A Few Conclusions About Life


In his signature wide-ranging style, McKenna explores culture, shamanism, psychedelics, and humanity’s collective journey through spacetime. He advocates embracing the ineffable mystery unfolding through us, moving toward a hyperspatial cyberculture. To rediscover our shared humanity, we must trust the transformative wisdom of psychedelic plants.



It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a pleasure to see so many people here. Once again, this strange magical moment when we come together—again, or perhaps for the first time. You, having come from wherever you came from. Me, having come from… the slopes of the world’s largest active volcano, actually, but via Manhattan and Austin last weekend. And the purpose of these things is sort of to check the state of the condensing collective understanding about what is going on in the world, or what might be going on in the world. This, it seems to me, is the subject worth talking about: what is going on? How can you find out what is going on? How do you know when you’ve found out what’s going on? Can one know what is going on?


And my involvement with this is no different from your own—a sincere desire to untangle these questions before the yawning grave closes over the enterprise and the entire thing becomes moot. One has, you know, a window of opportunity somewhere between zip and a hundred to solve or understand or penetrate or appreciate or come to terms with the conundrum of being; this amazing circumstance in which we find ourselves, both individually and collectively. Collectively we find ourselves somewhere between the slime and the archangels, making our way perilously over the millennia up the evolutionary ladder toward the platonic light, or something like that. At least this is the myth of intellectuals of the high-tech industrial democracies evolved over the past 150 years: the triumphant ascent of organic life toward ever greater complexity. Individually, we each find ourselves born into a culture we had no share in designing, but that we will be expected to inhabit, inculcate, and in fact pass on to our own progeny.


And so this is our circumstance, I think, individually and collectively—“thrown into being,” Heidegger said. We didn’t ask for it. Here it is. What are we to make of it? And obviously, if you toured the halls of this exhibition, we are to make much of it and money of it. These two principles seem to emerge. That there is much to be said, many ways to slice the pie, and the market economy is a very fertile domain in which to thrash this all out. You can sell your answers, you can trade your answers, you can upgrade your answers, you can subscribe, serialize, retrofit, export, import, and reinvent answers.


Ultimately, I wonder how satisfying all this is. And I’m always amused at my own position in this situation. It’s a great peon to the tolerance of the New Age that they keep inviting me back. I’m sort of like the crazy uncle, or—you know, you hope for good behavior, but you understand that it’s a gamble. Because I’m very ambiguous about much of the methods and ways by which we do our intellectual business and pursue the matter of community and salvation.


The intellectual tension that seems to work its way through this society almost like fat through meat is the tension between scientific reductionism and the deeply felt intuition of most people that there is a spiritual dimension, or a hidden dimension, or a transcendental dimension. And of course, downloaded into language, it becomes easily ridiculed. And downloaded into tasteless language it should be ridiculed. But so when we try to formulate our spiritual intuitions, they are inevitably, I think, tainted by what we bring to it. And I was struck, as I moved through the hall—it was almost like an exhibition of language types as much as an exhibition of products or possibilities. What we were being sold were closed systems of jargon which, once opted into, tended to produce answers in a short loop of possibilities.


All closed systems of thought are like this. And to my mind that the (what seems to me) very elderly age of fifty—and I know to some people in the room it does seem very elderly, and to others I seem a pup—but anyway, from this vantage point it seems to me that all of these ideologies are cartoon-like. They flatten, they simplify, they betray, the amuse—which is also cartoon-like. And in amusing, I think, this is where their self-fulfilling and salutary worth lies. They are intended to provoke a small smile. That smile will lift you a little further up the ladder, the rungs of the ladder, of being.


So I thought today what I would talk about is some of the conclusions that I’ve come to out of a life of psychedelic voyaging, living inside this insanely contradictory society, and going through the standard moves: marriage, divorce, children, career, controversy, allies, enemies, attorneys, counselors, consultants, accountants, so forth and so on; the same world you live in. What have I… well, the first thing I concluded was to try and flee it, which I did a pretty good job of by going to Hawai’i—which, believe me, is a private Idaho. But the conclusions that I’ve reached are not politically correct anywhere. And so I’m very happy to offend everyone, because that seems to be what I did best, and there’s no sign of mellowing at this point.


So the conclusion that I reach vis-à-vis the individual and civilization is this: culture is not our friend. Culture is not your friend, it’s not my friend. It’s a very uncomfortable set of accommodation that have been hammered out over time for the convenience of institutions. A young man gets his first dose of the news that culture is not his friend when told that he’s going to be given an air ticket and some training, and sent to an exotic country to kill its inhabitants in the name of some political ideal. You have to be fairly dense not to get the message at that point that culture is not your friend. It is using you for its purposes. You would never dream of doing what it now proposes as the only conceivably right and righteous course of action. Well that’s a black-and-white, as stark, an enormous example of what I’m talking about. But I think every day, in thousands of ways, we betray our impulses toward wholeness, toward community, toward freedom, toward the spirit, by genuflecting to cultural values that are squirrelly, or toxic, or simply wrong-headed, or obsolete. Culture is not your friend. It’s an illusion.


What kind of an illusion is it? And this sort of leads on to the other thing I’ve come to. It’s a childish illusion, is the kind of illusion it is. Recently, I had a physical examination with my doctor. And after it was all over, he leaned back in his chair and he said, “Well, you know, most people your age in the nineteenth century were dead!” Yes, quite true. People live a great deal longer in the twentieth century. And consequently, I think part of what drives alienation is: culture is like being taken in a crap game. If you play long enough, you will figure out that you’re being screwed. And of course, if you die shortly into the game, it never enters your mind. We are all—some of you may have seen the little saying that hangs behind bars in Minnesota: “if you get too soon olt and too late shmart.” Well, some of us are getting smart earlier and earlier.


And what is seen through to, then, is the fact that culture victimizes, ideology victimizes. These things are all con games. Culturally defined reality is some kind of an intelligence test. And those who are joining are failing the test. This is very clear to me looking at—well, phenomena like alien abduction and the great enthusiasm for conspiracy theory that now seems to attend so much modern thinking. Again, these are epistemological cartoons where low production values (made acceptable through tolerance of TV) is allowing people to accept material into their own story which should actually end up on the cutting room floor. Nothing is what it appears to be. Surely, you’ve noticed that. That’s A, right? A is: nothing is what is appears to be. Well therefore, complex, difficult, tricky, and mercurial things are even less likely to be what they claim to be than other forms of reality.


So, confronted with the endless whispered rumors, and doctored photographs, and breathless testimony from the denizens of trailer courts, and so forth and so on, what is one to make of all that? Well, I think the message is: return to basics. The information matrix has become compromised. The data stream is now suspect. Return to first principles. What are first principles? Heh. That’s what the twentieth century is trying to figure out. Yes, what are first principles?


I’d like to suggest to you that a place to begin is the body. You have one. It isn’t ideologically defined. It can be ideologically defined—you know, in Catholic school, the nuns used to tell us we should dress in darkness so we wouldn’t be an occasion of sin to ourselves. That’s an example of the body becoming ideologically defined. But it precedes culture. Culture has to deal with the fact that your eyes are on the front of your face and your anal pore is located near your genitals. Culture would probably rather have it some other way. It would be so convenient—but hey, it’s a given. I’m so happy our rumps don’t swell in estrus, the way some of the other primates’ do. Can you imagine Giorgio Armani trying to create a line of fashion that comes to term with that? But I digress….


So: the body. The body is a pre-cultural given. And coming with the body is this amazing thing—which everyone wants to give away, throw away, get away from—called the felt moment of immediate experience. The felt moment of immediate experience: this is you, now, here, in your body—with the cheeseburger slowly dissolving, the caffeine, the bladder, all of these things. Collisions. Concrescences. The crossing of trajectories of mental process, digestive process, metabolism, intent, income, emotional state. The felt presence of immediate experience, lodged in the body-mind system, in the moment: that’s who you are. That’s what they can’t take away from you. Whether they drag you away to prison, beat you, drug you, whatever they do to you, you will still have some kind of felt presence of experience until you drift into the darkness of non-entity.


So there, then, one can begin to build outward from that core, and say: aha, so the stuff of understanding is not information passed by culturally validated coding systems among the primates at high chatter rate. In other words, the truth is not in the public space or the historical space. The truth is in the felt space of the body in the moment. Well, so some great religions have gotten this far, and they—whatever they are, and there are many of them—come at last to advocate something called meditation, which has many guises and travels under many names and methods. But what it primarily is, is: attention to attention. And what it primarily reveals in the ordinary metabolism is, frankly, bloody little. Good meditators will tell you how incredibly boring it is. And the rhetoric of the religions that have made meditation the centerpiece of their ontology is a rhetoric of nihilism. I mean, this is, you know—oh, I should have said “neolism,” because this is sort of the dirty little secret of Buddhist ontology. It isn’t the cheerful new Buddhism being exported from California, it’s the old-style Nagarjunian Buddhism that says, you know: it is an emptiness within an emptiness after an emptiness before an emptiness. This is Nagarjuna on the nature of bodhi mind.


But interestingly, meditation—pursued not for years or lifetimes, but pursued as a cultural project over centuries—leads not to a clarifying of this philosophical emptiness, but to a discovery that the depths of nihilism, the depths of non-entity, are in fact motiferous in their aspects—not a plenum, is what I’m grasping for. Not a plenum, not an undivided platonic thing, but an environment of spirit, meaning, power, intentionality, entities, intelligences, levels, swarming, swarming, swarming in the imagination. And these things can be accessed through drugs, through extraordinary physical practices, ordeals, through various kinds of driving of physiological systems, like sonic driving through drumming, or physiological driving through repeated chanting. And then the ordinary boundaries of culture and of body dissolve into a much larger realm: the imagination.


And it is this imagination that I think is the place to put our attention. The imagination is a dimension of non-local information. Quantum physics is now moving towards securing the idea that, in some kind of a mathematical superspace, all particles in the universe maintain a kind of super-state of connectivity called Bell’s non-local connectivity. What this means to me is that the imagination is literally another dimension; a dimension that is non-local. Now, the mind—the animal mind, the human mind, the paleolithic mind—evolved as a master coordinator of sensory data coming into the body from the senses about the level of threat and danger in immediate three-dimensional space. That’s the mind’s evolutionary function: to preserve the body, to preserve the genetic stream of unfolding, by detecting and avoiding threat. And so our minds have evolved in the same way that water takes the shape of its container. Our minds have evolved to take the shape of three-dimensional space and time under cultural and environmental pressure.


Well, we’ve paid a huge price for this. It probably also has ensured that we’re here this afternoon to discuss it. But it’s been a long time since the instantaneous reflex to bash the brains out of anything moving near you that’s unfamiliar has served us well. You know? I mean, that got old 12,000 years ago. The entire enterprise of civilization has been about something else: the felt presence—nearby, ineffable, unsayable, but uncannily penetrating—of duty, of mathematical connectivity, of supernatural power. And so these are the things, the exploration of which, the singing about of which, make us human beings. The exploration of the universe of the unseen is the business of human beings. It’s why we are the way we are, it’s why we will be the way we will be. It’s how we got where we are. How is it done? It’s done by dissolving ordinary cultural boundaries, by perturbing consciousness, and by paying careful attention to the results and attempting to build models therefrom.


Now, in the last few thousand years in the West, this enterprise has been tamed by priestcraft, which combines the enterprise with judicious politicking and a certain amount of ass-licking. Before then, the enterprise was untainted by such secular concerns. It was full-force forward into the unknown. And this is the great era of shamanism. And what is shamanism with a hands-on attitude? Philosophy not made around the campfire, but philosophy based on the acquisition of extreme experience. That’s how you figure out what the world is—not by bicycling around in the burbs, but by forcing extreme experience. The reason people refer to psychedelic endeavors with the vocabulary of travel (taking a trip and so on) is because that is an extreme endeavor. It’s the same endeavor. It’s the leaving behind of the values of your own culture. You know, take nothing but a change of clothes, fly to Benares, and take up residence at Dashashwamedh Ghat among the Charas sadhus, and I guarantee you, whether you resort to psychedelics or not, you will experience boundary dissolution, a reorienting of categories, and a reframing of your perspective on your life and your being. So extreme experience is the necessary key.


This is true in all forms of endeavor. I mean, if you want to understand the atom, you have to smash it. Sitting around, looking at it, it will never yield its secrets. You have to smash that sucker to bits, and then collect the pieces, and then examine exactly how it all came apart. In the same way—and without going too far afield for the pun—we must smash ordinary consciousness, get smashed, and then look at the pieces flying in all directions, and say, “Gee, I didn’t know minds could do that stuff!” Well, they can’t in the workaday rote of living inside the little boxes of positivism and constipated behaviorism and all the rest of it.


So extreme experiences. But, you know, you don’t want these experiences to be too extreme, or you will sever the connectivity among the various subsystems, and then we’ll have to bury you. And this is always a huge strain on those left behind. So there is a practical element here, which is: okay, so we want to have extreme experiences, but we don’t want to have such extreme experiences that we don’t live to tell the tale. We want control to some degree over these experiences. Well, this is where the incredible thoroughness of our human ancestors comes to our aid.


Throughout time and space on this planet, the tribal societies that preceded us made it their business to discover, catalog, and learn to manipulate plants in the environment as the carriers, as the sources, of chemical compounds in the environment, which would work extraordinary transformations on consciousness without physical harm, without physiological damage to the organism. And of all the many techniques—ordeal, abandonment in the wilderness, sexual abstinence, hanging by your pectoral muscles from hooks in the sun for days; all of these sorts of things—of all of these methods, psychedelic plants and their judicious use is, arguably, the most effective, the—no, get that: the most effective—and the least invasive, and the most likely to produce negative [positive ?] long-term consequences.


Well, this was not news or even controversy anywhere in the world until—within the confines of the twentieth century, basically—the presence of these substances and plants began to alarm the order-keeping forces of the high-tech industrial democracies. It’s an issue separate from the issue of stimulants and depressants. It’s an issue separate from the issue of addiction and dependency. These things are not stimulants or depressants, and they do not cause addiction or dependency. What they cause is what I’m advocating: a fundamental reevaluation of cultural values. Because culture as we’re practicing it currently is causing a lot of pain to a lot of people and animals and ecosystems—none of whom were ever allowed to vote on whether they wanted this process to go in this direction. We do not feel what we are doing. Remember? I spoke about the primacy of the felt moment of experience. If we could feel what we are doing, we would stop doing it. But between us and the consequences of our action there are endless veils of political rhetoric, stultification, denial, sedation, intoxication, ideological delusion.


Now normally, I think, a rap like this tends to—if you have to pigeonhole it—to come down on the side of pessimism. But I am not pessimistic. I see everything as though it were integrated and connected. And there is an unfolding and a plottedness about our situation. It’s not for nothing that, at the very pinnacle of the age of faith in the machine and science and male dominance and projection of strategic weaponry, and so forth and so on, that there should come from the gentler societies of the world—from the rainforests and high deserts of the world—the news of these plants. You know, the Western mind, the cataloging mind, the Cartesian mind, in its frenzy to locate, list, isolate, and define everything carried these plants and substances over the past 150 years into the confines of our society, and they are much like Trojan horses, left there by the bedraggled, beat-down, disenfranchised, third-world, shamanic people to be found by the white-coated priests and priestesses of science, and to be brought back into the laboratory to be picked apart for their efficacy in treating addiction or overcoming neurotic behavior and something like that. But, of course, the neurotic behavior that they impact upon is neurotic behavior so wide, so deep, so revered, that it is in fact cultural values themselves.


You see, what is happening, I think, is: it’s really bigger than psychedelics, it’s bigger than human evolution. We are not making the waves in this ocean, we are corks riding the waves of the ocean. But we are privileged by perhaps chance alone to occupy a unique moment in the history of the universe; a moment when the universe goes through some kind of self-transforming evolutionary inflationary expansion. That’s what’s happening. I mean, it’s been happening for a long time. It depends on where you pull back to to get your perspective. One could say, looking at the universe in general, that this planet has been favored from the very beginning. That, by a billion years ago, the discerning could tell that this was a planet going places. But certainly by 500 million years ago, it was clear that this was a planet going places.


One complex animal lifeform gave way to another. Catastrophes, yes—but never catastrophes so total that the enterprise was wiped out. We know that 65 million years ago a catastrophe—an asteroid, a planetesimal impact—occurred on this planet. Nothing larger than a chicken walked away from that. On this planet! A bad day, you say. But were it not for that bad day, we would still be the egg-eating shrews at the edge of the reptilian garden party. These marvelous flowering plants, chock full of psychedelic alkaloids—none of them would’ve existed. The flowering plants and the higher mammals all arose in the wake of this planet-scouring catastrophe.


So, you see, there is built in to the larger systems of nature an enormous (what my mentor Erich Jantsch used to call) metastability. They are metastable. They are not easily deflected. An event as large as a planetesimal impact basically only resets the evolutionary clock by a few million years, and then, almost overleaping itself to make up for lost time, out of all of that catastrophe come primates, animals of such complexity and coordinated sensoria that they are wonders to behold. And from them (and quickly), then, come abilities never before seen in the world of organic organization. Freely commandable languages, spoken languages, symbolic activity for the first time.


Well, at that point, even the academics believe human language is less than 40,000 years old. That means it’s as artificial as the dirigible or the hypodermic needle! It’s an invention of some sort within the confines of human history, or at the beginning of human history. Recall: in South Africa we have fire pits and stone tools two million years old. Those are not Homo sapiens’ tools, but they’re the tools of Homo habilis, the preceeding ancestor in the human line.


My point is: we are caught up in a process of unfolding complexification that has now lodged in our species. We are its source at this point. At one point its source was the geology of the planet. At a later point, closer to us in time, its source was all biological diversity. But as the novelty has increased, the domain of its expression has narrowed. And it is now confined largely to the human species. Oh yes, the rest of nature continues the slow unfolding with continental drift and gene mutation and transfer and so forth, but these things have now receded into the background as the human adventure takes center stage.


So it’s almost as though—in fact, this is what I believe: that we are not pushed from behind by the causal unfolding of historical necessity, but that we are in the grip of an attractor of some sort which lies ahead of us in time. And so we are not, as it were, following what the statisticians call a random walk across the temporal landscape. In fact, the temporal landscape is a canyon with incredibly steep walls, and we are only free to move within very narrow confines as the grip—almost the morphogenetic intensity of the attractor at the end of time—increased its penetration and its hold over our imaginations, our city plans, our technologies, our religious ontologies, our medical strategies, so forth and so on. Something is revealing itself to us, through us. And as we get closer, the chatter of noise and static being given off of this thing increases exponentially.


Because, you know, McLuhan said once: “We move into the future like a person driving, who uses only the rear-view mirror.” That’s how we understand the future: by driving in the rear-view mirror. All of our models of what lies ahead are based on inverted models of the past. And the one thing you can be certain of is: that won’t do it. Because we can see: a person standing in 1900, using that method, would’ve been wrong about the late 1990s. A person standing in 1600, using that method, would’ve been wrong about the late 1900s. And so forth and so on. You cannot extrapolate from the past into the future, because the real nature of the future is its Ding an sich; the “thing in itself.” And that’s what it’s trying to reveal.


And so the whisperings that reach the ears of the channelers, the visions that come through the hands of painters, sculptors, choreographers, musicians—all of the felt presence of the invisible world is now incredibly pregnant with this message of transformation. And the challenge for each of us is to streamline our language sufficiently that we may mirror this thing in a way that is both true to it and rationally apprehendable to ourselves. And this is a fractal boundary. This is a test of intelligence. Because the thing in itself cannot be rationally beheld. You know, the enzymologist J. B. S. Haldane once said, “The world is not only stranger than you suppose, it’s stranger than we can suppose.” That, to me, is a dizzying thought and obviously true.


So what we want is a model true to the stranger than we can suppose, but not so alien that there is no emotional or spiritual support in it for the enterprise of being human. How do we do that? How do we inculcate the unspeakable mystery of the transcendental object at the end of time with the mundane nexus of real occasions that happens to be our own existence?


To my mind, the answer is: it lies in the ability to assimilate paradox. And that means you have to transcend the idea of a closed logical system. You have to live with the idea that there is no intellectual closure. This is, in fact, the door marked “freedom.” But you’ve been taught that it’s the door marked “madness.” To live in the light of paradox: things cannot be (we are taught) both A and B simultaneously. This is Aristotelean logic. A is A. This is as old as thought in the West. But it has to be overcome. And in the felt presence of the moment of immediate experience it is overcome. The mystery does not lie far. It lies in the immediate moment, in the act, the fact, of being. The only time we really confront this is in the psychedelic experience, or other moments of extreme epiphany.


The model that I’ve come to wrap around all of this—because I think it’s simple and straightforward, and it leaves plenty of room for people to add their own filigree—is a dimensional model (God forbid, a mathematical model), but it works something like this. I mentioned earlier that our senses have evolved as a threat-detection device and have sort of crunched us down into three-dimensional space. The shaman—wherever and whenever he or she does their shamanizing—the shaman is a person who is able to transcend the dimensional confines of cultural existence. They know more than the people they serve. The people they serve are like children within the game of culture. Only the shaman knows that culture is a game. Everyone else takes it seriously. That’s how he can do his magic.


I was recently in Australia, and of course aboriginal culture and shamanism is a topic of great interest down there. And I learned—maybe some of you already knew this—but the term for shaman among English-speaking aboriginals (of whom there are many, some who have spoken it for several hundred years, or over a hundred years, anyway) the term for shaman is simply “clever fella.” And if someone says “I am a clever fella,” they are making a professional claim of great weight. But I loved that. Because it says it all. You know? A clever fella.


When I was in the Amazon in my exploring days, we would go up these rivers to these bare-assed folks to spend time with them. And the people would want to touch the outboard motors, and look at your camera equipment, and the butterfly nets, and gather around, open-faced, totally innocent. You could always tell the shaman. Because, first of all, he usually didn’t come out to see who was there, even though no one ever came. Even though these people had visitors once every six months, the guy who wouldn’t come out of his hut for the only event in six months was inevitably the shaman. And when you met him, he wasn’t interested in your velcro or your break-apart glow-in-the-dark little trinkets, or any of the rest of it. He was looking straight at you through the eyes outside of culture, saying, “What kind of a person are you? Are you a fool or are you a clever fella? What is your measure? How much of this situation do you understand? How many levels are you simultaneously aware of at this moment?” And, you know, looking into the eyes of that sort of a person, you either grow or you turn away. You have not much choice.


So what’s happening with the shaman, I think, is: he’s a hands-on mathematician, a hands-on, non-euclidean geometer. The shaman enters into the “chaos” of the psychedelic experience and sees that it is not chaos, it is hyperspace. And in it, the adumbrations of the trees of possibility can be followed. One can see who stole the eggs, one can see who coupled with the chief’s nephew, one can see who will die and who will live, one can see how the weather is going to change, and one can know where the game went. And this is not magic. Not in that world. It’s impossible in three-dimensional space and time. But in four-dimensional space and time it not only is possible, it’s inevitable and unavoidable. It’s a different kind of way of being with the information.


And I’m sure many of you have your own psychedelic epiphanies that are as gripping and as fascinating as anything that has happened to me—epiphanies that show that, under certain circumstances, the ordinary boundaries of information, spacetime, limitation are dissolved. And it may happen only for a moment. It may involve a curing with the laying on of hands. It may involve a sudden insight into a set of complex relationships. It may involve a sudden unexpected certitude about how a certain event went down that, when checked upon, turns out to be true.


What we know about the world is defined by our culture. And the way culture does this is through language. You can’t know or perceive or appreciate what cannot be brought in to the domain of language. You can’t publicly know or appreciate these things. You can feel them as the rich, contextual embeddedness of your own being. But you can’t communicate them. Sometimes, when I read Marcel Proust, I come up on passages where the conveyance of the information, of the emotion, is so exquisitely subtle that I have the feeling I know what he means, I’ve felt this, but I never dreamed I would ever see it in print or have a thought about it that I could share with anyone else. Because it is so subtle.


So the challenge to all of us, I think, is not this one-dimensional chasing after of answers—this is a fool’s game—but an actual stepping back to gain perspective, and to realize, you know: salvation is always available. It’s in the moment. It’s an act of understanding. It doesn’t come down through a lineage. It doesn’t come through a substance, an empowerment, a work. It comes through understanding. Salvation is an act of rational apprehension of some sort. And, you know, I really believe that we are now in a relationship to the transcendental object at the end of time such that the revelations are daily. The unfoldment, the connectivity—we can see light at the end of the tunnel.


I mean, I’ve had long practice at this. I’ve been thinking like this since 1968, talking about it like this since 1980. But I never knew how it would come or what it would be. In the last few years, with the rise of a technological-cultural artifact like the Internet, I now see how it will make its way into the world. We are building the nervous system of the human over-soul. We are individual units operating under social rules that are pushing us ever closer toward dissolving our societies—societies; human groups run by rules—into telepathic collectivities of some sort. I mean, the chaos of the Internet is chaos only to the constipated order-freaks of the Hobbesian sociological machine. It makes them uncomfortable because they can’t find the head, they can’t find the hierarchy. But it’s head and hierarchy that have distorted and made human institutions so abrasive and uncomfortable for the people who inhabit them.


So I really believe there is no contradiction between technology and spirit, there is no contradiction between the search for intellectual integration and understanding and the psychedelic experience, there is no contradiction between ultra-advanced hyperspatial cyberculture and paleolithic archaic culture. We have come to the end of our sojourn in matter. We have come to the end of our separateness. This is all very scary. None of us know what it means. But the forces that have been called into being are now beyond the control of any institution, or any strategic planning committee, or any banking committee. These things have a life of their own. There is a morphological unfoldment occurring on this planet. It is bringing forth some entirely new order of being. We are a privileged part of this. Individually, our hope is to understand and participate in the epiphany. There is no blame. Nothing is off-kilter or wrong or unnatural or artificial. No principle has been betrayed. This is how it is supposed to be.


But as it picks up speed, it’s going to become more and more frightening as most metaphors fail. And this is why the rise of cults, and why the grasping at ontological straws, and why the whisperings from various corners of the universe have grown to a roar: because we are uncertain. We are not sure. But I think you become sure by connecting to the source. And then, what you become for other people is a source of reassurance.


The perfect metaphor for understanding this situation is a birth. If you had never seen a birth, and you were rushing about your daily business and suddenly came around a corner and this was happening—as, for example, could happen to you in India or in Africa somewhere, and you confronted human birth—if you had not been prepared for that moment, you would have a real emotional thing on your hands. It looks like a medical emergency: blood is being shed, organs are beings stretched, there is pleading and groaning and moaning. You have to have your chops very together to look at this situation and say: “How wonderful! New life coming into the world as it has always come into the world!”


Now, a birth can be simple and easy, or it can be prolonged and tormented. It can be an occasion for joy or it can end in catastrophe. The key is preparation, understanding, awareness, and a desire to meet the experience in all of its fullness. The birth is coming. The birth is coming. And what it does to the social systems we’ve put in place, the groaning ecologies that are taking the weight of our billions, what it does to the atmosphere, what it does to the economies upon which you and I depend—this all depends on how educated and enlightened each one of us can make ourselves as the thing moves toward completion.


And it’s no time for foolishness, and it's no time for rumor-mongering, and it's no time for throwing away your epistemological razors and indulging in the spreading of unlikelihoods. It's time to actually pull together. The plants are the pipeline into the Gaian intention. It's just not a coincidence that these plants carry these immense spiritual message. They are the pipeline of Gaian intentionality. We were not out of balance of millions of years, or hundreds of thousands of years of intellectual existence in which we had humor, and song, and ribaldry, and poetry, and horsing around, and art, and theater. We were not out of balance—because our religion involved the dissolving of our cultural values once a week or once a month back into the mysterious mama-matrix of primordial being. Once we cut that off, once we began to make it up or listen to the most shrill among us make it up, we were lost. That's what we're returning to.


Our story is the story of the prodigal son. We left the family farm, the balance, the domesticity, and we made a shaman's journey deep into the heart of matter and of energy, of space and time. We return with gifts, with understandings no shaman before ever had: quantum physics, fractal mathematics, astrophysics, cosmology, the knowledge of DNA. This is real knowledge, and we shed real blood to obtain it. Now it can begin a meaning of being brought under the umbrella of authentic archaic human values informed by relationships with psychedelic plants. This is the comfortable future, the hopeful future, that lies ahead. To the degree that people turn their back on this, they're going to have a rough time explaining to themselves and their children just what exactly is happening at the end of the twentieth century.


Okay! That's my rap, now I want to hear from you. Thank you!

Terence McKenna


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