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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.