Sunday, 21 September 2008

Can psilocybin really cause psi? - Part 2: Wasson in Mexico

In relation to “The Sacred Mushroom” film in the last post, the Wassons’ classic and rare book “Mushrooms, Russia and History” has been made available online by the New Alexandria Archive (Vol1 & Vol2). The original two-volume book, published by Pantheon Books in 1957, was limited to 512 copies and was never reprinted, although some university libraries (such as the Bodlian, Oxford) hold copies. This digital edition was scanned from the original and hand corrected by Igor Dolgov, Zachary Jones, and Greg Golden, with thanks to a generous contributor.

Among the intriguing sections on Russian mycophilia and other beautifully illustrated fungal curiosities, this classic text notoriously describes Gordon and Valentina Wasson’s search and discovery of a sacred mushroom cult in Mexico - following a tip off from the English poet and pagan icon Robert Graves. The book describes how the Mexican shaman most often associated with Wasson and the discovery of the psychedelic Psilocybe cubensis cult, Maria Sabina, was actually encountered on R.G. Wasson’s second trip to Huautla, Oaxaca, when he was accompanied by his photographer, Alan Richardson (who had an apparently true prophetic vision when they ate the mushrooms for the first time – see previous post).

However, on his first trip in 1953 Wasson observed a divinatory mushroom ceremony being held by Don Aurulio in which this ‘bemushroomed’ indigenous shaman, to his surprise, told him two things about his son back home that even Wasson could not have known, which later turned out to be true. So even from the very first discovery of psychedelic psilocybin and psilocin-containing mushrooms in the West we have reports of paranormal phenomena (clairvoyance and /or precognition in this case), echoing the ostensibly paranormal experience (out-of-body) of Dr Albert Hofmann when he discovered/invented LSD ten years earlier (
read more about this) – though I suppose this is just coincidence?

(Thanks to Thomas Roberts for the link)

Can psilocybin really cause psi? - Part 1: Puharich in Mexico

Take a look at this classic, late 1950s film footage of the hunt for clairvoyance-inducing mushrooms in the (then) remote wilds of Mexico. Remaining out of the public domain until recently when it surfaced on YouTube in 3 parts, this vintage half-hour show was aired in the US on January 4, 1961 as one of the 96 episodes of the One Step Beyond series.

This episode, “The Sacred Mushroom”, takes its name from a 1959 book by the rogue parapsychologist and US defence intelligence asset, Dr. Andrija Puharich, who conducted research into the use of Amanita muscaria mushrooms for inducing paranormal abilities in the laboratory. The film shows rare footage of Puharich accompanying the director John Newland, an Hawaiian kahuna and some academics, on a journey to the inaccessible regions of rural Oaxaca in search of the magic mushroom-using curanderos - discovered a few years earlier in 1953 by the amateur mycologist Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina.

Puharich had met up with Gordon Wasson in 1955 and arranged for them to conduct a long distance clairvoyance/telepathy experiment between the curanderos on (Psilocybe cubensis) mushrooms in Mexico and the ‘senders’ in Puharich’s lab in the United States. The experiment never happened because Wasson and his photographer, Alan Richardson, ended up taking the mushrooms themselves, becoming the first Westerners to do so, and Richardson had a prophetic vision that apparently came true shortly after - so a different parapsychology experiment occurred.

Not having experimented with Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms himself, Puharich joined Newland in a trip to Mexico for the film sometime between 1959 and 1960, and the footage shows the mushroom shaman apparently revealing paranormal information about the medical history of one of the academics present, Dr Barbara Brown. It appears from her comments at the end of the show that Dr. Brown was certainly convinced by the experience. Amazingly, all the research team also take the mushrooms themselves (apart from Brown) and another Psilocybe shaman tells them where to find a stolen donkey, which looks rather more spurious, particularly due to Puharich’s obvious rigidity in front of the camera (check out his appalling cue card reading at the beginning of the show). In any event this fascinating film is courageous and unique, and no show since has attempted to do anything similar. I'll be giving a public talk on this at Goldsmiths Univeristy, London, on November 18th, 2008.

David Luke (with thanks to Strange Attractor for the link)

The director and host of the series, John Newland, remarked in a 1999 interview with television historian John Muir, “That was our most popular episode. It was a spooky trip. We landed in a tiny airstrip in Mexico near a mission. From there, it was a donkey trip of four days to reach the village. It was a dangerous journey, but we got phenomenal footage.”

When sponsor Alcoa (Aluminium Corporation of America) got antsy about airing the episode (even though psychedelic mushrooms were not illegal at the time) Newland suggested that he should visit a laboratory to take the mushrooms himself and prove that they were not only safe, but might enhance psychic abilities, which was what the show was trying to prove (from

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Goodbye Mum!

I hope the show is just as good on the other side...

Is it goodbye or is it welcome back?
Eternity makes love to hapless time
We just stand still while racing down the track
At once something here, at once just sublime
At once a mother, a daughter, a wife
All sunrise, all moonlight, all day, all night
All of everything that becomes a life
Breathing out pure love, breathing in delight
Assembled from the dust of infinite stars
Merely composed of everything that shines
Everything of our gods is also ours
We’re the grapes when we drink the finest wines
Death is the life that living cannot lack
Is it goodbye or is it welcome back?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Magical summer (mis)adventures

OK so apologies (to both my readers) for the inordinately long delay in logging any posts. Things sure do move fast outside blog time and I’ve been busy making the most of summer, among other things, going to festivals, giving talks, writing papers, going to conferences, giving more talks, and planning and getting funding for some pretty exciting research projects. On the festival scene it was great to go back to Glastonbury this year for the first time since 2003 and view the stone circle from a liberated perspective - this one spot alone changed my life three times already over the years. Mighty blessings to the Bimble Inn crew for greasing the wheels of my adventures.

I also had a great time in Brazil for most of July giving papers at a fascinating conference on parapsychology and altered states in Curitiba. I had a chance to talk to the directors of an amazing Spiritist hospital where they use mediums to channel the voices of conventionally untreatable schizophrenics while the psychotherapist puts the voices in therapy, thereby treating the (absent) patient. I also got to take part in an Umbanda incorporation ceremony (pictured above), a Sante Daime ayahuasca ceremony, and a GuaranĂ­ tobacco ceremony as well as a dream workshop-workshop by Prof. Stan Krippner. With the great support of many people in Brazil I was lucky enough to run some preliminary parapsychology experiments with ceremony participants on ayahuasca, the Amazonian psychedelic decoction that was once called "telepathine" because of the typical paranormal experiences people encounter on it. More on that when the research is complete.

Probably the most adventurous thing that happened in Brazil was a narrow escape from the scalpel of a psychic surgeon who had me terrified at the prospect of an operation where I might have a had a pair of forceps slid all the way into my nasal cavity and twisted round a few times. There wasn’t even the slightest thing wrong with me, though I soon developed apoplectic fear. More on that too some other time. A few more talks at festivals and conferences and I’m back in cyberspace again, so expect a spate of posts…

Chaotes finally stop wearing black in mourning of death of chaos magic!

I didn’t believe it either, but thank Baphomet those crazy chaotes are putting on a great feast of ranting in the day and decanting at night, all for only 30 quid! If you haven't booked yerself in for the Colours of Chaos event yet point your mouse (equally in eight directions) to Colours of Chaos.

This coming Satyrday, 6th September, 2008. Tickets are still available on the door. The day event starts at 11am til 6pm, with evening shamanigans running form 7pm til 10pm. Speakers include chaotes Julian Vayne, Dave Lee, Duncan Barford, Alan Chapman and a host of other curiosities, with talks the likes of “White hair and brown pants: When magic turns paranormal”. Luckily I’m not talking. See you there. Conway Hall, London, WC1.