He’s probably the most adventurous mind in the choir today. I just want to say one little thing about the man himself, if any of you haven’t already heard of him. [???] intellectual the man is [???] and he’s doing lots of things. These scientists talk in ideas. So that’s it. Terence McKenna!
Terence will talk for a while, and then we’ll do questions and answers. What I’d like you to do is: if you have a question, write it on a piece of paper during the hour, and at the end of the hour bring it to us up here. I’ll be sitting at the back of the stage. So just give it to me, that way it works a bit more efficient.
Alright. I don’t know, do you sit, do you stand? What do you do? Is the sound good? Is the light good? So, are you happy to be here? Good. So am I.
Well, before I get into the bulk of the lecture tonight, I thought I would just give you some news from the frontier of pharmacology, which is that, for the second time in the twentieth century, a mega hallucinogen has been discovered that is active in microgram quantity.
You have the sound under control back there? Up there? Down there? Good.
So, what this is, is an incredible opportunity for the community. Because this compound that is active at 300 micrograms when smoked is not illegal anywhere in the world. To grow, to manufacture, to possess, to transport. So here is the story. For 45 years it’s been a commonplace of the botanical literature that there was a Mexican plant called salvia divinorum. Yes. But it was always said that it was either impossible to confirm its hallucinogenic activity, or whatever it was, it was so unstable that it would only persist in the plant a few hours after it was picked. About five years ago, an American anthropologist, one of our own, Fred Blosser [?], went to the Oaxacan mountains and spent some time with the Indians down there, and they showed him how to get off on the plant, the leaf. And he described to me and a number of other people quite extraordinary states of consciousness that were coming from this particular shamanic plant.
That’s where it rested until about ten months ago, when an underground chemist in an earthquake-prone city who prefers to remain anonymous set out to actually isolate the constituents of salvia divinorum. And in short order he overcame the conventional wisdom and produced a crystalline material active at the microgram range. To check what it was, he purchased a chromatographic standard of a compound called salvorin alpha that had been extracted from this plant fifteen years ago, and he smoked that. And the experience was identical. So we now know that there is a new chemical compound in the isoquinoline family that is active in the microgram range, that occurs in a plant that looks like Joe Plant. It’s a houseplant. It’s a window box plant. It’s a relative of the coleus. It grows from Nome to the equator. And it’s legal.
So for the first time since the psychedelic issue has been before the community, we have an opportunity to create a psychedelic community that is entirely within the law. No laws need to be changed, and no laws are broken, if we avail ourselves of this stuff—to manufacture it, to transport it, to use it, to explore it for psychotherapy, to do it onstage as I’m about to do… no, I’m kidding. I’m kidding! Steady, steady! Easy! And this is [???] by way of example to point out the fact that there are probably many such plants still to be discovered. The interesting thing about salvia divinorum is that it’s not related to any substance currently illegal. Therefore, the argument that it’s a structural relative of something illegal is also fallacious. So at least in the case of the American government, they will have to present medical and scientific evidence that there is a problem with this compound before it will be possible to make it illegal.
This is just one more example, along with ibogaine, phaleris, ayahuasca, so forth and so on, of the way in which the Earth itself is stepping in to aid in the agenda of cultural transformation. There are too many doorways in nature that lead to heaven, there are too many paths to the mystery for any institution or social policy to be able to thwart the intent of the human species to evolve. This is part of what this end-of-millennium cultural transformation is about: a rediscovery of the richness of the gifts of nature. I mentioned ibogaine: ibogaine is another hallucinogen, a West African plant, that induces intense visionary experiences, and it’s now being looked at by the National Institute for Drug Abuse in the United States as possibly a strong contender for being a pharmacological intervention on cocaine and heroin addiction. Imagine how the social understanding of the concept “altered state” and “psychoactive substance” would be changed if we discovered that the solution to many of our drug problems are drugs, you see! I mean, I maintain that they were the solution to many of our problems thousands and thousands of years ago, and that it was the creation of societies so constipated, so ego-bound, so hierarchically stratified that they couldn’t tolerate the presence of an ecstatic shamanism as a social phenomenon. It’s the rise of those kind of societies that have led us to the brink of planetary catastrophe.
So that sort of brings me to my major theme for the evening, or sort of what I wanted to explore with you. I’m interested in the question: is there any reason why smart people should hope? Is there any reason why people of analytical intelligence, who are connected up to the facts of the matter about the state of the world, should hope? The conventional wisdom is basically: no. The smart people who are straight are involved in simply the media management of what has turned into a slow apocalypse. Spreading starvation, exacerbated class differences, toxified agriculture, so forth and so on. I don’t believe the establishment thinks there are solutions. Their policy is basically the management of panic, which is hardly a forward-moving approach to the adventure of human civilization.
So in order to find permission to hope, to believe in something, the first thing you have to do is reconstruct your intellectual model of the universe from the very, very ground up. As long as you’re trying to make sense of reality inside the boundaries of the old paradigm, there’s no hope. There’s no way out of the box of capitalism, monogamy, consumer fetishism, egoism, money worship. No way out. No way. No way out. So what that means is: we have to return to first principles. We have to re-understand who we are in the universe, what we are in the universe, and what we mean to it. And in order to do that we have to—I almost used the word “attack,” but let’s be academic and say—provide a critique of science. Because this is the world that science built with the henchmen of capitalism and Christianity. But a critique of science that brings it to a new model of reality is the way to open a door to hope.
Okay. So here’s the deal. Science has overlooked two immensely salient facts about reality that are not abstruse and to be deduced from analyzing the contents of cyclotrons or the reflectivity data on the moons of Pluto. Science has missed two immensely obvious facts about reality, and here’s what they are. The first one is not such a stretch. The first fact is that, across all levels of phenomena—atomic, ordinary organic chemistry, biological systems, cultural systems, your life—across all levels of phenomena, the way nature works is that she conserves novelty. What I mean by this is that the universe produces novelty, and then it struggles to maintain it. The universe is a novelty-producing engine of some sort. And the further you move from the birth of the universe, the more novel the universe becomes, until you arrive here tonight. This is the most novel moment to date in the history of the universe. It is not only a world of astrophysical forces, or a world of astrophysical forces plus organic chemistry, or astrophysical forces, organic chemistry, plus biology, but this is a world that has all the levels of novelty that have accumulated throughout the career of the evolving universe. Each level built on the level which preceded it.
And one thing I want to point out about this is that this is the first—if you agree with this—then the first payoff is that, suddenly, human importance is taken back from the scientific view that we are the chancely evolved witnesses of meaningless process in an ordinary corner of a universe too vast to conceive or imagine. That incredibly disempowering picture of who we are in the cosmos is misled. The actual facts of the matter are that in our bodies, in our brains, in the culture that we have assembled, all the novelty that preceded us has been exploited and is expressed and is honored. We, then, begin to look like partners in the project of the production of novelty, and more novelty, and yet greater novelty. Okay, that’s the first fact which science overlooked: the conservation of novelty.
The second fact that science overlooked is more of a stretch in terms of the break with the past style of thinking that it requires. The second fact which science overlooked is the fact that each advance into novelty, each new level of novelty, occurs faster than the level which preceded it. This is incredibly important, because what it means is that the culmination of the novelty-producing process could be far closer to us in time than we might ordinarily suppose using scientific assumptions about reality. And those of you who have heard me before have heard me say history is the shockwave of eschatology. What that means is that the presence of ourselves on this planet—using culture, using language, transferring information electronically around the world—our presence on the planet means that the universal process of novelty-production has entered one of its very short cycles. And so what it means is that asymptotic acceleration of change is built into the structure of spacetime itself in this region of the cosmos. History is ending. Time is literally running out on this planet. And it isn’t about political mistakes or anything where we should blame ourselves. It’s in the structure of the fabric of spacetime itself.
And the proof of this is ourselves. Because the emergence of conscious human beings out of advanced primates occurred with such explosive suddenness that it, like history, argues that we are in the presence of a process that is quickly beginning to accelerate and cross boundary level after boundary level as it bursts through to greater and greater degrees of freedom. So I believe that we are actually preparing to decamp from ordinary history. I don’t know exactly what that means, but the continuation of history for decades, centuries, millennia is inconceivable. That is the hallucination of the establishment, because it cannot imagine the actual truth of the situation, which is that the cascade of forces—set off by Greek science, by the phonetic alphabet, by monotheism—this cascade of social forces is now propelling the entire global social structure into another dimension. Literally another dimension.
I mentioned the conservation of novelty. Now I want to go back over it from a slightly different point of view. If we analyze the way in which novelty has made its way into being, you see that it has consisted of a kind of conquest of dimensionality. The earliest lifeforms were probably long-chain polymers or viral particles or something. They were essentially points in the universe. They had no sensorium, no sense of direction, no sexuality, no sense of time. They were basically a point-like toe hole in matter by this thing which we call organic existence. Over time these lifeforms developed motility, meaning the ability to move. And they literally fumbled their way through a universe that they could not see, dealing with each moment sequentially. But this sequential exploration of spacetime represents the first conquest of dimensionality out of the point space. Later, organisms sequestered light-sensitive chemistry on their surfaces and became aware of the gradient of light, which gives the concept of “here” and “there,” and the possibility of moving toward the light. This is a further conquest of dimensionality. The rest of the whole history of life up until very recently, then, is the story of producing better organs of locomotion: better fins, better wings, better feet and arms, as higher and higher animals arise, ultimately coordinated binocular vision.
And then, at that point, rather than the conquest of dimensionality being halted, one particular organism makes an ontogenetic leap to the phenomenon of language. Language is a biological strategy for binding time—specifically, it’s a way of remembering what happened and anticipating what might happen. It explodes the animal consciousness away from the now and creates the incredibly complex web of syntactical and semiotic structures that we know as language. This process is very quickly—compared to previous developments—followed by a second development: the discovery of writing. Now it’s not simply a matter of handing on oral traditions from generation to generation. Suddenly, now, the freezing of time is a very realistic undertaking. Discourse flows into signs, signification, in clay and stone, and time is frozen. And the triangulation of the future proceeds through the evolution of a kind of mathematics that we see at Stonehenge and so forth.
This unique strategy that the advanced primates created, the strategy of using language to bind time, is what the process we call civilization has been all about. And now, with electronic media, enormous databases, the ability to use Telenet and Usenet, and move around the planet from library to library with a few keystrokes, essentially we are completing the program of downloading all of the past into virtual accessibility. And as we do this we are essentially propelling ourselves into this much ballyhooed domain called cyberspace. Cyberspace is the human transition into a mathematical superspace where we, as a collectivity, become optionally a single point of view.
Okay. Now, what this all means, then, is that human history and biological evolution—and in fact the entire unfolding of the process of the universe—it is not something pushed from behind, like the falling of a row of dominoes. In other words, the scientific assumption of causal necessity is only part of the story. The universe is under the spell of what I call a transcendental object, or what chaos theory calls an attractor. There is actually a teleological arrow to process. It is being drawn through, ever into, ever more novel domains. And it all spends less time in each domain of novelty until it moves on to the next one. This is what Whitehead called concrescence. It’s what it means that, in a hundred years, we’ve got from a world where most people didn’t possess telephones to a world where most people can call anywhere on the planet as long as they can afford it.
Concrescence: the knitting together, the dissolving of boundaries. This is the key to novelty. Novelty is achieved by the flowing together of domains that were previously separate. They may be the half-[???] portions of the chromosome, or rich people and poor people, or ravers and travelers, or Marxists and Democrats. The point is: ideas become constipated when they’re sealed away from other idea systems. The main thing going on in the twentieth century is a dissolving of boundaries; all the boundaries that historical civilization put in place. I mean, what have the past thousand years been about except building class differences, race differences, sexual differences, we’ve had religious wars, we have factionalism. It’s how we relate to the world, with the final culmination being the dog-eat-dog vision of nature that we inherit from British natural science in the nineteenth century. Now, the new metaphor is fusion, union, cross-fertilization, dissolution of boundaries, melding into an enormous stew of virtual and interactive creativity.
What this is all leading to, I believe, is—well, what I call the big bang. I’m sorry, the big surprise. And as I describe it to you, the reason I said big bang is because I want you to remember, as I describe this cosmogony to you, what is stored, somehow, in the DNA. You remember there are vast segments of the DNA which do not appear to be dedicated to genetic transcription of proteins. These have always been dismissed by science; the so-called silent sequences. But the silent sequences may not be designed to be read by a ribosome to produce a protein, the silent sequences of DNA may be, in fact, encoded information; the sort of information you and I think of as information. And when the drug molecule fits in there, it broadcasts an expanded electron spin resonance signal off the molecule, and this is the psychedelic experience. It’s being conducted into the Akashic memory banks where all this DNA-coded information is happening. The fact is: that’s pure speculation, and there are many molecular biologists who would sneer at it. But they’re not on as secure ground as they suppose.
If there is one issue in the past 40 years that science has failed utterly to make any progress on, it’s the question of memory. No one understands how it works. And the best models to date are completely inadequate to the data. So I believe that the game is not in on this. And it would make a certain amount of sense, wouldn’t it? The psychedelic experience sort of is like experiencing a vast blast of memory data. Those of you who’ve done it, have you noticed that weird “now I’m an infant again” aura that sometimes attends it? I mean, when I do DMT I actually feel my body proportions become infantile. I feel my head get bigger and my legs shrink. I mean, it’s only a part of the experience. You have to notice it. But it seems to me very suggestive that we are actually entering hyperspace. You are experiencing yourself—your whole life, not just now, but back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back. There’s lots of work to be done.
Is the intensity of the DMT experience diminished when you take it with an MAO inhibitor?
Does the DMT experience diminish when you take it with MAO inhibitors? I would think that you might lock it in at a fairly high level of intensity. Yes it does. Definitely does. Be sure you’re prepared before you try that stuff.
Other people I know have tried DMT and had ordinary trippy experiences—E.T. aliens, [???]. No one has had these [???] experiences you describe. Could it all be in the mind, and you see these things because you have a wide scientific, academic background in your head already?
Well, the thing about DMT is that it does make a certain demand of courage. And the leather-lunged smokers among us are in a superior position. The difference between one toke and two is enormous. The difference between two tokes and three is staggering. So you have to push it. And I believe that it’s quite safe. I mean, people say: is it dangerous? And you know my answer: only if you fear death by astonishment. But that’s not a joke! Death by astonishment doesn’t seem like such an unlikely proposition when you’re out there. So you sort of have to gauge—a friend of mine once said of DMT: every time I do it I try to stand more. And that’s what it’s like, because ultimately it is going to overwhelm your intellectual machinery. If it doesn’t blow it out in the first thirty seconds, it will blow it out later. Because, ultimately, the mind fails, the descriptive apparatus melts, the measuring instruments are vaporized, and the thing is just what it is. But you want to proceed carefully, but with courage. With courage. And if your friends tell you you’re getting nutty, you should listen to them. Because it does have a tendency to magnify inflationary images in the psyche. In other words, if you’re not flawlessly solid, it will act like an x-ray of just where the fault lines lie in your particular worldview.
This question is: do you believe that it is necessary to be in a certain mindspace before entering a trip to give maximum effect? Well, it’s very simple. It’s six hours without food, and silent darkness. Telephones unplugged. Comfortable, reassuring environment. That’s all. It’s not about tanks, and it’s not about social situations like this, that are dense with noise, people, pheromones, social signaling. I mean, it would rip you apart, a really deep trip. Let’s not underrate cannabis, for cryin’ out loud. I mean, I think cannabis should be the glue of the community. It’s really important to go botanical, to be as botanical psychedelic as possible. You see, the very best of the white powder drugs are still impossible to verify as to purity and source. So it’s just a fool’s game. But plants will not play you false. So I think that’s very important.
Do you think the industrial-political system will be able to manipulate consciousness through technologies [???] and prevent our minds evolving by accepting the transcendental object?
Well, this thing about fearing technology in any form—what you don’t understand is: when you go into these places like AutoDesk and Silicon Graphics and like that, you have the suits above the 20th floor. But everybody below the 20th floor has hair down to their ass, is heavily tattooed, pierced. They’re rocking. So we own this technology. They do not understand it. You know, it was a miracle that Richard Nixon could erase umpteen and a half minutes on a tape recorder and get it right. They have to pay us to run their technology. They can’t write code. They can’t run the nets. It belongs to us. And I see this trend simply accelerating. The technical community is by no means part of the opposition. The technical community is going to be there when we reach the barricades.
What kind of music or sound, if any, would you use on DMT? And also, what does DMT sound like?
What kind of music would I use with DMT? Well, I have done DMT with music, but I’ve regretted it nearly every time. I’ve done it with Locatelli’s Violin Concerto № 11, that was a long—and the reason these are not contempo deals is because I haven’t done it with music for thirty years because it alarmed me. I did it with Karlheinz Stockhausen, and that really alarmed me. As far as what DMT sounds like, it sounds… well, somewhat like this: shhhhwwwwweee ooooophhhhh tk tk tk ssshhhhhhwwwwwwlwlllllwwwwwhwhhhhhh. And then, of course, that’s the kind of sucking, pulling thing that happens as you tumble down these disystolic, organismic hallways that are pulling and tugging you forward. And then, of course, you get in—at least for me—into the (what I call) elf hive, and then there is for me and for some people—I mean, it hits people differently. I saw a woman not long ago, it was very interesting, have the most amazing orgasm I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of people do DMT, and this just left everybody’s jaw hanging. This woman, a very nondescript sort of person, but she certainly got on. And she was saying during it, “Don’t send me back. I can’t leave you. I can’t leave you.” What happens to me (in reference to the sound thing) is: language. I see elves, sort of; dribbling, self-jeweled basketballs. But the main activity at the higher doses is that these autonomous machine elf soul creatures make objects with language. Somehow, language in the DMT state is transduced through the eyes. You see syntax. And you are in fact impelled to join with them in these long, spontaneous bursts of language-like activity that sound sort of like this: Glee beejing ninguak obop buiing-nik booap neeedz zibbip woohooak beeg napoooo waa oowamane gudhek weeep dingmeehemm wahakitee ho hejem woolzege rehereaghu njeheeeeeh.
Gristo shevoo hoi hokemadyedei zwuegewik eeeabulje bwoomuone gabohegeu ewwhe muwzmmhmmhmmmmmmm!
I like this one. So what holds us together, or does it just let it go? Will we become insane in a conventional meaning?
No. We’ll redefine sanity. We’ll carry the definition with us. This is what’s insane: the city outside and the governments and the institutions. We won’t become insane. We are awakening. This is what’s happening; the long nightmare of human history that James Joyce talked about. We are awakening, and the truth you think you see, the truth of your own intuition, is the truth! You don’t need somebody handing this stuff down from on high. You simply have to open your eyes. You know, if it looks like horse shit, if it talks like horse shit, if it walks like horse shit, it probably is horse shit!
Do you think we will [???] the cause of time and eventually create common awareness? Or do you think we will destroy ourselves in our insensitive attitude towards the planet? Do we have enough time to… [???]
Yeah. No, I’m an absolute optimist. I am absolutely certain as I stand before you that everything is on track. I mean, the mushroom has said this is what it’s like when a species prepares to depart for the galactic center. This is what planets come into existence for. We are about to part ourselves from the placenta of three-dimensional space. Information is reeling itself up and preparing to take a step into another dimension. Everything is changing. Everything always has been changing. But now it is changing so quickly that, within the confines of an individual life, the entire cosmic drama, it can be encapsulated. We are each fractal histories of the universe. It is within us as a community, as individuals. Nothing can stop this. This is not a political movement. This is as inevitable as continental drift or the sunspot cycle. It is now time to decamp from three-dimensional space. 15,000 years ago it was time for the descent from the garden into history, to take hold of the tools that will allow us to free our minds, our bodies, our planet, our identity, our destiny. This is what it’s all been about.
What, Terence, do you think specifically that America has to inspire? American [???]?
Well, we’re fighting a meme war here, aren’t we? We have to use the media to prosecute our agenda. The other side has all the guns, all the money. The only problem is: if they win, everybody dies. So our friend is the information transfer network; the media. We have to set in motion memes: models that will attract loyalty. Remember last year? I quoted William Blake and I said, “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.” It’s as simple as that. The obligation on us is to communicate the truth so that it is understood. The belief will take care of itself. And, you know, I’m all for this zippy thing. It’s a high-stakes game because a stumble will delay the agenda. But I’ve been coming to Britain now for five years, and each time I’ve seen this same expand, broaden, deepen, and I’ve seen its resolve coalesce. And I think it’s now to take this thing on the road. You know, America’s undergoing the illusion of a liberal administration. I think we need to strike at the great beast before Ross Perot takes off.
We’re getting near the end. After Terence, afterwards we’re going to have a Tibetan healing doctor [???] sounds. There’ll also be Terence’s latest book [???] signing after [???]
Invisible Landscape is all around here. It’s also out in America now, but I don’t know if anybody’s imported it into Britain yet. It is out. It’s great. I’m very happy with it. I’m ready to retire at this point. My message is essentially done whilst that book is available.
[???] typically millenniarian [???] year 2000 shapes consciousness? What do you think? I’ve often wondered [???] year 2000 as well, because I think if we can’t agree on whether the year 2000, what the hell are we ever going to agree about?
Well, I’m not so… if you look at the time wave you’ll see that the year 2000 is lined up with events in Christian history so hysterical that we might as well hand it over to—
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