This past October, I had the rare opportunity of meeting the world’s leading drug authorities at the Second Annual Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms, sponsored by Head Science Editor Jonathan Ott and Head Contributing Editor Jeremy Bigwood.
It was with particular pleasure that I had the chance to meet with the featured speaker of the conference and one of the true fathers of our Psychedelic Age, R. Gordon Wasson. A former journalist and a retired banker, Mr. Wasson is acknowledged as the world’s leading expert on hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Mr. Wasson will undoubtedly be recognized as one of the great scholars and thinkers of this century. For over 50 years, he has pursued a quest for truth about the relationship between psychoactive plants and early man’s concept of deity and the supernatural.
In his pioneering work, Mushrooms, Russia and History, Wasson along with his wife Valentina Pavlovna, documented the existence of Siberian tribes that from the dawn of history ingested the hallucinogenic mushroom, Amanita muscaria. In another book, SOMA, Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Wasson solved a puzzle that had intrigued scholars for centuries and indicated that “soma,” the sacred drug praised in the Rig-Veda, India’s oldest religious document, was in fact also Amanita muscaria.
In the 1950s, Wasson traveled to Mexico in search of a modern-day mushroom cult. On June 29, 1955, in the small mountain village of Huautla de Jimenéz in the state of Oaxaca, R. Gordon Wasson joined the Mexican holy woman, María Sabina, in an ancient mushroom ritual and became the first outsider in modern times to ingest the “sacred mushroom” of the Aztecs, Psilocybe cubensis. [Note from John W. Allen, the ingested mushrooms were actually Psilocybe caerulescens Heim].
Now 79, [note from JWA, that was in 1977], Mr. Wasson, has recently announced the most important discovery of his career. Working in collaboration with Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, and Carl Ruck, a professor of Greek at Boston University, a new book is being published, entitled The Road To Eleusis, in which these three scholars show that our own cultural ancestors, the ancient Greeks, ate—and even worshiped—hallucinogenic plants, just as Siberian tribesmen and Aztec priests did.
Thanks to R. Gordon Wasson, the modern world is again aware of the historic importance of psychedelic plants. In the face of the ignorance, prejudice and fear of psychedelics such as Wasson have shown that the psychedelic experience of early man was an important part, if not the foundation, of not only his religious experience but also of the elements of human consciousness.
Charlotte Faye Greenberg
Editor and Publisher