A psychonaut is a person, who takes trips deep into the caverns of their own subconscious, in an attempt to attain an altered level of awareness.
These people often associate with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, MDMA and psilocybin; meditation and spiritual exercises such as sensory deprivation, holotropic breathing and fasting.
The main difference between a person, who does the previously mentioned drugs recreationally and “psychonauts” is the fact that a “psychonaut” is expecting a lesson from their experience and approaches it with a respectful attitude.
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The term is a compound of two words, both containing Greek roots.
“Psychonaut” is constructed of the prefix psycho, which is associated with mental processes and works, and the suffix –naut, which is found in words such as astronaut or juggernaut.
The expression translates as “sailor of the mind” reflecting on the trips the “psychonauts” take in their own subconscious.
The expression was first used by German author Ernst Jünger in 1970, in an attempt to give a description of his and his friend’s experiences.
Spread and Usage
Since the 1970’s, many public figures in the psychedelic society decided to adopt the expression, deeming it adequate enough to describe the experience of inner work.
The term was used by such prominent figures, such as Terrence and Dennis McKenna, Stanislav Grof and Rick Strassman.
Pete Carroll’s 1982 book was published under the title “Psychonaut” similar to a 2005 video game “Psychonauts.”