Something extraordinary happens when you fuse two distinct elements into one—the greatest of discoveries arising from the merging of seemingly opposing forces. On one side is the scientific, the measured, the collective, and on the other side is the spiritual, the intuitive, the subjective lived experience.
With growing complexity, it becomes more apparent that juxtaposition is an illusion. The relationship between science and spirituality has a long and complex history, but they once were fundamentally viewed as the same field, founded on humanity’s curiosity about the inherent mysteries of the universe.
When it comes to psychedelics, they certainly bend all boundaries by merging the mundane with the sacred, dissolving the borders between mind and body, and showing us that science and spirituality are deeply intertwined.
Considering the topic of psilomethoxin, this controversial and elusive psychedelic substance is increasingly garnering attention, but what exactly is it, and why does there seem to be such a lack of consensus on the medicinal chemistry of this substance?
This article, as part of our guest series–The Psychedelic Connect, covers our interview with Greg Lake, co-founder of the Church of Psilomethoxin. In the past few weeks, this psilomethoxin community has come under some fair public scrutiny for allegedly spreading misinformation about the novelty of this compound.
We explore the legality, history, and very recently emerged scientific research surrounding this mysterious compound. What claims is the Church of Psilomethoxin under fire for?
Does the discovery of psilocybin in this compound change the narrative surrounding the compound? Before we review and unearth current events surrounding psilomethoxin, we should preface this story with a brief recap on this article’s timeline.
Preface: The Timeline For This Article
We would like to begin by addressing the series of events that took place during the creation of this report. We first reached out to the Church’s lead oracle and co-founder, Greg Lake, for an interview about psilomethoxin and the Church’s insights and approach to what they deem to be their sacrament–psilomethoxin.
In preparation for our interview with Lake and in the beginning stages of writing this piece, we utilized the Church’s website as a reference and source of information. Post-interview and pre-publication of this article, a scientific analysis by Usona Institute was released on April 12th regarding the Church’s sacrament, essentially challenging the legitimacy and sincerity of the Church.
A response to the study was subsequently released by the Church, though it no longer exists on their website. We will be covering recent developments regarding the scientific analysis and the Church’s response, as well as providing a comprehensive general review of psilomethoxin’s origins.
We would like to state that we (Psychedelic Passage) are dedicated to providing unbiased resources and information about psychedelics, and this article is intended to purely inform those who are psychedelic-curious.
The Ongoing Mysteries & Origins of Psilomethoxin
In 1965, Marc Julia and colleagues at Pasteur Institute documented a ten-step synthesizing process involving extracting ortho-vanillin from the Mexican vanilla orchid, which created the novel compound known as ‘psilomethoxin’.
Researchers at Pasteur Institute went on to patent psilomethoxin in spite of never creating and bioassaying a pure reference sample of their discovery, and that patent later became inactive after a few decades.
Years later in the early 2000s, Alexander Shulgin, often called the “godfather of psychedelics”—and for good reason given his discovery and study of over 230 psychoactive compounds—posited an easier synthesizing method.
Shulgin theorized that psilomethoxin (4-HO-5-MeO-DMT), could be synthesized by combining 5-MeO-DMT with psilocybin mushroom substrate, specifically using cow dung. This brings us to the Church of Psilomethoxin and its founders, who have presumably claimed to synthesize this novel compound as a sacrament for its members.
On the Church’s website, you formerly could find the story of how one founder, Ian Benouis, was inspired during an ayahuasca ceremony to mix magic mushrooms with DMT for reasons unbeknownst to him at the time.
Shortly after, the Church’s founder came across Shulgin’s theory on synthesizing psilomethoxin which aligned with his own revelations during an entheogen ceremony, and the Church was thus founded on this inspiration.
A Brief Look at The Molecular Makeup of Psychedelic Compounds
Before diving further into the recent events that transpired between the Church and Usona Institute, we will include an outline of the fascinating molecular structures of the psychedelic substances referenced in this article.
While we promise to keep it short and sweet, it may be helpful to understand how psychedelics work in the brain and the similarities between many of the most popular mind-altering substances.
Notably, tryptamine—a metabolite of tryptophan—is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is why particular psychedelics are known as ‘serotonergic’, because they interact with the serotonin receptors.
- A tryptamine agonist and naturally occurring, endogenous hallucinogen found in humans and a wide variety of animals and plants
- Can be extracted from certain plants and toad species to induce a psychedelic effect via smoking, insufflating, or ingesting
- Vaporizing DMT is required to feel its effects when taken alone
- Sometimes called the “god molecule”
- Is not found endogenously in the human body and is more rarely found in the natural world
- While it appears structurally similar to DMT, the two have differing experiential effects with DMT being reported as more visual whereas its 5-methoxy counterpart is said to be less visual and more sensorial
Psilocin (4-HO-DMT or 4-Hydroxy-Dimethyltryptamine)
- A tryptamine agonist found in psychedelic “magic” mushrooms
- Converted from psilocybin once ingested
MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor)
- Prevents the degradation of DMT when ingested orally
- When ingesting DMT, it must be taken with an MAOI to make the DMT orally active
- Can also be found in a wide variety of plant species
- The ayahuasca vine is an MAOI-containing plant like banisteriopsis caapi, and is combined with a DMT-containing plant like psychotria viridis
- Also considered to be an effective class of antidepressants but used less frequently than SSRIs today
- The 4-hydroxy counterpart to methoxylated DMT or the 5-methoxy counterpart of the active compound in magic mushrooms
- Psilomethoxin is the theoretical love child between psilocin and 5-MeO-DMT
- Paraded as being an ingestible, orally active form of DMT
Interviewing Church of Psilomethoxin’s Co-Founder, Greg Lake
Founded in November of 2021, the Church of Psilomethoxin’s creators decidedly sought to provide members with access to their chosen sacrament, 4-HO-5-MeO-DMT. Their website previously claimed to combine “phalaris grass derived amino acid metabolites” with magic mushroom substrate to synthesize psilomethoxin.
Goals and Processes of The Church of Psilomethoxin
According to our interview with Lake, a desire to heal humanity’s relationship with the planet—a relationship ruined by the separation of science and religion—deeply inspires the Church and its members.
This theme of weaving together “science and medicine with spirit and nature” through cooperating and working with researchers and scientific studies was something both the website and Lake prioritized to mention.
In our time speaking with co-founder Lake, he expressed that one of the Church’s main goals is to create a pure reference sample which will then open doors for observational studies and clinical trials.
“We have a very prestigious university here in the United States who filed to participate in these observational studies… I trust absolutely in their discretion…our hope is that once we master these other methods of producing psilomethoxin that we can bring it to GMP and be able to engage in real clinical trials.”
The Church reportedly remains active through Sunday services, offering preparation, integration, and general support around the sacrament, and managing an “emergency integration line for spiritual crisis”, according to Lake.
Application for membership requires a vetting process, which primarily revolves around the sincerity of applicants and safety screening, but Lake did welcome both secular and spiritual approaches to the sacrament.
With a $55 annual membership fee and the price of the sacrament (which is reportedly $175 for a half ounce and $300 for a full ounce according to anonymous reports), you can have access to a novel psychedelic substance.
Usona Institute’s Findings in “Fungi Fiction” & The Church’s Response
In this section, we will cover Williamson and Sherwood’s 2023 analysis, Fungi Fiction: Analytical Investigation Into the Church of Psilomethoxin’s Alleged Novel Compound Using UPLC-HRMS. Their testing was intended to “determine whether the Church’s claims are substantiated by scientific data or if the material is merely a mix of known tryptamines or other compounds.”
The Usona researchers claimed that materials were “obtained from the Church of Psilomethoxin through a donation from an anonymous church member.” Some of their other claims regarding methodology included that the materials were protected from environmental damage prior to analysis and that no competing financial interests were at play.
Overall, in-depth details for preparation, tools, and processes were specified in their analysis, but according to the Church, their methodology was lacking in quality and thoroughness.
According to the Church, the scientific article was, firstly, not peer reviewed by reputable institutions, and secondly, conducted by two people associated with a for-profit organization, which to them is an indication of foul play.
“Enough is enough. It is time to start holding these ‘scientists’ to a higher standard of scientific integrity and rigor,” they said in their response. The Church also raised concerns surrounding the sourcing and legitimacy of the testing sample, but the bulk of their response regarding methodology had to do with the lack of a pure reference sample.
The primary issue of testing methods seems to be regarding the Church’s stance on psilomethoxin as “non-volatile, polar, and thermally labile and therefore a poor candidate for testing,” according to their website.
This means that the Church deems psilomethoxin to be untestable without alternative testing methods than the standard, as well as needing a prior reference sample to compare the standard material.
Other less destructive methods of testing are being explored by the Church, however, it is unclear why psilomethoxin would be subject to special testing when other natural mushroom compounds are visible through these methods.
The Church’s claim that a reference sample is needed for testing is, to some, inaccurate, given that 4-HO-5-MeO-DMT can presumably be detected with or without some standardization of potency in a reference sample.
Research Findings, Conflicting Claims, & Criticisms: Science vs. Religion
The study found no psilomethoxin in the testing material, but “known tryptamines and other natural products expected to be present in dried Psilocybe mushrooms,” such as psilocybin and psilocin were found.
Luckily, the researchers also found “no indication of the presence of adulterating substances within the sample”, suggesting that the sacrament’s unique effects couldn’t be from adulteration.
They concluded that the distinct effects are a result of a mixture of normal sensory elements from low doses of psychedelic mushroom compounds and the placebo effect, from users being told it is distinct from other substances.
According to the researchers, the Church is “engaging in misleading marketing practices and may be misrepresenting the material that they are distributing.” From the Church’s perspective, they have “never at any time, laid claim to the fact that psilomethoxin has ever been positively identified in its sacrament” and are founded on faith and individual, direct experiences.
The Church propped up this idea of science versus religion, stating that the institution and researchers are trying to “monetize and control” psychedelic usage and that scientists have frequently targeted religious entities.
Historically speaking, the world has seen far more religious constraints on scientific exploration than the other way around, and this mentality contradicts their sentiments of melding science and religion.
However, the study’s claims of a public health and safety risk may be a stretch given the many scientific research studies that suggest psilocybin and other psychedelics are safe, with the exception of adulterated substances.
If their sacrament does contain psilocybin, as the study indicates, it would, however, be putting members at legal risk with the presence of illegal substances, which were previously claimed to be missing in their sacrament except for trace amounts. In our interview with Lake, he said:
“Our position has always been that there’s no reference sample…but we do alkaloid profiles and see trace to no psilocybin, trace to no psilocin…so you take it, you feel it, and then you…add two and two together. Our position is that it’s actually psilomethoxin we’re feeling.” —Greg Lake
When it comes to their claims surrounding if psilomethoxin is actually present in their sacrament, there seems to be dissonance between what is explicitly stated and what is heavily insinuated.
According to the Church, they don’t test their sacrament aside from bioassay (taste-testing essentially), and rely entirely on faith that the psilomethoxin is present while heavily implying and suggesting a foundation of legitimacy. Once again, this statement can no longer be found on their site, as the landing page now leads to a 404 redirect.
Psilomethoxin’s Effects: Altered Perception and Spiritual Insights
Psilomethoxin is said to produce a distinct and unique set of effects in comparison with other psychedelics like magic mushrooms and traditional sources of 5-MeO-DMT (which it is supposedly derived from).
According to many users, the intensity and duration are different from mushrooms and “normal” DMT experiences, in that psilomethoxin exhibits a milder intensity and slightly extended duration.
A residual article on their website says, “Why with Psilomethoxin there is no pupil dilation, heart rate changes, changes in blood pressure, tremor or nausea, whereas all of these are common responses with psilocybin.” However, according to an anonymous source, their experience was ironically quite the opposite:
“I felt the onset was much quicker than a typical psilo[cybin] journey, and the comedown was quick as well. But otherwise it felt just like regular psilo[cybin]; same side effects for me—icy cold extremities, dinner-plate sized pupils, clammy hands, temp[erature] regulation all over the place.” —Psilomethoxin User
In a past article, we discussed how long each psychedelic experience lasts, but the duration of the Church’s sacrament is said to more closely resemble psilocybin mushrooms, according to Greg Lake’s statements in our interview.
Lake attested that journeyers report far fewer visual elements during a psilomethoxin journey, with the effects being described as more internal, spiritual, and energetic with a long afterglow.
Notably, according to the Church’s old website, psilomethoxin does not generate tolerance with use, which, according to Lake, is attributed to “A1 modulators creating less tolerance than A2 modulators.”
If this is true, it could enable more frequent microdosing and ceremonial use, while, in contrast, psilocybin requires a set schedule of consumption while taking sufficient days off from dosing to prevent tolerance buildup.
Interestingly, Lake suggested during our interview with him that psilocybin may be a more effective psychedelic in treating trauma and overcoming “energetic roadblocks,” while psilomethoxin is more of an everyday spiritual practice.
The researchers’ statement which purported that the distinctive effects of this psychedelic are most likely a result of placebo effect, is unscientifically founded so far, and while conflicting reports have been made, many users firmly believe it is a distinct feeling.
Furthermore, Lake said, “Of course something that is addressing you spiritually is going to manifest benefits on both the mental and physical planes.” Entheogens certainly have profound and transformative effects on personality and spirituality, but when it comes to psilomethoxin, the jury is still out.
Psilomethoxin Legality and The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, psilocybin mushrooms and dimethyltryptamine were both classified as Schedule I substances, but 5-MeO-DMT wasn’t categorized until 2011.
As new designer drugs and variations of substances emerge, there is a gray area surrounding whether or not unscheduled, but similar psychedelic substances are illegal. In a past article, we cover the legality of psychedelic medicine.
In the case of psilomethoxin, it has yet to be added to the scheduling, and the members of the Church are certainly hoping and anticipating for it to stay that way. Adding amino acid metabolites sourced from DMT-containing phalaris grass with psychedelic mushroom substrate is an interesting way to get around possession of illegal substances throughout the production process.
Furthermore, Lake claimed that the Church has conducted testing on their mushroom bodies and proven that little to trace amounts of psilocybin were present in the alkaloid profiles.Even more interesting is the Churches’ appeal to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, in which religious practices are protected by and from the federal government.
There have certainly been other churches who’ve tried to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to legally use and produce psychedelic substances. Firstly, psilomethoxin has yet to be classified under the Controlled Substances Act, and their sacrament’s legal standing hinges on whether or not normal amounts of psilocybin and DMT are present in materials.
Secondly, the progressive changes in policy surrounding legalizing therapeutic psychedelics may potentially supersede any government crackdown on the Church, which could be an unlikely advantage to them.
Primary Religious Mystical Experiences: Classifying Sacraments
A key element in founding a religious organization on a psychedelic substance as a sacred tool is this idea of the primary religious mystical experience. Understanding that the therapeutic, physical, and emotional effects can’t be separated from the spiritual, transcendent changes in consciousness is a core belief when deciding that mind-altering substances can be a sacrament.
As Greg Lake highlights, even in clinical spaces like John Hopkins Center for Psychedelic Research, where psychedelics are being studied under medical and clinical pretenses, a vast majority of users come away with profound spiritual insight and change (Griffiths et al., 2006).
Lake goes on to talk about how psychedelics are commonly ranked in the top 5 most meaningful experiences of people’s lives who have dared to take a journey. This seems to be their primary justification for using a psychedelic compound as a sacrament, and this part of their claim is entirely reasonable.
This claim zooms the issue out to the general topic of psychedelics as a spiritual tool. Harkening to William James’ Varieties of Religious Experiences, if psychedelic mystical experiences don’t constitute a primary religious mystical experience, we don’t know what does.
Recent Developments: The Church’s Response to This Article
As announced in the Church’s recent event and as shared with us by Greg Lake after this article was published, the Church intends to go back to their original name “Church of The Sacred Synthesis” as they continue to work on “other sacred synthesis methods working in conjunction with nature”.
Lake also shares that the Church recently hired a Head of Sacred Sciences who “has been and is now in the process of creating us a reference sample and experimenting with different biosynthetic methods”.
Lake says that their intention is “to not only confirm the presence of PM (psilomethoxin) in our sacrament, but to also understand and explain the exact biosynthetic process which occurs inside the mycelium to produce Psilomethoxin and perhaps other novel tryptamines of which we are unaware.”
Within the next three months, the Church expects to have a registered reference sample that’s confirmed by a third party, in addition to an explanation of the biosynthetic pathways.
Psychedelic Passage is dedicated to providing unbiased information about scientific research and reports on entheogenic substances. This article is not intended to defame the Church of Psilomethoxin nor discredit the scientific claims made against them, but rather to provide a review of the events surrounding the mysterious psilomethoxin.
The conflict between the Church’s faith-based perspective and scientific evidence highlights the importance of integrity, transparency, and accountability in this budding psychedelic industry.
Though the Church of Psilomethoxin founds itself on religious perspective, the core of its service is inextricably tied to claims that psilomethoxin is unique and distinct from other known tryptamines–a claim that is not backed up by any credible scientific research.
Any organization, religious or otherwise, who publicly claims the novelty of a psychedelic compound, should be held to the same ethical standards of all other food and drug-related services. Thus, as psychedelic services continue to evolve in our western culture, it’s important that high-authority sources of information remain in integrity with all languages of Truth.
If an entity positions themselves at the intersection of spirituality and psychedelic science, they should also take on the personal responsibility of distributing accurate information.
The continued development and rise of this industry is dependent on complete transparency. Misrepresentation and the omission of information can pose both medical and legal risk, which underscore the need for clear communication and collaboration between different stakeholders in the industry.
We encourage psychedelic seekers to utilize discretion and caution when sourcing and personally experimenting with the benefits of psychedelic compounds. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, we empower you to conduct further research.
Reddit.com is a great resource for accessing ongoing dialogue on psilomethoxin. Though users mostly post anecdotal accounts, we find that analyzing a topic from the perspective of multiple individuals helps us paint a more unified picture of public consensus.
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Whether it is your first time discovering medicinal psychedelics (in which case, check out our step by step guide) or you are a seasoned psychonaut, check out our resources page for more information on psychedelic topics.
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