Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals Hardcover – 19 Jun 2000
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Cleansing the Doors of Perception is a fresh consideration of the age-old relationship between psychedelics and mystical experience, by one of the most trustworthy religious writers of our time. Author Huston Smith (most famous for his classic The World's Religions) is the Walter Cronkite of religion scholars. He has long believed that "Drugs appear to be able to induce religious experiences" and that "it is less evident that they can produce religious lives". At the same time, he posits that "if ... religion cannot be equated with religious experiences, neither can it long survive their absence". Therefore, Smith's basic question about entheogens (a word he defines as "nonaddictive mind-altering substances that are approached seriously and reverently") is "whether chemical substances can be helpful adjuncts to faith". Cleansing the Doors does not offer one sustained argument in response to that question. Instead, the book collects Smith's many articles about this subject, and connects them with brief introductory essays. The writings gathered here range from personal testimony about Smith's own experience with entheogens to speculative historical writing about the possibility of Cardinal John Henry Newman's experience with such chemicals, to ethnographic work on the use of entheogens in India. Throughout, Smith's style conveys the wisdom and wonder that has guided his explorations of this strange, fascinating aspect of religious experience. --Michael Joseph Gross
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o The experiential dimension of the drugs
o The relationship of the drugs to religion
o The history of psychedelics in the United States
The historical dimension is fascinating for children of the baby boomers, who are too young to have experienced the 1960s. He discusses the experiements conducted at various institutions in the 1960s. He talks about Aldous Huxley, Albert Hoffman, and Timothy Leary.
Leary gets special attention in the essay on the viability of the drug culture as a new religious movement.
I recommend reading this book after having read the classic The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley. This volume gives a much more mature perspective, since it is a retrospective decades after the fact.
I highly recommend this book to several audiences. The first obvious audience is the would-be psychonaut. The book recounts the authors experiences with psychedelics. (The author prefers the term entheogens.) Students of religion would also benefit from this book. The author is a professor of religious studies, and several of the essays collected in this volume deal directly with the mystical experience brought on by the drugs.
I was especially fascinated by the chapter on Stanislav Grof. I learned more about pure psychotherapy from this book than any book I have read on the subject.
This book speaks about cultures within cultures such as The Native American Church. It illuminates the fact that there are societies who use natures chemistry to fight drug addiction. Near the end of the book you hear the testimonials from the patrons of the Native American Church, and it is most enlightening.
This book is about religion, philosophy, psychology, the science of mind, and the study of reality--all in one short and sweet text. I found it very eye-opening and inspiring.
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