Mushrooms were the topic
of Paul Stamets’ stirring speech, which received the loudest, most enthusiastic
applause of the entire conference. The world is covered in a network of
mycelium, said Stamets, a small underground web of mushroom “roots”.

“Mycelium is sentient. It
is a part of the mindscape of Gaia, an overlying mosaic of neural membranes,”
he said, showing with slides how mycelia looks exactly like the neural
network of the human brain. He also showed how mycelia seek and destroy
bacteria like E Coli, how they break down diesel and oil, making fungi
ideal for cleaning up spills. He pointed to the lowly slime mold, and its
eerie ability to navigate a maze in search of food, “choosing the best
possible route.” He also suggested that mushrooms may be some kind of Gaian
secret agents.

“Mycelium responds to catastrophe,”
Stamets said. “As we chop wood and build houses, psilocybe [psychoactive]
mushrooms grow in the disturbed areas. The psilocybe mushrooms are following
the activities of humans. It is no coincidence.”

Stamets believes that a part
of mushrooms’ secret-agent role is to save the world from human folly by
helping us to evolve more environmentally conscious ways of living. He
told how taking magic mushrooms unfolded the mystery of the many uses of
fungi to him. He described how he used non-psychoactive fungi to rid his
home of termites, a patented process that would replace harmful pesticides
and for which he is now being offered large sums of money. He also explained
how he uses mushrooms to rehabilitate forests near watersheds, by creating
a mycelial network along logging roads that filters fish-killing silt before
it can leak into their marine habitats.

There were many other earth-shattering
revelations at the conference, which took eight sessions to complete and
lasted three days. Alexander Shulgin, famed entheogenic researcher, author
of Phikal and creator of MDMA (ecstasy) and many other empathic psychedelics,
presented his latest research on the biochemical content of psychedelic
San Pedro cacti, showing us indecipherable chromatographic charts and explaining
how picking San Pedro at different times of the day could give you slightly
different highs.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.