Sunday, July 06, 2008

fungal families

One of the beauties of the internet is that you can easily spot the shallowness, opportunism and cannibalism of the press. This, for example, is being touted as a news story about research into psilocybin. I don't know which media outlet started it, but plenty of others have picked over the bones of it, today there are 317 hits for the story in Google news.

Well, it is an interesting story, I suppose, so I decided to have a shufty at the research via Google Scholar, and... It was published exactly two years ago today. Hardly hot news, then, eh? (Go straight to the full text PDF of the original research paper here.)

One of the news reports I read quoted a tame psychonaught who expressed the belief that psilocybin may have had a significant role in our evolution. He may be right. Robert Graves, in The White Goddess, considers a similar idea, in his typically maddening and opaque way.

Three or four years ago, you could buy mushroom growing kits online, and it was quite legal. In 2005, for reasons which (like the prohibition of cannabis) are unfathomable, the UK government made it into a class A drug, the possession of which could well land you in jail.

Anyway, being a keen gardener and partly reformed Head, I bought one on the internet and gave it a go. They grew very well and quickly. They were a tropical species, I thing native to Hawaii. I only tried them once. It was a powerful and memorable experience. IF it wasn't illegal now, I'd grow them once in a way, perhaps to use once or twice a year, to get in touch with the subconscious.

My parental grandmother died when I was seven, grandad when I was twelve. It happened that, at the time I took the mushrooms, I was living just round the corner from their old house, where I would visit them with my parents when I was little, in the early 60s.

With the mushrooms, I was back with them. It was an intensely emotional and wonderful experience. I remembered so much about them that I'd forgotten, conversations I'd had with them. "Oh, let the bairn read his comics! He loves his comics!" I'd taken them in the late evening. If I'd known better, I would have taken them earlier, because there was no way I was going to sleep.

By the wee small hours the tears were streaming down my face. I realised that when they'd died, I'd been too young to grieve for them properly. Now, in my forties, the mushrooms put me into a place where I could both remember and mourn them. It was very far from the frivolous experience some people might expect from recreational drugs, it was several hours of some seriously useful and unexpected psychotherapy.

Try it again, though, and I might get locked up. That's the world we're living in.