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Comments on the Psilocybin Mushroom
(formerly "The Way of the Little Clowns")
by Elfstone
1989
Citation:   Elfstone. "Comments on the Psilocybin Mushroom" (formerly "The Way of the Little Clowns"). Erowid.org. 1989. Online edition: Erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms_article3.shtml
Table of Contents

Committed, persistent exploration of the transformational processes opened through establishment of a relationship with a particular class of plant entheogens, the tryptamines psilocin and psilocybin, provided the impetus to share some of the results of this work with others. This little monograph is addressed to those who have an interest in the long term developmental processes catalyzed by these plant compounds. At the outset it should be emphasized that this is not for everyone. Unless one is very clear and certain that there is a call to enter into relationship with the plant entheogens, it may be best to avoid them entirely. However, for certain individuals, these creatures of the field and forest are magnificent teachers and initiators into the sacred. It appears that this is, to a large degree, a matter of temperament. For a few of the individuals the author has worked with, a very mysterious process of inner opening has been initiated upon contact with a spiritual force mediated by the psilocybin mushrooms. This force has been called "The Saint Children," "The Little Holy Ones," and numerous other names often intimating a perception of a paradoxical structure that is simultaneously a unity and a collectivity of small beings of light. Entering into relationship with this is, it appears, a matter of grace. Many individuals do not perceive this phenomenon, despite numerous encounters with the eliciting plant entheogens. However, for those that can perceive this, a marvelous consensus emerges regarding its presence and what it is communicating. This is accompanied by the emergence of a strange and very powerful synchronicity that begins to guide the action of the individual who has opened to this domain of the sacred.

For certain individuals the plant entheogens offer an efficacious means of accelerating and exploring a transformative process that some consider to be of the utmost importance to the survival of our planet and humanity. In this regard, it is asserted by some that individuals involved in this work have truly regained access to the principal transformative catalyst which gave birth to the historical process through our paleolithic ancestors (see McKenna, 1988). It may, as McKenna suggests, serve to bring closure on the historical process it began over 35,000 or more years ago. Thus we have reclaimed an ancient source of shamanic gnosis.

The primary purpose of this small monograph is to communicate with other concerned explorers the nature of these experiences and the openings it can facilitate. This monograph is an account of the procedures and techniques found through establishing a living relationship with the mushroom itself. It is hoped it will provide encouragement and support for those who find themselves drawn toward establishing and nurturing such a relationship in their own lives.

These commentaries were conceived and written by me as a young man, when first developing a living relationship with the Psilocybe cubensis mushroom. Although I one day intend to flesh out this little paper into a more complete account of the work that I and my loved ones and friends have done with the mushroom over the years, it should be kept in mind that this current work is presented simply as a youthfully inspired, gnostic, alchemical treatise. It is presented as a set of approaches and suggestions which it is hoped might facilitate the emergence of a living understanding of the mystery of the mushroom. An understanding that may enable individuals to better meet life and more deeply discern the unfolding of its mystery. Thus, it is hoped that this little monograph will serve as a motivation to consider taking the psilocybin mushroom as a doorway to the initial stages of a transformative journey. Once begun, this process of transformation can become self-organizing, if approached within the structure of a daily spiritual practice. To the extent this emerges in the reader's life, this little handbook will have fulfilled its purpose. Again I feel compelled to emphasize that it has been my observation over the years that it is essential to have a daily meditation practice, as did Aldous Huxley and others who have profited from working with these powerful transformative gifts of nature, and that without such an approach, one is potentially treading on a less than wholesome path. It has also been my experience, thorugh numerous observations over the years, that by all means, the spirit of the mushroom will not reveal its deeper aspects if one approaches it with anything less than the utmost respect. I strongly discourage approaching these things with anything resembling a "party mentality." This is not to say that wholesome good fun cannot emerge from such encounters, but the experience can be so much deeper, that it is good to consider moving beyond this approach.

The decision to make this information publicly accessible was reached after an extended period of persistent personal research into the phenomenology of the psilocybin trance. Having seriously worked within several of the esoteric systems currently accessible for self-transformation, I have found no method which could facilitate as rapid an opening as that catalyzed by establishing a dialogue with the spirit of the mushroom. I should qualify that statement by noting that my preference for working with psilocybin is probably more a matter of temperament than of the relative efficacy of the esoteric traditions previously alluded to. There is undoubtedly a shamanic temperament which can be characterized as a primary tendency to seek out direct experience and see for oneself, eschewing adherence to any map of these domains. Such maps can be useful once one has explored a little of the territory, but is is always important to avoid rigid adherence to such mental maps, which can act as an impediment to clear vision and skillful action. That is to say, such "hyperspatial maps" of experience are only useful when in service of a calm and clear mind. It has also been my experiencing that cultivating this calm clarity of mind is the most helpful component for plumbing the depths of the psilocybin experience. The power of the mushroom derives from its capacity to connect very directly and deeply with one's own unique psycho-spiritual process. In this regard, psilocybin is particularly efficacious precisely because isy works on one at the level of one's own being; used skillfully, psilocybin can facilitate a transformation at the base of one's being ( Bodhi, Bikkhu, 1999). In addition to being one of the most potent and least toxic of entheogens, psilocybin can facilitate a gentle and deeply healing humor. It can actually free one of the narrow limitations of self-centeredness through nurturing the emergence of an appreciative humor toward oneself. All of these assertions become immediately apparent when in the psilocybin trance. I will repeatedly emphasize that the only way to develop a good understanding of the workings of the spirit of the mushroom is to eat them.

The species upon which all our work is based is Stropharia cubensis, Earle (Psilocybe cubensis Earle ex. Singer). This handbook presupposes that the reader has mastered the practical aspects of cultivation of the mushroom ( Oss & Oeric , 1986; Stamets & Chilton, 1983). The minimal, necessary dosage depends upon the individual's sensitivity as well as body weight. However, following Oss & Oeric, it is suggested that for at least some of the sessions, the dosage should consist of 5 grams dry weight or 50 grams fresh weight. This is a sufficiently committed dose.

Prior to presentation of the procedures and techniques which are at the core of this little monograph, I would like to make it explicit that all of these methods were inspired through contact with the spirit of the mushroom. Although they also occur in other traditional approaches, the ancient shamanic in particular, they were more or less hit upon spontaneously when in the psilocybin trance. They seem to well up from within while in that state and always seem to lead to skillful action occurring in response to the needs and circumstances of the moment. To the extent that we can facilitate the development of this type of gnosis, we will have assisted in the rebirth of the ancient shamanic tradition within the context of modern society. Since we are living in the transition from one evolutionary stage of culture to another, we are the Ancestors of the emerging cultural form; one which we have scarcely begun to imagine as of yet. These are exciting times to be alive and we feel privileged to be able to contribute to the reemergence of one of the most vital forms of knowledge any culture has ever laid claim to: shamanic gnosis (see the many discussions on the "aboriginal continuity circuit" in Arguelles, 1984).

Finally, and most importantly, we wish to emphasize the necessity of properly preparing for a vigil with the mushroom. Certainly the most vital preparation consists of simple fasting. In circumstances where this is impractical, one should eat sparingly. The mushrooms are quite filling themselves and quickly release one from any hunger pangs. If one chooses to eat during the day of a vigil it may prove adventitious to consume only easily digested foods, avoiding meats, poultry, or dairy products. These are typically the only type employed by various indigenous cultures who have traditionally employed the mushrooms, and includes fruits, grains and sweets, particularly chocolate. Often, chocolate is ingested along with the mushrooms to reduce the "acrid" taste which some find slightly disagreeable (however it should be noted that chocolate is also a mild MAO-inhibitor and may contribute to intensification of the effects). Drinking a moderate amount of water during the vigil can ease any tendency to dehydration because of the diuretic action of psilocybin. Another method advocated by Paul Stamets (Stamets, 1998) is preferred by some individuals, that is making a tea in a mildly acidic tepid water. We have found that the use of Celestial Seasoning's Mandarin Orange Spice Tea provides an excellent carrier for the alkaloids. Simply make the tea first, keeping the teapot wrapped in a towel to preserve temperature, then add the measured amounts of dried mushrooms and let steep for about 20 minutes. Add honey to taste, strain, and drink. This avoids filling your digestive tract with a large amount of fungal mass and makes for an easier trip in the opinion of many, and frankly has become our preferred method over the past few years. One also enteres the trance state relatively quickly and emerges fairly quickly as well, which has its advantages.

Prior to ingestion, engaging in a ritual where one's intention is made clear and inner space is opened to receive the spirit of the mushroomcan be very helpful. I typically light a candle and some incense, sit quietly, and observe my breathing for several minutes. Cultivating mindfulness is perhaps the most important practice to facilitate a deep experience with psilocybin( Hanh, 1991). If one approaches the spirit of the mushroom with respect and an open heart one can more fully benefit from the tremendous potential of the relationship, opening oneself to the dimension of the sacred. During the vigil, the turning within should continue unless prompted to engage in chanting, drumming, or singing. We have found that the stimulation of vocal activity is one of the more common ways of facilitating the effects of psilocybin; somehow the sounds produced during the vigil facilitates deep and long lasting changes in one's being, nurturing the growth and development of the understanding which can emerge over the course of the experience. More on such facilitative techniques will be covered at the end of each chapter. If you are persistent and a little lucky, psilocybin will quicken you in the deepest part of your being and expand your understanding far beyond the narrow horizon's of our common conditioning.

Reflecting upon the motivation to approach entheogens reveals that, for some of us, the core of this motivation is the desire to step outside the boundaries of ordinary life, of one's relative, conditioned mind. For others, the motivation is often less well defined. Since psychedelic compounds can alter the sensory inputs very profoundly, most individuals are sometimes suspicious or even frightened by them and their users. The scientific world view, exemplified by the scientific method, is based upon the analysis and continual refinement of our sensory input. Anything which alters the integrity of one's sensory input and its analysis can be perceived as deleterious to attempts to construct an objective appraisal of reality. Similarly, individuals who hold to maps of reality based upon the adherence to traditional religious beliefs are also uncomfortable with entheogenic plants because they tend to call one's beliefs into question. Entheogens have been characterized as a means of breaking-up and dissolving world views; thus from the perspective of the ordinary person, what emerges in such a state of consciousness is chaotic, unpredictable, and destructive. Contemporary societal norms thus consider the user of psychedelic drugs to be undoubtedly misguided and probably pathological. From this perspective, anyone who seeks a chaotic mental experience and disruption of their world view must be, somehow, seriously disturbed. In many cases such an opinion may be quite correct. All too often, as with anything, individuals simply incorporate these materials into their patterns of pathology. We may see more of these cases in contemporary society since it lacks a structure that would enable it to incorporate the transformational processes that truly committed work with the plant entheogens can unleash.

For certain individuals, however, this viewpoint is too limited in its appraisal of the action of entheogens and does not apply at all. I have found myself and others, with whom I have communicated or worked with personally, to be drawn into a developmental progression which only repeated exposure to these substances can facilitate. This developmental process has been detailed in certain of its aspects by other psychedelic researchers ( Grof , 1976, 1980 , 1986, 1988). However, there are certain aspects which set the tryptamine entheogens apart from other entheogens that have typically not been noted (with the exception of the inimitable Terence McKenna). The key feature of the uniqueness of tryptamine entheogens is their tendency to reliably induce the experience of a personified Other which speaks in an interiorized voice, addressing the user in a seemingly uncanny and highly skillful manner. This Other seems to be of a totally transpersonal nature and often appears in the form of an entelechy; a paradoxical structure that is both a singularity and a multiplicity. This is decidedly the case in my experience and the issues arising from establishing a dialogue with this entelechy will be the focus of this chapter.

The Level-by-Stages Model of Development

A very useful framework for understanding the phenomenology of the developmental process facilitated by the psilocybin entheogenic trance, as it unfolds over time with serial exposure, is the level-by-stages model of development (Brent, 1984). This model is predicated on the observation that there are a reliable set of processes which unfold in time that typically occur whenever an individual moves from one stage of development to an adjacent, higher stage of development. It should be pointed out that there are many stage theories, each an attempt to explain a specific set of developmental processes. The theories that best interface with the transformation accessed through psilocybin are formulated from the perspective afforded by various esoteric, mystical traditions (see Wilber, 1977). Each such theory centers upon a metaphor, or set of metaphors, which appear to be universal. (For a fairly comprehensive survey of these metaphors we highly recommend Metzner, 1986). Since the transformative process facilitated through serial exposure to psilocybin eventually touches upon some aspect treated by most of these theories, a brief discussion of the general theoretical issues can serve as an integrative focus for understanding the phenomenology of this process.

In the general model, the process of development is conceptualized as a temporal series of periods of relatively stable functioning, called stages, interspersed by periods of instability and reorganization, termed transitions. In each stage a particular form of organization or function characterizes the structure. Each successive stage is seen to be a movement toward a higher level of organization. Figure 1 (levels.bmp) (adapted from Brent, 1984) is a depiction of the principle features of this model. Note that the formal order, or level of development, and the temporal sequence, or rate of development, are relatively independent. This enables the general model to be able to account for regression to a lower level of development, retardation in the temporal unfolding of stages, as well as precocious development at an accelerated pace. Also note that the heavily shaded solid line connecting the stages represents two major aspects of the temporal interval of movement from a lower to a higher level of development: a regressive phase, represented by the negative slope of the line, and a progressive phase represented by the positive slope.

The process of transition from one stage to another on a higher level of organization is of particular interest to explorers of the psilocybin trance. To move from one stage to the next higher stage a destabilization of the current stage must occur. To gain a clear understanding of this process we must first distinguish a change in state from a change in structure. Any given stage of development is characterized by a specific degree of structure. That is, a stage may be more or less structured: a stage representing a higher level of development is more highly structured, more complex, than a stage representing a lower level of development. Within each stage there are also a number of discrete levels which are the dominant form or function over the course of various cyclical, time intervals (solid lines within each stage). That is, one typically moves up or down these levels within any given stage of development. As a matter of fact, movement between the levels within a stage of development, state changes, must occur to maintain optimal flexibility and integrity. For example, one must sleep periodically, which allows one's symbolic representional processes to shift from highly abstract, verbal propositional thought, toward more concrete, imagistic processing, as in dreams. Thus, there is a movement between levels within a stage, state changes, which should be distinguished from the movement between stages, or stage changes. As mentioned above, to clearly distinguish between these we speak of the former as changes in state and the latter as a change in structure. Finally, it should also be noted that within each stage are also vestiges of earlier levels of development (descending lines), as well as precursors of higher levels of development (ascending lines).

Psilocybin can elicit some very powerful changes in state. For many recreational users, it is the state changes following ingesting of the mushroom that are the motivation to experiment with them. Some of these state changes appear to involve activation of the precursors of higher levels of development, such as opening up to higher levels of perception, including experiences of visionary states and the emergence of psychic/synchronistic phenomena. As state changes, they are typically only temporary and unless they are further developed through a mindfulness practice, they are often deactivated and less accessible when the individual returns to ordinary consciousness. These state changes can be quite interesting, but they are only an intimation of the deep transformation that can occur through more focused, intensive work with psilocybin. What this author hopes to suggest is that through contact with the spirit of the mushroom, more permanent changes in structure can occur; that is, movement to a higher stage of development, and what Buddhists refer to as a "transformation at the base," which is the permanent reorganization of older maladatpive or unskillful habit patterns into more mindful, transformative, healthful habits of body and mind. Through committed work, a real and lasting change in one's being can be facilitated.

It should be noted that the movement from a lower stage to a higher stage of development typically occurs when one is placed in a situation of "stress." The stress moves the current stage of development into a metastable state. That is, structures under stress are more likely to destabilize. If the stress is maintained long enough, increases rapidly, or gains intensity, the structure is moved into the metastable state where a slight perturbation may result in large, rapid, and permanent changes in structure. The higher stage has "...greater functional breadth, greater functional efficiency, greater capacity to incorporate new constituent parts, and increased unity and integrity" (Brent, 1984, pp. 166-173).

There is no guarantee that movement to a higher stage will occur. There is always a risk entailed in developmental processes. One may emerge more resilient than ever, or with a breakdown in ability to function even at former levels of development. It is necessary to gauge whether or not a certain potential to connect with the transformative process is present. At certain points in the process, it may be difficult for an individual to determine if they should proceed any further. It should be noted, in this regard, that feelings of confusion, chaos, and so on, are characteristic signs of the transitional regression phase of stage change. This destabilization process is typically difficult, but a necessary component of development and a sign of potential progress. The stage theories from the mystical traditions all have metaphors appropriate to the stage change processes; a typical example being the "dark night of the soul." Stanislav Grof's conceptualization of the death-rebirth process is another, more succinct, depiction of such processes (Grof, 1986). Grof's formulation of these stage-change processes are perhaps the broadest in scope and most integrative yet to emerge. Ken Wilber's works, in contrast with Grof's, focus upon the stable features of each stage and provides an excellent complement to Grof's perspective; both authors are highly recommended. For practical means of successfully navigating these difficult terrains, the work of Thich Nhat Hanh on cultivating mindfulness is highly recommended (1991, 1996). The chaotic quality scientific observers have noted in regard to the action of entheogens has often been the result of a restricted focus upon the transitional regression phase of stage change processes made without an understanding of the possibility of the subsequent progressive, integrative nature of the subsequent phase of the stage change process. The first order of business of entheogens is the disintegration in the explorer of their dominant world view, or stage of development. As such, it represents what I am referring to as a transitional regression phase.

If all goes well, the regressive phase of stage transition is followed by the progressive phase. This latter phase is characterized by the emergence of a new focus of integration. That is, the constituent parts of a structure, which have become separated by the disintegration of the structural focus which connected them in the previous stage, are brought into a new relationship with one another by the new integrative focus. These constituent parts are the precursors of the higher level of development characterizing the new, emergent stage. Many explorers have commented upon a phenomenon which emerges when one is "taken" by the spirit of the mushroom into another dimension. The transitional regression which typically precedes this movement could be characterized as a "noisy" phase, where a multiplicity of emotions, thoughts, images, sensations can swirl one into a vortex of confusion. This is followed by the sudden emergence of a calm clarity that arises around a pristine awareness born of contact with a presence that clearly transcends the mind of the perceiver. A communication emerges with this entelechy that has suggestively been referred to by Terence McKenna as Ursprach, the original language, a language of pure understanding that arises from the depths of being. The movement toward the next stage of development is always characterized by the emergence of a new focal point which organizes and structures the previously separating elements of one's being into a new whole. Often there arises an amazing synchronicity, a union of inner and outer events that brings one into an expanded awareness of one's place in the world with the emergence of a recognition of the deeper pattern of one's life. The new integrative focus can result in a shift in one's intentionality. One's intentionality is a key component of the deep structure of one's being. It is the author's conviction that, given sufficient dosage and preparation, serial exposure to psilocybin can result in the emergence of a higher level of development: the reorganization of one's psyche into a new developmental stage characterized by an increase in consciousness of both the interior and exterior worlds and their integration into an understanding that is manifested as compassionate, skillful action.

It must be pointed out here that I refrain from presenting a specific set or sequence of stages. The focus, instead, is upon the general model outlined above as it depicts the nature of all such transformative processes. In this general approach emphasis is placed upon the appropriateness of wherever you happen to be; acceptance of whatever stage you are in without evaluative judgments about higher or lower. Only by fully connecting with what is, with mindfulness, can the transformative process unfold, naturally and of itself. The transformation is not something that you can quickly engineer, rather only through a shift in intentionality, gently remaining with what is, does it begin to unfold of itself. The seed of this transformative process is the practice of mindfulness, cultivating simple awareness of what is happening in the present moment. The author highly recommends cultivating conscious breathing as the foundation of one's mindfulness practice (Hanh, 1991). The breath is an excellent anchor which can help one come more fully into the present moment and more skillfully handle whatever arises. Cultivating a mindfulness practice will facilitate the emergence of the twin aspects of our higher nature, compassion and understanding. These two capacities are manifestations of our deepest potential and true nature.

For the reader who wishes to gain a more complete theoretical understanding of these processes, we refer you to Brent (1984), particularly chapters twelve through fifteen. Finally, in this regard, I would like to add that Brent's general discussion greatly clarifies and integrates the models of development presented by Stanislav Grof and Ken Wilber.

Similar ideas in regard to the organization of matter itself have been propounded by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers (1984) in their work, Order Out of Chaos. They have discovered a new ordering principle in nature: the self-organizing property of matter displayed in dissipative structures. Brent (1984) acknowledges the importance of the work of Prigogine and his colleagues upon his ideas concerning the nature of the developmental process. Generalizing the models resulting from Prigogine's work to the experiences of the psilocybin voyager can be useful in enhancing our understanding of the nature of the transformative process it can facilitate. The mystery one is confronted with through contact with the spirit of the mushroom leads the experiencer toward seeing marked similarities in the transformation processes on the physical, psychological, and spiritual levels of existence. In some sense, this transformation process characterizes the interface of being and becoming and lies at the core of all these levels of existence. The interested reader is strongly urged to consult both these mentioned works as representative of important changes that have occurred in the physical and social sciences which are very much in accord with the transformative process which can be accessed through psilocybin.

Applications of Brent's general model to the phenomenology of the psilocybin trance reveals some interesting connections. For some individuals, the initial encounter with the Other can be very frightening in certain circumstances. Most of the individuals the authors have worked with, including ourselves, attempt to apply old categories of understanding to the phenomenon of the personified Other. Those with backgrounds of exposure to fundamentalist Christian ideology can perceive the Other as a devil or angel, or both. One of the authors had such an experience: applying the Gnostic Demiurge category to the Other and being convinced that it had intentions of consuming his psyche and possessing him. Images of the Old Testament Yahweh, the violent Aztec sacrifices to Quetzalcoatl, the Norse Odin and Germanic Wotan, all unfolded in the mind. (These also correspond with imagery Grof connects with Basic Perinatal Matrix III, the Death-Rebirth struggle). This can also be understood to be personifications of the obscuring "network of thought" so insightfully displayed in the work of J. Krishnamurti (1982). It can also be understood as the Other presenting itself to one's mind through the only images and categories that one's mind contains. To more completely apprehend the Other requires a gradual increase in the capacity to see with calm clarity. Once one develops this capacity there are no limits to the deepening of perception.

From yet another perspective, these ambivalent deities perhaps are aspects of the Other that psilocybin enables a dialogue with (see Wilber, 1981). They may also be morphogenetic field phenomena which represent personifications which different human societies have developed upon establishing a dialogue with the Other. We are confronted with the challenge and opportunity of developing such an understanding ourselves, with an important reverberating difference: the Other may indeed be, as McKenna (1984) suggests, the perfected human understanding we develop in the near future. The Other, made accessible through the time-cyclone of psilocybin, is revealed to have always been with us, as it is really ourselves. Again, the differing forms in which it has been cast in the past were but the precursors of our own future level of development. In light of the emergence of a new dialogue with the Other, these older personifications can be seen as vestiges of lower levels of development, just as the current understanding will be but a precursor of the unimaginable and complete entrance into history of the Other as the perfected aspect of human understanding.

The formulation of such a revelation may be a signal of its inevitability. It is hoped that these musings of the author may serve to attenuate the initial shock of direct contact with the Other. Above all, I am confident in stating that the process, although sometimes frightening, will typically result in a beneficent and healing outcome. One can see very deeply into the nature of reality while in the psilocybin trance, including both our angelic and demonic sides, and the occurrence of such insight is a manifestation of the potential freedom to deepen one's self understanding and one's understanding of others.

Facilitative Techniques

Since the initial contact with the Other induced by psilocybin can be conceptualized as a form of confrontation with the collective unconscious of humanity, there are certain techniques which may facilitate navigation through the expansions and contractions such encounters can lead to. The twin specters to recognize are ego- inflation, which arises through identification with an archetype in the collective psyche, and ego-deflation, which is the ego's last ditch effort to convince itself that it is real. The contact with the Other necessitates a certain relinquishment of control of the physical and psychological structures usually perceived as being under the dominion of the self. It is somewhat like listening to music. With music one opens oneself to the perception of patterns of sound. Similarly, with psilocybin, sensory-perceptual organs are stimulated. However, these organs are usually not attended to per se as they are categories and habits of cognition, emotion, intention, and perception. In our daily lives, cognition and emotion are often organized into repetitive habit patterns that are not well examined. In the expanded states of awareness that the mushroom can facilitate, cognition and emotion can be used by the spirit of the mushroom as organs of communication. Although cognition is widely recognized as such a tool in Western culture, we have largely ignored emotion as a communicative channel. One commonly encounters the idea that emotion presents "subjective" states of evaluation on certain situations, but fundamentally it is regarded as unreliable, inaccurate, and relatively primitive in form. This is an evaluative attitude reflecting the level of being of the individual rather than an accurate appraisal of the function of emotion. Deep emotion is an aspect of the transformation into a truly awakened human being. There are deep emotional processes that cannot be imagined from within the fairly narrow confines of ordinary consciousness ("For man has close himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks in his cavern" William Blake ). With psilocybin, however, emotion can become a rainbow-like array of a deep perception of the structure of reality. Good humor is a necessary component of this process. Such realms have, by and large, remained unexplored by contemporary scientific researchers (though this too is rapidly changing). Psilocybin provides a useful doorway into that realm of experience which merits further exploration.

One technique which we have discovered sometimes useful in facilitating navigation of the dimensions opened through contact with the spirit of the mushroom employs the shaking of rattles, the beating of drums, vibrating singing bowls, and the use of the voice in expression of emotional states. One or more rattles and/or a large hand-drum/singing bowl should be available, allowing free expression of emergent patterns of sound. We have observed individuals, on occasion, holding a rattle and shaking it slightly to allow one or a few beads to bounce around the interior in a circular fashion. This focusing upon a sound which is at the edge of audibility is an expression of an interior silencing and cultivation of a receptive attitude; an active but open attention. At other times, we have witnessed a group begin shaking/beating our rhythms in relation to each other which generated a powerful harmonic overtone of an ever ascending series of whistling, bell-like chords. It was as if, in those moments, the Other had fully contacted us on all levels; physical, psychological and spiritual. Transformation was complete, stepping completely outside of time and space, and triggering the rebirth of our planet: the transfiguration motif, par excellence. Again, at other times, the sound would take each of us back into our own individual pasts and each of us would be shown sequences of our lives, understanding for the first time the complex array of factors which moved us at those different times. Always, such intensely revealing insight would be tempered with an appreciative and good-humored understanding and acceptance of one's own peculiar individuality.

The use of the voice to produce harmonic overtones is something which we have explored and gradually became more deeply involved with. Essentially, by changing the shape of the resonating cavity of the mouth and throat (using the tongue, primarily) one can accentuate the different harmonic overtones in the human voice itself. This technique can produce a five-note octave, each note of the octave sounding as the resonating cavity changes, while the basic fundamental note produced by the vocal chords remains unchanged. One produces two notes simultaneously; the fundamental, and the changing harmonic overtone. We have found this technique to be a very powerful transformative tool. In conjunction with the use of psilocybin and other tryptamine entheogens this technique can result in permanent transformations of the psyche which resonate with expectations of true shamanism. The interested person should freely experiment with his or her voice until the method is hit upon. Practice is essential. For more discussion of this in conjunction with the use of psilocybin see McKenna and McKenna (1975) and McKenna (1984, 1986). The seminars of Jill Purce, an individual who has trained with the Tibetan Buddhist Gyuto sect, are also highly recommended. (See Purce, 1985, 1986). This phenomenon also can lead one into the glossolalia phenomenon, whereby linguistic structures become visually apprehendable, which Terence McKenna discusses so eloquently (McKenna, 1986, 1988).

The use of singing bowls or an excellent singing bowl compact disc ( Halpern, 1999) can open up some of the deep space elements of the psicloybin trance state, where consciousness is moved into absorptive states of infinite space, infinite consciousness, in finite nothingness, neither perception-nor-non-perception, and even Nirvana, or complete cessation of the program of Being (see Thich Nhat Hanh, 1999, and the Majjima Nikaya, 1995 for further discussion of these absorptive meditative states).

Working with breathing has also been a very powerful method for opening to self- transcendent understanding. The practice of being aware of the in-breath and the out- breath, mindfulness of breathing, is a profoundly effective transformative tool. This is the core of the method taught by the Buddha (Hanh, 1996) and has been the means of facilitating the most powerful transformative experiences I have had with the mushroom. At times, the spirit of the mushroom has taken hold of the breathing process and I have sat astonished and deeply moved at the wisdom imparted to one. Attempting to describe these experiences through verbal language requires the use of the more traditional teaching story in order to begin to communicate the meaning. Psilocybin can initiate one into a language of being that transcends all notions of what language and linguistic activity is. The totality of oneself can be discernced to be an utterance of the universe; a word spoken as part of a universal story. The self-centered mind unravels to reveal the mystery at the heart of being. It is the arising of this level of understanding that I hope for you, dear reader, with all my being. We actively nourish the seeds of this deepest understanding with each conscious breath.

I have sometimes found the use of hand drums, rattles, and singing bowls to be of great assistance in riding the psilocybin trance; not unlike the act of riding a horse. It is a self-transcending control that flows with the emergence of novelty as contrasted with typical ego control which strives to reduce the disruptive force of novelty. In taking the more open stance, which is not only tolerant of novelty, but can even use it as a source of integrative power and consciously facilitate development, the world becomes once again vibrant and alive. Freedom from the idea of a separate self brings with it many new perspectives. For example, from the perspective afforded by the history of the sciences, the old Newtonian ideal of the world machine is understood as having initiated a nigredo state in Western consciousness through irradication of the Other into impersonal physical law. As we move into a renewed dialogue with the Other, do we begin to realize that the world of inert matter, as well as the natural, living order is a manifestation of mind and language. We are beginning to understand the significance of the idea that the Other is in fact ourselves (Hanh, 1990).

The discovery and implementation of the use of percussive instruments, the voice, and singing bowls in free expression was a spontaneous idea which developed when the spirit of the mushroom was especially near. I have also found it useful to occasionally approach the psilocybin trance in a ritual form: a small group of 2-6 people gathering in the evening and sharing the mushrooms (often with hot chocolate). This is a traditional means of employing the mushroom and seems to develop spontaneously wherever they are used. Giving oneself over to perceiving and expressing what arises in the psilocybin trance appears to be a natural state elicited by the action of psilocybin in the central nervous system. This state, however, persists once it is experienced and the authors find it facilitates self-acceptance and the development of a deep understanding, tempered with a natural, gentle humor.

Serial exposure to the psilocybin trance presents us with a phenomenon that is not represented in the standard models of the action of psychedelic drugs. Ongoing work in this area has resulted in the emergence of new models of the action of entheogens. With Stanislav Grof's work (1976, 1980, 1986, 1988) we are presented with a model of the results of repeated exposure to entheogens in general from the perspective of transpersonal psychology. With the McKenna and McKenna (1975) model of the action of plant entheogens, and the Collected Talks of Terence McKenna (1987, 1988, 1989), there is presented a model of the action of psilocybin and similar acting tryptamine compounds such as DMT and the harmine alkaloids that is more akin to classic shamanism. Our work with psilocybin presents some parallels with Grof's work. It is fairly certain that psilocybin acts on the central nervous system in a manner similar to LSD. This is supported, to some extent, by the phenomenon of cross-tolerance; exposure to either LSD or psilocybin will inhibit the effects of the other compound if it is given a day to a few days after the initial exposure. This tolerance phenomenon does not occur when the vigils are spaced a week or two apart.

Despite the probable existence of some common pathway of effect, there are some noticeable differences between the phenomenology of these two classes of compounds which the experienced individual is sensitive to. The duration of the action of psilocybin is much less (4-6 hours) than that of LSD (10-12 hours). Also, and not usually mentioned, is the reliable tendency of the psilocybin alkaloids to elicit the experience of contact with a personified Other. Further, the formal structure of the Other appears to undergo a developmental progression with serial exposure. This is a key feature of the tryptamine alkaloids which set them apart from LSD. In addition, psilocybin characteristically elicits a benevolent and self-accepting sense of humor; it is more playful and mischievous than the sometimes "abrasively psychoanalytic" LSD (as McKenna, 1984, observes). To us, psilocybin seems to be more natural and earthy in contrast to the supracosmic character of LSD. It is more mysterious and subtle in its action, moving the person gentaly through the transformative process, whereas LSD is more likely to induce profound regressions as well as the white-light enlightenment experience. Psilocybin takes its time in bringing one into the higher, more rarefied forms of consciousness, yet with preparation, it is as capable of facilitating this as is LSD. Perhaps, ultimately, even more so, since the progression is more gradual and natural in its course of unfolding through serial exposure to psilocybin. These qualities of psilocybin are most appealing: it opens higher realms of perception which are more adjacent to immediate experience and provides a gentler form of guidance into these dimensions. With psilocybin, one can often return from the wave-like crests of intense visionary experience to compare notes with fellow travelers and then close one's eyes again to be taken out on the next wave. LSD, in contrast, can be so intense and long-lasting that such return is sometimes exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, and it doesn't seem to lend itself to an easy, ritual group ingestion which is one of the more pleasant aspects of psilocybin. Often, groups have noticed that the wave-like intensity of psilocybin actually synchronizes: every individual in the group is pulled out into its intensity and seems to return to the room and awareness of one another simultaneously. I have often experienced the wave-like quality of the entheogenic effects as the personified Other growing nearer and approaching again, after the lull in the intensity of the entheogenic effects passes. Such experiences convince one of the reality of the personified Other as an organized entelechy made accessible through the neurochemical key of psilocybin.

The other benefit of the mushroom is that one is left with a sense of well being that remains with one over the course of the following weeks. I have even used subthreshold doses as a sleep inducing, dream enhancing agent, and general psychophysical tonic. Taking a small pinch of the mushroom before retiring has been noted by a number of my colleagues to provide an effective antidepressant effect. This is a topic that is wide open for research and suggests some SSRI activity on the part of psilocybin/psilocin.

Thus with repeated, serial exposure to the psilocybin trance, the personified Other becomes a recognizable and infinitely multifaceted friend. To the extent that one feels fearful of the approach of the Other, however, the experience can become very overwhelming and unpleasant. It is to this aspect of the psilocybin trance which this chapter is particularly addressed and we present techniques and ideas we have found helpful in clarifying the attitudes and intent which facilitates the development of feeling at ease when in contact with the spirit of the mushroom.

Upon initial contact with psilocybin many individuals find themselves overwhelmed by the intimate presence of an Other within the previously inviolable realm of one's personal psyche. As mentioned, all of the old categories for explaining such a novel phenomenon will be invoked: some feel it a positive experience, like contacting a divine Mind, whereas others may use categories of demonic possession, or both. Another way of formulating this experience is that one is shifted to a witness position in regard to one's mental representational processes which become organized around this theme of the Other. It is as if the Other is making use of one's mental representational processes, thought, to express Itself. In actuality the Other is making use of the totality of one's physical and psychological processes, which include and subsume forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, to express itself (see Guenther, 1984, pp. 64-73).

We are accustomed to accepting the illusion that we each think our own thoughts or feel our own personal feelings, that there is some initiator of these processes who directs and controls their flow. To perceive that something else is thinking thoughts within oneself or is playing one's emotions as if they were a musical instrument is not a common perception (yet it is the goal of all political media campaigns to achieve this!). However, if one seriously considers the extent to which any of one's thoughts or feelings are really unique to oneself, one will discern that very few actually are. To a large extent we are more a function of the world we find ourselves in than we are, in any sense, purely unique individuals. That which is unique in oneself is only one thread in the vast tapestry of the world. Thought and feeling, like forms, perceptions and consciousness, are rivers that have their own ebb and flow. There is no separate self orchestrating and overseeing these processes. The notion of a separate self is simply another thought. To suddenly really see this fact can be like dying: one sees oneself to be nothing more than a function of the many influences that make up one's life. Yet paradoxically, at the same time one can begin to discern, only in this state, that which is truly unique and peculiar to one's own individuality.

Once one has accomplished this insight, it can then be said that that individual has gained his or her psychological/spiritual water wings. It becomes clear that the inner world is as vast and as real as the outer universe we find ourselves in. It is at this juncture that one's psyche can become a mobile, focal point of consciousness. Awareness is no longer contained by a particular physical or psychological body--it becomes clear that we are all inextricably intertwined with the world on all levels and that we can move into and out of each others experience by simply forming the intent to do so. (It must be added that the primary intent is the will to be of service in relation to the whole, transcending one's self-centeredness, and it is only within the context of such relatedness that these capacities become naturally accessible). This area of experience, I am convinced, is where psyche and matter are connected. Both mind and matter are seen to be but aspects of a single phenomenon. McKenna (1984) refers to this as hyperspace: concretized in a type of psychofluid which contains all of time and space. This is a useful and ancient metaphor for such experiences. Whatever one calls this interior mobility of consciousness in regard to the space/time continuum, it is clear that it is a universal experience of individuals who have persistently plied the tryptamine entheogenic experience.

To arrive at this level of flexibility is one function of repeated exposure to psilocybin. Each trip can be seen as revealing the blocks or points of psychological constriction which prevent the emergence of such insight. Consequently, whenever one feels fearful of the approach of the Other, stay with this experience and bring your total attention to bear on the emergent experience. Again, cultivate attention to what is unfolding in the present moment, use the breath to nourish your mindfulness, and the opening of the psyche will begin to unfold of itself.

Nourishing one's calm and clarity through the practice of mindfulness will enable one to begin to face the more difficult materials that block the transformative process. Once one has established sufficient calm and clarity, one can make further progress only by transforming the negative energies that arise in the body/mind. Thus, facing the unpleasant experiences one can become conscious enough to fully observe the patterns of constriction, which will result in their dissolving and free up the energy to be food for the emergence of a higher level of understanding. This secret to this type of transformation process is to simply remain focused upon the present moment: Gently stay with what is.

The reader may realize that there are a variety of ways to express this shift of consciousness entailed in the ability to completely observe the movement of oneself. One such is a central motif of the mushroom experience: eating and being eaten. G. I. Gurdjieff (1950) formulated this interesting idea under the rubric of the "Trogoautoegocratic process." This refers to the notion that everything in the universe "reciprocally maintains" every other thing in the universe. In other words, everything eats and is eaten; physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Just as one must eat to maintain oneself at a point far from equilibrium, e.g., as a dynamic, ongoing life process, so are there structures which eat oneself for the same purpose. The central question from the standpoint afforded by such a perception is what is one feeding with one's behavior, thoughts, emotions, or: What's eating you?! (Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this aspect of the cosmos as interbeing). From one perspective, this refers to the next level above us, that of social structures. We must, willy nilly, all feed the machine of contemporary culture, to greater or lesser extent, through our behavior on a daily basis. Indeed, while in the psilocybin trance it becomes possible to personify the world-clock or world-machine (which is the symbol DesCartes perceived and characterizes Western culture) and carry on a dialogue with it. Gurdjieff abstrusely referred to this same motif as "the Moon." He envisioned that a specific quality of action can "feed the Moon" while simultaneously enabling one to set aside and accumulate a certain nutriment which feeds the emergence of a higher, more conscious level of development. From our perspective, we refer to the machine culture which epitomizes contemporary society as a manifestation of the same force or phenomenon which Gurdjieff ascribed to the Moon: it is inorganic, yet it needs a certain energy as it too is evolving toward, and is meant to be in service of, the organic. To the extent that we can recognize the obligation which life in contemporary society exacts, and fulfill it consciously, part of the results of our work remains for our own use and can be employed in the emergence of a higher level of organization in the psychological and spiritual domains.

To the extent that we do not evoke this quality of action we remain unconscious "slaves" of "the Moon," or world machine, and it eats us totally. This is how we envision life in the bowels of the world-machine: the urban areas of decay, crime, and violence are its inevitable result. Psilocybin is a tool which can open the door to the possibility of conscious action: keeping the machine (or "Moon") in its proper place as an object of consciousness, as contrasted with being an unconscious slave of the external forces within which one finds oneself.

From yet the next higher perspective, one could see each human society as a living, minded organism; each individual being a cellular unit within the larger social structure (see Sheldrake , 1981). In the heightened state of awareness induced by 5 dried grams of Stropharia cubensis, the author has had the experience of looking down upon the planet from deep space and actually seeing these social organisms as gigantic creatures. They bore a remarkable resemblance to the formal structure of single-celled organisms, such as paramecia, amoeba, etc. The Teacher was narrating this vision with the following comments:

"Human beings are the neural structures of these emergent life forms. Although they have always been here, only recently have any of them begun to gain sufficient neural cells (human beings) to begin to become self-reflectively aware. Each such life-form can also be understood to elicit behavior patterns specific to its members: for example, that organism which you see now in the Middle East tends to frequently elicit convulsive patterns of reciprocal destruction in certain of its cellular units.

This is also the case with the organism that has been centered upon the mass of land connecting the two continents in the Western hemisphere. This is still a more or less unconscious pattern which these entities are just beginning to become aware of as such. As humanity evolves and these larger life forms become more conscious, each will become capable of directing its own future evolution individually and collectively. That which can see these separate organisms, each of which can roughly be understood as being specific to certain geographical locales, is the collective life-form of the Earth itself. The Earth, Gaia, is a minded organism, just coming to full consciousness as such in the human Mind. When this occurs, humanity will acquire capacities beyond its imagination, such as is expressed in the idea of entering into communication with the rest of the sentient galaxy. This event is in the near future, provided the compulsive tendency to self-destruct can be kept localized and finally eradicated from human behavior. We are now at a critical juncture for all of humanity: as more people break through into conscious communication with these higher life-forms the potential for surviving the current crisis increases exponentially. Each of you who know me must introduce as many human beings to the breakthrough as you possibly can." (For a demonstrative elaboration of the insights suggested here see Arguelles , 1984, 1987).

What we are confronted with in such visions is the ancient, shamanic hierarchy of being. Just as our bodies are composed of billions of cells which have coevolved over hundreds of millions of years into their current forms, so now are we beginning to recognize that we are coevolving as components of a higher level of organization which is relatively autonomous over ourselves, just as an individual's mind is relatively autonomous in regard to the parts of his/her own body. Learning to recognize this and coming into conscious dialogue with it has been the function of myth and religion since the dawn of human history and before. "The shaman, as technician of the sacred, is a master of language; the language of the Earth and Sky, and Gods and Demons" (McKenna, 1984). We are, all of us, involved in the renewal of the ancient dialogue from the perspective afforded by the postmodern scientific world-view. This is enabling us to realize that all of these aspects of the Other, such as its angelic and demonic sides, are actually within ourselves. We must recognize that in violently stamping-out the devil we see in other human beings we feed that archetype and it becomes our unconscious master. Means and ends are inseparable, the mushroom asserts, and the recognition of this is the first real step toward freedom.

Again, the notion of everything eating and being eaten is a useful metaphor in attempting to understand the relation of ourselves to higher level structures, including values. We are what we feed, as well as what we eat. The relationship which one establishes with the mushroom epitomizes this peculiar quality of the universe: when one eats the physical body of the mushroom a strange symbiosis is initiated. Soon after one ingests the carpophores, the mind of the mushroom begins to ingest your mind. It was during such experiences that we came to realize that the mushroom is a sentient, minded being. Psilocybin is the neurotransmitter analog of serotonin within the human brain. This is the functional significance of the occurrence of psilocybin and psilocin in the biosynthetic structure of the mushroom: it allows for the emergence of the psycho-spiritual structure of the mushroom.

Such ruminations are the product of the deepening dialogue which serial exposure to the mushroom has, to date, brought our small group of intrepid explorers. We feel that the more personal, recollective, level of psychedelic experience must be traversed before one can fully pass through the perinatal, or death-rebirth level, to the transpersonal levels explicated above. Since the first, recollective level contains material primarily of a deeply personal nature, we have only touched upon its inevitability rather than presented our own such experiences. We wish to stress that one must have the persistence and deeper insight into this more personal material before deeper insight and access into the transpersonal realm. In this regard, we highly recommend the works of Stanislav Grof (1976, 1980, 1986, 1988) and Ken Wilber (1977, 1979, 1980, 1981) as indispensable aids to gaining an understanding of this process, as well as to assist in the personal quest such an understanding requires. Given persistent work, psilocybin will move on through the material necessary to one's personal process. The mentioned works provide a useful conceptual framework for this process.

Facilitative Techniques

Writing out the experience one has after each vigil can be a most useful means of articulating and gaining a perspective on the material which the mushroom Teacher confronts one with. Particularly when one examines the records emerging over a period of serial exposure do patterns become recognized and impediments shed. Another aid in writing out the experience is the use of a voice-activated tape recorder for an auditory record of impressions as they occur. Some individuals find that allowing a day to pass before writing out the record may provide time for certain chaotic impressions to settle into a coherent form. Discussing this material with fellow travelers after the session can also help one to digest it and consolidate the understanding gained. Above all, opening oneself to the healing potential of the mushroom can, we have found, rapidly accelerate the passage through the personal level to the deeper, transpersonal levels of experience. We have also noted that the dreams which occur after psilocybin vigils can often bring to light many of the unresolved issues not adequately integrated immediately after a vigil. Again, maintaining a written log of these dreams can be useful in this regard.

The indigenous tribal cultures who preserved the ancient practice of using psilocybin mushrooms have always employed them within a context of curing and healing rituals. They especially lend themselves to penetration of the conflict areas surrounding the psychogenic components of illness and have brought about some truly miraculous cures, but by no means are limited to this realm of dis-ease.

Their potential has still remained largely unexplored due to current, restrictive legislation which fosters and perpetuates the common approach to these compounds exemplified in the "party" mentality. Most such users of the mushroom consume small doses, often less than 1 or 2 grams, in conjunction with alcohol, marijuana, and/or cocaine. We see such practices as generally obviating the transformative potential of establishing a relationship with the spirit of the mushroom. The intent prevalent in the tribal approach to the mushroom is one of respect and reverence. This implies, to us, a focusing of attention upon the inner images and sounds which the mushroom activates after ingestion. A relaxed, but alert, attention allows for a flexibility and openness to psilocybin that is highly conducive to the deepening of the dialogue. Whenever one notices a tightening or resistance to the effect, allow these areas to become the focus of one's attention. Making the observation that one is resisting something is the first step to being able to relax into that area. What one comes to see may be truly horrible; but that is the one side of life we most need to be aware of and come to terms with. Denying the terrible side of life, we have noted, leads one into becoming an unconscious servant of it. Only by recognizing it, embracing it with mindfulness, and transforming our garbage into flowers, does one then gain the freedom to consciously access the other facets of the infinitely complex fabric of life.

For us, the key to handling fear is in mindfulness, acceptance and humor. The mushroom, of itself, seems to facilitate the emergence of this attitude of good humor. There is a certain freedom which comes when one realizes that fear is a food for the terrible. The more one fears it, the larger it becomes; a vicious circle effect. One technique to break through the grip of fear is to move fully into it (go fear-wards). Realize that the worst thing that could happen has probably already occurred! (You are fear!). Then the only thing left to do is to embrace your fear and dance with it. By entering into this state fully and with no reservations one transforms the entire situation. The fear, which is a reaction that arises out of attempting to avoid the worst possible event, no longer has a reason to continue. Similarly with anger, which is a mirror image of fear, one can go into it, embrace it with mindfulness, observe it totally, and with good humor, approach a caricature of the monster motif (that which is fearful) and, when observing its totality, ultimately realize it as an effort born of absurdity. Cultivation of a gentle, good humor toward these two toxins, fear and anger, is often an effective means to puncture the ego-inflated psychological balloons that they really are. Characteristically, the mushroom can sometimes stimulate gales of laughter that leave one feeling restored and whole.

Upon one exposure to the mushroom the individual will have occasion to reflect upon the initial motivations for undertaking such a dialogue. Always, the experience lies far beyond any expectations or images which one had prior to the vigil. Many individuals notice themselves feeling a certain reluctance to repeat the experience at this point and this may be an adaptive attitude for such an individual at the time. So much material is usually unearthed during the initial vigil that it may take some time before an adequate integration emerges. Conversely, some individuals become so enthusiastic about the new levels of experience made accessible by psilocybin that they find it difficult to restrain the desire to repeat the experience as soon as possible. Whether or not this is an equally adaptive response as the former remains unclear. The ingestion of psilocybin more often than once per week leads to a rapid acquisition of a tolerance to the effects. Consequently, one is more or less limited to a maximum exposure of once per week (unless the dosage is increased). Somehow, initiation of the dialogue renders one into the hands of a process much larger than one can ordinarily conceive of. We have found an emergence of a marvelous synchronicity to guide our exploration, such that one always seems to be skillfully guided by an unseen hand.

After moving through the initial encounter with the Teacher, one will begin to discern a shift in the forms and qualities through which the Teacher presents itself. This shift, for us, has been a movement from already known cognitive and emotional structures toward increasingly abstract, yet paradoxically concrete, formal qualities. For example, the sound produced by tapping a 22-inch hand drum approximately 1.5 inches from its perimeter at a specific tempo (80-120 beats per minute) can synergize a certain auditory phenomenon whereby one distinctly perceives an harmonic overtone which ranges from the highest to the lowest possible pitch. It is an auditory form of what, in the visual sense, is a rainbow. This phenomenon is experienced as a language of indescribable intensity and complexity which opens up a realm of experience that ordinary laryngeal language cannot convey. We have also found ourselves able to produce the same phenomenon, gaining complete identification with it, through harmonic overtone chanting. This technique allows for accentuation of the various overtones in the human voice itself. The experience this form of vocalizing induces is very much analogous to tuning a receiving crystal in a radio, each overtone allowing access to a certain aspect of understanding and experiential reality.

It was during experimentation with harmonic overtone chanting that the research group broke through to a level of consciousness that finds expression in all mystical traditions. The nature of this process is one of a complete inner opening which has been described as turning inside-out (or outside-in), discovering the nature of Mind (as the primary matrix of reality), transpersonal levels of experience, and so on. What is important in approaching a discussion regarding the possibility of opening-up to this experiential level is that all categories and concepts are not only subsidiary to, but actually block the emergence of these levels of consciousness; words at the wrong moment can only obviate it. From the ordinary perspective this experiential level, if considered as a potentiality, seems extremely subtle and elusive. Truly, the more one desires such an opening the less likely its possibility of actually occuring. There is a paradoxical relationship between sound and silence which can be touched upon through this technique. Somehow making sound in mindfulness can facilitate the emergence of a tacit silence that can suddenly expand the interior landscape to infinite dimensions. It is through this deep and complete inner silence that the psyche opens beyond the boundaries of the self- centered mind. Once it has opened, however, it is immediately appreciated that we have always seen the world and our experience of it completely topsy-turvy. What once seemed elusive and subtle will open into an all embracing understanding; an understanding that has always been with us but neglected until now.

Using psilocybin to move into the transpersonal levels of consciousness is not accomplished without a certain level of risk. I have had occasion to observe the emergence of various transformative crises both in others and myself. In one case this crisis manifested as a respiratory illness which resisted all traditional methods of treatment for about a nine month period. Upon connecting with the domain of conflict which apperently was being expressed in the physical channel, the symptoms cleared up, quite dramatically, within three days. In retrospect, we understand this phenomenon to be a somatization of inner psychological conflict into a set of physical symptoms which contained and expressed all components of the conflict. This appears to be a natural process and should not necessarily be cause for alarm. The best approach to integrating these conflict areas lies in asking oneself why these particular symptoms, in this particular place. Generally, there is great deal of curative power contained in the appropriate metaphor for any illness. We have found this to be particularly the case for transformative crises induced by involvement with the mushroom. Such illnesses can be understood as contractions, naturally following upon the powerful expansions induced by the psilocybin state. In this regard, to the extent that ego inflation can be sidestepped (that is, hubris; identification with the energies accessed as one's own), such illnesses do not tend to accrue upon serial exposure. The most efficacious means of preventing such crisis is the practice of humility.

Another risk arises when doing group work; getting sucked into the conflict/issues of other fellow voyagers or pulling them into one's own issues. Whenever one notices a tendency to bring fellow explorers into these conflict domains, it may be time to alter tactics. Among the indigenous groups who have traditionally employed powerful visionary medicines, certain rules of propriety are followed which, we have found, facilitates rapid resolution of individual conflict areas. Essentially, this is facilitated by an agreement to remain in silence or, if one must express oneself, to do so only in chanting, rythym, or singing. One must approach psilocybin and one another with tremendous respect. All conflict resides within one's own heart and can be truly resolved only there. Opening one's heart to the healing presence of the spirit of the mushroom is the most powerful movement one can offer when recognizing the source of conflict. Such a movement is fostered through silence and through self-reflection process inherent in expressing oneself in alternative linguistic modalities. The opportunity to recognize that the boundary between observer and observed is the source of all conflict is always available. The spirit of the mushroom can facilitate this process if approached with the proper intent. Above all, this is not something one can "make" happen; it has been operationalized in the past as "grace." There is a certain psychological stance which can facilitate the possibility of consciously connecting with this process. This is an inner gesture which has been referred to as an attitude of vigilant expectation:

  • It suspends thought without supressing it. It is realized when I authorize the totality of my tendencies before the conscious appearance of any one of them; and then none of them appears. The whole process can be summarized in three steps:

    1. Active attention - a special type of intense yet relaxed alertness, which can be described as a "Speak-I-am-listening" attitude, as a total authorization or total acceptance of my tendencies, as an active vigilance and watchfulness directed at the very birth of thought and emotions. It is a burning attention-authorization to what is NOW, watching inside and outside with equal eye. When this active attention is carried out correctly it results in:

    2. Stopping - the suspension of thought, of conceptualization, of objectification, of mental chatter. This "stopping" is, in fact, the suspension of the first mode of knowing, of the dualistic and symbolic-map of knowledge that ultimately distorts Reality. In short, this is a stopping of the primary dualism. It is a suspension of space, time, form, and dualism, and in this condition an utter mental Silence prevails. This is remaining with what is. The condition of "remaining" in this "isness," this Silence, this Stillness, we will call (after Huang Po) "sitting in a Bodhimandala," that is, sitting in a place where enlightenment can erupt at any instant. If this "stopping" is clean and complete, it will result in:

    3. Receptive Awareness - a special seeing that is seeing into nothing. "Seeing into nothingness--this is true seeing and eternal seeing." Again, this awareness, this seeing, is not looking into a mere blank or vacuum, but a looking into nothing objective--it is pure timeless awareness without the primary dualism of subject and object, and thus it is complete unto itself, with nothing external or objective to it. Because nothing is outside it, it operates without any effort whatsoever, in a completely spontaneous fashion, without reference to past or future. It operates above space-time in the absolute NOW, pointing to nothing beyond itself and seeing nothing beyond itself. In other words, it is the second mode of knowing, knowing without separation from any. And one instant of this pure awareness is itself Mind. Whether we realize it or not, it is always already the case. (Wilber, 1977, pp. 314-315)

Upon reaching this understanding the Other can be seen as one's higher nature, one's true essence. The various shifts in formal qualities taken on by the Other were the layers of illusion that separated one from the deep understanding. That which is separated, the experiencer, is simply a self-contraction from what "is always already the case." To see the self-contraction in its totality is to move to 1 above. To open the heart to be healed and release the identification with the self is to move to 2 above. The grace which enables the healing, or relaxation of the illusion of separateness, is the spirit of the mushroom, the Bodhicitta, which is Emptiness, the nothingness of 3 above. The Universe is truly empty of a separate self; everything in fact inter-is. The emergence of this deep understanding frees one from the realm of space and time, birth and death, which are the product of thought, and bring forth the Ultimate dimension. According to the spirit of the mushroom, when a sufficient number of individuals have opened to this transformative process, humanity as a whole will witness the ending of time that each of us as individuals come to through every encounter with the prophetic dimension. (Arguelles, 1984).

To come to this understanding is the beginning of establishing a working relationship with the psilocybin mushroom, which appear to have a function of their own in the destiny of human kind. There is indeed a sort of Bachanalian nature-spirit of cosmic proportion mediated through the ingestion of the physical body and neuro-tryptamines of the Psilocybe mushroom. Even after opening to "that which is always already the case," the impression of encountering a helpful, humorous, and beneficent presence remains associated with each mushroom encounter. A genuine understanding of this phenomenon is gradually being established, though we are definitely far from reaching a true consensus. A sufficient number of individuals must gain a degree of mastery in navigating these terrains before that can be accomplished. It is hoped that you, dear reader, may become skillful in this and be able to engage in dialogue regarding this issue. In this regard, we would like to reiterate that navigating the experiential domains accessed by psilocybin is a matter of skill. Some individuals we have worked with apparently were either too threatened by the presence of the form taken on by the spirit of the mushroom, or simply couldn't open up to Their presence, and experienced very little in this regard. We have found that it is essential that one set aside all notions of what CAN occur to fully open to the transformative presences of the spirit of the mushroom. In some circumstances psilocybin can generate very bizarre and ultra-fantastic effects that strain the credulity of everyone involved. These circumstances are the core of the contact-phenomenon and further exploration of this necessitates that the silly, little voice of rationality not be allowed to obviate it. This requires cultivation of the ability to at least temporarily suspend the rational-evaluative mode of cognition during those encounters so as to allow whatever is trying to emerge to actually become manifest and subject to scrutiny. We have found that the major barrier to this is sometimes astonishment and sometimes fear (often they coexist!). This is why we have devoted the space to present the material on the suspension of thought in this final chapter: cultivation of a pure, seamless, clear flame of attention is necessary to investigate these experiential domains and be able to return with coherent observations.

We hope that a sufficient number of individuals become capable of navigating these domains to establish a contemporary noetic science of the psilocybin state. For certain individuals a resonance with the spirit the mushroom is present in such a way that they are shown something very rare and sacred. Certain individuals are taken into a special relationship with the spirit mediated by the mushroom and find their development facilitated to an unusual degree. It is to the individuals that find this phenomenon accruing upon establishing a relationship with the spirit of the mushroom that a special invitation is advanced to share the results of thier work with other individuals touched in a similar way. The author has found that the spirit of the mushroom arranges for such individuals to connect in very synchronous and mysterious ways. This monograph is only one expression of these energies, and it is hoped that it serves as a useful introduction to this work.

One of the more fascinating aspects of group work with psilocybin is the emergence of a superordinate group mind. It is as if the experience becomes shared in such a way that what one individual is experiencing is simultaneously experienced by all. It is sometimes quite amazing and a powerful validation of the reality of the states one is opening up to. It can also be very disturbing, particularly when a new member joins an experienced group. We have found ourselves being pulled into negative aspects of the perinatal matrices (BPM II and BPM III) novice individuals were experiencing. It was in attempting to understand such experiences that we began to recognize the necessity of sometimes serving as a guide, with or without imbibing the mushroom, depending upon the ability to navigate rough terrain, for individuals who have certain negative energies to release or integrate. Depending upon one's degree of grounding, one may choose to decrease the dosage or to abstain while another individual works through such material. This is another reason why one might choose to make first excursions into the terrain of psilocybin with a trusted friend or guide, or alone.

The special problems posed by group excursions into the psilocybin state revolve about the core issue of boundary dissolution. On an interpersonal level the dissolution of boundaries may result in encountering the inner conflict areas of another individual as if they were one's own. The dissolution of boundaries can be so complete that a merging of psyches may occur that can equally be a source of utter amazement and deep disturbance. Cultivation of a witness position, a clear, undisturbed awareness of all contents of consciousness, is the only means this author has found that enables navigation of these terrains with any amount of grace. Even with accumulation of considerable experience one will encounter the absolutely unexpected in this domain. The ability to flow with the emergence of novelty is a capacity that gains strength and becomes more facile as it is exercised. However, as with all exercise, there is an optimum amount and this author has found that it is best to balance work with groups with solo vigils. Allow intuition to be your guide in this domain, and avail yourself of the council of the spirit of the mushroom. It has been my experience that if I am attentive to the details, the spirit of the mushroom synchronously arranges for the appropriate decision.

When working with novice individuals this author has the tendency to be deeply affected by the conflicts, or even physical illnesses of the other person, tending to take them upon himself. As one then focuses upon working through these new issues, the individual one is working with journeys along and emerges clean and whole in the end as well. It is as if the usual boundaries between oneself and the other person are dissolved on all levels. This process can be quite disconcerting at certain points, particularly if one is not sufficiently prepared for them, or does not recognize them at the time of their occurrence. It has been my experience that it can also be risky. Be very careful about whom you decide to initiate into group work. One must be sufficiently strong in one's own practice, with access to extra energy, to successfully undertake certain journeys; know your strengths and recognize your weaknesses. If you have become sufficiently free of self-interest to step out of the way, the spirit of the mushroom can take over and guide the process quite well without oneself. Any trace of self-interest makes this extremely tricky (impossible!). Conducting solo vigils with the aim of embracing one's own weaknesses and limitations in order to deepen one's understanding is a prerequisite for group work. Solo vigils afford the best opportunity to transform one's own blocks and become sufficiently free of self-interest to be of real help to others. Vigils undertaken alone bring one into relationship with the spirit of the mushroom and help clarify your motivation for continuing such work and the clarify the intentions one may have to share it with others.

Within the larger context of the future of humanity, the dissolution of temporal boundaries is another aspect of group work that can sometimes be confusing. With serial exposure there is a pull toward the manifestation of a miraculous event that all will undoubtedly feel. How different individuals react to this can be the critical parameters that allow for either a centripetal unification and consensus, or a centrifugal dispersion of conflicting interpretation and experience. This miraculous event is marked by the increase of a compressed pattern of synchronicity that is perceived as an emergence of organization on a macrocosmic scale erupting from both within and without simultaneously. Its development is very much a matter of what one can bear, for it stretches all one's capacities to the limit. Remaining near this phenomena for too long a period may be health threatening. Nevertheless, there also seems to be a governing mechanism that emerges and serves as a protective factor. From our encounters with this phenomena we are convinced that there is some organizing entelechy that knows exactly what it is doing, and exactly how much each individual can bear. It is accounts of this domain of experience that the author has a particular interest in. If you would care to share your encounters with this please pass them on to the individual who gave this monograph to you. They will assuredly get back to me. You may also email them to me at: emailredirect-elfstone@erowid.org .

The work of Stanislav Grof, particularly LSD Psychotherapy, can provide a useful framework for understanding and integrating much of the phenomena that may emerge from extended work with psilocybin. We refrain from in-depth discussion of the personal recollective levels of the psychedelic experience and the perinatal matrices because they have been so admirably treated elsewhere (see bibliography). The focus of our concern rests primarily upon the transpersonal domains and the establishment of a consensus in regard to the phenomenology of the psilocybin experience. We are interested in establishing a contemporary noetic science from this perspective. This is the primary reason for group work. We hope that as more individuals gain skill in navigating the psychological and spiritual terrain which psilocybin facilitates access to that a dialogue can begin that will enable movement in the direction of reaching the consensus which defines any scientific endeavor. We are convinced that this noetic science beckons from the future state of perfected humanity, and that other cultures have formulated aspects of it within the context of their specific cultural forms. An example of this would be the rDzogs-chen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism (see Guenther, 1984). What we are aiming for, ultimately, is a contemporary formulation of such insight from a scientific perspective (science being defined in the broad sense as including not only empirical-analytic inquiry, but also both phenomenological-hermeneutic inquiry and paradoxical-mandalic inquiry). If you wish, you can take this little monograph as an invitation to do just this and proceed to get to work! It is hoped that you will.

As we transform ourselves through this type of work, others will naturally begin to wonder about us and inquire about our work. Persisting in quietly transforming ourselves is perhaps the most effective means of bringing about a transformation of the community and ultimately the world in which we live. This may result in a cultural climate of openness and respect for those with the courage and temerity to pursue the ancient, wisdom seeking quest for transformation revealed by the spirit of the mushroom. We are convinced that establishing a dialogue with the psilocybin mushroom is to leaven the potential transcendent nature of human consciousness. This has far-reaching effects. Clearly this, like any path, is not for everyone. If you feel yourself drawn to investigate and perhaps continue exploration of the dimensions opened to the those who have established a sympathetic connection with the spirit of the mushroom, It is hoped that this little monograph will have provided some useful perspectives on what this process may be all about. Any and all feedback would be deeply appreciated. Simply pass it into the keeping of the individual who put this booklet into your hands and it will probably get back to the author in due time. For the moment, discretion must be preserved. Thank you for respecting this, and I wish you well.

Although there is only one name on the cover page of this monograph, and one hand that put this material to paper, the author wishes to acknowledge those who were brave enough to participate in the work with him. The courage of several individuals were committed to participation in group exploration of the realms opened by psilocybin over a five year period. Although I have not been involved in any group work for the past five years, my wife and I have been engaging in vigils together with much material emerging that is not included in this little monograph. This monograph is meant to serve as an invitation to deeper discussion with individuals involved in similar work.

The bulk of this material was penned in the spring of 1986, after a year of weekly vigils with a small group working out of the American Midwest. That was an extraordinary year in that there was not one element of human experience that was left untouched during that magical and astounding set of vigils. Each one clearly built upon the previous and it was with mutual consent that the weekly vigils were paced further apart, each individual retreating into solo work for the majority of the following year. Since that most fruitful year, the results of this work have germinated and begun to permeate the larger social context; each of the original participants has taken up this work again with other individuals drawn to this type of exploratory endeavor. A coherent map of a significant portion of the territory opened by psilocybin has been drawn and the details are now being filled in. If you feel a calling to engage in this work, if the spirit of the mushroom has touched your life as they have touched ours, we welcome networking with you and sharing our observations. You can e-mail the author at: emailredirect-elfstone@erowid.org . The nature of our work, and the current repressive social-historical climate, necessitates that this work be kept somewhat private and shared discretely. It is highly unlikely that you would have this little monograph in your hands were you not drawn to engage in this type of work and thus we invite your correspondence. Perhaps one day, as the significance of the pioneering efforts of individuals such as yourself begin to be understood and appreciated, we can share this material openly and freely with one another and celebrate the ending of human history and the birth of a truly mature humanity. Then we shall all see what is the mushroom at the end of history as it commences to fruit on a global scale.



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Revision History #
  • v1.0 - 1986 - Original draft by author.
  • ... - 1989 - This version published.
  • ... - May 5, 2001 - Last updated by author.