Oestia

by Preceptor’s Office

Oestia

Intention: To provide people with a path of spiritual practice that

1. Affirms that each individual is his or her own best teacher,

2. Affirms the duty to respect and preserve the lives of other humans,

3. Affirms the right of each person to refuse to be a soldier or other instrument of war,

4. Affirms the right of each person to commune with their own nature with aid of plant-helpers,

5. Provides a thoughtful spiritual basis for living in an ethical and fulfilling way,

6. Establishes a fellowship of like-minded persons to encourage each other in practicing the path of Oestia.

First Principle: You Are Your Own Teacher

Each person has primary control over their own awareness. Even if we decide to adopt beliefs based on what others have told us, we have to make that decision ourselves. Reject “revealed doctrines,” however grand the inducements to belief. The best way to be at ease with your own understanding is to accept responsibility for formulating your own beliefs about reality.

To do this, put away feelings of insufficiency. Put away the idea that there are authorities whose views are superior to your own.

Resolve to understand directly all of the things that are important enough for you to have a belief or opinion about.

Accept uncertainty and admit ignorance about matters you do not directly comprehend.

Starting from a viewpoint of accepting your ignorance and uncertainty, inquire into the subjects that are most important to you, and work toward understanding.

You may, of course, study the knowledge, opinions, and speculations of others, but always keep it as your personal responsibility to make up your own mind.

Keep your conclusions tentative.

Discuss your ideas with others, and give ear to their questions.

Second Principle: Discover the Tautological Nature of Your Mind

By “the tautological nature of the mind,” we mean that the mind works by a process similar to reflection.  A mirror reflects the outer world and reproduces an image of what is put before it, and the mind reproduces an image of what appears before our eyes.  Because human minds reproduce sense impressions in very similar ways, we develop similar impressions of what our world is like.  Of course, depending on our point of view, we see different things.  If I hold up a piece of paper that is blank on one side and has the word “Oestia” written on the other side, what you see depends on what side I show you.  But if we look at the same side of the paper, we see something very similar.

Our mind does much more than reflect, however. In conjunction with all of the other senses, our mind assembles an ongoing experience of life that incorporates our position in relation to the earth and other beings.  Perhaps most importantly for us as social beings, through language and culture, we create a shared sense of social reality.  So, returning to the example introduced above, when I show you the paper on which “Oestia” is written, if you know how to read the English, Spanish, or French alphabet, you can pronounce the word.  That is the first stage of using language – being able to reproduce sounds.  The next stage is associating sounds with meanings.  Once you have heard or read about “Oestia,” you can associate meaning with it, and share that meaning when speaking with other people.

The tautological nature of the mind thus allows us to see our world, share meanings, and coordinate our views of the world with the views of other individuals.  Although our mental experience of life is unique, we all use the same faculties to experience life – our senses, thoughts, and feelings.  So when someone clasps our hand, says “look,” and points at the moon, we can see a white disk in the sky and reply, “oh yes, the moon is beautiful.”

The tautological nature of the mind is so powerful that we generally do not notice it working.  We see the moon, and do not pause to consider that what we are “seeing” is actually an image of the moon, formed in our mind by a complex chain reaction of events – the light entering our eye, the lens of our eye focusing the light on our retina, the retinal neurons firing, the visual cortex assembling the stimulus into an image of a silvery disk, and our language center attaching the word “moon” to the experience.

The mind’s tautological capacity to associate meanings with spoken sounds allows us to master language, through which we attach meanings to our perceptions.  For example, depending on our culture, a full moon may mean different things.  People who adhere to a lunar calendar often hold ceremonial meetings on full moon nights, and for such people, seeing a full moon might well mean that there will be a prayer meeting tonight, or some other ceremonial event.  In such a society, pointing at the moon might mean something more than merely “look at the moon.”  It might mean, “we must hurry to the lodge or we will be late for the ceremony!”

The tautological nature of the mind is therefore the process by which we experience the effects of our perception.  Perceiving ugly things, such as hunger, sickness, sorrow and war, we experience trauma; perceiving beautiful things, such as abundance, health, well-being and peace, we experience happiness. The tautological nature of the mind dictates that things become more like what they already are, and more like what we believe them to be.

Like the force of gravity that pulls everything back to earth, everything we experience will be conditioned by our attitude toward life. This effect is not absolute in any given situation – for example, a sleepwalker who does not see a red light will still be run down by a truck passing through the intersection on the green.  Certain facts are not mutable. However, people are, and because we are social beings, how we perceive others, and treat them, determines much of how we experience life.

Accordingly, if we see other people as enemies, we will find this belief confirmed at every turn – others will view us with suspicion and fear, and a cycle of negative feedback will be established virtually instantaneously.  We will see an ugly world full of danger, and it will be real.  Conversely, when we remember that all human minds operate tautologically, we realize that we can optimize our interactions with other people by viewing them positively and treating them with kindness and respect.  When we take control of our perceptions and skillfully use the tautological nature of our mind, the world, especially the social world, becomes a flexible field with great positive potential.

Third Principle: Recognize Other People Are Just Like You

Having looked at the tautological nature of your own mind, take a closer look at other people. Ask yourself, “How do their minds work?” Watch them, and you will conclude that other people are operating using the same type of mind as you are — they are experiencing a world in which you appear as a reflection in their mind. This will provide the foundation of a great many more observations and deductions, and true to the First Principle, we leave them to you to make. All except one, and that is the principle of equality. Since all people are just like you, then we are all equal.

When we say “we are all equal,” we mean morally equal, ethically equal. We mean that we should apply the same rules of conduct, and grant the same rights, to every human being. We mean that the person who goes by the pronoun “I” does not have more rights than the person who goes by the pronoun “he” or “she.” Nor does a group of people known as “us” have more rights than a group known as “them.”

As a practical matter, this means that in Oestia, we all treat each other as equals, with respect. We do not set up higher seats for people who have been in the fellowship for more years, or who have more responsibilities in the fellowship. We all sit on the same level. We do not use honorifics or present laudatory speeches to extol the virtues of some members of the fellowship as distinct from others. No one gets special food or drink or sleeping place, except as they need it because of youth, or age or sickness.

In summary, privileges based on rank are forbidden. There is no rank.

Fourth Principle: Protect Life, And Do Not Participate in Warfare

Having looked at our own mind and seen that it is just like the minds of all other people; having decided that all people are equal and are entitled to the same rights; knowing that no one wants to be killed, or injured, or to have their homes and families destroyed; therefore, we must resolve to protect life and abstain from participating in warfare.

By including this principle among the principles of our fellowship, we specifically commit the resources of the fellowship to protecting the rights of members of Oestia to refuse conscription in a military force, and to refuse to participate in activities that are intended to cause injury to other human beings under the rubric of national security.

Fifth Principle: Embrace Human Responsibility For the Welfare of Planet Earth

The earth is our home, and the home of uncounted species of living beings. As one of the innumerable species of living beings that have arisen on the earth, human beings have no special rights to exploit the resources of the earth. As the most powerful and wide-ranging species, humans do have special responsibilities for the welfare of the earth.

Returning again to the Second Principle, the tautological nature of the mind, we see that when it comes to our world, and how we affect it, there is a feedback loop between humanity and the planet. Because the mind acts tautologically, how we see the world affects how we act in the world, which in turn shapes the world, and again affects how we see it. As a result, vast numbers of human beings have never seen a pure mountain stream, a beach without garbage or a sky without smog. Past generations saw the earth as a source of exploitable raw materials and conceived of society as a storehouse of artifacts, so now we have a devastated natural world and societies overflowing with junk and garbage. People have seen others as laborers, consumers, and competitors, so we have armies of wage slaves, and unemployed people manipulated by corporations and bureaucracies. The tautological nature of our minds has created a prison planet from what could have been an oasis of magnificent beauty, a unique treasure in the vastness of our universe. As a member of the fellowship, you commit to change your own mind, and to use your mind to change the minds of others, and thereby to alter the course of planetary history. By relying on ourselves, and taking responsibility for who we are and what we do, we will make our earth a beautiful, healthy home for humanity and our fellow living beings.

Sixth Principle: Use the Wisdom Plants Wisely

The fellowship recognizes that among the many plants filling the earth, there are some with particular affinity for enhancing the human capacity for self-knowledge. The operation of such plants on the human mind is a part of human culture and when used wisely, can aid us in practicing the First Principle, helping us to obtain teachings from the storehouse of our own minds.  Whether and how often to use Wisdom Plants is an individual choice.

The fellowship rules for using the Wisdom Plants are known as the Three Pillars. The Three Pillars are supplemented by the writings of the Medicine Circle Handbook and oral instructions shared between practicioners.  Practicioners of Oestia consume the Wisdom Plants as Medicine, in the Medicine Circle.  The Medicine Circle can be convened only by a Circle Guide who has been initiated in the proper use of the Wisdom Plants.

The First Pillar involves the proper preparation of the Medicine from the Wisdom Plants. The Medicine must be prepared by a person who has received instruction from a member of the fellowship with acknowledged experience according to the oral traditions of the fellowship. The Medicine must be prepared in a ceremonial atmosphere of respect for the Wisdom Plants. Suitable music of a peaceful and relaxed character may be played, and those preparing the Medicine may sing, speak to the Wisdom Plants, or speak with each other, always focusing on the activity at hand. Those preparing the Medicine should maintain the awareness that the Wisdom Plants will reflect, due to the tautological nature of our minds, all of the intentions of those preparing the Medicine, and that this in turn, will affect the experiences that those who drink the Medicine will have.

The Second Pillar involves preparation of oneself, as the drinker of the Medicine. One should remember that the primary purposes of drinking the Medicine are to obtain understanding of our selves, other beings, and our natural world, and to gain strength and healing to live our lives meaningfully and so fulfill our highest calling as human beings. One should remember that, out of all our time on earth, we can spend only a small portion of our time using the Medicine, and so devote ourselves fully to the experience. One should look at all of the other members of the fellowship who are in the Medicine circle as equal beings between and among whom there exists mutual respect and goodwill.  To help bring these thoughts to mind, those attending the Medicine Circle should recite, at minimum, an opening invocation selected from the Medicine Circle Guidebook.

The Third Pillar involves preparation of the Place where the Medicine circle will take place. The place must first be cleaned and made fresh on the physical level. Each participant must arrive before the first cup of Medicine is drawn. Before the Medicine Circle begins, all telephones and communication devices should be turned off and put away. The Medicine should be placed at a central place, next to where the Circle guide is to sit. Each person should have a comfortable place to sit and lie full length. The session shall begin with an invocation by the guide and other participants. Once the session is begun, all participants must remain until the session has concluded.