I don’t believe these mushrooms are drugs. I believe these mushrooms are mushrooms, and they have a drug-like effect.
What follows are the embedded segments of an absolutely fascinating presentation on mushrooms by Paul Statmets. Produced by Sound Phototsynthesis, the presentation is from the 2000 San Francisco Fungus Fair organized by the Mycology Society of San Francisco and is titled Psilocybin and Amanita: An Innocent Discovers the Infinite. Embedded below are segments of the presentation followed by important transcribed excerpts from those corresponding segments. Statmets delivers a powerful message about the role of mycelium on Earth, the incredible powers of mushrooms, and the importance of humans to act as responsible stewards of the planet and natural world, lest we destroy the environmental foundations we rely upon for survival as well as ourselves. He also tells a hilarious story at the end of the presentation.
I believe that we’re all on this planet for a greater purpose, and I think I’m only discovering now what my purpose is. My purpose for being here is to make life on this planet better, and to make the health of this planet better, and I see that these mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms for the soul, and tomorrow I’ll be talking about medicinal mushrooms for the planet and for the health of human beings. So I do see that these are very complimentary... I know my subject field very well, and I am very blessed to be in this position. At the same time I do not take much credit for it. I am a messenger. I am one person in a long lineage throughout millennia who have picked up the torch and are communicating something that is greater than the individual. So I want to please disavow my credit for discovering these species. I did not discover them, they discovered me. They used me for the vehicle for expression.
Now, most of the psilocybin active mushroom species are primary saprophytes, they grow on woody material, on organic material as soon as it’s rendered available. And these are reparative organisms, they follow debris trails left by humans. There is no greater natural that has ever occurred biologically on this planet than humans, we are the greatest natural disaster, and these debris trail fungi – specifically the psilocybin active mushrooms species, which are litter species which grow on wood chips, you know, even around here – they are running after us, trying to repair the damage that we’ve created. So we have co-evolved with these litter fungi, and as we chop wood and as we build houses and as we move around in our daily existence, we create so much debris that these primary saprophytes are the remedial organisms that come back to recycle the nutrients back into the biosphere. The loss of biological diversity, especially in fungal diversity forbodes very, very badly for the future of this planet… I believe that these mushrooms are trying to speak to us, they’re calling out to us, they’re trying to communicate in a language that we will understand – in this case it’s dimethyltryptamine psilocybin-like compounds that are opening up the floodgates of the senses. Now I will wax poetic here and I’m sure I will offend some of you, and I don’t intend to offend you because I don’t like you or because I’m a bad person. This is my personal belief, and this is a free country and I want to be able to express myself.
This is spore of psilocybe baeocystis, it is dimpled here – this is a germ pore – and these are bacteria. And coincident with the evolution of fungi are bacteria, and generally speaking they’re antagonist. Fungi came out of the ocean about 450 years ago. We share in common about thirty percent of our DNA with fungi. We separate from the fungal kingdom several tens of millions of years later. Fungi reproduce primarily through spores. You take spore prints on hats. You can take spore prints on clothing… And in doing so we become like mushroom missionaries sometimes. We go on airplanes when we’re down in Mexico, and one of my fun things to do is to get a whole bunch of people together and spore print all of our clothing. And then we jump on an airplane, we fly back to the United States, unbeknownst to all the other passengers – they’ve all be dusted with spores of psilocybe cubensis. The people in this movement are messianic.
I believe the environmental movement of the sixties and seventies is largely propelled by the psychedelic interests and the psychedelic sacraments. Those of you from the sixties and seventies know this. Many of the experiences from the psilocybin active mushroom species, the major themes are the Earth is crying out to us, we are in trouble. Please, we’re on this boat, this planet together let’s not pollute our environment to the point that we cannot sustain other members of the ecosphere. Ultimately, if we don’t come to grips with living in harmony with our environment, this planet will reject us, as an organism, and that is not necessarily bad. The planet will continue to rotate, it will continue to revolve around the sun, there will be numerous organisms still here that will be living and striving to live in equilibrium. But unless we start taking a proactive behavioral change, a radical paradigm shift to live in harmony with our environment, the biosphere will reject as a species. That is the lesson of nature. We exceed the carrying capacity of our environment, we plummet to extinction. Disease vectors proliferate, the population plunder, and other organisms become predominant, and hopefully those organisms will have a better understanding of living in equilibrium. Of course I want the human species to survive, of course I want children to grow up and remain healthy… But the ecosystem is smart. There is a natural intelligence on this planet. And where do we get off thinking that we’re the most intelligent organism that exists? These fungi evolved… we evolved from fungi. We are mushroom people. We share thirty percent of our DNA with these fungi, and they’re now calling out to us, asking us to please be responsible in managing the environment for the betterment of everybody.
The mycelia network of the planet is what I believe is Earth’s natural internet. It is a Gaian, governing mechanism, a healing mantle of overlapping mycelia mosaics that are interspersed on top and through each other. In a single cubic inch of soil there can be more than a mile of cells. These cells are pervasive everywhere, but when mushrooms occur it’s just the tip of the iceberg, it’s two to five percent of the representation of the entire mushroom life cycle, and the mushroom life cycle can spin twenty to fifty times in a year with some species, slower with other species. But this overlaying mosaic of mycelia networks gives these environments resilience, gives them reparative opportunities. This data bank of response, of breaking down different types of wood, of different types of debris trails, having a very complex microsphere of multiple mushroom species enables the environment to intelligently respond. And because these fungi have existed as long as we have, they have an innate intelligence… Most of us have no concept at all that these fungi that are around us are our allies, and these are the organisms that will help sustain life and return nutrients back to the biosphere. They’re the interface organisms, they’re the bridge between life and death, and they have so much to offer us if only we would wake up.
I believe that biology progresses through the repetition of successful models. What has worked previously biologically is built upon in evolution. And the invention of the computer internet is just a representation of a successful biological model inherent within the structure and the representation of the mushroom mycelium. The mushroom mycelium – you can’t destroy the mushroom mycelium by damaging one point – you can’t destroy the computer internet by blowing up one computer, that’s one of these reason it was designed. But this ability to share resources, I think is integral to the model of life on this planet, and I see the computer internet as being a natural evolution of the biologically successful model that’s represented in the mushroom mycelium.
Not transcribed here is a story about a 5,000 year-old Mushroom-Bee-Man cave painting discovered in the Plateau of Running Water in Northern Nigeria by a guide of a Japanese researcher and American anthropologist in the late 1940s. Be sure to listen.
No one has died from eating psilocybin mushrooms. There’s two reports that are controversial on this subject and there could be other co-factors. But as one other person in this room I think pointed out, there’s been like fifty million trips on psilocybin mushrooms, and two disputed deaths. This underscores a pretty strong safety factor. However, people who are psychologically, you know, not up to par, people are dealing with mental illness, people who have weak hearts, people who have other, you know, underlying medical conditions – of course these mushrooms, it’s not advisable for them to use them. And I’m not recommending that people in this room use these mushrooms. Most of you will not benefit from them. But some of you will. The people that tend to benefit are physicians, philosophers, psychiatrists, computer programmers, artists, poets. Does anyone doubt that the reason why the United States is on the cutting edge of computer technology is because of the ability of projecting fractals and doing large mathematical equations and vision quests under the influence? If you talk to the community of software programmers, they will say that’s true. But this is the hidden secret about the American computer industry: they’re psychedelic freaks out there all the time.
So R. Gordon Watson is very well known and he wrote a book called Mushrooms, Russia and History which talked about the differences in attitude of Eastern European cultures – specifically Russian culture – being mycophilic – having an affection for mushrooms – and mycophobic cultures, like the Irish and the English, who have a repulsion for mushrooms…
Terrance has come up with some very astonishing concepts and ideas about the interstellar transportation of germ plasma, of fungi throughout space. Well that was absolutely scientific heresy fifteen, twenty years ago, but most of you are probably well aware that this theory is getting more and more substantiated that endospores of bacteria and fungi may well we able to survive interstellar space travel, and perhaps this planet was seed with endospores of bacteria and fungi long ago, and was in a sense inoculated. And I suspect that fungi are throughout the cosmos. Where there is water, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, you’re going to end up with linear chains of self-replicating matter running through mitosis, it projects mycelia networks, and evolve into fungi. I think fungi are… If you have matter you’re going to have fungi.
So where do you find the psilocybin active mushroom species in the northwest? You find them at institutes of higher learning, you find them at colleges, you find them around police stations, around court houses, around, you know, there is landscaping of government buildings. These mushrooms are centralized around government offices. And so if you want to find mushrooms in the Northwest, psilocybin active mushroom, visit the local county court house. The biggest patch of psilocybe cubensis I’ve ever seen still grows to this day around the Thurston County jail. And I wonder about that because I was called in as an expert witness, all these kids were getting busted for psilocybin mushrooms and thought to myself, this is crazy, they’re bringing in fifty of these people, quote unquote trespassing for psilocybin mushroom collecting, and the government has no idea: by bringing these people into a courtroom, you have now sporulated the judge, the bailiff, the policeman, the sheriff, they’ve all become these unknown allies to the mushroom cause in spreading spore mass. It’s absolutely true. Absolutely true. When you get in contact with someone whose been collecting these psilocybin mushrooms they are a disease vector, in a sense, for spreading these mushrooms to neo-fascist Republican environments.
And where do you find these mushrooms? Well, I didn’t bring the photograph that I would like to show you, but I look for Winnebagos You look for RV campers. Their idea of camping, and please, I’m a hiker, I go into the woods, I go in for five days, I go into the deep cascades. I’m also an orienteer, I go and I orienteer with a compass and there’s no trails. So I’m a little bit snobbish when comes to people who use RVs for camping, and this is what they believe is camping: camp spot number sixty-six, you know, a piece of cement with a table. Well, it’s very interesting that this is the locus point, the central point for finding the most psilocybin active mushroom species in the world, psilocybe azurescens. So, if you go to Fort Stevens State Park, or adjacent parks in that area, you look for Winnebagos. They’re indicator species of psilocybin mushrooms.
I don’t believe these mushrooms are drugs. I believe these mushrooms are mushrooms, and they have a drug-like effect.
So why is this crystalline substance being produced? Terrance and others have spoken to the fact that maybe the crystalline is being produced for the purpose of engaging human consciousness to make us aware of them so by spreading their spores it increases their evolutionary probability of survival. You can argue this way back and fourth, but at the end of the day: it’s true. These mushrooms are surviving now because of human intervention and interest.
We only know which mushrooms are poisonous from the unfortunate experiences of those people who have eaten them before us. That may come as a shock to some of you who just came to this mushroom show, but how do we know if mushrooms are poisonous? We only know if mushrooms are poisonous if someone gets sick or dies from them, or they experiment, that’s the reason why we know plants are edible…this ken of knowledge that we’ve developed over time, this experiential database.