The benefits of magic mushrooms
By Katalina Lourdes
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
– William Blake
While sitting in the stairwell of my friend’s basement, I watched a photon come alive in a beam of light. When I closed my eyes, I saw God in the form of a pulsating star. This was my first experience on magic mushrooms.
As a teenager I refused to take my antidepressants on principle. I believed that my depression was trying to tell me something. I think this is often the case, that it signals a problem in your environment, though rejecting treatment risks prolonging depressive episodes, which is also bad for your brain. In retrospect I believe that my experiences with magic mushrooms resolved my depression.
A recent study compared the efficacy of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) versus Lexapro, a typical SSRI, in treating depression. After six weeks of treatment, 57% of the patients who had taken psilocybin no longer met the criteria for depression, versus just 28% for the Lexapro group.
This suggests that magic mushrooms may be twice as effective as traditional anti-depressants in treating depression.
My teenage brain had been onto something. I wasn’t taking them for depression, though. It was the mystical experiences I was after. The insights gave my life more meaning and I became fascinated with psychedelics themselves.
Back then the only place to read about psychedelics was Erowid, and books that spoke of times before they were criminalized.
Psychedelic lit review
Aldous Huxley claimed that tripping opens up, or “cleanses”, the doors of perception. In his eponymous essay, Huxley describes his first experience with mescaline in 1953:
“I was looking at my furniture, not as the utilitarian who has to sit on chairs, to write at desks and tables, and not as the cameraman or scientific recorder, but as the pure aesthete whose concern is only with forms and their relationships within the field of vision or the picture space. But as I looked, this purely aesthetic, Cubist’s-eye view gave place to what I can only describe as the sacramental vision of reality. I was… back where I had be in a world where everything shone with the Inner Light, and was infinite in its significance.”
Magic mushrooms and mescaline aren’t quite the same experience, but Huxley and I both saw the sacred in the mundane and the infinite in light. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, hadn’t been synthesized yet, and Huxley didn’t take it until 1960 as a part of the Harvard Psychedelic Research Project with Timothy Leary. His notes on the trip read:
“#11 sat in contemplative calm throughout; occasionally produced relevant epigrams; reported experience as an edifying philosophic experience”
Within two years of this trip, Huxley wrote Island, a novel about a utopian society in which magic mushrooms are a cornerstone and a rite of passage. The novel is the counterpoint to Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World, in which people are numbed by the drug soma. In Island, moksha instead awakens the characters.
In the book, magic mushrooms are referred to as “the moksha-medicine, the reality revealer, the truth-and-beauty pill”. They’re central to happiness, spirituality, as well as harmonious social relations on Pala, the island utopia.
“The moksha-medicine prepares one for the reception of gratuitous graces—premystical visions or the full-blown mystical experiences. Meditation is one of the ways in which one co-operates with those gratuitous graces,” explains one of the main characters to a skeptical foreigner.
The book reads a little like a how-to guide for both building a society and using sacred plants. Huxley emphasizes meditation to tell us that psychedelics aren’t necessarily a panacea in themselves, and should be accompanied by spiritual practice.
As he concludes in The Doors of Perception:
“…the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out.
“He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance… yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”
However Island ends on a tragic, or perhaps cautionary note; the peaceful society is destroyed by a neighboring country after its oil.
In the neurobiological sense, most psychedelics work by activating serotonin receptors, promoting the neuroplasticity of existing brain cells, and possibly by stimulating neurogenesis–the growth of new brain cells. With these changes, our brains become more flexible, more open to new perspectives, able to think in new ways, solve old problems, and form new habits.
It isn’t simply a cognitive process, however. It’s through mystical experiences that we’re transformed, and may find meaning and empathy that will help us in our daily lives.
Therapy or spiritual practices like meditation, and even journaling can reinforce the insights and transformational effects of psychedelics, integrating our experience. Exercise and nutrition also play a role in the overall health, plasticity, and mental resiliency of our brain. With time, however, new neural pathways often turn into old habits, and we tend to lose plasticity.
Of course, you can take them again to renew their effects. In Island, characters take moksha periodically throughout their lives, and the message is that so should we. One character uses it to deal with their grief after losing her spouse. As he himself was dying, Huxley asked his wife, Laura, to inject him with LSD.
The history of magic mushrooms
There’s some evidence that humans have been using magic mushrooms for at least 6,000 years. In the book Food of the Gods the psychonaut philosopher Terence McKenna speculates that they even played a role in human evolution, particularly our development of language. Based on what we’re now learning about how it works in the brain, he may have been right.
Artwork as well as records kept by Spanish monks indicate that magic mushrooms were used extensively by the Aztecs. Their word for the plant, teōnanācatl, means “divine mushroom”. They were also used in Mayan civilization and throughout Central America going back at least 3,500 years, and are still used by some indigenous groups in the region. Of the over 200 mushroom species that contain psilocybin, 54 can be found in Mexico.
Magic mushrooms were introduced to the West by the mycologist and banker R. Gordon Wasson, who travelled to Mexico in search of them in 1956. The trip was funded by the CIA; Wasson was an unwitting participant in their MK-Ultra program. A Mazatec sage named Maria Sabina included Wasson and his wife in a velada, or traditional magic mushroom ritual. Wasson wrote an article about his experience for Life magazine, and went on to write a book which revealed Sabina’s name and location. Soon after, hippies began flooding her Oaxaca village. The impacts on her community eventually led her to be ostracized from it; her house burned down.
So far the history of magic mushrooms is one of the destruction of civilizations that held them sacred.
Albert Hoffman, the chemist who discovered LSD in 1943, isolated and synthesized psilocybin in 1958.
Research was carried out throughout the 1950s and 60s into the therapeutic uses of both psilocybin and LSD, which showed promise for resolving psychological problems, notably alcoholism. Psilocybin was even marketed by Hofmann’s employer, Sandoz Laboratories, and sold in pharmacies under the brand name Indocybin for a decade until psychedelics were outlawed in the US in 1970.
Along with marijuana, psychedelics were designated as Schedule 1 substances, with “high addictive potential” and “no medical use”. Investigation into their therapeutic uses ceased, and the drug war ensued.
As Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, admitted , the drug war was never really about the drugs:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Now, after 50 years of prohibition, we’re in a “psychedelic renaissance”. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and the market are finally acknowledging the positive role that psilocybin and other psychedelics can play in our mental health. In the past decade, clinical research has demonstrated incredible rates of success in relieving symptoms of a range of disorders including depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and addiction, which I briefly review below.
The existing body of research is small but growing rapidly. There’s talk of decriminalization in more cities and states, and descheduling at the federal level that would open the doors to mainstream therapeutic use.
Yet there are figures like Wasson seeking to personally profit from the use of these substances, at the expense of accesibility to those who need them most. Before even emerging from Schedule 1 status, corporations are trying to control the magic mushroom experience. With therapeutic use likely to be approved by the FDA within the next couple of years – and one company trying to dominate the market – we have yet to see how the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes will play out.
Research on the benefits of magic mushrooms
The first study to establish the value of magic mushrooms after limited research was reauthorized by the FDA in 1992 was carried out by Dr. Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University in 2000. The results, published in 2006, paved the way for further psychedelic research.
The experiment was meant to assess the ability of psilocybin to induce mystical experiences, and a high dose was administered to a small sample of healthy adults who regularly engaged in religious or spiritual practices. Two-thirds of the volunteers rated the experience among the top five meaningful experiences of their lives.
These findings were replicated in a 2011 follow up study, in which participants who took four doses of psilocybin in a supported environment showed improved attitudes, mood, and social relationships in follow ups both two and 14 months later, demonstrating the long-term benefits of magic mushrooms. In this study, 78% of participants said that the psilocybin sessions were among the top five meaningful experiences of their lives, and 94% said the same in a follow up 14 months later. None of the volunteers reported negative consequences resulting from the experiences.
The improved results in this second study likely had to do with repeated trips; each participant had four sessions. They found that the most effective distribution of the doses was from lowest to highest dose. The researchers also further optimized set and setting, providing each participant with eight hours of preparation.
At the 14 month follow up, participants were asked to describe how the psilocybin experiences had impacted their lives. Here are some of their responses:
“I have a stronger desire for devotion, have increased yoga practice and prayer. I have better interaction with close friends and family and with acquaintances and strangers… I feel more certain of my career as an author. I need less food to make me full. My alcohol use has diminished dramatically… I consider myself to be better [at self-care] now than before the study…”
“I feel that I relate better in my marriage. There is more empathy – a greater understanding of people and understanding their difficulties and less judgment. Less judging of myself too.”
“I am more aware and accepting [of everyone]. I have a thousand ideas to write about and am making time and space in my life to accommodate them.”
Magic mushrooms, depression, and anxiety
Aside from mystical experiences and benefits like creativity, researchers are in a dash to discover – and prove to regulators – the benefits of magic mushrooms for treating psychological disorders.
In a study of cancer patients published in 2016, those who took a high dose of psilocybin reported increased well-being and optimism, a higher quality of life, and lower depression and anxiety scores. Over 80% of patients continued to experience positive life changes at a six month follow up. Though in this study the patients didn’t receive therapy as a part of the experiment, they did talk about their lives beforehand and debrief their experiences afterwards with monitors. These findings have been replicated in other studies.
In a recently published study, 27 non-cancer patients with major depression were treated with psychotherapy and two sessions of psilocybin. Four weeks later, 71% had a 50% or more reduction in their depression scores, and over half of participants were in complete remission.
In another study looking at the effects of psychedelics in non-clinical contexts, users reported being less depressed or suicidal after their trips. An examination of existing data from a national survey also found lifetime psychedelic use to be negatively correlated with psychological distress and suicidal tendencies (though there was a positive correlation for other types of drug use).
Magic mushrooms and OCD
Mushrooms may also be useful in alleviating OCD. In a small study, OCD symptoms were reduced by at least 25% in 90% of participants (and by more than 50% in 67% of participants). It’s unknown how long these effects might last, as the study only measured symptoms up to 24 hours after ingestion. However in one case study, a man found his OCD symptoms were greatly alleviated for about three weeks after consuming two grams (a moderate dose) of mushrooms.
Scientists have tested this theory in mice, finding that psilocybin reduces compulsive behavior.
Magic mushrooms and PTSD
There’s little direct so far research of psilocybin on PTSD, but what we know strongly suggests that magic mushrooms can help people who have been traumatized to heal.
Researchers tend to study effects in mice and rats first, so here we find more data. One study found that mice unlearn fear responses faster when given low doses of psilocybin, suggesting that they’re more easily able to let go of negative memories, or at least, stop being triggered by reminders of them.
A separate study looked at the impact of psilocybin on the connection between the amygdala (the area of the brain that processes fear), the visual cortex (which perceives threats in the environment), and the prefrontal cortex. Hyperconnectivity between the amygdala and visual cortex has been linked to an increase in perceived threats and anxiety, which is characteristic of people with PTSD.
The authors explain:
“the amygdala may actually determine the affective meaning of visual percepts by its effects on sensory pathways — an effect which mainly occurs subconsciously and which may be greatly amplified in psychopathological conditions, such as anxiety disorders or depression. In this context, increased [amygdala] reactivity may lead to an increased attentional focus on negatively valenced environmental or social stimuli and thus effectively blocks out the processing of positive information.”
So, the researchers found that psilocybin reduces the amygdala’s connectivity with the visual cortex in response to threat-related stimuli. Which, theoretically, means that after taking psilocybin, we perceive our environments as less threatening. This could be an important mechanism for resolving PTSD.
Back from mice to men. The Canadian Center for Mental Health Disparities has been doing important work researching the potential of psychedelics to heal racial trauma.
We commonly think about PTSD in terms of extreme, violent experiences like sexual assault or physical abuse. However many Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) experience racism throughout their lives in overt or subtle forms. Everything from systemic discrimination to microaggressions and hate crimes, negative experiences based on racism have long-term impacts that may result in PTSD.
The study surveyed BIPOC in the US and Canada who had experienced racial trauma and recently taken psychedelics in non-clinical environments. The study concluded:
“Our lab has found that a single positive experience with a psychedelic drug can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms in Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) whose encounters with racism have had lasting harm.”
This is one of the CMHD’s first studies on the subject, however it has many more in the pipeline, so if you’re interested in psychedelics and PTSD, and especially its intersections with racial trauma, watch their page.
Psilocybin also favors positive emotional processing, and this, coupled with its tendency to promote introspection and increase neural plasticity, could help patients form new understandings of their trauma experiences. New insights, emotional breakthroughs, and perceiving the world as less threatening all make psilocybin a likely candidate for the treatment of PTSD.
Anecdotal data support these theories, with more veterans taking matters into their own hands, and reporting dramatic improvements in PTSD symptoms after taking magic mushrooms.
Magic mushrooms and addiction
Psilocybin has been found to reduce dependency on drugs and alcohol. Studies from the 1950s on the subject are typically discarded by modern science since they don’t employ current methodologies, and limited research has been carried out in the past decade, but it’s promising.
One study of 10 alcohol dependent people showed that they reduced their consumption following four weeks of psychosocial therapy and two psilocybin trips. Number of drinking days fell by 27%, and heavy drinking days fell by 26%.
An experiment with smokers was even more promising. Participants took part in a 15 week course on quitting tobacco and received four weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy. Starting at week five, they had three separate psilocybin trips. Six months later, 80% of the subjects were completely abstinent from smoking.
These were pilot studies, so it’s possible further research will discover ways to improve their efficacy as a treatment here.
Qualitative research and personal accounts
While the explosion in research is quite recent, the quantitative research produced just in the past few years into the uses of psilocybin is daunting. So it was refreshing to see that a group of researchers had taken a qualitative approach to what is ultimately a very subjective experience, using an interpretive phenomenological analysis. Meaning, they focused on how volunteers made sense of their own experiences. Thefindings may offer more insight into what it’s like to trip on psilocybin – as well as why it’s effective in relieving anxiety, depression, and PTSD and addiction – than neurobiological explanations. Here are some excerpts from the study:
“General themes found in all or nearly all transcripts included relational embeddedness, emotional range, the role of music as conveyor of experience, meaningful visual phenomena, wisdom lessons, revised life priorities, and a desire to repeat the psilocybin experience.
“Typical themes found in the majority of transcripts included the following: exalted feelings of joy, bliss, and love; embodiment; ineffability; alterations to identity; a movement from feelings of separateness to interconnectedness…
“Variant themes found in a minority of participant transcripts include lasting changes to sense of identity, synesthesia experiences, catharsis of powerful emotion, improved relationships after treatment, surrender or “letting go,” forgiveness, and a continued struggle to integrate experience.”
Researchers and other officials recommend taking psilocybin under professional supervision and in conjunction with therapy, though the benefits of magic mushrooms are often pronounced in its absence.
Other sources of direct experience can be found in Erowid vaults, going back to the early days of the internet. A recent account describing a four gram trip reads:
“I was seeing very interesting visuals on the walls and when I closed my eyes. My thought processes were becoming absolutely ridiculous and indescribable. I couldn’t help but find meaning in absolutely everything, as if my life were some divine narrative…
“I felt myself fading away. Everything sounded as if I was very far away. I was having a hard time understanding anyone because I could not hear them very well. As I began to drift away, I was expanding. I was feeling the ground underneath me, the car, the trees and the mountains in the distance. I had the strangest feeling like my head was blooming or exploding in directions I cannot communicate.
“But one of the most interesting sensations was of being in my friends minds. Not that I could read their thoughts or anything, but I felt as I was swimming around in their heads. It was very peaceful. I felt in communion.”
How do magic mushrooms work?
Psilocybin acts like serotonin, activating its receptors, specifically binding to 5-HT2A and 5-H2C receptors. However it doesn’t follow the usual serotonergic pathways of our brains. Instead, normal pathways are disrupted, and the psilocybin activates new 5-HT2A/C receptors, forging new pathways, new connections, strengthening synapses, and creating new thoughts. When the psilocybin finally leaves us, our brain remembers some of those new thoughts, which we may experience as profoudn insights.
Psilocybin’s serotonergic stimulation is also supposed to reducethe connectivity of the default mode network (DMN). The DMN is the part of our brain involved in self-referential thought, reflection but also rumination. It’s where we go when we’re thinking about ourselves, and deactivating these pathways when we’re depressed may be a key mechanism for psilocybin’s therapeutic effect.
Finally, when we’re under a lot of stress, depressed, or have PTSD, that stress response over time suppresses, atrophies, or even kills off a lot of our neurons. Regions of our brain may even be seen begin to shrink as a result, especially the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.
Serotonergic psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and DMT have been found to directly reverse some of that atrophy by increasing the number of dendritic spines on neurons, and strengthening and creating new synapses. Psychedelics may or may not stimulate the creation of new neurons, but they at least help them grow, and these extra dendritic spines and synapses create more opportunities for diverse thoughts and new connections to be formed. This neural flourishing lasts well beyond the trip, which bodes well for future resilience, learning, decision-making, empathy, and creativity.
Scientists call the increased ability to form new connections “neuroplasticity”, and credit these structural brain changes with the revelations as well as long-lasting benefits that can come from psychedelic therapy. However our subjective, metaphysical experiences feel more than biological; there must be an element of magic. Huxley called it cleansing the doors of perception, while McKenna might say we are awakening to new realities and our own divinity.
Effects of magic mushrooms
“When we look within ourselves with psilocybin, we discover that we do not have to look outward toward the futile promise of life that circles distant stars in order to still our cosmic loneliness. We should look within; the paths of the heart lead to nearby universes full of life and affection for humanity.”
― Terence McKenna
During the trip itself, magic mushrooms can induce euphoria, divergent thought patterns, feelings of empathy, insights and realizations, and minor hallucinations in small to moderate doses. In larger doses they can induce spiritual experiences, ego dissolution and intense hallucinations.
In moderate and large doses there’s often an element of anxiety at some point in the trip as your mind is immersed in another world and may have doubts or irrational worries. This is normal, and one should just let it pass. However by preparing for the trip you can minimize the anxiety, as well as the possibility of it spiralling out of control and having a “bad trip”.
After the trip, people tend to feel happier, more empathetic, and more spiritual, with a greater sense of purpose and reduced anxiety.
The extent of the benefit will be dependent on the dose, as well as your state of mind and how much you’ve prepared, or what’s generally referred to as “set and setting”. Here, set refers to the individual person’s personality and mood, and setting is the environment. Are you well-slept? Is it outdoors or indoors? Is it quiet or noisy? What kind of music is playing? Are the other people friendly? All of these factors and more can play a role in how your mind responds to psilocybin, and the quality of your trip.
DIY psilocybin therapy
With more knowledge and mainstream acceptance of their impacts, but limited availability in a medical context, many are going the DIY route to get the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin. And now that they’ve been decriminalized in Oregon and DC, they’re becoming easier to get your hands on.
Shamans and the medical community alike warn that psilocybin is a medicine, and should be taken for spiritual or therapeutic, rather than recreational purposes. So keep this in mind if you’re intending to trip, and take a leaf from the therapist’s (or shaman’s) notebook by doing mental prep work beforehand. This could be journaling, meditation, getting out in nature, or talking to a good friend or therapist about any issues you want to resolve, as well as what you want to get out of the trip.
The environment in which you take magic mushrooms has a major effect on a trip, negative surroundings can lead to bad experiences, so it’s best to take them in a place and with people you’re comfortable with.
People who intend to use psychedelics therapeutically should be aware of the possibility of falling back into old habits and patterns, which are more easily surmountable in therapeutic contexts. The insights arrived at while tripping are easily forgotten over time. Without corresponding long-term changes in our habits, relationships, or environment, the benefits of magic mushrooms can fade.
This is why Huxley emphasized meditation. It can only help to begin a meditation or regular yoga practice. And to reiterate, if you’re DIY tripping for spiritual purposes or to heal yourself, it’s advisable to plan your trip in an intentional way. Discuss your intentions abd experiences with a therapist, a friend, or even with yourself by journaling. Remember that a light trip may be less transformative, but if you’ve never tripped before, it’s best to start small and work your way up to a larger dose as you feel more comfortable.
Can magic mushrooms be harmful?
A review of eight different studies involving psilocybin found no increased risk of adverse psychological effects such as drug abuse or psychosis at follow ups 8 to 16 months later. So basically, they’re not addictive, and even a very bad trip is unlikely to cause long-term harm.
However, they may adversely effect people with a history of psychosis, though there’s no good data on it, since they’re excluded from most studies. It also must be said that those who take large doses unprepared can experience adverse effects in the form of a bad trip. This is why I emphasize preparation, and that high doses are not for the novice.
Physically, magic mushrooms are well tolerated. However, psilocybin is metabolized by the liver, and probably shouldn’t be taken by people with serious liver problems such as cirrhosis. If you have serious health issues, check with a doctor first.
There was a sad case of a young man with bipolar disorder who had heard about magic mushrooms as a treatment for depression, and made a tea of them and injected them into his bloodstream. The mushroom spores grew there, and he almost died. Don’t do this, or anything like this! Magic mushrooms should be ingested orally; if you don’t like the taste, put them in a smoothie.
Another risk is in taking wild mushrooms. Don’t do this unless you’re a mycologist or with a skilled guide. A lot of mushrooms are poisonous, and a mistake could put you in the hospital or worse. And because of the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and hormones, they’re not as common in the American landscape.
An emerging magic mushroom market
Psychedelics have become a hot new bubble for venture capitalists, who are actively seeding the market. This, combined with amazingly positive outcomes in the research so far, means that many more studies are to come in the next years. Investor dollars, results, and a massive need are driving acceptance from the media and the government.
Historically, magic mushrooms were often consumed in the context of ceremonies and rituals. Today’s counterpart, albeit more individualistic, is therapy, and most psychedelics are being studied in the context of psychotherapy.
The benefits of magic mushrooms are likely strengthened in such a context. Having a skilled professional (or friend, if you’re going the DIY route) dedicated to exploring your experience and personal challenges before, during, and after the experience can only help realize and reinforce its potential benefits.
However what happens when a for profit company tries to administer and monopolize a sacred therapeutic experience?
In 2018, the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to Compass Pathways to fast-track FDA approval for psilocbyin therapy with its own patented formulation, and to conduct its own clinical studies. The Usona Institute, a nonprofit, has also received Breakthrough Therapy Designation, and is conducting its own trials. Compass, however, has received a lot of criticism from the psychedelic research community. At first pretending to be a nonprofit, the for-profit company has now received $110 million from private investors including the likes of Peter Thiel, and is aggressively trying to dominate the market for psilocybin.
Magic mushrooms and psilocybin themselves can’t be patented. However Compass is trying to corner the market for psilocybin therapy by controlling the commercial production of psilocybin with its own formulation, COMP 360. In addition to patenting a method for synthesizing psilocybin, it has also submitted a patent application for using psilocybin in psychotherapy, though this is unlikely to be approved. Compass is currently conducting phase 3 clinical trials, and recruiting and training therapists.
It’s not just Compass; hundreds of companies have been formed over the past few years to try and profit from the psychedelic renaissance. Many are doing research to find new drugs. I’m concerned that patenting psychedelics, variants, or the way that they’re used could lead to the development of a drug that more closely resembles soma than moksha.
Once approved by the FDA, psilocybin therapy could be costly – especially if it’s monopolized by Compass Pathways. As it stands, wealthier people can already access psychedelics in therapeutic contexts through expensive retreat programs in places like Amsterdam or Jamaica where psilocybin is legal.
Compass’s methods aren’t rocket science, however. The therapy consists of three sessions : a “getting to know you session”, a session in which you trip wearing an eye mask and listening to classical music and the therapist is there to reassure you, and a debriefing session where you discuss what you learned. Along with a mental health professional, you could easily replicate this or devise a better set, setting, or process.
There’s something very disconcerting about corporate therapy and tripping, like mixing the profane and the sacred. How strange that where capitalism is our religion, we go to the pharmaceutical companies or corporate clinics for healing, worship, and redemption.
While psychedelics can make the mundane appear sacred, can they transform the profane?
“Our normal word-conditioned consciousness creates a universe of sharp distinctions, black and white, this and that, me and you and it. In the mystical consciousness of being at one with infinite Oneness, there is a reconciliation of opposites… there is an immediate experience of our solidarity with all being and a kind of organic conviction that in spite of the inscrutabilities of fate, in spite of our own dark stupidities and deliberate malevolence, yes, in spite of all that is so manifestly wrong with the world, it is yet, in some profound, paradoxical and entirely inexpressible way. All Right. For normal waking consciousness, the phrase, ‘God is Love,’ is no more than a piece of wishful positive thinking. For the mystical consciousness, it is a self-evident truth.”
– Aldous Huxley
“The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind; and anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. Because of the artists, who are self-selected, for being able to journey into the Other, if the artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.”
― Terence McKenna
“Our culture, self-toxified by the poisonous by-products of technology and egocentric ideology, is the unhappy inheritor of the dominator attitude that alteration of consciousness by the use of plants or substances is somehow wrong, onanistic, and perversely antisocial. I will argue that suppression of shamanic gnosis, with its reliance and insistence on ecstatic dissolution of the ego, has robbed us of life’s meaning and made us enemies of the planet, of ourselves, and our grandchildren. We are killing the planet in order to keep intact the wrongheaded assumptions of the ego-dominator cultural style.”
― Terence McKenna