بخش 30کتاب: چگونه ذهنیت خود را تغییر دهید / فصل 30
- زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
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متن انگلیسی فصل
WHEN THE NEXT MORNING I came downstairs, Paul Stamets was in the living room, arranging his collection of mushroom stones on the coffee table. I had read about these artifacts but had never seen or held one, and they were impressive objects: roughly carved chunks of basalt in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some were simple and looked like gigantic mushrooms; others had a tripod or four-footed base, and still others had a figure carved into the stipe (or stem). Thousands of these stones were smashed by the Spanish, but two hundred are known to survive, and Stamets owns sixteen of them. Most of the surviving stones have been found in the Guatemalan highlands, often when farmers are plowing their fields; some have been dated to at least 1000 B.C.
As Stamets carried the heavy stones, one by one, from their cabinet to the coffee table, where he arranged them with great care, he looked like an altar boy, handling them with the sobriety appropriate to irreplaceable sacred objects. It occurred to me Paul Stamets is R. Gordon Wasson’s rightful heir. (Wasson, too, collected mushroom stones, some of which I saw at Harvard.) He shares his radically mycocentric cosmology and sees evidence wherever he looks for the centrality of psychoactive mushrooms in culture, religion, and nature. Stamets’s laptop is crammed with images of Psilocybes taken not only from nature (he’s a superb photographer) but also from cave paintings, North African petroglyphs, medieval church architecture, and Islamic designs, some of which recall the forms of mushrooms or, with their fractal geometric patternings, mushroom experiences. I confess that try as I might, I often failed to find the mushrooms lurking in the pictures. No doubt the mushrooms themselves could help.
This brings us to Terence McKenna’s stoned ape theory, the epitome of all mycocentric speculation, which Stamets had wanted to make sure we discussed. Though reading is no substitute for hearing McKenna expound his thesis (you can find him on YouTube), he summarizes it in Food of the Gods (1992): Psilocybes gave our hominid ancestors “access to realms of supernatural power,” “catalyzed the emergence of human self-reflection,” and “brought us out of the animal mind and into the world of articulated speech and imagination.” This last hypothesis about the invention of language turns on the concept of synesthesia, the conflation of the senses that psychedelics are known to induce: under the influence of psilocybin, numbers can take on colors, colors attach to sounds, and so on. Language, he contends, represents a special case of synesthesia, in which otherwise meaningless sounds become linked to concepts. Hence, the stoned ape: by giving us the gifts of language and self-reflection psilocybin mushrooms made us who we are, transforming our primate ancestors into Homo sapiens.
The stoned ape theory is not really susceptible to proof or disproof. The consumption of mushrooms by early hominids would be unlikely to leave any trace in the fossil record, because the mushrooms are soft tissue and can be eaten fresh, requiring no special tools or processing methods that might have survived. McKenna never really explains how the consumption of psychoactive mushrooms could have influenced biological evolution—that is, selected for changes at the level of the genome. It would have been easier for him to make an argument for psychoactive fungi’s influence on cultural evolution—such as the one Wasson made—but evidently the fungi had more ambitious plans for the mind of Terence McKenna, and Terence McKenna was more than happy to oblige.
Stamets became good friends with McKenna during the last few years of his life, and ever since McKenna’s death (at age fifty-three, from brain cancer), he has been carrying the stoned ape’s torch, recounting McKenna’s theory in many of his talks. Stamets acknowledges the challenges of ever proving it to anyone’s satisfaction yet deems it “more likely than not” that psilocybin “was pivotal in human evolution.” What is it about these mushrooms, I wondered, and the experience they sponsor in the minds of men, that fires this kind of intellectual extravagance and conviction?
The stories of myco-evangelists like McKenna read like conversion narratives, in which certain people who have felt the power of these mushrooms firsthand emerge from the experience convinced that these fungi are prime movers—gods, of a sort—that can explain everything. Their prophetic mission in life becomes clear: bring this news to the world!
Now consider all this from the mushroom’s point of view: what might have started as a biochemical accident has turned into an ingenious strategy for enlarging the species’ range and number, by winning the fervent devotion of an animal as ingenious and well traveled (and well spoken!) as Homo sapiens. In McKenna’s vision, it is the mushroom itself that helped form precisely the kind of mind—endowed with the tools of language and fired by imagination—that could best advance its interests. How diabolically brilliant! No wonder Paul Stamets is convinced of their intelligence.
• • • THE NEXT MORNING, before we packed up the cars for our trip south, Stamets had another gift he wanted to give me. We were in his office, looking at some images on his computer, when he pulled off the shelf a small pile of amadou hats. “See if one of these fits you.” Most of the mushroom hats were too big for me, but I found one that sat comfortably on my head and thanked him for the gift. The hat was surprisingly soft and almost weightless, but I felt a little silly with a mushroom on my head, so I carefully packed it in my luggage.
Early Sunday morning we drove west toward the Pacific coast and then south to the Columbia River, stopping for lunch and camping provisions in the resort town of Long Beach. This being the first week of December, the town was pretty well buttoned up and sleepy. Stamets requested that I not publish the exact location where we went hunting for Psilocybe azurescens. But what I can say is that there are three public parks bordering the wide-open mouth of the Columbia—Fort Stevens, Cape Disappointment, and the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park—and we stayed at one of them. Stamets, who has been coming here to hunt azzies for years, was mildly paranoid about being recognized by a ranger, so he stayed in the car while I checked in at the office and picked up a map giving directions to our yurt.
As soon as we unloaded and stowed our gear, we laced up our boots and headed out to look for mushrooms. Which really just meant walking around with eyes cast downward, tracing desultory patterns through the scrub along the sand dunes and in the grassy areas adjoining the yurts. We adopted the posture of the psilocybin stoop, except that we raised our heads every time we heard a car coming. Foraging mushrooms is prohibited in most state parks, and being in possession of psilocybin mushrooms is both a state and a federal crime.
The weather was overcast in the high forties—balmy for this far north on the Pacific coast in December, when it can be cold, wet, and stormy. We pretty much had the whole park to ourselves. It was a stunning, desolate landscape, with pine trees pruned low and angular by the winds coming off the ocean, endless dead-flat sandy beaches with plenty of driftwood, and giant storm-tossed timbers washed up and jack-strawed here and there along the beach. These logs had somehow slipped out from under the thumb of the lumber industry, floating down the Columbia from the old-growth forests hundreds of miles upriver and washing up here.
Stamets suspects that Psilocybe azurescens might originally have ridden out of the forest in the flesh of those logs and found its way here to the mouth of the Columbia—thus far the only place the species has ever been found. Some mycelium will actually insinuate itself into the grain of trees, taking up residence and forming a symbiotic relationship with the tree. Stamets believes the mycelium functions as a kind of immune system for its arboreal host, secreting antibacterial, antiviral, and insecticidal compounds that protect the trees from diseases and pests, in exchange for nourishment and habitat.
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