Mushrooms - P. cubensis
Citation: steak307. "At the Museum of the Collective Unconscious: An Experience with Mushrooms - P. cubensis (exp109951)". Erowid.org. May 10, 2020. erowid.org/exp/109951
Dr. Hanscarl Leuner, the XXth century German pioneer of psychedelic therapies, distinguished between psycholytic (‘mind-dissolving’) and psychedelic (‘mind-manifesting’) experiences. Both mental states are produced by hallucinogenic substances, the key difference between them is the dose. Low and medium doses of hallucinogens produce psycholytic experiences, while the full-fledged psychedelic state occurs on high doses. Additionally, during psycholytic experiences the subject is engaged with the outside world, in contrast with the psychedelic state when attention is directed inwards.
Using Leuner’s distinction I have 5-8 psycholytic experiences under my belt - two LSD and a handful of shroom trips -, but no true psychedelic experience. For the most part my experiments with hallucinogens took place at trance festivals with friends, where the setting promoted fun experiences, not inner voyages. I have also done MDMA about a dozen times, but I do not consider that to be a psychedelic.
As my experience with hallucinogens grew, so did my curiosity about high doses and THE psychedelic state of mind. I am a cautious drug user and only recently I have started to feel the confidence to go for a high dose. The timing felt right, because life has been great recently, most importantly my wonderful daughter was born a few months ago. It was time to meet the Universe one-on-one.
I have a high respect for psychedelics, therefore I did a good amount of research how to go about my first heavy dose.
I did a good amount of research how to go about my first heavy dose.
After some debate I decided to follow the psilocybin protocol developed at Johns Hopkins hospital to produce spiritual peak experiences. I am a neuroscientist and a skeptic, hence a scientific protocol has much more appeal to me than a spiritual or shamanistic ritual. In the Johns Hopkins protocol the subject takes 30mg of psilocybin, that is roughly equivalent to 5g of dried Psilocybe cubensis mushroom, and then listens to a musical program while lying on a couch with eyeshades. This setting catalyses an inner journey focused on the experience itself. As for the purpose of the trip, it was not to heal trauma, ‘find myself’ or anything like that. Rather the motivation was pure scientific curiosity and the desire to expose my inner skeptic to a mystical experience.
I have a good friend who is an experienced psy-helper and I asked him to be there as a sober guide. I did not expect anything to go wrong, but I knew his presence would give me an extra peace of mind. The setting was at friend’s house out in the countryside. With my guide we stayed there the night before to get acquainted with the house. Luckily there was a super nice tripping couch and cool fireplace in the middle of the living room, perfect setting! In the evening we had a good chat about life and went to bed early. The next morning I had a light breakfast and took the mushroom around 10:00 in the morning.
As soon as I finished the shrooms, I put on the eyeshade, laid down on the couch, started the music and waited for the trip to begin. I felt uneasy and a bit anxious at this point, like before an important exam, hoping it will all go well. The first visuals arrived quickly, in about 20 mins, I started to see colorful filaments organizing themselves into non-figurative and geometric shapes. The visions got more complex rapidly, the lines and grids started to morph into faces and Mandelbrot set like objects. The visuals were vivid, yet also felt faint against the dark background at the same time. The body load was high during the come up as well, my entire body was tense, my muscles were flexing. The intensity of trip was increasing swiftly, I knew I was in for a ride.
At this stage a narrative was still present in my mind, my inner voice tried to comment on what is happening. However this commentary was quickly fading, because it could not keep up with the ‘speed of the experience’. Soon my brain has started to conceptualise the visions with ‘pure thoughts’ and feelings rather than words or other language constructs. If it sounds strange that’s because it was strange,
my brain has started to conceptualise the visions with ‘pure thoughts’ and feelings rather than words or other language constructs. If it sounds strange that’s because it was strange,
but not in an uncomfortable manner.
The initial nervousness quickly disappeared or rather I forgot about it as my mind was too occupied with the visual patterns the mushroom presented. One outstanding visual I can recall was an Aztec ‘skyscraper city’ that felt 1/2/3/4 dimensional at the same time. Here there was also a very strong feeling of the presence of entities. I remember thinking, or rather feeling, that maybe it is me who is the entity visiting the trip of another being.
Roughly 2 hours into the experience I asked my guide for a tea, so I sat up, but kept the eyeshades and the headphone on. As I was sitting near the edge of the sofa I felt the warmth of the fire on my face - the couch was was next to the fireplace where wood was burning -, when suddenly my guide put the hot cup of tea into my hands. It felt like a stranger just helped me in the middle of the night while I am journeying across a prehistoric winter landscape. I felt grateful to him. This feeling of being a wanderer, resting next to a campfire stayed with me as long as I was sitting. While I was sipping my tea I have noticed that the body load diminished and I am near peak. It was reassuring to notice that the intensity is not going to escalate much more.
The music had a huge impact on the trip as it was my only external stimulation. The soundtrack I was listening to was put together by a musician friend for this purpose. It is an unusual mixture of nature recordings, piano, violin, singing, choir and folk music. It's not a set of tracks, rather it is a continuously morphing ambient ‘soundscape’.
Every time the music was changing so did my mood, feelings and visions. With each new composition of the music I experienced a different archetype of an emotion: sadness, love, loss, gratitude, etc. I sensed as if what I am experiencing is coming from a universally shared pool of memories and experiences. It felt like I am seeing an exhibition at the ‘Museum of the Collective Unconscious’. I had a strong sense of unity with all past, present and future beings who deposited the content of their minds to the collective unconscious. For this timeless moment in the Museum I experienced from a personal perspective the well known spiritual insight that all is one. For most of the peak I was ascending through the Museum, having a look at a small fraction of its vast collection. I felt honored to be there. It was majestic.
At some point I have noticed that the Museum might be timeless, but my stay there won't be. Roughly 4 hours after eating the shrooms I felt that I am past peak.
Roughly 4 hours after eating the shrooms I felt that I am past peak.
I was still tripping, but my body has calmed down, the vision morphing got slower and I was able to verbalise my thoughts again. I realised how exhausted I am from the intensity of the day, it felt real good just lying still on the couch, listening to the music.
Old and recent memories have started flooding my mind. The experience became very biographical, like watching a movie of my life. I was thinking mostly about how I have met my wife. I realised that when my daughter is going to be old enough I would like to tell her the story of how I have fallen in love with her mother. Not sure why, but I would really like her to know. As I was daydreaming about this I realised that I barely know anything about how my parents met. I would be curious to know more about them as young people in love. I promised myself that I will ask them about it.
These sort of warm thoughts and feelings have filled my body. This was not the trippiest episode of the experience, but probably the merriest. Retrospectively I think this after the peak period has the most therapeutic potential. At this stage I was still in a psychedelic state with a broken ego, but the intensity has decreased to a level that I could verbalise my thoughts and relate the experience to my life.
Near the end of the trip, while the music was still playing, I took off the eyeshades, sat next to the fire and started to look at family photos. Felt like a fitting end to this journey. About 6.5 hours after ingestion I still had some minor effects, but we took a walk with my guide to the nearby woods to talk about what I have been through. The End.
Before concluding I would like to make a comment about handling the intensity of the trip. Based on the limited experience of this one trip, I am convinced that the best way to deal with overwhelmingly intense moments is to ‘stay with the trip’, do not try to escape. At such a high dose the trip changes rapidly, hence if one stays with the experience, new feelings will overwhelm one soon and quickly forget what was bothersome. On the other hand if one acts on the intensity one acknowledges something is off and this puts one into a ‘am I going to have a bad trip?’ mindset. And then one will. I am not sure if the motto ‘stay with the trip’ works universally, but it worked great for me.
One key component of psychedelic experiences is their ineffability, hence do not take the descriptions of my visions and experiences too literally. My memory of the trip is incomplete and even the bits I can remember are feelings and intuitions, not words. The whole point of psychedelics is that they change how we perceive some fundamental elements of everyday reality, like time and the self, hence language is of limited use to describe what is going on.
The John Hopkins protocol I followed was designed to increase well being and to produce spiritual experiences, so did that happen? Well, the trip did not turn me into a vegan or motivated me to start meditating. What I feel though is a better appreciation of the little things, more empathy and getting less worried about things that I should not worry about. I feel more at ease and lighter since - qualities that my analytic personality can certainly use! As I am writing this sentence, only two weeks has passed since the trip, so not sure if these effects will be long lasting.
To return to the first paragraph of this writing, I completely agree with Leuner’s distinction of psycholytic and psychedelic experiences. The dose is certainly a key component, but maybe even more importantly it is different to trip without constantly being bombarded with external stimuli (like when you are at a music festival and tripping with friends). This way full attention is given to the experience and as a result it is much more intense, personal and meaningful. Do not get me wrong, I am still fond of psycholytic experiences as well, already looking forward to my next one. There can be pleasure and meaning in conquering both Ben Nevis and Mount Everest, but no question that climbing these two mountains is a very different experience.
In summary, I am very pleased with myinner journey, especially given the time and the effort I put into the preparation. By giving my full attention to the trip, the result was a personal and meaningful experience that I can use as a resource after my return to consensual reality.
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