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


Jan 22

Living Room Salon | Our Struggle with Free Will

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jan 24

Living Room Salon | Tough Poetry in Dark Times

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jan 31

The Dangerous Pleasure of Art

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

Feb 1

Feb 2

OlioHouse | Our Stories, Our Bodies: Rape Culture in American History

Taught by Jamie Warren
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 6

Olio Seminar | Space, Time, & Work: Understanding Labor

Taught by Lauren Hudson
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $75

Feb 8

Rethinking Refugee Trauma and Mental Health

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 9

OlioHouse | The Love Symposium

Taught by Skye Cleary
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 15

Philosophy and Friendship

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 21

Living Room Salon | Music and Environmentalism

Taught by Kristy Barbacane
7 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Feb 25

What Would Buffy Do? Radical Feminism and the Slayer

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Neuehouse Madison Sq.

Sign Up - $20

Feb 28

Into the Mystic: Music & the Moving Image

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $20


Find out when we launch new classes!