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Our local gospel mushroom: Buddhism, Christianity and the Fly Agaric

This is what people find in October in our local forest: delicious, healthy, and mind expanding amanita muscaria, or fly agaric.

It´s time to honour their cultural contribution.

Fly Agaric mushrooms in Wiesbaden

And here is where I thought I write my thoughts.

Buddhism and Christianity supports the Stoned Ape theory

The Buddhist Wheel of Life - Dependent Origination
The Buddhist Wheel of Life - life/

I had been searching for an illustration of how various cultures depicts our mind states. Then I happened to come across the image of the Buddhist "Wheel of Life" on a Buddhist website. The famous wheel of life is an illustration of core ideas of Buddhism.

In then looked at the detail of the wheel's outer rim. And then something dawned on me.

Look closely - it's a bit blurry!

Depiction of a monkey in a tree, eating a magic mushroom, gaining consciousness
Man-monkey eating a "fruit"

The image is meant to illustrate the third link in the famous 12 links of the chain of dependent origination : the third link is consciousness.

And this is the description of the link on the website:

Consciousness - man or monkey picking a fruit

But now, zoom in what kind of "fruit" that is:

I bet it is actually not a fruit at all. It is a mushroom. And it is clearly a very particular mushroom - it is the psychoactive amanita muscaria / fly agaric.

Here is one:

A Fly Agaric Mushroom found in Wiesbaden´s forst
Amanita Muscaia, Fly Agaric in Wiesbaden

It has the characteristic shape and the white spots. I leave it to you to verify against Google images of fly agaric.

This brings me to two points of interest.

Buddhism and the Fly Agaric mushroom (1,000 bc)

In fact, my inspection of the image had been guided by the book "The Secret Drugs of Buddhism" by Mike Crowley. He hypothesizes, that this mushroom and its ability to modify consciousness has been a significant or the most important source for Buddhism. His book is researched with great detail and many illustrations across all traditions of Buddhism.

And, as I have described in another post, for me there was no substantial difference in the two mystic experiences I had in my life: one through Ayahuasca, and one through meditation.

Since finding this illustration, I also found a few reference to "amrita"in a key work of Tibetan 16th century Buddhism.

Stoned ape hypotheses (40,000 bc)

There is an even more far-reaching hypothesis regarding the role of mushrooms for the development of human consciousness and mushrooms.

This is the famous "stoned ape hypothesis", formulated (if not under this name) by Terence and Dennis McKenna.

In this hypothesis, psychoactive mushroom have had a decisive role for the development of human consciousness, human language and human society.

Mushrooms explain, in this hypothesis, the otherwise unexplained sudden "cognitive revolution" that began 30.000 years ago.

I recommend to watch the documentary movie "Fantastic Fungi"

Paradise (1 ,000,000 + bc ?)

Now let´s go back one step more.

Do you remember Eva, who picked a forbidden fruit - a psychoactive apple - from a tree? She picked a fruit that gave her and Adam consciousness of their own state. The consequences are known!

There is something special about fruits, in particular about consciousness-raising fruits!

In a painting from 1291 the "apple" looks like this. Check out with Jerry Brown!

Eva eating mushroom

The Mushroom of Happiness and Good Luck

It hadn't been clear to me that the German expression "Glückspilz" (literally happyness mushroom, and also good luck mushroom) referred to amanita muscaria.

Anyway it is the mushroom of the year 2022 in Germany.


This section provides a small selection of important literature on mushrooms in our culture:

Amanita Dreamer. (n.d.). Amanita Dreamer.

A personal website on Amanita, with lots of research and practicalities

Brown, J. B. & Breaking Convention. (2019, September 26). Dr Jerry B Brown - The Psychedelic Gospels: Evidence of Entheogens in Christian Art [Video]. YouTube.

(A shorter text: the introduction to the Russian edition)

Crowley, M., & Shulgin, A. (2019). Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayana (2nd ed.). Synergetic Press.

A book detailing the history of Buddhism as being heavily influenced by the mushroom fly agaric

Davis, B. (2021, April 23). Wait, Why Are So Many Dogs Smoking Joints in Old Art? We Looked Into It, and the Answer Is Pretty Far Out. Artnet News.

Der Pilz des Jahres 2022

Gebel, T. (2020b, June 4). My core mystic experiences with psychedelics and in meditation. Till Gebel.

Jayasara, S. (2019, April 18). The Last Statement of Garab Dorje (Extended Version) - The Golden Letters - Dzogchen [Video]. YouTube.

"Finding Rest in Illusion 1"

Minute 9 on Datura

Jesso, J. W. (2021). Adventures Through The Mind - The Other Magic Mushroom: Healing Trauma With Amanita Muscaria | Amanita Dreamer ~ ATTMind 147. Google Podcasts.

Lamb, R. (2022, January 30). The Stoned Ape Hypothesis: Did Magic Mushrooms Influence Human Evolution? HowStuffWorks.

Muraresku, B. C. (2020). The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name. Macmillan USA.

Documents the influence of psychoactive substances on Christianity. This book is the pendant to Mike Crowley´s "The Secret Drugs of Buddhism"

Owens, M. C. (2019, July 11). Mahanidana Sutta (‘The Chain of Causation’)7-7-2019 – Lotus Underground – Podcast. Podtail.

This is a very entertaining explanation by MC Owens of the SF Dharma Collective about the wheel of life

Rinpoche, P. (2021, March 21). Life Goes On. Samye Institute.

Shannon, B. (n.d.). Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis. Catbull.

Stamets, P. (2019, August 14). Fantastic Fungi, Official Film Trailer | Moving Art by Louie Schwartzberg [Video]. YouTube.

A documentary about the power of mushrooms, featuring Paul Stametz

(now on Vimeo)

Stoned Ape: a WP article


A thought on...

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