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The globe-trotter who hosted The History Channel's "Digging for the Truth" and now stars in a new series for the Discovery Channel is as comfortable in modern culture as he is among primitive societies. As an anthropologist and explorer who's been to the world's most remote corners and come face-to-face with many of its indigenous peoples, Josh Bernstein knows a thing or two about mystic rituals and sacred ceremonies in ancient and traditional cultures.
The former host of The History Channel series "Digging for the Truth" also understands and appreciates the role that tobacco can play in those rituals.
"Tobacco is a tremendous ally," says Bernstein, who is now the host and executive producer of a series tentatively titled "Josh Bernstein's Expeditions," which debuts in February on the Discovery Channel.
"And for someone who appreciates traditional cultures and who has always associated tobacco with Native Americans and with the higher spirits they are connected to, smoke, tobacco and the power of sending your prayers up on the wind is not something that is lost on me." He has smoked tobacco with a Bolivian shaman who was teaching him about Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth, on the edge of the Andean Lake Titicaca and puffed on peace pipes with Native American Indians in the West.
But for Bernstein, it is cigars that provide the most satisfaction.
So when it comes to smoking cigars—from buying them and tending to them in his humidor, to selecting which cigar to smoke, lighting it and savoring it to the end, Bernstein appreciates the whole process as a spiritual ritual.
"There's something supernaturally balanced about the physical and the ethereal," he says of smoking a cigar.
"You're crossing both worlds." The quest for knowledge has been a continuing pursuit for the 36-year-old Bernstein.
An avid reader, Bernstein spent countless hours in the American Museum of Natural History, drawn there by "the endless amounts of knowledge that are captured and contained within those walls." Bernstein was captivated by the great outdoors too.As a youth, his typical summer included camping, archery and horseback riding in places such as New Hampshire and Antigua, and by the time he began attending Horace Mann School, an elite, conservative prep school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Bernstein was a self-described "crunchy" kid, interested in environmental issues and eating organic food.He was also obsessed with Clint Eastwood and his recurring on-screen personae, such as the Man With No Name, a gunslinger with a say-less-do-more attitude.He also admired Eastwood's commitment to quality, whether it was in front of the camera or behind it."He was the epitome of the tall, rugged, western guy," says Bernstein.
"He didn't necessarily want to live in the modern world and he was OK with that.