cover image Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America

Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America

Douglas Osto. Columbia Univ., $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-231-17730-6

Osto (Power, Wealth, and Wisdom in Indian Mahayana Buddhism) mixes statistics and surveys, historical overview, personal experience, and ethnographic texture to uncover the intertwining history of two fast-growing movements in American spirituality: Buddhism in the U.S. and the use of psychedelics to provoke spiritual encounters. Deftly examining a range of differing perspectives among American Buddhists concerning the use of psychedelics, Osto digs into the debates and issues surrounding mysticism and mind-altering meditation influenced by entheogens, which he calls “the god within.” Pointing the reader toward the social and cultural import of “psychedelic Buddhism,” Osto aims for his academic work to be popularly accessible. Though the book is at times rigid and formulaic in its retelling of personal narratives, readers will still benefit from its approachable language and well-structured accounts. Part of a wider resurgence in interest concerning psychedelic spirituality, this overview will appeal to anyone interested in Buddhism, psychedelic possibilities, and understanding how both are forging a controversial new American religious experience. (May)