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Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
by Allan Hunt Badiner & Alex Grey (eds.)
Chronicle Books LLC 
Reviewed by Myron Stolaroff, 3/3/2007

In my paper (Stolaroff 1999), I reported that psychedelic agents, properly understood and applied, are one of the most valuable, useful, and powerful learning tools available to humanity. The Buddhist magazine Tricycle devoted an issue to psychedelics, wherein contributors varied in their opinion of psychedelics all the way from recognizing important benefits to finding them objectionable and even harmful. I devoted a good part of the above paper to point out how these differences arose because of lack of knowledge of the true potential of psychedelics and their proper employment. Successful outcomes, which can be dramatic and profound, require deep intention and a willingness to encounter and resolve repressed material, which can often be painful. However, resolving such unconscious material results in substantial liberation, permitting greater clarity and understanding, freeing intuition, substantially enhanced well-being, and improving the ability to reach deeply into the core of the Real Self, providing the most fulfilling realization of which people are capable.

In the recent book Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, a number of the contributors have recognized the value of psychedelics and have pointed out ways in which they can be helpful and of value. While many of the presentations provide deeper understanding of the value and benefits of employing psychedelics, my own experience indicates that there remains room for further understanding and clarification that can provide more effective results. In fact, in some instances it is reported that states are reached when psychedelics are no longer indicated. While in my paper cited above I point out that such a stage can and should be reached, in some of the situations reported the full potential of psychedelics has not been recognized. Very often the desire to abandon further psychedelic exploration is the result of reaching heavily defended areas in the psyche which are quite painful, yet which when resolved result in enormous gains in profound understanding and well being. In other situations, important attributes and methods of enhanced achievement have not be recognized.

Consequently, it is my hope that a more careful examination can result in greater understanding and facilitate the deepening of one’s meditation practice.

In his forward to the book Zig Zag Zen, Stephen Batchelor points out that many have been drawn to Buddhism through their psychedelic experiences; in fact “few would deny the role of these substances in opening their eyes to a life of spiritual and religious meaning” (p. 9). Yet traditional schools of Buddhism for the most part fail to acknowledge a useful role for psychedelic substances, and advise abstinence. Batchelor concludes with the statement “. . . I very much hope that their collective wisdom will not only illuminate the relation between the use of psychedelics and the Buddhist path, but more importantly, help our society as a whole see its way more clearly through the deep confusion that surrounds its attitude toward drugs” (p. 11).

Read the full text of this review in the Myron Stolaroff Vault

Originally Published In : website of the Albert Hofmann Foundation
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