Ancient temple ceremonies and initiations attempted to alter sensory input for the purpose of affecting higher consciousness. Certain sounds, music, and chanting altered consciousness through the hearing sense. Light, flame, images, and mandalas altered consciousness through sight. Selected foods and flavors worked through taste. Oils, lotions, and certain animal skins and fabrics affected consciousness through touch (e.g., leopard in Egypt, and jaguar in Maya). And incense was and continues to be used to alter consciousness through the olfactory nerves, the sense of smell.
It’s important to remember that the objective is not to stimulate the senses into heightened physical awareness but rather to amplify awareness of the ethereal, the infinite, the spiritual by altering the input coming through the five senses.
Edgar Cayce’s insights on the origin, power, dangers, and usefulness of incense are helpful. Here’s a good reading to consider (I’ve edited it for clarity and focus on the point of our study):
“From what did the plant obtain its ability to produce in the one that of lemon, in another orange, in another lavender, in another violet? From its parent stock which was given, not by man but by the Creative Forces. Yet, man has the ability to take and make that which becomes as an essence that responds to or sets in vibration the olfactory influences in the mucous membranes of the body of a person. There is the ability to make odors that will respond to certain individuals and groups; and many hundreds are responding to odors that produce the effect within their systems for activities in which the Creative Forces or God may manifest in the individual! For odor is gas, and not of the denser matter that makes the degrading things.”
Careful consideration of the influence will help us determine the scents that are best for us. When asked what incense was best, Cayce often referred to the person’s past lives. For example, though he often recommended sandalwood incense, in one soul’s reading he strongly warned against it, because that soul had used the incense in a past life for heightened sexual pleasure. One person’s spiritual scent may be another’s physical arouser. This means that each of us has to study, test, and intuit the scents that lift us into higher vibrations, higher states of consciousness.
Here are a few of Cayce’s comments to various people seeking help with selecting an incense:
“As to the manner of meditation, then: Begin with that which is oriental in its nature — oriental incense. Let the mind become, as it were, attuned to such by the humming, producing those sounds of o-o-o-ah-ah-umm-o-o-o; not as to become monotonous, but feel the essence of the incense through the body-forces. This will open the kundalini forces of the body. Then direct same to be a blessing to others. These arise from the creative center of the body itself, and as they go through the various centers direct same; else they may become greater disturbing than helpful. Surround self ever with that purpose, ‘Not my will, O God, but Thine be done, ever,’ and the entity will gain vision, perception and, most of all, judgment.”
Here’s another reading:
“Q: What kind of incense should I use during meditation? A: Cedar. And hyssop.” In the Bible, hyssop was sprinkled on celebrants at sacred ceremonies.
“Hence those things oriental, those things that deal with subtle odors, subtle activities upon those senses of individuals, play their part in the experience of the entity; not sandalwood, but cedar surrounding the entity will bring a satisfaction; and in the burning of same, in the odors of same, may the entity harken back to much of the developed mental abilities of the entity.”
Interestingly, Cayce tells this woman that using this incense will help her to find the right balance in “relationships to individuals, to itself, and to solving problems.” Then he tells her to “always burn three, when such is done.” I don’t know why he said this, but the number three reflects the dimensions of this world and the trinity, which Hinduism also holds as God’s nature.
Here are four more short readings suggesting scents for meditation and ceremony:
“Lavender and odors that come from sandalwood have a peculiar influence upon the body in the present; for these bespeak of something innate within self that bespeaks of the abilities of the soul, mind, and body to revivify and rejuvenate itself as to an ideal.”
“The odor of the peach blossom or of those natures partaking of the sandalwood as combined with same.”
“The odors of sandalwood or orris [iris] and violet are well; for these, when the entity meditates, create an environment for the entity.”
“As we have indicated to the entity, there must be some ceremony. Choose whatever manner that befits thine own consciousness, whether this is from odors or otherwise. And if odors are chosen, choose sandalwood and cedar to be burned.”
Personal choice is the key for Cayce, as in this next reading that even warns about becoming too dependent upon external help.
“If the self or soul self comes to depend too greatly upon external influences, then it is not self-development. And self-development in its relationship to the Creative Forces is ever the better. For, each soul must come to know its own influence and that which is the most helpful. And if it calls then for self to cleanse the body without and within with pure water, or to fast, or to burn incense, or to set about self certain odors or colors of influences, then use these!”
Here is a fascinating insight:
“Hast thou ever known the odor from a flesh body of a babe to be the same as the odor from a body that has been steeped in the sins of the world, and has become as dross that is fit only to be cast upon the dunghill?
“Did lavender ever make for bodily associations? Rather has it ever been that upon which the angels of light and mercy would bear the souls of men to a place of mercy and peace, in which there might be experienced more the glory of the Father.” –274-10