Re-confirmed! Magic mushrooms make life better. Want some?

November 4, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

Lots of weird, wonderful stories about the transformative powers of hallucinogens and psychotropic drugs pass through my Prismatic feed every week, most coming from oddball quirkblogs I’ve never heard of, referencing cool but suspicious-sounding studies that might or might not be the slightest bit legit and written in a style that you might call “excited New Age hippie,” and therefore, despite my own admiration for all things altered consciousness, not all that useful for tossing into the columnal mix.

Better than Prozac, more natural than candy

Ah, but the good news is, science is increasingly stepping up and (nervously, tentatively) proposing what everyone from Tim Leary to Terence McKenna, ancient shamans to all those old dudes at Burning Man have known since the dawn of man putting weird plants into his body and chatting with God for three days straight:

That these fascinating, mysterious compounds are all kinds of miraculous, and really do re-wire the brain – and the heart, and the soul – in ways that might hold a key to not merely healing a few dire ailments (that’s obvious) but could actual transform our way of being in a violent, dying world.

Of course, researcher can’t actually say that. The rigid confines of science dictate that, in order to ensure continued funding from the anxious governments of the world – most of which are eternally terrified that citizens might begin to question the cruel, institutional reality they’ve been force fed for millennia – researchers must focus on how these “dangerous” Schedule I compounds can be used to treat, say, mental illness, or PTSD, or depression.

Which of course they do, and quite successfully. But there’s so much more to it than that.

Basketful of dreams

Basketful of dreams

The image on the left? Been making the rounds over the past few days, featured in Wired, on Raw Story and who knows where else, referencing a study they did at the Imperial College London that shows how the primary compound in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, actually rewires the normal synaptic patterning of the mind in all sorts of remarkable ways.

But here’s the amazing part: It does so not in some messy, haphazard splatter of trippy synaptic chaos.

Indeed, there’s method to the altered-state madness, neuroscientists say; under psilocybin, the brain actually makes completely new connections between formerly uncommunicative parts of itself, mixing senses, memories, experiential phenomena in ways that awaken a entirely new shape and tone of reality, one that has its own rationale and cognizance, no less “real” or legitimate than our plain-ol’ linear, rote default.

Which is simply another way of repeating the great mantra, the same one chanted by the hippies and the gurus, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Vedas, Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and far beyond: Reality isn’t what you think it is. And it never was.

Of course, Imperial College London isn’t alone. There was this fantastic article. There was this study, and this article, and this one, and this one. There was the SF startup dude who said everyone should take magic mushrooms to enhance creativity and reveal what’s really important, echoing Steve Jobs’ famous statement that he owes much of his “visionary” status and creative spirit to his experiences with LSD.

On it goes. The literature and empirical evidence are vast and downright irrefutable. And science is only beginning to catch up. (Actually, it never really will. But never mind that now).

Could psilocybin become a wonder drug of the near future? Who knows. But one thing seems certain: There’s simply zero chance of these compounds being made in any way legal for the masses. Governments are just too terrified. What’s more, Big Pharma can’t trademark MDMA, or psilocybin, or DMT, or LSD, so of course it’s in their best interest to endure they remain illegal. Can you imagine if some miraculous, easily available natural compound could eliminate the need for all those toxic, expensive drugs, rehab clinics, self-help books and costly psychotherapists? Capitalism shudders.

Shame, really. Because, medical treatment aside, it’s actually the general populace that needs these compounds the most. Let’s just say it outright: We should all be taking mushrooms. Maybe just a little bit, every day.

Why not? In a country ferociously addicted to alcohol, sugar, junk food, reality TV, prescription medication, self-destruction and endless fear of Other, a gentle, natural re-wiring of our exhausted, overstuffed consciousness – in non-addictive, non-violent, soul-honoring ways – could be the answer we didn’t even know we were looking for. Doesn’t that sound nice? You have a better idea?

Read more here:: Re-confirmed! Magic mushrooms transform your brain. Want some?

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford