Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #31 – The Irish Times Trips Out With Terence McKenna, the ‘Psychonaut of Inner Space’ in 1994

Today’s random item is among those items from the archive that are largely irrelevant. It offers no significant information about Terence McKenna (except a lead to another newspaper article) and no significant insight. However, what it does provide an example of (an admittedly very small datapoint at best), is a localized published response to the awareness of Terence McKenna’s existence. That is, it shows us one set of responses to psychedelic culture and the notion of a psychedelic philosopher. In this case, the response is to dismiss and minimize via humor.

The article, titled ‘Tripping Out With Terence, the Psychonaut of Inner Space”, appeared in The Irish Times on May 23, 1994, and, although the byline is attributed only to Brendan Glacken, it appears to be a dialogue of some sort (perhaps entirely invented by Glacken or, perhaps, with an unnamed interlocutor). The overall tone, as you’ll see, is disapproving and dismissive albeit in a semi-informational and light-hearted vein, but there are some delightful Irish colloquialisms that I’ll leave you to sort out for yourself. This, then, is one of the ways that an Irish audience might have been introduced to Terence McKenna in the mid-90s.

[If you’d like to see the original piece (you would!) from the May 18, 1994 edition of The Independent newspaper (London), Susan De Muth, who conducted the interview with Terence (at the home of Rupert Sheldrake) has posted it on her website.]

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I was reading a British newspaper the other day about a Mr. Terence McKenna (47), described as an ethno-botanist and psychedelic philosopher.

A what?

An ethno-botanist and psychedelic philosopher.

We’d say young be thumping the pages of Education Living for mannies the long day before you’d see that come up under “Me and My Job.’

So what’s his game exactly?

Well, once every two months he gets into bed and takes what he describes as “a heroic dose” of psilocybin mushrooms.

…the author makes some bad jokes about culinary mushrooms…

…These mushrooms are hallucinogenic.

What? Drugs!

Correct. But Mr. McKenna explains: “My mind-brain system is a laboratory where I explore the great mystery of life. The boundaries that define the waking world are dissolved. I become a psychonaut of inner-space, entering complex experiences beyond language, bizarre yet beautiful landscapes never seen before.”

The Lord save us. What does he think about dreams?

That each night we are trying to rediscover something we find and lose every 24 hours; that when we dream we are plunged into some primordial pool of imagery.

some reminiscences by the author about his own fairly xenophobic dreams of a “big black fellow standing over us with a sharp spear”….

He’s out at wild sex and drug orgies every night of the week I suppose?

On the contrary, he claims to be very reclusive and unsociable.

Does he take ajar?… If a man doesn’t take ajar, and there’s no medical condition involved, it’s a good bet he’s done mad on drugs, that’s our opinion.

His idea of a great evening is, and I quote, a “200-year-old book and a snifter of brandy.”

Fair play to him. Brandy is an expensive poison, where exactly does all his money come from?

Books, lectures, records and CDs dealing with his dreams and hallucinations.

We’re in the wrong line of business is all we can say.

I am familiar with the feeling.

More interesting are the comments by Susan De Muth whose interview with Terence is the basis of The Irish Times piece:

He was the fastest-talking person I have ever met and – unlike Timothy Leary – did not appear to have suffered any mental degeneration as a result of his massive ingestion of drugs.

Later, I saw him guru-like on stage in a night club, surrounded by fans sitting cross-legged and listening intently to his psychedelic message.

He was very generous and gave me lots of collaborative CDs he’d made with various bands and individual musicians.

I wish he could report back from the after-life…

And some outtakes of Terence from De Muth’s interview:

On six very special nights a year I unplug the telephone, lock the front door, turn off the lights, get into bed and, alone in silent darkness, take a huge amount – an heroic dose – of psilocybin mushrooms.

For me this is not an hedonic activity.

After about four hours I get up, exhausted, and make myself something to eat. Then I fall into a deep sleep, way beyond normal dreaming, and wake with memories and data that will keep me inspired for weeks.

Normal dreams are not a disappointment to me. I’m fascinated by all kinds of mental activity, including those day- residue dreams where you’ve forgotten to buy the milk . . . and nightmares, too.

I often dream of places I haven’t been: a futuristic city I call Hong-Kong-Morocco-Tasmania. There are also hundreds of strangers in my dreams to whom I relate as if I know them. This is very much like my life: I meet so many people since I’ve become some kind of minor icon on the underground scene that I’m often in situations where I vaguely recognise someone but have no idea who they are.

I don’t have any trouble sleeping, which is a shame because I’m thrilled by the prospect of insomnia. I once went for nine days and nights without sleep in the Amazonian jungle and found it an ecstatic experience. At night I’d walk deep into the jungle or sit somewhere and just contemplate: I found I could follow four or five trains of thought simultaneously and never lose the thread.

When we were children my mother used to put us to bed and say, ‘now you’re going into the friendly darkness’

I don’t envisage giving up drugs at any point. The older I get, the more like a psychedelic waking dream everyday life appears to me.

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