In preparation for our upcoming workshop at the OMEGA Institute on June 16 – June 18, we’ll be publishing the Cardea Manifesto in multiple installments here on the Cardea Blog. Hopefully, it will give conference participants and aspiring participants a flavor of who we are and why we do what we do.
Today’s release covers the Manifesto’s Introduction and our unique concept of selfhood, as defined by Cardea Co-Founder and Lead Dialogic Facilitator, Ross Ellenhorn…
“There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen, the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror.”
― John Coltrane
Introduction: Our Beliefs: The Template We Then Break
It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. We’re hardly big lovers of mottos and maxims at Cardea, so this is about as close as you’ll get to one from us. We mean something specific regarding the subject of this line. You see, the “it” to which we refer is a specific kind of sacredness we call “sacred originality,” and our goal here at Cardea is not only to help our guests access this source of sacredness, but to learn how to keep accessing it long after they leave our care.
We believe that modern life poses all kinds of dangers, many of which are based on the loss of a sense of “The Sacred.” We also believe that the modern world offers an avenue to sacredness that is newly accessible to us but also suppressed in our time: The ability to treat one’s life as art, and, in this, to cherish our original soul as the threshold to something holy. Sacred originality is about the divinity within each of us. It’s the thing that happens when we go “inward” in order to experience something divine, and it’s the thing that’s crushed when we don’t.
Whether our guests come to us to alleviate the suffering of deep psychological wounds, to awaken more to life or to, in fact, move closer to spiritual experiences, we think sacred originality is an interesting and potent key to getting there. We also believe it’s a key that’s specifically cut to counter modern threats to The Sacred, while unlocking the door to very modern gifts.
We see something wonderfully paradoxical in sacred originality: that the actions you take to authentically bring your unique inner life out into the open and set you apart as an original soul open doors to experiences that make you feel very much a part of something that is beyond you. In other words, to fathom, play with and curate who you are is to also feel that you belong.
We love the name we picked for ourselves. Cardea is the Roman threshold goddess of handles and hinges. She’s in charge of the things that make thresholds work. Accordingly, our aim at Cardea is to help our guests master the threshold between their singular uniqueness and their connection to a world that goes on without them.
We believe that threshold is the self.
This is not the individualism you are thinking about right now:
Let’s start with a very simple version of selfhood (or our version, at least): It’s you, an experiencing and singular soul here on earth with your feet planted on the ground. It’s a profound experience to be a self. In it, there are Himalayan heights and there are Mariana trenches, complex jungles full of surprises and vast deserts of nothingness. The self is a land, but it is also a universe that goes on forever. You will never fully grasp it, but the creative effort to do so is very well worth it.
Like many practitioners in the psychedelic arena, we are big believers in what is called ego death; the momentary dissolving or loosening of a sense of self. And similar to our psychonaut sisters and brothers, we see a resurrective “hero’s journey” element to ego death that we love: the leaving to come back anew. We celebrate the “returning” part of this story most because we see the temporary loss of self as valuable when it is the means to an end of an invigorated selfhood. In other words, our true devotion here is selfhood, not its disintegration. In fact, we hold the self as something sacred, a kind of cradle for the soul. That’s the part of our thinking that might make us a bit controversial to some.
There’s a lot of justifiable worry these days about “individualism,” and, especially in American culture, the ideas that history is built by singular heroes, that the best lives are based on pure self-sufficiency, that help is for the weak and that laws for the common good oppress finer aspirations regarding individual liberties. These well-founded concerns can lead some of us, however, to value collectivism as a form of purity. This take has its own dangers.
Devout lover of oneness? Join the crowd. There’s amazing stuff to come out of collective efforts, and nothing’s better than feeling like you are a member of a community. Human beings are social animals, and we wither when we feel we are not a part of a group effort. Collectivism, however, clearly has its downside. Consider our 20th century marked by the horrors of the mob as much (if not more so) than the dangers of avarice individualism.
We know from experience the sense of interconnectedness that often occurs during a trip, and we feel that recognition of how connected we are to each other and to nature is one of the most curative elements of psychedelic experiences. There’s a very good reason why “love” is such an important term in the world of psychedelics. Nonetheless, humans are also famous for fixating on experiences of “oneness,” and current research shows that it is the search for this experience that drives people toward authoritarianism. We worry at times about elements within the psychedelic community who preach about oneness as the primary goal of these remarkable medicines, and the dissolving of ego as the road to get there. In fact, there are ways of understanding a devaluing of ego in service of oneness as the basic mode of a hyperconsumerist culture that depends on people who mistrust their core experiences and seek fulfillment through conformity.
This idea brings us to the modern elements in Cardea.