Terence McKenna Interviewed in ‘Critique’ Magazine (1989)

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.

The theme of this particular special issue of Critique was ‘End of the World or End of an Illusion’, so Brown & McClen selected out the sections of their interview that were most relevant to that theme. You can view a photocopy of the entire interview (as published in Critique) on pages 2-4, here. But, I’ll include some choice quotes below.

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

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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.”

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This Week’s Terence McKenna Archival Haul (6/4/17)

An interesting array of items came into the Terence McKenna Archives this week. I’ll just get straight into it:

  1. Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal by Tom Shroder includes a couple of passages mentioning Terence in two separate sections on Ricks. One chapter is on Rick Doblin includes a story that Rick also conveyed to me when I interviewed him about Terence regarding the origins for funding an MDMA study as a sort of opposition to Terence’s general cautioning against the promotion of that substance. Another chapter is on Rick Strassman, who I’ve been meant to interview for some time now about his own interactions with Terence but keep losing track of time (soon enough).

2. Eric Cunningham wrote his PhD dissertation, Hallucinating the End of History: Nishida, Zen, and The Psychedelic Eschaton, in the Department of History at the University of Oregon largely as a comparison between the eschatological ideas of early 20th century Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida and those of late 20th century American psychedelic spokesperson Terence McKenna. Nishida’s work incorporated Zen Buddhism with contemporary Western philosophy, taking on the likes of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel with his own unique philosophy which would become the foundation of the highly influential Kyoto School in Japan. As is often the case with Humanities PhD work, Cunningham’s dissertation was subsequently published as a book. It would be nice to also have a copy of the actual dissertation, as, no doubt, some edits were made between the completion of the dissertation and publication of the book manuscript (so, if you’re reading, Eric, and have a digital copy that you’d be willing to send…). There’s obviously huge sections devoted entirely to McKenna, so I will only post some evocative snippets here just so you can get a sense of the territory.

3. I found some well-priced copies of Thomas Lyttle‘s Psychedelic Monographs & Essays volumes and so ordered them in partial use of some recently acquired birthday money–for the general psychedelics library, not the TM Archives. I wasn’t expecting anything from Terence, as I had looked through most of these before in other people’s libraries and hadn’t noticed anything, and nothing is listed for PM&E on Terence’s bibliography. So far, I’ve only received #5 and that expectation largely holds up. However, there is a review, by George Root, of The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: Tributes to Gordon Wasson. Roots review is quite long but only mentions McKenna among a list of contributors and doesn’t explicitly mention or discuss his chapter called ‘Wasson’s Literary Precursors’.

4. Aftershocks: The End of Style Culture by Steve Beard includes several mentions of Terence and an event report/review of True Hallucinations (the latter of which I’m hoping to be able to use as part of a document I’m creating for an upcoming crowdfunding campaign and so won’t post here). Beard, too, includes reference to Terence’s appearance at Fraser Clark‘s London club, Megatripolis as well as comparisons between Terence, Tim Leary, and Hakim Bey.

5. For those of you who have been actively paying attention to the blog, you may recall a couple weeks ago, I came across a book, Cam Cloud’s Acid Trips, which contained some black & white copies of photos of Terence, shot by Chip Simons, at his home in Occidental, California. They came from the same shoot as this well-known photo which accompanied an interview by David Jay Brown. Well, to update you on the situation, I have received a folder in the mail from Simons which contains film positives of many more snaps of Terence from the same photoshoot. All I can say for now is that they are truly delightful! I have an appointment on campus next week with the Image Resource Center on campus to digitize them. Of course, these photos belong to Simons, and I don’t have any immediate plans or permissions to share them at present. But, I’m hoping to be able to use some of them as part of the upcoming crowdfunding campaign (but I’ll need to discuss those details with the photographer). Eventually, they will come out, but for now they need to stay private–I will keep you updated.

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6. The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop (the Revised & Updated edition, 2006, is what I got–the 1st ed. is 1999), Nina Luttinger and Gregory Dicum briefly mention Terence’s comments about the relationship between the rousing effects of coffee and the labor-intensive raison d’être of the Industrial Revolution, although they (understandably, given their focus) leave out his query about why the ubiquitous workplace 15-minute coffee break is not replaced with a cannabis break.

7. Follow for Now: Interviews with Friends & Heroes, edited by Roy Christopher, contains a favorite interview of mine with Terence by the ever-insightful and barbed culture critic Mark Dery. Dery’s interview is preceded by a long introductory text (also by Dery), which is also a favorite treatment of Terence and his life and work. The interview and its lengthy introduction will be featured in the ‘Companion Guide to Terence McKenna’ feature that I am creating for the upcoming crowdfunding campaign. I had previously had scans of this but finally added a hard copy to the collection.

8. The material in A Magical Universe: The Best of Magical Blend Magazine (1996) was selected by the magazine’s editors, Jerry Snider and Michael Peter Langevin. Terence appeared in the pages of Magical Blend on many occasions, offering essays and interviews alongside reviews of his books and advertisements for his products. Robert Anton Wilson called Magical Blend “a quiet revolution.” The selection that is included in this edited volume is an essay that Terence wrote for Magical Blend #26 (April 1990) and was later reprinted in The Archaic Revival. I already had a copy of this in the archival holdings but received a few copies to use as incentives for crowdfunding.

9. A couple weeks ago, I received a copy of Matthew Pallamary‘s Spirit Matters: A Memoir, which, among other delightful reminiscences, describes the story behind the photo below, in which Pallamary sent along the first printed copy of the first edition of his novel Land Without Evil to be gifted to Terence at the 1999 AllChemical Arts Conference, shortly before his death. Well, this week, I received a copy of Land Without Evil, which is dedicated to Terence. I’ll get the archives copy signed when I meet with Pallamary in a couple weeks when he comes to town as a workshop leader at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

10. Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History by Mary Kilbourne Matossian was one of the books in Terence’s library and is among the books cited in Food of the Gods, where it is used as part of an argument against “the Wasson-Hofmann theory” that the kykeon beverage of the Eleusinian mysteries was a form of ergotized beer (of course, Terence, following Robert Graves, wants to push the possibility of a psilocybin mushroom).

11. The following items were added to the general collection and don’t include any specific material related to Terence McKenna, but I thought that they might be of general interest, so thought I would include them as well. So, here’s the ‘Supplemental Haul’…

See you next week with the next haul!