Many ancient cultures throughout history have shown evidence of strange practices and sciences that have never been duplicated by modern civilizations. The ancient vikings had elite warriors called berserkers who were stronger than other men and much more difficult to damage. The ancient Greeks had women who entered trances and spoke prophecy from them. The Chinese Spirit Boxers fought in a battle madness that made them a match for invaders bearing superior weapons. African diasporic religions have holy men and women who commune with the gods, and walk on fire and eat glass as proof of it. Although each of these practices was unique, and grew out of the native traditions of the people who created it, they nevertheless all have something in common: the practitioners enter a heavily altered state of consciousness and then use that altered state of consciousness to enhance the functioning of their bodies and brains.
Individual people, as well, have been able to access these states of consciousness even outside of a tradition. The mother who lifted a burning car off of her children, for example, and soldiers who kept fighting long after receiving what should have been mortal wounds, and mad scientists who were able to see so far past the limitations of the technology of their ages that they created wonders beyond belief. Seeing the astonishing abilities that are part of the basic human birthright, if accessed in the right way, we started pursuing a serious scientific investigation of these traditions and individuals many years ago now. We investigated many different angles of the phenomena: neurological, hormonal, spiritual, historical, and experimental. In the course of our investigations we involved experts of many different sorts.
Each of these traditions has been investigated by curious modern people at one point or another, but prior to the late twentieth century few had ever noticed the similarities between these practices. When we began our investigations, therefore, we noted that there was no term for this kind of practice in general, just a bunch of culture-specific terms for their own versions. So we came up with something to describe these practices in general: somafera. It is a combination of Greek and Latin translating as “the body wild”. It is the art and science of altering the body’s physiological state to enhance its functioning in certain ways.
Because these practices mostly developed before the scientific revolution, they are largely described from a personal, subjective (rather than impersonal, objective) point of view. They are described in terms of spirituality, and of effecting a physical change via changing the state of one’s spirit. This pre-scientific point of view is why the practices are largely ignored in today’s world. As we have begun to understand these practices, we have started developing a more scientific description of them. We noticed that there were different types of somafera: types that concentrated on the body, and types that concentrated on the mind. For this reason we separate the concept of somafera into two main subcategories, depending on the focus and purpose of the type of somafera state. The type that is meant to enhance strength, speed, pain tolerance, and endurance for purposes of combat or physical labor we name the berserkergang, or the gangr, after the old viking terms. The type that enhances the speed and abilities of the mind we refer to as madspace, from a work of popular fiction.