R. Gordon Wasson: The Man, the Legend, the Myth. Beginning a New History of Magic Mushrooms, Ethnomycology, and the Psychedelic Revolution http://www.gnosticmedia.com/txtfiles/GordonWasson_TheMan_TheLegend_TheMyth_byJanIrvin.pdf
Français (French) translation: http://triangle.eklablog.com/l-histoire-secrete-des-champignons-hallucinogenes-i-a117653746
Français (French) translation PDF: www.gnosticmedia.com/txtfiles/Gordon_Wasson_TheMan_TheLegend_TheMyth_byJanIrvin_French.pdf
Play the audio of the below paper:
R. Gordon Wasson
The Man, the Legend, the Myth
Beginning a New History of Magic Mushrooms, Ethnomycology,
and the Psychedelic Revolution
By Jan Irvin
May 13, 2012
Legends are often history processed to point some moral. They are misleading as history, but they help us to understand the people who invent and believe in them. Usually the world recognizes as legends only the outgrown cables of earlier generations. But this is merely because, believing as we do our own legends, we do not recognize them for what they are.
~ R. Gordon Wasson
The fields of ethnobotany and ethnomycology often pertain to studying the myths and legends (and fables) of the many cultures around the world, including our own, and attempting to understand how these myths and legends have been influenced by entheogens, or psychedelic plants and drugs. A curious idea that has come about as a result of focused research is that the entire genesis of the field of ethnomycology, the stories about its origins and history, about the discovery of magic mushrooms, and the start of the psychedelic movement, may themselves be based upon myths and legends.
The word myth is derived from the Greek mythoi, or mythos (µῦθος). Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines the word, in part, as:
1: a story that is usually of unknown origin and at least partially traditional, that ostensibly relates historical events usually of such character as to serve to explain some practice, belief, institution, or natural phenomenon, and that is especially associated with religious rites and beliefs – compare EUHEMERISM, FABLE, FOLKTALE. 2 a: a story invented as a veiled explanation of a truth […][emphasis – mine]
The word legend is derived from the Latin legenda, meaning ‘what is read’. Webster’s, in part, defines the word Legend as:
1 a: the story of the life of a saint b: a collection of such stories c: ACCOUNT, HISTORY […] 2 a: LECTIONARY 1 b: PASSIONAL 3 a: a story coming down from the past; especially: one handed down from early times by tradition and popularly regarded as historical although not entirely verifiable […] b: the total body of such stories and traditions; especially: the collective stories and traditions of a particular group […][emphasis – mine]
The myths and legends that surround psychedelic culture, our culture, are rarely questioned. Specifically, I mean the stories that grew up about the pioneers and founders of the field itself. For instance, it was believed for decades that John M. Allegro stole his ideas from Gordon Wasson for his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. But by going line by line through Allegro’s research, as I showed in my 2008 book The Holy Mushroom, I proved there was no evidence to substantiate these myths against Allegro – myths that had been started by Gordon Wasson himself and propagated by Jonathan Ott for over a decade. On the contrary, Allegro had not taken his ideas from Wasson and had been very careful in checking his citations, though he had left a few very minor errors, such as transposed numbers and letters.
Due to working on The Holy Mushroom book, I came to study the legends and myths surrounding R. Gordon Wasson – the popularizer of magic mushrooms, one of those considered responsible for launching the psychedelic movement, and also considered to be the founder of the field of ethnomycology. We’re told that his work is solid, and that he would turn over every stone in his tireless quest for truth. We’re told that this pioneer’s work is unassailable, and that as the father of ethnomycology his research is almost unquestionable.
His apparent contradictions were the outward indications of an enigmatic, complex personality. He [Wasson] was both a respectable banker and, like it or not, a “founder” of the psychedelic movement; an elitist about sacred mushrooms but also, through his article in Life, their popularizer; a level-headed scientist whose scholarly writings, while grounded in fact, yet inspire many readers to regard the sacred mushrooms with religious awe and reverence; the Father of Ethnomycology but also, to many a kind of New Age patriarch
~ Thomas J. Riedlinger
And while R. Gordon Wasson really existed as a man, and he really was a mushroom researcher – which gives us a nucleus of historical fact – it seems we are dealing with a partly fictitious narrative, and apparently actions and events, embodying some popular ideas concerning a historical phenomenon.
This is a difficult and sensitive topic for many in the various fields of psychedelic studies. Many people have based their work in the field on apparently unquestionable foundations. Over the years, when I have raised the issues covered within this essay with various professionals, I’ve been told time and again that “I knew Wasson personally, and he couldn’t have acted this or that way” – often in the face of primary documentation proving otherwise, in Wasson‘s own words, right before them. Some will feel that because they met or had conversations with Wasson, that he could not have possibly acted outside of their perceived relationship with him, as if he had no life prior to or outside his interactions with them.
How do we approach a topic that many will feel personally threatened about? Should we bother to tiptoe around common sensitivities and beliefs? Or should we let the evidence speak for itself, and accept as truth only what we can verify through actual research?
It’s my opinion that we should let the evidence speak for itself. We should follow the proper process of discovery, emotionally detached from the findings, asking who, what, where and when along the way. We’ll amass the evidence and check each citation, letting it stand on its own. Once we’ve gathered the evidence, rather than allowing our emotions or our long-standing bias in favor of Wasson to intervene, and so that we can understand why, we’ll sort out any contradictions in that evidence before we reach a conclusion about it, so that we are able to see the whole situation clearly. Finally, with the contradictions, emotions, and fallacies removed, we’ll be able to explain how we arrived at our conclusion – the truth – regardless of how we may feel on the matter.
Prof. Bartholomew Dean of the University of Kansas at Lawrence, who studied under Richard Evans Schultes at Harvard, claimed in a recent conversation that, aside from the Wasson library, there is a temple at Harvard dedicated to Wasson. Dean said that he was once taken there and requested to sign a guest list, which he says he refused to do. No doubt such a guest list would be revealing. It’s a list I’d love to get my hands on.
It is fitting that there is a temple dedicated to Wasson at Harvard, because, as I’ll show, we are, in fact, dealing with “a story that is […] of such character as to serve to explain some […] belief, institution, or natural phenomenon […].” Webster further defines the word legend as:
c: a popular myth usually of current or recent origin […] d: one around whom such stories and traditions have grown up; one having a special status as a result of possessing or being held to possess extraordinary qualities that are usually partly real and partly mythical.
As told by Gordon Wasson in the May 13, 1957, edition of Life magazine, this myth begins:
It was a walk in the woods, many years ago, that launched my wife and me on our quest of the mysterious mushroom. We were married in London in 1926, she being Russian, born and brought up in Moscow. She had lately qualified as a physician at the University of London. I am from Great Falls, Montana of Anglo-Saxon origins. In the late summer of 1927, recently married, we spent our holiday in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. In the afternoon of the first day we went strolling along a lovely mountain path, through woods criss-crossed by the slanting rays of a descending sun. We were young, carefree and in love. Suddenly my bride abandoned my side. She had spied wild mushrooms in the forest, and racing over the carpet of dried leaves in the woods, she knelt in poses of adoration before first one cluster and then another of these growths. In ecstasy she called each kind by an endearing Russian name. She caressed the toadstools, savored their earthy perfume. Like all good Anglo-Saxons, I knew nothing about the fungal world and felt that the less I knew about those putrid, treacherous excrescences the better. For her they were things of grace, infinitely inviting to the perceptive mind. She insisted on gathering them, laughing at my protests, mocking my horror. She brought a skirtful back to the lodge. She cleaned and cooked them. That evening she ate them, alone. Not long married, I thought to wake up the next morning a widower.
These dramatic circumstances, puzzling and painful for me, made a lasting impression on us both. From that day on we sought an explanation for this strange cultural cleavage separating us in a minor area of our lives…
~ R. Gordon Wasson
I say it’s a myth because even Wasson’s own daughter, Masha, found it to be questionable:
As much as I respected my father’s integrity, I recall that for years I did not believe him when he said his interest in mushrooms began on his honeymoon in 1927. Such an explanation seemed to me like a Hollywood soap opera, something out of character for my father. Eventually, however, I concluded that the story was true, for he told it sincerely and consistently. [emphasis – mine]
~ Masha Wasson Britten
But notice how Masha threw in that added caveat for good measure:
“Eventually, however, I concluded that the story was true, for he told it sincerely and consistently.”
Also notice how she starts out the paragraph with an assertion of her respect for her father’s integrity, almost as if to say that she doesn’t respect his integrity: “As much as I respected my father’s integrity, I recall that for years I did not believe him.” Often when someone has to assert their belief in something, it’s because they’re actually questioning it, or they wouldn’t mention it at all.
And when we understand that Wasson’s wife, Valentina Pavlovna, was from the Russian intelligentsia, or Russian elite, Wasson’s story of her acting the role of a Russian peasant woman in the woods on a mushroom hunt seems even more absurd – “like a Hollywood soap opera.” One might question whether a member of the Russian elite would have as much understanding of mushrooms as the common peasant folk, and be so familiar with all of the mushroom names from childhood, as Valentina claimed.
The more I contemplate this story the more absurd it seems, and the more justifiable Masha’s doubt becomes. With this in mind, it seems that Masha, intentionally or not, left us a breadcrumb of skepticism. And though he missed the underlying implications, Andy Letcher in Shroom picked up on this same issue, also identifying it as a myth:
It must be said that while this hoary old story has become something of a foundational myth for modern mushroom enthusiasts, it was repeated by Wasson ad infinitum and grew ever taller in the telling. Its growing resemblance to a Hollywood movie script made Wasson’s own daughter, Masha, question whether it had any substance at all, but eventually she conceded that the incident had genuinely occurred, however embroidered the story had become over the years. This is itself telling for, as we shall see, Wasson had a knack of overworking dry empirical facts in the interests of a good story.
~ Andy Letcher
It’s less widely known that Valentina did her own write-up on their mushroom experiences in Oaxaca, Mexico, and her article was also timed for publication the same week as Wasson’s article that was published in Life on May 13, 1957. Valentina’s article was published in This Week magazine on May 19, 1957, which went out to approximately 12 million newspaper subscribers. We’ll return to this topic in a moment.
But some might ask: why should we dwell on such minor, insignificant contradictions? Or are they minor and insignificant? Is it possible that such clues lead us to places that tell a very different story? Is Masha using a fallacy to dismiss it? Essentially, what is being said here is that if someone repeats a lie often enough, then, based on an appeal to sincerity and consistency, we can accept it.
Rather than allowing fallacies to determine our conclusion for us, what would be the process of proper investigation to find out if Masha’s doubt regarding her father was valid? What would it take? Do we need to go to Wasson’s Harvard archive to find out?
Well, if we could, Harvard might be a good place to start. But I suppose that I should provide a little preamble to this issue here.
I’ve been working on this investigation since about 2006, and I knew, and had heard from others, that I might get banned from the Wasson archive at Harvard’s Herbaria if I approached them directly and honestly, as in fact I did (below). However, in the interim years I went through many university archives and searched out all sorts of things on Wasson and acquired thousands of pages of material on him, nearly all of which I didn’t find listed any place in the Harvard University Herbaria website index. This led me to the conclusion that the Harvard collection is an extremely selective assortment, a façade of specific items that further the Wassonian legends and myths. In other words, early on I realized that every conversation has two sides, and that Wasson’s archive at Harvard would only have his side of any collection of the letters. By going to other university archives I was able to reconstruct much of the information simply by following the leads of the names of the wealthy elite and intelligence members with whom Wasson was associated, and who also happened to maintain their own archives at other universities. This way I reverse engineered everything I needed through these other archives at other universities. And before I ever sent my inquiry to Harvard I was already certain that what they hold there is only a carefully selected presentation, mostly only pertaining to Wasson’s ethnomycology work, which furthers the Wassonian myth and leaves out most of what might lead researchers to question not only the very foundations of the field, but its so-called founder as well.
But unfortunately Masha Wasson Britten, Wasson’s adopted daughter, oversees the Wasson archive at Harvard herself and doesn’t allow anyone in without first getting them to tell her what they want to see and what they’re going to say about it – before they’ve even seen it! This of course is a logical impossibility and requires a bit of argumentum ad ignorantium, or even worse, just plain lying and bullshitting.
Here is Harvard’s response after sending them my initial inquiry:
Your request was forwarded to me. Are you interested in setting up an appointment to use these materials? If so I need a formal proposal submitted. Nothing too long, just a few sentences about your scholarly affiliation (if any), your purpose (book, article, dissertation, etc…), and what point you are making about Wasson. The heirs are very involved with the use of this collecting and any request to publish must be approved by them.
~ Lisa DeCesare, Head of Archives and Public Services, Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria. June 15, 2011
My reply to Lisa at Harvard, from January 20, 2012:
Thank you for your reply. My apologies for such a long delay in getting back to you.
I’m an independent scholar, though my work in this field is stored permanently at Purdue. I’m affiliated via research with many dozens of professors and scholars in the field.
I’m writing a biography on Gordon Wasson titled: The Secret History of Magic Mushrooms: Magic Mushrooms, the CIA, and the Legend of R. Gordon Wasson.
(Part of) The point I’m making about Wasson is in regard to his ties to the intelligence establishment – esp. Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles, the Council on Foreign Relations – he acted as chairman, the Century Club and Pilgrim Society, MK-ULTRA, public relations, George de Mohrenschildt and the various Russia funds that they ran together for J. P. Morgan. I’m also interested in why his daughter, Masha, felt that his story about his walk through the woods was “like a Hollywood soap opera.” I think I have the answer to her reservation on the matter but there are documents that I’d like to verify and go through in context.
I’m especially interested in missives that would show Wasson to have intentionally created the psychedelic movement via his ties to Luce through the CFR and Century and the head of the CIA – Dulles. As well as any documents showing his side of the conversation regarding such actions or ties to intelligence and/or media establishment, including George Kennan, Edward Bernays, and many many others. I know that he and Kennan and Bernays were all close.
I would need to see what the missives actually say before I could possibly know exactly what I’d write about them, else I commit the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantium. I think that’s a fairly impossible request to ask what one is going to write about something before they’ve actually seen it. But I’d be happy to share my work and findings with Wasson’s family.
Of course much of my biography will also cover the more mundane aspects of his life, so I’d like to see what I can in that regard as well.
Those that I’ve listed below are from months ago and I have many others that I’d like to request once access is granted.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to meeting you and viewing the archives.
Lisa’s response of February 03, 2012:
I am sorry to report that at this point your request to access the collection has been denied.
I replied on February 3, 2012:
Hi Lisa, was there any reason stated as to why?
To which she replied, February 3, 2012:
No, sorry, there wasn’t.
Of course this was the response I was expecting I’d get. Myself and several professors interested in investigating this matter had discussed this topic and how I should proceed. If I were granted access to the archives, then great, I’d be able to verify a handful of the other, less important materials. If, on the other hand I was denied access, then I’d just publish their refusal to grant access and bring attention to the issue. In fact, publishing their notice of refusal to grant access is almost better than giving me access, as it shows a probability that there is a concerted effort to keep people out of the Wasson archives if they aren’t likely to perpetuate the Wassonian legends and myths.
I proceeded with the truth, letting the Harvard Herbaria know exactly my intention for the book, and, as has happened to others who intended to do honest research on Wasson, my request was denied by Masha herself, the Guardian of the Wassonian Legends and Myths.
No other archive at any other university, or any place for that matter, that I’ve ever come across, has ever made such a requirement in connection with acquiring documents. I’ve filed CIA FOIA requests, I’ve been through CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) archives, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, and on and on, and none has ever made such an absurd request, nor has any one of them ever failed to provide a document – until now.
Others, such as Robert Forte, have also been blocked from the Wasson archive at the Harvard Herbaria. Forte claims he was blocked from the archive for merely asserting during a public lecture in New York in 2008 that Wasson was associated with the inner circle of American fascism. To paraphrase Forte’s lecture:
Scholars of the psychedelics have frequently commented on the synchronicity of Hofmann’s discoveries with the discovery and propagation of nuclear weapons. The effect of LSD was discovered just six months after the atom was split. Huxley might have been the first to call LSD the atom bomb of the soul, and Frank Barron wondered if nature was keeping itself in balance by slipping these sacraments into society at the time they were most needed. Since man now had this savage power of nuclear weaponry it better have a corresponding leap in consciousness. Not only was this synchronous in time, but recently I’ve learned that psychedelics came into America through individuals associated with this dark, destructive, and anti-democratic forces. Gordon Wasson, it is well known, was a Wall Street Banker. I’ve learned that not only was he employed on Wall Street by Morgan, but he was actually on the inner most circle of American fascism…
~ Robert Forte
Due to space constraints on this essay I must reserve much of this story for my upcoming book and video on this subject, The Secret History of Magic Mushrooms, though I will provide here some of the best discoveries I’ve made over recent years.
Returning to our doubt regarding the myth of Wasson and Valentina’s walk through the woods in 1927, we come to what may have been, at least in part, the inspiration for Wasson’s studies of mushrooms as Soma, as well as his original interest in the Mexican mushroom practices.
A comparison of the effects of Soma with those of the Amanita muscaria and cannabis was first proposed in the book Scatalogic [sic] Rites of All Nations by John G. Bourke, 1891. The author dedicated more than 30 pages (pp. 65-99) to the study of the ritualistic use of mushrooms, including the Siberian Amanita muscaria urine-drinking custom, and Mexican mushroom practices. This is probably where Wasson first learned of the ritualistic use of mushrooms, urine consumption, and Soma. On page 98 is a letter to Bourke by a Dr. J. W. Kingsley:
I remember being shown this fungus by an Englishman who was returning […] from Siberia. He fully confirmed all that I had heard on the subject, having seen the orgy [mushroom rituals] himself. … Nothing religious in this, you may say; but look at the question a little closer and you will see that these ‘intoxicants,’ […] were at first looked upon as media able to raise the mere man up to a level with his gods, and enable him to communicate with them, as was certainly the case with the ‘soma’ of the Hindu ecstatics and the hashich [sic] I have seen used by some tribes of Arabs.
Most scholars claim that Wasson was the progenitor of these ideas, but this is not wholly accurate. It appears that Wasson may have ‘borrowed’ several key ideas from Bourke’s research and expanded upon them throughout his career, subsequently creating the field of ethnomycology. Thereafter it appears that Bourke was relegated mostly to rare catalogue and bibliographical entries published by Wasson and a few other scholars of his ilk. However, Bourke is not to be found, as one should expect him to be, given the extent of his studies on the subject, in the main body of text in most of the books published on the subject for the last half century.
The coincidences don’t stop there. J. P. Morgan, Jr. was also involved in mushroom research, and, as Donald H. Pfister points out in Mycologia, Morgan appears to have funded Harvard’s Herbaria:
In 1928, Wasson entered the banking world and joined the Guaranty Trust Company of New York. He spent extended periods of time in Argentina and London. In 1934, he joined the staff of J. P. Morgan and Co. (which merged with Guaranty Trust to become Morgan Guaranty Trust) and remained with the firm until 1963, from 1943 as a vice president. The Morgan connection is an interesting one upon which I will digress for a moment. J. P. Morgan, Jr. (Harvard, class of 1889) took courses with Farlow and wrote an undergraduate thesis under his direction. He was a student while Roland Thaxter was a graduate student. If Harvard tradition represents the situation correctly, Morgan was devoted to mycology. His generosity was important, particularly to Thaxter, during the period of the establishment of the Farlow Reference Library and Herbarium as a separately endowed unit. In a letter to Farlow upon that man’s 70th birthday, Morgan thanked Farlow for allowing him to work under “your inspiring presence.” Certainly something mycological lived on at Morgan Guaranty Trust with Wasson as a vice president.
~ Donald H. Pfister
In a future essay or book, I’ll also show that J. P. Morgan, Sr. was also interested in collecting mushroom art in relation to Shakespeare from as early as the 1850s.
I wondered if his Morgan bank employers had expressed reservations when told he was about to reveal to the world that he had partaken of the magic mushrooms.
“Not at all,” Gordon said. “I suspect that only Morgan would have tolerated what I did.” [italics – from the original]
~ Thomas Riedlinger
J.P. Morgan Bank and Skull and Bones Created Time-Life Inc.
Wasson’s direct boss at J. P. Morgan was Henry P. Davison Jr. Davison was a senior partner and generally regarded as Morgan’s personal emissary. As it turns out, it was Henry P. Davison who essentially created (or at least funded) the Time-Life magazines for J.P. Morgan in 1923. After a row with Henry Luce for publishing an article against the war for Britain in Life, Davison “became the company’s first investor in Time magazine and a company director.”
Another J.P. Morgan partner, Dwight Morrow, also helped to finance the Time-Life start-up.
Davison kept Henry Luce in charge of the company as president, as he and Luce were both members of Yale’s Skull and Bones secret society, being initiated in 1920. In 1946 Davison and Luce then made C. D. Jackson, former head of U.S. Psychological Warfare, vice-president of Time-Life. It seems to me that the entire operation at Time-Life was purely for spreading propaganda to the American public for the purposes of the intelligence community, J.P. Morgan, and the elite.
On a side note, Henry P. Davison’s brother Frederick Trubee Davison was Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of War, and also became Director of Personnel for the CIA. Frederick was also a Skull and Bonesman, initiated in 1918. Frederick’s son, Daniel P. Davison, also became a banker and a Skull and Bonesman, 1949, and headed United States Trust.
Yet another Skull and Bonesman behind the establishment of Time-Life was Briton Hadden, who worked with Davison, Luce and Morrow in setting up the organization. Hadden was also initiated into Skull and Bones in 1920. The list of Bonesmen that tie in directly to Wasson and his clique is astounding, and also includes people like Averell Harriman, initiated 1913, who worked with Wasson at the CFR, and was a director there. Harriman was a financial backer of the Nazi Party until 1938, as was Prescott Bush, initiated to Skull and Bones in 1917.
In the Executive Intelligence Review of June 25, 2004, Steven P. Meyer and Jeffrey Steinberg explain:
Luce’s personal lawyer, who would come to represent his entire media empire, was his brother-in-law Tex Moore, of Cravath, deGersdorff, Swaine and Wood, the same firm which deployed both Allen and John Foster Dulles to facilitate bringing Hitler to power in the early 1930s.
Luce was an intimate of Britain’s Lord Beaverbrook and the Prince of Wales, who were notoriously pro-Hitler and members of the Cliveden set. He also formed an extremely close relationship with Winston Churchill, himself a promoter of Hitler in the early 1930s. [emphasis – mine]
Documents also reveal that Luce was a member of the Century Club, an exclusive “art club” that Wasson had much ado with and may have held some position with, and which was filled with members of the intelligence and banking community. Members such as George Kennan, Walter Lippmann and Frank Altschul appear to have been nominated to the Century Club by Wasson himself. Graham Harvey in Shamanism says that Luce and Wasson were friends, and this is how he came to publish in Life:
A New York investment banker, Wasson was well acquainted with the movers and shakers of the Establishment. Therefore, it was natural that he should turn to his friend Henry Luce, publisher of Life, when he needed a public forum in which to announce his discoveries.
~ Graham Harvey
It was Luce, Wasson’s friend, who featured Hitler as man of the year for 1938 in the January 2, 1939, issue of Time.
However, here’s the most common mythical version of the story that we’ve all been fed – as told by Time magazine in 2007:
Wasson and his buddy’s mushroom trip might have been lost to history, but he was so enraptured by the experience that on his return to New York, he kept talking about it to friends. As Jay Stevens recalls in his 1987 book Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, one day during lunch at the Century Club, an editor at Time Inc. (the parent company of TIME) overheard Wasson’s tale of adventure. The editor commissioned a first-person narrative for Life.
And being that this article was written in the post-Luce and Jackson age, the author was a little more candid about the Wasson/Luce/J.P. Morgan/psychedelic revolution connections:
After Wasson’s article was published, many people sought out mushrooms and the other big hallucinogen of the day, LSD. (In 1958, Time Inc. cofounder Henry Luce and his wife Clare Booth Luce dropped acid with a psychiatrist. Henry Luce conducted an imaginary symphony during his trip, according to Storming Heaven.) The most important person to discover drugs through the Life piece was Timothy Leary himself. Leary had never used drugs, but a friend recommended the article to him, and Leary eventually traveled to Mexico to take mushrooms. Within a few years, he had launched his crusade for America to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” In other words, you can draw a woozy but vivid line from the sedate offices of J.P. Morgan and Time Inc. in the ’50s to Haight-Ashbury in the ’60s to a zillion drug-rehab centers in the ’70s. Long, strange trip indeed.
In The Sacred Mushroom Seeker, a third version of this story is told by Allan Richardson:
“Sometime just before or soon after our return from the ’56 expedition, Gordon and I were dining at the Century Club in New York. He noticed Ed Thompson, the managing editor of Life magazine, alone at a table nearby, and asked him to join us. We talked about the article Gordon was working on to publicize what he’d discovered in Mexico. Thompson said Life might be interested in publishing it, and invited us to make a presentation at his offices.”
~ Allan Richardson
As we noted above, nowhere do these accounts mention Valentina’s own write-up in This Week magazine, which was coincidently released that same week (May 19, 1957) to 12 million newspaper subscribers. Also coincidently, This Week was published by Joseph P. Knapp, who was a director of Morgan’s Guarantee Trust, where Wasson had begun working for Morgan in 1928.
In light of the above, the idea that Wasson published his “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” article in May, 1957, in Life, due to a “chance meeting with an editor” seems ridiculous. In fact, Abbie Hoffman is quoted as saying that Luce did more to popularize LSD than Timothy Leary (who first learned of mushrooms through Wasson’s Life article). Luce’s own wife, Clare Boothe Luce, who was, interestingly, also a member of the CFR, agreed:
I’ve always maintained that Henry Luce did more to popularize acid than Timothy Leary. Years later I met Clare Boothe Luce at the Republican convention in Miami. She did not disagree with this opinion. America’s version of the Dragon Lady caressed my arm, fluttered her eyes and cooed, “We wouldn’t want everyone doing too much of a good thing.”
~ Abbie Hoffman
Here we see their elitist, secretive philosophy shining through. Due to space constraints we’ll have to save the details for another article, but what we see here is a dialectic: both the popularizing and outlawing of psychedelics by the same group of people through propaganda. And the main reason to occult things is to be able to use them against others.
Did the editor overhear Wasson? Did Wasson ask him to join them? Why the contradictions? Or, should we follow Graham Harvey’s inference that Luce and Wasson were already friends, which seems the most likely?
With the fact that Wasson’s boss, Davison, was a director and investor of Time-Life, and that Knapp was a director of Morgan’s Guarantee Trust, and that Wasson and Luce were both members of the Century Club (an intelligence community front) and the CFR, where Wasson served as a chairman, and with all of the ties to J.P. Morgan and Skull and Bones, it’s hard to believe that Wasson published in Life due to a chance meeting. So I must ask: what are the mathematical possibilities of so many coincidences happening, as pertains to the stories, myths and legends about Wasson? Are we to believe in coincidence theory – that he bumped into the editor at the Century Club? Or are we to look in the direction that the evidence points – using logic and reason – that Wasson worked with and was involved with the intelligence community on many levels, as was Luce, and that the “‘Seeking the Magic Mushroom” story was published in Life to further some secret agenda for the banking elite? This should now be coming clear. But what was their agenda?
There are several reasons why the psychedelic movement may have been launched, including attempts to distract people from government policy failure; extracting information from people under the influence, such as with MK-ULTRA; making money from the drugs through the pharmaceutical industry; and even pacifying people with a Huxleyan-like soma or with positivist spirituality so that they could be more easily controlled.
Furthermore, documents from Yale reveal that Wasson had been sharing his mushroom research with intelligence officials since at least 1950. Wasson had also sent copies of his book Mushrooms, Russia and History to George Kennan and Frank Altschul, amongst many others, as soon as copies were available. Kennan worked with the OSS (the precursor of the CIA) in Germany, was the Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., and also worked with the CFR. There is more on him and Altschul below. It would be fascinating to see a complete list of exactly who received the one hundred copies of Mushrooms, Russia and History that Wasson gave away. I have a fairly well-supported suspicion that many of the receivers belonged to the Century Club, CFR or CIA, or a mixture of all three.
Enter Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda
And there’s one more connection here. Wasson was friends with Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda and spin, who was also a friend of Henry Luce and, as it turns out, was a major influence on Goebbels, the man in charge of Nazi propaganda.
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.
~ Edward Bernays
It was based on a hunch alone that I searched out the ties between Wasson and Bernays. The following was the only citation I could find revealing that the two had spent extensive time together, though, no doubt, in some other archive, there is much more yet to be discovered.
In a file located at the U.S. Library of Congress is an odd draft, likely intended to be some form of propaganda or endorsement, wherein Bernays discusses his relationship with Wasson. This letter also reveals that Wasson and Valentina had adopted Masha, and “lived on East End Avenue.” Bernays further states:
Gordon Wasson was one of those newspapermen who consciously or unconsciously recognized the implications of the contacts he made in that capacity. He found these contacts important, outstanding. This led to other places and other things. In the New York Tribune financial department he had made contact with the house on the corner, Broad and Wall – J. P. Morgan. Then he had given up newspaper work and become associated with the home [Morgan’s “house on the corner”]. First he was in the publicity department. When Martin Eagen died, he assumed the function of publicity man with J. Pierpont Morgan. He was highly respected by his own people. He was intelligent, smooth. His mind was a highly, splendidly geared functioning mechanism. […] Wasson made it his business and he got pleasure out of it too, of associating with a broad segment of society. This was not unimportant in maintaining contacts for the house on the corner [Broad and Wall – J.P. Morgan], with the rest of the world.
Not until long after I knew him did I find out in [Prof. Raymond] Moley’s book “The First Seven Years” [sic] published in 1939, a reference to Gordon Wasson. Moley wrote a memo in 1934 and made recommendations for the Stock Exchange Commission membership. Next to Gordon Wasson, whom he recommended, he added, “a resident of New Jersey, handled foreign securities for Guaranty Company, has acted a liaison between Wall Street and Landis, Cohen and Corcoran because his friendship with them was known downtown. Knows security business and the Act thoroughly having helped in its drafting, very well-liked by treasury and commerce, would certainly be recommended by the Guaranty and Stock Exchange and therefore would be acceptable to Wall Street.
Bernays’ letter concludes with:
“I saw Wasson very often between 1934 and ’44; I never had the slightest inkling he had been thought of for this position. His conversation was bland, never personal, always on the most general subjects.”
~ Edward Bernays
Though speculation, I’ve long been of the opinion that Bernays personally trained Wasson during the decade from 1934 to 1944 in the arts of propaganda and public relations spin for J.P. Morgan. I’ll provide more evidence of this claim in a moment. I find it interesting, though, that it is from Bernays, the very father of public relations, where we find the most about Wasson’s position in PR with Morgan.
Thomas Riedlinger’s book The Sacred Mushroom Seeker, which may be seen as the official biography on Wasson, only touches on his work in “communications, public relations—that sort of thing”:
DeWitt Peterkin, retired vice president in charge of domestic lending, joined J.P. Morgan & Co. in 1937. Gordon was already there, initially as a credit banker. He soon proved himself “a great person for putting together the background and history” of Morgan’s accounts, recalled Peterkin.
In subsequent years, Gordon’s role as a credit banker gave way to new responsibilities. Eventually, as vice president, he would [end] up in charge of “communications, public relations—that sort of thing,” recalled Peterkin. Personal contact with overseas clients was part of the job.
Unbeknownst to most people, we for many years were one of the bankers for the Vatican,” Peterkin said. “And Gordon used to have private audiences with the Pope.” Though he could not recall which particular Pope, other sources later told me it had been Pius XII – and that Gordon had not liked him much. [emphasis – mine]
~ Thomas Riedlinger
And doesn’t it seem rather irregular that Wasson would have private audiences with the pope, and yet not remember which pope?
The case of Wasson‘s “remorse”
On September 26, 1970, Wasson published an article in the New York Times wherein he’s supposedly distraught and expresses remorse regarding the then recent reports of “hippies, psychopaths and adventurers and pseudo-research workers” descending on Huautla de Jimenez in Oaxaca, Mexico:
Huautla, when I first knew it as a humble out-of-the-way Indian village, has become a true mecca for hippies, psychopaths, adventurers, pseudo-research workers, the miscellaneous crew of our society’s drop-outs. The old ways are dead and I fear that my responsibility is heavy, mine and Maria Sabina’s. […]
As for me, what have I done? I made a cultural discovery of importance. Should I have suppressed it? It has led to further discoveries the reach of which remains to be seen. Should these further discoveries have remained stultified by my unwillingness to reveal the secret of the Indians’ hallucinogens?
Yet what I have done gives me nightmares: I have unleashed on lovely Huautla a torrent of commercial exploitation of the vilest kind. Now the mushrooms are exposed for sale everywhere—in every market-place, in every village doorway. Everyone offers his services as a “priest” of the rite, even the politicos. […] The whole of the countryside is agog with the furtive movements of hippies, the comings and goings of the “federalistas,” the Dogberries with their blundering efforts to root them out.
~ R. Gordon Wasson
Here’s a very startling conversation between Wasson and Bertram Wolfe that I found in the Bertram Wolfe papers at The Hoover Institute at Stanford, which puts Wasson’s New York Times article in a whole new light:
October 8, 1970:
Dear Mr. Wasson:
I was greatly interested in your article in the New York Times on “The Sacred Mushroom.” […] I marked your note of sadness near the end and wish to tell you that you have nothing to reproach yourself for. Knowledge will out. If one man doesn’t spread it another will. The hippies, peddlers, and Dogberries will in, for nature abhors a vacuum. You may have hastened it a little by publishing in Life, rather than in a magazine of anthropologists, but the process was inevitable […]
~ Bertram Wolfe
October 13, 1970:
Dear Mr. Wolfe: […] Do you remember your last letter to me? I was asking you where Tolstoy had said the printing press was a mighty engine for disseminating ignorance. This Mazatec affair is a case in point. [emphasis – mine]
~ R. Gordon Wasson
In other words, what we’re dealing with in this essay is this very group of propagandists: “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …men we have never heard of.” In fact, many of them we have heard of, two of them being Edward Bernays and R. Gordon Wasson.
The ramifications of Wasson’s above statement affect so many things on so many levels that it’s disturbing to contemplate: First, in the New York Times article, Wasson sheds crocodile tears over his so-called dilemma of releasing the information about the mushrooms, while at the same time disparaging entire groups of people with sweeping generalizations and ad hominem remarks, and relishing his power to create commerce and distraction among the people he despises. Then he casts half the blame on Maria Sabina. He never once addresses his intelligence agendas: that he worked with the CFR and CIA (more on this in a moment). As Maria Sabina relates, had Wasson not gone to the town mayor’s office and spoken to Cayetano García Mendoza, who was acting as mayor, Sabina would not have given him the mushrooms. She thought the mayor’s visit to her home was official business, so she felt obligated to serve Wasson:
Cayetano then explained to Doña María that he had told the visitors, “I know a true wise woman.” Cayetano asked Doña María if he could bring the strangers to her home so that she might teach them the true knowledge of the mushrooms. Doña María replied, “If you want to, I can’t say no.”
Years later, María Sabina stated that she felt compelled to accept Wasson’s request because of Cayetano’s official position, and she assumed Cayetano’s visit to her humble dwelling that hot summer day was official business. […] In 1971, Wasson read an interview with María Sabina which appeared in the European magazine L’Europe, published in Milan. It reported that when Cayetano had requested her aid in helping the foreigners, she did so because she felt she had no choice. But she also declared that when she was asked to meet them [Wasson and Richardson] that she “should have said no.”
~ John W. Allen
But even more disturbing is what Wasson wrote to Bertram Wolfe: “Tolstoy had said the printing press was a mighty engine for disseminating ignorance. This Mazatec affair is a case in point.” Here it’s clear that Wasson is a disciple of Edward Bernays and is using PR, or propaganda, to manipulate the public’s opinion. He is making himself out to appear remorseful while at the same time furthering his campaign against Huaulta de Jimenez by publishing the article in the New York Times. And Wolfe appears gratifyingly dazzled by Wasson’s intellect, so Wasson lets him in on the secret of the hidden agenda, while sharing his contempt of the common people at the same time.
Whatever secret consequences Wasson and his friends expected from their exploitation of mushrooms, it had severe and direct consequences for the people who passed on their knowledge to him:
From the moment when the strangers arrived the ‘Holy Children’ lost their purity. They lost their strength. They were profaned. From now on they will serve no purpose. There is no help for it. Before Wasson I felt that the Holy Children elevated me. I no longer feel so. 
~ Maria Sabina
[T]he divine mushroom no longer belongs to us [the Indians of Mesoamerica]. Its sacred language has been profaned. The language has been spoiled and it is indecipherable for us…Now the mushrooms speak NQUI LE [English]. Yes, it’s the tongue that the foreigners speak…The mushrooms have a divine spirit. They always had it for us, but the foreigners arrived and frightened it away…
~ Apolonio Teran
In response to Maria Sabina’s words, above, Wasson stated:
These words make me wince, but I was merely the precursor of the New Day. I arrived in the same decade with the highway, the airplane, the alphabet. The Old Order was in danger of passing with no one to record its passing. The Wisdom of the Sabia, genuine though it was, has nothing to give to the world of tomorrow.
~ R. Gordon Wasson
I couldn’t disagree more that the wisdom of the Sabia (wise one or wise woman) has nothing for the world of tomorrow – as the last three decades of hindsight have shown us since Wasson wrote that in 1980. And maybe someone without an agenda would have made a more accurate recording. And there is a big difference between being the precursor for the New Day, and being a tool for the elite, and using Sabina and the mushrooms for PR and secret intelligence purposes.
The Hall Carbine Affair
It appears that Wasson was able to gain his position at J. P. Morgan bank as VP of Public Relations (propaganda) by helping to cover up J. P. Morgan, Sr.’s involvement in the Civil War’s Hall Carbine Affair, to which Wasson titled his own book on the matter. Documents uncovered at Yale University in the Andrews archives reveal that Wasson had been telling the Civil War historian, Allan Nevins, what to write about J. P. Morgan and the carbine affair, and then Wasson would turn and cite Nevins as an appeal to authority in his own arguments on the matter – which is an obvious conflict of interest, not to mention that someone working in PR for Morgan might likewise have a conflict of interest in writing an account of the matter. Furthermore, Wasson had been telling Prof. Charles McLain Andrews about the entire affair, and Andrews had forwarded Wasson’s manuscript to Nevins. Here are a few quotes on Nevins from Wasson’s Hall Carbine Affair:
In 1939 three books appeared in which, at long last, the Hall carbine affair was presented in true perspective. Allan Nevins in his revised life of Fremont told the story accurately, with emphasis on Fremont’s part in it.
Shortly afterwards F. S. Crofts & Co. published a Casebook in American Business History, by two Harvard professors, N. S. B. Gras, who holds the Straus chair in Business History, and Henrietta M. Larson. In the chapter on Morgan they wrote:
“. . . The other episode is the Hall carbine affair. The story is too long to recount here, but an extensive search has failed to uncover any contemporary proof that justifies the deductions about Morgan’s business character which many writers have drawn from the episode.”
Before the end of the year Macmillan brought out Herbert L. Satterlee’s life of J. Pierpont Morgan, in which the episode was summarized. In reviewing this work for The New York Times, Allan Nevins called special attention to the carbine matter:
“Mr. Satterlee offers a convincing exculpation of Morgan from one of the charges most frequently brought against him: the allegation that in 1861 he assisted one Simon Stevens in operations which defrauded the Federal Government upon a sale of defective Hall carbines to General Fremont’s army. The carbines were not really defective, but were a valuable arm. What loss the government suffered was attributed in the main to the carelessness of its own War Department, and Morgan was never a party at interest in the transaction, being merely the person from whom one of those parties borrowed some money. [Dec. 17, 1939]” 
~ R. Gordon Wasson
The Nevins review was only one of many references by critics to the new account of the carbine episode in the Satterlee book. The Associated Press carried the story at some length on November 26, 1939. The reviewer in Time raised a question about it in the issue of December 18, which prompted letters of comment from Herbert L. Satterlee, Lewis Corey, and Gordon Roberts in the issues of February 5 and 19, 1940.
~ R. Gordon Wasson
Here are a few of the quotes I’ve found from the Andrews archives at Yale on Wasson’s and Nevins’ behind-the-scenes interaction on the matter. It’s clear that Wasson is attempting to make J. P. Morgan, Sr. look innocent – despite his guilt:
December 15, 1937
I could make a very good use of the copy of my Civil War Carbine monograph that Mr. Nevins has, if he is back from California. My recollection is that he would be returning about this time. I hope it is not too much trouble for you to make sure that he returns it.
I think my name does not appear on the monograph. Do you happen to remember whether you let him know who wrote it? If not, there might be an advantage in leaving him in the dark if we should publish the manuscript through some other medium. [emphasis – mine]
~ R. Gordon Wasson
August 15, 1939
Dear Mr. Andrews:
I hasten to write you to assure you that Allen [sic] Nevins treated my manuscript exactly as I would’ve wished him to do. He refers and is taxed to a “careful investigation” which “has shown that he must announce transaction and was really prudent and commendable.” In an appendix he summarizes the episode in two or three pages. He doesn’t identify “the recent investigation”, and for this I am very glad. Since his revised Life came out, he and I had an exchange of cordial letters on the subject. [emphasis – mine]
~ R. Gordon Wasson
October 28, 1941
I am most grateful to you for your comments on the Hall Carbine paper, and we shall give earnest consideration to your advice. I have sent a copy of it to Allan Nevins, with whom I have often discussed it, and also to our good friend Steve Benet. We wish to think out carefully our procedure, and, fortunately, we can choose our own time. Perhaps after we let the matter simmer for some months we may bring out a second and larger edition. [emphasis – mine]
~ R. Gordon Wasson
Here’s what historian Charles Morris had to say on the matter in The Tycoons:
For the Hall carbine affair, see R. Gordon Wasson, The Hall Carbine Affair: A Study in Contemporary Folklore (New York: Pandick Press, 1948), although Wasson (and Carosso) would have it that Morgan did not know that the rifles were being resold to the government, which is implausible. For the muckraker version of the affair, see Mathew Josephson, The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World 1962), pp. 60-61. [emphasis – mine]
~ Charles Morris
And historian Matthew Josephson had this to say about the affair in Robber Barons:
A certain Simon Stevens, who had an option for 5,000 Hall carbines, through another dealer named Eastman, came to Morgan with an urgent request for a loan against this war material which he soon hoped to sell to the government at a profit. In advance, he had by telegraph arranged to sell them to General Fremont, who headed the Western Army quartered near St. Louis. Stevens, who had long been engaged in obscure transactions with customhouse officials, may or may not have divulged that he needed the sum of $17,486 from Morgan in order to purchase the carbines from the very same government at Washington whose army in the West clamored for guns. This paradoxical situation was caused by the fact that the carbines in question were found by inspection to be so defective that they would shoot off the thumbs of the soldiers using them. The quartermaster at Washington sold them for $3.50 apiece. “The government had sold one day for $17,486 arms which it had agreed the day before to purchase for $109,912,” as a Congressional committee later discovered. That young Morgan [then 24] knew of this situation is plain from the fact that after arrival of the consignment of guns at General Fremont’s division, he bluntly presented his claim not for the money he had advanced, but for all of the $58,175, half of the shipment having been already paid for in good faith.
Morgan’s claim for the full sum of $109,912, where he had loaned only $17,486, may have been an indication to the Congress that his part in the affair was something more than a passive money-lender’s. In the ensuing investigation, March 3, 1863, a Committee on Government Contracts, amid such outcry on “pillage, fraud, extortion,” had demanded that Morgan disclose the terms upon which he had entered the transaction, though without breaking his obdurate silence. The Congressmen had not been convinced that this large and sullen young man’s operations “inured to the benefit of the people,” and had seen fit to lecture him. Of him and his fellow their report had said:
He cannot be looked upon as a good citizen, entitled to favorable consideration of his claim, who seeks to augment the vast burdens, daily increasing, that are to weigh on the future industry of the country, by demands upon the treasury for which nothing entitled to the name of an equivalent has been rendered. … Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretending loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation, while patriot blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and bodies of their countrymen are moldering in the dust.
~ Matthew Josephson
I wonder if when Morris and Josephson wrote these passages they knew that Wasson was working in PR for J. P. Morgan, and that Wasson had actually sent Nevins his manuscript so that their stories would match up? I highly doubt it, however. Chances are that I’m the first to make this discovery – unfortunately. And while the story has been well evidenced that Morgan did in fact swindle the U.S. Government, it couldn’t be any more suspicious that a man, Wasson, who worked for J. P. Morgan Bank in PR, should write such a story and then become Vice President of Public Relations, and also happened to have spent time with Edward Bernays during this book’s writing. There are just too many coincidences stacked on top of coincidences for there to be any coincidence!
Securities and Exchange Commission
Prof. Raymond Moley’s book After Seven Years, mentioned by Bernays, above, states:
I had asked the President to talk over these appointments with me because, since the time I had assisted him in formulating his New York State parole system, I had seen so much good legislation for which he fought partly nullified by the appointment of poor administrators. At that very moment he was in process of frittering away his Communications Act in the same familiar way. It was clear that the Securities and Exchange Commission might be transformed into a purely perfunctory body if it fell under the influence of those interests it was supposed to supervise.Or, equally bad, it might fall under the domination of men who had no knowledge of the practical operation of the stock exchange.
The President listened to a recital of these facts good-naturedly and asked for a list of recommendations. This I laid before him early in June, 1934. It read as follows:
STOCK EXCHANGE COMMISSION MEMBERSHIP
|1. Kennedy||The best bet for Chairman because of execu-
tive ability, knowledge of habits and customs
of business to be regulated and ability to mod-
erate different points of view on Commission.
|2. Landis||Better as member than as Chairman because
he is essentially a representative of strict con-
trol and operates best when defending that
position against opposition from contrary
|3. Mathews||Familiar with operation of blue sky laws and
with present Securities Act. He is a Republi-
can from Wisconsin and failure to take him
over would antagonize Republican Progres-
sives in Wisconsin.
|4. Ben Cohen||He is as able as Landis and more experienced.|
|He has participated to a greater extent than
anyone else in the drafting of both Securities
and Stock Exchange Acts. His personality
would gain friends as people grew to know
him. Enormously well thought of by Judge
Mack Frankfurter, etc.
|5. Paul Shields||Expresses progressive ideas about regulation
by law. Strongly recommended by Averell
Harriman. Was associated with Dillon, Reed
and probably would be strongly recommended
by Clarence Dillon.
|6. Gordon Wasson||A resident of New Jersey. Handled foreign
securities for Guaranty Company. Has acted
as liaison between Wall Street and Landis,
Cohen and Corcoran, because his friendship
with them was known downtown. Knows se-
curities business and the act thoroughly, hav-
ing helped in its drafting. Very well-liked by
Treasury and Commerce. Would certainly be
recommended by the Guaranty and the Stock
Exchange and therefore would be acceptable
to Wall Street.
|7. Frank Shaughnessy||Hiram Johnson would be an excellent judge
of him. He is well thought of by Charles B.
Henderson of the R.F.C. who knows him.
|8. Judge Healy||Could be counted upon to be sound and lib-
eral in his interpretation. However, he would
be a better member of the Federal Trade Com-
Party affiliations: Democrat–Kennedy, Landis, Cohen, Shaughnessy. Republican–Wasson, Mathews, Healy 
And it’s here that we discover that Wasson actually helped to draft the Stock Exchange Act. A study of the Stock Exchange Act in light of the current financial crisis would be interesting in view of Wasson’s participation in its authoring. And it was also Wasson’s boss’s father, J. P. Morgan, Sr., the same J. P. Morgan who swindled the government in the carbine affair, above, who secretly established the U.S. Federal Reserve at Jekyll Island. But we also discover here that Wasson was one of eight nominees selected to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission for the U.S. government.
Thomas C. Wasson
Robert Gordon Wasson had a brother: Thomas Campbell Wasson. Thomas was assassinated in Jerusalem by Jews while he served as the first Consul General of the new state of Israel, a position he had only begun a few weeks before he was assassinated. At 2 pm on May 22, 1948 he was shot with a .30 caliber rifle while he was approaching the U.S. Consulate. He died on May 23, 1948 – just ten days after the establishment of the State of Israel on May 13.
Thomas looked incredibly like R. G. Wasson, almost close enough to be twins. And interestingly, one writer even reported that it was Robert Wasson, and not Thomas Wasson, who had been killed:
Our American Consul, Mr. Robert Wasson was shot by Jews on Friday and died today.
~ Bertha Spafford Vesta, May 23, 1948
With all of the PR and false information put out by Wasson up to this point, I want to say that there is no evidence, at least at this moment, to show that there was some cover-up with the assassination, other than news reports initially trying to pin it on the Arabs. The confusion between Thomas and Robert seems to be just that – though I admit I’ve not looked into the matter any further.
Thomas had also served as the U.S. Vice Consul in Melbourne, Australia, as well as in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, and Consul in Lagos, Nigeria.
The main point is that Gordon Wasson had direct ties in his own family to high levels of the U.S. government and international politics – which may provide a lead for possible future research.
The JFK Assassination
And in an even more bizarre twist that is far stranger than fiction, readers may be shocked to discover that all of this ties into the Kennedy assassination. Several names mentioned above are involved, including: Henry Luce and C. D. Jackson. C. D. Jackson purchased the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination. Jackson and Henry Luce stored the film away from the public in the vaults at Time-Life for decades – again, a company funded by J. P. Morgan and Wasson’s boss. Furthermore, Wasson was close friends with George De Mohrenschildt, with whom he ran the Russian Student Fund for Russian immigrants on behalf of the CIA (below), and he also worked on various Russian programs with George’s brother, Prof. Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt. George De Mohrenschildt’s wife worked for Abe Zapruder – who, ironically, filmed the assassination. And of course de Mohrenschildt was close friends with Lee Harvey Oswald, the so-called “lone gunman.” De Mohrenschildt apparently committed suicide just minutes before reporters arrived to interview him, and when his body was found there was a phone book in his pocket with Gordon Wasson’s name and number, along with others such as George H. W. Bush, the former President and Director of the CIA.
Soon after JFK’s assassination, Jackson and Luce also successfully negotiated with Marina Oswald the exclusive rights to her story.
Bruce Campbell Adamson is considered a leading researcher on the JFK assassination, having published 11 volumes on his investigation. In this series Adamson repeatedly lists Wasson as one of the key suspects in the plot’s organization. Over the last few years I’ve researched out and acquired and verified all of Adamson’s references to Wasson. In every instance they checked out – many of them are listed in this essay’s endnotes. Here are just a few of his references:
From Bruce Adamson’s series on the JFK assassination
From volume 3a (JKF Assassination Timeline Chart):
Jan. 1948: George Kennan spoke at CFR on Soviet Policy. Also present were Arthur
- A. Houghton, Jr., Stephen Duggan, Sr., J. C. Campbell, Henry V. Poor and R. Gordon Wasson.
1952: Alexander Dallin was associate director; P. Mosely was director of
research; R. G. Wasson and F. Barghoorn were on the executive committee of the Research Program of the USSR. All tied to CIA.
1953: George Allen spoke at the CFR on Yugoslavia’s relationship with the West. NAR, J. T. Duce, P. Mosely and R. Gordon Wasson were in attendance.
George Allen was introduced to Joseph Kennedy by Robert D. Murphy. Alexander Tarsaidze = D. V. Mohr., in book Four Myths.
From volume 3b (JKF Assassination Timeline Chart):
1959: Jan. 15 Anastas I. Mikoyan spoke at CFR. In attendance: HFA (CIA), Geo. Kennan, Sig Michelson (CBS), J. Jessup (Luce), Philip Mosely (CIA), K.
Roosevelt (CIA), H. Sargeant (CIA), John Gunther, R. G. Wasson (CIA), Fred and James Warburg.
1960: Sept. 30 Josip Tito spoke at CFR. In attendance were John Gunther, J. N. Hazard, Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., H. Luce, J. J. McCloy, R. G. Wasson and Daniel Schoor.
1962: May 8 Philip Mosely presided for Luce’s man in Moscow at CFR. Others in attendance J. Jessup, R. G. Wasson (CIA).
Dec. 27 H. Salisbury spoke at CFR, (CIA agent) R. Gordon Wasson presided.
1963: Oct. 31 CIA consultant, Philip Mosely spoke at CFR on “Russia Faces East and West.” Others in attendance include A. Doak Barnett, R. Blum, J. C. Campbell, R. Donald [Gordon] Wasson (CIA), (AD), and Professor Frederick Barghoorn was supposed to have been there. Barghoorn was arrested two days later in Moscow.
From Adamson’s JFK – volume 4a, p. 22:
Was Salisbury’s analysis at the Dallas right wing conspiracy theory directed at H. L. Hunt or the oil depletion allowance? He does not say specifically. We know that Harrison was tied to Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt and also many of the same acquaintances. On December 27, 1962, Harrison E. Salisbury spoke at the CFR on the subject of Implications of the Sino-Soviet Rupture. R. Gordon Wasson (CIA agent) presided. Other important members included, Frank Altschul, Robert Blum, Spruille Braden, Alexander Dallin, George S. Franklin, Jr., and Howland Sargeant. All except Blum are tied to Dimitri and Dulles. […]
While de Mohrenschildt was entertaining Oswald, Salisbury was contending that Communism was not a unitary and monolithic movement. […].
In 1952, while Alex Dallin was Associate Director and Philip E. Mosely (CIA consultant) was Director of the Research Program on the USSR, R. Gordon Wasson (CIA agent) and accused CIA agent Frederick C. Barghoorn were on the Executive Committee of the Research Program. […]
From Adamson’s JFK – volume 4b, p. 57:
Kennan spoke in January of 1947 at the Council on Foreign Affairs meeting in New York City. The meeting was on The Soviet Way of Thought and Its Effect on Soviet Foreign policy. (53)
(53). Princeton, Seely G. Mudd Library, Dulles Papers, Kennan File, Council on Foreign Relations report January 7, 1947.
Kennan was the discussion leader and others present who were interconnected with this work included: Frank Altschul; Arthur H. Dean; George S. Franklin and Arthur A. Houghton. […]. Other members of the CFR who were friends with Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt included John C. Campbell of Time-Life; Stephen Duggan Sr., whose son sat on the editorial board of the Russian Review; Henry V. Poor, of Amcomlib and R. Gordon Wasson, a CIA agent and a Director of the Russian Student Fund.[…]
On May 18th 1959, Director of Studies at the CFR, Philip Mosely gave a speech on “The Impressions of Moscow.” Frank Altschul presided. Others in attendance were Hamilton Fish Armstrong, (husband of Carmen Barnes who was a friend of George de Mohrenschildt’s); Frederick C. Barghoorn (friend of Dimitri’s and arrested by KGB in November 1963); John N. Hazard; C. D. Jackson (bought Zapruder’s film); Henry V. Poor and Howland Sargeant. […] It is important to note that Wasson was an officer of the Research Program on the USSR, located at 401 West 118th Street in New York City. Other officers of the program included […] Philip E. Mosely, Alexander J. Dallin, Frederick C. Barghoorn and R. Gordon Wasson. In 1952 this Research Program was seeking Dimitri’s advice for counseling seriously on USSR organization on the role of classics in Soviet culture. (57)
(57). Hoover Institute, Russian Review Papers, Box, 2, Alexander Dallin to D.V. Mohrenschildt April 11, 1952.
In 1950 Dulles approved George Kennan‘s membership into the Century Association, located at 7 West 43rd Street in New York. Apparently Hamilton Fish Armstrong nominated Kennan and Gordon Wasson (CIA agent) had seconded it. On November 15, 1950 Dulles said of Kennan that he was one of the most capable writers in foreign affairs and “Certainly, he would make a most desirable member of the Century Club.” (59)
(59). Princeton, Seely G. Mudd Library, Dulles Papers, Kennan File, A. Dulles to the Committee on Admissions, Nov. 15, 1950.
From Adamson’s JFK – volume 8a, p. 3:
On September 30, 1960, Marshal Josip Tito spoke in New York at the CFR meeting on Yugoslav Foreign Policy. Other important people who knew Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt [and] Dulles and who are important for the study of JFK and RFK’s assassinations were: John Gunther, John N. Hazard, Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., Henry R. Luce, John J. McCloy, Edward V. Poor, Daniel Schoor and CIA agent R. Gordon Wasson. (10) 
(10). CFR meetings vol. XXXVIII, July 1960-June 1961 (S-Z).
~ Bruce C. Adamson
James Moore and the Red Herring
As I have considered all of these connections over the years, one question always comes up. What about James Moore? Moore was a CIA agent. He contributed $2000 to Wasson’s trip. Here’s how this myth begins:
Apparently, one of the “various foundations” from which Gordon was hoping to obtain a grant was the Geschickter Fund in Washington, D.C. It had been mentioned to him as a possible source of funding by James Moore, the CIA operative, when he initially contacted Gordon in August 1955. Unknown to Gordon, the Fund was a front for the CIA to channel money secretly. According to John Marks’ book The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate” (New York: Dell, 1979), it anted up $2,000 to help finance Gordon’s expedition in the spring of 1956.
~ Allan Richardson
“Nervous and paranoid” correctly describes a “short-order chemist” for the CIA, James Moore (Lee & Shlain, 1985; Marks, 1979; Stevens, 1987), who secretly infiltrated one of Wasson’s small expeditions into the Sierra Mazateca in 1956.
A scientist from the CIA’s “Project ARTICHOKE” had traveled to México in search of a so-called “stupid bush” and other plants which might derange the human mind, politically useful to control enemies’ minds in war time. Large quantities of morning glory seeds were sent to CIA laboratories for analysis by CIA scientists searching for compounds useful for extracting confessions, locating stolen or lost objects, perhaps even predicting the future. Visionary mushrooms were of special interest in these investigations. According to documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, James Moore was an expert in chemical synthesis who worked for the CIA. In 1956, Moore invited himself into one of Wasson’s expeditions to México. He offered Wasson a grant for $2,000 dollars from a CIA- front known as the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research, Inc. In 1955, Wasson had declined to collaborate openly with the CIA.” […]
Moore collected specimens for his CIA-sponsored research and returned to Maryland, where he endeavored to isolate for the CIA the active principle of both the mushrooms and morning glory seeds. Unfortunately for Moore he was unable to find the active ingredients in the mushrooms and lucky for the world that he didn’t find them since they would of most likely been used as tools of mind war under the direction of the CIA. [emphasis – mine]
~ John W. Allen
Notice that the above passage does not say that Wasson declined to collaborate with the CIA. It says that “In 1955, Wasson had declined to collaborate openly with the CIA.” In other words, if Allen’s statement is correct, while Wasson may have refused to collaborate “openly” with the CIA, this does not mean that he declined to collaborate with the CIA – two very different things. Then how would Wasson collaborate? He would need a cover story.
Here’s how MK-ULTRA expert Hank Albarelli describes the myth in A Terrible Mistake:
Especially significant in the history of LSD and psychotropic drugs is the work of Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina Pavlovna. The couple traveled the globe in search of exotic and rare psychoactive mushrooms, and they were the first to use the term ‘ethnomycology’. Over a forty year period, the two collected and catalogued the “food of the Gods.” In 1977, Wasson commented that throughout his many excursions to Mexico from 1952 through 1962, “I didn’t send a single sample to an American mycologist. I didn’t get a penny, not a single grant from any government sources. I’m perfectly sure of that.”
There is no reason to doubt Wasson, but what he did not know at the time of his excursions was that the United States government was closely monitoring every one of his trips and that each and every one of his collected samples found their way back from Mexico to CIA-funded laboratories. Wasson also sent his samples to Albert Hofmann at Sandoz Labs in Switzerland. Hofmann, according to Wasson, “was doing the key work synthesizing the active ingredients” of the samples. What Wasson again did not realize was that the fruits of all of his and Hofmann’s labors were being plucked from the vine by the U.S. Army and CIA both of whom, since at least 1948, had covert operatives working in the Sandoz Laboratories.
Wasson also was unaware of CIA penetration into a number of his Mexico excursions. In 1956, Dr. James Moore of the University of Delaware, under secret contract with the CIA’s TSS, traveled to the Oaxaca section of Mexico to collect rivea corymbosa samples. Moore, according to Wasson, was collaborating with the Argentine-based mycologist, Dr. Rolf Singer, a Bavarian-born Jew who had fled Nazi Germany in 1933 for Czechoslovakia. Eventually, he traveled to the United States where he secured a job doing research at Harvard University, and in 1948, he left the U.S. to go to Argentina to study hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Wasson, in a 1977 interview, implied that Singer had some sort of ties to the CIA through Moore, but the specifics are unclear and it must be stated here that Wasson reportedly did not care much for Singer and considered his work “rushed” and often “borrowed” from others. Wasson only traveled once with Moore, in 1956, and the experience was horrible, he said. Said Wasson: “he was an awful ass… He expected to have a water closet in Mexico. It was laughable.”
Wasson also reported that he had once been approached by either the CIA or FBI. “I’m not sure which,” he said. They wanted him “to do work for the government.” He turned them down, saying he thought the effort “patriotic,” but did not want his work being classified secret. “I wanted to publish all my findings,” he explained.
In the same interview, Wasson said that Albert Hofmann “work in some way with the CIA” and that Hofmann’s “discoveries were imparted in whole by Sandoz to the U.S. government. Sandoz wanted to be on the right side of things.” Hofmann’s connection to the CIA has never been officially confirmed by the CIA, which maintains a policy of not commenting on or revealing information on foreign citizens who find their way into its employment. [emphasis – mine]
There seems to be a repeated theme with Wasson disparaging people he actually knows are agents. I brought attention to this in my book The Holy Mushroom in regards to Wasson’s actions with Dr. Andrija Puharich, and I think he’s doing the same here with Moore. Wasson wants to conceal his own identity as a CIA agent or asset, and to make himself look more innocent in the entire affair.
The above accounts seem absurdly impossible in light of all of the information regarding Wasson’s own participation in the CFR and CIA and with all of his own connections to all of these people in the CIA and intelligence. I consider the entire James Moore story to be a red herring. A red herring is a fallacy that leads someone from one topic to another. In other words, he’s a decoy or a scapegoat. When we consider Moore as a decoy, the contradictions in the storyline disappear. Wasson and Allen Dulles were friends; the CIA had known all along about Wasson’s work; Dulles worked with the German conglomerate IG Farben, which was related with Sandoz AG. It’s hard to believe that the CIA needed a field agent when they had Wasson himself. Rather than admitting that the entire project was an elite/CIA/intelligence operation, it was best to slip an agent into the story line who would serve to lead researchers astray for decades. That way Wasson didn’t have to work for the CIA openly, and he could still publish his books, which he just published in elite publishing houses – too expensive for anyone to acquire – and delivered many of them to the CIA and CFR himself. It was a slick move, and fooled many hundreds of researchers – but like all lies it was bound to get figured out. If anything, Wasson could likely have been Moore’s superior at the CIA, and Dulles himself would have likely approved the $2000. Surely Dulles and Wasson had already discussed it over dinner at the Century Club. Wasson possibly needed a chemist along for the trip who could also aid in collecting mushroom samples – and would act as a possible future scapegoat should someone uncover their plot.
Masha Wasson Britten
And it seems hard to believe that Masha isn’t aware of many of these things. Found in the Frank Altschul archives at Columbia University is a hand-written letter from Masha to Altschul thanking him for a weekend they spent together in 1958 after the death of her mother, Valentina, who, as it turns out, was also a friend of Altschul. If Masha and Altschul were lovers it’s not clear, though she would have been about 23 at the time.
January 20, 1959
Dear Mr. Altschul,
Please forgive me for not writing sooner. I do wish to thank you for the lovely time I spent with you in the country. I really needed to get away and I cannot think of another place I would have enjoyed as much.
I had a good rest, something I have not had in a long time. It was also comforting to be with friends since at that time I was just beginning to feel the real impact of what had happened […]
Again, I thank you for the wonderful weekend and I’m sorry for the delay.
Altschul was not only a banker, but, like Allen Dulles, was a Director of the CFR (1944-72), and also served at several of the same CFR meetings that were chaired by Wasson himself – where Luce was also present. Altschul was also a member of the Century Club, and was also one of those behind such secret operations as Operation Mockingbird, a CIA “psychological information campaign against the American people.”
On February 17, 1951, Wasson gave a lecture on Russian policy to the Practicing Law Institute. He later had 1,000 copies of the lecture published in small book form, titled Toward a Russian Policy, which he published anonymously with Frank Altschul’s publishing firm, Overbrook Press. Included in Columbia University’s Overbrook Press collection is Wasson’s personal list of people that he had this book sent to, which include: Allen W. Dulles, John Foster Dulles, General Dwight Eisenhower, C. D. Jackson, Henry Luce, Robert Oppenheimer, David Rockefeller, and Frank Wisner – just to name a few.
But I should wish you to see the whole talk, which will be appearing shortly in an edition being printed by Frank Altschul’s Overbrook Press. Since Frank is in constant touch with Mr. C. D. Jackson, I suggest you call this fact to Mr. Jackson’s attention, if he is interested in going ahead with your project. […]
~ R. Gordon Wasson
Frank Altschul’s son, Arthur G. Altschul, was also a member of the CFR with Frank and Wasson, and became a partner of the infamous Goldman, Sachs & Co. that defrauded the American public for billions of tax dollars in 2008, though Arthur had died in 2002.
Who doesn’t have their hands dirty in the world of psychedelics and deep politics?
And so the investigation continues…
Clearly the study of entheogens in religious myths and practices is a valid one.
What is not clear from Wasson’s work is how much of his work is a real, honest investigation of mushrooms in religion, and how much concerns his secret elitist agendas. In a court of law, if someone is shown to lie under oath, everything they say is to be dismissed. And while Wasson wasn’t under oath, and while much, though not all, of his research appears genuine, it seems clear that we’ll need to fact-check every detail of his research, point by point, before we can ever again use him as a credible source in the fields of ethnomycology and ethnobotany.
Those who twist the facts of reality to their own selfish agendas, sacrificing truth and humanity in the process, bring the whole of the world down with them. If what they did were based in integrity, they wouldn’t need to act in secrecy, to commit sophistry, to occult the truth at the cost of the many to profit the few.
It’s often hard for us to look at our own legends and myths and to question our own beliefs. In fact, many people think it’s easier to go on believing a myth than it is to do the research and ground work to discover the truth or the actual history behind such legends and myths.
Some legends and myths are created by those with ill intentions to occult (keep secret) information for their own gain – “a story invented as a veiled explanation of a truth.” When information is occulted, those who maintain that secret knowledge have control over those who don’t.
We can go through our entire lives believing in all sorts of legends and myths, being misled by those who wish to fool us, to manipulate and control us, and violating natural law, for their own irrational, selfish ends. And as the mushrooms have the power to free our minds, so does the truth. And true to its purpose, the study of ethnomycology has revealed more legends and myths, some of the biggest legends and myths thus far discovered to be based around mushrooms: those of R. Gordon Wasson.
At the start of this essay we began with a quote from Wasson that came from the introduction of his book The Hall Carbine Affair. Here is the rest of that quote, where Wasson provides us with a page of philosophizing that serves to bring this article full circle:
Legends are often history processed to point some moral. They are misleading as history, but they help us to understand the people who invent and believe in them. Usually the world recognizes as legends only the outgrown cables of earlier generations. But this is merely because, believing as we do our own legends, we do not recognize them for what they are.
It is proposed in this little essay to dissect sinew by sinew, and nerve by nerve, a living legend, a legend born in our own generation and […] palpitant with the vitality of unchallenged acceptance. This specimen of mis-belief will be tested as real history is tested. In its own right it is only a modest little yarn, but we shall scrutinize it as rigorously as if it made all the difference. Its start is an obscure happening of some three-quarters of a century ago, of no great importance then and of none at all for a long time after, until it was taken hold of, clothed upon, and finished off […], by a school of writers who call themselves historians and serious thinkers.
Starting with nothing, or as good as nothing, these molders of opinion by a very act of creation have built up from it a history, a moral, a warning, an economics, and in reverse a vision of a new and better world. A mouse having labored, a mountain was born. Legends that take hold on the popular imagination are the ones that tell the people what they wish to believe, and this legend took hold. Thus fact became fiction, and fiction History: a little incident, released by uncorking the bottle, magically swelled before our very eyes into a Horrible Example, solemnly authenticated as Truth by our college of augurs.
Only a trifle, you may say, to give so much time to. But the history of this legend will point a moral: a moral that the authors of the legend surely never dreamed of!
~ R. Gordon Wasson
Through our own belief in his legends and myths, we had refused to look at, much less acknowledge, the gravitas of the truth. We wanted to believe that we knew him, and that he couldn’t have done such a wrong.
And while Maria Sabina said there was no remedy for the damage done, maybe this article is the first step in the right direction. If there is a way, having honesty and integrity and bringing forth the truth about Wasson and the elite’s psychedelic agenda may be the first step. Through honesty and integrity we can begin to cure and heal the misdeeds caused by such incredibly blind selfishness, and move forward into the light of truth, free of such malicious deception and agendas that have weighed our field of study down since its inception.
What was the purpose of the Wassons publishing in Life and This Week magazines, rather than in an anthropology journal? With the ties to Morgan, Skull and Bones, Edward Bernays, C. D. Jackson, Henry Luce, the CFR and the CIA, it seems that their campaign against Huaulta de Jimenez was intentional, as was the influx of “hippies, psychopaths and adventurers and pseudo-research workers” who descended upon the place. Was it an experiment in economics, to see how the banking elite and CIA could fully corrupt and commercialize a remote, indigenous village, while at the same time launching a positivist psychological warfare campaign?
From spies and intelligence, to propaganda and mind control operations for the elite, to the assassination of presidents, the real story behind R. Gordon Wasson is far more interesting, and disturbing than we’ve ever envisioned.
In the endnotes of this essay I’ve included dozens of references to major university archives where stores of Wasson documents are held – outside of Masha and Harvard’s control. By publishing these sources for the first time I’m providing other researchers the path to work around this blockade and to begin to reassemble the documents necessary to amass the real history behind R. Gordon Wasson and the foundations of ethnomycology – and the launch of the psychedelic movement. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
And now the dyke has broken, and Masha sits there with her finger in a hole, in a fruitless attempt to stop the flood. If I’m wrong, then let her simply open up the Wasson archive at Harvard for all to see that there’s nothing there to hide, and to also disprove these citations I’ve provided herein – and I’ll admit that I’m the fool.
But if I’m correct, what are the implications? We’ve seen a cover-up of a mind control and propaganda campaign regarding mushrooms and the field of ethnomycology that reaches to the highest levels of the U.S. government, intelligence, and banking, and may tie directly into MK-ULTRA. We’ve also seen a concerted effort to cover up the origins of one of America’s wealthiest banking families – the Morgans. We’ve seen ties to the American fascists. And what’s worse, we’ve uncovered a possible cover-up of a conspiracy to commit the murder of a U.S. president – John F. Kennedy.
In this study of contemporary psychedelic mythology we’ve dissected, borrowing from Wasson’s words, almost sinew by sinew, nerve by nerve, a living legend that lived in our own generation, and a myth that began some three-quarters of a century ago. We’ve tested the myth’s mis-belief as real history is tested; peeled the clothes off and scrutinized all that was piled upon it by the college of augurs – as if it made all the difference in the world. Underneath it all we’ve found a wretched little mouse – a solemn little creature, now unmasked, that we must ironically thank for uncorking the bottle. Indeed, a moral the author surely never dreamed of!
A mouse having labored a mountain was born, but it’s the truth that shall set you free.