Manipulating the Material: Transcendence Through Drugs, Art and Religious Experience

Michael Prettyman "Brought Forth" Oil and encaustic on canvas 2016

This is an Olio co-taught by two professors: Michael Haltenberger and Michael Prettyman.

Throughout human history people have experienced moments of non-ordinary reality through various means. Sex is a ritualistic act that induces altered states, perhaps the prototypical religious ritual. Certain mushrooms have evolved to induce a very similar experience in mammals. There are many ways people (and even animals) manipulate their bodies and environment to achieve these highly desired states. Yet, the line between drugs and medicine is often arbitrarily drawn and driven by political and economic forces. The wholesale worldwide banning of all hallucinatory drugs in 1973 should give us pause. Even more interesting is the recent explosion of research into medicinal uses of these formerly banned substances. What should our relationship be with these pervasive plants?

- Michael D. Haltenberger 

The challenge faced by artists and mystics is the description and representation of what we, for lack of a better term, call the ineffable. “The Ineffable” can be said to be the real experience witnessed when we transcend the material limits of the universe, when we go beyond the usual limits of perception. Although contemporary art is now thought of as being primarily secular, there is a more ancient standpoint from which to view art, religion and the ingestion of mind-expanding substances. For millennia, both artists and mystics have used psychoactive substances and sacred plants as a gateway. These practices have survived criminalization and marginalization for a very good reason - they work. 

- J. Michael Prettyman




Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue for our Friday night residency.




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 | The Power of Ego, The Stillness of Spirit

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!