12" (1981)
604 entity Shapeshifters
Members: Hugh Sharpe, Kent Friedman
604 release _Shapeshifter_ CD by Space Tribe on Spirit Zone
hip hop entity Shape Shifters
|Harvard shapeshifting puzzle|