Incense and perfume burn delightfully in all Hindu, Parsi, Jain, Shinto temples, etc. Incense and perfumes were never absent from the temples of Greece, Rome, Persia, etc. - Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
In all religious and mystical traditions, aromatic substances have been utilized as offerings to the Gods, and as an aid for spiritual seekers.
I sent forth to the four winds, I poured out a libation
I made an offering on the peak of the mountain:
Seven and seven I set incense-vases there,
Into their depths I poured cane, cedar, and scented wood.
The gods smelled a savour,
The gods smelled a sweet savour,
The gods gathered like flies over the sacrificer. - The Chaldean Ut-napištim
And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the LORD commanded Moses. - Exodus 40
Who and what are the thimroth? They are angelic beings who are present in the incense of burnt offerings and are therefore called thimroth aschan (columns of smoke) and are thus helpers to man in his worship. - The Zohar
The goddess said, "We, too, are touched by honour; we delight in festivals and altars; we heavenly beings are a greedy gang. Often by sinning has a man disposed the gods against him, and a sacrificial victim has been a sop for crimes. Often have I seen Jupiter, when he was just about to launch his thunderbolts, hold his hand on the receipt of incense." - Ovid, Fasti 5
Aromas have special properties, and there is a vast science describing their use. Most significant is the power of aromas in relation to the mind and Consciousness; have you ever observed the power of aroma in reviving long-forgotten memories? That same ability can be utilized spiritually, to stimulate Consciousness and heal psychic wounds. Moreover, aromatic substances create an atmosphere in which spiritual work is more effective, by both banishing harmful influences and attracting helpful ones. This is why in the Gnostic tradition, we use incense every day.
The devotee must purify his bedroom daily with the smoke of special aromatic substances. Incense purifies the Astral body. A good incense attracts the great masters whom we need for our work. - Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
There are hundreds of aromatic substances traditionally used for spiritual purposes. Generally, they are derived from plants. Leaves and sticks are usually dried and ground, while oils, gums, and liquids are purified and condensed. When used, incense is usually burned on hot charcoals or rolled into "sticks" with binding agents (such as in Indian incense, cow dung). In some cases, the entire plant can be dried and burned, such as sage, rue, or juniper.
Use Quality Incense
Just as your body is most nourished by the freshest, cleanest food, so will your psyche be most benefited by the purest, best quality incense. In these times of fast food and ultra-efficient production methods, incense has suffered the same decline in quality as most other products. It is very easy to find the cheapest, poorest quality incense, while the truly pure and effective incense is usually hard to get and costly. Nonetheless, incense is only as effective as its level of quality.
Determining what incense is pure and worth purchasing is not easy, but a key factor is the price. In most cases, you get what you pay for. A cheaply priced incense is usually worthless. The manufacturers of cheap incense almost always claim high quality but reveal nothing about their ingredients or production methods. In the end, your nose will know the difference. Poor quality incense can be identified by scents that are too strong, poorly blended, with a confusing or mixed smell, or are too smoky. Sometimes they do not smell like anything at all, because they have gone stale.
Incense is commonly sold in stick or cone form, yet these types are almost always the poorest quality available. There are hundreds of brands of stick incense, and most are mass produced in factories in India or China, without much care for purity, cleanliness, or quality. If you prefer Indian or Chinese scents, be aware that many of the most popular or well-known brands are also the worst quality.
Among Japanese and Korean manufacturers, it is much easier to find high quality incense. It appears that these traditions truly value their incense. However, they are also willing to pay a premium for them. It is common to see small boxes of stick-form incense selling for five times the cost Indian or Chinese brands.
A high quality incense can easily be recognized by the effect is has on you. Even smelling the box of a really good incense can bring a smile to your face. This is a good sign.
A good quality, pure incense is worth more than the money you pay to get it. The psychological and spiritual impact of good incense cannot be overstated. High quality incense can revive your spirits, inspire your practice, energize your heart and soul, and bring you a smile. Such effects are priceless. In short, do not bother buying cheap incense. Do yourself some good: get the best incense you can find.
In some cases, you can prepare your own incense. Sage, rue, and other plants are easy to grow, and have powerful aromatic effects.
How to Use Incense
Stick or cone incense can simply be lit and placed on the appropriate vessel; there are many types of incense burners for this purpose, or you can use a small vessel filled with sand, stones, or rice.
Gums, oils, and powders are best used with charcoal and a brazier. This ancient method is very easy and effective. We have prepared a short video demonstrating its use:
Watch a video about using incense for spiritual defense:
In every case, use caution and be safe. Be alert to ensuring that whatever you burn is kept far from flammable materials.
It is also possible to use aromatics without burning them. Diffusers and similar tools place the aromatics into the atmosphere using water. While the quality of the aromatics is generally higher than those found in most incense, so is the cost. Learn more about essential oils and diffusers here.
Some Types of Incense
Throughout our mystical and spiritual history, there are uncountable substances used for their aromatic effects. Yet, for our purposes today, the most pressing needs can be addressed with just a few types of incense.
In general, we use incense for these primary purposes:
- Cleaning. Your home, bedroom, or temple will gradually accumulated impurities that you bring in from outside or generate from harmful psychological habits. Certain types of incense are excellent for removing noxious elements from your environment, especially sulfur, benzoin, copal, asafetida, sage, juniper, and rue.
- Perfuming. Once your environment is clean and prepared, a perfuming incense can be used to attract beneficial forces and to stimulate your psyche towards positive action. Some very effective perfuming aromas include frankincense, sandalwood, pine, cedar, rose, jasmine, and hundreds more.
- Healing. Incense can radically aid our healing, whether from physical or psychic illnesses. In most cases, we start with the incense related to our zodiacal sign. Yet, beyond this, there are many special substances whose aromas have a special relationship with our mind. Knowledge of this science is preserved in the temples of medicine in the internal worlds.
Asafetida is a plant with a pungent smell (the name means "stinky gum"), commonly used in Indian cooking and medical traditions. As an incense, asafetida is a powerful cleanser, whether one uses the plant itself or the dried powder. The plant can be dried and lit to a smoldering, smoky burn (a "smudge"), and used to "bathe" the body in the smoke. You can also walk around your home to spread the smoke and clease the environment. Asafetida is especially useful in dissolving the noxious psychic creations that result from masturbation.
Asafetida smudges disintegrate incubi and succubi. - Samael Aun Weor
Benzoin resin, also called benzoin gum or gum benjamin, comes from the bark of Styrax trees. In many traditions, benzoin resin is mixed with aromatic substances to create incense, yet it can also be used by itself, as it has a very pleasant scent and unique properties. Benzoin purifies the Astral body and dispels gross and sensual thoughts. Benzoin can be mixed with incense in a perfume censer, or can be burned within a brazier.
Camphor is utilized in order to perfume and attract success. - Samael Aun Weor, Tarot & Kabbalah
The word camphor derives from the Malay word kapur, meaning "camphor tree." Camphor is made from the oils of trees found in Asia (usually camphor laurel). When purchased, it generally is available in block form as a white, transparent, waxy, crystalline solid with a penetrating aroma. There are many ways to use camphor. Some common ones include:
- Camphor is easily crushed with your fingers, and sprinkled over hot charcoals in a brazier.
- Take a small pot (which will be used only for this purpose from that point on) and put a square of camphor into it. Heat up the pot until the camphor turns into a liquid. At that point take it off the stove and walk around the rooms of your house and let the scent permeate the environment.
We must have our homes clean in the physical world as well as in the Astral. Garbage bins are always filled with infected larvae. There exist odoriferous substances which burn larvae or "throw them out" of your house. The disinfection can be made with Belladonna, Camphor and Saffron. v - Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Medicine and Practical Magic
Be aware that the smoke from camphor can irritate your eyes, so keep it away from your face. It may be too strong to burn near young children or pets.
Copal is the traditional incense of the Maya and other groups in Latin America, and is derived from tree sap. It is best used on charcoal.
Frankincense is obtained from the olibanum tree, an aromatic plant of the Middle East, and sacred to the Greek sun-God Helios. Greek mythology states that frankincense was his love, the Persian princess Leukothoe, transformed.
Frankincense is a very important incense in the Gnostic tradition. Samael Aun Weor mentioned it often, and wrote a chapter about it in Igneous Rose:
Authentic frankincense is obtained from the olibanum tree. It contains great elemental powers. If frankincense is soaked in water, it has the power to make the elemental creatures of the water concur to our call. When frankincense is applied to the forehead, it has the power to make a headache caused by strong mental preoccupation to disappear. The smoke of frankincense has the power to make the Masters and Angels of the invisible world to assist. Frankincense prepares the environment for the Gnostic rituals. Frankincense is a great vehicle for the spiritual waves of pure devotion. It helps the mystical retreat because it serves as an instrument of devotion. In the ancient temples of the mysteries, those who were ill were surrounded with the smoke of frankincense in order to be cured.
We also recommend olibanum (frankincense) to create a devotional atmosphere in the nuptial chamber. Husband and wife should live in the midst of perfume and love.
Myrrh is a resinous gum with a deep, earthy scent, used traditionally in many religions. It is a deeply mystical substance related to high spiritual forces and also the process of death. It was traditionally used as an ointment for the dead. As an incense, it is best used with charcoal.
The science of myrrh is the science of death. There is a need to die in order to live. There is a need to lose everything in order to gain everything. There is a need to be dead to the world, in order to be alive for God. This is the elemental magic of the myrrh. [...] Myrrh is related with the Akasha that lives and palpitates in all which is created. - Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
The essence of roses can be mixed with these perfumes to purify the environment. It is good to remember that roses have great power. The rose is the queen of flowers. - Samael Aun Weor
Sage is one of the most efficient plants in order to combat such cases in which the body of a person is possessed by an evil entity which obsesses the person and even makes him demented. - Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Medicine and Practical Magic
Sulfur is used in order to reject tenebrous entities. - Samael Aun Weor, Tarot & Kabbalah
Sulfur or sulfur (Sanskrit, sulvere; Latin sulpur) was known in ancient times, and is referred to in the Biblical Pentateuch (Genesis). The word itself is almost certainly from the Arabic sufra meaning yellow, from the bright color of the naturally occurring form. English translations of the Bible commonly refer to sulfur as "brimstone," giving rise to the name of 'fire and brimstone' sermons. It is from this part of the Bible that hell is implied to "smell of sulfur" (similar to rotten eggs or burnt matches). Sulfur is a chemical element found in nature. As an incense, it is a very effective cleanser of psychological and spiritual impurities, but it is also necessary to use it wisely. It is not hard to use sulfur, but one should be aware that the smoke is toxic and harmful, and should not be inhaled. We recommend the use of sulfur, especially if you have never used it in a given home or temple. The procedure is simple: prepare a charcoal in a brazier. When it is very hot, place a spoonful of sulfur upon the charcoal, then leave the room or home for a few hours. When you return, air it out. You may then want to use a perfuming incense.
Malignant forms of thoughts and larvae enclosed within any room are disintegrated when one burns sulfur upon a burning piece of charcoal. - Samael Aun Weor
Burn sulfur for nine days in a row, in order to purify the atmosphere of the house and to cleanse it from astral larvae; afterwards, continue with the other types of incense in order to create a positive environment. Do not mix the buring of sulfur with other types of incense.
Incense for Healing
To improve a general state of misery and to cleanse the larvae that infect our internal bodies, "bathe" oneself in the smoke of five perfumes: frankincense, myrrh, aloe, sulfur, and camphor.
Sick people must smell their zodiacal perfume on a daily basis:
- Aries: perfume of Myrrh
- Taurus: perfume like Costus root, an aromatic herb
- Gemini: perfume of Mastic
- Cancer: perfume of Camphor
- Leo: perfume of Frankincense
- Virgo: perfume of White Sandalwood
- Libra: perfume of Galbanum
- Scorpio: perfume of Coral
- Sagittarius: perfume of Aloe
- Capricorn: perfume of Pine extract
- Aquarius: perfume of Spikenard
- Pisces: perfume of Thyme
Where to Get Incense
Finding good quality incense is not always easy. For plants, grow your own or visit your local nursery. Generally, the best incense will be found in shops run by temples and churches, since they use them for the correct purpose and naturally want to use the best.
In order to aid readers like you, a group of Gnostic instructors has made the effort to select some incense and related items, which are available from the non-profit Gnostic Store.