Preparing the Vessel
Entheogenesis Australis (EGA) Journal 2023
How strange it may be for our ancestors to look down their lineage and see their children marvelling at their daily knowledge with a golden romanticised glow. Sacred rites, remedies, ceremonial transmissions of knowledge - things that were commonplace for them, necessary for survival on physical, cultural, and spiritual levels - would be thought absurd to be considered a luxury, or knowledge that could be done without. This fundamental knowing on the ways of the world, across all levels of our being, was so vital that their very culture was a vessel crafted to carry it.
To realise the essence of who we truly are is the deepest call for a human being.
Many civilisations have curated themselves around this quest, sculpting their paradigms, architecture, and rhythms of daily life around it. The practices and devotional rites in old wisdom cultures serve to maintain and expand upon illuminations received. Not only is the structure of life and culture centred around this, the physical reflection of it is emulated in the architecture. Temple structures hold immaculate wisdom, designed around cosmic principles that cultivate clarity, lucidity, and spiritual energy. Such is the importance of cultivating this knowing and practice that wisdom civilisations have pivoted themselves around it.
The body is considered one such temple, likely the most important one, as the organically attuned vessel through which new seeing and evolution can happen for a culture.
Our physical being is understood as an instrument through which we can fine tune the quality of our consciousness. Practices of cleansing, opening, receiving, and propagating certain energies are streamed through the body for this purpose. Ways of preparing and maintaining this vessel that contains our essence hold a central focus in the spiritual direction of these cultures. The intricacies and perfections of the temple structures are a reflection of what is within us. They are a mirror to sharpen our awareness. Their design contains the same exquisite capacities of our potential, the wisdoms we are pregnant with.
This natural essence of life is running through us all the time. Like a temple with a stream running through it, our first job is simply to clean the temple, to keep the pathways open for this essence to channel well. It can then be directed, heightened, activated and trained for more refined practices. Our body and energy is used with the same purpose as a temple, a sacred container for the transformation of consciousness. It is a portal to alchemise our experience into life-enriching nectar. This is the purpose of initiation rites, to ready the being to engage more deeply with essence. Much like preparing the foundations before laying a house on them, we prepare the being before embedding great knowledge within it.
The first process in initiatory rites is cleansing, emptying the vessel of its previous content, and opening the inner space. Any initiation will start with this. We know of the dieta practices in South American vegetalista traditions, cleansing before opening to receive what a plant has to show us; we see this in the ancient Ayurvedic practice of panchakarma, using five modes of cleansing the body with various techniques; we see it in the grounding practices of Southern African spirit initiations, staying on ones knees for months at a time, avoiding certain foods, interactions and habits... All of these clear the way and open the path of our being into our inner space.
In uninterrupted traditions, rites of passage, rituals, and ceremonies have always been placed at crucial points in a person’s growth to harness the energy ripe at that time. In the sacred geometry of a human lifespan, there are optimal moments, nodes as it were, that, when addressed and channelled appropriately, give greater energy to our being and thereby our community.
Psychedelic experiences have often been used as a technique of initiating the being into deeper seeing and knowing at the right times. Individuals were prepared, and within premeditated timing - both in the individual’s life and in harmony with the wider environment - allowed a rich harvest. Like gardening, knowing when to prune and when to harvest, a human responds to the same rhythmical wisdom. People in such cultures are tended to with an understanding of these cosmic principles. Constraint is applied at the appropriate times, behaviours pruned, and new learnings grafted on at opportune moments of receptivity. All for the purpose of propagating higher levels of awareness and awakening to the true nature of who we are.
We could say a main diagnosis of our contemporary culture is a forgetting of self. An amnesia with regard to who we are, where we came from, and the purpose of our trajectory. This amnesia and lack of deliberate knowing has us vulnerable to our essence being diffused and the capacity we have as humans being used through us, not by us. If we are not at our own inner control desk, cultivating our life energy and directing it in heightened intentional ways, both as a being and as a culture, we are at risk of that energy being used in other ways.
Once we cleanse ourselves, we begin to realise that we are a receptacle, a container, an antenna that receives signals. The importance of recognising this function in ourselves is that, whether we are cleansed or not, we are an antenna. We attract information. We hold it, incubate, and emanate it. This is happening regardless of any formality around rites or practices. As an antenna, without realising we have governance over which station we tune into, we are susceptible to receiving a signal which is not optimal for well-being and illumination.
The importance of undergoing initiatory rites allows a person to choose how they conduct their vision. To build this strength, initiatory practices put us through challenges. They are ‘perturbation medicine’, disrupting the inertia of our trajectory. They remove the comfort of the known and hurl us into a seemingly chaotic process of ‘unknown’, all to have us reconfigure with greater resilience and agility. In the same way going to the gym breaks the tissue in our muscles so it can rebuild and strengthen in the repair, initiatory practices, ordeals, and psychoactive experiences break the usual perceptual pathways, allowing our neurocircuitry to re-configure and realign with greater agility.
We create new pathways of perception and a new kind of seeing forms within us. This is a process of hormesis – creating challenge that gives rise to strength, where exposure to stressors is actually favourable. The intelligence in how much stress is beneficial is the artform of successful initiations.
The magic of it is that initiation happens in its own time. We cannot initiate ourselves or “be initiated”. We can only prepare the conditions. We can tend to the soil, feed the roots, and prune the leaves.... but we cannot bring about the fruit or the flower. This happens in its own time. We cannot garden this. Like everything in nature, when it is ripe, it flowers.
Initiation rites are a delicate preparation process that generates our readiness for the subsequent flowering. It is the natural order of things. As organic beings, this is our blueprint, our coding, the template upon which growth is built. These rites and ceremonies serve to propagate our consciousness to more refined levels of perception.
One way of igniting our natural memory and awareness is through the use of plants - nutritional, medicinal, and psychoactive. They hold information that fits into and activates the information that we carry, like a biological docking station.
Plants are a way civilisations can store memory. In this two-way relationship, not only do we receive medicine and expansive teaching from plants, but we can implant them with knowledge too. Just as we become educated from engaging them, they become educated by the experiences we expose them to. Civilisations that recognise this exchange would use plant wisdom to carry and transfer knowledge through time. This self-propagates and is propagated, as it is seen as valuable by the attending culture, and the coded knowledge held within them reveals itself in appropriate settings later down the stream of time.
I say “through time” in the broader sense, as they are also portals into other dimensions where time has little meaning. These parallel kingdoms are vehicles through which timeless wisdom travels.
This knowing weaves in with the templates of timeless wisdom within us, igniting them and enhancing evolution. In cultures that were awake, this was by intent.
Plant preparations are an external alchemy, mirroring and activating the internal alchemy of what we can do within the container of our own being.
The classical Chinese medicinal way of looking at the organs in the body is to see them as ‘gods’. Each organ is seen as holding a divine quality, performing a certain vital role in keeping the empire of our being running smoothly. They are centres of sentience and intelligence. In fact, they speak of the organs as the “thrones of the gods”. Our physiological processes are the expressions of intricate cosmological intelligence, and practices that link the microcosm of the body with the macrocosm of the universe can be done through our awareness. Communicating with celestial realms is a faculty well within our reach, as the workings of these realms function in our body as much as they do in the cosmos. Our physiological processes are the reflection of something much deeper and more mystical than we usually recognise.
Using our body as a conduit for transmuting consciousness then starts to make a lot more grounded sense. Integrating the support of allies such as those in the plant kingdom weave in nicely with this, being born of the same creative wisdom.
Recognising the depths of the pathways accessed in the body, and preparing the vessel of our being, is a skillful way to meet any medicine half way. Music played in a noisy street is very different to music played in a sonic chamber. Allowing ourselves to be the space in which natural essence can be received, amplified, and echoed is a potent way to not only alchemise the substance being offered, but offer a symphony of being back into the cosmos.