Updated: Oct 14
I view these ritual states as separate realities, from normal everyday life. Complete with separate cultures, beliefs, and experiences. We can use rituals to create these alternate realities, that don't exist in normal everyday life. In this ritual state I see the world with more clarity than ever before, I see the world as it is, exquisitely crafted, everything in it's place, and everything making perfect sense. But that is not how I see the world when I am enveloped in the culture of the society in which I live.
As babies, humans don’t value material, you give a baby a hundred dollars and they will not be interested. Babies are not yet ingrained with the cultures of society. But we need culture to make sense of the world, and we need communal consensus for culture to take root. So we begin to adopt the cultures past down from our parents and society, and we forgo the intuitive knowledge that we know as children to be true, that money is not intrinsically valuable. As we grow older this knowledge is overshadowed by the cultural assertation that money is one of, if not the, most valuable thing in life.
What if it was possible to create our own culture from the ground up created by ourselves and our community, based on those intuitive values we know as children to be true. At its core, this is what ritual practices provide.
The culture that we are building in this ritual goes against everything that we have been taught by society. We choose to view fear and anxiety as valuable and seek it. We choose to look at and confront death, not hide from it. We choose to value emotions, and the immaterial nature of reality far more than the material realm in which we live. We choose to live as one, united behind a common goal.
From the first time I had an experience of an altered state I knew it was inherently valuable, another instance of intuitive knowledge that has been overshadowed by my adoption of cultural beliefs. The first time I smoked marijuana, there was some intuitive draw to the experience and I knew there was something valuable behind it, like there was a secret that was being kept from me. Society told me that drugs were bad, and they wouldn’t lead to anything good. But I knew I wasn't getting the full story, and the following seven years of partying, drinking, and using drugs that followed was my attempt to find out that secret.
Throughout high school and college, my friends and I would party, get drunk, and do stupid things, this was our ritual. It brought us all together, provided group unity, and in a strange way gave us a different cultural lens to view the world through. My lens was predominately influenced by the belief that “life is short, lets have fun.” These endeavors were misguided and over time it led to destructive patterns, and ultimately deep depression. But what I was trying to get at was this ritualized altered state, in which we could recreate ourselves and our culture, we could develop our own communal meaning to life. The problem was that without any understanding of rituals and rites of passage, we ended up creating the opposite of what we intended. We were just getting drunk and disconnecting from life, losing our sense of self, and falling deeper into meaninglessness.
By the time I had left college, I was partying simply because I didn’t know any other way. I believed there was something wrong with me, I was just addicted to altering my sober state of mind and I was a bad person. That is when I began researching psychedelics and began to shift my cultural perspective. Shedding the belief that “drugs are bad” as my 6th grade D.A.R.E teacher would have me believe. And creating a new belief, that drugs are tools, and humans have developed relationships with these tools for thousands of years. And we can decide to take advantage of these tools to shape our consciousness if we so desire. So I tried to do this with psychedelics and for a while, I thought I was succeeding, aspects of my life began changing, the psychedelics showed me that they could be used to transform aspects of my consciousness, that they did have tremendous power. But that was all they showed me. Without any understanding of rituals and without a ritual practice, these changes in consciousness I so desired didn’t stick.
It reminds me of an ancient greek story by Apuleius whereas the main character turns himself into a donkey attempting to perform magic. “He overstepped a boundary as well in arrogantly thinking he could shape shift without any formal training... he lacked skills and knowledge of the appropriate formula and action.”
The first time I suggested to my brother that we do this ritual in the woods I didn’t know that it was a ritual that we were creating. I didn’t even really know what rituals were. I just thought it could be a time to connect. Over the course of the past 6 months, this ritual has evolved from a few friends getting high in the woods and talking. To an intense and structured ritualized experience. This evolution was organic, and I believe this is how rituals need to be created. I can’t tell others what to do to create a powerful ritual because there is something about rituals that requires the initiates to create it themselves. If they don’t then they are no better than any human adopting the cultures of the society in which they were born into. It is necessary to create the ritual and culture together collectively from within the group.
“Shall we be able to put on, like a new suit of clothes, ready-made symbols grown on foreign soil, saturated with foreign blood, spoken in a foreign toungue, nourished by foreign culture, interwoven with foreign history, and so resemble a beggar who wraps himself in kingly raiment, a king who digueises himself as a beggar? No doubt this is possible. Or is there something in ourselves that commands us… sew our garment ourselves?” - Carl Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, p.14
After the ritual yesterday, I determined the one simple change I could make in my life this week that would have the most impact would be to take a cold shower after I woke up.
Last week I determined that getting out of bed and beginning my day when I first woke up would be the one simple change that would have the most impact on my life.
My attention in the present moment is a creator. At the moment in which I am focusing on something, I am creating possible future scenarios. Use this attention as if it is the most precious resource I have because it is.