The Mushroom Moment Manifesto
The Saturday after voters in Washington, D.C., and Oregon voted to loosen legal restrictions on magic mushrooms, my girlfriend and I celebrated in the most appropriate way possible. We each ate almost 5 grams of the stuff, ground up and stuffed into capsules. This was a Venti-sized, mind-blowing “heroic dose” in the parlance of the late Terence McKenna, the Johnny Appleseed of hallucinogenic fungi, and we tripped for a good chunk of the afternoon and early evening.
Journeying to the center of our minds via vision-inducing drugs (variously called hallucinogens, psychedelics, and entheogens) is perfectly suited to a world that is hyper-polarized, literally and figuratively locked down, and increasingly a little too close to an Edvard Munch painting for comfort. Mushrooms and similar substances are known to produce quasi-religious feelings of universal love, connection, empathy, and hope. They work on an intensely individual level but help you get along better with your family, neighbors, and coworkers. Far from an escape from reality, they can provide an entry point to deeper engagement with your limitations, your fears, and your aspirations.
What’s not to celebrate?
The mushroom votes—not to mention the passage of pro-marijuana initiatives in states as traditionally straight-laced as Arizona, Mississippi, and South Dakota—are undeniable confirmation that we’re in the middle of a pharmacological revolution whose implicitly libertarian goal is nothing less than giving us all more and better control over our very moods and minds. As a popular meme puts it, the drug war is over and the drugs won.
There are signs everywhere that, more than 50 years after drug pioneer Timothy Leary exhorted us all to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” (at an event preposterously, wonderfully titled “A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In”), we’re finally ready to receive the message that powerful drugs not currently stocked by your local pharmacist can help you better understand the world and thrive in it. Wherever you look, the culture is saturated like a Merry Prankster’s sugar cube with books, movies, and events featuring psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, ketamine, and ayahuasca, as well as friendly cousins such as GHB and MDMA.
Knowing asides about “ayahuasca bros” and Burning Man, an annual festival that is practically synonymous with drug use, have reached a level of ubiquity at which they require no explanation. “Micro-dosing”—taking small amounts of LSD or psilocybin to boost mood and motivation—has been an accepted practice among Silicon Valley programmers, Wall Street traders, and even long-haul truckers for a decade or more. The 2020 documentary Have a Good Trip features celebrities such as Sting, Nick Offerman, Sarah Silverman, and Ben Stiller talking openly about their use of hallucinogens. (The film adds nuance and gravity to the subject by including interviews with the late Anthony Bourdain and Carrie Fisher, both of whom struggled with substance abuse.)
Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris has just released My Psychedelic Love Story, which tells the story of Joanna Harcourt-Smith, Timothy Leary’s muse and partner in crime while he was a fugitive on the run from the U.S. government following a daring prison escape in 1970. In 2017, Morris released Wormwood, a Netflix series investigating the 1953 death
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