Unknown in Europe before the end of the 15th century, tobacco was introduced from America by Christopher Columbus after he discovered the new continent in 1492. Being a rare and therefore precious product, tobacco was initially primarily used for medical purposes, for example as a herbal infusion.
The cultivation of tobacco spread first in Spain and Portugal, then into the rest of Europe. As demand grew, tobacco was soon being cultivated on a large scale, beginning in 1520 in North America, the Antilles and Cuba. Selective breeding finally yielded a variety adapted to the European climate, the cultivation of which began around 1560.
At that time tobacco was mainly snuffed as a fine powder, so that it was absorbed through the nasal mucous membrane, or else it was consumed as chewing tobacco. Pipe, cigar or cigarette smokers were quite rare. The ubiquitous cigarette of today did not exist before 1674. It appeared about two centuries after tobacco was introduced to Europe, and at first was rolled by the smokers themselves. Production on an industrial scale only began in 1842, and helped not only to make it available but contributed considerably to the popularity of tobacco. The number of smokers then rose spectacularly, first in Europe and soon worldwide. In France, for instance, annual cigarette production was around 7 million in 1860, but by 1893 (only 33 years later!) it had climbed to a billion, and by 1960 to 50 billion. After peaking at 97 billion in 1991, production still amounted to as many as 83 billion cigarettes in 2000.
Initially, tobacco was a rare and valuable commodity, but today, it is commonplace and its consumption is considered quite normal, having a universal appeal that is rather surprising. In contrast to other drugs that tend to be limited to certain regions or particular segments of the population, tobacco use does not know any such limits. Tobacco is consumed by the most primitive tribes as well as by people in the most modern cities, by men and women alike, regardless of educational standing or religious orientation, by adults as well as youngsters.
The bridge between spirit and body
As it is with most drugs, nicotine — a component of tobacco — does not only have physical effects. The "internal high" that the smoker seeks from smoking not only manifests in the body but also touches on the psyche, more precisely: his spirit.
The question is: How is it possible that a material substance like nicotine can affect the non-material spirit?
Naturally, the spirit cannot be influenced directly by nicotine molecules. There has to be a “connecting element” between body and soul* — and this "element" is the blood, more precisely: the radiation of the blood. The blood, this “juice of very special kind” in the words of Goethe, emits radiations or vibrations which in fineness and frequency resemble those radiations emanating from the outermost covering of the soul, or “astral body”. It is the similarity of these radiations that forms a “bridge” of resonance between the physical body and the soul, across which all information “circulates” between the material and nonmaterial realms. In this way the spirit is fully connected to the body during its incarnation on earth.
The blood radiation is dependent on the composition of the blood. Any change in this is bound to influence the condition of the soul as well. Let us take some examples. It is well known that a drop in the blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) evokes a feeling of uneasiness; a lack of vitamin B1 leads to a state of anxiety; excessive lead in the blood triggers depression, etc. Thus it is easy to understand that nicotine changes the blood radiation, and consequently the condition of the smoker’s soul. Via the blood radiation (and in turn, followed by a similar radiation process via the finer cloaks of the soul) the spirit, too, is indirectly influenced by the effects produced by nicotine.
Now it could appear as though we were defenceless against all earthly influences which can reach us through our blood radiation. This is not the case. For the spirit likewise exerts its influence on all bridges of radiation, but from “within”.
It is well known that we can change our emotional state or soul condition by an effort of will. By pulling oneself together, one can become more cheerful if depressed, more even-tempered if excitable, more focused if distracted, more confident if one is despondent. In such a case, the volition of the spirit exerts a pressure — first on the finer coverings around the spirit, and subsequently also on the physical body. This pressure in turn causes the production of hormones and other secretions which change the composition and thereby the radiation of the blood. As a result, the spirit is soon "immersed" in radiations of a corresponding nature and experiences a correspondingly different emotional state.
If, for example, a person seeks calm, his body will produce endorphins as a result of the pressure exerted by his spirit. With increased vigilance of the spirit the cortex of the adrenal glands will produce adrenalin. Naturally, such processes take place unconsciously.
Drugs are not substances absolutely foreign to the body — even if it could not use these — but they come very close in their activity to endogenous substances, produced by the organism itself. So similar even, that they can replace the body’s own substances. The unusual effect of drugs stems from the fact that they mimic in an exaggerated manner the particular effect of a substance normally produced by the organism. Thus morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy, is very similar to endorphins, which are endogenous hormones. Cannabis resembles a biocatalyst that is secreted by the brain. And nicotine, in turn, corresponds to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, which partly ensures that messages can be transmitted from one nerve cell (neuron) to the next.
So, in a stressful situation, a state of restlessness or fear, there are two ways of restoring inner composure: either through an act of will which follows an impulse from the spirit and causes corresponding secretions in the body — or by tobacco and nicotine consumption which brings an artificially induced state. The choice is ours.
The reason why people often opt for a drug which is known to be harmful is that it always appears easier to “consume” an external aid than to make the personal effort. To restrain oneself, or to do something of one's own will in order to achieve a goal, requires personal effort. Self-exertion is certainly beneficial to the development of the spirit and unfolding its innate abilities, for the spirit unfolds by activating a volition, just as a muscle gets stronger through exercise.
For this reason, resorting to the use of the drug nicotine exhibits a certain indolence or lack of willpower and self-confidence. Ironically, this is the exact opposite of those qualities the advertising industry uses to make smoking “glamorous”. Generally speaking, the smoker is portrayed, as everybody knows, as an active, decisive, strong-willed and self-confident person.
Illustration from a manuscript compiled under the direction of Leonhart Fuchs (1501-66)