The Cerebral and the Spectacle: A Report on Mushrooms and Acid

When self-administering hallucinogens, the maintenance of good vibes is imperative. More than anything, one must come into the drink with all the mental fortitude one can muster, lest they be sucked down through the mental whirlpool and spat out several hours later, broken and serotonin deprived. I, an experienced psychonaut of several years, therefore bravely volunteered for the very important assignment of producing an article on the varying effects of two psychopharmaceuticals: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, and Psilocybin Cubensis (colloquially known as Acid and Shrooms, respectively). 

The difference between the two can be summed up in a phrase: the cerebral and the spectacle. Though I can of course only speak from my own individual experience, mushrooms are a controlled stroll through your gyri, a gentle jaunt through the crevices of your brain which grants access to focused contemplation and an inclination to greater communion with nature and one’s fellow man; LSD short circuits the mind, sets the world alight with wonder, and throws your mind into rolling, primordial cosmic movements, like watching God on the first day. If such hyperbolic metaphors give you not an inkling as to what I actually mean, below are given profiles of both experiences in moderate detail:

Mushrooms are traditionally an entheogen, and should be treated as such. You are participating in a rite, and—at their best—a communal one. It is also not a passive experience; get off your phone, don’t watch tv; get up, walk around. Do not waste these few hours of altered consciousness the same way you waste the rest of your life, but allow these things to work their magic, enhance your contemplative capabilities, observe and appreciate nature, or some grand construction- look for the nearest stone colossus. If done properly, if not squandered in that numbing digital glow, but given the necessary atmosphere to prosper, this has the possibility of being a beautiful, long remembered experience. Briefly put: friends, flora, fantasizing, and field trips.

 A journey often begins with a stomach ache—I’m not sure why this is, but I and several I’ve spoken with, have expressed as much—though this does not last very long. You’ll begin to feel, within an hour or two, a bit cheeky. The world, with all its pretensions to seriousness, will take on in nearly every aspect something comedic. Again, the importance of companionship cannot be underplayed here; laughs are best when they’re shared, and good conversation stimulates the mind now firing at all cylinders and then some. 

Time will begin to slip: by this I mean you will be lost so entirely in the moment of what you’re doing that hours will pass and you’ll have barely noticed. Once the full effects of the drug have come upon you—and you will know when they have—it’s time for a walk. The evening, or any time when you can see all the multichromatic strata of earth’s atmosphere is ideal. You, with pupils the size of quarters, must endeavor to drink in the scenery as best you can, walking among your fellow drug-minded droogs all cackling like witches, or walking silently in awe of the august scenery; objects may take on a subtle shifting distortion: the lines around trees and spires and clouds may begin to blur and the world become one giant running river of color. 

When you close those irisless saucers or yours there will be sights of an even more bombastic and protean form flying and dropping bombs in your face, restless, gyrating patterns lighting the caverns of your eyelids (though these pale in comparison to those experienced during an intense LSD trip). You will have thoughts, thoughts that you follow down like rabbit holes and can occupy your reason for hours at a time. Cognition, meta-cognition, thinking about thinking about thinking. You will have grandiose ideas, and while most of them the following morning shall appear to you somewhat asinine or of little import, you may in the throes of shroom brain stubble on something of genuine fascination and you will soar over the accomplishments of human history and consider yourself a proud member of not only genus homo sapien, but all the creepeth, crawleth, swimmeth and soareth over, under, and upon this earth. A strong sense of oneness with all, a reduction of the boundaries between you and anything outside or other.

After reaching the trip’s zenith, perhaps somewhere in the third or fourth hour, you will begin to come down. This is a time for warm blankets, hot cocoa, shared reminiscences of times and tales long gone, and what earlier was a manic impulse to rave and jibber will soften to mere desire for lively conversation, and then soporiphicness. It may take another few hours, but regular awareness will take hold again- especially after a good night’s sleep, and you will gently float back down from the lofty heights of shroomhood, hopefully returning to yourself changed, if not by some enlightening occurrence, at least with the memory of a pleasurable evening spent among trusted and loving friends.

The conditions for taking LSD and mushrooms are more or less the same, though I would caution against too much cavorting with those outside your group of fellow travelers: with all psychotropics come the risk of what famed crazy person Hunter S. Thompson called “the Fear”. Intense paranoia, irrational dread induced by an environment not conducive to good vibes. By no means is “the Fear” unique to LSD- in fact my only real moment of terror experienced on either of these drugs was on shrooms and in an ice cream parlor, but I digress. 

Although the dose makes the poison, LSD is a far stronger compound than its compatriots. Its inventor, Albert Hoffman, made this discovery firsthand after accidentally contaminating himself with what he thought was just a prospective medication for birth control. But it’s not as if acid varies only from mushrooms in its intensity; it has a very different character. While mushrooms will guide you through the caves of your mind by lantern light, LSD requires only that you sit back and observe what it has to show you. The aforementioned closed eye visuals are like sitting at the center of a star, like watching worlds and galaxies form; inscriptions written on the pillars of the universe are delivered by express, but are gone in an instant, so that any perceived enlightenment is instantaneously ephemeral, and that which does remain, post-trip, often seems trite, even incomprehensible. That said, there are certainly insights which can be garnered from watching a supernova inside your skull. 

The term ego death is thrown around very loosely when speaking of hallucinogens, though rest assured that it is real, and one of the most unique experiences of my entire life. Although it is entirely possible to induce this state through the consumption of psilocybin, the sole occasion I recall this happening was on LSD. I also wonder if my listening to music at the time had anything to do with its induction, since I found myself so engrossed in not only the incessant rush of color, and intense thoughts in my mind, but also this external stimulus, the long droning melody, the steady rhythm; for moments at a time I would lose myself, lying on a bed and listening there would be seconds where I could not summon a conscious action or even thought, but found myself bound to, and indistinguishable from my surroundings. Although “death” and my reported loss of attachment with my body may sound alarming, this experience was incredibly euphoric, and incomparable.

In all its awesomeness, in all the untamed power released on the brain, an LSD trip can be a very pleasant experience—under the right aforementioned conditions. That said, the respective comedowns are beasts of a different nature. While the falling action of a mushroom high is simply a reduction in the effects of the drug, an LSD high is succeeded by what is referred to as the afterglow. For me, it’s like I’ve been lobotomized; like a part of my cognitive faculties have been stripped away. I see, before more weary eyes, luminous green and purple wires, or cracks in my vision, and focus on anything is futile. I have read reports of acid perusers who very much enjoy the post trip IQ dip, and so perhaps it’s simply my own luck of the genetic draw that this part of the LSD experience is so emiserating to me. Several hours of sleep will brush up the mind, and within 24 hours your mind will have recomposed itself thoroughly.

Admittedly, because of this post-trip doldrum, I lean more towards mushrooms when deciding on a drug-fueled escapade. But it’s all a matter of what you’re looking for; if it’s a meditative state and a desire for communal experience, I would advocate for the shroom; but if mind bending euphoria and really indescribable psychic imagery and experiences are what you seek, LSD will absolutely accomplish this; mushrooms will lead you on a journey; Acid will take you for a ride. 

Again, however, I feel I must stress that the experiences on which I’ve drawn are my own, and so it is difficult to determine the nuances of any individual shroom/acid journey. My goal here has not been to sway the undecided to take or decline to take either of these drugs, but to inform, and to grant some small insight into a subject matter over which there has been much said, but so little of it truth. With luck, I have contributed in some small way to the epistemological pool on psychedelics, and that you, reader, have found this report to be of some value in that same vein.