Pubdate: Sat, 29 Nov 2008
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2008 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Judy Harrison
Bookmark: (Spiritual or Sacramental)


Temple Of Advanced Enlightenment Seeks Religious  Exemption From

BANGOR, Maine - Every Tuesday and Sunday afternoon the living room in
the Rev. Kevin Loring's apartment becomes a tiny house of worship.

The head of the 3-year-old Temple of Advanced Enlightenment earlier
this week stood next to a round table as five others sat on sofas and
chairs pushed back against the walls. They formed an uneven circle in
the second-floor walk-up.

"We use music as a form of prayer," Loring, 28, told them as the
service began. "It helps us to see a little bit more clearly."

He played Ben Harper's "I'll Rise" as the worshippers bowed their
heads. After the song, the minister gave thanks to the Pure One and to
Mother Earth. Then the minister prepared the sacrament by placing a
small amount of marijuana in a wooden pipe.

"The taking of the sacrament is a very serious tradition," he said.
"It's a very holy spiritual tool. It is with great respect that we
take part in the sacrament."

Loring lit the pipe at 4:20 p.m., inhaled, exhaled, then took a drink
of water from a large clear glass. The minister passed the pipe and
lighter to his fellow clergyman, the Rev. Garrett Wozneak, 28, of
Glenburn. Wozneak inhaled, exhaled, passed the pipe and drank from the
glass Loring offered as they participated in the Sacred Smoking Circle.

In smoking marijuana followed by taking a drink, participants take in
the four elements - marijuana from the earth, fire to light it, wind
to inhale and exhale the smoke and water, according to Loring.

"Cannabis is the Divine Inheritance given to all people by Mother
Earth so that we may unlock the mystery of the many and varied
messages of the Pure One," the group's Web site states.

Responsible use of marijuana for spiritual enrichment is at the center
of the religion that Loring, a Penobscot Indian, and others founded
about three years ago. Members do not advocate for the legalization of
marijuana because they believe its use requires spiritual guidance,
the minister said.

"It's important to take one eye from the physical realm to see more
clearly in the spiritual," Loring said. "That may sound like you are
half blind, but you really are taking your focus from one place to
another - a place where you can see real unconditional love."

The use of marijuana as a sacrament by members is carefully monitored,
he said. Temple members must be at least 18 years old and have
completed basic religious studies of the Temple before they engage in
rituals such as the Sacred Smoking Circle, Vision Quest, Blessing of
Meals, Blessing of Home, Holy Anointing and Honoring the Deceased,
which are religious rituals similar to those practiced in mainline

Samantha Bailey, 20, of Winthrop met Loring online. Bailey said
Tuesday that she was not raised in a religious tradition, but the
Temple's beliefs were "something I could wrap my brain around."

"When I take in the sacrament," she said, "it opens up my mind to
different possibilities. I see things in a completely different way,
and I see things that I would not normally have caught."

Loring, Wozneak and Jillian Dunton are the group's ordained clergy and
make up the temple's high council. In order to be ordained, each had
to be a member for at least three years, complete 500 hours of
community service, be tested by other council members, sign an
affidavit of spiritual cannabis use and take a vow of pov-erty,
compassion and morality.

The Temple's beliefs are based in what are considered by theologians
to be Native American traditions. Loring and other clergy wear black
shirts and robes similar to those worn by clergy in Christian
denominations but with green instead of white collars.

"Native American [and] First Nations religion is primarily about experience,
not about theology or doctrine," according to the fourth edition of "How to
Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook. It is
simultaneously a personal and a profoundly communal experience. The nearly
universal rule among Native peoples that explains this, is that ceremonies,
customs and various cultural traditions, which are all ways of exercising
spirituality, are, at their core, community activities for community

Giving back to the community is central to the Temple's theology,
according to information on the Temple's Web site. Members and seekers
meet twice a month at the Union Street Brick Church in Bangor to
discuss how to best do that.

One idea the group is exploring is distributing medical marijuana,
which is legal in Maine if prescribed by a physician, to people in the
Bangor area who have been advised to use marijuana but cannot obtain
it legally.

The Temple is in the process of asking the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency for a religious use exception so members don't need to fear
arrest, according to Loring. Its mission statement also includes
providing public education programs on religious freedom and civil
rights in relation to smoking marijuana.

"As human beings, we're wired to want to know more about
spirituality," the Rev. Lee Witting, owner of the Union Street Brick
Church, said after Tuesday night's meeting. "There's a whole
generation that has the same spiritual yearning that we in traditional
Judeo-Christian traditions have, but they have no direction in which
to point their spiritual curiosity.

"This is an intellectual approach to spiritual use of marijuana,"
Witting, who also is a chaplain at Eastern Maine Medical Center, said,
"that might keep them from using other more destructive drugs. They
are doing something good and taking a new approach so I'm glad to let
them use the space."

In the Sacred Smoking Circle on Tuesday afternoon, Loring told
worshippers to take in a positive better tomorrow when they inhaled
and to exhale the negativity that kept them from becoming better people.

"When I take in the sacrament," Bailey said, "it opens my mind up to
different possibilities. When I blow out the negative energy, it
really feels that way to me, like I'm expelling the bad."

The Temple of Advanced Enlightenment will hold its next meeting at 7
p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the Union Street Brick Church on the corner
of Union and First streets in Bangor. For more information, visit

Goals of the Temple of Advanced Enlightenment:

. Seek a spiritual use exemption from the U.S. Drug Enforcement

. Offer drug abuse intervention and mentoring.

. Promote cannabis as a narcotic replacement therapy.

. Distribute medical marijuana free.

. Educate public on spiritual use of marijuana.

. Partner with houses of worship, lawyers, colleges and

. Seek a $60,000 grant from the Marijuana Policy Project.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin