Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #41 – Transpersonal Psychology Research Review: Psychoactive Substances & Transpersonal States

[Please help support The Terence McKenna Archives by donating to our ongoing crowdfund campaign. We need to raise our first $3,000 before March 15 in order to secure a very rare and expensive art book that Terence McKenna collaborated on with artist & bookmaker Timothy Ely among other timely acquisitions. So our first challenge of the crowdfund (CHALLENGE #1) is to reach the goal of $3,000 by March 4th (March Forth!), the famous date of the McKenna brothers’ “experiment at La Chorrera.” If we reach this goal, I will post on YouTube, free to all, a rare radio debate that Terence did with a member of the Young Republicans National Federation (YNRF). It’s a lively debate that hasn’t been previously available, and I will happily share it with the community as incentive to donate sooner rather than later to help this important collection to grow and build its web-presence so that everyone can share in value of the archive. Donations can be made directly on our crowdfund site: https://www.gofundme.com/terencemckennaarchives & you can download or view, here, a full catalog of the incentives: https://terencemckennaarchives.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/tma-crowdfund-donation-menu4.pdf]

Today’s random item from The Terence McKenna Archives digital collection comes from The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology Vol. 22 No. 2 (1990). The article is essentially a 40+-page annotated bibliography of all relevant research known to the authors at the time on the topic of the relationship between psychoactive substances and claims of experiences of transpersonal states. The article includes several references to work by both Dennis & Terence McKenna, and the comments about Terence are particularly worth noting. It will be worth sharing the first several pages of the article to see how the literature review is organized and how the authors conceive of the terms ‘psychoactive substance’ and ‘transpersonal states’.

You can scroll past these introductory pages if you want to skip straight to the McKenna material…

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Research by Dennis McKenna is referenced several times:

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However, it is the references to Terence McKenna that are of most interest to me here, in part, because there are references to recordings and studies that I have not seen appear anywhere in the public sphere of the 21st century McKenna milieu. I would be greatly obliged to anyone who has information about Terence’s 1984 talk called “Ethnobotany,” which apparently involves a discussion of a Lux Natura questionnaire of psilocybin experiencers completed by several hundred respondents. (see first image directly below)

Questionnaire

McKENNA, T. (Speaker). (1984). Ethnobotany, (Cassette recording).
Berkeley, CA: Lux Natura.

Following in the tradition of Tart’s (1971) classic study on the
experiences of marijuana smokers, the author designed a questionnaire
on the effects of psilocybin mushrooms and administered it to
370 mushroom spore print customers. The experience of hearing an
audible voice was found to be a dosage-related phenomenon. The
threshold varied among individuals with one-half of the respondents
reporting hearing a voice after ingesting 8 grams of dried mushrooms.

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The Terence McKenna Archives does own copies of the rest of the publications mentioned:

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And, finally, the authors offer an extended analysis of Terence McKenna and his career as fitting within what they call the ‘heuristic approach’ to exploring psychoactive substances and their potential relation to transpersonal states:

Terence McKenna, an author and speaker about hallucinogenic drugs, whose work represents this quality of deep personal immersion with the experience. His quest began after ingesting DMT, a synthesized form of a natural plant compound which brings on a short but intense hallucinogenic experience. “I said, ‘This isn’t a drug, this is magic! This is a dimension to reality that most people never even suppose exists … raising all kinds of issues about what is reality, what is language, what is the self, what is three-dimensional space and time, all the questions I became involved with over the 20years or so.”

Following this conversion experience, Mckenna, who started college at UC Berkeley as an art history major, began his research by traveling to Nepal because he saw some correspondences between his imagery during psychedelic sessions and Tibetan art. This led him to study with Tibetan shamans who were still actively involved with psychoactive substances, and then to the Amazon for further research on “botanical shamanism.” Despite formal training limited to a bachelor’s degree, McKenna combines knowledge of neurochemistry, ethnobotany, anthropology, history, linguistics, transpersonal psychology, and chaos theory in his work. He has self-experimented with virtually every form of psychedelic substance, engaged in introspection and self-reflection, dialogued with others about their experiences, and read extensively in the neurochemical, ethnopsychopharmacological, and art history literature. In the span covered in this review, he has contributed to the archaeopsychopharmacology and ethnobotanical research as well as publishing an investigation of literary description of mushroom experiences (abstracted above). Together with co-researcher “and wife, Kathleen, he also founded Botanical Dimensions, an organization dedicated to collecting living ethnomedicinal plants from around the world and their associated lore. As McKenna’s research career illustrates, the heuristic method is inherently cross-disciplinary, but the research isĀ  always brought back to bear on the researcher’s own experience. In his attempt to “define the self in the hallucinogenic dimension.” McKenna has particularly focused on the psilocybin mushroom (he co-wrote with his brother, Dennis, a grower’s guide which sold 100,000 copies) and the Amazonian hallucinogenic plant brew ayahuasca.

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