Psilocybin ‘Magic’ mushrooms are a psychedelic fungi that has existed for tens of thousands of years. They have been used for ceremonial purposes by shamanic cultures in South America as well as in Africa since the earliest recorded history of mankind. In fact, in the Tassili plateau in the Sahara of Northern Algeria there are cave paintings dating back to 5000 BC depicting mushrooms.
There are more than 180 species which contain psilocybin and psilocin — the psychoactive ingredients in mushrooms. Their potency depends on several factors, including the species or variety, origin, age, and growing conditions. Tripping on them depends on other things such as dosage, set, setting, physical condition, energy levels, and more importantly, it differs from someone to another.
More information on Mushrooms can be found on this Live Science Article.
My own first experience with shrooms was during my late teens in California. I had shared an eight of a gram with a friend as we were instructed and had quite a pleasant trip. However, I was more drawn to LSD, which I had the chance to first try around the same age.
I tried shrooms again a couple of times in Egypt but they were not really potent. Then a few years later in Amsterdam where they were sold legally in coffee shops along with marijuana and hash. The commercial doses there were 0.9 gm per zip-lock, simply because they didn't want people losing it. My friends and I would always buy three or four doses and share them between the two of us.
Trips were fun, some colours and some distortion and some laughter. But that was that. Unlike LSD, you don't really go that deep into your head; the whole trip only lasts several hours, then afterwards we can have a nice dinner before sleeping without any problem. You also wake up fresh and revitalized, while on LSD one feels like they are still tripping throughout the next day.
This ‘lightness’ was one main reason most girls I knew preferred mushrooms to LSD.
A year later, we happened to share 15 grams between three people. This was more fun than any of the other trips. And when I say fun, I mean objects start ‘breathing,’ a little confusion, and how magical the music sounds.
However, because in some parts of the world there are no mushrooms, it was hard find them around. When they did appear, the doses rarely exceeded 2-3 grams, sometimes even less, because usually there is not enough for everyone.
So again, being much more potent, dosage wise, LSD remained my preferred psychedelic. After all, it was what took me to the other side of the moon. However, as I came to find out later in life, the other side of the moon on mushrooms goes much deeper into the rabbit hole. For it goes way back in time and space into the collective, and natural, history of mankind, and not just to 1938 or 1943.
Years have passed and I went to live in Canada. I tried mushrooms there a couple of times and they were alright, nothing too potent. Though it was pretty much the same doses of 2-3 grams.
And then once, a friend was able to get a pound. A Whole Pound.
We didn't try them until one day there was a Phish concert and we decided to do it then. Not being too crazy about tripping in public anymore, I was not too excited about it. But, we had a whole lot and there was a concert, so, we went along with the plan.
About 30 minutes before leaving the house, we ate the mushrooms. I remember holding the huge zip-lock to pick some, and the bag was full. I guess I lost track and ate more than what I usually do. I remember the shrooms were huge and had plenty of blueish/green marking — meaning they are full of psilocybin. Then right before leaving, I opened the bag again and took a little more. Yeah.
We got ready and hopped into a cab heading to the concert. By the time we reached the place I was dying to pee, so we headed straight to the main gate of the venue. To our surprise, all gates were shut and security guards were standing around it. They said that the concert has been cancelled due to heavy rains the day prior.
At the time I was beginning to feel some confusion. I didn't really register what was said and was fixated on peeing. When my ex-partner and her friend explained to me a moment later, I gathered what had happened. We then went further were people were gathering by the parking lot and an adjacent park and where I finally found a place behind a tree to relieve myself.
The two girls met another friend and wanted to stay a bit. They had some music on and were sitting in that park with other people. I didn't really feel like it, and thought that going back home to spend time with the four dogs would be ideally more peaceful. I told them that I'll cab it home and that I'm totally kool with them staying.
As I walked further to find the cab, my ex called me saying that they'll come join me. She came five minutes later while her friend was waiting for someone who was getting beer. So we sat on the grass for a bit and that was when I started to feel physically uneasy. Not the anticipation butterfly feeling you usually get before tripping, but a much heavier fog was coming onto me.
Having spent six long days in a Real Jail in Canada, I sure didn't want any trouble and decided that I needed to go home. I felt that what was about to happen was going to be intense — probably because I had never felt this way before during my 20 years of experimenting with psychedelics. I told this to the girls, so we got up, stopped a cab and got in.
By the end of the ride, I remember uttering the word “Ya Rab”, meaning “O' God”. Saying something like this out loud, in Arabic, is very unlike me. But apparently I said it a few times.
Once we arrived, I had trouble walking from the cab to the house. It seemed like my body was not responding to my brain. It was not like having no balance as it happened with Sakarana (Hyoscyamus muticus). But it was a feeling of disconnection between mind and body. My body kept feeling heavier with every step along the way, and the girls had to help me get into the house and up the stairs.
Then, according to them, I was out for three hours.
|Psilocybin mushrooms were known by The Aztecs as ‘God’s Flesh’|
I don't recall many details during this time, but I do remember a few instances like flashes of a missing puzzle.
At some point, I started acting like a reptilian; sticking my tongue out like an All Black performing the fearsome Haka. Apparently, my neck was also playing along and embodying the reptilian fit I was in. The body load sensation was still there and it kept getting heavier.
In my head, languages, words, and concepts have lost all their meanings — they did not make sense. What I was experiencing was highly inexplicable and incommunicable. So I don't think I even tried.
As for my consciousness, it was out there spread across the cosmos, merging with everything else. I was not in the room for those few hours. Though I would have certainly never known how much I stayed in that room if they hadn't told me later; for time didn't mean anything.
Then, I had a surreal, overpowering feeling that my consciousness is leaving my body and heading upwards to the stars. But it appeared to me that it was going to be a one-way trip. Of course this was a poetic way to put it. In other words, I was dying.
At the time, the out-of-body sensation left my psyche with two options: Either fight it, but due to what had been happening to me, I already knew I didn't have that power. Or, accept it and leave gracefully towards what really is. I then recalled The Tibetan Book of the Dead and how acceptance is key in making the soul's journey seamless, simply because there is no reason or purpose to fight.
So that was it. Your time on Planet Earth is up. Embrace the experience and head to the stars where you have always belonged...I thought to myself.
I looked at my ex and told her: “I'm sorry” [that I can't fight and can't be the one who is usually in control]. Then I told her: “La Illaha Illa Allah,” meaning, “There is no deity but God”. This is usually a phrase loved ones share between them before they part on a journey.
Again, this was very unlike me, especially saying it to her. My grandma used to tell me that a long time ago as a kid, sometimes my mother or aunt, but it appears that I was sincerely ready to take off and possibly become a star.
Then all of a sudden I sense a slap on my face, which sort of made me snap out of whatever I was in. I also think I heard a ‘No’ as I was slapped.
I smiled and told her not to do it again. But I did regain some of my consciousness.
According to her, this was the second slap and that three hours had passed since we were back home. Having never seen me so out of control, the poor girl didn't know how to deal and started to weep. Seeing this, I snapped out of it even more and asked about what had happened. As both girls tried to explain, I slowly began to come back to my senses, yet significantly still perplexed.
Language made more sense by then and I was able to form somewhat meaningful sentences. I truly felt like a child right after birth as I was confused about who I am at the core. So I started questioning the girls.
This, I believe, is the aftermath of the Ego Death — its dissolution — which is a complete, yet temporary, loss of subjective self-identity. It is the death of the sense of self, of who you think you are, your individuality. This is a common feature of high doses of entheogens.
“What am I doing?” I asked the two girls.
“Right now or in your life in general?
Both. But in Life more.” [I left all I had in Egypt and traveled to the unknowns of Canada, without having any plans and without knowing what I would do] was what on my mind then, though I was not able to word it.
“Well, you're a brilliant writer”, my ex first said. Later, she told me that she had particularly picked the word ‘brilliant’ because it is one of my favourites and to give me a sense of familiarity.
She then put The Beatles on and called Caramella, my late Cocker Spaniel, in an attempt to remind me of myself. Though I was told later that the music had been playing for a while, but obviously I could not hear it.
Slightly gaining more clarity, I went on.
“So what happened today?”
They once again told me about the missing part, which is from the cab to the slap — this time with a bit more details.
“Why did I take so much? It is something in me. I always like to take a lot from everything” [psychoactive substance wise], I self-reflected.
“And with all I have done in my life, that means I'm really crazy in the head”, I proceeded with the introspection.
“Yes you are. And that's fine, it's OK.” She comforted me.
My eyes widened and I looked at her with a certain child-like amazement, as if I had never thought of this before.
“Yeahhhh...it is OK. It's who I am and what I am”, remembering who I am at the very core.
After 10 minutes of this rebirth moment, I felt slightly more alive and in control. I really wanted to take a shower and “clean up” the energy. My ex was worried I fall in the shower, but I already knew I was fine, so I got naked and hoped in.
Before I do so, I got a natural urge to get naked with both girls and have a big bubble bath. My ex, however, laughed it off and it never happened. I think the other girl wouldn't have minded it.
Once out of the shower, more clarity invaded my mind and I began reliving what had transpired those last several hours.
I remember being overcome by such gratitude to be alive — to be Here and Now. I remember uttering the phrase: “Capture The Moment” multiple times. Tears were happily flowing down my cheeks.
In a way, I found out that there is a mighty fine line between what we call ‘life’ and what we call ‘death’; equally, that the transition could happen anytime. I further realized that it is most likely a beautiful thing.
I was also exceedingly grateful that the concert had been cancelled. I cannot even begin to imagine being so out there in a stadium full of people.
Throughout all of my past trips, I have already experienced the effects of psychedelics in catalyzing a sense of oneness and interconnectedness with everything. I have also experienced God and The Kingdom of Heaven within me. This time, however, it was a clear reminder that I have been right for all these years.
The spiritual effects of psilocybin have been studied numerous times. In one study at Johns Hopkins University, one third of the subjects said the experience was the most spiritually significant of their lives; while over two thirds said it was in their top five most significant. In addition, 79 per cent reported increased well-being in the months following the study.
Decades earlier, Timothy Leary had directed the Concord Prison Experiment, which was conducted by a team of Harvard University researchers between 1961 and 1963. Along with psychotherapy, psilocybin was administered to young prisoners in attempt to inspire them to leave their antisocial lifestyles behind once they were released. Results were positive here as well.
Today, organizations like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) have achieved considerable results in the domain of psychedelic therapy. They are conducting Psilocybin-assisted Psychotherapy to treat anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses and end-of-life. They also treat people with PTSD through MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
This “Heroic Dose” experience left a mark on me like no other trip before. At the time, I had already taken LSD more than 65 times and mushrooms about 40. So I considered myself an experienced psychonaut. But I had never, ever, “went out” in such a way. Even with large doses of LSD, I always knew down deep inside that I was tripping. Perhaps the only few times I worried for a little bit was when I thought that I would never go back to being ‘sane’. But that was it. Then again, what is ‘sanity’ anyways?
Even though the shedding of my ego was something I would experience almost every trip, but this time, you see, there was no ‘I’. That's why I'm calling it Ego Death. There was no “I'm tripping,” or worry, or fear. I was literally some place else. Somewhere into a sort of ethereal, divine hyperdimensional space full of weird creatures and geometrical figures. And, I was not afraid of dying. Not that I did before, but I actually anticipate it now, one could dare saying.
The message which I came back with was relayed to me though the mushroom: “Capture the moment” — in the sense of living the Here and Now. Living each and every moment. Truly. Wholly. Madly. For this physical life on Earth is just a ride.
The afterglow of this intense experience stayed with me for many days. I reached out to some family members and old friends, asking about them out of the blue. And in general, I felt rejuvenated like I haven't in a long time. The trip has certainly enriched me with some valuable existential insights and newer perspectives.
When we lose ourselves, we find ourselves. The key is to trust our own madness.
“The act of government and religion is to fill that void beyond death with threats of a rather unspecified nature, so that we can rule people by saying ‘If you don't do exactly what I say I'll kill you’. And so long as we can be scared of that, and so long as we can be made to think of death as a bad thing we can be ruled. And that is why no government likes mystics. Because if we define the mystic as the person who is no longer scared of death, because the mystic in the simplest possible language is the person that understands you have to have nothing to have something. So you can't fundamentally scare the mystic with death, because, see, what end can it all come too? Whats all the trouble about? The most it can come to is nothing.”
— Alan Watts
— Alan Watts
The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries]
The Egyptian Man Who Kept a Piece of Hash in His Stomach for Four Years
Why We Should Not Fear Death