Lessons from the Leaf: Thots on Pot II     

(from Cannabis and Spirituality, 2016)                                          
Thots on Pot 1 (2010)

The visible world is no longer a reality
and the unseen world is no longer a dream.
-W.B. Yeats
Cannabis is our oldest friend and teacher, our ally on this earth. As food, fiber, and pharmacy, its uses parallel human needs. Pot and people evolved together, as reflected in our endo-cannabinoid system, a body-wide network of cannabis-like molecules that promotes homeostasis at every level of biological life, “sub-cellular to the organism, to the community and beyond.” (Dustin Sulak) Homeostasis is equilibrium, all systems go, the harmony of yang and yin. The mind works by projection and reflection; in the mind, homeostasis is allowing reflection, bringing consciousness to the process. Knowing the mirror is understanding the technology: What you perceive in another is what you believe about yourself. Fear is projection, but so is beauty. All the beauty you can perceive in the world is also in you. The Golden Rule is reflection: the reason to do unto others is because they are yourself. The experience of pot—the dishabituation of thought, the breakdown of habits of mind—is inseparable from the insights gained therein. You will feel what you need to feel, whether you want to or not.
   Pot gave us the basic tools to be human—the ideas as well as the materials. Cannabis is the most widespread and easiest to grow of all beneficial plants. Consider hemp: can your psychedelic do this?
Hemp is the most nutritious and most productive seed oil crop. A single acre produces 45 tons of hemp seeds, a complete vegetarian protein. They yield over 300 gallons of hemp seed oil, also a biodiesel fuel. By-products: 3 tons of high protein flour; 6 tons of bast fiber (for rope, lace, and ultra-thin paper: rolling papers and Bible pages); 25 tons of hurd for every grade of paper and composite building material. One acre. Hemp doesn't require fertilizer or pesticides and it improves the soil it grows in. The banning of hemp may be the bigger story, the prohibition of pot just a smokescreen.

China was "The Land of Hemp and Mulberry." The Chinese worshiped the Hemp Maiden, goddess of longevity and protector of females. Hemp seeds alone provided nutrition during famine. "Ma" is the root of many early words like rub, grind, stone, numb, and waste. The Chinese ideogram depicts male and female under the roof of a drying hut: the yang and yin of nature in the shelter of human culture: the garden.  Canvas powered human exploration from the sails of ships to the fabrics of artwork. Clothing was a technology of survival.

We call it cannabis sativa now (not “the M-word”)—but what does sativa mean?   "Cultivated." Cannabis is likely the first cultivated plant—a cultured weed, a paradox. Cultivation is the biological root of culture—the intersection of man and plant for the good of both, the co-operation and interaction of the human and vegetable kingdoms.

This begs the spiritual question: how do we feel about living in the garden, being taken care of, being held? Can we allow ourselves the balance of that perfect weakness? That too is homeostasis. Our connection with cannabis is one of the few forces countering the current cancer of yang, the great masculine and testosterone imbalance threatening our world.

Nomadic cultures revered pot as a tool for change-—an un-settler. Its revelation of the habitual and cultural can alter self-perception and social identity, making it inherently subversive to established ways of thought and government. Its roots are deep underground; its culture renamed "counterculture."

Pot is basic information from nature, like following the seasons and learning the solstices.  Any religion that doesn't recognize the sun, moon and earth is suspect. Culture that denies natural facts of spheres, fluids, and cycles as embodied in the feminine is not worthy of the name. The sun—source of light and energy: it is round, it comes and goes, there is dark and light. A poetic understanding of the heavens (astrology) works, and so does quantum physics. Everything is applicable, by experience or analogy. What astronomers know is also useful to the shaman, and vice-versa. No one who has considered the objects of the sky or looked to the sea’s horizon would ever think the world was flat.

Nature is round and enchanted and fluid, reality is changing magic.   And so are we. These truths are observable at every level, from atoms to the farthest galaxies. Technology is a mirror.  Science will always find what it has tools to see, and will confirm what you already know about space, time and the infinite. All nature has these qualities: ineffability and unity. And it includes you: your body is your self in nature. How you hold and treat your physical body reflects your own nature, and how you see nature.

Western monotheism arose from barren deserts where the gods did not provide. The garden was a story of loss and blame, the creation myth of self-judgment. The received myth was the weakness and shame of women. We all got kicked out—and it was the woman’s fault. The denial of yin begins here. The realities of sexuality, particularly female sexuality, were hidden from the consciousness of the culture. The body and the feminine, the whole and the holy were demonized. Sex was removed from love, and vice-versa. Pot was replaced with wine and incense, priests put on the habits of witches and wise women. The pope still wears a dress.

Family is our first model of community. Our myths begin with the father throwing out his children, and follow with brothers killing brothers. Grievances are intractable, and the father has absolute power. (You know where to look for abuse in this family.) Deceit and violence are the way things work—so the stories tell. There was no "knowledge of good and evil," it arose from the creation of an unforgivable act: the use of a plant, the wisdom of Mother Nature. Original sin is the snake's plot for getting the garden to himself—the yang conspiracy. The birth of the drug war.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:  "Medicinal, recreational, and sacramental use of cannabis are actually identical. To be healthy is to be happy is to be holy."  (Joan Bello)  Rituals of dance, trance and chant, facilitated by cannabis and other plants, were not just aesthetic or recreational—they were therapy and sacrament. A moment of ecstasy can convey wisdom and unity, via the organic bond of love. A technology of survival, love is to give without expecting anything in return. What kind of business model is that?  And how have we treated our partner in time? We have shunned her and stopped listening. We have banned, burned and beaten her from her place in the world.

Pot endured prohibition in the guileless recreational mode. Throughout time the artist/musician was connected to the shaman, the witch doctor. Since banning, pot has been tied to music and to musicians: to jazz, beatniks, folk, Dylan, the Beatles. Mass-produced and electric, they sprang up from underground and took over the world. The people's psychedelic and the people's music kept alive the spirit of the garden.
Like information and music, pot tends to be free…or at least cheap. Underground she became stronger, cloned herself, got electrified and commodified in her Faustian bargain to survive, mainlining from the grid, still reflecting us whether we want to see or not. Piracy is one word, and open source is another. Pot and music are inherently open source, and the reason they are, and should be, freely available is that they are helpful to people seeking to be "healthy, happy and holy." It is unnatural that things work less well and cost more. Napster was natural; old-fashioned forced TV ads on websites, for instance, are the antithesis—dysfunctional. Culture and technology devolve when information is controlled.

The washtub bass, the simplest folk instrument to make, provides the bottom, the beating heart. But the iconography of the gutbucket is so strong that anyone who stands to it feels like a joke. These are its secrets: it is cheap to make and anyone can play; everybody is a star; it's not about being rockstar rich and famous, but about having a role.  So it's shunned, along with the hillbilly-peasant-pagan-heathen who plays it. The world of the book and the law, the world of the father that overturned wise women and weeds, threw out their music too.

Music is the language of the body and heart; in Asian languages, the word for mind is the word for heart. The abstract phonetic alphabet—a relatively recent technology that spread westward from Phoenicia less than 4000 years ago—is the language is of the mind. Heart-consciousness is a victim of this move from the acoustic to the visual, from yin to yang. The heart is blind; its sense is resonance. The mind has separated from our body, our self in nature. Nature is everything, or nothing; the spiritual resides in the mundane. When did the world become mundane? When did earth become dirty?

You can't have spirit without sky and earth, the breath that flows between. Yang and yin arise and retreat together. A culture of prohibition, paranoia and repression creates the demand for spiritual and physical re-balance. Inherent in its weediness is that it can't be kept down. Since "prohibition" pot has gone from the humble herb of the jazzman to America's #1 cash crop, an unintended consequence of protecting industry from hemp.

In the world of drugs, the commercial has functionally usurped the sacramental. We get drugs as recreation and medication; holy and whole, not so much. We separate foods and drugs, but in nature they are along a spectrum with no clear lines. Herbs and spices, coffee, coca, poppy and sugar all fall in a grey area, and cannabis too. The attraction is beyond nutrition, toward taste and healing, aesthetics and medicine. And they are all colored by the history of capitalism, state or religious control, and are behind wars, trade routes, imperialism and slavery.

The word drug is simply "dried" in Dutch. An herb was dried to increase potency, to lighten it for transport. Brandewjin is Dutch for "burned wine"—water was boiled out of wine to reduce it for shipment to the new world. But on the other shore the water was never re-added—they enjoyed, and sold, the stronger Brandy. Distilled liquor was called "rectified"—rightened—and what remained was its "spirit." Joylessness—death of spirit—drives the sale of alcohol. Rum, sodomy and the lash: slogan of the imperialist  British navy. “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” (Jefferson)  Refined drugs, from whiskey to oxycontin to crack, facilitate profit and addiction. The ways and means of making money on drugs are the very bones on which the body of capitalism hangs.

Addiction is the perfect business model. Sixty percent of alcohol in the U.S. is sold to addicts—alcoholics or "problem drinkers," who consume an average of 10 drinks per days. The market's goal of profit is indifferent to outcomes, to the harm to the community. Selling weapons and chemicals and booze is no different from selling anything else. Ethics is ultimately about health.  Capitalism without ethical boundaries is growth without heart, and without reason: cancer—and it will eventually kill the body.

Orwell defined economic liberty as "the right to exploit others for profit." The "free market" is not free—it depends on the particular structure of our community to work.  Western individualism is a myth; like master and slave, exploitation is still a dependent relationship. Trump-like dealmakers enjoy their success only while on the shoulders of another man, as Thoreau put it. Miceprint marketing and 99/100th of a cent trickery on every gaspump—these gimmicks are infantilizing, and make deception rather than altruism the hallmark of our culture—symptoms of corruption and unnatural inefficiency. If pot is anything it is efficient—the easiest to grow of all beneficial plants, it shares itself. Cooperation rather than competition is the backbone of human survival.

   Fear: Our Rivals, Ourselves

     People fight because they are the same, not different. Rivals are "people who live on opposite banks of the same river"—who have the most in common, not the least.  They fight for resources instead of cooperating because they do not have the perspective—they are not high enough—to see they are the same family. How do you define family? Who do you kick out? Human race implies competition; skin color has only projected visual meaning. Orwell: “Nearly all aristocracies having real power have depended on a difference of race, German over Slav, Englishman over Irishman, white man over black man, and so on and so forth. It is much easier for the aristocrat to be ruthless if he imagines that the serf is different from himself in blood and bone. Hence their tendency to exaggerate race-differences.  It is a way of pushing exploitation beyond the point that is normally possible, by pretending the exploited are not human.” All wars are race wars, based on imagined or created differences.

When you stop looking, you start projecting. You are able to treat others with the hatred and indifference you reserve for the shamed and hidden part of yourself. Which takes us back to the garden.
Fear is a tool of acute survival. Fight, flight, shock, numbing are necessary and necessarily unconscious. Yang fear also engenders yang courage—and courage means heart. Yang heart has its reasons: the service and safety of yin. It gets us over mountains and through snows, bringing us home to the dark woods, to comfort and care. Yang heart comes home to yin mind. The soldier becomes the husband in a ritual of return.

Once burned you don't carry fear of the stove with you forever—you learn, you synthesize. Fear gets stuck when our mind ascribes meaning; a soldier still carries his fear if he feels something more crucial than returning to the balance of family and community. In testosterone times, sadism and fear are promoted by the self-interests of yang cults—sports, fundamentalist religions, the military, law enforcement and prisons; by all modes of the electric news and entertainment business; and by drugs of stimulation and numbing. Fear itself looks like this: war for its own sake, overconsumption, and dissatisfaction. Stress promotes addiction to the yang drugs: the cigarette, drug of inhaling and repeatability; alcohol, the pain killer; and speed.

Our problems are not failures to be escaped, but are the locus of our survival. Every one of your ancestors lived to reproduce; everyone else died. Shadows and scars are traces of the struggle we succeeded at. Unconscious drives are our strength—awareness of our unconscious is our power. Your fears are sacred, a signal of where to find thwarted love. In the valley of the shadow of death is only unity and ineffability. Approach your holy fears with reverence and you will find in them a reflection of love.

You are strongest where you were most hurt. You are best at what you most fear you lack. That which you most desire, the need you most shamefully hide, what you most blindly strive for—that is what you already have.

Pot reflects paranoia in a paranoid culture: take a look around. Cannabis in a post-paranoid setting will be a great rediscovery: how it feels without risk or fear or shame (“it” being life). "Cannabis paranoia" facilitates consciousness of fear held in the body.  Go into it: core fears are a real trip. Deal with family in life and death, the hidden histories at the bottom of anger and shame—"not to feel better, but to be better at feeling," as Michael Brown says. Stay home. It will break you down and rebuild you like ayahuasca.

Posture and Consciousness

Life is motion, aging a process of reduced motion. Evolution is toward a variety and complexity of movement. Variety and complexity of movement is also called play. Screens are disembodying, a movement disorder. Kids are getting old before their time; they all work. The most profound effect of screens on our lives has nothing to do with the net or any other aspect of their content: it is about physical posture, and visual stress and bias. By dishabituating proprioception (the awareness of our body in space), cannabis helps us become embodied—to inhabit our bodies, to live and feel within them, to become conscious of posture: our “leanings.” There is no "mental" problem that doesn’t show up with a parallel manifestation in the body. Perversion displays itself as puritanism. "Southern Methodist leader comes out against yoga." Jesus on the cross is a man opening his shoulders, his chest and heart chakra—a position of pure yin vulnerability. Love is a physical change: open arms, the evolution of the chest-protecting mammal.
The sicker you are the stronger the medicine you need. For most of the world, most of the time, cannabis is enough. It is the people's psychedelic, not requiring doctors or shaman or priests, heroic doses or trips to Peru. Weed is in the world and of the world. It is the elephant in the room of psychedelic science, the smell in the corridors of their conferences. Grow your own and keep your day job.

When you are sick the most dangerous thing to lose is hope. If we are told the drug we need comes from an expensive pharmacy via an expensive doctor and an expensive insurance plan, then we feel we don't deserve to be healthy, that it is not our God- and garden-given right. Cannabis tells you otherwise: that healing is natural—that's the message from this plant—and hope for the earth. You can restrain it--financially, militarily: temporarily.

Hope is in the herbal model: the failure of our healthcare system is forcing an archaic revival, to use McKenna's term. I have experienced this as part of the Lyme epidemic, particularly in the work of Stephen Harrod Buhner. He is researching and publishing books, but basically giving away the info on his website. Unlike many Lyme docs, he's not selling "proprietary blends." He's using the technology to distribute needed medical information efficiently to thousands for free. Imagine. (Cf. Eckhart Tolle.) There is reward in community, not just capital.

If you have a cure like the Stanley Brothers claim—they have been on TV and are selling expensive hemp oil and have a waiting-list for their CBD strain—then why withhold it from anyone? Why not spread the seeds and clones? Nothing would be easier, cheaper or more rewarding. This is the lesson of the leaf. But the business model is obvious on their website—the popcorn at the movies model plus the Rx labcoat model. Cannabis is a natural ally of the herbal model: cheap, easy, safe, effective, and fun. Words all big drug businesses fear.

This is not to deny the world of genius yang brand-name life-saving treatments, only to balance them with some ease and availability for the gardener, the wise woman at the farmer's market. Herbs may not be for you, but they are there if you have no choice.  Community grows where there is no other hope.

Capitalism rests on dissatisfaction with where you are. Even if where you are is the safest, richest, and most beautiful spot on the globe: other people are better off than you.  It demands visual success: money, sex, stuff. But it won’t make you happy. People with roots in community are happier: often poorer people—and their music is better. Hypermasculinization, cut-throat competition, humiliating feminization, and anal-rape based hazing: these are the revealing perversions at the healthless extremes of the yang imbalance. Cultured by vanity and brutality, reflecting only shame of the feminine in the self. Putting the fundament into fundamentalism.

Our "feelings" are the literal felt resonances of the tactile sense, and we are out of touch. Cannabis highlights this imbalance, and allows you to feel what has been reduced to habit. It reminds us of the mutability of consciousness, that the felt sense can be relearned.

Before the senses were technologically separated, seeing was believing, because sight was in brain-union with our hearing, smell and touch. Now it is impossible to process everything we see, let alone believe it. So we believe what we are told, what we are shown. The tragedy of the GPS: what we give away, we do not get back. We use other people's senses, not our own. This visual stress, a yang imbalance, is revealed in our sex: we grow beards and fake boobs and shave our genitals. The effect is tactile and olfactory—stubble and less smell—visually clean and infantilizing. Smell is our most profound sense, and most deeply pegged to our survival. Pot culture is also essentially olfactory: the sexual smells of funk and skunk are like pheromones—something deep and pre-conscious. A mate found by sight rather than smell is less likely to produce a strong bond or vigorous offspring. Screen-based and screen-biased sex is distant and flat, voyeuristic and masturbatory, a performance for, and separate from, an audience. You are watching yourself.

We’ve become technologically numb to the law that everything outside is inside; blind to the existence of the mirror. We are addicted to this outering, uttering urge.  We can’t stop talking or texting or jerking off, trying to get to something that is always elsewhere. Anything to avoid the silence and solitude: the meaninglessness of the task precisely masks the depth of what we cannot turn to in ourselves. This is McLuhan's “Narcissus as Narcosis”: the thing we need, the thing we love is out there. We stare and can’t stop because we forget that it’s a mirror. We misplace our love. We project ourselves outside.

This is happening on the two sides of our brains as it happens out there, the separating, the othering. The separation is reflected in our brains, behaviors and myths. God, incarnate in all things, has left the planet, and taken heaven with him. It's time to turn back to ourselves, to look within rather than without. Reflection is the practice of return, of re-balancing the sides, the corpus callosum at work. Allow that dance to happen and rise to a pure tone. To recover real love.

A culture of distraction is only this: distraction from silence, darkness, and solitude. We have technology to counter this visual overload at our fingertips: close your eyes and find silence. As in darkness you hear acutely, so in silence you see clearly. Noise distracts from seeing the big picture; screens distract from felt resonance. Vegas is cliché and archetype of sense-distraction in the service of selling. You can't hear yourself think, or see what's really happening. Visual overstimulation retards the development of auditory processing: hence ADHD.

The only way to know and still your projections is to be alone with yourself. Solitude is required to realize your connection to everything. Alone is all one. Hole—emptiness—is whole and holy.  Poetic language is as valid, accurate and useful as any system for knowing the human experience.

There is another world out there (in here), and to appreciate it you only have to close your eyes or find silence. Earplugs can change the world as suddenly as darkness. Or take a swim below the surface. Hearing is how you see underwater. Sight, in space, is like sound—looking to the distance is listening, waiting for something to arrive. Like thunder and lightning, the sound is untied from the sight. Light echoes from events long past separate seeing from believing.

Reality is non-Euclidian—it is fluid, tactile and spherical, with the darkness of space and resonance of water. No one believed the world was flat, and nothing happened before the Big Bang—save an infinite series of infinitely spaced Big Bangs. Pot facilitates the re-enchantment of nature, gives dimension to the flat, mundane and habitual. Enchantment and incantation both mean “singing into”: returning to sound. Yin world is acoustic.

Yang-yin is right and left, left brain and right brain, analyze and synthesize, visual and acoustic, transmission and reception, action and reflection, grasp and release, mind and heart. The written word and the spoken word. Fire and water. Yin is the womb, the container. Suns and stars are all light and power, but yin is the greater space that contains them. The night is yin: the darkness of distant sounds, of passions and deep dreams, now pierced by artificial daylight. Pursuit is yang, intimacy yin. Judgement/acceptance; movement/stillness; sativa/indica. Dogs and cats. Materialism and spiritualism. Right and left are not random. The concept of judgment is skewed to the right, like the male gender sign. The female gender sign is the distaff, the spinner (rotation and balance), an image of the creative, turning plants into thread. The "bronze mirror" suggested elsewhere is the projection of male vanity.

(When I say men and women, I don't always mean men and women—of course gender is not that simple. Yang and yin often correlate with expressed genitalia—but not always. It is a basic energy and its opposite, the polarity at the root of all forms. We do not escape them. Yang and yin forces operate in every thing. They stand out most where yin is denied: male fundamentalism of every stripe. Obsession with one visual physical fact misses the complexity and mystery of variation, and is an indication of repression.  Macho=homo. That said:)

What do we lose, what do men lose when we deny the feminine, the yin, inside and out? We lose joy, the felt experience of beauty. That thing you discovered maybe in your teens when you saw a girl who also saw you. And it changed everything, gave everything a reason. You saw what was suppressed in you, and it was beauty and art.

Nothing is more difficult for a man to engage than his own glance in a mirror. Medicine for men is sitting with joy, but the intensity is hard to take. We are afraid of joy—even more than pain. Stress, we're good with that, but entering joy puts us at risk of being grabbed and accused. It is somehow effeminate. But is it girlish to sit, to observe, to "take things in"? That is yin mind. Hunting and fishing, with their inherent virility--the power of life and death--are beloved because they allow men to sit at ease in nature. Joy is what we need more of, not heroic trauma. "The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.”  (Thoreau)

Learning to live without beauty, men lose their roles as protectors and companions of beauty. Lost in yang battles, we work for nothing but money and other forms of power over the powerless. This is the loss of ethics in the loss of aesthetics. The religion is capital: Secular Materialist Monotheism. Jesus crucified is the image of what happens to you if you preach radical love, if you threaten trade by giving without expecting anything in return. And that cross is everywhere, lest you forget.

Definitions of Mercy

Mercy and mercenary have the same root: "wares, merchandise." This became  "wages, fee"—the stuff you were given when you were hired. Slaves are from other tribes, and you're not that. But the medium of money allowed men to be wares, not owned but paid. You were given "favor, pity" by your master—your survival was "at the mercy of." If you couldn't survive, it became the "reward" you got in heaven: I will pay you later…much later. The power of money separates the actor from the act, and defines the mercenary's ability to commit "inhuman" acts—that is, to act in ways counter to every natural human instinct.  "To show mercy" is to allow to live, to feed and house. Jesus on the cross is also a posture of forgiveness and redemption—opening your arms and not being afraid.  It means taking in the refugees. It is the heart-route from fear to joy.

What do men do in heaven, what is your job? You are the husbandman, protector of the garden. Attend to the beauty, allow the balance. “Love of country” does not mean the abstract stars and bars. It means love of the countryside—this dirt, this place, this earth. Better than any wares or fees is returning to enjoy yin, the land, its beauty and tastes; the mystery of sex, the depth of the enfolding darkness.

‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ (Einstein asks.) 'This is the most basic question people must answer for themselves. If we decide that the universe is unfriendly, we will use our technology and our natural resources to achieve safety and power—bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly.  We may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves in this process.'

Now we are largely isolated in cars and e-worlds, burning irreplaceable resources like our lives depend on it, selling and using weapons that are video games at our end, and death machines out of sight. But

'If we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety only come through understanding its workings and its motives. '

Cannabis is just such a tool and model of a friendly universe. We can fly but we will not escape gravity. Your attraction to the center holds you here, the surface of a point in empty space, a place of air and water and growth. A moment on the surface of a bubble, within a tiny film, thinner than spit on a bowling ball. This is the miracle: the brief fragile space we inhabit where everything works. Where we can run and play and fuck and the ground gives fruits and herbs. If you could see heaven you would rejoice. The gift of hemp, and the spirit of cannabis, help to open our eyes, and our hearts, to the fact that we're still here.
God gives us this moment of consciousness, this place only. Just because nothing lasts forever, doesn't mean we have to be preparing always for the end times. We do not have to follow the brutal path set out in the first stories to its brutal end.

Jeremy Wolff
Dec. 2016