The Smokable Sacredness: A Consideration of Cigars & Nonduality

At age 13 I started to smell an earthy, sweet, even ambrosial scent, the aroma of an inner distillation. When it was most strong I would ask my parents, brothers, friends, whoever was in the room with me, “Do you smell that? What is that?”

No one ever smelled it. The occasional flood of inner liquor lasted for several weeks. Its deliciousness made me happy and delightfully spirited about being alive. It was more than an aroma or taste. It was a deeply interior elixir, more like an initiation into a secret of the natural world, the secret of non-separation.

In later years that nectar-like aroma would be re-discovered.

I’ve always had a fascination with cigars. In my early 20s I lived and worked in Santa Monica, California, home of the Tinder Box owned by Ed Kolpin. I was a regular customer, trying various cigar brands and enjoying almost everything.

One day in the mid-1970s I was standing in the Tinder Box humidor, eyeing the varieties of cigars, when Ed walked in and told me about some cigars that had just arrived. He was excited to tell me they were Cubans that had been warehoused in Florida in anticipation of the embargo at that time, 1960. I don’t know if the term “pre-embargo Cubans” had yet been invented.

It was an expensive cigar, 65 cents, but his enthusiasm sold me and I bought one of the Armas del Casa pre-embargo Cubans. I was always one to enjoy smoking while driving. I got into my 1969 Dodge Charger and lit up an Armas del Casa. After a few puffs, I had recognized something.

That nectar-like aroma/feel; that inner liquor of happiness: What was it doing in a cigar? The next day I went back to the Tinder Box and bought a box of Armas del Casa. Almost every cigar presented the nectar-like remembrance, some quite strongly. Over the next few months I bought perhaps another ten boxes, one at a time. Back then I smoked two cigars a day.

I have never again found the elixir in any other cigar, Cuban or otherwise. Yet I can taste the elements of the nectar in almost any cigar, and within those elements I find the remembrance that I am not separate from nature. Nature is what I am. In my world view, the nectar is an expression of the sap of the tree of life, which is the tree of all life, all existence.

A cigar is a connection with the eternal, unspeakable, smokable sacredness of everything that exists.

The author in Westerpark, Amsterdam.
Photo by Anamika Borst

3 thoughts on “The Smokable Sacredness: A Consideration of Cigars & Nonduality

  1. cerosoul

    You probably know that in Cuba cigars are used in Santeria ( a shamanistic religion imported from Africa by slaves). The brujo (shaman) blows cigar smoke on the head of the seeker and pour rum on his/her head. The brujo drinks some rum and passes the bottle around. He scarifies a rooster by cutting its head with a machete and sprinkle his blood on the seeker and all around on those present. Everyone began to dance at the tune of bongos ( tall African drums) the seeker and sometimes others collapse on the floor with epileptic like convulsions and hopely receive messages from African gods such as Chango or Yemaya.


  2. Gary Falk

    I’m OK with all that, although I’d substitute Mel Torme’ for Frank Sinatra, but of course Old Blue Eyes will always do in a pinch. As for the scarifying of roosters, I think that works mainly with regular people. For the vegans in our audience, however, I would suggest that the brujo take out his machete and lop off a big chunk of seitan or tempeh, so as not to offend their alleged higher consciousness.


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