On the Right Hand of God
A Partial History of the Sacred Fungi




Part One
    The Fungus Among Us

Part Two
    The Written Word

Part Three
    Naked in the Desert
    Desert Teacher
        Fungus Farm
        Plants Alive
    Journey to the Mountains
    The Mushroom Speaks
    What the Hell?
    Blessed are the Meek

Desert Teacher

I rolled into Sells, Arizona in February of 1975. Sells was the tribal headquarters of the Papago Indian Reservation. Why Sells? Remote, mild winters and peaceful. The Papago People never got into the "Indian Wars", so I figured they would be less hostile than their northern neighbors. There I found an opportunity to practice solitude; there were only 15 thousand people in an area the size of Connecticut.

It wasn't a very well financed expedition, in fact, I was broke. I had an IRS refund check coming from my last day job, so I settled in to wait for it. My job description read "itinerant poet", but there weren't many openings for one on the res, so I settled for, "token hippie". That didn't pay at all, but I got invited to all the parties.

The plan was to hike and meditate and let the crust of the big city just fall away. I developed a technique that I called "aimful wandering" to practice being led into adventure or enlightenment. It was a pretty easy trick to master; you simply let go and wander. I used to imagine that I was wearing "ball bearing shoes" that would let me respond to the slightest directional pull. It was great fun to practice and it led me to some very interesting experiences.

One was an old mesquite stump about 2 miles from my camp. I found it on one of my walks and used it for a writing spot. I used to sit for hours with my back up against her and read, write and meditate. My daily trips to this stump became a ritual that put me in a receptive frame of mind. Part of the ceremony was to smoke a joint while I reviewed my previous notes and got into the mood to write. In this relaxed state I began to receive insights that came from somewhere besides my conscious mind. I knew that, because my consciousness was always surprised by these revelations. It seems that this process is part of the way our subconscious organizes and sorts information to present to the conscious. There was also the chance that this information was coming into my mind from a source outside my body, possibly from a higher intelligence than my own. This phenomenon has been reported throughout history and certainly would give the impression that there are some sort of "spirits" that can bring messages to the individual. Not wanting to label this experience in a way that would identify it with some belief system or another, I called it "The Flow".

The first of these experiences happened right after I had read a little bit of "Don Juan". Today, it doesn't matter much to me whether Carlos Castenada ever met a "Don Juan" or if he made the whole thing up. On that day, it mattered even less. I was back up against my stump, smoking a joint, thinking about Carlos, when it occurred to me that, someday, at some opportune moment, I would hear a crow cawing, and not know if it were a spirit message or not. At that very moment a crow let loose right behind me. A sudden chill went through me and the scene in front of me kind of flipped real fast, one time, like an edit in a home video. That was all, just a "twang", like somebody plucked a hidden string in my brain. It had a strong effect on me.

A few days later, I had another one. This time, the "flip" lasted a little longer. I was thinking about Mother Nature, wondering what that really meant, when suddenly the horizon seemed to turn on its side. I felt myself clinging to this vast rock as it hurled through space. I could hear the roar of the solar winds and the feel the chill of outer space. I was being told something, but I couldn't quite understand the message. It was just a flash and everything was back to normal. That "jiggled my jello" quite a bit, but the next one really set me off.

I had been reading an old issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly with a discussion about information theory by Gregory Bateson. I was sitting at my stump, just mulling this stuff over in my mind, when the stump itself seemed to be telling me something. I turned around and looked at it, and the sight of its weather beaten surface, crawling with various insects, with its rings, its insides exposed to the sky, triggered a flood of thoughts and emotions. I looked at the rings closely and I could see that they varied regularly with the fluctuations in weather. Of course, I already knew that, but it became profound in the moment. That was historical INFORMATION. I could suddenly see that if you could match up the patterns representing wet and dry years from different trees in the same neighborhood, you could forge a continuous record of the local weather. That's a lot of information. I began to "see" that this tree was matter, organized in a certain way, because of its "history" as a living being. It had been a living record of the interaction of its genetic code with this particular environment. I felt an emotional rush of comprehension that gave me a lump in my throat. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that this stump still participated in the flow of information with its whole being. Alive or dead, she was a record of every storm, every insect and every woodsman's axe. Matter, information, intelligence and energy became plastic in my mind and swirled around each other in a wild blur of meaning. ALIVE, ALIVE, ALIVE, kept running through my brain. I broke down and cried when I realized that LIVING encompasses all things, the air, the rocks, the water and dead trees.

Exactly how all of this "enlightenment" had taken place and "who" was responsible was really a mystery to me. I thought that the mechanics of it all, if you can call them that, probably involved systems I didn't know much about and certainly higher relationships than I seemed able to grasp. What I did know for a fact was the conditions necessary to trigger one of these episodes. There seemed to be a period of a build up of anger and frustration that preceded it, and a serious questioning was important. Of course, it seemed pretty evident that marijuana was in the equation somewhere. After all, the joint was usually still in my hand. The pot seemed to help select the channel, or maybe tune the antennae.

About this time, I heard about the "magic mushrooms" of Mexico. They seemed to be what I was looking for. Instead of flashes of this other reality, I wanted a wide open line. Before I could organize a trip to Mexico, the opportunity to grow my own "fungus farm" presented itself.


By the fall of 1976, the fungus farm had begun to take shape. The funds, the proper place and the Psilocybin Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide, all came together at once. We built an inoculating hood, bought a pile of compost, some spores, and we were ready to go. It was more fun than high school science and we hoped to get a bunch of fresh, organic hallucinogens. We soon learned to grow the mycelium in Mason jars, which we intended to use as "spawn" to inoculate our roomful of sterile compost.

But there were problems. We were all good friends, but the "vibe" was getting negative. By early spring I was ready to move on. For some reason, we hadn't been able to get any of our mycelium to fruit, and it would have been a couple of months before we could have repeated the procedure. I didn't want to wait. I don't like the desert heat and made plans to hit the road.

Apparently, we had too many individual plants in each jar and no single mycelium could get enough energy together to fruit. I took my leave of the situation and a few Mason jars as my share and planned for some high times. The first night I parked my camper in a little canyon south of Tucson, and got a good night's sleep. The morning was clear with a brisk breeze, and I decided that there was no time like the present to reap some of the benefits of the harvest. We didn't have mushrooms, but the chemical makeup of the mycelium is almost identical. The stuff was growing in a medium of whole rye, oyster shell and a bunch of other nutrients that shouldn't have been harmful. I had read that the toxicity of these mushrooms was almost zero, so I set about washing some of this mixture down with water. It tasted bad, but it didn't threaten to come back up, so I ate some more.

At the time, I viewed the action of hallucinogenic plants in the body as being of mainly a chemical nature and that these chemicals released information already in us or tuned us in to some outside intelligence. I believed that plants were alive, and I was sure that it was purely accidental that they produced such chemicals. I thoughtlessly devoured the contents of a quart jar and hiked off down the trail to find a spot in the sun and out of the wind to see what all of the fuss was about.

Now you must remember that the mycelium is the part that grows underground. The mushroom is the fruit, offered gladly, but the mycelium is the very "brain" of the plant and was never intended to be eaten. They thought that they were safe growing in cowshit.

My first impression, even before the psilocybin began to work on me was one of being threatened. I was leaning back on a rock, watching the wind whip the tree branches, when I suddenly had the feeling that there was some danger behind me. I turned around expecting a snake or something, but there was nothing there. As the sound of the wind became beautiful music and the branches began to shoot sparks, this feeling of paranoia increased. With it came the question: What is causing this fear? At once I realized what I had done; there were living plants dying in my stomach and they were plugged into my main control panel through their psilocybin. As soon as I had identified the source of the unrest, they flashed out of hiding into a surge of power that I could only interpret as the "will" of some entity outside myself. Although my landscape was twisted, I didn't see any angels or monsters or spots of light, but there was no doubt that I was dealing with something real.

Plants Alive Back to Top

I felt the need to be around the familiar things in my camper, so I tried to find my way back. It wasn't very far and, although the scenery was warped, I got back to the truck in one piece.

On the way back I noticed that the plants all had a peculiar look about them. Once I was safe at home, I began to study the plants just outside my door. There was a big Century plant that caught my attention. It pulsed with life and will. I felt suddenly aware of its thoughts, how it would really love to sink its roots into my dead flesh. No animosity, on the contrary, it was much like the feeling I have had towards a favorite vegetable. A feeling of...yes, love. I was overwhelmed. I "saw" those plants as being entities like myself, with all of the same attributes except mobility. I felt their very nature in a way not easy to explain. I was plugged into the "plant kingdom" beyond my wildest dreams, but there was a cheshire cat on my shoulder. My attention was soon dominated by the presence of the mushroom entity. This entity was a "They" rather than a single being.

Me: "Who the fuck are you? I demanded. In a flash, I received an opening statement. It was a "block" of information, like somebody had loaded a new disk into my computer. I "knew" the entire contents of the block at once, but couldn't grasp any of the details except one at a time.

Shrooms: "We are travelers from the Stars... We offer... Salvation... cooperate with us... Wisdom and power... are yours... cooperate... as did your ancestors... cooperate"

I was suspicious. I thought about the old folk tales about selling one's soul to the devil.

Me: "No", I shouted, "I don't trust you." There was a feeling of something like "smugness" coming from somewhere behind my eyeballs. It was almost like a sly laugh.

Shrooms: "We are already a part of you... We are part of your children and their children... We are inside you and we will never leave... You have already accepted the deal...

Me: "No", I shouted again. My memory banks were unloading my own blocks of information on the subject. Everything I had ever read about gods and devils, and power plants. Every question I could formulate was answered instantaneously with the same kind of a "block" of data. This book is a summary of the answers to that first set of questions.

I saw how they had used us for their own gains. Suddenly the relationship between man and his gods took on a whole new meaning. "So, this is who the ancient priests had communicated with."

I was shaken by the realization of what they had done. The thought that they somehow had entered their data into our DNA hit me like a freight train. "part of your children...and their children..." Celibacy in the priesthood took on a new meaning. It was meant as a way to use the power of the mushroom without passing on the "curse" to future generations.

I knew that this was a "cruel and vengeful god", whose followers have raped and murdered and plundered for centuries. This was the god that required his warriors to die in battle, who called for blood sacrifice...even of the first born! Who ordered his followers to torture and murder their enemies.

Me: "Why have you mistreated us so? Why have you set us against one another in endless wars?" I asked. The answer was another jolt.

Shrooms: "We need mankind to take us to a new home in the Stars. Man is a lazy animal. He won't leave this planet for cold space while there is a choice."

So the gods have set us up to destroy this planet so that we have no choice but to take them where they want to go.

IlluminationBack to Top

There was a storm of action inside my brain. Images flew by that set off reverberations of implications that also became images, themselves setting off more waves of implication. Yet each of these thought forms was understood immediately and completely. I was adrift in a sea of information, with only my questions for a rudder. And I wanted it all; the whole mushroom rap ran down pretty much like I see it today, in microseconds. It took me about a week to run through all of that information just one time for the digital side of my brain. I am still trying to translate those microseconds into English, years later.

The cartoon image of a light bulb going off over the character's head is good, but it was more like a thousand strobe lights going off at once. That little click you get when something finally makes sense? Just like that only to the hundredth power. "Oh, now I see" blasting through all of my circuits at once. I was overwhelmed by understanding. My reaction was a complete rejection of the deal. I swore at that moment to expose their deception to the world.

I have been checking the validity of that understanding against our collective history for better than two decades, and it has held up. The evidence of this longstanding and on-going relationship between our warrior god and his subjects is everywhere if the reader is willing to wade through centuries of lies, word plays and propaganda with this new knowledge as your guide.

My number one mission in life became that of warning the world, and especially my friends, about the awesome power of these plants and how they have tricked the human race into being their slaves. The reaction from my friends was less than enthusiastic. I ranted and raved to blank stares for a couple of weeks. I got little sleep and had a lot of trouble relating to my old values. My new knowledge was not welcomed by the public, but at the same time, it made it hard for me to support the civilization that I now recognized as fungus dominated. I knew the frustration of trying to communicate visions to people. I needed time to organize my thoughts. I needed time alone. It was beginning to get hot in the desert, early May, and I didn't want to drive my truck any more. I just could no longer participate in the group insanity. In short, what I needed was a burro trip to the mountains. It was one of those things that seemed as natural to me as could be; I was broke, summer was coming and I was ready. When I told my friends of my plans, the blank stares turned to raised eyebrows. Everyone was sure that jim had really flipped out. To me there didn't seem like there was any choice. I was going to walk, and I couldn't carry everything I thought I needed on my back, so a burro made sense.

All along, my plan for the summer had been to check out the Gila Wilderness in southern New Mexico. From looking at the map, I was sure that the country would suit me. It seemed to offer the best chance of solitude of all of my choices and was within walking distance, about 350 miles. I picked out a spot on the map, roughly 50 miles north of Silver City. I picked out a canyon about 1/2 mile from a minor trail about 6 miles from the trail head. I had a good topo map of the area and marked that canyon before I ever left Arizona. I thought I would go there first and then try something else if that wasn't what I wanted. It seemed important to have a clear destination. There I would camp for the remainder of the summer and write out this whole crazy story.

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©2005 jim cranford