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Towards an appreciation of the spiritual properties of cannabis

In 1996, then-president Sampaio of Portugal convened a conference to have his newly installed socialist government informed on the drugs issues being debated at that moment. In a workgroup on Drugs and Society the representatives of some thirty European nations explained the different policies to combat drugs currently being pursued by their respective governments. The last person to speak was a collaborator of our Institute, representing Civil Society: “As all present have in one way or another denounced mind-altering products and their consumers, we have the pleasure to take exception to this negative stance and defend the beneficial aspects of the use of cannabis, for individual consumers as well as for society at large.”
The consternation was palpable: after a moment of amazing silence all present felt an urgent need to voice their disagreement, some politely and others at the top of their lungs, raising such a ruckus that the meeting had to be suspended. In all fairness, it must be stated that during the ensuing break the UK representative, a colonel from Scotland Yard, came forward to congratulate our institution for clearly voicing its point of view, one which, according to this gentleman, was held by many on the force who regretfully were not able to express their diverging views publicly.

Times have changed, and over the last twenty years the various aspects of the drugs issue have become more visible, as has the muzzling of the voices articulating proposals for divergent policies or investigating the positive aspects of the use of the different substances. Consumer and cultivator representatives are no longer alone in decrying society’s biased attitude towards mind-altering products. The political and academic world is coming to grips with the fact that there is more to drugs than the official discourse and that it is in the public interest to allow for an open debate. It is heartening therefore that as august an institution as The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (US) published a report on January 12, 2017, asking the government to stop erecting regulatory barriers to cannabis research. That won’t happen overnight, but as long as innocent people are being persecuted for merely using marihuana for their spiritual well-being, we cannot stop from defending our basic human right to freedom of thought, consciousness and religion, made possible through that use.

What is the spirituality engendered by marihuana? For some one who has experienced it, there is no doubt about its authenticity. People that have never had the experience and have never gone beyond the confines of the mind, understandably do feel sceptical about the claim. It is therefore incumbent on us to try to explain it. I will do that here in a short summary, giving the reader the opportunity to click on the different aspects of the experience mentioned below for more detailed information.

Thet spirituality experienced under the influence of cannabis, consists of a reunion with the spirit in us. Thus, it is nothing like the Christian Holy Spirit, flying-in from the outside. That spirit is the product of belief, incessantly kindled by the preachers of the spirit in question. The spirit encountered in the marihuana experience is nothing but the absence of the self-conscious mind, which in the brain corresponds to the cerebral system that allows us to function coherently and correctly in society. The mind, in this sense, is the interiorized voice of the civic authority, always on the look out to make us behave in accordance with the political correctness of the moment. Therefore, when the mind empties itself, that authority also disappears, and the only remaining guidance comes from the bodily senses. Suddenly, the world is perceived as never before, in a unique personal happening. This happening is not the product of imagination, as outsiders are fond of proclaiming. To the contrary, and unlike the official religions which are all mental constructs to believe in, the spirituality of the marihuana experience is physical, starting with a sense of disorientation in the brain and continuing with a shuddering of the body.

Since going beyond the confines of the mind is the essential first step of the experience, doctrine and dogma are of no avail. The wisdom of the body is the spiritual guide, bestowing knowledge on the mind. But of far greater value for the person undergoing the experience is the gift of life received, neither from somebody’s god, but from the spirit within, nor for a long or happy life, but an eternal life.

And to top it all off, at the moment of mental loss, when beyond the mind we enter into ecstasy and become one with the world, entering into a state of cosmic consciousness, we become sovereign of it all. That doesn’t mean that we sit on top of a pyramid above everybody else, ready to give orders. The sovereignty perceived is a state of mind shielded from the divisive discourse of self-consciousness. It might last only a fleeting moment, but its impression will remain engraved on the mind for ever.
It anchors the person's self-conscious in the ground of being and helps overcome the existential problems that otherwise would have resulted in lots of anguish. It is for this life-giving quality of the marihuana experience that its consumption is a natural right, its prohibition the denial of happiness and of the recognition of inherent human dignity.