An Experiment with Psilocybin

Such theoretical discussions about the magic drugs were supplemented by practical experiments. One such experiment, which served as a comparison between LSD and psilocybin, took place in the spring of 1962. The proper occasion for it presented itself at the home of the Jüngers, in the former head forester's house of Stauffenberg's Castle in Wilflingen. My friends, the pharmacologist Professor Heribert Konzett and the Islamic scholar Dr. Rudolf Gelpke, also took part in this mushroom symposium.

The old chronicles described how the Aztecs drank chocolatl before they ate teonanácatl. Thus Mrs. Liselotte Jünger likewise served us hot chocolate, to set the mood. Then she abandoned the four men to their fate.

We had gathered in a fashionable living room, with a dark wooden ceiling, white tile stove, period furniture, old French engravings on the walls, a gorgeous bouquet of tulips on the table. Ernst Jünger wore a long, broad, dark blue striped kaftan-like garment that he had brought from Egypt; Heribert Konzett was resplendent in a brightly embroidered mandarin gown; Rudolf Gelpke and I had put on housecoats. The everyday reality should be laid aside, along with everyday clothing.

Shortly before sundown we took the drug, not the mushrooms, but rather their active principle, 20 mg psilocybin each. That corresponded to some two-thirds of the very strong dose that was taken by the curandera Maria Sabina in the form of Psilocybe mushrooms.

After an hour I still noticed no effect, while my companions were already very deeply into the trip. I had come with the hope that in the mushroom inebriation I could manage to allow certain images from euphoric moments of my childhood, which remained in my memory as blissful experiences, to come alive: a meadow covered with chrysanthemums lightly stirred by the early summer wind; the rosebush in the evening light after a rain storm; the blue irises hanging over the vineyard wall. Instead of these bright images from my childhood home, strange scenery emerged, when the mushroom factor finally began to act. Half stupefied, I sank deeper, passed through totally deserted cities with a Mexican type of exotic, yet dead splendor. Terrified, I tried to detain myself on the surface, to concentrate alertly on the outer world, on the surroundings. For a time I succeeded. I then observed Ernst Jünger, colossal in the room, pacing back and forth, a powerful, mighty magician. Heribert Konzett in the silky lustrous housecoat seemed to be a dangerous, Chinese clown. Even Rudolf Gelpke appeared sinister to me; long, thin, mysterious.

With the increasing depth of inebriation, everything became yet stranger. I even felt strange to myself. Weird, cold, foolish, deserted, in a dull light, were the places I traversed when I closed my eyes. Emptied of all meaning, the environment also seemed ghostlike to me whenever I opened my eyes and tried to cling to the outer world. The total emptiness threatened to drag me down into absolute nothingness. I remember how I seized Rudolf Gelpke's arm as he passed by my chair, and held myself to him, in order not to sink into dark nothingness. Fear of death seized me, and illimitable longing to return to the living creation, to the reality of the world of men. After timeless fear I slowly returned to the room . I saw and heard the great magician lecturing uninterruptedly with a clear, loud voice, about Schopenhauer, Kant, Hegel, and speaking about the old Gaa, the beloved little mother. Heribert Konzett and Rudolf Gelpke were already completely on the earth again, while I could only regain my footing with great effort.

For me this entry into the mushroom world had been a test, a confrontation with a dead world and with the void. The experiment had developed differently from what I had expected. Nevertheless, the encounter with the void can also be appraised as a gain. Then the existence of the creation appears so much more wondrous.

Midnight had passed, as we sat together at the table that the mistress of the house had set in the upper story. We celebrated the return with an exquisite repast and with Mozart's music. The conversation, during which we exchanged our experiences, lasted almost until morning.

Ernst Jünger has described how he had experienced this trip, in his book Annähenngen-Drogen und Rausch [Approaches-drugs and inebriation] (published by Ernst Klett Verlag, Stuttgart, 1970), in the section "Ein Pilz-Symposium" [A mushroom symposium]. The following is an extract from the work:

As usual, a half hour or a little more passed in silence. Then came the first signs: the flowers on the table began to flare up and sent out flashes. It was time for leaving work; outside the streets were being cleaned, like on every weekend. The brush strokes invaded the silence painfully. This shuffling and brushing, now and again also a scraping, pounding, rumbling, and hammering, has random causes and is also symptomatic, like one of the signs that announces an illness. Again and again it also plays a role in the history of magic practices.

By this time the mushroom began to act; the spring bouquet glowed darker. That was no natural light. The shadows stirred in the corners, as if they sought form. I became uneasy, even chilled, despite the heat that emanated from the tiles. I stretched myself on the sofa, drew the covers over my head.

Everything became skin and was touched, even the retina -there the contact was light. This light was multicolored; it arranged itself in strings, which gently swung back and forth; in strings of glass beads of oriental doorways. They formed doors, like those one passes through in a dream, curtains of lust and danger. The wind stirred them like a garment. They also fell down from the belts of dancers, opened and closed themselves with the swing of the hips, and from the beads a rippling of the most delicate sounds fluttered to the heightened senses. The chime of the silver rings on the ankles and wrists is already too loud. It smells of sweat, blood, tobacco, chopped horse hairs, cheap rose essence. Who knows what is going on in the stables?

It must be an immense palace, Mauritanian, not a good place. At this ballroom flights of adjoining rooms lead into the lower stratum. And everywhere the curtains with their glitter, their sparkling, radioactive glow. Moreover, the rippling of glassy instruments with their beckoning, their wooing solicitation: " Will you go with me, beautiful boy?" Now it ceased, now it repeated, more importunate, more intrusive, almost already assured of agreement.

Now came forms -historical collages, the vox humana, the call of the cuckoo. Was it the whore of Santa Lucia, who stuck her breasts out of the window? Then the play was ruined. Salome danced; the amber necklace emitted sparks and made the nipples erect. What would one not do for one's Johannes? [Translator's note: "Johannes" here is slang for penis, as in English "Dick" or "Peter."] -damned, that was a disgusting obscenity, which did not come from me, but was whispered through the curtain.

The snakes were dirty, scarcely alive, they wallowed sluggishly over the floor mats. They were garnished with brilliant shards. Others looked up from the floor with red and green eyes. It glistened and whispered, hissed and sparkled like diminutive sickles at the sacred harvest. Then it quieted, and came anew, more faintly, more forward. They had me in their hand. "There we immediately understood ourselves."

Madam came through the curtain: she was busy, passed by me without noticing me. I saw the boots with the red heels. Garters constricted the thick thighs in the middle, the flesh bulged out there. The enormous breasts, the dark delta of the Amazon, parrots, piranhas, semiprecious stones everywhere.

Now she went into the kitchen-or are there still cellars here? The sparkling and whispering, the hissing and twinkling could no longer be differentiated; it seemed to become concentrated, now proudly rejoicing, full of hope.

It became hot and intolerable; I threw the covers off. The room was faintly illuminated; the pharmacologist stood at the window in the white mandarin frock, which had served me shortly before in Rottweil at the carnival. The orientalist sat beside the tile stove; he moaned as if he had a nightmare. I understood; it had been a first round, and it would soon start again. The time was not yet up. I had already seen the beloved little mother under other circumstances. But even excrement is earth, belongs like gold to transformed matter. One must come to terms with it, without getting too close.

These were the earthy mushrooms. More light was hidden in the dark grain that burst from the ear, more yet in the green juice of the succulents on the glowing slopes of Mexico. . . . [Translator's note: Jünger is referring to LSD, a derivative of ergot, and mescaline, derived from the Mexican peyotl cactus.]

The trip had run awry-possibly I should address the mushrooms once more. Yet indeed the whispering returned, the flashing and sparkling-the bait pulled the fish close behind itself. Once the motif is given, then it engraves itself, like on a roller each new beginning, each new revolution repeats the melody. The game did not get beyond this kind of dreariness.

I don't know how often this was repeated, and prefer not to dwell upon it. Also, there are things which one would rather keep to oneself. In any case, midnight was past

We went upstairs; the table was set. The senses were still heightened and the Doors of Perception were opened. The light undulated from the red wine in the carafe; a froth surged at the brim. We listened to a flute concerto. It had not turned out better for the others: How beautiful, to be back among men." Thus Albert Hofmann.

The orientalist on the other hand had been in Samarkand, where Timur rests in a coffin of nephrite. He had followed the victorious march through cities, whose dowry on entry was a cauldron filled with eyes. There he had long stood before one of the skull pyramids that terrible Timur had erected, and in the multitude of severed heads had perceived even his own. It was encrusted with stones.

A light dawned on the pharmacologist when he heard this: Now I know why you were sitting in the armchair without your head-I was astonished; I knew I wasn't dreaming.

I wonder whether I should not strike out this detail since it borders on the area of ghost stories.

The mushroom substance had carried all four of us off, not into luminous heights, rather into deeper regions. It seems that the psilocybin inebriation is more darkly colored in the majority of cases than the inebriation produced by LSD. The influence of these two active substances is sure to differ from one individual to another. Personally, for me, there was more light in the LSD experiments than in the experiments with the earthy mushroom, just as Ernst Jünger remarks in the preceding report.

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