Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals

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.”