Synopses & Reviews
Now in a paperback edition, Cleansing the Doors of Perception
, by renowned philosopher and scholar of religion Huston Smith, takes a serious look at the use of psychedelic drugs as a means to achieve mystical union with the divine. In a unique blend of direct experience and academic depth, Smith examines this controversial subject and describes the historic and turbulent academic experiments of the sixties in which he was both a subject and an observer. Smith begins by telling the story of his own initiation into the world of psychedelic drugs in the company of Timothy Leary a meeting arranged by Aldous Huxley and the profound effect it had on his understanding of reality. In wrestling with the question Do drugs have religious import? he draws on history, theology, philosophy, psychology, and anthropology.
He tells of fascinating experiments that attempted to shed light on this question, such as the one in which he participated as a guide, where twenty volunteers mostly seminary students were given psilocybin before they attended a traditional Good Friday church service. He discusses as well the use of peyote in Native American sacred rituals and the hallucinogenic plant soma in ancient India. Throughout, he does not approach the question of drugs and religion from any fixed standpoint. Instead, he mines his own experiences and his relationships to pioneers in this field to come up with insights on this intriguing subject that are not available in any other book written for the general public.
"[This] provocative inquiry into the relationship between drugs and religion." Publishers Weekly
"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
"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
"He writes about his relationships with Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary, both firm believers in mind-altering substances. But while Smith does not discount the use of such drugs in obtaining supernatural visions, he does not play the role of advocate, either." Library Journal
"I am extremely grateful for...the courage it took to face down those who continue to dominate public dialogue on drugs with two-dimensional responses to a multidimensional reality." Peter Coyote, actor
This book takes a serious look at the use of psychedelic drugs as a means to achieve mystical union with the divine.
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.