Program Flyer." />
Conversations on the Edge of Magic
July 22, 1994


Terence’s first workshop at Starwood Festival XIV, held at the Brushwood Center southwest of Sherman, New York. Terence brings a unique perspective to being in the world that assumes an impending transformation of the human world that will involve everyone. With humor and in depth we will examine human attitudes toward the Other, time and its mysteries, the nature of language, and the techniques of ecstasy that have developed in non-Western societies to navigate to and from invisible worlds. We will discuss making reasonable choices about spiritual development and techniques. Terence explains that what he calls the 'Archaic Revival' is the process of reawakening awareness of traditional attitudes toward nature, including plants and our relationship to them. The Archaic Revival spells the eventual breakup of the pattern male dominance and hierarchy bassed on animal organization, something that cannot be changed overnight by a sudden shift in collective awareness. This is a think-along experience for those who have taken a few moments to chill out from the dance of life. For more information, see the Program Flyer.

References:
00:00

What I’ll do today is: I assume most of you are not familiar with my work, but I also assume you’re intelligent, so I’m not going to give an introductory talk. I’ll just cut to the chase. And if you don’t understand what’s said, at least you have the satisfaction of knowing nobody talked down to you, right? Okay, it’s very hard to know where exactly to slice into this pie. I mean, I am an advocate of the psychedelic experience for personal growth work, for shamanic exploration, as an enzyme for the imagination, as a force that forces us to grow up and clean up.

00:52

However, what I want to talk to you today about—because this is a pagan community, and because I think the argument (if it’s not understood here) won’t be understood anywhere—is: I want to talk about the social impact of psychedelic plants on human consciousness, both in the present and in the remote past. Because my approach to psychedelics is not to see it as a religious freedom issue or a personal self-exploration issue. That’s all there, but I believe we cannot really understand what it is to be a human being and how we came to be human beings without factoring into our explanations this most taboo of all subjects for the Western dominator ­­mind: the subject of boundary-dissolving, consciousness-expanding plants. And so every point of view has a cosmology, a myth of its meaning. And as quickly as I can, I want to tell you the myth that, to my mind, unites paganism, psilocybin, sexual freedom, the peril to the Earth, and the hope for the future all into one very nice, neat package. And it requires a kind of an anthropology lesson.

02:39

First of all, our fellow voyagers along the way—the scientists—have created, as you all know, the theory of evolution, which has been the great crowning achievement of biology over the past hundred years. First the Darwinian understanding of natural selection and random mutation, then Mendelian genetics, the discovery of the particulate nature of the gene. Then, still later, molecular genetics, the elucidation of DNA, so forth and so on. The theory of evolution has been very successful in explaining the state of nature on this planet with one tremendously embarrassing exception—which is ourselves. Biological evolution cannot account for a phenomenon like minded human beings involved in the building and maintenance of global, electronically sustained societies. How do we do it? Well, we do it because we have a vastly superior cerebral architecture to any other organism in nature.

03:59

And the interesting thing about that architecture is that it sprang into being in the blink of an eye, geologically speaking. The human brain size doubled in less than two million years. This is the most dramatic expansion in the size of a major organ of a higher animal in the entire fossil record. It would be under any circumstances an embarrassment to the theory of evolution, but notice that the theory of evolution was generated by the very organ we’re discussing. So it is doubly embarrassing. Now, obviously we are the inheritors of extraordinary circumstances. Higher animals have existed on this planet for 200 million years in all kinds of forms: reptilian life, amphibian life, avian life, mammalian life. And never—so far as the geological history of the planet can tell us—never did machine-building, language-using, technology-producing societies arrive. Some extraordinary interaction in our early history is responsible for our circumstance as language-using, technology-producing creatures.

05:31

Okay, end of introduction. Here’s the scenario—and I hope it has special resonance for this community. All animal species tend to evolve into an ecological niche and stabilize themselves there. Ants and termites have been at equilibrium for hundreds of millions of years. Our remote ancestors also were on a direct course toward that kind of dynamic equilibrium. We were evolving toward being fruit-eating, canopy-living, insectivorous primates with an advanced repertoire of pack signals. And this was apparently to be our evolutionary destiny, were it not for the fact that sometime in the last five million years or so the African continent—which was the site of our environmental proto-system—began to dry up. And the forests that had always been our arboreal home began to shrink. And what this spelled for our remote proto-hominid ancestors was nutritional pressure: there wasn’t enough food. Our remote ancestors began descending from the canopy and exploring the new environment that the aridity was bringing into existence; a grassland environment, an environment of limited numbers of plant and animal species relative to the climax tropical rain forests that were in retreat.

07:21

Now, the reason animals specialize their food supply is to avoid contact with mutagens in the environment. If you begin experimenting with foods and begin eating everything, you will produce more children with mutations. Some of these mutations will be positive, most will be lethal. When our remote ancestors came under nutritional pressure they began expanding their diet. This was the moment when we became partially carnivorous, when we became omnivores. And had I more time, I would lay out many examples of specific plants—such as plants that contain birth control alkaloids and things like that—specific plants that would have impacted early human emergence. But I want to concentrate here on one plant. And that is the psilocybin-containing mushrooms that grow in the dung of cattle. Because I think that if we are looking for a missing link, it isn’t a transitional skeleton, it isn’t meddling by extraterrestrials (at least not of the overt, thousand-ton beryllium ship variety). It has to do with the fact that we began to allow into our diet an exotic pseudo-neurotransmitter that was part of the native flora of the grassland. And I believe that, you know, in the next ten minutes I can at least make it seem plausible to you that this mushroom was the triggering factor that moved us from being an advanced hominid, an advanced animal, to being in fact a conscious, self-reflecting, caring, thinking, dreaming, striving human being.

09:26

And here is my answer to this riddle—where did human consciousness come from? It begins like this: in that foraging phase where we were testing all kinds of plants on the grassland, small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms would have naturally been eaten in the process of eating corms and things like that. I personally have seen baboons in Kenya investigating cow patties on the savanna, because they know that bug pupa will be under the cow patties. So, the cow patties are already set up as vectors for possible sources of nutrition. So there is no question that these proto-hominids would have eaten psilocybin in small amounts. And by small amounts I mean amounts so small that, if you were to eat that much, you would feel nothing. But this dose level has been studied and it causes increased acuity of vision. You can actually give people small amounts of psilocybin and then give them eye tests, and they do better if they’re slightly intoxicated than if they are not. The guy who proved this—the Viennese psychologist Roland Fischer—when he described these experiments to me, he said, “And so you see, my young friend, here we have a case where the use of drugs actually introduces us to a more true vision of reality than if we have avoided the drug!” Scientific proof that the drug is telling you more about reality than if you had refused it.

11:21

Alright, now: what kind of visual acuity is it that is being improved? Well, it turns out it’s what’s called edge detection. In the grassland environment where the movement of small animals means dinner and the movement of large animals means you become dinner, a plant which confers increased visual acuity is going to immediately confer an adaptive advantage on those members of the group that let it in. Those members of the group that refuse it out of esthetic or gastronomic reasons will tend to be outbred because the psilocybin-using members of the species will be more successful at obtaining food and at surviving to raise their own children to reproductive age, which is the name of the game in evolution. So that’s step one of a three-step process that leads to the explosion of consciousness in the hominid brain.

12:30

Step two, which should have special appeal for this crowd, is that when you take slightly larger doses of psilocybin—not religiously profound doses, but doses which you definitely feel—psilocybin is what’s called a CNS stimulant; a central nervous system stimulant. What it causes in animals is what neurophysiologists call arousal. And in highly sexed animals like primates arousal means—in the male—erection. So an animal, then, which is allowing what is essentially a sexual stimulant an aphrodisiac to enter into the diet, there will be more instances of what anthropologists call successful copulations. And God knows we need that! So, if you have more successful copulations you have more pregnancies. You have a second factor outbreeding the non-psilocybin using member of the population.

13:50

Now, something really important here that is my—well, this whole thing is my theory, but here is the part of it that I like the best. All primates—all primates!—have what are called dominance hierarchies, or male dominance hierarchies. This goes right back clear to lemurs and the old world monkeys. I mean, yes, the new world monkeys which are more primitive. All primates have this dominance hierarchy. And what it means is: the sharp-fanged, hard-bodied young males, they control the women, the children, the elderly, all sexual minorities. Everybody is under the thumb of the alpha males. And as we sit here today (though this community may strive to be an exception) as a society, male dominance is an enormous dilemma for us and an enormous distorting factor in our politics and in our lives. So my notion is that psilocybin, by promoting this polymorphic sexual style, actually acted as an inoculation against monogamous sexual styles of bonding, you see. And it isn’t that the monogamous style, the dominator style, disappeared. It was simply medicated out of existence—for perhaps 100,000 years it was medicated out of existence.

15:38

And what it promoted—this arousal, this psilocybin-taking around the African campfires by these primitive nomadic pastoralists—what the social change that came with it was, was an orgiastic sexual style. A style were everybody would get loaded around the campfire and then hump in an enormous writhing heap. Now—yes! Now, besides the fact that this is a great deal of fun, it has a very, very profound social effect, which is: in societies which allow orgy, men cannot trace lines of male paternity. Men cannot trace lines of male paternity. What does this mean? It means that men do not identify with children as property. It means that the men of that kind of a social group can only think in terms of our children. We, the group. Our children. And it creates an immensely cohesive social glue that I believe held these societies together for millennia.

17:09

And I believe that during this period of pharmacological suppression of male dominance we became human beings. Theater, poetry, magic, art, altruism, dance, symbolic and cognitive activity of every sort was born in that window of opportunity when there was simultaneously a chemical suppression of male dominance and consequently an opening to Gaian intentionality, to the intent of the larger biological systems in which the human system was embedded. And a kind of paradise came into existence. There were actually two phases: one from about 40,000–30,000 years ago in the interglacial. And in that early phase human beings, cattle, and mushrooms were sort of all swirling together there on the African grassland, in contact but not yet a coherent triad. The second partnership paradise arose at the last glaciation, at the melt, during the last glacial melt, and lasted from about 20,000 years ago to perhaps as much as recently 10,000 years ago. And it was in that later phase that the Magdalenian explosion occurred, and the social forms were put in place that Hellenistic paganism was looking back at with a nostalgic and barely cognizable memory. There was an old, old memory of a kind of paganism that was old 5,000 years before Eleusis laid its cornerstone.

19:33

I wrote a book called The Archaic Revival, in which I try to say that the entire cultural impulse of the twentieth century—beginning with Freud and Jung discovering the unconscious, beginning with Picasso dragging back primitive West African masks to Paris and inserting them into his paintings, Dada, ’Pataphysics, jazz, abstract expressionism, even phenomena like National Socialism—all of these various impulses in the twentieth century (some positive, some negative), all have a common theme: archaism. Archaism. A nostalgia for a state before history. And as this tendency, this nostalgia, has been sorted out over the last 100 years by generations of scholars—beginning with, you know, Freud and Jung and Blavatsky and Crowley, and then coming up through all the folklorists and deconstructionists—as this thing has been teased apart, it has become clearer and clearer that the paradigmatic figure in any archetypal revival is the maker of magic, the shaman, the wizard, the seeress, the person who is in control with invisible forces. And as I have lived my life and explored these things for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the shaman without the hallucinogenic plants is well on the way to becoming priest or priestess, well on the way to being downloaded into a fixed canon, a moral vision, a societal, religious structure—which is not what shamanism is about. It’s about discordian ecstasy, it’s about the felt presence of immediate experience in the absence of theory. That’s what it’s about.

21:42

So this—well, and then I want to get back to our little process. We’ve now covered step one: better vision through mushroom-taking leads to better diets and healthier children. Bigger doses lead to an end to monogamy, a dissolution of pair bonding, and a replacement of monogamous anxiety with polymorphic amorousness or whatever you want to call it. Then—that’s only the second step. The third step is when you double the polyamorous dose. And now hunting is out of the question, and even fucking is out of the question because you are nailed to the ground somewhere off at the edge of the firelight, wrestling with a mystery so profound, so bizarre that, even as we sit here with Husserl and Heidegger and Heisenberg and all these clowns under our belts, it is still absolutely mysterious, appalling, challenging, boundary-dissolving, and unavoidably ecstatic. It is the living mystery. And I don’t know how many of them there are in the world, but for my money there only has to be one to rescue the entire concept from, you know, the dirty claws of the reductionist, the materialist, the Christers, the nothing-but-ers, the merely-this and the simply-that-ers. Yeah, I know that I’m preaching to the converted. If I preach to the unconverted I’d be hung from the yardarm.

23:45

So you may say to yourself, “Well, this is all very interesting. This guy has some kind of anthropologically revisionist theory and, you know, that’s all well and good.” In other words, so what? What does it have to do with us? Well, what it has to do with us is: we are in a state of enormous dysfunctional anxiety as a result of the fall into history, which has caused us to have to compromise our sensuality, our connection to the Gaian goddess, our polymorphic sexuality. All of these things have been poured into a new set of social institutions that derive, essentially, from the invention of agriculture—which is where I think the shit hit the fan. I mean, I’m fairly radical on that. I think that agriculture is the end. Because it’s incredibly successful as a strategy for food production. Well, what does that mean? It means you can’t be nomads anymore. Oh no. You have to build a stone tower to put the grain in. And you have to make sure you can haul large rocks up on top of your tower to drop on people whose grain crop wasn’t as big as yours was. We see this at Jericho. The most advanced building in the world of 10,000 B.C. was the grain tower at Jericho. And it was defensive, and it bespeaks, you know, the primal paranoia.

25:27

Once people stopped moving across the land, once they violated it with the blade of the plough, then you get sedentary populations, the division between the profane world of the city and the wilderness outside. That’s the moment when the division between the unconscious and the conscious mind comes into play. And an entire set of institutions arise then: male kingship, standing armies, role specialization, slavery, women as chattel, so forth and so on. I mean, we are the unhappy inheritors of this hideous plunge into dysfunctionality. Now, why is it such a hideous plunge into dysfunctionality to live without psilocybin or close relatives thereof?

26:26

The answer is that this thing—which to now I’ve described as male dominance and a tendency to form dominance hierarchies—we can describe another way and bring much closer to home by saying it is the ego. The ego is a late arriving, very tenuous, highly uncertain of itself social structure that has taken root in the human psyche like a tumor, like a growth of some sort. It is the leftover of this primate dominance complex. And the way it manifests itself is by the establishment of boundaries. First of all: this is my body, do not touch it. Second of all: these are my weapons and agricultural tools, do not touch them. This is my woman. These are my children. I hunt there. So forth and so on. It’s this division of the world that allows the illusion of the ego to come into existence.

27:42

Now, what do psychedelics do, and why are they such social dynamite? The answer is: it’s not a health issue, it’s not an addiction issue. I mean, that’s preposterous. It’s about boundary dissolution. Every society—from the classic Maya, to Fujiwara Japan, to the France of the Bourbons—every society establishes a set of boundaries, which it then calls “reality,” and woe betide you if you go across the boundary. Because then you are outcast, outclassed, outlandish, and the full fury of the community can be turned against you. And we all know what that can mean, as pagans. So I believe that the ego is a dysfunctional psychic invader and that it will continue to strengthen to perpetuate itself as long as we do not institute—either as groups, or within our relationships, or as individuals—a regular ritual encounter with the forces which dissolve these boundaries. And the only force I know that works are these plants.

29:07

And, as I say, I’m not interested in arguing whether there are other methods or not. God, I would hope so! But anything I ever looked into—and I shopped the spiritual supermarket from stem to stern—was horse shit as far as I could see. Now, I am not a sensitive—let me say that. People say, “Well, but what about Ramana Maharshi, and what about Jaka Berma?” Hey, it’s great for those folks! I applaud our hots and avatars and so forth and so on. But what I’m interested in is democratic ecstasis. It should be for the most lumpen among us. It is not to be attained by an act of dietary control, sexual abstinence, or, you know, whatever. It is a human birth right. It is a human birthright to touch the incorporeal body of the Goddess. It isn’t something…

30:27

So—well, let’s see, where can we go from here? I say all this, if you are interested (I say it better than I’m saying it here), in my book Food of the Gods, which was not written for you people. It’s an argument for people who do not know a great deal about drugs, may never have taken drugs, but through some miracle have managed to maintain an open mind. I don’t know how much you know about my shtick—and I can’t get into it now—but for me these things are more than tools for exploring the Freudian or Jungian unconscious. I mean, I journey to inhabited worlds that are echoes in elf-land and fay but, you know, as a rationalist, as an aspiring astronautical engineer at age thirteen, it’s astonishing to me that I could validate the mystery through doubt. Through doubt.

31:36

The truth does not require your belief. The truth is real! You can beat it on the ground, you can rip it apart, you can look inside it. Nobody needs to guard the truth from inspection. Nobody needs to tell you that, you know, you can’t look behind the stage. And so my motivation is to try to—number one—bring people to the realization that the spiritual path (if you want to think of it that way) that is a real thing. And it will carry you to the real thing. All spiritual disciplines that I know, except for psychedelics, put a great deal of emphasis on putting the pedal to the metal. Push, push, push! You know? Meditate! Make offerings! Do Mantrayana! Do Pranayama! Do Pusha! Push, push, push! With psychedelics, suddenly there is a very deep interest in “And where are the brakes?” You see? You’re no longer pushing. Once you get to the psychedelics, seeking is an attitude which ill becomes you. You have found it! You have found it. Now what in the hell are you going to do with it?

33:12

And this is a great dilemma for anyone who goes into this. I mean, I am—as I see myself—I’m a preacher in the marketplace. But I know (and I’m sure most of you know) that I could walk out of here, you could walk out of here, and you could go as far as your courage would carry you. There is no barrier. There are no more barriers. You can go as far as your fuckin’ courage will carry you. And at that point you have to ask the question, you know, “Do I want to be the mad monk of cold mountain? Do I want the villagers down in the valley to say: Oh yes, we see him occasionally up in the mist, naked, flying with the eagles.” Because you can be that person. You know, you don’t have to go back to your job as ad exec, stock broker, or whatever it is. And so we stand on the edge of being able to leave history. We can leave it.

34:25

You know, we tend to forget—because our lives are so brief—that what we call the psychedelic experience is very, very new on the plate of Western occultism and science. I mean, hashish did not make great inroads into Medieval Europe. That all came later in the 18th and 19th century. Chloroform, ether—these things don’t cut it. Mescaline was synthesized for the first time in 1888. These things had to compete with many other interesting areas of scientific exploration in 20th century. We have not come to terms with what they mean and what they are. And it’s a curious area because the counterculture—whatever that may mean—knows a great deal more about this than science. I mean, science does not explore this area because it senses enormous danger for its ontological machinery. It probably couldn’t survive the encounter. And therefore it’s just said, well, it’s psychology. It’s marginal. It’s fleeting. It’s non-irreproducible, and so forth and so on. This is all nonsense. You can—by unplugging the telephone, by fasting for six hours, and by taking five dried grams of Stropharia cubensis in silent darkness—you can go up to the great simulacra of human explorers. Hypatia, Maria, Newton, Da Vinci. You can take that ride. I have the feeling that when we go into those psychedelic spaces we not only see things no one has ever seen before, we see things no one will ever, ever see again.

36:26

Okay, one last thought I want to put out, and then I’ll try for some questions. I have a sort of a rational mind, in that I like things to make sense. I don’t mean experimental sense, but I mean if you can build a verbal metaphor to get from one thing to another, then you understand it much better. And so the magical dimension is real. It isn’t psychological. It isn’t based on the strength of will. It’s as real as Mars in its orbit. I mean, there’s real estate out there, folks. It’s that real. And so, then, the question becomes how to vivify it. And the answer is by creating a consensus in language. By having it made illegal. It’s like where sex was with the Victorians. You know, everybody was inventing the wheel over and over again.

37:35

What we have to do is begin to build a consensus about this realm. And, you know, this may be heresy in a community as oriented toward tradition as this one seems to be, and the generally pleasant position to take is that everybody has a piece of the action. You know, the Hasids know something, the Buddhists know something; the Book of Mormon, there’s something there. The mushroom was incredibly ungenerous on this point. It said: “Nobody knows jack shit about what is going on.”

38:20

So it is for you—with your body as laboratory and your mind as worker in that laboratory—to find a way, to reflux the alchemical gold. The only experience which counts is your own experience. Everything else is somehow handed down through social structures and political structures. It’s irrelevant. If flying saucers were to land on the south lawn of the White House tomorrow, it would not matter to you as much as smoking DMT would if you did that tonight. Because that’s your experience, your conviction, you see? And I believe that the rebirth of paganism, the rebirth of archaism, the rebirth of psychedelic shamanism is coming at this moment because we are going to be involved in a historical meltdown which will be the equivalent of a species-deep shamanic crisis in which, as a collectivity, we are going to have to make the journey to the well of worlds and recover and cleanse the collective soul of humanity.

39:48

We have lost touch with our moral compass because we have lost touch with the Gaian mind. And this is not a metaphor. If you take these neurotransmitters, these exopheromones that connect you up with the natural environment, the Gaian intent becomes known. It’s an act of feeling. If we could feel what we are doing we would stop doing it. But we live in a realm of abstraction, excuses, incredible wealth. Incredible levels of pampering and softness lie between us (the upper five percent of the intellectual and material elite on the planet) and the problems. I mean, how many of us have been to Bosnia, or Rwanda, or Somalia? These things are only images on a dehumanizing screen. If we could feel what we are doing we would awaken to the mystery of each other and to the mystery of the historical process of recovering what was lost.

41:07

We don’t need this material civilization. We don’t need five billion people on this planet. We have to think very, very radically about how we are going to change ourselves, or we’re not going to make the cut. And orthodoxy is utterly and completely bankrupt. All it can do is suppress. They suppress, they suppress, they suppress. But there’s only one argument that will forgive suppression: deliverance! And they can’t give us deliverance. All they can give us is the Menendez trial, O.J., Baby M, The Skaters, Claus von Bülow. Horse shit, horse shit, horse shit!

42:00

We are locked inside a nightmare. A nightmare of contaminated and toxic imagery that is designed to disempower you and make it impossible for you to think straight. And the way out is straight back to the reality of the vegetable gnosis. It is there. It has always been there. The societies that never broke the connection live in dynamic and loving balance with each other and the planet today, were it not for the input of our disruptive social and economic systems. So I talk to all kinds of people who I see as part of my community. But it stretches from virtual reality, to the radical gay movement, to the house movement, to the pagan movement, to the younger molecular pharmacologists, to the radical art historians and psychotherapists. All of these communities are fragmented and suspicious of each other, and this is precisely what orthodoxy enjoys. If all of these counter-cultural impulses could make common cause, we would probably discover that we’re 65–70 percent of the population. And so what is needed is a spirit of boundary-dissolution between individuals, between classes, sexual orientations, rich and poor, man and woman, intellectual and feeling-toned types. If this can happen then we will make a new world. And if this doesn’t happen—nature is fairly pitiless and has a place for us in the shale of this planet where so many have preceded us.

Well, I think that’s the basic rave. It raises a lot of issues. If somebody is burning to ask a question—yes, burning to ask.

Audience

[???]

44:41 McKenna

Well, I think that it’s very hard to find pristine, “pseudo-Paleolithic” or “pseudo-Neolithic” culture. Even the Amazon—where I’ve spent a lot of time—tribes that were nomadic at the time of contact are now agriculturalists simply because missionary medicine has swollen aboriginal populations to the point where they can’t be nomads as they used to be. So you’re right. There are some psychedelic-using cultures that are pretty unappealing, although actually I can only think of one that I find politically very unappealing, and I don’t wanna knock them because I haven’t lived with them. So I may be misled.

45:32

But I think it’s not simply to take psychedelics, but it’s also to decondition oneself to the notion of ego and all the concepts which constellate around that, such as: place, property, ownership, and stability. You see, the idea that we have inherited from Western religion and science is the idea that things should be stable. This is a very male-dominant notion—the wish for stability, eternity—when, in fact, the message life hands you over and over again is: nothing lasts. Nothing lasts! Not what you love, not what you hate, not your enemies, your friends, not even your dear, dear self. Nothing lasts. And the ego goes mad in the presence of that truth. It can’t swallow it. And so we have anxiety of death, need to dominate people, need to possess property, terror of illness, resentment of fate—because we are not in the flow. And I think what these psychedelics do is: they put you very much in the here and now. And it’s nothing more than that.

47:01

I mean, obviously I’m an egghead and an abstract thinker, and I hope to make my reputation in mathematics, but feeling is the primary validator of existence. I mean, if you don’t know that, you gotta go back to square one. And these things empower feeling. They are catalysts for the imagination. I mean, you may not like what psychedelics do to you, they may terrify you—but if it terrifies you then surely it must have catalyzed your imagination or you wouldn’t have known that terror. So catalysis of the imagination in a fairly loving and yet ruthless way is what the psychedelics deliver. Anybody who calls this escapism is sitting on their thumb; I mean, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Reality is for people who can’t handle this stuff!

48:02

I do want to say one thing. It almost slipped my mind. And for those of you who have your hands up—I apologize, but I think this needs to be said. And I don’t know how many of you know it, but this is a news flash, folks. We interrupt this program to bring you a special announcement. A new psychoactive substance has been discovered. A very powerful psychoactive substance. The most powerful since the discovery of LSD. A substance so powerful that 300 micrograms is the dose. That means one gram will dose 7,000 people. This compound comes from a plant. The plant is—and I hope you’re paying attention—the plant is legal. The compound is legal. You can possess it. You can manufacture it. You can transport it across borders. You can give it away, you can sell it, and you can do it on stage. And it comes from a plant. And the plant is also available, and I want tell you about this because—okay, no shoving, no shoving!

49:39

Alright, not to keep you in suspense any longer. The plant is salvia divinorum. Salvia divinorum. Which—some of you who are real mavens of this stuff know it. It’s been in the books for thirty years. The problem was nobody knew how to get off. And so it was always carried in these lists as “suspect hallucinogen.” The thing is: any scientist confronted with a plant where somebody says it’s a hallucinogen will test to see if it’s an alkaloid. All hallucinogens (almost all) are alkaloids. So, salvia divinorum—negative for alkaloids. Doesn’t matter. It has a new, unknown compound in it, now known: salvinorin alpha. And the interesting thing about salvinorin alpha is: we have in this country what’s called a structural near-relatives (or cognener) law, which says if a compound is a structural near-relative, isomer and enantiomer, or stereoisomer of an illegal compound, then it, too, can be made illegal. Salvia divinorum doesn’t fit this description. That means that, in order to make this stuff illegal, the government will have to present medical data showing there is something wrong with it. And at this stage nobody on Earth knows the real pharmacological parameters of this compound.

51:21

So here’s the deal. You can grow this plant in a window box, in your apartment, in your back yard. It looks like Joe Plant. There is nothing particularly distinguishing about this plant. And if you have three or four cuttings, in six or seven months you will have more than you know what to do with. And then I’ll just describe how I do it. I’m slightly chicken shit to do the pure compound—which, by the way, you do 300 micrograms. Understand that what looks like is a grain of salt. A small grain of salt is a human-effective dose. It comes on so fast that you have no impression of it coming on at all. You do it and then, after a while, you notice that for a long time you have been staring at something incomprehensible.

52:26

Well let me—here is how I recommend that you do it while we get the chemical thing sorted out. Because the chemical—it could be dangerous. It would be very easy to overdose by a factor of ten, twenty, thirty, and you would still just be doing a smidgeon. So I say let’s honor the plants. Let’s not hand the government a bunch of casualties that it can cluck over and put on national TV—you know, the “Bibble, bibble, bibble” show. Let’s use the plant. And the way you do it is you grow up a batch of this stuff and get between fifteen and twenty leaves. Remove the midvein with your fingernail, just to lower the mass. Fold it all into a little pile, put it in your mouth. And twenty leaves is a whopping mouthful, so basically as much as you can get in your mouth. Put it in your mouth, lie down in silent darkness, and squeeze the stuff with your jaws. Tastes like—it’s horrible. It’s not as bad as ayahuasca, but it’s horrible. But you could acquire a taste for it.

53:43

So, lie down in darkness where you can see a digital watch—one of these red-flashing jobs, like a K-mart deal—and then don’t swallow it, but just squeeze it and masticate it. At fifteen minutes, by the clock, spit it out into a bowl or Kleenex or something, and then just lie there. Lie still in the darkness with your eyes closed and look—and this is almost the key empowerment, though it’s idiotic; people fail to do it—look at the back of your eyelids with the expectation of seeing something. And when you do that, after just three or four minutes, there will be what we professionals call streaming. Which means amoeboid lights of afterimage colors; the chartreuse and purple flowing by. And about three minutes after that it will deepen very, very quickly into extraordinarily bizarre—dare we say it—fairly DMT-like hallucinations. And it builds fast. I mean, so fast that there is this wonderful moment in it where you actually know real fear, which shows you that it’s working. Yeah, I mean, I really believe if you take a psychedelic and you’re not afraid you did too much, you didn’t do enough.

55:24

The experience then will unfold over about 45 minutes. And just lie there and look. And it is beautiful! It is beautiful. I mean, I’m a connoisseur of hallucination, and these deep indigo blues, these cerulean blues against blackness that are like neon, and these amorphous Yves Tanguy kind of shapes that are moving and transforming themselves. I mean, I was amazed! I couldn’t believe it! I was saying, “My God, this, legal? This is legal? And it’s working! It’s working!” And I am the hardest of the hard heads. I mean, I know people say, you know, here is tagetes lucida, this will get you off, here’s this, smoke this, knick’a’nick this, something. No, no, no, no, no. Nuh-uh, no, it doesn’t, it’s not like that, these things are rare. But this one works. And I commend it to your attention and your friends’ attention and anyone with shamanic intent. As I say, it’s perfectly legal to possess, advocate, the whole bit.

Yes?

Audience

[???]

56:37 McKenna

Salvia. It’s in the genus salvia. That’s the mint family. Sacred to pagans for millennia. Salvia—S-A-L-V-I-A. And then divinorum—D-I-V-I-N-O-R-U-M. The diviner’s mint. There’s—

Audience

[???]

56:57 McKenna

Well, yes. Let me say something about this that’s very interesting. Pardon me?

Audience

What’s its common name?

57:04 McKenna

Well, that’s what I was going to talk about. It’s native from Mexico. So it has no common name in English. In Spanish it has a very interesting common name. It’s called ojos de la pastora. Now, “the eyes of the shepherdess”—what a strange name. Think about it for a moment. First of all, notice that, in Christian iconography, there are no shepherdesses, period. Not one. We got shepherds, you got your shepherds there; Christmas. Shepherdess? No. So it’s called ojos de la pastora. Well then, the anthropologist who studied this, Bret Blosser—to whom we all owe a great debt; Hail Bret!—naturally these people are Tzotzil and Sotil. They’re in the mountains of Oaxaca. And so we said to them, “Well yes, Ojos de la pastora, very interesting. But what do you call it in your language? What do you call it in Tzotzil?” And they said, “Well, we have no name for it in our language.”

58:13

This is very, very interesting. And if any of you have any thoughts or want work on this, it’s inconceivable, if these people had used this for centuries, that they would not have a local Tzotzil name for it. So he said, “Why don’t you have a name for it?” And they said, “Because our grandfathers were the first to use it.” And this, we do not know what to make of it. Because salvia divinorum is known only from this very indemnified locality in the Sierra Mazateca. Where did it come from? Has it always been there? But these Indians only discovered it 200 years ago? Did it come from somewhere else? And if so, where? Because it’s never been located anywhere else on the planet. So this is a great puzzlement.

59:09

And I think if we move fast enough—we psychedelicos, we pagans, we neuronauts, we magicians—if we move fast enough, this will just be moot. And this is a far more powerful thing than cannabis. I mean, not if you’ve never smoked cannabis and then you sit down and smoke the best aff there is. But as we all know, after a while cannabis loses its ability to really catapult you into the unspeakable. The salvia divinorum, every time I have taken it, it’s gotten better and stronger and weirder. So I think it is sent from the goddess at this time—eyes of the shepherdess: these are the eyes we should be looking through.

59:57

Okay. I think several people at once asked, “Where do you get it?” You must each have your own favorite rare plant dealer. I don’t work for any rare plant dealer, and every time I mention one thousands of dollars flow into their coffers, which leaves me feeling slightly weird. Nevertheless, Of The Jungle, PO Box 1801, Sebastopol, California. Somebody sitting next to you already knows this, so I’m not gonna repeat it. That’s the one. And—

Audience

We have a plant. I just have a harvesting question.

McKenna

A harvesting question.

Audience

I’m an herbalist. We always harvest when the vital whatever are in the part of the plant that you would ingest. So normally, you’re going for a leaf, you harvest when leaves are in a strength. So once the purple flower sprites go on, do you wait until they die down until you harvest? Or do you harvest and just eat as you go?

1:01:06 McKenna

Well, we’re learning. We’re learning. And so far we’ve been fairly careful to eat it just as it’s approaching flowering.

Audience

Before the flower hasn’t gone into the flowering yet.

McKenna

Right. But, you do know, don’t you, that it may look like an annual but it’s a perennial. You can clip it off above a node and it will grow more.

Audience

[???] only with cutting [???]

McKenna

Yeah, no, seed is a pain. Try and do it with cuttings. That’s about all I can say about it. Alright, I’m gonna knock off. Thank you very much!



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