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.
This first volume in the series, edited by anthropologist Christian Rätsch, is the only one that is sold-out and otherwise apparently unavailable online. I have a scan of Terence’s chapter, but the archives does not currently hold a physical copy of the volume. If you have a copy that you would like to donate to be housed in the archives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terence’s contribution is a transcription of the first talk he ever gave at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California…a location where he would become a staple presenter over the next nearly two decades. The talk, titled ‘Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness’ was presented as part of the [John] Lilly/[Amit] Goswami Conference on Consciousness and Quantum Physics, and there is a bit of historiographical confusion about whether this conference took place in December of 1982 or 1983–different sources make different claims, none apparently definitive. You can see a further commentary and some other links related to this confusion on our post about the same talk as it appears in The Book of Lies. Again, anyone who was at the event or who has an Esalen catalog or some other definitive evidence, please let us know.
Today’s random item is a rather brief one, so I’ll spice it up a bit with some related additional material at the end…
The Daily News of Los Angeles newspaper from Sunday, April 19, 1992 listed two forthcoming bookstore appearances in the L.A. area over the next week. This was very shortly after Food of the Gods was published. For anyone who is keeping a Terence McKenna timeline (or, for anyone who wants to help keep our timeline up to date at the Terence McKenna Transcription Project), these are useful data points.
The second, on Friday, April 24, was at the (now out of business) Phoenix Bookstore in Santa Monica:
If any of the people involved with either of these bookstores has any further information about these events, flyers, newsletters with event calendar, photos, recordings, correspondences with Terence about the event, etc., please do let me know. I would also just be interested to talk with anyone who was at or involved with the event (or any other similar event). If you represent Bodhi Tree or Phoenix Bookstores, please contact me at email@example.com.
As a further archival bonus, on the topic of Bodhi Tree Bookstore, Terence was also interviewed in an issue of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore magazine (#5, Spring 1993). The TM Archives does not currently possess a physical copy of this and haven’t been able to find one for sale online, so if you have a copy and would like to donate it to the archives or know of how the archives can acquire one, please do get in touch. The interview (by Mark Kenaston) is, however, available online, so you can read it yourself here.
I had never entertained such a notion as that there could be these chemicals in cactus that would sweep you away to jeweled landscapes haunted by mythological creatures, phosphorescent maidens and the ruined architectonic geometries of who-knows-what.
I regard science fiction as the entry drug into the psychedelic world. If by nine, ten, eleven or twelve, you’re reading science fiction, then you’re probably lost to normality.
MK: What did your mother think of your interests? Did she think my kid is off his nut?
TM: Well, she was a Huxley fan. But you see, the great paradox of Huxley was that he sold guns to both sides. Brave New World is what really gave Huxley his reputation. Have you read it? …he anticipated the archaic revival because the world of Island is essentially an archaic-technical world.
MK: So how did you make your entry into the world of psychedelics?
TM: With morning glories. Let’s see, it must have been the summer that I was fifteen or sixteen.
I discovered Cannabis in my last year of high school and from then on I was just riveted by it. It seemed to me obvious, I don’t know, like I was astrologically set up for it.
The twin horrors or twin problems of Western society are ego and materialism. And they’re linked together in a naïve monotheism. This creates toxic cultural conditions if you allow the engine to run for a thousand years, which it now has.
TM: Since we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of LSD, I suppose it would be appropriate.
The best trips I would have with LSD was when I would smoke a lot of hash—by itself, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I had this romantic vision from reading Huxley and Havelock Ellis, and by god, I wanted to see ruined desert cities and jungle ruins of strange civilizations and hear the phosphorescent maiden play her daemon song upon the dulcimer. In other words, I wanted vision and LSD wasn’t exactly like that for me. But, Psilocybin was, and DMT certainly was.
Well, I really believe that this connection to the Gaian Mind that Paleolithic shamanism exploited is the basis of our ideas about deity. The idea of and overwhelming, guiding, creating force comes out of all of that. Religion and mystical practice without psychedelics are derivative, I think, and late. It’s an accommodation to class structures and community need for control, and that sort of thing, that basically came with the invention of agriculture.
I tend to assume that chaos is unavoidable and that it’s like living on an island chain in the Pacific Ocean, and the issue is to sail or not to sail, and that nobody can guarantee calm seas.
MK: Where do stand today on the subject of mysticism?
TM: The bottom line for me is that I absolutely believe that the world is magical. I have seen violations of physics that satisfy me. But also my position is, “show me,’ because that works. Out of 10 minutes of my life, the ‘show me’ position has delivered 10 minutes of truly miraculous stuff.
The best method is to be very rational and rigorous about evidence, but to press the edge.
I’m basically a rationalist, totally committed and believing in the power of the irrational. But some people have tried to put me in the New Age, I just have contempt for all that because those people are just flaky. They believe anything. All you have to do is lower your voice and start raving and they think they’re in contact with a mogul lord of the sixteenth millennium. I mean I just don’t understand that level of woo-woo.