Last summer (2016), I had the pleasure of attending an event called Earth Consciousness & Lore of the Amazon at the Synergia Ranch in Santa Fe. Presenters included Dennis McKenna, Rick Doblin, Allan Badiner, Ralph Metzner, Valerie Plame Wilson, Michael Garfield, and Gay Dillingham (Don Lattin was also present). I had already been on a long road trip from Santa Barbara, stopping through the Blythe Intaglios on the way to present at the American Academy of Religion/Western Region conference in Tucson, then winding through Tombstone, Alamogordo, and Roswell on my way to Albuquerque to do archival research at the University of New Mexico in their Frank Waters collection…and would be headed onward through Chaco Canyon and Taos up toward Boulder where I would be doing further research at Naropa University, interviewing John Major Jenkins about his relationship with Terence McKenna, and, finally, heading back through Paonia (Terence’s and Dennis’ hometown) to familiarize myself with the feel of the place and to locate the places where various antics described in Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss and many of Terence’s talks and writings took place (I will write a separate blog post about this trip rather than try to squeeze it in here). So, the Synergistics event was a nice midway point in the overall journey. It was also a great opportunity to finally connect with Dennis, Terence’s brother, in person after previous conversations by email and Skype. I was also able to score a late-night interview with Rick Doblin about his remembrances of Terence and perceptions about his legacy.
The big dome at the Synergia Ranch (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Dennis McKenna (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Dennis McKenna’s presentation (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Dennis McKenna (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Rick Doblin presenting at Synergia Ranch (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Rick Doblin’s presentation at Synergia Ranch, April 2016 (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Ralph Metzner’s presentation at Synergia Ranch, April 2016 (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Ralph Metzner @ Synergia Ranch 2016 (Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Panel #1 @ Synergia Ranch 2016 (Dr. George Greer?, Rick Doblin, Dennis McKenna, and Ralph Metzner)(Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
Panel #2 @ Synergia Ranch 2016 (Allan Badiner, Gay Dillingham, Valerie Plame Wilson, Ralph Metzner, Dennis McKenna, and Michael Garfield)(Photo credit: Kevin Whitesides)
However, that event is not the focus of this post…it is only the proximal cause for the circumstances leading up to the topic of this particular blog post. Following the event, I was intending to head back to Albuquerque for more research in special collections at UNM the following day. It just so happened that one of the presenters needed a ride to Albuquerque in the morning to catch a flight, and so I stayed the night at the ranch near Santa Fe and made my way back to Albuquerque in the morning, recording another engaging dialogue during the car ride. After a day of successful document scanning (relating to Frank Waters’ role in the development of the ‘2012 Phenomenon’), I checked my Facebook and noticed that my wife had posted an article on my wall about a place in Santa Fe that had just opened called Meow Wolf.
The article made it seem like the ultimate psychedelic, interactive, mystery play house… walk into the refrigerator of a two-story family home and exit into a crystalline hyperdimension (as one example). It would take too much space for me to express how impressive the full-scale virtual reality that the creators of Meow Wolf have built actually is. I would recommend that you read articles such as this one (and this brand new windfall) to get a clearer sense of what this installation, funded by George R. R. Martin, in a refurbished and extended bowling alley in Santa Fe consists of. But, more importantly, if you’re ever in Santa Fe, you should just go!! Even the bathroom is a trip…
One of the features of the storyline at The House of Eternal Return (the name of the world that you enter) is that some of the family members have learned how to use a combination of drugs and sound to get access to travel between dimensions. You have access to their entire house, including the individual rooms and offices of the family members, a living room, a kitchen, etc. They actually built an entire house that you can walk around and inspect every detail of–you can read their mail, watch their videos, pull books off of their shelves, read diaries, check the files on their computers, root around in their medicine cabinets…and, more significantly, find the hidden portals into other worlds even more expansive than the house which is the entry point.
Once you arrive at the house, it’s entirely up to you what you explore and where you end up–it would take days (maybe weeks) to find everything. But, it’s definitely a case of “the further in you go, the bigger it gets.” (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos–I took most of them with my phone)
The soundtrack throughout is spectacular, by the way, and there are several areas that are delightful chill spaces that one could easily just kick back for a while (including a fog-and-light-filled room with a laser-harp).
To finally come closer to the point of the blog post, there is definitely an aspect of the cultic milieu spread throughout the experience even beyond the general “trippy” nature of the whole thing (much more so than I can get across here). One of the most obvious places where this shows up (for those capable of noticing) is in the personal libraries of the family members. One office in particular has a metaphysical and conspiratorial bent (you can see that I spent some time rooting through the desk drawers).
And, on the bookshelves were a couple of familiar friends…Food of the Gods and (though it may be difficult to read the spine in the photo), a first edition (1975) of The Invisible Landscape. Terence McKenna is part of the set decoration at Meow Wolf, and, in fact, his work definitely thematically ties into the story.
Food of the Gods (to the left)
1st edition of The Invisible Landscape (middle-ish)
And, in the bedroom, near the device that creates the tones that, in concert with drugs, one uses to enter other worlds, there are even more subtle hints at what we are to understand is on the minds of our protagonists in the House of Eternal Return… Solomon Snyder’s Drugs and the Brain is out on the desk and on the bookshelf is a 2nd edition of The Invisible Landscape adjacent to Jim Fadiman‘s Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and near Tim Leary‘s Your Brain is God, among other evocative titles.
After having spent hours wandering through the alternate reality of Meow Wolf and realizing that I had only just scratched the surface of a fully-interactive creation chock-full of ‘easter eggs’ for someone with an eye for the esoteric, I suddenly found myself back in the dining room of the house staring at its large fireplace when suddenly I noticed someone crawling out of it from the inside. To my complete shock, this emerging fireplace gnome suddenly stood up and turned into Ralph Metzner. I had already succumbed to the strangeness of the world I was inhabiting, but for 1960s psychedelic pioneers to suddenly and unexpectedly manifest out of the interiors of fireplaces seemed somehow beyond incredulous. I came to find out, as I greeted Ralph and made my own way into the bowels of the hearth, that the house was now crawling with psychedelic luminaries who had, unbeknownst to me, also made their way down from the Synergia Ranch to check out the new local feature. It was a surreal experience that I will not soon forget, that I’m eager to repeat (there’s so much that I missed/didn’t find), and that I recommend to anyone of any age. And, as I made my way through the House of Eternal Return, it was a great pleasure to find that Terence was already there waiting to greet me.