The Art of Remembering Who You Really Are
In Greek mythology there are five rivers that flow through the realm of Hades, the God of the dead. Before reincarnation souls are made to drink from Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, thus preventing them from remembering their past lives and their current life purpose.
Throughout history many spiritual teachers and philosophers have proposed that the key to finding meaning in life is to 'remember who we really are'. That there is in fact a part of ourselves that is somehow hidden from our conscious mind.
Martin Heidegger, the German ontological philosopher, used Lethe to symbolise the 'concealment of being' that he saw as the major problem in Philosophy. Heidegger believed that everything had essence but that essence was concealed from humans. Our task is to bring forth out of concealment and into truth.
Rudolph Steiner went further when he wrote,
"It is often asked why we do not know anything of our experiences before birth or after death. This is the wrong question. Rather, we should ask how we can attain such knowledge."
Many of us feel like we have 'been here before' and it is quite common for travellers to experience a de ja vu when visiting a place for the first time. Even more of us have felt the need to experiment with plants and other psychoactive substances. Is this yearning rooted in the deep seated knowledge that there is more to life than this physical reality that we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear? Does some part of us desire to reconnect with who we really are and to experience dimensions far richer than the current reality?
If this is truly the case - that we are here with a specific purpose - and that the key task to beginning the journey is to remember - then how would one do it?
STEP 1 - YOU CAN'T 'WORK IT OUT'
The first step in the process is to acknowledge that it isn't something we can 'work out'. In fact our rational mind may well be the thing that keeps us trapped within the limitations of our current reality. This is because of what Heidegger termed the 'concealment of being'.
Modern neuroscience reveals to us that the conscious mind is only able to process about 2000 bits of information per second whereas the total mind - subconscious and unconscious is processing something more like 4 billion.
What this means is that what you perceive reality to be creates your reality. So, the existential philosopher Descartes I think actually had it wrong when he wrote "Cognito Ergo Sum" - "I think, therefore I am". In fact it should be,
"I believe, therefore I am".
By believing reality to be a certain way your subconscious mind actively filters out anything that doesn't fit so the 2000 bits of information that your conscious mind gets will neatly reflect your fixed view of the World.
This is something that Shamans of various traditions have alluded to - the most well known of which is probably Don Juan, the Mexican Shaman Carlos Castaneda wrote about. In those books Don Juan repeatedly tells Castaneda that,
"Everything in sorcery rests on the manipulation of the assemblage point"
STEP 2 - YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU ARE GOING
So, now you have released the belief that you can 'work it out' the next step is to become 'Comfortable in Uncertainty'.
The spiritual teacher Gurdjieff wrote,
"There are things for the understanding of which a different being is necessary."
Meaning - understanding is linked to being so you won't even be able to understand certain phenomena until your being has shifted.
The paradox here is that your being won't shift until you let go of your grip on the rational world and give yourself permission to become comfortable in uncertainty. In other words - the World is a mystery and we cannot hope to possibly comprehend it but we must not stop trying.
There is more to the World than you know so let go.
STEP 3 - ACT COURAGEOUSLY
Intuition is stupid and irrational, it makes us do silly things - BUT - and here's the key - it's tapping into a deeper knowledge than the rational mind and allowing yourself to listen and most importantly to ACT - can connect you with a deeper life path.
Life unfolds as we go along and it is only with the benefit of hindsight that events reveal their true meaning.
If you reflect now on the key events in your life that have led you to where you are now you may be able to identify three or four major turning points in your life.
Now ask yourself - did you plan for these events to occur?
Considering where you are now could you draw a line through time back to these events opening up the possibility that where you are now created those events in the past not vice versa?
If so could you now find the courage to let go of how you think things might turn out and instead embrace the moment and act courageously on your intuition?
If you can do these three things - Let go of the need to 'work it out'; Embrace uncertainty; and, Act courageously - then you are well on the way to remembering who you really are and open to walking a Sacred Path though life.
THE ROLE OF PLANTS
Throughout the ages many different plants have been used around the World to facilitate the process I have outlined above. These have included Marijuana, Peyote, San Pedro, Ayahuasca, and Fly-Agaric mushrooms - to name a few.
In my own journey I have spent quite a bit of time in Africa working with Sangomas, the traditional tribal healers or Shamans. Sangomas work quite a lot with medicinal plants which they call Mutis and it is the spirit of the plant that they focus on rather than the chemical substances.
To a Sangoma, the veil between this World and other realities is very thin. Plants open doors to other realities, they can drive away evil spirits, provide psychic and physical protection and also be the carriers of good or bad intentions.
The context of this article is The Art of Remembering Who You Really Are - so let's focus on that.
Sangomas believe that our ancestors come to us in our dreams to guide us in this life and our primary guide is usually our Grandfather. If you are lost in life, or are seeking guidance in some form, the first step is to work to open up the dreaming function so you can 'hear' clearly.
A mixture called 'Ubulawu' or White Light is used to do this. The primary ingredient is Silene Capensis and the effect is a dreamy state where the veil between the dream states and reality does indeed become thin.
I have experienced Ubulawu and other plant substances many times in different contexts and have a few points that I would like to share.
1. HONOUR THE PLANT
Plants have been here for much longer than we have. Their spirits are collective in that when you work with a plant you work with the spirit of all of the plants of that type.
When you choose to work with plants you are not just working with a chemical substance you are working with spirit. Any work done should therefore be done in ceremony where sacred space has been created and the plant has been honoured.
Honour in this sense begins with how the plant is grown and cared for and extends right through to how it is harvested and prepared. Honour the plant and it will honour you.
Above all - ask.
Plants like to help but they need to be asked.
Referring back to the process above for remembering who you really are, you will note that 'you can't work it out'. What you can do though is to set clear intention and this will act as a guide on the path that you go down.
If your intention is to 'experiment' then guess what? That's what you'll get.
If your intention is to work with the spirit of the plant to help you connect with who you really are then you will have a very different experience. You can't understand a different reality with your present state of being so letting go is key and this is where the process of honour and the creation of sacred space will allow this.
To powerfully work with intention also means to let go of your expectations of what you will get. I have worked with many people who were surprised by what resulted but elated by how their intentions were delivered to them.
If you have the nerve to ask then have the courage to act!
Working with plants can reveal many things to us and many alternate dimensions. The key though is that we have chosen to incarnate into this reality because here we have the opportunity to influence the physical World through the actions that we take.
If you choose to seek a Sacred Path in life then you must integrate the knowledge into this realm through taking courageous action.
In Africa the Sangomas believe that if you do not follow the advice of your ancestors then they will slowly withdraw their support from you until this life becomes so painful and desperate that you will again seek their guidance. Alternatively they may give you a 'knock on the head' to get your attention.
Either way it is a warning to be wary because to walk a Warrior's path requires spiritual courage.
On that note I will leave you with a quote from Gurdjieff,
"Knowledge by itself does not give understanding...
Understanding depends on the relation to being."
In peace and love always.
(this article appears in the Journal for the 2011 Entheogenesis Australis Conference)