percolation of spores between the stars is a perfectly viable strategy for biology. It might take millions of years, but it’s the same principle by which plants migrate into a desert or across an ocean.
Is it possible that these mushrooms never evolved on earth?
There are no fungi in the fossil record older than 40 million years. The orthodox explanation is that fungi are soft-bodied and do not fossilize well, but on the other hand we have fossilized soft-bodied worms and other benthic marine invertebrates from South African gunflint chert that is dated to over a billion years.
I don’t necessarily believe what the mushroom tells me; rather we have a dialogue. It is a very strange person and has many bizarre opinions. I entertain it the way I would any eccentric friend. I say, “Well, so that’s what you think.” When the mushroom began saying it was an extraterrestrial, I felt that I was placed in the dilemma of a child who wishes to destroy a radio to see if there are little people inside. I couldn’t figure out whether the mushroom is the alien or the mushroom is some kind of technological artifact allowing me to hear the alien when the alien is actually light-years aways, using some kind of Bell nonlocality principle to communicate.
The mushroom states its own position very clearly. It says, “I require the nervous system of a mammal.
Do you have one handy?”
When I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade, I bought a used paperback copy of Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic classic, The Doors of Perception. Looking back on it, the only reason I can think of that led me to buy it must have been The Doors connection. I knew that Jim Morrison took the band’s name from Huxley’s slim volume and it must’ve cost me all of 50 cents, so I picked it up. It wasn’t that I liked the Doors or anything—I didn’t like them much at all—but I was really, really (really!) curious about drugs at that age. Something about this mysterious book seemed to beckon me to take it home, so I did, along with a huge stack of comic books, I’m quite sure.
I read the entire book one morning sitting in church with my parents and grandparents, who, of course, had no idea what I was reading. I often chose books to read in church that allowed me to silently rebel against the odious weekly ritual I hated so much, so the subject matter and the meager page count made it a perfect “Sunday book” for me. I remember being astonished at what I was reading and made it a point to immediately—if not sooner—get my hands on some LSD, something that took me about 2 more years to actually acquire, but when I did, it certainly didn’t disappoint! Since that time I have returned again and again to the fountain of Huxley’s “gratuitous grace” during times of crisis or confusion in my life and I have benefited greatly from the inner journeys and clarity provided by LSD, “magic mushrooms” and later, the “sci fi” dimensions of the DMT flash. I try to make it a point to take a high dose of mushrooms at least once a year, if for no other reason, to blow all the bad shit out of my brain…
The publication of Daniel Pinchbeck’s book, Breaking Open the Head was, to my mind, nothing short of an event, an instant classic of drug literature.
The publication of Daniel Pinchbeck’s book, Breaking Open the Head (Broadway Books) was, to my mind, nothing short of an event. Pinchbeck, co-founder and co-editor (with novelist Thomas Beller) of the highbrow literary magazine Open City, has come up with something I had despaired of seeing again after the untimely death of Terence McKenna, an instant classic of drug literature. And just in time: this generation badly needs its own Doors of Perception and Breaking Open the Head is it, having arrived not a moment too soon.
In a way, Breaking Open the Head is almost two books in one: on one hand a historical overview of how psychedelics (or “entheogens” in politically correct tripper parlance) made their way into the diet of middle class American students, ushering in the “Age of Aquarius,” “Hippie” and opposition to an unpopular and misguided war and on the other a travelogue and marvelously candid account of Pinchbeck’s shamanic vision quest to “break open” his own head.
What’s particularly endearing about the book is that Pinchbeck himself is such a wonderful tour guide. Feeling alienated and depressed after the death of his father (Abstract expressionist painter Peter Pinchbeck. His mother is writer Joyce Johnson, author of Minor Characters and at one time the girlfriend of Jack Kerouac), Pinchbeck became desperate to somehow lift himself out of the Sartrean nausea and disconnectedness he felt himself sinking into in his pursuit of a literary career in his native Manhattan. The book chronicles Pinchbeck’s journey from an atheist New York journalist to, as he puts it, a “shamanic initiate and grateful citizen of the cosmos.”
At times I couldn’t help but to picture George Plimpton, one of the original “participatory journalists,” in Daniel’s place and this illustrates one of the book’s greatest strengths for the reader: in many ways Pinchbeck seems an unlikely candidate for spiritual enlightenment. As he describes himself at the start of the book, he’s very much an “old school” kind of writer, a drinker and a bit of a womanizer—more Hemingway than Huxley—before a series of marvelously etched (and often humorous) encounters with Amazon witchdoctors, shaman, and the blissed out inhabitants of the Burning Man Festival urge Pinchbeck on to a deeper and deeper understanding, not just of himself also the weird historical moment we find ourselves in as we approach 10 minutes
to midnight on the Apocalypse clock.
About halfway through the narrative, I began to lament that Pinchbeck seemed to be missing out on the occult (as opposed to the “spiritual”) aspects of the psychedelic experience, but at that point a startlingly magical context (and one I, personally, wholeheartedly endorse) begins to emerge as he asks himself—and the reader—some very important questions: If these dimensions can be accessed by the judicious application of plant and chemical agents and if the bizarrely alien entities one encounters there are real and autonomous beings and not just a drug addled figment of our imaginations—then surely this is big news, isn’t it?
Big fucking news, people. Big fucking news… But what does this mean??? Why aren’t our finest minds working on getting to the bottom of this, one of the greatest mysteries facing us as human beings? Why instead are we turning away from wisdom and towards self-annihilation, war and planetary suicide? It doesn’t make any damned sense!
As Einstein once said “God does not play dice with the universe.” Could the widespread emergence of psychedelics in Western culture be any accident? 50 years ago, psychedelics were practically unheard of outside of botanical or Beatnik circles. Today, an historical blink of the eye since, due to the pioneering public relations efforts of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna and others, millions of people have experienced the enlightenment of the psychedelic experience. No, this was no accident, it’s all part of a strange and wondrous process that is unfolding in our lifetimes and Breaking Open the Head is a part of that process and carries on in that tradition. The enlightenment and gnosis resulting from the use of visionary plants and neuro-chemicals may be mankind’s only hope for survival.
In an interesting interview that appeared in the Arthur newspaper, Pinchbeck argues that this is the task of the counterculture in our time: “This goal is the direct legacy of the counterculture—but it is actually hundreds if not many thousands of years older than that. In fact, this is the mission that we must somehow accomplish. Think of it as a secret raid to be carried out behind enemy lines, despite incredible odds and with no possibility of failure. The Beats and the Hippies saw through the
abrasive insanity gnawing at the soul of America—this warmongering, money-mad, climate-destroying monstrosity which is now casting a dreadful shadow across this planet. Where the Beats acted intuitively, from the heart, we now have the necessary knowledge to put together a new paradigm that is simultaneously political, ecological, spiritual, and far more accurate than the outdated Newtonian-Darwinian model which is propping up the status quo.”
Breaking Open the Head is a serious, thoughtful, provocative and brave book that should be read by everyone who senses that breaking open his or her own head might be the sanest act to perform in today’s world. I urge you to all to read it.
Think of it as a secret raid to be carried out behind enemy lines, despite incredible odds and with no possibility of failure.
I met Dave in Palenque. He had started a company selling experimental research chemicals which were labeled “not for human consumption,” although most of them could be found in the back pages of Sasha Shulgin’s books. Sitting by the pool one day, I heard Dave tell how he had studied to be a priest, but dropped out to become a professional masseuse. By some circuitous route—a typical tangled American odyssey—he made his way from the Miami Beach yacht scene to psychedelics and the cutting-edge of mind-expansion. In Palenque, Dave invited me to join his private research group, giving me free and low-priced introductions to some new chemicals, as well as his regular catalog of little-known and unscheduled compounds. Fearing intensified government surveillance, he abruptly closed his company the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, even though his business did not seem to be violating any specific laws.
For $125, I bought one gram of yellowish powder of something called DPT, dipropyltryptamine, which has a chemical resemblance to DMT.
Back in New York, I ordered a few things from his catalog. They came to my home in plain envelopes labeled with intimidating chemical names. For $125,
I bought one gram of yellowish powder of something called DPT, dipropyltryptamine, which has a chemical resemblance to DMT. As far as I can ascertain, DPT, unlike DMT, does not occur in nature, which means it did not exist until some modern alchemist synthesized it in a laboratory a few decades ago. While DMT, an endogamous chemical inside the body, is recognized by MAO enzymes and immediately neutralized, DPT, a new concoction, is not. Therefore it crosses the blood-brain barrier through direct sniffing or swallowing. But the most interesting aspect of the two chemicals is that the worlds they reveal are completely different. Why should this be the case? I don’t know. I only know that propyl and methyl are simple carbon compounds, two of the building blocks of organic matter. There is, for example, methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, and propyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol. The tryptamine molecule is the building block of many neurotransmitters, and of many psychoactive compounds. Serotonin is a tryptamine.
In Shulgin’s book and on the Internet I found some write-ups about DPT trips. Some described the effects as terrifying: “The whole universe falls apart, all colors in electric air whirlpool into a mandala, eaten up forever. That’s it, the world’s over.” Others felt, after smoking the drug, they entered, for the first time, the “clear light” of God. Another report was more narrative: “I was being led by a wise old man who I know was God… I was handed a Torah for me to carry as a sign that I had been accepted, and forgiven, and come home.” Shulgin also mentioned a church in New York, Temple of the True Inner Light, which uses DPT as its sacrament. Clearly DPT was a mind- warper of heavyweight proportions. I put the slim envelope of white powder
in the refrigerator, where it sat for a few months.
I am often caught between my desire for new and intense altered states and my extreme fear of them. I fear them, because every major doorway that I go through changes me in an ineffable but permanent way. I think this is the case for anyone with any sensitivity. After your first serious LSD trip, you really are never quite the same person again—you have been given another perspective on your self and your ego; you have been permanently relativized. The same with DMT, or ayahuasca. You may spend the rest of your life suppressing the memory, but somewhere inside of you it is there. As Don Juan told Castaneda: “We are men and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”
I am often caught between my desire for new and intense altered states and my extreme fear of them. I fear them, because every major doorway that I go through changes me in an ineffable but permanent way.
Psychedelics are catalysts for evolution and transformation, and when you take them, you have to be ready to transform in unexpected ways. That is the beauty and the power of them, that is why they need to be treated with utmost respect. That is also why it is good to be scientifically precise about what chemical you are taking, to know, as best as you can, what that chemical will do to you, and why you are taking it. Because I didn’t know exactly what DPT was, or what I wanted from it, I bought it and then sheepishly left it alone.
My cautious resistance to the DPT lure continued until one night, after a party. For the first time in several months, I was drunk. I was with my two oldest friends, twin brothers, who were suddenly eager to try the DPT in my fridge. We each snorted a line and for me, it was an interesting disaster. I was both drunk and tripping. On the one hand, the world was a woozy mess; on the other hand, I was seeing it with razor-edged precision and in the most vibrant colors. When I closed my eyes, I saw multicolored three-dimensional triangles rotating in black space. I realized later that I had foolishly used alcohol to overcome my fear of DPT—the way I used to drink for the courage to talk to girls at bars. I didn’t like DPT. Something about the DPT realm seemed icy and annihilating to me. I told my friends over and over again, “This is evil. DPT is bad. This is not something we should explore.
This is not a good doorway.”
In retrospect, I don’t think that I was exploring the DPT realm on that trip. I think, instead, the DPT realm was beginning its exploration of me.
Because this is a story not just about chemicals but about occult correspondences and psychic events, I will note that later that night we went out to a bar and started talking to the people next to us. For some reason I talked about my anxiety over 2012, the Hopi and Mayan Prophecies. One of them described a vivid dream she had when she was a teenager, that had stayed with her ever since: “I was in a kind of space ship full of people. We were lifting off from earth. I looked back at the earth and there was brown crust where the land had been. We shot into space and went a long way. Then an angel appeared to us. He said that God had decided to rejuvenate the Earth, even though we had ruined it. He was going to start again—to do it all over from scratch. For the time being we were going to have to wait in limbo. And he pointed to a vast grey space where many people were already waiting. We had to leave the space ship to go there.” It was another few months before I tried DPT again.