Mushrooms - P. cubensis
Citation: anonimo. "Mushroom Diaries: An Experience with Mushrooms - P. cubensis (exp93993)". Erowid.org. Oct 13, 2012. erowid.org/exp/93993
My adolescence was spent steeped in the drug culture of Miami back in the late 1970’s. It was during this period of seeking new highs (and lows) that I was introduced to hallucinogenic mushrooms. It immediately became clear to me that this experience was completely unlike anything I’d tried before; my mind opened and exposed a vast frontier of inner space. And I became an explorer.
It is my intention with this essay to add to a growing volume of personal experiences with these substances, so that future generations can better understand them, and ultimately better understand themselves. While I have no illusions of convincing any determined sceptics of the value of these experiences, I hope to add something, even a little something, to the validation process of more free-thinking individuals approaching this subject matter for the first time, and, to add some reassurance for the many people, both lay persons and academics alike, of a continuity of serious interest in this study.
While there has been a large amount of research in this field, most of it has been restricted to singular personal experiences, and how they affected those particular individuals. There is however, a far greater benefit awarded the person who, having taken what was learned from one experience, and moved on to yet another; this becomes a process of psycho-spiritual transformation, and it is what I seek to illustrate here.
I chose only a handful of my experiences and kept the descriptions rather brief, as it was not my original intention to create a story, but to record my memories. It did however become a bit of a story during the process of writing it down.
My trip descriptions and commentary include some unavoidable speculation, which, while it comes with the territory, will certainly call into question my qualifications (not to mention my sanity). So be it. I will add my voice to the chorus of others who, for the past 40 years or so, have stated that these substances, the hallucinogens, provide an ability to reveal, to the user, a mode of exploring the nature of our most complex gift: consciousness. With Science admitting that it understands very little of this world, does it not make sense to examine our options?
The setting was a small room in a rural home of a tiny town on the edge of the Everglades. With me was my friend Steve who had arranged everything and was, no doubt, eagerly awaiting my first response. Filling the rest of the room were friends of his I was meeting for the first time. I was an awkward seventeen years old, unhappy with myself and usually uneasy around new acquaintances, and so remember being quite nervous.
It wasn’t long before Steve received my first response, “hey man, is it alright if I take off with your motorcycle for a short ride”? Sensing my apprehension, Steve obliged, and off I went. Just getting outside was a relief and once I felt the motion of the motorcycle my nerves settled completely. I remember feeling quite exhilarated as I sped up the road.
My gaze fixed further and further ahead, where, suddenly, I noticed something very strange. People, way out in the distance, were walking across the street in super-fast motion (not running, but walking, like watching a movie scene in fast forward). With my mind now racing, I thought “how could this be?” Then, it happened. The best I can describe “it” is: a complete separation from my spatial awareness. I felt the distinct impression that the road, the scene out ahead of me, and the motorcycle (with my hands attached) had become like a movie screen, and that I had moved behind the projector, just observing, as a bystander.
So convinced was I of this that I was ready to just step back off the motorcycle. Fortunately, as this occurred, the engine stuttered and then cut off. It took a little while for me to figure out that it had just ran out of gas and I needed to switch to the reserve tank. Thank goodness, during this process I managed to come to my senses and later returned to Steve and his friends.
There was one other note-worthy thing to take place on this occasion and that was as we finally settled down to sleep that night I went to the bathroom and was confronted by a mirror. I stared into this mirror for what seemed hours and the incredible thing was I loved what I saw (though this was during a time in my life when I was very unhappy with my looks). I loved what I saw. This was not narcissism. It was not my hair, my face, my looks, but what captured my attention was a sense of goodness. I was good. Life was good. I felt as if, as my mother would say, “you’ve turned over a new leaf”. The past was past. The now was brand new.
As I look back on that first experience it seems all a blur, the entire episode, except for a couple moments of clarity. Within these moments of clarity there existed, most clearly, an interruption of my experience of space/time. Something within me became engaged, and I just knew I would have to return and find out what it was.
It was another south Florida summer night and we were at it again, this time it was just Steve and I. I was sitting in my car parked up the road from his house waiting for him to slip out, when…
A rain began to fall, drawing my attention to the windshield. It was dark but the windshield was back-lit by some distant streetlights. Slowly the random rain drops started to arrange themselves into a perfectly geometrical pattern. The lines of this pattern consisted of a beautiful luminous light. It was as if the entire windshield was composed of intricately shaped diamonds. Next, these diamonds began to move. Their motion was not random, but wonderfully orchestrated. My stare intensified into a hypnotic-like state. I was absolutely paralysed. It was pure magic!
I’m not sure how long I sat there just staring before suddenly my vantage point shifted, from my eyes to my lap. I could barely see the windshield now; in fact I had to look upward just to see the dashboard.” How could this be” I thought. I was held in amazement, however, simultaneously, my mood began to gather a sense of apprehension.
Suddenly, Steve arrived at the car, shifting my attention, and with that, my normal vantage point returned. We drove off to enjoy the rest of the night (I gave Steve the keys) however, I was not to return to this visual/hypnotic level again, at least for now....
By this time in my life I was fully immersed in everything about this experience. All of the necessary elements of adventure were there for a man of my age: defiance of authority (we had to trespass onto cow pastures where these mushrooms grew); the thrill of the hunt (dodging the pasture owners and the police); excitement of discovery (they were both unique and beautiful); a return to the group with the prize (a sense of sharing something which was amazing) and the encounter with something incredibly new (you never really knew what to expect). In a way, I felt cast into the role of an ancient mythological adventurer, having been transported to the twentieth century (I wonder what Joseph Campbell would say?) Each summer brought with it all of these possibilities, and the air was just electric!
Experiences were soon to follow though, of a nature I never imagined, that would begin a process of change in everything I thought I understood about myself, and the world.
One night, my friends and I, hours past our “peak” experience, laid down to finally fall asleep. I was not quite ready to sleep yet and so sat up quietly looking about the dark room. Some music was playing and I was completely relaxed.
There was a dresser facing me just across the room and I fixed my gaze upon it. A small portion of it, maybe six inches square, began to lighten up. It was as if someone was shining a flashlight from behind my right shoulder. It slowly became brighter and brighter. I was fascinated. I stared into it. I was able to see “through” this light that a short distance behind it were figures of some kind. I stared further…
I was able to fix my focus on one of these figures and it “removed” itself from the background and moved towards me until it reached the surface of the light, against the dresser.
It was a beautiful and brilliant multi-coloured letter, or symbol of some kind, much more detailed and intricate than anything from the English alphabet. I stared in amazement. It remained for a short time and then retreated, in a spinning motion, back to the background with the other figures. Another figure followed though, repeating the same process as its predecessor, and then retreated. I’m not sure how many figures came and went, maybe about four. At this point I really wanted to tell my friend closest to me what I was seeing. As I began to do so the light disappeared.
I don’t recall having an immediate response to this experience other than “wow, that was amazing” when it happened. However, in the days that followed I began asking myself questions. This was not anything like the visual hallucinations I had experienced in the past. It was more like I was looking into another dimension, like a vision.
I can be absolutely clear on this: up until this time everything which I had experienced was simply a matter of acting upon my curiosity and enjoying myself. This was something entirely different. How did it happen that this “vision”, or anything usually related to a religious experience, collide with a purely hedonistic pursuit? I was never a religious person, and never in my wildest expectations associated the use of hallucinogens with anything religious.
Maybe, I thought, just maybe, it was nothing special, just another strange occurrence. But I could not forget it, and could not just write it off. I wanted to understand it.
One other very significant thing, taking place through all of this, was brought up by Steve one day when he pointed out how exhilarating the thinking process became during this experience. We also noticed an unmistakable “bleeding over” of this process long after the experience was finished, into our everyday lives. It was as if a deliberate and very particular learning process was trying to take place.
I shared my enthusiasm about these experiences with many of my close friends and when they voiced an interest to join in I was more than happy to oblige. One night five of us gathered together to begin our trip at a local lake. It was an ideal spot, far from the city, with big pine trees and lots of open space.
Unfortunately, a number of factors was to come into play which caused some difficulties for us. The tea (we boiled the mushrooms into tea) turned out to be very potent. Our transition from sobriety to “otherness” came incredibly quick, and an uneasiness swept through the group. Complicating things further, a hungry swarm of mosquitoes suddenly descended upon us. Just as the group began to look to me for some sort of solution, I became drawn into a very particular passage of music which was playing. It had started very low and serene but was now building slowly towards a crescendo. I felt the music taking complete control of my body.
Just prior to the crescendo I was spinning like an ice skater with my head turned up towards the sky. I really can’t say what I was feeling; only that it was incredibly intense.
When the crescendo arrived I simply exploded. From the base of my spine right to the top of my head a jolt of energy passed which was beyond words. Directly after that I was released from the music and felt a consciousness, or level of consciousness, I had never experienced before.
I was incredibly calm and incredibly clear.
My friends however, were still very tense and growing more uneasy. I knew we had to get moving in order for them to settle down and so we got back in the car and drove away. We were then free from the mosquitoes, but very much feeling the effects of the tea.
At one point, while seated in the back, I placed my hands in front of me in a closed-clap position. All that I saw, my entire field of vision, doubled, with my hands creating the dividing line.
I then moved my hands up and down, and as I did, these two “pictures of reality” moved with them. During this process there manifested a complete separation from my spatial awareness. There were no longer five people present…only pure ecstatic energy. Simultaneously, somehow I sensed a deep apprehension and fear coming from my friends (it was the first trip for two of the members of the group) and so I was able to refocus my attention towards them, and somehow calm them. Later, again wanting to return to this ecstasy, I “let go” and there it was…absolutely beyond words, I’m sorry to say. However, again simultaneously, I sensed the fear within the group and so refocused my attention to calm them. I’m not sure how many times this process repeated itself, but it became clear to me that my “letting go” directly affected their experience. On an extraordinary level, we were all interconnected.
At this point of the story it’s necessary to pause for some background. My life up until this time had been typical, some ups and downs but no real extremes. These experiences though, changed everything. Just about all I’d been interested in before paled in comparison (not a good thing for a seventeen year old needing to maintain his studies). I felt my entire concept of reality challenged.
Proceeding to the local bookstore (this was the late ‘70’s, long before the internet) I was fortunate to find “The Psychedelic Encyclopaedia” by Peter Stafford. It was in this book that for the first time I read of a connection between hallucinogens and the paranormal. By this time I’d already experienced space/time distortions, an intense hypnotic-like state, a kind of group telepathy, and most intriguing of all, the vision. All of this and more was covered in the book, along with numerous references to researchers, authors, and academics, who’s books I’d read in the coming years.
There was still one big problem though, and that had to do with our cultures perception of drugs. These experiences and the phenomena that followed were products of drug induced states.
Could it be that I was making something of them which was more than what they were? Could it be an over-worked imagination, or even worse, a slipping of the grip on my sanity? I struggled for answers.
One of the problems I encountered at this stage was that people feel very uncomfortable discussing such matters, even the friends I’d turned on. People, by their nature, become very defensive when it comes to challenging their concepts of reality. It’s easier to be cast out as “mad” than to be taken serious, and that’s just what happened to me. And so, over the course of time, I retreated, I kept this world inside, and to myself. In fact, I’m writing this down, for the first time, over thirty years later, for reasons I’ll explain later.
One thing was certain: I was changing, reprioritizing.
There were some other group experiences which fit into this “interconnectedness” theme that I’ll mention here: once, while a small group of us were just coming on to the effects, I fixed my gaze upon a mound of sea weed a short distance away. The sea weed slowly morphed into a beautiful brown geometrical pattern which began to spread out across my field of vision. The mood was still but intense and, except for some background music, all was quiet. My attention was completely consumed by this growing kaleidoscopic display. (The closest I can come to describe this type of hallucination is that it resembled the type of artwork used by Walt Disney for the introductions to its television shows). The silence was broken when one of the other members of the group gushed in amazement “wow, I just saw the most amazing thing; the seaweed got up and formed this beautiful pattern right in front of my eyes”!
On another occasion I again gathered a small group on the beach. We were all feeling the effects as we sat down at the edge of the water. It was my thing back then to always have a small portable eight track player with me for background music, though often times the music was our primary interest. On this evening I brought with me one of my favourites, Pink Floyd’s “Dark side of the Moon”.
We were all seated around the eight track player as I put in the cassette, at track one. Someone was not happy with that selection and so I hit the button for track two. But it was the same song. I then pushed the button for track three…same song…track four…same song.
Adding to the strangeness, we all saw the small red light on the eight track player move from track one to two to three to four. This completely spooked the group. Was there a “ghost in the machine” or was it a hallucination ? Hello sanity (I lean towards the latter).
While these experiences may not seem so extraordinary on the surface, they do raise some questions regarding the nature of consciousness; i.e. reality, is “reality” because we all see it and feel it (and share it); a hallucination, though you may see it or feel it, is an illusion (it is not shared).
So what is happening when two people share the same hallucination? If more and more people share it will it then become reality?
The question I arrive at on this tangent is: could it be that, besides this physical reality we share, we share yet another (non-physical) reality?
Here, I find it very interesting (coming from the non-scholastic, non-religious direction which I had taken) that I ended up facing the same questions in which, throughout the ages, mystics and philosophers have often asked.
Whenever I reflect back on these experiences, and this particular time in my life, I feel an unmistakable gravitational pull. It, still to this day, calls into question very deep and intense emotional memories. In a way I feel like a reluctant witness to a crime, choosing to remain quiet rather than undergoing the effort of the process of testimony.
Although my descriptions of these experiences are very brief and to the point, it does not mean that they are filed away neatly into the archives of memory. They are indeed pieces that do not fit.
Life would certainly be easier without having had this collision with “otherness”, or to simply not feel so compelled to understand it, but it has become a part of who I am. I was told once, by a teacher of parapsychology, that when the “door” has been opened there is no closing it. And so I will continue into the heart of this inquiry.
It should be pointed out that after the first couple of years of experiences covered thus far, my mind-set had changed quite considerably. In the beginning there were no real expectations, only a yearning for fun and adventure. But now I realized that there could be much more in store, and that was both good and bad. This matter must be factored in to gain a proper perspective.
I had a growing interest in the paranormal which was an inevitable consequence of researching the phenomena I had experienced. Especially interesting for me was the world of the Medium. I read a book on Edgar Cayce and found it fascinating. Also very alluring was the idea of the “magic carpet ride” of Arabian folklore. I was young and gullible and thought at the time that this was “really cool”.
With all of this in mind though, an event was soon to take place which would just take me right off the map. If a reader has had any problems believing what I have written so far, they may as well put down this essay now. Looking back after more than thirty years I still have no clear explanations, only a memory filled with the details that follow.
With me on this night were two friends who were already experienced with hallucinogens, Bob and Paul. Bob’s experience was with L.S.D. and although he was about ten years older than us, he was a part of our crowd at the time. This was his first mushroom experience, while Paul had done them before. Our plans were to boil the tea at a friend’s house, drink it, and then quickly drive off to a local lake. The mushrooms had other plans.
We were all feeling the effects in what seemed a matter of minutes, with Bob looking really “out there”. It was his car we had for the night and so I was forced to drive, throwing Bob in the front passenger seat and Paul in the back. We heard nothing from Paul for the rest of the night as he just seemed happy in his own world.
Bob’s first words to me involved advice. I remember him saying “You must have goals, you must be motivated”.
I was unfortunately at that age where I did not accept any type of authority figure, and so was not happy with him prying into my affairs. He went to repeat the same words and I interrupted “Bob, keep to your own trip, leave mine alone”.
The effects were intensifying and I did not wish any misunderstanding or “bad vibes”, but had to be clear on this matter and soon after he stopped talking.
Now though his words were echoing in my mind. I could not escape the impression I had that he was trying to somehow guide my very thoughts. It was absolutely spooky, but incredibly clear, that a telepathic experience was starting to manifest. Our next exchange, in fact, I am not sure was vocal. It was me asking him again to keep to his own “trip” and leave mine alone. Soon afterwards this uncomfortable facet of our exchange passed, and we sunk even deeper into the experience.
In the next level there was a fluctuation between two distinctly different modes of the mind. In one there existed an incredible feeling of omnipotence and clarity of understanding, as if the universe itself was communicating directly, revealing its very nature. In the other there was only emptiness, and a longing to return to the other mode. These modes would alternate between us, Bob and I, with one of us feeling this “clarity of understanding” while the other felt the longing and emptiness.
What happened next just blew me away. Bob, while in this exalted mode, pointed to a car out ahead of us and two lanes to our left, and then moved his finger from the car to the lane in front of us. The car followed....It was not just me this time, but both Bob and I were “behind the movie screen”, and it was him directing.
I am not implying that Bob actually moved a car over with his mind. We had to be, at that moment, clearly in a place outside of time. The cars and the road being a kind of carry over from what we remembered our reality being. Needless to say, it was incredibly intense.
As the evening progressed to the “peak”, there were times when Bob was so “out of it” that it was easier to understand him as not even “being there”. During one of these times, in one of the only instances he actually spoke all night, while he looked out at the sprawling city he turned to me and asked “Why are there walls separating all of those living spaces ?” It seemed he was legitimately curious, and concerned, as if he was observing a modern city for the very first time. I was absolutely dumbfounded. Why would Bob, having grown up in a big city himself, ask such an obvious question? The rest of the evening passed rather uneventful.
We finally arrived back to our usual group of friends and began the process of “coming down”. In the following days though, I would take up a discussion with Bob regarding this experience in an attempt to better understand it. “Things” were going to get even more interesting.
Bob, it seemed was just as awe struck with what took place that night as I was. He said that in all his years of doing L.S.D. he never felt anything like what we experienced. He was just amazed at the power of the Mushrooms. However, his trip, I would come to find, was quite different from mine.
He did not remember trying to give me advice, nor did he remember anything telepathic. He did not recall the episode with the car, nor making any comments on the walls of the city. This of course called into question all that I had remembered. What I thought was a shared experience turned out to be two separate trips. I knew though, that what I had gone through was not a matter of an overworked imagination. It was my mind, stripped of the usual preoccupation with the material world, experiencing a completely separate reality. I understand how difficult it is to assimilate this, and must admit that if it were not me that experienced this first hand, I wouldn’t believe it either. However, for now I must get back to Bob’s take on these matters.
Bob’s explanation/interpretation was even more “far out” than mine. He claims to have had contact with extra-terrestrials. He said that “they” were there from the beginning of the evening right until the end. His claim was that it was a particular function of the mushroom itself which worked on the brain’s chemistry in a way that “loosened” our usual fixation on the material world, thus enabling other signals from the universe to be heard…
There… I’ve said it…we’re off the map (well, at least I am). I must make it clear that this was Bob’s interpretation, not mine. I cannot say, with any certainty, that what I had experienced was an alien encounter. What I did have though, were these particular moments during the “peak” (which Bob does not remember) when we had the strange encounter with the other car, and later, his very distant inquiry regarding the walls of the city. Could this have been some kind of “contact”? After all of the years which have passed I still ask myself that same question.
It must be pointed out here that this took place sometime around 1980, long before Terrance McKenna popularized a connection between plant hallucinogens and extra-terrestrial contact. At that time the books which I was able to find on hallucinogens were divided into three disciplines; one focusing on their historical usage, another on their current usage within the world of Shamanism, and the other on the actual core experience.
As far as the actual core experience went, I read as many books as I could find. This was, and still is to me, the most fascinating part of this world of the Hallucinogens. I began with Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and Timothy Leary, and then adapted a more sobered approach with Ram Dass and Andrew Weil.
Certainly the most popular books on Shamanism back then were the works of Carlos Castaneda. Steve turned me on to one of his books, but there was something about it I did not like. It seemed (believe it or not) too far out for me, like something that could easily have been fabricated. A more scholastic approach was taken by Richard Evans Schultes.
I think though, without any doubt, the most important of these disciplines, and most controversial, is taken up by the research into the historical usage. There has been quite a lot of work in this field, and much of it has been serious, honest inquiry. However, there is a big problem with this topic: the implications posited through the process of re-examining religious literature and allowing for some modest extrapolation, trespass on the world of organized religion. And any challenges to this “sacred” realm are rebuffed even by so called serious academics. To imply that hallucinogenic drugs played a role in the origin of religion, even now, completely shuts down any discussion and brands you as some kind of lunatic. However, in returning to the very heart of the matter, one can just ask a very simple question: “what was most likely to occur? Man conceiving, on his own, the existence of a Soul, of God, and of a separate reality; or, ancient man, in his daily search for sustenance, stumbling upon a hallucinogenic plant, consuming it as foodstuff, with the following effects shifting his consciousness into alternative realms?”
Not surprisingly, this argument polarizes into two separate camps, those who have tried hallucinogens, and those who have not, with those who have not believing in the more “divinely inspired” process. I am not implying here that the only route to Man’s spiritual nature is through the usage of hallucinogens. What I am saying is, in my opinion, it’s far more likely that this was the original route.
The books I began with, on this historical focus, back in the early 80’s, were very daring and controversial. I read books by John M. Allegro, R. Gordon Wasson, and Carl A. P. Ruck, and still consider their work as very important. Though much of academia has been put off with their “shotgun approach” of investigation into historical records and religious literature, they have produced such a large volume of work, that even if only a small percentage of it is factual, we are left with a very significant amount of data.
As time passed I developed a growing understanding of the Mushroom experience. Each summer there were different people whom I turned on, most of them new to hallucinogens. There was a particular dynamic to each group which required some work on my part to navigate. Also very important, especially to new comers, was the dosage. Still, even after taking these learned precautions, there were some difficult times. Following are three examples:
Eric was both intelligent and curious. He was also quite mindful of others and very sensitive. He voiced an interest in trying the mushrooms and so I invited him to my apartment one afternoon, while two of my friends and I were already tripping. We had some fresh mushrooms drying outside on the balcony and so I gave him one, just one, of a medium size (4 inches in diameter). I sensed he was a bit nervous and so advised him to stay with us, take it easy and listen to some music, but he insisted upon getting home.
We did not hear at all from him for the rest of the day. The following day I had a chance to talk with him and he revealed what had taken place.
He said that as the effects intensified he grew more and more nervous. Things just didn’t seem quite right. Eventually he became incapable of completing a single rational thought, and therefore became convinced he was losing his mind. Somehow he was able to get to a phone and call a hot line for the mentally disturbed where he was able to speak with someone who “talked him down”.
I was shocked. Here was a good friend of mine, having gone through hell, because of me. Thank goodness he didn’t hold it against me and we remained friends for many more years, though he would never again try mushrooms.
After this experience I grew a bit more insistent upon people staying with the group. Had Eric stayed with us I’m sure this would not have happened. Sometimes all it took was a smile, some laughter, or some kind words to redirect a negative mental tangent. I also realized as far as dosage was concerned, these mushrooms could range radically in potency. As well as I felt I could gauge the strength of the tea, or the number of mushrooms to eat for a particular group, there was still an unpredictable element.
Gustavo was both daring and fun-loving. He had a big heart and was loved by all. One night he joined our group out at the beach where we all stayed until the peak effects had passed. Later we returned to the apartment where I had boiled the tea. I was exhausted, having had a rather intense trip, and went outside for some fresh air. Meanwhile Gustavo found some left over tea and drank it down. Before I knew what had happened he had walked off on his own, and no one knew where he went. I worried but could do nothing.
Again I had to wait until the next day to find out what happened. He told me then that he had wandered off into a parking lot, not far from the apartment, and was hallucinating so badly he could not find his way out. The local police eventually paid him a visit and he was able to tell them that he was just on his way home, and so the police drove off. Unfortunately he still could not find his way out of the parking lot and some time later, when the police drove by again, they decided to take him down to the station. He said it was quite a scene because he had to call a family member to come and pick him up. Once he got home hours later he was able to come down.
Again I could not escape the feeling of being responsible. Had I been more careful with the group this would not have happened. Gustavo was very resilient though, and he shook off the experience in short time, and even joined us on a couple more.
Paul was a very popular guy who loved to laugh. He spent more of his time stoned on pot than anyone else I knew. His difficult time occurred when he wandered away from the group to a big field where he could be alone. He decided to lie down in the grass and stare up into the night sky, remaining there for quite a while feeling perfectly content. All was well until he tried to leave, and then found that he was unable to move. Every effort to move a body part, any part, produced no results. He remained stuck in this struggle for hours until he finally came down.
The power of these mushrooms again proved to be far more than I ever anticipated. Adding to the sense of my responsibility was the fact that it was always me that found the mushrooms, prepared them, and arranged the whole experience. I was trying to be a modern day Shaman, but clearly I was ill-equipped. I could not prepare anyone for this particular downward journey, this negative trajectory, because I had not experienced it myself… However, my time was coming……
I went to visit my friends Hernan and Andy one afternoon and found them very excited about having scored bags and bags of mushrooms. I was surprised that they had found any at all as I had thought that the season had finished. I’d had many trips that year already and was, at the time, in the process of sorting them out. Their enthusiasm though was just enough to entice me to join in. That night Andy boiled all of the mushrooms into a very strong tea and I provided the car for the drive to the beach.
I began feeling the effects as the three of us stared out onto the ocean. But I sensed that this time, there was something wrong; the ocean, which I have always felt a deep attachment to, now appeared as a vast and overwhelming wilderness. Making things worse was the impression that it seemed to be calling out to me. I’m not speaking of something physical here; it was not the waves crashing onto the beach.
What I am saying is that the actual boundary separating the ocean from myself; the outer (universal) world, from my inner (individual) world, was dissolving. The thought of losing myself was haunting. I felt a pure, primal fear.
I turned to Hernan and Andy and told them we had to get back to the car and return home. I could tell that they were puzzled, and realized they were not experiencing what I was. They must have noticed my difficulty coping and felt it best to oblige and so off we went. The walk from the edge of the water, across the beach, to the car seemed to take forever. I was losing track of time. The question “where are you going?” came to mind. “Away from here, I have to get back home” I thought. And so on we walked. The question “where are you?” came next, and without anything at all left of the sensation of time passing I relented “I don’t know”. I was desperate. On and on we went until finally, somehow, we arrived back at the car.
I took to the backseat and gave Andy the keys. He and Hernan were not a part of this downward spiral of mine, in fact they were both enjoying themselves, albeit with some concern for me. Occasionally Andy would try to make contact with me but I was absolutely catatonic, at least on the outside. My inner world was another story altogether: I felt my very existence on a merry-go-round which, as it turned, I recalled different life experiences. On and on I went until, every once in a while, it would stop and offer me a chance to get off. But I remained just stuck, paralyzed with not-knowing what would happen if I let go.
With the effects intensifying, my situation became untenable, my resistance futile. Any attempts to reason, through identifying with my past, or present, lead to a dead end. Death came to mind, but this was even worse; it was as if “I” had never even existed. With my will held captive, trapped in this waking nightmare, having exhausted all attempts to reconcile, a last rather ominous question came to mind and it was “who are you?”….. I was without an answer……
Throughout this entire experience, from the apprehension at the onset, to the merry-go-round sequence, there was a distinct impression of something both incredibly strange, and yet also familiar. I know how odd that must sound, yet I remember it quite clearly.
None of the psychedelic literature I had read thus far prepared me for this particular experience, more than any previous trip this one just blew my mind. I realized all of the ways I had previously viewed myself, and identified with myself, were now in need of reassessment. And as I did, my expanding awareness came into direct conflict with layers and layers of culturally conditioned thought, and sense of identity. I needed time now to fight through these layers, and I needed a better map to plot my course.
I became absolutely overwhelmed with changes in my world view. Coincidences swirled around me, making life itself an incredible mystery which was unfolding right before my eyes, every day. For quite some time a great deal of confusion persisted, however, this finally gave way when I was introduced to Eastern Philosophy, and the existence of the ego*. Following are a number of my writings, from past years, pertaining to this process, or transition :
* see Alan Watts
Against the walls of reason
is where my time is spent.
It’s where once I found a door
and fully clothed I went.
Into a hall of mirrors
not sure of what I’d find,
every thought reflecting doubt,
self defined and redefined.
A struggle was giving way
when surrendered was my desire,
into a larger whole, naked,
as an all-consuming fire.
The walls that exist within this inward search for reason, or meaning, have been placed there either by one’s self, as a means of protection, or by the culture which stakes a claim to the individual. These walls become taller and thicker growing up in a culture that emphasizes the separation between individual and society, and that acknowledges life and death as simply being or not-being. The door in which I passed through I found completely by accident and did not even realize I’d done so until I was confronted with a completely separate reality.
Without my reason to instil a sense of order, a chaotic multitude of projections and reflections flooded into consciousness. I came to understand that these were all a part of my self, or my separate selves, and that they functioned as an interface between inner and outer worlds.
The problem with these projections and reflections is that over the course of time you come to identify yourself with them; your true self getting lost in the process, like being stranded in a hall of mirrors.
The struggle of letting go of all of these separate selves forces an entirely new assessment of reality. Identity, once freed from the ego, loses all sense of separateness from society, then nature, then the universe, and then finally of the very distinction between inner and outer worlds, and moves into a larger whole, and in doing so it must change entirely it’s composition in order to accommodate.
(poem circa 1985, commentary 2010)
Transcending the Ego
There are two radically different ways in which this can take place. You can be catapulted straight through the ego layers without even the realization of its happening.
Or you can be made to feel each and every ego layer, painfully peeling away, undoubtedly resisting with all that you have, until there is nothing left.
Once the ego is completely dissolved
there is the void.
This is not, though, an emptiness.
As the universe continues to expand
it fills the void.
And it becomes everythingness.
Identity is not lost, it becomes infinitely expanded.
There is no awakening without confronting and transcending delusion. During this process one comes to understand that much of this delusion has actually assisted you along the way by helping you to find your place in life and shielding you from pain. It’s removal causes great difficulty in that it calls into question where and even who you are and forces you to deal directly with the source of your pain.
Further along this process one encounters yet another obstacle: solitude. No longer identifying with the delusions of the rest of society one begins to feel isolated. Herein lies a great quandary; as the awakening mind continues to expand it encounters a society seemingly in a state of contraction; the delusions which were struggled through at a personal level actually acting as a protective barrier for the collective society. Whether one seeks to awaken others ( knowing the difficulty which accompanies this process ) or not becomes The Lament of the Bodhisattva.
“Belief” and “Faith”
When the mind is enabled to reflect upon itself with true uninhibited curiosity it soon begins a process of questioning the validity of memory. Since what we remember has so much to do with who we are, the stage becomes set for a confrontation with the ego; and the conceptual framework which has formed our very identities (by the ego) falls to pieces, exposing the absolute futility of carrying with you (through this process) abstract and unproven ideas. In other words, by the time you arrive at the point of ego confrontation (which is inevitable) “you” would have, long beforehand, abandoned anything the least bit abstract or questionable, including both “belief” and “faith”.
One day while listening to the radio a scientist and author by the name of Itzhak Bentov was giving an interview in which he mentioned hallucinogens. This naturally caught my attention and I tuned in. He was stressing the importance of allowing appropriate time following hallucinogen usage in order to assimilate the information revealed. “Wow” I thought, “this is the same thing that Steve and I discussed years prior, there’s something happening here!” It seemed the more I contemplated past coincidences, the more it led me back to a learning process which was actively trying to take place.
Sometime later, while walking through an airport in California, I was approached by a Hare Krishna. We spoke a bit and before leaving he gave me a small book. I tucked it away in my bag, not thinking much of it, and off I went. Days later I opened it up at a random page and started reading. “Conditioned Souls get off the punishing merry-go-round of material life and return home, back to Godhead.” I was absolutely stunned.
The name of the book was “Coming Back, The Science of Reincarnation” based on the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Also very important in this book was a description of the phenomena of Maya (the illusory attachment of the spiritual to the physical). Though I was not sold on the concept of reincarnation (and still remain a bit reserved) here in this little book I found a sense of validation which suited my expanding outlook, including some of the recent experiences I’d had with Mushrooms. Could this be the new map, or at least a piece of a new map, I was looking for?
As I delved further into Eastern Philosophy I found a far more rational, tenable bridge between psychology and spirituality, in fact there was an entire system. Raised as a Catholic I had already reached an age where I took notice that there was very little in the Bible regarding an individual’s spiritual awareness. Here I was to begin a long and painful process of shedding layers and layers of Judeo-Christian influence, including the Biblical conceptions of Heaven and Hell.
Another revealing thing to take place during this time occurred while befriending a co-worker named Iain. He was a Sufi and a very deep guy. We had lots of great talks together. One day I asked if he would like to join a small group of my friends who were going to a lecture from a famous psychic named Ingo Swan. Iain politely declined. Later, when I asked him why, he explained that he was not interested in the paranormal. I was a bit puzzled and inquired further. He went on to say that he had learned, through his studies of Eastern Philosophy, that although these realms of psychic phenomena exist, they can actually work against you, as they distract you from your primary spiritual path.
This friendly bit of advice was to mark the beginning of a departure from my interests in parapsychology. Also, I would never again trip as frequently as I had done so in the past. Though I realized the Universe could provide infinitely more information and experience, the question of how much more (which pertained to my spiritual progress) came into focus.
One last major change to take place at this time was adopting a vegetarian diet. During the peak of a number of my experiences, I perceived a sense of attachment, or belonging, to life itself, and that all of the various forms of life were somehow interconnected. I consider my vegetarianism a practical application of this acknowledgement.
In summarizing my current thoughts regarding hallucinogenic mushrooms I will expand my focus to include all hallucinogens in general, and present four simple facts followed by a very important question:
1. Wherever a primitive culture has been found to exist within close proximity of hallucinogenic drug plants, these hallucinogens play an active role in the cultures spiritual beliefs.
R.Gordon Wasson was certainly the leader with research in this field, producing a number of books. Also, see “Plants of the Gods” by Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann, and Christian Ratsch.
2. There is good evidence that a hallucinogen was used as part of the Eleusinian Ceremonies of the Greeks.
See “The Road to Eleusis” by R. Gordon Wasson, Carl A.P. Ruck, and Albert Hofmann.
3. Descriptions of hallucinatory experiences appear in religious literature throughout the world.
See “The Rig Veda” by Wendy Doniger, and proceed to the chapter on Soma.
Yet, much closer to home, at least for Western Man, the grandest of all testimonies has been staring us down for the past 2000 years. It is “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, right there at the beginning of Genesis, and there would be much more discussion on this matter, by lay persons and scholars alike, if not for cultural taboo. Clearly here what is taking place is consumption of a plant substance, followed by a dramatic shift in consciousness:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis, chapter 3
Further evidence of hallucinogenic usage within the Bible is provided in the book “The Mystery of Manna” by Dan Merkur. For a truly radical take on the matter see “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross” by John M. Allegro.
4. Modern Science has proven, through controlled experiments, that hallucinogenic (psilocybin) mushrooms are capable of eliciting a mystical experience amongst test subjects.
This study was reported in the International Herald Tribune newspaper on July 20, 2006. It took place at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and was led by a scientist named Roland Griffiths. Their study stated that the test subjects reported “feelings of sacredness and oneness of the universe.”
Question: Why does the vast majority of our society and most of the academic community, still so stubbornly resist the idea that hallucinogens are very likely to have played a big part in the development of religious thought?
Will we see the day when our understanding of these substances is de-stigmatized and our formal knowledge of the history of religion is updated to include its likely original role? The truth will always have more time on its hands than does prejudice and taboo.
The subject of the “core experience” has clearly been the most popular of disciplines in the study of hallucinogens, and a big reason why I have written this essay. These past years have seen a great deal of popularization of the paranormal within this literature, but very little has been said regarding the real fundamentals (working through the layers of cultural conditioning, encountering/transcending the Ego) .It seems to me that people have become more interested in “alien contact” than they are with contacting themselves.
There are two extraordinary authors who have made great contributions in this field which deserve a mention here. Both Stanislav Grof and Ralph Metzner have done extensive research into all aspects of this experience and deserve a great deal of respect for their courage.
I have read quite a number of trip descriptions reported to researchers by individuals from various walks of life, and must confess, have not found any quite like mine. Also, I’ve spoken to scores of people through the years who have had a great deal of exposure to hallucinogens, but have never experienced any kind of spiritual awakening. The reason for this remains a mystery to me (and is part of the reason I resist using the term entheogen). Could it be that some people naturally possess a particular brain chemistry which is more sensitive to signals from the interface between these substances and their neurotransmitters? Another possible factor could have been that the Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms which grew in south Florida between 1977 and 1982 were particularly potent, and/or the process (of boiling the fresh mushrooms) we used to extract the Psilocybin was very effective.
The matter of the learning process which unfolds throughout this experience is incredibly unique. The customary process of instructor, blackboard, and pupil is replaced by a kind of “Cosmic show and tell”.
Instructions are not verbalized, nor written down (could the symbols I viewed during my vision be an exception?) instead, they are the full blown manifestations of very particular mental/ spiritual phenomena. One learns through direct experience:
Time/space distortions expose a more fluid reality beyond the rational mind.
Detachment from physical reality reveals a mental/spiritual reality.
The interconnectedness of other people points to a larger part of our true identities.
Ego transcendence completes the process of consciousness expansion, removes the boundary between inner and outer worlds, and releases us back to the universe.
I do not believe this information derives from an outside source. It is available to all, as it exists within us, somewhere locked away in our own brain chemistry. Within this same place there also exists memories that long precede our current physical existence. When these memories are engaged they release an unimaginable amount of psychic energy which can transform into a life of their own. And they do.
This is the domain of angels and demons, of mythological monsters and spirit guides, dreams of falling and dreams of flying, this is, as Carl Gustav Jung would say, our collective unconscious. And as my mother would say “it’s no place for sissies”.
“Do not mistake the boat for the shore”. Zen lesson
Looking back now, after over thirty years of reflection, I am still held in awe by these mushroom experiences. No singular person, institution, subject matter, or situation has ever so challenged my world view. I am very grateful for having had the exposure to them which I did, and feel a certain sympathy for those who have never had the opportunity.
To add a sense of perspective though, I must say, that I now view these experiences as only a stage of my growth, the first step of a long and difficult path. It is of the utmost importance to understand that awareness is one thing, how we conduct ourselves with this awareness is another.
“Once you’ve gotten the message you can hang up the phone”. Alan Watts
COPYRIGHTS: All reports are copyright Erowid and you agree not to download or analyze the report data without contacting Erowid Center and receiving permission first.
Experience Reports are the writings and opinions of the individual authors who submit them.
Some of the activities described are dangerous and/or illegal and none are recommended by Erowid Center.