Sleeping Dreams And Waking Dreams

REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep, is that part of the sleep cycle in which we dream the most vividly. Sleep, let alone dreaming, is a peculiar thing, especially since we spend about a third of our lives succumbing to it. Despite such a dramatic nightly encumbrance, science has yet to reach a universally agreed reason why we sleep, for one can come up with plenty of arguments that counter explanations which view sleep as a purely restorative process. Proneness to attack comes to mind for...

Food For Thought

As we shall see in much more detail later, psilocybin is believed to cause its effects by acting upon nerve cells, or neurons, within the brain. In particular, it acts upon those neurons which utilise a substance named serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, which allows individual neurons to communicate with one another in order that information can be transmitted and processed. Now, the various compounds employed by brains in order that they are able to process...

Attempts To Dam The Flow Of Psilocybin

At this point in our journey I should like to examine the main objections which were often levelled against the use of psilocybin when it first became available in the wake of Wasson's discovery, Such objections were expressed precisely and clearly by various writers and social commentators, most notably the writer and philosopher Arthur Koestler whom I briefly mentioned earlier. Koestler, who had written numerous acclaimed books on science, philosophy, and the paranormal, tried psilocybin on...

Do Psychedelic Shamans Dream Of Valis

For most people, P.K.Dick is best known through the films Blade Runner and Total Recall which were based upon his writings, the former movie being dedicated to him by director Ridley Scott. What is less well known is the fact that P.K.Dick was a bit of a latter-day mystic, a man who spent the last decade or so of his life struggling to come to terms with a series of visionary experiences (not related to psychedelics) which befell him in the early 70's. In these experiences, P.K.Dick felt as if...

The Mushroom As Medicine

In his noted Ghost in the Machine, written in 1967, Koestler had a wonderful opportunity to praise the virtues of entheogenic agents. Amongst other things, the book is concerned with mankind's violent, paranoid, destructive streak and how such an evil can be overcome. After documenting the awful historical effects of our 'schizophysiology' as he terms it, Koestler argues that our only hope for survival is to develop techniques which supplant biological evolution. He reminds us of all the ways...

Forecasting The Future

The evolution of life on Earth, the gradual elaboration of the Gaian system, and the emergence of conscious human culture - all dependent upon the intelligently configured context of Nature - strongly suggests that we are inside a most interesting and creative part of the Universe. It is as if one of the mightiest currents within the computational River of Life were flowing around us right here and right now, focused within our modern electronic culture. In other words, if the creative centre...

The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine

Not surprisingly, Terence McKenna has echoed the mystical claims made by Teilhard. He has assumed the unenviable role of psychedelic prophet by consistently claiming that human history will be utterly transformed (or end) in late December 2012. This date derives from his mathematical 'fractal theory of time' which views time as a cyclical patterning process involving a continual 'ingression of novelty', and which implies a definite culmination point. The date also coincides with the mysterious...

Investigating The Earths Alchemical Skin

Mexico and South America are the areas most associated with ritual entheogenic plant use. Apart from utilising over 20 species of psilocybin mushroom, native Mexicans are also known to have employed the peyote cactus, the morning glory plant, and various species of datura, all of which contain potent visionary substances. The appeal of these plants, like the appeal of the mushroom, is that they support a channel of communication between the shaman and the spiritual domain. As we have seen, this...

Illuminating Flowers

One of the most remarkable pieces of evidence testifying to the exalted role conferred upon the psilocybin mushroom by the Aztecs, is in the form of an early sixteenth century statue of the god Xochipilli or 'The Prince of Flowers'. The significance of this magnificent piece of art was first recognised by Wasson and thereafter the real message that it conveyed became glaringly apparent. The statue represents a cross-legged male figure - the god Xochipilli - caught up in an ecstatic trance....

The Mystery Explodes Into Life

In telling of his experiences in Life magazine, Wasson comes across as a kind of Prometheus figure, bringing the world news of a hitherto secret gift of the Gods. Amongst dreamy 50's Technicolor photographs and numerous advertisements for miracle filter cigarettes and brands of alcohol, Wasson's article shines out like some otherworldly beacon signalling the awesome visionary power latent within the Mexican mushroom. We can only guess at the amazement that this article must have evoked in the...

Consuming Gods Flesh

On the 10th of June 1957 the international edition of Life magazine carried a groundbreaking article that was to profoundly alter the West's attitude towards the wilder side of the natural world. For here was the first ever personal account written by a European describing the extraordinary psychological effects induced by a mushroom deified and ritually worshipped by native Mexicans. Consumption of the sacred Mexican mushroom allowed one to contact the Gods, experience profound visions, and...

Mushrooms And The Maya

Psilocybin mushroom use has also been associated with the spectacular Mayan civilisation of Mesoamerica, whose Classic period held sway from 250 to 900 AD At the turn of this century Guatemalan 'mushroom stones' came to the attention of archaeologists. These Mayan relics, of which hundreds have been found, some dating as far back as 1000 BC., were initially considered to be phallic representations though the current consensus is that the mushroom stones reflect a Mayan religious mushroom cult....

The Psychedelic Infiltration Of Harvard

After Hofmann had begun to synthesise psilocybin from extracts of the mushroom, the door was open for properly conducted scientific investigation to commence. Apart from the rather dismal CIA attempt, it was 1960 which marked the beginning of the brief affair between the scientist and the mushroom. This occurred at no less a place than the psychology department of Harvard University, that bastion of academic respectability. What happens when the professional psychologist comes up against the...

Psychedelic Temples

Prior to the Aztec's rise to dominance and before the time of the Toltecs reign previous to them, the premier ritual centre of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica was the mighty city of Teotihuacan located in the north-eastern Valley of Mexico, near Mexico city. Dating from 150 BC. to A.D.750, little is known about the Teotihuacans although Aztec legends equate this city with the birthplace of their deities. Its very name was given by the Aztecs who had discovered it 600 years after its mysterious...

Intimations Of A Sacred Mexican Mushroom

In 1952 an acquaintance of the Wassons, the noted poet and historical writer Robert Graves, wrote a crucial letter informing them of a supposed secret mushroom cult still in existence in Mexico. Graves included in his letter a clipping from a Canadian pharmaceutical journal which discussed finds made by Richard Evans Schultes years earlier. It transpired that Schultes, one of the world's leading ethnobotanists attached to Harvard had, in 1938, identified a species of Panaeoleus mushroom as...