Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an Irish-American philosopher, psychonaut, researcher, teacher, lecturer and writer on many subjects, such as human consciousness, language, psychedelic drugs, the evolution of civilizations, the origin and end of the universe, alchemy, and extraterrestrial beings.
Terence McKenna grew up in Paonia, Colorado. He was introduced to geology through his uncle and developed a hobby of solitary fossil hunting in the arroyos near his home. From this he developed a deep artistic and scientific appreciation of nature. At age 16, McKenna moved to Los Altos, California to live with family friends for a year. He finished high school in Lancaster, CA. In 1963, McKenna was introduced to the literary world of psychedelics through The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley and certain issues of The Village Voice that talked about psychedelics. McKenna claimed that one of his early psychedelic experiences with morning glory seeds showed him "that there was something there worth pursuing." In an audio interview Terence McKenna claims to have started smoking cannabis regularly during the summer following his 17th birthday.
Studying and traveling:
In 1965, McKenna enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley to study art history. In 1967, while in college, he discovered and begun studying shamanism through the study of Tibetan folk religion. That year, which he called his "opium and kabbala phase" he also traveled to Jerusalem, where he met Kathleen Harrison, who would later become his wife. In 1969, McKenna traveled to Nepal led by his "interest in Tibetan painting and hallucinogenic shamanism." During his time there, he studied the Tibetan language and worked as a hashish smuggler, until "one of his Bombay-to-Aspen shipments fell into the hands of U. S. Customs." He was forced to move to avoid capture by Interpol. He wandered through Southeast Asia viewing ruins, collected butterflies in Indonesia, and worked as an English teacher in Tokyo. He then went back to Berkeley to continue studying biology, which he called "his first love". After he completed part of his studies and his mother's death from cancer in 1971, McKenna, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-hé, a plant preparation containing Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Instead of oo-koo-hé they found various forms of ayahuasca, or yagé, and gigantic psilocybe cubensis which became the new focus of the expedition. In La Chorrera, at the urging of his brother, he was 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.
The voice's reputed revelations and his brother's simultaneous peculiar experience prompted him to explore the structure of an early form of the I Ching, which led to his "Novelty Theory". During their stay in the Amazon, McKenna also became romantically involved with his translator, Ev. In 1972, McKenna returned to Berkeley to finish his studies. There he decided to switch majors to a Bachelor of Science in ecology and conservation, in a then new experimental section of the same university called the Tussman Experimental College. During his studies, he would also develop techniques for cultivating psilocybin mushrooms with Dennis. In 1975, he parted with his girlfriend, Ev, when she left him for one of his friends from Berkeley. Their parting left him "tormented with migraines and living alone". He graduated in 1975. That same year, he began a relationship with Kathleen Harrison, whom he had met in Jerusalem. Soon after graduating, McKenna and Dennis published a book inspired by their Amazon experiences, The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching. He also began lecturing. The brothers' experiences in the Amazon would later play a major role in McKenna's book True Hallucinations, published in 1993. In 1976, the brothers published what they had learned about the cultivation of mushrooms in a book entitled Psilocybin - Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide under the pseudonyms "OT Oss" and "ON Oeric".
Later life In the early 1980s, McKenna began to speak publicly on the topic of psychedelic drugs, lecturing extensively and conducting weekend workshops. Though associated with the New Age and human potential movements, McKenna himself had little patience for New Age sensibilities. He repeatedly stressed the importance and primacy of felt experience, as opposed to dogma. Timothy Leary once introduced him as "one of the five or six most important people on the planet. 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", He soon became a fixture of popular counterculture. His growing popularity culminated in the early to mid-1990s with the publication of several books: True Hallucinations, relating the tale of his 1971 La Chorrera experience; 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 are, sampled by many.
In 1994 he appeared as a speaker at the Starwood Festival, documented in the book Tripping by Charles Hayes. His lectures were produced on both cassette tape and CD. McKenna was a 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. He conducted several public debates known as trialogues with them from the late 1980s until his death. Books containing 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 many scientists, writers, artists, and entertainers. His influences include comedian Bill Hicks, whose routines about psychedelic drugs drew heavily from McKenna's works. He is also the inspiration for the Twin Peaks character Dr. Jacoby. 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, specifically about art/visual experience as information representing the significance of hallucinatory visions experienced under the influence of psychedelics.
In 1985, McKenna co-founded Botanical Dimensions with his then-wife Kathleen, a nonprofit ethnobotanical preserve in Hawaii, where he lived for many years before he died. In 1997 he and Kathleen divorced. Before moving to Hawaii permanently, McKenna split his time between Hawaii and Occidental, located in the redwood-studded hills of Sonoma County, California. 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. According to Wired magazine, McKenna was worried that his tumour was caused by his 35-years of smoking cannabis; though his doctors assured him there was no causal relation. In late 1999, Erik Davis conducted what would be the last interview of McKenna.
During the interview McKenna also talked about the announcement of his death:“ 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. ” McKenna 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.
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 which was storing the collection. An index maintained by his brother Dennis survives, though little else.
“ 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", 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 ancestors, or spirits of earth. He remained opposed to most forms of organized religion or guru-based forms of spiritual awakening. Either philosophically or religiously, he expressed admiration for Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Gnostic Christianity, Alfred North Whitehead and Alchemy. McKenna always regarded the Greek philosopher Heraclitus as his favorite philosopher. He also expressed admiration for the works of James Joyce (calling Finnegans Wake "the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature of the 20th century") and Vladimir Nabokov: McKenna once said that he would have become a Nabokov lecturer if he had never encountered psychedelics.
"Stoned Ape" theory of human evolution:
In his book Food of the Gods, McKenna proposed that the transformation from humans' early ancestors Homo erectus to the species Homo sapiens mainly had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis in its diet - an event which according to his theory took place in about 100,000 BC (this is when he believed that the species diverged from the Homo genus). He based his theory on the main effects, or alleged effects, produced by the mushroom. One of the effects that comes about from the ingestion of low doses, which agrees with one of scientist Roland Fischer's findings from the late 60s-early 70s, is it significantly improves the visual acuity of humans - so theoretically, of other human-like mammals too. According to McKenna, this effect would have definitely prove to be of evolutionary advantage to humans' omnivorous hunter-gatherer ancestors that would have stumbled upon it "accidentally"; as it would make it easier for them to hunt. In higher doses, McKenna claims, the mushroom acts as a sexual stimulator, which would make it even more beneficial evolutionarily, as it would result in more offspring.
At even higher doses, the mushroom would have acted to "dissolve boundaries", which would have promoted community-bonding and group sexual activities-that would result in a mixing of genes and therefore greater genetic diversity. Generally McKenna believed that the periodic ingestion of the mushroom would have acted to dissolve the ego in humans before it ever got the chance to grow in destructive proportions. In this context he likened the ego to a cancerous tumor that can grow uncontrollable and become destructive to its host. In his own words: Wherever and whenever the ego function began to form, it was akin to a cancerous tumor or a blockage in the energy of the psyche. The use of psychedelic plants in a context of shamanic initiation dissolved-as it dissolves today-the knotted structure of the ego into undifferentiated feeling, what Eastern philosophy calls the Tao. —Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods The mushroom, according to McKenna, had also given humans their first truly religious experiences (which, as he believed, were the basis for the foundation of all subsequent religions to date). Another factor that McKenna talked about was the mushroom's potency to promote linguistic thinking. This would have promoted vocalisation, which in turn would have acted in cleansing the brain (based on a scientific theory that vibrations from speaking cause the precipitation of impurities from the brain to the cerebrospinal fluid), which would further mutate the brain. All these factors according to McKenna were the most important factors that promoted evolution towards the Homo sapiens species. After this transformation took place, the species would have begun moving out of Africa to populate the rest of the planet Later on, this theory by McKenna was given the name "The 'Stoned Ape' Theory of Human Evolution".
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
-History Ends In Green: Gaia, Psychedelics and the Archaic Revival, 6 audiocassette set, Mystic Fire audio, 1993, ISBN 1-56176-907-x (recorded at the Esalen Institute, 1989)
-TechnoPagans at the End of History (transcription of rap with Mark Pesce from 1998)
-Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines (1999) 90 minutes video
-Alien Dreamtime with Spacetime Continuum & Stephen Kent (Magic Carpet Media) (CD) video -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 Global Perspectives and Psychedelic Poetics (1994) (Cassette) Sound Horizons Audio-Video, Inc.
-The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (1992) (Cassette) Sounds True
-Re : Evolution with The Shamen (1992)
-Alien Dreamtime with Spacetime Continuum & Stephen Kent (Magic Carpet Media) (DVD)
-2009 - Cognition Factor (2009)
-List of notable brain tumor patients
“Psilocybin and the Sands of Time” by Terence McKenna"
Transcribed from a talk given at the Esalen Institute in California, December 1982.
TM: ...Life is a conscious development of conscious alternatives. But it was not until the Amazon that I saw that this was possible in a way that was accessible to me. So then I concentrated on those people, those chemical families, and that then became the compass for all the work that I've done since then. And I regard the degree more or less as a joke because it was self-directed study. They don't really ... there is no degree is shamanism. But my interested was basically one in the phenomenology of religious experience, religious traditions world-wide, and primitive people against a background of tropical nature, and stumbled onto the mushroom in the jungles of Columbia in 1971, and was not even particularly interested in mushrooms at the time. We were looking for a less well-understood drug that is still not discussed much in the literature that exists is a very circumscribed area among three Indian tribes. And we went into the jungle to stay at a mission that served these Indians, and the priest at this mission had cleared pasture and brought in white cows, and there were many many of these mushrooms. And as soon as we started experimenting with them, I realized that what I'd been told about psilocybin (which was that it was analogous to LSD, but simply required a larger amount for the effect to be present) was a complete simplification of the issue, and actually then psilocybin became the focus of my interest and by extrapolation the other triptomene-related hallucinogens, and a great dream of mine and my brother's as well was that the mushroom be made somehow accessible to people so that they may judge for themselves the difference. We worked with this over a number of years.
In 1975 we succeeded in growing it by a method that had previously been used only in the laboratory in commercial grocery store mushrooms to study their genetics, but it turned out to be perfectly adapted for growing this mushroom. Within a matter of months we had written 'Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Growers Guide', and the information was moving out into society. But more important from our point of view was that the mushroom was again accessible to us so that we had psilocybin in a form that was certified pure by mother nature. That initiated the 2nd phase of our work with these drugs, which has carried us up to the present day. It's basically a project of taking the drugs, calling attention to the differences, the uniqueness of the state, and trying to attract other people's attention to it because I have, we have, a very deep intuition of its importance for the cultural predicament for mankind generally. This is how we come to where we are today.
Q: You just mentioned that the mushroom is really important for our country right now. You perceive yourself as an [...] to bring into our culture a new element [...] and easy way to reach altered stated of consciousness. What can we learn from these experiences.
TM: Well, the first thing that we can learn is that they exist. In other words, that -- perhaps is a truism in the 80's -- but at one point it was thought that there were two states of consciousness: awake and asleep. Now there is a gamut of these states but I still don't believe that the people who deal with consciousness realize how mutable consciousness really is. There is a prejudice against the use of drugs because there is an inherent dualism built into western thought were people value the experience if it is indigenously produced, produced through ordeal or personality or dieting. But is undervalued if it comes from drugs. This has, in my opinion, held back the western development of understanding consciousness because quite simply these states, I do not believe, are accessible by any means other than drugs. And this is heresy to a number of people, but the evidence that I lay in favor of that contention is the history of human art and literature and music and painting, is surprisingly empty of the motifs which exist in the triptomene- induced ecstasy.
And always when I speak of hallucinogens I'm speaking of this limited family of drugs, not LSD or ketamine or mascaline -- but psilocybin and DMT and combinational drugs which utilize strategies for making that effect noticeable. My career is to point at this place in nature which I have stumbled upon and to say 'What is this?, What do you make of this? What do you the physicist, you the psychologist, you the after-death researcher, what do you make of this place?' Even the most sophisticated consciousness researchers tend to hurry over drugs or to focus on one drug to the exclusion of others, and yet psilocybin has not received this kind of attention and treatment. And why that is I'm not sure. I think that the element of terror involved in doing it, the fact that it does not bathe your ego in a cloud of certitude or assurance that everything is going to be fine. It is much more cut and dry than that. It's a challenge, it is a .. when you are out in the "billows" as I call it -- because it seems to come in in waves like sets of billows -- when you're out in the billows you are against the power of mind -- up against the power of mind -- to such a degree that you know that the entire enterprise hangs in the balance, but no matter how much you've told about dosage and this kind of thing, that the mind actually holds the key to life and death, and that those parts of your control board which are normally masked from you are suddenly unmasked and the buttons are there for you to manipulate to the degree that you understand them. There is an element of risk. I never tell people that there isn't. But I think the risk is worth it, because I think these bizarre dimensions of beauty and information are actually ... it is an imitation of these things that give human history its coherency. In other words, this is not a peripheral issue to the general phenomenon of human becoming in time.
It is actually because the evolution of the human species is the evolution of the human mind, these consciousness expanding agents actually anticipate an end state in the evolution of the human mind, and so they cast enormous reflection back over the historical landscape. It is they that generate religions and physics and messianic careers and outbreaks of great psychic accomplishment and disgrace. Until we understand this, until we understand that there is a teleological object at the end of human history, and that it can be known, we will continue to live the kind of limited intellectual existence that has characterized that last 500 years or so of western development. Psilocybin triptomene, is in my opinion the means to eliminating the future by becoming cognizant of the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and causing history, essentially.
Q: How do you perceive in this context the future of mankind and the human mind?
TM: I've said many times, human history is a lunge across 15 or 20 thousand years of time from the primitive stone chipping primate to that creature which will walk into a trans dimensional vehicle and leave the solar system and human history and the concerns of the human monkey far behind. This may take a thousand generations of people that as biological fact, as an emergent process of planetary significance, that is only a microcosm -- I mean a microsecond of cosmic time. The immediate future of man lies in the imagination and it's seeking the dimension where the imagination can be expressed. The present cultural crisis on the surface of the planet is caused by the fact that this is not a fitting theater for the exercise of the imagination. It wrecks the planet. The planet has its own epistemic dymanics, which are not the dynamics of imagination. In space -- the physical space that surrounds the planet -- modalities of imagination will be the limiting cases of what man can be done. So I see man becoming an artist and an engineer. In other words, flowing into our ideas, perhaps more even than we dare to suspect. In other words, a possible end state of that kind of technical evolution would be the interiorization of the body -- of the human body, the individual body -- and the exteriorization of the soul. And this seems to me to be what the recovery from Adam's fall, allegorically, is getting at: that the soul must be made manifest and eternal, and the body must be incorporealized so that it is a freely commanded object in the imagination.
What I mean by that is something like what William Butler Yeates is getting at in his poem 'Sailing to Byzantium' where he speaks of the artifice of eternity, and talks about how beyond death he would hope to be an enameled golden bird singing sweet songs to the lords and ladies of Byzantium. In other words, it's the image of the human body become an indestructible cybernetic object, and yet within that indestructible cybernetic object there is a holographic transform of the body, and it is released into the dream. In other words, the after-death state is actually the compass of human history. That we are attempting to undergo a complete death of the species, and as we struggle with this concrescence of amatos (????) there are problems like nuclear stockpiles and all these things arise because the message that we're trying to read is the message we most fear to hear, which is that you must die to experience eternal life essentially. What this death that we're talking about is, is an understanding that the human, the docine, the being of human beings, desires to be released into the imagination. And until we confront death with the attitude that it is the afterdeath state that needs to enter history there will be a great deal of anxiety. It's like a birth, you know, a birth is a death. Everything you treasure and believe in and love and relate to is destroyed for you when you leave the womb. You are launched into another modality, a modality that you would not perhaps have chosen but that you cannot do anything about.
So I think these drugs anticipate, because I think that time is the moving image of eternity as Plato said, and these drugs place you outside of time. Now the mechanism of how that's done you can evoke Bell's theorem or just call it pure magic, but it does happen in the here and now -- it is accessible, it is not something remote from us. But somehow the clamber of the modern world, and in search for answers people have feared to place themselves on the line and to actually wrestle with life and death out there in those strange bordo-like dimensions, not realizing that there is no other way to win true knowledge, I mean it cannot be so easily come by. There is no knowledge without risk-taking, and I see the human future emerging along the lines that the mushroom visions has insisted upon: the proliferation of electronic media, the desification of information, the breaking down of consensus reality, the breakdown of a coherent dogma at the center of physics. All these things indicate that it is slowly becoming understood that the modality of being is the modality of mind. Once that realization is placed in the center of someone thinking about the world, the importance of these drugs will seem to be paramount. Once a culture places that understanding in the center of its model of the world, these drugs will then point the way and we will be much closer to the end of history that I think we all desire consciously. A cutting of the gordian knot, and a release of the human species and individual into the dream, basically. Primitive people , meaning preliterate people, they just have circumvented the entire process of history. They have leapfrogged over us. They are already in the dream.
They have accepted the drug on its own terms and assimilated it and live with it. The problem with that, for them and for us, is that we are destroying their world. Our intellectual equipment is such that we can never have that naive epistemological approach to these phenomena because we know about techne, we know that energy can be manipulated to achieve effects. So it isn't enough for us to try to recreate the shamanism of preliterate people. We have to go into the shaman space with a priori categories of Kant, with the adedic reduction of Lichtenstien, with the ideas of [???] and Whitehead -- all the intellectual equipment of our culture must be carried with us into that space to attempt to map it in a way that will be relevant for us and that will point the way toward a shortening of this period of shock, and the accumulating shock wave, like the bow shock of ionized particles or energetic particles meeting the magnetic field of a planet. That's what the chaos at the end of history is.
Q: Were you just talking about the Bell Theorem?
TM: No, I'm talking about a shock wave which precedes escatology and is modern times, basically. It's been increasing throughout history, but as we grow closer to this moment where the human mind will evolve into hyperspace the confusion, the amount of contradiction, the amount of queue it's called in engineering -- just the amount of vibration the system is increasing to the point where it seems like the system is about to fly to pieces. This signals to me that the onset of the primal crisis, that when we've gone through it we will then live in this realm of altered understanding that psilocybin and these drugs anticipate. It isn't a coincidence that they anticipate them. It is, in fact, what escatalogical time is, is what they reveal. That's why the cultures we find using them are escatalogical and historical cultures. Q: What is the Bell Theorem? TM: The Bell Theorem is simply an interpretation of an experiment in quantum mechanics which seems to suggest that information is non-local. In other words, that everything about everywhere can be known here and now because somehow all information is cotangent to every point in the matrix. I don't pretend to have the background to judge the Bell Theorem. What I would say about it is if it isn't true, something like it must be true to account for the informational content of these drug experiences. Just take a simple behaviorist model: what is in your head, if behaviorists and reductionists and evolutionists are correct, what is in you head should be very adapted to the hear and now.
It should be efficacious information that bears on your survival. Instead what we find when we take these drugs is a density of information, and alieness of information, an inapplicability of information to the human condition that suggests that information is available with no bearing on the life of the individual or the success of his evolutionary strategy. I just cannot believe that these things are built into the human psyche. I have, as I said I was involved in Jungian ideas and those archetypes and those archetypal processes are not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the thing which, for want of a better word, we call the alien or the extraterrestrial. The thing which comes out of the drug experience that is un-englishable. Beautiful, but so bizarre that it seems to exceed human categories.
Q: Some people talk about entities
TM: Yes, it can present itself as an entity. It can present itself in a number of different ways. It is the central mystery of our age. We are so alienated ... let me restart that. The relationship of intellectuals alive today who are familiar with the state of modern science and that sort of thing, to a question like the existence of extraterrestrials is approximately in the same place or degree of closure as the relationship of 15th and 16th century intellectuals to the real properties of matter. In other words they only had a tenuous grip on the real properties of matter. Consequently alchemy could exist, could project the hopes of human psychic transformation onto inert matter because so little was known about the real nature of matter that it seemed a reasonable place to expect these kinds of things to happen. The present state of thought today is that it's highly likely that there are extraterrestrials somewhere out among the stars. The state of our development of out chemistry, astrophysics, linguistics, etc, etc, makes it reasonable for us as moderns to expect that. So then consequently we go into our heads and there seems to be the extraterrestrial. It may be a true extraterrestrial, but it is odd that it is hidden itself in the place where we expect it to find it. This causes me to assume that actually it's far more profound than an extraterrestrial. It's something which to gain our confidence is disguised as an extraterrestrial because it's real nature is so much more devastating than that in which it insinuates itself into our lives so that we can dream of a hegemony of organized intelligence out in the galaxy that we will relate to and be assimilated into. What I think is going on is that actually the most intelligent live form on the planet is not man and his institutions, it is the overmind of the human species, which is a diffuse organism of technical artifacts like computers and information transfer and retrieval systems, and human beings. But human institutions are like myths woven by the individual human cells that make up society.
The real controlling modality on the planet is never visible, and it is this group mind. It controls the release of ideas into history by designating certain people as geniuses. There's a certain kind of imbalance, a certain kind of religion will arise to collapse that imbalance if technical advancement is outstripping the evolution of ethics. A religion can step in to freeze these developments so one can catch up with the other. The whole consciousness movement that has evolved over the past 20 years is an attempt to map, to verify, and to open a dialog with this thing which is the other, we call it The Other, we call it The Alien, but it is actually the overmind of the species. Yet it seeks this dialog. It has been waiting all these millenia for us to essentially come to a point of intellectual maturity where we did not then require messiahs, religions, and these various crude interventions into the human experience which keep us from destroying ourselves. Q: This is also what Jung called the collective unconscious. TM: Right. But he painted it as a very passive kind of thing. More like a data bank, or a place where all myths and all memories were. I think of it as a god, a kind of god, and I think it's active in three dimensional space. It can be active in something as personalistic and circumscribed as a string of coincidences which we experience which seem to be turning your life in a certain direction that you may not have expected. Or it can be active in something like the world-wide phenomenon of flying saucers. Flying saucers are nothing more than miracles. They occur essentially to bedevil science, because science is a human institution that has arisen in the last 500 years that is the dreams of displacing the overmind without ever realizing that it exists. Science dreams of this place of pre-eminence. But science creates alienation, species survival problems, all of these things. Now then the overmind, which can be thought of as a cultural thermostat, it clicks on when the clash of contradiction between the ethics of a society and some other institution (in this case science) becomes too great.
This governing device clicks on and it begins producing those events most destructive to the institution that is seeking pre-eminence -- in this case science. So the inexplicability of the flying saucer phenomenon is it's central reason for being, and all the effort to reduce it to something -- metal ships from far away or anything else -- is due to failure because its very reason for being is to undermine those kind of ontological systems. Why we're talking about this is because psilocybin makes, inducts you into the flying saucer experience. In other words, a metaphor for it would be to say that psilocybin is a means of triggering the so-called abduction experience, or the close encounter of the third kind. Once you realize that, once you've satisfied yourself that that's true, a number of experimental avenues are opened up. A number of different approaches to what's going on are suggested. Here we have alien entities eager to transmit information, eager to carry on a noetic dialog, and we seem to be ignoring the opportunity because our categories mitigate against us correctly appreciating it.
Q: Are these entities coming from outer space, or are they more part of us?
TM: It's impossible to tell. This is the game that you must play with them is through dialog trying to figure out if this is the previously unseen human psyche, or whether it is actually a thing coming from the outside. It is not an easy thing to decide because we are so alienated from self that we don't really know what it would be. Q: So it's not important to know the context, it's more important to know the content. TM: The content is very interesting because even if we were somehow to verify that Bell's non-locality theorem applied and that these were real entities around a real sun somewhere in the universe, it would make them no more or less real. In other words, it's a hangup to demand that they appear in three dimensional space. I always, I have this hangup so I don't put it down. I always think of the apostle Thomas because you'll recall Thomas was not present when Christ returned after ... when he rose from the grave he appeared to the apostles in the upper room, and Thomas was not present. Then later he was there, and the apostles said "listen, the master was here and it was wonderful" and he said you people have been smoking too many little brown cigarettes that's preposterous. And at that point Christ walked in, and he said, he said "Thomas, come put your hand into the wound so that you'll believe." And so he did and so he believed. Well, the moral of the story as I read it is Thomas was the doubter, consequently Thomas was the only one who was allowed to touch the resurrection body. It was because he doubted that he was [????] to this position of pre-eminence. I'm like that.
I would like to touch the incorporeal body. I would like to call the saucer down and observe all of its workings. But this is a spiritual aspiration that cannot be advanced by any human technique or activity. This is just something you pray for. In the meantime, the job is to map it and describe it and explore it and try to direct the attention other people more intelligent than myself to this astonishing fact really. I mean, I am troubled by the fact that so many strange claims are made today, so many forms of aliens and channeling and voices in the head. When I began all of this ten years ago I was afraid to speak because I sounded mad, even to myself, and I sounded like a voice in the wilderness. Today the situation has changed to the point where I can barely make myself heard amidst the clamor of people who have various entities from Atlantis, beyond the grave, and Zeta Reticuli, and what have you clamoring to be heard. So I take it on faith and I ask you to take it on faith that I am somewhat more objective, somewhat more interested in hard facts than these other chanellers. I would like people to take a look at this phenomenon and then tell me what they think. It involves risk: people fear to do it -- careers are placed on the line. It is not easy to make a career out of taking psychedelic drugs. It is not a thing which mixes well with the politics of any institution, a university or research institution. Perhaps this is why shamans are the primary sources of information about it.
Q: Terence, are you a shaman?
Q: Are you an exploring shaman?
TM: I am an exploring shaman. I wouldn't claim to be a shaman but I think that anyone who takes these things and goes out and tries to navigate through and make maps and bring back data is a shaman for sure.
Q: Do you want everyone to take this drug?
TM: No, I don't think so. I think it's very dangerous. I do not tell people that is it safe because I don't have the faith that it's safe. I know what the pharmacological literature says, and it says that it's safe. That at the doses where these effects occur there can't possibly be a problem. But this seems to me to be the naiveté of materialism. We shouldn't be in a hurry to believe them even though it might make us more comfortable to do so. In other words, it's saying the drug may not be toxic, but you may be self-toxic and you may discover this in the drug experience. So you have to hone yourself and be clean and you never know you're clean enough until it's too late because each journey into that dimension is a total existential commitment, and the element of fear is always there. I mentioned this this morning: that the fear validates it. I'm not ... I think it's fine to take drugs for pleasure but it should be labeled as taking drugs for pleasure. The high doses of psilocybin that are necessary to elicit entry into these places, it requires as it said in Hamlet you must screw your courage to the sticking place.
Q: You mentioned earlier about mankind evolving towards a teleological goal. Would you comment on that?
TM: Well, I don't think that there is a final goal at the end of history, but speaking relative to the history of the past 4 or 5 thousand years, I think that the goal is, as I said, to invert the relationship of body and soul. So that the body becomes an image in the imagination and the soul becomes an exteriorized, solid-state piece of circuitry which maintains everything else in stasis. I'm not sure if people even realize what I'm picturing in my mind when I say this, but I think that the destiny of man and what man will make and be his destiny just because of how we are, is released into the imagination. This is what all our after death scenarios say, whether they are true or not, and they may be true. This is what poetry aspires to, art aspires to, it's releasing the imagination. We are creatures of the dream, and once this is articulated with sufficient clarity -- and it's happening now, but I think the work we do with these drugs, we are the earliest pioneers in what over the next hundred years will lead to an understanding of consciousness almost as a thing apart from the monkey body and brain. We ARE consciousness. We may not always be monkeys. We fear the dehumanizing effect of so many computers and emotions, euphoric emotions not related to sex and all these things. We fear them. We say we're moving further and further from nature and deeper and deeper into our own psyche. But this is a dualism: out psyche IS nature and we cannot move away from nature by exploring these places. So I believe that the technological re-creation of the after-death state is what history pushes toward.
That means a kind of eternal existence where there is an ocean of mind into which one can dissolve and reform from, but there is also the self related to the body image, but in the imagination. So that we each would become, in a sense, everyone. I would live at Versailles and you might live at the Taj Mahal, and someone else might live at Buckingham Palace. But what you would see, if there were an exterior observer, what you would see is only that man had become a coral reef of circuitry in space and on the planetary surface. This is a very extreme view of the history of man because it's essentially gnostic. It says we are now what we yearn to be and are destined to be. We are not ... I don't see history as the process of accepting and coming to terms with monkey-hood. I see that it will inevitably seek to transform and transcend monkey-hood. This will be very frightening. Imagine even a 15th century person were to be in this room with us and the value systems, the clash of assumptions about what is important and what is unimportant, and this will be a much more intense change. Whether it is good or bad rests on a question that I have no answer for, and the question is: is man good? This, I maintain, is the central thing to dig at and we cannot know and there's evidence pro and con. I have the faith that man is good, so I don't fear this future. But if someone had a doubt, even a small doubt about that, then they would be repelled by this. I take all these movements which want zero sum growth and reject technology, reject space colonization, reject drug experimentation as artificial -- these people would be very alarmed by this kind of a point of view.
They do not seem to realize that the momentum toward this kind of thing is now so great in terms of human culture and that sort of thing that there can be no turning back. We are either going to change into this cybernetic hyper-dimensional hallucinogenic angel, or we are going to destroy ourselves. The opportunity for us to be happy hunters and gatherers integrated into the balance of nature -- that fell away 15,000 years ago and cannot be recaptured. Gerard O'Neil made an answer to this very objection: he said that the earth is the cradle of mankind, there is no question about that, but you do not remain in the cradle forever. This is a birth crisis that we're going through. For the entirety of human history has been the story the monkey becoming the flying saucer, and it is taking [snaps fingers] just that long in geological time, but we for some strange reason, happen to be living through the final moments of that process right now and it is a turbulent, chaotic, multi-dimensional metamorphosis that is -- there's never been anything like it on this planet before. It's absolutely astonishing information which was locked for [????] of time into the DNA of plants and animals passed through the hand and articulate voice of man been able to bootstrap itself out of the DNA and into these culturally validated, rapidly operating, electromagnetic codes and languages, and this is allowing its development, its evolution, to proceed at a rate so fast that the trans- formation is taking place essentially in our lifetime.
Psilocybin is central to this because psilocybin casts a spotlight into the darkness into which we are moving and shows that this is what lies there. It is the human soul, essentially, the oversoul of mankind calling history toward itself across the dimentions. It's taking only a moment, on the other hand it's taking 20,000 years, and it is the great great adventure of becoming. We are very very priviledges to be in this final ticking out of the last seconds of the 3rd act.
Q: Do you mind telling us about the fact that DMT is located in the human brain?
TM: Well, I think that puts in some sense a strong piece of evidence for the argument that I've been making. Not only is DMT endogenous in the brain but beta-carbolenes of the sort that occur in Ayahuasca are endogenous in the brain as well. These things, as I mentioned this morning, the shift of a single atom on the ring structure of one of these molecules can cause a compound to go from inert to highly active. Well that means, then, that it's probably very reasonable to say that we are close to shifting the level of endogenous hallucinogens in our head, we are probably only a one gene mutation away from that happening. If you know how biological evolution works, it isn't that a change -- a mutation -- occurs and the mutation is found to be better adapted that the previous form, and hence the mutation dominates. That is not the way evolution works. The way it works is you have the normal expression in a genome type in a population, and then you have mutations being thrown up all the time. They are usually quenched except in the situation where the environment shifts so that new selective pressures are operating in the environment. When new selective pressures begin to operate, a gene that was previously without consequence may suddenly have immense consequences. So that every member of the population that you're looking at that has that gene suddenly is in a much more advantageous position to advance their evolutionary strategy.
I think that certainly modern existence has changed the selective pressures on the human genome and now it is people who are far out -- that's simply a gloss -- because the people who are far out who are gaining advantage in the evolutionary jostling for efficacious strategies. You're right, Frank, this is happening on the hardware level -- on the level of endogenous triptomenes and that sort of thing. I think schizophrenia, is essentially in a way, a disease of modern times. It's always existed, of course, but the incidence of it and the incidence of schizoid -- not schizophrenic -- personalities and types is because the modalities of evolutionary selection are shifting. If you think of a rainforest that has been above water 200 million years, all evolutionary niches have become occupied -- everything is at steady state. There is not going to be any dramatic radiation of a new species because everything has been worked out and the energy flows are so tight, nothing can gain a leg up on that situation. But if you clear 1000 acres or forest and reduce it to rubble, essentially open land, then what are called 'invader species' come in there and they very quickly gain dominance where in the jungle at steady state you never see those plant. You never see weedy annual heavily seeing plants in the jungle. The jungle strategy is for enormous plants which produce small numbers of seeds. This is, again, an analogy to the modern situation that modernity is a desert -- we are jungle monkeys. Some new evolutionary selective pressures are coming to bear upon the human situation. New ideas are coming into the fore. Psilocybin is a selective filter for this. The wish to go to space is a selective filter for this. Just the wish to know your own mind is selective filter for this. This is part of the picture. This is what's happening, it's inevitable. It's a very good thing, I think. If you have faith that man's good, and I follow the renaissance platonists on that. I think man MUST be the measure of all things. What else could possibly serve with certainty? That's all I'd say about that.
Q: You stated earlier that psilocybin is coming from outer space or that there's a possibility that the mushroom is ...
TM: There's a possibility of that. Fred Hoyle and an associate of his have come to my aid on this saying that spore-bearing lifeforms -- because spores have the capacity to survive in the conditions of outer space -- that spore-bearing lifeforms may over truly large scales of time percolate out through the galaxy and serve as a basis for the evolution of life on various planets, or insert themselves into already existing planetary ecologies and insert themselves there. I don't -- on these matters of specific facts, like is the mushroom an extraterrestrial and that sort of thing, I haven't the faintest idea. The mushroom itself is such a mercurial, elusive, zen sort of personality that I never believe a word it says. I simply entertain its notions and try and sort through them. I've found that to be the most enriching approach to it. To know that the option of believing that is there on hard evidence is very exhilarating. As to what is really going on, the mushroom assures me that I haven't got even the faintest grip on what is really going on. But something is going on.
Q: What do you think is evil? Can these mushrooms be misused?
TM: Well, I think anything can be misused. Most evil is trivial and if I could speak off the top of my head: the only evil that associates itself with mushrooms is taking too little. In other words, evil is ... there is a word I want -- it isn't 'twiddle' but something like that. Evil is when you play at things, not in play in the Hindu cosmic sense but where you fiddle with things you muck with things because you don't want to get your feet wet. You want to be able to say you've done these things but you never want to really place your validity on the line. I am amazed at the number of people who claim familiarity with psychedelic drugs who when you actually question them closely it's very clear that they have a sub-threshold dose, even if they've taken 50 or 100 times. They have managed through low doses and strong defenses to always keep the daemon at bay and they don't know what they're talking about. You must take a sufficiently large dose so that you enter into these places. Not to knock anyone him personally because he's a very nice man, but as an example: Roland Fisher, who's work you may know, I talked to him and he's given psilocybin, he says, to 15,000 people at NIMH. Now he is retired to Majorca. And I said to him, I said 'Roland, what do you make of it?' He said, 'What do you make of what?'. And I said, "Well, what do you make of specifically the hallucinations? You say you give to all these people, you took it six times. What happened when you closed your eyes and looked at the hallucinations?' He said, 'I never close my eyes'. I was highly agitated throughout.
And I just realized these things which seem to me as natural as breathing, just slide right past people. Of course you do not eat a few hours before you do it, of course you lie down in darkness and compose your mind and look at the darkness behind your eyelids, and of course you invoke it through the wish to have it come to you. These are things as simple as they can be yet here was a man with a lifelong professional involvement in it, published dozens of papers, has made contributions in the mapping of consciousness, but he could never just stop figiting long enough to see it. So that's my idea of that as evil. Evil is anything that trivializes a mystery would be evil. Since this is a mystery, any dismissing of it or constantly taking it at low doses for hedonic purposes -- I mean there's nothing wrong with that, but that's not the whole story and nobody should think that that gives you a pedestal from which to speak about it. You really have to do these heroic amounts and integrate them. This is something I haven't even talked about in this interview. But these things are very state bounded, a term Jerome Fisher, in fact, coined. That simply means that they are very hard to retain and remember. What exactly happened at the peak of the flash, and you come down and you say 'well, it was very strange, there was information, there were entities but I just can't get back to it.' The way to overcome that is to be a psychedelic in your down life as possible.
And by psychedelic I mean ideas, cognitive activities, you should dance, you should read, you should think, you should paint, you should sculpt, you should converse, you should constantly involve yourself in cognitive activities because taking these drugs is one major cognitive activity. And then, if you have a grip on human history -- where the human enterprise has been, where it's going --- if you have been many places it's easier to map. I'm reminded of there's an alchemical aphorism, I think it's attributed to [????] where he says, 'the oldest books, the farthest countries, the deepest forests, the highest mountains, this is where you must seek the stone.' And what he means is you simply acquire experience because it is only in the acquisition of acquired experiences that you have a reservoir to draw on when you seek to make metaphors and analogies about the alien thing, when you invoke the god then you can map back onto it and say well, it's like this it's like that, knowing that it not that or this but the fund of analogies is there to give you a grip on it. So there's an obligation to experience, deeply and richly and thoroughly and intellectually, and then you can map back onto it. But it's a dialog between you and it where you are discovering new things about yourself, and it, trying to resolve the question, 'are we the same thing?' And I haven't resolved the question. My suspicions fall one way and then another way, but I think it is without a doubt a living mystery existing in the present available to anyone sincere enough to seek it and for me that was a life-transforming discovery and revelation because I didn't believe there were any mysteries. I believe there may have been once, but to discover one right in our midst, and it cannot be reduced, it cannot be pulled apart into its constituent functions. It is truly a unitary mystery, and it's accessible in our lives right now without kneeling at anybody's feet, without following any regiment of denial or the assimilation of any belief system. This is very big news, I think. The mystery has always been there I'm sure, but our society is so bizarre and has led us so far astray that we have to rediscover it and this process is happening -- this is what the 20th century is all about and we are still tiptoeing at the edge of it even though great men, great women, great mappers of consciousness have come and gone, we're still at the very infancy of this thing. It calls out to us, it beckons. It says do more, see more, know more, and be more apart of it.
FULL INTERVIEW www.MindofMcKenna.com