In 2012 Jan Irvin made an important discovery. In the course of re-publishing The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by the Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Allegro, Irvin had been researching the letters of one of Allegro’s most prominent critics, Gordon Wasson, at various university archives (including Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the Hoover Institute at Stanford) when he came across primary documents–letters actually written by Wasson–showing that he had worked with the CIA.
Though Gordon Wasson was both chairman for the Council on Foreign Relations and the Vice President of Public Relations for J.P. Morgan Bank, he is most famous as the individual who “discovered”, or more accurately popularized, magic mushrooms. An article in Life magazine described fantastic visions and experiences Wasson claimed to have had while under their influence (see Life, May 13, 1957 – Seeking the Magic Mushroom). Wasson’s claims were the first description of the effects of psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms presented to the general public.
Irvin saw troubling implications in his discovery. He was aware, of course, of the CIA’s infamous Project MK-ULTRA, in which the organization had given LSD to unsuspecting U.S. citizens. He also knew of the many conspiracy theories claiming that the government has been somehow involved with the creation of the “drug culture.” He was also aware of Dave McGowan’s research on the drug and music movement that had come out of Laurel Canyon in the 1960‘s, which showed that many of the “rock idols” who created it were the children of members of military intelligence.
So the fact that a member of the CIA had also been involved with the discovery of Psilocybe mushrooms fit into a large collection of troubling linkages between the American government and the drug culture that emerged during the 1960’s. Irvin decided to do further research into the government’s involvement with the “psychedelic movement”. An obvious question he hoped to answer was: Had Wasson been somehow involved with MK-ULTRA? …