Anyone who is familiar with Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic, Dune, is also knows the importance of the psychoactive and life-extending power of the spice, which only comes from the desert planet Arrakis. The spice control the universe: from the monopolizing Guild’s control of time-and-space for interstellar travel, to the logical powers of the Mentats, this melange has a supernatural and all-influencing effect on the Dune universe. The spice is addictive, eventually changing the the whites of human eyes to an eerie phosphorescent blue. As it turns out, Frank Herbert developed the idea for spice from magic mushrooms. As Paul Stamets explains in his 2005 book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Herbert was something of an amateur mycologist himself:
Frank Herbert, the well-known author of the Dune books, told me his technique for using spores. When I met him in the early 1980s, Frank enjoyed collecting mushrooms on his property near Port Townsend, Washington. An avid mushroom collector, he felt that throwing his less-than-perfct wild chanterelles into the garbage or compost didn’t make sense. Instead, he would put a few weathered chanterelles in a 5-gallon bucket of water, add some salt, and then, after 1 or 2 clavs, pour this spore-mass slurry on the ground at the base of newly planted firs. When he told me chanterelles were glowing from trees not even 10 years old, I couldn’t believe it. No one had previously reported chanterelles arising near such young trees, nor had anyone reported them growing as a result of using this method.” Of course, it did work for Frank, who was simply following nature’s lead.
Frank’s discovery has now been confirmed in the mushroom industry. It is now known that it’s possible to grow many mushrooms using spore slurries from elder mushrooms. Many variables come into play, but in a sense this method is just a variation of what happens when it rains. Water dilutes spores from mushrooms and carries them to new environments. Our responsibility is to make that path easier. Such is the way of nature.
Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.
Alejandro Jodorowsky, the avant-garde surrealist filmmaker (see Dance of Reality, Holy Mountain), had his hands on the first Hollywood adaptation of Dune in the 1970s and fully embraced the psychedelic riff of the novel. Jodorowsky claimed that he:
“…wanted to make a film that would give the people who took LSD at that time the hallucinations that you get with that drug, but without hallucinating.”
Although that version of the film was never made (… yet), you can still watch the 2013 documentary film: Jodorowsky’s Dune. Clearly, the Spice can flow beyond its fictional origins.
Watch the introduction to David Lynch’s Dune:
“The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness.”