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 is  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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This Week’s Terence McKenna Archival Haul (6/4/17)

An interesting array of items came into the Terence McKenna Archives this week. I’ll just get straight into it:

  1. Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal by Tom Shroder includes a couple of passages mentioning Terence in two separate sections on Ricks. One chapter is on Rick Doblin includes a story that Rick also conveyed to me when I interviewed him about Terence regarding the origins for funding an MDMA study as a sort of opposition to Terence’s general cautioning against the promotion of that substance. Another chapter is on Rick Strassman, who I’ve been meant to interview for some time now about his own interactions with Terence but keep losing track of time (soon enough).

2. Eric Cunningham wrote his PhD dissertation, Hallucinating the End of History: Nishida, Zen, and The Psychedelic Eschaton, in the Department of History at the University of Oregon largely as a comparison between the eschatological ideas of early 20th century Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida and those of late 20th century American psychedelic spokesperson Terence McKenna. Nishida’s work incorporated Zen Buddhism with contemporary Western philosophy, taking on the likes of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel with his own unique philosophy which would become the foundation of the highly influential Kyoto School in Japan. As is often the case with Humanities PhD work, Cunningham’s dissertation was subsequently published as a book. It would be nice to also have a copy of the actual dissertation, as, no doubt, some edits were made between the completion of the dissertation and publication of the book manuscript (so, if you’re reading, Eric, and have a digital copy that you’d be willing to send…). There’s obviously huge sections devoted entirely to McKenna, so I will only post some evocative snippets here just so you can get a sense of the territory.

3. I found some well-priced copies of Thomas Lyttle‘s Psychedelic Monographs & Essays volumes and so ordered them in partial use of some recently acquired birthday money–for the general psychedelics library, not the TM Archives. I wasn’t expecting anything from Terence, as I had looked through most of these before in other people’s libraries and hadn’t noticed anything, and nothing is listed for PM&E on Terence’s bibliography. So far, I’ve only received #5 and that expectation largely holds up. However, there is a review, by George Root, of The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: Tributes to Gordon Wasson. Roots review is quite long but only mentions McKenna among a list of contributors and doesn’t explicitly mention or discuss his chapter called ‘Wasson’s Literary Precursors’.

4. Aftershocks: The End of Style Culture by Steve Beard includes several mentions of Terence and an event report/review of True Hallucinations (the latter of which I’m hoping to be able to use as part of a document I’m creating for an upcoming crowdfunding campaign and so won’t post here). Beard, too, includes reference to Terence’s appearance at Fraser Clark‘s London club, Megatripolis as well as comparisons between Terence, Tim Leary, and Hakim Bey.

5. For those of you who have been actively paying attention to the blog, you may recall a couple weeks ago, I came across a book, Cam Cloud’s Acid Trips, which contained some black & white copies of photos of Terence, shot by Chip Simons, at his home in Occidental, California. They came from the same shoot as this well-known photo which accompanied an interview by David Jay Brown. Well, to update you on the situation, I have received a folder in the mail from Simons which contains film positives of many more snaps of Terence from the same photoshoot. All I can say for now is that they are truly delightful! I have an appointment on campus next week with the Image Resource Center on campus to digitize them. Of course, these photos belong to Simons, and I don’t have any immediate plans or permissions to share them at present. But, I’m hoping to be able to use some of them as part of the upcoming crowdfunding campaign (but I’ll need to discuss those details with the photographer). Eventually, they will come out, but for now they need to stay private–I will keep you updated.

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6. The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop (the Revised & Updated edition, 2006, is what I got–the 1st ed. is 1999), Nina Luttinger and Gregory Dicum briefly mention Terence’s comments about the relationship between the rousing effects of coffee and the labor-intensive raison d’être of the Industrial Revolution, although they (understandably, given their focus) leave out his query about why the ubiquitous workplace 15-minute coffee break is not replaced with a cannabis break.

7. Follow for Now: Interviews with Friends & Heroes, edited by Roy Christopher, contains a favorite interview of mine with Terence by the ever-insightful and barbed culture critic Mark Dery. Dery’s interview is preceded by a long introductory text (also by Dery), which is also a favorite treatment of Terence and his life and work. The interview and its lengthy introduction will be featured in the ‘Companion Guide to Terence McKenna’ feature that I am creating for the upcoming crowdfunding campaign. I had previously had scans of this but finally added a hard copy to the collection.

8. The material in A Magical Universe: The Best of Magical Blend Magazine (1996) was selected by the magazine’s editors, Jerry Snider and Michael Peter Langevin. Terence appeared in the pages of Magical Blend on many occasions, offering essays and interviews alongside reviews of his books and advertisements for his products. Robert Anton Wilson called Magical Blend “a quiet revolution.” The selection that is included in this edited volume is an essay that Terence wrote for Magical Blend #26 (April 1990) and was later reprinted in The Archaic Revival. I already had a copy of this in the archival holdings but received a few copies to use as incentives for crowdfunding.

9. A couple weeks ago, I received a copy of Matthew Pallamary‘s Spirit Matters: A Memoir, which, among other delightful reminiscences, describes the story behind the photo below, in which Pallamary sent along the first printed copy of the first edition of his novel Land Without Evil to be gifted to Terence at the 1999 AllChemical Arts Conference, shortly before his death. Well, this week, I received a copy of Land Without Evil, which is dedicated to Terence. I’ll get the archives copy signed when I meet with Pallamary in a couple weeks when he comes to town as a workshop leader at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

10. Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History by Mary Kilbourne Matossian was one of the books in Terence’s library and is among the books cited in Food of the Gods, where it is used as part of an argument against “the Wasson-Hofmann theory” that the kykeon beverage of the Eleusinian mysteries was a form of ergotized beer (of course, Terence, following Robert Graves, wants to push the possibility of a psilocybin mushroom).

11. The following items were added to the general collection and don’t include any specific material related to Terence McKenna, but I thought that they might be of general interest, so thought I would include them as well. So, here’s the ‘Supplemental Haul’…

See you next week with the next haul!