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An Account of the Magic Mushroom

High Deer - by Peter Bergson High Deer - Image Courtesy of Peter Bergson

This account of my, 'my', experience of magic mushrooms begins on a walk with my brother through paths and fields in an isolated Cornish landscape. It's late October and the weather is particularly foggy. We turn into a grazed set of fields facing north. I was later to discover that this set of conditions is the ideal for the occurrence of the most common, and amongst the most potent, magic mushroom in the British Isles: Psilocybe semilanceata, or, the Liberty Cap

Fortunately my brother was an amateur mycologist and so immediately recognised the distinctive appearance of these little fungi: a cream colouration throughout the thin, crooked stem and the bell-shaped cap. Most distinctive though was the 'nipple' apex. We spent a few hours gathering a hundred or so specimens. At home I placed them to dry and began reading about the organism, chiefly to gauge the safety of its ingestion.

A few days later, on a Sunday afternoon now in London, I mix about forty-five of the 'shrooms', as is their colloquialism, into three pots of yoghurt, to avoid their earthy taste. My girlfriend is with me in our flat – it is important that she is in my company as a loving anchor to reality, 'reality', as my studies indicated that deep fear can arise in rare cases.

After an hour not much has occurred. I feel somewhat light but not much else. I read the newspaper but lose interest. Half an hour later I begin to feel disappointment because I am not experiencing the effects I had read others experience. But now a drunken state befalls me and I simply want it to end. If I had wanted to become drunk, I should have enjoyed the taste of a fine beer as well, rather than the muddiness of dried fungus. As a result, I have a slight anxiety simply to return to my usual state of mind. But then I decide to consider this anxiety as a phase of the trip I realised was now, two hours later, emerging. The anxiety left and the journey began.

I should say now that this new state of being consisted of a variety of quite different phases, both mentally and physically (if I may for now use that standard dichotomy). It was as if I had taken several distinct drugs one after the other, although certain features were constant such as spatial and temporal distortion. The first phase in fact began with spatial distortion. I looked at the printer whilst sitting at my desk and it seemed to expand slightly, then retract, as if (I think now) it had a rib cage and lungs within so to breathe. I then turned to the right and stared at a paper yellow, lit lampshade. Its two-tone yellow texture suddenly became three dimensional, having a depth of a centimetre or so. Fantastical interwoven streams flowed thereon, resembling a choreographed serpent dance or an animated Celtic, Nordic and Saxon weave design, as witnessed on historic jewellery and weapons. It is speculated that the Vikings at least took another hallucinogenic, or entheogenic, fungus – the Fly Agaric – which induced the berserker rage where the warrior became one with his wolf or bear shirt ('ber-serk'). To speculate, perhaps the mushroom also influenced the Northern European design style.

Next, I stood up but noticed that I had lost some control of my body. My movements were slow and clumsy. I slumped on the sofa and closed my eyes. I was overcome by a rich, deep, warm, loving calmness. I felt more comfortable than I have ever felt in my thirty years of life. I knew that my partner was close to me so I had no reason for an anxiety caused by feeling out of control. That sofa was so perfect, as was the room temperature, as was everything. This sweet happiness lasted with me for most of the trip, but there on that couch I embraced it fully. Here as well time now distorted in the sense that I did not know whether I had immersed myself in the calm for a few minutes or a few hours.

The next step down the rabbit hole revealed what seemed to be a portal to another reality. What I experienced with my eyes closed far exceeded what I experienced with those wide-pupiled eyes open. I 'saw' the most awe-inspiring patterns and space-scapes, perpetually in motion. I witnessed gigantic, multicoloured layers, now and again becoming more directly three-dimensional. It's difficult to describe, but sometimes a three-dimensional image became properly three dimensional, such as the difference between seeing a three-dimensional object on television and seeing it in everyday reality. At that point, I felt as if it were therefore real (though I shall qualify that adjective later, as well as the personal pronoun).

In this inner world, where I felt as if I travelled through the universe, I at one point arrived at a super-structure of pointy luminescent sheets which converged at a centre point, like a star-sized, wide mechanical rose. This structure was a sentience, however, an alien being who tried to communicate with me. I here thought that perhaps (I was not certain) our search for alien life was restricted as humanity was only looking for it in the eyes-open world, the world Immanuel Kant calls Phenomena. Rather, we should realise that this other world I was accessing was the one which aliens used to make contact. Again, I was aware that I was speculating and certainly did not have the conviction of certainty that William James labelled noetic for mystical experiences. I didn't know, I considered. But, as epistemology reveals, we cannot know, be certain of, much at all even in the phenomenal world. Even the great empiricist David Hume understood the problem of induction and causation which afflicts the science of men. A wishful thinker could have easily interpreted his experiences here as evidence of aliens, or even of God.

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Peter runs his own graphic design company HobGob Graphics. If you want truly shroomtastic graphics that are out of this world visit the site now.

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