Its been a mushroomy fall

October 10, 2018

Dave Gillan sent me a photo recently of a fairy ring of mushrooms behind the Lingo realty office one Kings Highway in Lewes. Moist conditions in late summer and early fall made for a good crop this year. Mushrooms have a magical mystique about them and when they show up in a circle that only adds to their Merlinesque allure.

I just finished reading a book recently by Michael Pollan titled How To Change Your Mind.  It provides a comprehensive history of psychedelic substances including those included in psilocybin mushrooms (not fairy ring mushrooms).  Pollan, author of an illuminating New Yorker article three years ago called Trip Treatment, chronicles in his new book the amazing work being done with mind-altering psychedelic drugs - primarily in the psychiatric field - to treat depression, addiction problems, and anxiety in terminally ill patients.  Deep journalist that he is, Pollan also describes his own experiences with psilocybin mushrooms and a couple of other psychedelic substances during the research for his book.

The word ‘ineffable’ frequently arises in descriptions of psychedelic experiences.  Basically, it means that the experiences often cannot be described with words.  That characteristic of a psychedelic experience is often used to determine in blind tests whether the subject actually had a mind-altering experience.

Pollan chronicles psychedelic use as far back as thousands of years ago.  One of the people he discusses posits that religion may have started when human beings thousands of years ago had transcendental experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms or other plants containing psychoactive substances.

He also discusses the use of micro-doses of LSD by certain Silicon Valley firms because of the mind-opening and creative experiences such doses can elicit.

Another word that comes up a lot is entropy, especially as related to a portion of the brain that has been labeled the default mode network.  Researchers have found that network to be significant in maintaining our sense of ego - our conscious sense that we are separate beings beyond just our physical selves.  And it’s that sense of ego that plays a major role in our personal sense of survival.  In my understanding, psychedelics can affect the default mode network, lessening its dominance in our brains and in so doing expanding our minds to the point of experiencing that ‘ineffable’ sense that we are not, in reality, separate beings but rather all part of a universal soul.  Entropy enters the picture because in the mind-expanded state, there is less energy, or heat, in that default mode network part of the brain as measured by brain wave studies. That entropic change means less activity and allows other activities in the brain - at least temporarily - to play greater roles in our perceptions.  Researchers have also determined that the entropy change in the default mode network  takes place in those who go into deep meditative trances.

The Beatles sang: “I am you and you are me and we are we and we are altogether . . . I am the egg man, I am the egg man, I am the walrus, kookookuchoo.”

My favorite avatar Meher Baba writes:  “Pour your drop into my ocean and become the ocean which in reality you are.”

That connectedness is the ultimate universal theme. My humble opinion. 

Pollan, who also wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma a number of years ago, has presented revolutionary and pioneering work in both the 2015 Trip Treatment article and in his book How To Change Your Mind which amounts to a far broader discussion of psychedelics and the resurgence of their use in mental health fields, and, tangentially, by those interested in further exploring the frontiers of their mind.

I’ve never heard that the mushrooms that show up in fairy rings are psilocybin or psychedelic mushrooms. What I do know is that many mushrooms are poisonous and it’s not a good idea to eat any mushroom found in the wild unless you’re expert at identifying them.  The Missouri Botanical Garden says this about fairy ring mushrooms: “Approximately 50 species of fungi are known to form fairy rings in turf, with Marasmius oreades, Agaricus campestris, Lycoperdon spp., and Scleroderma spp. being the most common.”

I’m not saying that reading this blog expanded your mind significantly, but maybe just a little.