Disclaimer: Golden Teachers and other cultivars of Psilocybe cubensis are largely illegal substances, and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illicit drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this document is designed to enhance the safety of those who decide to use these substances. You can learn more about the legality of Psilocybin cubensis mushrooms here.
This article has been medically reviewed by Katrina Oliveros, MSN-ED, BSN
Known as a ‘gateway shroom’, Golden Teachers are often favored by those dipping their toes into the world of psychedelics.
With a mild high that can yield profound insights and moments of euphoria, these magic mushrooms are perceived to be less likely than other psychedelics to cause a “bad trip”.
Nate Morris, peyote horticulturist, microdosing researcher, and founder of Peyote Lab, chose Golden Teacher magic mushrooms for one of his first psychedelic experiences.
He shares insights from his journey below.
The 101 on Golden Teachers
Golden Teachers, also known as Golden Caps, are steeped in mystery. Little is known about the origins of this psychedelic mushroom. Anecdotal reports claim the shroom first appeared in the eighties, but there’s little conclusive evidence. With elegant caramel colored stems and caps speckled with yellow, Golden Teachers command a sense of wonder in both name and appearance.
Nate notes that there is sometimes confusion about how to identify Golden Teachers.
“The name Golden Teacher can be a little confusing, as it is often misused as a catch-all term for any mushroom from the species Psilocybe cubensis,” he reflects. “P. cubensis is one of the most widely distributed species of magic mushroom on Earth. Technically, Golden Teacher is just one specific cultivar within this species.”
Magic mushroom strains can be found scattered around the world. Specimens are often specific to where they grow, which means their traits can vary. For example, some might produce more active psychedelic compounds, while others may be more resistant to contamination and predators. It’s important to note that there are other psychedelic mushrooms beyond P. cubensis cultivars, such as Psilocybe cyanescens.
Mushroom cultivators and breeders can also cross different specimens so that the offspring display preferred traits.
“A cultivar, by definition, has been cultivated and is not a naturally occurring specimen,” said Nate.
“Golden Teacher is probably the most famous of these Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms. Other well-known psilocybin mushroom strains include Penis Envy, Blue Meanie, Z-Strain, Lizard King, and Albino A+. What is clear is that the mycologist who developed Golden Teacher was better at naming cultivars than whoever came up with Penis Envy.”
Golden Teachers are a medium-strength psilocybin mushroom. When consumed, psilocybin is converted by the body into psilocin, the main psychedelic compound in the fungus. For those interested in journeying with Golden Teachers, an introductory dosage would be approximately two grams of dried mushrooms. Two grams allows the user to experience the effects without feeling overpowered or out of control. A medium-sized dosage would be three or four grams, while five grams or more would likely kick off a full transcendent experience.
How does it feel to journey with Golden Teachers?
“The first time I tried Golden Teacher mushrooms, I was young and wanted an adventure,” reflects Nate. “In hindsight, it was helpful that I had friends with me who knew what to expect and were not afraid. We all hung out in the woods until they started to kick in, then we went to a party.”
Nate recalls that he began to feel waves of awe as he perceived the beauty and color surrounding them.
“What captured my attention was the reflections of the glass on all the cars and windows,” he recalls. “I observed that I was not hallucinating in the sense that I was not seeing something that was not actually there. Instead, my sober mind had been filtering out the information that was generally ignored anyway.”
The sensory overload that the brain deals with on a daily basis results in the filtration of many stimuli that are perceived to be inessential, a process known as sensory gating.
“I felt like the Golden Teacher mushrooms had rebooted this system and I was wide open. The reflections on the glass may have had a more vibrant color, but they were always there,” said Nate.
As he arrived at the party, his psychedelic journey began to take on different dimensions.
“I remember talking with my friend and being fascinated by the idea of language. I was grappling with the fact that the noises that one person makes can impart ideas and concepts into another person’s mind,” said Nate. “I had never really contemplated that before, and all of a sudden it felt like a form of magic that humans had invented. It seemed clear to me at the time that the thing that makes humans so different is this ability to transform ideas and concepts into sounds that someone else can then transform back into ideas and concepts.”
For many people, psychedelics are associated with their hallucinogenic properties and ability to conjure up trippy visuals. For Nate, the shifts in perception that he experienced journeying with Golden Teachers were more meaningful and memorable.
“In the lead-up to trying Golden Teacher mushrooms, I had become fixated on the idea of having visual hallucinations,” said Nate. “This is pretty typical of people who are inexperienced with these substances. However, once people have a little experience, nearly everyone agrees that, while interesting and often beautiful, hallucinations are a small and somewhat insignificant aspect of the whole experience.” Instead, a journey with Golden Teachers can bring subtle (or potent) changes in how the world is viewed and understood.
“Much more common are distortions to the normal world and a shift in focus to the things that tend to be ignored,” said Nate. “The first thing I noticed as they started to take effect was that the trees looked like they were breathing. I was already a botany geek, and I remember the ‘ah-ha’ moment when I remembered that trees do breathe. These trees were exhaling the gasses that I needed to live. It was these relationship-type connections that jumped out at me.”
Ultimately, Nate recalled that experience with Golden Teachers as contemplative but also very fun. “My friends and I had an amazing time. I laughed so much my face started to hurt,” he reflected.
Nate’s journey lasted four to six hours, which is roughly standard. Most people begin to feel the effects kick in after 45 minutes, though some can feel Golden Teachers begin to work their magic in as quickly as 20 minutes.
Shifting perspective with Golden Teachers
Nate believes that Golden Teachers helped him to perceive the world in a different way. While he remembers a joyful experience journeying with friends, he also recalls feeling that the night seemed like a rite of passage—one that took him from a self-focused state of mind to a more elevated way of thinking and seeing.
“I was a teenager when I first tried Golden Teacher mushrooms,” he said. “I remember thinking that I was a kid and it helped me think like an adult for the first time.”
“Traditionally, Golden Teachers were often used as a rite of passage into adulthood. The sense of connectedness that psychedelics impart leads people to think about the whole of society, by shifting focus away from oneself.”
This shift towards a more unified way of understanding the world can also be interpreted as the dissolution of the ego.
“I think of it as a form of maturation that helps people to see the big picture,” said Nate. “As humans are pack animals, this shift in perspective to focus on the larger picture leads to prosocial behavior—I would argue that it is fundamental to a healthy maturation process.”
Such statements aren’t merely based on subjective perception. Research into the brain under the influence of Psilocybe cubensis also reveals diminished activity in the part of the brain that models the self in the past or future. In other words, Golden Teachers and other strains of Psilocybe cubensis can bring the individual into the present moment, and promote a sense of unity with others and the surrounding world.
It’s also vital to point out that these shifts in perception can have lasting positive effects. The days following the journey are often referred to as “the afterglow”, as the residue of the experience lingers.
“I think that, in many ways, the afterglow is the best part of the experience,” said Nate. “The afterglow is nice because I’m not so far from the altered perspective that I have forgotten it, but I’m still back and able to reflect and incorporate those reflections into my life going forward.”
Harnessing set and setting
Abundant evidence suggests that harnessing a beneficial set and setting can significantly elevate the likelihood of a positive experience for those using psychedelics, cannabis, and other mind-altering substances.
“I find that it is sometimes helpful to examine these experiences through the lens of set and setting,” says Nate. “Set refers to your mindset. This includes thoughts, mood, and expectations. Setting refers to the physical/social environment. In this example, the friends, the desire for adventure, the fearless perspective, and the party are what comprised the set and setting.”
Had Nate journeyed with Golden Teachers in a setting that felt intimidating or unsafe, his experience could have been completely different.
“Set and setting are so central to the psychedelic experience,” explained Nate. “Psychedelics can only alter what is already there—and set and setting are about the ‘what’s already there’ component.”
Another aspect of setting that Nate views as fundamentally transformative was the presence of mood-lifting music.
“Music has the power to affect a person’s mood,” he affirmed. “Psychedelics only enhance this power. Music also has the power to bring people together in a shared experience. Music can do this because people experience a subtle trance-like state through rhythmic entrainment, which can lead to a powerful sense of connectedness.”
Getting ready to journey with Golden Teachers
For Nate, Golden Teacher shrooms represented a profound and insightful first-time experience. However, psilocybin mushrooms boast other benefits that also make them beginner-friendly. “Mushrooms are inexpensive because they are easy to farm and grow very fast,” he explained.
Intrepid psychonauts may be interested in growing Golden Teachers from mushroom spores. Third Wave Mushroom Grow Kits contain almost everything you need to create optimal conditions for a healthy harvest. All you need to purchase are high-quality spores from a trusted grower (so be sure to check customer reviews before you buy). Before you know it, you’ll be watching your own mycelium grow and waiting with bated breath for your first flush. If you’re planning on growing your own Golden Teachers strain, it’s also vital to know how to prepare and store your supply.
For newbies who are curious about experimenting with shrooms such as Golden Teachers but aren’t ready for a full-blown journey, a microdose can be a helpful stepping stone. Third Wave offers comprehensive microdosing courses to help you harness the transformational power of psychedelics such as Golden Teachers, so you can access flow states and connect to your inner purpose while feeling empowered and informed.