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Fungal Monoliths and the Space Porn of Panspermia.

Psilocybin mushrooms are also variously referred to as magic mushrooms or psychedelic mushrooms, though most popularly referred to as shrooms. They constitute roughly 200 species that grow on all continents on earth, though their favorite habitat appears to be subtropical rainforests. The psychedelic compounds they contain are psilocybin and psilocin, both of which are non-addictive and highly resistant to abuse. Though psychedelic effects initially increase with dosage an upper limit is reached; in addition, the more often they are ingested, the weaker the resulting effects. As with most psychedelics, more or less by definition, the experience is highly reliant upon one’s state of mind and so the most optimal “set and setting” should be secured before ingestion.

Or so various internet sources maintain.

Effects begin a half hour to an hour after ingestion, with the peak lasting for up to four hours and the entire experience lasting up to eight hours. These include perceptual shifts and distortions such as color enhancement and alteration, the presence of lights or halos, increased visual and auditory acuity, open and closed-eye hallucinations, synesthetic experiences and altered cognition, altered time perception, boundary dissolution and euphoria. Studies suggest that long-term effects may include decreased depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior topped off with an increased sense of well-being.

There are those, most famously Terence McKenna, who also believe the mushroom may be of extraterrestrial origin.

Their origins may be either of evolution or ETI design, McKenna suggests. In any case, shrooms may essentially be the equivalent of fungal von Neumann probes their manner of replication and, as McKenna appears to believe, Bracewell probes in terms of motives.

While fungi itself is clearly immobile, it reproduces asexually by releasing hundreds of thousands of microscopic spores from the gills beneath the cap. The casing of a mushroom spore is both very light and extremely tough, qualities that combined could allow them to both escape the planet and survive the conditions of interstellar space.

Though it may take millions of years, one spore out of many billions may make it from one star to another. In essence, shrooms might seed different planets around different stars, from which they send out more spores, and so on, in exponential fashion. In under 50 million years, starting on a single planet, they could potentially colonize the entire fucking galaxy — which, however bizarre it may initially sound, is essentially nothing more an interstellar extension of their earth-based strategy of reproduction. It could be that their origins lay far back in space and time, that we are but one of many cosmic islands around one of many stars that have been seeded by those magic fungal phalluses: the space-porn of panspermia.

Regardless of motive, assuming there is one beyond replication, the shroom seems largely benign — it does not constitute an invasive alien species, in other words, and on top of that survives primarily on mammalian poo.

McKenna does find suggestion of a secondary mushroom agenda, however, and it has become known as the Stoned Ape theory. McKenna suggests that at the end of the last ice age, as the jungles of North Africa began to recede and tree-dwelling apes descended from the trees and began hunting and gathering food, the magic mushrooms growing out of the shit spotting the grasslands became introduced into their diet.

His version of the mythical Eden then allegedly bloomed. The increased visual and auditory acuity, he reasoned, would have made them more successful hunters. The effects of synesthesia and glossolalia which may have facilitated the development of language, art, and music. The boundary dissolution and ego death reported at higher doses would have suspended the typical primate social structures. The effects of arousal mixed with the boundary dissolution would have given rise to orgiastic sex, thereby preventing males from determining paternity in cases of pregnancy and, as a consequence, they would have loyalty to all children of the group.

So we roamed around in egalitarian bands, feeding off of hunting, gathering and fishing and enjoying far more leisure time than modern culture typically allows until roughly ten thousand years ago. At that time, additional changes to the climate occurred and we adopted a sedentary lifestyle supported by agriculture. As a consequence, psilocybin was removed from the menu and we reverted back to our old primate social structures — though now within the context of our developed culture. So evolved our egos, our prejudice in the forms of racism, sexism and homophobia, hence our master and slave relations, greed and consumerism, so monogamy and monotheism. By making psychedelics such as psilocybin illegal, McKenna believes, the fuel behind the evolution of our consciousness has become rendered a crime.

Personally I find the Space-Shroom and Stoned Ape Hypothesis intriguing, but the Eden he imagines sounds far too dreamy for reality. Still, I respect its creativity if nothing more. My interest in it stems mostly from a previous experience I had with magic mushrooms when I tried them for the first time, perhaps a year or two back, though in very small doses. My most memorable experience was of sitting down and experiencing what I could only describe as an alien buzz, a vibration that screamed extraterrestrial to me for some unknown reason. It was odd and comforting, strangely soothing, and gave off the impression that it, or the drug that was its source, was somehow ancient and wise. I felt as if I were intimately connected to it.

I have heard references to McKenna over the years, but to this day I have not read him and I only recently watched videos regarding his ideas regarding the mushrooms. Nonetheless, maybe I picked up more than I thought over the years. Perhaps my experience of the alien buzz was based on cryptomnesia and triggered due to my ingestion of mushrooms and my many associations with the extraterrestrial subject. Maybe one of the effects of psilocybin is the elicitation of a foreign sense, an experience that might lead one to default to notions of divinity or extraterrestrial origins. Or maybe it gives off the sense of an extraterrestrial origin because it is indeed extraterrestrial — even so, it does not suggest they are fungal Bracewell probes artificially manufactured by ETI. Whatever the reason, the alien buzz was comforting — though the fact, and specifically the act of committing it to writing, admittedly makes me feel creepy.

In the midst of listening to one of McKenna’s lectures the other day I noticed a correlation between his two shroom theories and the plot line for Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (and perhaps even the non-Kubrickian sequel). In the film, a highly-evolved ETI creates the monoliths, big black slabs that cruise across the cosmos assisting in the evolution of intelligent creatures. One of these monoliths are encountered and touched by a tribe of early hominids in Africa, which seems to accelerate the evolution of consciousness, inspiring them to fashion tools, ultimately leading them to become the human species and create the technology — systems of tools — that allow them to colonize space.

It is there that the government finds a monolith buried on the moon, which they dig up and subsequently cover up in a political fashion. When exposed to sunlight, however, the monolith begins transmitting a signal to another monolith, this one around Jupiter. The government covers this up as well as sends a mission to Jupiter that goes horribly awry.

The monolith around Jupiter turns out to be a wormhole that leads the surviving astronaut, Dave, into what has all the qualities of a psychedelic experience. Dave is put through the simulation of a luxurious life and carried onward until the death, where he reaches out to a monolith that appears and is then reborn as the “Starchild”, a fetus floating within an orb above his bed. Now presumably one with the alien intelligence behind the monolith, he floats in space right before the earth.

In Roger Ager’s 2012 version of “2001: A Space Odyssey: Meaning of the Monolith Revealed,” which you can find on YouTube, he explains how Kubrick referred to the interpretation that this is a movie about an ETI guiding the evolution of the human species and then contacting it was but a surface layer of the film. It was speculated that the black color and rectangular shape of the monolith was elected because Kubrick meant for it to represent the movie screen, though admittedly held sideways in scenes involving gravity.

As in imagery, or more specifically the simulation of sensory experience that the movie screen would represent, as the true medium of communication adopted by the monolith — just as it would appear to be with the shroom. In essence, then, magic mushroom could serve as a sort of fungal monolith. Though the monolith does not inspire the hippy reactions in the early hominids the way that McKenna speculates the mushroom would have, they are both conceived as being extraterrestrial probes meant to accelerate and guide human evolution. Rather than touched or traveled through, however, the fungal monolith must be ingested and communications are mediated through chemical conversations expressed to the inhabiting awareness of the consuming organism through the multi-sensory, monolithic, cinematic screen of the brain.

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