Hello. Stephen Gray speaking. I’m not completely sure of the best descriptor for my role with this website. I guess instigator and moderator come close, but thinking in large-picture terms it feels more like the idea existed independently and just happened to pass this way for a variety of reasons, some unknown and possibly unknowable. I’ve just hopped on and ridden it, following the golden thread, as Earth poet Stephen Harrod Buhner liked to say.
Another apt label for my role is coordinator. I’m taking your time to say this because on some significant level I don’t think of this website as mine. It’s a service. My job is to keep it alive and do my best to stay true to the spirit of that service.
For similar reasons I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to even have a biographical page but in the end decided that if it would help some people feel confidence in the legitimacy and authority of the information, I’d say a little about myself.
In the Beginning
I’ve been interested in spirituality since I was a kid. Like many thousands of others during the explosion of expansive ideas in the 1960s and 70s, I made a connection between spirituality and certain mind-manifesting plants and substances. One of those was cannabis, though at the time it was for me and others definitely regarded as a little brother or sister to the major players.
If I did intend this site to be more about me, I could tell you some entertaining stories about that early relationship with cannabis. It had a distinct impact on my experience of life. Among other things, cannabis taught me how to think, feel, and see differently, how to dance freely, how to connect more deeply with music, and how to enjoy the taste of almost anything (with the exception of several animal parts.) Let it be said for this purpose that the relationship has endured, and mostly thrived, for close to fifty years now.
Since that time my interest and engagement with spiritual ideas and practice has continued unabated. I’ve practiced meditation for many years, I was deeply involved with Tibetan Buddhism for close to twenty years as student, meditation instructor, and occasional teacher, and I’ve practiced and explored a number of other similar healing and awakening modalities. I won’t bore you with all the details.
Based on that early interest in the intersection between spirituality and psychedelics, I was drawn back toward them in the late 1980s. Much credit for that reconnection goes to the wild and wooly Terence McKenna, who pointed out the curiously underreported fact that indigenous peoples all over the planet had beneficial healing and spiritual relationships with psychoactive plants for millennia. Ah ha.
I saw, and still see, the ritual, ceremonial use of these substances as a natural outgrowth and extension of my Buddhist practice and understanding and will make no apology to hidebound purists who are offended by the linkage. Of the many ways to describe the work, you might say it’s about seeing through illusion, waking up to unconditional truth, and getting real.
After a few years of solo journeying, particularly with psilocybin mushrooms, the next natural step was to begin engaging with those who really know how to meet the plants. I then fell into a connection with the Native American Church and its remarkable peyote prayer ceremonies.
That was nearly a dozen years ago as I write this in 2015. Since then my work with the plants has continued to deepen. I’ve worked with several, including ayahuasca, iboga, and of course my beloved cannabis plant.
I’ve participated in many spirit plant ceremonies, coordinated them for shamans, co-organized the Spirit Plant Medicine Conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada for the past four years, written a book with a large section on several entheogenic plants called Returning to Sacred World (O Books, 2010, stephengrayvision.com) and led cannabis ceremonies.
For a bit of a more personal touch I’ll tell you that I taught, performed and recorded music (under the artist name Keary, firstname.lastname@example.org) for a couple of decades and I’ve recently completed a photography certification program through the New York Institute of Photography. Yet another website may be in the offing for that. For the time being, most of the photos you’ll see on cannabisandspirituality.com are ones I’ve taken.
I want to say a little more about the why of this website. As I suggested above, it felt like the idea, for a book actually, kept moving closer over a two or three year period. The turning point came when my friend, the delightful and brilliant Kathleen Harrison, who is a major player in the wise stewardship of entheogenic plant work, told me she thought it would be an important book and that she would contribute. I was hooked.
Since then I’ve gathered seventeen brilliant contributors to help carry this expanding meme to a larger audience, each with his or her own particular experience and insights. More on that elsewhere.
Ultimately, as I suggested in the “What You’ll Find Here” on the home page of cannabisandspirituality.com, the knowledge belongs to everyone of good-hearted and passionate intention. Cannabis is particularly suited to the designation “the people’s plant,” or as contributor Jeremy Wolff called it, “the people’s psychedelic”.
With some attention, care, and experience, a great many of us can experience the spiritual benefits of cannabis and help others make the connection. Aho.