Book Preface

Spiritual seekers through the years, centuries, millennia, have sought innumerable ways to connect with the divine. Burnt offerings, self-flagellation, extended isolation, mutilation, fasting, sexual abstinence, sexual promiscuity, the intense moral and ethical training known in ancient Greece as askēsis – these and many more approaches to the realm beyond the mundane have had their day.

But through all the ages in which methods of contacting and interacting with the spiritual domain emerged and faded, one approach persisted: the ingestion of substances that alter and expand consciousness. One of the earliest, perhaps the earliest, was cannabis.

Yet the personalized, individualized use of cannabis as an entheogen (a substance that “awakens the divine from within”) fell into dispute and disrepute, especially in Western societies, as a result of culture wars that led to the pre-eminence of mediated connectivity with divinity through the allowable (indeed, mandated) sacraments of Catholicism and the disallowance (indeed, proscription) of older alternatives.

Now, 500 years after Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses produced the first sizable chink in the previously impregnable armor of a strict, hierarchical method of connecting the human with the external divine, the pendulum is swinging (although by no means entirely smoothly) back toward the notion of an internal divine, reachable once again by time-tested and time-honored practices such as cannabis use. This is a somewhat ironic fulfillment of modern Catholic philosopher/scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s assertion that “man only progresses by slowly elaborating from age to age the essence and the totality of a universe deposited within him.”

In the pages that follow, readers will encounter or re-encounter cannabis as a mediator of the “universe deposited within,” both historically and on a personal, contemporary basis. Contributors to this volume have thought long and hard about the sacred and the secular, the mundane and the metaphysical, the prosaic and the profound, as all these states relate to humanity’s longstanding cannabis use. Sometimes analytical, sometimes celebratory, sometimes reflective, always thoughtful, these essays invite readers to a deeper appreciation not only of cannabis itself but also of the context in which this plant and human beings coexist and intertwine. The connection is a deep-rooted and abiding one, a communion quite different from that known in Christianity, its focus more on inner discovery than on outreach toward an external manifestation of a higher power. And yet cannabis mediated spirituality, as explored herein One Toke To God, bears no inherent ill will toward the centralized religious systems that have long marginalized and suppressed it – for reasons based as much in politics as in faith. Readers will discover that when properly understood, entheogenic cannabis use is simply a different way of confirming another of Teilhard’s penetrating observations: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”