At Psychedelic Times we often highlight scientists, therapists, and authors in the psychedelic space, but today we will take a journey into the aesthetic and sublime realms via music. Tim Ferson is the kaleidoscopic genius behind OM Collective, and has lived in voluntary hermit-hood for nine years to bring about a vision that is mystically inspired and aurally served. The OM Collective project, as Tim describes in recipe form, is as such: “Throw 20 wooden instruments in a blender along with the Bible, the Upanishads, the Dhammapada, the Tao Te Ching, 3g of psilocybin mushrooms, plus a sprinkle of fairy dust, and you’ve got OM Collective.” We spoke with Tim about religion, music, magic mushrooms, and the power of all three to unify human beings.
Readers are strongly encouraged to simultaneously become listeners via the embedded YouTube songs.
Thanks for speaking with us, Tim. Tell us about OM Collective!
OM Collective is basically an homage to the influence that my first psilocybin experience had, and continues to have, on my life. In my own personal mythology, I have a trinity of three deities: one of them is is psilocybin, the next one is music, and the third one is the feminine. Each of those three things has had equal and unimaginable influence on my life, and I’m trying to combine them all into what OM Collective is, and to bring their teachings in the form of music.
I think there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, can’t experience psilocybin or some other plant teacher, and who aren’t open to fully receiving the messages of the feminine. I was like that to begin with: I wasn’t open-minded or open-hearted enough to receive any of that, but when I did, it was the most nourishing experience of my life. So I thought for a long time about how to translate that energy and feed it into those closed beings, and music is just like the sneakiest undercover agent. Through music, you can send messages to people that they would normally not accept into their being. That was the beginning of OM Collective.
So it started as really music-focused, until last year when I had my first experience with ayahuasca. Mama Aya was just like “You have taken this far into the realms of sound, but you need to bring yourself back to the root and why you’re here, and it’s the plants. You need to be doing more direct work with the plants.” And after I got that message, which was a bit of an encouragement but also a bit of a spank, I started reassessing what OM Collective was, and that it shouldn’t just be giving people sounds- it should be more direct work with plants and fungi. This is the first time that I am saying this anywhere, so I’m still a little bit nervous about it, but I’ve got to represent, and I’m hoping to be an ambassador in some form.
In the long term, I see a world where psilocybin is represented not just by ambassadors like me, but by people like Katherine MacLean and white-lab-coat-wearing folk who have a lot of say in what people accept as medical solutions to psychological health problems. I read recently that Oregon, Colorado and California have initiatives to legalize psilocybin, so coming into that world I can imagine this vision more seriously. OM Collective could operate as a psychedelic psychotherapy hub, where music therapy and psychedelic psychotherapy commingle. I can’t get out of my head what I heard Dennis McKenna say recently, that these plants are the single most effective agents for changing consciousness on a global level. I need to be a part of that.
Beautiful. So, OM Collective is more than a band, it’s more than a musical effort- it is also direct work with these plants and fungi, and that’s what you’re envisioning.
Yeah, and to expand on that, I think of my life as an opportunity to receive gifts from the universe, and from that opportunity, it’s my responsibility to multiply those gifts outward in as many forms as possible. So I’ve just got to stay completely tuned in and open-minded as to how to translate those gifts and multiply them out to as many people as possible. If that means music because music is so widespread and accessible, I think that’s always going to play a big part, but even more powerful is direct experience with the plants. I’ve been open to receiving that message, and OM Collective is going to expand in that way, and who knows in what other ways in the future? Based on that, I turned OM Collective into a charity last year. Originally I was thinking “How can I monetize this gift and my passion for music?” but now I’m seeing things as “I’m receiving this gift because I’m supposed to be sharing it, so what form can this work take so that I’m genuinely doing it for the benefit of others?” I’m still open to what that will involve.
That’s a wonderful vision, that for the first time in a long time, seems possible. I was reading through your bio and saw a quote that caught my eye. You asked rhetorically ”Which elements in history have been the most influential on the psychology of mankind?” And your answer was music, religion, and psychedelics. So obviously, you’ve put a lot of energy into the music side, and what this made me think of right away was, if you look at indigenous traditions or even the MAPS clinical trials, they underscore the importance of music. Also, in the Good Friday experiment or Johns Hopkins psilocybin trials, they have people talking about their mystical experiences, and if you look at religions, they have their own unique musical traditions, and many of them, whether they know it or not, are influenced or even initiated by the psychedelic experience. So this trilogy that you point out is powerful, and these three factors seem to be intrinsically linked.
What that brings up for me is that we’re moving into a time- not quite yet but getting there- where psychedelics are becoming less controversial than religion. That’s just amazing. I don’t know if I feel good or bad about it, but it’s amazing. It’s almost harder to talk about religion without treading on any toes than it is to talk about psychedelics without treading on any toes. There’s so much baggage to the word “religion” that it’s impossible to talk about it without throwing that weight on someone. I was a heavy atheist before I met [psilocybin] mushrooms, and they opened my mind and my heart, and a lot of that open-mindedness involves engaging in what I have an aversion to, and letting it soak in until I’m at peace with it. I’m so at peace with religion now, and the potential it has for good.
It reminds me of the way that the word religion, with all of its baggage, actually just means to join and to come together, exactly the same way that yoga means to join and come together. One of the most important values in humanity is unity, and religion has a large potential for that, just like music does and just like psychedelics do. So I think that’s what they’re all aiming towards. OM Collective I see as a unification of religion and psychedelics and music, and I want those three powers to be able to unify others as well.
That’s a question that we all need to be asking ourselves more: what do I want to express? That is the fundamental question that I needed to address when I started working on my new album. The old album I’ve been working on for 10 years isn’t even out yet. In the old album, I realized that what I was expressing was abstracted and translated through so many layers of devices- like using different languages, using metaphors, using rhyme, using a certain instrument or a male or female singer or a register of vocals, using myths, using characters- all of these things are used to express what I’m trying to express. All of these things have actually chopped up pure expression and been turned into a really complicated mesh that someone has to sort through to feel, and this new album that I’m writing is just trying to strip back as much abstraction as possible, and to just say what I’m actually feeling, and to express things as purely and as rawly as possible. I’ve shared a couple of lyrics with some friends, and they’re just like “Is this even a song? This is just you being unbelievably real.”
I’ve listened to a lot of folk music and am really inspired by acoustic instruments, but recently hip-hop has come into my world. I was very averse to it for most of my life, except for the last year or two when I let myself open to it and receive it a little bit more. I’ve been so wowed and impressed by how raw hip-hop is. They‘re expressing real shit, and it’s not pretty all of the time, and it made me realize that folk music is pretty much always pretty. I was talking to a folk musician about this process that I’m going through. I’m like, “Are you sharing anything raw? Anything untranslated and unabstracted?” and he shared something with me, and it was beautiful, but it wasn’t raw. It rhymed, it used metaphor and it was beautiful, and it was expressing something, but it wasn’t raw. That’s what I’m about now- just being real. I want someone to hear something with an acoustic guitar and a vocalist and for it to hit them and be like “Did I just freaking hear that in a folk song?”
I think that’s the journey of ayahuasca and mushrooms as well. They are never subtle with me. It’s ham-fisted. Whatever is wrong, whatever the shadow is, whatever you’re hiding, it’s put on a billboard, and if you turn away from the billboard, it smacks you on the back of the head with it. I think that’s where I’m at: it’s a little bit agressive, but that’s what I’m getting to. I’m trying to write beautiful music to impress upon people my ideas, but if they’re just blissing out to the beauty of it and those ideas are not impressed upon them, it’s like “No, I need to get this to you! This is the vital message.”
That’s awesome. How can people best connect to and support OM Collective?
The best way to connect is just to listen, whether that’s through Spotify or YouTube or Apple Music or iTunes. Actually Bandcamp is always the best, since it’s genuinely for musicians and they give the highest percentage out of any of them, so connect on Bandcamp or anywhere and let it soak in. I think it’s maybe understated, but I have a lot of friends and family all over the world supporting me and connecting with me. I think the number one thing for me is that my mission is only going to be effective if it reaches people; that’s how missions work, I guess. So exposure is my number one goal: to reach as many people as possible so that energy continues opening up and connecting. So for me, the best way to support is by listening and sharing. If you experience the music and it feels good to you or does something to you, just tag someone else or show them yourself. I know that happens naturally, but maybe it needs to be spoken. Share!
Your music is transcendent and deeply beautiful. I’m excited to share it with others.
Thank you, it means so much. It’s the most anyone can do, just to connect people to the music. What you’re connecting people to is what I’m connecting people to, and that’s just Mama, and each other.
A mighty “thank you” to Tim for speaking with us and for creating incredible music for us to listen to. To visit OM Collective on Bandcamp, click here.