Psilocybin, Healing and A Course in Miracles

Content Warning: This essay may be triggering for folks recovering from addiction. It may be triggering in other ways as well. I am bearing witness to my own study and practice here; I am not defending that study and practice and I am not advocating for it. Forgive me. And be kind to yourself as well.


Several years ago, in a state of spiritual crisis that was profoundly affecting my ability to function in the world, I grew and ate psilocybin mushrooms.

I was guided to do this. I asked the Holy Spirit should I do this and the Holy Spirit said yes, do this. But it was not easy. It did not feel natural or comfortable. There was a lot of resistance, a lot of internal argument. There was a lot of doubt and fear.

Even now I see the mushrooms as a dangerous exercise I do not recommend and will never try again but for which I am deeply, almost mystically, grateful.


I tripped a lot in my late teens and early twenties, a practice that ended around the same time I stopped drinking in 1990. I was an angry and self-destructive drunk from the get-go. Drinking was fun for about fifteen minutes and then it was submission to family demons who wished nobody well. I hated myself with every sip. The self-hate fueled more drinking, and the drinking fueled more self-hate. It was a vicious and escalating spiral with only one possible outcome. The question wasn’t would I die from drinking, it was how much damage would I do going down.

Oddly, in those years, psilocybin seemed to . . . confuse the anger? Pacify the demons? They didn’t dissolve the trauma and its emotional affect (much less undo the addiction) but they did seem to slow it all down. And in that slowed-downness, there was less harm both to me and to others. I was still crazy but I was way less agressive and for that I was – then and now – grateful.

For me, in those years, psilocybin was a form of brutal self-observation. I truly hated myself, believed that self-destruction was merited, even unto death, and felt more or less powerless over any of it. But I was also curious why I hated myself. When I drank that hatred turned to rage and self-harm but mushrooms held the inquiry in icy stillness. I could ask the question over and over, and I did.

It turned out there were answers to the question of why I hated myself. And when I did not flinch from those answers but accepted them, it was possible to hate myself a little less. I went toe-to-toe in those moments with an interior horror show I do not wish on anybody. Yet I was not destroyed by it, and because I was not, healing became a real possibility.

Self-hatred metasticized in my psyche as an effect of growing up with a devout but forbidding Catholicism practiced by a family in which violence and addiction was the secret nobody was allowed to name. No effort was made to emphasize that the devil was a metaphor, or suffering contrary to the nature of God. Satan was as real as Jesus, both of whom were fighting a war for my soul, the whole thing overseen by a God who was indifferent at best, and cruel at worst. My mind was depressingly fertile ground for the cultural demonology of the late sixties and early seventies. Movies and books like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen seeped into my consciousness and convinced me that I was a lost cause in the conflict between good and evil, a conviction my parents and other adults seemed to actively encourage. It is hard to convey the anguish this caused. It is hard to describe the hurt and anger. I wanted to live but believed I did not deserve to live. In the end, I believed that everyone would be better off if I did not live. It was a terrible thing to inflict upon a child.

To the extent hallucinogenics were helpful with all that, it was mostly in how they sometimes exposed the fear and guilt that underlay the rage that drove my addiction to self-destruction by making clear the insanity of my religious upbringing (and rarer yet, making clear a cultural conflict that was bigger than just me and my family). They did not show me God so much as show me that I had not yet seen God. I did absolutely nothing with those insights except note – however faintly – that there might actually be a way out.

So in that sense, the first faint threads of healing – of remembering my inherent innocence and goodness (which I share with you and all Creation), of the promise of return to the human family, and of the possibility of real relationship – were revealed to me in the mid-to-late 1980s by the mushrooms.


Was I thinking of all that when I decided to try them again thirty-some odd years later? I don’t know. Certainly nothing else in my bag of tricks was working – therapy, twelve steps, prayer, A Course in Miracles. I was foundering in grim nihilism, increasingly unable to respond to even the most basic responsibilies.

Parenting, being a husband and householder, writing and teaching . . . I began to ghost all of it and as a consequence began to experience myself as a ghost. I was haunting life but rather than rank fear there was just uneasy boredom. Everything went gray and faded; I stopped feeling a part of anything, and I stopped caring one way or the other about it.

Or I stopped caring mostly. Now and then something would snap me back to the moment. I would notice a look on my wife’s face – a sadness, a loneliness – and I would feel . . . sad, too. Or I’d notice the kids weren’t including me in things like board games or discussions about books. In those moments I would wonder how it had come to this and, critically, was another way possible? Or had I fallen too far off the path?

That was the space in which the invitation to partake of a new mushroom experience was given. I was surprised I said yes but also, not surprised at all. What did I have to lose?


In the trip I am going to talk about here – because it was the one from which it seemed I would not return (and, in a sense, from which I did not return) – I had a vision.

I say “vision.” If you’ve ever eaten mushrooms, you know what I mean. It’s nothing supernatural; it’s nothing divine. It’s just a thing the mind does at the farthest (and most unfamiliar) reaches of consciousness. The closest analog is lucid dreaming, but (for me) the mushroom vision is to lucid dreaming as the ocean is to a koi pond in the mall.

I do not like to talk about mystical or supernatural experiences. They are just experiences that sometimes happen; they are neither better nor worse than any other experience. Writing and talking about them can too easily become a way of insisting that something special happened to me and as a result I have something – an insight, an understanding, a wisdom – that you do not. That is always a lie.

And yet, without this vision, the whole psilocybin experience would’ve been merely another exercise in self-destruction. And it wasn’t. It was more than that.

This trip (a so-called heroic dose, e.g., just over five grams) was mostly terrifying. My hands kept floating off my arms. I forgot to breathe and ended up gasping, chest pounding. Walls turned to stone, then dissolved into rainy forests I’d been lost in for a thousand years. I crawled on the floor through my own vomit. Aliens injected my blood with beads of amber; I spoke in tongues. The block universe became a rack on which I was ruthlessly stretched by invisible torturers. The pain was Godless and excruciating.

But in the middle of this – all at once, no warning – the agonizing phantasmagoria stopped, as if a switch had been thrown. The silence was funereal, the stillness made of marble.

All of creation arose is a vast and prismatic cascade before me. Quasars and galaxies, elephants and oceans, sex and war, cave art and crayons. All of it arose in a vivid towering plume and at its peak crashed down through itself into nothingness, from which it arose again, over and over and over.

This was the cycle of Creation and Destruction, Brahma and Shiva, Being and non-being, life and whatever life was not. The two flowed into and out of one another, without intention of any kind, endlessly neutral. Here was Everything collapsing into Nothing; here was Nothing erupting into Everything.

How long did I witness this? Five seconds? A million years? I have no idea. I blinked and came to in cool grass beneath a birch tree near the barn. Sunlight rested on nearby lilies; clouds floated through the sky. I lay there a long time before a single clear thought appeared: “I have a name.”

A few minutes later, I remembered what it was.


David Carse, whose book Perfect Brilliant Stillness helped precipitate the afore-mentioned spiritual and psychological crisis, makes the following observation:

It can be asked, What is prior to Being?
‘What’ lets Being be?
As it is prior to Being, this ‘what’ is not.
Here is Void, Nothingness, no-thing-ness.
Prior to Being, ‘it’ lets Being be:
That in which Being is,
Plenum, the fullness of no-thing-ness
out of which, in which, as which
Being (and hence all beingness) arises.

The paths of mysticism, bhakti and jnana
join here and end here.
All paths can lead this far and no further.

‘Being’ and ‘Nothing’ are the last concepts,
and the last experiences, available to us (386).


When I say I remembered my name under the birch tree, what do you think I remembered?

Of his so-called awakening, Carse says, “who carse?”


When the first mushrooms were ready to harvest, I ate them right away, after everyone had gone to bed. I sat on a folded blanket out back near the horses.

I prayed before I ate them. Prayed as I chewed and swallowed, prayed as my stomach roiled digesting them. I prayed desperately and pathetically. In that moment, I wanted so badly to live and be happy, and was terrified I would never be again. I began sobbing.

I begged Jesus to join me, to help me, to grant me insight and knowledge, to not let me be hurt by the mushrooms, to help me re-earn the love of my family, to remember meaning and function again. It was self-centered and puerile but I didn’t care.

Fireflies filled the meadow. In those days the blind horse could still see. The only sound beside my bawling was the river humming in the distance.

A funny thing happened then. Without any reflection or intention, the prayer up-ended itself. I didn’t decide to change it; it just changed. It became about others. I suddenly knew that countless others were in pain like me – some in greater pain, some lesser – and all I wanted was for them to be healed.

And so I asked Jesus to heal them – to visit them instead of me, to bring peace to their hearts and to calm their minds, soothe their souls. “I’m okay,” I said aloud. “Help them. I’m okay.”

You have to understand that I was not okay. I was a mess. A mess. But for no reason I understood – because there is absolutely no virtue or logic in any of this – I no longer cared about being healed personally.

I only wanted you – whoever you were, wherever you were – to be healed.

This went on for an hour or so. Eventually my voice stopped working and the prayer faded. I sat quietly in starlit darkness. It wasn’t peaceful; it wasn’t blissful. It wasn’t productive. There was no insight or understanding. Everything was still and quiet. Hours passed.

Near dawn, I got up and walked past the barn to pee. Venus rested on the horizon. Standing there in exhaustion, I remembered whose light it was – Lucifer, the fallen one. The bad angel. The Destroyer of Worlds who was paradoxically also the Bringer of Light, the haunter of my childhood and author of my doom.

Briefly I saw him – the Beast slouching through the pasture towards me. His head hung like an anvil and his feet dragged. In his wake was pestilence, war and famine. Every hateful word ever uttered battered my ear drums; the sky ran with blood and smoke.

And yet, for the first time in my life – a life wracked with hurt and anger, destruction and violence, bitterness and cruelty – I was no longer afraid of the devil.

Instead, I saw my brother – self-sabotaged in Heaven, desperately missing his Creator, and stumbling accordingly. I recognized him, and my recognition was a form of love. I opened my arms to hold and console him.

Then there was only Venus again, diamantine and brilliant over the rocky New England hills.


James Hillman, a Jungian psychotherapist and writer, once said (here paraphrased), don’t interpret your dreams. Let your dreams interpret you.

He meant that the story we tell about the dream is removed from the dream and involves us in ways that can bias the dream’s healing clarity. He advised staying with the dream in non-linear ways – feeling its emotional tenor, witnessing its images, praising it in poetry. In that way, the dream could reach us in ways and at levels mere analysis could not.

Something similar applies here. This essay is an analysis written several years after the mushrooms, not to mention after the transformation that followed them.

In a sense, the transformation was simple. I stopped needing my life to be other than what it was. I made what was unwelcome welcome. I gave attention to what was given rather than my preferences. I submitted judgment to the grace of God and in that submission – which, yes, had to be learned and relearned, applied and re-applied – I remembered who and what I was in truth.

A Child of God is happy only when he knows he is with God. That is the only environment in which he will not experience strain, because that is where he belongs (T-7.XI.2:6-7).

The Kingdom of Heaven is the quiet, sustainable happiness that we do not create and yet were created to share. It is in us but not of us. Sharing it is creation. You need do nothing; there is nothing to do.

This is the state of true creation, found not within time, but in eternity. To no one here is this describable. Nor is there any way to learn what this condition means. Not till you go past learning to the Given; not till you make again a holy home for your creations is it understood (T-24.VII.6:7-10).

It’s true that the form of my life changed. I found new work and new writing practices. My marriage came back to life. My children recognized me again. I joined with fellow ACIM students to study and apply the lessons; I was led to a new and more helpful twelve-step program.

There were still challenges – some that were nontrivial – but they were seen and accepted as sites of learning. They were no longer seen as psychological conflagrations that needed to be attacked and defeated but rather as seeds of peace to be gently nurtured and allowed to blossom on terms set by God, which terms would be revealed to me as I consented to their revelation.

I wasn’t in charge any more and it was a vast relief. I could participate – could cooperate – with life rather than engage in endless conflicts, both minor and major. The self-sabotage ended; the loneliness ended, and I was no longer alien unto Creation. The divine family was everywhere, asking to be remembered, and it was given to me to remember it.

I asked you to do this work with me, and you said yes.

Being is known by sharing. Because God shared His Being with you, you can know Him. But you must also know all He created, to know what they have shared . . . Know then the Children of God, and you will know all Creation (T-7.XI.7:6-7, 11).

I am not saying that anybody needs to eat mushrooms. They took years off my life; I can’t imagine doing it again. But I am saying that if you are desperate, there is a way out, and the way out is to remember that the way is relationship. In relationship, you will be shown the unending cycle of creation and destruction which absolves you of any personal wrongdoing, and that in this revelation of your fundamental innocence you will realize that you have something to share with your brothers and sisters who are everywhere like you.

Service – action coming from love – is the answer. Nor is it difficult once the underlying relationship – the underlying oneness – is clear. Everything we do we do for our own Self, who is the Child of God in whom all Creation remembers itself as holy.

The mushrooms taught me that. Or, if you prefer, God taught me that, using the mushrooms as a teaching tool. The form of the learning doesn’t matter; only that we learn.

Mostly I want you to know that you are not alone. Not in the cosmic sense, because all creation lives in you and is your home, and not in the local personal sense either, because you are reading this, which means it was written for you, and so together – this very moment, which is all of time there is – we are together re-membering wholeness.

Trust yourself. And if you need a friend, I am here.


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    1. Sean I think this is the most profound and freeing thing I’ve ever read. Though it mirrors my experience at the same time it dwarfs what I went through, I suffered from shame and depression an infeariorty complex that drove me to attempt to take my life. And to be told by a councillor that pride was my problem just added to it. You laid bare everything in your life for everyone which is the greatest thing anyone can do for others. Thank you so much. Through the course and the twelve steps and your self and many others I have learned to be happy with all my shortcomings and accept them. I could go on and on about your post today there is so much in it,it’s the essence of that book perfect brilliant stillness. Would love to walk with you in those days.

      1. There is so much in this post. I felt triggered, disturbed, angry, sad…for all children who are subjected to fear that an adult’s perception of religion can put upon them.
        Thank you for writing about this experience, Sean.
        I love that you are a channel for the Holy Spirit and that you trust what so beautifully ❤️

      2. Thank you, Sean. I am very grateful that you and I can share this spiritual path together. I count you as a dear friend. And I’m glad that you did not take your life but stayed to continue healing and holding the light that we all share. We do not do this work alone 🙏🙏

        ~ Sean

      3. There is so much in this post. I felt triggered, disturbed, angry, sad…for all children who are subjected to fear that an adult’s perception of religion can put upon them.
        Thank you for writing about this experience, Sean.
        I love that you are a channel for the Holy Spirit and that you trust so beautifully ❤️

        1. Thank you Jennifer . . . I appreciate your empathy and compassion very much . . . and I am grateful to share this path with you. Thank you for reading and sharing 🙏🙏
          ~ Sean

  1. Dear Sean
    I am astounded and grateful for your beautiful raw message. I just spent about two hours conversing with the Holy Spirit via journaling, and it was a raw, angry expose but an honest one. And I no longer cared about all the religious crap that tells us “how” to commune with Spirit “properly”.
    What’s astounding is the similarities of your accounts to my unleashing of pent up rage. Like you, I was raised a strict Catholic, and like you, there was plenty of dirt no one would address. The abuse on multiple levels was prevalent in our home. And the devastating thing was that our parish priests knew full well of it and never helped. I realize now, that my recognition of their unwillingness and my equation of them=God’s chosen ones/Jesus’ trusted teachers resulted in a fracturing of the structures of my beliefs but more importantly, my relationship with God, with Jesus, with Love.
    Ironically, in a moment of dismissing “the crap” of the past, I held out my arms to every self expression I’ve been-the shame filled child, the desperate young woman indulging in glamor and social engagement to be accepted, the power hungry manager desperate to prove she is “somebody”, the cigarette addict desperate to live but also trying to challenge life’s ability to keep her alive because the pain, shame, and lack of faith has beaten her down, the spiritual seeker constantly rushing around to find the next “new and right” path that surely will heal me and make me shiny and acceptable to God, to Jesus and all of Heaven. And I fiercely held these expressions with love and compassion and practicality dared any “Higher Being” to contradict my acceptance of my selves.
    I was just pacing, still talking to Spirit when I grabbed my phone on a whim and checked email, and find you. What do they call this? Serendipity?
    Thank you! I pray you are blessed with a most awesome day that is a doorway to an incredible and fulfilling joyful path! You are “doing the work” Brother!
    So much Love, Gratitude and Peace to you, Sean,

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Fran. I identify with all of this – the pain, the secrets, the frantic attempts to heal, and project a competent self to the world . . . I am glad that we are able to share this path together.

      Yes, we can call it serendipity. But we can also call it healing 🙂 All minds are joined and the light that shines in one readily shines into another. Thank you for hearing me, for sharing, and helping me remember the cause of joy 🙏🙏

      ~ Sean

  2. Dear Sean!
    I have no words to thank you for this lesson. It was definitely written to me.
    I really need to understand that the way out is relationship.
    If I may ask, why do you say mushrooms took years off your life?
    Just a minor review: in the last section, the second ACIM quote refers to chapter 24 instead of 4.
    Please keep on this great work of yours!

    1. Thank you, Atonio. Citation updated!

      And I’m glad you found the post helpful. Yes. Relationship is the way on this particular iteration of the so-called “universal curriculum.”

      In terms of my health . . . I just felt older, slower and weaker after that phase ended. And the feeling did not pass. Psilocybin is no joke – it does tax the human body. I have no regrets about that at all. It was, for me, in the end, worth it. It was a form of healing for sure. But the ways in which it changed me were not just at the level of mind, or psyche or spirit, or however one languages it. It was also physical. I aged, and the aging brought with it the various issues physical aging brings. I have not reflected a lot on that, to be honest with you, and as I write this I wonder if perhaps I ought to give it some attention. It does feel as if the physical aspect shortened my life almost as a condition of healing; I am certainly deeply grateful and orders of magnitude more present to my living.

      Thanks again for reading and sharing (and copy-editing:) ). I am grateful indeed 🙏🙏.

      ~ Sean

    1. You are welcome, Barbara! Thank you for reading and for sharing this path with me. I am very grateful 🙏🙏
      ~ Sean

  3. I can’t thank you enough for your writings. Right now the ACIM workbook lessons and your writings are my daily companion to start the day . Of course everyday I am back at the starting point but somehow weirdly enough feel there is progress -whatever that means.

    1. You’re welcome, Yasmin. Thank you for reading and sharing. I understand what you mean by being at the starting point and yet it feels like there’s progress. It is like a spiral – the same circle over and over – and yet there is movement. My friends in second-order cybernetics refer to this as “recursion.” It’s a good sign 🙏🙏

      ~ Sean

    2. Yasmin,
      My daily routine is the same! And like you, I feel a “starter” each day but if I slow down and just reflect, maybe once a month or so, I also “weirdly enough feel there is progress”! For me, I am slowly recognizing that it doesn’t mean I’m a slow poke or slow in understanding, but that my trauma is being GENTLY and quietly lifted and sifted, and just as gently, growth and healing are taking place. Thank you for posting that, because I had the thought of progress myself, but was thinking maybe I am simply being wishful.

  4. Dear Sean,
    Your latest piece on Psilocybin and A Course in Miracles resonated deeply. The concept that service is an act of love, an expression of our intrinsic oneness, struck a chord and reverberated deeply. Through my own experiences, I’ve come to understand that all our actions are indeed for the ‘Self’–The Crist– that is a fragment of the Divine, where all of Creation finds its sacred echo.
    Like you, I’ve discovered that profound lessons often arrive in the most unexpected guises. My journey into psychedelics began at the age of 65, a point in my life when my meditation practice was already deeply ingrained. I was blessed with a highly adept guide during this new chapter, leading me to wonder if it was the Divine expressing itself through these experiences as a means of imparting wisdom. In the grand scheme of things, the form that our lessons take is secondary to the importance of our dedication to the learning process itself.
    Your writings are beautiful and profound and a testament to your deep understanding and commitment to uncovering truth. As a fellow student of ACIM, I find your maturity in your spiritual journey inspiring and grounding.
    Thank you for the wisdom you share through your writing. It’s a beacon of light for many of us on this path.
    Much love,

    1. Thank you, Jose. I deeply appreciate you reading and sharing. Your intelligence and care – in a word, your love – is always palpable. I am grateful to think of you as a friend on this journey 🙏🙏

      ~ Sean

  5. sean In terms of healing this is a pathway inviting me to experience the ” truth “0f this moment……A path of hills and rocks, sunlight and storm, shame and intolerance, peace and conflict “each a pathway home.”… was shortly after covid paid me a visit that i began real-ize that i did not belong here, it was not my home , i tried to fit in …..I was This Dennis That dennis searching for the real me… that would feel safe and comfortable instead of restlessness, and in need of improvement…..Rarely , If ever, did i come to , happen upon, discover this place of total completeness where there is peace….of rest Where i need do nothing…….thanks for opening the space to explore this possibillity


    1. You’re welcome, Dennis. Thank you for sharing. For me, an important thing is remembering the viability of all the pathways. There are many ways to heal, and trusting the Holy Spirit means the path that will be most helpful is given to us. It is there. It is whatever confirms our innocence and goodness, whatever reminds us that nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists, which IS the peace of God. I am grateful mostly to be able to share this path with others – to offer my own experience, strength and hope and to avail myself of theirs in turn. We are in this together, learning how to rest in love a while, all to learn that all is well and will be well. Thank you again for being here.

      ~ Sean

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