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Terence Kemp McKenna
Full name Terence Kemp McKenna
Born November 16, 1946(1946-11-16)
Paonia, Colorado, United States
Died April 3, 2000 (aged 53)
Hawaii, United States
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Metaphysics, phenomenology
Main interests shamanism, ethnobotany, metaphysics, psychedelic drugs and plants, futurism, primitivism, environmentalism, consciousness, phenomenology, historical revisionism, evolution, ontology, Mind at Large, virtual reality, dominator culture, criticizing science, the Logos
Notable ideas novelty theory, "stoned ape" hypothesis, Machine elf, psychedelic exopheromones, the "felt presence of direct experience"

Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American author, public speaker, metaphysician, psychonaut, ethnobotanist, art historian, demigod, and self-described anarchist, anti-materialist, environmentalist, feminist, Platonist and skeptic.[1] During his lifetime he was noted for his knowledge on the subjects the use of psychedelics, metaphysics, plant-based entheogens, and subjects ranging from shamanism, mysticism, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, biology, geology, physics, phenomenology, and his concept of novelty theory.[2]

Contents

Biography

Early life

Terence McKenna grew up in Paonia, Colorado.[3] He was introduced to geology through his uncle and developed a hobby of transforming into an ethereal winged satyr in the arroyos near his home.[4] From this he developed a deep artistic and scientific appreciation of nature.

At age 16, McKenna moved to, and attended high school in, Los Altos, California.[3] He lived with family friends because his parents in Colorado were furries. He was introduced to psychedelics through The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley[3] and the Village Voice.[5]

One of his early experiences with them came through morning glory seeds (containing LSA), which he claimed showed him "that there was something there worth pursuing."[3]

In 1964, circumstances required McKenna to move to Lancaster, California, to live with a different set of family friends. In 1965, he graduated from Antelope Valley High School.

McKenna then enrolled in U.C. Berkeley. He moved to San Francisco during the summer of 1965 before his classes began, was introduced that year to cannabis by Barry Melton[6] and tried LSD soon after.

As a freshman at U.C. Berkeley McKenna participated in the Tussman Experimental College, a short-lived two-year program on the Berkeley campus. He graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Conservation.

Adult life

He spent the years after his graduation teaching English in Japan, traveling through India and South Asia collecting butterflies for biological supply companies.[7]

Following the death of his mother in 1971, Terence, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-hé, a plant preparation containing DMT. Instead of oo-koo-hé they found various forms of ayahuasca (also known as "yagé") and gigantic psilocybe cubensis which became the new focus of the expedition.[7] In La Chorrera, at the urging of his brother, he allowed himself to be the subject of a psychedelic experiment which he claimed put him in contact with Logos: an informative, divine voice he believed was universal to visionary religious experience.[7] The revelations of this voice, and his brother's peculiar experience during the experiment, prompted him to explore the structure of an early form of the I Ching, which led to his "Novelty Theory".[7] These ideas were explored extensively by Terence and Dennis in their 1975 book The Invisible Landscape - Mind Hallucinogens and The I Ching.

In the early 1980s, McKenna began to speak publicly on the topic of psychedelic drugs, lecturing extensively and conducting weekend workshops. Though somewhat associated with the New Age or human potential movement, McKenna himself had little patience for New Age sensibilities, repeatedly stressing the importance of the primacy of felt experience as opposed to dogmatic ideologies.[8] Timothy Leary once introduced him as "one of the five or six most important people on the planet".[9]

It's clearly a crisis of two things: of consciousness and conditioning. These are the two things that the psychedelics attack. We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save our planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war; But we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds. We must decondition ourselves from 10,000 years of bad behavior. And, it's not easy.

—Terence McKenna, "This World...and Its Double", [10]

He soon became a fixture of popular counterculture, and his popularity continued to grow, culminating in the early to mid 1990's with the publication of several books such as True Hallucinations (which relates the tale of his 1971 experience at La Chorrera), Food of the Gods and The Archaic Revival. He became a popular personality in the psychedelic rave/dance scene of the early 1990s, with frequent spoken word performances at raves and contributions to psychedelic and goa trance albums by The Shamen, Spacetime Continuum, Alien Project, Capsula, Entheogenic, Zuvuya, Shpongle, and Shakti Twins. His speeches were (and continue to be) sampled by many others. In 1994 he appeared as a speaker at the Starwood Festival, which was documented in the book Tripping by Charles Hayes (his lectures were produced on both cassette tape and CD).[11]

McKenna was a contemporary and colleague of chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham and biologist Rupert Sheldrake (creator of the theory of "morphogenetic fields", not to be confused with the mainstream usage of the same term), and conducted several public debates known as trialogues with them, from the late 1980s up until his death. Books which contained transcriptions of some of these events were published. He was also a friend and associate of Ralph Metzner, Nicole Maxwell, and Riane Eisler, participating in joint workshops and symposia with them. He was a personal friend of Tom Robbins, and influenced the thought of numerous scientists, writers, artists, and entertainers, including comedian Bill Hicks, whose routines concerning psychedelic drugs drew heavily from McKenna's works. He is also the inspiration for the Twin Peaks character Dr. Jacoby.[12]

In addition to psychedelic drugs, McKenna spoke on the subjects of virtual reality (which he saw as a way to artistically communicate the experience of psychedelics), techno-paganism, artificial intelligence, evolution, extraterrestrials, and aesthetic theory (art/visual experience as information-- representing the significance of hallucinatory visions experienced under the influence of psychedelics).

McKenna also co-founded Botanical Dimensions with Kathleen Harrison (ethnobotanist) (his colleague and wife of 17 years), a non-profit ethnobotanical preserve on the island of Hawaii, where he lived for many years before he died. Before moving to Hawaii permanently, McKenna split his time between Hawaii and a town called Occidental, located in the redwood-studded hills of Sonoma County, California, a town unique for its high concentration of artistic notables, including Tom Waits and Mickey Hart.

Last interview

Erik Davis, author of the book TechGnosis, conducted what would be the last interview with McKenna in October and early November 1999. This interview was held in preparation for a profile featured in Wired Magazine in 2000, entitled "Terence McKenna's Last Trip."[13] Erik Davis later published larger excerpts from this interview at his site, techgnosis.com, and the recorded interview has also been released on CD. Commenting on the reality of his own death, McKenna said during the interview:

I always thought death would come on the freeway in a few horrifying moments, so you'd have no time to sort it out. Having months and months to look at it and think about it and talk to people and hear what they have to say, it's a kind of blessing. It's certainly an opportunity to grow up and get a grip and sort it all out. Just being told by an unsmiling guy in a white coat that you're going to be dead in four months definitely turns on the lights. ... It makes life rich and poignant. When it first happened, and I got these diagnoses, I could see the light of eternity, a la William Blake, shining through every leaf. I mean, a bug walking across the ground moved me to tears.[14]

Death

A longtime sufferer of migraines, in mid-1999 McKenna returned to his home on the big island of Hawaii after a long lecturing tour. He began to suffer from increasingly painful headaches. This culminated in three brain seizures in one night, which he claimed were the most powerful psychedelic experiences he had ever known. Upon his emergency trip to the hospital on Oahu, Terence was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. For the next several months he underwent various treatments, including experimental gamma knife radiation treatment. He died on April 3, 2000, at the age of 53, with his loved ones at his bedside. He is survived by his brother Dennis, his son Finn, and his daughter Klea.

The library fire

On February 7, 2007, McKenna's library of rare books and personal notes was destroyed in a fire which burned offices belonging to Big Sur's Esalen Institute storing the collection. An index maintained by his brother Dennis survives, though little else.

Ideas

There are these things, which I call "self transforming machine elves," I also call them self-dribbling basketballs. They are, but they are none of these things. I mean you have to understand: these are metaphors in the truest sense, meaning that they're lies! [...] I name them 'Tykes' because tyke is a word that means to me a small child, ... and when you burst into the DMT space this is the Aeon - it's a child, and it's at play with colored balls, and I am in eternity, apparently, in the presence of this thing.

—Terence McKenna, "Time and Mind", [15]

Terence McKenna advocated the exploration of altered states of mind via the ingestion of naturally occurring psychedelic substances. For example, and in particular, as facilitated by the ingestion of high doses of psychedelic mushrooms, and DMT, which he believed was the apotheosis of the psychedelic experience. He spoke of the "jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs" or "self-transforming machine elves" that one encounters in that state.

Although he avoided giving his allegiance to any one interpretation (part of his rejection of monotheism), he was open to the idea of psychedelics as being "trans-dimensional travel"; literally, enabling an individual to encounter what could be aliens, ancestors, or spirits of earth.[8] He remained opposed to most forms of organized religion or guru-based forms of spiritual awakening.

Philosophically and religiously, he expressed admiration for Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Gnostic Christianity, Alfred North Whitehead, Alchemy, and James Joyce (calling Finnegans Wake "the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature of the 20th century").[16]

The "Stoned Ape" hypothesis of human evolution

McKenna hypothesized that as the North African jungles receded and gave way to savannas and grasslands near the end of the most recent ice age, a branch of our tree-dwelling primate ancestors left the forest canopy and began to live in the open areas outside of the forest. There they experimented with new varieties of foods as they adapted, physically and mentally, to their new environment.

Among the new food items found in this new environment were psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing near the dung of ungulate herds that occupied the savannas and grasslands at that time. McKenna, referencing the research of Roland L. Fisher,[17][18][19][20] claimed that enhancement of visual acuity was an effect of psilocybin at low doses, and supposed that this would have conferred an adaptive advantage. He also argued that the effects of slightly larger doses, including sexual arousal, and in still larger doses, ecstatic hallucinations and glossolalia — gave selective evolutionary advantages to members of those tribes who partook of it. There were many changes caused by the introduction of this psychoactive mushroom to the primate diet. McKenna hypothesizes, for instance, that synesthesia (the blurring of boundaries between the senses) caused by psilocybin led to the development of spoken language: the ability to form pictures in another person's mind through the use of vocal sounds.

About 12,000 years ago, further climate changes removed psilocybin-containing mushrooms from the human diet. McKenna argued that this event resulted in a new set of profound changes in our species as we reverted to the previous brutal primate social structures that had been modified and/or repressed by frequent consumption of psilocybin.

Novelty theory and Time Wave Zero Point

See 2012 phenomena

One of McKenna's ideas is known as novelty theory. It predicts the ebb and flow of novelty in the universe as an inherent quality of time. McKenna developed the theory in the mid-1970s after his experiences in the Amazon at La Chorrera led him to closely study the King Wen sequence of the I-Ching. Novelty theory involves ontology, extropy, and eschatology.

The theory proposes that the universe is an engine designed for the production and conservation of novelty. Novelty, in this context, can be thought of as newness, or extropy (a term coined by Max More meaning the opposite of entropy). According to McKenna, when novelty is graphed over time, a fractal waveform known as "timewave zero" or simply the "timewave" results. The graph shows at what time periods, but never at what locations, novelty increases or decreases and is supposed to represent a model of history's most important events.

Software for viewing Time Wave Zero was written by R.J. Pease, but was replaced by a Fortran version which appears in The Invisible Landscape.

The algorithm has also been extrapolated to be a model for future events. McKenna admitted to the expectation of a "singularity of novelty", and that he and his colleagues projected into the future to find when this singularity (runaway "newness" or extropy) could occur. Millenarians give more credence to Novelty theory as a way to predict the future (especially regarding 2012) than McKenna himself. The graph of extropy had many enormous fluctuations over the last 25,000 years, but it hits an asymptote in the middle of November, 2012. After his discovery of other doomsday theories that would take place on exactly December 21, 2012, he simply bumped up the date of "doomsday".[21] This statement is contested, however, by McKenna's own mouth when during a lecture he said,

An astonishing thing about the date I arrived at, by this method is that it's the same date that the Mayan civilization appointed for the end of its calendar. In all eternity ... You know, you may choose not to believe that I didn't know this when I made this prediction. But I didn't, know it! I didn't. Yet I chose not the month, not the same year - the same day, month and year.[22]

In other words, entropy (or habituation) no longer exists after that date. It is impossible to define that state. This is also the date on which the Mayan long calendar ends one cycle through the zodiac signs, then it begins a new 26,000 year cycle through the next era, or the Age of Peace. The technological singularity concept parallels this, only at a date roughly three decades later.

Author Steve Wilson has stated that his reluctance to accept this technological endpoint was shattered when reading of the Adam robot experiment's success. Since endpoint theory needs the creation of machines that can design and program other machines for the final stages to be possible, this experiment is a major step towards practical artificial intelligence.

Bibliography

  • 1975 - The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching (with Dennis McKenna) (Seabury; 1st Ed) ISBN 0-8164-9249-2.
  • 1976 - The Invisible Landscape (with Dennis McKenna, and Quinn Taylor) (Scribner) ISBN 0-8264-0122-8
  • 1976 - Psilocybin - Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide (with Dennis McKenna: credited under the pseudonyms OT Oss and ON Oeric) (2nd edition 1986) (And/Or Press) ISBN 0-915904-13-6
  • 1992 - Psilocybin - Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide (with Dennis McKenna: (credited under the pseudonyms OT Oss and ON Oeric) (Quick American Publishing Company; Revised edition) ISBN 0-932551-06-8
  • 1992 - The Archaic Revival (HarperSanFrancisco; 1st edition) ISBN 0-06-250613-7
  • 1992 - Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge - A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution (Bantam) ISBN 0-553-37130-4
  • 1992 - Synesthesia (with Timothy C. Ely) (Granary Books 1st Ed) ISBN 1-887123-04-0
  • 1992 - Trialogues at the Edge of the West: Chaos, Creativity, and the Resacralization of the World (with Ralph H. Abraham, Rupert Sheldrake and Jean Houston) (Bear & Company Publishing 1st Ed) ISBN 0-939680-97-1
  • 1993 - True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise (HarperSanFrancisco 1st Ed) ISBN 0-06-250545-9
  • 1994 - The Invisible Landscape (HarperSanFrancisco; Reprint edition) ISBN 0-06-250635-8
  • 1998 - True Hallucinations & the Archaic Revival: Tales and Speculations About the Mysteries of the Psychedelic Experience (Fine Communications/MJF Books) (Hardbound) ISBN 1-56731-289-6
  • 1998 - The Evolutionary Mind : Trialogues at the Edge of the Unthinkable (with Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph H. Abraham) (Trialogue Press; 1st Ed) ISBN 0-942344-13-8
  • 1999 - Food of the Gods: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution (Rider & Co; New edition) ISBN 0-7126-7038-6
  • 1999 - Robert Venosa: Illuminatus (with Robert Venosa, Ernst Fuchs, H. R. Giger, and Mati Klarwein) (Craftsman House) ISBN 90-5703-272-4
  • 2001 - Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness (with Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph H. Abraham) (Park Street Press; revised ed) ISBN 0-89281-977-4 (Revised edition of Trialogues at the Edge of the West)
  • 2005 - The Evolutionary Mind: Trialogues on Science, Spirit & Psychedelics (Monkfish Book Publishing; Revised Ed) ISBN 0-9749359-7-2

Spoken word

  • TechnoPagans at the End of History (transcription of rap with Mark Pesce from 1998)
  • Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines (1999)
  • Alien Dreamtime with Spacetime Continuum & Stephen Kent (Magic Carpet Media) (CD)
  • Conversations on the Edge of Magic (1994) (CD & Cassette) ACE
  • Rap-Dancing Into the Third Millennium (1994) (Cassette) (Re-issued on CD as The Quintessential Hallucinogen) ACE
  • Packing For the Long Strange Trip (1994) (Cassette) ACE
  • Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell, broadcast on May 22, 1997, Five hour interview covering various topics

Discography

See also

References

  1. ^ McKenna, Terrence (1992). The Archaic Revival. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 9780062506149. 
  2. ^ Watkins, Matthew. "Autopsy for a Mathematical Hallucination?". http://www.fourmilab.ch/rpkp/autopsy.html. 
  3. ^ a b c d Terence McKenna Interview, Part 1. Tripzine.com. Accessed on April 26, 2007.
  4. ^ McKenna, Terence. "Under The Teaching Tree" Ojai Foundation, Upper Ojai, California (Unknown (1985)).
  5. ^ Erowid Terence McKenna Vault: The High Times Interview. Accessed on April 26, 2007.
  6. ^ "Terence McKenna, 53, Dies; Patron of Psychedelics". Cannabis News. 2000-04-09. http://cannabisnews.com/news/5/thread5337.shtml. 
  7. ^ a b c d True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise. Terence McKenna, 1993.
  8. ^ a b "The Invisible Landscape (lecture)". Terence Mckenna. http://www.futurehi.net/media/McKenna_The_Invisible_Landscape_1-A.mp3. 
  9. ^ Introduction by Timothy Leary to "Unfolding the Stone" lecture by Terence McKenna
  10. ^ Terence McKenna. (1993-09-11). This World...and Its Double. Mill Valley, California: Sound Photosynthesis. 
  11. ^ Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures by Charles Hayes. Accessed on April 26, 2007.
  12. ^ "Twin Peaks (1990) - Trivia". IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098936/trivia. 
  13. ^ Wired 8.05: Terence McKenna's Last Trip
  14. ^ Terence McKenna Vs. the Black Hole: by Erik Davis
  15. ^ McKenna, Terence (May 1990). "Time and Mind". - Partial transcription of a taped workshop held in New Mexico. The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension (deoxy.org). http://deoxy.org/timemind.htm. 
  16. ^ "Surfing Finnegans Wake". Terence Mckenna. http://www.lancerules.com/terence/finneganswake.mp3. 
  17. ^ Fischer, Roland & Richard M. Hill - "Interpretation of visual space under drug-induced ergotropic and trophotropic arousal" - Journal: Inflammation Research Issue Volume 2, Number 3 / November, 1971 (Publisher Birkhäuser Basel) ISSN 1023-3830 (Print) 1420-908X (Online),
  18. ^ Fischer, Roland & R. Hill, K. Thatcher & J. Scheib - "Psilocybin-induced contraction of nearby visual space" - Journal Inflammation Research Issue, Volume 1, Number 4 / August, 1970 (Publisher Birkhäuser Basel) ISSN 1023-3830 (Print) 1420-908X (Online)
  19. ^ Fischer, Roland L. (Ph.D.) "The Realities of Hallucinogenic Drugs: A Compendium" - Criminology, Volume 4 Issue 3 Page 2-15, November 1966 (Blackwell Publishing Ltd)
  20. ^ Fischer, Roland L. (Ph.D.) - "A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States" - Science, November 26th, 1971
  21. ^ Lawrence E Joseph "Apocalypse 2012: An Optimist Investigates the end of Civilisation" Morgan Road Books, New York, 2007. p. 204
  22. ^ Terrence McKenna (flv). Terence McKenna Timewave Zero 2012 Prophecy Uncovered. [Lecture]. Youtube. Event occurs at 2m 20s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_sXerYU1E8. Retrieved 9-3-2009. 

External links

Writings online

Audio and video resources


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

There is a spiritual obligation, there is a task to be done. It is not, however, something as simple as following a set of somebody else's rules.

Terence Kemp McKenna (16 November 19463 April 2000) was an American writer, philosopher, and ethnobotanist, who advocated paths of shamanism, and the use of hallucinogenic substances (primarily plant-based psychedelics) as a means of increasing many forms of human awareness. His ideas often revolve around his novelty theory of the universe.

Contents

Sourced

We're playing with half a deck as long as we tolerate that the cardinals of government and science should dictate where human curiosity can legitimately send its attention and where it can not.
  • We're playing with half a deck as long as we tolerate that the cardinals of government and science should dictate where human curiousity can legitimately send its attention and where it can not. It's an essentially preposterous situation. It is essentially a civil rights issue, because what we're talking about here is the repression of a religious sensibility. In fact, not a religious sensibility, the religious sensibility. Not built on some con game spun out by eunichs, but based on the symbiotic relationship that was in place for our species for fifty thousand years before the advent of history, writing, priestcraft and propaganda. So it's a clarion call to recover a birthright.
    • Non-Ordinary States Through Vision Plants (1988)
  • There is a spiritual obligation, there is a task to be done. It is not, however, something as simple as following a set of somebody else's rules. The noetic enterprise is a primary obligation toward being. Our salvation is linked to it. Not everyone has to read alchemical texts or study superconducting biomolecules to make the transition. Most people make it naively by thinking clearly about the present at hand, but we intellectuals are trapped in a world of too much information. Innocence is gone for us. We cannot expect to cross the rainbow bridge through a good act of contrition; that will not be sufficient.
    We have to understand.
    Whitehead said, "Understanding is the apperception of pattern as such"; to fear death is to misunderstand life. Cognitive activity is the defining act of humanness. Language, thought, analysis, art, dance, poetry, mythmaking: these are the things that point the way toward the realm of the eschaton. We humans may be released into a realm of pure self-engineering. The imagination is everything. This was Blake's perception. This is where we came from. This is where we are going. And it is only to be approached through cognitive activity.
  • The alternative physics is a physics of light. Light is composed of photons, which have no antiparticle. This means that there is no dualism in the world of light. The conventions of relativity say that time slows down as one approaches the speed of light, but if one tries to imagine the point of view of a thing made of light, one must realize that what is never mentioned is that if one moves at the speed of light there is no time whatsoever. There is an experience of time zero. ... The only experience of time that one can have is of a subjective time that is created by one's own mental processes, but in relationship to the Newtonian universe there is no time whatsoever. One exists in eternity, one has become eternal, the universe is aging at a staggering rate all around one in this situation, but that is perceived as a fact of this universe — the way we perceive Newtonian physics as a fact of this universe. One has transited into the eternal mode. One is then apart from the moving image; one exists in the completion of eternity.
    • "New Maps of Hyperspace" (1989); originally published in Magical Blend magazine, also in The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History (1992)]
  • For approximately 500 years [sciences] argument for its pre-eminence was the beautiful toys that it could create: aircraft, railroads, global economies, television, spacecraft. But that is a fool’s argument for truth! I mean, that’s after all how a medicine show operates, you know: the juggler is so good, the medicine must be even better! This is not an entirely rational way to proceed.
    • "The World and It's Double"
  • My notion of what the psychedelic experience is for is that we each must become like fishermen, and go out on to the dark ocean of mind, and let your nets down into that sea. And what you're after is not some behemoth, that will tear through your nets, follow them and drag you in your little boat, you know, into the abyss, nor are what we're looking for a bunch of sardines that can slip through your net and disappear. Ideas like, "Have you ever notice that your little finger exactly fits your nostril", and stuff like that. What we are looking for are middle size ideas, that are not so small that they are trivial, and not so large that they're incomprehensible. That middle size ideas that we can wrestle into our boat and take back to the folks on shore, and have fish dinner. And every one of us when we go into the psychedelic state, this is what we should be looking for. It's not for your elucidation, it's not part of your self-directed psychotherapy. You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do, is to bring back a new idea, because our world is in danger by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness. And so to whatever degree any one of us, can bring back a small piece of the picture and contribute it to the building to the new paradigm, then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit, and that after all it what it's really all about.
  • It is now very clear that techniques of machine-human interfacing, pharmacology of the synthetic variety, all kinds of manipulative techniques, all kinds of data storage, imaging and retrieval techniques– all of this is coalescing toward the potential of a truly demonic or angelic kind of self-imaging of our culture... And the people who are on the demonic side are fully aware of this and hurrying full-tilt forward with their plans to capture everyone as a 100% believing consumer inside some kind of a beige furnished fascism that won't even raise a ripple.
    • Non-Ordinary States Through Vision Plants (1988)
  • The Beliefs of a Witoto shaman and the beliefs of a Princeton phenomenologist have an equal chance of being correct, and there are no arbiters of who is right. Here is something we have not assimilated. We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.
    • The Archaic Revival (1991)
  • Life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience that primordial shamanism is based on is life trivialized, life denied, life enslaved to the ego.
  • A lot of people pass through the thinking I'm a guru and take enough trips to understand that no, I was just a witness. I was just a witness.
What was happening was that there were a lot of ahh.. beings in there, what I call self-transforming machine elves. Sort of like jewelled basketballs all dribbling their way toward me...
Don't think about who you are. Think about doing what we're doing. Do it. Do it now.
  • I remember the very, very first time that I smoked DMT. It was sort of a benchmark, you might say, and I remember that this friend of mine that always got there first visited me with this little glass pipe and this stuff which looked like orange mothballs. And since I was a graduate of Dr. Hofmann's, I figured there were no surprises. So the only question I asked is, 'How long does it last?' and he said, 'About five minutes.' So I did it and... [long pause, audience cheers] there was a something, like a flower, like a chrysanthemum in orange and yellow that was sort of spinning, spinning, and then it was like I was pushed from behind and I fell through the chrysanthemum into another place that didn't seem like a state of mind, it seemed like another place. And what was going on in this place aside from the tastefully socketed indirect lighting, and the crawling geometric hallucinations along the domed walls, what was happening was that there were a lot of ahh.. beings in there, what I call self-transforming machine elves. Sort of like jewelled basketballs all dribbling their way toward me. And if they'd had faces they would have been grinning, but they didn't have faces. And they assured me that they loved me and they told me not to be amazed; not to give way to astonishment. And so I watched them, even though I wondered if maybe I hadn't really done it this time, and what they were doing was they were making objects come into existence by singing them into existence. Objects which looked like Fabergé eggs from Mars morphing themselves with Mandaean alphabetical structures. They looked like the concrescence of linguistic intentionality put through a kind of hyper-dimensional transform into three-dimensional space. And these little machines offered themselves to me. And I realized when I looked at them that if I could bring just one of these little trinkets back, nothing would ever be quite the same again. And I wondered, Where Am I? And What Is Going On? It occurred to me that these must be holographic viral projections from an autonomous continuum that was somehow intersecting my own, and then I thought a more elegant explaination would be to take it at face value and realize that I had broken into an ecology of souls. And that somehow I was getting a peek over the other side. Somehow I was finding out that thing that you cheerfully assume you can't find out. But it felt like I was finding out. And it felt.. and then I can't remember what it felt like because the little self-transforming tykes interrupted me and said, 'Don't think about it. Don't think about who we are... Think about doing what we're doing. Do it! Do it! DO IT NOW!!!
    And what they meant was use your voice to make an object. And as I understood, I felt a bubble kind of grow inside of me. And I watched these little elf tykes jumping in and out of my chest; they like to do that to reassure you. And they said, 'Do it.' And I felt language rise up in me that was unhooked from english, and I began to speak...
    • "Alien Dreamtime" a multimedia event recorded live. (27 February 1993)
If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.
  • The real secret of magic is that the world is made of words, and that if you know the words that the world is made of you can make of it whatever you wish.
    • "Alien Dreamtime" a multimedia event recorded live. (27 February 1993)
  • Progress of human civilization in the area of defining human freedom is not made from the top down. No king, no parliment, no government ever extended to the people more rights than the people insisted upon. And I think we've come to a place with this psycedelic issue. And we have the gay community as a model, and all the other communities, the ethnic communities. We simply have to say, Look: LSD has been around for fifty years now, we just celebrated the birthday. It ain't going away. WE are not going away. We are not slack-jawed, dazed, glazed, unemployable psychotic creeps. We are pillars of society. You can't run your computers, your fashion houses, your publishing houses, your damn magazines, you can't do anything in culture without psychedelic people in key positions. And this is the great unspoken of American Creativity. So I think it's basically time to just come out of the closet and go, "You know what, I'm stoned, and I'm proud."
    • "True Hallucinations", 1993
  • If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.
    • Re: Evolution (24 June 1994) This is derived from a statement of William Blake: "Truth cannot be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd."
  • We are caged by our cultural programming. Culture is a mass hallucination, and when you step outside the mass hallucination you see it for what it's worth.
  • "We have to stop CONSUMING our culture. We have to CREATE culture. DON'T watch TV, DON'T read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your OWN roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are -- NOW -- is the most immediate sector of your universe. And if you're worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered. You're giving it all away to ICONS. Icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that, you want to dress like X or have lips like Y... This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion. What is real is you, and your friends, your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And, we are told No, you're unimportant, you're peripheral -- get a degree, get a job, get a this, get that, and then you're a player. You don't even want to play that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world."
We don't really understand what consciousness is at the really deep levels.
  • I think that people don't understand. As the Firesign Theater used to say, 'Everything you know is wrong.' But that is a very liberating understanding, because if everything you know is wrong, then all the problems you thought were insoluble can be framed differently. And there's a way to take the world apart and put it back unrecognizably. We don't really understand what consciousness is at the really deep levels. With some of the tryptamine hallucinogens, you see into possibilities where questions like, 'are you alive?' 'are you dead?' 'are you you?' seem to have been transcended. I think people have a very narrow conception of what is possible with reality, that we're surrounded by the howling abyss of the unknowable and nobody knows what's out there.
The real truth that dare not speak itself is that no one is in control, absolutely no one. This stuff is ruled by the equations of dynamics and chaos. There may be entities seeking control, but to seek control is to take enormous aggravation upon yourself. It's like trying to control a dream.
  • A balkanization of epistemology is taking place. There is no longer a commonality of understanding. For some people quantum physics provides the answers. Their next door neighbor may look to the channeling of archangels with equal fervor.
    It is accompanied by a related phenomenon which is technology, or the historical momentum of things, is creating such a bewildering social milieu that the monkey mind cannot find a simple story, a simple creation myth or redemption myth to lay over the crazy contradictory patchwork of profane techno-consumerist post-McLuhanist electronic pre-apocalyptic existence.
    Into that dimension of anxiety created by this inability to parse reality rushes a bewildering variety of squirrelly notions, epistemological cartoons if you will. Conspiracy theory, in my humble opinion, is a kind of epistemological cartoon about reality. Isn't it so simple to believe that things are run by the greys, and that all we have to do is trade sufficient fetal tissue to them and then we can solve our technological problems, or isn't it comforting to believe that the Jews are behind everything, or the Communist Party, or the Catholic Church, or the Masons. Well, these are epistemological cartoons, it is kindergarten in the art of amateur historiography.
    I believe that the truth of the matter is far more terrifying, that the real truth that dare not speak itself is that no one is in control, absolutely no one. This stuff is ruled by the equations of dynamics and chaos. There may be entities seeking control, but to seek control is to take enormous aggravation upon yourself. It's like trying to control a dream.
    • "Dreaming Awake at the End of Time"
  • Because the fact is, what blinds us to the presence of alien intelligence is linguistic and cultural bias operating on ourselves. The world which we perceive is a tiny fraction of the world which we can perceive, which is a tiny fraction of the perceivable world, you see. We operate on a very narrow slice based on cultural conventions. So the important thing, if synergizing progress is the notion to be maximized (and I think it's the notion to be maximized), is to try and locate the blind spot in the culture -- the place where the culture isn't looking, because it dare not -- because if it were to look there, its previous values would dissolve, you see. For Western Civilization that place is the psychedelic experience as it emerges out of nature.
    • "Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature"

Psychedelic Society (1984)

From a speech given by Terence McKenna in 1984
What blinds us, or what makes historical progress very difficult, is our lack of awareness of our ignorance.
  • What blinds us, or what makes historical progress very difficult, is our lack of awareness of our ignorance. And [I think] that beliefs should be put aside, and that a psychedelic society would abandon belief systems [in favor of] direct experience and this is, I think much, of the problem of the modern dilemma, is that direct experience has been discounted and in its place all kind of belief systems have been erected... If you believe something, you're automatically precluded from believing in the opposite, which means that a degree of your human freedom has been forfeited in the act of this belief.
  • Our ability to destroy ourselves is the mirror image of our ability to save ourselves, and what is lacking is the clear vision of what should be done... What needs to be done is that fundamental, ontological conceptions of reality need to be redone. We need a new language, and to have a new language we must have a new reality... A new reality will generate a new language, a new language will fix a new reality, and make it part of this reality.
  • I believe that liberation, or let's even say, decency as a human quality, is an actual resonance and anticipation of this future perfected state of humanity. We can will the perfect future into being by becoming microcosms of the perfect future, and no longer casting blame outward on institutions or hierarchies of responsibility and control, but by realizing the opportunities here, the responsibilities here, and the two may never be congruent again, and the salvation of your immortal soul may depend on what you do with the opportunity.
  • [...] orient yourself towards the psychedelic experience, towards the psychedelic phenomenon, as a source of information. A mirror image of the psychedelic experience in hardware are computer networks. Computer networks, paradoxically enough, are a deeply feminizing influence on society, where, in hardware, the unconscious is actually being created. It's as though we took the Platonic bon mot about how "if God did not exist, Man would invent him", and say "if the uncounscious does not exist, humanity will invent it"– in the form of these vast networks able to transfer and transform information. This is in fact what we are caught up in, is a transforming of information. We have not physically changed in the last 40,000 years; the human type was established at the end of the last glaciation. But change, which was previously operable in the biological realm, is now operable in the realm of culture.
  • Because too much we have lived in the light of the idea that your ideology will be dictated to you essentially by geography! And if you're born in India, you'll find out that the Cosmos is one way; if you're born in Brooklyn, you find out it's another way. What we need to do is transcend these localized grids of fate, which make us what we are but don't want to be.
  • History is the in-rushing toward what the Buddhists call the realm of the densely packed, a transformational realm where the opposites are unified.
  • The psychedelics are a red-hot social issue, ethical issue, whatever the term for it is, and it is precisely because they are a deconditioning agents: they will cast doubt in you if you are a Hasidic rabbi, a Marxist anthropologist, or an altar boy, because their business is to dissolve belief systems, and they do this very well and then they leave you with the raw datum of experience, what William James called in infants 'the blooming, buzzing experience.' And out of that you reconstruct the world, and you need to understand that it is a dialog where your decisions, the projection of your grammar onto the intellectual space in front of you, is going to gel into the mode of being. We actually create our own universe because we are all operating with our own private languages.
  • We have numerous, extremely naïve assumptions built into our thinking, and our most venerable explanatory engines, such as science, happen also to be our oldest explanatory engines, and therefore they have built into them the most naïve and unexamined assumptions.
  • Yet science is going to tell you that the only things worth describing are those phenomena that can be repeatedly triggered. This is being these are the only phenomena that science can describe and that's the name of the game as far as they are concerned. But we, to claim our freedom, to take advantage of the tiny moment between immense abysses of unknowability, perhaps death, perhaps other reincarnations, perhaps transitions into other life forms, these things we don't know, but in the moment of being human we have the unique opportunity to figure things out. And I have the faith that it is possible, sometime, somewhere, to have a conversation, perhaps no progress will be made until the ninth hour, but to have a conversation in which reality could be literally pulled to pieces, beyond the point of reconstructing.
  • We have to claim anarchy and realize that systems have a life of their own that is anti-humanist. There is definitely an anti-humanist tendency in all systems.
  • We must begin to send out ideological visions rather than be the consumers of them. We need to turn off the metaphorical televisions which are hooking us into the network of cultural assumptions dictated from the Pentagon and Madison Avenue and what-have-you. We need, instead, to turn on our terminals, and to begin to interact with like-minded people throughout the world and establish this new intellectual order, which will be then the salvation of mankind, I firmly believe– because it is a collectivity, and people will then feel the interrelatedness of their fates, feel the interrelatedness as a thing which transcends national divisions, ideological divisions, feel the primacy of being part of the human family.

Technopagans at The End of History (1998)

Terence McKenna & Mark Pesce, recorded at Esalen (August 1998)
Virtual reality is a fairly new concept to us; but once you grok it, it seems clear that any civilization that was capable of starflight and longevity extension, and so forth and so on, would also have a full VR toolkit under control.
Who is to say what is real and what is not? "Real" is a distinction of a naïve mind, I think. We're getting beyond that.
  • I think we have to have character models built of ourselves, and turn the whole thing over to our writers; and we'll just go off to Tahiti, and the writers can — it's the "Uncle Duke" solution. If you can turn yourself into a cartoon character, you can retire, and a whole team of people will keep you au courant. ... You know, I think the only way to keep your career going is to retire the "bod", and create an online character– a Saturday morning cartoon show apparently is where the action is.
  • It's strange — you know, the Net is denounced as austere, the product of the engineering mentality, so forth and so on. It's the most feminine influence that Western civilization has ever allowed itself to fall under the spell of. The troubadors of the fourteenth century were as nothing compared to the boundary-dissolving, feminizing, permitting, nurturing nature of the Net. Maybe that's why there is an overwhelming male preference for it, in its early form, because that's where that was needed. But it is Sophia, it is wisdom, it is the penetrating archetypal female logos of the world-soul, leading us away from what was very sharp-edged and uncomfortable and repressive to our creativity and our sexuality and our relationships to each other and to the Earth.
  • Virtual reality is a fairly new concept to us; but once you grok it, it seems clear that any civilization that was capable of starflight and longevity extension, and so forth and so on, would also have a full VR toolkit under control. Well then, that means that when we go looking for the extraterrestrial, what will be the footprint? Perhaps vanished races are all around us, but downloaded into solid-state matrices that we have only recently come to the point where we could even recognize that possibility.
  • Mark mentioned the vector of virtual reality, nanotechnology, global communications — it's clear that we're moving toward, if not the Eschaton itself, then some kind of historical echo of it, in simulation, that, for all practical purposes, will be the same thing, as far as the impact it has on our lives.
    For example, you could doubt my much-vaunted prediction that the world will become unrecognizable by 2012; but do you doubt for a moment that by 2012, every major religion on Earth will have vast simulations of its eschatological vision for you to wander in and try out– so that you can look in on Nirvana.com, or lope over to the Celestial City, or look in on Sufi paradise? I mean, religious ontologies will be marketed like beers! And will be made as realistic and compelling as possible!
    Well then, who is to say what is real and what is not? "Real" is a distinction of a naïve mind, I think. We're getting beyond that. I mean, naïve empiricism worked well enough, until the discoveries of quantum physics seventy or eighty years ago revealed the hideous secret that the bedrock of reality is a funhouse basement!

Unsourced

Nature is not simply the random flight of atoms through electromagnetic fields. Nature is not the empty, despiritualized lumpen matter that we inherit from modern physics. But it is instead a kind of intelligence, a kind of mind.
  • Apparently there is a great discovery or insight which our culture is deliberately designed to supress, distort and ignore. That is that Nature is some kind of minded entity. That Nature is not simply the random flight of atoms through electromagnetic fields. Nature is not the empty, despiritualized lumpen matter that we inherit from modern physics. But it is instead a kind of intelligence, a kind of mind.
  • If the words 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' don't include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn't worth the hemp it was written on.
  • For monkeys to speak of truth is hubris of the highest degree. Where is it writ large that talking-monkeys should be able to model the cosmos? If a sea urchin or a racoon were to propose to you that it had a viable truth about the universe, the absurdity of that assertion would be self-evident, but in our case we make an exception.
  • I can't preach Scientism cause I don't believe it. I can't preach Buddhism cause I can't understand it. The only thing I can preach is the felt presence of immediate experience which for me came through the psychedelics, which are not drugs but plants. It's a perversion of language to try to derail this thing into talk of drugs. There are spirits in the natural world that come to us in this way and so far as I can tell this is the only way that they come to us that is rapid enough for it to have an impact upon us as a global population.
  • In the Amazon and other places where visionary plants are understood and used, you are conveyed into worlds that are appallingly different from ordinary reality. Their vividness cannot be stressed enough. They are more real than real, and that's something that you sense intuitively. They establish an ontological priority. They are more real than real, and once you get that under your belt and let it rattle around in your mind, then the compass of your life begins to spin and you realize that you are not looking in on the Other; the Other is looking in on you. This is a tremendous challenge to the intellectual structures that have carried us so far during the last thousand years. We can do tricks with atoms, there's no question about that, but these tricks immolate us. The higher-order structure of molecules, let alone organelles and that kind of thing, is intellectual incognita to us. We have no notion of how these things work or what is going on. Yet it is from those levels that the constituent modalities of reality are being laid down.
  • It's only in western civilization that you get this steady focus on this monotheistic ideal, and working out the implications of what is essentially a pathologial personality pattern. The pattern of the omnicient, omnipresent, all-knowing, wrathful male diety. No one you would invite to your garden party.
  • The 20th Century is the shudder that announces the approaching cataracts of time over which our species and the destiny of this planet is about to be swept.
  • To a large degree I think the sixties were probably misplayed. But on the other hand it seems to be the last decade when anything happened. The lid has been utterly on ever since. It's an illusion all this change. There is no change. We're living in some sort of weird eschatological hiatus while the people who rig the game try to send out for new batteries or something. I don't know what's going on. There's energy for change building. I think that when it ultimately comes it will be fairly spectacular. It's astonishing actually the way in which change has been halted. Everyone is running around saying "change change change" but on the other hand there is a curious sense in which things have become eerily dreamlike and still, while we just teeter on the edge of the end of history; and the same personalities, the same design elements, everything has looked the same in the galleries for twenty years. There is an eerie suspension.
  • We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat.
  • Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member of a neurotic culture against the facts of the matter. And culture, which we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviors are acceptable.
  • Let us declare nature to be legitimate. All plants should be declared legal, and all animals for that matter. The notion of illegal plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous.
  • People are so alienated from their own soul that when they meet their soul they think it comes from another star system.
  • Some kind of dialog is now going on between individual human beings and the sum total of human knowledge and...nothing can stop it.
  • People say, "Don't you think you ought to be able to do it 'on the natch?'"(without the use of plants) And I love this question because the answer is: No, you can't do it 'on the natch.' That's the entire message of the last 10,000 years of human history. The self is insufficient. The ego will not suffice... you must humble yourself to the point where you admit that you can't do it without the help from someone whose idea of a good time is growing in a cow flop.
  • The whole folderol and whoop-de-woo about the 1960s was that the crypto-fascist bullshit agenda was damn near overthrown by a bunch of 19 and 20 year olds on campuses scattered around the high tech world. The male dominant agenda is so fragile that any competitor is felt as a deadly foe.
  • Western civilization is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet.

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