Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #29 – Paul Krassner’s Further Weirdness with Terence McKenna

In an earlier ‘weekly haul’, I mentioned that the archives received a copy of Paul Krassner‘s book Murder at the Conspiracy Convention and Other American Absurdities, which contains Krassner’s interview with Terence under the title ‘Further Weirdness with Terence McKenna’. The same interview appears, with slightly different edits each time, in two of Krassner’s other books: Sex, Drugs, and the Twinkie Murders and Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs. The latter two books contain an extended Q&A (“in person and by e-mail”) that doesn’t appear in Murder at the Conspiracy Convention. The interview originally appeared in High Times #266 (October 1997) under the title ‘The Mushroom Apocalypse of Terence McKenna’.

The item that was selected through the random number generator for today is the 2nd edition of Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs (the 1st edition was self-published by Krassner). I don’t own a copy of either edition (I’ve never seen a copy of the 1st), but I was able to scan the relevant pages of a copy just to make sure that it is at least digitally represented in the archives. If you’d like to donate to help acquire a copy, which I’ve found online for $13.92, you can do so at the Transcription Project or through our crowdfund store (I’ve also found a copy of the original High Times for $9.97). Rather than continue to have individual blog posts for each of Krassner’s books that contain the interview, I am just going to finish out the series here with one final post about all of them, including some selections from the interview. I almost encountered Paul Krassner a few days ago at a Robert Anton Wilson event in Santa Cruz (about which I will post more soon), but he was was unable to attend. In the meantime, these are where you can find his interviews with Terence McKenna…Also of note is the Dedication to McKenna in Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs:

And, some excerpts from Krassner & Terence (passages set off by quotation marks are McKenna’s words):

With his curly brown hair and beard, a twinkle in his eye, and a lilt to his voice, he could easily pass for a leprechaun.

“I’m convinced that probably for most people, the most important thing in a workshop is nothing that I will say or do, but who you might meet here.”

He is a psychedelic adventurer and visionary author who serves as a missing link between botany and technology.

He handles the role with intelligence, grace, and humor. In person, he is spontaneously charming and effortlessly witty. He loves language, and though he is glib without being speedy, he chooses his words carefully. He communicates with the precision of an architect and the passion of a poet, speaking in a friendly, entertaining twang. He is, in short, a Mr. Rogers for grown-ups, and the neighborhood he welcomes you to explore is your own inner space.

Krassner describes an incident that occurred in San Francisco following the Saint Stupid Day Parade and a fundraiser event for Jack Kerouac’s daughter, Jan, in which he was arrested for possession of a bag of mushrooms that he hadn’t entirely been aware that he had possessed. It was, apparently, that incident that prompted his mission to meet and talk with Terence McKenna, which led to the present interview:

The cop’s question–“So, you like mushrooms, huh?”–was asked with such archetypal hostility that it kept reverberating inside my head. So you like mushrooms, huh? It was not as though I had done anything which might harm another human being. This was simply an authority figure’s need to control. But control what? My pleasure? Or was it deeper than that? This need to understand the basis of my plight became the impetus for my decision to meet Terence McKenna. He was, after all, the Head Mushroom Guru.

I contact McKenna in Hawaii, where he lives in happy isolation. “My website is on a machine in the Bronx, although I administer it from the Big Island.”

The workshop convenes… Everybody has arrived with their own personal agenda, and each will hear McKenna through their own individual filter.

Someone else publicly confides to him, “If my life were a ride through the fun house at Disneyland, you’re like one of the characters who keep popping up.”

McKenna confesses, “I’m an epistemological cartoon.”

“Why is there so much social tension over this psychedelic issue? Nobody who has informed themselves claims that great criminal fortunes are being made or that kids are being turned into psilocybin runners in the ghetto. We know that all the stupid reasons given for suppressing psychedelics are in fact some kind of lie.”

“Strangely enough, the way you cheat the grim reaper is by living as fast as you can, because all time is [is] the seriality of events, and the more events there are, the more time you have, so awareness becomes very important, and even, as the Buddhists say, awareness of awareness.”

Saturday morning at Esalen. Fresh fruit and vegetables galore. Hot cereal and stewed prunes. People will be passing gas all over the place…

McKenna maintains that “There are not good beliefs, there are just bad beliefs, because they inhibit human freedom.”

“Our legacy is the legacy of the children of the stoned monkeys.”

“If yoga can do it, great. If Transcendental Meditation can do it, great. The pope and the Dalai Lama, fine. But, in my experience, the only thing that changes consciousness as fast as we’re going to have to change it is psychedelics. We have to change it on the dime, because the processes that we have set in motion are going to drag us down.”

“We need to unify heart and head in the presence of super technology.”

“If psychedelics are so great, then what’s so great about us? Are we better than those poor people who have never taken psychedelics? Are we morally better? Are we wiser? Or are we just some kind of screwball cult like Mormons, who congratulate themselves on having achieved this supreme understanding, and yet to everybody else they just look like geeks? And we look like geeks. This really is a problem I carry with me, because I’ve advocated psychedelics my entire life, yet I often see incredibly bad behavior and stupidity and cruelty and insensitivity committed by psychedelic people.

The bottom line of psychedelics is not how good it makes you feel but how creative you are, and the acceleration of creativity that is taking place is immense, and if you can get off with the people who are responsible for most cutting-edge phenomena, they will admit that they began with psychedelics.”

“I really believe our evolutionary past holds the key to our evolutionary future.”

“The end of the Mayan calendar is the same day that I had calculated [archivist’s note: this is not actually true]. Well, this is not a reason for believing my theory, for you, but for me it was a reason. Too weird a coincidence. The only thing that I have in common with the Mayan civilization is that we both used psilocybin, and it’s almost as though when you purge the virus off your disc, there is at the bottom line, written in assembly code that cannot be expunged, a discard date that says, ‘Abandon this locality before December 21, 2012 AD.”

Someone else asks, “What book are you currently reading?”

I’m reading a book , it’s a hoot, Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphyics, and Science Fiction by Paul Nahin. It’s published by the American Institute of Physics, so you need not hang your head in the subway.”

Another person asks, “How’s your website coming?”

“I’m just so damned proud of having hacked it in the first place. The things we’re discussing here, if you go there and download, it’s all there in high detail, and you can take your time. I think of it–in terms of my intellectual life–it’s more who I am than who I am sitting here, because I might forget a reference or skip over something. On the website, we got it right.”

Except that on the website you can’t appreciate McKenna’s speech patterns. He would pronounce pat-tern, as though his inner dictionary were separating syllables, certainly a shat-tering experience.

“Aliens don’t talk to individuals, they talk to species. And they don’t say things like, ‘Be vegetarian,’ the say things like, ‘Now do language. Now physics.'”

“[The universe] wants to conserve novelty at all costs. That seems to be more important to it than conserving biology. It will sacrifice biology if necessary to save novelty. Novelty is the top of the value hierarchy, as I see it, and biology, culture, technology, physics–all are simply means to an end.”

And, Krassner adds his own thought to the matter:

I remember the first time I came to Esalen, in 1970, for a workshop with John Lilly. He played a tape loop of one word being repeated continuously, but after a while you would begin to hear other words.

“When faced with repetition,” Lilly explained, “your human biocomputer automatically programs in novelty.”

“Finally, after I had alarmed a number of people, and my friends were meeting, speaking of intervention–on an idea for god’s sake–Ralph Abraham came to see me on his own, he wasn’t delegated by the interventionists, and said, ‘The problem here is that you have an occult diagram. Only you understand it, and only you can interpret it, and therefore it’s not very persuasive.”

“For me, this [discussion of the Timewave] is sort of the payoff of doing these weekends. In the other parts of the weekend, I basically function as the nutty professor. This is so personal that no one has ever tried to steal it. That’s how uniquely and wholly and totally mine it is. So if it’s malarkey I get all the blame, and if it’s true I get all the credit.”

“For those of you who are true fans of predictive accuracy, the day of the Human Be-In, January 13, 1967, is the day we go over the hump… We’re right about here [in the late 90s]. This is the pause before the storm. This is the most habituated moment that we will know for maybe the rest of time.”

“I suppose if I were a different kind of personality,” McKenna observes, “I would haunt the hallways of major universities and try to drag these guys into my theory. But for some reason, I think the Timewave itself empowers a certain kind of fatalism, and I just say if I’m right, I’m right; if I’m wrong, I’ve probably told enough people already.”

When Krassner asked Terence about the recent Heaven’s Gate mass-suicide:

“I encountered Do (then Bo) and Peep in 1972. They were contemptible, power-crazed new age creepoids then, and apparently things didn’t get better.”

When Krassner asked Terence about the “posteschaton”:

“I’ve created a series of scenarios in ascending weirdness which answers the question.

A low weirdness answer would be, suddenly everyone begins to behave appropriately. This is kind of a Buddhist, Taoist approach…we would just dissolve into appropriate behavior. Since we’ve never had that, we can’t imagine what it would be like.

Then there’s the transformation-of-physics scenario, which basically says, ‘All boundaries dissolve.’ What that would probably be like, the first hour of it would be like a thousands micrograms of LSD. After that, we can’t imagine or predict, because again it would have so totally changed the context…

Then there are the catastrophic scenarios that revolve around the question, “Death, where is thy sting?” And probably the most efficient of those is the planetesimal-impact scenario. A very large object strikes the earth and kills everybody, and that’s it…[or] the sun will explode. that would certainly clear the disc and fulfill the whole thing. The planet vaporizes, and collectively we and all life on earth move into the shimmering capsules of the post-mortem realm, whatever that is. Novel, novel.”

“The rise of the Web has been a great boost to my fantasies along these lines, because now I can see with the Web from here to the eschaton. Apparently, it’s a technology for dissolving space, time, personality, and just releasing everybody into a data stream, something like the imagination.”

One idea I have for an end-of-history scenario: Time travel becomes more and more discussible; finally there are laboratories working on it; finally there is a prototype machine; finally it’s possible to conceive of a test; and so on the morning of December 21, 2012, at the World Temporal Institute headquarters in the Amazon Basin, by a worldwide, high-definition, three-dimensional hook-up, the entire world tunes in to see the first flight into time. And the lady temponaut comes to the microphone and makes a few brief statements, hands are shaken, the champagne bottle is smashed, she climbs into her time machine, pushes the button and disappears into the far-flung reaches of the future. Now, the interesting question is, what happens next? And I already established for myself that you can travel backward into the past, but you can’t travel further into the past than the invention of the first time machine, for the simple reasons that there are no time machines before that, and if you were to take one where there are none, you get another paradox.

So, what happens when the lady temponaut slips into the future? Well, I think what would happen a millisecond later is tens of thousands of time machines would arrive from all points in the future, having come back through time, of course, to witness the first flight into time…And that’s as far as the road goes. That’s the end of the the time road.

[And, here, Terence goes even beyond this “normal” explanation of his]

But the grandfather paradox persists. One of those time travelers from 5,000 years in the future, on their way back to the first time-travel incident, could stop and kill his grandfather, and then we have this whole problem all over again. So, I thought about this for a long time, and I think I’ve found a way around it. But, as usual, at the cost of further weirdness.

Here’s what would really happen if we invented a time machine of that sort. The lady temponaut pushes the button, and instead of all time machines appearing instantly in the next moment, in order to preserve the system from that paradox, what will happen is, the rest of the history of the universe will occur instantly. And so that’s it. I call it the God whistle.

This is because you thought you were building a time machine, and in a sense you were, but the time machine isn’t what you thought it was. It caused the rest of time to happen instantaneously, and so the furthest-out developments of life, matter, and technology in the universe come right up against you a millisecond after you break that barrier, and in fact your discovery that traveling time is not traveling time, it’s a doorway into eternity, which is all of time, and that’s why it becomes more like a hyperspatial deal than a simple linear time-travel thing.”


This Week’s Terence McKenna Archival Haul (5/19/17)

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:

  1. 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. 

        1991 - Esquire - VR Conference 07

      • 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.” 

  2. Gojiro (1991)
  3. Terence’s bibliographer alerted me to a copy of a rare zine called Light Times: A Random Periodical (1988) that was for sale online. I had long been aware of its existence but over the years (and after a lot of searching) had never seen a copy for sale anywhere, and the UCSB Interlibrary Loan department was not able to find a single copy available in a worldwide search of libraries (though there does actually appear to be a copy in Special Collections at the University of Michigan if anybody is in the area and wants to check it out). The hand-printed and stapled zine includes an edited version of one of Terence’s talks that was originally a KPFK/Botanical Dimensions co-fundraiser sponsored by Roy Tuckman (aka Roy of Hollywood), under the title Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature (which is interrupted by a letter to the editors from Timothy Leary under the pseudonym Irving Blum), as well as an article by underground psychedelic icons Gracie & Zarkov (who have a great, unpublished interview with TM), titled Gracie’s ‘Visible Language’ Contact Experience, which makes several mentions of TM, including one of my favorite analogies for the Taoist concept of wu-wei

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    [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.]


  4. Andy Roberts’ Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain (revised edition, 2012) doesn’t devote much time to Terence McKenna, but he is listed as among the guest speakers at Fraser Clark‘s London Megatripolis club. Here’s a song from a Megatripolis compilation CD that sample’s McKenna’s voice (and another). And, here’s Terence talking at Megatripolis. Here’s a nice clip of Terence talking about the difficulties of being a club-scene philosopher (and mentions Megatripolis). 

  5. 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.

  6. 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 muchmemed). 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!]

  7. 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.

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  8. 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. 

  9. 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). 

  10. 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. 

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  11. 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.] 

  12. 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). 

  13. 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. 

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  14. 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 ConventionIMG_0604IMG_0605IMG_0606

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 terencemckennaarchives@gmail.com, 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…