Religion is often a topic best skirted; a subject at the center of so many debates that have little sway on any given side. Yet, every so often, a statement is made that is so egregious as to taunt neutrality, especially considering its prominent position pinned to the vulnerable sleeve of religion. In this case, we’re referring to a comment made by conservative radio personality Gordon Klingenschmitt. In 2014, he referenced the Christian book of Genesis, positing that the infamous Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil could have actually been a marijuana plant. Why even bother dredging up a ridiculous statement, possibly made in passing, from a couple of years ago? Because it’s launched its own wave of conspiracy theorists proclaiming that the “tree” that got humankind banned from paradise was actually cannabis growing wild in the Garden of Eden.
Christianity and Entheogens
Of course, you have to ask yourself if you even believe in the Christian mythology before delving into the mystery of marijuana’s place in the Garden of Eden. Even those who subscribe to the Christian faith argue about whether to take the stories of the Bible as literal fact or as figurative mythology. For the purposes of this article, we’re not concerned with validating or discrediting Christianity. Within the parameters of Christianity, we’re simply trying to determine whether the Tree of Knowledge at the center of the Book of Genesis is a marijuana plant, regardless of whether the story is to be taken literally or spiritually. For some Christians, pondering a question such as this is a historical debate. For other Christians, it’s a discussion of philosophy. And for those who aren’t Christian, it’s like debating whether Jar Jar Binks is the true evil mastermind behind the Dark Side in Star Wars
. Either way, it’s an interesting discussion, especially considering the role of psychoactive substances in many religions.
Professor Carl Ruck helped coin the term entheogens; the psychoactive substances that facilitate altered states for religious purposes. Entheogens aren’t often associated with Christianity, however there is evidence that entheogens, including marijuana, played a role in early Christianity
and Judaism as well as in medicines of the time
The Likelihood of Cannabis in Paradise
Whether or not marijuana buds were the forbidden fruit that lead to the exile from paradise, it seems likely that cannabis was at least present in the Garden of Eden. In the King James Bible, Genesis 1:29 is translated as “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.’” Don’t bother questioning why paradise would have poison ivy growing in its gardens; that’s a different topic altogether. What resonates from this verse is that, according to Christian faith, every plant that we know, excluding any genetically engineered by Monsanto, was represented in the Garden of Eden.
Cannabis Growing in the Garden as the Tree of Knowledge
Are there any claims supporting the conspiracy theories that Eve was seduced by Mary Jane, doomed to forget the garden in a regrettable purple haze? If we’re to take it literally that the Tree of Knowledge bore fruit, then marijuana is most likely exempt. However, from a philosophical standpoint, cannabis bud, if prepared properly, stands to offer much more discovery than an apple. Could the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil actually been an allusion to a mind-expanding psychoactive journey? The late Terrence McKenna, a Renaissance man closely associated with drug culture, agreed that the tree that changed everything in the Garden of Eden was, in fact, bearing psychoactive “fruit”. However, his perspective wasn’t quite as dark as Klingenschmitt’s. Whereas Klingenschmitt was using his accusation to bind guilt-inducing thoughts of sin to cannabis, McKenna felt that the Christian religion was born through ingestion of entheogens. McKenna has been quoted as saying, “What I think happened is that, in the world of prehistory, all religion was experiential and it was based on the pursuit of ecstasy through plants.” While McKenna leans more toward the Tree of Knowledge actually being a cluster of psilocybin mushrooms, few plants create such an ecstatic reaction as cannabis. Of course, Eve would need to know to heat the cannabis to release the THC for the spiritual effects whereas she could simply pop the mushroom in her mouth and wait 45 minutes for the ride to begin.
Divine Trees Beyond the Reach of Man
Going back to the Book of Genesis, we may glean further evidence that, though marijuana existed in the Garden of Eden, it was not the Tree of Knowledge. Genesis 3:23 – 3:24 details a provision of the exile of man from paradise in which God installs a team of sword-swinging angels to guard the Tree of Life from human access. Altogether, the quote translates as “Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the Tree of Life.” Though the Tree of Knowledge is not mentioned, we can take liberties to draw a parallel between the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life as otherworldly flora that remained beyond man’s reach following the exile from paradise.
UPDATE: Further Research Reveals Possible Connections to The Tree of Life
While there obviously won’t be many pressing developments on a story like this, independent journalist Chris Bennett wrote a piece for Cannabis Culture in May
giving a brief overview of his extensive work into the subject and finding some unexpected support from British archaeologist Diana Stein. Stein examined ancient illustrations of the Tree of Life and pointing out visual similarities to cannabis plants. Bennet has been working on his independent research for years and is worth checking out for anyone interested in this theory.
The truth is that there’s no incriminating evidence that links marijuana as the forbidden fruit that got Adam and Eve bounced from the Garden of Eden. However, many can agree about marijuana’s tendency to open minds so perhaps it’s the Tree of Knowledge after all. Then one could easily argue that its medicinal properties make it a leading candidate for the Tree of Life. Or we could simply take it as a psychoactive, medicinal plant that gives us our own personal section of paradise.