Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms: Discourse and Power in the Study of Psychedelic Consciousness. Anthropology of Consciousness, 18(2), 74-97.

This paper addresses the question of what happens to consciousness under the influence of psychedelic drugs—specifically of psilocybin, or “magic” mushrooms— and performs a Foucauldian discourse analysis upon the answers that have been variously proposed. Predominant societally legitimated answers (the pathological, psychological, and prohibition discourses) are those that, in Foucault’s sense, are imposed from the outside as “scientific classifications,” that is, they are based upon observations of the effects of mushrooms on others. By contrast, a series of resistive discourses (the recreational, psychedelic, entheogenic, and animistic discourses) have been constructed in opposition, as a means of making sense of the subjective experience of taking mushrooms. When critiqued, only the animistic discourse— the belief that mushrooms occasion encounters with discarnate spirit entities, or animaphany—transgresses a fundamental societal boundary. In the West, to believe in the existence of spirits is to risk being labeled “mad,” and as such the phenomenon of mushroom-induced animaphany goes largely ignored. It nevertheless remains a phenomenon in need of further scholarly research.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *