Monday, February 27, 2012

Mushrooms












Many readers have no doubt already seen the video above of the presentation by Paul Stamets filmed in March 2008 discussing "Six Ways Mushrooms can Save the World" (many thanks to my good friend Mr. DY for alerting me to this video some years ago).

Now, there is a new video just recently uploaded to the web, also featuring Paul Stamets in a TEDMed talk from October of 2011, which goes into more detail on some of the amazing subjects discussed in the video above, as well as discussing some recent advances he and his colleagues have made since then. It includes a very moving story at the end that you won't want to miss.



As Mr. Stamets himself mentions in both talks and discusses at greater length in his writings both on the internet and in his published books (such as Mycelium Running, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, The Mushroom Cultivator, and Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World), there is extensive evidence that ancient civilizations were keenly aware of the incredible powers of mushrooms -- perhaps more aware than we are today.

In this selection from Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, Mr. Stamets provides some descriptions of the evidence of ancient mushroom use, including cave art in the Tassili region of Algeria in which "mushrooms with electrified auras are depicted outlining a dancing shaman." The "electrified auras" -- as well as the descriptions and images Mr. Stamets gives in his talks of mycelium as "the Earth's natural internet" -- brings to mind the topics touched on in previous posts such as this one and this one. Mr. Stamets also notes that the man known as "The Ice Man" (whose mummified remains were found in the Ă–tzal Alps) apparently had three different species of mushroom among his possessions.

There is strong evidence that the ancient Egyptians, Hindus, and Maya all revered mushrooms. This website outlines some of the arguments that have been made concerning the possibility that the manna described in the sacred Hebrew Scriptures was actually a form of mushroom (it was small and round, it was gathered in the morning "in the morning dew," and it would breed larva and melt to mush if kept and not dried).

Books by Dr. Dan Merkur (Mystery of Manna: the Psychadelic Sacrament of the Bible) and Dr. Carl A. P. Ruck (Sacred Mushrooms: Secrets of Eleusis and Mushrooms, Myth, and Mithras: The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe) provide extensive evidence that the ancients incorporated psychoactive mushrooms in some of their most important attempts to interact with the divine and the supernatural. The writings of the first Europeans to encounter the civilizations of Central America indicate the same thing, as do the hundreds of "mushroom stones" which have been found in the Americas.

Mr. Stamets has another article available on the internet which explores some fascinating history of mushrooms in Asia, demonstrating connections to the warrior "Flowering Knights" of Korea and to shamanic practice, as well as pointing out that "Prominent within many Buddhist temples are representations of medicinal mushrooms, particularly Ganoderma lucidum, also known as Ling Chi, the Mushroom of Immortality, and the Tree of Life Mushroom."

Whatever your assessment of these various arguments, it is apparent from the work of Mr. Stamets that modern science is only just beginning to take note of the amazing secrets surrounding mushrooms. It is also quite clear that ancient advanced civilizations perceived the importance of these amazing organisms.

While more examination on the topic is warranted, the prominent place of mushrooms in ancient times in Asia, Central America, and the Mediterranean, as well as the fact that they were apparently referred to as "The Bread of God" by civilizations in both the Old World and the New World, seems to point to the possibility of contact beyond what is countenanced in conventional history.

Much more can be said on this subject, beyond the scope of this short post, but in conclusion it is also important to point out a subject brought up in both of Mr. Stamets' videos above. That is the fact that there are very rare and very beneficial fungi species which can only be found in old growth forests. These species (such as the Agarikon fungi, or fomitopsis officinalis) were apparently known to the ancients, but have disappeared from Europe with the disappearance of the old growth forests, and now can be only rarely encountered in the few remaining patches of old growth forest in the Pacific northwest.

It seems that in the process of stamping out ancient knowledge in much of the world, the agents of anti-knowledge also nearly stamped out a species that the ancients recognized as incredibly beneficial to mankind. No doubt there are many other species that were in fact lost forever, whose potency mankind will now never have the opportunity to rediscover.

Note: the fact that mushroom expert Paul Stamets feels the need to place the warning in bold type and red ink on his website which reads, "WARNING: Never eat a mushroom unless it has been positively identified" should be taken with the utmost of seriousness. There are mushrooms which can destroy the human liver before any ill effects are noticed -- by the time the symptoms show up, it is usually too late. Fungi on one continent that look just like the fungi of another can be edible in one continent but can be a deadly look-alike species on another. Every year there are tragic stories of families from Asia living in California who pick wild fungi for a New Year's dish and all are poisoned by the same meal. Please use extreme caution and respect the power of mushrooms -- they are an organism which is not to be taken lightly.