We are supposed to have freedom of religion in the West, but in practice this only applies to certain favoured religions, in particular Abrahamism and its derivatives. Other religious traditions, particularly those that employ psychoactives as part of their rituals, are effectively discriminated against by the War on Drugs. This article will discuss the established tradition of cannabis use as a religious and spiritual sacrament.
The Indo-European peoples have been using cannabis as a religious and spiritual sacrament for thousands of years.
Cannabis is mentioned in Indian texts going back to 1,000 B.C., primarily for its use as a medicine, but also for its purported ability to facilitate contact with the divine. There is an age-old tradition in India of weed-smoking holy men known as sadhus. These are ascetics who have renounced worldly wealth and pleasure, and who use cannabis to get into touch with Shiva. Among sadhus, use of cannabis is especially popular when meditating, for the moments of tranquillity and serenity that it is capable of bringing.
The Nepalese smoke it publicly and ceremonially during the festival of Maha Shivaratri. The enlightenment brought about from the cannabis high is said to represent the coming-to-awareness of the first guru in the world. It is said that it was at this moment that the consciousness of the first guru transcended the material and the illusion of space and time, and the cannabis high is intended to replicate this.
In ancient China, cannabis was used by holy men in healing and early magical rituals. Early Taoist shamans systematically experimented with the ritual use of cannabis, with some declaring that smoking it was as good as climbing into the mountains for those who were physically unable. Their traditions began with burning cannabis as incense for the sake of smoking out demons and evil spirits, and soon evolved into inhaling cannabis for the sake of drawing in good energy from God.
Cannabis was also used by the Scythians in a ritualistic form that amounting to the hot-boxing of small smoke tents. The participants would gather inside these tents as part of funerary rites and cast buds onto superheated rocks, causing them to burn and to fill the tent with cannabis smoke. The change in consciousness brought about by these rituals were considered to bring the participant into contact with the spirits of the dead.
From there, it spread to Germany, and from there to Britain and Scandinavia. The Vikings came to associate its aphrodisiac effects with the fertility goddess Freya, and spring festivals sometimes involved the ritual consumption of cannabis. Viking herbalists were also aware of the pain-killing properties of cannabis, and they appear to have cultivated it in Southern Norway since 650 A.D. Evidence suggests that at least some of this cannabis was cultivated for ritualistic and shamanic purposes.
Therefore, cannabis use has been part of our natural spiritual traditions for thousands of years. The state of cannabis prohibition brought about by Abrahamism is an obscenity, the kind that comes from such false doctrines. It is not right for us Westerners to live in a state of cannabis prohibition, because it separates us from our natural connection to the divine, replacing it with a doctrine of women-hatred, gay-hatred, genital mutilation and ignorance.
Many modern people could tell you that cannabis use is still part of our natural spiritual traditions. It is the Western subcultures that smoke cannabis who are most likely to reject the obsession with materialism that has captured our culture. After all, the spiritual effect of cannabis comes from its ability to separate the user from the material. By inducing a state of physical and emotional calm, consciousness focuses instead on the spiritual. By pacifying the user’s base physical desires, they can concentrate on a form of living that pays homage to God.
Rastafarians say of cannabis that “The herb is the key to new understanding of the self, the universe, and God. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness”. Many Westerners who do not follow an organised religious tradition can likewise tell you that smoking cannabis gets you closer to God. There are millions of us who could tell you that we have had profound spiritual epiphanies from sacramental cannabis use, and that these epiphanies are worth gold.
Cannabis being illegal therefore amounts to religious discrimination. It’s essentially no different to a law that makes the Bible or the Koran illegal. If cannabis use is a means by which some people get closer with God, how can it possibly be anyone else’s right to say otherwise? The people who support cannabis prohibition would be appalled at the thought of Government agents going into someone’s house to take their Bible away, but they do much the same thing with cannabis without a second thought.
There is a need for cannabis law reform so that religious and spiritual alternatives to Abrahamism can be explored. There is no valid reason for people to be forced to follow an Abrahamic tradition, and therefore no valid reason for the law to prohibit the spiritual sacraments of non-Abrahamic traditions. True spiritual and religious freedom requires that none of the established methods for coming closer to God are made illegal – this includes cannabis use.
This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.