California – The Sacred Mushroom – Arigo

My return to Maine had caused an outcry of indignation from Joyce Balokovic and the other trustees. The outcome was disastrous for the Round Table.

A letter from Andrija to my parents tells it all:

‘I am in deep sympathy for your concern over Bep. I love her as much as you do. As you know there was so much opposition to our being in love that some of my best friends turned against me. They threatened me and said that if I didn’t give up Bep, they would destroy the foundation that I had built up for ten years. Unfortunately they had the legal right to do this. So, I choose Bep and gave up everything for her. No man could do more to prove his love.”

Not having to hide our love should have made us happy. It didn’t! Jinny’s mental illness did not respond to intensive psychiatric and hospital treatment, and the doctors felt that if the children were close to her it might help. So in the dead of winter we drove the children from Maine to Wisconsin. Leaving his daughters behind with Jinny’s parents was hard on Andrija. That night was the first time I saw him cry. I was heart-stricken to see him like that, but again – like when Mrs. Davenport died – he wouldn’t let me comfort him.

For the next four months we lived in Boston in a small apartment on Commonwealth Avenue, where Andrija wrote The Sacred Mushroom. Once I got used to his crazy working hours, sleeping during the day and writing at night, it was exciting to be able to assist him. Many of the reference books he used were in German, and my knowledge of that language was helpful. It wasn’t all work though. We did go out to sociaise with young students, and at home we listened, and danced to our favorite singer, Frank Sinatra. We even played scrabble together, and yes, sometimes I won.

In May we left for New York, where we lived on East End Avenue. Andrija had contacted Joe Lawrence, the dentist he had worked with at the Army Chemical Center, to carry on the hearing research they had started in 1953.

During the six months that we stayed in New York Andrija met many people who wanted him to head a new research institute. One of them, Paul Jones, a contractor in California, invited us to come and stay with him and his wife Terry in beautiful Carmel Valley.

During all this time we had been in continual contact with Jinny, Andrija by phone, and I through letters. She had been released from hospital and was working part-time for her father. I had written to Jinny that if things worked out in California, we would send for her and the kiddies, so we would be able to take care of all of them. In her letters she sounded confused. She wanted me to come to Wisconsin to help her take care of the girls there.

Just before we left for California on October 19, 1958. Andrija told me that Jinny had consented to a divorce. “We’ll stop in Mexico, where I can get a ‘quick’ divorce,” he said.

We were married in Las Vegas on December 20, 1958. One month later, on February 23, 1959, Jinny ended her life by jumping off the top floor of the hospital where her father was superintendent. It was the second time I saw Andrija cry in utter despair.

When he returned from Madison with his daughters, they were surprised that their father and I were married and that I was pregnant. “Then you’re our mother now,” they had exclaimed happily, “and soon we’ll have a baby brother or sister to play with.” The lack of grief about their mother’s death, and their amazement at finding me there, had puzzled me. Why had Andrija not told them? When I confronted him with this question, he told me to shut up, and threatened to leave me if I ever spoke to the girls about their mother. I never did, but should have.

We could no longer live with Paul and Terry, so Andrija rented a large house in Carmel Valley, and got a job on a full-time basis at the Army Hospital in Fort Rod.

Not being happy that his independent way of life had been reduced to the role of a physician at the hospital and at home, as he lamented, he became moody and depressed.

I have heard someone say about Andrija that he always showed up where the action was. I rather believe that he attracted the action. When The Sacred Mushroom was published, it was not long before he had six firms, including the Pacific Institute for Psychological Research at Stanford University interested in the effects of the “sacred” mushroom. They offered to pay his salary for one year so he could quit his job as a doctor, and devote all his time again to parapsychology.

Soon Carmel Valley became a haven for seekers of those “fabulous hallucinations” that Andrija had written about.

At one time, when Andrija and Paul Jones had organized a “mushroom binge” for a select group of people, I was invited to participate as an observer, and to take notes. Entering the room, where they had gathered, I saw that the party was already in full swing. I was startled. Without any shame, a middle-aged couple – both psychiatrists – was copulating wildly. The woman’s legs thrashed in the air while she shouted that love would save the world from destruction. Paul Jones was violently ill, throwing up all over the place. Another man, whom I had never seen before, was singing an aria from the opera Aida. As I was enjoying his beautiful voice, I was suddenly grabbed from behind and thrown onto the floor. Before I reaised what was happening, Bob, an anthropologist of Stanford University, and a good friend of us, was on top of me. He had a crazy look in his eyes and his body moved convulsively. Fortunately other observers quickly came to my rescue. Poor Bob! After he had apologized profusely to me, he left, never to come to our home again. To Andrija he confessed that he was afraid of being impotent. In his delirium he had thought that I was part of the experiment. Upon seeing me he had, for the first time since long, experienced an erection. I didn’t know whether to be outraged or flattered.

Not even our home was save from the mushroom craziness. Not until I had enough and one evening told Andrija that he either get rid of the weirdoes or I would call the police. He was furious! That the children had been terrified was not important. Was I really that stupid, he had yelled. that I didn’t understand that he was merely studying the workings of the human mind, and that because of his research someday the mentally ill could be cured?

Another phenomenon of the human mind, which Andrija studied, and experimented with, is called telekinesis, or psychokinesis. P.K. for short. It is the action of the mind by which material objects can be moved purely by the will of the mind. Such an experiment, for example, is an attempt to influence the fall of a rolling die. In other words the mind tries to interact with the movement of the die, willing it to come to rest with a chosen face up.

Other phenomena related to the capability of the mind to activate inanimate objects that are in motion, are those of activating objects that are at rest. Such, for example, are table tapping, movement and levitation of tables, lamps, and other objects.

Having never witnessed any “poltergeist” incidents. Andrija was curious enough to be persuaded to investigate some alleged table tapping that occurred in the presence of a psychic in Los Angeles. To my surprise I was allowed to come along. The following was recorded on film.

A group of people sat around a wooden table, and their hands were placed on top of the table in front of them. After about a half-hour, while the people were talking about one thing and another, the table suddenly emitted one tap. Then one by one, the people asked one or more questions, to which the table responded with one tap for no and three taps for yes. This lasted for about an hour. To me the whole thing was hilarious. When, however, the table suddenly lifted itself off the floor and started to spin around, it scared the living daylights out of me. Only one person was able to keep up with the crazed table, holding on to it with just one finger. He lasted for barely one minute before he and the table collapsed.

After many such experiments, Andrija’s conclusion was that all the evidence about E.S.P. and psychokinesis are so similar as to suggest that they are very closely related phenomena. They may, he said, be two aspects of the one process. In the one we have the sensory type of phenomenon of matter affecting mind (clairvoyance), in the other the motor-type of phenomenon of mind affecting matter (P.K.).

Although Andrija took some time out in the early spring of 1960 to write Beyond Telepathy, the mushroom, and its potential to enhance E.S.P. remained an important aspect of his research.

In 1955 he had heard from a Mr. Wasson that a ritualistic mushroom cult had existed in Mexico for hundreds of years, and was still practiced in some remote parts of the country. (Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Wasson wrote a book entitled Mushrooms, Russia and History. It was published in 1957).

Anxious to find out for himself, Andrija set out for the village of Juquila in the state of Oaxaca, 200 miles south of Mexico City in June of 1960. The original expedition was made up of nine people, including Paul Jones. When Paul returned after about four weeks saying that all members of the team had become ill, and that Andrija had been crazy to go on alone with an even crazier missionary, I became not only greatly concerned, but furious as well. How the hell did Andrija dare risk his life, being the father of four children and a fifth on the way? I hadn’t even known that he was off to a dangerous remote place in Mexico. Besides, he had left me with barely enough money to buy food, and with unpaid bills. We no longer lived in Carmel Valley, but had moved to the chic part of Carmel, called Carmel Meadows. How Andrija had been able to buy the beautiful, spacious patio house, had been “none of my business.”

Thanks to Paul Jones, who for the umpteenth time came to our rescue, telephone and utility services were reinstalled. When Andrija finally did come home, I was ready to divorce him.

Now, reading his letter again, which he wrote on July 16, 1960, and although I do not condone his behavior, I can understand why Andrija was compelled to pursue his quest for the elusive mushroom.

“At last I have a chance to write to you – and on a typewriter too – in this wilderness. I will not bother to tell you what happened until Thursday the 14th, because Paul will catch you up on the news until then.

On the 14th we landed precariously in a light plane on a small airstrip in the midst of the towering peaks of the Sierra Madre Range. When Paul took one look at the forbidden countryside, and said that he would return to Oaxaca with the pilot, my translator, a missionary nurse, Deane Dugan and I were on our own. She agreed to stay on for a day or two to introduce me to the natives. When an Indian came up with two burros, we dickered to have him carry our baggage (123 kilos) for 12 pesos (1 dollar) to the town of Juquila. We arrived an hour later in the village square. While all the Indians were sitting around, and staring at us, we marched on in silence. I had a letter of introduction from another missionary to a man called Don Luis Zavalete. He was most kind, and found us a room in a warehouse. This means that I slept on a stone floor in my sleeping bag. But it was nice – no rats or mosquitos! We had a meal in a home so filthy it would kill you. But we had to be polite, and ate while fighting off the flies. Everything tasted terrible!

We explained to Don Luis that we were in search of mushrooms and wanted a curandero (a witch doctor). Don Luis claimed not to understand about mushrooms or a mushroom rite. Since there are no roads into the mountain villages, and you can only get in and out by the most hazardous plane maneuvering between 7 and 11 in the morning because of the heavy fog, I decided to set out by foot up a mountain to the village of Yaitepec, where, I had been told, was a curandero. It was a tough two-hour hike (I took some films). When we got there everyone looked blank – mostly because they did not speak Spanish, and my translator did not know the Chatino language. So I decided to head off into the higher hills (elevation 10.000 feet) and look for mushrooms. I found a lot of them. The Indians who followed us seemed impressed.

We stayed up too long, and as we started down the steep trail it got dark and a cloudburst surprised us. As we slid and slithered down the mountainside Dean fell down several times, and once I thought she had broken her arm. But she was only badly bruised. How we made it down I will never know, but we did, bruised, battered, and bleeding. Somehow word of this trip had got around. It made Don Luis soften up, and he confided to us that he knew a curandero (called Brujo locally). He said he would make the arrangements the next day.

I got to bed on the stone floor at midnight, all pooped out from the long and hard day.

The next morning Don Luis was on the ball. He said there was a Brujo one-hour away on horseback, and he would accompany us to him. We set out at noon over the craziest rocky trail that you ever saw. It was worn by centuries of travel, and in places the trail was cut to a ditch twenty feet deep through solid rock by millions of feet and hooves. The country is straight up and down with beautiful pine forests on the heights, and coffee and banana fields in the valleys. There are many waterfalls, several hundred feet high. And all is green, green, and green again.

The Brujo, called Macedonio, turned out to be a 35 year old strong and handsome Chatino Indian. He said a white man had never seen the mushroom ceremony in his part of the world, but since God had sent us he would do the ceremony for us that night. He also gave his permission to have me film the ceremony. This meant that I had to go back to Juquila to get my equipment. I made it back on horseback in an hour, and hired two mules to carry the camera and gear. I got hit again by a tropical downpour, and sweated it out under the heavy rubber of my poncho. I returned by 6 p.m., with a really sore bottom, but with the equipment intact. Macedonio then gave us a special privilege of seeing where the sacred mushroom grows. Guess where? It grows in burro corrals, right out of the dung! I took a lot of photographs, and then headed back to Macedonio’s stone hut to unpack my cameras and load them. After that we were invited to have dinner The custom here is that when you are an honored guest you eat alone and everyone stands around and enjoys it. First a young girl kneaded some ground corn on a stone flat mortar, and then flattened the corn into a pancake with her hands. The tortilla (the corn pancake) was then placed on a flat clay plate and cooked over an open smoky wood fire. I felt that I was back in the days of the cave man. The dinner consisted of tortillas and poached eggs. There were no forks or spoons, the hands only! At 9 p.m. the ceremony started. The room was lit by one candle and filled with incense smoke. Deane decided to take the mushroom so that I could do the filming. The ceremony went fine, but had no effect on Deane because she vomited up the horrible tasting mushrooms as soon as she had eaten them. I hope that my film will turn out good so that you call see the ceremony. I recorded until 1 a.m. When everybody fell asleep I turned into my sleeping bag on the floor.

I was up at 6 a.m., packed my equipment onto the burros, and headed back for Juquila, where we arrived at 10 a.m. I was starved, having had no breakfast, and dirty. So first I asked for a hot bath. They said.. “Si, Si,” and led me two blocks down a wet and dirty street. I had to be careful not to step on mule, pig, and human refuse. There are no bathrooms here. There isn’t even piped water. So going potty is a matter of hiding behind a bush, and fighting off the flies. Washing is a matter of a tin basin, and no hot water except at the bath. The bath I was taken to turned out to be in a mud hut, where a lady kept a pot of water, heated on a wood fire. The bath itself was a horse trough of stone, used by anyone who wanted a bath for one peso. Talk about filth! But water is water so I stepped in. Now I have changed into clean clothes, and have borrowed Don Luis’ typewriter to talk to you.

When we arrived here, Deane’s husband had flown in to pick her up. She had to go home. So now I am alone with my Spanish dictionary, trying to communicate with Don Luis. A few moments ago he told me that he has found another Brujo. He is an old Indian named Valso who has some special large mushrooms that he gets from the mountains five hours away. Today is Saturday, and I made a deal with Don Luis for five pesos (40 cents) that this Valso will climb the mountain, collect the mushrooms, return here on Monday, and do a ceremony for me.

My present plan is to stay on here and see if I can’t work up to getting in on a good ceremony so that Johny Newland can come down here and make a movie.

So far I have not gotten any serious disease, outside of mosquito bites. I am steadily losing weight, because I only eat one meal a day, and hike a lot. But I feel fine, and cannot complain. It was slow getting started, but I finally found what I came here for.

There is no phone here, but you can send a telegram. I miss all of you lovely senoritas, and our nice clean home.

I have made arrangements with Deane and her husband in case anything happens to me (disease, accident, etc.) that they will fly in to get me out. So don’t worry, my luck holds good. Keep the home fires burning. All my love to you.”

When Andrija came home, he had not only lost 20 pounds, but also a wife. I had become sick and tired of “keeping the home fires burning” alone.

One month later, he was off again. The discovery of the “sacred” mushroom, and its effects had inspired Dr. James Dill, head of the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Washington to sponsor and partially finance a 14-man scientific expedition to Juquila. Dr. Dill, who did not personally accompany the expedition, said in an interview with the Seattle Post Intelligent that he was hopeful the mushroom might have possibilities in treatment of mental illness. His department was putting in for a special grant from the United States Public Health Service for a second expedition to continue the research in the pharmacological aspects of the mushroom. He suspected the mushroom to be the Psysilocyebes variety first discovered by Gordon Wasson several years ago. Included in the expedition were television series producer Collier Young and host-narrator-director John Newland. The “One Step Beyond Company” and the sponsoring Alcoa Corporation financed all the filming. Upon their return, and shortly before our son was born, the television crew descended on us in Carmel Meadows, to finaise the film. They jokingly promised to also film the birth of my child if the excitement caused a premature delivery. Fortunately my son stayed where he was.

The documentary – showing the expedition party locating the mushroom through a Mexican Brujo, and the E.S.P. tests before and after eating the mushroom, which were conducted at our home – was subsequently shown on ABC-TV’s “One Step Beyond.”

In 1961 the quest for the elusive mushroom continued. Risking the chance that I am boring the reader silly with all these mushroom stories, I must relate one more.

On the Mexican expedition Andrija had met David Bray, a seventy year old Hawaiian, who had joined the expedition to study the cultural similarities between Mexico and his native country. “Daddy” Bray, as he was called affectionately by all who knew him, was the High Priest of Hawaii, called a Kahuna. He was a lineal descendant from the first Kahuna, Pao-Pao, and endowed with enormous power. No building could be erected unless David ceremonially purified the ground, and no new building could be opened without his blessing. He was a small white-headed man, with compassionate dark brown eyes that seemed to be able to look right into your soul. When he came to visit us in Carmel. I could easily understand why Andrija had taken an immediate liking to him. He reminded me of Ram’s friend, Noni who had initiated me into the Hindu philosophy. In David I found again true spirituality.

Whether or not Andrija reaised that I had enough of his eternal absence I do not know. Fact is that I was invited to join him for a few days when he went to Hawaii on a mushroom hunt. Being the guest of the great Kahuna, and the friendly fun loving people of Hawaii was quite an experience. David took us to several of the islands and organized a luau in our honor. This is a feast of eating and dancing. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the volcano Kilauea for a ceremony for the fire Goddess, Pele. Because the ritual was strictly for full-blooded Hawaiians, we could not participate. We watched from a respectful distance. The ceremony was on behalf of Alice Kamokila Campbell who was the custodian of the ancient culture of Hawaii, and on one side of her family from the royalty of Hawaii.

David, Kamokila, and their friends stood on the edge of Kilauea crater and prayed to their Goddess Pele. David chanted in the ancient Hawaiian tongue, and the others gave response at the appropriate time. It was awe-inspiring.

The whole trip was like a belated honeymoon. And yes, we did find mushrooms! Or rather I did. We had been marching through dense jungle growth on the island of Kauai for several hours, when I was suddenly seized by an uncontrollable urge to rest for a minute. As I squatted, I couldn’t believe my eyes, because right in front of me were the mushrooms we had been looking for. In his journal Andrija writes: “Naturally it was Bep who found the hooded beauties for me. We found them purely by accident when she practically stumbled over them.”

The story that Andrija was initiated as a Kahuna, and asked to move to Hawaii to take over Daddy Bray’s role as the High Priest in due time, is new to me. Andrija never mentioned it. But then, he seldom mentioned anything to me.

It was therefore a complete surprise when he announced one evening in May that a group of New York businessmen had invested $300,000 in the hearing aid research, and set up Intelectron Corporation. With bills piled up high, this certainly was welcome news. That we had to move to New York made the girls and me less happy.

We moved in September 1961 to Ossining, Westchester. The house Andrija had bought was a large, ten-bedroom frame house on beautifully landscaped property. I loved the house and garden, but happy I was not. Again I was alone most of the time, running the big house and taking care of the children. We fought it out for another year and a half, but when he found another “Jane” I filed for temporary maintenance, and moved back to California. When two years later, in 1965 a reconciliation effort failed, I filed for divorce and left the United States with Yvonne and Andy.

Shortly after I had left for California, in 1963, Andrija accepted Henry Belk’s invitation to go to Brazil as a consultant to the Belk Research foundation. The purpose of the trip was to study the great Brazilian healer Arigo. In September of 1994 while visiting Andrija I saw a film that was made by Jorge Rizzini of this remarkable healer who performed major surgery on human beings without any anesthesia or antisepsis. He even used the same knife on each patient. I saw him plunge an ordinary kitchen knife into a man’s eyeball or his testicles, or into a woman’s abdomen. There was hardly any bleeding and the patients walked out of the room by themselves, sometimes with a prescription written by the uneducated civil servant man. A higher power, the spirit of a doctor called Fritz, who had died in 1918, guided him, he said. In the book “Uri” that Andrija had given me, I read that he had Arigo perform an operation on a tumor on his arm to prove to himself that he was not witnessing mass hallucinations. I had somehow missed it on the film. John G. Fuller’s book: Arigo, surgeon of the rusty knife, which he wrote, with the collaboration of Andrija, gives a good account of this “operation.”

“Puharich asked Arigo if he would undertake on his arm.

Arigo laughed and said, “Of course.” Then he turned abruptly to the crowd and asked, “Has anybody here got a good Brazilian pocketknife to use on this American?”

This brought Puharich up short, but he could not turn back. Half a dozen knives were proffered, and Arigo selected one. “The American scientist has courage,” he said good naturedly. “I am going to demonstrate to this materialist what a spirit can produce. Just roll lip your sleeve, doctor “

Puharich turned anxiously to see if Rizzini was ready with his camera. Then he steeled himself to watch Arigo make the incision. But Arigo commanded him to look the other way. Puharich obliged. In less than ten seconds he felt something wet slapped in his hand. He looked down and saw the bloody form of the lipoma. On his arm there was a one-half-inch slit with a bare trickle of blood dripping from it. The bulge of the lipoma was gone (it had been there for years, I can testify to that).

Puharich could hardly believe what had happened. There had been no pain, only a slight sensation in the arm. The others told him that Arigo had taken the knife, scraped it over the skin and pulled out the lipoma with his hands. Arigo had not washed or disinfected the skin or the knife. Yet Puharich was determined not to use antiseptics unless his arm became critically infected. He kept examining his arm, looking for the telltale red streaks of blood poisoning. There were none. Although Arigo had not used sutures, he couldn’t pull the wound apart.

When Puharich arrived in Sao Paulo five days later, he lost no time in going to Rizzini’s apartment, where they reran the movies of Puharich’ operation. The film established that the time from incision to the removal of the lipoma was five seconds. Arigo’s knife had moved so quickly that it was almost impossible to discern how he did it. If Puharich had not brought his lipoma back in a bottle, he would have suspected sleight of hand.”

At the time of Andrija’s death, the bottle was still on his desk.

When eight years later, in January 1971 Arigo was killed in a car crash, Congonhas do Campo, his hometown, came to a stop. The mayor declared two days of mourning. Flags flew at half-staff. People came from all over, by the thousands, to pay their last respects. Some said there were 15.000, some said 20.000. “Arigo is no more,” they said to themselves sadly.

The work of no other so-called “psychic surgeon” has ever been documented as thoroughly as that of Arigo. Arigo was unique; no proof of fraud has ever been uncovered. Andrija was convinced that Arigo had extraordinary powers in surgery, bacterial control, and anesthesia.


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