Chapter Five The Mushroom And The Synapse

Now that I have acquainted the reader with the full spectrum of the psilocybin experience (and others like it), it is time for us to focus our attention upon psilocybin's physical modus operandi. If we can get to grips with how alkaloids like psilocybin work their spectacular effects upon the human psyche then we will be one step closer to a preliminary understanding of the nature of the conscious human mind and the underlying factors governing the switch from normal awareness to the mystical perception of an intelligent Other.

At this point, consciousness lies at the centre of our enquiry. All our paths of investigation lead directly to it. The psilocybin cultural history covered in the first few chapters of this book arose solely because of the radical change in consciousness induced by the mushroom in the Aztec and Mayan psyche. The pre-LSD events at Harvard were likewise spawned by the psilocybin-induced state of consciousness. Indeed, the whole 60's thing happened, in part, precisely because of the new ranges of conscious experience originally kick-started into existence by the mushroom. The growing second wave of psychedelic research has likewise appeared on account of the compelling nature of entheogen-inspired states of consciousness. One cannot escape the mystery of consciousness. Psilocybin simply highlights the boundless nature and mystical potential of the human mind lest we allow this fortunate state of affairs to pass us by.

As I pointed out at the very outset to this book, if we are interested in apprehending the ultimate nature of the reality process then it makes sense to home in on consciousness since consciousness represents the interface which links us to the 'world out there'. If we can understand what consciousness is, then we might also understand how consciousness is able to be transformed and whether such a transformation does indeed yield bona fide insights into the subtle nature of Nature. Nothing less than reality is up for grabs.

In the chapters that follow, I hope to develop a new non-technical and user-friendly theoretical framework with which we can explain consciousness, and in which we can properly place the entheogenic experience. Essentially this conceptual framework derives from Aldous Huxley's reasonable assertion that the psychedelic experience results from an influx of information not normally available to us - hence the 'doors of perception' being 'opened' after ingestion of substances like, in Huxley's case, mescaline. What I eventually hope to show is that consciousness itself is a form of information; that physical matter can be described in terms of information also; and that reality consists of an evolutionary flow of self-organising information, with human consciousness occupying a significant functional role in the entire process.

However, before we can explore the exciting insights that such an informational model of reality yields, we must start from the beginning, that is, we must look more closely at the obviously important physical relationship between psilocybin and the human brain. That might sound rather intimidating but, lets face it, getting to intimate grips with Nature in order to ascertain the meaning of life, consciousness and everything that really matters was never going to be a simple piece of cake. I assure you that its a deeply fascinating piece of cake though.

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