How to create a corruption-free religion

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 mergingĀ  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.

Gunshots at Marijuana Rally

How sad the Denver rally was marred by violence and instead of a message of peace, the global news is now reporting: “gunshots at marijuana rally.” For me, this is a great tragedy.

Abby from Daily Beast called me on 4/19 and interviewed me for over an hour. She seemed fascinated by my history of spiritual use of cannabis, although I cautioned her there was a pretty intense filter in the national media on any of this info, and if she planned to write about it, be prepared for censorship from on high. She laughed off that idea, but strangely, her story has yet to appear.

The Denver rally began ten years ago, one of the first large mass April 20th events. Now we have so many. In 1990 I discovered an annual ritual was taking place near the top of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. At the time, I was reading about Soma and had decided the story invented by Gordon Wasson that Soma was a mushroom was false, and Soma was actually cannabis, just like it was obvious to me cannabis was manifesting real ceremony and ritual in Marin, headquarters of the hippie counterculture after the Haight was over-run with undercovers, violence, hard drugs and nasty ops. From 1995 until 2003, the center of energy on spreading 420 ceremonies was the Cannabis Cup, especially the Temple Dragon Crew, who were so fanatical about honoring 420 they did it twice every day, at 4:20 PM and 4:20 AM. Having a picture taken at the Quentin hotel lobby under the clock at 4:20 AM was one of the biggest 420 ceremonies around for years before the rest of the world picked up on it.

That’s why I could never understand why Steve Bloom, who actually appears in some of those early 420 photos at the Quentin lobby, tells people High Times, the Cannabis Cup, and me in particular, “had nothing to do with spreading 420?” After having spent 30 years trying to get the spiritual rights issues around cannabis recognized, and then have that entire life’s campaign dismissed by someone who actually saw the thing assembled is saddening. But then Bloom voluntarily quit High Times when I was brought back the third time, just because he couldn’t work under me again. So I understand where the vibes are coming from.

Mike Edison on wikipedia claims I pushed the Waldo’s story and took 420 to “cult-like extremes.” That is really hilarious. Yes, I organized events around 420, and at 4:20 PM, I would sometimes ask the assembled multitudes to form a circle, hold hands, and OM for world peace. That’s a traditional hippie ceremony begun in North America by The Brotherhood of Eternal Love on the West Coast and Allen Ginsberg on the East Coast. I believed holding these ceremonies was proof of spiritual culture and could be used to bring a court case to the Supreme Court, which had always refused to hear the religious rights case on cannabis.

Like I was telling Abby from Daily Beast, I found out about marijuana by reading On the Road, and the key moment in that stream of consciousness is a spiritual moment in Mexico provided by a few hits of marijuana. That book sent my generation looking for marijuana because we wanted to have a spiritual moment like that, especially since all of us had recently lost our religions and needed something real and honest we could plug into.

During this crucial time, when the counterculture was re-discovering the sacrament of peace culture, what happens? A major op is launched by Gordon Wasson to declare the magic mushroom as the key to spirituality. And he heads off down to Mexico to take mushrooms with a shaman and it ends up on the cover of Life magazine. Suddenly, it’s all about mushrooms again. This is obviously the same op Wasson pulled on Soma. Could it be possible that when the Roman empire took control of Christianity, which up until then had been a poor people’s religion based on world peace, and when Constantine put that cross on his army’s shields, he also switched up the sacraments? The poor people got alcohol, while the priests got mushrooms maybe but the cannabis became strictly forbidden because cannabis manifests peace culture, and the Roman empire was never about peace.

After I attended my first Rainbow Gathering and stood in a circle OMing for peace with 15,000 people, my mind was blown and I realized if only we had more ceremonies like this, we might actually get some positive energy going in this direction. So I organized a lot of peace circles for the next 30 years and tried to teach the youth about hippie magic. But I live in New York City, where hippies are not really very popular, and the minute I started manifesting these ceremonies, I was branded “a cult leader” by people that wanted to take my job. Where is my army of zombie robots and why aren’t they carrying me around in a sedan chair feeding me grapes all day? In fact, I never tried to organize a cult or anything close and I have zero dogma to push, only a desire to spread peace energy to help heal all the hate, but of course, this is dangerous, or at least lame and stupid, eh?

The Real Story of 420

It’s always fun waiting to see how Steve Bloom is going to spin his annual 420 story. Bloom likes to take credit for “discovering” 420 because he published a flyer in 1990 in High Times. But there’s always this mysterious 5-year gap in Bloom’s accounts. I was investigating the history of Soma when Bloom showed up at the office with that flyer for a gathering on Mt. Tam on April 20th at 4:20 that he’d been handed at a Grateful Dead show in Oakland. Bloom laughed at how silly it seemed and published a small blip in the news section making fun of it.

I had a much different reaction. Channeling the Rig Veda, I instantly announced this gathering on Mt Tamalpais was proof of the spiritual powers of cannabis and its ability to manifest real ritual and ceremony. Not only that, I instantly made 4:20 pm a daily ritual for myself, and began re-tooling the Cannabis Cup and Whee! festivals around 4:20 as the central ceremony. I was trying to build a case for the religious use of cannabis and I wanted to videotape and document those ceremonies as proof of that connection. And I have all that documentation intact.

Now Bloom watched all this go down for years and never once got involved with these 420 rituals, just poo-poohed the whole thing like a big joke. He watched the Cannabis Cup spread 420 around the globe during this time and saw myself and Stephen Gaskin deliver many 420 sermons to the uneducated masses, waking them up to the power of peace. Today Boom will tell you 420 spread through the Grateful Dead scene, which is not true. It spread through the teenagers of Marin county, some of whom had gone across the bay to Oakland to recruit comrades for their annual mountain-top ceremony, an event that only lasted a few years before police presence shut it down.

When I investigated the Waldos, the true creators of the 420 code, I came back to announce they were the real deal, and, of course, Bloom went into high gear discounting that notion and acting like I was deluded. Finally, he did cave in and admit the Waldos created 420 a few years back, but then last year, he backtracked once again and claimed it was actually another person from their high school, a tall tale told by a prankster and backed by zero evidence, while the Waldos have maintained a large stack of verifiable documents, including post-marked letters? A few months ago, Bloom was positively crowing about how the Waldos were frauds and he had finally uncovered “the real story.”

So, at the start of 420 week, what does Bloom say now: “Thirty-two years after I stumbled onto the 420 phenomenon, I really could care less who started it. Better off left shrouded in mystery, it makes for a good stoner bedtime story.”

I’d say he’s backed off that lame story, but he’s still not close to the truth, because the Waldod’s did invent 420, a reality Bloom has always had a hard time swallowing, probably only because I was the first to assert it and that would somehow, in his mind, steal his 420 spotlight?

The real story about this year’s 420 is about the people who organized those original Mt. Tam ceremonies, because the Waldos had no hand in these. And wouldn’t you know, one of them happens to have become altar master of the Temple Dragon Crew. This shaman will be returning to Mount Tamalpais in one week bearing the seven sacred candles of peace, which will be lit at 4:20 PM as an OM circle forms.

The real story of 420 is not about who found the flyer, who invented it, or who gets credit for anything. The real story of 420 is that this is our peace culture and shared by all of us who want to walk a path of non-violence. Don’t be fooled into thinking marijuana is only about getting high and/or making money, although that is as far as many people get with the plant. No, there is something much stronger, much deeper, much more intense going on around cannabis because it is the true sacrament of peace culture and always has been. And peace culture is a much truer emanation of the universal energies than anything those black magician masters of war running the Federal Reserve can dream up.