Book review · Nonfiction · psychology · Reading · Uncategorized

A most unusual read

I recently repainted this faded garden gnome. I hadn’t realized at the time these fairytale mushrooms were probably Amanita muscaria.

Before reading a book about Jeremy Downs’ near-death experience, I couldn’t have told you anything about Amanita muscaria mushrooms. And yet my outdoor garden gnome sat among them all this time. They were featured in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  The Smurfs made houses out of them, too. I lived on unaware that I had any knowledge of what seemed like red-and-white-dotted, fairytale mushrooms.

In “Stumbling Toward The Sacred: An Unexpected Journey to Personally Knowing God,” Jeremy tells the story of his near-death experience from ingesting Amanita muscaria and the spiritual impact it made on his life. Archangel Ink provided this description of the book that comes out Monday, Sept. 26, 2022:

Taken from the website.

“Jeremy Downs had the life he was “supposed” to [have]: a great job, security, all of the comforts he ever dreamed of, and a beautiful family. But still something was missing….
He wanted a spiritual encounter, something that rocketed him beyond religious rites and rituals. He wanted to quit hearing about the power of God and actually experience it.

An accidental overdose nearly killed him but put him face-to-face with his Creator. In his book, Downs describes what he saw and heard during this unexpected encounter as well as what he learned in the days that followed.”

Jeremy wanted to try these mushrooms to enhance his creativity, but he also wanted to experience something more spiritually. He bought Amanita muscaria and ingested the recommended amount. When he didn’t notice any results, he consumed more. And then he did the unthinkable: he ingested the entire purchase — two large bags — but for one cap.

In a stupor, Jeremy remembered lying down to sleep. The psychoactive mushrooms took effect. He believed he felt the presence of God communicating with him, even though he stared into darkness. He thought he traveled through the Cosmos, or space, where the Creator showed him the beginnings of creation. Near death, Jeremy felt a kind of amnesia take over. He forgot the world, his life, and the people in it for a time before coming back to life.

The amount Jeremy ingested should have killed him. I believed his interpretation of God releasing his physical body from his spirit as he neared death. Jeremy had a sense that everything in his life didn’t matter. Those sounded like accurate interpretations.

While I believed parts of his story, I could see another interpretation unfolding as I read. Jeremy didn’t see what he revealed to readers in his narrative. That made for interesting reading.

He dreamed he saw a hallway with doors, and in one room, he saw his daughter sitting. I thought he mentally saw these things, but he then he talk about his physical body also on the move through his house. The mushrooms had altered his sense of reality.

Jeremy theorized later that another spirit entered his body while he communed with God in the Cosmos. I thought, Dude, it could have been a demon. I didn’t want to go there though. Those mushrooms played a number on his mind. I’m think his lucid dream turned into sleepwalking. (I thought of Celina Spookyboo. She has videos of her sleepwalking adventures. I think she has these episodes when she eats cheese.)

But when he described walking down a hallway and seeing inside rooms, he triggered a memory of something I had forgotten. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung dreamed about a house while he slept during a 1909 voyage to the U.S. He knew the house to be his and upon waking interpreted this as an image of his psych. The different stories of the house symbolized different layers or areas of the subconscious mind. I applied that interpretation to make sense of what Jeremy experienced while under the influence.

After reading this first part of Jeremy’s story, I had to look up Amanita muscaria. (Yes, I went down my own rabbit hole.) I drove members of my family crazy with all the information I found on this mycorrhiza, or fungus-root. Some good sources were, BBC news, Wikipedia and YouTube’s StoneAgeMan. I read this article from The National Center for Biotechnology Information site about a man who accidentally ingested this mushroom thinking it was Amanita caesarea, an edible mushroom. Users experience central nervous system dysfunction and experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, euphoria, space distortion, a lack of a sense of time, or worse, delirium and come. In severe cases, death. People under the influence pose a harm to themselves and others while in this altered state. These effects can last several days.

Jeremy said days later while jogging this “Being” he identified as the Holy Spirit spoke to him about writing down this story and sharing spiritual truths with others. He started with the first step to knowing God, which he believed is to know and appreciate creation and our place in it. I wanted to hear Jeremy’s personal conversion story instead. He didn’t talk about the events surrounding that moment he accepted Christ’s invitation. He did say Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection makes a relationship with God possible; he just didn’t share the Gospel. He didn’t tell readers how to accept that gift of salvation. He buried the lead.

Salvation in Christ is the prerequisite for the gift of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Jeremy seemed drawn to the work of the Holy Spirit, but he presented an inaccurate description of Him as a “Being” or “It.” God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are God in three persons, so their pronouns are all “He.”

Jeremy felt like he had a sudden understanding of words and phrases in scripture like “the fear of the Lord,” “temptation,” “sin,” and “idolatry.” He said people used those words to pervert their meaning and control the behavior of others. The religious explanations he talked about made me think he grew up Catholic. He explained these terms though from his own human perspective for the most part, instead of studying the Bible to find those definitions in scripture.

One example is the term “sin.” He said sin is separation from God. He’s not wrong, but sin will separate us for eternity if we don’t make the decision to follow Jesus as our Savior. Jeremy said we can figure out how close we are to God based on the measure of our sinfulness. Without Jesus Christ taking our place, we would never be close to God. Christ bore the sins of humanity at the cross so we would live and have right-standing with God. Christians will still sin, but because we accepted Christ, we no longer live with sin’s condemnation. See this answer from Got Questions and check out Romans 8.  

Jeremy no doubt had a lucid dream and nearly died, but how much of what he experienced truly came from a benevolent source? Why did he see darkness and not light if he thought he was in the presence of Almighty God? How much of what he believed he heard came from a man-centered gospel vs. the true Gospel? When I started reading Jeremy’s spiritual insights, I recalled 1 John 4:1 and said:

“Jeremy needed to test the spirits.”

That experience with mushrooms may have landed Jeremy in another realm he didn’t consider. I think he experienced that spiritual battle that goes on unseen while he hovered near-death. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul wrote about this spiritual battlefield. In that same chapter, he alluded to the description of God’s armor in Isaiah 59:17-20 and provided this object lesson no doubt using the armor he saw on the guards around him. Jeremy’s needed to test the spirits and don God’s armor…and definitely dig into scripture and run these spiritual insights through a Bible filter.

What I wish Jeremy had written:

I wish he’d written a memoir or even a fictional story based on his experience. I did read an advance copy that may change by the time it is published. I found the first part of his story interesting, especially the reactions from first responders. But his story is unfinished. I would have liked to have read about the conversations he had with his wife and his father who were there that night. He talked to coworkers who had a similar experience with psychoactive mushrooms. He could have included their stories as well to make sense of his own experience that way — he still can. He talked to a psychologist, but did he talk to anyone else, like a pastor or a counselor?

I would not categorize this book as one helpful for spiritual growth, nor as a Bible study. Jeremy’s arguments needed a stronger biblical foundation. I’m a believer and Bible student, and his inaccurate interpretations of various scriptures bothered me. I would read and track with verses Jeremy referred to in order to make his arguments, but then I would see his thinking rerouted. He’d come to the wrong conclusions. Bottom line, he needed to read the scriptures in context and study the Bible before presenting spiritual insights.

Thank you, Archangel Ink , for sending me this early draft of Jeremy’s work to read and review. I do like to support new writers. For more information about this book, go to this site to preorder. I did enjoy my internal dialogue with Jeremy, so you may as well. He’s an interesting narrator for sure. I wished he’d had a Christian mentor to read this book first. Someone who could share scriptural truths that would set Jeremy on the right path and truly change his life.


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