Terence McKenna and the Secret Chief (Crowdfund Acquisitions #4)

This item is one that I had long held-off on spending archives money on simply because I knew I could eventually get it, and I had previously chosen to use the limited funds available in order to acquire rarer and more pressing items for the collection. Thanks to your kind donations to our ongoing crowdfund effort, however, I’ve since acquired a 1st edition copy of Myron Stolaroff’s The Secret Chief: Conversations with a Pioneer of the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement (1997).

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Stolaroff’s now classic and important book addresses the life and underground work of a man only identified in the text as “Jacob.” Jacob was a U.S. soldier who became a Jungian psychotherapist, discovered what he deemed to be the therapeutic value of psychedelics, and never turned back, administering them to his patients and sharing them with other therapists while they were still legal, and continuing to do so, underground, after their use was criminalized.

In particular, Jacob is substantially responsible (opinions sometimes vary on exactly what that responsibility entails) for the significant proliferation in the use of MDMA among psychotherapists in the late-70s and early-to-mid-80s with some close to him speculating that he delivered the method–and, of course, often the MDMA–to more than 4,000 therapists. The book, published by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is based on interviews that Stolaroff and his wife conducted with Jacob in 1981 at the behest of Ann & Sasha Shulgin who had originally introduced him to MDMA in 1977 (the same individual who is called “Jacob” in Stolaroff’s book is referred to as “Adam Fisher” in the Shulgin’s own book Pihkal). Following this initial encounter, Jacob became a quick convert and is credited with coining the nickname “Adam” for the substance to indicate his conviction that the experience stripped away the ego’s self-defense mechanisms, anxieties, and inhibitions and returned one to a psychological state of primordial innocence. Jacob’s efforts to popularize MDMA, ironically, both carried it out to thousands of people and, also, in part, resulted in therapeutic access to MDMA being more restricted once it was finally criminalized as a result of that rising popularity.

Terence McKenna claims to have taken a very quick liking to Jacob when they first met in the early 1980s and, in fact, it is Terence’s nickname for Jacob that became the title of Stolaroff’s book. It was Terence who called Jacob, “the secret chief”…..and, Myron, with Terence’s permission took it for the title of his book.

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Eventually, with the permission of Jacob’s family, Stolaroff produced a revised edition, The Secret Chief Revealed (2004), in which he finally identified “Jacob” as Leo Zeff.

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Zeff’s part of the MDMA story appears briefly in the delightful Trick Publications pamphlet (modeled after the classic evangelical Chick Tracts) called ‘Adam & Evil?!’:

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Zeff died in 1988 and Terence McKenna attended and spoke at his memorial on April 17 offering an thoughtful and heartfelt remembrance that includes his application of the name “the secret chief.”

“I’m Terence McKenna. I knew Leo the last five years of his life. I feel deeply honored to be asked to speak at this occasion.”

“I felt, when I stood near Leo, that I was standing next to a giant; and what the experience of standing near a giant was was the experience of the wisest, kindest, gentlest, funniest man that I’ve ever had the privilege to know.”

“When I first met Leo, I was so impressed by his vitality [that] after the public meeting at which we met, I cornered him in private, and I said, ‘Leo, I want to ride in your canoe. I don’t care where you’re going. I just want to be in your canoe.’ And, he said, ‘You’re always welcome in my canoe’.

And, I felt that his saying that to me inducted me into a group of people that I think of as Leo’s Tribe, Leo’s People–and for Leo’s Tribe, Leo was our chief…he was the secret chief. He had no theory to push, he had no axe to grind.”

“In his chosen field, which was psychology and the healing of the soul, he understood better than anyone I’ve ever met that it’s a matter of letting the psyche grow and flower according to its own rules. You stand present, you stand ready, and then you do as little as possible. And, everyone who has ever had Leo sit for them knows that that was exactly how he worked.”

“One of the goals of Leo’s life was the search for the perfect high [much laughter], and he inspired many of us to follow in his footsteps [more laughter]. I trust that he has found that perfect high [even more laughter].”

[Terence reads a selection from ‘Letter Three’ of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and mentions its importance to Zeff]

“Sometimes when Leo would sit with people, they would come out of their reveries and want to talk with him about what they were learning and seeing, and Leo would listen for a few minutes, but he, then, would always say, ‘That’s fine. That’s good. Now return to the music.’

And, I think — I like to think — that Leo has now returned to the music.

And, someday, so shall we. And, to whatever degree we follow his example, life here and the passage to whatever lies beyond will be made much easier.

Leo showed the way, because Leo knew the way. And, I salute him for that. I say, for all of us who were his tribe, ‘Goodbye to the secret chief. Goodbye to the man who saw most deeply. It’s now for us to do as he would have had us do.”

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Terence McKenna Books in Translation

Terence McKenna’s published works have been translated, over the years, into more than a dozen languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Polish, Japanese, Estonian, Bulgarian, Italian, Dutch, Slovenian…and, no doubt, others that I am unaware of). The Terence McKenna Archives holds a small selection of these translations. Some were acquired recently as a result of donations to our ongoing crowdfund, others were in the collection prior to the crowdfund, and some have been kindly donated. If you have a translated copy of a work by Terence McKenna that is not pictured here (or if you represent a publisher of such a work) and would like to donate a copy to The Terence McKenna Archives, please do send an email.

Thanks, in particular, to Castellarte, the publisher of the Spanish translation of True Hallucinations Alucinaciones Reales: Relato de las Extraordinarias Aventuras del Autor en el Paraiso del Diablo (2001). They were kind enough to send me two beautiful copies for the archival collection. It is produced in the style of the original HarperSanFrancisco edition.

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Another edition of the same book that is produced in a similar style is the Japanese edition published by Daisan Shokan幻覚世界の真実 (Genkaku sekai no shinjitsu) (1995). [Google Translate provides a rough translation of “The Truth of the Hallucination World”]. Some of the primary differences between this and the English and Spanish editions derive from the different ways in which Japanese is read (the book opens from what English readers would identify as the “back” cover, for instance, and the text reads from right to left). I am particularly enamored of the vertical, columnar orientation of the Table of Contents and the marbled, malachite-green hard cover beneath the dust jacket.

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Of all of the translated editions of True Hallucinations, my favorite, aesthetically remains the Italian translation, Vere Allucinazioni, published by Shake Edizioni Underground and abundantly & skillfully illustrated by Matteo Guarnaccia. I have an entire previous blog post on this edition.

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The Japanese translation of Food of the Gods, also published by Daisan Shokan, is called 神々の糧 (ドラッグ) : 太古の知恵の木を求めて : 植物とドラッグ、そして人間進化の歴史再考 (Kamigami no doraggu : taiko no chie no ki o motomete : shokubutsu to doraggu soshite ningen shinka no rekishi saiko (1993). [“Drugs of the Kami” is an interesting translation of Food of the Gods]. It’s another hardcover that looks very nice on a shelf and has a wonderful cover design.

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The Terence McKenna Archives collection also has German and Polish translations of Trialogues at the Edge of the West under the titles Denken am Rand des Undenkbaren & Zdążyć Przed Apokalipsą (which Google Translate renders, respectively, as “Thinking on the Edge of the Unthinkable” & “Make it For the Apocalypse” or “Be in Time for the Apocalypse”).

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We also have some copies of foreign-language books or translations that include contributions by, or interviews with, Terence McKenna.

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This heady German volume includes a translated 3-page extract of Terence from a conversation with musician b-Eden, called “Psychedelische Erfahrungen” [Psychedelic Experiences]

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published by Stampa Alternativa, this is an Italian book (translated ‘Psychedelic Heresies’) that includes an interview with Terence McKenna called “Sacri Antidoti,” mostly about Buddhism.

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German translation of ‘The Gateway to Inner Space: Sacred Plants, Mysticism, and Psychotherapy: A Festschrift in Honor of Albert Hofmann’, edited by Christian Rätsch, which includes a chapter by Terence McKenna, called, in English, “Among Ayahuasquera”

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However, there are far more translations that are not currently represented in The Terence McKenna Archives collection….(it’s actually nice to still have plenty more work to be done)!

Terence McKenna Ads in Magical Blend Magazine (June 1998)

Today, I received a copy of the June 1998 issue of Magical Blend magazine. I was hoping that it would contain a review of John Major Jenkins’ book, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (Bear & Company, 1998). Magical Blend June 1998 001

Terence McKenna wrote the Foreword to Jenkins’ book, and, from what Jenkins has said elsewhere, the reviewer for Magical Blend also discusses Terence’s contribution and ideas. All I know, however, from Jenkins, is that he and Terence wrote written responses to the review that appeared in an issue in “Fall 1998.” Since the magazine was published monthly, it’s unclear exactly which month in “Fall” he was referring to. So, when I saw an inexpensive copy of the June issue show up on eBay, I thought it might be a good candidate for the issue that contained the initial review that prompted their “Fall” rejoinders.

Alas, the June 1998 issue did not contain what I was looking for….however, it did contain a fair bit more Terence McKenna than I had expected, in the form of a range of advertisements for events & products.

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I’m not actually sure yet which of these Whole Life Expos Terence spoke at in 1998.

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The book ‘A Magical Universe’ features an essay by Terence McKenna (there are a few copies left available through our crowdfund).

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Terence McKenna in Hawaii @ The New Millennium Institute, May 24-30, 1998

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Terence was popular enough in the pages of Magical Blend that they created a special Terence McKenna issues specialty set that readers could purchase.

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(Bottom Right) – The Psychedelic Sourcebook: “The most complete, focused and subversive psychedelic resource list in print.” -Terence McKenna – A psychonaut must!

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(Bottom left) – Better decisions, better relationships. Visit the authentic Oracle of Changes online. Absolutely FREE. “Cool, very cool.” -Terence McKenna – http://www.ICHING.com

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Terence McKenna in Hawaii @ New Millennium Institute, May 24-30, 1998

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Terence McKenna, Entheobotany Seminars & Sierra Madre Talks

[My apologies to everyone for a long hiatus in posting on behalf of The Terence McKenna Archives. It’s been an excessively busy summer thus far, and I just haven’t had the time to keep up on regular posting. After having finished a rigorous teaching schedule for a summer course, I now hope to be able to return to a more regular posting schedule]

A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit the pleasant foothill community of Sierra Madre, just north of Los Angeles, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and 2018-08-29-01-41-09.jpgthe Angeles National Forest along with Bruce Damer (whose continued work on the problem of the origins of life on Earth has received renewed attention in a recent special issue of Scientific American).

The reason for our visit was to talk with Ken Symington, who, among a range of other noteworthy life-achievements that are not the focus of my immediate attention, was the co-founder (along with Terence McKenna, Rob Montgomery, and Jonathan Ott) of the Entheobotany Conferences that took place every year from 1994 to 2001, often held at Chan-Kah resort near the Maya archaeological site of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico–here’s a short video of Terence being interviewed near the hotel pool during one of these conferences in January, 1996:

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(From Left: Ken Symington, Jonathan Ott, and Christian Rätsch at Hotel Chan-Kah near Palenque)

Of the four founders of the Entheobotany Conference, Terence died in 2000, Rob Montgomery, sadly, died last year (2017), and word from Jonathan Ott has been sparse since the tragic burning of his home in Mexico by arson in 2010. Ken, then, at 86, is the only major available source of organizational information about these seminal psychedelic conferences. Ken is the founder of the Botanical Preservation Corps, which the Entheobotany Conferences were produced under the banner of. He also translated Cesar Calvo’s The Three Halves of Ino Moxo: Teachings of the Wizard of the Upper Amazon among other projects and has recently self-published Hypomnemata: Stories, Fables, Memories (which he kindly signed a copy of for me). Ken was a very gracious host and wonderful story teller…

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And, importantly for purposes of The Terence McKenna Archives, Ken had kept a folder of material from the history of the Entheobotany conferences, which he kindly allowed me to photograph.

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I’ll post a few of the highlights from the folder below. Before doing so, however, I’d like to highlight another aspect of the visit to Sierra Madre, which was the adjacent small theater where some of Terence’s talks were hosted (including ‘In the Valley of Novelty’ & ‘The World and Its Double’).

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Bruce Damer in the Nature Friends theater in Sierra Madre

Here is one of Terence’s talks that took place here:

And, here are some of the highlights from Ken’s Entheobotany Conference folder:

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