Psilocybe cubensis

All multicellular forms of life, including plants, animals and fungi, evolved from eukaryotic cells. A more accurate title for the website would identify this key psychoactive fungus as a thallophyte and the flowering vascular plants as angiosperms. At any rate, plants and fungi live in symbiosis, by means of mycorrhizal associations that facilitate the secretion and transportation of chemicals. 

As Ralph Metzner has written about the highly-repressive practices during the colonization of the Americas by Spain, “the suppression of the visionary mushroom cult by the Spanish clergy was effective and complete.” This is certainly in keeping with the ongoing inquisitorial spirit perpetuated by hypocritical contemporary anti-drug laws that severely limit research on fungi and plants that have many undeniable benefits for healing, especially in the field of psychiatry, at a time when, worldwide, as a result of the pandemic, we are facing the most serious mental health crisis since World War II.

But the ritual use of mushrooms for healing persisted secretly for centuries in remote parts of Mexico, as Alvaro Estrada writes in María Sabina: Her Life and Chants:

In June 1955, the U.S. mycologist R. Gordon Wasson was granted permission by Mazatec healer María Sabina who lived in Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico to attend and to document one of her ceremonies in which she chanted and healed the sick after ingesting the divine mushrooms. He published articles with dramatic photographs about his profound experiences in Life and Life en Español.

Three years later, he recorded one of María Sabina’s veladas (nocturnal vigils) in its entirety. The publicity resulted in a destructive onslaught of foreign “seekers of God”. María Sabina later told an interviewer: “From the moment the foreigners arrived, the saint children lost their purity. They lost their force; the foreigners spoiled them. From now on, they won’t be any good. There’s no remedy for it.” In a retrospective essay from 1976, Wasson laments being “held responsible for the end of a religious practice in Mesoamerica that goes back far, for millennia.” “I fear,” he continues, “she spoke the truth, exemplifying her wisdom. A practice carried on in secret for centuries has now been aerated and aeration spells the end.”

In How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Michael Pollan describes taking some potent Psilocybe azurescens mushrooms that he found in the Pacific Northwest with the guidance of Paul Stamets, a leading expert on psilocybin species: “Dusk now approaching, the air traffic in the garden had built to a riotous crescendo: the pollinators making their last rounds of the day, the plants still signifying to them with their flowers: me, me, me

In one way I knew this scene well—the garden coming briefly back to life after the heat of a summer day has relented—but never had I felt so integral to it. I was no longer the alienated human observer, gazing at the garden from a distance, whether literal or figural, but rather felt part and parcel of all that was transpiring here.”

Stamets himself places these same ideas into a global environmental context: “Psilocybin mushrooms carry with them a message from nature about the health of the planet. At a time of planetary crisis brought on by human abuse, the Earth calls out through these mushrooms—sacraments that lead directly to a deeper ecological consciousness and motivate people to take action.”

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