The Sacramental Use Of Cannabis Sativa
THE CANNABIS PAPERS
Roderick W. Marling has dedicated the last 36 years to Yoga meditation and research in the area of expanding consciousness. If you've ever suspected that Cannabis was once considered a sacred plant and used in ritual settings, then you will definitely be interested in this material.
It happened one day in 1987 in Tanzania's Mahale Mountains National Park. Scientific researchers found an isolated female chimpanzee who was terribly sick. They observed she barely had enough energy even to defecate, but somehow dragged herself over to a Vernonia amygdaline bush. This foul tasting plant is definitely not on the regular menu for chimps. However, the sick female tore off some of its tender shoots and chewed them just long enough to get the juice, while spitting out the fibrous leftovers.
Much to the amazement of the scientific observers, by the next afternoon this same chimpanzee, who was so sick the day before behaved as if reborn. Her energy was completely restored. Her appetite had returned, and she now socialized with the other chimps.
The scientists had observed for the first time, a wild animal's health actually improved after eating a plant with known medical properties. It was noted that the native people of the area use the same plant to fight parasites and gastrointestinal disorders.
Anthropologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University observed on many occasions that a large number of chimps walked as long as 20 minutes in search of Aspilia, a member of the sunflower family. The animals would then gulp down the leaves of this plant whole, even to the point of vomiting. It was later discovered that Aspilia is high in a red oil called thiarubrine-A which kills parasites, fungi and viruses. However more recently, biochemists, inspired by the chimps repeated use of the plant, began to test the properties of thiarubrine more seriously in the lab. They found to their surprise that thiarubrine-A killed cancer cells in solid tumors, such as those of the lungs and breast.
Maybe some of the mystery as to how early humans discovered medicinal plants is hereby revealed. For on further observation scientists have found that chimpanzees use at least 15 different species of medicinal plants, which supply the animals with a full range of potions and salves for a number of various ailments.
Scientists have also discovered however that it's not just chimpanzees that take advantage of Nature's pharmacopeia, but there are many other animal species that do as well. In fact there are so many different kinds of animals that use plants as medicine, a specialized branch of zoology has developed just to study this phenomena called "zoopharmacognosty".(1)
Within this specialized branch of study some very interesting discoveries have been made. One of these is the fact that animals use psychoactive plants to deliberately alter their consciousness. Ronald Siegel, a psychopharmacologist at UCLA's School of Medicine has spent most of his career studying drugs and their impact on animals. In 1979 he discovered a shard from an ancient ceramic bowl in the Peruvian Andes. A painting on the piece, shows two llamas eating from a branch of coca leaves. Two Indians are pointing to the llamas while they themselves conspicuously reach for the leaves with open mouths.
With further investigation, Siegel discovered that this illustration was not an isolated case by any means. One legend dating back to the year 900, describes an Abyssinian herder who found that his animals became energized after eating the bright red fruit of a tree that was later named coffee. Another story has a shepherd in Yemen watching his goats run wild after chewing on certain leaves, discovering the amphetamine-like stimulant known as qat. In tropical Asia, legends describe birds that became strangely quiet after visiting rauwolfia trees. As a result an Indian psychiatrist isolated the tranquilizer reserpine, which then revolutionized the treatment of the mentally ill.
A number of other such examples are recorded in all parts of the world. In the mountains of Sikkim, weary horses eagerly consume bitter tea leaves for added energy. Pack donkeys in Mexico when particularly tired, deliberately grazed on wild tobacco for the same rejuvenating effect. During the recent war in Cambodia, it was observed that free-ranging water buffalo and antelope increased their normal browsing of opium poppies to overcome the stress of their hostile environment. While in Africa, elephants feasting on the fermented fruit of doum and marula trees, which contained an alcohol solution as high as 7 percent, were seen to display the same range of reactions shown by humans. Some elephants became boisterous and aggressive, trumpeting and attacking nearby animals, including researchers. Some became increasingly passive and lethargic. Still, others appeared amorous. In the emerald forests of Colombia, jaguars gnaw the nauseating psychedelic bark of yaje, a habit the local people believe sends the cats on flights to other worlds. Wild boars dig for the hallucinogenic roots of iboga, a West African shrub that send the animals into a wild frenzy. On the Asian tundra of the North, reindeer eat the beautifully red capped Amanita muscaria, a psychoactive mushroom also used by Siberian shamans to aid in their spiritual journeys.(2)
It seems that from these few examples and many more, not only do animals definitely use plants in a number of different ways, but we're also beginning to gain an insight into the special bonds that were formed between our early ancestors and the animals that lived around them. For the animals were seen as teachers, messengers of the spirit realms, bringers of medicine and food not only for the body, but for the soul as well. For this reason some species of animals were held in special reverence as totem animals or allies. And each tribe or clan actually named itself after the animal with which it had a psychic bond.
Within the context of this relationship between the social group and the totem animal, there evolved certain rituals that strengthened or maintained the psychic bond between them. This could very well be the root of what we call religion.(3) Through the special act of ritual, human beings moved out from the everyday world into the secret realm where the doors of communication opened between themselves and the totem animal or plant.
One thing that research has proven in the last 30 years beyond any reasonable doubt, is that psychoactive substances have certainly played a large part in the religious rituals of many past cultures.
The oldest civilization that we are currently aware of is Sumer. The ancient Sumerians were the first to produce the written word and the Sexagesimal system of mathematics that we still use today in calculations of time and space. They were also the first to meticulously record astronomical observations, and the first to build pyramids - called zigguarats. This technology was later exported to Egypt where it was further developed.
For these reasons and many others, the Sumerians are regarded as the originators of what we now understand as civilization. So it was with shocking surprise that a distinguished scientist and an expert in the Sumerian language John Allegro, discovered that these highly civilized people regarded psychoactive mushrooms in a religious context.(4)
What shocked academic scholars even more however, was that about this time, the esteemed ethnobotonast R. Gordon Wasson of Harvard University, discovered the same thing regarding the Indo-Europeans of India. He found extensive references to Amanita muscaria in their oldest and most sacred scripture, the Rig-Veda. The psychoactive mushroom was referred to in the Vedas as a god named Soma. Over one hundred hymns are found in the Rig-Veda devoted to Soma.(5)
It is also interesting to note, that in the oldest Religion still practiced today, Zoroastrianism, it's been discovered that it too was once influenced to a large extent by the sacred Amanita.
"The use of an intoxicating drink, which is called soma by the people of India and haoma by the Iranians, is one of the earliest and most persistent elements in the religion of the Indo-Iranian peoples. The importance assigned to the drink by both of those ancient peoples clearly show that its use must have originated in a common source in prehistoric times." (6)
Moving a little closer to our own cultural roots, we come to the ancient Greeks, from whom we derived our concepts of democracy, the scientific method and literature. Extensive research into the early Greek culture reveals that at the core of their religious and spiritual beliefs, stands one institution with which no other can compare - the temple of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis. Eleusis was regarded as a powerful religious center for nearly one thousand years. No educated Greek could conceive of himself as part of the cultural elite without being initiated into the great Mysteries at Eleusis. An unbreakable silence has prevailed however, as to what these sacred rituals were, as each initiate was sworn to absolute secrecy. Only recently have scholars started to compare notes. And what is beginning to be revealed after these many centuries of silence, is that the ancient Greeks participated in an elaborate ritual that centered around the use of psychoactive substances. There is strong evidence now to suggest that one of those substances may have been ergot, containing levels of lysergic acid - a precursor to LSD.(7)
Another extremely important cultural element that was later introduced into the early Greek society was the wild and sensual god, Dionysus.(8) While most likely it's true the followers of Dionysus did introduce wine to the Greeks, and for this reason today he is known as the god of the vine. However, there is also good reason to believe that it wasn't just wine that was regarded as his sacrament. In many cases the wine may have only served as a convenient vehicle for more powerful psychoactive ingredients.(9) The wine then mixed with other mind-altering herbs was reverentially regarded as the life-blood of the god. And by participating in his sacrament one became filled with the power and ecstasy of god. It's precisely in this context that we come by our word "enthusiasm". The Greek Entheos (En-in + Theos-god) means to be possessed or inspired by a god.
When the worshippers of Dionysus took part in his ritual of "Holy Communion", they participated in a literal transformation of consciousness whereby each felt that he or she was in direct communication with a power greater than themselves. This direct and personal experience was extremely hard to compete with, causing later religious movements to use every means available, including propaganda and violence, to purge Dionysus and his followers from the culture.
Here in the Americas people have also used various psychoactive elements sacramentally. Probably the best known psychedelic plant revered among native Americans is Lophophora williamsii, the peyote cactus. It's known today in the Huichol tribe as Tatei Hikuri, our Great Grandmother Peyote.
Use of this cactus as a sacrament is widespread among many societies including the Huichal, Tarahumara, Cora, Kiowa and Commanche. Peyote rituals have been traditionally associated with rites of passage such as births and naming rituals for children, funerals and healing ceremonies.(10) The Native American Church however, uses peyote as a sacramental element in the same religious context as the Catholic Church uses the bread and wine in their sacrament of Communion.
The active ingredient in Lophophora is a chemical compound we've come to know as mescaline. Mescaline is also contained in the San Pedro cactus, which is also used as a sacrament among indigenous peoples of South America.
Another group of psychoactive elements used by people in the Americas was known to the Aztecs as Teonanacatl "the divine flesh". In this case, the flesh of the divine was a specific group of psychedelic mushrooms belonging to the genera Psilocybe, Stropharia and Panaeolus. Their active ingredients are now recognized as psilocybin and psilocine.
This particular group of mushrooms have had religious associations for a very long time. There are many statues surviving from the ancient Central and South American civilizations that indicate these mushrooms were revered as a totem or a divinity of great power. The ritual purpose of the sacred mushroom was to facilitate travel between the worlds, to communicate with the deities or ancestors, and to be used in healing the sick.
When looking back at the beginnings of the human species, it's clearly evident that humans to a large extent learned the use of edible and medicinal plants by carefully watching the animals living around them. Early human societies established sacred bonds with specific animals and plants. Many of these societies explored and developed the use of psychoactive substances in their ceremonies and rituals.
It's also increasingly evident that the various streams of cultural influences that went into forming our present global society, were in some way or other related to the use of psychedelic drugs. In recent years the flood of such information rising to the surface of our collective consciousness, has inspired many people to speculate that it just might be due to such influences, that a complex and evolving culture was possible in the first place. There will probably be an on-going discussion about these matters for a long time to come. But one thing that definitely stands out with extreme clarity, is the fact that a great many societies and cultures on every part of our planet have used psychoactive elements in a religious context, and held such ingredients as especially powerful and sacred.
The challenge that we are confronted with today is not how to eliminate such influences from our current culture as the knee-jerk response of the political machinery would have us believe, but more rationally, how do we integrate these extremely powerful elements back into our culture, so that they may have a positive and life-transforming influence. Isn't it strange that all we hear about is drug abuse, but nothing about drug use? It's as if appropriate and responsible behavior in regard to these substances, isn't even allowed into our collective consciousness or public dialogue. And so what we refuse to address as a society doesn't somehow magically disappear, but is driven underground where it becomes distorted, dysfunctional and pathological.
As means of an analogy, at a young age children should never be allowed to play with fire. Every society on earth shares this belief. And rightly so. But on the other hand, as the child reaches a certain level of understanding it is important that he or she is taught the properties of fire, its dangers as well as its benefits. And as these individuals then reach a certain level of maturity, they themselves will be able to responsibly use this dangerous yet beneficial element. This is part of becoming an intelligent and responsible adult.
Our society however, refuses to allow individuals to become responsible adults. Under our system of laws individuals are all treated as irresponsible children. Information is suppressed, and any real education about psychoactive substances is completely lacking. There is simply no healthy and appropriate context in which responsible drug use can find a place.
It's out of this cultural vacuum then, that I have long sought a spiritual context for the use of psychoactive substances. Having studied many cultures which have successfully integrated the use of these substances into their social fabric, I have found some similar areas of belief. And one such common area is the ancient concept of the Vision Quest.
Contrary to popular belief, this concept or practice isn't exclusively related to Native Americans, but can be found throughout the world. Various groups of aboriginal people still retain the Vision Quest as an important part of their culture. It has been speculated that the practice is as old as the human species itself. No one really knows for sure when, or even where the practice began.
In order to fully understand the meaning of the Vision Quest it is first necessary to understand the belief system from which it evolved. For example, if an indigenous person in the Amazon Basin was to witness for the first time the Christian ritual of Baptism, he or she wouldn't have a clue as to what was being done. Pouring water over a baby's head has no inherent significance whatsoever. In order to understand the ritual, one would have to understand the belief system, the mythological context in which the ceremony has meaning.
Now if we look closely at the cultures which once practiced or still practice the Vision Quest, we discover an underlying system of belief which gives it meaning; the belief in the Immanence of God: that the Divine is in Nature, and Nature is in the Divine. This is the original spiritual context from which the Vision Quest evolved. It not only gave the practice meaning, it also provided the direction for the Quest. This is a very important point, because ultimately what is found or discovered through the Quest, is to a large part determined by what is sought.
In the context of this spiritual belief where Nature is seen as a manifestation of Spirit, individuals didn't attempt to go beyond Nature or transcend Nature, but rather sought to establish themselves in a sacred bond with Nature through a direct and personal experience of the Mystery of the Natural World. Furthermore, it was also believed that only through this sacred bond with Nature one could gain access to other dimensions: the Dream Time; the Land of Enchantment; the Land Below the Waves or the realm of the Ancestors, etc.
This belief in the Immanence of the Divine served as a spiritual foundation for many cultures and religions, and was at one time found in all parts of the world. It can also be found existing in cultures as far back as 30,000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). The belief of Immanence was the predominant spiritual basis for all cultures which held the Goddess to be the supreme image of the Divine. The female was in fact the archetypal image of Nature. (Even today, Nature is universally regarded as "Mother Nature".) She united in herself the apparent opposites of light and dark, birth and death, mind and matter. And she reigned supreme over the religious landscape of the human mind and heart for well over 30,000 years. Bits and pieces of Her scriptures are left recorded in the ancient civilizations of Sumer, Babylon, Egypt and India.
Through the prehistoric traditions of the ancient Greeks in the temples of Demeter, Persephone and Dionysus we can also find the same theme of Immanence, serving as a solid foundation for later philosophical and religious development. The burning embers of this traditional belief have been kept alive right up until our present day by such individuals as the Hellenic Posidonius of Alamea in Syria (135-50 BCE), the Celtic philosopher Johannes Scotus Erigena (815-877), the German theologian Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), and the Dominican monk Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) who was burned at the stake in Rome because he declared all too loudly the ancient wisdom: "To the extent that one communicates with Nature, so one ascends to Divinity through Nature". (11)
It is very important to realize that it was precisely this deep spiritual understanding of Nature, that served as the metaphysical ground in which the practice of the Vision Quest grew. Spirituality was intimately bonded to Nature, the Earth and the physical body. All things were viewed as a sacred manifestation of the Spirit, and therefore all had inherent worth.
Within this spiritual context then, it was believed that each individual must set out to experience some unique aspect of the Mystery and Power of Spirit\Nature that only he or she was destined to find. The ultimate goal of such an adventure was always to return to one's community, bringing back those gifts which had been found. The Vision Quest was never an escape from the world or the community, but a means of ultimately serving the community. Each individual went out alone as a seeker. But once the vision was seen, the message heard or a truth revealed, the individual returned as the poet, the artist, the speaker, the builder, etc., a person ready to creatively express his or her unique gifts.
It is through this constant and continuing influx of creativity that the clan, the tribe or nation is able to flourish and prosper. If on the other hand, this creative stream is somehow impeded or interrupted, the community or the entire culture consequently becomes a Waste Land.
In our Western cultural heritage this concept of the Vision Quest came to full bloom in the marvelous thirteenth-century legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In almost every detail we can find in this legend, through mythic and archetypal symbols, a truly spiritual perspective as it uniquely manifested through the Western Psyche.
Unlike the Eastern perspectives in which we find a spiritual pyramid with the Divine at the top represented by the teacher or Guru and the disciples on the bottom, here we find the image of a circle - the Round Table where no one is considered "the master". Those who sit at this table are all equals, truly, a unique image among religious, political or any other organization.
Now it was within this company of equals that something was revealed to be lacking in the community. This led the knights to their Hero's Journey - The Quest for the Holy Grail.
In the symbolic image of the Grail, we find yet another important clue to our ancient spiritual theme of Divine Immanence. For the Grail is interpreted as a feminine symbol - a cup or bowl. In truth, it's the magic cauldron of old, from which all of creation was stirred into existence. It represents the Divine creative matrix which lies at the heart of all existence.
And just how do the knights begin their heroic Quest? The answer to this question is most important to our understanding of how different this spiritual journey is from any of the Eastern schools or Christian institutions. For the knights didn't go out on their Vision Quest as a group. This is definitely not a team effort. Each one went out separately as an individual. And where each one went, wasn't determined by the king or some external authority. No top down decision making here. But rather, each knight had to decide for himself the direction of his journey.
Now what is particularly relative to the timeless theme of Immanence is that each knight, independently of all the others decides to begin his search for the Grail in the forest. They didn't hang around the castle looking for clues; they didn't go to church seeking answers. They all left "civilized" life entirely and went into the forest. Why? Because the foundation for their spiritual life was the understanding that Nature is the Spirit made manifest. So instinctively they all returned to Nature to discover something deeper about themselves.
What is perhaps even more profound however, unlike the spiritual seekers of the Eastern traditions, once they got to the forest they each did something very strange indeed. They each "entered into the forest, at one point and another, there where they saw it to be the thickest, all in those places where they found no way or path . . ." (12)
It's precisely here, that we discover the very essence of the Vision Quest: a pathless journey into the Great Mystery to glimpse the Creative Power which finds its expression through all of Nature.
The proper setting is now in place for a real adventure to begin. If one is following a path one merely needs enough common sense to stay on the path. But here, in the utter wilderness without a way or path, our deepest instincts suddenly become awake. For around the next big tree something terrible might be waiting; but then again, we just might discover something absolutely delightful, something magical. For we have now entered a place of magic, a sacred place of real power. And it's precisely in just such a place, that we find the Grail - a special manifestation of Divine Power: an event or occasion which evokes a deep sense of awe, wonder and mystery.
Many cultures around the world have a particular word for this special kind of Power. The Melanesians called it Mana, the Dakotan tribes called it Wakan, The Iroquoian peoples - Orenda, Algonquian - Manitu, the Japanese - Kami and the ancient Romans - Numen. It's from this Latin word, Numen that we get our English "Numinous", which can be defined as "the mystery of a presence and the presence of a mystery".
In his seminal work The Idea of the Holy, Rudolf Ott states that the recognition of the Numinous Event is the psychological basis of all religions. For as we come face to face with the Mystery of the Numinous, we come to experience the power and presence of the Spirit. In The Gnostic Gospel According to Thomas we discover Jesus clearly expressing this very idea: "The Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it." "Split a piece of wood, I am there; lift up the stone and you will find Me there".(13) This idea was also eloquently expressed in the twelfth-century Hermetic maxim: "God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere;"(14) and later by the German mystic Meister Eckhart: "God is in all things, as being, as activity, as power."(15) What has to be understood here, is that unless and until one personally experiences this Truth for oneself, it will only remain someone else's theory.
So it's at this important juncture then, that people all over the world and in all times, sought the aid of various rituals and sacraments to facilitate their personal encounter with the Numinous. This in fact is the underlying intention in all religious rituals no matter where or when they are to be found. Some of these sacramental acts or rituals include solitude, fasting, yoga, prayer, music, dancing, art and sex.
And as we've previously seen in this article, many societies throughout history and even before written history, have also employed psychoactive substances in this context, many times using these powerful substances in conjunction with one or more of the other methods.
It's appropriate here to notice, that these sacramental substances containing special power, have come to be known in our current culture as "psychedelic". This word is actually the combination of two Greek words: Psyche meaning soul; and Delos meaning clear or visible. So properly defined, a psychedelic substance is that which allows one to clearly perceive the soul.
In my own spiritual journey I've explored many different means and methods. However, my particular preference for the past 29 years has been daily yogic meditation. It was from this solid foundation then, that I began some 10 years ago to seriously explore the usefulness of incorporating various psychedelic substances into my spiritual practice. The results of this exploration has motivated me to write this book.
Even though I've explored the use of a wide variety of psychoactive substances in a sacramental context, my personal preference remains with Cannabis for a number of reasons.
If one is inclined to incorporate these powerful substances into one's life on an on-going basis, I firmly believe in choosing one that has very few side effects, physical or otherwise. Some of these substances are definitely hard for the body - especially the liver - to deal with. We're not trying to gain something spiritual here, by sacrificing the body. To me that would be a contradiction.
So from this point of view, Cannabis is a very good choice. In fact, if used in the context I'm recommending, Cannabis can have a beneficial and healing effect on the body as well as the mind. If treated with proper respect it's a gentle plant, that allows the mind to relax while the emotions experience a mild euphoria.
We will go into some of the other beneficial effects later on. For now I would like to point out that the principle active ingredient in Cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC ) is not a true hallucinogen. People do not hallucinate while experiencing the effects of this psychedelic. It does however enhances sensory perceptions, and alters one's perception of time and space to varying degrees. These mind altering effects however, are only short term. In our society with its innumerable demands, this is definitely convenient. Contrary to a number of other powerful psychedelics, with Cannabis one can safely return to work the next day and perform with competence.
Another reason why I favor Cannabis over many other substances, is because it's relatively easy to get. Other psychedelics are not only harder to come by, but the quality is many times questionable once you do get them.
Historically Cannabis has been found in almost all parts of the world. Besides being grown in the Americas, it's also been found in abundance in Persia, Turkey, China, India and in Africa. In 1855 it was estimated that world-wide almost 300 million people consumed Cannabis in one form or another.(16) This represents a huge percentage of the earth's population at that time.
Throughout history, Cannabis or hemp has had a wide variety of uses. One of the oldest archaeological relics in existence is a piece of cloth made from hemp, found at Catal Huyuk dated about 8,000 B.C.E. The oldest pharmacopoeia, the Pen-Ts'ao Ching, which was complied in China, from ancient fragments existing about 2,3000 B.C.E., mentions hemp as a useful medicine.(17) The historian Diodorus Siculus reported that the women of ancient Egypt used Cannabis as a medicine to relieve sorrow and bad humor.(18) The Ayurvedic physicians of India have long used Cannabis to treat dozens of diseases and medical problems including headaches, menstrual pains, anemia, gout and poor appetite. I have also found Cannabis mentioned in the Indian scripture of the Atharva Veda where its use is considered to "preserve one from disease . . . and prolong the years we have to live".(19)
The ancient Aryans of India who called Cannabis "bhang", indirectly contributed to the naming of the modern Indian state of Bengal. The name Bengal literally means "bhang land". Bangladesh on the other hand means "bhang land people". The people in this area of India have had a long history of using Cannabis to make excellent cloth and medicine for which they were famous.
They also used Cannabis however, in their worship of the deity Shiva. In one of the Tantric Scriptures we find this revealing statement: "Intoxicating drink (containing bhang) is consumed in order to liberate oneself, and that those who do so, in dominating their mental faculties and following the law of Shiva (yoga) - are to be likened to immortals on earth."(20)
In this same scripture we also find a prayer or mantra that is said before one consumes the sacred herb: "Bhava na sana hridayam", which means: "may this sana (Sanskrit for Cannabis) be a blessing to my heart."
So here we find an ancient religious tradition that has long used and still uses to this day, Cannabis in a sacramental context. It's been through this particular tradition of Tantra Yoga, that I first became inspired to explore the potential use of Cannabis in my own spiritual practice.
Now I will reveal something for those that have the ears to hear. For literally thousands of years within shamanic traditions, secret societies and mystic cults, cannabis has been used in conjunction with certain breathing techniques to add power and depth to the experience. The yogic pranayama techniques (as explained in my work on Vamacara Tantra) provide a powerful engine as it were, to drive the vehicle of the psychoactive substance, taking the mind to new and greater levels of awareness.
Over the course of some ten years, my periodic experience with Cannabis in conjunction with solitude, fasting and daily yogic meditation has led me through a process whereby a specific pattern of action or ritual began to evolve. The evolution of this ritual was a slow process, and one that didn't solely originate out of the rational, linear mind. But rather, almost unconsciously I began to gravitate to those conditions and actions that would more powerfully facilitate a transformation of consciousness. I didn't have some preconceived idea or formula to follow. I simply discovered through trial and error what conditions and actions added power and depth to my experience. And so eventually the beginnings of a ritual came to evolve out of this process.
Before we go into the ritualistic use of Cannabis in more detail, I would first like to point out that the metaphysical ground from which it evolved was the concept of the Vision Quest. And one of the first things I discovered in this regard, was that the most appropriate place for the use of Cannabis was in some secluded spot out in Nature: in the forest; high in the mountains; out in the desert; down by the sea, river or lake, etc.. It has been my experience that to remove one's self from your usual surroundings is very important. In this process you will be opening yourself up to the greater reality found in Nature, which in itself can have a profound healing effect. This is not the time for TV or socializing. It's a call to solitude.
In this regard, I find it interesting that Ronald Siegal a psychopharmacologist at UCLA's school of Medicine discovered in his research with chimpanzees, that animals which usually helped sick or wounded members of their group, avoided or even chased away chimps that were intoxicated. The chimpanzees that were intoxicated, usually sought out secluded areas until their usual state of consciousness returned.(21)
I also found that in a natural and secluded setting, feelings of paranoia are completely eliminated. In fact, in the light of Siegal's findings, if one is feeling uncomfortable or frightened then you haven't found the appropriate setting, a place not only where you can feel safe and protected, but a place where you can begin to sense the numinous, the mysterious power of Nature. You have to open yourself up to the call of some particular place of power. Several times I've walked over a mile before I found this special place.
If you remember, the Knights in their Quest for the Grail all entered the forest where they found it to be the thickest, and where there was no path. Each had to find their own way. What is even more revealing is that Parzival, who eventually finds the Grail, upon entering the depths of the forest let the reins of his horse drop, so that the horse was free to go wherever he wished. This is exactly what one must do to find his or her own place of power: drop the reins of the rational, linear mind just enough to allow the instinctual impulses to guide you.
Finding the Sacred Place of Power is one of the foundation stones of the initiatory experience. Once you find your special Place you will be able through the ritual, to deeply synchronize or resonate with the specific energy or energies of this location.
If on the other hand the weather does not permit you to be outside, than the next best choice would be to set up a special place within your home, a corner of the room reserved for meditation or the construction of a simple altar. In the Tantric Yoga tradition there is a whole science regarding the creation of Sacred Space in terms of the Mandala or Yantra. I have spent many years researching this subject and I have found that by far the oldest geometrical symbol of power is the triangle. Triangular designs have been found in or outside caves that had been occupied by humans more than 30,000 years ago.
The triangle was known universally as the symbol of Divine Creative Power associated with the female pubic region, the vulva or vagina. In ancient cultures all over the world this geometrical structure was held to represent the form of the Goddess, specifically the universal womb, the matrix of generation and the source of all Life.
It has recently been discovered by archeologist that in the hill country of Central America, women of the surviving Mayan culture continue their ancient tradition of arranging three large stones in the form of a triangle to contain their cooking fires.
In modern day India, Tantric priests who still perform the ancient fire sacrifice always use a triangular fire pit; while numerous Tantric scriptures portray the Divine Feminine as Trikonabhidha-Shakti - a triangle in which the apex is downward.
In what has been considered an extremely esoteric scripture of Tantric Yoga, the Paduka-Pancaka, I discovered a detailed description of the triangle of Shakti called the KamaKala which has been defined as The Manifestation of Creative Desire.(22)
In my exploration with this Sacred Space of Power I was led in a rather strange and indirect way over the course of no less than 9 years to my current level of understanding. It started in 1988 with a detailed study of the Paduka-Pancaka. This obscure Sanskrit scripture held a particular fascination for me. But after reading it several times and taking extensive notes, the meaning behind the words still escaped me. So I put it on a shelf and pretty much forgot about it.
Years later I decided to further explore the shamanic context of the Vision Quest. This was primarily done in rather remote areas of wilderness. And one day while sitting in a Place of Power I had found near a river, I was drawn to an unusual looking stone that seemed to emanate a particularly strong attraction for me. Consciously, I didn't have any plans for it. I just knew that I should take it home, even if it meant carrying its more than 10 pounds a quarter mile back to my car.
Over the next few years the same thing happened with two other stones at different sites and at different times, so that eventually I had three rather large stones sitting in my bedroom. Through their association with previous Vision Quests, I felt the stones somehow contained a special power for me. I also felt they might at least contain some of the energy from the Places of Power in which I had found them.
My Power Stones however remained in my bedroom gathering dust, until one day I read a book published in 1993 titled: Maya Cosmos, Three Thousand Years On The Shaman's Path. This masterpiece of scholarship was written by two outstanding archeologists and recognized experts on the Mayan culture, David Freidel and Linda Schele. Anyone with more than a passing fascination about the Mayan culture will find this work to be absolutely invaluable. The first time I saw the book I was in a bookstore to pick up another volume that I had ordered on a completely different subject. The Maya Cosmos caught my eye and I began reading pages at random. I was completely captivated. Two and a half hours later I bought the book, as well as the one I originally went to pick up.
One of the things that particularly interested me was how the Mayan shaman considered "the first act of the gods was to create the hearth at the center of the universe where the first fire of Creation could be started."(23) The shaman believed that the hearth at the center of the universe was a specific place in the night sky, located as a triangle of stars in the constellation of Orion. These three stars designated the area called the "First-Three-Stone-Place" and served as a symbolic prototype for the hearthstones used in Mayan homes for over three thousand years.
In a ritualistic replication of this celestial hearth of Creation, the Mayan women construct their cooking hearth using three stones arranged in the same triangular form as found in the night sky. Just as the three stars/stones of Creation centered the Cosmos, the hearthstones of the cooking fire established the center of the home. I felt a tremendous excitement, as knew I was definitely onto something here. * * * Illustrations * * *
After reading this amazing piece of information I immediately went home and dove back into the Paduka-Pancaka to review the KamaKala. Talk about mind blowing! Here were two supposedly independent belief systems on opposite sides of the Earth describing the very same thing. The Sacred Triangle of the KamaKala is described as "the abode of Shakti, She who gives birth to the universe". The KamaKala is considered to be the "Yoni Pithas": the Sacred Space where Creation has its origin. Could this simply be a coincidence?
At the next New Moon which happened to be just before the Autumnal Equinox, I was consciously moved by the ancient shamanic practice "to replicate the conditions that existed at the beginning of the world." On my living room floor I constructed the triangular mandala of the KamaKala using my special Stones of Power and three candles. According to the instructions of the Tantric text, I placed the stones, each with its corresponding candle, in a large triangle with the apex pointing toward the South. One stone/candle is placed in the Northeast representing the Moon and the faculties of Intuition. The remaining stone/candle is placed in the Northwest representing the Sun and the faculties of the Intellect. The apex stone/candle set in the South represents the union of the other two, the union of the Sun and Moon, the Intellect and Intuition, the Male and the Female. It is this union of all three points that metaphorically symbolizes the Manifestation of Creative Desire.
At this particular time I was not in possession of Cannabis or any other psychoactive substance, nor had I been for nearly 6 months. So I can't really attribute the subsequent events to any help in that regard. I had been fasting for several days and had spent considerable time in yogic meditation.
On this occasion almost as if in a dream state, I entered the Sacred Space of the KamaKala in an ancient spiritual practice that is still done today at certain temples in India. Very slowly I walked around the triangle of stones three times in a counter-clockwise direction. As I completed the last of the three circumambulations, I lit the three candles. I then entered the structure between the two stones in the North. Offering the smoke of sage to the four directions, I sat down in the middle of the triangle facing the apex stone/flame in the South. I then closed my eyes in meditation.
After about an hour or so I was moved to tears with overwhelming emotions of awe and humility, as I began to be flooded with vivid memories of a dream/vision I had 9 years earlier, in which I had been transported into a state of ecstasy.
I now found myself with tears streaming down my face repeating out loud "Parampara . . . Parampara . . ."
As I got up to leave the KamaKala, I realized this was beyond my little intellect to rationally figure out. I was left with no other choice than to accept the whole experience as Shamans all over the planet have always understood it: when Sacred Time and Sacred Space intersect - a doorway opens between dimensions of Reality.
I then left the Sacred Space as I had come in - between the two stones in the North. I moved slowly now in a clockwise direction circling the triangle three times. On the last of these circumambulations I blew out the candles.
Several weeks later, while reading a book titled The Earth Mother by Pupul Jayakar, I discovered to my utter amazement the word Parampara, which means "time without beginning". At this point chills where going up and down my spine as I began to realize what I had experienced: the KamaKala Mandala is indeed a doorway to Parampara: "Time Without Beginning".
Further on in the book, the author writes about the KamaKala and its ancient origins in India:
"In a recent discovery at an upper Paleolithic shrine in the Siddhi district of Madhya Pradesh, a group of archaeologists came upon a circular platform of sandstone. At the center of this platform was a fragment of a natural, ferruginous stone with triangular laminations, the color of which ranged from a light yellowish-red to a dark reddish-brown. Additional fragments of the stone where found lying around, and when the fragments were put together, the stone took a triangular form. It appears that the original stone had been placed at the center of the circular platform. The dating of these Paleolithic finds is expected to be 10,000 to 8,000 BC."(24)
If this dating is correct, it certainly makes this the oldest shrine to be found anywhere in the world.
I would like to mention here that the first time I performed this ritual within the KamaKala, I did so with a specific intention in mind. I had been puzzling over a certain life-changing situation for more than two years. I reasoned that if I really had discovered something of significance, then it should be also practical; I should receive some kind of help here. The answer I received was that I would find a resolution to the situation within three months time. To my surprise, that is exactly what happened.
Since the first time I constructed the Sacred Space of the KamaKala I have continued its exploration, with and without the ritualistic use of Cannabis. And each time I'm continually awe-struck by what I find. The KamaKala is the rediscovery of an ancient portal, a "Star-gate" to other dimensions of Reality. The information as to its construction was locked in the cryptic language of the Tantric scriptures of India, while the key to unlocking this code was preserved in the rituals of the Maya Indians in Central America. But as if this wasn't amazing enough, there is also an Egyptian connection to all this.
In 1994 a book was published with the title: The Orion Mystery, Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids, written by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert. This book is not another New Age metaphysical bedtime story. Robert Bauval is a civil engineer born in Egypt. And he has turned the peaceful world of Egyptology completely upside down with his discoveries. Explaining in great detail he shows beyond any doubt, how the three primary pyramids of Giza along with several others, were intentionally built to replicate on the ground, the position of certain stars in the constellation of Orion.
The main focus of this magnificent building project however, lies in the critical position of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Robert Bauval contends that the Great Pyramid symbolically represents on the Earth, the star Alnitak which is located in what has been euphemistically called the belt of Orion (originally it was considered to be his penis).
Within the ancient Egyptian Cosmology the central concern was the resurrection and rebirth of the king. It is no coincidence then, that we find within the "king's chamber" in the Great Pyramid a shaft cut through the stones to the outside which was perfectly aligned with the star Alnitak. It was believed that this shaft would direct the dead king's soul to the auspicious place of his rebirth in the constellation of Orion.
Now what is particularly amazing to me, is that this very star, Alnitak, is also associated with the rebirth of the Mayan king in Central America. In fact, it represents the apex star/stone of the celestial triangle the Mayans believed was the Source of Creation, called The First-Three-Stone-Place. In the Mayan writings the dead king is pictured as riding in a boat across the sky to this specific area to be reborn. The exact same picture is found in Egypt among the Pyramid Texts of 2,300 B.C.E.
I found many other parallels between the two cultures as well, but the main point I'd like to make here is that in both cultures, the constellation of Orion is associated with resurrection and rebirth. And in both cultures the focus seems to be on Alnitak, as it symbolically represents the union of male and female energies.
The line/belt of three stars in Orion represents the penis, culminating with the star Alnitak. Below this star are two other bright stars Saiph and Rigel, which form the base of the feminine triangle with its apex at Alnitak. As we can see in this image, Alnitak represents both the tip of the penis and the opening of the vagina as they join.
Now when the people of these ancient cultures gazed up into the night sky and saw this particular group of stars, they actually perceived a celestial vision of How Creation Began, as well as a perfect archetype for the origins of their own life. Truly, their scriptures could be read in the stars.
Now when considering all of the foregoing and applying it to our understanding of the KamaKala, we can begin to unlock the real mystery as to its importance in the Tantric scriptures. For the KamaKala represents exactly the same constellation of stars that were held in such reverence by the Egyptian and the Mayan civilizations. The three Bindus or points of light that form the Sacred Triangle of the Goddess, "the Abode of Shakti", are none other than the stars Saiph, Rigel and Alnitak. And when constructing this Sacred Space on the ground, one is using the three stones and candles to symbolically represent these stars.
With the construction of the KamaKala, in a true Shamanic sense, it is done on Earth as it is in Heaven, and thereby "replicates the conditions that existed at the beginning of the World." This has been the guiding principle for the construction of Sacred Space on this planet, probably for as long as human beings have lived here. Please keep this in mind - if you choose to enter this ancient Star-gate. * * * Illustrations * * *
A very important aspect of the initiatory experience and the Vision Quest is that of entering into it at the Sacred Time. When reviewing the rituals of all the traditional peoples of the world, we find one thing they have in common: they all believe that just as sanctity or power is increased by the separation and reservation of location in space, so it can also be stored by limitation in time to certain occasions.(25) To designate these periodic occasions, they all follow the cycles of Nature in some way, whether they be solar, lunar, or seasonal cycles.
Sacred Time is then measured by the rhythms of Nature, and is far more important than the clock of the everyday world of work and entertainment. Sacred Time is when one leaves the mundane world to go into the Sacred Place. You may want to experiment with the various cycles of Nature for yourself. Observing the solstices and equinoxes is very beneficial in this regard.
You also might consider observing the Wiccan feast days, or Sabbats. These four major Sabbats celebrate the Earth's agricultural cycles of seedtime, growth, harvest and rest. Respectively they are Imboc, Beltane, Lamas and Samhain.
Imboc (February 1) is a major Sabbat, which is also called the Feast of Candles in recognition that light is returning to the Earth. This day celebrates the first stirring of Spring and the sprouting of seeds under the ground, soon to show the resurrection of green life everywhere.
Beltane (May 1) is another major Sabbat. It is also known as May Day. It celebrates the joy of fertility in all its wonderful forms. Traditionally it was a festival of flowers, which included dancing around a tree or "maypole" as a symbol of fertility. This was also one occasion where marriage vows were temporarily suspended.
Lamas is celebrated on August 1 which marks the feast of ripening fruits and grains, when everything comes to fruition and promises great abundance.
The next major Sabbat of the year is Samhain (pronounced "soe-en"). This festival is celebrated on October 31 when all that has flowered and bore fruit is now dying. The veil between the living and the dead grows thin, and communication between the two worlds is most easily accomplished. This was the original intention of the celebration we call Halloween. This is also the Wiccan New Year's festival, which embodies the faith and intuition that in the spiral dance of Life, death is not the end - only a transformation.
I have observed these Sacred Times of the year through ritual, meditation and sometimes the sacramental use of Cannabis. And I have found them all to be wonderful ways to celebrate Sacred Time. In the future I believe our culture will once again begin to honor the rhythm of the Seasons, and observe these transitional points in the Natural cycle. For they do indeed release power and insight to those able to tune in.
Over the course of some 10 years of studying natural cycles and the concept of Sacred Time, I have gradually come to recognize the power and importance of one cycle above all others: the magic of the Moon as she dances her way across the sky, shape-shifting as she goes.
In the long evolution of humanity's various concepts of time, the Moon is the very Mother which gave them birth. For it was the Moon originally that determined the measurement of our years, months and weeks. The exact observance of the Moon's phases was very important, for they indicated the precise dates and times of all religious observances. In this regard the Moon continues to determine feast days and holidays in almost all cultures of the Earth. Easter being a good example of this, calculated to fall on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox.
I have found that at the time of the New and Full Moon there is definitely some kind of corresponding transition in human consciousness, and that this natural rhythm is particularly suited to mark the advent of Sacred Time.
If the use of Cannabis is limited to only the time of New and Full Moon, the question of abuse of this sacred plant is completely eliminated. By following this pattern, the mind is allowed to establish a rhythm as natural as the tides of the sea. The mental focus will gradually shift back and forth in its perspective to maximize both the intellectual and intuitive aspects of consciousness.
If on the other hand, one begins to use Cannabis more frequently, the body is not allowed enough time to clear the intoxicating THC from the system, which results in the mental focus to become "stuck" as it were. In other words, one remains "high", without coming down, without adequately "grounding" or allowing the psychedelic experience to become integrated into the conscious rational mind. It's like expecting the sea to always remain at high tide, or the Moon to always remain Full. What is most significant here, isn't one point or the other in the cycle, a high or a low, but the shifting between the two extremes. The emphasis is not on one particular static state of consciousness, but on the dynamic process of integration.
This is a very important point here, and it's not merely academic. If one goes into the wilderness of the Mind in Quest of a Vision, in order for that Vision to be honored and expressed in one's life it has to be sufficiently integrated back into the rational, analytical mind. If the Vision isn't integrated, the principle of polarity will ultimately prevail, and that which had a potential for re-generation can then become an influence of de-generation.
It's out of a deep respect for this principle that every society that's ever used psychoactive substances in a religious context, has also established definite rules regarding their use. All these societies have recognized through hundreds and even thousands of years of experience, that the creative power which is the very life-blood of a culture can very well become its own destruction - if abused.
I'm not trying to lay down any specific rules here, but rather trying to explain the underlying principle for such guidelines. Ultimately, each person will have to discover for themselves what constitutes appropriate use.
It has been my experience that the cycle of the Moon can serve as an aid in this regard, and is a wonderful way to synchronize one's life with the rhythms of Nature. Even without using psychedelics, I still ritualistically observe the New and Full Moons. For I have come to realize that the tides of the sea and all Life on the planet, are influenced by this Goddess of the night.
It's not without good reason that at one time, every culture on Earth looked to the Moon for guidance and inspiration. By following the steps of her dance, you too may discover her magic, the rhythms of the seasons, the language of the wind, the enchantment of the sea. By observing her Sacred Times of transition one begins to become more consciously aware of the wonderful harmony of Nature, the infinite and expanding kaleidoscope of interconnecting associations, and the underlying synchronicities of all experience.
The lunar cycle then, can be seen as a convenient clock. With all the wisdom of Nature herself, the Moon indicates the opportunity for the Vision Quest, the journey to the Sacred Place. Once the Time and Place have been appropriately determined in this way, sometimes before I enter the Sacred Space I remove all my clothing. This is an ancient ritualistic gesture that symbolizes the removal of all social conditioning, all self-protective masks of decorum and disguise. In the ancient Sumerian civilization, if one entered the Temple clothed it was considered a gross profanity. The condition of nakedness is a symbolic return to the condition of our birth. One came from our mother naked, and now in the Quest we return in a gesture of humility to the womb of the Natural World, to seek a Vision of that Creative Power that brought all Life into existence.
Before entering the KamaKala I slowly, almost as if in "slow- motion", circle the Sacred Space in a counter-clockwise direction three times. I light the candles on the third pass. I then enter the triangle from the North. Once at the center of the Sacred Space I offer the smoke of burning sage or some other incense as a blessing to the four directions. This offering is like a key inserted into a locked door. By turning it, one opens the door between the Worlds.
I then pick up the Sacred Pipe. While fixing my attention within the voidness of the bowl, I visualize and consider this space as being at the center of my heart. Then holding the bowl of the Pipe over the smoke of the incense or sage, I let the smoke raise through the Pipe, coming out the stem which is held towards the Sky. Through this gesture the Pipe becomes the vehicle through which the blessings of the Earth are offered to the Sky. In this manner the Great Spirit can be seen to be the first to smoke the Pipe, and in this way the Pipe is purified and made Sacred.
After this is done, I hold the Sacred Pipe up to the four directions, beginning in the East the place where the new day beginnings, and ask that the Powers of the Four Directions come into the Pipe.(26)
From this point on, one is moving into uncharted waters. You are calling on the Power of the Numinous to reveal itself as "the mystery of a presence and the presence of a mystery". And it is precisely at this point here, where the theory begins to become a Reality, and not just some other "thing" you think about, but something you experience.
After about 10 to 15 minutes of meditation and when I feel the time is right, I address the Sacred Herb through the prayer/mantra: "Bhava na sana hridayam" ("May this Cannabis be a blessing to my heart"). With this, I apply the fire of transformation and inhale the sanctifying smoke.
How much one should take is simply too subjective for anyone to decide for another. Each individual has to determine for oneself what constitutes enough.
If we have observed the rhythms of the Sacred Time and moved into the center of our Place of Power, and done the ritual with a good heart, our Quest will not fail. The magic of the numinous will be all around us and within us. The veils of time and space will in various ways be lifted. And the mysterious power animating and flowing through all things will begin to show itself, and speak to us in many ways; for the Natural World is the World of the Living, the Intelligent and the Powerful. The sacrament, the ritual, the initiatory experience then, provides the opportunity to reveal this Truth to us.
For those who have had the courage to make this journey and consequently found something of value, they are then required to return to their communities and share their vision, their revelation in some way. This is done primarily through integrating the message into your life, and secondarily by using your creative talents and gifts to express the Truth you have found.
The journey of the Vision Quest is a journey in consciousness back to the Intelligent and Creative Power of Nature. Consequently, since we are all inherently part of the Natural World, we also reconnect with that same Intelligence and Power within ourselves.
One of the reasons we undertake this journey in Consciousness is for the redemption of the Waste Land. The Waste Land is a society, culture or individual life where the sense of the Sacred is no longer felt or recognized, where the Natural World is no longer valued for itself, where Creativity is no longer expressed, where individual Freedom is no longer allowed. It's a land where the nurturing streams of Love are no longer flowing.
Some people who live in the Waste Land might try to dismiss or even condemn the Vision Quest as merely "Nature Worship". But if we look at the original meaning of the word "worship", we find that it means to recognize an object, person, place or event as having inherent worth or particular value; to find something deserving great respect and honor.
In this context then, we can clearly see how human beings all over the planet are now in fact being appropriately called to "Worship Nature". For if we as a species don't soon begin to find some sense of Sacred Worth in Nature, the quality of life for our species will completely degenerate. It's precisely because people do not "Worship Nature", that thousands of plant and animal species have disappeared forever, and huge and ever growing areas of once fertile land are rapidly becoming barren deserts. That which we no longer value will be taken from us; and The Waste Land will increasingly become our collective reality.
The fact that this society even tries to condemn this particular view of Nature, reveals a deep pathology. We all preach the sermon of Religious Freedom. It's even Constitutionally recognized as one of our unalienable rights. But if one truly believes in a religious point of view fundamentally different than what the majority holds as "The One True Way", then collectively this society not only condemns that person, but in various ways seeks to punish the individual as well. In 1970 I was put in a cage like some dangerous animal because I informed the Federal Government, that I couldn't kill other human beings for something as vague and abstract as "our national interests", and that as a matter of conscience I couldn't support their actions in Viet Nam.
I now find it just as insane that this same Government, thinks it has the right to put tens of thousands of its citizens in cages for simply growing a plant that all serious scientific studies have not only declared harmless, but even beneficial. May we all live to see the day, when even these people shall be healed.
Before I conclude, I would like to mention something that I think is very important. Every society in the world shares a deep concern for its children. We all know even beyond the rational level of awareness, that if our culture or way of life is to continue, certain values and actions must be passed on and mastered by the next generation.
Mastering the complex grammatical forms of language is one of the first of these basic requirements. And it is now understood that learning a language is a stage-specific process. In other words, in the development of the brain there is a certain stage where learning a language is very easy. It's the "window of opportunity" specifically designed for language. If a language is not offered to the baby at this critical stage of development, he or she will learn it with much more difficulty later on. In fact, the later it's taught the more difficult it becomes. So much so, that if a child has received absolutely no human language imprint before this "window of opportunity" closes, the chances that the child will ever speak a language are very few.
Just as learning a language is stage-specific in the child's development, there are other process that are as well. Probably the most dramatic and certainly the most visible is puberty. Puberty is a decisive process of hormonal and emotional adjustments whereby the biological child becomes an adult. It's a fantastic process and we're only now beginning to understand the depth and magnitude of this transformation.
If we keep in mind these stage-specific biological examples and expand them just a bit to include psychological development as well, then we can begin to see childhood itself as a stage-specific process. The newborn baby can then be seen as making an effort at focusing the mind in physical reality. At first, the baby does so for only short periods with the majority of time spent in another level of awareness we call sleep. As the baby gets older he or she spends increasing amounts of time focused in waking reality, and begins to manipulate various objects in his or her environment. Through this slow process the baby eventually learns the basic ground rules for this level of reality.
As the child matures it continues this same process only in more subtle ways. The individual however is still engaged in the important program of tuning into this frequency of reality, and learning to manipulate objects, information and events within it. He or she is consequently developing the necessary skills to effectively support themselves as an independent and mature adult later on.
Now we could say without exaggeration, this whole period of "childhood" is a stage-specific process of maturation that is crucial to the future of the adult human being. If this is so, then it seems obvious that anything that might impede or retard this process should be avoided. For as the mind and body are naturally programmed to develop at certain stages, the introduction of drugs or even psychedelic substances can unnecessarily complicate, confuse and even impede this natural stage-specific development.
With our current level of understanding of how the mind/body work, we simply don't know enough to definitely say what detrimental effects long term use of Cannabis might have on the development of children. However as a parent of two beautiful adolescent girls, I definitely would like them to wait until the age of 18 before considering the use of Cannabis or any other psychoactive substance.
I also realize that each individual matures at a different rate, so when we begin talking about age limits I realize I'm using a generalization. On the other hand, I also feel that if there are any mistakes to be made in this regard, I would much sooner make them on the side of caution.
If a person has finished high school and is 18 years of age, I can see no objection if he or she wants to explore the sacramental use of Cannabis as I have outlined. After 18 years of constant acculturation and intense left brain programming, they are more than adequately equipped to step outside the mainstream culture and begin the adventure of the Vision Quest, the Quest within themselves for those creative values by which the Waste Land is redeemed. Goddess knows - we need their help.
* * * * * * * *
(1) Newsweek, Feb. 3, 1992: "How Wild Animals Use Nature's Medicine Chest", Sharon Begley, Elizabeth Ann Leonard.
(2) Omni, March '89: "Jungle Revelers", Ronald K. Siegal.
(3) Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell. Arkana. p.334-47.
(4) The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross, John M. Allegro.
(5) Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, R. Gordon Wasson.
(6) Aramaic Ritual Texts from Persepolis, Raymond A. Bowman. University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications Vol.XCI, p.7.
(7) The Road to Eleusis, R.Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann and Carl A.P. Ruck, 1978.
(8) Shiva & Dionysus, Alain Danielou, Trans. by K.F. Hurry. Inner Traditions Intn. 1984.
(9) The Road to Eleusis, p.40-2.
(10) Green Egg, vol.28,1995: "Psychoactive Magic; Ritual use of Hallucinogens."
(11) The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, Giordano Bruno. Translated by Arthur D. Imerti, Rutgers U. Press 1964.
(12) Creative Mythology, Joseph Campbell. Arkana. p.540.
(13) The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, General Editor. "The Gospel of Thomas": v.113 and v.77.
(14) Creative Mythology, Joseph Campbell. Arkana. p.31.
(15) Occidental Mythology, Joseph Campbell. Penguin Books. p.510.
(16) Plant Intoxicants, Baron Ernst von Bibra. p.150.
(17) The Great Book of Hemp, Rowan Robinson, Park Street Press.
(18) Plant Intoxicants, Baron Ernst von Bibra. p.150.
(19) Atharva-Veda, Book II, Hymn IV; Book XI, Hymn VI.
(20) The Mahanirvana Tantra (XI,105-8). Quoted in Shiva & Dionysus by Alain Danielou.
(21) Omni, March'89: "Jungle Revelers", Ronald K. Siegal.
(22) Paduka-Pancaka, The Fivefold Footstool. Trans. Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon) in The Serpent Power, The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. Dover Publications, Inc. New York.1974.
(23) Maya Cosmos, Three Thousand Years On The Shaman's Path, David Feidel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker. William Morrow and Company, New York. 1993. p.79.
(24) The Earth Mother: Legends, Ritual Arts, and Goddesses of India, Pupul Jayakar. Harper & Row, San Francisco 1990. Page 22.
(25) The Gate of Horn: A study of the religious conceptions of the Stone Age, and their influence upon European Thought, G.R. Levy. Faber Limited, London 1948. p.43.
(26) The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, Recorded & Edited by Joseph Epes Brown. MJF Books, New York. This work has been very influential in developing my attitude regarding the use of the Pipe.
Re: The Sacramental Use Of Cannabis Sativa
Man, this is a great article. I am only half way though, but it is very interesting and informative. Nice Find :-)