Synopsis

For those who have encountered the sacred mushroom, the psilocybin experience is like an ancient codex whose glyphs are at once baffling and clear. To make sense of it, each must perform an act of translation or interpretation by which the strange is rendered familiar. But how should this be done? In the post-war period alone an original psychological framework has given way to mysticism, itself replaced in turn by the language of shamanism.

Here, I want to draw attention away from the mushroom experience itself the usual province of trip-lit Ð to a consideration of the ways it has been interpreted throughout history. For, contrary to received wisdom, very few cultures have decoded the mushroom as we do. I shall ask a fundamental question: does the mushroom bring genuine transcendence, or are the experiences it occasions forever bound by culture?

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