In 1991, there was a major conference held on the campus of Stanford University on the past, present, and future of psychedelics. Presenters included Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Bruce Eisner, Rick Doblin, Dennis McKenna, Charles Grob, R. U. Sirius, Stephen Gaskin, Debby Harlow, Peter Stafford, Ralph Metzner, John Lilly, and, of course, Terence McKenna. Some of the appearances by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson can be viewed online. A noteworthy segment of Terence McKenna’s provocative “plain talk” conclusion to the conference can be heard here (and is well worth a listen).
Dan Joy reported on the conference for High Times magazine for their issue of June 1991 (HT #190).
On May 1, 1976, Library Journal published a review of a book written by brothers Terence and Dennis McKenna. This is, so far as I know, the first-ever published review of the McKenna brothers’ first book, The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching, and is the only proper ‘review’ of the first edition (1975) of this book (as I mentioned in a recent post, Robert Anton Wilson also devoted several pages to a treatment of “the McKenna theory” in his 1977 book, Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati).
As I’ve also mentioned in a previous post, Library Journal was created in 1876 by Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System, as a trade publication for librarians. All of Terence’s books and a few of his published talks have been reviewed in Library Journal over the years (and will eventually be featured here in the archival blog).
This 1976 review, by Nathan Schwartz of the New York Association for Analytical Psychology is among the more positive of the reviews of Terence’s work that appear in Library Journal and is notable particularly because of its early date when Terence (and Dennis) would not have had any other reputation. This is essentially their first public exposure, a positive public exposure, and in a well-established and highly-circulated publication. Finally, it is also worth noting that The Invisible Landscape is, here, reviewed under the heading of ‘Science/Psychology’ (also, the ‘experiments’ were with psilocybin mushrooms and banisteriopsis caapi, not ayahuasca as Schwartz states, as I’m sure you know–it’s very important in Terence’s life story that the experiment was with mushrooms). Here’s Schwartz’s review:
A unique work, difficult in subject matter yet well worth the reader’s effort. Using data from their experiment at a tiny mission settlement in the Upper Amazon Basin with the drug ayahuasca, the authors embark on a tour de force of quantum mechanics, biochemistry, psychiatry, holography, and then the I Ching, with the purpose of demonstrating that “‘thought’ or ‘consciousness’ has its physical basis in quantum mechanical phenomena.” It is a “free-wheeling series of speculations” indeed, but a process that is witness to the vast internal resources of the archetypes that the authors tapped through their drug-induced experiences. This new consciousness has its fruition in a novel understanding of the I Ching, and through this an approach to the mathematics of form. The book breaks new ground, and casts much that is known in a new form. Important for psychologists, chemists, and physicists.
–Nathan J. Schwartz, New York Assn. for Analytical Psychology
I had the pleasure, last month, of attending an event in Santa Cruz, California for R.A.W. Day. If you don’t yet know that R.A.W. stands for Robert Anton Wilson, you’re in luck, because you have a new, and truly peccable, author/thinker/comedian/entity to explore–one that I suspect you will find, in one way or another, of substantial interest. Here’s one place to start (there are others, and plenty of youtube videos). R.A.W. had an incredibly important influence on the contemporary countercultural milieu in a huge number of areas (from interpretations of quantum physics to conspiracy theory to the promotion of ‘invented religions’ to transhumanism and on and on), including many areas of overlap with Terence McKenna.
In fact, it was Wilson who seems to have been the first to notice and write publicly about The Invisible Landscape, the first edition of which was published in 1975. In R.A.W.’s 1977 classic Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, he devotes several pages to a treatment of the McKenna Timewave alongside several other theories of cultural/temporal acceleration (such as those by Timothy Leary, Buckminster Fuller, and Alvin Toffler).
This, indeed, is the thesis of a remarkable book offering the final set of models and metaphors which we shall be discussing… The McKenna brothers, who between them have a background that includes anthropology, biology, chemistry, and botany, conducted a metaprogramming experiment in the Upper Amazon Basin, using the local “magic mushroom.”… The McKennas regard our universe as a hologram, every part contains the information of the whole… There are 64 time-scales in the hologram of our universe [derived from the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching]… The action of psychedelics, in the model, opens the quantum information system… Within the McKenna theory, all of the 64 time-scales peak together… There is a 4,300-year cycle from urbanization to the dawn of modern science; a 384-year cycle in which science has caused more upsurge of novelty than in that 4,300 year cycle; a 67-year cycle […] in which there will be more acceleration than there was between Galileo and Hiroshima; a 384 day cycle in 2011-2012 when there will be more transformations than in all previous cycles; a 6 day cycle […] and so on, down to a grand climax… That is, in the last two hours before Peak, we will achieve 18 extensions of consciousness and power, each one comparable to the passing from Earth to Space. And in the last .0075 seconds of the Great Cycle we will pass through 13 such transformation… As the McKenna’s say, it is hard to avoid hyperbole in trying to contemplate what this means.
Wilson also included entries on Terence and his book Food of the Gods in his own encyclopedic Everything is Under Control. Another review of Food of the Gods by R.A.W. can be found in the edited Chaos & Beyond: The Best of Trajectories book (or in the original Trajectories newsletter #10–if you have a copy and would be willing to scan it and send me the files to add to the archives, that would be amazing!–if you have a physical copy that you’d like to send, that would be even more incredible!!). I’m also completely missing a discussion of Terence’s Timewave by R.A.W. that appears in Trajectories #7 (again if you have a copy, please do send scans).
Terence and R.A.W. appear side-by-side in many magazines, anthologies, and interview collections (like David Jay Brown’s Mavericks of the Mind). Both also traveled to Portugal to appear in Edgar Pera’s ‘LX94: Manual of Evasion’ film along with mathematician Rudy Rucker. Here’s Terence getting his makeup done:
And R.A.W. (with his iconic ring–and accent) making a phone call:
These photos and this outtake of Terence describing a monument to Portuguese navigators are from Rucker’s own home video of the experience. There’s some great intimate footage of both R.A.W. and Terence in Rucker’s video (including a shared joint), although it also seems evident that both grow a bit tired of the relentless behind-the-scenes recording, Wilson at one point exclaiming to the behind-the-camera Rucker, “Are you at it again?” before launching into a characteristically dirty limerick:
There was a young gaucho named Bruno
And he said about sex, “There is one thing I do know.
Women are fine,
And boys are divine,
But, iguanas are numero uno!”
Wilson and McKenna also both spoke at a significant psychedelic conference in 1991, called the Bridge Psychedelic Conference. Much more could be said about this conference, but it’s a bit of a tangent in this context, so I’ll just drop a link here to what I take to be one of Terence’s most significant, relevant, and rare topics of discussion from the conclusion to that event. He starts by mentioning a discussion the previous day between R.A.W. and Timothy Leary:
However, after all of that establishment of connections between Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna, let me get back to the R.A.W. Day event in Santa Cruz last month and the archival material that came out of it. There were quite a few friends and acquaintances of Terence in attendance and among the speakers, including Erik Davis, David Jay Brown, R. U. Sirius, Nick Herbert, Robert Forte, and others, including Daisy Eris Campbell, the producer of ‘The Cosmic Trigger Play’ in the UK (if you’d like to see the play come to the U.S. and have any space, resources, etc. to help make it happen, send me an email, and perhaps I can help in some way) as well as representatives of Hilaritas Press, who have taken over the re-publishing of R.A.W.’s books. It was a very tight group and a wonderful day of both reminiscence and forward thinking. I made a number of great connections, which will undoubtedly bear fruit for the archives down the line. And, although I’ve spent most of the blog post on a range of related tangents, it is one of those connections that I’d like to highlight here.
I did actually also acquire some relevant material for the Terence McKenna Archives at the event, from creator of comix, art, and zines, Bobby Campbell. Campbell’s work shows that he’s deeply steeped in the counterculture–he includes mash-ups of material from across the spectrum but does so in a way that remains firmly his own. He wanted to make sure, particularly, that a copy of his comic book, Agnosis, made its way into the TM Archives. While Agnosis is dedicated to and much more clearly influenced by and Robert Anton Wilson, Terence’s stamp is clearly evident throughout, as well, from the title of Book One: “#FINDTHEOTHERS” to parts of the eschatological framework (including a computer program called Timewave Aleph and discussion of “the transcendental object”), among other linguistic clues that will be obvious to those who have spent a lot of time listening to McKenna talks. So, thanks, Bobby, for making sure that copies of your work made into the archives. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what continues to pop out of your Weirdoverse!
You may also have seen Bobby’s Terence art pieces floating around the web, but if not, here you go. The Trialogues image comes from an interesting trialogue (available on disinfo) Campbell himself had by email with Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake.
Today’s random-number-generator-selected item from the Terence McKenna Archives is another issue of Magical Blend magazine, this time issue #22 from April 1989. The magazine contains an edited transcript of a talk, which Terence gave in 1984 at the Berkeley Institute for the Study of Consciousness (founded by Arthur Young in 1972–Young and his wife Ruth hosted some of Terence’s earliest talks), with the title ‘New Maps of Hyperspace’. This talk has been through several edits: the original talk (the recording of which I have not seen), the version in this magazine, and another slightly edited version that appeared in Terence’s book The Archaic Revival. One of my favorite ads for Terence, emphasizing his “Word Magic” via “public raves and private musings,” is also present.
“All these other images — the starship, the space colony, the lapis — these are precursory images. They follow from the idea that history is the shockwave of eschatology. As one closes distance with the eschatological object, the reflections it is throwing off resemble more and more the thing itself. In the final moment, the Unspeakable stands revealed. There are no more reflections of the Mystery. The Mystery in all its nakedness is seen, and nothing else exists. But what it is, decency can scarcely safely hint at; nevertheless, it is the crowning joy of futurism to seek anticipation of it.”
There was also an article by, and several ads for products from, Robert Anton Wilson:
This week’s intake at the Terence McKenna Archives was much more modest than last week’s substantial haul. The only hard copy publication that arrived just came in today:
Disinformation’s Book of Lies.
The Book of Lies, as most of these large Disinformation Guides, consists of dozens of chapters by a smorgasbord of authors from a wide swath of the countercultural milieu, this time ‘focusing’ on “Magick and the Occult.” The small section on “Chemognosis” contains only two chapters (it’s the heading with the least number of contributions in the volume), one of which is an edited transcript of Terence McKenna’s first talk at Esalen during the Lilly/Goswami [that’s John and Amit] Conference on Consciousness and Quantum Physics, titled ‘Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness’. There seems to be some dispute about when this conference actually took place. Anyone who was there or has a photo or scan of an original catalog can help with this. Both The Book of Lies and Jeffrey Kripal in his book, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion describe the event as taking place in December 1983. However, as you can see here, the actual tape (not published by Dolphin Tapes until 1997) lists it as taking place in 1982, as does Erowid, though citing the Dolphin Tapes published version. I have tended to favor the 1982 dating, though I can’t now remember all of my reasons for doing so (most, like Jesse Jarnow and Graham St. John, have gone with the 1983 date–it would be great to clear this up, as, historically speaking, it’s not entirely insignificant when this took place–you can see this same issue playing out on the Psychedelic Salon page for the talk).
Even though this is among Terence’s most well-known and most-published talk, I thought it would still be worth including some of the selected quotations for your edification and amusement:
2. This week, in a conversation with R. Michael Johnson (one of the movers behind the excellent RAWilsonFans website–you can read a good chunk of his introduction to the brand new edition of Robert Anton Wilson’s Email to the Universe by Hiliritas Press on Amazon), he took me through his list of a great many places where he knew Terence cropped up in various literature. Most of the items he mentioned are already represented in the archives, but he definitely gave me several significant leads that I hadn’t had on my radar (thanks, Mike!). The most embarrassing of the items he mentioned was Robert Anton Wilson’s Everything is Under Control, because it has been sitting on the same bookshelf as most of the McKenna archive for quite a long time without my realizing it contained both an entry on Terence himself as well as an even longer entry on Food of the Gods (which is distinct from RAW’s review of the book which appeared in his Trajectories Newsletter #10, 1991 and is reprinted in Chaos & Beyond: The Best of Trajectories).
3. Beyond that, I rediscovered that Google Books allows you to also search through magazines (whichever ones they have in their database). This caused me to come across some magazine articles that mentioned Terence which I hadn’t encountered before as well as a whole slew of advertisements.