Jonathan Ott is an ethnobotanist, chemist, and author. He was born in 1949 in Connecticut.
He is credited with co-coining the term “entheogen” with other psychedelic scholars including R. Gordon Wasson, Richard Schultes, and Carl Ruck. Entheogen refers to psychoactive substances that induce spiritual experiences and was employed to distinguish such use from the recreational use of psychedelics that defined the stigmatized counterculture of the 1960s.
Ott has authored eight books, co-authored five, contributed to another four, and wrote many articles on hallucinogens, including ayahuasca, pharmahuasca (his term for a synthesized ayahuasca analog),1 Psilocybe (‘magic’) mushrooms,2 Salvia divinorum,3 and bufotenin.4 Many of his analyses included “psychonautic bioassays” — in other words, human self-experiments.
Particularly notable works of Ott’s include Pharmacotheon, a comprehensive encyclopedia of entheogenic plants published in 1993 and later translated into Spanish by the late psychedelic researcher Jordi Riba.5 In 1997, he published Pharmacophilia: or the Natural Paradises, which critiques anti-drug sentiment and proposes a new science-based and pleasure-based paradigm for drugs in society. He published Hallucinogenic Plants of North America in 1977 and later translated Albert Hofmann’s famed book LSD: My Problem Child.
In a 1999 interview published in The Entheogen Review,6 Ott said: “I’ve long been advocating study of drug-scene ethnobotany—and this was laughed out of the hall at one time. When I first started in my career out of school, in 1975, the “hippie drug scene,” or just the illicit-drug-scene per se, not necessarily hippie, was not considered to be a fruitful subject of study for ethnobotanists or for pharmacologists. But why not? I mean, we’re people also. What’s the difference between the ethnomedicine of the Ladakhis, and the ethnomedicine of the Sacramento suburban residents? I mean, scientifically speaking, they’re both valid subjects of study.”
Ott has organized and spoken at many psychedelic seminars and conferences throughout his decades of work. Available video footage includes his talk at the World Psychedelic Forum 2008; a presentation at Breaking Convention 2019 where he discussed the physics of reality, energy, and perception and their implications for the perceptual effects of psychotropic drugs; and his contribution to a panel on the philosophical aspects of the ayahuasca experience at AYA2014. In the latter two talks, Ott describes the otherwise ineffable psychedelic experience as allowing him to “see the universe as energy and not as matter.”
In 2010, Ott lost his home in Mexico to arson. The perpetrator(s) allegedly used books given to Ott by Albert Hofmann to kindle the fire. He wrote to his followers that he would be moving to Colombia and they organized a fundraiser to help finance his relocation.
More information on Jonathan Ott and his work can be found on his Wikipedia page.