I never thought DJs had a superpower until I became one and then quit the art form altogether.
My life started out in music. First it was playing the drums; then it was DJing and playing in nightclubs; the final encounter was when I studied sound engineering and learned to produce electronic music while still continuing to DJ and become more musical.
Playing in nightclubs was a magical experience. You feel like a god and have the power to change how people feel. It was a privilege I never took for granted.
But I never quite understood it either until I studied psychology later on. As a DJ, you could take people to the highest of highs and then take them all the way back down again. Sometimes it would take hours to build them all the way up and other times it would take a few minutes.
For many DJs, playing music is an escape.
It’s this place where you go to forget all your problems and escape into the never-ending forest of music. At the end of the night, you come back out of the forest except this time you’re on the other side and are looking back on your experience.
In 2011, I gave up music and didn’t know why until later on. It was because of working in a startup and then having to walk away from it all. The dark times caused me to give up DJing and producing music.
The book “Stealing Fire” came out in 2017. It was a book that had a title I immediately fell in love with. In the book, you learn about ecstasis which is an elevated mental state of flow and transcendence. Here’s the full meaning of the term with its history attached:
Ecstasy, Ecstasis (Greek) [from ekstasis displacement, standing out from the proper place, hence rising above] A transference of consciousness from the physical plane to another inner and superior plane, accompanied by awareness and memory of the experience.
It is necessary to distinguish between an astral-psychic experience and a truly psychospiritual one.
The former is delusive and fraught with harm; the latter is the state of illumination spoken of by Plotinus, resulting from the true asceticism of the disciple, and in its highest form is the same as the high stage of meditation of the Hindu yogi. Used in the Gospels to mean astonishment, trance, or ecstatic visions.— Dictionary.Babylon
Sounds powerful, doesn’t it? In Stealing Fire, the reader is introduced to the idea that many of the activities we engage in are designed to help us escape or experience ecstasis — and possibly even have a transcendent experience.
One of the escapes mentioned in the book, is going to listen to a DJ and having them take you on a musical journey. The music, lights, people around you, and energy all help you go to a place you can’t get to at home.
These escapes become desirable because they elevate your mental state and help you experience a different level of consciousness.
DJs can be the enabler of these elevated mental states and it was this insight that made me understand why I first became a DJ.
After scrolling Youtube one afternoon, somehow, the homepage of the site recommended I watch a video that featured a DJ. (It had been years since I’d even thought about djing.)
This video was the one that reminded me what an elevated mental state can look like when you’re in the hands of a DJ who knows what they’re doing and has awareness of the power they have to help you experience a different level of consciousness via a transcendent experience (perhaps that’s why DJs are referred to as musical gods).
The breakdown of the song is the tension. The drop into the beat is the release, followed by the elevated feeling you experience.
The DJ in this video is Carl Cox. He is known for his ability to shift consciousness, although that’s not what people who go to see his shows call it. But that’s what it is.
An altered state of consciousness created by a DJ has four traits according to the book Stealing Fire:
- Selflessness: the precortex are of the brain connected to the self and our internal voices telling us who we are (and all the negatives things we are) shut down and we can experience “collective awareness”
- Timelessness: total inability — or interest — to perceive time
- Effortlessness: things just feel right and click
- Richness: when we remove the ego we allow the subconscious to take over, which is much faster at processing data and we feel at one with the world. We connect with the world in a new and different way which is “richer”
The flow states DJs produce are about switching off certain areas and functions of the brain, which is surprising. Going to see a DJ live is only one of four methods for having a transcendent experience. Here’s the full list:
- Risky undertakings (extreme sports like free soloing)
- Communal experiences (like watching a DJ at the Tomorrowland event)
- Hallucinogenic drugs (psychedelics)
How To Utilize An Altered State Of Consciousness
Now that you know what DJs have the power to do and how they do it, there are two things you can do with this information. It’s easiest to look at it as two levels.
Level One: Find those experiences
You can hunt down more experiences that help you escape and feel what it’s like to have ecstasis in your life. There are many ways to get there and your career path can be one angle to get there.
You could choose a risky profession like being a Navy Seal or you could choose entrepreneurship where you get to attract and hire people, who when united by a business’s vision, can help create that feeling you can’t otherwise describe, which we now know is the same experience described in the book Stealing Fire.
Level Two: Create those experiences
The second level is to create those experiences for others. Rather than fulfill your own desires or escape your problems, you could do that for someone else. This is not often the path people choose to take.
Having learned what it’s like to create ecstasis through being a DJ, it’s one I can strongly recommend to you. While I no longer DJ, in a radical way, I’m creating these same elevated flow states through being a writer and taking people on a journey towards a different way of thinking using words. The same opportunity is open to you.
Playing around with the ideas mentioned in this article is ongoing for me. In two months time, I head to a dance music festival with more than 10,000 people attending thanks to the video I stumbled across on Youtube.
My desire to understand more about DJing and it’s power will further be explored at this event. I hope to feel that same feeling and elevated state of consciousness I felt in 2007 when Daft Punk came to Australia and played their Alive Tour. Even though DJing is no longer my passion, the lessons learned from ecstasis go beyond the reach of just DJs and into the realm of possibility for all of us.
Experiment with ecstasis by searching for more experiences that allow it to occur, and then creating those same experiences for other people through what you’re most passionate about.