Rediscovering Cannabis as a Sacrament
The Reverend Dr. David Dick
Many of us know of cannabis's use as a recreational drug, and recently more and more of us are becoming aware of its many uses as a medicine. However, cannabis also has a long history of use as an entheogen.
Entheogen literally means “generating the divine within” or “makes God come into being”. It is a plant whose psychoactive properties help put us in a more receptive state where we are open to the divine within us. Cannabis has been one of man's earliest entheogens, and we at Coachella Valley Church offers cannabis as a Holy sacrament, practiced by many spiritual traditions for thousands of years.
Hemp was one of the first crops cultivated, being domesticated over 10,000 years ago, and it was unlikely that its psychoactive properties went unnoticed for long. Here is a brief survey of the spiritual and sacramental use of cannabis throughout history.
The sacred anointing oil used by the Hebrew priests included an ingredient Kaneh Bosm, or Kaneh Bos in singular. This has long been identified as a reed, but bears a striking resemblance to Cannabis, the name given to it by the Scythians.
To communicate with God, the Hebrew priests would enter the tabernacle and burn copious amounts of this sacred oil as an offering of incense, filling the tent in a thick cloud of smoke. This is surprising similar to descriptions of the Greek and Scythian use of cannabis. Given the amount of trade between the ancient Hebrews and the Scythians, It is not unthinkable that they would also share a similar ritual.
This indicates that the ancient Hebrews assisted their communion with God through the ritual use of cannabis incense. Scripture also makes it clear the sacrificial cloud of smoke contained the Spirit of God, and was instrumental in the inspiration, sanctification, and purification of their rituals.
The sacramental use of cannabis survived among some sects of Judaism until the Christian era. This included the Therapeutae, from where we get the word therapeutic, who were active in Alexandria near the time St. Mark is said to have founded the Coptic Church in 45 A.D. This also true of the Essenes, a sect that Jesus was likely a member of.
Most modern Christian sects baptize with water. However, it was John the Baptist that used water, while Jesus was said to baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit, quite similar to how the hebrew priest received the Spirit of the lord from the fire and smoke of the cannabis containing incense. (Matthew 3:11). And indeed, the bible makes no reference to Jesus ever baptizing his disciples with water. It is logical to assume this baptism by fire was meant in a similar way to how the Hebrew's used the smoke and fire of cannabis in the tabernacle. I Corinthians 10:1 supports this, as the description of the baptism of the Israelites involved them being enveloped in a cloud.
After the baptism/anointing ritual, Jesus had a profound vision, in which a dove descends from heaven and he is given a message from God, before being taken to the desert to be tested. This description is remarkably similar to the journey visions of shamans, including the appearance of an animal avatar bearing divine messages. We can see then that Jesus received the Spirit of the Lord after being anointed with the holy cannabis oil. Indeed, Christ itself is a translation of “messiah” meaning “anointed one”. To receive this title, he would have been initiated, we believe using the sacred cannabis anointing oil.
Furthermore, the central focus of the early Christian Church was the Eucharist, or “the body and blood” of the divine. This was a fellowship meal, in which the divine was said to join participants, and enter them through their consumption of holy food. In most Christian denominations today believe this refers to the ceremonial sharing of bread and wine. However, many of the early Christian sects varied widely in their Eucharist rite, likely due to the many interpretations of sacrificial language.
Rastafarians and Coachella Valley Church
We of the Coachella Valley Church believe that the cup that Christ baptized his disciples with in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire was in fact a pipe or chillum in which marijuana was smoked. Again in 1 Corinthians, it describes how after the baptism with smoke of incense, they all ate of “the same spiritual meat” and “drinking of the Spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ”. This is very similar to the terminology used to describe the Eucharist, and “drinking of one Spirit” from the cup of salvation. Jesus taught that the Eucharist was his body and blood, but this was not his physical, but rather spiritual body and blood that was to be the communion of his Holy church.
Thus, the purpose of the Eucharist is to remember the Christ, the original unity of man and God. Through the use of cannabis as the Eucharist sacrament, we at the Coachella Valley Church believe we can become more aware of our divine nature, and connect to the God within us all.
This tradition has for the most part been lost, primarily as a result of prohibition. Millennium of harsh repression by the Roman Catholic Church suppressed all rival sects of Christianity, including those that practiced the cannabis sacrament. On top of that, nearly century of prohibition has discouraged serious academic study of this subject until only recently. Fortunately, cannabis as the Eucharist survived among the Coptics of Egypt, who then spread to Ethiopia. While its isolation spared it from the Inquisition, it also kept its practices hidden from most of the Western World. Then, in the 1930's when the Italians invaded Ethiopia, there was a mass movement among Jamaicans to travel to Ethiopia and aid in the war effort. While there, the cannabis sacrament was introduced to them, and those that returned formed the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica.
We of the Coachella Valley Church wish to reintroduce Cannabis as a sacrament, and make it available to all seekers of every race, color and creed, who wish find a deeper connection to their own divine nature and the God within.