Today’s post is a nice example of some of the different kinds of work that I do as archivist for the Terence McKenna’s Archives. If you’d like to skip straight to the 1976 review, you can skip to Step #6:
Step #1: A Lead to a New Source Appears
Following the publication of the 1st edition of The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching in late December of 1975, in a bid to convince the book’s editor at Seabury Press/Continuum that more resources should be poured into advertising and public relations for the book, Terence McKenna mailed a copy of a review of TIL that appeared in the Brain/Mind Bulletin newsletter, which he hoped would help to demonstrate sufficient public interest in, and enthusiasm for, the book if it were brought to the attention of the appropriate audience.
Brain/Mind Bulletin (1975-1996) was a newsletter founded and edited by Marilyn Ferguson, who is often seen as a formative influence in the development of the’Human Potential’ and ‘New Age’ milieus, her most well-known contribution being her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s. Ferguson’s newsletter was devoted to what it called the “frontiers of research, theory and practice,” which certainly converges with how Terence conceived of the material described in The Invisible Landscape.
Step #2: The Search
So, from Terence’s letter to his editor, I know that there is a very early review of The Invisible Landscape in an issue of Brain/Mind Bulletin from when it was first released and the McKenna brothers were an unknown, a review that I hadn’t known about until now. The next step was, of course, to find that review and to add it to the archival collection as, at least, a digital scan if not a physical copy of the publication.
Nothing directly useful on Google (no dedicated website or online archive for Brain/Mind Bulletin).
For a moment, I think “Interlibrary Loan” could be useful here, but quickly realize that I don’t know which issue of the 24 issues, from the entire year of 1976, contains the review I’m looking for, and that it would be a bit rich to put in a request that would require a library employee at some distant location to scan through a year’s worth of newsletters to, hopefully, find and scan one book review.
WorldCat has been a life saver, time and again, for locating rare items for the archive. Among its many virtues, it provides information about which major libraries hold (practically) any item of interest. In this case, I was delighted to see that my own university’s library held a collection of Brain/Mind Bulletin from v. 1, no. 1 in 1975 up through v. 16, no. 7 (Apr. 1991). I requested to have the materials collected and held for me at Special Collections, and, the following week, I was sitting in their reading room with my camera phone ready to snap the photo of the review, only to find that several of the issues from 1976 were missing from the collection including, of course, the one that I was looking for. At this point, it seemed like I might have to just wait until I was on the road visiting another library listed on WorldCat and hope that their collection wouldn’t also be incomplete in just the wrong way.
Now, armed with a better idea of what I was and wasn’t looking for, I found a seller on eBay with a listing for a “Lot of 1970’s BRAIN MIND Mailer Bulletins” but with no details about how many issues or which issues…something the seller also didn’t know upon contact. I decided to make the gamble, knowing that, either way, $20 was a very reasonable price for a lot that would provide a window onto a rich slice of counterculture history even if the issue with The Invisible Landscape review was missing.
So, I took the gamble and made the order…
Step #3: Acquisition
Today, I received the box containing my issues of Brain/Mind Bulletin and was pleased to find a nearly complete set of the first several years of the publication, including Vol. 1 No. 12 (May 3, 1976) with the The Invisible Landscape reviewed by Marjorie Schuman. I will very happily, and admittedly unexpectedly, now, add a physical copy of this very early review to the Terence McKenna Archives collection. This, then, so far as I know, would be the second published review of the book, appearing only two days after one in Library Journal.
Step #4: Scanning into Digital Archives
Step #5: Preservation
Vol. 1 No. 12 of Brain/Mind Bulletin will get slid into a plastic sleeve and stored with other periodicals and loose-paper items in the collection. Following our first major crowdfund campaign (starting in February 2018), all storage for this kind of item will be upgraded to high-quality archival storage boxes.
Step #6: Sharing with the Community
This step, along with the thrill of the hunt and the acquisition of new information, is a big part of what makes the effort worthwhile. Enjoy!
…the McKennas ‘tested’ their complicated hypothesis by ingesting a mixture of ayahuasca and psilocybin-containing mushrooms.
For almost a month, they experienced a “sudden and immediate migration (toward) schizophrenia or classic shamanic trance”–a “shared shamanic journey of return from the ends of space and time.”…
According to this model, “all phenomena are at root constellated by a wave form which is the hierarchical summation of its constituent parts, morphogenetic patterns related to DNA.”
The reader who perseveres…will be impressed by their thorough researching…
Their ultimate hypothesis…is farfetched to say the least. Still, we may remind ourselves humbly that truth has often seemed bizarre. ‘The Invisible Landscape’ is worth reading for those who, like the McKennas, are fascinated by psychedelics, interested in science and receptive to far-out theories.