Sunday, 18 September 2011

with or without hallucination

Had vast and far-reaching plans for this teablog this weekend, but the Oktoberfest got in the way.  Actually, I didn't have anything so terribly riveting to talk about, but I did intend to cover the next chapter of The Empire of Tea by Alan and Iris MacFarlane.

It's all terribly interesting, but you know that if you've already read my earlier posts on this. I started out with contemplating The Empire of Tea, then moved on to devouring the Memoirs of a Memsahib and most recently I asked is tea drinking an addiction? due to something that jumped out at me as I was reading the next chapter.

And exactly the same thing has happened again.  In this case, I'd planned to introduce you to the main points of the next chapter or two, but got hung up on one little thing.  Here goes:

'Tea became like the hallucinogenic drugs that have helped shamans in many other parts of the world to enter or communicate with the spirit world.  It constituted the mystical centre of the rites of withdrawal, self-abnegation and the attainment of nothingness of the new sects...' (Source: The Empire of Tea p 54)

He's talking about what he calls the Japanese cult of tea and specifically how tea influenced the religion and society of the Land of the Rising Sun.  I don't know specifically what new sects he's referring to here, but the idea that tea became such an integral part of the culture due to its hallucinogenic properties is not something you read in most tea advertising.

Well, not yet anyway.

Now, please don't take this literally.  I don't steep a pot of Japanese Sencha and start seeing spiders crawling out of the cracks in the wall.  But at the same time, I can see how drinking tea might provide a monk a bit of hallucinogenic-like thoughts.

Earlier in this chapter, which is called Froth of the Liquid Jade, he says that tea drinking is one of the 'four ways of concentrating the mind'.  The other three are walking, feeding fish, and sitting quietly in thought(Source: The Empire of Tea p 54)

At different times, I could definitely enjoy all of these things, but I've just drained my teapot and it's time to brew up again.  With or without hallucination.

a Bavarian mountain that reminded me of Mt Fuji

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