We humans are very strange living creatures. We are the only breathing animal that would consciously and purposely inhale smoke from a fire, something that would be naturally and intuitively avoided by every other creature on this planet. Why do we do this?
I think there are many answers to this question, and I will try and answer them all. One good answer is the fact that the active substances in many plants, like nicotine in tobacco or THC in marijuana can be easily absorbed by the body by smoking them, and we like these substances.
Tabacco is a very sacred plant that has been used by Natives from North and South America since we have memory. We will find written references to this practice in ancient Maya codex and on temple inscriptions that date back to 800 A.D. My experience with the Tobacco plant is quite revealing of its intimate relationship to humans. I had finished building my jungle log cabin in the Lacandon rainforest, where I was planning to live from my harvests, and a few months later, a tobacco plant naturally sprouted from one of the buried logs that made the corner post of my home.
When I was clearing out the terrain to build the house, I saw no tobacco plants, and there were none nearby, so how could this plant have appeared there suddenly, and why? Little does the modern world know about the subjective behaviour of medicinal plants and their relationship with humans. It’s a living, conscious symbiosis, and when a medicinal plant pops out in your garden our next to your home, it’s a sign that you must consume that plant.
My Maya neighbour smiled when she saw the plant while visiting me, and taught me how to harvest it and roll a cigar with it. I had been initiated into the art of smoking sacred tobacco, and soon started learning great deals from the plant itself. Tobacco has a narcotic substance that is naturally there as an insecticide to avoid insects from eating the big juicy leaf that just so happens to nicely fit into the neuroreceptors in our brains and thus functions as one of our natural brain chemicals. Just like caffeine and cocaine, when ingested naturally, it produces a wakening effect, very useful in the hot humid weather of the Lacandon. Also, smoking is good for repelling bugs! But that’s just the beginning.
Around 1,000 A.D., just after the great demise of the classic Maya and Toltec civilizations, the huehuetlahtolli or stories of the elders, account for an avatar, named Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, that was born in central Mexico just south of what today is Mexico City. His miraculous birth and failure to die in the many assassination attempts he received when baby, where necessary tests to prove he was the chosen one. Once grown and just before he could become the ruler of the new Toltec kingdom, he received a test of wisdom from an old wise elder, who asked him: what is the brain (mind) of the sky? Quetzalcoatl replied: smoke!
Smoke produced from specific plants and resins are seen by native wise men as the means through which prayers, thought and words are sent skywards. It is the means through which we can speak to god, the spirit, or for the Mayas, the heart of the sky.
Tobacco and other plant smoke is also used to cleanse energies and vibrations stuck in homes and in our bodies. Healers will smoke tobacco to extract illness from parts of a body in a person, and the phlegm produced by the smoke are where these illnesses are deposited, which then are spit out.
But why do people enjoy smoking, as a recreational thing? I remember hearing the stories about the American explorers who were venturing into the west, in the Oregon Trail, and how running out of tobacco was a big concern for them. When they did, they would recur to other plants they thought would have similar effects and wrote all of that down in their memoirs. Since then we can see the beginning of a compulsive behaviour to a plant and a substance that can become addictive that is actually not common or existent in ancient or modern native people.
We have to point out and make clear, that today’s cigarettes contain chemicals that are not found in natural tobacco, and that a great deal of the addiction to these cigarettes comes from this industrial waste put in them on purpose. Having many of my family members die from this addiction, I have been putting thought, observation and meditation into it for many years.
Switching to smoking natural tobacco eliminates a great part of the addiction and of the evil substances introduced into the body by smoking, but the love for smoking doesn’t disappear. Why is this love here?
Anxiety is one of the great reasons. Living in a society void of the sacred, void of meaning and void of a deep and profound communication with the spirit in all things produces a lot of anxiety. We are concealed inside of our minds, listening to our inner dialogue that is viced by the programming received through education and Hollywood induced culture. We have a hard time just being and breathing, being content with just existing and observing the world, and this is not to be so severely criticized, we have been gifted with a powerful mind capable of creating the most unimaginable things, even capable of destroying the world; hey, we are almost there.
Sadly we have received almost no tools in how to channel this great potential, so we are doing so constantly with distractions and we are constantly fed with them. Excessive sexual images bombard us everywhere and technology has become the new, great addiction. Our mind is physical, it can be trained and programmed and even though it is the receptacle of the spirit and it reflects what it contains, it not only spirit, it can be shaped, habituated and reproduce negative behaviour.
But even if we treat and control this anxiety, we smoke only pure plants, we will still find in many a love for smoking. Why? First, there is companionship. Plants have spirits, they are beings, and we can come to love their company. It can become a love-hate relationship also and like any relationship, things must be worked out so they can both coexist harmoniously.
Then there is our relationship to the fire, the great elder. Fire is probably the most ancient, powerful entity that has been with us since our very dawn. Humans are the only creatures that when shown fire while being infants, they will naturally want to approach and touch it. Any other baby creature will be afraid of it, we humans aren’t. Having a strong, intimate relationship with the fire elder is crucial for a wise, fulfilled life. If you don’t like smoking, you will probably want to find another mean through which relate to grandpa fire.
Being able to harness the great power to transform matter into light and energy, we humans can be the creators and the destroyers of this world. Becoming conscious of this and having a balanced relationship and communication with our great powers, is fundamental in the outcome of the rest of life.