Before you can understand why 420 resonated so intensely for me on a spiritual plain, you have to understand the importance of Mount Tamalpais, the central peak of Marin County, which rises like Mount Fuji over sacred counterculture territory.
By 1966 San Francisco had become the new epicenter of the counterculture, mostly because of its association with On the Road. Hippies were birthed farther south, and emerged when surfers went to Mexico and scored the local marijuana. Small fortunes were made driving that seedy pot back to California before the Border Patrol caught on to the surfer-smuggler connection. And some good prices for Mexican could be found in the Bay Area. But after the Haight got destroyed by hard drugs and undercovers, the hippie tribe moved across the Golden Gate to seek refuge in San Rafael and Fairfax, in the shadows of Mt. Tam.
The idea of smoking pot came to many through On the Road, although an earlier book by Mezz Mezzrow (Really the Blues) is what enlightened Jack Kerouac to the sacraments of jazz. I didn’t discover Mezz’s groundbreaking book until around 1988, and even then didn’t fully comprehend it’s importance for another decade even though Flick Ford told me it was essential.
Once I began connecting with Mezz, however, my ideas about cannabis, spirituality and improvisation really began to blossom. See, all the dramas and traumas are acted out endlessly over the generations. The peace messiahs are always assassinated by the masters of war, just as many husbands and wives cheat on each other, although many show flashes of empathy in times of crisis, revealing their true inner nature. We go through the same dramas over and over and there’s been a huge, largely hidden dance going on around cannabis and religion for millennia.
In 1989, I bought a copy of the oldest living religious document, The Rig Veda, and was amazed to read what it had to say about Soma, the “king of the healing plants….the blind see, the lame walk….a sage and a seer inspired by poetry who heals all who are sick.” It was obvious this was a reference to cannabis.
Yet, according to our history books, Soma is supposed to be a mushroom? This was patently absurd and crazy. Mushrooms were forbidden by Vedic culture due to some emerging from cow manure. This attempt by Gordon Wasson of Harvard University to shoehorn mushrooms into Soma in place of cannabis was transparent to me and I wondered why no one else talked about it. I followed the cannabis and religion trail and soon discovered most religions began as cannabis cults. And everywhere you find cannabis, you’ll find spiritual communities using the plant as a sacrament.
So the world’s most enlightening and most beneficial plant has been declared illegal and billions spent over centuries trying to eradicate it off the face of the earth. And yet, a great cannabis awakening continues to blossom and the tipping point to legalization has already been reached.
So when Steve Bloom handed me that flyer to the third and final April 20th ceremony at the top of Mt. Tam to be held in 1990, a ritual scheduled for 4:20 PM, I did not think it ridiculous because I respect the connection between math and spirituality and I immediately sensed 420 was a sign the great wheel of life was turning, evidence a new form of cannabis spirituality was birthing. So I began organizing the first 420 ceremonies outside of Marin, while the rangers got wise to and shut down the annual Mt. Tam ceremony.
There is no dogma in my concept of religion. Do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone is the only rule. Put all the icons and avatars on your altar because merging non-violent spiritual traditions helps disarm the sorcerers who manipulate religion to manifest war for profit.
Congo Square is the birthplace of blues, jazz, rock and hip hop, which led us out of the darkness, and the beauty of its improv culture is it reinvents itself every generation. When hippies appeared in Southern California, they quickly swept across America, but by the time hippie culture arrived in New York City, it looked much different from the California version. Yet, it was still an emanation of the same cultural roots. Punks were really a return to early hippies from outside California, who dressed in black leather, respected Black Panthers above all others, and unleashed anthems of three chord garage rock on a regular basis that became the musical foundation of Punk rock.
I plan to hand down the keys to enlightenment to anyone who cares, and that also involves an understanding of deep politics.
For example, Lincoln was killed by his own party, JFK was killed by the CIA, and the Pentagon planned 9/11 to sweep us into war.