- Magic Mushrooms and the Origin of Religion
- Magic Mushrooms in Religious Practices
- Magic Mushrooms and Meditation
- Magic Mushrooms and Spirituality
- Taking Magic Mushrooms for a Spiritual Experience
According to Terrence McKenna, the proponent of the Stoned Ape Theory, the origin of religion involves psilocybin, the psychoactive substance found in magic mushrooms. This is an interesting idea but it did not exactly originate from McKenna.
Magic Mushrooms and the Origin of Religion
In 1986, Gordon Wasson, an American author and ethnomycologist, proposed his own theory of the origin of religion from magic mushrooms with examples from different cultures which are described in detail. Wasson believed that magic mushrooms are responsible for the expansion of memory, language, and self-consciousness in early men.
These three interlock and are inseparable, the aspects of a quality that permitted man to achieve all the wonders the human race know now.
McKenna later modified this theory. McKenna changed the theory. He believed that mushrooms containing psilocybin, specifically the Stropharia cubensis, were responsible for the origin of religion and the development of memory, language, and self-consciousness. He went on to say these events occurred in Africa during prehistoric, nomadic, and hunting periods. He concluded Stropharia cubensis is the “Tree of Knowledge.”
McKenna further stated that the addition of psilocybin from Stropharia cubensis to prehistoric men’s diets led to better eyesight, sex, language, and ritual activity when eaten.
Magic mushrooms enhanced the traits mentioned above by changing the individual’s behavior. These changes in behavior led to the increased use of language which then led to an increase in communication when hunting and gathering. Although evolution was occurring on the genetic level, social evolution was taking place because of mushroom consumption.
When language was developing, religion also began. When taken at levels that caused psychoactive effects in early human beings, they experience ecstasy with hallucinations and they are able to access what they perceived as the supernatural realm. This led to the origin of shamans whose main responsibility is to serve as the bridge between men and gods.
Because of man’s contact with supernatural events under the influence of psilocybin, they found it hard to explain these new experiences with the knowledge they possessed. In order to explain such events, men created the concept of deities that controlled these events. Each deity controlled different events such as sunrise, waxing moon, lightning, diseases, etc.
As cultures become more advanced, societies become more monotheistic, the number of gods become reduced to one.
Magic Mushrooms in Religious Practices
The earliest records of religious ceremonies involving magic mushrooms date back from 7000 to 9000 years ago in different locations. The oldest representations of magic mushrooms are in prehistoric rock art in the Sahara Desert. After an examination of such art, mushrooms are repeatedly represented in scenes of harvest, adoration, and offering. Their significant details led experts to believe in the existence of ancient hallucinogenic mushroom cults.
These ancient art are remarkable because they reflect the most ancient human culture yet explicitly documented the ritual use of magic mushrooms.
Archeological findings consist of prehistoric magic mushrooms paintings in Algeria, Libya, Chad, and Egypt. One of the most important scenes is the Tin-Tazarift rock art site in which a series of masked figures are lined up and hieratically dressed as dancers. Each dancer holds a mushroom-like object in their right hand with two parallel lines coming out of the mushroom to reach the dancer’s head.
These lines may signify the mystical and spiritual nature of mushrooms that affect the mind.
Humanity’s use of magic mushrooms dates back to the Paleolithic times. Because of their beguiling nature, psilocybin mushrooms have always elicited deep emotional responses from adoration to outright fear. Historical records reveal magic mushrooms have been used to gain spiritual insights to help them deal with the uncertainties that are parts of their daily lives.
Early human beings attempted to communicate with deities to gain understanding and control over unpredictable events such as birth, death, and illness. People in these cultures induce visions by eating magic mushrooms that naturally produce hallucinogenic chemicals.
Archeologists believe hallucinogenic mushrooms were also used in a number of societies to help make leaders make important decisions relating to issues such as war, hunting, migrating, and selecting new leaders. These are all important situations which require consultation with the gods who were believed to talk to men when men were in a trance.
Scholars believe that the altered perceptions experienced by those ingesting magic mushrooms were so extraordinary that ancient men believe they must have been inspired by the gods they worshipped. This view is supported by ethnologist Richard Evan Schultes who said, “When the unearthly and inexplicably weird physical and psychic effects of these plants were experienced, it did not take long for primitive societies to regard them as sacred elements of the flora, and their use eventually fell into the province of the shamans or medicine men who explained their effects as proof that these species were the home of spirits or spiritual forces enabling man through various hallucinations to communicate with ancestors or with spirits in the outer realms.”
In some areas, the magic mushrooms themselves were considered to be gods. Among the Aztecs, magic mushrooms are known as teonanacatl which translates to “flesh of gods.” The earliest literature concerning teonanacatl was written by a Spanish priest in the 16th century. He distinguished three different kinds of magic mushrooms that were revered by the natives of Central Mexico at the time of conquest by the Conquistadors.
Unfortunately, after the conquest, much was done to suppress the use of these psychoactive mushrooms in religious ceremonies. Which were viewed by European clerics to be works of the devil. However, this was, in part, an attempt to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. Thus, these practices were driven underground. After a period of time, there was doubt that such ceremonies even existed.
In North and South America, it is believed that the religious ceremonies started from Asia where the first American settlers came from.
However, in modern times, Christian concepts have become intermingled with the original mushroom ceremonial rites. Eunice Pike, a missionary who studied magic mushrooms, related an example among Oaxaca tribes who spoke of the mushrooms as the blood of Christ because they were believed to grow only where a drop of Christ’s blood had touched the Earth.
In the 1950s, Gordon Wasson travelled to Mexico when he came in contact with Maria Sabina, a shaman of the Mazatecs who permitted him to participate in the religious ceremony using magic mushrooms. His experience was made public when it was published in the May 1957 issue of Life Magazine.
During one of the ceremonies, Maria Sabina spoke the following chant in her native language:
“There is a world beyond ours, a world that is far away, nearby, and invisible. And there is where God lives, where the dead lives, the spirits and the saints, a world where everything has already happened and everything is known. That world talks. It has a language of its own. I report what it ways. The sacred mushrooms takes me by the hand and brings me to the world where everything is known. It is they, the sacred mushrooms that speak in a way I can understand. I ask them and they answer me. When I return from the trip that I have taken with them, I tell what they have told me and what they have shown me.”
In the magazine article, Wasson gave Maria Sabina a pseudonym to protect her identity but this proved futile. Thousands flocked to Mexico to find the mafic mushroom described by Wasson. They were surprised to know that there was not one magic mushrooms but many and that some of these may be growing right in their own backyards.
Among the thousands who came to experience the mushrooms was Dr. Timothy Leary, who would later become famous for being a key figure in the psychedelic drug movement in the 1960s.
Magic Mushrooms and Meditation
Meditation is a method where one achieves control of the body, breath and mind, progressing to awakening the subtle energy currents in the body and extinguishing the ego. It reduces stress, improves concentration, increases self-awareness, and encourages a more holistically healthy lifestyle.
Research shows psilocybin mushrooms work on the same areas as meditation.
Magic mushrooms work by decreasing activity in some areas of the brain. Blood flow to the medical prefrontal cortex decreases. Over-activity in this part of the brain is associated with depression one reason why psilocybin is associated with antidepressant effects. Magic mushrooms also decrease blood flow to the areas of the brain that constrain the sensory experience of the world and the sense of identity, allowing the brain to relax its grip on reality and open up to a broader possibilities.
Professor David Nutt from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London said, “Psychedelics are thought of as mind-expanding drugs so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity, but surprisingly, researchers found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas. These hubs constrain our experience off the world and keep it orderly. We now know that deactivating these regions leads to a state in which the world is experienced as strange.”
Surprisingly, meditation corresponds to these exact areas of the brain. One study found that after two months of 45 minutes of mindful meditation daily, there was a measurable decrease in the activity in the aforementioned brain areas. This produced a feeling on oneness with the environment.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been observed to work in the same areas. As the intensity of psilocybin increases, the blood flow to these areas decrease.
However, this doesn’t mean magic mushrooms are a replacement for meditation. The experience, knowledge and insights from years of dedicated meditation cannot be replaced with a quick fix.
While magic mushrooms will elevate your sense of consciousness, meditation is a more sustainable approach to transcendence. It develops the mind, calms the emotions, and allows you to go beyond your ego and experience ecstasy.
Magic Mushrooms and Spirituality
Despite its benefits, psilocybin from magic mushrooms are illegal in the United States but Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and his colleagues believe there is a need to revisit psilocybin which was virtually ignored by the scientific community for almost 40 years.
Magic mushrooms have been used as spiritual medicine by Native American tribes. In these spiritual healing sessions, both shaman and patient eat the magic mushrooms. When the hallucinations begin after an hour or so, the shaman interacts with the patient similar to the way a psychiatrist would. He would ask the patient to describe the history of the illness and talk about his symptoms. The psychiatric similarities end there as the shaman goes into a trance and chants where to look for the cure for the disease.
After the chant, the shaman talks about how mushrooms will heal the illness. There is no physical contact between shaman and patient. Instead, during the hallucination, he visualizes the illness being sucked out of the patient.
Most shamans believe that when they heal an illness it is actually the mushrooms that perform the healing by creating hallucinations, giving the patient a deeper awareness of their illness, and directing their thoughts to cure the illness. This practice’s success comes from the confidence it instills in its patience. Even Western medicine recognizes this type of confidence as an important factor for recovery.
Research from Johns Hopkins University also revealed that apart from the therapeutic effect from magic mushrooms, volunteers who took the drug also said taking psilocybin mushrooms is among the most spiritually significant experiences they had.
Maria Estevez, a 62-year old participant from a psilocybin study in 2006, narrated her experiences in a yet-unpublished book. She also wrote how her life was affected both during and after the study. The deeply spiritual quality of her perception reveals how a shift in the brain’s chemistry can help us access the spiritual realm.
In her book, she said despite the strong effects of psilocybin, she was able to keep track of her own thoughts until the time she had to remove her eye cover and go to the bathroom in the middle of a psilocybin experience.
Maria compared the experience to dreaming and trying to record it. This experience with the light remained steady and unlike dreams, it’s easier to recall what happened.
“After a few minutes, instead of getting accustomed to the level of light, I realized the light was getting brighter and brighter and strangely brighter until I understood that this light was not in the room. It was inside me,” wrote Maria. “At that moment, it was as if all the cylinders in the lock somehow fell into alignment, the door swung open, and I found my consciousness being flooded with brilliant light. Without notice or fanfare I had arrived at a transcendental state, and was awestruck at the discovery. I felt a sense of joyous expansion as it opened fully to me, like entering a splendid palace, yet the feeling was completely natural and gentle.”
She went on to describe being overwhelmed with “glorious golden light, suffused with every color, prism, and rainbows everywhere like a shining hologram.” She felt like the light itself was alive, a radiant consciousness of ultimate intelligence, perfect integrity, singularity and purity. The light pervaded everything. It seemed benevolent, calm, and intense.
To Maria’s mind, the light was revealing the innermost workings of the universe to her. Without words, the light informed her that it was the source of every physical manifestation and each had its purpose. She says she knows the light to be the substance of every particle in the microcosm and the overarching essence of the macrocosm.
She didn’t know what to do in the presence of this light that continued to shine as brightly as her consciousness can bear. She danced with the light. It waxed and waned, perhaps mirroring the processes of the psilocybin. It would shine brightly, recede, leaving Maria in repose, floating and peaceful. Then it would return more strongly.
She concludes this episode of her life knowing that God chose to reveal himself to her. “Once you have seen this light, a deep recognition verifies that it is as powerful and moving as all the accounts testify,” she says. “Previously I knew it only intellectually, but now I am certain it is real.”
Taking Magic Mushrooms for a Spiritual Experience
Consuming magic mushrooms is not something to be taken lightly. While most people are introduced to these in a casual or party-like environment, these psilocybin mushrooms should be honored and respected.
To feel the spiritual side of the psychedelic experience, the following are recommended:
- Eat a small dose (not more than 1.5g) of dried magic mushrooms on an empty stomach.
- Make sure your next 24 hours are vacant and you don’t have any high-stress commitment in the immediate future.
- Clear your head of negative thoughts.
- Take these magic mushrooms in a safe, comfortable, and private space at a time when you prefer them most. It doesn’t matter whether the sun is up or not.
- Be with a trip sitter or someone you trust. This person should remain sober to watch over you and to help process the experience as you go through every stage.
- Try to go into the experience with an open mind.
- Have water nearby.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and be prepared for anything you might need to feel happy, safe, and secure.
Remember to honor magic mushrooms for the positive experience and spiritual healing you’ll receive. Once you have decided to go down this path, you can order magic mushrooms or magic truffles online to help you have the spiritual experience of your life.