How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures
By Merlin Sheldrake | Published by Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 13, 2021)
I have always been fascinated by mushrooms.
I have taken many photographs of mushrooms growing out of dead logs in the forest. They seem to appear as if by magic after the rain.
I learned some time ago, through the work of Paul Stamets, that mushrooms are the fruit of a vast network of underground fungi.
In his book, Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake explores the mysterious and neglected world of fungi. It is a highly readable book and, according to the author, life on earth owes much of its thanks to fungi.
The fungi are incredible organisms that sustain nearly all living systems.
Fungi have in many ways shaped human history – giving us, their fruit (mushrooms), bread, alcohol, lifesaving medicines, and more.
Psychedelic mushrooms have been used for millennia by indigenous people. Just recently researchers have found them to be extremely successful in treating depression, addiction, and other psychiatric problems.
Fungi is a life form so strange – according to Sheldrake, fungi can…
- be microscopic and yet it can also be the largest living organism ever recorded.
- Iive for millennia and weigh tens of thousands of tons.
- digest rock
- survive in unprotected space and live amidst nuclear radiation.
- manipulate animal behavior and solve problems without a brain as we know it. This stretches the definition of intelligence. The experiments that have been done with it are fascinating.
- digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil, and these abilities are being used in breakthrough technologies. They can be used to make leather and can even be trained to form walls.
- connect plants in the “wood wide web.” This has been discussed in other books and elaborated in Entangled Life.
Fungi has changed the way we understand ecosystems.
Merlin Sheldrake details how fungi have a symbiotic relationship with plants and, in fact, enabled plants to live on land. They connect trees to other trees and plants allowing them to communicate with each other plus provide each other with nutrients.
Fungi can “see” and are more like animals than plants.
There are between 2.2 and 3.8 million species of fungi in the world, 6-10 the number of plants and over 90% are still undocumented.
The discoveries we are making about the potential of mushrooms seem to offer answers to many of the man-created problems on earth and provide much sought-after “hope.”
I highly recommend reading Entangled Life.