Simon G. Powell graduated from UCL in 1992 and, by his own admission, “suffered an extended bout of ‘mushroom fever’ brought on by excessive psilocybin use.” After his “mushroom fever” subdued he was inspired to write books, such as The Psilocybin Solution (2011) and Darwin’s Unfinished Business (2012); additionally he has created two documentaries: Manna and Metanoia. He is currently writing his third book, In Love with Gaia. In this interview Simon explains why he writes these books and how he believes his perceptions and creativity have been stimulated by psilocybin use.
Why did you write these books?
I felt inspired to write them. The Psilocybin Solution is about psychedelic mushrooms. I had such profound experiences [with mushrooms] over the last 20 years; I felt compelled, or obliged, to write a book about it. To look at the history of their use, what goes on in the brain and the relationship between chemistry and consciousness and all these kinds of things. I felt it was an interesting subject. The second, Darwin’s Unfinished Business, that’s about this notion of natural intelligence, that there’s a wisdom or intelligence to life. That paradigm, that way of looking at life on earth and the significance of looking at life on earth: there’s a wisdom to it. That all comes out of my psilocybin experiences as well. Basically, I had a number of profound experiences and I felt that I had to write these books, in the wake of those experiences.
Tell us a little more about your experiences with psilocybin.
From my experience, the psilocybin experience can be profoundly spiritual. It is commonly reported, scientific studies have been done. Some John Hopkins University people did some experiments, and people taking psilocybin reported mystical experiences and that the experiences they had were within the top five most profound experiences they’ve had in their lives. It’s obviously different for everyone, but there are similarities. One of the commonalities is that you experience the interconnectedness of everything. You hear this all the time, people say, “everything’s connected”, you know; but instead of an intellectual, metaphysical idea, through psilocybin you can directly experience it. Also, during my ‘mushroom fever’ period, I had a number of very profound visions. When you shut your eyes on psilocybin you get visions. You’ve got to remember that Terence McKenna, who was the authority on psilocybin, he used to advise people to take psilocybin indoors, unplug the phones, and lie down in silent darkness and just pay attention to what is coming out of ‘the unconscious’. During the mid-nineties I used to do that. Since the mid-nineties, I have a preferred method of taking the mushroom, which has influenced my whole metaphysical outlook; it helped initiate and led to this natural intelligence paradigm I keep banging on about. My preferred method was to go out trekking in the most beautiful areas of the UK — the Lake District and Snowdonia — both are big natural parks, and the mushroom grows there. I’d always be with one or two close friends. You can pick the mushroom out there, you can be camped, with campfire, with stars overhead. That way of taking the mushroom, out there in the wilderness, really gets a commune with the earth, with Gaia. There’s a tremendously powerful communication between you and the environment around you. It’s an experience of being out in wilderness, which is really where we came from; not these cocoon cities permeated with human ideas.
In your books, you suggest that we can use psilocybin as medication, to help us with our attachment to human ideas. How can psilocybin benefit people?
In my film Manna, which is about psilocybin mushrooms, that wasn’t just about mushrooms, but the inspiring effect of the mushroom; one point I mention is that “the mushroom is antidote our ecological destructiveness.” I still stand by this. I think what we need at this time is a renewed relationship with the biosphere. We’re very cut off: people don’t know about ecosystem services, they don’t know about the dynamics of the biosphere and how the biosphere supports us. You often hear this term, “Spaceship Earth“; that’s because the biosphere is like a spaceship. It’s a life support system. We need establish the right relationship with the right biospherical system, in which we’re embedded. I think one of the virtues is its eco-psychological impact. It can lead to, or it can help establish the right human relationship with the biosphere.
Can you describe to some someone that hasn’t taken mushrooms, what the entheogenic consciousness is like?
That’s hard, because it’s like trying to describe to a blind man what colour is. Imagine meeting a man that has been blind since birth, it’s nigh on impossible to describe what its like to see colours to him. It is like that. Although, a couple of my friends have discussed with me it’s like waking up more and we all know what its like waking up from a dream. There’s clarity and resolution comes along. Your consciousness is greatly shifted. Taking psilocybin, or any psychedelic is like ‘waking up more’.