After mentioning (6:11) that he cites The Invisible Landscape in his 1989 book Jouryney to the Mayan Underworld (“for the shamanism”), he mentions that it was through seeing an article by (or interview with) Terence in Magical Blend magazine during the same period when he was writing that book that he realized that this “put [Terence] on the map as some kind of cultural icon or something, a real guy that was out there, because of course, [in] the late ’80s, you couldn’t just go on Google and look people up.” This realization led to their eventual contact through an I Ching mailing network that they were both members of.
There are a couple of annotations to be made here.
The first is that the Magical Blend article that JMJ refers to is almost certainly the ‘New Maps of Hyperspace’ article from issue #22 (April, 1989) that was featured in an earlier blog post. Since Jenkins refers to the period of “1988, maybe early 1989,” and since this is the only Magical Blend appearance in those two years, it seems likely. It seems even more likely, given that JMJ cites that very article in his (2017) revised edition of Journey to the Mayan Underworld. Without seeing his original (1989) manuscript, it’s difficult to know what changed (it’s clear that there have been significant revisions).
The second is the specific nature of the reference that JMJ makes to The Invisible Landscape. I have to say, given his qualifier in the interview with me, that he was mostly interested in the shamanism, his actual use of The Invisible Landscape is actually more of an attempt to extend their argument about the “electron spin resonance” (ESR) of drug molecules and DNA storage of memories. This eventually does get back around to shamanism but only at the very end of the discussion, where he finally speculates that “shamanic journeys to the ‘spirit world’ may have access to these [ESR patterns fundamental to human DNA], resulting in the abstract art seen at Mitla, as well as the Sacred [Mayan] Calendar which reflects the same pattern.”
Since Jenkins passed away, I have attempted to fill in my collection of his work and have also tried to (very respectfully) be in touch with his family to discuss assistance with archiving and preserving his work and substantial amounts of historical documentation. The new edition of Journey to the Mayan Underworld (2017) is among those items, and it is also now one of the new items in the Terence McKenna Archives.
As I listened through the interview that I conducted with John Major Jenkins at his home in April 2016, I realized that there are a lot of very specific references layered into the interview, each of which would make a good post on its own. So, what I’ll do is go through the JMJ interview and create a series of annotations as individual blog posts, creating a link for each at the bottom of the original interview page, so that there is one page with the interview and links to each of the annotations.
The first reference, only 35 seconds into the interview is perhaps the most salient for people who know the connection between John Major Jenkins and Terence McKenna, namely that Terence wrote the Foreword to JMJ’s book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: the True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (1998). Jenkins tells the story of how this came to be elsewhere in the interview. The short version is that the two had been corresponding since the early ’90s about material related to the Mayan calendar, as well as the I Ching (both had been members of an I Ching mailing list). Terence was giving a talk in Colorado in 1996, and JMJ went to the venue and ran into Terence who gave him a pass to the talk and the two ended up at lunch where JMJ asked about publishers for his book, and Bear & Company came up (with some reservations) as they had published the Trialogues at the Edge of the West book that contained transcripts of some of Terence’s conversations with Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham at the Esalen Institute. As JMJ entered negotiations with Bear & Company, he suggested the possibility of having Terence write a Foreword, and the idea was met with enthusiasm. Although Terence and JMJ both wrote about 2012 and mutually influenced each other, there ideas were fairly different (particularly in that Terence placed the fulfillment of the eschaton in a single dramatic moment at the end of the Timewave, where Jenkins offered a 36-year window, “Era-2012,” that would be a slow passage and an cosmic opportunity for transformation and renewal). Nonetheless, because of Terence’s contribution to JMJ’s book, their views have often been conflated, to the point that Terence had to publish a written response distinguishing their views. Nonetheless, it was, in part, Terence and Dennis’ suggestions in The Invisible Landscape that led to Jenkins’ interests and it was also, in part, Jenkins’ research in the mid-to-late ’90s that strengthened Terence’s convictions that he was onto something significant. So, despite the differences in idea, they were important collaborators and co-contributors to the spread of the idea that there was something significant about the year 2012 that was somehow built into the clockwork of the cosmos.
Here’s Terence’s Foreword to John Major Jenkins’ Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, written in January 1998 (screenshots from Google Books):
I’d like to open up a new potential feature on the Terence McKenna Archives blog, if there’s enough interest. I’d like to field your questions about Terence…via the archival holdings. Something about Terence you’ve always been curious about? Some thread of interest that you’d like to see explored further? Give me a prompt and I’ll work through the archives to see what light I can shed on that issue. If there’s enough interest, I’ll pick one interesting question per week and follow it through, wherever it takes me. This is your chance to direct some of the content of the archival blog and to get some insight on Terence or his ideas that maybe you couldn’t get elsewhere…or just to see what I turn up.
Another point worth making is that these could turn into interesting threads between items in the archive. Whereas the majority of posts here are about individual items from the archive, these explorations would allow me to make posts which draw broader probes across a variety of archival items, creating a richer tapestry of references between and across the items.
It’s up to all of you how frequent this will be and it will be a mutual collaboration between us to create something interesting out of your curiosities and my archives.
There are 27 pages in Grossinger’s book that have mentions of Terence, and I will not post them all here since that would probably be beyond fair use and Richard is a friend, so I don’t want to step on his toes by publishing large chunks of his book without his permission. However, I do feel comfortable sharing the same sections which are already available on Amazon ‘Look Inside’, which, in fact, includes most of the material on Terence in the book. So, apologies in advance for any paragraphs, sentences, or trains of thought which get cut-off. There are only a few of the relevant pages which aren’t viewable on Amazon, so you’re actually get the vast bulk of Grossinger’s comments on Terence, some of which I don’t agree with and many of which I think are very astute and rarely said. I’ll pick out a few of my favorites below. Enjoy!
“Gunther Stent, when approached by McKenna later, commented: ‘these ideas are not even fallacious.'”
“For all my conversations with Terence over the years, I remember nothing of detail or content, just his florid dress and intense, exotic speech patterns. I was afraid of both drugs and proselytization then, and since Terence represented both in spades, I didn’t listen carefully to what he was saying beyond the surface poetry and thus didn’t realize how radical and astute it was. I never got into active dialogue with him, even though he offered it many times. My loss: Terence was on my wavelength but light years ahead.”
“To look at what the brothers McKenna did in and after Colombia and to understand its seminal relationship to 2012, one has to excavate its different levels, both at the time and in their subsequent evolution.”
“These boys [Terence and Dennis] didn’t want just visions; they wanted to find a transdimensional doorway and storm into hyperspace; they intended to get the universe’s mission statement and change history.”
“Using the detonation of the hydrogen bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 as an anchor for his Timewave mapping the overall change-pattern of the universe and “the ingression of novelty into space-time,” McKenna initially keyed the Omega Point to November 17, 2012, but later revised it to the solstice.”
Grossinger quotes Terence in a nice summation of what I take to be the crux of his eschatological position: “If the universe is evolving deeper and deeper into complexity, faster and faster, and if now in a human lifetime we can see a small portion of this curve–we can actually discern the curve–we should logically conclude that we are very near, relative to the life of the universe, very near to the place where this ramping up of complexity will become so excruciatingly rapid that more change will happen in a single week than in the preceding thirteen billion years, and then there will become a point where more will happen in a single minute than happened in the previous thirteen billion years…
…Who are we in my story? In science’s story, we are nobody; we are lucky to be here; we are a cosmic accident; we exist on an ordinary star at the edge of a typical galaxy in an ordinary part of space and time, and essentially our existence is without meaning, or your have to perform one of those existential pas de deux where you confirm meaning–one of those postmodern soft shoes.
But, if I’m right that the universe has an appetite for novelty, then we are the apple of its eye. Suddenly cosmic purpose is restored to us. People matter, you are the cutting edge of a thirteen-billion-year-old process of defining novelty. Your acts matter, your thoughts matter.”
Terence quoted: “You say that it is a reduction of the psychedelic experience to be caused by drugs because drugs are material atomic systems and therefore we know all about them–I am going to try to convince you otherwise… Every electron is the yawning mouth of a wormhole that leads to quadrillions of higher dimensional universes that are completely beyond rational apprehension. Matter in not lacking magic. Matter is magic.”
“Carrying out their own indigenous science with ayahuasca, DMT, and psilocybin among tolerant and perplexed Witoto Indians of La Chorrera, the brothers McKenna won a hypothetical Nobel Prize by conjuring ‘magical excrement’: a violet “hologrammatic alchemical fluid,” a hyperdimensional form of matter–who said white boys can’t dunk?”
“Mirrors, wormholes, and skrying stones ahoy! Mages and lamas in cahoots across supercontinents and hyperspace! Counterspies spying psychically on each other! Hijinks galore! Thamaturgic mischief amok! O toil and trouble!”
“In McKenna’s indictment, the mushroom is not only ‘taken [but] heard.’ It uses ‘every though in our heads to lead us into telepathically induced scenarios of extravagant imaginings…in-depth meanings of strange places, times, and worlds…’ It makes its recipient ‘nothing more than a message-decipherer, hard-pressed to keep up with a difficult, incoming code.’ It binds molecules to DNA to ‘broadcast a totality symbol…that enter[s] linear time disguised in the presence of ordinary consciousness.”
I found out yesterday that John Major Jenkins, an important figure in the development of the 2012 phenomenon and a friend and collaborator of Terence McKenna’s, died of cancer on July 2, two days ago relative to this post. For me, it was rather unexpected, and the first thing I did was to relisten to the interview that I recorded with JMJ at his home in Windsor, Colorado in April of last year while on a roadtrip through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado (during which I also visited Terence’s & Dennis’ hometown of Paonia). While I wasn’t planning on publishing the interview anytime soon, since I expected to have plenty of other opportunities to follow up with John and am also gathering quite a few interview with people about Terence, and since I plan to do something with them collectively. However, in light of his sudden passing, I thought it appropriate to share that conversation with you all.
The interview covers a range of historical information about JMJ, his awareness of Terence and his ideas, his interactions with Terence over the years, a variety of personal synchronicities between the two, and a final reflection on Terence’s legacy and significance (as well as absence) in the present world.
My primary recording device was dead at the time, and I had to record on my phone. So, I apologize in advance for any moments where either of us lean away from the table where the phone was sitting and the volume goes down.
John and I have a had a complex relationship over the years, often going back and forth between cordial sharers of information of mutual interest to antagonistic intellectual opponents. In the end, I’m incredibly glad that we met (for the second time) at his house last year, where he was a very kind host and offered me a place to stay for the night on my road trip. I certainly didn’t know it would be the last meeting would we have. As I’ve done for Terence (and for Jose Arguelles), I’m hopeful that I can be among those who help ensure that JMJ’s significant historical documentation (you’ll notice his very specific recollections, references, and references to documents he owns in the interview) can be preserved for future researchers. What John really wanted in life was for people to take his ideas seriously.
And, without further ado, here’s my interview with John Major Jenkins, about Terence McKenna, from April 11, 2016:
Here’s my library of John’s work (I do keep archives of more than just Terence). I’ve got a lot more than this, but can’t find some of it just now and have a lot stored digitally:
Annotations to the John Major Jenkins Interview:
(0:08) JMJ originally states the date as “August 11th” and then corrects himself to “April 11th.” This may seem innocuous but shows how much time he spent with his head in the Maya Long Count calendar. August 11th is (one of the candidates for) the base-date of the Long Count calendar, August 11, 3114 BC.
(6:11) After mentioning that he cites The Invisible Landscape in his 1989 book Jouryney to the Mayan Underworld (“for the shamanism”), he mentions that it was through seeing an article by (or interview with) Terence in Magical Blend magazine that he realized that this “put him on the map as some kind of cultural icon or something, a real guy that was out there, because of course, [in] the late ’80s, you couldn’t just go on Google and look people up; where are these people? I don’t know, they don’t have a Facebook.” This realization led to their eventual contact through an I Ching mailing network that they were both members of.
The Dominion Post newspaper of New Zealand published an article in their issue of the 20th of December, 2012….a day before Terence McKenna’s projected eschatological completion of the Timewave that he “discovered” as an artifact of the King Wen sequence of the I Ching in the Amazon with his brother in 1971 (depending on when you were to ask him, at other times he used other dates). The article was a review of a play called ‘Eschaton: The Final Thing, directed by Stella Reid, which was inspired by Terence’s millenarian sensibilities. There’s a teaser trailer available online and the (quite enjoyable) soundtrack is available for streaming.
The article begins by poking at some of the ‘articles of faith’ of certain 2012-believers, namely that Planet X (or Nibiru) would collide with earth and that a small mountain village in France (Bugarach) would be one of (or the only) place of salvation during the ensuing cataclysm before going on to review the play itself. Reviewer Laurie Atkinson suggests that someone looking at the flyer for the performance might have expected these themes to be addressed only to find that it was actually about “the ideas of Terence McKenna.”
In her director’s notes in the programme, Stella Reid, inspired by McKenna’s writings, explores “how an eschaton could affect, and ultimately transform, humanity.” McKenna imagines human existence going through a “gestation process” and that when the end happens we will go through a process of metamorphosis and emerge from our human cocoon with a “human-machine planet-girdling interface capable of releasing the energies that light the stars.”
One hopes that there is a video of one of the performances around somewhere, so that it can be added to the Terence McKenna Archives. If you find (or have) one, please do let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since I’ve been a bit lax on posting lately, I’m doing a double-post today, along with the post about John Dee. This item from the archives is a brief excerpt from an interview with Terence McKenna (conducted by Kathleen McGee) for the alternative literary publication Conduit, which describes itself as “a biannual literary journal that is at once direct, playful, inventive, irreverent, and darkly beautiful” that has been “thwarting good taste, progress, and consensus for over twenty years.” If you’d help cover the cost of acquiring an original copy of Conduit #6 (Fall 1998), which is $10, please donate here, or check out our crowdfund offerings.
Conduit editor, William Waltz, informed me that he had, at the time, recently read McKenna’s Food of the Gods and was fascinated by the premise and decided to organize a themed issue (concerned with the “doors of perception”) around an interview with Terence. The official title of the issue is ‘Drunk Genius: Euphoria, Inebriation, and Creativity’.
In the excerpt offered on their website, Terence is asked about the implications of his Food of the Gods “Stone Ape” thesis for the relationship between psilocybin and poetry, which leads to speculations about what these general capacities might mean for the future of the species.
Of all animals we have the most complicated language behavior and we have the most complicated cultural behavior. There is some link there. It seems to me what we call the human imagination is a capacity in the human brain which these psychedelic plants stimulate radically, and it is out of the imagination that comes not only poetry but scientific invention, models of how the universe works. It’s almost as though the effect of these plants on our brains has over historical periods of time pushed us to develop complex culture and very complicated ideas about the world, and that’s still going on. It is very clear that the cyber culture of today was created by a lot of psychedelic people from the 60s and 70s…
The job of the artist is always to push language beyond the boundaries previously defined… Art is going to become more interactive, three-dimensional, multimedia-driven, and much more seamlessly part of ordinary reality…
The internet as we possess it in any given moment is not the internet of the next moment…
War is fading out, racism is fading out, but so is cultural diversity and non-market based value systems, so I think culture is losing and the individual is winning…
It’s nice that we love to see the Laplanders with their colorful caps, people in the South Sea Islands, but how pleasant is it to be these people? We can’t expect people to just function as museum dioramas.
It’s been a busy week and so I’ve posted less than normal, but here’s a nice re-entry. Today’s random item is an article called ‘John Dee as a Cultural Hero’ published in 2011 in the European Journal of English Studies and authored by Gyorgy E. Szonyi & Rowland Wymer, professors of English from Hungary and the UK, respectively (Central European University, Budapest and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge). The authors provide a thoughtful overview of the history of how this Renaissance figure and confidant of Elizabeth I has been represented over the centuries up to the present.
Initially, in his own day and subsequent to his death, Dee was represented as either a fraud or a dupe, an untrustworthy sorcerer. Soon thereafter, in addition to the image as a “magus, fraudster, and gull,” he also became associated with necromancy and the violation of sepulchres after dark in order to extract information from the dead–the “longstanding tradition of ‘Dee and Kelly Raising the Dead’.” This was still in the 17th Century. However, while Dee’s reputation languished for a long time in England, in Germany and East-Central Europe he gained legendary status as a great scientist and mathematician. In the 19th and 20th Centuries, notably influenced by the writing of historian Frances Yates (whose approach to and conclusions about occult history have sometimes been called into question), it is the representation of Dee as the enchanted magus and scholar, in stark contrast to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which has become prominent.
The authors of the article give a nice, condensed analysis of significant media (from fiction, to television documentaries, to films and plays) that provide an introductory overview of the range of how Dee has been treated. The article comes to a head with a brief discussion of Terence McKenna’s appearance in the film The Alchemical Dream: Rebirth of the Great Work, in which he occasionally appears in the character of John Dee, in addition to his role as narrator, guide, and interpreter. Szonyi and Wymer use McKenna’s narration as something like a summary explanation of some of the relevant factors that have led to Dee’s transformation into a ‘cultural hero’.
[T]here may be a broader reason for Dee’s recent popularity. His turning
away from mathematics towards alchemy and angel magic in the 1570s can be seen as anticipating the rejection of the Enlightenment which began with Blake and which was a particular characteristic of the counter-culture of the 1960s and early 1970s. As the narrator of The Alchemical Dream – Rebirth of the Great Work (2008), Terence McKenna, puts it: ‘the house of constipated reason must be infiltrated by art, by dream, by vision’. In this highly personal dramatised documentary on Frederick V of Bohemia, McKenna not only provided the script and narration but played the part of John Dee himself. Following Yates’s (1972: 30–41) suggestion, the author–narrator—actor regarded Dee as the precursor of Frederick’s grandiose alchemical ambitions. Despite the crushing of the King’s hopes at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, McKenna’s film argues for an unbroken thread stretching from Dee through William Blake and the visionaries to the drug-fuelled, consciousness-raising experiments of the 1960s or the practices of modern shamans. -Szonyi & Wymer
And, here’s a relevant passage from Terence’s narration to the opening of The Alchemical Dream film:
What I’m in Europe to do is to be part of a film-making effort, and I want to describe the project to you a little bit, because it’s what’s on my mind, naturally. It’s not a film about rave culture; it’s not a film about Albert Hofmann; it’s not a film about body piercing, or any of these things that great films need to be done about and have been done about. It’s about one of your local heroes, who is a great hero of mine, and I’m talking about Frederick V, Elector Palatine, Prince of Heidelberg, King of Bohemia, who was not content to sit back and let things happen but was willing to launch a grand alchemical dream of a reformation of human society. -Terence McKenna
I was struck by McKenna’s assertion that psychedelic shamanism is a living alchemical tradition that “is not seeking the stone, but has found the stone.” With this shamanic leap, it is clear that McKenna is on a more than historical mission with this film. At the very least, he is attempting to reframe a specific history as an overtone of the archaic past and the millennialist future. As was so often the case, McKenna seems both clear-eyed and dreamy in these speculations. He acknowledges that LSD and rock n roll were insufficient Rosicrucian triggers: “a failed alchemy instead of the dissolving and recrystalizing at a higher angelic level.” At the same time, he puts his money on the spirit of novelty and life, which he understands as an energy of dissent waged against materialism and the confines of the modern ego. -Erik Davis