The academic quarter has just ended, and I finally have half a moment to breathe. In doing so, I took a portion of that moment to begin organizing and cataloging some of the acquisitions I have made for the archives over the last year or so. Here are a few semi-randomly selected items that have somewhat recently found their way into the Terence McKenna Archives. I have a few other more focused, historically-oriented posts planned for the near-future, if I can squeeze out some time over the winter break. But, in the meantime, I figured that I should at least share some of what’s been coming in. Enjoy!
1. This first item has been on my list for a very long time and has taken me quite a while to find. Eventually, after years of looking, one came available on eBay, and I was delighted to add it to the collection. This issue of Los Angeles magazine from August 1988 contains a nicely detailed description of the author’s visit to the Ojai Foundation in Southern California to participate in a workshop with Terence McKenna and Riane Eisler.
2. This is another magazine that I have been looking to acquire for many years, but it wasn’t until some of the crowdfund donations came in that I felt justified spending the cost for this magazine plus the international shipping that came along with it (about $50 total), especially given that the actual content has been available online as a jpg (still, rather obscurely) for some time. Despite that, it was a great pleasure to add this well-preserved copy of i-D #107 (The Artist Issue, August 1992) into the archives. It’s a large magazine and was just slightly too big for my home scanner, but I was able to get the important parts in.
3. This next item includes a somewhat curious, passing, and unimportant reference to Terence that stood out to me primarily because the author, Jeffrey Toobin, is now a rather prominent CNN legal analyst. Here, in this short article from The New Yorker from December 2004, Toobin reviews a legal case pertaining to religious freedom around the use of ayahuasca for the U.D.V. (for more details on the specific case, by the same Jeffrey Bronfman mentioned in the article, see this and this) and, in passing, Toobin makes reference to reports of the felt experience of DMT by citing both Terence McKenna and Alan Watts before dismissing both in favor of a comparison to what I can only presume is Mr. Toobin’s choice tipple.
Terence McKenna, a Berkeley-educated ethnobotanist who is an authority on DMT, has written that using such a substance brings a person into contact with entities that he calls “self-transforming machine elves”; for Alan Watts, a cohort of Timothy Leary’s, using DMT was like “being fired out of the nozzle of an atomic cannon.” At any rate, it’s no Chivas.
4. This next item is another long-sought-after acquisition that became available on eBay after many years of searching in vain. References to Terence McKenna are scattered throughout this 1996 (1st edition–there is a 2000 2nd edition that I still need) of Ayahuasca Analogs and Plant-Based Tryptamines: The Best of the Entheogen Review, 1992-1996, edited by Jim DeKorne.
First, Terence is used to introduce the concept of an ayahuasca analog [from “Ayahuasca and Its Analogs–Autumn, 1992”]:
Ayahuasca is exotic stuff — few of us are able to travel to Amazonia to experience its effects, and the plants from which it is traditionally compounded are tropical species which do not thrive outside of the rainforest. Terence McKenna has perceived this problem and suggested its resolution:
Probably only a synthetic duplication of ayahuasca compounded with the correct percentages of DMT and beta-carbolines will ever make the experience available outside where it is endemic. [cited from “Among Ayahuasquera,” Gateway to Inner Space, Prism, Great Britain, 1989, pg 202]
This is precisely the concept of an “ayahuasca analog.”
Later, his description of a mushroom trip (not mentioned as such) is compared with a dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita, which itself is already being compared to the DMT experience [from “Smokable DMT from Plants–Winter, 1993” (this is, perhaps, worth comparing with the next archive item in this post, which quotes Terence in the service of connecting shamanic ritual intoxication with the Hermetic tradition–while both sources use Terence’s descriptions of his own psychedelic experiences to support religious texts of their choice (the Bhagavad Gita and Corpus Hermeticum, respectively), as complements they both evidence and service the generalized perennialist orientation that is predominant in psychedelic culture from Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts onward]:
The numinous nature of the DMT experience recalls some verses from the Hindu scriptures: In chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna to show him his visva-rupa, or “universal form” —
4. If You think that I am able to see Your cosmic form, O my Lord, O master of all mystic power, then kindly show me that universal self.
Krishna responds to Arjuna’s request by saying:
8. But you cannot see Me with your present eyes. Therefore I give you divine eyes, so that you can behold My mystic opulence…
Whatever Krishna does to open Arjuna’s eyes, it obviously precipitates a profound alteration in consciousness. Anyone who has experienced a full-fledged DMT flash might see a parallel here. At any rate, Arjuna is deeply disturbed by the vision he receives:
24. O all-pervading Visnu, I am unable to keep the equilibrium of my mind! Seeing Your radiant color filling the skies and seeing Your mouths and eyes, I am afraid.
25. O Lord of lords, O refuge of the worlds, please be gracious toward me! I cannot keep my balance seeing thus. Your blazing, deathlike faces and awful teeth. I am bewildered in all directions. [for those with a historical interest, the specific version cited is Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (Swami Prabhupada), The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, NY, 1972]
Compare this with Terence McKenna describing a psychedelic trip:
I even have conversations in the hallucinogenic spaces where I say, “Show me what you are for yourself.” And then it starts like an organ tone that begins to lift velvet drapery. After about forty-five seconds of that I say, “That’s enough of what you are for yourself. Let’s go back to dancing mice and little elves and, you know, the happy, nice stuff! This is scaring the socks off me!” … It always cloaks itself. It’s not an entirely honest encounter. It knows that you actually couldn’t handle it … It can accept as many projections as we can put onto it. It literally is beyond the power of human imagining, so whatever image we lay onto it, it can take that and give it manifestation. The mice, the elves, the alien abductors. [citation to a 1993 interview in Green Egg magazine]
With the DMT experience now available to anyone willing to extract this endogenous (you’ve got some in your pineal gland right now) entheogen from any one of the scores of different plants (many of them common North American “weeds”), it seems that the fools and angels among us are being offered “divine eyes” for seeing the “universal form,” or something like it. Given the historical context of this sudden gift, I cannot help but feel that McKenna’s “ingression of novelty into time” is about to go into overdrive. May the force be with us. — Jim DeKorne
In another place, DeKorne nods to the overall impact of McKenna’s voice on the psychedelic ideosphere [from “Phalaris Update–Fall, 1994”]:
The discoveries now emerging from the ER network regarding Phalaris grass are nothing short of incredible. It is as if a Trans-Personal Intelligence were revealing data deliberately designed to create the widest possible opportunity for the mass expansion of consciousness. Having been exposed for years to Terence McKenna’s ideas about global changes in awareness, the “ingression of novelty into time,” and the “end of history” a scant 18 years away, I can’t help but feel that it is all happening on a scale too large and at a pace too rapid for comfortable assimilation. To really understand McKenna, you have to go where he’s been and that’s becoming easier all the time.
“SOME DMT QUOTATIONS” [from “5-Methoxy and Purple/Green Spit–Fall, 1996”]:
Yet however much we may be hedonists or pursuers of the bizarre, we find DMT to be too much. It is, as they say in Spanish, bastante, it’s enough — so much enough that it’s too much…One of the interesting characteristics of DMT is that it sometimes inspires fear — this marks the experience as existentially a fool or that one has taken a compound that paralyzes the ability to be terrified.
Terence McKenna —Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness
And, finally, a curiously curated quotation from Wired magazine (no further citation given) calling into question the efficacy of DMT and, by extension, Terence’s credibility [from “THE FINAL WORD ON DMT–Summer, 1996”]:
There have always been close ties between the high-tech and psychedelic drug communities. A vocal cross-over, author Terence McKenna has long championed alien languages, the holographic mind, and DMT, a short-acting but powerful hallucinogen. Well, DMT is now on the streets. Only, it’s a major disappointment. After sucking on smoke that tastes like burning plastic, you discover that McKenna’s singing elves are a lot like the stars you see when conked on the head. Suddenly, his theories about the future singularity look a little less likely. –Wired Magazine
5. In Dennis William Hauck’s The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation (1999), we find Terence thrice-referenced. Hauck attempts to use Terence’s words to help him in his own effort to synthesize the experiential dimensions of shamanic and Hermetic practice into a normative ontology of transformation.
The Emerald Tablet…is a living document that speaks to each of us directly about our personal transformation. “It is the cryptic epitome of the alchemical opus,” says Jungian analyst Dr. Edward Edinger–“a recipe for the second creation of the world.” Ethnobotanist and guru Terence McKenna says that the tablet of Hermes presents “a formula for a holographic matrix” that is mirrored in the human mind.
…if these or similar drugs were known and used by the alchemists, they kept it a secret and no direct references to such compounds have ever been found. Certainly, had the alchemists used psychoactive compounds, they would have approached them in the sacred way of shamans traveling to nonordinary reality in search of spiritual truth and not in the “recreational” use we see today.
“According to this viewpoint,” says ethnobotanist Terence McKenna of the shamanic experience, “the world has a center, and when you go to the center–which is inside yourself–there is a vertical axis that allows you to travel up or down. There are celestial worlds, there are infernal worlds, there are paradisiacal worlds. These are the worlds that open up to us on our shamanic journeys, and I believe we have an obligation to explore these domains and pass that information on to others. At this time in our history, it’s perhaps the most awe-inspiring journey anyone could hope to make.” [citation to The Archaic Revival, Ch. 17]
It is not surprising that the hidden world the shamans have discovered is the same one described in the Emerald Tablet. Though the shamans call him their “ally,” it is really Hermes, once again, who is their guide. Hermes’ Seven Steps are the levels of consciousness through which the shaman journeys, and the Emerald Tablet is his roadmap for a safe trip.
Psychonaut Terence McKenna believes we will return to the stars together, as a species. He heard this from the mouth of Hermes himself, which for McKenna is the Psilocybe Cubensis mushroom, a true entheogen or independent intelligence that he believes is actively promoting human evolution. In a recent interview, McKenna described a prophetic encounter he had with this Hermetic ally in which the mushroom deity said clearly: “When a species prepares to depart for the stars, the planet will be shaken to its core.” McKenna elaborated: “All evolution has pushed for this moment and there is no going back. What lies ahead is a dimension of such freedom and transcendence, that once in place, the idea of returning to the womb will be preposterous. We will live in the imagination.” [citation to interview in Omni magazine]
6. While Terence was a regular on the pages of Magical Blend, this issue (#46, April 1995) doesn’t have any interviews with or essays by him. Instead, it includes an interview with Douglas Rushkoff where Terence is mentioned (and, I would argue, partly misconstrued) as well as some advertisements for Sound Photosynthesis, FS Book Co, Big Sur Tapes, and for Spacetime Continuum’s excellent post-Alien Dreamtime album, Sea Biscuit.
Magical Blend: It seems that now, more than ever, writers of science fiction like William Gibson, Phillip K. Dick [sic], and Terence McKenna should be known as the prophets of the future. Do you think they’re correct in their views?
Douglas Rushkoff: Sometimes I get the feeling that they all lack faith in human nature. McKenna says we’ve gone down a dead end, and we need to back up and go out the way we came in. I say absolutely not! We need to push through. McKenna believes there’s a bottleneck effect, and people who have had the DMT experience and other realizations are going to make it through the attractor at the end of time, while the vast majority will not. The way I see it, either we all make it or none of us will. It’s one organism, one thing. Dick and Gibson say that technology is going to change and get better, but human nature is going to stay the same. In other words, human nature is bad, and we’re just going to use our new technology to do mean things to each other. I just don’t believe that’s true. Human nature changes, and I believe that it’s basically good, not bad. Technology is inherently liberating, ultimately. Renaissances don’t happen overnight.
7. This rare and long out-of-print volume is only the penultimate of 10 volumes of The Psychozoic Press that were originally edited by Elvin D. Smith. Issue 9 (Autumn 1984) brought in Tom Lyttle as co-editor, and, following #10, the title of the publication was changed to Psychedelic Monographs & Essays. This is the only of the Psychozoic Press volumes that I have been able to find a physical copy of. Fortunately, scans of volumes 1-9 are available on Erowid. This volume includes part of an interview with Terence (that appears scattered across the issues) as well as a review of the “psychedelic bedtime stories” that make up the 8-cassette tape audio version of True Hallucinations.
8. The April 2001 issue of Mean magazine (#13), which, from 1997-2001, was primarily a music zine and alternative magazine, contained something like an obituary or reflection on Terence’s life and work by Blake Nelson. As part of his research, Nelson spoke with an anonymous friend of Terence’s who shares a posthumous dream appearance. The photograph that accompanies the piece (the multi-armed psychedelic Terence light-photography) is one of the shots by Chip Simons from their late-1991 shoot. Check out our crowdfund catalog, if you’d like to order a high-quality print of this or any of the other photos from the shoot. Chip sent me the original photo positives to scan and has given me exclusive permission to offer them for donations to the archive.
According to his website, “Terence McKenna joined the ancestors at 2:15am Pacific Standard time, April 3, 2000.” According to history, he joined a long list of charismatic prophets destined to be absent for the events they predicted.
I spoke with an acquaintance of McKenna’s, who wished to remain anonymous, while researching this article. According to this individual, McKenna was optimistic in his quest to “reach” friends and loved ones from the great beyond. In fact, he was convinced that the same communicative tools he discovered through hallucinogens would be accessible in the next world. Telepathy was a cornerstone in McKenna’s theories regarding hallucinogenic trips… The individual I spoke with related a personal experience shortly after McKenna’s death in which McKenna appeared clearly to him in a dream. The encounter was described as a vision of McKenna amidst lush jungle surroundings, covered by ancient Indian tattoos. He was full of warmth and spoke candidly, promising to honor his pledge as friend and teacher.
9. A quote by Terence McKenna is paired with a quote by Albert Einstein to open the chapter “Marijuana and the Power of Imagination” in Sebastián Marincolo’s book of essays on cannabis intoxication, What Hashish Did to Walter Benjamin (which is also the title of one of the essays). Thanks to one of my friends at rawilsonfans.org for alerting me to this.
“The imagination is the golden path to everywhere.”
Terence McKenna, philosopher, psychonaut, ethnobotanist, 1946-2000
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
Albert Einstein, 1879-1955
I’ll leave it there for this post. There’s lots more to share, though. Thanks for your attention! Keep an eye out for more posts in the near future.