The Light Itself

The Light Itself

Put your mind to it


We finally reached a point where we can work on our ritual. Let’s focus first on the elements of the ritual that are specific to each session. I would also like to address all the things we need to prepare the days and hours leading to the event. The development of the core elements of our ritual, the ones that we will reproduce every time we perform it, will be discussed in the next chapter (The Ritual). In a later page, I will give you my own personal ritual as an example (The Vision Serpent Ritual). 

The first thing we want to do in pour preparation is define our goal for this specific ritual. There is no reason to rush. In fact if we succumb to precipitation, the ceremony will likely be fruitless if not hurtful. I cannot understate the risk of using this technique to accomplish a goal that is not right for us. Be careful what you wish for. Take your time to find the right objective and define it clearly. Imagine a one-sentence prayer of sort that expresses your goal clearly. If you don’t like calling it prayer, how about a wish? This sentence is the physical expression of your intent. By saying it out loud, you modify the world around you and forces it to acknowledge your desire. That is what speech is. We say things to modify our environment. We express ourselves to materialize something from the inside towards the outside. Take meticulous care in the wording of that prayer. You will repeat it a hundred times during your ritual, as a reminder of what it is you are trying ot accomplish. If you are a believer, it can be useful to involves forces that are beyond you, like God, spirits or any entity that inhabit your spiritual world. Ask them for help or guidance. Make sure it fits your system of faith. End the sentence with an assertion of your goal (like “I pray you” or “I desire it”). As an example of such prayer, here is one I wrote (notice the shamanic tone): “I call the Spirit and my Guides of Light. Please help me understand these plants and show me how they can carry me further on my Spiritual Journey. I pray you.” As a Buddhist, I would strip it from any mysticism and simply say “I want to use this plant to make progress on my spiritual journey.” Notice how this particular example is about the ritual itself. I recommend you do the same for your first few rituals. Using the ritual to improve the ritual is a powerful technique that will allow you to learn how to use this tool at a speed you can’t even imagine. Self-initiation is the wonderful power of Shamanism.

Once you have your prayer, say it out loud or write it down. You must confront any doubt and uncertainty. If your objective sounds silly or unrealistic or pretentious once expressed clearly, be honest with yourself and adapt it. You must also make sure your goal is specific, but not too specific. If you lock yourself in pursuit of something too specific, you inevitably lower your chances of receiving that specific thing. Remember the substance cannot be controlled. It can only be gently steered in the right direction. 

On another hand, choosing too vague a goal is as good as letting the substance decide for you. It’s not an uninteresting experience as it certainly is a lesson in surrendering and the ritual will be full of surprises, but as we aim for spiritual growth, we must decide where we want to go next on our journey. Therefore, in most cases, we’ll want to aim at the right sport between specific and open-ended when we choose our goal. 

The final pitfall to avoid is choosing an objective that involves a mental activity. The only thing that stands between you and Enlightenment is your mind. It is your mind that makes you see yourself as separate from the rest of the universe. It is your mind that built your ego with all your tastes, values and opinions. It is your mind that makes you see time and space, which are really filters of what is. It is your mind that is the seat of your judgment. Much the same way, the entheogenic substances will try to show you things that your mind isn’t willing to accept. Whatever is shown to you, your mind will interpret, categorize, judge. The only thing between you and a blissful entheogenic ritual is your mind.

In summary, your objective should be right for you, clearly defined, realistic, not too specific and not too broad, unrelated to intensive mind activity. Suitable objectives include things like understanding reality, uniting with the divine, understanding yourself, learning or improving something specific like a meditation technique, understanding your purpose in life, exploring an aspect of your faith like chakras or karma… Objectives I don’t recommend are reading, writing, philosophy, metaphysics or the study of sacred texts… The reason these aren’t really suitable is because they are mental activities and the mind invariably ruins the ritual. Bear in mind though that for all these goal that aren’t really recommended it is always possible to work on them outside the ritual then use the ritual to explore them further, to go deeper, find new ideas or new angles to look at them.

Filling your short term memory

The Spiritual Set

We saw the importance of the set and setting and how much influence it has on the content of our ritual. If we can fill our mind with thoughts of the intent we outlined above, we can steer the entheogenic beast. The success of the ritual relies on this. 

There isn’t one way of doing it. It will be different for every individual (and for every ritual as well). The best approach is to try as many things as possible, evaluate the results and keep what works. If you are willing to go to the extreme, taking the entire day leading to the ritual to meditate on your chosen intent in isolation is probably the most effective. During that day of retreat, you must shut off any thought of the outside world to leave room for your intent. If you decided on a specific practice, you must practice it during that entire day to put the body and the mind in the right motion. For example if your intent is to meditate on the chakras, doing it for a day without the help of the substance will incline the body and the mind to focus on the chakras. At the end of that day, your entire being will be filled with your practice and the entheogen will have an easier time pushing you further down that path. It will only take a nudge. If you want to have an experience that is visual, spend some times looking at pictures related to your intent. You could look at pictures of art from antiquity. Look at hundreds of images of statues of Greek gods, engraving from Mesopotamia, Egyptian temples etc. Doing this allows you to build a short term visual memory, literally a catalogue of images the entheogen can pick from to build your visions. I’m sure you can do this with other senses as well even though I have never tried.

Now that you have a description of an extreme preparation, it is up to you to decide what you want to keep and what is too much for you. There is no need to go that far. Experiment and get to know yourself. After a few attempts, you will know what works best for you and what is superfluous. The preparation doesn’t have to last an entire day. It’s ok to prepare for an hour or two before starting. Remember, what matters is the result. The only thing I believe is crucial is isolation. It doesn’t have to be a total isolation, but I’d recommend limiting social contact to your close family.

Dressing the room

The Spiritual Setting

Now that we’ve covered how we can prepare the Set before our ritual, let’s work on the Setting. We know the Setting is the environment in which the substance is ingested. 

The goal being to stimulate our imagination to set us in the mood for our ritual, the first thing to consider is the room we choose. It needs to be comfortable and quiet, like a bedroom or a lounge room. From the moment you are under the influence, it is crucial that you are never disturbed. Any interruption will inevitably stain the experience, as you are going to have to come out of your mystical bubble to make yourself available for that unexpected social interaction. Worth case scenario, the distraction will irritate you (thereby changing your Set) and it might even throw you on a “bad trip”. So choose a room where you can remain isolated. 

I like focusing on an altar for my Setting. It allows me to concentrate my attention in one spot that I can bring in when I start and put away when I’m done. It’s convenient and it keeps me concentrated on one area of the room. The altar can be a simple coffee table. What makes it an altar is the intention and the decoration, not the table itself. Add a candle, incense and any decorative element you like and you’ve got your personal altar. Think of it as your little spiritual corner. I also like having one light turned on in the room. It’s a light that I only use for the ritual so the moment I look at the room under that light, I’m reminded of what I’m doing. I chose an intimate spherical warm light because it evokes peace and serenity to me. I never turn that lamp on outside of my ritual to keep the mental connection intact. Maybe you’ll want to consider dressing a certain way. It might help you to have a set of clothes that you find comfortable and that you only wear for your rituals in order to create a mental connection like I do with my spherical lamp. You could also wear a ceremonial attire in which case I recommend you make it yourself. 

The final touch is making sure the couch you will lie down in is perfectly comfortable. This has little to do with the Setting. We only want to make sure we will have a good time. Comfort is especially important around the peak of the trip, because at that time we have little control if any. If you have to pass out, you want it to happen in the most comfortable place. For the same reasons, it’s a good idea to prepare a pitcher of water and fruits. Most entheogens will suppress your appetite, but you never know.

Amongst the elements of the Setting, music is popular. Since music plays with your emotions, it goes very well with psychedelics. A lot of people enjoy listening to music while tripping. However we are after a mystical experience and music will often get in the way. In my experience the ritual is always better in silence. I have tried with music, but it kept getting in the way of my spiritual practice. There is always that moment where a specific track comes up in your playlist and in that moments, for some strange reason it rubs you the wrong way. If it happens at a moment where you have little control you might not be able to skip the track or you might not even be able to even think about skipping the track. It can potentially escalate into a stressful time. Given how little we control the effect, I think wielding a tool as emotionally potent as music can be dangerous. I would recommend you try with and without music and see how it plays out for you.

recording your progress


Over the course of your exploration, you will keep a diary to keep track of your progress. It will guide you in the trials and errors as you develop your ritual. Later, it will remain useful to keep track of what topic you’ve explored and what your results were. Let’s not forget the substance will affect your memory, so your diary will be your safety net. For the same reason, I recommend you write the outlines of your diary before starting (even before preparation). The writing during the actual ritual will have to be kept to a minimum for physiological reason. Most of the time during the ritual, you simply won’t be in shape to write anything. I like to start by writing my intent prayer to get my focus right from the beginning. Write down technical details like the substance, the dose, what you take it with (lemon juice, tea…). Also, write a detailed description of your intent. The one line is great for staying the course during the storm, but it lacks nuance. The diary is good place to develop it. There might be small things you want to explore on the side, things that maybe are too simple to make a ritual solely around them. Curiosity can lead you to experiment with all sorts of things like what does it feel like to do pranayama (breathing exercises) under the influence for example. I think that kind of curiosity should be indulged in. It will help develop your relationship with the substance. In the diary, you should also lay out the schedule for the day ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it. You can always adapt it should there be any delay. The key moments to keep track of at this point are the time the ritual starts and the time you take the substance.