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Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America

The book, despite its once-taboo topic, is making its rounds: since its release, it has spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Pollan has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and other media outlets. Citing the work of Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuroscientist at the Imperial College in London, Pollan describes the network in the brain that forms a critical locus of neural activity. Many also attribute to it the functioning of the ego and the creation of a self-versus-other duality. The more those levels went down, the more likely the volunteer was to express a loss of sense of self.

This proposal will likely sound familiar to Buddhists. What you do after that is a different project. A significant portion of early American Buddhist converts were first drawn to Buddhism through eye-opening experiences with entheogens. Many of her peers, she said, graduated from psychedelics because they were dedicated to cultivating a mental stability and insight through meditation alone.

Fenn on Osto, 'Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America'

Halifax agreed that there are dangers to using psychedelics. There are dangers to meditation.

I was able to integrate my experience by having a strong Buddhist practice, by having a lot of grit and determination. Washam, too, admits that psychedelics are controversial in Buddhist circles. September 9, Tags: buddhism lsd psychedelics. Share Tweet Share.

How much money are you losing by not going solar? Use our savings calculator for rooftop solar. Tibi Puiu Supercritical, badger, but all-round nice guy. How long can you go without sleep? Key facts by Fermin Koop. September 12, Log In Sign Up. Ronald S Green. Green Coastal Carolina University rgreen coastal. Reproduction in any other format, with the exception of a single copy for private study, requires the written permission of the author. All enquiries to: cozort dickinson. By Douglas Osto. This book offers a wide array of information about the use of psychedel- ics in America for spiritual or mind-expanding purposes in general and in Buddhism in particular.

It places focus on the views and reported ex- periences of American converts to Buddhism interviewed by the author. The initial chapters provide statistical information about this topic be- fore turning to a narrative history of psychedelic spirituality in the U.

Afterward, the book reports on interviews conducted by the author with twenty- nine primary informants who responded to an online survey he posted. These interviews reveal three main opinions about the relationship or lack thereof of psychedelics and Buddhism. He provides an autobiography at the end of the volume, meant to disclose any biases in his study that might have resulted from his own de- mographics.

The following is a selective summary of the chapters, which are much more imbued with thoughts about experimentation and brimming with insights about historical and personal outcomes. Accordingly, anywhere from 62 to 80 percent of the American Buddhist converts who responded re- port having used psychedelic substances. The author offers the opinion that this should not be surprising considering that, like Americans in general, American Buddhists tend to place a high value on experience including that of meditation, as opposed to embracing devotional prac- tices more widely found among Asian Buddhists.

Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America - Harvard Book Store

It also turns out that most of these informants are white, middle-class males. Osto continues to set the stage for his study, legitimizing it in a sense by referring to an interview with a widely respected American teacher of Buddhism, Jack Kornfield. Kornfield says that 1 he has used psychedelics; 2 he believes the experience was truly related to Bud- dhism; and 3 he recommends that more research be done on it. The au- thor then turns to a Tricycle interview with Terence McKenna, a leading researcher on shamanic use of psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca.

The Buddhist teachers are less enthusiastic about psychedelics than Ram Dass. He speculates that the closeness of the descrip- tion is more than coincidence. It is interesting that Hus- ton Smith and Andrew Weil were among the many people associated with those experiments.

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Eventually, Leary moved to a mansion in up- state New York and this became the center of the east coast psychedelics experimental scene. He used this along with his on-the-job experience at a mental insti- tution to write his famous novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Next, Kesey, along with a number of people who would form The Grateful Dead, came together as a group calling themselves the Merry Pranksters. They also seem to have had a goal of turning on as many people as possible, believing they could help make the world a better place through psychedelics, perhaps a somewhat religious belief.

However, the idea that psychedelics were a spiritual panacea came to a hard stop in when the American media established a close association with them to the Charles Manson murders.

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