Mushrooms (P. cubensis)
Citation: Phidias. "Consciousness Versus Behavior: An Experience with Mushrooms (P. cubensis) (exp42740)". Erowid.org. Mar 2, 2007. erowid.org/exp/42740
A little background on me first, in sparse language to save space and time. Mid-twenties, college student, good physical health (no allergies, chronic health problems), probably due to genetics and high physical activity. At the time of this writing, no prior use other scheduled substances, and no recreational use of legal substances apart from the occasional beer or glass of wine. Developed an interest in psychedelics a year prior to first-hand psychedelic experience. Read mostly trip-reports, information concerning possible adverse health consequences of various psychedelics.
My initial curiosity about psychedelics developed into an interest in trying them, but the desire to be fully informed before using anything that would even temporarily alter my consciousness and perceptions postponed my first “trip” for quite a while. After deciding that, for me, the benefits of certain substances probably outweighed the costs, I procured psilocybin-containing mushrooms, having chosen this psychedelic as my first (and perhaps only, depending upon the outcome) method of exploring altered states of consciousness.
I wish to now reiterate that I made the choice that the benefits outweighed the possible known and unknown costs of embarking on the psychedelic journey. I will NEVER recommend this path nor dissuade anyone from taking it; inducing an altered state is, to me, one of the most serious actions a person can take in life, and the choice to do so should be made absolutely free of coercion or even the mildest of encouragements. I do not wish to preach here, nor to I emphasize this point to evade any kind of legal liability; I only want to make it perfectly clear that I do not endorse this action for anyone, not even my own kin, as I view the triggering of altered states by any means as a serious personal choice one should only make after learning as much as one thinks reasonable about psychoactive substances, particularly the ones under consideration for personal use.
When I was in the process of making this choice, I did not feel obliged to read Timothy Leary or other such writers; I was not particularly interested in, nor am I now greatly interested in, the metaphysical formulations of such individuals, at least insofar as they relate to my own evaluations of the merits of certain psychedelics or my own journey thus far; I wish not to formulate dogmas nor indirectly absorb the dogmas of others and develop cumbersome expectations of what I may or may not learn. I feel that my experiences will speak for themselves, setting aside the difficulty of interpreting such experiences, though a certain amount of 'comparing notes' is not doubt very interesting and helpful, if an open mind is sustained.
For me, all of this nitpicking is merely to insure maximum intellectual independence, in order to facilitate a proper level of independent 'peer review,' if you will. In science, at least, this is how knowledge is increased, by observing rigorous safeguards against groupthink. Enough of this, then: now to my evolving perception of what I have experienced. I say 'evolving' because, even after three weeks after my first experience with mushrooms and one day's distance from the second, I am still assimilating and analyzing my memories of the two events.
My first experience with mushrooms occurred at 3am in my home, having giving myself the entirety of the next day for recuperation as a precaution. I prepared, in a two-quart saucepan, a few servings of tomato-basil soup, adding about twenty medium-sized fruiting bodies of fresh psilocybe cubensis as the mixture simmered.
Attempts at optimizing 'setting' included the placement of a candle and a few objects of personal significance on a Muslim prayer rug on the floor of a darkened room. I ate the soup as I sat cross-legged on the prayer rug, contemplating the candle flame and listening to a CD recording of a thunderstorm.
I believe I felt the first effects after about half an hour. I did not come to the situation with an idea in mind that I wanted to explore; nevertheless, for whatever reason, I began to contemplate deeply a question that had always held much interest for me, namely, that of consciousness versus behavior. I have divided this experience into three parts by order of occurrence: 1) formulation 2) contemplation 3) speculation.
In the formulation stage, questions occurred to me. They seemed to hang in my mind's eye as palpable objects for my inspection; some were discarded and some were retained and/or developed further. One of the concepts that preoccupied me in this state included the notion of behavior--specifically, ant behavior. It occurred to me that analyzing the behavior of an ant seemed silly, unless one were aware of the behavior of the universe. It dawned on me that ant behavior was, in a sense, inseparable from the behavior of the universe as a whole.
This notion that the universe 'behaves' particularly appealed to me, in the sense that all the universe seems to be one. Matter and energy in constant interaction, if you will--any kind of separateness seems to be an abstraction. And thus the behavior of a small collection of organic material is descriptive of the whole collection, organic and organic. The idea that the question of cosmological behavior was similar, if not identical in a sense, to inquiring into the behavior of insects (indeed, of all creatures--enter stage 2 below), was the primary idea that survived the initial flurry of thoughts that I have described as the stage of formulation.
In the contemplation state, the concept of behavior was extended to the behavior of everything in the universe that we see as distinctive. The sense of the interrelatedness of everything, the oneness of all life and consciousness, arrived in force with the closed-eye visuals I had read about. I realized then that 'closed eye visuals' seemed somehow a misnomer; the patterns and colors that came to me were more like thoughts than optical perception.
It was the very fabric of my consciousness that shifted and blossomed in multicolored geometric glory. And yet, this visual perception did not terribly interest me in of itself; it seemed more an accompaniment, or an equal or lesser aspect related--perhaps inseparable--to my philosophical ponderings. To appreciate the experience for the 'closed eye visuals' alone seemed an impossibility at the time, though now I would love to duplicate that particular aspect of the experience at will.
As my perception of the universe, or at least, of all life--I am still trying to sort that part out, expanded to include myself, my ego eroded; I experienced what I think might be called 'depersonalization,' a not altogether pleasant experience. Indeed, the closest thing to a positive emotion I experienced in that state of absolute self-reflection, like looking at your reflection and seeing nothing, or seeing a twirling galaxy perhaps, was a total lack of fear. No fear of death, of my death or anyone else's.
Was there a sense of resignation? I can't quite recall; if not, then it was an emotion very similar, yet still totally alien to any emotion I had ever felt before, or have felt since. My mention of resignation is a futile attempt to communicate a species of emotion felt in certain altered states, one of those alien emotions that ever escapes remembrance or recreation while one is functioning normally.
The final major component of my psychedelic expedition involved a search. Though I can not be sure of the specific object of the hunt that took me through the void inside the empty shell formerly myself (or the former 'me,' if you will), a shell seemingly composed of endless transformations of all living forms, the center of which dwelt a great unblinking eye always searching, focusing with immense concentration, I nevertheless have a vague notion of what I sought. Though I do not recall having any expectations in my bemushroomed state, it seemed that I nevertheless looked for regularity, for an element that I could predict--or some tool that might facilitate foresight, as if I were a sorcerer obsessed with locating the proper divinatory device that would banish a glamour that had taken him out of time.
Finding nothing to aid me in this endeavor, I became convinced that my own efforts at forecasting in a world no longer temporal in nature were doomed to fail; such power lay outside me. Yet I felt at one with everything, as if all consciousness were an illusion, as if the only thing that existed were the universe, behaving. It was not the ant that behaved, it was not the ape, the higher ape, my hominid form that exhibited consciousness; only One had what might be called consciousness, even what might be called 'complete' behavior. All aspects of One that had before seemed separate to me, like the ant, were in fact just forms, microcosms of One. Even Hominids manifesting their own brand of incomplete behavior only mimicked consciousness.
So what was this One? Tao, perhaps? Had I absorbed Eastern notions that molded my psychedelic experience? I don't think so. But who knows what we unknowingly bring to such things?
Towards the end of stage three (speculation) the knowledge that I could not find the direction that would enable me to go beyond the point that I had reached spawned the notion that some aid from another would be required. But who? There existed no one, not even me, just One! Yet thought continued, so would it be proper to still speak of 'I' even as the notion of 'I' seemed palpably illusory? It is still a question that I have not fully addressed; I only present it here. Perhaps it is not worth contemplating in an unaltered state at all.
The characteristics of the one from whom I sought aid were speculated upon in the third stage of my psychedelic experience. I will call this 'lifeguard' figure Predictor, because I became convinced that it would know What Would Happen Next. Also, the Predictor would be easily known. How? I don't know; I only can say that in that altered state, the Predictor's presence would be immediately obvious. The great eye within me would flick from form to form, and then finally focus suddenly on the Predictor. Though I am not a theist, I will honestly acknowledge that this Predictor figure seemed another manifestation of the savior-archetype so often seen in human mythologies.
By the second stage (contemplation) the Muslim prayer rug, the candle, the thunderstorm ambient CD, and the other things I had arranged in an effort to achieve an ideal setting were moved back to where they had been earlier that day, out of sight and irrelevant. Indeed, after another mushroom experience I have decided that, for me, the only relevant features of a proper setting are darkness, silence, and peace.
The remaining tomato-basil-mushroom soup went in the trash somewhere in stage two as well, as I had by that time become wearied of the whole matter, though not unengaged; indeed, it seemed like I had no choice but to follow the pattern of my thoughts, and I found I did this best in bed with my eyes closed, the brightly in-the-process-of-being-woven thoughts morphing into patterns indicative of lower organic forms just as my personality seemed to evaporate from the peaks of the hominid mountain, all speciesist pretensions vapor on the wind.
I will now close this account, incomplete as any such account must be. The event was not what I might describe as 'fun.' Nor was it necessarily a negative experience. Indeed, the full worth of the event has yet to draw a final verdict from me; perhaps it never will. Eventually I may recognize it for what it might have been, Huxley's 'gratuitous grace' at the very least, or perhaps something even more than that.
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