We are all swimming in a Universal field of energy. At the very core of all that you see, taste, smell, hear and touch is a vibrational reality, which gives rise to the physical one.
At the level of physical perception, we are apparently separate individuals living in a bountiful world of many separate objects. However, at the vibrational level, all humans, creatures, plants, minerals, and even inanimate objects are partaking of one undifferentiated energy. Each of us is like a sponge within this sea of Universal vibration, freely exchanging energy with everyone and everything around us. This fundamental life energy is known varyingly in different traditions as “prana,” “chi,” the “astral light,” “od,” or “odic force.”
Human beings have convinced ourselves that our physical actions create “cause and effect” in this world and that effort and action are what create change. Yet, in truth, there are no changes made from within the plane of the physical world. Transformation happens upon the vibrational plane. Physical transformation is only a symptom or byproduct of a transformation at the energetic level. Everything in your life is but the fruit of energetic seeds. What is planted astrally blossoms physically.
Because you yourself are a vibrational part of the Universal Energy Field, you may choose what seeds are planted there! You are not separate from All-That-Is, and so you may (and do!) work directly upon the energetic plane to affect the reality of the physical world. You have the power to direct, sculpt and shape the vibrational energy field so that your physical experience is as you want it to be.
Rituals and the Astral Light
Human beings are perfect microcosms of the macrocosm. We are in a magnetic relationship with the Cosmos as a whole. The stars of the sky are reflected in the pool of our deepest consciousness. There is a flow and return between every aspect of our beings and the corresponding aspect in the Cosmos. Hidden within the Deep Mind of humanity is a key to the Deep Mind of Nature. Changes affected in the depths of the unconscious catalyze changes in the world around us.
The key is appealing to these powers of the unconscious mind in the right way, awakening the necessary faculties so that contact is made between the inner and outer planes. In order to work upon the Universal energy or Astral Light, we must 1) cultivate a highly emotionally charged state of being and 2) sustain acute, prolonged concentration. It is within this hybrid state of emotion and concentration that we may create change within the energy field—it to this end which all magical and spiritual rituals are working.
From the humblest altar at the hearth of a thatched hut to the most elaborate week-long festivals parading down city streets, all magical and spiritual rituals have only one purpose. Ritual is a technique for raising consciousness. No matter the variance in faith or outer form, rituals and ceremonies are used to conjure certain states of being within the participants, awakening the powers of the unconscious mind, so to effect a desired outcome.
Supplicants, initiates, adepts, shamans, and modern-day manifesters use various rites and procedures to incite the creative condition of the aura. Set procedures of a ritual focus the mind, facilitating prolonged concentration. The use of liturgy, chants, sermons, prayers, ceremonial instruments, herbs, music, and symbols helps to generate emotion. In this emotionally toned state of mind, we are able to get into touch with the Universal energy spiritual force. The attention is held, the imagination is directed, a mood is achieved, and consciousness is exalted. In this exalted state, consciousness may move like the hands of a sculptor shaping the energy of reality.
Because the “entryway” to the energetic plane is your own personal human energy field, it is of the greatest importance that your aura should be in the most vital condition prior to any spiritual or magical working.
The Human Aura
The human energy field— also known as the “aura”— consists of seven layers.
While the boundaries between the seven layers of the human energy field are not rigid, the layers may be approximately categorized into three groups. The first three layers of the aura correspond to the functions of the body, the middle three correspond to the functions of the mind, and the ultimate layer corresponds to the functions of the spirit.
The nature of the body is energy, the nature of the mind is love, and the nature of the spirit is freedom. In our healthiest states, our bodies are vital, our thought processes exhibit harmony, and our spirits strive upward.
The health of your aura is not yours to control or create but instead yours to allow or disallow. The natural state of your aura is health, and the human energy field automatically balances, nourishes, and replenishes itself, so long as you are not negatively interfering with consistent unhealthy physical, emotional or mental influences.
So long as we learn how to “get out of the way” of this intelligent energy, what has become imbalanced in the human energy field will automatically re-balance itself. This is the key to understanding the therapeutic benefit of both sleep and meditation. With the cessation of toxic words, thoughts, or substances into the energy field, the energy field will immediately and automatically begin restoring equilibrium.
Your most consistently practiced thoughts, actions, and emotional states affect your auric field. One who consistently practices close-mindedness or aversion to new ideas is likely to display weakness or blocks on the auric layers of the mind. Poor physical health will be evidenced on the layers of the aura related to the body. It is possible to deduce the state of your auric field by examining what areas of life you are flourishing in and where you are experiencing chronic setbacks.
The first layer of the aura is associated with physical functioning and physical sensation. This includes pain, pleasure, and the automatic/autonomic functions of the organs. The second layer is associated with the emotions and instincts. The third layer is associated with the “lower mind” of the personal ego— that is, rational, linear thinking, and willpower. The fourth level is the plane of love, connection, and relation. This is includes not only romantic love but the capacity to healthily relate to all beings, ideas, and even one’s own experiences. The fifth level is the level associated with the “higher mind,” insight, and intuition. The seventh layer is associated with Universal intelligence and one’s connection to God or a higher power.
Magical and spiritual workings are made more effective when all seven layers of the aura are functioning healthily, properly awakened, and galvanized into action. Many aspects of ceremony are designed to do exactly this. Rhythmic drumming, for instance, resonates with the human heartbeat and the pulsing blood flow in the body. This appeals directly to the physical layer of the aura, grounding this mode of consciousness in the center of the ritual. The creation of a “dream-like” ambiance through candlelight and ceremonial dress appeals to the emotional and instinctive layer of the aura, “speaking” to this mode of consciousness in its natural language. Devotional prayers or emotional music soften and open the heart, entwining the fourth layer of the aura with the work at hand.
A perfect ritual will galvanize all seven layers of the aura, such that body, mind, and spirit are focused in a single-pointed way upon the aim of the work.
Ceremonial Plants and the Aura
Plants and herbs are a universal element in ceremony, whether they are smoked, ingested, made as offerings, or burnt as incense. Plants exchange energy freely with human beings when we inhale, ingest, touch or even sit nearby them.
Our herbal allies deserve the greatest respect for their power to sway the human auric field. The power of smell in the human mind, for instance, cannot be overstated. We are led around by our noses far more than we realize, as smells affect our judgment, conclusions, and even our choice of friends and mates. The olfactory sense is one of the oldest faculties of consciousness, and for this reason, incense is a part of almost any ritual. The smell of cedar, sage, frankincense, or even simple fire instantaneously awakens a primordial and deeply powerful part of the mind.
The rules which govern the design of a ritual are the rules which govern the holding of attention. Typically, there is an emotionally charged idea and a physical symbol that represents it, making it easier to hold in mind. All the formalities of ceremonial procedure, like music, ritual dress, procession, dance, or gesture, serve the purpose of stimulating the foundations of our very being so that the full force of consciousness is brought to bear upon the magical image. The role of plants in ceremony may be understood this way. Carefully chosen herbs and plants may enliven, awaken, heal or nourish some or all layers of the human energy field so that the totality of the aura is harmonized with the magical intention.
The altar space is meant to be a microcosm which reflects the greater macrocosm of the Universe. For this reason, much effort is made to sow harmony through repetition and resonance, reflecting the magnificent orchestration of all parts of creation. Colors, sounds, scents, and words sharing a relationship of symbolic resonance are carefully chosen, so that theme or intention of the ritual is reflected within any single element of it.
The close similarity between the words ‘plant’ and ‘planet’ indicates just how very integrated our ancient ancestors’ experience of the Universe really was! For instance, the scientific name for the golden-flowered Imphepho, which was often made as a precious offering, is “Helichrysumis,” coming from the Greek words ‘helios’ (Sun) and ‘chrysos’ (gold). In the ancient perspective, the spirit of the Sun grew up through the ground within this sacred plant, representing the presence of God in even the humblest, lowest of places. This omnipresence of the divine was replicated in magical workings by carefully selecting tones, colors, words, and plants that, each in their unique form, participated in the same spiritual essence. As the alchemical axiom goes, “As Above So Below.”
Herbs may be burnt in a ritual due to their connection to a certain God or planet (Plane) so that this celestial energy infuses the atmosphere and the auric field of the participants. For instance, in a ritual seeking to cultivate psychism or lucid dreaming, one may burn Bay Leaves to infuse the air with the energy of this plant’s astrological ruler, the Moon. As they breathe in the “Holy Ghost” of this planet (Plane), through the subtle interaction of bodily sense and psychic apperception, the modality of the Moon is activated in the consciousness of the worshippers.
Different plants may be used to balance, entrain, uplift, or enhance each layer of the energy field.
• Sage and cedar act directly upon the first two layers of the aura— the physical and emotional. Science has proven the anti-microbial power of these smudging herbs, long renowned for their “cleansing” power. These herbs dispel impurities and pathogens from the altar space and also restore equanimity and joy to the heart.
• Turmeric may be used to purify the third layer of the aura, stimulating blood flow and galvanizing willpower.
• Pure Cacao works upon the fourth layer of the aura, nourishing the heart and helping one to find love, forgiveness, and compassion.
• Sacred Tobaccos and snuffs (traditionally called rapé) work upon the sixth layer of the aura, clearing away the clutter of the lower mind so that the higher mind may open to more profound insight.
• Entheogenic plants such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, or peyote are believed to facilitate the transmission of celestial information and therefore are associated with the 7th layer of the aura. These plants are adaptogenic, meaning they may work directly upon the layer of the aura, which is most “out of alignment” within the individual.
Plants may be very helpful allies to us in ceremony and in life when we are having difficulty collecting or focusing our physical, mental, and/or spiritual energy. Of course, they are even more helpful to us when we have carefully and consistently prepared our auric field!
The ritual space is like the alchemical alembic, which holds the dreamy fluid of our intention. You must take care to provide a solid, sturdy container for your prayer or magical working, lest it spill everywhere and accomplish nothing! Tend to your aura as a matter of daily life— not just in your magical and spiritual practice. Find plants that help you feel like the best version of you! For any desire you have, there is a friend in the plant kingdom who can help you on your journey toward it!
As the magician, Lon Milo Duquette said, “Magic is indeed all in your head… but your head is a hell of a lot bigger than you think it is!”