Paul Stamets, Fungal Intelligence and the 21st Psychedelic Journey – “How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.” in our “11th Hour” edition.
Living Green
Meredith Medland Sasseen

Episode 10 - Paul Stamets, Fungal Intelligence and the 21st Psychedelic Journey – “How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.” in our “11th Hour” edition.

What is fungal intelligence? Paul Staments, the "Mycelium Messenger" reveals the great ecological purpose of mycelium - earth’s new internet. Beginning with his magic mushroom, psychedelic work covered with a DEA License and evolving into a much more robust work that his "mother is happy about" - this interview will prepare you to see a whole new world the next time you walk into the forest. Hear stories from Paul’s new book, Mycelium running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World and listen to a deep discussion on mushroom consciousness with the man behind this 21st century manual for healing the earth. You’ll understand why mycelium solutions bring new opportunities to detoxifying and purifying polluted water, toxic spills and other ecological issues of today.



Paul Stamets, Fungal Intelligence and the 21st Psychedelic Journey – “How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.” in our “11th Hour” edition.

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Meredith Medland:  Hello, and welcome to ‘Living Green’.  I'm your host Meredith Medland.  In this episode we are going to have a lively, provocative and deep discussion with Paul Stamets, author of ‘Mycelium Running  - How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World’.  This book is a 21st-century manual for healing the earth and creating sustainable forests through mushroom cultivation, featuring mycelian solutions to water pollution, toxic spills, and other ecological challenges.

In our show today, we are going to have a yummy mushroom tea filled with Paul's greatest adventures.  We are going to learn about Daryl Hannah's visit to his mushroom farm, why billionaires are flying into Paul's hometown to invest in any company he starts and why fungal intelligence provides a framework for understanding everything from string theory and modern physics to the structure of the Internet.


Paul Stamets:  When the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and coalesced out of stardust, the first organisms first appeared in the ocean.  The very first organisms on land were fungi.  They marched onto land 1.3 billion years ago and plants followed 600 million years later. 

Paul Stamets: If there were a United Organization of Organisms, otherwise called Uh-Oh, if every organism voted, would we be voted on the planet or off the planet?  I think that vote is happening right now.  Unless we pay attention to preserving biodiversity, the very organisms that give us life will be destroyed.

Paul Stamets:  I am a mycelial messenger.  If anyone gets anything out of this, it is the role and importance of mycelium in nature.

Paul Stamets:  It was actually a housewife in 1942 who sent in a moldy cantaloupe to a military hospital laboratory in response to the US government's plea to Americans to send your moldy fruit to this one location.  From her moldy cantaloupe came a strain of Penicillium chrysogenum that produced 200 times more penicillin than the government had in any of the laboratories.  Her strain led to saving millions of lives.  The Japanese and the Germans did not have penicillin.  But the Americans and the British did.

Paul Stamets:  Mushrooms also have a very keen sense of humor.  The psilocybin mushrooms are most often found in the Northwest around law enforcement facilities, courthouses, universities and churches.  So if you want to go and find psilocybin mushrooms in the Northwest, go to your local Sheriff's Department.



Meredith Medland:  Welcome Paul.

Paul Stamets:  Thank you Meredith.  Great introduction.

Meredith Medland:  All right.  So let's just get something straight right off the top.  You, in the late 70s, got a license from the DEA and you studied psilocybin mushrooms.

Paul Stamets:  That’s correct.  I was actually covered by a DEA license.  My professor, Dr. Michael Beug had it.  And I was listed on the license as one of the researchers.

I was fascinated by the psilocybin mushrooms and did a lot of work with the electron microscope and was a significant contributor to Dr. Gastan Guzmon’s monograph on the genus Psilocybe, which is a world monograph.  In that genus are the majority of psilocybin active species.  I have named four species in that genus to date that still survive in the scientific literature.  Sometimes the named species are thrown out later by other mycologists.  I'm happy to say that after 25 years they still stand as being valid species.

This led me into cultivation.  Then as my horizons broadened, I started to become very interested in growing other types of mushrooms, non-psychoactive ones.  My mother was happy about that!


Paul Stamets:  So I started getting into gourmet and medicinal mushrooms and that's really opened up a whole new arena.  The more that I studied the subjects the more I realized I didn't know and how much more there is to know.  There is a wealth of knowledge inherent within fungi that we are just beginning to learn about.

Meredith Medland:  Yes, indeed.  It has been really fun researching you for this interview.  For those of you who would like a little more background on Paul as we continue, he has been a mycologist and a mushroom enthusiast since the late 70s.  He has pioneered tons of things as it relates to edible mushrooms; he is credited, like you said, with the discovery of four mushroom species.  You have got six books now.  You speak on conferences all over the world.  You have a very, very deep vision of what an interconnected world environment looks like.

Also, the underlying thing that I have understood is that you really believe fungi can solve our world’s problems.  In fact, I have read that you have been saying that mushrooms will save the world.  You also coined the term ‘myco-remediation’ to describe the use of fungus to clean up environmental problems and absorb toxins.

Paul Stamets:  Well, I coined the word ‘myco-restoration’, which includes ‘myco-remediation’, ‘myco-filtration’, ‘myco-forestry’, ‘myco-pesticides’ and the use of fungi to help stabilize ecosystems.

I think the take-home message that listeners would benefit from is to realize that when the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and coalesced out of stardust, the first organisms first appeared in the ocean.  The very first organisms on land were fungi.

They marched onto land 1.3 billion years ago and plants followed 600 million years later.  Now fungi munch rocks.  They produce oxalic acids and other enzymes and acids that actually will take minerals out of rocks and make them crumble.

There were at least two cataclysmic events that steered evolution on this planet.  250 million years ago there was a huge asteroid impact.  When that occurred, enormous amounts of debris were jettisoned into the atmosphere.  The earth became shrouded in dust.  The skies darkened and sunlight was cut off from the face of the earth for years, decades, we really don't know how long.  Because there was no sunlight plants died.  Large animals died.  More than 90% of the species actually went extinct and fungi inherited the earth.  The organisms that paired with fungi survived obviously because most of these fungi did not require light. 

So life then again began to proliferate.  Lots of species then evolved.  Then we marched forward again until 65 million years ago and BAM, we got hit again.  There is a recurring theme here folks.  So again, with the second asteroid impact the earth was shrouded in dust.  The sunlight was cut off and fungi re-inherited the earth.

Those two asteroid impacts steered the cooperation or symbiosis of animals and plants with fungi.  So we exist today in collaboration with fungi.  They are the construct of the food web.  Fungi are the grand molecular disassemblers of nature.  They break down plant, animal and mineral into soil.  So these are the great soil magicians of nature. 

And most everybody knows that the topsoil on the earth is incredibly thin and yet it supports hundreds of millions of different species that live in the very top 6 inches.  This thin skin that has given us life is greatly threatened.  As we lose biodiversity, especially with fungi, we begin to unravel the very food networks that have given rise to us.

Even though we could be called an evolutionary success, I like to think that every organism on this planet has a vote.  If there were a United Organization of Organisms, otherwise called Uh-Oh, if every organism voted, would we be voted on the planet or off the planet?  I think that vote is happening right now.  Unless we pay attention to preserving biodiversity, the very organisms that give us life will be destroyed.

What is most unfortunate is that we are recognizing the role and the importance of these organisms as they are becoming extinct.  And like rivets on an airplane, how many species will we lose before we have catastrophic failure?  I think that we are top-heavy right now from an evolutionary sense.  We are losing the very ground support network that has given us life.  If we are not careful, the rule of nature is that when a species exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecosystem, nature revolts.

I think we will see a viral storm in the very near future.  These viral storms are a direct result of loss of biodiversity and the efforts of nature to knockdown the virulent organism, which unfortunately means us.

Meredith Medland:  There are a lot of people with whom I have spoken who are taking what you are saying very, very seriously - big experts in the environmental movement.  At a lot of the conferences, LOHAS and other places I have been, even in the last two months, your name is out there and people are taking you very seriously.

In our last interview on ‘Living Green’, Sarah Haynes who is with the Spitfire Agency is working with Daryl Hannah to green the Virgin conference, or Virgin Music Festival that is coming up.  She is completely passionate.  People are hearing about you through the grapevine.  One of the things I would like our listeners to get out of this show today is a sound bite that you give them, or a few sound bites, about who you are and what your message is, so they can literally repeat that.

Paul Stamets:  Well, it's hard for me to encapsulate it in one phrase but I am a mycelial messenger.  If anyone gets anything out of this, it is the role and importance of mycelium in nature.

Unfortunately, the problem that we face in our society is - you mentioned mushrooms.  People think about Portobellos or Magic Mushrooms.  And there is a form of biological racism that has prevented science from using these fungi and the mushroom forming fungi to our advantage.  When people understand that the largest organism in the world is a mycelial mat over 2200 acres in size and yet it is one cell wall thick.  We have five or six skin cell layers that protect us from infection.  How do these mats achieve the largest masses of any organism in the world and be one cell wall thick, surrounded by billions of hungry microbes per gram that want to eat this highly nutritious network of cells?

It's because the fungi are in constant biomolecular communication with its ecosystem.  They are articulate.  They are inherently intelligent.  We are born from fungi.  600 million years ago we separated from fungi.  Fungi are our ancestors.  We respire carbon dioxide.  So do fungi.  We inhale oxygen.  So do fungi.  Our best antibiotics against bacteria come from fungi.  But we don't have very good anti-fungal antibiotics because they harm us because of our close relationship.

In the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, a new super kingdom was erected two years ago called Opisthokontum, recognizing that fungi and animals belong to one Superkingdom.  So if we understand the evolution of life on this planet and that we have fungal origins, and understanding how to use these fungi as our hereditary partners can greatly have a positive impact in being able to support life systems on this planet.

Fungi move quickly.  I have lots and lots of examples, especially recently of how important fungal biodiversity is.  One example is I have been working with a Bioshield Program of the US Defense Department.  I have submitted over 300 samples.  They have analyzed over 2 million so far.  One of my samples of mushrooms that comes as a species called Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis) comes exclusively from the old growth forests of western Oregon, Washington, Northern Califorinia and British Columbia.  It is now thought to be extinct in Europe.

This mushroom, exclusive to the old growth forests, has within it very strong anti-pox properties, which includes smallpox.  The Bioshield Program has affirmed this.  There is a vetted DOD press release.  If you google ‘Stamets’ and then ‘smallpox’, people can read it.  Our research has further continued.  I am bound by confidentiality agreements, but we may be navigating to a whole new class of antivirals.

Now if we lost our old-growth forests, if we lost that species that grows exclusively in that forest as they have in Europe, and there was a smallpox epidemic, and after 1980, no one has been immunized against smallpox, we are extremely susceptible to a smallpox epidemic.  If we had lost the biodiversity within the forest that has the species that potentially could fight smallpox, millions of lives would be at stake.

So we can't say now whether it will be clinically applicable.  But all indications thus far are extremely positive.  The Bioshield Program is funded with $4 billion or $5 billion and they have some of the best testing protocols of any laboratory in the world.  We have passed all of their major benchmarks.

There is also, if you don't mind me mentioning, an interview with myself and a representative from the Bioshield Program and the former Assistant Director of the FDA, who founded the Bioterrorism Institute, all saying that my work with these fungi is exciting.  It was unexpected, but this is what the Bioshield Program was set up to do, was to find new medicines that were coming from unexpected sources.  So I make the argument that we should save the old-growth forests as a matter of national defense. 

Most listeners may not know the history of the use of penicillin. It was actually a housewife in 1942 who sent in a moldy cantaloupe to a military hospital laboratory in response to the US government's plea to Americans to send your moldy fruit to this one location.  From her moldy cantaloupe came a strain of Penicillium chrysogenum that produced 200 times more penicillin than the government had in any of the laboratories.  Her strain led to saving millions of lives.  The Japanese and the Germans did not have penicillin.  But the Americans and the British did.

So that is an example of biodiversity.  But this mushroom growing in the old-growth forests doesn't enjoy the widespread habitat distribution that a Penicillium mold does.  It is restricted.  We need to invest in our ecosystems.  Biodiversity is absolutely critical to human survival.  Nature, through hundreds of millions of years of experiments has many great successes.  How we navigate through many of the issues that we face today by looking back and looking towards nature to see the experiments that have been successful, we can gain a lot of tools that have been tested in the theater of evolution that are extremely helpful to us.

So rather than going to molecular modeling and great computers and being able to play God, which I know incentivizes researchers and scientists because they can pull all these patents, I think it's much better that we go full circle and we look at the very habitats that have given us life and understand the complexity in the relationships.

Meredith Medland:  Thank you.  We are going to take a break and after the break we're going to talk more about mushroom consciousness and how it relates to string theory and what you think of the way the cells are mirroring what is happening with the Internet.  We are going to get a little more into your belief system around how fungi are helping with the planet.


Meredith Medland:  So I'm going to take a break now to thank our sponsors.  We will be back right after this.




Meredith Medland: Welcome back.  My name is Meredith Medland and you are listening to ‘Living Green’.

Paul, let's go right into your belief system.  I imagine this is a big belief system and we have a short interview here but what is different about your perspective on the planet that isn't being spoken about in regular circles in everyday conversation?

Paul Stamets:  Well, you're really asking me to push the envelope here.  I believe that nature is intelligent.  I believe that we are born of nature and if we are intelligent then, by definition, nature must be because nature gave rise to us.

The structure of the mycelium mimics that of the computer Internet.  I first proposed this in the mid-1990s that mycelium is Earth's natural Internet.  As you walk upon these membranes of cells, these are neurological landscapes that infuse all soils.  They are sentient.  They are aware that you're there.  As you leave your footsteps, the mycelium reaches up and responds by grabbing newly available broken twigs or sticks etc.

I think nature all around us is conscious of our presence.  Whether we are conscious of nature’s presence of course, is a totally different matter.  I proposed that mycelium is the Earth's natural Internet and I got a lot of flack for this.  But I am really happy that Dr. Nick Reid from Edinburgh and another group of scientists from Oxford came out with two papers this year looking at the mathematics of Internet and the structure of the nodes of crossing as mycelium grows.  Lo and behold, using the same mathematical formula, they found that through evolution, mycelium has optimized its nodes of crossing and the design of its networks to the same optimum that the computer Internet theory also is seeking.

So those two graphs actually fall right on top of each other.  There is a series of astonishingly powerful papers that really support my view.  These are neurological landscapes.  We chose the route of going over ground and encircling our nutrients and creating stomachs.  The mycelium chose the route of going underground and externally digesting its nutrients and bringing in its nutrients through the cell walls.

So mycelium conforms to string theory and the organization of matter in the universe follows strings of matter.  As we go further out in larger and larger dimensions we see these same types of mycelial archetypes throughout nature.

Networks are resilient.  They survive catastrophes.  They are able to re-grow and survive.  That is the way of nature.  I have the sense that we are part of this larger fabric.  We call it same self-recognition.  The mycelium grows.  It achieves a fabric like structures that gives it the ability to be able to navigate through very complex ecosystems.

There are so many examples.  I have been fortunate in that this is my time.  I am the mycelial messenger perhaps.  There are a lot of other - thousands of other people before me and thousands of other people that will come after me.  My trust and belief in the deep intelligence of Nature keeps bringing rewards that shock people and that have been verified scientifically and that open up many new opportunities.

There are some things that are implicitly true in life.  I have to say I have found a deep well of knowledge.  Literally every day that I wake up I am happy to be alive because I know my life has meaning and I can save thousands of lives if not thousands of species.

Time is short.  We are going to lose 50% of the species on the earth in the next hundred years, of species that we know.  What about the species that we don't know?  Over 90% of the species in the kingdom of fungi are unknown.  We only know about 10% of all the species that are out there.  So we have a little bit of knowledge.  And the little bit of knowledge that we have and what we know about it and how rapidly we are losing these candidate species means that we are losing tools in our biological tool chest.

I have a great concern that if humans don't get their act together - and this petty politics just is a bunch of cacophony that distracts people from the issues that we should be really focused on.  Frankly, I don't care about ‘American Idol’.  Frankly, I don't care about the Republican Party.  This is just a bunch of noise as the ship is sinking.  We should be focusing 100% on preserving the ecosystems because these ecosystems are our children's destiny.

I fear and I sense that children in the future are pointing and calling back in time, pointing their fingers at us asking us, “What the hell were you thinking?  What are you doing?”  There is a growing legion of mycowarriors I hope emerging around the planet to pick up this cause. 

My book ‘Mycelium Running’ is a manual for the mycological rescue of the planet.  It is a powerful book.  It's one book I think in a series of manuals that people can use to help reverse course or change course.  Smallpox doesn't care if you are Republican or Democrat.  Smallpox doesn't care about borders.  These bioepidemics are going to have a great leveling effect politically speaking because once they emerge out of the landscape we are going to all have to work together very, very rapidly.

Prevention is a lot better than treating after the fact.  Every hour that we spend trying to prevent these bioepidemics and lots of species going down the toilet frankly, will be time very, very well spent.

Meredith Medland:  One of the things that I recommend that our listeners do is go to, that's and she interviewed you.   There is a five-minute segment on her website that is video and she goes into your mushroom - I guess - what is it?  It's a farm you would call it right?

Paul Stamets:  We have a large laboratory complex here.  We grow about 200 to 300 species of mushrooms.  I think in Darryl Hannah's video we show about eight or nine of them.

Meredith Medland:  Yeah, so that was simply amazing.  And there is a key point in that video from the visualization standpoint that I think our listeners would enjoy.  That is you lift up a bunch of wood chips and you show what mycelium is.

Paul Stamets:  Anyone can go outside right now and find a piece of wood that has been on the ground and just lift it up.  You will see mycelium.  Mycelium is a not so invisible landscape that is underfoot all around you at all times.

I propose to you that the mycelium is conscious.  There is a consciousness there and we need to engage these intelligent organisms for our mutual benefit.  Now whether you believe they are conscious or not doesn't really matter.  See what they can do. 

The proof is in their activity.  We have been able to break down diesel and oil spills from 20,000 ppm of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to less than 200 in eight weeks thus being able to clean up habitats so they will rebound with all sorts of other organisms.  Otherwise they are anemic, biologically nearly sterile environments and extremely toxic.

The fungi are the leading edge organisms in nature.  Just as the first organisms came to land over 1.3 billion years ago, these fungi are edge runners.  And being edge runners they like interface environments.  As they go across a habitat, they built food webs that support all sorts of other organisms that ride upon them.  So people need to understand that these fungi are extremely powerful environmental healers.  And when we engage them purposely, then they can be fantastic allies for helping us repair the ecosystems that we have so severely damaged.

Meredith Medland:  So, should I go out and commune with the mycelium and sit with them?  It makes me want to take psilocybin mushrooms and have a big conversation is what it inspires me to do.

Paul Stamets:  Been there.  Done that. [Laughs]

Meredith Medland:  Yeah.  But I guess for me, for my show, not necessarily that my interests represent all of our listeners, but I'm inspired because I hear you saying, “All right.  Mushrooms definitely are able to heal pollution or contaminated soil.  So there is that element.  There is the smallpox element.  There is just a cool factor, that hey, we are losing a lot of our ecosystem.  Let's focus on mushrooms.”  It sounds like a great idea.  This is a great conversation because it wraps in consciousness and Nature and politics and oil spills and the environment.

And I have been asking each of my guests to give an eco-challenge that they can take on through next year’s Earth Day.  So in the next portion of our interview what I would like to do is talk to you about what we can do.  You know, I am just living my life, doing my thing, and I would love to commune with mushrooms and help get this story out and I would like to be able to have an eco-challenge for myself and our listeners that would really let us be messengers for you and keep the mushroom consciousness alive in us.

So we are going to take a break.  If you will help me with that when we come back that would be really lovely.


Meredith Medland:  My name is Meredith Medland.  You are listening to ‘Living Green’.  And Paul, you have got an eco-challenge for all of us.

Paul Stamets:  Well in order to get the most mileage from this communication I would definitely reiterate that please get my book ‘Mycelium Running – How Mushrooms Can Save the World’.  There is a lot of information that I think will convince people, even people who are the most skeptical.

My eco or myco challenge would be for every listener out there to indeed go sit with nature and then explore with your hands.  Dig into the soil.  Smell the richness of the soil and find these mycelial lenses that are all around you.  Every mycelial lens outgases fragrant signatures.  The forest ecosystems smell so good largely because of the fragrances of the mycelium that are outgassing.

Understand these mycelial lenses and how vast they are and then identify, if you can, target 10 edible mushrooms that you can learn how to identify.  They are very easy.  Morels are very easy.  Shaggy Mane’s very easy.  Choose the 10 most common edible mushrooms in your area.  Learn how to identify them.  And then take children into the woods.  When you're picking the mushrooms, show the mushrooms come from this hidden, invisible network just beneath the surface of the soil and that these fungi create the very soils that give us life.

Mushrooms are like tips of an iceberg.  Unfortunately it is the tip of the sinking iceberg as we lose biodiversity.  But it is important that children are familiarized as quickly as possible that we live in symbiosis.  We are symbiotic communities.  Even humans are not just one species.  We are these large mosaics of microbes.

I may be speaking with one voice.  This is the voice of Paul Stamets.  And all the listeners may be listening in a sense as one individual.  But in fact, we are composites.  So it is my microbial community speaking to yours.  These fungal networks that exist in nature not only are they a great example of networks and resiliency, but I don't think most people know that they are walking upon these things and they breathe life - the absence of which we will have biologically anemic environments.

I wrote Al Gore and Richard Branson.  They haven't written back.  But I wrote a two-page document on reversing global warming and saving biodiversity by investing in humus.  Mycelium and mushrooms are composed of complex carbohydrates.  They sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  As the mycelium grows, it produces these wonderful acid crystals called oxalic acid, which are two carbon dioxide molecules joined together.  So is the mycelium grows not only are these carbon rich compounds like proteins, but the cell walls are exoskeletons that are extremely high in polysaccharides, carbohydrates.

Then the mycelium is also producing all of these crystals that take CO2 out of the atmosphere.  By investing in the fungal lifecycles we not only take CO2 out of the atmosphere, but we build humus.  So the carbon sink and the carbon bank of soils is increased.  As soils are increased, they have a better carrying capacity of more biodiversity and we reinvest then in ecosystems that can further support life. 

The opposite trend will be obvious to listener as a form of ecological suicide.  We are engaged, right now, in ecological suicide.  If you put a dome over Shanghai, how long would that city survive?  One day.  Maybe two days.  There are regions of this world that, if you amplified them as an example of an ecosystem, there would be no life, certainly not life, as we know it. 

That's what I think is happening.  It is a growing plague of deforestation that is occurring around our planet.  Once the CO2 levels hit 10,000 parts per million, all large animals will die off.  That trend is a trend towards which we’re going right now.  I wish people would spend more attention to this issue rather than so much of the political cacophony that dominates the airwaves.

Meredith Medland:  Well you have got my attention.  I'll definitely be messengering as much as I can.  I really appreciate you committing your life to this.  It's really wonderful to experience.  It's just clear that that's who you are in the world.  You have chosen your thing and this is what you are doing.

Before we wrap up our interview, there are two questions and things that I would like to talk to about.  One is a little more about mushrooms.  The other is about your martial arts and your black belt.  I'm also a martial artist so I'm a little curious about that.

Before I ask you about that, Paul, a friend of mine told me about recognizing mushrooms.  I would like you to talk a little bit about what happens when we take the time in nature to explore mushrooms.  What might happen to us?

Paul Stamets:  Well, mushrooms can be invisible to the naked eye and they can be right in front of you.  And people just can't see them.  There have been many times that I have naturally sat down in the woods, mushroom hunting and not being able to find mushrooms.  I am sitting there quietly in the forest resting.  I look over and the very mushrooms I'm looking for are right by my feet sometimes.

I have had several examples like that.  When you create this visual picture in your brain and when you have this memory image then you can then pattern your memory image across the landscape and suddenly all these mushroom shapes will start jumping out at you whereas before you did not notice them at all.

Mushrooms also have a very keen sense of humor.  The psilocybin mushrooms are most often found in the Northwest around law enforcement facilities, courthouses, universities and churches.  So if you want to go and find psilocybin mushrooms in the Northwest, go to your local Sheriff's Department.


Paul Stamets:  It's a little bit of a problem frankly.  But they have a very peculiar sense of humor it seems like the institutions that need them the most are where they tend to migrate to.

Folks, I'm being absolutely serious.  It's funny.  But it's true.  So mushrooms have appeared to me in the strangest of ways.  There is a Psilocybe species called Psilocybe sylvatica.  Only two collections have been made in Washington State in the past 40 years. 

I was a starving student living at the end of a dead-end road A-frame with no power and no water.  One night, around 11 o'clock I felt emboldened to stand up and I walked through the woods at night on an old abandoned logging road.  There was no moon.  And I suddenly stopped frozen.  I leaned down in total darkness and I put my hand on top of this species that has only been collected twice over decades.

Meredith Medland:  Oh, wow.

Paul Stamets:  Shivers went up and down my spine.  It was too dark.  I didn't have a flashlight.  I pulled out my wallet and I threw some paper on the ground thinking, “I’ll come back because what I felt, felt like one of these mushrooms that I was seeking.”  The next morning I came back and there was a second collection of this species called Psilocybe sylvatica, which means woodland mushroom, ever collected.

How does that happen?  I mean, how does that happen?  The improbability of that is beyond mathematics.  Yet it happened.  So mushrooms have called to me and I think they can call to many people.  If we seek them they will find us more so than we find them.

Meredith Medland:  I'm glad that I found you.  We are going to wrap up our show today speaking a little bit about what it means to you to be living green.  And give our listeners a sense of your spiritual practice, what your day looks like, what your connection to God source/divine is that if you would be willing, give us just a little intimate view into you, what we wouldn't get on the conference circuit or the reading literature about you.  What is moving you throughout your day?

Paul Stamets:  Well my mother has had a great influence on me.  I grew up in a highly charismatic Christian environment.  My mother is a charismatic Christian leader.  She has a group of people that have built a vast facility around her in Eastern Washington.  My mother has raised a group of children who are very much scientists and who are non-charismatic in their belief system.  But we inherently know that my mother believes in the power of goodness.

I had a great epiphany one day.  I'm always trying to build bridges between people on the far left and on the far right and this whole thing about intelligent design and the conflict with evolution.  I woke up one morning with this great epiphany.  I called my mother who has a group of people who pray for me every day.  Frankly, I like that.  I'll accept all the good wishes that I can get.

I told my mother that I had this great epiphany.  I wanted to share it with her because I think it is a bridge between people who think they are on polar opposites but they actually aren't.  I actually made this into a bumper sticker.  It is ‘Evolution Is God's Intelligent Design’.

I think that says it all.  The mystery of Nature and that of God is far greater than that which our minds, with all their limitations, can even begin to comprehend.  If we knowledge that we are ignorant in the face of Nature and God's complexity, then any interpretation that we have of God is inherently flawed, which doesn't mean that you can't be spiritual.  It means that, as we struggle to understand the vastness of the universe, whether you believe in one deity or whether you believe in Nature, I think it is all one and the same.  Ultimately I think that the chasm between people who believe in Nature versus people who believe in God that will narrow.  Indeed Nature and God is one.

Meredith Medland:  Mmmm.  Thank you for that.  Listeners, if you would like more information about Paul or if you would like to see some of the research that I did prior to the interview, you are welcome to go to my blog, which is at  If you'd like to e-mail me, and engage with me about what you think about all the different shows, you can do that at [email protected].


And Paul, I just want to let you know that we will never look at a mushroom the same way.  You have certainly changed my thinking around it.  If someone had told me when I was young, I was always dressing up as Alice in Wonderland in costume.  I'm blonde and that the character I really identified with.  So it brings me great joy and happiness to have been able to share this time with you this morning.  Thank you so much.

Paul Stamets:  Peace be with you all.

Meredith Medland:  All rights.  Thanks.  Blessings.  Listeners, for text and transcripts of the show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network you can go to  We are illuminating the psychology of ecology every day here on Living Green.  Thanks for joining us.


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