Terence McKenna’s Pipe (or, one of them, at least)

It’s no secret that Terence’s lifetime mistress was the humble (and sometimes not so humble) cannabis, and that they “got together” quite often. In fact, at the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland earlier this year, I saw his former wife, Kat Harrison, acknowledge that she and cannabis were “sister wives” of Terence’s.

“Let’s not underrate cannabis, for crying out loud! Cannabis should be the glue of the community.” —Terence McKenna

Well, I’ve been scanning some photos of Terence lately, that photographer extraordinaire (and mad mountain biker) Chip Simons sent, from an early-90s photoshoot at Terence’s home in Occidental, California (which you’ll be pleased to know that I will be able to offer prints–and perhaps posters–of as part of the forthcoming crowdfunding campaign). And, I noticed, among the items in some of the photos, an interesting little waterpipe of Terence’s, and thought I’d share it with you all. So, without further ado, I present Terence’s pipe (or, at least, one of them).


A brass worker on Facebook helped spend some time to identify this as a Chinese waterpipe of the style explored on this page. (Thanks, Anders!)

Audience: Where do you see the place of Cannabis in consciousness evolution? On the one hand, it’s obviously doing something like that, but on the other hand kids do it before they do drive-by shootings in LA. Also address maybe the notorious affect on memory? You mentioned that you consume cannabis when you are doing mushrooms. In my experience, I don’t bring back as much information that I remember…I just want to hear your comments about this.

Terence: Yes, well, it’s worth talking about Cannabis. I certainly don’t think I would be who I am if it weren’t for cannabis. It hasn’t particularly affected my memory. I’m actually the most devoted on a lifetime scale. The person most devoted to cannabis that I’ve ever known is myself. When I lived in Asia, I used to set my alarm for 2 am to smoke because I couldn’t go from midnight to five. People thought I was bananas. In terms of its deleterious effect, I think it’s pretty on a scale of the other major drugs of commerce, which would be alcohol, tobacco and white sugar. I think it comes off as in the best position. I sort of think of it as going back to this partnership model about mushrooms in Africa – that when that all dried up and those people were moved into the Middle East. There had been previous waves of migration out of Africa that had established populations in central Asia. This is why you have ‘Peking Man’ and ‘Java Man’ – those are earlier remnants of earlier migrations.

Cannabis, botanically, originated north of the Himalayas on the plains of Central Asia. I think it probably is the best substitute for mushrooms on the cultural level. It’s one of the oldest domesticated plants. It was early on associated with cordage and fiber and it’s strange that all the words for narrative are also words about weaving. You weave a story. You unravel a yarn. You thread and unthread a situation. You untangle a situation. The parallelism is very old in all European languages, this association with narrative and fiber, which means hemp. So I sort of see it as the pilot light of Gaian consciousness that was kept going.

Now what people always say to shoot this down is: they say, well Islam tolerates cannabis and Islam is hardly the pilot light of Gaian consciousness. It isn’t actually that Islam tolerates cannabis. It’s that the Koran expressly forbids alcohol and then that leaves you to sort it out from there. I certainly think that cannabis should be legalized and that if every serious alcoholic were encouraged to be a pothead and other drug abusers encouraged toward pot… The problem with pot from a societal point of view is that it is psychedelic enough that like all psychedelics, it erodes loyalty towards cultural values. Meaning, this is the bullshit effect. People say why don’t you get a job. Bullshit! Why should I?

I don’t see it implicated in violence. I think if anything, probably cannabis in ghettos is holding down violence as a drug but probably promoting violence as an item of commerce, and that is because of chuckleheaded laws. I’m absolutely convinced that the way to solve the drug problem is to remove the profit motive. That’s so obvious that it’s baffling to me. Society is so schizophrenic on this topic. The most dangerous drugs are alcohol and tobacco, both fully established in the engines of commerce. It’s a bizarre situation and largely driven by the agenda of Christian fundamentalism in collusion with criminal syndicalists who see this as an opportunity for enormous profit – and cynicism all the way along.

Audience: But I do find that I can’t smoke a lot of pot. Unfortunately, I can never become addicted to any drug as much as I try. My body just doesn’t tolerate it and I’ve tried them all more than once. But I do find with pot…I’ve had friends who became pot heads who, it wasn’t that they betrayed commerce, they lost their ambition. You’re very intelligent and you’ve got a vision and you’re dedicated to your vision. You’re a little bit above most average people (or different)…

Terence: Manic is what you’re trying to say. Yes, I understand.