A series of personal reflections from a rowdy priestess.
In order to live I must die.
That is why IZNEZ has arrived.
It is evening in the Sacred Valley and we are gathered in the temple, about to enter our second ayahuasca ceremony of the week. I am in Peru with open hands. Standing on the brink of a future that feels indistinct. It rustles inside me a small bird with tender restless wings. She tells me to follow the smell of the wind.
I look into the shaman’s eyes and he smiles. I drink. It is warm and sticky, sweet and bitter. Earth nectar.
One by one the others go up to receive the sacrament. We are twelve in total, assembled across great distances to sit together in noble silence. The altar tapers are snuffed. We wait for mama aya, listening for her movements.
The black void in front of me shimmers. A growing presence intensifies just outside my periphery.
A voice erupts from my guts. Deep and low. Not a man’s and not mine but somewhere in between. Echos of a tremendous being. It ripples through every cell, clear as a bell in a cave. It says:
Show me my highest truth.
I decide to surrender to this statement. After all — it is not a question.
Her coiled serpent rises from the murk: electric mouth wrapped around a gleaming throbbing egg.
Mama aya hits with the force of a rogue wave. The motherbeast slams me face first through the fourth wall and I richochet into the vortex with such velocity that REALITY™ shatters around me.
The next several hours are spent splattered against the cosmos, digesting every dimension. An orgiastic cacophony permeates me completely. I crackle with violent energy but can’t move; covered in vomit and snot and drool. Stunned mute.
The human I understand myself to be dissolves and is replaced by a far vaster intelligence.
I become a god, a baby, a luminous banshee, a pulsing wave in an oceanic energy field. Every emotion passes through me a fragrant density before returning to the same origin point; a morphing ribbon of joy that births pain which eats grief which opens me to an ecstasy so deep, raw and wide I fear I have died.
Maybe I have died, I can’t tell, for whatever tethered me to this REALITY™ has gone. There is no me. Nothing remains.
So I forget my name. Every skin I’ve worn is peeled away and surrendered to the hungry machine. I am just another profane tongue in the mouth of time.
I am the gum and the teeth.
Vicious drumbeats hoove my brain into pulp as the grinding icaros bash my last sanity. Somewhere in the distant murk above me the shaman rattles. A cool finger touches my third eye — breathe — but now my body is her meat. I am cleaved. I am a single clam at the bottom of a vast sea. Later I will realize that the pressure I’m experiencing is part of the purification process; a necessary cleansing.
After all — I asked for this dismemberment.
But in this moment the terror of my ego is deafening. Yet the more I resist her power the harder she steps on my head. My horrific smelling barf bucket is my only anchor to earth — the only certainty — as the universe melts me without mercy into perfect crystalline consciousness.
When she is done with me the break is clean. I surface from the bloody depths to the sound of my name in the darkness. How long have I been weeping? A waterfall runs through my being. Pure one. I’m finally able to speak but there are no words to describe the thing I’ve received.
Days later, I am still trembling.
Spiritual experiences are like dreams. Both communicate with the receiver in symbols unique to the soul’s language. We might recognize the myth and resonate with its message, but the mountain holds different weight in each person’s heart. Besides, as Kenneth Goldsmith argued: all writing is just pointing. What I share here is primal humanspeak; a fragmented shorthand for something that exists outside words — outside everything — and thus eludes language entirely.
In prehistoric caves, humans spit blood on their hands to capture their form, their lifeforce. It is this void, this tension, that my written dance reveals — but never the thing itself. Consider this an outline. What I crawled across the cosmos to share is only present in the absence. If you are ready to receive her gift, then know this: any illumination of the nameless is limited.
But for the record: I call her the IZNEZ.
There are no rules for revelations. While plant medicine might be a powerful portal it’s certainly not the only one. You are the agent of transformation at play here. The departure point doesn’t matter to me for that misses the point we are orbiting — only your ability to engage with the ecstatic mystery at the center of life.
If you are ready to become the universe then you will stop talking and start listening. Notice the space between my words. Listen for the sound behind the thought. Words are only a portal if you are already open. In numerology, the letter O — infinity, zero, the breath — represents the hole inside the universe.
The cosmic mouth eating us alive and spitting us back out. It is said that what it encloses, it also releases.
REALITY™ is unruly. We inhabit a world built on constant flux. Look around you. Observe how life unfurls through any crack. Life breaks open the stone, burns down the forest, defies the dinosaurs, and forges new planets from the farts of stars. Life has a way of doing whatever it wants, does it not?
Thus chaos is the motherjuice of all creation.
The future in front of us doesn’t actually exist. The past is a dream we lived. Basic physics teaches that every action initiated will receive a response of equal force back. So when you project into the future, the future projects into you. When you try and control the future, the future controls you. When you play with the laws of reality, the laws of reality play you.
Fun game, no? Chi dat bro.
In the last gasp of my late twenties, one of my best friends and I went into business together. It was a grueling crucible of a year and before it fleshed us into more refined forms it bequeathed us with a gift, a phrase we coined that I find particularly helpful when faced with a paradox of cosmic proportions. Are you ready for the secret key?
Here it is: That’s hilarious.
The fool is an antidote to the ego run amok. We used this phrase for situations that evolved our understanding of what IZ, regardless of whether we wanted to interpret it as “good” or “bad.” (From the perspective of the universe, these labels are completely pointless and utter bullshit.)
So when we got flushed down the toilet: “That’s hilarious.”
When we secured a dope new client: “That’s hilarious.”
When the totally unexpected occurred: “That’s hilarious.”
You get the point.
We are all vehicles through which life moves and meets itself. Terence McKenna, one of the visionary mystics of the modern psychedelic movement, calls this evolutionary collision a “concrescence.” In other words: increasing density in the face of increasing entropy. Against all odds, we find ourselves alive. Doesn’t the thought break your mind? Inside this vortex of transcendent chaos, matter made something groovy for a minute, and it’s you.
A paradox of epic proportions underlines existence. Although you feel solid and REALITY™ feels real, it’s easy to forget that your concrescence (matter) is actually a conversation (movement) that has no known beginning or end. The paradox here (besides everything) is that there is no you outside of this infinite IZ. You might look like a human and talk like a human, but IZ you really? If you haven’t noticed, magic makes a home in your body and you are born.
You condense from star farts, re-formed.
Movement manifests energy. All intelligence is energetic and the nature of this intelligence is to find expression: a receptive and willing channel. The IZ dances with you, and you dance the IZ. So if we are the movement of this universal dance, then what does a body actually do?
If we are both agent and witness, then the body is the ark of awe.
Being present requires nothing but your attention. As it turns out, nothing is everything, for the body is what shamans call the hollow bone, the receiver for the cackling quantum being that is freaking the universe until the end of time, AMEN. You IZ an artery in a vast energetic network that pumps data from one end of the universe to the next. The body is the bank channeling an infinite river of consciousness. Imagine: your dreams fertilize unseen beings downstream.
This flow has no choice but to find a home, a fold, in every moment, because this allows the energy to dance freely. Nature always finds a way forward. Because without solidity, there’s no movement.
And within movement, no solidity.
Paradox teaches us that inside every wound is a jewel. We manifest our suffering by resisting the flow of life’s force — and thus erode essential lifeforce. Are you starting to see how this works?
I come home from Peru and walk deeper into the river flowing beneath everything I thought was static. Reality hasn’t stopped shattering — but now I know that my job isn’t to hold it together.
My job is to flow it.
The first crack in the ego is freeing because finally you breathe in the vast beyond and realize you are the same thing after all. But know this: stepping into the wild flowing IZNEZ will dissolve the false self. First you will try and negotiate with the invisible forces dismantling your REALITY™ to have it all at once: what IZ and the lie. Why? Because ultimate knowledge requires ultimate trust in a truth that defies all human logic. I’ve stopped asking why.
A paradox never resolves itself.
When you start to dance the IZ in real time you will discover the energy webbing, the deep rhythm, the fleshpulse that connects all life. You will find that nothing in nature is linear but rather a fractal unfolding. You will learn that patterns persist within chaos. You will experience yourself as both immensely vast and a tiny ass ant. You will lose weight energetically and your whole world will shift to accommodate a new sense of spaciousness. Your wilderness will terrify you before it astounds you, but you will know too much by now to turn back.
You will start to bless the things that once enslaved you.
When you embrace the paradox seething in the guts of life as the only certainty that exists, you will drop through the false matrix into what IZ and your landing will shatter any REALITY™ that’s left.
And that’s hilarious.
Katharine Hargreaves is a writer, facilitator, and culture alchemist living and playing in California. A translator of tectonic patterns of transformation, Katharine invents interactive experiences and social rituals for a new humanity. She is the founder of ARKO, a culture lab for human connection and AWAKYN, a card game changing the world one magic moment at a time. Find more of her writing at The Fearless Experiment: a way to evolve your world through adventure or get on her monthly mailing list for raps from a real life wizard.