Psychogeography: An Interview with Julian Vayne

Having done a couple of highly enjoyable podcasts recently related to my new work Chaos Monk: Bringing Magical Creativity to the New Monastic Path I thought I would share those links (Here and Here) and a further excerpt from the book:

Art by Greg Humphries from Walking Backwards: The Magical Art of Psychedelic Psychogeography

In thinking further about how we might magically engage with movement in both the body and landscape, I recently interviewed my dear friend and magical co-conspirator Julian Vayne regarding his experiments in psychogeography and the role that it played within his own initiatory work:

  • For the uninitiated, could you briefly summarize what Psychogeography actually is?
    Psychogeography is an exploration of the relationship between the mind and space. The approach exists in various forms but the term itself was coined by the radical French artists of the Lettrist movement. The term is defined by Guy Debord as ‘the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.’ Since that time many practitioners of the arts and other disciplines have made use of this term and of course it can be linked to pilgrimage, vision quest and many other older practices. In practice I like to think of psychogeography as a series of approaches to landscape where we seek to reveal new aspects of a location and, in doing so, our minds. This could mean exploring a known locality, for example a city, but doing so in a way that disrupts our usual way of being that place. This could involve moving through an urban space while using the map of a different city. It could mean choosing which road to take with a toss of a coin, or some other technique designed to shake up our usual way of being in a place so we get to see it with fresh eyes. Psychogeography can also be about how we move through space, such as whether we walk slowly, whether we back-sight our route as we go, or what we focus our attention on. As an example, I once took a group of psychogeographers around the exterior of the British Museum in London. While we walked the roads around the building, we stopped to take photographs of the objects in the street, such as benches and traffic signs and generally interacted with the urban space around the museum in the way one might engage with the objects encountered within it.

  • What is your history with this practice and what drew you to it?
    As a child growing up, I had a deep and abiding love of the natural world. However, most of the ‘natural’ spaces I had access to were wastelands and building sites and I had the feeling that there was something wild, something magical in these liminal zones where human activity met the rowdy pioneer plants of bramble and nettle. As a young Pagan I spent plenty of time engaging with ancient stone circles and other prehistoric monuments, and the spirit of place has always been an important part of my practice. Slowly I was able to discern the magic in the fully urban context, helped by writers including Phil Hine’s notion of urban shamanism, the work of William Blake and others. I realized that for me landscape-based practices were about revealing the magic in every space, not just locations considered to be banner-headline ‘sacred’ places.
    It seemed clear to me that the process of the journey was important and that, if one could see things in a new way, hidden mysteries could be revealed. My early interest in folklore galvanized these ideas, as did my encounter with the book by Iain Sinclair Lud Heat (1975). In that book Sinclair explores the idea of a kind of ‘psychic heat’ emanating from some of the buildings in London, notably the churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor with alleged alchemical imagery in their construction. That and the vogue for ‘earth mysteries’ and even psychic questing in the final decades of the 20th century, encouraged me to explore a variety of psychogeographical practices and to undertake several pilgrimages.
    In 2018 Greg Humphries and I published our book Walking Backwards; Or The Magical Art of Psychedelic Psychogeography which explores the interface between esoteric practice, walking and a variety of magical substances. Greg and I have taken many walks together and combined psychogeographical practices with various psychedelic and psychoactives. The experience of taking psychedelic substances is often described in both contemporary vernacular and mythopoetic language as a journey or a trip. While combining these approaches does pose certain challenges the radical change in awareness that can be induced by substances such as LSD, DMT, psilocybin, or mescaline, certainly has the capacity to reveal the awesome, the weird, the sacred and the shadow in our environment to an unparalleled degree. I wrote a bit more about this in The Fool & The Mirror: Essays on Magic, Art & Identity.

    ‘The emerging field of psychedelic psychogeography blends together the inner mythic journey of the shaman with the physicality of wandering the landscape. This practice may take place in urban settings or indoors at ‘museum level’ but it may also become a way of interacting with wilder or more organic landscapes. This approach may be deployed as part of a ‘pilgrimage’ where participants walk between ‘sacred sites’ such as prehistoric megaliths, remarkable nature features—such as the confluence of rivers or unusual geological formations—or more modern locations (telecommunications masts or lighthouses) that are interpreted in symbolic, associative terms.

  • What might be the similarities and differences between Psychogeography and Pilgrimage?
    Pilgrimage is an act of moving through space in a way that is centered on the numinous. Psychogeography need not have a discovery of the sacred as part of its project, and may instead be primarily concerned with political, artistic or other processes. I think both are certainly way of moving where the act of walking takes on a meta, archetypal significance and a single walk can certainly have aspects of both.
    I once went for a walk with my son for a few days along the South West Coast Path. We camped out under the stars, listening to the waves. Was this just a walk? Was this a psychogeographical exploration of moving in a novel way to disrupt the usual power relationships? (At one point I had to ask him to take the big rucksack as I simply couldn’t carry it any further. A profound psychological moment of changed relationship perhaps?) Was this a pilgrimage? Well, we were not walking towards an identified sacred site or indeed along a road sanctified by religious association. However, was it in a sense a pilgrimage towards the revelation of my son as an adult alongside me? Yes, it certainly was that. My point is that the boundaries of these things are fluid. I’ve set out just to go for a walk, nothing special, and found myself plunged into a psychogeographical wonderland of the new by some simple quirk of fate. At other times I’ve found myself being a tourist at an attraction, most recently when visiting The Basílica de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona, and realised that I was actually on a pilgrimage.

    Find a place to go exploring and try simply to change how (and thereby why) you move in the space. Here are a few techniques that I’ve used to ‘break set’ and to help me see things anew:

    Try these ways of moving…

    • Walking very slowly (particularly in a city)
    • Walking between certain areas (from tree to tree, from one area in shadow or shade to the next).
    • Adopting a particular gait – such as limp, crouching low (to see the world as a child might).
    • Walking on the balls of the feet (rather than the heels). This way of walking is more common when we are barefoot and was common before hard soled shoes became ubiquitous.

    You can also try to bring your attention to certain elements in the landscape such as:

    • Simulacra.
    • Reflections.
    • Cracks, edges, breaks and interpenetrations.
    • Weather and its effects.
    • Animals (actual creatures, including humans and representations of animals).
    • The spaces between objects (in the Japanese the Ma), a‘gap‘, ‘space‘, ‘pause‘ or ‘the space between two structural parts‘ and other lacunae.
    • Seeking out a particular colour/other elements of the landscape.
    • Paying attention to smell, to other peoples’ conversations, to the sounds of the space (as such a humming of electrical equipment or the noise of car tyres on the road).
    • Patterns in architecture and other elsewhere in the space.

  • Given the limitations to health and movement that some folks might experience, are there any modifications that you would make to allow psychogeography to become more accessible?
    There are of course many versions of psychogeographical and pilgrimage related practice that can be done completely alone and indeed without walking about. The classic shamanic inner world journey, pathworking, imaginal meditative techniques for many spiritual traditions—all provide the opportunity to travel without moving. Reading, film and other media can do the same—they give us ways to access new worlds and, if we take the time to reflect, they can help us understand our own context in new ways. Then there is the use of psychedelics which can certainly provide many of the same effects as pilgrimage and psychogeography. Terrence McKenna famously said that travel and psychedelics were the two best ways to broaden the mind and I think he had a point. That said it’s also vital not to mistake neophilia for the numinous, we can travel deep into the mystery with a magnifying glass and some patience if we sit for a while to observe a pond, even if that pond is one we see every day.

Steve Dee

Coming up next….

Julian is teaching with Treadwell’s Books Chaos Magic online and in person, and two fully online workshops The Magick of Aleister Crowley and The Thoth Tarot. Julian is also lecturing on the tarot at The College of Psychic Studies.

In case you’ve not heard yet…Breaking Convention, Europe’s largest conference on psychedelic research and consciousness is back, this time at The University of Exeter in April 2023! Details here. Sign up to the newsletter for information on ticket sales, calls for exhibitors and paper and much more!

As The Psychedelic Press Journal migrates online, sign up for the latest psychedelic writing via Substack and the last few print editions visit

Chaos Monk

The prolific Steve Dee has written a third book! Chaos Monk offers an unexpected fusion of New Monasticism and Chaos Magic, demonstrating that it is possible to simultaneously be devout and fully embedded in the everyday world…

Steve writes: This book is an invitation to spiritual intensity. In the face of life’s brevity, it seeks to offer a challenge to consider what truly matters and how we might find skilful means for exploring such a question. As the pace and pressures of daily living seek to crowd out our ability to find space and silence, I believe that those traditions and techniques associated with monasticism provide vital keys for regaining our balance. While some may view such paths as ones of restriction or severity, as we travel together I hope to demonstrate the profound value of what simplicity, faithfulness and accountability might bring us when viewed through dynamic and responsive lens of Chaos magical practice.

This book is a deeply personal one, and unapologetically so. The impulse to engage with the monastic current runs strongly in my veins and it continues to be a deep personal obsession. When I started my spiritual journey at age 10, I was captivated by images of orange clad ascetics from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Now, as an adult, I ask: Why do I continue to be drawn to a path that emphasizes asceticism and discipline? What draws so many people to the form of stark spirituality that monastic traditions represent? How might contemporary explorers distil its essential components? This book seeks to explore such questions and describes how my own journey into contemporary magical practice continues to include monastic dimensions within it.

Sitting still is where it all starts. Only by ceasing to move can we gain access to the state of mind necessary to begin moving. Both in our psyches, and in our lives, we carve out a space which is our own to pause, to take stock, to commune with our higher Self. And then, with our feet in the right place, we take the steps necessary towards our goals, in fellowship with our communities. The modern monk constructs their cell within the everyday world.
This book helps to model some of these processes for you. It contains personal examples, historical reviews of Monasticism through the ages, gentle prods to keep things moving, and reflections upon what such a pilgrimage might mean. The alchemy of transmutation applied to the soul takes time, but gives us gold.

“A profoundly beautiful exploration of spirituality, magic and self that I consider to be one of the most important books I have read on the subject in many years. Particularly relevant to this era, Chaos Monk is intellectually satisfying whilst presenting an eminently practical approach. This book examines internal and external realities and the tensions they generate; acknowledging wider relationships that impact upon magical and spiritual development. Referencing Tantra, Thelema, Monastic Traditions, Chaos Magic and psychology, ‘Chaos Monk’ structures a template for the development of a long term, pertinent, spiritual approach to the self and the times, and as such should be an essential component of every committed practitioner and seeker’s library.” Charlotte Rodgers, creator of sculptural art works, writer of books which include P is for Prostitution: A Modern Primer, The Sky is A Gateway Not A Ceiling, and The Bloody Sacrifice.

“An exhilarating journey through chaos monasticism, a mystical practice informed by chaos magic. Accessible and clearly written, yet informed by a deep knowledge of the history of spiritual movements in both East and West, decades of magical practice, psychotherapy and art, this is a book for anyone with mystical leanings who wants to put them into practice. The first part describes the theoretical basis of chaos monasticism, and the second part shows how to put it into practice. Steve offers genuinely original spiritual exercises to help you develop your practice and introduces an element of play into the inner work. He also taps into the important mystical streams of apophatic theology and the dark night of the soul, and offers an exploration of one of my favourite spiritual practices, lectio divina. Other practices offered here include pilgrimage, psychogeography, and pathworking, all of which are great ways of engaging with sacred space and time.” Yvonne Aburrow, author of All Acts of Love and Pleasure: Inclusive WiccaDark Mirror: The Inner Work of Witchcraft; and The Night Journey: Witchcraft as Transformation.

Chaos Monk is a book I’ve been looking for for quite some time as it helps fill an often neglected area in the Chaos Magick approach—Mysticism! Steve Dee has an in-depth look at what a modern day monastic approach to Chaos Magick might look like. He draws from the past and other approaches but ultimately supplies the reader with some practical and useful ways of actually going out and doing it in a modern world setting. His thoughts on Chaos Mysticism, and his approach, ideas, and insights really resonated with me. I can only imagine that there will be a large number of people in the Chaos Magic community who will be well served by this book.” Tommie Kelly, Irish artist. musician, and writer, best known for his oracle deck The Forty Servants.

An Invitation
This is a call to come to the Quiet,
Those spacious places of the deep self.
This is a desert place found by the few
And others may laugh and call your journey madness.
Darkness is here
And only the brave can see that it holds the most brilliant of lights
Come, come my friends,
Come sit with those who are seeking the other side of silence.