This week’s intake at the Terence McKenna Archives was much more modest than last week’s substantial haul. The only hard copy publication that arrived just came in today:
Disinformation’s Book of Lies.
The Book of Lies, as most of these large Disinformation Guides, consists of dozens of chapters by a smorgasbord of authors from a wide swath of the countercultural milieu, this time ‘focusing’ on “Magick and the Occult.” The small section on “Chemognosis” contains only two chapters (it’s the heading with the least number of contributions in the volume), one of which is an edited transcript of Terence McKenna’s first talk at Esalen during the Lilly/Goswami [that’s John and Amit] Conference on Consciousness and Quantum Physics, titled ‘Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness’. There seems to be some dispute about when this conference actually took place. Anyone who was there or has a photo or scan of an original catalog can help with this. Both The Book of Lies and Jeffrey Kripal in his book, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion describe the event as taking place in December 1983. However, as you can see here, the actual tape (not published by Dolphin Tapes until 1997) lists it as taking place in 1982, as does Erowid, though citing the Dolphin Tapes published version. I have tended to favor the 1982 dating, though I can’t now remember all of my reasons for doing so (most, like Jesse Jarnow and Graham St. John, have gone with the 1983 date–it would be great to clear this up, as, historically speaking, it’s not entirely insignificant when this took place–you can see this same issue playing out on the Psychedelic Salon page for the talk).
Even though this is among Terence’s most well-known and most-published talk, I thought it would still be worth including some of the selected quotations for your edification and amusement:
2. This week, in a conversation with R. Michael Johnson (one of the movers behind the excellent RAWilsonFans website–you can read a good chunk of his introduction to the brand new edition of Robert Anton Wilson’s Email to the Universe by Hiliritas Press on Amazon), he took me through his list of a great many places where he knew Terence cropped up in various literature. Most of the items he mentioned are already represented in the archives, but he definitely gave me several significant leads that I hadn’t had on my radar (thanks, Mike!). The most embarrassing of the items he mentioned was Robert Anton Wilson’s Everything is Under Control, because it has been sitting on the same bookshelf as most of the McKenna archive for quite a long time without my realizing it contained both an entry on Terence himself as well as an even longer entry on Food of the Gods (which is distinct from RAW’s review of the book which appeared in his Trajectories Newsletter #10, 1991 and is reprinted in Chaos & Beyond: The Best of Trajectories).
3. Beyond that, I rediscovered that Google Books allows you to also search through magazines (whichever ones they have in their database). This caused me to come across some magazine articles that mentioned Terence which I hadn’t encountered before as well as a whole slew of advertisements.
This is the first of what will be an ongoing series of ‘Weekly Haul’ posts showing off materials that have been added to the archive over the course of the preceding week. This week’s intake has been particularly noteworthy, including quite a range of TM-related literature for the archives, among which are a couple of incredibly rare items. Here’s what came in this week:
Let’s begin with a pair of books by Mark Jacobson:
Teenage Hipster in the Modern World: From the Birth of Punk to the Land of Bush: Thirty Years of Millennial Journalism (2005)
Jacobson reprints his well-known interview with Terence that appeared in Esquire in 1992, but in his book, he amends the title, taking dispute with the tongue-in-cheek but somewhat derogatory title that Esquire assigned to the interview in the magazine, which was ‘Is Terence McKenna the Brave New Prophet of the Next Psychedelic Revolution, or Is His Cosmic Egg Just a Little Bit Cracked?’
As part of my effort to write this blog post, looking back at the original Esquire piece, I was fortunate to come across several other relevant issues of the magazine that contained material related to TM.
The September 1992 issue included a couple of curious reader responses to Jacobson’s interview with Terence that had appeared in the June 1992 issue.
The April 1991 issue included an article on Virtual Reality that contained a description of an event called Cyberthon, at which both Terence McKenna and Timothy Leary spoke. The article describes part of Terence’s talk.
The November 2006 issue includes a cheeky article about apocalyptic expectations and includes a rather mean-spirited jab at McKenna as one among many misguided prophets calling him a “drug-eating dead man.”
[Note for the super geeky: It’s not entirely clear to me how often Leary used the Irving Blumenthal pseudonym. On a quick search, I could only find two clear references to it as Leary’s alternate name. Antero Alli references it here, and there is a reference to another letter under this name in Michael Horowitz’s extensive Leary bibliography, in 1981, listed under C118. Horowitz’s bibliography was published in 1988, the same year this zine, and, as such, the latter does not appear in the bibliography. Horowitz does list another (1982) reference to a publication called Light Times under J433, though it’s not clear that the two publications are related. If you have any further information about Leary’s Irving Blum pseudonym, please do leave a comment.]
Most of you have probably heard Terence’s several interviews with Fortean shock jock Art Bell on Coast to Coast AM (now hosted by George Noory). Well, Art also included some of Terence’s ideas in at least one of his books, The Source: Journey Through the Unexplained, co-authored with long-time pulp paranormal writer Brad Steiger. I added both a first edition (1999, hardback) and second edition (2002, paperback) to the archives.
Sometimes, I stumble upon really great Terence McKenna material unexpectedly. I ordered a copy of Cam Cloud’s Acid Trips and Chemistry (1999), because there was a cheap copy available and I had a coupon at Thriftbooks. When it arrived, even though I assumed that since it was a book about LSD, it probably wouldn’t have any relation to TM since LSD wasn’t one of the psychedelics substances he went out of his way to promote (though he certainly had plenty of experience with it, having explored it “quite occasionally” among his youthful endeavors, often waiting until the peak of the acid trip to smoke some DMT). Nonetheless, despite my assumptions, I flipped to the back of the book (as I do) looking for an index in order to locate the letter “M.” Frustratingly, as is often the case in these matters, an index was absent, but a brief bibliography was present, which, to my surprise, did, indeed, include a reference to The Archaic Revival. So, I flipped through the pages hoping to locate where TM showed up, expecting maybe a passing quotation and was genuinely non-plussed at what I found. There is a “famous” photo, by Chip Simons, of Terence that appeared in the April 1992 issue of High Times as part of an interview conducted by David Jay Brown (and has been much–memed). In Cam Cloud’s book, there appear to be further photos from that same photo shoot that I’ve never seen before. I have contacted Simons to see if he still has the originals, which would be professional color photographs rather than the black-and-white scans in Acid Trips and Chemistry. But, regardless, it is still fairly exciting to find out that there was a whole series of photos from this shoot at his home in Occidental, California….and that they are so creative! Keep an eye out for more on this front in the future. [Update: Simons is going to find his originals from the shoot and send me scans!]
Alt.Culture: An A-to-Z Guide to the ’90s–Underground, Online, and Over-the-Counter (1995–the title pretty much explains it) includes an entry on Terence, which begins by describing him as “ethnobotanist, philosopher, historian, and Nabokovian know-it-all.” Lodged between ‘McJob’ and ‘media moguls’, he is praised by authors Steven Daly and Nathaniel Wice as “one of the world’s greatest rhetorical ravers.” I think they like him.
Visionary Plant Consciousness: The Shamanic Teachings of the Plant World (2007), edited by J. P. Harpignies, contains material that, so far as I know, has not been represented in any other collections and does not exist in the online YouTube/mp3 corpus collected and distributed by the TM fan-base. The slim volume contains quite a few chapters of interest, including a transcript of a talk that Terence gave at the Bioneers conference in 1993 and a transcript of a trialogue from the following year that he had with his brother, Dennis, and the esteemed ethnographer and ethnobotanist Wade Davis. All of the material in the book comes from the Bioneers conferences from 1990 to 2004. The chapter list is fairly impressive and includes presentations by and discussions with Kat Harrison (Terence’s ex-wife), Paul Stamets, Dale Pendell, Luis Eduardo Luna, Jeremy Narby, Francis Huxley (who died in Dec. 2016), Alex Grey, Michael Pollan, Andrew Weil, Charles Grob, and others.
In Ayahuasca: The Visionary & Healing Powers of the Vine of the Soul (2003), Joan Parisi Wilcox includes just a passing mention of “intrepid psychonaut Terence McKenna” in her entheogenic travelogue. While introducing a chapter where she allows her ayahuasca-drinking companions to tell their experiences in their own terms, she quotes TM from The Archaic Revival, saying “What we need now are diaries of explorers. We need many diaries of many explorers so we can begin to get a feeling for the territory” (of course, this was before Erowid’s Experience Vaults manifested this kind of database).
Spirit Matters is a memoir by Matthew J. Pallamary that includes several interactions with Terence in the years leading up to his death. I’ll be meeting with Matt when he comes to town next month to teach at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, so I’ll keep this entry relatively short in anticipation of a future post after our meeting. In Spirit Matters, Pallamary recounts his journey to the Maya ruins of Uxmal to meet Terence in 1998, his meeting with Terence, his gift of a short story collection, how he was turned on to TM by a “sweet little old lady who had sent [him] tapes of his lectures,” an experience on thirteen Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds combined with “what Terence McKenna would call a ‘heroic dose’ of nine grams of mushrooms that nearly killed [him],” a second meeting with TM the following year in Palenque (including a 5-MeO-DMT trip), and a delightful story about a successful attempt (see photo below) to get the “very first copy…from the very first print” of his novel, Land Without Evil, to Terence at the 1999 AllChemical Arts Conference in Hawaii (the last place that most people saw him). Pallamary returned to the 2000 Entheobotany conference, but Terence was too ill at this point to attend; he recounts a conversation with Lorenzo Hagerty (who you’ll know as the host of the Psychedelic Salon podcast) where they reminisced about Terence’s absence, noting, “we all knew that if it hadn’t been for Terence, most of us would not have come to the tribe.” Look back for another post after I meet with Matt in June.
It’s not often that I encounter explicit support for (or even mention of) Terence’s argument (in Food of the Gods, Chapter 7), against R. Gordon Wasson and others, that the soma plant of the Vedas, ritually consumed by the ancient ṛṣis (“rishis”–Vedic seers) was a species of Psilocybe mushroom (Wasson, of course, argued that it was an Amanita muscaria). However, in an endnote to his bestselling The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet’s Lost Paradise, Ian Baker does just that. [Here’s a short clip of Terence talking about soma and its potential relationship to the Zoroastrian haoma, which is identified as the harmaline-containing Peganum harmala (aka Syrian Rue); and here’s a talk by Baker that some may find interesting on the use of mercury among alchemical practitioners in present-day Burma.]
In Acid Christ: Ken Kesey, LSD, and the Politics of Ecstasy, Mark Christensen offers one of the strangest McKenna quotes to date (an idea that just seems patently wrong on its face, on all accounts, no matter how I spin it).
Ok, we’re getting near the end…. Penultimately, I received another very rare and hand-bound publication directly from the artist/editor (published in a series of 200), which includes an interview with Terence from 1996. I’m hoping to do a series of email dialogues with both of the editors soon, so won’t say too much now in anticipation of a future blog post entirely devoted to this. However, I thought it worth at least including in the record of the week’s haul. In the meantime, enjoy this interview with Ken Weathersby and David Keith, founding editors of Hootenanny, which includes details about the unique nature of the publication and some reminiscences of their meeting with TM.
And, finally, for this week, I received a copy of Paul Krassner‘s Murder at the Conspiracy Convention and Other American Absurdities. Krassner includes the same piece, “Further Weirdness with Terence McKenna” (under the section heading “Several Dead Friends”) that also appears in his books Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs and Sex, Drugs, and the Twinkie Murders (although the edits do appear to be slightly different each time and the latter two books include an extended Q&A session (“in person and by e-mail”) that is not included in Murder at the Conspiracy Convention.
Whew! That was quite an intake for the Terence McKenna Archives for the week. As always, if you have any materials that you would like to contribute to the archive, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you would like to donate to help assist with the acquisition effort, for now, use the Paypal link at the Terence McKenna Transcription Project website (and include a note with your donation that says “for archival acquistion” or the like). In the coming months, there will be a crowdfunding campaign for the Archive. So, please do follow this blog to keep up-to-date on even further weirdness with Terence McKenna…