The metaphysics of becoming
In Acacea Lewis' Divine Master Alchemy course, if you want to know, just ask.
Many of the most valuable lessons aren’t learned in school. But then again, you just might need a better teacher.
One of this culture’s most-repeated lessons is that someone else has all the answers. Information is gatekept, the solutions are outside ourselves, and we have to look to experts, even when it comes to our own bodies, souls, and minds. I buy into this, someone who is always reading, researching, listening, watching, interviewing, wanting to absorb as much as possible. While some of this is healthy curiosity, it’s also self-doubt.
But I’m part of a new school now, and it’s helping me learn to trust myself for what feels like the first time. It’s a school of direct experience, learning from the people who have done things these ways for millennia, to access the wisdom of ancient philosophies, ancestors, and ourselves through technologies such as sacred fungi and plants. The Divine Master Alchemy School is run by Acacea Lewis, a self-described student, researcher, and alchemist of herbal and entheogenic medicines.
Alchemy is an ancient natural philosophy and science, yet one steeped in secrecy and myth; those who practiced it often found what they created seemed crazy. Considered by many the precursor to chemistry, it viewed everything as elemental, and involved combining base and unlike things to create something unified and beautiful. It’s invoked by queer and psychedelic communities, for obvious reasons, and I resonate with anyone who hears its call.
We separate things in the Global North into sacred and profane, scientific and spiritual, but the founders of modern physics were more woo-woo than we think. Albert Einstein said the “intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” Issac Newton literally practiced alchemy, writing unpublished volumes full of allegory and ancient symbolism, combining unlike things to get something new.
Quantum physics is the realm where these boundaries merge today: particles that can be waves and waves that can be particles; things that exist everywhere at once until observed; concepts of space and time collapsing; the illusion of clarity, everything made of tiny particles constantly vibrating, reality a blurred view.
Lewis is a student of quantum physics, and links this to ancient traditions, which was an affirmation to my soul. It’s a subject I’ve been fascinated by, but wondered if it was a distraction from “the work.” Something deep within me comes alive when I read the books of poetic physicist Carlo Rovelli or stumble across an article linking the collective unconscious to the quantum realm, and this class showed me why. It’s speaking to something fundamental, experienced in the entheogenic realm.
The October cohort focused on Aztec philosophy, which states that everything in the Universe is made of the exact same stuff: teotl (pronounced “tee-oht”), a dynamic energy-in-motion that’s always changing, twisting and turning, spinning and whirling, bobbing and weaving, shifting into something new. It’s an alchemical force defined by transformation and the fabric of the cosmos, described by the Aztecs like a woven cloth. It echoes the observations of legendary psychedelic researcher Ralph Metzner, who said that DMT, the powerful entheogenic molecule found in most living things, revealed reality as a “jeweled net.”
Indeed, quantum physics is now finding that everything is composed of “quantum foam,” tiny particles constantly vibrating, only appearing at rest. Astrologer Rick Levine told me in an interview that planets were just “BFPs: big fucking particles,” moving at the slowest frequencies.
And while most traditions invoke four elements, the alchemists called upon a fifth: aether, the invisible substance that makes up everything, only appearing to be empty space.
Global Northern philosophies, Lewis taught, are metaphysics of being: things are fixed and dualistic, made of different kinds of stuff that can’t change into one another. It explains the rigidity and constraints of our culture; the binaries everything is put into. But Aztec philosophy is nondual, a metaphysics of becoming: the world is made of only one thing that is constantly changing into everything, creation and destruction, encompassing the paradox of existence encountered in the psychedelic state.
Learning the concept of teotl ties together so much for me, for everything I love, study, and identify with is defined by change. Fermentation, tiny life eating itself to be reborn, creating funky, sour, smelly, flavorful, weird and wonderful foods and beverages; the alchemy of cooking and brewing. Travel, nomadism, and exploring other past and present cultures, always shifting my world model. Queerness and identity itself, creating found families and building communities, tearing down what we’re given and rebuilding what is true.
In this is both the freedom and the fear that comes from learning you are made of the same stuff as everything in the cosmos; that nothing is fixed. Aztec philosophy affirms my experiences, saying there is no sacred and profane, just one indifferent energy that takes the inputs and transforms them based on the direction they’re already moving. On my medicine journeys, I sometimes find myself panicking: I can’t be everything—then who’s in control? You are, and nobody is, and therein lies the beauty, and the rub.
For we’re taught not to trust ourselves from the moment we’re born. As the so-called “psychedelic revolution” unfolds, the new class of “experts” are scrambling to create protocols, guidelines, and infrastructures for working with entheogens, overlooking the fact that there not only were, but still are, people with deep and enduring traditions, created by doing them. The culture discredits centuries of field-tested knowledge because these people aren’t valued as highly as those with framed degrees and alphabet-soup acronyms after their names, slick marketing budgets, tasteful soft-pastel loungewear and trendy tattoos.
Many of us don’t even know our ancestral lineage, much less its spiritual and psychedelic practices. But mystery schools have always existed to protect and pass down vital teachings, operating in semi-secrecy to avoid co-optation or annihilation. Within these ancient frameworks, you learned by experiencing the Great Mystery yourself, “dying before you die” to be reborn, but many disappeared or went deep underground.
It’s why we need modern mystery schools, places of learning and initiation. Lewis’ is one, teaching us to turn to the ancestors, entheogens, and our higher selves. Have a question or vexing dilemma? Ask the mushroom. Want to know how to navigate this human experience with greater ease and grace? Pull up a chair and talk to the ancestors. Lewis told me once that I didn’t need to buy an ancestry test, I could simply go find them, because they were waiting for me at the interdimensional fireside, and I cried.
We need to not only follow the traditions but also know the philosophies behind them. To realize that these are not abstract concepts in a book. Our class learned that teotl is the very beat of your heart and draw of your breath, and what experience could be more direct than that?
Terence McKenna said to find the others, and that’s what we’re doing here. We found strength in community: people not only to learn with, but affirm that we weren’t crazy. We shared entheogenic-related experiences that the dominant culture would call psychosis, but in ancient and spiritual traditions are precursors to awakening. And we took “class trips” to practice what we learned, where I saw and felt and experienced the everything and nothingness of becoming.
It would be comforting to me, with that pesky Christian upbringing, to hear that teotl does have a plan; that no matter what I do, I’ll end up in the light. But this chapter is about taking responsibility, learning that I am and shape teotl, too. Lewis keeps us accountable, making sure we do our work. Yet they also bring a tender perspective I didn’t expect to learn: that every moment is sacred, and the real work lies in the everyday.
No matter how far into the astral you go, it all comes back to this—sharing a meal with loved ones; smiling at somebody on the street; the little things that keep that energy-in-motion ever-shifting toward love.
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