“You can’t help but be spiritual thinking about astronomy.” So said Dr. Paul Stamets, whose appearance before a packed conference room at SXSW was full of hope for the future.

He talked about psilocybin mushrooms: Stamets published his first book on them 45 years ago! He was recently awarded 3 composition patents on his psilocybin discoveries. Star Trek fans will know him as the inspiration for the character Paul Stamets on the current TV series Star Trek: Discovery. On the show, set in the 23rd century, Stamets is an astromycologist. He helped discover the mycelial network that led to the creation of the spore drive that propels the starship he serves on through space at incredible speed. Mycology is the study of fungi (including mushrooms); the mycelial network that is just beneath the ground over much of Earth was discussed in Austin by none other than Capt. Kirk: William Shatner at SXSW emphasized how important it is, in real life.

Dr. Stamets told a breathless crowd at SXSW that “I have one word of wisdom, in capital letters: EXISTENCE. We all exist, we have always existed, we will forever exist. Our atoms together are flowing throughout the universe, throughout the microverse.”

He extolled the virtues of ingesting psilocybin (more popularly known as magic mushrooms). “I believe psilocybin makes nicer people, reduces violence and crime, and can break the shackles of addiction. When you meet somebody who is an addict and has been violent – I’ve just met numerous Seals who have suffered incredible experiences in war. Here in Austin there’s a large group: the Seals are flocking to psilocybin. There is over 600, I’ve been told, in the community. Law enforcement officers have also been traumatized.

“A law enforcement officer I met in Vancouver said they’re not arresting people for psilocybin because they know it reduces crime. He said we used to go up to people really aggressive and mean, and the people were really intimidated. They were frightened and ran. After psilocybin we walk up to them with a big smile on our face. I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news, the good news is you can finish your coffee, the bad news is I’ve got to arrest you. He said, it’s amazing: before they were aggressive and antagonistic. They’re having the greatest conversations in the squad car, they’re happy, cooperative. They’re relating to the people with respect and dignity. This is what psilocybin does.”

Stamets is convinced the future of humanity is linked to this substance. “Psilocybin is a game-changer. We are at a critical moment in the evolution of our species to have a paradigm shift in our consciousness. We can bring unanimity among all people around the world. This is the message of psilocybin. We are all one community, not only of people but of all organisms. Psilocybin is a gateway into universal consciousness. I think this is our time to lead the charge with great science.”

In a final rousing call to the cause, Stamets, wearing a Star Trek pin, said “Psilocybin has come to us from the mycelial networks underneath our feet. Nature is calling up to us. I believe psilocybin is the molecule that can create the paradigm of consciousness and help save the world!”

Dr. Cunningham (l) holding a book by Dr. Paul Stamets, at SXSW

By Dr. Cliff Cunningham

Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books. His PhD is in the History of Astronomy, and he also holds a BA in Classical Studies.