Sacred ritual, empty ritual, and satanic ritual – a comparative study

puja ritual

An arati puja in India – where they have had more cultural appreciation for “ritual” compared to most Westerners. Photo is (cc) Gerardo Diego Ontiveros.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – Hamlet

When we were young, some of us attended religious rituals with our parents. The purpose of these rituals was often a social one – you wanted to be seen doing the religious “thing” by other people, and see yourself doing it, in order to feel good about yourself. The ritual itself was often rather mechanical.

Years later, we might get involved in what we feel is genuine spirituality and find ourselves doing rituals again, but end up doing them in much the same spirit we did as children. On some level this doesn’t feel right, but unless we’re given the proper training, we don’t know what else to do.

black ritual

In the popular TV show South Park, a young child becomes alarmed when he hears about satanic rituals, but it turns out to be just fun and make-believe. (2008)

Also it must be mentioned: these days it’s hard to turn on the television without hearing about blood-drinking vampires and “black magic” rituals portrayed in a fun, make-believe manner, and we might assume that all such things are 100% fictional because we basically believe that all rituals are empty, without power, and therefore there couldn’t be any purpose in doing them other than a social one, like putting on a costume. Perhaps we’ve only experienced “empty rituals” in our own lives, been conditioned in school to believe that all rituals are pointless, and in general led to look down on rituals by the modern non-participatory anti-culture of TV-mindedness.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Even “empty ritual” – for that matter, even doing nothing – has all sorts of effects, according to what we’ll explore below.


  1. Sacred ritual
  2. Satanic ritual
  3. Empty ritual
  4. Everything is ritual
  5. The power of sacred ritual

I. Sacred (or ego-transcending) ritual

sacred ritual

Incense in a zen temple. (Photo is (cc) Janne Moren.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, sacred ritual has been engaged throughout recorded history. It includes:

  1. Invocation – often through vocalizations
  2. Submission of oneself to God (or to some higher or ego-transcending purpose; perhaps a Buddhist would celebrate his or her own wakefulness) through such things as heart-radiation, feeling to infinity, letting go of one’s ego, and physical gestures symbolizing these things; one’s body, emotion, mind and breath are turned to God or to the sacred purpose of the ritual.
  3. Reception of “prasad”, or blessing, as symbolized by some sort of token; this can also be seen as accepting adult responsibility for what life gives you.

Water – an element in many rituals – has many surprising properties, according to modern scientists. Shamans and homeopaths believe it can store “information” and “intention”. (Photo (cc) John K.)


Elements may include:

  1. water; fire (e.g. candles); smoke (e.g. incense, sage);
  2. sound: perhaps via musical instruments or bells, etc.
  3. spoken words or other vocalizations:  chant, expression of gratitude, prayer, recitation;
  4. living things1 such as flowers that are offered;
  5. food or drink;
  6. feeling & intention;

and so on. “Feeling” and “intention” being the primary elements.

If you want the yagona (ritual) to have a strong meaning for you, it all depends on you and how you approach the yagona.2
– Fijian elder

What follows are brief examples from Eastern, Western, and Native traditions. See if you can feel what sort of intention is present in each example.

Example – Eastern

This song (“Sanson Ki Mala Pe”) sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan3 is about forgetting one’s ego in contemplation of God by means of a rosary. This song was traditionally sung in actual Hindu or qawwali religious rituals to create a feeling of invocation and submission in the listeners – the singers’ role was like that of sacred priests.

This song picks up momentum about 4 minutes in.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

I saw Nusrat in concert a couple times and it was extraordinary.

Example – Western

Next is a two-minute recording of Catholic monks singing a prayer (“Ave Maria”)4. These sorts of chants were not sung in recording studios in order to make money or give consumers something to listen to on their iPods during their morning commutes, but were sung in formal religious rituals with incense, burning candles, and others who shared the same commitment – in this case, other lifelong monks.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

Perhaps the Catholic church has horrific problems with pedophilia and so on, but I feel something worthwhile when I listen to these monks sing together, so I don’t think we can conclude that anyone who is Catholic has nothing to teach us.

One more example:

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

I don’t normally listen to gospel music, but check out the heart and conviction the Swan Silvertones5 put into their singing. Unlike some entertainers (see below) these guys had to be creative to make ends meet while they were together.

Example – Native

Hmm… Native peoples don’t really like to be photographed or videoed while doing their sacred rituals – after all, the word “sacred” means “set apart” from secular society.

However here is some didgeridoo music by David Hudson.

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

This music was not created in isolation or for the sake of selling cd’s, but was used by Native Australians in their rituals – which usually included dance, elaborate body-paint, and probably other elements besides. I was fortunate to witness one of these rituals a few years ago.

This might not seem to have much in common with Gregorian chant, but on the other hand for the Native Australians it seems to be a way of coming together with other human beings to celebrate what is important to them, through sound, feeling, invocation, etc.

If you’re in the mood for a “pick me up” article, you may want to skip the next two sections and head for the last two, which are more inspiring.

II. Satanic ritual

Maybe satanic ritual seems like pure fiction to some of you, or like something strange and irrelevant. But I want to take a look at it briefly so we can compare it to other forms of ritual for perspective.

Warning: this could be very disturbing, and I suggest that some readers skip ahead to the next section.


Christabella, who works in a top New York law firm, seduces her brother Kevin in preparation for a satanic sex ritual in The Devil’s Advocate (1997). The scene is light and playful at first.

Remember this scene from the film The Devil’s Adovcate?6 Christabella lies down nude on the altar, eagerly preparing to take her half-brother inside her at Satan’s excited urging. But first she places a ceremonial dagger next to her on the altar. The presumption is that Kevin Lomax is about to become a “blood sacrifice” at the climax of his orgasm, once he releases his seed into his sister.

i fuck for satan

Joke or confession? “I fuck for Satan.” Celebrities often wear clothing announcing an involvement in satanism – which is usually interpreted in a fun, playful and light-hearted manner by people who aren’t celebrities. Pictured is Taylor Momsen (b.1993), a professional actress on national TV since age three.  What can you tell by looking in her eyes?


You may recall: it is very important to Satan that Kevin participate voluntarily (at least to some degree – trickery is allowed) in this ritual. Intense elemental energies are about to be invoked – all bad ones – as he gets murdered in the midst of copulating with his sister, but there is absolutely no “feeling to infinity”, ego-surrender, or submission to God taking place. Instead it’s going to be nothing but submission to violence and illusion for the sake of greed, lust and further illusion.

Notice the details of this scene: the misuse of sexual energy, the promise of pleasure and fulfillment and career success in return for voluntary participation in something Kevin believes is wrong, the use of trickery (for example, Kevin is not told about the dagger), what looks to be a “blood sacrifice” in the midst of inter-familial sex, and the covert, hidden, easy, fun, seductive, attractive, seemingly innocent nature of it all – at least in the beginning. Perhaps satanism is an extreme, uninhibited, and completely unsuppressed version of what the ego is already doing in every moment of “sin” (or missing the mark, turning away from God / Truth).


Mary Ann at first seemed to enjoy the glamor of her husband’s success. (The Devil’s Advocate, 1997)

Pay to play

Also notice: in this film “evil” (or “ego”) destroys all who submit to it, sooner or later. No one who plays with the Satan character seems to meet with a good ending in this movie. We’re also given hints that Kevin’s family has been involved with satanism going back at least one generation, and it is implied that he himself was conceived through a satanic ritual. And because of his “bloodline”, if you will, he’s received promotions and other advantages at work.

Finally a moment of clarity comes when Kevin sees all this clearly and realizes he still has a choice about whether to participate.  He chooses not to go along with the ritual even though he assumes it will cost him his life.

native perspective (Fiji)

Native peoples tended to be far more sensitive to elemental forces compared to those of us brought up on TV & public school. (Photo of Fijian dawn is (cc) Patty3m.) Just before dawn is the most common time of day for people to die. I mention this because it’s interesting how out of touch we are with these details. My father died at about 4am.

Native perspective

“Yes but this is all fiction – none of this happens in real life,” you say. “There’s no such thing as satanic rituals.”

I am a huge fan of this theory. However, it seems to be completely untrue. For starters, there is little doubt that native peoples acknowledged the existence of black magic, as this Fijian elder makes clear:

People who serve the Vu7 (spirits) for evil purposes are very clever. They’re hard to locate. They mix with others… just like ordinary people…

In (a black magic ceremony) someone must die – that is what you give in return for the Vu’s enabling you to do the vakatevoro8… these deaths strengthen the power of that evildoing Vu…

These people who do this vakatevoro (evil) stuff are smart. They work at cross-purposes to the rest of the people, without the others even knowing it. 9
– A native Fijian chief and medicine man

The book this quote is from – about one scientist’s real-life experience in rural Fiji in the 1970’s – is driven by a “black magic” plot element that the author unhappily uncovered, but which provided a context for many lessons about ritual, invocation, and life.

satanic-hand-signalOur world

Okay, but the next question is whether modern-day industrialized people could ever be capable of anything like black magic. Can industrialized people commit acts of violence, be consumed by a lust for power & success, get possessed by dark motivations to the point that their humanity seems absent and they are willing to commit all manner of atrocities – even sacrificing other humans’ lives – in order to achieve their ends, pass on these traits to their children, maintain a psychopathic indifference and humor, all while cleverly mixing in with ordinary people in society?

Your guess is as good as mine.


“The action that is the ego covers the earth.”
– Adi Da10


Satanist Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) is popular today in some “new age” and entertainment circles for his writings on satanism. His most famous saying is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”.

Aleister Crowley is regarded as one of the biggest popularizers of satanism. An old acquaintance of mine even used to promote him on her blog. I guess some people who don’t know much about him see Crowley as being kind of cool, like an anti-establishment icon to idolize and rally behind. However, this seems naive. Crowley’s first wife, Rose, ended up in an insane asylum. His second wife, Maria de Miramar, lived her last 30 years in a mental hospital.

On the subject of human sacrifices, he wrote in chapter XII of Magick in Theory and Practice, regarding “Of the Bloody Sacrifice: and Matters Cognate”:

For the highest spiritual working [sic] one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence. (bold added)

I don’t know what he based this conclusion on but it seems undisputed that, at the very least, Crowley and his disciples used blood sacrifices of goats and cats during their rituals – in addition to all sorts of drugs and all manner of “sexual acts”.  It seems that he truly lived by his motto: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Just to be clear, we’re talking about MURDERING animals and children in rituals.

Crowley also claimed to be a 33rd degree Freemason and it seems clear he had dealing with British spy agencies. Crowley was born in wealth but died in poverty in a boarding house, addicted to heroin in the amount of 11 grains injected per day (said to be enough to kill a dozen men).11

L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) was strongly influenced by Crowley. His son once said in a magazine interview: “I believed in Satanism. There was no other religion in the house! Scientology and black magic. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Scientology is black magic that is just spread out over a long time period.” He then went into detail about it all and why he left.12

You may have heard that the Nazis during WW II were into black magic and a dark form of occultism.  Again:

In (a black magic ceremony) someone must die – that is what you give in return for the Vu‘s enabling you to do the vakatevoro…. these deaths strengthen the power of that evildoing Vu…13 14

German soldiers in WWII

During World War II, every German soldier that died on the field was first given special markings or insignias to wear by the commanders of the German military (many of whom were said to be practitioners of the black arts). As someone pointed out to me once15, this is not unlike the way certain kinds of offerings are marked out in a ritual before they are sacrificed – except that in this case we’re talking about actual human beings, and a ritual occurring on an incomprehensibly vast scale. At least 50 million human beings died in WW II.  You have to think in terms of the existence of an invisible “spirit world” and be willing to consider how “evil” operates in order for these things to start to make sense, so-called.

The people – and not merely the national armies and other representative “heroes” of nation-states – are now the direct and specific targets of all wars….

The direct murder and suppression of humankind itself is now the “method of choice”….16
– Not-Two Is Peace



Funeral of John F. Kennedy, November 25, 1963.


Again, according to a native medicine-man:

In (a black magic ceremony) someone must die – that is what you give in return for the Vu’s enabling you to do the vakatevoro.… these deaths strengthen the power of that evildoing Vu..17



Taylor Momsen again, wearing a Crowley shirt. Crowley, just to review, advocated using children as blood sacrifices in satanic rituals and died a broke heroin addict. It’s hard to believe someone as cute as Taylor could be promoting such things. But I’m told that at this level of the industry, you are told what to wear. (image source)


I was going to show a Die Antwoord album cover here, but you’ll have to click if you want to see it because I find it disturbing and don’t want the image to pollute my blog. Die Antwoord is a popular music group from South Africa. Their name, Die Antwoord, means the answer in Afrikaans.



Dead at 25:  Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) sold over 75 million records worldwide as of 2010 and was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 86th greatest artist of all time. He said “Sellin’ my soul for material wishes, fast cars and b——” later he said: “murder murder mister Lucifer, pictures of the devil, duck when he shoot ya, it’s all political” and “Merciless thieves stole the best of me I pray to black Jesus to please take the rest of me.”


Jay-Z, satanist hoodie

Infected with d’evils:  Jay-Z (b. 1969) sporting an Aleister Crowley hoodie: “Do what thou wilt.” According to wikipedia, Jay-Z has a net worth of over $450 million, has received 14 Grammy awards, and is part owner of an NBA team. In one of his songs called “D’Evils”, he says: “Money and power is changing us, and now we’re lethal, infected with d’evils.”



Remorseful: Eminem (b. 1972) has sold over 90 million records worldwide and was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 82nd greatest artist of all time. He said, “If I could go back, I never would’ve rapped. I sold my soul to the devil, And i’ll never get it back.” – Eminem on “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”. Eminem’s best friend, another rapper, was shot to death in 2006 at age 32.

May as well quote Jay-Z’s song here:

“Dear God, I wonder can you save me?”
“Illuminati want my mind, soul, and my body…”
“Dear God, I wonder can you save me?”
“Secret society, tryin’ to keep they eye on me…”

[Verse 1]
“This shit is wicked on these mean streets…
Whoever said illegal was the easy way out couldn’t understand the
And the workings of the underworld…
Life ills, poison my body
I used to say ‘fuck mic skills,’ and never prayed to God, I prayed to
It gets dangerous, money and power is changing us
And now we’re lethal, infected with D’Evils…”

I don’t know if these rappers are intending to be purely “poetic” and “make-believe” in these remarks?

I do know they are highly talented experts at guiding an audience’s attention in songs, music videos and music concerts – all of which are group “rituals” of a kind. For instance in a music concert people will often chant certain words together with emotion, and the performers usually play upon the crowd’s baser desires in this process – things like anger, lust, the desire for an invincible self-image – while getting the crowd to make hand gestures and chant in unison. And like any ritual, the process changes you, changes how you see the world, changes your brain chemistry.

I don’t have anything against rap; I’m using these performers as examples simply because of statements they’ve made. The same principle of “group ritual” happen on every television show and in every kind of music.

We seem so unconscious and passive in how we participate in all of this – assuming everything is fine while celebrities and millions of soldiers drop dead around us, while we go on like sleepwalkers, oblivious to the rituals we’re engaged in.


Everybody is asleep. People do not truly realize the scale of the disaster that is happening. 18
– Adi Da


Richard Katz wrote about black magic

Richard Katz (scientist, author of “The Straight Path”, and visitor to Fiji) realized that his Harvard Phd. would not save him from the effects of black magic. (source)

Well that’s enough about that. But the point I want to make is that in traditional native societies, invocation and ritual were considered serious matters. Such things as “black magic” were not considered a joke, and it didn’t really matter what color your skin was or where you went to school. Everything was considered by native peoples to have a power which was deserving of respect.

However, native peoples did NOT feel that all ritual was bad, any more than they believed that all words are bad or all actions are bad. As we’ll see later in this article, they believed that proper ritual could even be the solution to many problems.

This prejudice against all ritual is something promoted by certain authors:

“It is so important for everyone to stay well clear of ritual, no matter how innocent it may appear on the surface,” claims one “new age” author, who seems to recommend paranoia and disrespect toward all religious and spiritual rituals. 19

III. Empty (or conventional / fake) ritual

empty ritual

Looks like some religious fakery going on here. (image source: polyp)

The native Hawaiians call the white people haoles20 because they do not breathe when they pray.21
– Adi Da

Now lets look at “empty ritual” – the conventional sort of spiritual or religious ritual that is done when we’re not paying attention to what we’re doing, and often doing it just for social reasons. This kind of ritual seems to be a watered-down, half-hearted thing without much invocation, conviction, or effect.

I must pray… really pray. If I pray with my tongue, but my soul is far away, that is only lip service.22
– A Fijian elder, going through a period of personal difficulty

Bad results

(This section is also slightly disturbing, so some of you may want to jump ahead.)

However… because it has no “feeling to infinity” and no true submission to God (or to an ego-transcending purpose), “empty” or conventional ritual DOES seem to have effects – undesirable ones. This is because something is invoked – falsehood (trying to “pretend” and “look good” in front of other people), personal illusion (not wanting to see what one is doing) and ego-based desires for things.

Here’s a story from The Mother (1878-1973) of Pondicherry, who was said to be extremely clairvoyant – able to see energies and non-physical beings:

In all religious monuments, in monuments considered the most… well, as belonging to the highest religion, whether in France or any other country or Japan – it was never the same temples nor the same gods, and yet my experience was everywhere almost the same, with very small differences…


A view from the beautiful Chartes Cathedral in France.  Photo is (cc) zoer.

I saw that whatever concentrated force there was in the church depended upon the faithful, the faith of the devotees. And there was still a difference between the force as it really was and the force as they felt it.

like an astral spider

Many spiders inject a neurotoxin into their prey to prevent struggle, followed by digestive enzymes to liquefy their prey on the inside. Then they suck out the liquified remains, leaving a husk behind. (source)

For instance, I saw in one of the most beautiful cathedrals of France, which, from the artistic point of view, is one of the most magnificent monuments imaginable – in the most sacred spot I saw an enormous black, vital23 spider which had made its web and spread it over the whole place, and was catching in it and then absorbing all the forces emanating from people’s devotion, their prayers and all that.

It was not a very cheering sight; the people who were there and were praying, felt a “divine” touch, they received all kinds of boons from their prayers, and yet what was there was this, this thing. But they had their faith which could change that evil thing into something good in them; they had their faith… (speaking ironically)…

But that’s how it is most of the time, almost everywhere; it is a vital force which is there, for these vital entities feed upon the vibration of human emotions, and very few people, very few, an insignificant number, go to church or temple with a true religious feeling, that is, not to pray and beg for something from God but to offer themselves, give thanks, aspire, give themselves. There is hardly one in a million who does that. So they do not have the power to change the atmosphere.


In The Mummery Book, the church followers enact fake rituals again and again, tirelessly. “The religious life of Saint-and-Ear is a Mummery, of egoic ignorance… their striving-path of self-indulgent seeking is a merely social enterprise… It is the True religion… but made to be un-True !”

Perhaps when they are there, they manage to get across, break through and go somewhere and touch something divine. But the large majority of people who go only because of superstition, egoism and self-interest, create an atmosphere of this kind, and that is what you breathe in when you go to a church or temple. Only, as you go there with a very good feeling, you tell yourself, “Oh, what a quiet place for meditation!”
I’m sorry, but that’s how it is… Maybe I found some very tiny places, like a tiny village church at times, where there was some aspiration; but this was so rare! I have seen the beautiful churches of Italy, magnificent places; they were full of these vital beings and full of terror…

I know them, those entities. I know them very well, but they are vital beings, vital forms which, so to say, are given a form by human thought, and what forms! And to think that men worship such terrible and monstrous things…24

Perhaps this story about astral beings seems outside of your experience. If that’s the case, you could take it as a metaphor.  Or like a good scientist, who depends on the scientific method to rule things out, you could remain open to the possibility that there is an astral dimension or “spirit world” – perhaps largely empowered by human thought and invocation, which then creates the atmosphere in which we live – until such a thing is proven otherwise.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to pray (merely so that they can be) seen by others… But when you pray… pray to God, who is unseen.
Matthew 6:5-6

IV. Every moment is “ritual”

Maybe the best solution is just to avoid all ritual?

Well, for better or worse, every moment is a ritual, in the sense of invoking something and submitting our feeling and attention to something. Every breath is an inhalation and an exhalation. In every moment we are causing effects and creating results.

And then there are other rituals:


Watching television shows like “South Park” or “Mad Men” is a popular ritual that makes people feel connected to one another.


TV’s overwhelming popularity tells you something about human beings’ felt need for group ritual.

Watching TV is a ritual which is hypnotic in its effect on brain waves and brain chemistry. All sorts of messages are conveyed to the person plugged in to his or her television, mostly on subconscious and subliminal levels. For many, television IS their main ritual – in the absence of other rituals it provides them with a feeling of community and connection to something outside themselves, with sound, emotions, vocalizations, visualizations, and so on.

But please, don’t watch much TV. I’ve almost eliminated on my own TV watching while writing this article, lol, and when I do watch TV I definitely pay more attention to what is happening on the level of “ritual”.

My teacher used to recommend watching TV in a very conscious manner, and minimizing TV consumption. But many of us did not listen to him on this point.


Fire – which transforms one substance into another – provided an atmosphere for many Native American council meetings.

Discussion = important ritual

Having dialogue with others is a ritual – an age-old one which seems especially important to men.

Here in the internet age, dialogue can take place via email, teleconference, youtube, blogs or who knows what.

The outcome of this invocation, or convocation, again seems to be determined by the nature of our participation – whether we’re willing to surrender our ego and lose face, or whether we’re trying to defend our “territory” and achieve power over others, or whether we’re not really putting our heart into it one way or the other.

And of course true discussion is always followed by action, otherwise it seems to be just gossip, a waste of breath.

V. Power of sacred, or positive, ritual

sacred ritual temple

Flower planted outside a temple in Japan. Lotuses grow in dark, smelly muck at the bottom of the pond, but they still manage to have a certain beauty and glow when they bloom. Image is (cc) laurenz.

While I myself sometimes used to collapse into feeling helpless when the going got tough, some of the people who’ve accomplished the most in this world have spoken about the power of ritual and of prayer to change the course of human history.

Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.
– Mahatma Gandhi

When an American came to him worried about dark, depressing, and even terrifying things he saw going on around him, a Fijian elder counseled him not to freak out, nor to engage in superstition (see empty ritual, above), but to trust in personal integrity and, in his case, the power of ritual with others:

Be straight and stay close to the yagona (Fijian ritual). That is your defense, your protection. It is not a guarantee… but it is all we humans can do. The rest is up to the Vu (spirits).25


Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was said to be an incredibly magnetic speaker and pujarist (participant in religious ceremonies), which he attributed to the seriousness of his life & his commitment to service, self-discipline and personal integrity.

Power comes from integrity

People from every religious tradition seem to agree that what determines the power or mana behind a positive ritual is how “straight” you are, how much integrity you have – in other words, how closely you follow such things as the seven capital virtues:  fortitude, charity, faith, temperance, and so on.

A man who can work for five days or even for five minutes without thinking of (personal reward or punishment)… has in him the capacity to become a powerful moral giant.  It is hard to do it, but in the heart of our hearts we know its value, and the good it brings.  All outgoing energy following a selfish motive is frittered away; it will not cause power to return to you; but if restrained, it will result in the development of power.
– Swami Vivekananda

The political leader Mahatma Gandhi had this to say:

Power invariably elects to go into the hands of the strong. That strength may be physical or of the heart…. Strength of the heart connotes soul-force.

One Fijian elder spoke about the importance of integrity and following through on one’s commitments. He said power comes to him because he practices all the disciplines of the traditional Fijian ways. Speaking about living with integrity (which he called “following the straight path”), he said:

Whenever you “zigzag”, your healing power is cut. Zigzag again, it’s further cut. Zigzag continually, your power is lost… the mana (power) has left you. Only mana can heal.26
– A Fijian chief and healer

Here’s something about power and the responsibility that awakens when we realize that death can take us at any time and the future is not under our control:

Acts have power.  Especially when the person acting knows that those acts are his last battle.  There is a strange consuming happiness in acting with the full knowledge that whatever one is doing may very well be one’s last act on earth.  I recommend that you reconsider your life and bring your acts into that light.27

You are complaining.  You have been complaining all your life because you don’t assume responsibility for your decisions.28


A community ritual in Africa from the film “Baraka” (1992).

Power of community & group ritual

I find working with other people is difficult, but at times it can feel almost infinitely more powerful than working alone.

It’s like a bundle of wood. Tied together, it’s strong, but if you cut the tie, it all falls apart.29
– A Fijian elder, counseling other Fijians to work together to get through a time of great danger

On the subject of community prayer and ritual, the Christian Orthodox monk Nikitas Stithatos (1005-1090) had this to say:

Living together in one place is safer than living alone… “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)… And David calls those who praise God in love and concord blessed when he says, “Blessed is the people that sing loud together.” (Psalm 89:15)30

Musicians working together…

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

What is it that makes group ritual – especially when organized with real intention – feel so different from, say, a train-load of people each in their own world on their way to their jobs?

(If you’re wondering about the lyrics, it’s a song of praise 31 for a Muslim saint.) I’m not a Muslim but I appreciate the synergy, commitment, and intention of these musicians. For me, their devotion cuts across religious divides.

Speaking of working together, we’ll close with a passage from Not-Two Is Peace: The Ordinary People’s Way of Global Cooperative Order (but not of global totalitarian order – a distinction emphasized in the book), by Adi Da:

The human world is now in a state of virtually infinite fragmentation, in which the individual feels powerless and is just thinking of himself or herself as some kind of “consumer”-ego to be titillated and satisfied, and perhaps to be given a voice, a soap box, here and there. The global state of humankind is absurd and dark. Therefore, this darkest time requires an immense force of self-correction and self-rightening, an immense emergence of the self-organizing principle that is inherent in humankind as a system of life.

mirror-fragmentationNevertheless, and in spite of this necessity, nothing of the globally rightening kind is going on. Everybody is asleep. People do not truly realize the scale of the disaster that is happening. Furthermore, people do not realize that humankind is actively doing this disaster – and, therefore, that humankind can also choose to stop doing the disaster, and, altogether, humankind can choose (collectively) to re-organize, self-correct, and truly righten the entire system of global humankind.

Nothing can possibly stop the disaster except the force of the whole, the integrity of the whole. That is the only happening that will righten (and en-lighten) the darkness of the human world.32

Thanks for listening.


  1. Are rituals a) bad, b) good, c) a waste of time, or d) does it depend on the intentions of the participants?
  2. Is every moment a ritual in the sense of being an action with physical, emotional and mental effects?
  3. If you want to have a relationship with God – or with some ego-transcending purpose – why couldn’t you involve your body and your five senses in the process? Why couldn’t you use your vocal cords, ears, nose, mind, emotions, physical gestures to make this commitment real to you, in the same way that shamans and saints have done throughout history?
  4. Do you notice any similarities or differences between a. sacred (ego-transcending) ritual, b. satanic (ego-worshipping) ritual, and c. empty (fake / pretend) ritual?
  5. My teacher once recommended to his students that they treat sex as a puja or sacred ritual to be done in the context of committed relationship (i.e. marriage). What happens when we don’t do this, but treat sexual energy as something to exploit for the sake of ego, illusion, vanity, and temporary pleasure?
  6. devil-temptation

    “What am I offering? I’m offering bliss. Instant bliss. Bliss by remote control. Bliss on tap. That first line of cocaine. That walk into a strange girl’s bedroom.”

    “I have so many names.”33 Speaking of satanism, a spiritual teacher was once asked if there is such a thing as “satan” or the devil. The teacher replied that there is an energy of collective egoity in the world that takes on a terrible form. Some of his students interpreted this as a “no”, that there is nothing remotely like satanic forces at work in the world. Do you agree with this interpretation?

  7. Towards the end of The Devil’s Advocate, Satan tells Kevin exactly what he (Satan) is doing, and even gives him hints about it all along. He admits he needs Kevin’s voluntary participation. How does this compare to the quote from The Mother where she says human beings empower “monstrous” forces with our egoic thoughts? And how do both of these compare to the quote from Not-Two Is Peace at the end of this article, about how humankind is creating the problems, and therefore has the power to change everything?
  8. Do you breathe when you pray, like a native medicine man?
  9. If celebrities seem to die mysterious deaths at young ages and have a lot of problems in the meantime, could this be partly caused by the fact that people like you and me don’t engage the right kind of rituals? Maybe there is a craving for cheap entertainment inside us that requires celebrities to play roles for us in a giant real-life ritual that is not good for the celebrities’ well-being?
  10. If every moment is ritual, or invocation, and if all our problems seem to come from bad (or ego-based) ritual, then what is the solution?

BoT Student

P.S. You might enjoy Ed Kowalczyk’s beautiful song Overcome, which for me expresses how I feel after re-reading this article.


Adi Da

Everybody is asleep. People do not truly realize the scale of the disaster that is happening.

(However, it is possible) to truly righten the entire system…
– Adi Da (1939-2008), creator of The Basket of Tolerance & author of Not-Two Is Peace.


  1. Remember this item when we go further into this article.
  2. The Straight Path, by Richard Katz, p. 111. I’ve added the word “ritual” in parentheses and replaced “heavy” with “strong”. This book is included in The Basket of Tolerance, The Epitome of Traditional Wisdom sublist, by Adi Da. When this book was first published, Adi Da asked that all his students read it and insisted that one of his editors write and publish a review about it.
  3. Many recordings of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan are included in The Basket of Tolerance.
  4. Also included in The Basket of Tolerance: “Ave Maria”, sung by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. Accompanying booklet with notes on the choir of the Monastery of Silos and its role in the history of Gregorian chant, translated by Father Neil Graham; with essay, “What is a Monk?”, by Dom Clemente Serna, Father Abbot of Silos (translated by Rodolfo Weinhausen); with essay, “The Making of a Recording”, by Alejandro Masso (translated by Rodolfo Weinhausen), on the tradition of Marian chant and the recording; with notes on the chants by Dom Jose Luis Angulo (translated by Rodolfo Weinhausen); and with text and translation of the chants, translated by Father Denis Bradley. 1995. N.p.: Milan Entertainment/Editions Jade 73138 35704-2
  5. Many recordings by the Swan Silvertones are included in The Basket of Tolerance by Adi Da.
  6. Also included in The Basket of Tolerance: an exceptional film called “The Devil’s Advocate”. A film about a young lawyer who lands the job of his dreams with an elite New York firm only to find that the charismatic founder is the personification of the Devil. Based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Produced by Arnon Milchan, Arnold Kopelson, and Anne Kopelson. 1997. 144 minutes. A Kopelson Entertainment Production. Presented by Warner Brothers, in association with Regency Enterprises
  7. A Fijian word meaning the ancestral god or gods, spirits; the source or basis of things.
  8. A Fijian word meaning evildoing, evil work; harming another by abusing mana; literally, something devil-like, from the work of the devil.
  9. Excerpted from The Straight Path, by Richard Katz, pp. 170-1. This book is included in The Basket of Tolerance, The Epitome of Traditional Wisdom sublist, by Adi Da. When this book was first published, Adi Da asked that all his students read it and insisted that one of his editors write and publish a book review about it.
  10. Can’t remember where I got this.
  11. Most of this biographical info about Aleister Crowley came from wikipedia, which I assume is accurate.
  12. source: Penthouse June, 1983
  13. Excerpted from The Straight Path, by Richard Katz, pp. 170-1.
  14. Some of the ideas in this article were inspired by the writings of a former new-age teacher named Don Bradley, aka cbswork.
  15. Don Bradley
  16. p.252
  17. Excerpted from The Straight Path, by Richard Katz, pp. 170-1.
  18. Not-Two Is Peace, p.217
  19. Quote is from David Icke in an online article.
  20. hāʻole, literally meaning “no breath”
  21. I think this is from April 1, 1988.
  22. The Straight Path, p. 268.
  23. i.e. astral, or non-physical
  24. The Mother, as quoted in The Hidden Forces of Life: Selections from the Works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, compiled with an introduction by A.S. Dalal, pp. 117-20. This book is included in The Basket of Tolerance.
  25. The Straight Path, p. 167
  26. The Straight Path, by Richard Katz, p. 191.
  27. Journey to Ixtlan“, by Carlos Castaneda. It’s interesting that Castaneda’s books – whether fiction or non-fiction – involved a commitment between students, teacher, and that teacher’s community of other students. Many people block that part out when they read the books. Also, parts of Castaneda’s books – especially his later ones – are confusing, misleading, and not useful, in my opinion, because they tend to lead you away from developing a strong “tonal” which is the prerequisite for the whole path in Don Juan’s teachings.
  28. Journey to Ixtlan“, by Carlos Castaneda. This book is in The Basket of Tolerance.
  29. The Straight Path, p.203
  30. As published in The Philokalia.
  31. “Haq Ali Ali Mula Ali Ali” sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & party. Many recordings by Nusrat are included in The Basket of Tolerance.
  32. Not-Two Is Peace, p. 217.
  33. A response given by Al Pacino’s character in The Devil’s Advocate, in reply to Kevin Lomax’s question about his identity.
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  1. Daniela   Thumb up +4

    Excellent commentary, thank you

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