Accepted paper:

Burning Man festival: the individual experience of a shift of consciousness in a collective utopia context


Flore MUGUET (EPHE-Paris / Univ. Fribourg)

Paper short abstract:

A shift of consciousness is told being encountered by the participants of the Burning Man festival. Through new practices, this unique spiritual experience accesses the feel of ancient/exotic traditions without precisely reproducing them.

Paper long abstract:

In the one week Burning Man festival more than 60 000 people meet every year in the Desert of Nevada. A shift of consciousness combined with a deep spiritual sense is said to be experienced by the participants. This event initiated in 1986, reaches a massive success since about 10 years. An intense spirituality is told being encountered particularly through practices oriented towards relation with light declined in 3 ways sun/electrical light/ fire. Living in the desert and following 10 principles such as immediacy, gifting, radical self-reliance and leave no trace, burners are encountering different forms of temporality and spatiality than usual. The community acts as a collective support, during the event, for each individual experience. Some practices may be seen as classical rituals as they prescribed actions, such as the entrance ritual and/or spiritual workshops. Others practices may be seen as contemporary rituals since their actions are not prescribed and participants can choose to do the actions they want. It seems more important for burners to be in the feeling of traditional practices rather than in their precise reproduction: such are the actions related to the burn of art pieces or those related to the celebrations of the sun in the Temple. In those contemporary rituals, the effort is set on individual creativity rather than in the reproduction of existing rituals. An inspiration from ancient/exotic traditions is massively shown through the entire event with the goal of a fullfilling present and a sustainable future.

panel Reli006
Making a better future with ancient pasts: heritage and utopia in neo-paganism and neo-shamanism