Olio Seminar | Zig Zag Zen: Psychedelics & The Path to Enlightenment



This is a three-part seminar taught by professor Doc Kelley, meeting on Thursday evenings – 4/12, 4/19 & 4/26 at Berg'n Beer hall.

When Zig Zag Zen: Psychedelics and Buddhism came out in April 2001, the first Internet bubble had burst but the world had not yet fallen to pieces. The book included mind-bending artwork by artists like Alex Grey and essays by Buddhist luminaries such as Huston Smith, Jack Kornfield, Allan Badiner, Erik Davis, and John Perry Barlow and mined the tricky territory between Buddhism and psychedelics—which in America at least had long been at odds with one another.

Zig Zag Zen refuted the easy duality, that meditation was the good and true path and psychedelics a distraction. It opened up a conversation that had been simmering in the Buddhist community. Its able guides provided a vocabulary and a framework for talking about psychedelics and Buddhist practice, free of fear and judgment.

With meditation now a common boardroom practice and a full-blown psychedelic renaissance upon us, it’s time to revisit Zig Zag Zen.

Please join us for this four-part Think Olio seminar, where we will make a close reading of the essays contained in Zig Zag Zen (Synergetic Press).

We’ll discuss. We’ll meditate. And we’ll celebrate the anniversary of the publication of this seminal text with a panel discussion with ZZZ editor Allan Badiner, writer Carolyn Gregoire, and Tricycle moderator Julia Hirsch.


Seminar Breakdown: 

April 12 | Intersection

Many may denounce the coupling of Buddhism and psychedelics, but their intersection is an undeniable reality in the American Buddhist experience. In his preface to Zig Zag Zen, the religious scholar Huston Smith puts it this way, “. . . Entheogens [or psychedelics] have entered Buddhism to stay; there can be no turning back from the point that has been reached.” 

In this class, we look at essays from Part One of Zig Zag Zen: “Intersection.” We consider the historical, cultural, and sociological elements that have led to the convergence of Buddhism and psychedelics in America. We probe the ideas of contributors such as Jack Kornfield, Peter Matthiessen, Rick Fields, Robert Jesse, and more. 

April 19 | Compatibility?

Is there spiritual efficacy in the use of psychedelic substances? Can we find compatibility between Buddhism and psychedelics?  Moving beyond the intersection, does integrating the two journeys have spiritual utility for the Buddhist practitioner?

In this class, we'll discuss Part Two: “Concrescence?” And dive into a close reading of essays by Dr. Rick Strassman, Erik Davis, Alex Grey, China Galland, and others. 

April 26 | Lessons

What can we learn from the intersection of Buddhism and Psychedelics? How has this coupling benefited or hurt American Buddhist practitioners striving for enlightenment?  What dangers or pitfalls might one face when mixing psychedelics with their religious or spiritual practice?

In our final class, we examine essays from Part Three: “Lessons.” We make a study of contributions by American Buddhists like John Perry Barlow, Lama Surya Das, Allan Badiner, and more. 


Recommended reading from Penguin Press:

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

A brilliant and brave investigation by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs–and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences.




Location: Berg'n

899 Bergen St, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Hip, late-night beer hall featuring microbrews & food vendors in a spacious, industrial-chic venue. Classes will be held in the private room.




Interdisciplinary Learning with the Best Professors


Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.


Learn about joining the Scenius for $10 / month



Other upcoming Olios


Jun 19

The (Un)Enlightenment and What it Means to be Modern

Taught by Lev Moscow
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jun 20

Believing is Seeing

Taught by Briana Toole
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $15

Jun 22

OlioHouse | Breaking Bread: An Olio Salon Dinner

Taught by Brian Lewis
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Jun 23

Female Power and Desire in Shakespeare after #MeToo

Taught by Christina Katopodis
1 p.m. at Threes Brewing // Greenpoint

Sign Up - $15

Jun 25

The Artist in an Alternative World

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Jun 25

OlioTour | Federal Hall & African Burial Ground

Taught by Jamie Warren
6 p.m. at Federal Hall

Sign Up - $0

Jun 26

Jun 27

The Long History of Selfie Culture

Taught by Ted Barrow
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jun 29

OlioHouse | Happiness & Hedonism Weekend

Taught by Skye Cleary
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Jul 7

Museum Trip | 'The 80s Show' Private Tour

Taught by Charles Riley
2 p.m. at Nassau County Museum of Art

Sign Up - $20

Jul 13

OlioHouse | Considering The Tyranny of Choice

Taught by Michael Haltenberger
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Jul 25

Frida's Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona

Taught by Jessica Murphy
7:30 p.m. at The William Vale Hotel

Sign Up - $20

Sep 19

OlioTrip | Cienfuegos, Cuba

Taught by Teresita Levy
10 a.m. at Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sign Up - $


Find out when we launch new classes!