Like almost all things in life, indeed perhaps entirely all things but one can never be totally sure, the answer to the question “What is the Mushroom?” has many answers, in many contexts and each and everyone interrelate.
The mushroom is of course the protruding, spore-producing, biological structure of a fungus, usually comprising of a stalk and a cap. But it is much more than that. It is deeply embedded into the collective unconsciousness in fairy tales and art, in stories and sculpture, in popular culture and mythology. There is the toadstool: Amanita muscaria ‘The Fly Agaric’, that has excited the human imagination such that it has entangled itself into the mythology of flying reindeer, smoking caterpillars, fishing gnomes, resting faeries and troublesome trolls. Some have that it is Soma, the plant intoxicant of the Indo-Europeans that was worshiped as a deity.1 The deification of the mushroom persists within the religious cults of the Mexica or Aztecs of Mesoamerica, with the sacramental consumption of mushrooms known as teonanácatl in the Náhuatl language, meaning “flesh of the gods”.
Others have viewed it with suspicion and fear; just try and feed an average person a wild mushroom you have picked and watch the primal terror and distrust creep on to their face. Mushrooms are after all a known source of death, disease, sickly stomachs and even insanity. They exist on the doorway of life and death, the mundane and the sublime, even the terrestrial and the extra (or ultra) terrestrial to many. Mushrooms are a link in the nature cycle between death and new life, fruiting on the decaying remains and renewing ecological systems. And, of course, there are the magic mushrooms. Magic and mysterious because of the new worlds and new mind states they manifest, and the sense of unity and divinity they reveal in all things. Psychedelic. Entheogenic. And if one continues down the rabbit hole: truly, literally, magickal.
It may still seem that none of this explains what the mushroom is here, in this context. Yet it does, because the mushroom is a website; it is also me. Each of these aspects of the mushroom is a part of the Idea of the mushroom and it is part of the story of my life. It informs the ideology of this website and underpins the growing web of myth that feeds and evolves the very form of the mushroom archetype: the network of conceptual mycelium that sprouts forth the (forbidden) fruit. The mushroom is both my virtual cyber-projection of my self and broadly analogous to my very real analogue human condition.
For some time now, the parallel of my human existence and the mushroom seems clear to me. As I look at a beautiful faery ring, a sacred circle created by the boundaries between life and death once again, one first of all sees the multiplicity of mushrooms. They see myriad fruiting bodies rising to the heavens in hope of reproducing and physically acting out their evolution of being. But the mushroom is not the true entity. There are not the individuals they appear to be. They are a part of the unseen mycelium. The single organism that unites all those mushrooms together in their true oneness. The multiplicity is simply an illusion of one that does not know deeply enough about the mushroom’s true nature. And so it is with humanity; this net of consciousness that takes the guise of individuality and multiplicity but when one knows its true nature, the boundaries dissolve.
So I am the mushroom. This mushroom. A mushroom. And this website is me. Digitally. Virtually. It is my cyberspace. The mycelium is the web of ideas, interrelations and various states of consciousness that bring forth the language that builds this virtual space. It is me also. And it is not me. It goes deeper and connects with other. So the purpose of this website is the purpose of the internet. Communication. It is a place for me to communicate my ideas, my art, my emotions and my craft. It will be and is a true representation of me: professionally, personally, artistically and conceptually.
I will use it to ‘find the others’. Whether for work, play, practise or preaching. I intend it to bring together the various factions of my mind in one, single, infinite, virtual space and to connect it, in a network, with the others.
If all of that sounds a bit pompous, silly, pretentious or obtuse… well … its all of that too. One should not take oneself seriously and so I don’t. This is a fool’s journey. Nothing is true, everything is permitted.
What is the mushroom? It’s awesome.
What is themushroom.net? It’s working on it.
So … Who am I?
Equally difficult question right? I mean such a question immediately throws up a number of philosophical, psychological, sociological and practical questions but lets face it. I have a vague idea of the sort of information we are probably talking about here. So lets try my name.
My name is Cavan. Cavan McLaughlin. Its Irish. I’m Irish. Actually its English. The English translation of the Irish. Cabhán Mac Lochlainn. But I guess I am too. My father is Irish, my mother English and I was born and raised in Ireland but have lived much of my life in England.
So that’s my name. Cavan. Cavan McLaughlin. Or more fully, Cavan Matthew McLaughlin on the birth certificate, or more fully, Cavan Matthew Wolfgang McLaughlin including my confirmation name. I chose my own confirmation name at 11 years of age because I was raised Irish Catholic. It has left its scars. I chose Wolfgang because I had no choice but to undertake the ritual and I felt I might as well get a silly new name out of the bargain, besides it brought some humour to the pomposity of the proceedings and I got to see the bishop’s face as he announced my name after about 30 Patricks and Marys were ‘confirmed’ before me. This probably explains a great deal about who I am.
Cavan is not just my name of course. I share is with others. It is also a place in Ireland. A county and a town. It means ‘hollow’. Sounds like a pretty harsh name but it gets better. Its a natural protective hollow, as in a tree hollow or geographically hollow in the land, like Sleepy Hollow. Which is better.
I also sign some of my work and art W.L.M.; this is also my name. The initials of my magickal name. Again not to be taken too seriously, well maybe sometimes but that’s fun too. I am yet to reveal the name itself to anyone. Maybe I will, maybe I wont. But this is also me.
In the sometimes bizarre world of online alias’ I am even known as PooGod. Yes that is correct, the God of Poo. Also me. To my fellow eBayers at least.
Normally when people try to find out who you are they are presented with the name. Clearly this is generally accepted as a poor answer to the question because people immediately tend to follow with something along the lines of “what do you do?”. This is of course a ridiculous question. We all know it. But the general etiquette is to respond with one’s current job as a standardised answer. Well, I think people are really just interested in knowing more about what you spend your time doing and in an ideal world there should be less definition between that which occupies one’s time. It’s useful of course to know not just what people are currently doing but what they have previously done. It is also good to know what people’s passions are. Again, ideally, I would suggest these should mix and one would both earn money and yet still pursue without remuneration, because it is your passion. So perhaps a better question one could offer after “what is your name?” is “what is your passion?”. I will endeavour to answer both.
I am educated, for a fashion. I have a first class honours BA(Hons) in Philosophy and Film Studies. These are two of my passions. Both engaging in the production of and the consumption of. I always knew I liked philosophy but at University I made my first short film, Looking, and knew then I wanted to be a filmmaker. I went to London with my backpack, enthusiasm and naivety and began a career in broadcasting within two weeks. I went from runner to the magnificently silly title of Multimedia Content Producer in the next three years by excelling in the exponentially growing and fast-paced world of TV Shopping. I have a solid background in TV production from those days. I also have more scars. After 18-hour days, extreme pressure and the experience of London on a country boy I buckled a little and suffered pretty extreme illness. So my life took the first of its unexpected twists. I took a year in Sweden to recuperate and experiment full time with Yoga. Which was better.
On my return to the UK I decided to concentrate on working less and selecting more rewarding projects. This is how I began working as a music video producer/director/editor and also a graphic designer specialising in album artwork. Which is better.
But my life was not finished with unexpected turns yet. Audiovisual and digital artist was not to be my only profession. On a whimsical application to try and get some hours of teaching and provide a continuous and more stable salary I found myself with an interview as a full time Teaching Fellow in Media, Communications and Culture at a local University. An interview and a presentation. A presentation in which I had a panic attack, had to stop and take time to steady my nerves and continue shaking in full view of my panel. And yet I still got the job. They either saw something not immediately apparent or they were desperate.
I think probably both.
I was told as explanation that if I was half as passionate about teaching as I appeared to be, I would make a great lecturer. This seemed to be true. Certainly the passion I can attest for, you will have to consult my students for the rest, but most students seem to be more moved by passion than any other quality of a lecturer. Their passion for their subject, and their passion both teaching and learning.
So here are more of my passions. Education. Teaching and Learning. Learning about and practising: Philosophy, Theology, Theosophy, Science, Geometry, Mysticism, Occultism, Art, Film Studies, Film Production, Film Direction, Film Editing, Graphical Design and Writing. And perhaps more importantly blending each of these together. This is what I do. This is my passion.
You will find each of these here in this website. Both examples of my work and my work in progress. I have created this space to have conversations about my passions and my work. To keep it published, exhibited and freely shared. I have also created it to keep a record of my musings, ramblings, bumblings, postulations and rantings. And perhaps most importantly, to hopefully keep a record of some of the great conversations that have arisen from them and until now disappeared into the vast wells and underground bunkers of the various social networks.
This of course is not who I am, we’re all still trying to figure that one out.
Mr Cavan Matthew Wolfgang McLaughlin, BA(Hons), W.L.M., PooGoD, Cosmic Gypsy, Interdimensional Wizard, Transcendental Life Performance Artist, Priest of the White Circle of Love, Paradoxical Generalised Agnostic, InterVerbal Co-Process and now…
- The mushroom has been identified as Soma in both the forms of The Fly Agaric as suggested by Wasson or indeed a member of the Psilocybe species as Schroeder and Guzman and then later the great Terrance McKenna would postulate, perhaps specifically Psilocybe cubensis (also known as Stropharia cubensis). See amongst many other sources The Food of The Gods by Terence McKenna and Magic Mushrooms Around the World by Jochen Gartz. ↩