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Mushroom Wisdom: How Shamans Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness
by Martin W. Ball, PhD
Ronin Press 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by gregoryp(tm), 6/14/2007

About ten years ago, Dr. Martin Ball had a profound experience with psilocybin mushrooms. Taking the fungi with the intention of finding their spiritual power, as opposed to doing it “just for fun,” Ball found himself in a place where he began to see mushrooms as a powerful cognitive, psychological, and spiritual and emotional tool for growth.

But in his new book, Mushroom Wisdom: How Shamans Cultivate Spiritual Consciousness, Dr. Ball takes a terribly long time (about ten chapters) to explain how others might be able to do this as well.

Despite the woo-woo inherent in the title, Ball’s treatise is highly academic, as if he hopes that by enshrouding the mushroom experience in an erudite, almost clinical tone, he’ll be able to entice the most skeptical mind into the value of the psychedelic experience. While it’s a certainty that credentials-wielding anthropologists are just as likely to pooh-pooh the value of shamanic experience as the flag-waving crypto-fascists who like wars (particularly the war on plants and plant-knowledge masquerading as a “war on drugs”), there is, as we know, a rather huge audience that’s quite hip to the idea that psychedelics are valuable tools for growth of all kinds.

Sadly, Ball rarely addresses this particular audience, though he does offer a practical guide to ways of thinking about mushrooms and their capabilities. After spending many pages on a didactic treatise on how “the knowledge path” is why we should trip in the first place, he eventually gets around to some chapters on practical knowledge, specifically the chapters on Ritual, Symbolism, and a Clean Heart.

I was very eager to receive this book, as any book that wants to lead people into using entheogens in a ritualized way to achieve practical results is something that’s sorely lacking in the field. This is what I had hoped to read, but much of this book seemed to go out of its way to convince me of what I already know and believe, rather than impart the wisdom – mushroom-birthed and otherwise – that I’m certain Dr. Ball actually has to offer.

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