For the last 18 months or so, a new organization has been tabling on the sidewalk in San Francisco’s Castro District, distributing wisdom to passersby. Called the Church of Cosmic Consciousness, its gospel deals with an increasingly common path to spiritual growth: so-called magic mushrooms.
The church recently rented a brick-and-mortar on the corner of 18th and Ord streets, a few blocks uphill from rainbow flag-filled Castro Street.
It’s a bit different from the Bay Area’s other mushroom churches. The firmly established Zide Door, with locations in East Oakland and SoMa, is ambitious in scope and guarded by fearsome security. The Living Church, in an unmarked storefront on Post Street in the Tenderloin, is wary of publicity and more or less a place to buy edibles containing psilocybin, mushrooms’ psychoactive component.
The Church of Cosmic Consciousness, which opens Sunday, is—well, it’s churchier. It’s meant to be pastoral and aid residents of a neighborhood long afflicted by severe mental-health crises, as well as ordinary people with their ordinary-people problems.
Jade, 40, a self-described queer and neurodivergent person who uses pronouns interchangeably, is the church’s founder. He's the "Mushroom Pope,” as staffers put it. He was raised in a strict Christian environment, although his mother was something of a hippie. “Jade” was his name from birth.
“She gave me a square middle name, which I went by for quite a while,” he told The Standard. “And then one day, I realize, ‘I am not that. I am Jade—obviously.’”
His last name, he added, is “Edaj”—which is to say, “Jade” backward.
A multihyphenate in fields where few people dare compete, he built science fair-winning rockets and even a tattoo machine, later becoming a professional skydiver and base jumper before later owning a cannabis extract company in South San Francisco. In terms of Hogwarts houses, he's a Gryffindor, through and through.
He had a difficult upbringing, though, marked by abuse and the death of a close friend from cancer. At one point, Jade said, he harbored thoughts of suicide. In his 20s, he discovered psychedelics, including mushrooms but also peyote and LSD.
“I believe in psychedelics,” Jade said. “They’re my religion. They’re how I connect to a higher power.”
Naturally occurring psychedelics like so-called magic mushrooms have reached a pivotal moment.
At the federal level, they remain a Schedule I substance, meaning there’s no medically accepted usage and a high possibility of addiction. The classification has long struck some observers as capricious, as marijuana is also Schedule I, while cocaine is a less-restricted Schedule II and anabolic steroids are an even less-regulated Schedule III.
The picture is different at the local level.
Last year, San Francisco joined Oakland and other liberal jurisdictions nationwide in decriminalizing psilocybin. Earlier this month, though, Gov. Gavin Newsom ultimately vetoed state Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill to decriminalize plant-based psychedelics statewide. But even then, decriminalization isn’t legalization. It refers only to possession and use, not sales.
With two levels of government stacked against them, anyone operating in the world of psilocybin is, understandably, cautious. But there’s caution, and then there’s caution for someone who used to be paid to jump out of planes.
“I recently realized that if I’m in a herd of wildebeests crossing a river where there are crocodiles, I’m going to be one of the first three that are jumping in,” Jade said. “Like, 'Let’s go!'”
An entrepreneur whose extract company was raided at gunpoint, Jade sees similarities between cannabis and mushrooms, comparing the present moment to the period just before 1996’s Proposition 215, in which California voters allowed medicinal marijuana.
“I really hope that they get it right with this space, because while cannabis is important as a medicine, mushrooms have more potential to help mental health and spiritual growth,” he said. “Mushrooms can heal the world if it’s done right.”
Jade and the Church of Cosmic Consciousness, like many similar organizations, consider mushrooms to be a sacrament, something provided by the Earth itself that can be used for the benefit of its sentient and occasionally bummed-out inhabitants. Although he'll have a drink on special occasions, Jade draws a distinction between the use of psilocybin and the consumption of drugs like alcohol that are used for escapism.
Although it hasn’t had a space of its own until now, the Church of Cosmic Consciousness and its three volunteers have been around for over a year, tending to people’s needs, whether that be through daily microdosing or assisting in more intense trips from what are sometimes known as “heroic doses.” Some congregants have spoken to Jade about thoughts of taking their own lives. At least one member is in his 80s.
Joining is open to all. Approved members, and there are 2,000 so far, sign an agreement that allows them to donate to the church, whereupon they will be given sacrament. And although the church has infused-chocolate brands like White Lotus and Golden Teacher—along with “Mighty Penis,” because for some reason penis references are popular among edibles—the idea is more than just “Here’s your mushrooms. Next, please!”
There will be Sunday services, for example, and opportunities to volunteer. Jade hopes to feed the unhoused in some capacity and use mushrooms to help rewire the brains of people who are dealing with substance abuse.
“The world is hard,” he said. “It’s hard to be a human. And not to downplay, you know, regular people, but marginalized people—people of color, queer people—we just get shit on so hard.”
Opening oneself up to the community can present thorny problems, of course.
So far, the neighbors seem cool with the idea of a mushroom church in their midst, but residents’ tolerance levels for people in the throes of crisis may vary. More to the point, one person’s sanctuary may no longer feel like a safe space if it’s disrupted by an individual battling addiction—even if that individual’s need for help is far greater.
Jade is candid that the church staff are neither doctors nor psychiatrists, and there must be rules.
“If someone’s not respectful, they’re fucking out,” he said. “I’ll have no problem excommunicating someone.”
So the mechanics of outreach will have to figure themselves out as people join up for their psychoactive fishes and hallucinogenic loaves.
“The point is to give away knowledge and give away mushrooms,” Jade said. “That’s what I’m here for.”
Astrid Kane can be reached at email@example.com