May 1, 1998

Robert Lawrence
Post Office Box 515
Fountain, FL 32438

Hi Robert,

        Thank you for your letter of April 28, and thank you for pointing out the etymology of the word sacrament.  The word definitely has a Catholic ring to it, and you are correct - it is not found in the Bible.   The only use of the term I could find is in the introduction written by King James (the word sacred appears three times).  I think this is another indication of how we fell into a trap when we started making an argument for a sacramental exemption from the Controlled Substances Act.  It was only natural that we would fall into this trap, since there was a sacramental exemption for the use of peyote in the federal regulations.   Even in that exemption, the word sacramental is not found.  The peyote exemption talks about the use of peyote in ceremonies of the Native American Church.

        It's very dangerous to ask the government for approval of what one does in response to one's perceived obligations to God, because that gives government the power to decided what is and what is not religious.   This must be what has often been referred to as the separation, or wall, between church and state.  We must do whatever it is that God tells us to do, being aware of the consequences for such actions.  Personally, I know that God gave me a mind for exactly this purpose, to weigh the consequences and act accordingly.

        If marijuana is really the evil substance it's made out to be, then people shouldn't be able to use it no matter what the reason.  On the other hand, if it's really the beneficial gift to mankind that we know it is, then we shouldn't be putting people in jail for using it, no matter what their reasons for using it.  This leaves the question of religion moot, since we wouldn't expect something done in the name of religion to be any more or less offensive than if it were done in the name of some devil.

        However, having said all that, I do take issue with Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).  There are some things the absence of which will cause you to die.  If you should stop breathing the air, you'll die.  Stop drinking water, and you'll soon perish.  You need a certain amount of food; the Bible calls it meat ("to you it shall be for meat").  If you should become separated from your blood, you'll die.  Many people have made these discoveries.   We can learn from the mistakes of others.

        Although the Bible doesn't use the word sacrament, it does speak about a substance which some of us call a sacrament:

        And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

Matthew 26:26-29.

Whatever you call it, this bread and this cup are symbolic of Christ's body and blood.  In Jamaica, we heard the herb called lamb's bread and the device used to smoke it was called a bottomless cup.

        The Bible tells us that the body of Christ is made up of many members, and that we are those members.  "For the body is not one member, but many."  1 Corinthians 12:14.  "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."  Romans 12:4-5.   "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."  1 Corinthians 12:12.   "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."  1 Corinthians 12:27.

        Just as you have blood flowing through your individual body, there must be blood that flows through the body (the members) of Christ.  I suppose you could say this blood is the word of God.  The Bible says it is bread and wine, but, of course, that's only symbolic.

        I remember the first person I ever heard refer to the herb as a sacrament.  It was before I ever met anyone called a Rastafarian.  That person was Allen Ginsburg.  I remember a picture of him passing a joint to someone, and the caption under the picture said something about sharing the sacrament.  Personally, I can't think of anything in my life other than ganja that has had a greater influence on my thinking.

        I appreciate you letting me know your thoughts on this matter.


Carl E. Olsen