[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.com/wp-content/uploads/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…
Research by Dennis McKenna is referenced several times:
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)
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.
The Terence McKenna Archives does own copies of the rest of the publications mentioned:
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.
“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.
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.
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…”
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,
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.
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.
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).
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 yearsafter 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!
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…
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.