Entheogens, the Conscious Brain and Existential Reality 2012 The purpose of this article is to provide a state of the art research overview of what is currently known about how entheogens, including the classic psychedelics, affect the brain and transform conscious experience through their altered serotonin receptor dynamics, and to explore their implications for understanding the conscious brain and its relationship to existential reality, and their potential utility in our cultural maturation and understanding of the place of sentient life in the universe.
"In the fall of 1952, [Gordon and Valentina Wasson] learned that the sixteenth-century writers describing the Indian cultures of Mexico had recorded that certain mushrooms played a divinatory role in the religion of the natives. "Simultaneously we learned that certain pre-Colombian stone artifacts resembling mushrooms, most of them roughly a foot high, had been turning up, usually in the highlands of Guatemala, in increasing numbers. For want of a better name, the archaeologists called them "mushroom stones," but not one archaeologist had linked them with mushrooms or with the rites described by the sixteenth- century writers in neighbouring Mexico. They were an enigma, and .mushroom stone" was merely a term of convenience. ... this Middle American cult of a divine mushroom, this cult of God's flesh, as the Nahua called it in pre-Hispanic times, can be traced back archaeologically at least to 500 B.C. and probably 1000 B.C. This places the ancestral mushroom cult in the culture of the highland Maya at a time when stone sculpture was making its first appearance in Middle America. Thus we find a mushroom cult in the centre of one of the oldest civilizations in Middle America. " Wasson G. - The Divine Mushroom of Immortality (Furst 188).
There is also circumstantial evidence for the use of similar fungi in Europe.
Tlaloc the provident rain god which dates right back to the La Venta culture is aptly charged with creating mushrooms in a bolt of lightning the bringer of rain and also thefertilization of the earthmother bythe sky father. In a second myth, Quetzalcoatl, the fair-haired man-god, with eyes the colour of jade, ran through Mexico, the sacred mushrooms, teonanacatl , are supposed to have sprung from the blood of his cuts. He is also charged with creating the human race from bones taken in haste by Quetzalcoatl from the underworld and ground by the earth goddess Cichuacoatl, the Snake Woman, with blood from his penis. Quetzalcoatl or Serpent of Precious Feathers (also known as Kukulcan, Gucumatz and Votan) appears similarly in practically in all of the cultures of the precolumbian Mexico from the classical "theocratic" era of Teotihuacan through the Toltec transition to the later "militaristic" cultures. The form of the sky serpent is also common to the La Venta culture (1250 BC to 600 BC) and the Mayas.
"Early chroniclers such as Fransisco Hernandez, physician to the King of Spain, described several sacred mushroom species. 'Others when eaten cause madness that on occasion is lasting of which the symptom is a kind of uncontrolled laughter. Usually called teyhuintli , these are deep yellow, acrid of a not displeasing freshness. There are others again, which without inducing laughter bring before the eyes all kind of things such as wars and the likeness of demons. Yet others are not less desired by princes for their fiestas and banquets, of great price. With night-long vigils they are sought, awesome and terrifying" (Schultes and Hofmann 1979 145).
Friar Sahagun, one of the first conquistadors to chronicle teonanacatl , flesh of the gods, remarked of the Aztec mushroom eaters 'when they become excited by them start dancing, singing, weeping. Some do not want to sing but sit down and see themselves dying in a vision; others see themselves being eaten by a wild beast; others imagine they are capturing prisoners of war, that they are rich, that they possess many slaves, that they have committed adultery and were to have their heads crushed for the offence . . . and when the drunken state had passed, they talk over amongst themselves the visions they have seen'(Schultes and Hofmann 1979 146).
"During the coronation feast of Moctezuma in 1502, teonanacatl (the divine mushroom) was used to celebrate the event. War captives were slaughtered in great numbers to honour Moctezuma's accession to the throne. Their flesh was eaten, and a banquet was prepared after the victims' hearts were offered to the gods. After the sacrifice was over, everyone was bathed in human blood. Raw mushrooms were given to the guests, which one writer, Fray Duran (1964), described as causing them to go out of their minds-in a worse state than if they had drunk a great quantity of wine. In his description, these men were so inebriated that many took their own lives. They had visions and revelations about the future, and Duran thought the devil was speaking to them in their madness. When the mushroom ceremony ended, the invited guests left. Moctezuma invited rival rulers to feasts which were held three times a year. One of these important feasts was called the Feast of Revelations, when the invited dignitaries and Moctezuma, or his representative, ate the wild mushrooms. " ... "During the Aztec king Tizoc's enthronement feast, all those present ate wild mushrooms - the kind that made men lose their senses. After four days of feasting, the newly crowned Tizoc gave his guests rich gifts and sacrificed the Metztitlan victims" (Dobkin de Rios 142).
Benavente reported with dark suspicion as a missionary: "They had another way of drunkenness that made them even more cruel and it was with some fungi or small mushrooms, which ixist in this land, as in Castilla; but those of this land are of such a kind that eaten raw and being biitter, they drink after them or eat them with a little bee's honey; and while later they would see a thousand visions, especially serpents, and as they would be out of their senses, it would seem to them that their legs and bodies were full of worms eating them alive, and thus half-rabid they would sally forth from the house, wanting someone to kill them and with this bestial drunkenness and travail that they were feeling, it happened sometimes that they hanged themselves, and also against others they were crueller. These mushrooms they called in their language teonanactlth which means 'flesh of god' or the devil whom they worshipped; and in this wise with that bitter victual by their cruel god they houseled. (Riedlinger 1996 26)."
This is not without its irony, as the departure of Quetzalcoatl to the east has been suggested to have resulted from the historical overthrow of the Toltec high priest Topiltzin-Quetzalcoatl, whose attempt to replace the warlike incarnation of Quetzalcoatl, Ce Acatl and usher in a new golden age of Tula, supplanting the excesses of human sacrifice with ascetic self-sacrifice and offerings of jade, birds, snakes and butterflies did not suit the vigors of the warrior caste who followed the warrior god Tezcatlipoca, the "lord of the smoking mirror", supposedly with the clandestine involvement of Coatlique, goddess of the Serpent Skirt. He was thus ritually humiliated and banished from Tula in 987 AD and travelled to the Gulf of Mexico where he was supposed to have immolated himself on a funeral pyre to become Venus, thus symbolizing death and ressurrection. In this respect there is a striking parallel with Inanna-Ishtar and the seasonally dying and resurrecting Tammuz and the subsequent crucifiction of Christ of the virgin Mary. This god, that tormented Moctezuma with remorses, is naturally considered the Christ of the precolumbian civilization, a situation which gave the conquering Spaniards significant difficulties to come to terms with, particularly given the conflicts between the central role of the crucifixion and communion as sacrificial bloodshed in Christian destiny and the Aztec excesses of human sacrifice. The "living sacrament" is an antidote to this sacrifice.
The story of the original Quetzalcoatl of the Nahuas who followed the Toltec but predated the Azrtec in the valley of Mexico is told in by Dobkin de Rios (139). They were "quite advanced in their cultural development. Their divinity , Quetzalcoatl was a man of wisdom who gave them a code of ethics and a love for art and science." Acquaintance with the drug plants goes back to 300 BC with the Chicameras the Aztec ancestors and the Toltec.
"The divinatory properties of sacred plants [including mushrooms, peyote, datura, morning glory and tobacco] were of paramount importance to the Aztecs. They believed that whoever ate these sacred plants would receive the power of second sight and prophecy. Thus, one could discover the identity of a thief, find stolen objects, or predict the outcome of a war or the attack of a hostile group. "Sacred mushrooms played such an important part in Aztec life that Indian groups which owed tribute to the Aztec emperor paid it with inebriating mushrooms. One Spanish priest wrote that for the Aztecs, the sacred mushrooms were like the host in the Christian religion: through this bitter nourishment, 'they received their God in communion' " (Dobkin de Rios 143).
"The divine mushroom was taken during ritual ceremonies. Successful Aztec merchants sponsored night banquets. The Florentine Codex records that when the participants ate the mushrooms with honey, and they began to take effect, the Aztecs danced, wept, and saw hallucinations. Others entered their houses in a serious manner and sat nodding. Visions included prophecies of one's own death battle scenes, or war captives that one would take in battle. Others reported visions that they would be rich. All that could possibly happen to a person could be seen under the effects of the mushrooms. After the effect wore off, people would consult among themselves and tell each other about their visions" (Dobkin de Rios 143).
Moctezuma witnesses a comet, one of the foreboding signs in the prophecies.
Quetzalcoatl, who had introduced the 55 year calendar of the Mayas to the Toltecs had been prophesied to return to bring in the golden age. Moctezuma had suffered a series of alarming prophecies and portents. Nezahualpilli the chief of the Texcoco had prophecied that strangers were going to rule the land of Anahuac. When Moctezuma challenged him in a ritual ball game, the Texcocan came from two down to win. When a 'bird with the mirror head' was caught Moctezuma saw the reflection of hosts of armed men. Temples were struck by fire and lightning. In all there were six fatal signs. When Cortes appeared in 1519 in the year of 1 Reed (Ce Acatl) the year of Quetzalcoatl's return, he was was ironically assumed to be Quetzalcoatl or his incarnation returning from the east, and handed the god's regalia by Moctezuma's emissaries.
"When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the sixteenth century, they persecuted those priests and practitioners who used the sacred plants in religious rituals. Whatever the visionary effects that informants attributed to the various hallucinogens, these prelates concluded that the devil himself was involved." "The Spanish, writing about the effects of the mushrooms, always conjured up the devil, but we shall really never know if the Aztecs were seeing anything like the Christian devil. Their visions may indeed have been spirits of their pantheon with whom they were in communication. "The Spanish, culturally mycophobic to begin with, showed great disgust at seeing these mushrooms in use. In Roman Catholicism, communion with the supernatural is based not upon an individual's revealed knowledge, but rather upon [their] membership in a complex hierarchical structure and [the] faith in its doctrines. ... Moreover, Aztec belief that the powers residing in the plants could be controlled by the user was totally alien to Western thought" (Dobkin de Rios 144).
"The Spanish ... were so thorough in their destruction ... that these practices went underground for four centuries. Punished for their alleged superstitions, the Mexicans kept their sacred and magical plants hidden from the conquerors. " (Dobkin de Rios 145).
The repression of the sacred mushroom by the conquistadores resulted in its disappearance from the annals of history, except for the troubling appearance of the small mushroom stones dating from 1000 B.C. scattered about the much more ancient ruins of the Mayan civilization. In 1935 the anthropologist Jean Bassett Johnson witnessed an all night mushroom ceremony at Huautla de Jimenez. This report was to lie idle until the night of June 29th 1955 when the mycophiles Gordon and Valentina Wasson, upon a clue from the anthropologist Weitlander, and the encouragement of Robert Graves of the "White Goddess" 'were invited to partake of the agape of the sacred mushrooms' in the hills of Oaxaca, among isolated peasant peoples who used the plant to divine the future and seek a cure of illness, after a long search and a previous unsuccessful season in the town:
'Perhaps you will learn the names of a number of renowned curanderos, and your emissaries will even promise to deliver them to you, but then you wait and wait and they never come. You will brush past them in the market place, and they will know you but you will not know them. The judge in the town hall may be the very man you are seeking and you may pass the time of day with him yet never know that he is your curandero.' - Wasson (Weil et. al. 30).
The sacred mushroom is called by the Mazatec Indians 'the little flowers of the gods' or merely 'that which springs forth'. 'The little mushroom comes of itself we know not whence, like the wind that comes we know not whence or why' (Schultes and Hofmann 1979 144).
Wasson was deeply struck by the spiritual power of the sacred mushroom, which he referred to as 'the divine mushroom of immortality'. 'Ecstasy! The mind harks back to the origin of that word. For the Greek ekstasis , meant flight of the soul from the body. Can a better word be found to describe the bemushroomed state? ... Your very soul is seized and shaken until it tingles, until you feel that you will never recover your equilibrium' (Furst 198) He also noted that Greeks call mushrooms broma theon "the food of the gods" (Furst 194) and specifically likened the experience to the epoptea of Eleusis "For me there is no doubt that the secret of Eleusis lies in hallucinogens".
"On both nights RGW stood up for a long time in Cayetano's room at the foot of the stairway, holding on to the rail transfixed in ecstasy by the visions that he was seeing in the darkness with his open eyes. For the first time that word 'ecstasy' took on a subjective meaning for him. ... There came one moment when it seemed as though the visions themselves were about to be transcended, and dark gates reaching upward beyond sight were about to part, and we were to find ourselves in the presence of the Ultimate. We seemed to be flying at the dark gates as a swallow at a dazzling lighthouse, and the gates were to part and admit us. But they did not open, and with a thud we fell back gasping. We felt disappointed, but also frightened and half relieved, that we had not entered into the presence of the ineffable, whence, it seemed to us at the time, we might not have returned, for we had sensed that a willing extinction in the divine radiance had been awaiting us." Gordon Wasson & Valentina Wasson - Mushrooms Russia & History (Riedlinger 1996 31)
A peculiar synchronicity which will prove to be of account is the fact that Wasson's father Edmund Wasson was a maverick Episcopal priest who wrote a book called "Religion and Drink" and never tired of telling Gordon that Christ's teaching began with the water into wine at Cana and ended with the wine of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Gordon was to interpret his experience in the light of its significance as the agape of the Early Christians. In his Life article he wrote (Riedlinger 1996 26): "On the night of June 29-30 1955 in a Mexican Indian village so remote from the world that most of the people spoke no Spanish, [we] ... shared with a family of Indian 'friends' a celebration of 'holy communion' where 'divine' mushrooms were first adored and then consumed. The Indians mingled Christian and per-Christian elements in their religious practices in a way disconcerting for Christiansbut natural for them. ... We had come from afar to attend a mushroom rite but had expected nothing so staggering as the virtuosity of the performing curanderas and the astonishing effects of the mushrooms. ... We were received and the night's events unrolled in an atmosphere of simple friendliness that reminded us of the agape of early Christian times"
"One can imagine the many trembling confabulations of the friars as they would whisper together how to meet this Satanic enemy. The teonanactl struck at the heart of the Christian religion. I need hardly remind my readers of the parallel, the designation of the Elements in our Eucharist 'Take, eat this is my Body ...' and again "Grant us therefore my gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son ... and to drink His blood ' But the truth was even worse. "The orthodox Christian must accept on faith the miracle of the conversion of the bread and wine into God's flesh and blood: that is what is meant by the Doctrine of Transubstantiation. By contrast the sacred mushroom of the Aztecs carries its own conviction: every communicant will testify to the miracle that he has experienced" (Furst 191)
" ... geometric patterns, angular not circular in richest colours, such as night adorn textiles or carpets. Then the patterns grew into architectural structures with collonades and architraves, patios of regal splendour, the stone work all in brilliant colours, gold and onyx and ebony, all most harmoniously and ingeniously contrived, in richest magnificence extending beyond the reach of sight, in vistas measureless to man ... They seemed to belong... to the imaginary architecture deescribed by the visionaries of the Bible" (Riedlinger 1996 30)
"Confined though we were in a room without windows or open door, at one point we felt a swish of air, just as if we were really suspended in the great outdoors. Was this not too an hallucination? If so, all shared it, for when the wind blew on us, there was a general excitement, flashlights were switched on, and our Indian friends were sitting up, amazed at being stroked by the Divine Afflatus. ... The spirit of the agape of which we have already spoken was a prelude to a wave of generous tender feelings that the mushroom aroused in everyone ... Twice in the course of the night the Senora reached out her right hand to me and sought contact with my fingers in friendly greeting, across the chasm of the language barrier." Despite Indian reticence "the mushrooms emancipate them from inhibitions of this kind" (Riedlinger 1996 34).
The mushrooms were all consumed before the small altar and that the curandera kept one corner free so that the Holy Ghost could descend in the form of the sacred words that came to her, the words of her little book. "I see the word fall, coming down from above as though they were little luminous object falling from heaven. The word falls on the Holy Table, on my body, with my hand I catch them word for word." (Halifax 134)
The agape of the Eucharist and the falling sacred words evoked to Wasson the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-17 in which the disciples and the women at the burial were "filled with new wine" and appeared in the streets speaking in tongues. As prophesied by the prophet Joel 2:28-32 "In the last days it will be, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."
The CIA were also in Mexico in search of the mushroom. Within a few days, a Mexican botanist had phoned the CIA to confirm Wassons find and an agent was dispatched as a mole on Wasson's return trip. Soon, with the help of Albert Hofmann, the world was to discover the active ingredients, psilocin and psilocybin. This discovery led Wasson and Graves to conclude that the Soma of the Aryans as well as the Elusian mysteries and Buddha's death may have involved another mushroom, Amanita muscaria (Riedlinger 1992 pl8).
Maria Sabina Mazatec Prophetess, Shamaness and Benefcatress of the Eucharist
The curandero who opened the secret of the mushroom to Wasson was Maria Sabina. Shortly before his arrival she had had a vision while on the little saints , that non-Mazatec strangers would come to seek nti-si-tho , the little one who springs forth . She had shared her vision with Cayetano García the local sindico or justice who was also a partaker of the agape, and it was he who agreed that the knowledge should be shared and brought Wasson to her. Her life was beset by many tragedies including a macabre vision she had shortly afterward on the little things , which foretold the murder of her son, possibly in vengeance for opening the knowledge of the mushroom. Her house and little shop were also burned (Estrada 71, 79).
"The father of my-grandfather Pedro Feliciano, my grandfather Juan Feliciano, my father Santo Feliciano - were all shamans - they ate the teonanacatl , and had great visions of the world where everything is known... the mushroom was in my family as a parent, protector, a friend". - Maria Sabina, who lived to the age of 91.
Maria Sabina had sampled sacred mushrooms in abundance as a child. A few days after watching a wise man cure her uncle 'Maria Anna and I were taking care of our chickens in the woods so that they wouldn't become the victims of hawks or foxes. We were seated under a tree when suddenly I saw near me within reach of my hand several mushrooms. "If I eat you, you and you" I said "I know that you will make me sing beautifully". I remembered my grandparents spoke of these mushrooms with great respect. After eating the mushrooms we felt dizzy as if we were drunk and I began to cry, but this dissiness passed and we became content. Later we felt good. It was a new hope in our life. In the days that followed, when we felt hungry we ate the mushrooms. And not only did we feel our stomachs full, but content in spirit as well. I felt that they spoke to me. After eating them I heard voices. Voices that came from another world. It was like the voice of a father who gives advice. Tears rolled down our cheeks abundantly as if we were crying for the poverty in which we lived.' She had a vision of her dead father coming to her. I felt as if everything that surrounded me was god' (Estrada 39).
'Maria Anna and I continued to eat the mushrooms. We ate lots many times, I don't remember how many. Sometimes grandfather and at other times my mother came to the woods and would gather us up from the ground on which we were sprawled or kneeling. "What have you done?" they asked. They picked us up bodily and carried us home. In their arms we continued laughing singing or crying. They never scolded us nor hit us for eating mushrooms. Because they knew it isn't good to scold a person who has eaten the little things , because it causes contrary emotions and it is possible that one might feel one was going crazy' (Estrada 40).
After the death of her first husband Maria Sabina performed avelada , for Maria Anna, who was sick with an internal bleeding. After expressing the blood she had a vision of six or eight people who inspired her with respect - 'the Principal Ones of whom my ancestors spoke'. One of the Principal ones spoke to her and showed her the book of wisdom. She realized that she was reading her book. Afterwards she had the contents always in her memory, and became herself one of the Principal Ones who became her dear friends. After this vision, she had another vision of Chicon Nindo the lord of the mountains, a being surrounded by a halo, whose face was like a shadow. She realized that she had become his neighbour. She entered the house and had another vision of a vegetal being covered with leaves and stalks that fell from the sky with a great roar like a lightning bolt. "I realized that I was crying and that my tears were crystals that tinkled when they fell on the ground. I went on crying but I whistled and clapped, sounded and danced. I danced because I knew I was the great Clown woman and the Lord clown woman' (Estrada 49).
Such chanting and clapping is characteristic throughout the mushroom velada :
Maria Sabina also belonged to the Sisterhood of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For her as both Mazatec shaman and Catholic, the saint children - were the body and blood of Christ.
Robert Graves notes that Maria invokes Tlaloc whose home is sought on the high crags and caves of mountains. Thus Chicon Nindo, as the lord of the mountain, establishes her link to the ancient myth. Brundage notes: "Every mountain around which rain clouds gathered was a Tlaloc" There is also a natural historical link from the Mazatecs to the Mixitecs, who formed a parallel empire to the Aztecs and were renowned for their skill in metalwork and mosaics. They were thus ironically called tolteca - by the Aztecs. The Codex Vindobonensis notes that sacred mushrooms were brought to the gods by Ehecatl (Ce Acatl) the wind-god aspect of Quetzalcoatl who ruled the second era. One of the most prominent of them, the goddess 7 Flower weeps. They are personified by two supernatural women, 4 Lizard and 11 Lizard. Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc had paried temples at the founding classic city of Teotihuacan.
The mushrooms were collected in the forests at the time of the new moon by a virgin girl, then taken to the church to remain briefly on the altar. Those chosen are in out of the way places unseen by human eye. As an adult Maria Sabina had to forgo the saint children - for many years, because her two marriages caused difficulties as it was the custom to adhere to sexual abstinence for four nights before and after the 'night we stayed up' as the mushroom veladas are discretely referred to. After the death of her second husband she took up the practice of the mushroom and became a sabia , or Wise One. Maria Sabina with the living sacrament.
Click here for the audio file Sabina.AIF (150k).
'There is a world beyond ours, a world that is far away, nearby and invisible. And there is where God lives, where the dead live, the spirits and the saints, a world where everything has already happened and everything is known. That world talks. It has a language of its own. I report what it says. The sacred mushroom takes me by the hand and brings me to the world where everything is known. It is they, the sacred mushrooms that speak in a way I can understand. I ask them and they answer me. When I return from the trip that I have taken with them I tell what they have told me and what they have shown me' (Schultes and Hofmann 1979 144).
'The more you go inside the world of teonanacatl , the more things are seen. And you also see our past and our future, which are there together as a single thing already achieved, already happened . . . I saw stolen horses and buried cities, the existence of which was unknown, and they are going to be brought to light. Millions of things I saw and knew. I knew and saw God: an immense clock that ticks, the spheres that go slowly around, and inside the stars, the earth, the entire universe, the day and the night, the cry and the smile, the happiness and the pain. He who knows to the end the secret of teonanacatl - can even see that infinite clockwork' (Schultes and Hofmann 1979 149).
Further chants illustrate this link with Christ and with the Mother.
Eunice Pike noted to Wasson in 1953 "One of the proofs that it is 'Jesus Christ himself' who talks to them is that anyone who eats the mushroom sees visions. Everyone we have asked suggests that they are seeing into heaven itself. ... Not all Mazatecs believe that the mushroom messages are from Jesus Christ ... Most monolinguals however will either declare that it is Jesus Christ who speaks to them, or they will ask a little doubting 'What do you say, it it true that it is the blood of Jesus'?" (Mushroom Ceremony - Smithsonian Institute).
Traditionally the mushroom was taken not merely to see god, but to cure physical maladies. The form of a velada consists of the curandero , the patient and the accompanying family each taking the sacred mushroom in the complete dark - even a candle is put out. The curandero - spends the night chanting, seeing the nature of the illness and performing a cure through sucking out the malady, or sacrificing live chickens over the patient, dropping the still beating heart into their mouth.
The healing process could be severe and terrifying. At a velada - attended by Wasson, a young boy takes the mushrooms to seek a cure. However Schultes and Hofmann comment: (1979 151) "upon learning from Maria that the mushrooms prognosticate death, the boy falls to the ground in despair. He did in fact die a few days later of undiagnosed, but apparently natural causes".
Maria Sabina describes this somewhat differently: "But there was no remedy for the sick one. His death was near. After I saw Perfecto's appearance, I said to Aurelio 'This child is in a very grave condition'. ... I took the children and began to work. That was how I learned that Perfecto had a frightened spirit. His spirit had been caught by a malevolent being. ... Weeks went by and someone informed me that Perfecto had died. They didn't take care of him like they should have. If they had done several vigils he would certainly have gotten well" (Estrada 72).
The influx of interest in sacred mushrooms had a devastating effect. In Maria Sabina's words - 'Before Wasson, I felt that the saint children - elevated me. I don't feel like that anymore. The force has diminished.' 'These last few years anyone looks at the children - and no care is taken in gathering them'. 'They take the children - at any time and in any place. They don't do it at night or under the direction of the Wise Ones and they don't use them to cure any sickness either'. In the words of the older sabio , Apolonio Terran... 'What is terrible is that the sacred mushroom no longer belong to us. The language has been spoiled and is indecipherable to us ... "What is this new language like?" "Now the mushrooms speak English! Yes it is the tongue the foreigners speak" "What is this change in the language due to?" "The mushrooms have a divine spirit; they have always had it for us but the foreigner arrived and frightened it away ..." "Where was this divine spirit frightened to?" "It wanders without direction in the atmosphere, it goes along in the clouds (Estrada 91).
In Wasson's words 'The sacred mushrooms and the religious feeling concentrated in them through the Sierras of Southern Mexico had to be made known to the world, and worthily so at whatever cost to me personally. If I did mot do this, "consulting the mushroom" would go on for a few years longer, but its extinction was and is inevitable. The world would know only vaguely that such a thing had existed but not the importance of its role. On the other hand worthily presented, its prestige, Maria Sabina's prestige would endure' (Riedlinger 1996 35). The duty of securing the evolution of this sacred tradition and its unspeakable language of existence thus now passes to the illuminati of English, so that the spiritual significance of the living sacrament will be preserved and understood.
Wasson predicted in 1985 that the sacred mushroom would return to popularity in 10 to 30 years, despite legal taboos. He saw in the transmission of the agape of the Eucharist a cultural transfomation into a new form. Maria stated that he and his friends were the first to come seeking the mushrooms "not because they they suffered from any illness" - that is Wasson envisaged a spiritual transformation (Riedlinger 1996 35).
Riedlinger (1996 35) comments: " In light of Wasson's numerous referrals to the original Pentecostal experience, I believe he thought it feasible for modem Christianity to likewise adopt certain elements of this indigenous hybrid, producing an experiential form of Christian worship in the Pentecostal mode which uses hallucinogens as sacraments for calling down the Spirit. Wasson's opinion of what this portends for Christian worship is un- equivocal: '... God's flesh! How those words echo down the centuries of religious experience! (In the Book of Common Prayer, in the Prayer of Humble Access, the faithful are summoned to eat 'the flesh of thy dear son Jesus Christ'.) The Christian doctrine of Transubstantiation is a hard saying, calling for great faith .... The Mexican Indian with his teo-nanactl has no need for Transubstantiation because his mushroom speaks for itself. By comparison with the mushroom, the Element in the [post-Pentecostal] Christian agape seems pallid. The mushroom holds the key to a mystical union with God, whereas only rare souls can attain similar ecstasy and divine communion by intensive contemplation of the miracle of the Mass'."
A dedication is thereby due to Maria "virgin mother of the agape" :
Networking the Entheogenic Transformation: Lycaeum
Mycology: The Mushroom Cultivator Paul Stamets (from Fungi Perfecti)
Materials: Fungi Perfecti. PO Box 7634 Olympia WA 98507 USA [email protected]
Spores: Florida Mycology Research Center, P.O. Box 8104, Pensacola, Florida 32505, USA
Homestead Book Company, Box 31608, Seattle, WA 98103. USA
Syzygy, PO Box 619, Honaunau HI 96726, USA
Maria Sabina: Estrada, Alvaro 1981 Maria Sabina : Her Life and Chants Ross Erickson Santa Barbara.
Mushroom Ceremony of the Mazatec Indians of Mexico 1957 The Smithsonian Institution,
Folkways Cassette Series: 08975.
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