Midnight Train to Gaia

excerpted from my book-in-progress

If Mother Nature is indeed replete with wisdom and intelligence, then she ought to provide us with an antidote with which to combat our ecological destructiveness, a kind of strong medicine that can instill within us a profound ecological awareness. And Mother Nature does provide such an antidote. Appropriately enough, it grows in the ground.1

Is taking psychedelic mushrooms worthwhile? I teach foraging for a living, and as with wild food in general, the short answer is yes — with some hefty qualifications.

Demeter and Persephone exalting the “flower,” 470 BCE

Much to the delight of modern “technoshamans,” psychedelic mushrooms may have an esteemed history. It’s been argued that most of the world’s major religions, in fact, from Hinduism to Christianity, originally centered around mushrooms.2

Manna, for example, the mysterious substance that sustained the Hebrews in the wilderness, is said to be none other than fungus. It would appear in the morning and, like many mushrooms, be rotten by the next day:

And Moses said, let no one leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding, they harkened not unto Moses, but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.3

Sounds like mushrooms to me. If you left my inky caps out overnight, I’d be wroth too! Granted, the Bible adds that no manna would appear on the Sabbath, extra manna would appear on Friday which would keep till Saturday, and Aaron somehow managed to dry an omer’s worth (about half a gallon) to keep in the Ark of the Covenant. If only porcini were that easy.

One author postulates that manna was in fact hallucinogenic. Hence the sacerdotal stash? Imagine living on nothing but liberty caps and water for forty years. I guess that explains the end to Raiders of the Lost Ark. To top it off, the same author concludes that the Jewish covenant of circumcision was instituted in order to make the penis look like a budding mushroom. 4 And that’s about as good a reason to cut off someone’s foreskin as any.5

Is Santa Claus really an Amanita-eating Siberian shaman?6 Did Vedic priests recycle their ‘shrooms by drinking each other’s pee? Stay tuned…

The same treasure-hunting impulse that might compel one to hunt mushrooms can also motivate an ethnomycological quest, the search for some holy grail of truth in the fragments of history that haven’t been lost or suppressed. In this sense, the subject can be “interesting” in the same way that Eckhart Tolle’s work is supposed to not be. “Interesting means you can keep your distance, play around with ideas and concepts in your mind, agree or disagree.”7 If you want to do that, go to college.

I’ve had my share of occult studies and academics. Some of it was quite practical. Most of it was a trivial pursuit. It was a way to stay in my mind when the real work was in my body. If you’re looking to really grow, then like the mushrooms, you have to get down and dirty. “No mud, no lotus.”

Mormon Temple, Santa Monica, Christmas 2002

Like Tolle’s teachings, your association with psychedelic mushrooms “will either change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless.”8 Like the prophet Mohammed says, “the philosopher who does not realize his metaphysics,” that is, who does not become what he believes, is “just an ass bearing a load of books.”9

Some do seek out fungi to change their state of mind. “There are seekers of altered states and seekers of altered tastes.”10 Thankfully, mushrooms excel at both. But as Ken Wilber teaches, “states are free; stages are earned.”11 Unlike real food, drugs, almost by definition, don’t last — and leave you weaker than before. 12

The problem is that “all methods are traps.”13 We often end up worshipping the tools, the technology of revelation, be they substances, practices, or ideas. Either way, it’s idolatry, and that leads to addiction. We get addicted to what we keep having to add to; i.e., to what doesn’t last.14

I’m not saying, just say no. I’m just saying, know that the feeling won’t last. Get the message, not just more of the messenger.

But first, the good news.

In the U.S. and a handful of other countries, there’s a taboo around mushrooms, all kinds of them. Time and again you hear wild food experts say, “stay away from mushrooms; I do.” It’s as if fungi are the final frontier. 15

The child who is taught to fear something, who has never experienced it, is often more afraid of it than the adult who has. I have a friend who grew up in Ohio in the Cold War. As a child, he was afraid to go out in the dark for fear that he might be set upon by communists. Like they say, the mind knows many troubles, most of which never happen.16 But like Starhawk says, “where’s there’s fear, there’s power.”17

Power is not always something you gain; more often, it’s something you’ve lost. After all, how can something that can blow your mind have, to the best of our knowledge, no acute or cumulative toxicity?18 My thought is that it can only be because it is completely natural for us to consume it. More to the point, it’s natural for us to experience physiologically what magic mushrooms are just one way of eliciting. In other words, I would think it quite likely that we evolved tripping. This is not necessarily as extreme as it sounds.

Mushrooms are the guardians of Eden. They are the gateway to the underworld, the tip of the iceberg that ties life on land together.19 Whether subterranean or subconscious, they allow us to tap into the mind of Gaia, the “global brain.” That’s not on everyone’s to do list.

As I write these words, I am sitting at a picnic table in a grassy, weedy area beside a parking lot. Someone just walked past me to her car. She said, “you’ve got the perfect spot; but you might find a snake in there.”

As a wild foods teacher, a hunter-gatherer anachronism, I recognize civilization’s nearly-universal fear of life, a.k.a., biophobia, for what it is: a global Eden disorder.

The word apocalypse means “uncovering.” For all our frightful associations with revelation, it may be that, for well-grounded people who don’t live in denial, the psychedelic experience is actually rather mild: pleasurable, but not disconcerting, like watching a movie or a play. It would be like giving the red pill to someone already outside The Matrix. Someone not stuck in their heads. Someone like Neem Karoli Baba.20

The Buddha says enlightenment is, quite simply, awareness. Most people associate mushrooms with hallucination, but I think they show us reality. After all, the rational, as I see it, is just a subset of the irrational.

Reality is the tip of an iceberg of irrationality that we’ve managed to drag ourselves up onto for a few panting moments before we slip back into the sea of the unreal.21

Can you understand your own dreams, which arise with mushrooms’ rank richness in the night-forests within your skull?22

The word psychedelic does not mean ‘that which alters the mind,’ it means ‘that which reveals it.’23 As I explain elsewhere, I see life itself as being one big dream.24 If so, then maybe it’s we who have an Eden disorder, we who are sleepwalking and crazy not to be, from our perspective, always “high.” In other words, maybe the only reason we call taking mushrooms “tripping” is that we don’t live there.25

But like I said, what goes up must come down. If a state is “high” to you, you can’t stay there. In fact, my second book is entirely about civilization being one big drug addiction.26

Fortunately, you don’t have to take mushrooms, either psychedelic or from the woods, to get what they have to teach us. 27 That lesson, quite simply, is oneness. Take, for example, these two testimonials:

“I felt this connection with everything. There’s something that I go into and become a part of, and that’s pretty cool. My experience tells me that it’s not a big nothing after I’m gone.”

“I was floating on this immense expansive infinite sea of strength and beauty. There was no difference between that infinite sea and me.”28

Compare them to this description:

I love the sense of ease and harmony which nature gives me, and the feeling of connection I experience. I feel a marvelous sense of at home-ness…

If I go walking in the countryside, there usually comes a point when a feeling of well-being begins to glow inside me, and when the trees and the fields and the sky around me seem to be more alive and beautiful, and to be shining with a new radiance. The clouds above me seem to be moving with a dramatic beauty…

And the author’s explanation:

killin yo’ mind like a poisonous mushroom

Like a mantra in meditation, the beauty and majesty of nature draws our attention away from the ‘thought-chatter’ which normally runs through our heads, which consequently begins to slow down and fade away. Our whole being relaxes and expands, and now that they’re no longer sustained by constant thinking, our ego-boundaries begin to dissolve. We transcend separateness and become connected, both to the landscape and our own deeper selves. A sense of inner peace fills us, a glow of serene energy which intensifies and clarifies our perceptions.

We feel that we are where we are meant to be, that we have become who we really are: not separate individuals, but part of a rich and intricate of network of being, with an essence which flows from the same spiritual source as the whole of the natural world.29

He isn’t talking about taking psychedelics; he’s talking about taking a walk in nature. Ecotherapy is known in Japan as shinrin-yoku, or “taking in the forest atmosphere.” Typically translated as “forest bathing,” when you truly immerse yourself in nature, all mushrooms are potentially psychedelic — along with trees, clouds, and everything else. For the one who truly sees nature sees our unity, and it is a beauty beyond and within all other.

Everything is flowing — going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks… while the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood… in Nature’s warm heart…

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.30

The unity of the universe (hence the name) is more readily apparent in nature, but it exists, of course, everywhere. That’s why the psychedelic experience is not limited to drugs. Another classic illustration of this is the lady with the fruit hat.31 I won’t give away the punch line. I’ll just say it echoes the aforemost mentioned example of our invisible unity: mycelium.32

The power of psychedelics is that they point to a foundational question: what is the nature of reality? More to the point, they help us to answer a very real question for many of us today: is life worth living?

I used to express this question as, is the universe a friendly place? But that implies a more objective, intellectual answer than I think is attainable or necessary. All we have to do is to feel at home here. We don’t need to believe the Earth is our home. We need to feel it. To be at home is to be surrounded by family, friends, and lovers (take your pick). As with all our social ills,

The main thing is to love others as yourself, that’s the main thing, and it’s everything, and there’s no need for anything else at all. It will immediately be discovered how to set things up. 33

All we need is love because all we are is one. It’s no surprise, then, that the predominant feature of the mystical experience is a sense of unity.34

Unfortunately, like I said, for most of us today, unitive episodes are experienced as “trippy.” Sooner than later, we come down, back to a life of protecting ourselves from others and doing things that make them have to protect themselves from us.35

Since we are one, there is nothing more natural than to love. It’s what we do when we feel safe to do so. Only when we feel safe, however, can we open our hearts. To foster peace in the world and within ourselves, what we need, in psychological terms, is secure attachment to nature as a holding environment.36 In theological terms, foraging is an experience of the Providence that God/Gaia provides. Getting your daily breadfruit from the Tree of Life is a more sure path to wellness than the occasional bacchanalia. 37

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I took mushrooms maybe five times, ecstasy twice, and ate a bunch of pot once. These experiences took place, at least initially, in a ritual context: first with one or two others, then alone, then eventually at a gathering or party. But even then, the space was held with intention. Nor did I ever take enough of anything to hallucinate. Each experience felt safe, under control. 38

In every case, regardless of the substance, the essence of my experience was the same. Put into words, the feeling was that everything is OK and everything is going to be OK. I can open my heart. I don’t have to be afraid.

I learned as much coming down from these highs as getting there because I noticed that when I came down, I shut down. I no longer walked down the street, looking at people in the eyes with love in my heart. I didn’t feel safe anymore.

I tried taking mushrooms once again. I went to the woods to a small clearing alone. I set up my space, lit a candle… and found that I’d forgotten the mushrooms. I’d accidentally left them at home. And they worked anyway.

I found that just opening up that space in my life, taking time off, created space to open my heart. And I noticed that truly loving gatherings could also help me open my heart, to not be so afraid. But of course, neither would last.

I decided that I wanted to learn how to be loving, how to feel safe all the time. I had to learn that it was OK to come down, that things were always OK, even when I couldn’t see or feel it. That the sun is always shining.

Knowing (in my bones, not my brain) that something bigger than me is taking care of me has been the most important lesson of my life. 39 These “peak” experiences changed my life because they gave me a taste of where I want to be – or rather, how. And for that I’m forever thankful. But there is a way to approach them and a time to move past them.

Many years later, I’m still learning to be like the lilies of the field. I’m still working on it, on myself. It hasn’t been easy. No more short-lived shortcuts. But “easy ways don’t come from God.”40

I do encourage people to experience “magic” mushrooms: in a sacred, safe context — which unfortunately means somewhere they are legal41 — under the guidance and protection of a good friend who’s “been there.” Then one day, you can be there for others because you need nothing else: because you carry your joy with you, in your heart, all the time.

That said, if any mushrooms are going to save the world, it’s the psychedelic ones. Today, nearly one in four Americans will experience depression.42 At least 65% of those with severe depression are not getting treatment.43 Meanwhile, initial research shows that for many people, when properly administered, psychedelics could be of tremendous benefit.44 In fact, initial studies suggest that persistent depression can be cured with — again, when properly administered — just one or two doses.45 And I should add that, when properly distributed, these are free.

I pray that psychoactive mushrooms are one day legal everywhere, if only for Mother Nature’s sake. After all, I don’t think she knows she is committing, in the countries that need them the most, a felony by growing them. 46

Psychedelics are illegal not because they are dangerous to the individual but because they are dangerous to the establishment. Because they cannot be patented and sold, they threaten our pharmaceutical industry.47 More fundamentally, they threaten a culture based on fear: on the notion that we need to protect our interests from others. Most of all, they dissipate the delusion that we need to fight and fix ourselves. Psychedelics reveal the truth: that we are one, that we are perfect, and that all we need is love.

Psychedelics, however, are not for everyone. For one, they can interact with prescription medications. They can also upset deeply-help mindsets, and violently tearing these away usually does more harm than good. As with all mushroom-eating, psychedelics are not a place for DIY. Always remember that anything powerful is also dangerous. They don’t call it intoxication for nothing.48

Get help. Don’t play witch doctor; don’t self-medicate. Medication and meditation have the same root, meaning “thoughtful action” (as in pre-meditated). Look before you trip. That means get looked after. Like they say, “the man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”

Given the lack of reliable guidance in our culture, drug reform is not about simply legalizing the next “magic pill” but rather, shifting our entire culture to accommodate these potentially transformative experiences. Changing our thinking takes work, both individually and collectively. Psychedelics only give us a glimpse of the goal; it’s still up to us to get there.

True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state… Authentic spirituality is not some little flicker or buzz of knowingness, not a psychedelic blast-through or a mellow hanging-out on some exalted plane of consciousness, not a bubble of immunity, but a vast fire of liberation, an exquisitely fitting crucible and sanctuary, providing both heat and light for the healing and awakening we need.49

The drug war, in case you haven’t noticed, has been a colossal failure.50 Every war, in fact, is a failure. No one ever wins a war, except maybe those who make money on it. Similarly, when you make something illegal, the price skyrockets, drawing in new suppliers, which in turn, creates a huge business in enforcement. Criminalization is like spraying water on a fire, except it’s gasoline.51

Outlawing something, however, only restricts the supply. The real question is, why the demand? What causes addiction?

A number of authors say addiction boils down to a “battering cycle.” It’s not just that things aren’t OK. It’s that I’m not OK. 52 The cycle goes something like this:

  • try hopelessly to be “good” (that is, perfect)
  • fail or suffer enough to need to indulge to soothe the pain
  • feel bad enough about it to try again.53

This is the kind of dynamic that really boosts the GNP. And isn’t it romantic?

It is romantic to seek out The One, the thing that’s going to save you from yourself, be it a man, a mantra, or a mushroom.54 And that notion stems from a monotheistic mindset. This dualistic worldview, a rather recent invention, says that there is good and bad, right and wrong, and the world — just like you — is mostly full of the latter. Consequently, you have to sift for the gold in the sand, the mushroom in the duff, the virtue in your vice grip.55

artist conk and poison ivy

But a mushroom will not solve all your problems any more than will the right spouse, income, or idea. Life cannot be “solved” because life is not a problem to begin with. Like us, life is not mostly wrong or bad.

This is the Eden disorder, the basic assumption about nature, including human nature, that we have to surmount: namely, the conscious or unconscious belief that most mushrooms are injurious, most plants are poisonous, most animals will bite you, and most humans will hurt you. Or, alternatively, that some of these are so dangerous that you have to be on constant lookout for them.56

“So there you have it: Nature is a rotten mess. But that’s only the beginning. If you take your eyes off it for one second, it will kill you. Thorns, insects, fungus, worms, birds, reptiles, wild animals, raging rivers, bottomless ravines, dry deserts, snow, quicksand, tumbleweeds, sap, and mud. Rot, poison and death. That’s Nature.”

“It’s a wonder you even step outside of your cabin,” I said.

“My bravery exceeds my good sense…”57

Oh baby, I wish it were a wild world. It’s a sad, scary scenario that most of us spend our lives in. Fortunately, it only exists in our minds.

oh sh*t

While “man vs. nature” is only in our heads, the fear is in our bodies, and our entire civilization is built on it.58

If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of a single human being, the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions… [of] perceived “enemies”…59

The basic problem is often referred to as the negativity bias, chronic hypervigilance, or being stuck in fight-or-flight. When you’re raised, born, or even conceived in fear, that fear is already built into your physiology. And that’s not something you can run away from.60

Of course, a good meal might have helped; but I had already abolished my hunger by eating the chocolate cake with the fungus icing. Or I could have gone to a movie and smoked some grass. But when you’re in that kind of sweat, the only lasting remedy is to ride with it: accept the anxiety, be depressed, relax, and let the current carry you where it will. 61

Civilization’s two quintessential diseases are cancer and depression. They are two sides of the same coin, and we all have, to some degree, both.62 And like they say, depression always knows your new address. But all this can be changed. Maybe not in one lifetime, but fortunately, we’ve got plenty.63

My first book is my swan song to mushroom hunting. Dopamine addicts like me spend our lives thinking we need to get mushrooms, rich, or laid.64 Now I’m the king of the pickers, the fungal VIP. I’ve hit all the spots, ID’d the lot, and that’s what’s bothering me.

After decades of skirt-chasing, I’ve come to realize I’ve been seeking some archetypical feminine, some-One I call the “woman without a face.” What we look for in life beyond survival, beyond wealth, Euell Gibbons calls the “flower without a name.” 65 I’ve found that what I’ve really always wanted is more humungous than fungus. Pascal says there’s a God-shaped hole in each of us. It’s bigger than a mushroom basket.

Too late came I to love thee, O thou Beauty so ancient and so fresh, yea too late came I to love thee. And behold, thou wert within me, and I out of myself, where I made search for thee: I ugly rushed headlong upon those beautiful things thou hast made. Thou indeed wert with me; but I was not with thee: these beauties kept me far enough from thee: even those, which unless they were in thee, should not be at all.66

Only finding God, which to me means nothing more or less than learning to love life, can fill that fault, that depression deep within.

We’re not PEZ heads; God doesn’t come in a pill. To fill that hole, or rather, to feel that whole, sooner or later we need to dispense with drugs. God doesn’t fit into any one thing. Ramakrishna says God is like a mother cleaning house. It’s when the children tire of their toys and cry out that the mother comes, with the love her children need.67

God is never far away. We may have left The Garden, but The Garden has never left us. When you start to see the world as a place full of friends, some of them green, some in all colors, you’ll never be alone again. You’ll never go hungry, because what we really hunger for is love.

“He is of the race of the mushroom: he covers himself altogether with his head.” Plautus, Trinummus, c. 200 BCE

Two tools that have been immensely helpful to me in opening my heart sustainably, which is to say, in opening to life, are Nonviolent Communication and Somatic Experiencing.68 Remember that the question is not whether the world is an entirely friendly place but whether you can handle it.69 And that’s not a question that can be answered in the mind. The word courage comes from “heart.” The path out of fear is through love.

Approaching the world from your heart rather than your head can be a simple practice. You can try it right now. Try “looking” out, especially at other people, but even at any inanimate object, not from your eyes but from the center your chest.

I don’t know about you, but I immediately experience a shift from criticism to love. The Lakota say this is the longest journey you will ever take.70 It’s easy enough to get there, at least for me. The trick, of course, is how to stay: how to turn the state into a stage. And for this, fungi — of all kinds — can help. They want to help. You can laugh at that or you can be saved. “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?”71

The greatest stage you will ever earn is to be loved and to love in return.72 Everything you ever really wanted is being offered to you.

The most precious things of life are near at hand, without money and without price. Each of you has the whole wealth of the universe at your very door. All that I ever had, and still have, may be yours by stretching forth your hand and taking it.73

Will you?

1 Simon G. Powell, Manna, 2008.

2 see, e.g., books by Gordon Wasson, including Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (1968), The Road the Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (1978), and Persephone’s Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion (1988). A more controversial contribution to the literature is The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John Allegro, the otherwise esteemed scholar who helped decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls and wrote a bestselling book on the subject. See also Jan Irvin & Andrew Rutajit, Astrotheology & Shamanism (2006) and The Pharmacratic Inquisition (2007).

3 Exodus 16:19-20.

4 Steve Kubby, “Manna From Heaven,” Psychedelic Illuminations 1:7, 1995.

5 Paul M. Fleiss, “The Case Against Circumcision,” Mothering, Winter 1997, 36-45.

6 see “The Influence of Fly Agaric on the Iconography of Father Christmas” and Tony van Renterghem’s When Santa was a Shaman (1995). The latter covers everything except the mushroom connection. I called the author in 1996 and he was not aware of it. For everything except Santa, see Wasson (1968).

7 Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth (2005), 7.

8 ibid, 7.

9 The Koran 62:5. Also in Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood, Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God (1972), 15.

10 David Arora, Mushrooms Demystified, 1986.

11 Ken Wilber, The Integral Operating System, 2005.

12 whether mushrooms are a drug depends partly on how they are approached and partly on dosage; see Wild Mushrooms: from Forest to Table.

13 Ram Dass, Paths To God, 2004, 162.

14 Derek Beres,“Can Psychedelics Be Addictive?,” Big Think, publication date unknown.

15 see Alan Muskat, “Why Eat Fungus?

16 “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened” (author unknown, commonly misattributed to Mark Twain). Similarly, it’s been said that LSD, a drug derived from fungi, “causes insanity in people who have not taken it” (attributed to Timothy Leary but unsourced).

17 Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark, 47.

18 according to “Risk assessment report relating to paddos (psilocin and psilocybin)” from The Hague’s Coordination Centre for the Assessment and Monitoring of New Drugs, “this drug is not associated with physical or psychological dependency, acute toxicity is largely limited to possible panic and anxiety attacks and, in terms of chronic toxicity, the worst that can happen are flashbacks. Consequently, the use of paddos does not, on balance, present any risk to the health of the individual… There are examples from other cultures of people taking paddos with some regularity throughout their lives without any symptoms of chronic toxicity… Not enough information is available about mutagenity and teratogenity to be able to draw any conclusion, but there is no logic to suggest that paddos might contain these properties… Research has been carried out, but so far chronic toxicity has not been proven…”

19 see my article, “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.”

20 see “Ram Dass Gives Maharaji the ‘Yogi Medicine.’” I’ve heard of entire families taking mushrooms together. And I’m not talking about some indigenous culture; I mean in the past fifty years, in the United States. And not the West Coast, either; somewhere in the Midwest. And this is Amanita muscaria, not known for being an easy drug. Granted, this is just hearsay, but just imagine it. It would be like whole families getting naked together. How disgusting is that?

21 Terence McKenna lecture excerpted in Peter Bergmann, “Terence McKenna’s True Hallucinations” (2016), original source unknown.

22 William T. Vollmann, The Ice-Shirt, 1993, 46. “The dream thoughts which we come upon in the interpretation must generally remain without a termination, and merge in all directions into the net-like entanglement of our world of thoughts. It is from some denser portion of this texture that the dream-wish then arises, like the mushroom from its mycelium” (Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 1913, A.A. Brill, trans, 420).

23 Online Etymological Dictionary, “psychedelic.”

24 Alan Muskat, Love & Curiosity.

25 Most of us associate psychedelics with madness. But madness and wildness are not the same thing. A healthy animal is wild, not rabid. To some extent, being “out of control” is a good thing. The key word, however, is some. “The optimal condition for the evolution of an organism is the greatest amount of stress that can be creatively borne” (Steve Torma, after Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth, 1988, 219). This is the difference between tonics, stimulants, and drugs. Lift as much weight as you can, with effort, and you get stronger. Lift more than you can bear, and you do more harm than good. Take a reasonable amount of mushrooms and you can gain great insight or heal deep emotional wounds. Take more than that — or mix it with alcohol — and you can go stark raving mad (see e.g., Keith Epps, “Naked man high on mushrooms hit by train, arrested,” The Free Lance-Star, 11/4/09, or Tina Moore et al, “Banker plunges to his death after eating magic mushrooms,” New York Post, 5/23/16). See also my article, “What is Healthier, Your Relationship or Cocaine?”.

26 Alan Muskat, Coming Home.

27 ZAGAT, “Meet Asheville’s Rapping Mushroom Forager” (3:29-4:07), 7/28/15. On the other hand,

28 Fox and Gussone, “Magic Mushroom Drug Psilocybin Helps Cancer Patients Chill Out,” NBC News, 12/1/16.

29 Steve Taylor, “The Power of Nature: Ecotherapy and Awakening,” Psychology Today, 4/28/12.

30 John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911, and Travels in Alaska, 1915.

31 Ram Dass, Polishing The Mirror, 2014, 4-5.

32 Alan Muskat, “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.”

33 Dostoyevsky, “The Dream of the Ridiculous Man.”

34Walter T. Stace – extrovertive and introvertive mysticism” in “Scholarly approaches of mysticism,” Wikipedia.

35 ”Do you think it’s possible that when we’re on something like marijuana or mushrooms and we believe we’re having a really spiritual experience that we’re just high?” (Bill Maher, Religulous, 2008). In other words, where is the “real” world?

36 A.H. Almaas, Facets of Unity, 1998, 36.

37 And yet, when properly approached, mushrooms can, at least for those with severe illness— be almost instantly effective: see note 38.

38 This is an key point. Taking mushrooms is like standing at the edge of a cliff. You want the view; you don’t want to jump off. An analogy is falling asleep. It is in the “twilight” place, in between waking and sleeping, that most of my insights have come. Fall asleep and you are soon lost in the sea of dreams. Be fully awake, and you are lost in the dream of waking life. What you want is calm, detached observation. This is known in the East as nonattachment, but the “hypnagogic state” in particular has been employed in the West by a long line of creative minds, including Beethoven, Wagner, Dalí, Coleridge, Shelley, Dewey, Edison, Tesla, Newton, and Einstein (Deirdre Barrett, The Committee of Sleep, 2001). And you don’t need drugs to get there.

39 Alan Muskat, “Rewilding: Escape from Scare City.”

40 Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu, 1965, 52.

41 Lauren Frayer, “In Portugal, Drug Use is Treated as a Medical Issue, Not a Crime,” NPR, 4/18/17.

42 Stephen Ilardi, “Depression is a Disease of Civilization,” TEDxEmory, 2013.

43 Alice Park, “Most People With Depression Aren’t Getting Treatment, Survey Finds,” Time, 12/3/14.

44 Amelia Kinney, “Study: ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Relieve Anxiety And Depression In Cancer Patients,” True Activist, 9/11/17. See also the documentary, Neurons to Nirvana (2013).

45Single dose of psilocybin relieves anxiety and depression in patients with advanced cancer,” PsyPost, 12/1/16; “Magic mushrooms may ‘reset’ the brains of depressed patients,” Medical Xpress, 10/13/17.

46 Patrick Smith, “The Legality Of Psilocybin Mushrooms,” March 2017.

47 Michael Snyder, “Making Money from Addiction: 30 Million Americans On Antidepressants. Twenty Facts on America’s Big Pharma Nightmare,” Global Research, 9/4/14.

48 Mushrooms can be physically nontoxic and still be alarmingly disruptive to our mental state. That’s not the mushroom’s fault. Mushrooms are like an alarm clock. When you are awake and know when they’re going to ring, they are a lot less alarming. But most of us are not awake. We live in denial, and that is something that should never be torn away. People are like turtles: we can’t just rip off our shells (See, e.g., Kim Addonizio,“Living With The Dying,” The Sun, August 1989). Psychedelics can also be temporarily incapacitating. We get “messed up.” That too can be dangerous (see note 25).

49 Robert Augustus Masters, “Spiritual Bypassing.”

50 Hao Li, “War on Drugs a ‘Total Failure’ And Statistics to Prove It,” International Business Times, 6/17/11.

51 Jared Greenhouse, “How America’s War On Drugs Unintentionally Aids Mexican Drug Cartels,” The Huffington Post, 7/2/15.

52 see, e.g., Johann Hari,“Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” Ironically, many of our top foragers are drug addicts (Suzy Khimm, “China’s Gold Rush in the Hills of Appalachia,” Foreign Policy, 9/7/16; Langdon Cook, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, 163, 226-7; Sarah Baird, “Who Gets Paid When Fine Dining Comes for Appalachia’s Stinkiest Fare?,” TakePart, 6/13/16). There’s some methnobotany for you.

53 see e.g., “Self Hate and the Battering Cycle,” Cheri Huber, There is Nothing Wrong with You, 2001, 63; Figure 2.3, “The Compulsive/Addictive Cycle,” John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You, 1988, 37; or opening scene, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, 1989.

54 it’s why so many song stanzas end in “you.” See Robert Johnson, We. Note that mushrooms, like psychedelics in general, are not considered addictive. With rare exceptions (remember that addictiveness is mostly a quality of people, not substances), you don’t see people compulsively taking them as frequently as possible. In fact, they are referred to as “anti-addictive” (Stephanie Kossman, “The War on Drugs May Have Misrepresented Psychedelics,” Medical Daily, 5/13/16), “self-regulating” (Myron J. Stolaroff, Secret Chief Revealed, 2005, xiv), or “self limiting” (Moreno et al, “Effects of Psilocybin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” MAPS). It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “that was a great experience, and I never want to do it again.” In fact, psychedelics have been used to treat addiction (Patrick Smith, “Review Of Psychedelic Research On Addiction,” January 2017).

55 Alan Muskat, “Rewilding: Escape from Scare City.”

56 Whenever we work a wild food table at a fair, mostly with mushrooms, people walk up and say, “so these are all edible?” If we say no, or “except for that one,” they back away, especially if you say, “that one’s deadly.”

57 Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk in Trouble, 2009.

58 image: Adolf Hofer, “Little Red Riding Hood Sees a Wolf,” Jugend, 1896.

59 Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, 2005, 11.

60 see the work of Gabor Mate.

61 Truman Capote, “Handcarved Coffins,” Music for Chameleons, 1980.

62 Alan Muskat, Coming Home.

63 see introduction to my article, “Twelve Steps to Nowhere

64 “The people who hunt mushrooms are in search of something sensual, if not necessarily tangible — a psychedelic or culinary high, if not money” (Joshua Hunt, “Death in the Forest,” Eater, 2/8/17).

65 Euell Gibbons, “Economics of Wild Strawberries,” Stalking the Wild Asparagus, 1962.

66 Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 28. Too long did I play Hungry Hungry Hippos.

67 Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God: the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, 110. See also “Universe Feels Zero Connection To Guy Tripping On Mushrooms,The Onion, 4/15/16.

68 a school I co-founded, The REAL Center, teaches a combination of both.

69 In The Wizard of Oz, just before Dorothy (which means “gift of God”) sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Auntie Em leaves her, saying, “find a place where you won’t get into any trouble.” Dorothy says to herself, “Some place where there isn’t any trouble.” The change she makes in the statement is profound. It’s the root of what psychologists call projection and the reason why The Wizard of Oz is the most popular film (which, originally, came out of a projector) of all time. See Alan Muskat, “How to Love Again.”

70Jim Rock,” Teaching Wisdom: Conversations with Indigenous Elders, Phillips Indian Educators.

71 A Course in Miracles, 29.VII.9.

72 adapted from eden ahbez, “Nature Boy” (1947). Written while ahbez was living in a cave, he was later found living under the sign for Hollywood. Note that the original lyrics did not include “in return.” The author insisted that love asks nothing in return (Wikipedia, “Nature Boy“). As Stevie Wonder puts it, “true love asks for nothing; her acceptance is the way we pay” (“As,” Songs in the Key of Life, 1976).

73 John Burroughs, Boy and Man, 1920.

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