A meme was doing the rounds online a while ago, attributed to motivational American creator Mark Markson, and it went like this: ‘The greatest misunderstanding about LSD is that it makes you hallucinate real things: dinosaurs in cars, cherry trees in your living room… But this isn’t the case. LSD effects perception and perspective. One won’t necessarily see huge things which aren’t there. One sees, in a multitude of new ways, what has always been there. Patterns emerge everywhere, and one’s mind emphasises that which you have grown accustomed to ignoring. Reality itself is amplified to stunning heights.’
This statement has impact because it uses amusing imagery – dinosaurs that drive, or trees in the living room – but above all because it poses an important affirmation that I have been repeating for some time: psychedelic substances do not produce hallucinations. Consider the etymology of the word hallucinogen (according to Wikipedia): from the Latin alucinàri. Allucinàri: to deceive, derived from the Greek root alùo. Alùsso: to rave; the be out of one’s mind. And so, a hallucinogen is a substance of deception and madness.
This definition therefore doesn’t quite fit with the experiences one has with psilocybin fungi, creatures which have the power to illuminate one’s very self with raw sincerity. As in the meme I discussed initially, these mushrooms emphasise and amplify that which has gone a long time ignored. You see in a new light what’s there – and what isn’t.
“Hallucinogenic” mushrooms don’t show you dinosaurs driving cars, but rather amplify your perception, showing you that which you have come to be blind to. They were always there but you couldn’t see them, much like when one searches all over the living room for one’s glasses, only to find them sitting in their usual place on one’s nose. You could lose yourself in contemplation of a cherry tree, as if you had never seen one in your life. Indeed, the process freshens your observations to that of a child, who puts no preconceived labels on what they are seeing.
How many times have you trodden the same path from the door of your house to other places? Office, school, supermarket, where you park your car, and by now see none of them. It is all taken for granted; in this path you are no longer living, but walking in a waking dream. Life is what happens when you’re thinking of something else. The fungus brings us back to the here and now – it presses reset in our brain and eliminates links which have become stable through repetition (or indeed a traumatic event).
The mushrooms are magical in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, through which the brain almost short-circuits and continually reminds you of the pain intertwined with the event, making you relive it constantly. The same thing happens with our daily routines: a circuit is created which does not permit us to escape this mental repetition, which is always the same, enabling us to do it absentmindedly and exist anywhere but the present moment that really exists.
Driving your usual route, arriving at a destination and not remembering the journey: what is this if not absence? The mushroom does not permit us to drive – which is obviously forbidden – but it breaks the habitual cycle of our general lives. One dose of fungi and all is new and no longer for granted. Before you is a fountain of marvel and wonder; the leaves of a plant finally appear as what they are: a miracle of life, connected to life in all its forms, everywhere.
You’ve taken an adequate dose of mushrooms, the effect grows, and at a certain point you start to see images, scenes, situations, and it is here that the word hallucinations comes to mind: these things I’m seeing aren’t real! But wouldn’t you agree that this is what we’re always doing? We remember the past and long for the future, a continuous removal from reality into a fantasy world. That is the real hallucination, for not one of these two things truly exists, neither past nor future.
The fungus in that moment manifests our psyche, but does so in a significant way. Our experiment hasn’t caused a casual error in the mind, but unearthed a natural wisdom which choses intentionally to really show us that scene, that situation or that person. If you let go – and almost always, it is impossible to do otherwise – you’ll discover the meaning in that which you see, obtaining certain teachings and knowledge. You revive a relationship with someone, with whom you discover a cause and effect you’d never thought about before; you realise what is really happening in that moment with that person; you see profoundly that they have not been responding, but simply blindly reacting to a criticism they perhaps received as a child.
The mushroom doesn’t show you things as a cinema does, but as an actor does when reciting in the theatre of life. Simultaneously, you are the spectator and his fellow player reciting along with him. You become an “I” diffused, which captures all of the aspects of a vision at once, seeing at a full 360°. Psychotherapists are the most shocked by the capacity of a mushroom to make one comprehend the original problem which brings one to the real cause, showing us the real dynamics of how everything began. When you understand, everything is laid out and healing can occur. It is at once an understanding and forgiveness, a realisation that all was already perfect and happens only for our benefit.
Hallucinations do not exist in this magic world that is unveiled through the psychedelic experience – and so think next time before you call these mushrooms hallucinogenic.
(to read some related WARNINGS, click HERE)