Book Review: Fantastic Fungi

Book Review

‘Fantastic Fungi’ is a feature-length documentary on fungi and how they have, do and will affect the planet, and us along with it. You can watch it on YouTube here for a small price (it isn’t free anywhere, at least not in October 2020 when I write this):

As mentioned in a previous blog (you can read it: here) I spoke about how amazed I have become with fungi, and how they are essential to the way life has evolved. After watching this film I purchased the book ‘Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet: Expanding Consciousness, Alternative Healing, Environmental Impact‘.

This book is beautifully designed, printed and brought together, featuring a ton of factual information from the world leaders in the mycelium space. My wife feels like it’s more of a long magazine with a hardcover than a book, which I would agree with, though I think this enables the information to be delivered in short article form.

It’s broken into three sections, ‘for the planet’, ‘for the body’ and ‘for the spirit’. I really enjoy learning about things I have literally no idea about. Mushrooms are things we sometimes buy from the store and cook to eat alongside other foods, not things that I have heavily invested time and energy learning about.

For the planet: this was a really enjoyable section, diving into how fungi are the reason we have things like soil and plant life. Fungi have evolved alongside other life and have acted as a conduit enabling change and life to flourish. Fungi take death and break it down into its basic elements, returning it to the soil. They share nutrients and enable plants, trees and animals to live. We can also use elements from different fungi to tackle problems we are facing today, from breaking down plastic to supporting bee’s (which have been in rapid decline in recent years), there is a whole host of uses that fungi have on offer, that we aren’t even aware of at this point on the journey.

For the body: there is a range of benefits that mushrooms grant humans. From activating various parts of our body to giving us various nutrients and vitamins which help us to heal and work more effectively. We are humans can also engage in foraging for wild mushrooms and other food sources. This process enables us to reset and improve mental health. We can cook a range of different mushrooms, grow our own mushrooms and explore the whole mycelium spectrum. There is so much we don’t know about either, what other mushrooms are out there that haven’t been investigated for the positive benefits to us and the rest of the world? There is more that we don’t know about than do.

For the spirit: this is the section of the documentary and book that I found the most interesting. As any regular reader of this blog will know, I recently experienced my first psilocybin trip a few weeks ago, it was a life-changing journey. Since then I have felt more at peace, more aware of how easily distracted I get and more able to ‘be’ in each moment. Peace would sum this up well. Humans have been ingesting these substances since we first came onto the scene. These substances don’t change us, they enable us to fully explore what is already there. There are no negative or long term effects of psilocybin, it is not addictive and it is not toxic in any way. It is however possible to have a very negative experience on psilocybin, so you really need to think through and prepare before taking it. We evolved with psilocybin, so why don’t we continue to explore consciousness whilst on psilocybin?

‘Psychoactive plants and molecules have co evolved with human beings. We are made from one another, like a lock and a key. When we take these substance in safe conditions, we unlock a door to perception, and they begin to teach us. They talk to us. They show us. They inform us.’ (Adele Getty, p.140)

From my experience, this is true. Taking psilocybin allowed me to access part of me that was previously inaccessible. They showed me things about myself in stark clarity, things that I cover up and ignore all of the time. They showed me what it is like to be, right here and right now. They have changed my life.

‘Because fungi are once of the earliest forms of life on this planet, they represent a kind of parent to all the complex life forms that followed-including humans. When you ingest psilocybin, you are, in a way, making contact with the history of our evolution as part of the program for awakening consciousness. It’s like taking an important vitamin we’ve been missing. Our visionary capacities have withered, and it’s time to re-exercise the and reassure ourselves that we have souls.’ (Alex Grey, p.132)

Boom, this feels so true. As a Christian, I NEVER had an experience like this during worship or whilst interacting with what I thought was God. But here I find something that brought us into being, that has the ability to grant me the experiences so many in history have had before, that so many long for when they try to engage with their God. I don’t need to try and engage with a God, I can engage with right now, in full clarity and see the good and the bad as good and bad. And it is OK, it’s OK to be broken, alive, searching and confused. This is what I learned on my first journey.

I could go on and on here. I don’t think I need to. Even if you don’t agree with the spiritual elements here, there is no denying the valuable contribution that the third kingdom (fungi/mycelium/mushrooms) grant this world. They literally prepared the way for us to be here and enabled us to thrive. They have the ability to correct and adjust the mistakes that we have made, if we realise we have made them in time and stop, looking for answers in the world around us.

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Sam

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