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Phonomanticism is a new religious movement and a form of popular entertainment. It is built around rituals, practices designed to inculcate spirituality and physical fitness, and metaphysical beliefs taught by former personal trainer Sean Manseau during the early 21st Century. Phonomanticism is often abbreviated as “PM.”
The express goal of PM is to create a “critical mass” of the human population (sometimes set at ten billion people) who are able to achieve gnosis. Gnosis is a common Greek word for “knowledge,” and it is best-known from Gnosticism, “where it signifies a knowledge or insight into humanity’s real nature as divine, leading to the deliverance of the divine spark within humanity from the constraints of earthly existence.”(Wikipedia, Gnosis) Phonomanticism defines gnosis as the ability to “get a little one-on-one time with the deity of your choice,” an experience that “is as unmistakable for anything else as an orgasm.” (Manseau, 2019)
Manseau claimed that instructing adherents how to experience this access to Transcendent Reality was the original goal of every major religion (although the terms used to describe it vary according to the generating culture and its interpretive models), and that every religion, including his own, was actually a plan generated by higher-order beings (commonly referred to as “Gods”) to achieve that goal.
He also claimed that every major religion, having not achieved that critical mass, was a failed effort.
Phonomanticism’s method for achieving the state of gnosis is called phonomancy. Phonomancy is “the ritual combination of high dose psychedelics with one of our culture’s most sacred secular acts, singing and dancing along to our favorite records, for the purpose of inducing visionary trance states. ”(Manseau, 2019)
Phonomancy is based on five premises:
- Music impacts the psychedelic experience in two ways: cymatically and affectively. Cymatically, it seems that musical tones stimulate resonant vibrations in the subject’s field of consciousness, causing changes in the content of one’s closed-eye visions. Phenomenologically, this content tends towards swirling fractal geometries, and sometimes very odd and alien figures and landscapes. Affectively, music influences the subject’s emotional state; this tends to inspire closed-eye visions that are closer to waking dreams, with concrete images derived from personal experience or from transpersonal consciousness. These images, because they have an emotional charge, are experienced as being more meaningful than those inspired simply by cymatic effects.
- Every modern recorded song has been carefully designed and engineered to create in its listener a specific emotional response. It could be a certain flavor of heartbreak, a state of psyched-up aggression, mystical wonder, bittersweet nostalgia, etc. This effect is accomplished via choices about musical elements such as melody, harmony, timbre, and tempo, but also and especially through the lyrics. A song’s lyrics create a “narrative space”--they tell a story. If the listener identifies at some level with that story--if it reminds them of events in their own life--the song activates the latent complex of emotions constellated around that event. The listener feels those feelings again, i.e., “gets into it.”
- Psychedelic mushrooms tend to amplify emotional states, and listening to music while in a psychedelically altered state of consciousness allows one to have an amplified experience of a song’s target emotion.
- By concentrating on this amplified target emotional state, a subject can actually influence (if not completely control) the phenomenological character and contents of his/her/their closed-eye visions.
- If, while in an altered state of consciousness, a subject can feel an emotion to a degree that passes a threshold of intensity, at a certain point they are no longer feeling their emotion, but the collective human experience of that emotion, i.e., its Jungian archetype. This causes the release of intense somatic and psychic energies. Physical symptoms can include a sensation of waves of force rippling through the body, odd postures, spontaneous mudras, eyes rolling back in the head, and involuntary groaning or wailing. Manseau has described this as a “spiritual orgasm.” (Manseau, 2020) The psychological component of this energy can be focused on an image of the Divine held in imagination, causing it to “animate” (i.e., seem to come alive), and any resulting thoughts are received as direct communication from the god. Manseau claimed this experience of “God incarnating in your consciousness” (Manseau, 2019) is the basis of gnosis.
In its most basic form, phonomancy involves ritualistically listening to a playlist of songs (referred to as a “phonomantic rite”) while in an altered state of consciousness. The person performing the ritual, known as a phonomancer, strives to alter her/his mood by “getting into” each song. The emotional targets of the songs in a phonomantic playlist adhere to the contours of the narrative template known as the Hero’s Journey. By going through this certain sequence of emotions, the phonomancer experiences a catharsis which lifts them out of mundane reality and into a state of belief in which gnosis is the orienting fact of one’s existence.
Manseau claimed that everyone who worked with psychedelics would at some point be beset with psychologically challenging experiences on a spectrum of intensity from unsettledness and mild paranoia to full-blown psychosis. Phonomanticism teaches that these uncomfortable moments are the result of predatory or parasitic attack by entities existing in shamanic reality. “That infinite ocean is a psychic ecology we share with endless varieties of flora and fauna; some of them, unfortunately, want to eat you.” (Manseau 2019)
Because it is not always possible to avoid these threats, adherents of phonomanticism engage in a variety of physical and meditative disciplines to create a state Manseau referred to as “psychospiritual fitness” (often shortened to “psy-fi” or sometimes “psy-fu”). Psy-fi allows the phonomancer to transform emotional stress into eustress, to work productively with discomfort in order to promote higher levels of cognitive organization and emotional maturity. Manseau insisted the pursuit of psychospiritual fitness was a systematic means of pursuing self-actualization.
Phonomantic rites can be performed alone, or with groups. Group performances may be private or public. Public-facing phonomantic rites can include singing and dancing, costumes, light shows and special FX, video content, and many other theatrical elements. In their most extravagant form, these productions are known as entheotainment, a neologism coined by Manseau, meaning “theatrical spectacles designed to create in its audience a direct apprehension of the sacred,” i.e., gnosis.
Entheotainments are a kind of participatory theater, akin to the ad hoc performances staged by amateur enthusiasts around the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Entheotainments are led by Lead and Rhythm phonomancers, who sing and dance on stage. but these efforts are not regarded as performances to be passively enjoyed. Rather they are instructional examples to be imitated. The Lead phonomancer demonstrates for the crowd how to use singing and dancing to achieve trance states. Manseau described the Lead Phonomancer as a combination of “Shaman, go-go dancer, DJ, tribute act, sacrificial victim, and yoga instructor. Or SoulCycle instructor, whatever.” (Manseau, 2021) The Rhythm phonomancers support the Lead phonomancer by modeling for the audience how to participate in the Rite. Often phonomancers appear to enter spiritual ecstasy at various points during the ceremony.
Manseau regarded entheotainments as a revival of archaic religious ceremonies such as the Eleusinian Mysteries, which also involved participating in theatrical rituals while under the influence of a mind-altering substance (the kykeon). The first entheotainment was Manseau’s The First Church of David Bowie Shamanic Cabaret. His second work, The Sacred Marriage of Jesus and Mary, was unfinished at the time of his assassination on March 22, 2025.
Manseau’s insistence that “religions are only correct to the extent that they work” (Manseau, 2021) and “every religion is a game of make-believe that can yield real-world results” (Manseau, 2019) made him a controversial figure. However, such pragmatic attitudes, as well as his claim that “the Divine can be approached with any image that means something to you” (Manseau, 2019), have allowed people from many different countries to adopt the practices of phonomancy and the phonomantic religion to their own cultures. Phonomantic Rites and entheotainments have been celebrated on every continent, with some of the largest events being The Purple Prince and the Thrones of God (Rose Bowl, Los Angeles, 2089, with an estimate attendance of 30,000) and Beyonce, Barbelo, and Bae (Wembly Arena, London, 2106, estimated audience of 50,000).