By Clinton Kaley
The mountain of clouds towers over me as I lie in the field. I can still taste the earthy, cardboard flavor of the mushrooms in my mouth. The periphery of my vision circles ominously, prodding me, balking. I watch the clouds gather into a form: four arms, a long blade clutched in each fist. Lording over me, intimidating. I feel some part of me gather itself to flee, but I am transfixed. A storm is coming.
“Get up,” the fear whispers. “Get up and run from this monster before it destroys you.”
I lie still and watch the clouds boil around this behemoth devil in the sky.
“I will not run from you today,” peace speaks clearly.
I steel myself in defiance of building terror. It scratches around inside my head, in my bowels, trying to sink its hooks into me. My heart is jumping in my chest, but I control my breath. My fingers clutching grassy clumps of earth, arms outstretched to either side of me. He crosses his blades in front of him, brandishing monstrous weaponry and a monolith frame. I close my eyes and feel the dirt between my fingers, my breathing slow. I can smell the rain coming.
I open my eyes and he is gone; turned and fled. Above me the clouds look light and pillowy, the sun peeking through, the rain far off. It will come, but I won’t run.
I was 17 in 2007 and working at the local burrito shop when first I met this mysterious fungus. My coworker handed me a few stalks and caps of weird, scraggly, golden-copper dried mushroom: my life’s course was immediately and irreparably altered.
“Take that first, then we’ll see how you do.”
I watched the walls of his apartment begin to melt for the very first time. I felt the warm, loving embrace of the magnificent “other”: at once an ancient feeling and a very familiar one. An impression of having been there before in another life. The sensation of my mind unfolding from two dimensions to three and beyond, the unexplainable sense that this is the state in which we were meant to preside. Somehow, through time and conditioning, our minds have been closed off to that realm. But a handful of dried psilocybin mushrooms kicks the door in with a viciousness unparalleled.
As the age of the internet roared to life and the endless onslaught of mindless information began to flood my brain, when most around me were building the foundations of their anxieties, I was unwittingly tearing down boundaries and challenging the constructs within my psyche. I had no idea the funny-colored, wide-eyed, gigglebox experiences of my teens would lead me into a lifelong search for the secrets that the plants know.
Now at 30, I grow older and more confident that my early introduction to the psychedelic mushroom of Terence McKenna fame armored my mind against anxiety and depression. Even before I ventured into the realms beyond a gram or two of psilocybin, I understood that I had found something that would be an ally to me for my whole life.
Working with these mushrooms has brought me to the understanding that all of my ideas and thoughts are a patchwork of my own subjective beliefs and fragments of influences, none of which are necessarily correct or true. I’ve witnessed the destruction of every concept I’ve ever considered solid, the foundations of reality itself being brought into question and found lacking. I’ve seen my own base conceptualization of myself destroyed and everything I thought was true about me erased, replaced with the opportunity to begin anew.
I’ve been present for the dissolution of my ego, my entire being. I’ve been forced to face my fear of death, my fear of becoming insane, my fear of becoming my father. I have been disintegrated to a state of having never even existed at all. Here, anxiety is laughable. Having journeyed into the screaming abyss, the eternal void, lost to anything remotely familiar or human, the physical aspects of existence are forced into hilarious and stark perspective.
Have these revelations made me feel small and insignificant at times? Bet your ass.
Have they also grounded me within myself and exposed me to my own essential nature? I believe they have.
I thank the mushroom for its guidance. Both in the small, funny afternoon and the long, abysmal night. Residing within are access points to both the pits of mankind’s despair and the highest registers of divine inhuman ecstasy. I have been ushered into the presence of God, his countenance revealed; I have been cast into the blackest depths of hell. I’ve begged forgiveness and sworn to God that if he let me survive this trip, I’d never go back. I’ve wept tears of joy in the face of unimaginable love, beauty, and peace. Even so, here I am, alive and breathing, still chewing my way through this experience by the dried gram. It’s been the beautiful, harrowing, and humbling adventure of a lifetime.