The Berry and the Songs which makes us “Sober and Merry”

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:   I want to share what I have learned about the origins of coffee and related spiritual matters but, before we delve into those seemingly disparate topics, I want to share a secret: from my life experience, I now consider that we are most human when we are grateful and when, with a sense of appreciation, we strive and intend to serve others. There you have it, in a nutshell. Cultivate a sense of gratitude and express that sense in deeds of compassion.  It is good for you – that sense of gratitude. It lowers blood pressure, alleviates anxiety, can be an antidepressant and is one of the most effective treatments for insomnia.  Rx: simply to count one’s blessings.  That works.  It really does. (Hint… If it doesn’t work initially, just keep counting!)


Personally, I am quite grateful for many things – one of which is coffee (which makes my wonderful bride happy each blessed morning) but which initially was not a taste I appreciated. I first spit out a gulp of coffee when working on a Norwegian commercial fishing boat out of Stavanger in 1975- I thought someone had put out their cigarette in it!  I concur with one George Sandy, a Brit travelling to Egypt in 1610 who described the Egyptians drinking “coffa as hot as they can suffer it, blacke as soote,  and tasting not much unlike it.”   But add some cream and sugar or perhaps some Hazelnut syrup or even, on the occasional eve, some whiskey (the Irish modification) and the “soot” flavor vanishes.  So, let’s take some time to appreciate coffee. Do you know whom we can thank for this “all-American” (Seattle-based, at least) drink?   Read on:


The French Loved Coffee

“Coffee, the sober drink, the mighty nourishment of the brain, which unlike other spirits heightens purity and lucidity; coffee which clears the clouds of the imagination and their gloomy weight; which illuminates the reality of things suddenly with the flash of truth.”

–       Jules Michelet, French Historian (1798-1874)


The Women of London didn’t

The Women’s Petition against Coffee, representing to public consideration the grand inconveniences accruing to their sex from the excessive use of the drying and enfeebling Liquor, in which the ladies, who had not been accorded the freedom of the coffee houses in England, as was the custom in France, Germany, Italy, and other countries on the Continent, complained that coffee made men as “unfruitful as the deserts where that unhappy berry is said to be bought.”   Besides the more serious complaint that the whole race was in danger of extinction (the men were stending too much time away from home at the coffee houses), it was urged that coffee be prohibited in order to preserve the race. Too frequently,  “on a domestic message a husband would stop by the way to drink a couple of cups of coffee”  and not attend to his marital duties.


The Men of London did

The Men’s Answer to the Women’s Petition Against Coffee 

London UK  the year 1674  wherein wine was denounced as the “sweet poison of the treacherous grape that drowns our very reason and our souls” and beer was condemned as “the Foggy Ale that beseig’d our Brains” but described the benefits of coffee as a gift of God in a “broadsheet” praising coffee:


“First sent amongst us this All-healing-Berry,”¨

At once to make us both Sober and Merry.

 Coffee that grave and wholesome liquor

that heals the stomach, makes the genius quicker

relieves the memory, revives the sad

 and cheers the Spirits, without making mad…”


Who Discovered Coffee?

Today, 12 years after 9/11, in our perpetually inebriated, xenophobic time disappointingly rife with fearful hatred and stigmatization of “the other”, it is worth thanking our Muslim friends for so many gifts to our American culture: our alphabet,   (i.e. your ability to read these words!), our decimal system including the first symbol for zero (note that the derivation of the word “cipher” comes from the Arabic “sifr”),  the mathematical knowledge of algebra (al-Jabr) was invented by the great Muslim mathematician Al-Khawarizmi – from whose name the term “algorithm” is itself derived; our appreciation of the celestial bodies (the Jilali solar calendar devised under Umar Khayyam was more precise than the Julian calendar and the subsequent Toledan tables were used by Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Kepler while Arabic terms like zenith, nadir, azimuth and almanac informed our scientific discussions), and   COFFEE…  Yes!    The world’s second most popular drink, described as the Wine of Islam, coffee was first scorned by Christians until Pope Clement tasted it in 1605 to settle an ecclesiastical argument and declared that this drink from Islam (originally used for the enhancement of religious devotion) was not, after all, a drink of the Devil.


After being discovered in Yemen, perhaps by a goat herder who noted friskiness in his herd after they nibbled the coffee bush berries, or perhaps after a condemned man survived on coffee beans after being left to die in the desert out side the gates of a city called Mocha (yup – that is where that name of my favorite  coffee drink originated), coffee now made its way out from Islam’s “Coffa” houses to the Christian coffee houses of Europe.  By 1680, Londoners consumed more coffee than any citizens of other city on earth.


The stories of international espionage seeking to gain control of a handful of fertile coffee beans (which subsequently seeded the British and French plantations of Santo Domingo and Guadeloupe before spreading to Brazil) are thrilling to read.


Another piece worth reading is the lyrics of poet/songwriter David Wilcox’s stunning song “Beyond Belief”.

So, fix yourself a nice cup of initially Islamic but now non-denominational coffee,  and allow the “Drink of Reason” to deepen your appreciation of the wisdom in these lyrics while listening to the song here:    (listen to song #109)


Beyond Belief    from Open Hand  Slabster


“Jesus   –  called me  hypocrite.  

When I said that I believe

He said,  how can you follow me

Without a willingness to leave…

      Leave the gates and the passwords,  

Known by just your kind

Walk beyond the  divisions that religions always finds

And BE the mercy,  my people need the peace

This fight over faith won’t bring them relief

I love them beyond  belief.


Jesus   –  called me a hypocrite,  

When I said I’d spread the word

He said,  how can you teach of love

Unless you live what you have heard…

     Hear the hearts of the people,  crying out in pain

Pain caused by dominion, and fighting in my name  – my

So,  BE the mercy,  my people need the peace

This fight over faith won’t bring them relief

I love them beyond belief.


Jesus  –  called me a hypocrite,  

When I said that I was saved

He said,  how will your soul be judged

With all the judgments you have made…

      Faith can’t be your fortress, arrogant with pride

Come walk here beside me with the humble ones outside

And BE the mercy,  all my people need the peace

This fight over faith won’t bring them relief

I love them beyond belief


Jesus called me …. to be the mercy.”



…..For more on this touchy (but ultimately integrating) topic, enjoy Good Man  (song # 102) and Piece of Me  and Out of the  Question and others at–MUSICAL_MEDICINE&display=2006


What to Drink? 

For a healthy coffee, one which is alkaline enough to not require cream or sugar, read about the health benefits of coffee here  

…and about Medical coffee here  

 …or buy some Medical Coffee    here






2) A History of the World in 6 Glasses   by Tom Standage, Walker and Co.  2005

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