One of the positive side effects of psychedelics is their ability to improve one's nutritional habits. Albert Hofmann relates in his book LSD: My Problem Child how extraordinarily his sense of taste was enhanced after his first LSD trip. The experience of great excitement one gets when biting into carrots or lettuce after a psychedelic experience -- sensing their rich sweetness -- is tantamount, for me, to eating for the first time after six days of fasting. Suddenly, each fruit and vegetable regains its original heavenly taste, as though we are experiencing, for the first time, the real taste of food.
Psychedelic experiences tend to change our relation to food in many other ways. Ayurveda and other spiritual traditions recommend performing a ceremony prior to eating: contemplating the source of your food, and conveying thanks for having given its life so that you can live.
Ayurveda also teaches us to dedicate our full attention to the food we are eating, in a manner befitting the act of sacrifice, while receiving the life of the food: not to talk while eating, not to watch television or read the newspaper, to eat in meditation, in concentration. Mindless eating is a sort of barbarism, like mindless murder.
Psychedelic experiences tend to change our relation to eating in a way parallel to that recommended by a number of spiritual traditions. Devouring food during a psychedelic experience, or shortly thereafter, bestows wholly new dimensions on the act of eating. I remember a special moment when, before consuming a grapefruit, I saw its glowing vivaciousness for the first time. I held it for minutes, which seemed like eternity: fondling it, inhaling its rich scent, feeling it alive and pulsating in my hand. I remember the moment of peeling its skin, which reminded me of defloration -- only much enhanced since our intercourse was totally unique and would happen only once, and end with our complete and irrevocable unification. The red flesh of the grapefruit was exposed for the first time to the light, and while I stripped away its skin, I intently watched its composition -- tens of thousands of miniature succulent fruit pieces interlaced into what seemed like a huge crimson wing, composed of myriad translucent membranes.
That feeling of endless intimacy that I shared with that grapefruit is difficult to describe. I felt as though it was the first time in my life that I was actually seeing what I was putting into my mouth, and this tremendously enhanced the experience of eating.
I ate together with friends, and the act of sharing the food reminded me of the act of grokking, which Robert A. Heinlein so famously describes in his book, Stranger in a Strange Land. I was not only eating the food, I was becoming one with it. The concept of eating finally received its full meaning -- as a mystical ceremony, an act of uniting, a sacred deed accompanied by the categorical imperative to completely change and give full respect to the food that I eat.
I do not mean to claim that every person who will use psychedelics will change his nutrition. Of course, you can use psychedelics and still eat indiscriminately. One of the common impulses after a psychedelic experience is to run directly to the nearest hamburger stand. You can fall victim to it once, or even for many years, but a serious user of psychedelics will often start receiving messages which call upon him to:
1. Stop destroying your body with harmful nutrition. -- Malignant nutrition is the continuation on a personal level of the ecological pollution caused by the human race.
2. Stop taking the lives of others. -- Develop a moral basis to your nutrition. Start eating consciously -- because barbaric eating is the basis of barbaric existence.
Eventually, although many might disagree, the use of psychedelics is -- in my eyes -- incompatible with eating meat, or to be more exact, with eating the industrial meat grown in cattle concentration camps and consumed today in larger doses than at any other time in our civilization's history. A person who is in close contact with the mushroom (or other psychedelics) will eventually receive, again and again, that same message which calls upon him to forsake this path. He can ignore it once, twice, or even a hundred times -- but with many people, the message will eventually be heard. One stops eating meat or limits meat consumption one way or the other; I have seen this happen many times.
Amusingly, even those opposed to the use of psychedelics are aware, in some distorted way, of their influence on our eating habits. This Anti-LSD film from the sixties tells the story of a girl who takes an LSD trip for the first time and goes to a hot dog stand, ready to shove a hot dog voraciously into her mouth, but after she drowns her hot dog with ketchup and mustard she hears a voice. Suddenly she sees the hotdog as a living creature, and the creature begs her not to eat her and take her life. For the makers of the film, this awakening sensitivity is clear evidence for LSD having driven the poor girl crazy.
Carnivorous Cultures and Shroom Cultures
This brings me to the modern meat-addicted consumer society. While the mushrooms ban the eating of meat, carnivorous society bans the eating of mushrooms. Eating meat and eating mushrooms present, so it seems, two basically opposed cultural alternatives.
While the psychedelic alternative signifies the potential for a society based on awareness of our body, our ecological surroundings, and our fellow people, the meat society is a society based on:
Destruction of the Body -- Eating red meat is, according to many clinical studies, one of the prime factors contributing to cancer, heart problems and many other medical complications.
Ecological Damage – The UN has already declared that the gigantic mass of cattle which is being grown on planet earth, and the great amounts of methane gas emitted by these animals, is one of the chief reasons for global warming.
Economic Damage -- Caused by the growing medical expenses to take care of millions of meat-stuffed citizens suffering from cancer, heart problems and other medical complications caused by the excessive eating of meat.
Moral Damage -- The meat society is based on the mass-killing of life kept in concentration camp conditions. This society, based on sin, cannot help but be a basically violent society -- and this is without getting into the more abstract interpretations the various spiritual traditions give about the negative influence of meat-eating.
In comparison to the millions who die because of meat eating, the number of deaths caused by psychedelic mushrooms sold in Amsterdam during the years of legal purchase amounts to no more than a few dozen. (These tragic cases could have also been easily avoided, since in the vast majority of cases, users were hurt because of the inherently false capitalistic model in which the mushrooms were sold, which meant that people consumed mushrooms without deep knowledge, and while violating the basic laws of the intelligent use of psychedelics.)
Despite this overwhelming data, our society prohibits psychedelic mushroom eating and allows, or even advocates, the eating of meat. For the carnivorous society which sanctifies the values of war and carnage, the harmonious values of the mushrooms are an intimidating alternative which must be suppressed at any price, because they might raise questions about the entire carnivorous civilization, and its values of force and authority.
Eating meat and eating mushrooms are more than just two nutritional options -- they are cultural alternatives, different modes of thought: of relating to the body, to nature, to the other. As long as our society chooses to fortify the former by supporting monstrous corporations dedicated to the raising and killing of cattle, and ban the latter with billions of dollars spent on the “war on drugs,” it cannot pretend to be surprised about the bad shape in which our planet and culture find themselves.