Trips are often described as “dream-like,” and trippers may receive profound messages from their subconscious wrapped in imagery. Many users report discovering after tripping that they have vivid, borderline-lucid dreams for several days. Mushrooms are even known to “dissolve” dreamlessness, according to marijuana users. At first glance, it seems, there is a connection between psilocybin and dream status.
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN TRIPPING AND DREAMING
The images a person receives from a low dose of magic mushrooms is strikingly similar to those seen during Hypnagogia – the state of consciousness just before sleep begins. During this transitional phase, the brain relaxes from wakefulness and visual and auditory phenomena may manifest. At higher doses, fully formed hallucinations appear – as if they were in the room with you. You may lose your sense of self and forget where you are. And at an extreme dose, you may have a fully immersive breakthrough experience in which you meet conscious entities and travel through other realities and dimensions. These experiences feel real and tangible in the same way that a lucid dream does. Lucid dreaming is a dream state in which the user is fully aware that they are dreaming and often able to control the events of the dream. This usually occurs during REM sleep – where your deepest dreams occur. To reach this state, the dreaming patient must first notice that they are in a reality that does not make sense. One of two things will happen – they will either wake up, or the patient will realize they are dreaming and achieve lucidity.
THE FIRST SIMILARITIES: A SUPERFICIAL VIEW
What is interesting is that both the dreamer and the mushroom eater tend to find themselves in a state of acceptance – what you are experiencing is nonsensical to the conventional mind is, and yet it “feels” real to the user – and it is easy to accept what is happening as if it were normal. In this lucid dream state, you can control the environment around you, and even achieve the supernatural. It is said that lucid dreams can be used to induce out-of-body experiences. To better understand the link, we need to look at both, dreaming and tripping as particular states. If we think of lucid dreaming as “awake dreaming,” then perhaps psilocybin offers a “lucid dream” state – where the doors to the subconscious are unlocked, but the user is still in conscious reality, receiving sensory input from the “real world.”
DREAMING: JUST A DMT TRIP?
So what happens when we dream? It has long been suspected that dreaming occurs during REM sleep due to endogenous DMT production from the pineal gland. DMT and the pineal gland have been associated with dreams, astral travel and death since ancient times. The DMT molecule and the psilocin molecule are very similar in their structure – the practical difference is that psilocin is orally active. Nature has developed this very favorably – the magic mushroom is one of the few DMT-like substances that is active without first consuming a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. So, if DMT is a dream molecule, it makes sense to assume that psilocybin offers something similar. Upon ingestion, the psilocybin molecule dephosphorylates into the orally active psilocin. This molecule binds to 5-HT2A and 5-HT1 receptors as well as the endogenous neurotransmitter serotonin.
MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK WITH SCIENCE
A 2014 study at Imperial College in London injected 15 participants with pure psilocybin and placed them in an MRI machine. What they found was that the psilocin in the volunteers’ systems dampened brain regions associated with higher thinking and self-esteem. This would account for the boundary dissolution and loss of ego experienced while tripping on magic mushrooms. The researchers also noted that activity in areas of the brain associated with basic emotions (the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex) were more pronounced. This pattern of activity is very similar to what we see happen in dreams, with the brain “relaxing” the higher thought processes and returning to a more “primitive” state. So here we begin to see a link. It seems that the mushrooms lead to a “lucid dream” state, in which the subconscious can be explored and insight gained with lucidity. Perhaps consuming psilocybin on an occasional basis would even be a way of regulating the body’s natural processes – including dreaming and sleeping?
MAGIC MUSHROOMS AND HUMANS: CONNECTED BEYOND DREAMS
It is thought that psilocybin mushrooms were used by the first proto humans to get out of the jungle. Mushrooms were abundant on the plains, growing in the dung of grazing cattle, and hungry tribes were eager to test this new source of food. Terence Mckenna hypothesized that these “stoned monkeys” would eventually develop language, agriculture, early religious cults, and the first archaic tribal societies. Psilocybin mushrooms are inextricably linked to human metabolism, and we think McKenna’s theory that they were the catalyst for our early mental evolution is noteworthy. In any case, they were used for centuries. Among the Aztecs, they were known as teonanácatl – the flesh of the gods. Christian settlers banned the use of the mushrooms and since then governments around the world have controlled their legality, in what can be considered an uninformed, backwards action. In recent years, however, scientists are reclaiming the right to study these organisms under controlled conditions – and what we have learned is startling. Psilocybin mushrooms are very powerful. They dissolve boundaries in the mind and strip you of your ego. They let you explore visionary worlds and other dimensions, as well as your own psyche. Research on the magic mushroom, provides our species with fascinating insights into consciousness, and could offer clues to the next stage of human psychic evolution. Regardless of your opinion of magic mushrooms, research is uncovering discoveries that would otherwise just be a philosophical debate. There is evidence on both a theoretical and scientific level that the mushroom can not only induce lucid dreams, but can also help us function as humans. The mushrooms can be our allies, and together we can achieve great things. Dare to dream?