Magic Mushrooms were the Inspiration for Frank Herbert's Science Fiction Epic 'Dune'

Blue Eyes of Spice Addiction

One of the central plot devices in Frank Herbert's 1965 science-fiction epic Dune is melange - colloquially known as 'spice' - a naturally-occurring drug found only on the planet Arrakis which has numerous positive effects, including heightened awareness, life extension, and prescience. These effects make it the most important commodity in the cosmos, especially as the prescience allows for faster-than-light interstellar starship navigation (and thus trade) by the 'Guild Navigators'. The spice also has other more, deleterious effects, which begin with its addictive properties, a symptom of which is the tinting of the whites and pupils of the eye to a dark shade of blue.

This central theme of Dune has often prompted assocations with psychedelic culture - the mystical-surrealist avant-garde film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who once attempted to make a film based on Dune, said that he "wanted to make a film that would give the people who took LSD at that time the hallucinations that you get with that drug, but without hallucinating". The popular nickname for the strong hallucinogen dimethyl-tryptamine (DMT) - 'spice' - may also have taken some inspiration from the novel.

But it seems the origin of the spice theme actually does have a direct link to the psychedelic experience: in his book Mycelium Running, legendary mycologist Paul Stamets notes that not only was Frank Herbert a talented and innovative mushroom enthusiast, but that the sci-fi author confessed to him that Dune took its inspiration from Herbert's experiences with magic mushrooms:

Frank Herbert, the well-known author of the Dune books, told me his technique for using spores. When I met him in the early 1980s, Frank enjoyed collecting mushrooms on his property near Port Townsend, Washington. An avid mushroom collector, he felt that throwing his less-than-perfcct wild chanterelles into the garbage or compost didn't make sense. Instead, he would put a few weathered chanterelles in a 5-gallon bucket of water, add some salt, and then, after 1 or 2 clavs, pour this spore-mass slurry on the ground at the base of newly planted firs. When he told me chanterelles were glowing from trees not even 10 years old, I couldn't believe it. No one had previously reported chanterelles arising near such young trees, nor had anyone reported them growing as a result of using this method." Of course, it did work for frank, who was simply following nature's lead.

Frank's discovery has now been confirmed in the mushroom industry. It is now known that it's possible to grow many mushrooms using spore slurries from elder mushrooms. Many variables come into play, but in a sense this method is just a variation of what happens when it rains. Water dilutes spores from mushrooms and carries them to new environments. Our responsibility is to make that path easier. Such is the way of nature.

Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.

It seems Frank Herbert did indeed 'let the spice flow'!

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News Briefs 17-07-2014

Isn't it time to change the tune??

Thanks to Inannawhimsey

Quote of the Day:

"What we call imagination is actually the universal library of what's real. You couldn't imagine it if it weren't real somewhere, sometime."

~Terence McKenna

'Weird Al' Yankovic Believes All the Conspiracies in His Latest Parody Music Video, 'Foil'

We all love some Weird Al here at the Grail Tower, so there were a few laughs today when we came across his latest parody music video, 'Foil', a take-off of New Zealand singer Lorde's 'Royals'. The title gives away the link to conspiracy theories, but I'll leave you to check it out without any more spoilers...

News Briefs 16-07-2014

After reading some of the crazy news briefs today you'll be all like this

Quote of the Day:

The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.

Terence McKenna

Ancient Amazonian People Built Massive Circular Structures Before the Rainforest Existed

Ancient Earthworks in Amazon

Two mysteries for the price of one: were some parts of the Amazon rainforests actually grassy plains just a few thousand years ago, and why (and how) were the ancient people of that area building massive circular earthworks? Environmental scientist John Francis Carson and his colleagues are trying to find the answers:

A series of square, straight and ringlike ditches scattered throughout the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazon were there before the rainforest existed, a new study finds.

...Since the 1980s, deforestation has revealed massive earthworks in the form of ditches up to 16 feet (5 meters) deep, and often just as wide... These human-made structures remain a mystery: They may have been used for defense, drainage, or perhaps ceremonial or religious reasons.

Carson and his colleagues wanted to explore the question of whether early Amazonians had a major impact on the forest. They focused on the Amazon of northeastern Bolivia, where they had sediment cores from two lakes nearby major earthworks sites. These sediment cores hold ancient pollen grains and charcoal from long-ago fires, and can hint at the climate and ecosystem that existed when the sediment was laid down as far back as 6,000 years ago.

An examination of the two cores — one from the large lake, Laguna Oricore, and one from the smaller lake, Laguna Granja — revealed a surprise: The very oldest sediments didn't come from a rainforest ecosystem at all. In fact, the Bolivian Amazon before about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago looked more like the savannas of Africa than today's jungle environment.

Link: Mysterious Earthen Rings Predate Amazon Rainforest

Paper (Abstract): "Environmental impact of geometric earthwork construction in pre-Columbian Amazonia"

Classic Text on Consciousness and E.S.P Made Available Online

Quantum Consciousness

Norman writes:

A classic text of the "Hippies Saving Physics" ESP-researching '70s has been posted to arXiv by Sir Brian Josephson. The 200-page book (proceedings of a Cambridge symposium on consciousness) was edited by Josephson and V. S. Ramachandran, with a preface by Freeman Dyson, who remarks: "The authors of this book ... are accepting a certain risk that their orthodox colleagues will consider them a little soft-headed ... [especially the biologists because biologists] have made the meaninglessness of the universe into a new dogma."

Link: "Consciousness and the Physical World" - Edited Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Symposium on Consciousness Held at the University of Cambridge in January 1978

News Briefs 15-07-2014

I'm not sure I like the direction computer gaming is heading...

Quote of the Day:

Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.

Hunter S. Thompson

Rupert Sheldrake Discusses Morphic Resonance and Animal Telepathy with Scientific American

Rupert Sheldrake

The website of Scientific American currently has an excellent feature and interview with 'maverick biologist' Rupert Sheldrake, via science writer John Horgan. Though he considers himself a 'psi skeptic', Horgan's piece is warm and open-minded (we find out that Sheldrake does a good impression of his late friend, Terence McKenna) - very pleasant to see these 'heretical' topics discussed in such a convivial manner for a change.

The article covers many topics, but I thought Rupert's description of his theory of 'morphic resonance' was a very good summary for anybody not intimately familiar with, so have excerpted the relevant parts below. Make sure you head on over and read the entire piece though:

Morphic resonance is the influence of previous structures of activity on subsequent similar structures of activity organized by morphic fields. It enables memories to pass across both space and time from the past. The greater the similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance. What this means is that all self-organizing systems, such as molecules, crystals, cells, plants, animals and animal societies, have a collective memory on which each individual draws and to which it contributes. In its most general sense this hypothesis implies that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits.

...The idea of morphic resonance came to me when I was doing research at Cambridge on the development of plants. I was interested in the concept of morphogenetic, or form-shaping, fields, but realized they could not be inherited through genes. They had to be inherited in some other way. The idea of morphic resonance came as a sudden insight. This happened in 1973, but it was a radical idea, and I spent years thinking about it before I published it in my first book, A New Science of Life, in 1981.

...There is a lot of circumstantial evidence for morphic resonance. The most striking experiment involved a long series of tests on rat learning that started in Harvard in the 1920s and continued over several decades. Rats learned to escape from a water-maze and subsequent generations learned faster and faster. At the time this looked like an example of Lamarckian inheritance, which was taboo. The interesting thing is that after the rats had learned to escape more than 10 times quicker at Harvard, when rats were tested in Edinburgh, Scotland and in Melbourne, Australia they started more or less where the Harvard rats left off. In Melbourne the rats continued to improve after repeated testing, and this effect was not confined to the descendants of trained rats, suggesting a morphic resonance rather than epigenetic effect. I discuss this evidence in A New Science of Life, now in its third edition, called Morphic Resonance in the US.

...I would like there to be much more research on morphic resonance and I would like to see a lot more evidence for it. If there were, it would not necessarily refute materialism, but could expand the materialist worldview, which has become excessively dogmatic, as I show in my recent book Science Set Free (called The Science Delusion in the UK). I think something like morphic resonance is necessary to make sense of inheritance, memory, the evolutionary nature of nature, and many other phenomena. Lee Smolin, the theoretical physicist, recently put forward a similar idea, which he calls “the principle of precedence,” and perhaps his hypothesis might mesh in better with established science, since it is formulated in the context of quantum physics. The main question is whether or not the effects predicted by the hypothesis of morphic resonance – or the principle of precedence – actually happen.

P.Z. Myers and company getting frothy at the mouth in 3, 2, 1...

Link: Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries

Related:

All Hail Breaks Loose in Siberia! (VIDEO)

It's like something out of The Day After Tomorrow: The video below captures how a group of terrified beach-goers in Novosibirsk, Siberia, are trying to flee from a sudden hail storm which completely disrupted a perfect summer day of 99°F (37°C)(!).

Siberia is known the world over for its ice - but hailstorms of this intensity are rare in summer, when temperatures are similar to Mediterranean resorts.

Towels, beach mats and personal possessions were sent flying by heavy winds as the hailstones pummelled bathers and the beach.

'If we die, I love you,' a female voice is heard saying on dramatic video footage of the deluge.

блин природа вы страшно! (That's Russian for 'Damn Nature you scary!')

Link: Freak hail storm hits Siberian beach in mid-summer - extraordinary pictures

(H/T Sploid & Geekologie)

News Briefs 14-07-2014

The wow, the woo and the WTF?

Thanks to Kat for links

Quote of the Day:

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

Plato