Another item that has been added to The Terence McKenna Archives as a result of our ongoing crowdfund campaign is Vere Allucinazioni (1995), an Italian translation of Terence’s “talking book” (1984) and eventually paper book (1993), True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise.
What makes this volume particularly valuable and noteworthy, aside from the significance of the affordance for Italian speakers to be able to read Terence’s work, are the copious and excellent illustrations (dozens scattered throughout the text) by Matteo Guarnaccia.
Dozens of Guarnaccia’s drawings litter the pages and often mesh unbelievably well with the contents of the book — I’m only showing a fraction of them here. This is an edition of Terence’s work that is worth having, even if you can’t speak Italian, for the incredibly competent and compelling psychedelic art alone.
This post will be the first in a series where I share the fruits of The Terence McKenna Archives crowdfund campaign.
I have just acquired the first of two major purchases with the money derived from our ongoing crowdfund. Over the weekend, on my way to a conference in Berkeley, I stopped in San Francisco, at the apartment of Jay Kinney, who was the editor of Gnosis magazine (1985-1999). Terence McKenna appeared on the pages of Gnosis numerous times over the course of its history and he and Kat were among its earliest subscribers and supporters (as you’ll see later in this post). Jay also tells me that Terence was instrumental in helping Gnosis to acquire its first, game-changing, high-end laser printer, for a substantial discount, via Terence’s Timewave programmer, Peter Meyer.
I purchased a full set of the entire run of Gnosis magazine from Jay and will be making posts on Terence McKenna-related material that appears within individual issues as I work my way through the collection.
I’ll start, here, with Gnosis #1 (Fall/Winter 1985)
Terence and Kat were among the earliest ‘Helping Subscribers’ (donating $20 in addition to a $15 subscription), which helped allow The Lumen Foundation to publish 5,000 copies of this first issue.
By 1985, Terence had only previously published The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching, which wasn’t widely distributed and would have been out of print, and Psilocybin Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, which did sell widely, was authored under a pseudonym, O. T. Oss (both books co-authored with his brother Dennis), and his public speaking career was relatively fresh. The True Hallucinations talking book had, however, just been produced and was positively reviewed, in this first issue of Gnosis, by Ted Schulz.
This is a book about the kind of revelatory mystical experience that is induced by psychedelic substances. It’s also a book about an exotic expedition undertaken by five friends bound together by a mutual inquisitiveness, especially about subjectively-experienced ethnopharmacology. And it isn’t a book at all, but an eight-cassette “talking book” with fine production quality and effective use of modest sound effects and music.
In 1971, Terence McKenna and his brother Dennis, along with three friends, all young American middle-class intellectuals, set off on a journey into Columbia’s Amazonian wilderness, seeking out the remote area inhabited by the Witoto Indians, a tribe noted for its use of certain psychoactive substances. There, according to plan, they entered the equally lush and far less understood jungle of psychedelic consciousness, as they experimented with ever larger and increasingly frequent doses of the locale’s plentiful psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Terence in particular had prepared for this inner journey, having devoted a number of years to the study of revelatory mystical experience and having pursued a variety of spiritual teachings in exotic locations around the globe. This preparation notwithstanding, he and his brother returned from their experiment changed men, to spend perhaps the rest of their lives constructing theories about that overwhelming experience, as they continue to ask “What happened?”
The McKenna brothers proposed their rigorously phrased answer to this question in their work, The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching (1975, Seabury Press), a serious and carefully constructed cosmology that synthesized their Amazonian revelations. But it is in True Hallucinations that Terence has chosen to tell the human side of the story, in all the untidy detail of a sincere quest made by faltering and confused seekers-after-truth. Normally, the thought of spending nine-and-a-half hours listening to a psychedelic veteran recount his most memorable trips would leave me cold, but McKenna pulls off the feat of entertaining in the process. the backbone of his narrative is an account of the party’s voyage along the Putumayo River, of their difficult overland trek, and their surroundings at their destination, La Chorrera, and it is to this linear ground that he continually returns after flights into psychedelic theory and cosmic philosophy. The story has much of the appeal of an adventure travelogue, with the curious twist of an unusual cast of characters with an even more unusual purpose. Along the way, the intrepid band meets a number of eccentrics, including the leader of a cult of displaced Americans who divines with a Ouija board and is accompanied by a monkey that is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ; and a cocaine-crazed, paranoid, and megalomaniacal anthropologist who has fallen victim to the excessive habit of the tribe he meant to study.
In McKenna’s wry recounting, the dynamics between the five members of this amateur ethnopharmacological expedition are, in the lighter moments, diverting in the manner of a New Age soap opera. At other times they take on the aspect of allegory, reflecting the diametrical human reaction to the power of the psychedelic experience as the group ultimately splinters intro two factions. On the one hand, three people, Terence, his lover, Ev, and his brother, Dennis, continue to ingest copious quantities of the mushrooms, convinced that they are working toward a goal of ultimate importance — the creation of a literal, physical doorway to a higher dimension. On the other hand, the two remaining members of the group back off, alarmed at what they perceive as pre-psychotic behavior in the McKennas. It is, in fact, Dennis McKenna’s extremely crazed behavior that finally precipitates the group’s premature departure from their jungle base and their return to civilization, but it is also through his brother’s behavior that Terence McKenna is stimulated into some of his most meaningful breaks into higher reality.
McKenna describes instances of telepathy, clairvoyance, materialization of lost objects; glimpses of alien beings and higher dimensions; of disembodied voices speaking portents. he describes UFO/flying saucer symbolism and visions, culminating in his climactic and life-changing encounter with an alien craft. Did these things have an objective reality outside the drug experience? McKenna treats this issue with intelligence and bemusement, and this is what elevates his account from mere psychedelic theory-mongering into a genuine, candid inquiry into the nature of the psychedelic experience and of the solutions to the existential questions the experience intimates. I’m left with an impression of McKenna honestly and humbly seeking the truth through psychedelics, and receiving for his answer an outpouring of mysterious symbology.
Now, some fourteen years later, McKenna is in a position to tell this retrospective tale, and to distill the wealth of enthusiasms and revelations in a way that only the leveling of power of such a span of time can provide. This is an important and enjoyable contribution to the lamentably small body of literature of psychedelic understanding.
Today’s random item from the archives is another in the line of Terence McKenna’s work reviewed in Library Journal. I’ve already covered the Library Journal reviews of The Invisible Landscape (in 1976) & Alien Dreamtime (in 1993) and will eventually get around to reviews of Food of the Gods (book), History Ends in Green (audio), True Hallucinations (book), and Global Perspectives and Psychedelic Poetics (audio) also from the same publication. These are primarily useful as focused instances of reception of Terence’s work as well as to see how he would have been portrayed to the audience of this widely-dispersed trade publication.
Here, in Vol. 117 No. 7 (April 15, 1992), Gail Wood, from Montgomery College Library in Maryland, briefly reviews (and recommends) Terence’s anthology of essays and interviews, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History. The book is listed under the category ‘Parapsychology’, while Food of the Gods was reviewed as ‘Social Science’ and True Hallucinations as ‘Anthropology & Customs’.
McKenna has been exploring the “Wholly Other” for 25 years. In this spiritual journey, he ponders shamanism, buddhism, and ethnopharmacology. By the phrase “archaic revival,” McKenna refers to a return to shamanism, which he believes can be enhanced by current scientific practices. The next level of spiritual transformation, he explains, is achieved by the intelligent use of psychedelics and should be performed only by thoughtful explorers rather than experimenters, scientific or otherwise. The ideas presented in this collection of interviews, speeches, and articles are radical even now, and will challenge the reader. There are many insights on current spiritual movements such as goddess worship, deep ecology, space beings, and virtual reality. Recommended. —Gail Wood, Montgomery Coll. Lib., Germantown, Md.
Critique: A Journal Exposing Consensus Reality was a quarterly countercultural publication that often specialized in issues surrounding conspiracy culture but also dealt with broader issues, as is made more clear in its alternate title: Critique: A Journal of Conspiracies & Metaphysics. It’s self-described purpose was “to question, explore, and expose consensus reality to assist in the transformation from consumer idiots to critically thinking, aware and developing individuals. And to prepare the way for the new paradigms and the new species.”
Issue #31 (Summer 1989) contained a 3-page interview with Terence McKenna conducted by David Jay Brown & Rebecca McClen. This is a different edit from the same interview that also later appeared in High Times magazine in 1992, and which later appeared again (also with a different edit) in Brown & McClen (Novick)’s book Mavericks of the Mind in 1993. The interview also appears in Terence’s own book The Archaic Revival, identifying Critique as the original publication, although the interview is much longer in the book than in the magazine.
A reference to Terence also appears elsewhere in the issue in Michael Grosso‘s article, ‘Endtime Anomalies’, where he says:
“The anomalous signs in the sky — which we call UFOs — seem designed to undermine confidence in our prevailing sense of reality. Terence McKenna compares these unidentified sky signs with the Resurrection of Jesus in the ancient world, something meant to counfound, paralyze, and suspend the intellectual cocksureness of the powers that be.” -Michael Grosso
In the introduction to the interview in Mavericks of the Mind, Rebecca McClen Novick provides some further details about the context of the interview: “This was our first interview. It took place on November 30th, 1988 in the dramatic setting of Big Sur. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean we sat on the top floor of the Big House at the Esalen Institute, where Terence was giving a weekend seminar. He needed little provocation to enchant us with the pyrotechnic wordplay which is his trademark, spinning together the cognitive destinies of Gaia, machines, and language and offering a highly unorthodox description of our own evolution.”
TM: “What we can say concerning the singularity is this: it is the obviation of life in three dimensional space, everything that is familiar comes to an end, everything that can be described in Euclidean space is superseded by modes of being which require a more complicated description than is currently available.”
TM: “We shouldn’t assume time travel is impossible simply because it hasn’t been done. There’s plenty of latitude in the laws of quantum physics to allow for moving information through time in various ways. Apparently you can move information through time, as long as you don’t move it through time faster than light.
DJB: “Why is that?”
TM: “I haven’t the faintest idea. (laughter) What am I, Einstein? (laughter)
DJB: “I’m wondering what you think the ultimate goal of human evolution is?
TM: “Oh, a good party. (laughter)
TM: “It’s very interesting that in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries, when they took the sacrament, what the god said was, “Procreate, procreate.” It is uncanny the way history is determined by who sleeps with whom, who gets born, what lines are drawn forward, what tendencies are accelerated. Most people experience what they call magic only in the dimension of mate-seeking, and this is where even the dullest people have astonishing coincidences, and unbelievable things go on; it’s almost as though hidden strings were being pulled…”
DJB: “Do you think that there’s any relationship between the self-transforming machine elves that you’ve encountered on your shamanic voyages and the solid state entities that John Lilly has contacted in his interdimensional travels?”
TM: “I don’t think there is much congruence. The solid state entities that he contacted seem to make him quite upset…”
TM: “Now let’s think about what machines are made of, in light of Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field theory. Machines are made of metal, glass, gold, silicon, and plastic; they are made of what the earth is made of. Now wouldn’t it be strange if biology were a way for earth to alchemically transform itself into a self-reflecting thing. In which case then, what we’re headed for inevitably, what we are in fact creating is a world run by machines… Actually the fear of being ruled by machines is the male ego’s fear of relinquishing control of the planet to the maternal matrix of Gaia. Ha. That’s it. Just a thought. (laughter).
TM: “Consciousness can’t evolve any faster than language. The rate at which language evolves determines how fast consciousness evolves, otherwise you’re just lost in what Wittgenstein calls ‘the unspeakable’. You can feel it, but you can’t speak of it, so it’s an entirely private reality.
…There have been periods in English when there were emotions which don’t exist anymore, because the words have been lost. This is getting very close to this business of how reality is made by language. Can we recover a lost emotion by creating a word for it? There are colors which don’t exist anymore because the words have been lost. I’m thinking of the word jacinth. This is a certain kind of orange. Once you know the word jacinth, you always can recognize it, but if you don’t have it, all you can say is it’s a little darker orange than something else. We’ve never tried to consciously evolve our language, we’ve just let it evolve, but now we have this level of awareness, and this level of cultural need where we really must plan where the new words should be generated. There are areas where words should be gotten rid of that empower politically wrong thinking… So planned evolution of language is the way to speed it toward expressing the frontier of consciousness.”
TM: “It was Ludwig von Bertallanfy, the inventor of general systems theory, who made the famous statement that “people are not machines, but in all situations where they are given the opportunity, they will act like machines,” so you have to keep disturbing them, ’cause they always settle down into a routine.”
TM: “I have named us [himself, Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Abraham, and Frank Barr] Compressionists, or Psychedelic Compressionists. A Compressionism holds that the world is growing more and more complex, compressed, knitted together, and therefore holographically complete at every point, and that’s basically where the four of us stand, I think, but from different points of view.”