Rave Culture and Religion

Rave Culture and Religion

Rave Culture and Religion

Rave Culture and Religion


The collection provides insights on developments in post-traditional religiosity (especially 'New Age' and 'Neo-Paganism') through studies of rave's Gnostic narratives of ascensionism and re-enchantment, explorations of the embodied spirituality and millennialist predispositions of dance culture, and investigations of transnational digital-art countercultures manifesting at geographic locations as diverse as Goa, India, and Nevada's Burning Man festival. Contributors examine raving as a new religious or revitalization movement; a powerful locus of sacrifice and transgression; a lived bodily experience; a practice comparable with world entheogenic rituals; and as evidencing a new Orientalism. Rave Culture and Religion will be essential reading for advanced students and academics in the fields of sociology, cultural studies and religious studies.


Never trust a writer to chronicle a movement.

Those of us filing early dispatches from the temporary autonomous zones later known as raves really thought we were just observing the scene-well, participating in the way that all journalists since Hunter S. Thompson have had to acknowledge their own presence at the fringe of the story, but not really engaging in the event as one of them, those kids who really think something is happening beyond a bunch of people dancing on drugs.

Right. You try going to a rave as a spectator and see what happens.

For me, it all began while I was researching a book on early cyberculture. Around 1990, the entirety of California's emerging digital society seemed to be summed up by a single image: the fractal. I'd see the paisley-like geometry on Grateful Dead tickets, in new reports out of UC Santa Cruz about systems theory, on the T-shirts of kids also wearing cryptic smiles, in books on chaos maths and on the computer screens of virtual-reality programmers at Sun. These depictions of non-linear math equations-equations that cycle almost infinitely rather than finding 'solutions' as we commonly think of them-embodied a new way of looking at the world.

As we were all to learn, the fractal is a self-similar universe. Zoom in on one level, and you find a shape strikingly similar but not exactly the same as one on a higher level, and so on. The fractal is a conceptual leap, inhabiting the space between formerly discrete dimensions. In the process, it allows us to measure the very rough surfaces of reality-rocks, forests, clouds and the weather-more accurately and satisfactorily than the idealistic but altogether limited linear approximations we'd been using since the ancient Greeks. The fractal heralded a new way of looking at the world-of experiencing it-and of understanding that every tiny detail reflected, in some small way, the entirety of the system.

That's why when an anonymous skate kid on the Lower Haight happened to hand me a tiny swatch of paper with a fractal stamped on one side, I was compelled to turn it over and try to decrypt the little map on the other. By about two the next morning, having found the mysterious location (apparently an abandoned whorehouse in Oakland), I also discovered the true meaning of the fractal.

See, I was a writer-on assignment from New York, with a real advance. That gave me the perfect excuse to play the part of participant-observer. To stand on

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