I visited central Arizona in the American Southwest, along a wet green valley cutting through the red rock desert. This is the town of Sedona, once a humble ranching and retirement community, and today a mystical Mecca popular with art galleries, new age shops, restaurants, and (most importantly) its energy vortices). What exactly are they? Some describe them as places of concentrated energy that people can sense and be healed by. The intersection points of energy lay lines. There are four main energy vortices in Sedona: the Airport Vortex, the Boynton Canyon Vortex, the Cathedral Rock Vortex, and the Bell Rock Vortex. Do they work? While there are authentic seekers and believers living here (most of them self-proclaimed New-Agers),a huge tourism industry has been built up around these mystical constructs.
The New Age movement is characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, with an interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism. Before my travels out West my research online indicated that the vortex believers and skeptics were cut straight down the middle. I was looking forward to having the opportunity to find out for myself. *[Hours before arriving at Bell Rock I stopped at the Grand Canyon. Here I began collecting scrap materials I found on the ground so I could begin constructing a totem for a healing spell I was writing and planning to perform at the vortex].
My fiancé, her best friend and I traveled to one of these vortices, the Bell Rock Vortex, to see if we could have the healing and consciousness-expanding experience so many locals and New Agers claim to have had; or at the very least feel a mild tingle. Does any of this stuff actually work, we wondered? The crystals and talismans, the meditation and the retreats? Nature is a mysterious thing. Might we be ignorant to her abilities? Or might this be a clever tourist trap utilizing the placebo effect? We were told by many that we would start feeling a shift in energy the moment after we parked our cars and got out. We didn’t. Though we did travel down the trail to the Bell Rock Climb to see if we could.
We got a late start to our hike and the sun was fading fast. We climbed Bell Rock as high as possible while still allowing ourselves enough time to head back before dark. Searching for an ideal spot to stake my totem I noticed a sun beam shining on a vibrant patch of red soil. I began preparing my original healing ritual for my group and I. My totem was planted – I called her LAEH (heal backwards), The Goddess of Energy, and explained the steps of the spell to my group, which were as followed:
LAEH HEALING ENERGY SPELL
1. The group stands in a circle on fresh soil.
2. Each member draws a circle around them, making sure each of them overlap with each other like a ven diagram. The totem must be planted in the center of the overlap.
3. Each member bends down and grabs a handful of soil. They stand again. Eyes closed. Everyone must reflect on something painful and negative they wish to release.
4. The ritual begins with the leader speaking the incantation. On the last four lines everyone must repeat them together three times and then release their soil into the air.
LAEH, let this totem reflect the text of the one who wrote them.
LAEH hand on me,
LAEH hand on us,
so what was our pain fades by your touch.
LAEH, store for me, Chelsea and Lex, the sacred energy of your vortex, and let our pain be met by your healing lead.
Feel us, feel you
Heal us, heal true.
5. The members step out from their circles and erase them completely.
We remained silent after the ritual until we walked back down the trail. We’re not sure why. Maybe my group was staying quiet out of respect for all my hard work creating the spell? Maybe they were embarrassed or confused? Maybe it was the vortex messing with our field of energy? Maybe we were just tired and ready to call it a day? Hours after the ritual was complete we enjoyed a drink at a nearby pub, where my fiancé spoke up, “I think that ritual might have worked.” Then our friend Chelsea, “Yeah, I think so, too. I feel better.”
Unfortunately, I felt no different, for as the spell-writer I was too aware of its mechanics for it to be effective. So why did my crew believe it worked? Was their emotional investment in the potential powers of the Bell Rock Energy Vortex great enough to make my LAEH ritual effective? Were the New-Agers right about the transformational powers of these mountains? Was it all just an elaborate placebo?
In the immortal words of George Constanza in the series, Seinfeld, “Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe in it.” Put another way by occult writer and Chaos Magickian, Phil Hines, "what matters are the results, not the authenticity of the system used. "
WHAT IS ROOM?
WELL, NOT ACTUAL ROOM. THIS IS ONLY A PICTURE OF ROOM. WHILE ACTUAL ROOM AND THIS PICTURE OF ROOM ARE THE SAME ROOM IN QUESTION, THEY REPRESENT TWO VERY DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SAME THING. IN OTHER WORDS, THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO DEFINE AND LOOK AT ROOM. THE DICTIONARY SAYS ROOM IS A PART OR DIVISION OF A BUILDING ENCLOSED BY WALLS, FLOOR, AND CEILING. LOOK AT THAT. WE JUST FOUND A THIRD VERSION OF ROOM – ITS DEFINITION.
SO HOW MANY VERSIONS OF ROOM ARE THERE? LETS PLAY A GAME AND I’LL SHOW YOU. FIND THE ROOM YOU’LL BE USING, GET SET, AND BE READY TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU SEE YOUR ROOM AS IF BY MAGICK! READY TO PLAY? THIS GAME STIMULATES THE IMAGINATION BY ENCOURAGING MULTIPLE ANSWERS FOR THE SAME QUESTION: WHAT IS ROOM? THE ONLY RULE IS YOU CANNOT ALTER ANYTHING PHYSICAL ABOUT YOUR ROOM (NO REDECORATING, NO MOVING FURNITURE OR OBJECTS). TRY TO DO THE FOLLOWING OBJECTIVES IN ORDER. LET’S BEGIN!
VERSION 1: LISTEN TO A DESCRIPTION OF ROOM FROM SOMEBODY WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN THERE.
VERSION 2: READ A DESCRIPTION OF ROOM BY SOMEBODY WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN THERE.
VERSION 3: DRAW OR PAINT A PICTURE OF ROOM BEFORE YOU EVER SEE IT AND BASED ON THE DESCRIPTIONS YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN (PER THE FIRST TWO VERSIONS).
VERSION 4: VISIT ROOM AND SEE IT FOR YOURSELF.
VERSION 5: VIEW A PHOTOGRAPH OF ROOM.
VERSION: 6: GATHER NEW INFORMATION ABOUT ROOM’S HISTORY AND ORIGINS. REENTER ROOM.
VERSION 7: REFRAME ROOM: TRANSFORM ITS MEANING BY PUTTING IT INTO A DIFFERENT FRAMEWORK OR CONTEXT LIKE SAYING A MURDER TOOK PLACE IN IT. REENTER ROOM.
VERSION 8: ALLOW SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING STRANGE AND DRAMATIC INSIDE ROOM, TELL YOU ABOUT IT, THEN REENTER.
VERSION 9: PERSONALLY DO SOMETHING STRANGE AND DRAMATIC INSIDE ROOM.
VERSION 10: WAIT SEVERAL DAYS OR WEEKS, THEN VISIT ROOM. WAIT YEARS.
VERSION 11: SPEND SEVERAL HOURS LOCKED IN ROOM WITH NO WAY OUT.
VERSION 12: DRAW OR PAINT A PICTURE OF ROOM WHILE YOU’RE IN IT.
VERSION 13: THINK ABOUT ROOM IN YOUR MEMORIES.
VERSION 14: OUTSIDE ROOM, DRAW OR PAINT A PICTURE OF IT FROM MEMORY.
VERSION 15. MOVE AND POSITION YOURSELF IN NEW AND DIFFERENT WAYS IN ROOM.
VERSION 16: SPEND THE NIGHT IN ROOM. LISTEN TO IT BREATHE. HEAR THE SOUNDS OF NIGHT AND MORNING.
VERSION 17: CHANGE YOURSELF IN SOME WAY (THROUGH LIFE EXPERIENCES OR BELIEF SYSTEMS) THEN REENTER ROOM.
VERSION 18: ALTER YOURSELF SOMEHOW THROUGH ALCOHOL OR DRUGS THEN REENTER ROOM.
VERSION 19: COMPARE NOTES WITH A FRIEND WHO SAW ROOM.
VERSION 20: DEFINE ROOM BY GIVING IT A NICKNAME BASED ON A PROMINENT OBJECT OR FEATURE IN IT. FOR EXAMPLE, A PORTRAIT OF A PIG MIGHT TURN ROOM INTO, THE PIG ROOM. LET ROOM BECOME A REFLECTION OF THAT THING AND OBSERVE HOW ROOM WILL SUPPORT THE NICKNAME.
VERSION 21: LISTEN TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF MUSIC WHILE IN ROOM.
VERSION 22: PRODUCE DIFFERENT SCENTS WHILE IN ROOM.
VERSION 23: ENTER ROOM BLINDFOLDED. FEEL EVERYTHING.
VERSION 24: PLUG YOUR EARS WHILE IN ROOM.
VERSION 25: VIEW ROOM THROUGH A VIDEO CAMERA WHILE FILMING.
VERSION 26: VIEW YOUR FOOTAGE OF ROOM.
VERSION 27: DRAW OR PAINT A PICTURE OF ROOM BASED ON YOUR FOOTAGE OF ROOM.
VERSION 28:TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH OF YOUR PICTURE OF ROOM WHICH WAS BASED ON YOUR FOOTAGE OF ROOM.
VERSION 29: TAKE A VIDEO OF THE PHOTOGRAPH YOU TOOK OF THE PICTURE YOU DREW OF ROOM WHICH WAS BASED ON THE INITIAL VIDEO YOU TOOK OF ROOM.
VERSION 30:ENTER ROOM IN DARKNESS AND VIEW IT WITH A FLASHLIGHT.
VERSION 31: USING YOUR IMAGINATION IN ROOM TO SEE THINGS THAT ARE NOT THERE.
GOT ANYMORE? ADD TO THE LIST IN THE COMMENTS SECTION AND HELP ANSWER, WHAT IS ROOM?
Your journey, the physical trek you take to a specific site, is as significant as the site itself and a vital component in making your ultimate destination more impactful and meaningful. Think of some of the most famous stories ever told; the journey there made the story: Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, over the rainbow following the yellow brick road to Emerald City, climbing up the beanstalk to the castle, tumbling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
The pains and pleasures of the path toward your destination make for great rising actions to the eventual “we made it” climax of your story. What I am most interested in are the factors that shape the experience of your path to your destination and how you can utilize these factors when putting together your own ritual or pilgrimage for yourself or others.
And now, three quick stories about paths:
1. I traveled to the Grand Canyon this past March. A five-hour road trip from Phoenix, Arizona where I was staying during my spring break from work. The ride proved arduous, hot and sometimes uncomfortable but my crew and I made the most of our time together and shared many laughs. Along the way we saw massive mountains and deep ravines, rest stops promoting Canyon souvenirs and tour packages, and road signs with the distance to our site. Excitement grew and grew as we made our way closer.
2. That same week in Phoenix my fiancé and I took a short drive to Papago Park. Its massive, otherworldly sandstone buttes set Papago Park apart, even in a city and state filled with world-class natural attractions. We hiked one vein of its extensive trail network. We walked a long and winding desert labyrinth of cacti, boulders and tumble weeds in the blazing sun to a mountain locals call, Hole in the Wall.
3. In 2011 I directed Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island, at a local middle school. From the moment the spectators arrived the show began. We transformed the parking lot into Black Hill Cove, the setting our story. Broken wooden signs burned with crude writing, “PERFORMANCE THIS WAY,” stray actors in costume drinking from leather bottles, meandering the premises and playing games, live bagpipe players and drummers blaring their music.
So how do all three of these stories connect? In a word: Priming. Priming is when exposure to some thing influences the behavior of an individual later on without that individual being aware that the first thing is guiding their behavior to a certain extent. Think about my three examples. Some paths had obstacles, some were context-heavy, some were silly, but all them were building something up inside us along the way, preparing us emotionally for the site. Whether the path is pre-made or invented from scratch, you get to choose what elements you want to include on it, what might you want to bring about. Let us take a more in depth look at some of the other factors that prime us for our journey:
1: Your intention. The reason you have for wanting to visit the site. Are you looking to communicate with a lost loved one by taking peyote in the jungle with a shaman? Are you trying to push yourself physically and emotionally, finding your limits as you climb the highest point of a snowy mountain? Are you looking for an ancient city to quiet your mind in, to release the stress of your busy life and reflect on your future? Your reason for getting ‘there’ will inform your trek, possibly changing the way you feel, move, and think about it.
2. The context of the site. What is the origin of your site? What of its history and lore? The age of a place adds an intellectual weight to it. The activities a place was or is used for will contribute to how you perceive it in your imagination, the real or imagined energy it gives off, the level of mysticism or awe it produces in you.
3. The geology or aesthetics. What is the size or specific features of your site? Is it the biggest of its kind? Materials? A natural phenomenon or a manmade wonder?
4. Destination means and timing. How long does it take to get there? Assuming the place you are trying to arrive at is worth the blood, sweat and tears you put in to get there, the longer the trek is the more virtuous and sweet the arrival may be. What mode of transportation are you using to get there? Walking? Boat, train, car, horseback?
5. Group size. Are you embarking on a solo trek or do you have a group? The amount of people traveling with you will impact your mental and emotional status. Being alone with your thoughts versus sharing your laughter, fears, and lessons with others who are going through it with you.
6. Dress code and materials. What you wear (or don’t wear) can affect you physically or emotionally. A robe or a cloak feels magical, holy or ceremonious. Tribal feathers feel earthy and primitive. Sweatpants make you feel athletic or lazy.
7. Weather and temperature. Snowy or sunny? Rainy or windy? Hot or cold?
8. Time of day. Morning, day or night?
9. Information: You don’t have control over what people do when they leave their house, but you do have control over the types of information that they receive prior to the ritual. For example, if there is a nightclub event going on, the advertisements can affect how you go into the event thinking and feeling. You must be careful because you want to make sure the information complements the vibe of your happening and is not greater or weaker than what you want the experience itself to be. You must be selective in the amount of information that you give.
There is a sort of tension build-up and release that comes with travel. The more dramatic the factors your journey has the bigger the emotional build. Use the factors mentioned in this blog to build your own special event or ritual and remember to consider everything.
Meeting new people from all over the world is one of my favorite parts about traveling. Recently my fiancé and I stayed at USA Hostel in San Diego, California. On the night of St. Patrick’s Day, we stayed out drinking and singing karaoke late. We arrived back at our hostel around two in the morning. My fiancé went straight to be bed but I stayed up to party with some fellow travelers to drink warm, green beer in the lounge area till the sun came up. We were all in our twenties, passing through, seeing the world, looking for adventure and good conversation. In my talks with my new friends I was determined to bring up the topic about consciousness for my personal research. Our discussions were brief but moving.
Karen from Israel. She did ayahuasca in Cusco, Peru with a shaman during a one day stay. She had an eating disorder but overcame it afterwards.
Bryan from Chicago. His parents are from Peru and he visits them bi-monthly. He has done ayahuasca multiple times with shamans to find himself and reconnect with his Peruvian culture. After his experiences with the shamans he saw the world as much bigger.
Isabella from Germany. “What is Consciousness for Germans?” I asked. She replied, “Germans are serious about jobs. Go to work. Get home. Repeat. They envy Americans’ entrepreneurship, business and sports innovations. Consciousness is something the Germans are trying to have more of; to know themselves better.”