by  —  June 18, 2008

psilocybin, n.

An alkaloid, found in several mushrooms native to Central America (esp. of the genus Psilocybe), which when ingested produces hallucinogenic effects similar to those of LSD but milder and more short-lived. Cf. magic mushroom n. at MAGIC adj. Special uses.
Psilocybin is the dihydrogen phosphate ester of psilocin. Formula: C12H17N2O4P.

1958 A. HOFMANN et al. in Experientia 14 109/1 The compound has been given the name Psilocybin; it possesses indole characteristics and contains phosphorus. 1962 A. HUXLEY Let. 18 Sept. (1969) 939 Mescalin, LSD and psilocybin all produce a state of affairs in which verbalizing and conceptualizing are in some sort bypassed. One can talk about the experience{em}but always with the knowledge that ‘the rest is silence’. 1993 R. RUCKER et al. Mondo 2000 86/1 The clarity of atomic vision you get when you’re very high on LSD or peyote or psilocybin is a sheer tuning in to the way the brain actually operates. 2004 Independent (Tabloid ed.) 30 Nov. (Review section) 13/2 Next month, a new trial will begin at Harvard exploring whether psilocybin can relieve the symptoms of cluster headaches.
Oxford English Dictionary (OED Online 3rd Edition)

Anxiety may have been the first effect. My heart began to race and the fat, shouting stand-up comic on the television grew unbearably irritating. “Time to turn this shit off,” I told The Chemist. The bedroom in The Chemist’s flat, comfortable just a moment ago, seemed to grow smaller and threatened to become too confining. I sat on the bed and tried to subdue this ominous feeling. I didn’t want the fear of bad trip to become the very cause of one. The Chemist paced about, turned off the television, shuffled through a disorganized stack of CDs. He too was beginning to feel increasingly agitated. Half an hour had passed with no certain result. But, we both knew, results were certainly forthcoming: An NMR had been performed to ensure that the synthesis was exactly correct, and we measured our dosages according to bodyweight, consuming a “high, safe dose” as specified in a Johns Hopkins University study.

I had fired a brief email to William just before taking the capsule: “I am about to take a trip measured in milligrams.”

He would know what that was about. I thought it might be nice to speak with him during the trip for professional guidance.

…He knows about these kinds of things.

Already I worried that I was somewhere in the preliminaries of a bad trip. I focused on my breathing while staring at the various posters covering the wall opposite me. Then, something odd happened. The posters suddenly defied the linear confines of the wall behind them, some floating out to the foreground, others sinking back at varying depths.

All at once, the anxiety had passed and curiosity gripped me as space slowly altered around me.

I reported all this to The Chemist who agreed that he too was now undeniably experiencing something quite beyond placebo. We decided to move into the Living Room, where we could lounge more comfortably on the couches. The Chemist only asked that I try to keep my head and maintain some sense of propriety should one of his roommates arrive. As this was my only psychedelic excursion, I couldn’t make any guarantees regarding my affected behaviour, but I promised I’d do my best…1

When upright and ambulatory, the more dramatic effects of the drug were dampened. The most intense experiences occurred when stationary, eyes closed. Psilocybin confounded my preconceived notion of the psychedelic experience as primarily visual. I was pleased to find that all the senses conspired to the extent that changes in my very posture subtly altered the entire ambiance. Nor were the visual hallucinations themselves as entirely independent of my conscious thoughts as I may have believed. The hallucinatory effect, for me, was mostly dependant upon associations derived through a heightened sense of pareidolia. I distinguished distinct images in random patterns, and I began to feel that certain objects looked quite a bit like something else entirely, even though I remained completely aware of the reality of their shape. My mind tended to isolate the embedded swastika in a pattern of alternating rectangles on a folded quilt upon a chair and among the outlines of squares on a grid pattern on the wall. Every object became a stationary life form: Smooth surfaces, insect shells; soft objects, fleshy masses… everything surface just an outer layer concealing moist viscera and meat. Underneath, everything was alive. This was a non-visual hallucination. A psychotic idea.

The outlines of angled objects extended their boundaries in the peripherals of my vision, as in an architect’s rough sketch. To look at anything directly destroyed the illusion and, as mentioned, the whole experience was far more mundane when observed through open eyes. With my eyes closed, my mind lost the visual framework of my body to fit its kinesthetic sense to. My left arm stretched and lengthened to twice normal, while the fingers did likewise, reaching into a shifting, luminescent abyss. Oddly, my right arm withered to little more than a nub. Sitting Japanese-style on my knees, my legs melted into themselves and all but disappeared from consciousness. My head was reduced to little more than a floating eye. A strange tickling sensation made me aware of my spine. When I rose to use the lavatory, this tickling of the spine caused me to walk in exaggerated motions. “I feel like a cartoon bug” I told The Chemist, looking more like a pantomime thief with my long tip-toed lurches and wild counter-balancing arm gestures. The toilet was to the end of the hall which had, it seemed, grown considerably in length since last I’d seen it. It would be convenient, it occurred to me, if I could just close my eyes, reach my extended left arm into the distant lavatory, point into the toilet and piss out my index finger.

Best not to try it, I decided, lest I piss my pants.

I wondered if these lunatic ideas would overcome me to the point in which I would actually be pissing myself, sawing off extraneous left arm, and who-knows-what. Despite this possibility, it was pleasing to note that I was calm and unafraid. Fear simply was not in me. The Fear Mechanism seemed so entirely numbed that it occurred to me that an intruding murderer would find me unimpressed and complaisant. How is it possible, I began to wonder, for anybody to have the “Bad Trip” on psilocybin?

Then, terror nearly struck as I reached the end of the hall and beheld the toilet. The seat of the toilet – a varnished wood model – provoked a grotesquely deformed visual association. Most of the toilet seats that I am familiar with are shaped like a U curved inward (more like an upended C) with a stopper at each end. This toilet seat, while of the standard shape, was equipped with four stoppers – one extra at each lower end of the curve. Who would do this?! The stoppers looked much like eyes – this toilet had four! – and they leveled an incriminating gaze over its imposing, gaping maw. The toilet had taken the general visage of some ancient North American god, and I was impiously to pee into its mouth?

I could just pee into the sink…

There I went again. Get a hold of yourself, you idiot.

I regarded myself in the mirror, something I had been specifically advised not to do while under the influence of psilocybin. One has a tendency, I had been told, to see horrifying shape-shifting deformities, melting flesh, and monstrous defects in the mirror through psychedelic eyes. I scrutinized my features. My face maintained its integrity. In fact, I wore it well.

I felt a need to keep a hold of the wall as I walked back down the hall toward the Living Room (more to establish a physical hold on reality than for balance).

The Chemist was having a grim episode of introspection. He began expressing self-doubt and insecurity regarding his current life path.

“Get a hold of yourself, you idiot!” I encouraged him. I hoped I could placate him and prevent him from compromising the peak I felt myself reaching. My psilocybin experience was reaching a whole new level of intensity and I was delighted that, despite the strong reservations that had prevented me from experimenting with mind-altering substances in the past, I was well at home with what I was experiencing now.

I closed my eyes and watched hidden images briefly surface and disappear in an expansive void that appeared something like a three dimensional television static with the individual black, white and grey bits writhing and contorting like millions of translucent ghostly maggots. The brief images formed and faded – sometimes elaborate and geometrical, other times animal-like and animated – despite my best efforts to retain their vision and make sense of their “meaning”. I felt that I was looking directly upon the patterns that form the basis of my subconscious, atavistic mind. I wondered if it was a failing of mine that I found myself unable to make more sense of it all. I felt that with the proper training, with some esoteric method, I would be able to navigate this internal world more sensibly, and learn more from it.

As I considered this, my kinesthetic sense again distorted, transforming me into a hemispherical flat surface. The entire environment, still a chaotic static, also flattened becoming one with my body and forming the opposite surface of the sphere I was now looking into – not from without, but as.

I felt that I had gained some type of godlike dominance over this uncharted territory… but I lamented that I had no I had no idea what to do with it, and I somehow knew that this bizarre but enjoyable perception was to be fleeting. With arms outstretched, I flexed my hands, causing the orb to lightly pulsate.

My mind had deranged, turned inside-out, and the dark hidden corners were brought to the surface in full exposure. Introspection was inevitable, and mine seemed to be carried out on some level throughout the entire trip. Like The Chemist, I began considering the very validity of everything I am currently involved in: my job, my studies, my creative projects and independent research. Happily, I came to conclusion that all of the things that I am involved in now are exactly those things which I should be involved in now, and even if they are ultimately “unsuccessful”, I can do nothing more than see them through to their conclusion. Everything, I convinced myself, will work out as it should.

As it is, so be it.

The internal voice that worked to sooth my unquiet mind resonated with a new authority, its answers certain and absolute. These answers came not as opinions, but epiphanies. Everything would be okay. I was certain of it.

I conveyed this information to The Chemist. Then I called a friend of mine in Detroit and belaboured her with maniac rantings. While speaking to her, I was struck by the fact that I wasn’t as articulate as I felt I was. It had seemed as though my conscious mind were still entirely rational, observing this alteration of the senses more-or-less unaffected, but this uncharacteristic inability to find proper words suggested otherwise. Perhaps I’d retarded my reason after all. Perhaps I’d be permanently affected, reduced to a hellish existence lumbering about a swastika-decorated world, babbling like a fool, with my True Self exiled somewhere within wailing, “Would to God I’d never done it! Would to God I’d never done it!”

…I couldn’t convince myself that this was a serious concern. The psilocybin seemed to be following a path, a direction. The peak had passed (somewhere in the orb), and though it faded very slowly, I was certain that this trip would eventually end.

I ended my phone call and voiced senseless profundities to The Chemist. I began to feel as though I were enjoying myself at his expense, that I had somehow hoarded all the fun and positivity to myself while leaving him to his own devices.

But by now, the effects of the psilocybin were slowly wearing off. The Chemist grew more lucid and nonchalant, having regained perspective, sensible enough to not take his psychedelic mental wanderings too terribly seriously. We went outdoors so that he could smoke a cigarette. He spoke more like a disappointed tourist who had lost his sunglasses on a rollercoaster than the victim of a traumatized psyche. I felt that my own positive experience was testament to a certain level of emotional fortitude that I now knew I possessed. Little did I know that only a month later all anxiety would not only have fully returned, but would strike so hard that it would be followed by a prolonged illness, during which I would lose 20 pounds before recovering… So much for long-term benefits…

We went back indoors. The Chemist retired to his bedroom while I returned to the Living Room and attempted to fall asleep on the couch. My mind refused rest, still racing with unfamiliar activity. I was exhausted and just wanted it to stop. I faded into sleep with difficulty, but psilocybin and I parted on decidedly amiable terms.

  1. Many people, while getting to know me, are surprised to learn that I am for the most part “clean”, and relatively inexperienced in recreational, or experimental, drug use. For one reason or another I seem to come off with an air of drugs savvy I don’t possess. Yet, a good number of my closest friends are not the least bit ashamed to be classified as drug-users. On the other hand, The Church of Scientology, when I underwent their “orientation” (for both my own amusement and as a segment of my Process research) claimed that recreational drug use wasn’t a natural behaviour for a person of my character. I have the questionable distinction of having scored well on their character analysis examination, and this score – taken together with my Intelligence Test results – indicated a drug-free mind. These traits, the scientologists reasoned, colluded to make me a sound and sober individual. But then, with circular logic, they also claimed that these traits were a natural by-product of my sobriety. Either way – and as with most things – I feel that the Scientologists are wrong. I believe my abstention to be a matter of nurture rather than nature. A friend of mine once speculated that, had I been raised in an environment wherein illegal drug-usage had been rare, my natural contrarian tendencies would have led me into the life of a junkie. As it is, early exposure to addicts convinced me that recreational drug usage didn’t do anybody any “good”. []

Marked as: Introspection  —  5 comments   (RSS)

5 Comments so far
  1. meliska June 20, 2008 2:27 pm

    Beautiful in content and execution.

  2. robertwalthall June 23, 2008 11:38 pm

    As it is…

    Excellent article. I would like to make a comparison to an experience I had while on Salvia Divinorum.

    Salvia is a little different as it is a k-opiate blocker and the duration lasts not but 5 min. depending on how you take it. It is rumored through chewing about 28 leaves that it can last around half an hour.

    Salvia still holds legal status as it is not classified as a contolled substance.

    Enough of that legality intro jabber, lol. I took my first hit outside on my porch watching the full-moon. I decided to start playing some psychic-T.V. to set a good mood(trip/reset).

    After the first 2 hits, an overwhelming sense of joy hit me. It felt as if I was nature itself(considering im pantheist, thats probably why), and after the third a voice told me,” Your doing it all wrong, let me help you.” and i took another. Visuals started to kick in as the music slowed down. Everything was almost like water, waving to the rythm. enhancing my introspective thoughts.

    I started to realize that I was listening to myself thinking and was aware of more thought processes than I usually notice, almost like the moment before doing something great, enhanced focus(if your into sharp-shooting its like that moment before you pull the trigger and everything comes to a stand-still, just to make that perfect shot.)

    I came to the realization that I worry to much about material things(not literaly, I am very into nature and such, but like money, work, etc…) I started to then think about what matters to me most. Family, fun, taking time for myself, etc…

    I didnt experience the whole finger/toilet thing, lol, but I think there may be some similarities to what you have to say, or at least an anecdote.

    Hope I could help or amuse the courious.

    So be it…


  3. dhex July 1, 2008 8:32 am

    as a counterpoint, salvia seems to work best in a dark room with as little stimuli as possible.

    and by “best” i really mean “maximized” as it is a largely an “unfun” experience. very interesting, to be sure, but especially once you get into extract blends, it straddles a line between “a pervading sense of wrongness” and “insectoid dog-and-pony show” with a side dash of short-term amnesia.

  4. Deepani July 3, 2008 9:14 pm

    I wholly agree with the first comment

  5. Emma August 22, 2008 12:38 pm

    A tolerable piece of writing.

    I jest of course. Its ravishing. Beautifully written.

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