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Sweeping Entheogens Out From Under the Rug: Zig Zag Zen at the Rubin Museum

Sweeping Entheogens Out From Under the Rug: Zig Zag Zen at the Rubin Museum

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(left to right) Alex Grey and Allan Badiner and psychiatrist Julie Holland MD at the Rubin Museum, New York City, June 17th.

 

How did the leaders of the American Buddhist community find their way to spiritual practice? And why does sacred and tribal art look so, well. . . psychedelic

These were a few of the topics discussed at the Rubin Museum’s book launch event for the new, expanded edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, from Synergetic Press. In a down to earth yet provocative exchange, editors Alex Grey and Allan Badiner, along with moderator Julie Holland M.D. spoke openly about the tie-died elephant standing in the lush downstairs theater space at the Rubin Museum on June 17th.

The Rubin, located in the Chelsea neighborhood of downtown Manhattan, is a cultural hub that brings the sacred art of the Himalayas, India and neighboring regions into the heart of the West, creating an opportunity to make cross-cultural connections through immersive exhibits, films and onstage programs.

But apart from air conditioning and lack of dust, a casual stroll through the museums exhibits is, in effect, not so different from an exploration of the visionary art galleries at Fractal Planet during Burning Man or many similar festival offerings. Patterned symmetries and asymmetries unfold like snapshots of fractal etheric processes- cultural evolution, psychodynamics, animistic identifications- all meet the viewer of both ancient sacred texts, as well as contemporary visionary offerings.

The trio on stage spoke before a packed house (at least 30 people had to be turned away from the event) on topics ranging from Buddhist practice to art and healing, but always centering around the theme of breaking the taboo on openly discussing psychedelics— substances that, although repressed in our culture, have been instrumental in the evolution of all three.
Julie Holland M.D., a frequent guest expert on an array of mainstream television programs, has written books about marijuana, ecstasy and psychiatry, as well as her latest title, Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy.
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Allan Badiner, who is responsible for originating the idea of “Zig Zag Zen” as well as editing the text of the anthology, began the discussion by explaining how the majority of leading Buddhist teachers in the west all have stories of a psychedelic experience that catalyzed their spiritual transformations, a fact he learned through numerous Buddhist retreats and formed the inspiration for putting together the anthology of writings contained in Zig Zag Zen. Allan was then keen to remind the audience that, historically speaking, the best known apostles of each included the same characters: Allan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and Jack Kerouac.

Badiner continued by sharing his own experience of an earth-shattering Ayahuasca session led by Terence McKenna in Hawaii over 25 years ago that confirmed to the young seeker that his studies in Buddhism were on the right track. He recounted some of the details of this shamanic death experience during that Ayahuasca journey, which prepared him more securely for the reality of his own death. Allan had identified the archetype of a dragon that chased him through the jungle and provided a visceral encounter with his shadow. Smelling the hair on his legs burning as he ran from the fire-breathing dragon, Badiner was suddenly able to turn around and slay the dragon, only to see the face of the collapsing beast morph into his own. When he returned to the home of his shaman, Terence McKenna, he was was asked if he would do ayahuasca again in the future. Badiner laughed and asked, “Why, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Terence, with his characteristically sharp intonation, replied, “No, actually that which kills you makes you stronger!

Julie Holland then turned the floor over to the art editor of Zig Zag Zen, Alex Grey. Grey is perhaps best known as the father of the Visionary Art scene, a nascent but rapidly growing movement that is already dominant in underground festivals all around the world—think Burning Man—and along with his spiritual partner, wife and fellow artist Allyson Grey, runs COSM, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a gallery and events center in upstate New York that is legally considered by the state to be a religious organization. In addition to hosting events and workshops at COSM, the Greys travel tirelessly along the festival circuit, participating in both intimate and massive events to lecture on sacred culture and visionary art, or simply to ‘live-paint’ with developing artists in an array of local scenes, sharing their experience and wisdom.

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Allan Badiner, editor, Alex Grey, art editor and Julie Holland M.D. signing copies of Zig Zag Zen at the Rubin Museum event.

Alex began his portion of the discussion by expanding upon essential insights from “Vajravision,” his text essay contribution to the Zig Zag Zen edition, in which he states, “Vajravision helps us see beyond the opaque material world to the spiritual reality behind appearances,” and that, “A dependable way to introduce one’s self to the brightly colored and minutely articulated visionary inner worlds, to “see” with Vajravision, is through an entheogenic or psychedelic experience. Perhaps one of the primary benefits of psychedelics is their capacity to make the subtle realms explicit and inescapable to the percipient under their influence.”

Grey gave the audience a rough map of the essential realms of physicality and truth with art as a kind of medium and then initiated a visual slide-show tour of the images from Zig Zag Zen, which represent an overview of key psychedelic milestones throughout the history of art. Were cave paintings made by humans on mushrooms? Perhaps, as modern anthropologists begin accepting and exploring formerly radical points of view enunciated through poetic avatars like Terence McKenna. Grey’s exposition on the intersection of Buddhism, art and psychedelics suggests to the listener the notion that meditation, artistic practice, and psychedelics each manage to dissolve the material world of the self and build a bridge to the archetypal world of ordinarily invisible beings and formless manifestation, the products of art mapping out a trail of breadcrumbs along the way.

After more back and forth between the editors, Julie Holland’s talents as more than just a moderator were given a place to shine. Her years of experience in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital and as an earnest researcher on the topic, provide Holland—and thereby the audience—with a keen sense of the legal, practical and medical dangers of psychedelics. Holland relayed a synchronistic anecdote from Bellevue where she was able to identify a patient as ‘altered’ rather than manic due to the repeated mention of COSM. This became an fruitful touchstone for discussion amongst her colleagues, enabled her to more easily bridge the realms of the clinical and psychonautic. According to the psychiatrist, the single largest obstacle between the culture that we have today and a healthy orientation towards psychedelics, art and spiritual practice is the wholesale refusal of most people, both the anonymous as well as those in the spotlight, to discuss their views and experiences with psychedelics more openly. If this ice could melt, we might rapidly develop a creative, healthy and sensible way of living with the formerly repressed.

This led naturally into Holland questioning the editors about the use of MDMA, something only touched on between the covers of Zig Zag Zen. Is ecstasy a psychedelic, and how does it relate to the Buddhist path? While Allan pointed out that MDMA does not typically lead to hallucinations in the ordinary sense, he suggested that it appears to open a ‘heart center’ much in the way that LSD might open a cognitive one. Alex agreed, but seemed to consider the substance to be more explicitly psychedelic, retelling the narrative of his and Allyson’s first MDMA ceremony, through which the inspiration for the COSM temple and retreat center in upstate New York first entered their imaginations.

A lengthy Q & A followed and concluded with Badiner reading a striking passage from the text of a 2008 letter written by the 101 year-old Albert Hofmann, famed discoverer of LSD:

Alienation from nature and the loss of the experience of being part of the living creation is the greatest tragedy of our materialistic era. It is the causative reason for ecological devastation and climate change.

Therefore I attribute absolute highest importance to consciousness change. I regard psychedelics as catalyzers for this. They are tools which are guiding our perception toward other deeper areas of our human existence, so that we again become aware of our spiritual essence. Psychedelic experiences in a safe setting can help our consciousness open up to this sensation of connection and of being one with nature.

LSD and related substances are not drugs in the usual sense, but are part of the sacred substances, which have been used for thousand of years in ritual settings. The classic psychedelics like LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline are characterized by the fact that they are neither toxic nor addictive. It is my great concern to separate psychedelics from the ongoing debates about drugs, and to highlight the tremendous potential inherent to these substances for self-awareness, as an adjunct in therapy, and for fundamental research into the human mind.

It is my wish that a modern Eleusis will emerge, in which seeking humans can learn to have transcendent experiences with sacred substances in a safe setting. I am convinced that these soul-opening, mind-revealing substances will find their appropriate place in our society and our culture.

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Alex Grey and Allan Badiner and psychiatrist Julie Holland M.D signing books at the Rubin Museum.

And with the reading of this passage, the audience spontaneously rose to their feet with thunderous applause, the program concluded and guests trickled out to the gift shop to buy books, get autographs, and chat with the panelists, or else simply to relax and enjoy one another’s company discussing the topics presented on stage. Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics provides a thought-provoking pathway into this important discussion, which will continue for many, many years to come.

Learn more about the presenting partners for the Zig Zag Zen/Rubin Museum book launch below:

Evolver is creating a platform for content, learning, and commerce serving a global community of conscious consumers seeking optimal states of well being in mind, body, and spirit. We intend to become a leading trust-agent for individuals and groups participating in our transformative culture, one of wisdom, beauty, and fun.

The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values. 

Psymposia hosts talks, conferences, mixers, and storytelling nights about plants and psychedelics. We create and design events that help people in the community meet and network with one another. Our most recent project, Psychedelic Stories Podcast (Fall 2015) is a traveling psychedelic storytelling night that explores the stories and diverse community surrounding the psychedelic community all around the world. 

A Bursting Book Launch for Zig Zag Zen

A Bursting Book Launch for Zig Zag Zen

Allan Badiner, Alex & Allyson Grey and Rick Strassman celebrating the launch of Zig Zag Zen to a packed house at the Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico, May 19th. Photo by Lisa Law.

Last Tuesday night, Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico was full of curious congregants who had gathered to hear a discussion on Buddhism, psychedelics and visionary art. Every seat was filled, and even the window ledges were occupied with eager attendants. Seated around a table at the front of the space the panel of speakers for the evening faced the crowd.

Publisher Deborah Parrish Snyder introducing the speakers for the evening. Photo by Lisa Law.

Publisher Deborah Parrish Snyder introducing the speakers for the evening. Photo by Lisa Law.

Allan Badiner, the editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics is also a contributing editor for Tricycle magazine and has edited two other books dealing with Buddhism and the environment. Alex Grey, the art editor of Zig Zag Zen is one of the most prominent visionary artists in the world today who co-founded the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Allyson Grey, a contributing artist to Zig Zag Zen focuses her work around geometric and esoteric principles of order, chaos and secret writing and cofounded the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Dr. Rick Strassman, a contributing author is clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and has conducted federally funded research on the DMT experience.

Allan began the conversation by recounting an experience he had while studying with Thich Naht Hanh at Plum Village. While sharing stories in a Dharma discussion group each of the participants revealed that they had experience with psychedelics and that those experiences paved the way to their later Buddhist practice. When many of the practitioners moved to Buddhism, they let go of their psychedelic use.

Allan then shared how he got the inspiration for creating a book around this issue. While on retreat at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, as he was reading through the guest book he found an entry with a drawing of a pack of Zig Zag rolling papers that read “Wow, I thought I’d miss these a lot more than I did.” Upon seeing the pack of Zig Zag papers at the Zen center, Zig Zag Zen was born.

While many American Buddhist practitioners share a psychedelic background, the intention for the book was to create a well-balanced examination of the subject. Not a book that would draw any conclusions for you. And some of the contributors who were included do not believe Buddhism and psychedelics should even be thought of together.

So, why create a new edition of this book? Because we find ourselves in a fairly unique situation in the history of humanity. We have the power to manipulate nature and affect the mechanisms of climate. And as we’ve gained this power, we find ourselves in the midst of another mass extinction. In much the same way that as people grow older they reach back to the religion of their youth to search for meaning, now we can see society reaching out to religions as a way to make sense of its growing fear. By shifting our consciousness through spiritual development, we can make the kinds of radical changes required for us to survive.

Allan shared the following quote from Dr. Albert Hofmann, which emphasizes the importance of consciousness change to enact the kinds of changes necessary to heal the planet.

“Alienation from nature and the loss of the experience of being part of the living creation is the greatest tragedy of our materialistic era. It is the causative reason for ecological devastation and climate change.
Therefore I attribute absolute highest importance to consciousness change. I regard psychedelics as catalyzers for this. They are tools which are guiding our perception toward other deeper areas of our human existence, so that we again become aware of our spiritual essence. Psychedelic experiences in a safe setting can help our consciousness open up to this sensation of connection and of being one with nature.
LSD and related substances are not drugs in the usual sense, but are part of the sacred substances, which have been used for thousand of years in ritual settings. The classic psychedelics like LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline are characterized by the fact that they are neither toxic nor addictive. It is my great concern to separate psychedelics from the ongoing debates about drugs, and to highlight the tremendous potential inherent to these substances for self-awareness, as an adjunct in therapy, and for fundamental research into the human mind.
It is my wish that a modern Eleusis will emerge, in which seeking humans can learn to have transcendent experiences with sacred substances in a safe setting. I am convinced that these soul-opening, mind-revealing substances will find their appropriate place in our society and our culture.”
—Dr. Albert Hofmann
Thursday, April 19, 2007 (at age 101)

Alex cited Albert Hofmann’s influence in bringing him to the psychedelic dimension, and he shared the transformative power of his first LSD trip on Allyson’s couch 40 years ago while they were in art school together. He discussed the power that psychedelics provide artists to portray sacred dimensions. Visionary artists translate their ineffable mystical experiences by incorporating the archetypal elements of these visionary mystical experiences, such as the kinds of beings present, the temples and realms visited, the kinds of lights seen, and the sacred messages received.

He described the cover of Zig Zag Zen, which features the Tibetan Guru Padmasambhava displaying the rainbow-body. This wavy light-body is one of the first things we start to see on psychedelics. We start to notice the light-body in people as our higher perception takes over, whether that be through spiritual practice or the use of entheogens; and as our materialism reverses we see the light underlying all beings. This allows the revolution to happen quickly so that we can stop the self-destructive suicidal tendencies in ourselves and in society. As we see ourselves careening towards a self-destructive end, this medicine is our last best possibility to change ourselves and our planet.

Allyson described the similarity between psychedelics and religions. She said that religions are here to teach and to heal, which is what psychedelics do as well, they teach us. She told about her early, casual psychedelic use as a teenager, leading to a time when she took a heavy dose intending to see the White Light, and she understood God, and the sacredness of symbols. This trip led her to pursue meditation practices and follow a spiritual direction.

Rick shared his scientific perspective on the biological basis of spiritual experiences. After practicing for decades with a western Zen Buddhist order, he became interested in exploring the overlap he noticed between the states produced by psychedelic drugs with the states attained by eastern meditation techniques and the underlying biology they may have in common.

After each member of the panel had shared their inquiries and inspirations around these topics, Allan opened the discussion for questions and answers by stating that “now the audience can pretend to have questions, while the panel can pretend to have answers.” After a knowing chuckle from the audience, a few questions emerged from the captivated crowd, and the panel reassembled to greet the members of the audience and autograph their copies of Zig Zag Zen.

Even if you weren’t able to attend this exciting event with us, you can still keep up with the world of Zig Zag Zen by checking out what else we’ve been up to:

Alex Grey shared the inspiration for his painting "St. Albert and the LSD Revelation Revolution."

Alex Grey sharing the inspiration for his painting “St. Albert and the LSD Revelation Revolution.”

Lightlab and Synergetic Press joined forces to host Alex Grey and Allyson Grey in the geodesic dome at Synergia Ranch, home of Synergetic Press. Inside of the spherical space, they told the psychedelic story of the influence of sacraments in ancient cave paintings, the role of sacraments in modern indigenous cultures and their future in transcendental visionary art.
 

 

 

Allan Badiner and Dr. Rick Strassman were interviewed on Santa Fe Radio Café by host Mary-Charlotte on May 21st.
Here is a link to that interview:
[su_audio url=”https://www.synergeticpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/strassman.mp3″ width=”50%”]

Allan Badiner,  Alex Grey and Allyson Grey were interviewed on the Camp Lovewave show by Terran and Bari on May 23rd. You can listen to that interview here:
[su_audio url=”https://soundcloud.com/camp-lovewave/camp-742-zig-zag-zen-52316https://soundcloud.com/camp-lovewave/camp-742-zig-zag-zen-52316″ width=”50%”]

You can also purchase your own copy of the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics! Zig Zag Zen is full of more interviews, round table discussions, public dialogues, academic inquiries, personal stories, and visionary art to open your heart, expand your mind and squeegee your third eye.

 

 

Zig Zag Zen: Rubin Gallery NYC Launch

Zig Zag Zen: Rubin Gallery NYC Launch

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Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics Book signing and Discussion

with Alex Grey & Allan Badiner with Julie Holland, MD

Rubin Museum of Art, New York City

Wednesday, June 17, 6:30 – 7:15 PM

 

A presentation and discussion launching the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics with editors, Allan Badiner
and Alex Grey, and moderator Julie Holland, MD. A book signing in the shop will follow the program.

 Buddhism and psychedelic exploration share a common concern: the liberation of the mind. This new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Synergetic Press) has evolved from the landmark anthology that launched the first inquiry into the ethical, doctrinal, and transcendental considerations at the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelics. A provocative and thoughtful exploration of inner states and personal transformation, Zig Zag Zen now contains new original essays by such luminaries as Ralph Metzner and Brad Warner; exciting interviews with James Fadiman, Kokyo Henkel, and Rick Doblin; and a discussion of ayahuasca’s unique influence on Zen Buddhism by David Coyote. All of these new essays have been carefully curated to extend the original inquiry of authors Joan Halifax Roshi, Peter Matthiessen, Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, Terence McKenna, Rick Fields and many others. Complementing these new essays is an expanded display of stunning artwork including pieces from Android Jones, Sukhi Barber, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, and Amanda Sage, as well as the original brilliant work of Robert Venosa, Mark Rothko, Robert Beer, Francesco Clemente, and many others, including more work by the pioneering visionary artist Alex Grey. Buddhism and psychedelics are inevitable subjects encountered on the journey to wisdom. Examined together, the reader may understand more deeply the essence of each.

 Zig Zag Zen is a must read for anyone who is concerned about the future of Buddhist practice.

Robert Thurman, Chair of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University

 

Category: Consciousness Studies, Religion, Mind, Body, Spirit

ISBN: 978 0907791 62 1

Softcover $26.95 304 pages, 7 x 9 inches, 40 Color Plates
(Also available in Hardcover and eBook)

Available through Deep Books, Ltd.

http://www.deep-books.co.uk/

 

About the Speakers

Allan Badiner is a contributing editor at Tricycle magazine, and the editor of the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Synergetic Press). He also edited the books, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology and Mindfulness in the Marketplace (Parallax Press) and his written work appears in other books including Dharma Family Treasures, Meeting the Buddha, Ecological Responsibility: A Dialogue with Buddhism, and The Buddha and the Terrorist. Allan holds a Master’s degree from the College of Buddhist Studies in LA and serves on the boards of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation, and Project CBD.

 

Alex Grey is best known for his paintings that portray multiple dimensions of reality, interweaving biological anatomy with psychic and spiritual energies. Grey’s visual meditations on the nature of life and consciousness, is contained in five books: Sacred Mirrors and Transfigurations, The Mission of Art, Art Psalms, and CoSM, co-authored with Allyson Grey, and in Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. Grey’s work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the CBC, and in Time, Newsweek, and on numerous multi-platinum record albums and is on permanent exhibition in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappingers Fall, N.Y.

 

Julie Holland, MD, in private psychiatric practice in NYC since 1995, authored the book Weekends at Bellevue (Bantam, 2009), which chronicled 9 years of night shifts at the psych ER. She edited two non-profit books helping to fund clinical research: Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA and The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, and is a medical monitor for MDMA/PTSD and cannabis/PTSD studies. Moody Bitches: The Truth about the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy is her latest book.

 

Testimonials

 

Zig Zag Zen is a treasure trove: inspiring, frightening, powerful, funny, eye-opening, and a source of great wisdom on a subject that our society finds endlessly confusing.

Mark Epstein, MD, author of Thoughts Without a Thinker and Going on Being

An extraordinary ride and guide down the corridors of the mystical psychedelic inward journey that will be of great interest and value to any serious explorer of spiritual insight. The zigzag is not for the straight and narrow.                                       Ganga White, author of Yoga Beyond Belief, founder of the White Lotus Foundation

Psychedelics opened my Doors of Perception, and Zen Buddhism has helped to keep them open.

John Densmore, author of New York Times bestseller Riders on the Storm and The Doors: Unhinged

 

Zig Zag Zen challenges Buddhists to acknowledge their psychedelic legacies, while confronting the duality undermining any chemically dependent spiritual path.

 Douglas Rushkoff, author of Ecstasy Club, Exit Strategy, Playing the Future and Coercion

Zig Zag Zen shines by its fairness: it faces the Zig and the Zag. That’s Zen at its best.

 David Steindl-Rast OSB, author of Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer

Zig Zag Zen Launch in Albuquerque

Zig Zag Zen Launch in Albuquerque

zig_zag_zen_front_coverAllan Badiner, editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics will host a launch/booksigning of the New Edition on Thursday, May 21st at 7pm at Bookworks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This new edition, just released, features new essays on ayahuasca’s unique influence on Zen Buddhism, a recent interview with Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, Ralph Metzner’s New Look at the “Psychedelic Tibetan Book of the Dead,” and a public dialogue on mixing dharma and psychedelics with James Fadiman and Zen monk, Kokyo Henkel. Bookworks is a local, independent bookstore that is known for its author events, and is located  at 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW, in Albuquerque’s North Valley, north of Griegos, in the Shops on Rio Grande next to Flying Star.

 

 

“I love this book! I was fond of the earlier edition but this one, riddled with beauty, flecked with wisdom and containing an amazing number of relevant deeply personal stories is likely to remain recommended reading for the next few generations.”
James Fadiman, Author of The Psychedelic Explorers Guide

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