Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #39 – Tripping But Not Falling (New York Times Profile, 1993)

Today’s random item from the archives is a profile of Terence McKenna, called ‘Tripping, but Not Falling’, that appeared in The New York Times in its issue of May 2, 1993 and was written by Trip Gabriel who had spent some time talking with Terence near his home in Occidental, California. The full, long article can be read on the Times’ website, here. Some highlights are included below…

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Nibbling his “Cranberry Gobbler” sandwich in a sunny cafe, Terence McKenna explained his theory of how psychedelic mushrooms are the missing link in the story of human evolution…

“For sure the mushroom would have been sampled,” Mr. McKenna said. “Then our proto-hominid forebears, like legions of hippies millennia hence, discovered that the usual activities comprising the whirl of their days — hunting and gathering, primarily — were out of the question.

“You are just simply nailed to the ground and you experience the bewildering phenomenon that we call the hallucinogenic experience, which even post-Husserl, post-Merleau-Ponty, post-everything, we don’t know what to make of,” he said. “It laid the basis, I think for religion and for language.”

This was some earful to hear over lunch in the pleasant, slow-moving town of Occidental… A local bulletin board advertises “Environmentally Conscious Tree Care” and “Christie’s Not-So-Toxic Housekeeping Service.”

Magic mushrooms as the missing link is only one of many seemingly preposterous notions he promotes with beguiling logic, albeit with a definite lack of hard evidence.

After wandering for years in the cultural outback of the New Age — a movement he deplores for its guru worship and abandonment of rationalism — Mr. McKenna is beginning to be more widely heard… His charismatic lecture style…pulls in audiences…seemingly [that are] equal mixes of psychonauts, cyberpunks and slightly befuddled mycologists.

Mr. McKenna has a significant following in the youthful rave culture, where dancers pulsating to a dreamy techno beat often choose to chemically alter their consciousness. His latest book…was launched in February not with a book signing but with an all-night rave in San Francisco…

“This under-25 group is a little different from the wannabe yuppie generation of the 80’s,” Mr. McKenna said.

“They have the same kind of alienation that immediately preceded the hippie outbreak of the 60’s. It’s a feeling of being marginalized by the system. Apparently, if a generation can’t find inclusion in the culture, then it becomes narcissistic, with all the positive and negative connotations that brings.”

With piercing deep-set eyes and a scraggly beard, Mr. McKenna has a cheerfully demonic look. His countenance bears weary witness to the utter strangeness of what he claims to have discovered in 25 years of imbibing “heroic doses” of hallucinogens. Now 46, he first tried psychedelics in the mid-60’s in Berkeley, Calif. But unlike most of his generation, who buried their acid trips in a file marked Unidentified Youthful Indulgences, Mr. Mckenna doggedly followed through.

For more than two decades he has hitchhiked around the galaxy on the back of the magic mushroom.

Whatever else he is, Mr. McKenna is a sure sign that Reagan-Bushism is dead and in the ground, and that a wilder social moment may be upon us.

His speaking style is a perfect synthesis of message and medium, an aural reconstruction of psychedelic experience…

Free-associating his way through intellectual history, he caroms between reference to Finnegans Wake, Heraclitus, a scene with the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz and the writings of the neo-Platonist Philo Judaeus.

The cosmic giggle ripple through Mr. McKenna’s spiels as if to make palatable the sheer weirdness of what he has to say.

The crowd was mostly hirsute forty-somethings, like the characters in a Koren cartoon. They wore layers of loose natural-fiber clothing, like Mr. McKenna himself, who was dressed in a baggy chenille sweater.

…the most forceful advocate for psychedelics since Timothy Leary.

“He’s an eloquent and imaginative poet of the psychedelic experience,” said Mr. Leary, and unabashed admirer… “He combines ancient wisdom with Irish wit.”

…Mr McKenna’s claims for hallucinogens go way beyond Leary, Aldous Huxley or any of his predecessors.

In a nutshell, this is Mr. McKenna’s update of the psychedelic revolution: tune in, turn on, save the ozone layer. To many, he appeals simply because he is such a hoot. “Our dilemma,” Mr. McKenna said with pranksterish wit, “is that halfway on the way to becoming angels we stopped taking our medication.”

He was seated on the floor of his Occidental apartment, a tea tray at his feet… The big room was empty of furniture except for a reading chair. Thousands of books lined three walls from floor to ceiling. Mr. McKenna sat near the Greek philosophy and Hellenistic religion shelves. He had Plato, the gnostics, the cabala, Appolonias of Cayenna and a seven-volume “Legends of the Jews.”

“I don’t understand why drugs are not used as tools of research,” he said. “You want to know how the atom works? Smash it and look at the pieces. You want to know how the mind works? Get it smashed and then see what the pieces are.”

Mr. McKenna is a lovely psychedelic sophist. His reasoning has a seductive and seemingly learned coherence, even though it doesn’t quite hold up. One wonders if he’d advocate conducting other scientific inquiries — atom-smashing, say — while the observer is hallucinating. The polysyllabic sentences he lards with intellectual references are an attempt to lend credibility to the otherwise debunked subject of drugs.

On occasion Mr. McKenna seems to swerve perilously into what psychologists might call delusions of grandeur. “If I’m right, you know,” he said in an eerily serious voice, “you’re sitting across from Newton.”

“People say marijuana is the entry drug,” he said. “Science fiction is really the entry drug,” he said. “Science fiction is really the entry drug. Because the subtext of science fiction is release your imagination, anything can happen.”

What saves Mr. McKenna’s fantastic yarn from being instantly dismissible is that he himself recognizes the absurdity of what he’s saying and, yet, feels compelled to say it anyway.

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.

Terence McKenna Archives – Random Item #13 – Terence McKenna’s Rave New World (Alternative Press, March 1994)

Ok, the random item of the day is back after a busy period. Today’s random item eluded me for quite a while. Terence McKenna was featured in the music magazine Alternative Press in 1994 for an article/interview by Eric Gladstone focusing on rave culture and Terence’s influence on the philosophical outlooks of many in that scene. Gladstone praises Terence’s Alien Dreamtime collaboration with visual artists Rose X (aka Ken Adams & Britt Welin), electronic musician Spacetime Continuum (aka Jonah Sharp), and didgeridooist extraordinaire Stephen Kent as “one of the most meaningful projects to come out of the culture so far.” For me, it’s always great to hear Terence explain things in words I’ve never heard from him before, even if it’s a familiar concept he has explained elsewhere time and time again. To my way of interacting with T’s output, it is precisely these alternate tellings of the same or similar concepts which really allow one to unpack his ideas. This is one of the reasons that I have focused the archives on print material as it is a whole (prolific) realm of Terence’s output and wordplay that doesn’t exist in the ubiquitous and readily-available online audio/video corpus. It is the print material that is most in danger of becoming lost and forgotten. I’ll continue to search and share for these things, and we value any support that you might be able to offer.

Gladstone interviewed Terence at his home in Occidental. One of my favorite bits comes in the concluding paragraph:

Sounding alternately pessimist and optimist, lighthearted and passionately serious, McKenna’s arguments, both in interview and in performance, show a rare level of contemplation. But not, he insists, much planning. “No, no, none of these things are rehearsed. It’s all ad-lib. We’ve been doing it right here. We can send this to the Shamen and release it! No, it’s called ‘not being stupid!’ Amazing! Miraculous! Line up at the door, folks, a liberal college education displayed for your astonishment! Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

And, here’s Terence’s advice on appropriate drug use in the rave scene:

“Raves are a good place to do pot and take smart drugs, and dance, but I think a psychedelic dose that is effective is too high a dose to be 1) out in public, and 2) trying to negotiate transportation.”

Terence also describes, in this interview, how he ended up collaborating with The Shamen on ‘Re-Evolution’:

“They came to one of my old-style, pitcher-of-water-and-chair onstage lectures in London and said they wanted to sample me. And, we got together in the studio the next day and basically just talked for a couple of hours.” Straight to DAT, the result appeared on the album Boss Drum and single “Re-Evolution,” hits which brought McKenna to the attention of Spacetime Continuum. Collaborations with Zuvuya (a.k.a Jason Grey, a.k.a. Juju Midget) on the U.K. Flow Sound label and another with Coil are due soon.

The only version I’ve been able to locate is the super low-res digital scan that appears below, but I also just (after years of searching) found a copy that was finally posted on ebay and have ordered it. So, I should be able to add a physical copy of the magazine into the archives very soon.

 

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