The Victorian Hippie

Nicholas P. Money

in Mushroom

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199732562
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918515 | DOI:
The Victorian Hippie

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In an influential book published in 1860, mycologist Mordecai Cubitt Cooke wrote about narcotic plants and the mind-altering effects of the fly agaric mushroom. This book may have inspired some of the scenes in Lewis Carroll's “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.” Amateur anthropologist Gordon Wasson was convinced that he had discovered the remnants of an ancient mushroom worshipping cult in Mexico in the 1950s, but reliable evidence is very limited. Species of Psilocybe contain alkaloids called psilocybin and psilocin that resemble the neurotransmitter serotonin. The neuropharmacological effects of these compounds on human perception have received recent attention through controlled experiments at Johns Hopkins University. Participants in these experiments report profound emotional changes. The powerful effects of these mushroom metabolites have implications for the neurological basis of religious experience.

Keywords: cooke; narcotic; fly agaric; Lewis Carroll; Gordon Wasson; psilocybe; psilocybin; psilocin; serotonin; religious experience

Chapter.  6004 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biological Sciences

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