Think of Homo sapiens, the human species, as merely one of those many hundreds of thousands of characters in this collaborative story of interspecies dependence and communication. We may presume that our species is smarter than all the others, but it may be that we are merely louder, handier, more self-involved, and less reflective. Homo sapiens, and all the Homo species that preceded us or cohabited with us for a part of our history, are in fact far younger than are the plants that we embrace. Cannabaceae is the old family that includes several cannabis species (C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis) and their cousin, also our dear friend, hops (Humulus lupulus).
The origins of this plant family date back 90 million years. Our genus, Homo, is currently considered to be a mere 2.8 million years old. So the ancestors of this cannabis plant that we so love much were doing their own thing for a very long time before we two-leggeds showed up to appreciate their leafy descendants. The antecedents of the cannabis that we now know were hanging out with the dinosaurs, and with many stranger life forms that are now long gone. All that accumulated experience is in the cannabis story, written right there in the genes of every bud of our beloved herb.
These experts in their fields and practitioners of an assortment of healing modalities to share their insight on the connection between cannabis and spirituality in this collection of essays. The thoughtful piece touch on a number of topics from sacred rituals and group ceremonies to everyday practices of creativity with an essay about the link between cannabis and creativity by Floyd Salas a fiction writer who won the 2013 the lifetime achievement American Book Award.
Cannabis has been a character in the human drama for at least the past ten thousand years, and very likely much longer. She, the genus Cannabis, has been seen and felt as a being, or a deity, in multiple cultures. I say she because both historically and right now in Western culture, that is the gender that so many of us experience when we engage with cannabis.
In ancient China, Ma was the name of the deity resident in hemp, the extremely useful fiber that comes from the cannabis stem. Both the male and female plants are depicted in the pictogram for hemp, sitting inside a built shelter or home. (Cannabis species are dioecious, meaning they produce male and female flowers on separate plants. Wind is the pollinator that allows male pollen to fertilize the females.)
Native peoples of the Americas had a long-standing relationship to smoking, as they had domesticated various tobacco species, and early on invented the folk technology of the pipe or cigar. Tobacco is traditionally a highly spiritual plant that absolutely manifests as various types of resident entities, both male and female, who may be called upon in prayer. It would be natural for those who smoked tobacco as prayer medicine to recognize the spiritual potential of cannabis when smoked, and to feel the presence of someone in there whom we can speak to. Someone who shows up and helps us understand the vicissitudes of life, and who perhaps helps us to find joy in the moment.
In most of the United States, cannabis can be used as a medicine to help alleviate pain, anxiety, seizures, and more. I started to use cannabis to help with my arthritis and chronic pain that began while I was in the military. After using cannabis for a number of months I started to notice that there was more to the plant, something that many of us seemed to be missing.
When using cannabis, there are some commonalities among most users. Besides increasing possibilities of the munchies, cannabis also increases focus and thoughts that arise. This increase in thinking can become somewhat addictive in some cases, as I have personally found it entertaining. The key here though is using this amplified thinking and awareness as a tool to increase our overall our ability to meditate. Using cannabis in conjunction with meditational practices makes this plant an excellent tool.
Different religions have varying stances on the use of cannabis, historically and presently. In ancient history some religions used cannabis as an entheogen, particularly in the Indian subcontinent where the tradition continues on a more limited basis.
In the modern era Rastafari use cannabis as a sacred herb. Meanwhile, religions with prohibitions against intoxicants, Buddhism, Baháʼí, Latter-day Saints (Mormons) except with a prescription from a doctor, and others have opposed the use of cannabis by members, or in some cases opposed the liberalization of cannabis laws. Other groups, such as some Protestant and Jewish factions, and certain Islamic schools madhhabs have supported the use of medicinal cannabis.
The Assyrians, Egyptians, and Hebrews, among other Semitic cultures of the Middle East, mostly acquired cannabis from Aryan cultures and have burned it as an incense as early as 1000 BC. Cannabis oil was likely used throughout the Middle East for centuries before and after the birth of Jesus.
Views on drugs, esp. natural or herbal ones such as cannabis, vary widely among the various Buddhist sects, which can be summarized into Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism. The Theravada tradition keeps the Fifth Precept for laypeople more seriously, as well as literally according to the words of the phrasing, i.e. "I vow to abstain from fermented drinks" (Pali: Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi), and tends to be more anti-alcohol and anti-drug in general than the other Buddhist traditions. In Mahayana Buddhism, the (specifically Mahayana) Bodhisattva Precepts override the Vinaya Precepts (or pratimoksha vows), which it shares in common with the Theravada but emphasizes less.
The main thrust of the Bodhisattva ethical code is that anything which is beneficial for oneself and others should be adopted, while anything harmful to oneself and others should be avoided. This leaves more room for medical interpretations of cannabis. Vajrayana Buddhism is probably the most open to cannabis use, especially in the sense that the Vajrayana Precepts urge the aspirant to develop "pure view", in which one extracts the pure essence of all things through seeing their true nature of śūnyatā, including things normally seen as defiled such as sex and, as mentioned in some Tantric Buddhist texts, drugs including cannabis. Moreover herbal medicine, including some natural psychoactive drugs, is deeply linked with the Tantric Buddhist traditions of Vajrayana, in particular Tibetan Buddhism. Although the Vajrayana traditions also maintain the Vinaya and Bodhisattva Precepts, the Tantric Precepts or samaya, which reflect Vajrayana doctrine, are held to be paramount.
Thus it would seem that in Theravada Buddhism, cannabis is mostly discouraged, in Mahayana Buddhism, cannabis is somewhat discouraged in some contexts, and in Vajrayana Buddhism, cannabis is only slightly discouraged or even encouraged in some contexts.
Prior to assuming his position as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis had spoken against recreational cannabis. He stated in 2013 in Buenos Aires: "A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use." The catechism of the Catholic Church states that "The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense."
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention voted to discourage medical marijuana in 2016. In 2016, the executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, Tommy Green, also said that congregations should be encouraged to vote against the Florida Amendment 2 (2016) which expanded legalization of medical marijuana in Florida. The National Evangelical Association of Belize opposed the 2017 decriminalization of cannabis in Belize.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is general prohibition against intoxicating substances. In August 1915, the LDS Church banned the use of cannabis by its members. In 2016, the church's First Presidency urged members to oppose legalization of recreational cannabis use. The LDS Church says it has "raised no objection to SB 89" (non-psychoactive medical marijuana in Utah).
During the Hindu festival of Holi and Maha Shivratri, people consume bhang which contains cannabis flowers. According to one description, when the amrita (elixir of life) was produced from the churning of the ocean by the devas and the asuras as described in the Samudra manthan, Shiva created cannabis from his own body to purify the elixir (whence, for cannabis, the epithet angaja or "body-born"). Another account suggests that the cannabis plant sprang up when a drop of the elixir dropped on the ground. Thus, cannabis is used by sages due to association with elixir and Shiva.
In Hinduism, wise drinking of bhang (which contains cannabis), according to religious rites, is believed to cleanse sins, unite one with Shiva and avoid the miseries of hell in the future life. It is also believed to have medicinal benefits and is used in Ayurvedic medicine. In contrast, foolish drinking of bhang without rites is considered a sin.
The Quran does not directly forbid cannabis. There is a controversy among Muslim scholars about cannabis as some deemed it, by analogy (qiyas), to be similar to khamr (intoxicants/alcoholic drink) and therefore believed it to be haraam (forbidden). However, some scholars consider cannabis to be halal (permissible).
The Sufi tradition attributes the discovery of cannabis to Jafar Sharazi (Sheikh Haydar), a Sufi leader in the 12th century. Other Sufis attribute its origin to the apocryphal Khidr ("Green Man"). 2b1af7f3a8