Citation: Mike. "What Was the Question?: An Experience with Mushrooms (exp33767)". Erowid.org. May 1, 2007. erowid.org/exp/33767
I have been wanting to trip on shrooms again for about three years now, after reading The Archaic Revival by Terrence McKenna, and then becoming a big fan of his writing and speaking. Also, over the course of those few years, I took an interest in indigenous cultures and especially those cultures which included entheogens in their practices.
I tripped on shrooms several times during high school, and had some very powerful experiences which I feel changed me permanently. I came out of those trips with a very strong belief that the world was meant to be a kinder place, and that humans were meant to cooperate and help each other, not fight and compete with one another.
When I discovered McKenna many years later, I recognized a lot of what he was saying about mushrooms and the experience that they provided. Many of the things which he said, echoed and greatly expanded on the kinds of things which I had tried to articulate myself after my early trips during high school.
McKenna not only renewed my interest in taking mushrooms, but some elements of the experience that he described seemed to go beyond what I had experienced. When he spoke of “heroic” or “committed” doses, and the experience of complete ego-loss which they brought on, I was intrigued.
I felt that perhaps, by taking such a dose (or doses, if repeat trips were necessary), I might be able to obtain some knowledge which I had not during my high school trips. Perhaps I could move beyond what seemed like so many questions (“why isn’t the world a kinder place?”; “why do people fight all the time?”; “why don’t people cooperate?”), and instead come up with some answers that could help make the world a better place.
After thinking and talking about shrooming again for a very long time, I found a willing helper in a friend of mine, who not only provided the dose recently, but the secluded, rural house to take it in.
We have been discussing this “camping trip” for a few months now, and have been working on getting clearance from our wives to do it (we both also have toddlers). My friend cultivated the mushrooms from spores, and the ground them up and put them into capsules. Each capsule was a little over .6 grams(?) each, and we had 10 capsules for a total of about 3 grams per person.
In the morning, we went into town and had a light snack for breakfast, and didn’t eat anything else until after the trip. At about noon we set up beside a stream in the woods behind the house and took our doses. We hung out for a while, and after what seemed like 20-30 minutes, I could begin to feel the effects. (I had expressed concern about whether the amount was enough; were the doses too old and no longer active?, etc. My friend—let’s call him “D”—assured me not to worry…)
As the effects slowly started to kick in for me, D expressed that he was not comfortable where we were. He wanted to go back to the house. I was happy so far by the stream, but he seemed strong in his desire to move, so I went along with him, let him lead the way and followed. I mentioned to D that he had said a few times that he was especially afraid of encountering people while he was tripping, and I pointed out that we were more likely to be approached by someone if we were at the house. He responded that we did not need to answer the door. I asked if he would unplug the phone when we got there and he agreed.
The walk back to the house involved quickly emerging from the woods and then crossing a cornfield for about 200-300 yards. When we got out of the woods, I could see the house, and I felt that with the house visible, we would be able to make it there even if we started tripping harder on the way.
I don’t really remember the walk across the field, but I do remember approaching the house. I sat in the grass under a shady tree. D stood there for a second and then said he was too hot and had to go inside to cool off. I sat there and looked at my leg, and something about the way it looked made me realize I was really tripping. Then I looked at the grass and saw it in a brilliant green, and the dandelions in brilliant yellow.
I heard D inside the house, and for some reason I became afraid that he might be in there injuring himself. I also felt that I did not want to be tripping alone. I walked into the house and called his name, and he came immediately. I told him I wanted us to be together. I think sometime around then he told me that he had told his wife one time that I was a sweet guy, and I felt good about that.
From the time I entered the house, and then for another 2-2 ½ hours, I was on an area rug right near where I had entered. Things become very hard to put into a chronological perspective here. I lay on my back and looked up at the iron chandelier above. D was looking too. The metalwork was created in the shape of leaves, pods, etc. and it was basically a normally symmetrical, round chandelier shape as seen from the floor. However, it was moving and breathing like an organism. I said “it’s moving” and D said, “it’s growing”. Immediately I saw that it was, in fact, growing from the center out, as if it was expanding as it breathed.
Every time I looked at the chandelier it was moving like that. I began to find it menacing, so I turned away from it. At this point, everything I looked at was moving. The sisal area rug I was on, was shifting like crazy. The larger floorboards were moving, albeit more slowly.
I removed my boots and changed my sunglasses for regular eyeglasses; I drank from my water bottle; I made sure to put the cap back on so I wouldn’t spill it; I blew my nose (D laughed)--all these actions made me feel that I was somehow keeping it together.
I would look toward D and let out a heavy sigh, like “whewww!”--broadcasting how hard I was tripping.
Then I would just have to put my head on the floor and the trip would have its way with me. Those moments, which seemed to happen over and over again, did not have any visions or anything that can really be described. Just a feeling of being overcome, and a whirring machine-like sound. At one point during one of those, I remember recognizing that I was an organism lying on a floor, and I could feel my heartbeat and respiration. I thought to myself that at least I know I’m still alive. I said to myself that my heart would keep beating and my lungs would keep breathing…or would they? A voice inside told me not to go there, so I shifted my focus elsewhere.
D asked me if I was having fun; or he would ask me how I’m doing. I kept saying “hard to say”. I couldn’t really speak about much of anything. I was kind of in a place where I didn’t really truly know who I was so I couldn’t respond about how I was.
D talked about how hot he was, and when he said that, I would feel a wave of heat go through my body into my head immediately. He went into the kitchen and I was very aware of a crinkling sound (he later told me he was putting a bag of frozen peas on his head). I heard him turn on the kitchen faucet, and it sounded good so I proceeded there. I didn’t make it to the kitchen, before he had turned off the water and started back to the room I was in. When he saw me, he let out a laugh. I was overwhelmed again and went back to the floor.
D went toward the bathroom (was he feeling sick?) and warned me that he might make some “disgusting” sounds. I said “thanks for letting me know”, and it was reassuring to see my sense of humor intact for a moment, but he turned back toward me looking concerned and had not understood what I had said.
D asked if we could talk and I said “OK”. Then he asked me what time I usually get up in the morning, and I said “that’s not talking, that’s a question.” He asked me why I had gotten a crew cut—so “severe”—and I said “your hair’s the same length”. I wasn’t in the mood for conversation.
For what seemed like a very long time (and in later analysis, was actually 2-2 ½ hours) I went from lying with my face to the floor, inundated by the whirring machine-like sound, to sitting up and sighing heavily, to crawling around a bit, and then I would return to put my face to the floor. There were just a few moments of lucidity during that period.
Finally, I heard D say it was raining. I stood up and walked to the front door to see. We could see people across the street rushing to put things away. I felt happy to be sharing a moment with my friend. Then I realized, I needed to sit down again, and I felt bad for leaving D.
At this point, more lucid thoughts began to creep in. It was around this time that one of the strangest experiences of the trip occurred. I was thinking in a fairly lucid manner. However, in spite of my feeling of thinking somewhat clearly, my mind apprehended the most bizarre notions. I can’t easily get my mind around those notions at this point, so I can only point at what they were. Basically, I was able to see that D and I were in a house. But the time and place of that house were entirely alien to me. It was clear to me that the time and place we were in, had no reference to the time and place of my life as I know it. I specifically thought about my family and D’s family, and I realized somehow that we were in an entirely different place and we could not return to where we had come from. It crossed my mind that we were tripping, but I was convinced beyond doubt that “tripping” was now out of the equation. We had gotten to a place that we were not going to “come down” from.
Death became a major theme around this point. I was sitting and looking up at D. D said something to the effect of, “I’ll never forget the feeling of touching my dead father’s forehead, after feeling him warm for my whole life.”
I extended my arm to him and offered some comfort, but it felt so inadequate.
As D and I and I discussed it afterward, he said I became concerned about him, and asked if he was crying. D kept having to tell me, no he was laughing. Twice I wanted to hug him and we did, and D said I was physically a “big guy”.
I had visions of mushrooms in a dark, wooded place. The place looked like the location by the stream where we had taken our doses. The mushrooms were somehow connected to death in a very powerful way, and I saw death in a way that inspired me somehow.
D and I rehashed our trip thus far, and he said I had kept saying “weren’t we in the woods before?” When I thought about it, I realized why I had asked so many times—it still seemed so bizarre to me that we had started in the woods by a stream and had ended up in this house. In fact, I heard myself say “what happened” repeatedly during the trip.
We discussed the experience of talking about his father’s death, and I started to make a point about how my dad is still alive, but I think I said, “what’s the difference” or something to that effect. It wasn’t expressed to trivialize death. For that moment, I think I truly could not discern the difference between being dead or alive. Unable to truly understand “dead” and “alive” as two distinct things, I couldn’t actually remember which state my father was in (he’s alive).
D said he missed his daughter and his wife. I said I missed my son and my wife. I felt like I had been apart from them for so long, but it had been less than 24 hours.
I stood up off the sofa I was on, and a silver ball (which I had for the trip, but had completely forgotten about) fell out of my pocket and rolled all the way across the floor into the corner of the room. I said “I knew that was going to come into play”. Then we realized how much the old house was leaning downhill. As I stood at the “low” side of the room, I felt a force pushing me against the wall, as if it would be a great struggle against gravity to walk to the “uphill” side of the room.
D (who had recently purchased the house) was worried that maybe the house was “falling over”. I said of course it’s falling over, everything falls over, but it won’t in his lifetime. Then D said he felt like he got “caught holding the bag” and we laughed about that for a while—picturing him not being able to do anything but literally “hold the bag”.
From there on, I felt very calm with a mild euphoria, as D and I talked about lots of things like balancing life, work, and family.
I kept going back and touching the chandelier which had moved so much early in the trip to feel how hard and rigid it really was.
A powerful electrical storm came through as we watched from the front porch, and lightning and huge thunderclaps went off right in front of our eyes. A drenching rain followed.
That night we went to bed early, but I couldn’t get to sleep until later, when my mind calmed down a bit more.
We left the house early the next morning, and D dropped me off at my house, where my wife and my son and my dog were waiting. I was so happy to be home. I felt like I had been gone for much longer than it really was.
Over the past few days, as I have looked back on the trip and everything which led up to it, I have come to some vague, but satisfying conclusions.
I have realized that my wish to take a “heroic” or “committed” dose was fulfilled. I don’t feel that one could go any further than I went on a mushroom trip. I also realized that although my experience might not be described as a “good trip”, it was probably exactly the trip I was meant to have.
Somehow (maybe it’s just because I’m too old for this shit) I may have learned that there’s not necessarily something “more, out there” to be experienced. As D said before the trip, when you take mushrooms for the first time, your mind gets opened to something, but you can’t go back and keep reopening it.
Once I got past the sisal-floor-and-whirring machine-like sound, stage of the trip (which, OK, I admit, really sucked), I had some pretty profound experiences. But ultimately, what I saw and felt, are simple, straightforward things. These are things which are hard for me to remember, because so much of my (our?) world drives me to be distracted from it:
That we are perishable organisms and we are going to die someday.
That the world which occupies our thoughts and compels our actions 99% of the time will be meaningless when we are gone.
That we are left with no option but to be entirely in this world and to do whatever we can to make it a better place while we are here.
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