Baptism is an initiation rite that uses water as the elemental symbol of spiritual purification.
The idea is that through baptism you are cleansed of your sins so that you can embark on a new spiritual life with a clean slate and a clear conscience. You are “born again” into a completely different mode of being. Symbolically at least, you are free of your besetting sins, whatever they may be.
You could say that the clinical use of psychedelics for the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, depression or addiction is a kind of baptism by fire. It is an intense form of therapy whose effectiveness depends on the direct confrontation of the sufferer with his or her deepest psychological issues. Sometimes, it seems that water just isn’t enough, as John the Baptist indicated in his famous prophecy:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
In the clinical context, it is primarily those issues around greed (addictions), fear and anxiety (a victim mentality) and depression and despair (inner demons) that the psychedelic therapists focus on. These are represented in the Tibetan Wheel of Life by the lower three realms, the hungry ghost or “addict” realm, the animal or “victim” realm and the hell or “demon” realm. The hope is that intense psychedelic therapy can go some way towards curing these seemingly intractable conditions.
In a spiritual context, there are also the higher three realms to take into account, namely the human “muggle” realm, the fighting spirit “muppet” realm and the heavenly “diva” realm. These must also be cleansed and purified before the neophyte can enter the Holy of Holies.
Conceited divas are not fit for the spiritual life:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Revolutionary muppets are not fit for the spiritual life:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Reluctant muggles are not fit for the spiritual life:
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9: 59-62
Neither muggle, muppet or diva, nor addict, victim or demon is fit for the spiritual life. However, these ego structures are burnt up by the miraculous effect of the Holy Spirit in a psychedelic baptism of fire. Then, and only then, is communion of the soul with God in the psychedelic kingdom possible.
There are therefore two stages in Shamanic Christian Zen training: Psychedelic Baptism and Psychedelic Communion. And you can only partake of the second once you have undergone the first. As Thomas à Kempis, always succinct and to the point, said, “the reason why so few receive inward light and freedom is because they cannot wholly renounce self.”