Terence McKenna and the Secret Chief (Crowdfund Acquisitions #4)

This item is one that I had long held-off on spending archives money on simply because I knew I could eventually get it, and I had previously chosen to use the limited funds available in order to acquire rarer and more pressing items for the collection. Thanks to your kind donations to our ongoing crowdfund effort, however, I’ve since acquired a 1st edition copy of Myron Stolaroff’s The Secret Chief: Conversations with a Pioneer of the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement (1997).

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Stolaroff’s now classic and important book addresses the life and underground work of a man only identified in the text as “Jacob.” Jacob was a U.S. soldier who became a Jungian psychotherapist, discovered what he deemed to be the therapeutic value of psychedelics, and never turned back, administering them to his patients and sharing them with other therapists while they were still legal, and continuing to do so, underground, after their use was criminalized.

In particular, Jacob is substantially responsible (opinions sometimes vary on exactly what that responsibility entails) for the significant proliferation in the use of MDMA among psychotherapists in the late-70s and early-to-mid-80s with some close to him speculating that he delivered the method–and, of course, often the MDMA–to more than 4,000 therapists. The book, published by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is based on interviews that Stolaroff and his wife conducted with Jacob in 1981 at the behest of Ann & Sasha Shulgin who had originally introduced him to MDMA in 1977 (the same individual who is called “Jacob” in Stolaroff’s book is referred to as “Adam Fisher” in the Shulgin’s own book Pihkal). Following this initial encounter, Jacob became a quick convert and is credited with coining the nickname “Adam” for the substance to indicate his conviction that the experience stripped away the ego’s self-defense mechanisms, anxieties, and inhibitions and returned one to a psychological state of primordial innocence. Jacob’s efforts to popularize MDMA, ironically, both carried it out to thousands of people and, also, in part, resulted in therapeutic access to MDMA being more restricted once it was finally criminalized as a result of that rising popularity.

Terence McKenna claims to have taken a very quick liking to Jacob when they first met in the early 1980s and, in fact, it is Terence’s nickname for Jacob that became the title of Stolaroff’s book. It was Terence who called Jacob, “the secret chief”…..and, Myron, with Terence’s permission took it for the title of his book.

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Eventually, with the permission of Jacob’s family, Stolaroff produced a revised edition, The Secret Chief Revealed (2004), in which he finally identified “Jacob” as Leo Zeff.

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Zeff’s part of the MDMA story appears briefly in the delightful Trick Publications pamphlet (modeled after the classic evangelical Chick Tracts) called ‘Adam & Evil?!’:

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Zeff died in 1988 and Terence McKenna attended and spoke at his memorial on April 17 offering an thoughtful and heartfelt remembrance that includes his application of the name “the secret chief.”

“I’m Terence McKenna. I knew Leo the last five years of his life. I feel deeply honored to be asked to speak at this occasion.”

“I felt, when I stood near Leo, that I was standing next to a giant; and what the experience of standing near a giant was was the experience of the wisest, kindest, gentlest, funniest man that I’ve ever had the privilege to know.”

“When I first met Leo, I was so impressed by his vitality [that] after the public meeting at which we met, I cornered him in private, and I said, ‘Leo, I want to ride in your canoe. I don’t care where you’re going. I just want to be in your canoe.’ And, he said, ‘You’re always welcome in my canoe’.

And, I felt that his saying that to me inducted me into a group of people that I think of as Leo’s Tribe, Leo’s People–and for Leo’s Tribe, Leo was our chief…he was the secret chief. He had no theory to push, he had no axe to grind.”

“In his chosen field, which was psychology and the healing of the soul, he understood better than anyone I’ve ever met that it’s a matter of letting the psyche grow and flower according to its own rules. You stand present, you stand ready, and then you do as little as possible. And, everyone who has ever had Leo sit for them knows that that was exactly how he worked.”

“One of the goals of Leo’s life was the search for the perfect high [much laughter], and he inspired many of us to follow in his footsteps [more laughter]. I trust that he has found that perfect high [even more laughter].”

[Terence reads a selection from ‘Letter Three’ of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and mentions its importance to Zeff]

“Sometimes when Leo would sit with people, they would come out of their reveries and want to talk with him about what they were learning and seeing, and Leo would listen for a few minutes, but he, then, would always say, ‘That’s fine. That’s good. Now return to the music.’

And, I think — I like to think — that Leo has now returned to the music.

And, someday, so shall we. And, to whatever degree we follow his example, life here and the passage to whatever lies beyond will be made much easier.

Leo showed the way, because Leo knew the way. And, I salute him for that. I say, for all of us who were his tribe, ‘Goodbye to the secret chief. Goodbye to the man who saw most deeply. It’s now for us to do as he would have had us do.”

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Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #32 – Charles Hayes Interview in ‘Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures’

Today’s random item from the archives is a book that contains a long, excellent, and expansive interview with Terence from 1998. The interviewer was Charles Hayes, and the interview appears as “Part III” of his book Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures (2000). The Terence McKenna Archives collection has several physical copies of the paperback edition. There is also a hardcover edition, although I don’t believe there is any other difference between the two beyond the rigidity of the cover. There will be several signed copies available for auction in a crowfund campaign for the archives that will be launched later this month.

Among those to whom the book is dedicated, Hayes includes Terence:

for the spirit of the late Terence McKenna, a true Magellan of the imagination and Copernicus of the hyperreal, who braved the alien othernness of it all and sighted myriad new heavenly bodies in the cosmos of consciousness

Hayes’ interview with Terence (who he calls “one of history’s most compelling champions of psychedelic consciousness”) is, I’m happy to say, very long and, for that reason, covers a great range of topics. Tripping is definitely a book worth having on your shelves, and I consider the interview among the best that Terence gave. Here, I can only offer a paucity excerpts to whet your appetite and send you looking for a copy….or you can wait for the TM Archives crowdfund campaign to launch later this month and bid on your own copy signed by Charles Hayes to you.

These excerpts represent a very small portion of an interview that spans over 38 pages of text. Each of these subjects is treated at much greater length in the full interview:

The material presented…is the product of two extended conversations at McKenna’s home in South Kona, Big Island of Hawaii, on January 17 and 18, 1998, some sixteen months before he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforma, the most malignant of brain tumors, which eventually required him to move to the mainland for treatment.

When we met by arrangement on the highway the first morning, the elfin Celt immediately put me at ease with his contagious whinny of a laugh about the silliness of consumer culture, political developments, the foolishness of contemporary life. I felt right at home.

My very first acid trip took place in the summer of 1965…prior to my enrollment in Berkeley that fall… I’ve never had a trip like that since. It was very bizarre…

…from that revelation at the Masonic Temple I somehow made it back to ordinary reality, but I’ve never revisited the place in my psyche… The reason why I’ve never written about it is because I never reached a conclusion.

Maybe the reason that psychedelics are such a formative force in my life is that they worked for me as advertised.

It’s hard for most people to hallucinate on LSD.

The thing about profound experiences is that if they’re too profound, you can’t remember them…. you can’t really say much about it.

I’ve done MDMA a half-dozen times. It’s not very interesting to me.

I’ve done ketamine about five times, in fairly light doses… Ketamine is dubious.

Before I did Salvia divinorum for the first time…I had some trepidation… The hallucinations came on as…a parody of my fear. It was deliberately insulting me with hallucinations acceptable to a six-year-old. So I addressed it. I may be chickenshit, but I’m not this chickenshit. You can lift the veil slightly.

I did wonderful things with cannabis in the early days.

The best DMT I ever had was made in the laboratory, not from a plant.

The mushroom experience…is alien, because it has no context.

It’s a big question whether this is the only reality or not. That’s been a big issue for thousands of years.

EE kem wye STOK see kee pee PEEN. Vid nim gyo WOKS sid dee mahok a ben dee kee KEK det nen get bikeek teen. Ayus dee viji ZEN GWOT, kay MWON day kwa OK dikee tee teekt. EE vidimee NEEN nenk wah OK sot vay bon wa hagendekt…

Stoned on DMT, it’s an ecstasy to do this…

James Joyce and Marshall McLuhan were onto how people, according to their cultural programming, were cued to either sounds or images. There is much to explore in this area.

As we dematerialize, and that seems to be what’s happening–we’re getting ready to decamp from three-dimensional space and time into the imagination, which is as vast as the universe itself.

Psychedelics are good fuel for religion… But I think they should give more drug, less message.

CH: Have you had moments of mortal terror?

TM: How about intense alarm?… One that I don’t want to visit anytime soon occurred when I took half a dose of ayahuasca and half a dose of mushrooms together…”something’s wrong”… It graduated in intensity, because I was becoming alarmed… had I remained in that place, it was truly madness, truly unbearable. I don’t think you could get used to that.

People, you should behave as though you’re mortal, for God’s sake! Be happy if the evidence is to the contrary.

I think [psychedelics] should be regulated to some degree. We don’t let people drive cars just because they want to…

CH: How do you interface with the rave scene?

TM: Somewhat uneasily…

I was at this scene…called Starwood, which bills itself as a pagan festival…On the final night, they piled up dead apple trees two hundred feet high and set them on fire, and six thousand people tore their clothes off and danced all night long around this thing, raising a cloud of red dust in the air a thousand feet high… I took one look and thought, No wonder the right wing is alarmed… These were pagans. I love them…

“Where can we get loaded?” I asked.

“How ’bout the Temple of Dionysus?”

“Great!”

CH: Are you a shaman?

TM: No no. I’m a shamanologist…

Shamans are meme traders.

TM: The Other could be any of these things…

CH: But you’re leaning toward the friendly-extraterrestrial theory…

TM: I’m torn between two possibilities. The extraterrestrial possibility…most people could probably come to terms with… The other possibility, applying Occam’s razor here, is that what we’re talking about is dead people… “Ancestor” is a pretty sanitized term. “Dead person” brings it home a little more cogently.

The problem is we have no shamans here. Those who claim to be shamans are the last people you’d want to put confidence in.

The most important question in the universe at the moment is Am I doing all right? And the answer is (usually) Yes, you’re doing fine.

It’s possible to be an optimist without being a cockeyed optimist.

I believe we’re in the garden party before the crunch, the long afternoon before the stormy night.

If God was complete, why is there the phenomenon of temporal enfoldment.

There is something we share this space/time continuum with that can, when it chooses, take on any form it wishes.

Bottom line, there is something very weird going on…

Culture is the transition along McLuhanesque lines from the 3-D animal mind to the 4-D posthuman domain.

My faith is with technology and with psychedelics. Politics aren’t going to take us much further.

The Internet has remade the world in six years, and most people take it for granted now. It’s disturbing that many are retreating from full participating in this new reality, because they can’t understand it.

People believe anything they want, and it no longer matters, because there is somewhere a core of cutting-edge thinkers who are still trying to integrate this stuff with fact.

One of the bad things about psychedelics is that they’ve left us with a legacy of intellectual relativism… I’m not supposed to criticize you because it’s all the same, right?… I hate this. It’s the death of thought, and that’s what the New Age rides on.

The guy at the workbench who works for a detergent company is not a scientist. That’s ridiculous. Those guys rarely study the philosophy of science, so they don’t understand what it is epistemologically.

Ultimately, something wants to be communicated through psychedelics. Somethings wants to be told, and it’s not something dizzy like “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Laughter) We know that. That’s not news.

People have two questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going? I think psychedelics provide answers to those two questions…

I want to trade memes with the Other.

I don’t want to leave this world before ordinary people can, by some means, access and walk through DMT hallucinations.

Psychedelics as an experience of boundary dissolution are half the equation. The other half is what the subject thinks about that.

Once boundaries are taken away, wholeness is accessible.

I think the real test of psychedelics is what to when them when you’re not on them…

Psychedelics persist in astonishing.