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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index


The Great Book of Hemp:

Complete Guide to the Environmental, Commercial, and Medicinal Uses of the World's Most Extraordinary Plant.

Robinson, Rowan. (1996).
Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.


ISBN: 0-89281-541-6

Description: paperback original, viii + 248 pages.

Contents: Publisher's Foreword, Introduction, 7 chapters, Appendix 1: The Hemp Resource Guide, Appendix 2: The Hemp Marketplace, Chapter notes, Bibliography, Index, A Note on Hemp Paper.

Note: Chapter 4 "Hemp and Spirituality" will be of most interest to readers of this guide. It contains sections on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, African traditions, Chinese Taoism, Japanese traditions, Christianity, Western occultism, Rastafarian movements, mystical sexuality, the Great Mother, and more.

Excerpt(s): But more than happy accidents may explain hemp's sacred role. Many religious scholars suggest that the ancients would naturally have expected plants to hold the secrets of the heavens. Plants draw nourishment from both moisture above and soil below. As such, our predecessors may have viewed them as obvious intermediaries between heaven and earth and thus the perfect key to the divine mysteries. And because of hemp's multitude of practical uses, the ancients might have looked to it first. (page 75)

The use of cannabis whether to commune with the divine or to heal or simply to celebrate was branded witchcraft, for which practitioners could be severely punished, even put to death. Among those charged was Joan of Arc, whom the inquisitors accused of using several witch herbs, including cannabis, to hear voices.

In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal fiat declaring hemp to be an unholy sacrament of satanic masses as part of the church's assault on Arabic culture in general. The ban, which lasted more than 150 years, did not go unchallenged. Benedictine monk and radical dissenter Francois Rabelais (1483-1553) satirized both church and state in the esoteric book series Gargantua and Pantagruel ... in which the herb Pantagruelion is incontrovertibly hemp. (pages 78-79)

The decision about whether to use cannabis for spiritual purposes or consciousness-raising purposes is far more ambiguous. Obviously, many spiritual leaders entirely reject the appropriateness of cannabis for spiritual practice; on the other hand, vast numbers of people have found their spiritual commitment and curiosity deepened after first using marijuana.

The standard advice given by spiritual leaders who are open to cannabis and other psychedelics is that while these substances may introduce some seekers to the possibilities of higher consciousness, they can't deliver enlightenment itself. ...

In some circles, however, the suspicion has long existed that the great sages do in fact know how to access the highest states with drugs but keep the secret to themselves to protect the information from misuse by the masses, indeed, mystical traditions typically maintain an inner, secret set of practices not intended for mass consumption but available to advanced students sometimes by intuition alone. Read the mystical literature carefully and the plot thickens. For example, a student of the Russian mystic Gurdjieff wrote that his Master alluded to a pill that could accomplish what might take an ascetic a month of austerities. No mystic disputes that the ultimate spiritual goal is to realize a capacity for cosmic consciousness that is entirely inside the seeker and that the seeker has the ability with his or her own inner resources. But will a second, labor-saving key, harvested from outside one's person, unlock the same door? That remains the intriguing question. (pages 100-101)



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