Deep Spirit and Great Heart by Louis Silverstein
Louis Silverstein, Ph.D. is a Professor of Liberal Education at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches courses in Peace Studies, Dying & Death, Education, Culture and Society, and Drugs and Culture. In this moving and expressive essay, we journey through many intense and divergent realms of consciousness, yet remain quite safe in our voyage. Poetic and passionate, our special guide leaves us transformed, illumined, and renewed. Unforgettable.
I wish to share with you selected excerpts from my book, Deep Spirit & Great Heart: Living in Marijuana Consciousness, a first-person account of thoughtful, healing and provocative journeys into the earthly and spiritual realms of existence while under the influence of cannabis sativa. As told by Ganja, whose journal entries of his experiences while under the influence, responsible, respectful and disciplined use of marijuana affords one the insight that it is a plant teacher possessing potential enormous beneficial and healing qualities, that heaven is not a place, but a state of consciousness, in which a joyous daily existence, awareness of eternal truths, sexual ecstasy, heightening of ecological awareness, and spiritual enlightenment can become a life reality. Yet, a challenge remains: to incorporate into our daily existence what has been experienced in the cave or on the mountain top, a journey described in a most telling manner in the words of Ganja.
It is my firm belief that the cultural dictum to “say no or say nothing,” promulgated and enforced by the ruling cultural commissars, is a violation of the basic democratic principle that dialogue and not silence is the path to finding truth; that voices of an alternative and divergent nature speaking to paramount issues of our time are to be encouraged and not denied if a sane public policy approach to ” drugs” is to be arrived at; and that ‘getting high” is not to be feared, but, to the contrary, is a gift to the human race.
Deep Spirit and Great Heart
It was a magnificent fall day filled with a bright sun, blue skies, gentle trade winds blowing off the ocean, birds singing, butterflies sucking nectar from flowers, and children making merry sounds as they played. In the morning of such a lovely moment in time, destiny smiled on me, for I had the good fortune to meet the man whose journeys under the influence of marijuana and resulting conversations with his “marijuana self” were recorded in a journal he kept, excerpts of which constitute the subject matter of this book.
As I sat under a fan palm tree gazing at a stunning tropical sunrise, Ganja came towards me. Of slender build but with a well toned body, skin the color of brownish red earth, jet black curly hair reaching down to his shoulders, aquiline nose with flaring nostrils, eyes so piercing as if they were bright stars of truth, and breathing in such a manner that reminded one of an unbroken stallion at rest, his very essence shining through so clearly, he placed his body next to mine, very closely as if we had known each other for a long time, and began to speak.
“Marijuana has been my ambrosia for many years, has been my way of gaining access into the tree of knowledge but with no ‘fall’ involved, has served as my opening of the door into the house of higher consciousness, a journey that has been part of my life for more than three decades now.”
With such a beginning, how could our conversation not last into the late evening hours? We found that we enjoyed each other’s company, that we were simpatico, and that his experiences living the marijuana life were worth sharing with others, not only because of the insights they reveal into living a life filled with greater light and peace, but also because the truth about a gift from the gods, marijuana, would have its opportunity to be voiced and heard in a public discourse by what those in authority call a civilized and informed discussion about drugs, but which has been, in largest part, a policy of “Just Say No Or Say Nothing.”
His writings portray a courageous, wise, creative good, open, passionate, socially responsible, and caring family man, a fully aware and courageous traveler into the realms of non-ordinary and transcendental ways of being, into a life filled with meaning and purpose. Marijuana opened the doors of perception for him. Under its influence, he experienced well-being, expanded awareness, euphoria, ecstasy, a deeply eroticized sexual life, and an enlargement of the human possibility on earth. Under its influence, he reached out beyond personal, familial, societal and cultural limitations to find, develop and hone his life voice in the process of becoming a more fully realized soul, serving as a bridge between the reality of mass consciousness and the reality of evolved consciousness.
We knew each other for somewhat close to two years before he moved on to do some good traveling in heaven. During our time together, we grew close enough to consider ourselves brothers, to the extent of that he entrusted me with the responsibility of being the keeper of his journals, a commitment I most humbly agreed to “in the spirit of being of service to all who seek after light in these dark times” as he was occasioned to say.
I have chosen selections from journal entries covering the last two years of his life to be the focus of this book. Why these years? Because these entries are representative of the content, tone and insights to be found in his writings, and because they serve to illustrate quite well the nature, scope and depth of his journeys under the influence. All journal entries are word for word recountings of his safaris into consciousness as if they were being lived at the very moment he was high, which is how he wanted them captured for posterity. Although I have waited a number of years since his passing to bring his journeys under the influence into the public eye in the hope that sanity and good sense would be the order of the day, unfortunately such is still not the case, and the inquisition into consciousness still reigns supreme. Because of such a reality, his name and the names of his brother and sister outlaws have been changed to protect them from persecution and prosecution by the holy leaders of the drug wars who are mindlessly pursuing their jihad against those engaged in the heresy of mind expansion.
One day as we were sitting in a cafe sipping cafe con leche while admiring and breathing in the beauty of our surroundings, he said to me, “Louis, in order that you and others who will read my words may truly comprehend the role marijuana has played in my life, you must understand that from the very beginning, from the very first few inhalations, my life was forever changed. So, no regrets. Had I become intimately involved with marijuana for but a brief time in my life, I would still have tasted of the rapture of ecstatic love, come to know the earth as my home in deed as well as word, learned that human touch, compassion and caring manifest life’s highest callings, experienced the blessed consciousness of the eternal at each moment in time at the center of my being, and made to realize that the blessings of being human are not beyond our ability to grasp once the doors of perception are opened.”
Here is his story, that of an outlaw who walks on the wild side. Journeys into marijuana consciousness. Journeys revealing an immersion into an immanent and transcendent ultimate reality. Journeys dedicated to the love of pure truth and our need for meaning, joy, creativity and fulfillment woven into the daily fabric of our lives. Journeys speaking to the union of person and earth, joined together in a common fate and destiny. Journeys that can fill our lives with the sensual, the beautiful, the just, and the heaven to be found right here on earth at each and every moment. Journeys into the high life. Journeys of deep spirit and great heart.
April 7, 1993
Sitting under the wide canopy of a banyan tree, its gnarled trunk and limbs bespeaking more of experience and wisdom than of age, with my bare hands I dig deeper and deeper into the red soil as if I were trying to find something about myself I need to know, to be in touch with, each handful of earth a remembrance of times past, of affairs of the mind, heart and soul I need to acknowledge and let go of, for I need to move on with my life.
My teacher appears. Once again, she tells me, “Listen, I have a secret to share with you. Let me into your life, and I will illuminate the darkness of the mysterious places within you, freeing you to travel in the light.” The herb is lit. Inhaling deeply, I draw smoke up into my brain where it rests for a moment or two before its vapors circulate slowly throughout my entire body. I exhale, focusing my attention on the center of my being, where all is still and serene.
A balmy wind full of tales begins to blow my way, causing leaves to rustle and trees to speak. I am being told to take deep breaths as I repeat over and over again “eternal bliss consciousness,” and to make these words the mantra I am to live my life in accordance with. The path opening before my eyes is illuminated by a diamond shaped phantasmagoric gem garden of resplendent mauves, blues, yellows and greens, each gem representing a glimmering vision symbolic of gifts from the cosmos to be bestowed upon those who knowingly and with discipline step into the flowing river of marijuana consciousness.
Days have passed since I last looked into her eyes of white snow and black pearls and fell under the influence of the loving beauty to be found therein. My eyes open wide to behold a rapturous sight as my lover, Maria, the woman to whom I am wed, offers me the luxury of her body with its exquisite receptacle of delight between her hips. Body and soul mix with body and soul, sky and earth joined together in fiery passion, because love is needed more than ever now in a world seemingly gone mad.
We join together as one, as deep spirit and great heart.
June 9, 1993
My wings take me a place where the sky is green and the earth is blue. Naked women appear before me, holding thorn apples in their left hands, marijuana buds in their right hands, speaking words of truth and passion whether I be on earth or in heaven, and radiating bliss from their musk scented thighs.
I bite into an apple, savoring every sense of its transformative properties as I slowly drift into a deep sleep until I am awakened by an ardent kiss from my lover. Even with eyes closed, I know it is she. I could kiss a thousand mouths and know her lips. She asks me for kisses of ardor for her soft red lips and caresses of gentleness for her fuchsia body. How can I refuse? Not to do so would be sinful. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
June 14, 1993
You do not know me, but I am your lover. Take this message to yourself. You, being space, are female, and I, being time, am male, and you and I are everywhere. No matter where I walk, the path leads to you, where the Light of Light resides in the shrine of your heart, emitting illumination to all of creation, and showering me with the bliss to be found in joy and happiness.
August 16, 1993
Lounging on my bed, I envision primordial forests teeming with ghostlike dwellings inhabited by figures resembling humans wearing threadbare robes with hoods covering decayed faces. Descending from the gray charcoal sky are mammoth birds of prey with huge purplish black bodies and rhinestone beaks, each bird a work of terror as can be seen in the eyes of the creatures with decayed faces, eyes that are quickly gouged out by bird claws and eaten.
I realize I am walking through the valley of death, the dead remains of myself left over from past experiences that left me feeling hurt and disappointed with life. Oh, woe is me, I say to myself, what am I to do? Breathe, breathe it all away, is the answer received in response to my question. Chanting “eternal bliss consciousness,” I slowly breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold, repeating this sequence over and over until breathing and awareness merge into a unity. One by one, the human like figures and the birds disappear. I am left alone amidst the ghostlike dwellings, now filled with starlight and a joyous occupant. It is I.
August 28, 1993
Having decided to take a brief vacation off island, I am walking on the land of upper Oregon, staying at the homestead of a friend who lives in a canyon surrounded by white chalk cliffs holding out to all who are in need of healing a purity of place absent of time. Circles of smoke take leave of my mouth after circulating throughout brain and gut, the two houses of mind.
It is so beautiful. Unending stands of trees, poplar, pine, elm, sycamore, maple, willow, and black walnut. Black, brown and white mushrooms and toadstools. Blue, orange, red, mauve, purple and yellow wildflowers. Raspberries, blackberries, huckleberries, dewberries and blueberries. Buckwheat and oats. Flat land, rolling land, dry land and wetland. Huge white clouds floating in a big blue sky. Stillness filled with pregnancy. Wonderful, wonderful, just simply wonderful.
I sit myself at the foot of an aged tree, mother and crone being its essence. Bark is missing in places, some limbs are twisted giving off the appearance of gnarled hands while others have succumbed to disease, lightning or just age, woodpeckers have carved out notches in the trunk in their search for insect food, ants scurrying back and forth on the low limbs, birds have made nests in the upper limbs, and apple bud blossoms are opening.
Save for a slightly warm wind blowing in from the south causing the leaves of the tree and the field of oats and buckwheat to dance slowly, the melodic and soulful singing of birds, and the fluttering wings of a stoned on nectar butterfly, there is silence. Closing my eyes, I begin to rock back and forth on the balls and heels of my feet as waves of energy released from the tree float towards where I sit, bathing me with wisdom and peacefulness, impregnating me with nature’s grace. Peace above me. Peace below me. Peace all around me.
Trees do not cry out for notice and attention. Trees do not have pretense and wear costumes to hide what they are. Trees do not perform community service to save the planet by engaging in good works after 5 p.m. and on weekends to undo the damage that 9-5 work has inflicted on the planet. Trees are just there all the time doing their thing, planet support work – holding the earth together, housing and feeding life, transmuting noxious and poisonous vapors into life giving air, offering shade from the hot sun, beautifying the lands with their presence, reminding us that just being there, just being part of the community of life, is all that is needed.
December 2, 1993
Closing my eyes, I see myself sitting beside a pond with water lilies and blue green algae floating on its surface. I ask for help to make it through life’s journey, and she takes my hand. I weep, and she comes to my side. I listen for singing, and she fills my ears with the lilting sounds of her voice. I pine for love, and she takes me within her. I wish to return to the body in which I was born, and she leads me beyond time into eternity.
January 31, 1994
Spurred on by the desire and strength of our bodies engaged in a dance of love, we move to the beat of the music, our heat and the music paying tribute to sexual love. Eternity captured in the intimacy of a moment lasting until I explode inside of her with a force so powerful that our bodies seem to fuse together. We are no longer separate but one, a unity of being. Once again, cosmic laughter is upon us. We laugh and laugh and laugh. At this moment, time does not exist, transcended by delirious and rapturous joy.
We shall sleep very soundly tonight as we always do when love making of this nature has blessed us. And because the sounds of love are everywhere, above us, below us, all around us, filling space with its “life is good” message, our home will be truly harmonious and peaceful tomorrow as has always been the case when the 11th commandment is followed: light up the weed from heaven, let love flow freely, and peace and harmony shall reign forever and forever as we are reminded once again of who we are – the sunshine of each other’s life.
February 4, 1994
Charles and I are taking an early evening stoned men’s walk. I become conscious of how I walk when I am straight: rigid and goal oriented. Under the influence, I neither walk in a straight line nor with body armored against life’s surprises and entreaties. When straight, I usually walk with a strong determination to get somewhere – an objective to be accomplished, a known destination to be reached. When stoned, I always walk with dancing feet, in circles, in loops, a few steps forward and then a few steps backward intermixed with some steps to the side, my arms not swinging back and forth like that of a wind up toy, but weaving in and out and around like two slithering cool snakes. The music I hear is not John Phillips Sousa conducting his military marching bands, but Bob Marley or Cole Porter, and my body moves not in goose step precision, fixed and taut, but as if I were Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly gliding effortlessly and smoothly through space.
In this state of being, I know there is no need to get anywhere. I am already there by being here. Wherever I am, that’s where I am, if only I open myself to the fullness of the present, to be here now. Eternity is truly in each grain of sand and in each moment. All I need do is remember to breathe in, breathe out, and I am filled up with life. All I need do is allow myself to flow with the rhythm of the existence, so complete that there is no fear of separation. All I need do is fix my stillness of self on sky, tree, sun, moon, or star, rock myself back and forth perfectly so content that there is no fear of ever again being a huddled mass yearning to breathe free, for I am free.
February 11, 1994
Ambling over to Dad as tree, I sit myself down at the base of his trunk. With Dad, I need to do a lot of forgiving and healing because he along with our mother were at the root of our family, and his healing would contribute to the healings of his sons, living and dead. I tell him of the hurt and pain he inflicted upon his sons as he acted out the craziness of his own pain carried forward into his adult life from childhood sufferings, of my forgiveness of him, and ask of him that he forgive me for the hurt and pain I gave to him in return. We both cry, he with shedding leaves, I with salty tears.
Just as a clearing of the atmosphere can follow rain, I can see more clearly now after my rain of tears has ceased flowing. The price of not forgiving and allowing oneself to be forgiven is to be walled up inside a high security prison, cut off from the trials and tribulations and heartbreak of life, but also from life’s passions and joys; safe, but also forlorn. Yes, I can see more clearly now, but the clarity is one of acceptance of life as shadow and light, of mud as well as sky, of life as is and not as should be.
I turn away and walk over to a eucalyptus tree. Resting my weary body against its trunk, I tear a few leaves, releasing their healing aroma that I breathe in deeply, and with each exhalation I blow its curative powers towards my tree family.
Blessed is life.
February 24, 1994
I see elderly women and men, living in an institutionalized setting, a caretaker facility, all shook up. A pleasure attacker has been on the loose, inflicting random acts of pleasure on unsuspecting residents, their bodies experiencing paroxysms of rapturous delight.
Dogs are brought into to sniff out the criminal giver of such thrills, but to no avail, for as soon as the dogs sniff pleasure to be close by, they swoon, fall down on the ground, and eagerly await the pleasure attacker, for they, too, are pleasure starved, having been placed on a pleasure diet by their masters who have a low pleasure tolerance like all mad people.
The elderly ask, what are we to do? The keepers guarding the institution tell them to pray and ask for divine protection from unbridled pleasure lest they wish to be denied entrance to the heaven of the cross of pain. And so they pray, but this, too, is to no avail, for that very night two patients are made to endure pleasure attacks. The authorities throw up their hands, decide to close down the residence, and move its inhabitants to a maximum security pleasure protection facility to better ensure that life may be lived in a normal fashion where pleasure is managed and a hypnotic stupor of sitting and staring at emptiness is enforced as the norm for the elderly.
April 26, 1994
Cities of multi-hued splendor, each structure bearing a golden minaret, arise out of the sea under a clear sky, while I, standing amidst verdant forests overflowing with white ginger, heliconia, hibiscus, orchids and love in full bloom, am enraptured and still, listening to the conversation of creation surrounding me. I need neither church, nor synagogue, nor mosque, nor altar, for this, the great outdoors, is my place of worship, my shrine. Lying down on the moss covered earth, the sound of waves gently breaking on the shore serving as my sacred music, I fall asleep, for minutes, or months, or years.
Awakening, I am met by a completely changed sky, dark gray, and I soon find myself being enveloped by a gray cloud, feeling as if I am being taken over by death, that I am dying. Panic and fear begin to take hold of me. My life is in the grasp of death.
Remembering that all is one, that life and death are not separate, that all of human experience is contained within the seamless web of existence, that dying and death are known to me, that there is no beginning and no end, that I never was and always will be, I take heed of Maria’s advice, her words of wisdom – “My darling, always remember to breathe.”
Breathing consciously with deep inhalations and exhalations, chanting asat chit ananda (eternal bliss consciousness), I visualize life entering me in the form of an inhalation and death leaving me as an exhalation. Panic and fear subside, replaced by quietude, a soothing, a calmness.
The dark gray clouds dissipate, supplanted by an azure sky. I lift myself off of the ground. It is time for me to go home.
May 4, 1994
Sun rising. I lie down on a large black and gray boulder with the sea by my side and the sun rising above me. With eyes shut, I see grotesque, hideous, snarling and crazed pit bulls coming towards me. But I am not afraid. I smile and send love to these forces welling up from inside me, dark and ugly aspects of myself that I no longer need to possess.
The dogs turn into white doves, encircling me as they weave leis of yellow flowers representing healing, blue flowers representing clarity, purple flowers representing passion, and white flowers representing purity. I taste the fruit of mountain apple and Surinam cherry, and my body sings with pleasure. My wife and children encircle me as they chant asat chit ananda (eternal bliss consciousness) over and over again so that no sounds of the universe but theirs are to be heard. Slowly, each of my loved ones, in turn, approaches, sits down as close to me as possible, takes my hands in theirs, touches their lips to mine, and very consciously and deliberately breathes love into my open and receptive mouth.
My body armor breaks up into small pieces as it crumbles about me, walls come tumbling down, and a bridge appears above the moat of separation from others that has been my companion since childhood, allowing those who love me to cross over into my life. Kundalini energy moves up my outstretched spine into my brain as I glide into complete ecstasy.
A lemon tree beckons unto me. I take a branch, as if it were an arm, in one hand, place my other hand around its trunk, as if it were a waist, and we begin to dance. Some movement to my right catches my eye. Turning, I see a female figure, her skin green and brown, legs slightly bent, arms curved at the elbow, palms up, her body adorned with a gold laminated jacket and pants, a bejeweled crown on her head, emerging from a lime tree. We gaze intently at each other, at first carefully, and then with trust. Slowly, we move towards each other, eyes fixed on eyes. All is still save for our pulsating bodies and the sound of our breathing.
With butterflies of every color of the rainbow flying around us, we begin to dance. Am I crazy? Have I gone mad? No, my eyes have opened to what is always there – joyous consciousness. The dancing takes on to a feverish pitch, we are on fire, and there we stay until I gently fall down onto the moss covered earth and she returns to being within the tree.
Sleep calls me.
My eyes open to see the ground and trees covered with lotuses of every shape and hue. Heavenly music from a thousand harps and lutes accompanied by the aroma of cinnamon and jasmine fill the air. Dogs, cats and birds sit silently by my side staring off into space.
Peace calls me.
I decide I want to stay here, wherever I am, for some moments longer. As I rest, I take a few more puffs. Here I go again. Emerging from my mother’s womb, a child with blissful light at his essence. Crawling away from her body, so that a few feet separate us, I begin throwing up. Piece after piece of pus covered slime emerges from within me, falling to the ground. I collect my vile outpourings into a pile, take a match to it, letting it all burn, transforming all that which is negative within me into smoke that I do not allow to get into my eyes, thus preventing me from seeing life’s joys and beauty.
The words come. I tell myself, “Give up the struggle. Why resist being who you are? It’s no use to pretend otherwise. I can take whatever crap you want to heap on yourself and still love you. Why not just walk in the light with strength of character, compassion and beauty as your constant companions?”
Thunder and lightning break through the sky. A warm rain begins to fall. Pain and sorrow and life’s loves lost are cleared from my being. The rain ends. A glorious multicolored rainbow of orange, red, yellow, blue, green and purple arches through the sky.
I am ready to go home. It is time for me to be with my loved ones.
August 31, 1994
My trembling hands, like fluttering butterfly wings, rest for a moment on your purple lips and brown breasts as my lips gently kiss your eyes filled to overflowing with the sunshine of my love. Why do your eyes look so penetratingly into mine? Are you seeing the truth residing in the mirror of my soul? Embodied passions, seemingly spent in the gush of sperm, in fact, still there, to remain with you as memories of life’s joys and pleasures even as I part from you in search of still pastures other than the body to quiet my raging soul.
Season after season, you and I have traveled deep and far. We have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and savored life as we played in fields of wildflowers, learning and practicing how to be artists of being alive.
November 24, 1994
On dark green fields of eternity, I kiss her lips as she drinks fragrant nectar from my mouth and speaks words of sweetness and delight, “We have known each other a thousand times and still you love me.”
December 31, 1994
As caterpillar sheds that which is past and becomes butterfly, I leave the nest of my body and wander through forests of dreams and skies of fantasies. I taste pleasures and experience good and evil. I know terror and dwell amidst bliss. I solve the great riddle as I surrender to love given and received. I am rid of fear and despair. I am free of pain and suffering and sorrow. I walk into the light and become the light. I am radiant. I illumine creation. I am home. Free at last. Great god almighty, I am free at last.