So I am wondering now what the purpose of my Descensus Averni ritual is. I am not experiencing any altered states of consciousness during the ritual. Of course, I didn’t the first time, years ago, either.
I came across this quote by Joseph Campbell in his Masks of God: Primitive Mythology:
“When the will of the individual to his own immortality has been extinguished—as it is in rites such as these—through an effective realization of the immortality of being itself and of its play through all things, he is united with that being, in experience, in a stunning crisis of release from the psychology of guilt and mortality.”
This is the transformation of consciousness that I am seeking. Of course, I cannot expect it to happen after a few days of ritual, but I am wondering if what I am doing even helps me toward that goal.
I did have another flash this morning when I woke up: this time of R. J. Stewart’s book, The Underworld Initiation. Like last time, the book the just popped into my head as I woke up. Last time, the book, Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, turned out to be a revelation, one which gave meaning to my ritual. So, I need to go find R. J. Stewart’s book now.
In the meantime, Campbell’s quote above led me to another book, Ken Wilbur’s Up From Eden. In a section of that book entitled “True Sacrifice”, Wilbur writes that ritual sacrifice (like all rituals), from human sacrifice to the Catholic Eucharist, can be understood exoterically, as a rite of fertility (which Wilbur associates with the “Great Mother” and immanence), or esoterically, as a rite of transcendence (which Wilbur associates with the “Great Goddess” and transcendence); as a mere sign or as a true symbol, a sign of translation or a symbol of transformation. The latter “works to undermine or dissolve the self in God consciousness”. He quotes Campbell and the goes on:
“The whole point of these esoteric ceremonies, rituals, prayers, etc., was to accept the death of the separate-self sense and thus rise to an identity or communion with the Great Goddess. This was a self-sacrifice, which allowed the individual to transcend the self without obliterating it, murdering it, or regressing to prepersonal stages. … These ceremonies and prayers became offerings of one’s soul to the Great Goddess, not another person’s body in blood to the Great Mother. The Great Mother demands blood; the Great Goddess demands consciousness.”
Wilbur quotes William Blake (“Milton’s Journey to Eternal Death”) in a footnote:
“I will go down to self-annihilation and Eternal Death;
Lest the Last Judgement come and find me unannihilate,
And I be seiz’d and giv’n into the hands of my own Selfhood.”
This all encourages me in my ritual. In this ritual, I am symbolically offering my consciousness to the Goddess (the Abyss of the unconscious). It is not trance work, or a technique of ecstasy. It is devotional. And I do feel that, as a result of this practice, my path has been made more clear and certain signs on the road have come to my attention.