In Memoriam: Terence McKenna (April 3, 2000) – Excerpts from Esalen 1999 in ‘Green Egg’ Magazine

Eighteen years ago today, April 3, 2000, Terence McKenna passed on as a result of a rare brain tumor. In it’s May/June issue of that year, the pagan-oriented magazine Green Egg published a full-page memorial that mostly consisted of a standardized description of Terence’s bio (similar to what appeared on his own books). However, it begins with a set of excerpts by Terence from Esalen in December of 1999, only a few months before Terence’s death, which I thought would make an appropriate object of attention for our remembrance…

“Everything is a blessing and everything comes as a gift. And I don’t regret anything about the situation I find myself in. If psychedelics don’t ready you for the great beyond, then I don’t know what really does. And we’re all under sentence of ‘moving up’ at some point in our lives.

“I have an absolute faith that the universe prefers joy and distills us with joy. That is what religion is trying to download to us, and this is what every moment of life is trying to do — if we can open to it. And we psychedelic people, if we could secure that death has no sting, we would have done the greatest service to suffering intelligence that can be done.

“And I feel that death is close, and I feel strong because of the (psychedelic) community and these people and plants that it rests on, and the ancient practices that it rests on, and I am full of hope, not only for my own small problems, but for humanity in general.”

-Terence McKenna (Esalen, December 1999)

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I’d also like to re-share Robert Hunter’s all-too-little-known poem ‘Words for Terence’, written on the occasion of Terence’s death and read aloud by Phil Lesh at a memorial:

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Crowdfund Acquisitions #2 – Illustrator Matteo Guarnaccia Brings Italian Translation of ‘True Hallucinations’ to Life

Another item that has been added to The Terence McKenna Archives as a result of our ongoing crowdfund campaign is Vere Allucinazioni (1995), an Italian translation of Terence’s “talking book” (1984) and eventually paper book (1993), True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise.

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What makes this volume particularly valuable and noteworthy, aside from the significance of the affordance for Italian speakers to be able to read Terence’s work, are the copious and excellent illustrations (dozens scattered throughout the text) by Matteo Guarnaccia.

Dozens of Guarnaccia’s drawings litter the pages and often mesh unbelievably well with the contents of the book — I’m only showing a fraction of them here. This is an edition of Terence’s work that is worth having, even if you can’t speak Italian, for the incredibly competent and compelling psychedelic art alone.

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Crowdfund Acquisitions #1 – Gnosis Magazine (First Issue, 1985), Review of ‘True Hallucinations’ Talking Book

This post will be the first in a series where I share the fruits of The Terence McKenna Archives crowdfund campaign.

I have just acquired the first of two major purchases with the money derived from our ongoing crowdfund. Over the weekend, on my way to a conference in Berkeley, I stopped in San Francisco, at the apartment of Jay Kinney, who was the editor of Gnosis magazine (1985-1999). Terence McKenna appeared on the pages of Gnosis numerous times over the course of its history and he and Kat were among its earliest subscribers and supporters (as you’ll see later in this post). Jay also tells me that Terence was instrumental in helping Gnosis to acquire its first, game-changing, high-end laser printer, for a substantial discount, via Terence’s Timewave programmer, Peter Meyer.

I purchased a full set of the entire run of Gnosis magazine from Jay and will be making posts on Terence McKenna-related material that appears within individual issues as I work my way through the collection.

I’ll start, here, with Gnosis #1 (Fall/Winter 1985)

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Terence and Kat were among the earliest ‘Helping Subscribers’ (donating $20 in addition to a $15 subscription), which helped allow The Lumen Foundation to publish 5,000 copies of this first issue.

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By 1985, Terence had only previously published The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching, which wasn’t widely distributed and would have been out of print, and Psilocybin Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, which did sell widely, was authored under a pseudonym, O. T. Oss (both books co-authored with his brother Dennis), and his public speaking career was relatively fresh. The True Hallucinations talking book had, however, just been produced and was positively reviewed, in this first issue of Gnosis, by Ted Schulz.

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This is a book about the kind of revelatory mystical experience that is induced by psychedelic substances. It’s also a book about an exotic expedition undertaken by five friends bound together by a mutual inquisitiveness, especially about subjectively-experienced ethnopharmacology. And it isn’t a book at all, but an eight-cassette “talking book” with fine production quality and effective use of modest sound effects and music.

In 1971, Terence McKenna and his brother Dennis, along with three friends, all young American middle-class intellectuals, set off on a journey into Columbia’s Amazonian wilderness, seeking out the remote area inhabited by the Witoto Indians, a tribe noted for its use of certain psychoactive substances. There, according to plan, they entered the equally lush and far less understood jungle of psychedelic consciousness, as they experimented with ever larger and increasingly frequent doses of the locale’s plentiful psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Terence in particular had prepared for this inner journey, having devoted a number of years to the study of revelatory mystical experience and having pursued a variety of spiritual teachings in exotic locations around the globe. This preparation notwithstanding, he and his brother returned from their experiment changed men, to spend perhaps the rest of their lives constructing theories about that overwhelming experience, as they continue to ask “What happened?”

The McKenna brothers proposed their rigorously phrased answer to this question in their work, The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching (1975, Seabury Press), a serious and carefully constructed cosmology that synthesized their Amazonian revelations. But it is in True Hallucinations that Terence has chosen to tell the human side of the story, in all the untidy detail of a sincere quest made by faltering and confused seekers-after-truth. Normally, the thought of spending nine-and-a-half hours listening to a psychedelic veteran recount his most memorable trips would leave me cold, but McKenna pulls off the feat of entertaining in the process. the backbone of his narrative is an account of the party’s voyage along the Putumayo River, of their difficult overland trek, and their surroundings at their destination, La Chorrera, and it is to this linear ground that he continually returns after flights into psychedelic theory and cosmic philosophy. The story has much of the appeal of an adventure travelogue, with the curious twist of an unusual cast of characters with an even more unusual purpose. Along the way, the intrepid band meets a number of eccentrics, including the leader of a cult of displaced Americans who divines with a Ouija board and is accompanied by a monkey that is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ; and a cocaine-crazed, paranoid, and megalomaniacal anthropologist who has fallen victim to the excessive habit of the tribe he meant to study.

In McKenna’s wry recounting, the dynamics between the five members of this amateur ethnopharmacological expedition are, in the lighter moments, diverting in the manner of a New Age soap opera. At other times they take on the aspect of allegory, reflecting the diametrical human reaction to the power of the psychedelic experience as the group ultimately splinters intro two factions. On the one hand, three people, Terence, his lover, Ev, and his brother, Dennis, continue to ingest copious quantities of the mushrooms, convinced that they are working toward a goal of ultimate importance — the creation of a literal, physical doorway to a higher dimension. On the other hand, the two remaining members of the group back off, alarmed at what they perceive as pre-psychotic behavior in the McKennas. It is, in fact, Dennis McKenna’s extremely crazed behavior that finally precipitates the group’s premature departure from their jungle base and their return to civilization, but it is also through his brother’s behavior that Terence McKenna is stimulated into some of his most meaningful breaks into higher reality.

McKenna describes instances of telepathy, clairvoyance, materialization of lost objects; glimpses of alien beings and higher dimensions; of disembodied voices speaking portents. he describes UFO/flying saucer symbolism and visions, culminating in his climactic and life-changing encounter with an alien craft.  Did these things have an objective reality outside the drug experience? McKenna treats this issue with intelligence and bemusement, and this is what elevates his account from mere psychedelic theory-mongering into a genuine, candid inquiry into the nature of the psychedelic experience and of the solutions to the existential questions the experience intimates. I’m left with an impression of McKenna honestly and humbly seeking the truth through psychedelics, and receiving for his answer an outpouring of mysterious symbology.

Now, some fourteen years later, McKenna is in a position to tell this retrospective tale, and to distill the wealth of enthusiasms and revelations in a way that only the leveling of power of such a span of time can provide. This is an important and enjoyable contribution to the lamentably small body of literature of psychedelic understanding.

–Ted Schulz

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Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #42 – ‘The Archaic Revival’ Reviewed in Library Journal (1992)

Today’s random item from the archives is another in the line of Terence McKenna’s work reviewed in Library Journal. I’ve already covered the Library Journal reviews of The Invisible Landscape (in 1976) & Alien Dreamtime (in 1993) and will eventually get around to reviews of Food of the Gods (book), History Ends in Green (audio), True Hallucinations (book), and Global Perspectives and Psychedelic Poetics (audio) also from the same publication. These are primarily useful as focused instances of reception of Terence’s work as well as to see how he would have been portrayed to the audience of this widely-dispersed trade publication.

Here, in Vol. 117 No. 7 (April 15, 1992), Gail Wood, from Montgomery College Library in Maryland, briefly reviews (and recommends) Terence’s anthology of essays and interviews, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History. The book is listed under the category ‘Parapsychology’, while Food of the Gods was reviewed as ‘Social Science’ and True Hallucinations as ‘Anthropology & Customs’.

McKenna has been exploring the “Wholly Other” for 25 years. In this spiritual journey, he ponders shamanism, buddhism, and ethnopharmacology. By the phrase “archaic revival,” McKenna refers to a return to shamanism, which he believes can be enhanced by current scientific Sc8z3a7a1pJop8e+3ThaWo4mD3ZvVgD4DZEmM1bjC7HOXrbytgWvzpshQMVgVdVGGG0GKU17+H4hazYJyLZFYWZeIJhnKV3FvKNBi1kl9Fo=practices. The next level of spiritual transformation, he explains, is achieved by the intelligent use of psychedelics and should be performed only by thoughtful explorers rather than experimenters, scientific or otherwise. The ideas presented in this collection of interviews, speeches, and articles are radical even now, and will challenge the reader. There are many insights on current spiritual movements such as goddess worship, deep ecology, space beings, and virtual reality. Recommended. —Gail Wood, Montgomery Coll. Lib., Germantown, Md.

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The Terence McKenna Archives has an on-going crowdfund campaign at: https://www.gofundme.com/terencemckennaarchives

Terence McKenna Interviewed in ‘Critique’ Magazine (1989)

Critique: A Journal Exposing Consensus Reality was a quarterly countercultural publication that often specialized in issues surrounding conspiracy culture but also dealt with broader issues, as is made more clear in its alternate title: Critique: A Journal of Conspiracies & Metaphysics. It’s self-described purpose was “to question, explore, and expose consensus reality to assist in the transformation from consumer idiots to critically thinking, aware and developing individuals. And to prepare the way for the new paradigms and the new species.”

Issue #31 (Summer 1989) contained a 3-page interview with Terence McKenna conducted by David Jay Brown & Rebecca McClen. This is a different edit from the same interview that also later appeared in High Times magazine in 1992, and which later appeared again (also with a different edit) in Brown & McClen (Novick)’s book Mavericks of the Mind in 1993. The interview also appears in Terence’s own book The Archaic Revival, identifying Critique as the original publication, although the interview is much longer in the book than in the magazine.

The theme of this particular special issue of Critique was ‘End of the World or End of an Illusion’, so Brown & McClen selected out the sections of their interview that were most relevant to that theme. You can view a photocopy of the entire interview (as published in Critique) on pages 2-4, here. But, I’ll include some choice quotes below.

A reference to Terence also appears elsewhere in the issue in Michael Grosso‘s article, ‘Endtime Anomalies’, where he says:

“The anomalous signs in the sky — which we call UFOs — seem designed to undermine confidence in our prevailing sense of reality. Terence McKenna compares these unidentified sky signs with the Resurrection of Jesus in the ancient world, something meant to counfound, paralyze, and suspend the intellectual cocksureness of the powers that be.”  -Michael Grosso

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In the introduction to the interview in Mavericks of the Mind, Rebecca McClen Novick provides some further details about the context of the interview: “This was our first interview. It took place on November 30th, 1988 in the dramatic setting of Big Sur. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean we sat on the top floor of the Big House at the Esalen Institute, where Terence was giving a weekend seminar. He needed little provocation to enchant us with the pyrotechnic wordplay which is his trademark, spinning together the cognitive destinies of Gaia, machines, and language and offering a highly unorthodox description of our own evolution.”

TM: “What we can say concerning the singularity is this: it is the obviation of life in three dimensional space, everything that is familiar comes to an end, everything that can be described in Euclidean space is superseded by modes of being which require a more complicated description than is currently available.”

TM: “We shouldn’t assume time travel is impossible simply because it hasn’t been done. There’s plenty of latitude in the laws of quantum physics to allow for moving information through time in various ways. Apparently you can move information through time, as long as you don’t move it through time faster than light.

DJB: “Why is that?”

TM: “I haven’t the faintest idea. (laughter) What am I, Einstein? (laughter)

DJB: “I’m wondering what you think the ultimate goal of human evolution is?

TM: “Oh, a good party. (laughter)

TM: “It’s very interesting that in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries, when they took the sacrament, what the god said was, “Procreate, procreate.” It is uncanny the way history is determined by who sleeps with whom, who gets born, what lines are drawn forward, what tendencies are accelerated. Most people experience what they call magic only in the dimension of mate-seeking, and this is where even the dullest people have astonishing coincidences, and unbelievable things go on; it’s almost as though hidden strings were being pulled…”

DJB: “Do you think that there’s any relationship between the self-transforming machine elves that you’ve encountered on your shamanic voyages and the solid state entities that John Lilly has contacted in his interdimensional travels?”

TM: “I don’t think there is much congruence. The solid state entities that he contacted seem to make him quite upset…”

TM: “Now let’s think about what machines are made of, in light of Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field theory. Machines are made of metal, glass, gold, silicon, and plastic; they are made of what the earth is made of. Now wouldn’t it be strange if biology were a way for earth to alchemically transform itself into a self-reflecting thing. In which case then, what we’re headed for inevitably, what we are in fact creating is a world run by machines… Actually the fear of being ruled by machines is the male ego’s fear of relinquishing control of the planet to the maternal matrix of Gaia. Ha. That’s it. Just a thought. (laughter).

TM: “Consciousness can’t evolve any faster than language. The rate at which language evolves determines how fast consciousness evolves, otherwise you’re just lost in what Wittgenstein calls ‘the unspeakable’. You can feel it, but you can’t speak of it, so it’s an entirely private reality.

…There have been periods in English when there were emotions which don’t exist anymore, because the words have been lost. This is getting very close to this business of how reality is made by language. Can we recover a lost emotion by creating a word for it? There are colors which don’t exist anymore because the words have been lost. I’m thinking of the word jacinth. This is a certain kind of orange. Once you know the word jacinth, you always can recognize it, but if you don’t have it, all you can say is it’s a little darker orange than something else. We’ve never tried to consciously evolve our language, we’ve just let it evolve, but now we have this level of awareness, and this level of cultural need where we really must plan where the new words should be generated. There are areas where words should be gotten rid of that empower politically wrong thinking… So planned evolution of language is the way to speed it toward expressing the frontier of consciousness.”

TM: “It was Ludwig von Bertallanfy, the inventor of general systems theory, who made the famous statement that “people are not machines, but in all situations where they are given the opportunity, they will act like machines,” so you have to keep disturbing them, ’cause they always settle down into a routine.”

TM: “I have named us [himself, Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Abraham, and Frank Barr] Compressionists, or Psychedelic Compressionists. A Compressionism holds that the world is growing more and more complex, compressed, knitted together, and therefore holographically complete at every point, and that’s basically where the four of us stand, I think, but from different points of view.”

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Don’t forget about our ongoing crowdfund. Please help support the expansion of the Terence McKenna Archives: https://www.gofundme.com/terencemckennaarchives

Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #41 – Transpersonal Psychology Research Review: Psychoactive Substances & Transpersonal States

[Please help support The Terence McKenna Archives by donating to our ongoing crowdfund campaign. We need to raise our first $3,000 before March 15 in order to secure a very rare and expensive art book that Terence McKenna collaborated on with artist & bookmaker Timothy Ely among other timely acquisitions. So our first challenge of the crowdfund (CHALLENGE #1) is to reach the goal of $3,000 by March 4th (March Forth!), the famous date of the McKenna brothers’ “experiment at La Chorrera.” If we reach this goal, I will post on YouTube, free to all, a rare radio debate that Terence did with a member of the Young Republicans National Federation (YNRF). It’s a lively debate that hasn’t been previously available, and I will happily share it with the community as incentive to donate sooner rather than later to help this important collection to grow and build its web-presence so that everyone can share in value of the archive. Donations can be made directly on our crowdfund site: https://www.gofundme.com/terencemckennaarchives & you can download or view, here, a full catalog of the incentives: https://terencemckennaarchives.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/tma-crowdfund-donation-menu4.pdf]

Today’s random item from The Terence McKenna Archives digital collection comes from The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology Vol. 22 No. 2 (1990). The article is essentially a 40+-page annotated bibliography of all relevant research known to the authors at the time on the topic of the relationship between psychoactive substances and claims of experiences of transpersonal states. The article includes several references to work by both Dennis & Terence McKenna, and the comments about Terence are particularly worth noting. It will be worth sharing the first several pages of the article to see how the literature review is organized and how the authors conceive of the terms ‘psychoactive substance’ and ‘transpersonal states’.

You can scroll past these introductory pages if you want to skip straight to the McKenna material…

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Research by Dennis McKenna is referenced several times:

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However, it is the references to Terence McKenna that are of most interest to me here, in part, because there are references to recordings and studies that I have not seen appear anywhere in the public sphere of the 21st century McKenna milieu. I would be greatly obliged to anyone who has information about Terence’s 1984 talk called “Ethnobotany,” which apparently involves a discussion of a Lux Natura questionnaire of psilocybin experiencers completed by several hundred respondents. (see first image directly below)

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McKENNA, T. (Speaker). (1984). Ethnobotany, (Cassette recording).
Berkeley, CA: Lux Natura.

Following in the tradition of Tart’s (1971) classic study on the
experiences of marijuana smokers, the author designed a questionnaire
on the effects of psilocybin mushrooms and administered it to
370 mushroom spore print customers. The experience of hearing an
audible voice was found to be a dosage-related phenomenon. The
threshold varied among individuals with one-half of the respondents
reporting hearing a voice after ingesting 8 grams of dried mushrooms.

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The Terence McKenna Archives does own copies of the rest of the publications mentioned:

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And, finally, the authors offer an extended analysis of Terence McKenna and his career as fitting within what they call the ‘heuristic approach’ to exploring psychoactive substances and their potential relation to transpersonal states:

Terence McKenna, an author and speaker about hallucinogenic drugs, whose work represents this quality of deep personal immersion with the experience. His quest began after ingesting DMT, a synthesized form of a natural plant compound which brings on a short but intense hallucinogenic experience. “I said, ‘This isn’t a drug, this is magic! This is a dimension to reality that most people never even suppose exists … raising all kinds of issues about what is reality, what is language, what is the self, what is three-dimensional space and time, all the questions I became involved with over the 20years or so.”

Following this conversion experience, Mckenna, who started college at UC Berkeley as an art history major, began his research by traveling to Nepal because he saw some correspondences between his imagery during psychedelic sessions and Tibetan art. This led him to study with Tibetan shamans who were still actively involved with psychoactive substances, and then to the Amazon for further research on “botanical shamanism.” Despite formal training limited to a bachelor’s degree, McKenna combines knowledge of neurochemistry, ethnobotany, anthropology, history, linguistics, transpersonal psychology, and chaos theory in his work. He has self-experimented with virtually every form of psychedelic substance, engaged in introspection and self-reflection, dialogued with others about their experiences, and read extensively in the neurochemical, ethnopsychopharmacological, and art history literature. In the span covered in this review, he has contributed to the archaeopsychopharmacology and ethnobotanical research as well as publishing an investigation of literary description of mushroom experiences (abstracted above). Together with co-researcher “and wife, Kathleen, he also founded Botanical Dimensions, an organization dedicated to collecting living ethnomedicinal plants from around the world and their associated lore. As McKenna’s research career illustrates, the heuristic method is inherently cross-disciplinary, but the research is  always brought back to bear on the researcher’s own experience. In his attempt to “define the self in the hallucinogenic dimension.” McKenna has particularly focused on the psilocybin mushroom (he co-wrote with his brother, Dennis, a grower’s guide which sold 100,000 copies) and the Amazonian hallucinogenic plant brew ayahuasca.

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The Terence McKenna Archives Crowdfund Campaign Has Launched! Please Help Spread It Widely!

“Kevin has put an incredible amount of time and effort into this exciting and important archival project. From his careful collection, preservation and transcription of the vast material that is my father’s work to his thoughtful and extensive interviews and biographical sleuthing, he has shown himself to be skilled, effective, respectful, meticulous and utterly devoted to the many facets that a project of this depth requires and for this I am most grateful. Not only is his dedication profound but he has also been a good friend to me and my family through this process and I place complete trust in his abilities and intentions. I am excited and honored that he has taken such care with this endeavor and I look forward to great things resulting from this including but not limited to future publishing projects and the necessary advancement and growth of Terence’s online presence. I urge anyone who appreciates Terence’s ideas to help us make this happen by contributing to this monumental project.”
-Finn McKenna

After a long time and a huge amount of effort pulling together incentives and material from artists, authors, photographers, filmmakers, and more, The Terence McKenna Archives crowdfund campaign is finally launched!

You can see the full 49-page crowdfund incentive menu here. This includes details about the project and supportive blurbs from a range of notable figures. This catalog has far more on offer than is available on the GoFundMe page, itself.

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Or, you can skip straight to the GoFundMe page and make a donation or find out more about the project….and please do find ways to share it with appropriate others who also understand the value of preserving this important slice of countercultural history (word-of-mouth is the only way we will be successful): https://www.gofundme.com/terencemckennaarchives

Our first major goal-point or milestone is to reach the first $3,000 by March 4th (March forth!) in order to secure a rare art book that Terence collaborated on. To incentivize you to donate sooner than later, as soon as we reach the $3,000 goal, I will post a recording that I have of a rare radio debate where Terence debates a Young Republican.

The Terence McKenna Archives is a multi-pronged effort to collect, digitize, transcribe, store, and preserve the imprint of Terence McKenna’s presence from his birth in 1946 to his death in 2000 as well as the persistence of his influence into the present. The project aims to work closely with Terence’s family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and those who have been sufficiently influenced by his work in order to find and preserve traces of his life that might otherwise go missing or disappear and collect them in a single archive.

There are four major sub-projects at present, all under the banner of The Terence McKenna Archives:

1) A Collection Project: to find, collect, store, and preserve, either physical (or at least digital) copies of any material related to Terence McKenna. A full list of the physical & digital holdings are available at terencemckennaarchives.com.

2) A Transcription Project: to transcribe all of Terence McKenna’s 500+ hours of audio/video material that is freely available on the web into a searchable database. This crowdsourced, volunteer-based project is already ongoing and incredibly successful and can currently be found at terencemckenna.wikispaces.com. If you would like to help contribute by transcribing Terence’s talks, please join the effort there and on The Terence McKenna Transcription Project Facebook Page.

3) An Interview Project: to interview any family member, friend, colleague, acquaintances, workshop attendee, correspondent, interviewer, critic, collaborator, or any person suitably inspired or influenced by Terence McKenna.

4) TerenceMcKenna.com: Terence’s son owns this domain and it currently houses the Terence McKenna Bibliography, but we need resources and talent in order to build into the online McKenna hub that it can ideally be, eventually hosting the searchable transcription database, an online digital archive, and much more.

5) I should mention, as a fifth, long-term, goal, that there is a lot of potential for future publications, including a comprehensive biography based on the collected archives and extended research, a volume of interviews about Terence, unpublished or out-of-print writing and interviews, etc. But, these projects will require some further development and time.

Please feel free to contact the archivist with any questions at terencemckennaarchives@gmail.com

Thank you for your support and may the best story win!

For those who prefer to donate more anonymously or who simply prefer to support The Terence McKenna Archives through cryptocurrency, we have the following cryptocurrency wallets available to you:

Bitcoin address: 1CvZ6AeoRDwwSYt94haPGEN9EffKUyTiDB

Bitcoin Cash address: qrzvpkx735tguwaxwfc7nu9y8vcd7us50c9s4c9lxa

Ethereum address: 0xb3cc6e13F36AB91008Fe636E255980CCe7017c76

Litecoin address: Lfk2u84QNHtteGVCL3WGja2R5NaSKT4QcP

 

Thank you very much for your support of this massive archival effort!

“This project offers a great service to Terence McKenna fans. Prized from my view is the development of a searchable transcription database of all TM’s talks. It’s an effort worthy of your support.”

-Graham St. John, author of ‘Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT’

“The work of Terence McKenna is both vital and unruly, excessive and fragmented across a myriad of media formats. Organizing this work into an archive requires a genuine scholar who is careful, tireless, and a bit mad. Luckily, Kevin Whitesides has taken up the enormous task. I have a great deal of respect for Kevin and his different archival projects, which will help ensure that minds not yet born are blown. I know Terence would be pleased as punch.”

-Erik Davis, author of ‘Techgnosis’ and host of The Expanding Mind podcast

“More than anyone, Terence would respect the archiving going into this work. As a Renaissance student of the classics, he mourned all the lost books & ideas going back to antiquity. And with the tragedies of the fires in his collection, it makes Kevin’s work all the more important. Supporting this work helps preserve everything we can from one of the great raconteurs of our age.

-Lex Pelger, Drug Writer

“Terence McKenna reignited the psychedelic renaissance during a time of great resistance and pioneered a much needed awareness of the true nature of ancient plant medicines and shamanic practices that were all but lost at the end of the twentieth century. His “non-traditional” philosophies and perspectives inspired a generation of psychonauts, writers, artists, musicians, and philosophers and continues to inspire and inform successive generations. If you have the resources and the desire to help preserve the storehouse of knowledge he has left behind for generations to come, please consider contributing what you can so that others can benefit from the hard earned wisdom that Terence left us as his legacy.”

-Matthew J. Pallamary, author of ‘Land Without Evil’ and ‘The Center of the Universe is Right Between Your Eyes But Home is Where the Heart Is’

“Terence McKenna’s (possibly ironic?) culture-hero status came of age back when the online world we all inhabit now was just a twinkle in the eyes of psychedelic bards and prophets. We owe the man a better tribute than just cutting samples of his talks to psytrance – and we owe the cephalopod-skinned post-humans we’ll call grandchildren a better record of the trickster wizard who infected their potential future with its weird reality.”

– Michael Garfield, meta-disciplinary artist & host of Future Fossils podcast

“As an archivist and budding biographer compiling and cataloging a considerably comprehensive collection of cool crap–myriad magical McKenna musings and memes, Kevin has wrangled a righteously relevant resource for radical researchers and savy psychonauts seeking suitably sustainable psychedelic solutions.

Detailing the cultural and historical relevance of featured archive items with a contagiously engaging enthusiasm [on the Archives blog], he is on a quest to create the largest and most complete archive available anywhere of material by or about Terence McKenna. The fact that Terence’s own archives were destroyed due to a fire (that broke out in a Quiznos and spread to the rental storage space containing Terence’s writings), makes this work all-the-more worthwhile.

Often illustrated with photographs, scans, or artwork, his blog entries are packed with interesting content featuring the sort of geeky minutia sure to please OCD entheophiles. At the same time, these descriptive texts are usually short enough to be a guilt-free diversion, that is, if you can
refrain from repeatedly thinking, “I’ll just read ONE more, and *then* I will get back to work.

The Terence McKenna Archives can benefit from your assistance…”

-Jon Hanna, Mindstates.org

TMA TShirtContributing artists, authors, and other helpers:

Ralph Abraham – http://www.ralph-abraham.org/
Ken Adams – https://vimeo.com/user26500981
Lucy Barritt – https://lucyhannahbarritt.com/
Peter Bergmann – https://www.facebook.com/wpahp/
Steven Clay – https://www.granarybooks.com/
R.S. Connett – http://www.grotesque.com/
Mike Crowley – https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Drugs-Buddhism-Mike-Crowley/dp/0692652817
Jeff Drew – http://jeffdrewpictures.com/
Timothy C. Ely – http://www.timothyely.com/
Robert Forte – https://ciis.academia.edu/RobertForte
Elysium Foundation – https://www.facebook.com/TheElysiumFoundation/
Michael Garfield – https://michaelgarfield.blogspot.com/
Adam Gorightly – http://www.adamgorightly.com/
Kat Harrison – http://botanicaldimensions.org/
Charles Hayes – https://www.amazon.com/Tripping-Anthology-True-Life-Psychedelic-Adventures/dp/0140195742
James W. Jesso – http://www.jameswjesso.com/
Jonathan Laliberte – https://www.asktmk.com/ & https://www.facebook.com/groups/terencemckenna/
Tao Lin – http://www.taolin.info/
MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies – http://www.maps.org/
Chris Mays – http://www.terencemckenna.com/tmbib/
Finn McKenna – http://www.terencemckenna.com/
Mesloes – https://mesloes.nl/
Sheldon Norberg – http://www.healinghouses.com/
Matthew J. Pallamary – http://mattpallamary.com/
Lex Pelger – http://www.lexpelger.com/
Joanna Sasso – https://www.etsy.com/shop/SassoJoArt
Ben Sessa – http://www.drsessa.com/
Chip Simons – http://www.chipsimons.com/

The Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #40 – The Flight Into Egypt by Timothy C. Ely (Foreword by Terence McKenna)

Today’s item randomly selected from the collection is the book The Flight Into Egypt by Timothy C. Ely, which includes a Foreword by Terence McKenna. The two had met in New York and quickly came to collaborate on a rare and unique hand-made art book called Synesthesia [our upcoming crowdfund will be, in part, an effort to be able acquire one of these from a private owner who has accepted an reasonable offer so long as I can get the funds by mid-March–keep your eyes peeled in the next week or so for the crowdfund launch]. In the process of their interactions,

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Timothy C. Ely & Terence McKenna

Terence had a chance to see the original, unique, one-off The Flight Into Egypt book. Ely is an artist and bookmaker and has a history of making unique books…and by that I don’t mean books that standout as different as a result of their own distinctive style (although this is also true of his work), but rather that he only makes one of each…unique…they are not commercial items. The Flight Into Egypt was one such book, perhaps the only such book to eventually make it out in a commercial version–a sometimes bittersweet process that makes an artist’s work available in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise have been while simultaneously reducing a unique object of depth & texture and flattening it to a smooth, 2D rendering that can be endlessly reproduced as exact copies of each other. Yet, for those of us who might have never had the opportunity to see the original face-to-face, it is still an opportunity for us to enter into a visionary mind that we might not have otherwise had access to. For comparison, here are photos of both the original and the commercial reproduction:

Nonetheless, even given that the commercial reproduction can never match the embodied experience of the original, it is still more than a delight to interact with, and Terence’s 3-page Foreword is wonderfully imaginative and playful! It’s been a great pleasure of mine to get to know Tim by email correspondence over the last couple of years. He’s a very thoughtful individual, and I hope to share more of his story and thoughts with you over time.

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There will be several used copies of The Flight Into Egypt available in the imminently forthcoming Terence McKenna Archives crowdfund campaign (along with some other relevant material that I think you’ll enjoy). Here’s some of what Terence had to say about it:

It was with great pleasure and anticipation that I accepted [the] invitation to provide an introduction to this, the first printed edition of Timothy Ely’s masterpiece The Flight Into Egypt: Binding the Book. I was familiar with Tim’s bookmaking accomplishments, had even published in collaboration with him, but in spite of our association I had never experienced the actual presence of the original Flight Into Egypt until that moment, when alone, in good light and suitably activated by the lighter esters of delta six tetra-hydrocannabinol, I removed the brass screws from a heavily insured wooden packing crate, lifted away the top, and gazed upon the work. Reality outran apprehension at last, and the thing lay before me…

In the act of opening the book, my anticipation of otherness bordered on the Borgesian.

And then there it was, the open tome–part book, part journey, part secret doctrine, part jewel. The heavy pages must be turned carefully; the aura of magical craft is inescapable… There is text, but little is recognizable. Most is cryptoglossia, the rare written equivalent of spoken glossolalia… Automatic writing, cryptoglossia especially, carries us into the realm of intent toward signification without any culturally contrived meaning, toward the radiance of the Neoplatonic idea of the One…

…one cannot help but be immediately struck by the insectile glyphs so scrupulously and cryptically written everywhere. They are tracings made with a conscious alien intent… What is beheld, what is intended, literally cannot be spoken of. To understand it is to enter into a confraternity of silence, along with bookmakers, mystics, mathematicians, musicians, and assemblers of mosaics.

To gaze upon these images is to be swept on a pilgrim’s journey into a phantasmagoria of hashish and occult dreaming…

And what is it that is being charted, measured, graphed, and mathematically expressed as we make our way deeper into the analogical engine of the work? I believe it is the magma of posthistorical time, which moves beneath the carefully charted landforms of Ely’s mental Egypt. The rupture of planes is sure to occur when the transubstantiated object raises its protean form from beneath the desert sands, where it has been sleeping for uncounted aeons…

In Tim Ely’s world, we meet the book as artifact, as concrescence of cognitive process… The Flight Into Egypt…is intensely aware of itself as both object and enterprise…

Words, signs, maps, and the presence of hidden energies all combine into a course of visual epistemology. This is a grimoire for our times, a book of angelic conjuration… The Flight Into Egypt is ultimately accessional and alchemical. To experience it leads to a rarefaction and an internal integration that is the essence of art and life.

–Terence McKenna

Michael Harner (1929-2018)

I’m very sorry to have to post another notice of someone’s passing so soon after Dale Pendell’s.Michael-Harner

On February 3, Michael Harner, who was instrumental in the revivification of both the academic study of shamanism and its interest among the public, “passed peacefully out of this world.” Harner, who has been called “the world’s foremost authority on shamanism,” founded the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in 1979, and it will continue to carry on its mission in his absence.

The Foundation has produced a documentary on Harner’s legacy, which you can view on their website, or below:

As for connections between Terence McKenna and Michael Harner….it was a curious mis-citing of Harner’s work that, in a very direct way, launched Terence’s career. I think that’s the story I’ll choose to tell on this occasion, as it is both amusing and formative on the careers of both McKenna brothers as well as involving Harner’s early influence on the study of ‘psychedelic shamanism’.

The Search for the Violet Psychofluid

When Terence and Dennis McKenna (and some friends) arrived in the Colombian Amazon, they were not looking for the psilocybin mushrooms that came to be the focus of their attention and which, one might say with only minimal exaggeration, launched their careers. During their “experiments” at the tiny mission site of La Chorrera, combining the beta-carboline alkaloids deriving from the Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca) vine with the psilocybin-containing mushrooms that they found plentifully in the surrounding pastures, it was Dennis who seems to have recalled an article by Harner, from which he recalled mention of a magical fluid that shamans produced from their mouths.

In the following passage from True Hallucinations, Terence describes being at La Chorrera and reading Dennis’ personal journal:

…I suggested to Dennis that, rather than arguing with people about the nature of the experience, he should go off by himself and write down all that he thought about the strange sound that he had made. He accepted this advice and made his way back up the hill to the knoll house to be alone and to write:

February 28, 1971

“I approach these pages with a peculiar sense of urgency as a man might who had confronted an unexplainable phenomenon as some impossible creation of dreams or unaccountable natural principle…

Before going further, something tells me that I must consider who I am. Twenty-four hours ago, I thought I knew — now this has become the most perplexing question I have ever been confronted with… These may be the last characters of a crude language that I will ever apply to the description of anything…”

When I read this prologue later, it seemed to me both grandiose and alarming, but Dennis had an aura of calm certitude that seemed to command respect. I felt that the Logos was struggling with the vocabulary of its newest vessel. He seemed to be making more and more sense, to be on to something. I read on:

“Since any phenomenon is, to a point, describable in empirical terms, so too with this one. It has to do with controlling one’s body chemistry in such a way as to produce very specific vocal and audial phenomena: the state becomes possible when highly bio-dynamic vegetable alkaloids, specifically tryptamines and MAO-inhibitors, are introduced into the body under carefully regulated parameters. This phenomenon is apparently possible in the presence of tryptamines alone, though MAO inhibition definitely helps trigger it by facilitating tryptamine absorption. The phenomenon has now been triggered by two people within our group: Terence has been experimenting with vocal phenomena under the influence of DMT for some years now.

Until last night, when I triggered and experienced this sound wave for a few brief seconds under the influence of nineteen Stropharia mushrooms, Terence was the only person I knew who claimed ability to perform this sound…”

Terence goes on telling the story…

Later that afternoon, Dennis came back down to the edge of the river looking for me… There we sat and talked. It had been about sixteen hours since the previous evening’s episode with the strange sound. Dennis said that the writing exercise had been very useful.

[Terence:] “Great! And so what have  you come up with?”

[Dennis:] “I’m not sure. I’m very excited, but whatever it is that’s the cause of my excitement is also developing ideas in my mind nearly faster than I can write them down.”

[T:] “Ideas? What sort of ideas?”

[D:] “Funny ideas. Ideas about how we can use this effect, or this stuff, or whatever it is. My intuition is that it is related to the psychofluids that Michael Harner reported in the July 1969 issue of Natural History and to what happened to you in Boudanath. Remember how Harner implied that ayahuasqueros vomited a magical substance that was the basis of their ability to divine? This is like that, some sort of translinguistic stuff made with the voice.”

We talked at length by the river’s edge, ranging over the options and the possibilities. He was insistent in linking my experience in Nepal with a very strange phenomenon that occurred in Jivaro shamanism in Ecuador. The people take ayahuasca after which they, and anyone else who has taken ayahuasca, are able to see a substance that is described as violet or deep blue and that bubbles like a liquid. When you vomit from taking ayahuasca, this violet fluid comes out of your body; it also forms on the surface of the skin, like sweat. The Jivaro do much of their magic with this peculiar stuff. These matters are extremely secret. Informants insist that the shamans spread the stuff out on the ground in front of them, and that one can look at this material and see other times and other places. According to their reports, the nature of this fluid is completely outside of ordinary experience: it is made out of space/time or mind, or it is pure hallucination objectively expressed by always keeping itself within the confines of a liquid.

Harner’s work among the Jivaro did not stand alone. Since the beginnings of ethnographic reporting out of the Amazon there have been rumors and unconfirmed reports of magical excrement and magically empowered psychophysical objects generated out of the human body using hallucinogens and song. I recalled the alchemical observation that the secret is hidden in feces.

[T:] “Matter that is hyperdimensional and therefore translinguistic? Is that what you mean?” I asked Dennis.

[D:] “Yes. Whatever that means, but something like that, I suppose. Gad! Why not? I mean it’s pretty nuts, but it’s also the symbol system we brought with us running into the shamanic magic that we came here looking for. ‘This is what you shipped for, men, to chase the White Whale over all sides of  ocean and both sides of earth till he spout black blood and roll fin out.’ Isn’t that your rap?”

The resort to Melvillian rhetoric was unexpected and not like him. Where did he get this stuff? [T:] “Yes, I suppose.”

[D:] But here is the thing; if there is something weird going on, then we should observe it and see what it is and try to reduce it to some coherent framework. Granted we don’t know what it is that we are dealing with, but on the other hand, we know that we came here to investigate shamanic magic generally, so now we have to go to work on this effect, or whatever it is, and just hope that we know what we are doing and have enough data to crack it. We are too isolated to do anything else, and to ignore it might be to squander a golden opportunity.”

Okay, so the above is the setup for the story. Terence and Dennis…in the Amazon….twenty-something….eager to uncover the secrets of psychedelic shamanism……and armed with past experience and a lot of literature on the brain.

The mention of Terence’s experience in Boudanath, Nepal, which Dennis considered comparable to Harner’s description of the shamanic psychofluid is in reference to what has come to be know as the ‘Kathmandu Interlude’ (due to its place and function in True Hallucinations, which involves a sexual encounter between Terence (on LSD) and a woman (on datura) who both smoke DMT and……well, you’d better just listen/read (p. 55) yourself! …Needless to say, there is a psychedelically-derived psychofluid involved…

Oh, what the hell! Here’s part of it:

Then we made love. Or rather we had an experience that vaguely related to making love but was a thing unto itself…

Reality was shattered. This kind of fucking occurs at the very limit of what is possible. Everything had been transformed into orgasm and visible, chattering oceans of elf language. Then I saw that where our bodies were glued together there was flowing, out of her, over me, over the floor of the roof, flowing everywhere, some sort of obsidian liquid, something dark and glittering, with color and lights within it. After the DMT flash, after seizures of orgasms, after all that, this new thing shocked me to the core. What was this fluid and what was going on? I looked at it. I looked right into it, and it was the surface of my own mind reflected in front of me. Was it translinguistic matter, the living opalescent excrescence of the alchemical abyss of hyperspace, something generated by the sex act performed under such crazy conditions? I looked into it again and now saw in it the lama who taught me Tibetan, who would have been asleep a mile away. In the fluid, I saw him, in the company of a monk I had never seen; they were looking into a mirrored plate. Then I realized they were watching me! I could not understand it. I looked away from the fluid and my companion, so intense was her aura of strangeness.

The article of Harner’s that Dennis had recalled on that day in La Chorrera actually appeared in the July 1968 (not 1969) issue of Natural History and was titled “The Sound of Rushing Water,” now considered among Harner’s iconic contributions…and, you can find it cited in the first edition of The Invisible Landscape (1975), the messy nature of the real-time referencing in the Amazon cleaned up for publication, as the sole reference to the ethnographic literature on shamanically-produced psychofluids.

From Chapter 6: An Experiment at La Chorrera:

During the course of our investigation of the shamanic dimension, our attention was drawn to a report of ayahuasca usage among the Jivaro (Harner 1968); the shamans, under the influence of potent monamine oxidase-inhibiting, harmine- and tryptamine-containing Banisteriopsis infusions, are said to produce a fluorescent violet substance by means of which they accomplish their magic. Though invisible to ordinary perception, this fluid is said to be visible to anyone who has ingested the infusion. Ayahuasca is frequently associated with violet auras and deep blue hallucinations; this suggests that ayahuasca may enable one to see at ultraviolet wavelengths, and that this substance may be visible only in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. We also had occasion to ingest synthetic tryptamines and had observed as a regular feature of the tryptamine intoxication a peculiar audile phenomenon…Individual reports of the subjectively perceived phenomenon exhibit a high degree of similarity.

Our desire to pursue the investigation of this audile phenomenon at greater depth, combined with the curiosity and incredulity which Harner’s report had aroused, led us to travel, in March of 1971, to the tiny mission settlement of La Chorrera, 43 minutes south, 73 degrees west, on the banks of the Rio Igara-parana in Comisaria Amazonas, Colombia. We felt that here we could carry out firsthand observations into the phenomenology of the tryptamine dimension.

It was Harner’s article, then, that provided a significant portion of both the impetus for, and the interpretation of, the experiences that the McKenna brothers were experimenting with and trying to explain…

The irony of all of this is…….Harner’s article contains no mention of this phenomenon whatsoever!! Go ahead, read it yourself….(Harner does mention magical darts but nothing resembling the sort of fluid described by Dennis or Terence for which they specifically cite Harner’s 1968 article on multiple occasions).

I have uncovered a partial recording (previously not available online) in which Terence, in the presence of learned colleagues, discusses this in more detail and admits the flub:

Persistent is the idea that these ayahuasqueros vomit or produce out of their bodies some kind of substance, a magical substance, that is the basis of their witchcraft. And, you know, your attitude toward this can be that it’s sleight of hand or that it’s lying or that it’s absolutely true…

Uh, Dennis, in 1970, came across a reference to this in some piece of literature. I confess that I have occasionally cited it as Michael Harner’s article ‘The Sound of Rushing Water’, which appeared in Natural History magazine in 1967 [it’s 1968]. Just to confirm Marlene [Dobkin de Rios]’s opinion, if you actually read that article, you will discover there is no reference to this in there. Uh, I couldn’t find a reference in the literature until years after our investigation of the phenomenon was pretty much wrapped up. I was amazed to discover that our supposition that such a thing existed actually is supported in the literature. Luis Eduardo Luna…has talked about this in numerous of his more scholarly publications. What is claimed is that there are, among very unacculturated people, a habit, when intoxicated on ayahuasca, of vomiting a material, and then, what’s said of it is that it’s blue, that the shamans use it to accomplish all of their magic, and that when you spread it out on the bottom of a flat bowl that you can see the future in it or the past in it.

So, there you have it……Michael Harner’s non-existent contribution to the careers of the brothers McKenna.

Thanks, Michael, for making the world a more interesting place, as a result of both your real and imagined contributions!

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Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #39 – Tripping But Not Falling (New York Times Profile, 1993)

Today’s random item from the archives is a profile of Terence McKenna, called ‘Tripping, but Not Falling’, that appeared in The New York Times in its issue of May 2, 1993 and was written by Trip Gabriel who had spent some time talking with Terence near his home in Occidental, California. The full, long article can be read on the Times’ website, here. Some highlights are included below…

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Nibbling his “Cranberry Gobbler” sandwich in a sunny cafe, Terence McKenna explained his theory of how psychedelic mushrooms are the missing link in the story of human evolution…

“For sure the mushroom would have been sampled,” Mr. McKenna said. “Then our proto-hominid forebears, like legions of hippies millennia hence, discovered that the usual activities comprising the whirl of their days — hunting and gathering, primarily — were out of the question.

“You are just simply nailed to the ground and you experience the bewildering phenomenon that we call the hallucinogenic experience, which even post-Husserl, post-Merleau-Ponty, post-everything, we don’t know what to make of,” he said. “It laid the basis, I think for religion and for language.”

This was some earful to hear over lunch in the pleasant, slow-moving town of Occidental… A local bulletin board advertises “Environmentally Conscious Tree Care” and “Christie’s Not-So-Toxic Housekeeping Service.”

Magic mushrooms as the missing link is only one of many seemingly preposterous notions he promotes with beguiling logic, albeit with a definite lack of hard evidence.

After wandering for years in the cultural outback of the New Age — a movement he deplores for its guru worship and abandonment of rationalism — Mr. McKenna is beginning to be more widely heard… His charismatic lecture style…pulls in audiences…seemingly [that are] equal mixes of psychonauts, cyberpunks and slightly befuddled mycologists.

Mr. McKenna has a significant following in the youthful rave culture, where dancers pulsating to a dreamy techno beat often choose to chemically alter their consciousness. His latest book…was launched in February not with a book signing but with an all-night rave in San Francisco…

“This under-25 group is a little different from the wannabe yuppie generation of the 80’s,” Mr. McKenna said.

“They have the same kind of alienation that immediately preceded the hippie outbreak of the 60’s. It’s a feeling of being marginalized by the system. Apparently, if a generation can’t find inclusion in the culture, then it becomes narcissistic, with all the positive and negative connotations that brings.”

With piercing deep-set eyes and a scraggly beard, Mr. McKenna has a cheerfully demonic look. His countenance bears weary witness to the utter strangeness of what he claims to have discovered in 25 years of imbibing “heroic doses” of hallucinogens. Now 46, he first tried psychedelics in the mid-60’s in Berkeley, Calif. But unlike most of his generation, who buried their acid trips in a file marked Unidentified Youthful Indulgences, Mr. Mckenna doggedly followed through.

For more than two decades he has hitchhiked around the galaxy on the back of the magic mushroom.

Whatever else he is, Mr. McKenna is a sure sign that Reagan-Bushism is dead and in the ground, and that a wilder social moment may be upon us.

His speaking style is a perfect synthesis of message and medium, an aural reconstruction of psychedelic experience…

Free-associating his way through intellectual history, he caroms between reference to Finnegans Wake, Heraclitus, a scene with the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz and the writings of the neo-Platonist Philo Judaeus.

The cosmic giggle ripple through Mr. McKenna’s spiels as if to make palatable the sheer weirdness of what he has to say.

The crowd was mostly hirsute forty-somethings, like the characters in a Koren cartoon. They wore layers of loose natural-fiber clothing, like Mr. McKenna himself, who was dressed in a baggy chenille sweater.

…the most forceful advocate for psychedelics since Timothy Leary.

“He’s an eloquent and imaginative poet of the psychedelic experience,” said Mr. Leary, and unabashed admirer… “He combines ancient wisdom with Irish wit.”

…Mr McKenna’s claims for hallucinogens go way beyond Leary, Aldous Huxley or any of his predecessors.

In a nutshell, this is Mr. McKenna’s update of the psychedelic revolution: tune in, turn on, save the ozone layer. To many, he appeals simply because he is such a hoot. “Our dilemma,” Mr. McKenna said with pranksterish wit, “is that halfway on the way to becoming angels we stopped taking our medication.”

He was seated on the floor of his Occidental apartment, a tea tray at his feet… The big room was empty of furniture except for a reading chair. Thousands of books lined three walls from floor to ceiling. Mr. McKenna sat near the Greek philosophy and Hellenistic religion shelves. He had Plato, the gnostics, the cabala, Appolonias of Cayenna and a seven-volume “Legends of the Jews.”

“I don’t understand why drugs are not used as tools of research,” he said. “You want to know how the atom works? Smash it and look at the pieces. You want to know how the mind works? Get it smashed and then see what the pieces are.”

Mr. McKenna is a lovely psychedelic sophist. His reasoning has a seductive and seemingly learned coherence, even though it doesn’t quite hold up. One wonders if he’d advocate conducting other scientific inquiries — atom-smashing, say — while the observer is hallucinating. The polysyllabic sentences he lards with intellectual references are an attempt to lend credibility to the otherwise debunked subject of drugs.

On occasion Mr. McKenna seems to swerve perilously into what psychologists might call delusions of grandeur. “If I’m right, you know,” he said in an eerily serious voice, “you’re sitting across from Newton.”

“People say marijuana is the entry drug,” he said. “Science fiction is really the entry drug,” he said. “Science fiction is really the entry drug. Because the subtext of science fiction is release your imagination, anything can happen.”

What saves Mr. McKenna’s fantastic yarn from being instantly dismissible is that he himself recognizes the absurdity of what he’s saying and, yet, feels compelled to say it anyway.