The War Between Cigarette Smoke and Spirit


Whether you think of it as the Holy Spirit, the Eck, or the Force…it does not like cigarette smoke. In fact, Spirit won’t hang around where heavy concentrations of smoke exist, nor does the smoke need to come from Marlboro reds. It can be marijuana smoke or any other kind of smoke; Spirit simply doesn’t care.

I’d read about that in a book by Paul Twitchell in 1974. It made sense, but I had no idea I’d get to see the proof of that theorem, firsthand.

Fast forward to the depths of winter in South Dakota, circa 1975.

That year, I was a member of the Jaycees in Huron, South Dakota. One night, our fearless leader informed us that our group would be traveling the following week to do a “visitation”, going to attend a Jaycees meeting in Watertown. That is, any of us who could and would make the journey were encouraged to volunteer.

My second wife and I were at that time running a group home for troubled teenagers, but we didn’t have that many teens in residence at the moment. Carolyn assured me she’d be fine, staying home alone for the evening with the three girls who were our only live-in “family” until the next crisis brought us some new blood.

So naturally I volunteered.

There were seven of us packed into one full sized station wagon that night. It was mighty cold out, wicked nasty, but the highways were passable. The big wagon had size enough for all of us; we were pretty much elbow to elbow, but it wasn’t quite like being sardines in a can.

On the way back from Watertown, with nothing to do but pass the time, the conversation eventually turned to religion. Perhaps I made it turn. I don’t remember, but during the mid-seventies, as a relatively new Eckist, a follower of Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God (which is not a Christian faith), I was somewhat religion minded.

Not excessively so. I wouldn’t try to convert a hardshell Baptist or a member of the B’Hai faith or anything like that. But if a person or a group of people seemed open to frank discussion of what Eckankar was all about, I was more than ready to stand and deliver.

Curiously, among the Jaycees that night, we had just such a group.

None of them were like, “Wow, sign me up!” They weren’t likely to shift gears, but they’d never heard of Eckankar, and they asked good, tough questions.

Six against one. My kind of odds.

It wasn’t really adversarial–not like the partisan political debates you see on TV these days, nothing like that–but I needed to be on my mental toes for sure.

I was the far left passenger in the back seat. The subject had been chosen, the questions were flying, and without breaking a sweat, I had the right answers. For twenty or thirty miles of highway coverage, it was like that…until I began to realize my brain, or more accurately my awareness, was failing me. The answers just weren’t there any more.

The others had noticed it, too. When I asked for a moment to ponder why this might be so, they courteously gave me that moment.

And then I got it.

“I’ve got it,” I told them. “The Eck (Spirit) won’t hang around smoke.” At least three people in the car had lit up and gone to puffing. The passenger cabin was choked with smoke, stem to stern. “Would you care to try an experiment? If you could put out your cigarettes, and let me open this window an inch or two, just long enough to blow out the smoke….”

It was an outrageous request. After all, the driver was one of the smokers; it was his vehicle. Who was I to ask him if he’d mind putting out his cigarette, even for a matter of minutes?

Beyond that, it had dropped below zero outside. When the window was opened, we all thought we were going to freeze to death in short order. The station wagon’s heater was a good one, but there was no way it could keep up with Old Man Winter at 60 miles per hour.

Amazingly–or maybe not so amazingly; they were a really good bunch of people–they stubbed out their smokes with good cheer and waited to see if this was going to work.

It did work. The moment I’d rolled the window back up and announced, “Okay, let’s see what happens,” the questioners started firing their missiles…and once again, I had the answers.

What those precise questions were, I don’t recall. After all, that was nearly 40 years ago. But if they followed the usual pattern, which I believe most of them did, they would have been asking me about reincarnation, the Immaculate Conception, how we (Eckists) viewed Jesus, Soul travel, dream state study, perhaps astral projection, Satan, God, and a few dozen other things as they came to mind.

We kept at it for at least another hour of travel time, discussing the spiritual mysteries of life as the headlights cut through the winter night, the snow tires hum-howling in accompaniment to the multisided conversation.

There were several remarkable things that transpired that evening, two of which struck me with unforgettable force:

    1. The Eck (Spirit) really will not hang around smoke, but the moment the smoke clears, it’s perfectly willing to reassume its rightful place.

    2. The others in the station wagon, most of them Christians from a Bible college town, got the message just as clearly as I did.

Now, it is clearly a war, this smoke-versus-Spirit dance, but it’s also sort of a “chicken or the egg” thing. Depending on which side you choose, the question could easily be asked: Does smoke push out Spirit, or does Spirit clear away smoke? Which is stronger? Is the one that seems strongest really the strongest of the pair?

If we wanted to take a simplistic approach, we could say, “Hey, Spirit is from God and smoke is from the Devil.” But it’s never that simple. Smoke as used ceremoniously by the Native Americans has obvious benefits. So do the pain reduction and emotional balance of judicious marijuana smoking by those who need it. Those of us who’ve depended on wood stoves for heating would not have survived without a bit of wood smoke curling up out of the chimney.

On the other hand, we all know that smoking leads to various forms of cancer and numerous other deadly ailments. Smoke inhalation during a house fire or wildfire will usually kill you quicker than the flames themselves.

That said, I know one thing for sure. I won’t ever attempt to tell another human being that he or she should avoid smoking (and thus avoid smoke), but I do make every effort to keep myself as far from cigarette smoke as possible. I’m better for it in many ways, not the least being my comfort level in knowing the presence of Spirit 24/7, 365…whether one calls it the Holy Spirit, the Eck, or the Force.

4 thoughts on “The War Between Cigarette Smoke and Spirit

  1. Smoking the marijuana is not necessary for the health benefits of it. Using it in brownies is better because it does not have the smoke and can be used any place that it is needed. Most that need the medical benefits of it, use it in brownie form or as a butter.
    We have a good friend that has an inoperable brain tumor. Her husband makes a butter for her with it. She just puts a bit on some bread and eats it that way. That is the only thing that has kept the pain level down. They tried all these pain meds first, and they did not do near as well for her. It is such a pity too, she was a wonderful teacher, and her husband adores her. She can no longer work and her husband is going to be lost without her.
    I can see why the cigarette smoke would keep the Spirit away.

  2. That’s an excellent point. Also, thanks for the info–not that I expect to use it in the foreseeable future, but you never know. I knew about the brownies (thanks to the Alice’s Restaurant movie back when) but had not heard about incorporating it into butter. If Pam weren’t so allergic to THC, that would be seriously tempting. It’s good to hear your friend at least gets some pain relief, though.

  3. This is interesting, Ghost. I’m not sure what to make of it. I truly believe the Spirit was less prominent in your psyche when the car filled with smoke. (I always smoke with the window rolled down, no matter how cold it is). I think that would have clouded my ability to think clearly, too. As you know, I smoke but I can’t say that keeps the Spirit from me. I’m not religious but I am spiritual. I don’t think the fact that I smoke has hindered my relationship with the Spirit at all. Perhaps I’m accepted as a smoker.

  4. Sha, I think I need to clarify a bit: My experience has not been that smokers aren’t accepted spiritually–it’s just that the flow of Spirit to and through folks (whether the smoke is firsthand or secondhand) is TEMPORARILY lessened during the moments there’s an actual cloud of smog filling the air. On the other hand, I do realize the value of smoking to calm one’s nerves at times.

    I was at a rodeo once in Valley City, North Dakota, when I was 19. The first thing I did, before the rodeo, was accidentally slice my left index finger with a hunting kinfe, cutting at an angle across the main knuckle, shaving it literally to the bone. I’d been trying to fashion a crude guitar pick out of a piece of firewood…and slipped. The injury was not terribly comfortable even with a Band Aid on, but later that day I had to ride one saddle bronc and one bull–and that is my riding hand.

    To compound my troubles, the saddle bronc (a deceptive dark bay fellow appropriately named Rue Morgue) flung me out of the saddle so efficiently–sideways to the left front–that the buck rein jerked my arm across my body before my brain could get around to telling me it was time to let go. At that point, I was rocketing toward the ground, and landed on that arm.

    Now the knuckle had been extra irritated, my arm had been smashed up fairly well by my own body…and I had a National Finals qualified bull to ride next. To say I was not in terrifically good shape would be a bit of an understatement.

    However, the cowboy who was helping set me down on the bull had a pack of cigs in his pockets. Menthol Salems, my former butt of choice. I bummed one from him, lit up, took two or three drags, blew the smoke back out through my nose (I never did pull the smoke deep into my lungs)…and felt MUCH better. Rode the bull perfectly…and didn’t make a penny, even though that critter bucked exactly the same pattern for another cowboy that weekend and got him to third place.

    I’d made it look too easy.

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