For the Cannabis and Spirituality book project I’ve felt it important to bring in voices from a variety of contemporary and traditional practices and ways of understanding the deeper potentials of wise use of cannabis. Seventeen leading voices with deep knowledge of cannabis as a spiritual and creative ally have graciously consented to write chapters for the book, or in some cases do interviews with me. Including best-selling author Julie Holland, who has written the Foreword, the book contributors are:
• Julie Holland, M.D. : Among her many activities and accomplishments, Julie Holland is the author of several highly-regarded and widely read books, including Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, and The Pot Book.
• Chris Bennett: I wanted to share a glimpse of the rich history of cannabis in spiritual awakening work so people can have some confidence that in approaching cannabis with the intention to “get real” so to speak, they are sharing in ancient lineages and possibly helping to continue them into the future. Chris Bennett is a leading scholar on the history of cannabis and religion with three books published on these subjects and another one in the gestation process.
•.Joan Bello: Joan Bello has done some wonderful work with her book The Benefits of Marijuana, now in its 4th printing. She also has a new trilogy of books due to come out in 2015. The first is titled The Yoga of Marijuana. Joan has some great research on how cannabis works in the body-mind to create these beneficial effects.
• Kathleen Harrison: Kathleen Harrison is a wise and wonderful ethnobotanist and teacher, co-founder with her former husband, the late Terence McKenna, of Botanical Dimensions (http://botanicaldimensions.org/#/0/1), whose founding mission is “to collect, protect, propagate, and understand plants of ethno-medical significance and their lore.” Kathleen is also a writer of depth and sensitivity who has had a long friendship with cannabis.
• Satyen Raja: Satyen Raja is an internationally known coach, mentor, and human potential leader of Indian descent. He is the founder of Warrior Sage Trainings (warriorsagetrainings.com) and several related enterprises under its umbrella. Satyen also leads groups on sacred pilgrimages around the world. One of those was the 2013 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India. Satyen was accepted into a Sadhu ‘family’ while there and spent a considerable amount of time in the inner sanctums of what he refers to as the real Sadhus, people of deep wisdom. Very few Indians, let alone Westerners, would ever have an opportunity to meet and experience the understanding of these highly evolved renunciates. Satyen shares with us a rare and precious glimpse into this hidden world.
• LLP: LLP is a grower of cannabis. He has a spiritual, sacred approach to working with the plant and holds a strong conviction that the intention and practice of the person growing the plants has an important influence on the experience of the end user. With the extremely rapid proliferation of cannabis growing, this approach seems very timely.
• Dee Dussault: Dee Dussault is a pioneer in the West, one of the first yoga teachers to openly combine yoga and ganja. She conducts classes she calls “Ganja Yoga” in California and has developed a unique approach to this fortuitous combination.
• Sean Hamman and Steve Dyer: These two gentlemen have individually and together been working with entheogenic plants for many years. I would call them shamans. They are very experienced ceremony leaders and healers working with iboga, ayahuasca, and cannabis in particular.
• Hamilton Souther: Hamilton is a master shaman who spent twelve years in Peru learning and practicing the skills of leading ayahuasca ceremonies. He has since moved back to the United States and now leads very popular live and online “cannabis friendly” ceremonies through his organization Blue Morpho Club.
• Mariano da Silva: Mariano is a highly respected ayahuasca shaman from Brazil who has for many years also worked with cannabis as a sacramental medicine, both within and outside the context of the ayahuasca ceremonies.
• Francisco: Francisco is an experienced and deeply immersed apprentice Ayahuasca practitioner working with a group to enable an effective experience of the sacred medicines within a safe container space for new people seeking the path, according to the traditional ways as established in South America, and Brazil in particular.
• Roger Christie: Roger Christie is a determined advocate of longstanding on behalf of the basic human right to use our ancient friend and ally as a sacrament. Roger founded and for nearly ten years operated and led the legendary (in some circles) THC Ministry in Hawaii. Like many others, he has paid a heavy price for his courageous commitment, spending 50 months in Federal prison between 2010 and 2014 for his work with the Church and his refusal to cower in the face of ignorance and injustice. Since getting out of prison Roger has continued his advocacy and his legal challenges to the ill-considered laws that have brought great hardship to many and kept many more from enjoying the multiple benefits of the people’s plant.
• Jeff Brown: Jeff Brown is another one in this special group of people who have paid a heavy price for their courageous beliefs and advocacy on behalf of the sacramental use of cannabis. Jeff got interested in both cannabis and the Bible in his late teens and shortly after joined a Jamaican Rasta Church—the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, which used Ganja as its sacrament. The group gained notoriety and extensive publicity around 1980. Jeff spent about 5 years in federal prison solely for his use of the holy sacrament in a religious setting.
• Steven Hager: Steven Hager has been a leading figure and pioneer in the world of cannabis for several decades. He is a cannabis and counterculture activist, journalist, filmmaker, and event producer. He was editor-in-chief off and on for 25 years at the iconic High Times magazine and it was during his reign that the magazine achieved its highest circulation. Among other remarkable achievements, he founded the Cannabis Cup, organized the first 420 ceremonies outside of Marin County, launched the hemp movement with Jack Herer, and was the first reporter to document hip hop. Steven is currently the founder of Abakus Media, which seeks to foster responsible cannabis tourism in Colorado. He is also the author of 30 books.
• Jeremy Wolff: Jeremy is an artist and writer. I found a very insightful essay by him in Julie Holland’s “The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis” and wrote to invite him to contribute to this book. His chapter in Cannabis and Spirituality, “Thots on Pot,Part II,” is just as brilliant.
• Floyd Salas: The use of cannabis for creative, artistic purposes could be a separate topic altogether. I’ve occasionally envisioned a book that collects stories and testimonials from people using the plant in those ways. Many artists, not all of course, consider the connection to the muse and the deep concentration they enter when creating to be a sacred space.
Art can also be understood as a powerful way to help people wake up. My old Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa had some interesting and inspiring things to say about that. Here’s one of them. “There has to be the basic integrity of maintaining our human society in a state of sanity. That is and should be the only way to work with art. The purpose of a work of art is bodhisattva action . . . geared toward waking people up from their neurosis. (P.19, The Art of Calligraphy by Chögyam Trungpa)
Because of this relationship between creative, artistic practice and spirituality, there will also be some discussion on that subject. I’ve recruited a wonderful writer and poet, Floyd Salas, to contribute a chapter to the book on cannabis’ benefits for creative work and will probably also post excerpts from that piece on cannabisandspirituality.com.
• Svea Vatch: Svea Vatch designs and fabricates fine-art jewelry in silver and gold with precious and semi-precious stones. She has been selling her work at Canada’s best art shows and to customers around the world since the 1970s. This short essay offers excellent testimony on the spiritual depths accessible in artistic creation when cannabis is met with the kind of respect and surrender Svea describes.