Mujica’s marihuana legalization: a tool for peace and understanding
Indo-Iranian myths from the Rigveda and the Zoroastrian Avesta, tell us about the gods Indra and Sraosa, and how they successfully combat the Dragon of Chaos and Deception, thanks to the divine help of an intoxicating brew prepared with marihuana. The destructive force of these exhilarating drinks that helped the gods in those mythical days slay the Beast of Evil, is identical to the power of marihuana when it destroys the propaganda of consumerism and exposes the lie of contemporary drugs prohibition rethoric.
Marihuana - unlike coca-based products that reinforce the ego and individual self-esteem, or opium-based products that induce a withdrawal into a happy oblivion of the outside world - has the peculiar quality of diminishing the consumer’s ego, making her or him more aware of the surrounding world. We call it a ‘high’, because in this experience we loosen the bonds that keep us tied to normal everyday thinking and rise above it. In psychological terms one speaks of an ecstatic state of mind. Philo of Alexandria described it theologically as the “entering of the Holy Spirit, which made the mind leave its house, because where the Holy Spirit enters there is no room for the two of them”. This loosening of the mind can be gentle, or overpowering, but in the process we relate in a different way to others. We not only loosen the bonds that tie us to them, but also re-tie them, and this re-tying is re-ligare, the urreligion of mankind. There is of course a moment of confusion when this mind of ours - our ego - is breaking down. For some people this can be a frightening experience. Once this house cleaning effect has run its psychological course though, a feeling of extreme peace with the world ensues. Then the mind goes gradually back to work, still under the influence of the joyful moment experienced. It is a moment of reinterpretation of ideas and values in the light of the ecstatic communion, a moment of enlightenment that has sparked the minds of mankind since shamanic times.
In those times, the members of hunting and fishing bands lived in close contact with each other and with nature, stimulated by ecstatic sessions of which all the members of the band would participate. Once man settled to take up agriculture and cattle breeding, accumulation of wealth set in, accompanied by ever-growing individualism and special interests, at the expense of society as a whole. This process happened worldwide. We recognize it in the history of the Jewish nation – 6th century BC - when the priest Ezekiel notified his people that their god Yahweh from now on would hold everybody individually responsible for their acts, and when an anonymous priest made Yahweh say these dreadful words: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” From that moment on, knowledge was not allowed to come any longer from the ecstatic use of nature’s divine plants, but only from official authority, mouthpiece of the special interest groups holding power. The prophets, who until then had found answers to the nation’s problems - like their shaman forebears - in ecstatic communion, were marginalized into esoteric sects. These held that since justice and righteousness had become unattainable in this world, the just and righteous could only be rewarded in life after death. New ecstatic leaders arose in the margin of society, as in the sect of the Essenes, who had a “drink of knowledge” for the initiated, and a century later, when we read in 4 Ezra about the main character eating herbs so as to be able to receive a message from an angel. It was from this milieu that the story of Jesus originated, a man who taught to forget yourself and embrace your neighbour - the same message the marihuana high gives its consumers - because then the doors of heaven will be opened to you. The reformulation of Jesus’ message by the priests of Rome - for a belief in better times, but only after death - led to a not-so-Christian campaign of mind control at the end of the Middle Ages, when the birth of European individualism went hand in hand with the burning on the stake of all those who dared participate in joint ecstatic communions, infamously branded ‘black Sabbath’.
Nowadays, individualism and the glorification of individual accumulation of material wealth have reached horrifying proportions. The captains of economy all partake of the barrage of propaganda that keeps an alienated populace addicted to the myth of junk, promising a better tomorrow with only more junk so as to keep amassing wealth. This dream of unlimited personal wealth detracts from the fact that the world is turning into a big garbage can and denies the existential truth that community and interpersonal relations are more essential for mankind’s wellbeing than identification with material objects. It is this putrefaction of our civilization that drives people, and especially young people, to espouse mind altering substances, first and foremost marihuana. Authorities claim that marihuana is a poison to be avoided at all costs. But the poison is the culture we’ve created, and marihuana is nature’s very antidote, a means to escape from alienating consumerism and experience the spirit of community.
Shamans believed in spirits, in the form of animals and birds, trees and stones; their entire world was felt to be steered by them. With economic development man held to fewer spirits, anthropomorphized into gods, finally one god. The prophets imagined their god taking hold of them from somewhere beyond the clouds, using them to give the nation the divine law and admonish it when it would not obey them. We hold instead that the marihuana induced high reveals us the code of proper conduct mankind has written in its genes and has resorted to at all the critical moments of its existence. We might not use the word god when referring to this law of nature that makes us strive for community, for care and decency towards our neighbours and fellow citizens. But in the end we, believers and rationalists alike, are all trying to live up to the same moral code mankind has developed throughout its history.
Jose Mujica once said that he’s been looking for god but never found him yet. By legalizing marihuana and opening the doors of spiritual happiness to the young, he might not have found the god of other nations or of peoples of eras past, but he certainly has followed in the footsteps of Jesus when he said “Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these." Mujica’s stand against the UN-led prohibition of mind-altering substances is a symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world. It is a promise to bridge the gap between defiant marihuana consumers and the prohibiting society. Hopefully the acceptance of this consumption by society and the concomitant development of understanding of its use as a natural medicine, historically used for spiritual liberation, might initiate a process of healing in a world very confused and deeply divided over its religious legacy.