Maya del Mar's Daykeeper Journal: Astrology, Consciousness and Transformation
In Association with

APRIL 2006

by Maya del Mar

Mycelium Running—How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. 2005.

Indeed, mushrooms CAN help save the world. Not only can they help save the world, but they are a crucial lynchpin in making the world. Paul Stamets explains how in this amazing book.

I first heard Paul Stamets, the “mushroom man,” on KPFA radio, my personal university (KPFA can be heard online at, some years ago. I was very impressed then with his vision and knowledge.

Then again this year on the morning of my birthday, February 7, KPFA broadcast a tape of Paul’s last talk at the San Francisco Greens Festival. He told of his current research on the ecological healing properties of mushrooms, which are immense. It is absolutely ground-breaking, extraordinarily valuable, work, and I am very excited by these possibilities. He mentioned his new book, and I wanted it.

Later that day I was with two of my children, Susan and Clarke, at the magical Ferry Building in San Francisco, where gourmet and organic food are featured. We all appreciate good food, and have fun browsing and sampling of this treasure chest of abundance. Finally, at the end of our day, we came across a wild mushroom shop, oozing with interest and loving care. Lo and behold, on the counter was a stack of books—Mycelium Running. I had earlier told Sue and Clarke about my excitement at mushroom possibilities, and they immediately bought the book for me—a very precious birthday gift.

The book is thick, with much information and many full color photos. Every page is packed with interest, revelations, useful teachings, and beauty. Any reader, no matter how casual, will come away with a new awareness of the richness and value of the mycelial world, which is a partner in nearly all plant growth processes.

Mycelia are what one might call the rooting bodies of fungi. They are very fine threads which run throughout the world’s soils. From them sprout the fruiting bodies, which we call mushrooms. Paul calls this network “the mycelial mind” and describes it as the ecological Internet, connecting all of life, and passing important messages and nutrients. He believes that mycelia operate at a level of complexity far beyond our most advanced supercomputers.

We pay little attention to this microscopic world. Paul tells us that there are more species of fungi, bacteria, and protozoa in a single scoop of soil than there are plants and vertebrate animals in all of North America. And of these, he says, fungi are the grand recyclers of our planet, the mycomagicians disassembling large organic molecules into simpler forms, which in turn nourish other members of the ecological community. Fungi, he says, are the interface between life and death.

I am reminded of a book by Terrence McKenna which I read perhaps 30 years ago, in which he postulated that life on earth began with fungus spores which came from outer space. In fact, Paul now predicts a future International Journal of Astromycology.

“The activities of mycelium help heal and steer ecosystems on their evolutionary path, cycling nutrients through the food chain. As land masses and mountain ranges form, successive generations of plants and animals are born, live, and die. Fungi are keystone species that create ever-thickening layers of soil, which allow future generations of plants and animals to flourish. Without fungi, all ecosystems would fail.”

With every step we take on field or forest floor, “we walk upon these vast sentient networks.” I wonder: how do we interrupt this vital flow of communication when we asphalt and cement our land?

Mycelium are constantly on the move, says Paul. They can travel up to several inches in a day. From instant to instant, they are aware of their environment, and react to it. They decompose and recycle debris, filter microbes and sediment from runoff, and restore soil.

Paul himself is demonstrating how mushrooms can not only destroy toxins in the environment, but can transform those toxins to edible nutrients. They can also filter and prevent disease carried by soil, such as infectious stapholococci. He calls this mycorestoration.

Paul devotes a long chapter to exactly how to set this process in motion, including the varieties of mushrooms which might work in different situations. He has sections on mycofiltration, mycoforestry, microremediation, and mycopesticides. Mushrooms can and do perform any aspect of ecological healing.

They also heal disease situations in humans. Mushrooms are a major part of the medical arsenal of the Orient. Paul illustrates many of the medicinal mushrooms, and tells us which ones are helpful for which problems. He lives in a mushroom-rich area, the damp northwest coast of the United States. I believe all of his photos are of mushrooms in that area.

Paul tells us exactly how to grow mycelia and mushrooms, using detailed descriptions and diagrams. With this level of instruction, it is work that anyone could do. I would suggest that anyone with some land should work with these healing processes.

Some of the comments about Mycelium Running are

“A paradigm-changing book. Stamets’s visionary insights are leading to a whole new understanding of how mushrooms, scarcely seen and rarely appreciated, regulate the earth’s ecosystems.” John Todd, president of Ocean Arks Internaional.

“This visionary and practical book should be an instant classic in the emerging science of how to use nature’s fecundity and wisdom to rescue the earth and ourselves from the unwelcome consequences of human cleverness.” Armory B. Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“Stamets’s best work to date, Mycelium Running provides a wealth of information showing how fungal mycelia and mushrooms can profoundly improve the quality of human life. Should be mandatory reading for government policy makers.” S.T. Chang, professor emeritus, Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Mycelium Running is a manual for the mycological rescue of the planet. Growing more mushrooms may be the best thing we can do to save the environment. In this groundbreaking text from Paul Stamets, you’ll find out how.” Publisher’s note.

Paul Stamets has been a dedicated mycologist for over 30 years. He has written five books, many articles and papers, and received many honors for his work. He is a fine photographer, as well as a good writer.

Reading this book will open your mind, enrich your life, and give you hope for the future health of poor, beleaguered earth.

Mycelium Running is a landmark book.