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Hallucinogen In Mushrooms Creates Universal 'mystical' Experience

edited July 2006 in Consciousness
Hallucinogen In Mushrooms Creates Universal 'mystical' Experience:

Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in "sacred mushrooms" can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries.

PsilocybinThe resulting experiences apparently prompt positive changes in behavior and attitude that last several months, at least.

The agent, a plant alkaloid called psilocybin, mimics the effect of serotonin on brain receptors-as do some other hallucinogens-but precisely where in the brain and in what manner are unknown.


"Human consciousness…is a function of the ebb and flow of neural impulses in various regions of the brain-the very substrate that drugs such as psilocybin act upon," Schuster says. "Understanding what mediates these effects is clearly within the realm of neuroscience and deserves investigation."


The researchers' message isn't just that psilocybin can produce mystical experiences. "I had a healthy skepticism going into this," says Griffiths, "and that finding alone was a surprise." But, as important, he says, "is that, under very defined conditions, with careful preparation, you can safely and fairly reliably occasion what's called a primary mystical experience that may lead to positive changes in a person. It's an early step in what we hope will be a large body of scientific work that will ultimately help people."

On the epistemological validity of the mystic experienceThe authors acknowledge the unusual nature of the work, treading, as it does, a fine line between neuroscience and areas most would consider outside science's realm. "But establishing the basic science here is necessary," says Griffiths, "to take advantage of the possible benefits psilocybin can bring to our understanding of how thought, emotion, and ultimately behavior are grounded in biology."

Griffiths is quick to emphasize the scientific intent of the study. "We're just measuring what can be observed," he says; "We're not entering into 'Does God exist or not exist.' This work can't and won't go there."


"Mystical experience seems to be as old as humankind, forming the core of many if not all of the great religious traditions. Some ancient cultures, such as classical Greece, and some contemporary small-scale cultures, have made use of psychoactive plants and chemicals to occasion such experiences. But this is the first scientific demonstration in 40 years, and the most rigorous ever, that profound mystical states can be produced safely in the laboratory. The potential is great."

Smith also issued a caution and suggested that further research on the topic include social as well as neurological variables: "In the end, it's altered traits, not altered states, that matter. 'By their fruits shall ye know them.' It's good to learn that volunteers having even this limited experience had lasting benefits. But human history suggests that without a social vessel to hold the wine of revelation, it tends to dribble away. In most cases, even the most extraordinary experiences provide lasting benefits to those who undergo them and people around them only if they become the basis of ongoing work. That's the next research question, it seems to me: What conditions of community and practice best help people to hold on to what comes to them in those moments of revelation, converting it into abiding light in their own lives?" - link to full article


  • edited July 2006
    Here's a more holistic approach - applying a similar integral value to 'mystical' experience:
    Integral thought (also called the integral paradigm, the integral movement, the integral approach, or integralism) is comprised of those philosophies and teachings that seek a comprehensive understanding of humans and the universe by combining scientific and spiritual insights. According to the Integral Transformative Practice website, integral means "dealing with the body, mind, heart, and soul."

    Integral thought is seen by proponents as going beyond rationalism and materialism. It attempts to introduce a more universal and holistic perspective or approach. Proponents view rationalism as subordinating, ignoring, and/or denying spirituality. Ken Wilber, one of the most prominent contemporary integral thinkers, begins by acknowledging and validating mystical experience, rather than denying its reality. As these experiences have occurred to humans in all cultures in all eras, integral theorists accept them as valuable and not pathological. Integral thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin, Wilber and others argue that both science and mysticism (or spirituality) are necessary for complete understanding of humans and the universe.


    "The remarkable modern capacity for differentiation and discernment that has been so painstakingly forged must be preserved, but our challenge now is to develop and subsume that discipline in a more encompassing, more magnanimous intellectual and spiritual engagement with the mystery of the universe. Such an engagement can happen only if we open ourselves to a range of epistemologies that together provide a more multidimensionally perceptive scope of knowledge. To encounter the depths and rich complexity of the cosmos, we require ways of knowing that fully integrate the imagination, the aesthetic sensibility, moral and spiritual intuition, revelatory experience, symbolic perception, somatic and sensuous modes of understanding, empathic knowing. Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the modern self's own will to power." - Richard Tarnas, "Cosmos and Psyche"
  • THE SKY IS BLUE!! When it's not grey or black or orange. What keeps me from being sober anywhere near an academician is the scope of the vanity. So in love with their own righteousness that, like a whorechild, the universe is expected to give herself only to them. And then a certain japanese (woodcut?) image that will haunt my nightmares...of the virgin taken and killed.
    Or, on a lighter note, another image that i'll never lose, I've used it here before..'welcome to mastermind, Sybil Fawlty...your topic, the bleedin' obvious'
    If you see buddha on the road then kill him give him a break
    there's only one way to get adrenochrome
    we're not in kansas anymore
  • I haven't had a cigarette today
  • I tend to imagine you as some sort of hyperreal, noncorporeal being Mr. What?... Yet your existence so seems to rest on the manner of stimulant you have recently ingested this cannot be the case.

    What? - Mystic or Matter?
  • edited July 2006
    All is congruent, not merely equal. Any stimulant is no more than a neuromodulator found in our extended physiology, by which I mean everything we will ever ingest, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, or excrete for that matter.
    But we must be selective (free will). I like what jim Morrison said..'stay away from the white powder'. For instance, I have always refused heroin by explaining that if my pain were removed, there would be nothing left.
    There is a good case to be made, in the conspiritorial style, that heroin and speed were used to derail the 60's counterculture...I am often amused by the claim that that movement died out..what would the world today be like without that great social rebellion?
    Otherwise, remember, though our heads may reach the stars, we still have feet of clay.
    Carl Jung has some really useful stuff to say about what he calls the 'shadow', the dark side of our psyche, if you try to lock it away, it Will escape and possess you like Jimmy Swaggart in a motel room.
    And finally, I am hyperreal and noncorporeal, like any Ipsissimus, but I can't work out whether I'm imprisoned here or just on holiday.
  • As someone who has partaken in the psilocybin experience I'll have to disagree with the concept of it being a "mystical" experience, while I found it quite profound and life changing, mystical comes along with the connotations that concepts that are not of the users minds are being brought in from elsewhere, in my experience it felt like the usual stream of consious perception (especially visual, auditory, haptic) were being filtered and distorted as to reorganize information that was already there.

    For anyone further interested in the concept of drug induced mystical experiences I highly recommend the work/lectures of Terrence Mckenna
    podcast which regularly posts lectures done by terrence mckenna which are known to touch on the subject

    Fairly comprehensive terrence mckenna site

    Information on psychoactive chemicals said to induce such "mystical" states

  • edited August 2006
    Another blast from the past...McKenna, another name with which to conjure, and off away so young, so it goes. Much enjoying that middle site. Just dug out an old Alan Watts autobiography triggered by the above...spontaneous association.
    As for the word 'mystical' connoting the importation of concepts as opposed to internally generated conceptual responses to sensorria,,,I dunno...I'm become compulsively non-local, everything is everywhere all at once.
    I'm under compusion again...another boring old fart anecdote is brewing and needs to be expelled...
    One balmy night, more'n thirty year friend Kurt and I sat down and divvied up fouteen beautiful 7-8inch dia. goldtops. Eating half of every mushroom each to ensure equal dosage. By eight o'clock, we've gagged them down and are smoking a joint and waiting.
    Now Kurt gets a little short of breath and decides he needs to use my primitive asthma inhaler, which he does, about twenty times the recommended dose. Palpitations and general distress set in just as he is starting to feel the effects of the mushrooms. What follwed was four hours of him freaking out and me talking him down. During this time he peaked three or four times and it was all a pain in the arse for me. But I felt absolutely no hint of mushroom...not a jot.
    Around midnight, he was coming down a bit, we sat at the table talking about the night, wonering why I had felt nothing. The simplest explaination was that his emergency had triggered an override in my brain, allowing me to play doctor and preventing any trip.
    Right then I felt a tingling in the soles of my feet. It came on like a volcanic eruption, taking maybe ten seconds to rise up my legs, hit the base of the spine, up to the head.
    All that I could say was 'look out, here it comes'.
    When the uprush hit my head I was off upwards out of the body, I rocketed up for an appreciable time, before finding myself breaking through a monumental tiled floor. My awareness hovered around this tiny crack in an infinite plain. I looked up and saw that I seemed to be in a vast irridescent indigo cathedral.
    In front of me stood five towering figures, the one second from the right said, 'Now that you're here, what do you think?' My reaction?...the worst terror, absolutely blasted, I was. I fell back to earth at a million miles an hour, my soul screaming etcetera....
    The rest of the trip, which lasted until after dawn, was spent stareing back at the living cosmos which was manifesting to me as eyes. Eyes regarding me with cold contempt, scolding eyes that completely covered every surface around me. I got stared down by God and I was gutted. I know what it's like to confront the machinery of my unconscious, a bit, and I reckon that the entities in the cathedral were other, they were not creatures of my imagination. And as for the hard mother behind all those cold eyes, I am grateful to have been chastised so gently.... and I am trying to behave myself*.

    *always found that a fascinating loqution
  • good god, sounds like the experience truly took its gloves off to do a work-out on you there, maybe the experience lends itself differently from person to person, im not a neurochemist so its all pretty speculatory, but jeese, thats rough.

    Well if were sharing stories, I think ive got a pretty up and down one to tell. When I tried it I decided to do it by myself (turned out a mistake) with a pen, paper and computer on a sunny day in winter (doing it in winter another terrible idea). I had obtained these psychedelic truffles from mushrooms which contained concentrated amounts of psilocybin, the active ingredient in the mushrooms (along with psilocin). For about 20 minutes I walked around my room feeling fine, thinking the place I had purchased them from had burnt me on the pack, prodding me to take more of the truffles (3 grams was the recommended dose, I took another 2 grams, big mistake 3).

    Sitting around a little more I decided to get up seedily and go outside and get a little air, I stayed out there a little while and watched a tree which took on a grandness in a sense, as if it were taking up all of my vision. I turned my head away to the ground and for a moment watched as the grass got up and tried to crawl away.

    Walking back inside over the next few hours I watched my tiled floors blow sand across the surface, as if in a temple in a desert location, I stared at the fixtures in the corners of the room as they danced, and the patterns on the couch interweave and dance while the physical structure of the couch itself stay inert. At this point I put on some music in the room and sat back and watched the room some more. The tiled floor took on a traditional circus feel as they became aqua and rust brown checkered and the room filled with neon colours (pinks, oranges and aquas), it was as if the chemical were filtering through a different place into the space I was vacating, like a mix between a circus and a hippy bedroom. Up to this point it was light hearted and philosophical.

    Strangely enough a slightly more depressing song came on and it philosophically took me into a mindstate where I regretted taking the chemical, I huddled in front of the gas heater in the room and wondered what I had done to myself, and I felt shame on myself for doing this thing. At this point I walked between rooms of the house and looked at myself in the mirror, and watched as I devolved into some hairy protean beast, at this point its hard to explain but I felt some crucial part of my intellechy or emotional self melt away and I saw what humankind was, beyond all its intelligence, that it was just another animal and predictable in every way mathematically and structurally.

    At this point being thouroughly horrified I hopped into bed, where for an hour I became a lobster creature, somewhat like zoidberg in the series futurama. My bed was my seabed and I watched as red light filtered through my bedsheets through the window, trees outside took on a wavy coral motion, random objects in my room took on a sealike connotations.

    Still being terrified I got out of bed and took a few tablets of vitamin C to abort the experience as best as possible and took a shower, still seeing visual distortions. For the next while I sat and watched tv to try and get myself away from the unhinged state I was in and allieviate some of the horror.

    It felt like I was taught a rough truth about human nature, and from that point I too have been behaving myself, as it were.

    Im going to have to look into a little of that alan watts, his name rings a bell, I love tracing down strange bits and pieces through the internet...
  • YaHa! What fun...trips ain't meant to be easy, they're an adventure! a challenge! Stuff sailing around the world, give me a trip anyday. But not everyday of course. Hallucenogens addictive? forget takes an effort of will to face the beast.
    But for all the terror...ahh the glory! that makes it all worthwhile. Next time the anecdote demon strikes I'll go for a description of my first and best experience. After seeing what I did that first time, I know how to survive, even if it's a struggle.
    Now I'm starting to wonder if LSD+WWW might not be an interesting experiment...soon find out then if the bugger is alive!
  • Ah the experiences!

    I haven't had my mind tendrills stretched for a good three years or so, that is unless you count alcoholic sustinence.

    I love the yin and yang nature of the trip, that state of mind and environment can see you cowering in a ball with the lights off or alternatively running through the forests screaming out at the universe to notice you. Of course many people in sober states have experienced fear and terror far beyond the quality of any 'bad trip' but in what other ways can you come to the very brink of your consciousness, to a point where even reality itself appears to be about to self detonate, and then come back to the (apparent) firmness of your feet, changed internally only?

    I love the idea of the 'coming of age' ceremonies of some South American peoples. Every decade or so a family will venture out on a kind of pilgrimage to the peyote cactus. A sure fire way to give the universe your exact coordinates. The Western equivalent to this is not even worth pondering. Beer, in all its glory, has added very little to the metaphysical (perhaps a better word than 'mystical') realm of the senses.
  • We humans are so adaptable...After training from the fungi, I swear I have been able to use Beer to precipitate mystical insight. Look at the great poets, all the great writers of magical prose, most of the philosophers....all pissed.
    A couple of interesting tidbits from the Alan Watts book I mentioned elsewhere...Bertrand Russel would knock back a fifth of scotch a day, japanese zen monasteries would, when appropriate, throw an all night booze and bull session.
    Chogyam Trungpa, the best selling author and specifically reincarnated tibetan lama died at about my age of alcoholism, so best not get too cocky...
  • edited March 2012
    edited . peace!
  • Ah, I've been trying to get a hold of some psilocybin mushroom's all year, but to no avail. 'Tis difficult over here also.

    Nonetheless, I've had some absolutely amazing experiences on E … it unites you with the inherent physical harmony of the universe, dropping you weightlessly into a pool of corporal and mental nirvana… but it’s all about the music you use to enhance it (none of that rave stuff, let me tell you…)
  • One of the things which enhances hallucinogens and cannabis alike is their inherent capacities for narrative. Alchohol creates its narratives on a one-to-one event ratio (we tell stories of 'that night...' or 'do you remember the party...' etc).

    Cannabis has a little more depth than this I feel. A 'subculture' builds up around it, people who use it think in a similarly disconnected/connected way (depending how you look at it) narratives arise because thoughts flow together somehow.

    E, Cocaine and other stimulants have cultures surrounding them too, but rarely do these cultures extend outside the actual consumption of the drug. I despised all parties at university where people would wait for the drugs until they started having fun. Alcohol and cannabis sidetrack this because they are slow building, true lubricants in a sense, whereas the hard stimulants are taken and impact in one hunk of time.

    Hallucinogens seem to live in their own world as far as narratives go. If you haven't taken them it is hard to understand them, however many stories you hear. The world they create is often completely transcendant of this one, the narratives which arise seem to become universes of their own in time. Trips never fade the way alcohol or E memories do. They are too deeply engrained for that.

    I know this is all vague opinion on my part, but narrative is important for me. As I've said a lot on this forum and elsewhere a modern shared narrative would help bring our multifaceted world to a shared reality. I reckon the incorporation of hallucinogens into our culture, to even a tiny degree, might acheive this as a mere side effect of the 'insanity' which would occur.

    What narrative is compatiable?
  • wow, its good to see the discussion that has developed, I'll have to agree that whilst cannibis and beer are both great social lubricants theyre fairly background, they seem to effect, for a lack of better words, the variables around the mind, such as verboseness, emotional state, and coordination, whereas the hallucinogens are anything but background, they seem to grab you by the shirt-collar and say "LOOK!, LOOK AT IT ALL YOU DUMB APE, LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE!".

    While most of us are terrified by the state grabbing us in such a way we also see the change of state and you do see that yes what we have is beautiful and that yes the rabbit hole gets deeper.

    As for stuff such as E and cocaine ive never really been all that interested, as ive heard E can be damaging to the physical brain, harvesting dendritic spines from neurons, which kind of gives me a warning of the long term uses and cocaine I hear is so good it becomes an expensive habit (and bands have been known to make shit music whilst under the influence.).
  • Yes Yes Yes I can't wait for my hands to stop shaking.,/;
  • Looks like what? tried the LSD/WWW combo...
  • We have a wine glut in australia, $2A/litre...dangerous...For the first time in a decade I had some acid last year, most enlightening, but I'm in no hurry to do it again anytime soon. I have to stay away from the computer when drunk so as not to inflict incoherent bullshit upon the world.
    I took some MDMA in '75, well before it was named E. For twenty+ years I was saying it was crap and a waste of time until my old friend Kurt,from the earlier anecdote, reappeared after twenty years and told me that I'd had a wonderful time...memory? oh dear.
  • I too have had quite a few hallucinogenic encounters. Actually I was just thinking, do they call it a 'trip' because your mind takes a holiday? I always found the effect from mushies to be fairly unpredictable, and not at all in proportion to their size for example. I much preferred them to acid though, they just seem cleaner somehow, and cheaper. Did I hear someone say that they actually bought them, I never thought of mushies as being something someone would sell. But I s'pose, if you don't live anywhere near cows...

    As for mystical experiences - I've also had lots of those and I do think they had a profound, lasting effect on my way of thinking. I was a bit of a flower child when I was younger and I just loved communing with nature when I was tripping. I remember having D & M conversations with trees; and wonderful rambling discussions punctuated by great flashes of enlightenment. What I'm getting at is that I think that the way you're affected by these mystical experiences depends a lot on your intrinsic nature, even though, I agree, it does get altered by the impending experience. But I think you keep heading along the track that you started on, even though you might meander up some side-tracks along the way just to see what's up there. Tripping helps expand your thinking and makes you feel like you are connecting with the world and indeed the Universe in a very real way.

    I loved it, its like some wonderful show that only you can see, and no-one else can feel exactly what you're feeling, but you wish you could convey to everyone how wonderful it is, and how you know now that there's really nothing to worry about; that all the things we stress over are so incredibly petty and insignificant. The thing is, there is poison in the suckers, so maybe Mr What? really was heading off into the Cosmos on a nearly 1 way ticket and the only thing that stopped you was that you got scared shitless and zoomed back along your silver safety line like it was a bungy cord! I soon learnt to prepare for the experience by setting the scene - wear comfortable, flowy clothes; be with close friends and have someone reasonably straight around; be in safe, comfortable surroundings and have great music; plus be in the right head-space [mood] before you start. They really should put that stuff in the Manual.
  • They do put it in the manual...but I'm one of those idiots who won't pay any attention to instructions. And the trees! I don't know how many times I've talked to trees, in that wonderful telepathic way, wordless but full of meaning.
    There is strychnine in the Goldies but not enough to shut down a body...then I don't think you need it, being out there is undoubtedly fucking dangerous...thankfully that's what the silver cord is there for. It drags us back, like it or not.
    I can't think of a more efficient and accurate word than 'trip' , it carries that ambiguity, not only a holiday, but also a sudden precipitous plunge.
    I used to think that the experience was much the same for everyone, but it is do keep heading along the track you started on...which I suppose is why shamans fast and prepare so completely before going.

    You know getting afraid like I did has pissed me off for a long time, I wish I could have stayed...I think the fear may have been my way of perceiving a large indigo boot connecting with my astral arse.
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