With magic mushrooms (“shrooms”) now decriminalized in Denver, Colorado, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Washington DC and in Santa Cruz and Oakland, California, psilocybin is making a comeback—a phenomenon that has now reached Santa Barbara.
The key to the revival of this mind-altering fungi is micro-dosing, especially among Hollywood creatives and the tech wizards of Silicon Valley, who follow one of two protocols, one called (James) “Fadiman,” the other, (Paul) “Stamets,” the latter of which advises “stacking” psilocybin with niacin and Lion’s Mane, another type of (legal) medicinal mushroom known for its ability to improve mental clarity and enhanced concentration, for facilitating the effect. (Details of these protocols are available on internet sites.)
In Santa Barbara, with the right connections, psilocybin can be found in professionally wrapped chocolate bars and gummies (cherry or mango flavored). Note: Street doses should not be trusted due to their unknown strength and those who choose to indulge should be mindful of “set and setting,” meaning your mental state and social environment.
Warning: Psilocybin remains—officially, anyway—a “controlled substance” and it is illegal to possess or ingest except in cities that have decriminalized its use.
That said, Senate Bill 519, which would legalize psilocybin and similar substances was approved in Sacramento last June after clearing three committees. If enacted into law, criminal penalties for using or sharing would be quashed statewide.
A local shrooms-product marketer told The Investigator, “You have some people here in town who use it recreationally and others who use it medically, especially among war veterans who have suffered trauma. Most of my customers, the older ones, are micro-dosers. The younger ones go for a macro-dose and tune in to nature for about five hours. The demand for it is getting bigger and bigger and nobody’s even secretive about it anymore.”
Chocolate bars (figure four grams of shrooms—a regular, visionary dose is 1 gram and a micro-dose is one-tenth of a gram) trade hands for $50.
One Santa Barbara-based micro-doser told The Investigator, “When I dose I find that I have the best time at parties without drinking as much alcohol as I normally might. I’m more open than usual and totally in synch with the moment, along with everyone and everything going on around me.”
The psilocybin revival began in the late 1990s when researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore were finally given a greenlight by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to resume experimentation with psilocybin three decades after they were forced to shut it down. Since then, Bellevue Hospital in New York City, Columbia University and UCLA have also developed pharmacological research programs incorporating psilocybin, which is a synthesized version of the red-and white-capped mushroom that grows wild.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
It was President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs”—later described by his key lieutenant and domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman as being politically motivated against youth opposed to the Vietnam War and African-Americans—that scared the public away from mind-manifesting organic substances and their synthesized counterparts.
The White House devised a propaganda campaign to paint all drugs as extremely dangerous, which led to the termination of critical medical research through the 1970s, 1980s into the 1990s. As Mr. Ehrlichman put it directly to a reporter from Harper’s magazine in 1996: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.“ (It is generally understood in research circles that the indiscriminate use of LSD as a party drug among college students in the 1960s along with the antics of publicity-loving Timothy Leary—labeled “the most dangerous man in America” by Mr. Nixon—provided the government with the ammunition it needed for its crackdown.)
The late Terence McKenna, self-proclaimed Mouthpiece of the Mushroom, wrote, “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third-story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
Renewed experimentation at John Hopkins first dealt with terminal illnesses such as cancer. The results were extremely positive, putting anxious patients at ease with their upcoming appointments with the grim reaper and mortality in general.
The university’s focus has since changed. Nathan Sepeda, Research Program Coordinator at the Pharmacology Research Unit at John Hopkins, told The Investigator, “Our current studies are focused on nicotine addiction, depression, anorexia and Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Results in all areas—add alcohol addiction and PTSD to the mix—are way beyond promising, to a point that in a few years psilocybin could be the new cannabis, legalized and dispensed by licensed professionals in many states.
It is also believed psilocybin could be the ultimate solution to chronic pain due to how it creates new pathways linking parts of the brain that don’t normally communicate with one another.
And as if that’s not enough, it was recently discovered in clinical trials that psilocybin is effective in treating anxiety and cognition issues among those on the autism spectrum. Says Dr. Marvin Hausman, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Nova Mentis Life Science Corp., a biotech company developing patents to treat neuro-inflammatory disorders, “The results are exciting and have shown that psilocybin corrects cognitive deficits and mitigates the anxiety-like traits observed in an environmental model of autism.”
If you think all this is crazy, be mindful that a slew of biotech companies, including Mind Medicine and Field Trip Health (both based in Canada), are already trading on NASDAQ with a view to eventually commercializing their products.
And in Denver, a “visionary temple” called The Sacred House of Eden, offers psilocybin retreats with guided visionary experiences. One testimonial on their website reads: “Hands down the most magical and transformative experience of my life. If the world had more places like this, it would be a much happier and peaceful planet.”
There are now transformational festivals and conferences, classes and workshops all around the United States, with many devotees believing entheogens are desperately needed for humanity to survive and revamp the planet into a better, healthier place.
Psilocybin is neither addictive nor generally toxic and is a gentler, softer hallucinogen than, say, peyote (used by Native Americans, who are allowed a special religious exemption by the FDA), ayahuasca (popular among shamans in South America), 5-MeO-DMT (Sonoran Desert Bufo toad venom, favored by boxing champ Mike Tyson and Hunter Biden) or LSD.
In micro-doses—it is reported by users—psilocybin provides clarity, a general feeling of well-being and an appreciation of the moment—as in Buddhism and nowness.
AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
New research suggests that every mystical vision in history, starting with those in ancient Greece who attended “The Mysteries” of Eleusis (the world’s first spiritual capital), was likely the result of entheogens i.e. mind-opening substances such as magic mushrooms, ayahuasca (DMT), peyote (mescaline) or ergot (a fungus associated with rye bread and grain), from which LSD is synthesized.
Some historians believe that the sacramental beverage at Eleusis was laced with Claviceps, the fungus ergot.
Socrates, Plutarch, Plato and Aristotle all walked a road called The Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis to take part in the annual vision-manifesting rituals.
And, more astonishingly, new evidence suggests that the first Holy Communion at The Last Supper was wine and bread (the “blood and body” of Jesus of Nazareth) infused with psychoactive ingredients (most likely fly agaric mushrooms). The Aramaic word manna, as used by Jesus, means “bread from heaven.” This was allegedly how Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples, as promised—and they were reborn through mystical visions. When Jesus said, “I am here to give sight to the blind,” some believe it was a metaphor for opening one’s mind.
Or, put another way by French novelist Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
And, anyway, what does the birth of Jesus have to do with Santa Claus and flying reindeer?
The common denominator, writes Jerry and Julie Brown in The Psychedelic Gospels, would be the agaric mushroom, to which reindeer are drawn and provides them “shamanic flight”—along with Santa’s costume of red and white, same colors as the agaric mushroom.
St. Paul, when he was just plain Saul hunting down and prosecuting followers of Jesus, either wittingly or unwittingly OD’d on an entheogen to the point where he went blind for three days—typical of a massive overdose—and believed he had experienced a vision from Jesus. Thus converted, he became one of Christianity’s most important figures. Indeed, had Saul not experienced such visions the cult of the “The Christ” in Greece would not have evolved into the world’s largest religion
The “doors of perception,” as writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley put it (a term borrowed from William Blake, the eighteenth century British visionary, later adopted by Jim Morrison for his band, The Doors), are not—in his opinion—opened by fancy buildings, priests, hymns or books but by entheogens, thus generating God within.
'In Mr. Huxley’s view, Communion with God means taking an entheogen; that entheogens in their various forms are the common denominator for all visionaries and the birth of all religions and modern cults. His point being, one cannot “learn” about God; one must “experience” God through visions, contrary to Jack Kerouac’s belief that “walking on water wasn’t made in a day.” (Unlike his contemporaries, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, Kerouac had no interest in visionary substances; his drug of choice was alcohol, recognized to be the most dangerous of all and which killed him at age 47.)
Brian Muraresku, in a quite remarkable new book, The Immortality Key, takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride through history and demonstrates that entheogens have always been a part of the visionary/mystical process, used by peoples throughout the world (who had no contact with one another for sharing such experiences) who depended upon their own indigenous herbs, plants or fungi.
The Establishment (organized religion in cahoots with government), Mr. Muraresku points out, has striven for 16 centuries to keep this secret, denouncing such rites as witchcraft (women were in charge of apothecaries and kykeons) to consolidate their own power over populations by disallowing the average person from experiencing mystical visions.
So very many—especially women (mothers and daughters, passing down kykeon recipes)—were tortured and brutally executed by the powers that be (during the Inquisition, for example) as a means of covering up the truth about the Eucharist and, by eliminating the magic portal, preventing a direct connection between man and God.
Until then, Mr. Muraresku writes, Paleo Christians had kept such visionary communion flourishing for the first four centuries CE until the year 392 when Roman Emperor Theodosius destroyed and desecrated the Eleusis sanctuaries and, as such, declared history’s first “war on drugs.”
From then on, writes James Oroc in The New Psychedelic Revolution, “The Christianity that evolved in Europe had no obvious entheogenic influences at all, and our spiritual life became dependent on obedience, fasting and prayer… This situation only changed in 1897 when mescaline became the first synthesized psychedelic [from the peyote cactus].”
Says Roland Griffiths of John Hopkins, “The ecstasy witnessed in the lab is virtually identical to that reported by prophets and visionaries.”
Sacred Knowledge, a book by William Richards, one of the earliest pioneers of experimenting (at Johns Hopkins) with entheogens (he coined that word in 1979), identifies the feelings one experiences after dosing: Transcendence of time and space, intuitive knowledge, sacredness, deeply-felt positive mood, ineffability.
“And,” adds Dr. Richards, “these are the tenets of knowledge that hang together following mystical experience: God, immortality, interrelationships, love, beauty, emerging wisdom.”
And since these feelings and tenets are way beyond government control, little wonder psilocybin and other entheogens were outlawed and mostly remain so, though as this new visionary culture evolves into a global entheogenic reawakening, governments will be pressured to relent.