Synopses & Reviews
Huston Smith, internationally recognized philosopher, scholar of religion, and author of the long-acclaimed classic The World's Religions
, now offers Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals
The entheogens are plants and chemicals that have been used, some of them for thousands of years, and are being used today around the world, as means for going beyond the ordinary and encountering the sacred.
The greatest single impediment to understanding the entheogens is "psychedelia": the entire range of cultural baggage dating from the 1960s, from Day-Glo painted minibuses to lava lamps, tied together by the implicit belief that the most important use of entheogenic mushrooms, peyote, and their chemical cousins is to have a perpetual Happening.
Cleansing the Doors of Perception aims to undo that confusion. It does not restate the extreme claims of the sixties about liberation through intoxication; rather, it asserts that those claims were profoundly mistaken and helped cause some people to lose their spiritual way. It communicates the key role that entheogens can play when used in contexts of faith and discipline, and it sets out what the entheogens show us about the nature of mind and spirit.
Smith explains that he has kept his eye on this issue throughout the last 40 years of his career because he shares Aldous Huxley's opinion that nothing is more curious, or to his thinking more important, than the role that mind-altering plants and chemicals have played in human history. "My intent," writes Smith, "has been to produce a work that touches on the major facets of its enigmatic subject as seen through the eyes of someone (myself) who, given my age, may have thought and written more about it than anyone else alive."
"It takes something of a visionary and a revolutionary to fly in the face of convention....Calmly, in measured tones, Smith lucidly and learnedly mulls over a most controversial topic." Booklist
"On this treacherous subject, where it is easy to go wrong, Smith has written a book that is as responsible as it is informed. His views are completely in accord with my own." Albert Hofmann, Ph.D., author of LSD: My Problem Child
The bestselling author of "The World's Religions" delves into both ancient and modern history to present a comprehensive book on the relationship between faith and psychedelics. Including the thoughts of William James, Sigmund Freud, Timothy Leary, and Saul Bellow, "Cleansing the Doors of Perception" is a parable of our times.
A fascinating historical inquiry into the intersection between religious experience and mind-expanding substances.
Nearly every culture in human history records a connection between religious experience and entheogenic, or psychedelic, substances. In our own century, we have read with fascination of numerous experiments with mind-expanding drugs: Aldous Huxley's early experiences with LSD; Timothy Leary's popularization of psychedelics in the sixties; Carlos Casteneda's use of peyote in accordance with Indian traditions.
In Cleansing the Doors of perception--the title of which is a tribute to both Huxley's Doors of Perception and the original line of verse by William Blake--Huston Smith, the mega-selling author of The World's Religions, offers a unique treasure. Smith was present at the inception of the twentieth century's most famous experiments linking psychedelic drugs with the expansion of divine experience, and has a unique grasp of the historical significance of entheogenic plants and chemicals and the opening of mystical experience. Here he delves into both ancient and modern history to present the only comprehensive book written for the general public on the historic and contemporary ideas of the relationship between faith and psychedelics. Including the philosophical thoughts of such figures as William James, Sigmund Freud, Timothy Leary, and Saul Bellow, Cleansing the Doors of Perception is a parable of our times, and also a deeply learned and serious inquiry into a topic of enduring fascination.
About the Author
Huston Smith is one of the most respected and beloved authorities on world religions. He has taught at Washington University, MIT, Syracuse University, and the University of California at Berkeley. In 1996, Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS special, "The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith," to his life and work.