In May 2016, I got a call from an old Mate
We had been having some ‘time out’ from each other
The last day we saw one another had involved several ‘Brown Euros’ and an incident involving a hospital. Our ‘time out’ had stretched out to two years.
‘I’m staying out at my Dad’s cottage in Lorne…’ he told me.
He was living the dream in an old mud-brick cottage on the edge of the forest. Lorne was a three-hour drive from Melbourne down one of the most beautiful parts of Australia’s coastline — The Great Ocean Road.
‘…and Mate, there are mushies everywhere’.
The previous year’s mushroom season had been rather tame for me compared to usual. The heaviest it got was tripping my nut off at an exhibition in Federation Square, Melbourne.
The gallery consisted of working mechanical machinery that was made solely from human body parts.
I checked afterwards that this was the actual subject of the show — it was. For obvious reasons, I spent most of the evening outside, gazing up at the twinkling stars and listening to the sublime sounds of Underworld.
The Victorian Psilocybe Subaerugrinosa is considered by some to be the most potent magic mushroom in the world.
For those that have had encounters with these fascinating fungi, that will come as no surprise. By some good fortune, this is the primary specimen of mushroom that grows in Victoria, Australia during the colder months from about April.
Two of these beauties is enough to make you feel like you are in heaven.
I drove down to Lorne and met Jack at his Dad’s cottage. It was a charming place surrounded by native forests. Magnificent mud-brick walls, dazzling stained glass and classic furniture made this place feel like some kind of reclusive novelist lived there.
That first night we just smoked, drunk tea, caught up on life and listened to Miles Davis. That would have been enough. I probably should have driven home the next morning — but I didn’t.
At about 11 am, Jack and I grabbed some carrier bags and scissors and headed out to the forest.
After about twenty minutes, we came upon a patch and started picking. One of the good things about ‘subs’ (Psilocybe Subaerugrinosa) is that they are quite unique. After a couple of picks with an experienced person, you can spot them a mile off.
For someone picking mushrooms for the first time, it is not recommended to do it without someone experienced. There are a ton of ‘doppelgangers’ — mushrooms which, to the untrained eye, look just like the real thing.
Eat one of these and nothing might happen, but you could also experience three days of hellish pain followed by certain death.
Not to put a downer on things, but I’m just saying — never guess with mushrooms.
In total, we picked about forty. It wasn’t a huge haul, but it wasn’t small either. Most of the mushrooms we picked were very large.
Just one of them would be enough to give you a pretty intense trip.
Back at the house, Jack sorted and washed the fungi. He split about half of them into two piles.
‘What about the rest?’ I asked
Somehow, the country air was making me braver than usual. In my experience, that heroic feeling around mushrooms is something on which you need to capitalise.
Jack was a very experienced ‘psychonaut’ (tripper).
He explained to me in a lovely way that the piles he had already made would be enough to give us a more significant trip than any of us had ever experienced before.
My naive insistence led to him splitting up the rest of the mushrooms. We ate about ten gigantic mushrooms each and boiled the other twenty into a tea.
As soon as we finished the tea, Jack started freaking out.
He told me that he had never done even half of this amount before and that we had done a terrible, terrible thing.
His words didn’t help my mental state, but I have this skill of being able to hold it together externally even when I am falling apart on the inside.
I felt extremely concerned about what we had done and contemplated inducing vomiting. I told Jack that we should take some diazepam and he told me he forgot to bring it.
Diazepam, or similar, should usually be on hand when someone is taking a mushroom trip.
You don’t have to take the tablet but having it there gives you the calm of knowing that you have it if you want it. Diazepam, in my experience, is the quickest and most effective way to calm somebody down who is freaking out on a trip.
Anyway, we didn’t have any.
I considered a pharmacy run, but it was simply too late. It had been a few minutes and I already felt the waves of the trip hitting my body hard.
I knew within twenty minutes I would be speaking in tongues and the pharmacy would be no place you would want to be at that point.
Besides, none of us had a script for diazepam (although to us that didn’t seem to be a consideration at that point).
We settled in the lounge and smoked a big joint instead.
Jack put on a playlist of jazz and cranked it up loud.
I could tell he wasn’t having a good time. He sat on a big comfy chair and covered himself with a blanket.
I’ve never enjoyed the sensation of coming up on mushrooms. To me, it feels like a confusing sensation — a mild version of going mad.
If you take enough, it usually opens out into a very euphoric, clear state of mind — but going through the beginning can be challenging.
I decided to have a little peek outside. I walked through the French doors and into the forest — there were hundreds of eyes looking at me. I squinted and looked closer, knowing full well that it was the trip, but the eyes were fabulously vivid.
The trees were covered in eyes; the house bricks had eyes; everything was alive and looking back at me. It was dazzling — but it was cold, so I went back inside.
I lay on the bed and stared up at the ceiling.
I felt orgasmic bliss fill my whole body, far from the usual several second bursts that the average male gets from sex.
I began having absurdly powerful full-body orgasms one after the other.
Noises and phrases started coming out of my mouth without my permission.
I was continuously saying ‘Oh my God’ and moaning very loudly. I went back to the lounge and lay on the carpet, so Jack didn’t think I was doing anything untoward in the bedroom.
The waves got bigger and more energetic.
As much as I tried, my moaning and yelling just got louder — it was entirely over the top, but I lost control. I suddenly understood why women get so loud with their orgasms.
Previously, I have sometimes been guilty of wondering why they had to scream so loudly and continuously say things like ‘Oh my God’.
Now I understood — there is simply no way of stopping it.
The orgasms levelled out into a consistent bliss.
I had an urge to take all of my clothes off.
Now, standing naked, I wanted to be out in the forest, so I headed for the French doors. As I put my hand on the doorknob, a man’s voice said ‘No’. I thought it was Jack, but I turned around, and he had gone — his chair was empty.
I had a brief moment of clarity where I realised that if I go naked into the forest in the middle of winter, I might die.
Instead, I grabbed a blanket, walked over and slumped in the chair in front of the blazing fire. All at once, I realised why people end up naked up trees when they are tripping.
The mushrooms made me feel like I wanted to be naked and in nature. I had experienced that before but not to that degree.
I gazed into the smouldering fire.
Millions of beings were dancing in the flames.
There were vast cities of light, with many people living out their lives. I looked closer to see if I was mistaken, but there they were — clear as day.
That was the last thing I saw.
The last thing I heard was John Coltrane at high volume as I leaned back in the chair, took a deep breath and shot out of my body.
I was stretched out across the whole landscape, watching everyone going about their business.
I began reaching out into space and heard incredibly loud booming noises. Then the expansion started happening much quicker. I was expanding so fast, further and further out into the universe.
As this happened, I completely lost any sense of who I was. I forgot my name and my history; then I forgot about the world and human beings.
My consciousness split into two — male and female energies — vast displays of light energy climbing higher and higher into bliss. They were separate entities and yet I was also both of them. The powers danced together in space, teasing each other with flirtatious movements as they rose up through infinite celestial fields.
The pleasure seemed to get so deep it was hard to bear; then it would level out as if I had reached another stage.
In a moment that I can only just put into words, I was looking at the entire universe, but in a very reasonable way.
I remember from that perspective, the universe was ‘dressed’ as a forest, but I knew it was dressed that way for my benefit. The universe was very relatable as a forest. It spoke to me.
‘Don’t worry about me, I’m just the universe’ it said, laughing.
We spoke for a long time.
I can’t remember the specific topics but this stage seemed quite reasonable compared to a lot of the others. I seem to remember we discussed the makeup of the universe and how things work.
I kept asking complex questions about science and spirituality, and I got very detailed answers.
It is probably hard to read this without thinking that it is just the words of some tripper who was crawling around in the forest hallucinating.
I can guarantee you that it wasn’t like this at all.
My consciousness was so far out of my body by this point that I am amazed that I came back.
During my trip, I became multiple deities and visited vast lands that were sometimes celestial, sometimes demonic.
Most of the experiences were just so far out that I couldn’t possibly explain them in words.
At some point, I remembered my old self. I realised that I had wholly lost my mind.
I was tortured by the idea that, upon discovering me lying in the chair in the cottage, ‘they’ would have to spoon-feed me and push me around in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
I was sad that my loved ones would have to go through that and that I would never be able to communicate with them properly again. I was embarrassed that I had thrown away my life for the sake of some mushrooms.
I began to feel the hellish torture that is full-blown mental illness.
I can’t fully explain what that is like, but it is reasonable to describe it as hell.
I never had much empathy for people with mental illness before that. But that day, I experienced the most profound aspect of being utterly crazy.
Fortunately, I had been meditating for a long time.
I am not a ‘deep’ meditator as such — but meditation taught me how to continuously be aware of mental phenomena without letting them carry me away.
I believe that this one primary method kept me present and thus stopped me from falling headlong into some kind of void. Then again, it might have just been fine either way. I knew that I had gone crazy, but my awareness seemed sad about it, like it knew what was happening but was powerless to stop it.
Much more happened, but most of it was beyond our ordinary concepts.
At some point, I shot back into my body and opened my eyes.
I was back in the chair by the fire, but the fire had long gone out. It was light outside. I looked at my phone — it was 7 am the next day. I was naked and freezing.
They say that a regular mushroom trip lasts four to six hours — but I had been gone for around twenty hours.
Now, back in my body, I tried to find my underpants, but it was tricky. The room was alive, pulsing and luminous. What I was experiencing would have been classed as an intense trip for an average person. Nothing seemed real at all — but, for me, being back in my body and, knowing who I was again felt euphoric.
I realised the value of sobriety and sanity more than I ever have in my life.
I tried to roll a joint with my hands shaking madly from psilocybin and the cold. As I rolled, I realised the jazz was still blasting on the speaker. I turned it down and went looking for Jack. I knocked on his bedroom door, and a meek voice told me he was okay but didn’t want to see anyone right now.
I couldn’t blame him — poor bastard.
Later that day, we sat outside with tea and discussed our trips.
We both felt remarkably good.
Jack told me that he started paranoid anyway, but then he saw me pulsating and making loud sex noises, and he couldn’t take it, so he left for his room.
After trying to call his girlfriend and leaving multiple strange messages, he too left his body. He entered a gothic nightmare of the highest order — the kind that would leave anyone feeling very different.
Jack has never been quite the same since.
I have never really been the same since either for that matter.
In the months that followed the trip, I developed anxiety and my first experience of panic attacks.
I developed intense claustrophobia — something I have never experienced in my life. Some might say that these were adverse side effects of psilocybin. I feel more like these things were somehow already residing in my body — like the trip released them and gave them a chance to get out.
I know that the general narrative is that mushrooms can be life-changing in a positive way.
I know this to be true, but I must make a sincere proposition that you stick to the recommended dose.
Any medicine can be destructive when you take too much. I used to be sceptical when people told me that they tripped and turned into a unicorn or whatever.
Now, I understand — if you are on mushrooms, anything is possible.
I am fine these days.
All of the post-trip effects gradually left, and I went back to ‘normal’ — whatever that means.
I would like to say that I brought back something profound from that trip and I did — but it is not what you would think. It is not some kind of insight that ‘we are all connected’ or that ‘we are all special’ or that ‘love is the answer’ — far from it.
What I brought back is much more useful — sincere gratitude for sobriety, sanity and the ability to communicate.
When I said it was my last mushroom trip, I lied.
About a week after the event, I took about four knowing that I had to ‘get back on the horse’ immediately.
I sat in my room and watched a movie about Winnie The Pooh who taught me the secrets of the universe.
After that, I watched a video about the Dalai Lama and through the whole thing he looked like he was made of light.
That was the last time I ever took mushrooms.