The Sacred Mushroom

There is an old saying that the best stories are never told. And for several years I kept silent about a story that I participated in to some extent. I felt this way because it was an adventure of the mind that came to me, and, as such, it had a highly private and personal meaning. But gradually I realized that it was not so private and personal as I read books published on different aspects of the same experience.

My experience grew out of observations on a young man who spontaneously went into a deep sleep and then began to speak and write in the ancient Egyptian language. In recording his words and actions there was always the gnawing question as to whether I was observing an elaborate delusion, or witnessing a subtle manifestation of a reality far beyond the boundaries of common-sense experience. While recording this case for three years there came to my attention a number of works, each of which echoed a part of my observations on this young man.

In England there was published the case history of a woman who spoke ancient Egyptian in the trance state over a period of six years. Morey Bernstein published his observations of a hypnotized subject speaking of the memories of a life prior to her date of birth. Each of these published works brought to the attention of the public highly controversial findings, all of which were present in my observations. I admired the courage of these authors and, inspired by their example, finally decided to bring to the public the facts that I had observed.

My experience began when I was on duty with the Army of the United States as a medical officer during the years 1953 to 1955 and was stationed at the Army Chemical Center, Edgewood, Maryland. It all began rather abruptly June 17, 1954, when I looked up from my desk to see Sergeant Cairico stop smartly in the doorway.

“Sir, there’s a long distance call for you, a Mrs. Bouverie. Will you take it in the other office?”

“Yes, Cairico.” I put off my next patient and walked down the corridor. Alice Bouverie was a trustee of a research foundation in Maine where I had been employed before entering the Army. I wondered why she would be calling me now.

“Hello, Captain Puharich speaking.”

“Hello, hello, Andrija. I’m so sorry to disturb you during clinic hours, but I simply had to pass this piece of news on to you or burst.”

“No disturbance at all, Alice. It is a pleasure to hear your voice after all this clinic clamor.”

“Do you remember that Dutch sculptor I introduced you to several months ago in New York?”

“Yes, vaguely. The one who is supposed to be able to describe a hidden picture across a room when he is blindfolded?”

“Yes, that is the man. Well, he and Betty were here last night for dinner. Being a sculptor I thought he’d be interested in some of my pieces. He liked the Nadelman and the Henry Moore, but that’s about all. So I thought I’d show him some of the older things and fetched out the Egyptian jewelry. I have a gold pendant3 that belonged to Queen Tiy—at least Sir Wallis Budge at the British Museum told my mother-in-law that Tiy’s name was on it, and that it probably was her personal property. Well, I had no sooner handed it to him than he trembled all over, got a crazy staring look in his eye, staggered around the room a bit, and then fell into a chair. I was petrified and really thought he was having an epileptic fit. Betty said that she had never seen Harry like this before. I rushed to get some water while Betty held him up. When I got back he was sitting rigidly upright in the chair and staring wildly into the distance. He didn’t seem to see us at all but was watching
something we couldn’t see.”

“Sounds as though he was in a trance, doesn’t it?”


This is an excerpt from Andrija Puharich’s 1959 book The Sacred Mushroom. The authors formally retain copyright over this work but permit non-commercial reproduction or distribution.

Download the complete book  in PDF format here.

Author: Essays Books

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