Paradise found in a mushroom December 15, 1994

Moveable Feast Marino Corazza

YOU are what you eat; we're also what we drink. But what the statement really should say is: "We are what they want us to eat and drink."

Through the passage of time, we, the human race, went and lost it -- the original tree of knowledge, the magic mushroom. Terence McKenna, author of Food of the Gods (Random Century), tells us what we inherited instead: "Our culture, self-toxified by the poisonous by-products of technology and egocentric ideology, is the unhappy inheritor of the dominator attitude that alteration of consciousness by the use of plants or substances is somehow wrong, onanistic and perversely antisocial."

McKenna argues that "suppression of shamanic gnosis, with its reliance and insistence on ecstatic dissolution of the ego, has robbed us of life's meaning and made us enemies of the planet in order to keep intact the wrongheaded assumptions of the ego-dominator style".

It is time for change, he says. McKenna's findings are based on the idea that, in the absence of other choices, we've embraced bad alternatives that cause obsessive and habitual behaviour. We don't examine our obsessive behaviour -- we just do it, letting nothing get in the way of our gratification.

This is the kind of life we are being sold at every level: to watch, consume, and to watch and consume once more. While we yearn for the paradise lost, we ingest vast quantities of highly addictive substitutes -- TV, alcohol, tobacco, sugar and man-made drugs.

The public is shaped into a herd, living in a golden moment created by a credit system which binds us to a web of illusions that is never critiqued. This is the consequence of having broken off the symbiotic relationship with the Gaian matrix of the planet. The legacy is imbalance between the sexes, and a long descent into meaninglessness and toxic existential confusion.

According to McKenna, help is at hand in the form of the magic mushroom and its hallucinogenic properties. In his experience of taking mushrooms, "bizarre ideas, often hilariously funny, curious insights, some seeming almost godlike in their profundity, shards of memories and free- form hallucinations all clamour for attention".

He continues: "In the state of hallucinogenic intoxication, creativity is not something that one expresses, it is something one observes. The existence of this dimension of knowable meaning that appears to be without connection to one's personal past or aspirations, seems to argue that we are facing either a thinking Other or the deep structures of the psyche made suddenly visible. Perhaps both."

And this is achieved by a natural product. Aftre all, nature ought to be declared legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place. It's synonymous to making zucchini or broccoli contraband merchandise.

Bring on the Food of the Gods. I'm certainly prepared to give it a try. I'll have a generous portion, please.

© Weekly Mail & Guardian
You may not redistribute or republish this material in any form whatsoever without prior written consent