So in beginning this tonight I’d like to quote a thing that was in the pamphlet that we put out, and this was by author Tom Robbins who says, “Terence McKenna is the most important and the most entertaining visionary scholar in America. To be uninformed of his ethnobotanical discoveries is to be oblivious to the central thrust of human consciousness, which is not to survive with the dung beetles, but to soar with the gods.” Enough of the dung beetles! So anyway, that gives you a little idea what people are saying about Terence. One other thing, too, I neglected to mention. If you would care to [???] for the entire weekend, your fee for tonight and for tomorrow night will be applied. So just see some of the people out front and they’ll help you. So Terence, the plot thickens and the stakes rise. Welcome to Maui!
Yeah, it hasn’t been so long. Let’s see, can you hear? Is it working? It’s working but it needs to be close. Like this. Rock’n’roll style. Alright.
Well, yes. I was here not so very long ago, but three countries ago and thousands of United Airlines meals ago, it would seem. I want to thank Gary and Robin for bringing me back to Maui. I’m living on a neighbor island now—Kauai. No, another neighbor island. But don’t try to find me. I’m writing two books on deadline.
So, the plot thickens, the stakes rise. That’s sort of the theme. Or to put it another way, the way things are now is not the way they were once, and not the way they soon will be. This is a unique sort of turning point moment here, and it’s not simply the end of the century, or the aging of the baby boomers, or the last gasp of political idealism. It’s sort of all those things run together. And I think in the way that human lives are often mirrors of the historical milieu, it sort of puts me into a mood of reflection. I haven’t actually talked to an audience for about two months, which for me is a long, long time. Long enough to reflect on what it means to relate to people this way about the things that we talk about. And I’ve come sort of to the realization that, in a sense, a phase of what I was trying to do is completed. I decided about ten years ago that I would give up my worst habits and the things I love the best, which are solitude, and promulgate a whole smörgåsbord of ideas that it seemed to me there was enough merit in these ideas that one person could sacrifice their life—if they were willing to—and it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time. So now, in a sense, my job is done. Because what I consider the great ideas of my life are surely now communicated, promulgated, discussed—not accepted, no. The final prize is withheld at the moment. But after all, that only goes to a very few. So in thinking about what I should say to you tonight, I thought I would try [???] perspective to what I’ve been doing, and then see how it points to the future. And hopefully it has some general application.
I formulated it this way just ten days ago, because both Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham, who are my co-authors on one book and co-conspirators in more plots than can be told, visited me. And Ralph has now left the university, Rupert has given all hope up of ever being accepted by the British scientific establishment. If you add our ages and divide by three, you get fifty. So it was in a sort of reflective mood that we looked at where this intellectual revolution has come and where it might go.
The two things that I’ve been interested to talk about, strangely enough, have in my own mind neither been the psychedelic experience per se. The first thing that I was concerned to talk about was what I call the problem of human emergence, or: how is it that out of advanced animals and over a very brief period of time you get symphony-composing, architecture-constructing, society-building creatures of a complexity like ourselves? In spite of my own early religious cynicism (as a recovering Catholic), I eventually came to see human history as the strongest argument for the presence of the divine on the planet. I was scientist enough, evolutionary enough, to know that groundhogs, glaciers, great whales do not require supernatural explanations, Given millions upon millions of years, and these things come to pass. But hip hop? Evel Knievel? NBC? These are things so unlikely, so peculiar, that a natural universe could never spawn them. They require the presence of some kind of demonic second force. In other words: we humans represent such a radical break with nature that a radical explanation is going to be necessary to account for our presence here. I mean, kicked out of a passing spaceship, that was one theory. Made from a lump of clay by God on a rainy day, that was another theory. But clearly, some special intervention was necessary. And it seemed to me—and I’ve talked to you about this before, so I won’t rehearse the hard facts once again—but it seemed to me that psychedelic plants (with their extraordinary effect on mammalian nervous systems, sexuality, cognitive processes, so forth and so on) were the necessary trigger to propel a higher animal into the kind of curious social dimension that we have inhabited for the past 50,000–100,000 years.
And, to make that point, I called upon the psychedelics. They were a necessary piece of evidence in that argument. And I had, of course, experienced them myself. And it seems obvious that my critics haven’t. But for whatever reason, the obviousness of this breakthrough to me has not proven transferable to the anthropology and primatology departments of universities around the world. Nevertheless, it has proven transferable to you, dear people. The intelligent laymen is how I’m casting you here. Because it sounds right. Because it makes sense. Now, the nonsense about extended throwing arm and enhanced social skills and all that balderdash that’s being pitched around in the universities seems very inadequate to explain the emergence of a form as radical as our own. So that was the first foray into theory-making driven by psychedelic insights—and psychedelics as possible chips in the game of explanation. I mean, who had ever used psychedelics to explain anything up until that point? It was just thought better not to mention them. So I thought of that as sort of my special theory of morphogenesis—or formative causation, which is what morphogenesis means. The special theory of morphogenesis, because it related to a special case of morphogenesis, specifically: the emergence of human beings from higher primates in a very short time.
The other idea that I’ve been concerned to talk to people about, and that has caused rationalists to desert me in droves (damn their eyes) is a little more close to home and at the same time a bit of a stretch. And that is having the idea that psychedelic experience are, at high doses, actually journeys into higher dimensions. Not in a metaphorical sense, not in a poetic sense, but in a mathematical sense. That, in fact, what happens is that this stuff which we call “mind” takes the shape of its container the way water takes the shape of a container. And when mind is folded down into the tiny, eentsy-beentsy, cramped container of bourgeois American materialist republican cowly existence, it becomes a kind of a narrow experience of some sort, you know what I mean? But that this cultural folding of mind into this receptacle of cultural values can be magically reversed by simply dissolving the confines of the cultural receptacle and allowing the true dynamics of mind to assert themselves. And this we call transcendental consciousness, psychedelic experience, spiritual experience, whatever. But it’s a transcending of ordinary reality that I read as mathematical. Not mysterious in principle at all—although certainly, to two-dimensional creatures, a three-dimensional world appears mysterious; and to ourselves, a four-dimensional world appears mysterious.
And I was led—and I’ve written books about how I was led, if you’re interested in confessional literature; what is it called? True Hallucinations, yes. Yes. True Hallucinations is the narrative one. The fiction—not fiction, but it has characters. People talk dirty. That’s what I mean by fiction. The one that tells the story of being led deeper and deeper into this idea. And what this idea entails is a complete reconstruction of our ideas about time. I think time is where we have really suffered under the aegis of Western values; unconsciously. Because we have imbibed the notion that time is things which it is not, and that, consequently, we are not. And my meditation took the form of a search for a mathematical theory, which you’ll be spared here this evening to your great relief. I hope you can recognize good luck when you hear it coming at you! But the conclusion was that history could only be what it is if it were the annunciatory phase of something even more dramatic. In other words, nature without history is a tree standing alone on the horizon. History is the quaking of that tree for unseen and mysterious reasons. It means that nature—after abiding on this planet in organic form for 500 million years—makes a decision to make a sudden move leftfield into a whole new domain. There hasn’t been an experiment of this grandiosity since amphibians began intoxicating themselves on brief gulps of air.
In other words, history—and this has to be explained, but I love it because it seems to me it sums the whole thing up—history is the shockwave of eschatology. What that means is that history is not pushed from behind, from the past, from the big bang, or World War II, or the Nixon administration, or any of that. History is pulled by the future. The human adventure in time is under the control of an attractor that lies ahead of us in the story, not behind us in the story. And so this curious plottedness that haunts our lives that we call synchronicity or magic or good luck is, in fact, the high walls of the attractor, the high walls of the groove in which the story must run—for no other reason than it has already run in it for so long.
Well, once you have this notion of an attractor at the end of time, then you can do one of two things with it. You can sanitize it and escape its implications by saying that it’s a billion years in the future, 100,000 years in the future, 10,000 years in the future. These are ways of saying: don’t worry, keep working, keep punching the clock, keep pulling that voting lever, keep buying those hair care and body products. Don’t give it a thought. But now, the other course you can take is to make a sign for yourself which says: repent (or something like that), the key phrase being: “for the end is near!” And then we have a place for you. There’s a large park in the city of London where you’re welcome to push this point of view along with other points of view. And this is the path that I chose, simply because I always have had a hard time telling a good investment from a bad one. And it does; it takes the pressure off, you’re right.
It seems to me that the signs are all around us. You don’t have to be a psychedelic aficionado. You don’t have to be a fan of the maelstrom at the end of time to notice that we are making it very difficult for ourselves to continue with business a usual—by replicating like fleas, by cutting down the forests, by instilling in every tiny beating heart of us the desire for a Mercedes, a triple-car garage, and a house in St. Tropez. By doing these things, in a practical and material assessment of the situation, we are making ordinary history impossible. And the ordinary political response is to get quite dithered about all of this. And I share that dithering—up to a point. Up to a point, because I am (however nutty my theories) personally a rationalist in the sense that I think nutty theories may end up being right, but they have to be tried on the same anvil of the rules of evidence of any other theory. In other words, it isn’t the testimony of people who live in trailer courts that will secure this or any other point of view, it’s investigatable facts and reproducible results. That’s why I’ve always been so fond of psychedelics, because it was miracle by demand, you know? You may believe in flying saucers, but produce one under pressure—it can’t be done. Where the skeptics of the psychedelic experience are incredibly careful about avoiding direct contact with the matter under investigation. Their very fastidiousness in this department should be a clue to you as to what respect they hold these things in.
So, by a vicus mode of recirculation, two ideas. One: the idea that interacting with psychoactive plants in a kind of symbiotic relationship propelled a higher animal into self-reflecting consciousness, language, and culture. And two: a deeper idea, a more universal idea—a longer shot, granted. And that is that the weirdness of human history is actually an anticipatory phase to a kind of transition of dimension that organic life is on the brink of undergoing. And that the reason we are so peculiar, so self-contradictory, so—you know, Thomas Hobbes said, “Man to man is like unto an errant beast, and man to man is like unto a god.” And the reason for this paradox, I think, is that history—which lasts, let’s be generous, 25,000 years? The most interesting part in the last 10,000—it happens in the wink of an eye. And yet, we individuals, our lives are so ephemeral that for us 10,000 years is 3,000 generations. And so for us it’s very prolonged. But if we had the view of the good Lord or friendly eternal extraterrestrials we would see that the glaciers melted 22,000 years ago, and then there was scrambling, and then there was spaceflight, global culture, cybernetic networks, DNA sequencing, and, and, and—“And what?” is the question.
The technosphere, the biosphere, the cultural sphere (which Teilhard de Chardin called the noösphere) is in a state of forced self-transformation. We’re undergoing—and by “we” I don’t know where the “we” stops. Is it smart white people? All people? All mammals? All life? Everything right down to the atoms of the planet?—we are all in the grip of a transformative attractor. An attractor which over very long periods of time produced stable biosystems, [???] and jungles full of life; over a very short period of time (thousands of years) has produced human civilizations, art movements, dynastic families, languages, migrations; and since 1945 (pick a number), we have been in a kind of hyper-accelerated phase where culture has not changed that much, what has changed is technology. Technology is now evolving at such a rate—I was saying to someone today: we don’t even have software that pushes our hardware to its limits. No one now knows the limits of our hardware. It’s a software writer’s challenge to even find the edge of what these machines can do.
But it isn’t—and I want to stress this—it isn’t something that we are doing. It isn’t something that is being driven by human political or social agenda. It is that we—like the dolphins, like the groundhogs, like the giant squid and the honeybee—we are embedded in the matrix of physics, of the actual underlying facts of the local structure of this universe. And what has happened is: we are on a collision course with something we can’t even describe or imagine. We have a vocabulary of things you can run into. You can run into other planets, bad weather, large asteroids, mercenary or missionary extraterrestrials, so forth and so on. What we are about to run into is none of the above. Something much more peculiar. Let’s call it a hyper-dimensional white hole. Let’s call it a mirror traveling backward at the speed of light through time. Let’s call it last week’s laundry list. Whatever you call it, the point is: it’s going to blow your mind.
And at this point in time the only anticipation is in recourse to these shamanic experiences of boundary dissolution that we are calling psychedelic and stigmatizing furiously as a kind of social heresy. It is a kind of social heresy. Because real heresies are always about truck with truths that don’t want to be articulated, that are literally unthinkable or unsayable. And this is the kind of situation in which we find ourselves, suspended halfway between the animal and the transcendental. At the end of the 20th century with all the contradictions of Western civilization seething in our laps, it now turns out that there is a kind of redemption that hovers in an intermediate space between secular and religious. It isn’t the return of the goddess, it isn’t divine retribution, it’s the laws of physics seem to be about to rescue us from ourselves. And, in fact, our entire career through time has been at the whim of an imploding set of physical laws.
That’s worth a drink, I think!
So I don’t think anyone would give me the time of day were it not for the fact that what’s waiting at the end of the road I’m describing has been repeatedly visited in one form or another by many, many people. These psychedelic voyagers. People have been there, done that. They have seen the end. You know, Plato said, “Time is the moving image of eternity.” Time is the moving image of eternity. Shamanism is a worldwide technique, 50,000 years old if it’s two weeks old, that is designed for the specific purpose of entering into something called eternity, or the dream time, or some other place. In many, many languages, the word for “shaman” translates as “go-between.” A shaman is someone who can move between the culturally validated, linguistically created world of the tribal entity and the something else. The unspeakable that lies outside of cultural values, outside cultural convention, is only accessed in dream and in symbolic activity such as dance, chanting, trance. As rationalists, we have tended to dismiss these phenomena as stemming from the unconscious, stemming from epistemological naïveté on the part of these people—brother, if that isn’t bullshit put-down on somebody who you don’t understand! You say, “Well, you’re epistemologically naïve and… that’s why I look like an idiot to you.”
In a sense, this is, I think, what we were always born for. It’s very clear that we are the creatures of the imagination. That—at some very early point now lost back there in the orgiastic primal African past—we moved into the domain of symbolic activity: being able to evoke for each other pictures in our heads with small mouth noises. And out of that we have woven the fabric of material civilization, which is our great accomplishment: this multi-phasic, multi-adaptable enterprise that we are involved in that is unlike anything another biological species undertakes anywhere. We learned to do this. And technology—which some people are phobic of and other people tend to think of as epiphenomenal—I think is entirely central to what is going on. Technology begins with language. Language is the neatest, cleanest, least polluting, most non-toxic technology ever developed. Of course, it has some fairly toxic consequences, because you can download some pretty mother-heavy ideas into language, like how to build hydrogen bombs or get rid of the Jews or something like that. All of these ideas have ridden on the back of language. But language in and of itself is a perfect model for technology.
And arriving some little while after the invention of language, depending on whose libretto you’re reading, comes writing. Writing is clearly a technology, and it’s a technology for what? For freezing thought. For downloading information into a non-degradable medium for perfect recall. The long road to digitizing begins with writing. And our relationship to the past—which is time, notice—changes with these technologies. Language was clearly a strategy for binding time. That’s what you do with it. That’s why we live in a different kind of time world than the animals do. They don’t refer back to the time when I encountered a threat exactly like this one. [???] substitute that kind of process with instinct. But as we moved away from instinct, we moved into these information-based technologies: writing, then the book, an in our own time an explosion of technologies that have frozen all time. I mean, we now know from movies like Forrest Gump that people who never even lived at the same time can mingle together in the collective cultural memory. Marilyn Monroe can have an affair with Albert Einstein in cyberspace. What it means to both of them, since they’re dead, I’m not sure. But what it means to the rest of us is whatever we make of it.
So technology has this curious accelerating quality that is so important now as we approach what I call the transcendental object at the end of time. It is being mirrored in our machines, in the machines that we are creating. And the most dramatic machines that we are creating—completely unhindered by the petty bourgeois and its petty concerns—hour by hour, day by day, around the clock, an enormous invisible technology is knitting itself into existence. And it doesn’t change the look of the landscape. But it is drawing together human beings to the point where all minds on the planet are simultaneously inhabiting a cultural superspace. This is called the Internet, the world wide web. And what it is, is: it’s a recreation through engineering technologies of the kind of telepathic archaic social space that we lived in before the fall into history. History is a huge downer. It literally was the state of mind that rushed in to fill the vacuum when, through the abandonment of psychedelics, we broke the connection with the Gaian mind.
And now, strange to say, at the very apex of this process of alienation and technological entrancement, we’re finding that technology can be a mirror for Gaian intent. That we can’t manage ourselves without genuflecting to these higher levels of managerial coordination that the Internet makes possible. I think, in a way, what we’re doing is: we’re erasing the boundaries between technology and nature. The Internet now is something which runs along telephone lines and is transduced through computers. But in fifteen years, those computers will be simply black patches pasted on the back of your fingernails. The entire infrastructure, the technical appurtenances that protrude into three-dimensional space, can be turned into prosthetic implants and earwax and who knows what else, and serve us very diligently in that form.
So it’s very clear that, visually, we are returning to an archaic mode, but carrying with us all the presuppositions of technological existence. And I’m not sure whether we can maintain our hold on the human form, or whether we will even want to. There’s a great bifurcation ahead for the managerial community—let’s assume it exists, for god’s sake. And that bifurcation is: we’re going to have to make a decision about human nature. To wit, is this our home to be cherished and nurtured? An incredible pearl flung out in a universe of ashes and darkness? Or is this a hell world, a tiny confining prison at the edge of a dying universe from which it is our destiny to break free and recover our higher and hidden nature, from which we have become separated? It’s very hard to see how we’re going to be able to massage the data so we can have it both ways.
And yet, this is a choice which, as a culture, we face. Are we to go into the divine imagination and create starships the size of Manitoba that will fly between here and Andromeda and exist in a world of our complete syntactical self-expression? Or is man’s place humbler than that? Is that grandiose, steeped with megalomania, touched with the kind of political taint that’s had us raping and pillaging ever since we got out of those miserable ice-bound villages in Jutland or wherever it was? Is it that, or is it our challenge and our destiny? It’s really a choice about human nature. And who knows, there may be enough creativity in the mix that we can divide the tribe. You know, a “meek shall inherit the Earth” deal. And where the other people go is not said.
But I think that, as individuals—and I guess this is really for you personally, maybe, what makes this all important—as individuals we have been too willing to be taught and led, when what is really out there to blow your mind is not some regurgitation of previously achieved conclusions, but experience. The world is far weirder than the maddest among us suppose. You know, the guy gibbering in the stairwell and excreting in your window box: it’s weirder than he can suppose! And the key to understanding this is not brainless gullibility. I mean, if you’re just brainlessly gullible and buy into everything which comes down the pike, then the world is stranger than you can suppose and you don’t even have to leave your apartment. But what’s interesting is: you can be hard-nosed, you can be a rationalist, you can be a “show me” kind of person, you can be from Missouri, and you can still satisfy yourself that the world is freakish beyond the wildest imaginings of George Bush or even Billy Clinton.
And the key to doing this is to push the edges. We shouldn’t huddle together in cities, around collective activities sanctioned by the great corporations that have done so much for us. We should break out, go to the edge. And I know there are many edges in theory—sexuality, drugs, travel… there must be others… art appreciation! After all, it doesn’t all have to be sweat and tumble, you know? And some of these work better than others for some people. I mean, for some people sex is no big deal. For some people travel is no big deal. Terrible pain in the neck, they have to fly to Paris—they can’t stand it. For some people, psychedelics are no big deal. I mean, don’t ask me how they manage that. I assume they’re either not taking enough or [???]. But maybe there are people who find Paris boring and can turn away from squirm as well. I don’t know.
On my agenda these were the things that worked. Sexuality, psychedelic drugs, and travel. Because they break patterns. Because they inject novelty. And travel is great, and sex is a wonderful domestic activity, but psychedelics hold the key in this domain of absolutely astonishing you until you’re just gasping for breath and flopping around on the ground. I mean, when was the last time that you were actually sick with amazement? You know? When was the last time you were actually white with sheer terror? Probably—unless you’ve been caught in automobile accidents or landslides—it was a psychedelic experience. Because these things deliver authentic emotion. Authentic data. And the bum bit of history is that it depotentiates human individuals. Just in order to live inside a historical society you have to sculpt yourself down and down and down. You mustn’t be in other people’s face. You mustn’t thrust your ethnicity or your gender or your tattoo or whatever it is too… you mustn’t flaunt. Everything is confined. This is the attitude of history. It’s what’s called being part of the public. The public is a concept that was created in the Renaissance. It was created by print. There never before was that notion. It’s something necessary for democracies to do business: there has to be a public. But when we identify with the public, we essentially become creatures of the herd. Eccentricity is mitigated against. That’s why this very small flute theme called bohemianism just will not die in Western civilization. You know, it’s always been there. It was there before rave, before punk, before rock’n’roll, before jazz, before the impressionists, before the romantics, back, back, back. There was always this strain of dissent, because it’s the lifeline of sanity in Western society. And every time the bastions of bullshittery grow weak, the bohemian thread expands its options; offers itself as an alternative.
And I don’t think is an eternal dance of frustration. I think eventually this archaic return—which is what this bohemian thing has always represented—will be felt, will be heard. We have very little time now. If I believed that salvation had to come from political institutions, I would just throw up my hands and despair. It’s very hard for people, sometimes, to figure out whether I’m an optimist or not. Let’s get something straight here. I am the most optimistic person you have ever met. I’m absolutely convinced that there is nothing wrong, and that nothing can go wrong, and that nothing will go wrong, and that if something needs to be done you will find yourself doing it. Now, all purveyors of this kind of goody two-shoes point of view have to, then, come to terms with: well, how come the world is such a terrible place? Well, it’s a terrible place because it is an interference pattern composed of many times and many places. And there is no peace until the end. There is no let-up in pressure until the end.
As we approach the transcendental object at the end of time, history moves faster and faster. We have been approaching this transcendental object since before there was a “we” to speak of in human terms. In other words, this is the same attractor that pulled life out of the oceans, caused primates to stand on their hind legs, and so forth and so on. But obviously—pick a number—about 20,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, the process quickened. We turned a corner. Everything began to move faster. And again, at the fall of Rome: faster, faster. And again, in the 20th century: faster, faster, faster. Well, nobody has drawn the obvious conclusion from this: if we’re going faster and faster faster and faster, then—hell!—we’re going to get somewhere pretty soon! And that’s where I think we are. We can hardly go any faster without the speed of our acceleration passing into the domains of humanly cognizable time.
In other words, the reason things are getting weirder and weirder is because the spacetime continuum itself is accelerating. It’s entirely possible that the last half of the life of the universe will happen in about three percent of the total life of the universe. Nobody said that it has to take as long going down as took to come up. It may be that the coming up took a long, long time, and the going down can be catastrophic, sudden, unexpected—“dynamic,” we say. And that’s why I take—and I return to this theme because, hey, I return to all themes—but I return to this theme now that history is an anticipation. History is the last call that the train is leaving the station. You know? The call echoes back to Çatalhöyük and slightly beyond. But in our own lifetime it’s now palpable.
You know, all you have to do is close your eyes in a quiet place, twist up a bomber, think, and you will behold the transcendental object at the end of time. You can feel it informing your own life. I mean, you spend a good deal of time denying it because rationalists tell you you’re either losing your mind or it’s impossible and it can’t be happening. But this sense of plottedness, of connectedness, this sense that we are all in a universal drama playing to a close, this sense that we are larger than ourselves, that we are somehow characters on a stage. This is a phenomenon of the light at eventide. This is a phenomenon of the final moments of the cosmic drama.
And I think it’s tremendously exciting. I think this is what nature set about 700 million years ago on this planet. That it’s not about chipmunk after chipmunk after chipmunk for eons after eon after eon. I mean, a little of that goes a long ways, I’m sure you’ll agree with me. That’s all very fine. But the way nature works is: she builds upon her complexity. Having achieved one level of complexity, it sinks into the background and becomes the platform for yet further complexity. So out of molecules comes life. Out of life comes climaxed ecosystems. Out of those ecosystems: higher animals. Out of higher animals: human beings. Out of human beings: technologically motivated human beings. And out of them: something which we can barely imagine. And many of us don’t even want to try.
We can feel that we’re more than animal. We have this dimension which we call spiritual. And some of us buy into some off-the-shelf explanation. Catholicism, Mormonism, Jainism, something like that. Others of us wrestle with it. Or we smörgåsbord it, and a little Kabbalah, a little Taoism, a little Tantra, a little Hasidism. It doesn’t matter. Do that. But whatever it is, we wrestle with this part of ourselves which cannot be simply dismissed as monkey meat. And I think that it is the soul. That the soul is actually an entity in history seeking to be born. And that the enterprise of history is the creation of the collectivity as an eternal, indestructible, trans-dimensional object of some sort. The tool at the end of time.
I’ve quoted probably to you before this thing from Yeats about “once out of nature I would be a thing of gold and gold enameling set to sing before the lords and ladies of Byzantium of what has been and what will be.” In other words, out of organic existence comes something not exactly inorganic, but not exactly organic. A mechanical nightingale fit to sing before the emperor of Byzantium. This is what the flying saucer is in my estimation. It’s nothing more than an organo-metallic projection of the future states of the human soul. We are literally like caterpillars, or the components of a slime mold. We are undergoing a series of chemical signals and transductions of change that are preparing us to become unimaginable to ourselves.
And there’s no way out. The only place in nature where you see this is with caterpillars on limited food plants, where the caterpillars eat without a thought in their minds until there’s nothing left. And then they go into shock from hunger. And they begin to spin. And their enzyme systems go crazy, and hundreds of genes are suppressed, and thousands of genes are turned on simultaneously. And lo and behold, the caterpillar changes into something completely different. An organism of a completely different order. I have never heard a darwinian evolutionary biologist explain how gradual evolution could get you the coordination of thousands of genes required in that process.
Be that as it may, that is what we’re involved in. And the enzymatic juice of this process is technology. And if, when I say “technology,” you think of [???] caterpillars and freeways and stuff like that, then you’re driving using your rear-view mirror. By “technology” I mean steam engines that you can put fifty inside a human hair. Some of you may have seen the cover of Science News a years ago. 10,000 steam engines on a chip one centimeter by one centimeter in diameter. More steam engines on that friggin’ chip than there were in England in 1850! Imagine that! Technology simply means the extensions of the human mind into matter. And we do this when we engineer vaccines, when we micro-engineer computer chips. The most advanced chips now are not even designed by human beings. Human beings dictate the design parameters, and computers solve the architectonic problems, and then etch the chips without ever consulting with a human being.
This is going on all around us. I don’t find it frightening. I find it very reassuring. Remember back in the 1950s—those of you who were born then—how there used to be this persistent fantasy that, in the future, the world will be run by machines? The people who were saying this, the implication was: it must have been wrested, then, from the hands of assholes at some point. Because machines: impartial, patient, fair, know no bias of gender, race, or creed. It doesn’t sound so bad to me. I mean, you want to talk about reestablishing connections with the Gaian mind, what do you think these computers are made of? They’re made out of the Earth. They’re made out of silicon, glass, gold, silver, lead, arsenic. It reads like the alchemist’s cookbook. It’s a direct return to the world of the elemental electrons. A direct connecting back into the Gaian body.
And it’s very funny for me to talk about it, and for you to listen about it, because it’s a private thing for each one of us. There’s nobody who can explain it to you, really, except yourself and your friends. All the metaphors being handed down from the top are bogus. Because the people at the top, they don’t know what is going on. They have to pay guys with ponytails just to turn on the machines in the morning. They are so deeply in our hands that it brings a tear to my eye to even think about it. And so it’s very important to be gentle with people. And this could almost serve as a final point.
My mission—aside from whatever agenda my ego has about how I want to be the guy who figured out how everything works and all that; get the combined Nobel peace prize and physics prize—but aside from that, and far more important to you, what this is all about, I believe, is permitting people to abandon anxiety. [???] need to investigate for themselves the situation, and you will be very, very heartened. It’s not nearly as bad as you’ve been told. You’ve been told a lot of stuff by a lot of people. The only authentic thing in most people’s lives—and they may have sullied it, sold it out, destroyed it, distorted it, whatever—but the only authentic thing in most people’s lives is sex. And if the establishment could figure out how to take it—
Oh, I finally found the button!
So imagine—since I assume at least at some point in your career, nearly every one of us has had some brush with sexuality—imagine if there were something equally interesting, interesting slippery, equally enlightening, but not necessarily tattooed to your forehead like sexuality is, so that unless you were smart, you could miss it. You could go from birth to the grave and never know. It’s sort of like going from birth to the grave and never having an orgasm. That is in fact our circumstance. Because god nows how many people in Western civilization in the past thousand years have gone to the grave without ever knowing a moment of transcendental consciousness. I don’t care how many rosaries they were saying, I don’t care how much of that ergot-infested bread they were bolting down, you know? It just can’t compare with modern pharmaceuticals extracted from plants.
So my mission is to empower people and say: hey, look, you don’t have to go—I mean, he’s a nice man, don’t misunderstand me. But you don’t have to ask Ramana Maharshi or Gurdjieff—another nice man, don’t get me wrong! But not smarter than you or me! That’s the thing. Haven’t you figured out by now that nobody is smarter than you are? And if they are, you can’t understand what they’re saying anyway? So why bother? The search for somebody smarter than you are is totally futile, because when you find them you’re not going to know what the hell they’re talking about! So basically, it’s better to get high with a little help from my friends. And to take yourself seriously, I think. To take your life seriously, your body seriously, and your position seriously.
This is another thing. I don’t care if you had to beg your way in here tonight, and you sleep under a bridge and live off of fallen mangoes. I’ll be you, if we looked at who your daddy is and who your uncle is, you’re probably part of the 5% of the people who run this planet with an iron hand. We all are. We don’t even understand that. It’s just the money you spend. It’s not that I shove Rwandans around, it’s that with my buying power alone I’m a ten-ton gorilla on the global stage of consumerism, and so are each one of you. Did you know that a child born to a wealthy woman in a high-tech society consumes 800–1,000 times more resources in its life than a child born to a woman in a Third World country? 800–1,000 times! And those of us who are eating veggies and watching out for our recycling, what is it down to for us? 200 times as much as a child born in Bangladesh?
So there is a responsibility upon us, and there’s a great paradox in that responsibility because we’re the most comfortable people on the planet. And comfortable people don’t like to get moving and admit that the house is on fire. Maybe the West Wing is on fire, but here in the East Wing the garden party proceeds and everything’s assumed to be fine. That kind of thinking is squirrelly. We are born into positions of immense power and influence—just by how we behave, how we live our lives. I’ve come to grips with this to some degree in the past year, in that—it bothered me, the paradox of saying what I say, and flying [tape cut] that sort of thing, and I’m not much more interested in a virtual presence. A presence on the net, a presence as a published voice, and like that. And I think we all can act from that position. Less squandering of energy, more sharing of ideas, more a sense of community. It’s going to be a wild ride from here to the end. And everybody at some point along the way will need a little reassurance. It maybe me next week and you next year, but sooner or later it’ll get everybody goad at least for a moment.
And so a sense of collectivity, a sense of sharing, and a sense of adventure—these psychedelics (which have arrived on our plate in just the last hundred years of Western anthropology and sociology) are the most important discoveries, probably, that we ever have made outside of our own culture. They hold the seed for the reformation of our science, a rebirth of ethics, a new sense of community, an authentic sense of religio—all the things which are prerequisites for making the human enterprise something worth preserving and embedding in the transcendental object that nature is trying to create out of the chaos on this planet.
So there you have it! Or so there you have it, as the king said to Mozart. I don’t know what the plan was. You’ve been sitting on a hard floor. Shall we take a break and then do Q & A for the die-hards? Okay. Is that alright with the people running it? Good. Okay. Thank you very much! It’s preaching to the converted, I know. Thank you.
Q & A Session
Alright. That’ll get ’em. That’ll get ’em. Force ’em to make the hard choices. Are you the first one? Oh, okay. First question. Yes.
[???] place of feelings, emotions, compassions in cyberia?
Well, “cyberia” is a new spelling of “cyberspace.” Well, it’s an interesting question. I mean, part of the problem—and I’m glad you asked the question, because I made notes earlier to hit on this—part of the problem is that cyberspace is an exclusively all male nerd domain at this point. I mean, 95% of the people on the net are guys. So I don’t blame guys for that. They did it. I think women should not accept second positioning in this. There’s a lot of things about cyberspace that are out of balance at the moment. For instance, unless you have very, very good equipment and very, very cooperative telephone company, then what you’re dealing with now is text. Well, text is deadly and just… it could be the Sermon on the Mount scrolling by, and if you’ve been looking at the screen for hours, it’s not interesting. But now, with things called SLIP connections and ISDN lines and this sort of thing, the net is going visual. And it’s becoming a land of cartoons and movies and home video and visual jokes and beautiful constructions. So I’m hopeful that this in itself will inspire women to get on.
The net right now is arguably fairly soulless. It’s there to be taken over. I mean, in case you don’t understand exactly what is being talked about here: the Internet is not a computer network. It’s not something owned by anybody. It’s the network of the networks. And it was designed by the military in order to survive a thermonuclear war. Consequently, it was designed in such a way that no one can destroy it or stop it, including the people who created it. It’s the old Frankenstein to the rescue story. So I think it’s up to people like ourselves (without characterizing us) to make an impact on the net, and to get the heart in there. Two months ago, Wired magazine published a poll or a statistical table showing what net sites on the web had been most visited in the previous thirty days. And alt.sex.stories was number one. Alt.pic.erotic was number two. 500,000 people accessed these two conferences in the previous forty-day period. Well, now, when you know that there are only 30 million people on the net, 500,000 is what—one in twelve. One in twelve of those people accessed that. Well, now, I’m not sure alt.pic.erotic qualifies as heart, but hey, they’re trying, right? What it indicates is that this most technical of instrumentalities, this most global of technologies—what people use it for is to try and get a date, for cryin’ out loud. What they’ve always used technologies for. So I don’t think it has a character in and of itself.
It’s a paradox, the machine thing. Because, you know, it’s all men. Men design them, men implement them, men, men, men. And yet, the thing is incredibly feminine. It is a feminine thing. If it has a gender, it is a goddess. It’s dissolving, it’s distributed, it’s maternal, it rocks you in its arms. So in a way, what we have here is a kind of a cult of a cybernetic goddess, where all of the acolytes are not exactly castrati, but nerds, you know? That’s probably enough blathering about heart on the net. But it’s a good question. There will be as much heart on the net as we put into the net.
One thing on the net is that it’s really our first opportunity to bypass political structure and media [???], and connect human to human. And I think as such we’re going to enter a super-democracy, and actually a time where humans are connecting with each other more than ever. Is that…?
No, I absolutely agree. One of the things that Tim Leary used to say was, he used to say: “Find the others.” Find the others. Well, with the net you can find the others. I mean, you can be into harpsichord-building, gerbil-racing, and leather, and find 300 people who share those precise interests. And you can immediately form an interest group, begin exchanging email, do whatever you want. It’s incredibly empowering to eccentricity. Eccentricity is empowered. I mean, there isn’t an interest obscure enough that you can’t get together five people on the Internet. I mean, I have—there are enormous conferences, for instance, on the Voynich manuscript. Who’s ever heard of it? Enormous conferences on decyphering the angelologic languages that Dr. Dee channeled in his channelings in the late 16th century. You know, sixty people on the net are working on this around the world, exchanging data. It’s incredibly empowering for anyone who is trying to solve a specific kind of problem, or find like-minded people, or organize.
And what it’s doing is: it’s destroying the myth of the public. I don’t want to spend on evening on this, but I’m a hard, died-in-the-wool Mcluhanist. And really, what the net is doing is destroying the uniformity of culture created by print. You see, print worked effects on us that most of us even today are not aware of. The way our cities are laid out, the way we elect people to high office, the way we manufacture an object: with interchangeable parts manufactured at various places and brought together and assembled at one point. These are all modeled on how a book was made in the 16th century. The uniformity of print, the repeatability of print has created the uniformity of modern mass media and the concept of the citizen—which is not you and not me, it’s this ideal which we are educated into in an educational system created and based on the values of print. That’s right.
So McLuhan said as long ago as 1965 that what we were on the brink of was what he called a global village. Electronic tribalism. Sound familiar? The guy was just thirty years too early. He said the nation state will dissolve. He said there will be only two levels: the local level and the planetary level. And all the levels in between will be seen to be irrelevant. This is now happening. And propelled by these non-linear forms of media, of which I take psychedelics and [???] to be two sides of the same coin. I mean, after all, think about psychedelics: they’re called consciousness-expanding drugs. Consciousness-expanding. If I can search the Encyclopædia Britannica for a fact and find it in less than a third of a second, that’s consciousness-expanding. If I can know the weather in Madrid instantly, that’s consciousness-expanding. I think I told you in January the only difference between computers and drugs is that computers are too large to swallow, and our best people are working on that! I mean, the computers of the future will be the size of aspirin tablets and cost the same, and be used with the same devil-may-care attitude.
So consciousness expansion is the name of the game. And god knows we need it, because look at the chuckle-headed solutions we’re trying to apply to our desperate problems! Look at how our politicians behave! I mean, they’re a disgrace. In any civilized country they would be ripped apart by howling mobs. But here, you know, a certain mellowness has set in and we just don’t have that kind of conviction like we used to.
Not to rave… yes?
Terence, what are your plans for the net? You talked about taking more of a—your relationship with the audience would be more passed through the net. What is your specific plan for doing this?
Well, what a nice question! Well, the question is: what are my specific plans for the net? I am convinced that this theory which I made reference to tonight—about novelty and the end of time and so forth—I spared you the mathematics. But I am not a soft-headed thinker. At least, not of the ordinary kind. I can boil a rap down to an equation that you can write on a blackboard or run on a computer. And I’ve discovered something fascinating enough (in my judgment) that I will spend the rest of my life trying to convey it to the rest of you. And I’ve decided that what I’m lacking in this effort is a very large, chronologically organized, image-based historical database. That’s what I want. I want a historical database that records everything that can be known about the past, starting with the big bang and running up to whatever General Cédras said today. Because with a database like that I’m convinced that I can settle my theory to a skeptical world.
I’m also convinced that even if you think my theory is hokum anyway, this historical database should be built anyway. Because one of the things about our modern neurotic dysfunctionalism is that it has the character, as I analyzed it, of kind of amnesia. We are people who have lost our memories. You know, quick, who fought the Thirty Years’ War? Quick! Did it come before or after the War of the Roses? What is a Huguenot? And so forth and so on and so forth and so on. We do not know jack shit about who we are, where we came from, how we got here, or why things are as they are. And there’s no excuse for it. The libraries are full of it. It’s just that we have lost faith in the idea of cultural continuity. And I think that the time wave (as I call my theory), in conjunction with a large historical database, you could begin to give people back their history. And then they would understand how we got in this mess, and they would be far less easy to manipulate.
This is slightly off the point, but I’ll make it anyway. I believe that the social explosions of the 1960s were a partial consequence of the Vietnam war, a partial consequence of the large use of psychedelics in the population, but more important than either of those factors was the fact that a generation of kids came of age superbly educated in the nature, history, politics, and theory of Western civilization. Essentially, the American Dream perfected itself in my generation. I came out of the university, I had read Plato, Hobbes, Schopenhauer, Jeremy Bentham, the whole bit. I knew it backwards and forwards. And what did we do? We people who had all this information, who finally grasped the light? We got stoned and then we did something else: we heaved rocks through the windows of the banks, overturned police cars, set buildings on fire, and said, “Enough!” And I believe that the American establishment took a look at that and said, “The idea of universal public education is a no-brainer from the point of view of control freaks. These universities are a nightmare. Let’s turn them into trade schools. Give everybody an MBA, teach them how to operate a computer keyboard, and keep their mouth shut.” And that’s what was done. The dumbing-down of America. It happened all through the 1970s and the 1980s. It’s still going on.
I mean, I am not a conspiracy theorist of the ordinary stripe, but I tell you: somewhere back around Baby M it began, and it went on to be about the skaters, and then it became about the Menendez brothers, and then it became about OJ—the Bobbitts, they were in there too. Thank you. And Michael Jackson. We all talk about all this, but do you know what this is a substitute for? It’s a substitute for having a life and a culture, is what it’s a substitute for. You may bet that, as you worry about the Bobbitts and the Menendez and OJ, really awful things are being done somewhere in the world where your attention is not focused. And this dumbing-down of the American public is, I think, a really insidious thing. Because it’s very clear that what’s happening is: through these new technologies a kind of super-elite is being created.
I’ve used this thing called the world wide web, where you bring up a page of text, and it looks like an ordinary word processor document. Certain words are slightly colored blue. When you click on those words, those are buttons. But they lead to other computers. And so I bring up a list of paintings that I want to look at. The Mona Lisa. I click on “Mona Lisa.” Now I’m getting a very clear video picture of the Mona Lisa. I assume it’s a very high-resolution reproduction until somebody walks in front of the camera. And then I realize: this is a camera in the Louvre. I’m seeing the Mona Lisa live in real time. Now I bring the clicker down, and I click on the Temptation of St. Anthony by Hieronymus Bosch. A camera is turned on in the National Gallery in Lisbon, in Portugal. Now I’m seeing the Temptation of St. Anthony. I’m not seeing reproductions, I’m seeing these paintings. I’m moving from camera to camera around the world. There’s a camera a thousand feet underwater in Monterey Bay that you can look through any time you want, and if it’s not being used you can take control of it with your computer and position it. These things are going on.
So what is being created is a two-tier society. Some people live in abandoned paper boxes over heat vents, and some people cruise the net at night surfing from the Vatican library to the Sorbonne to the National Library in Tokyo, and on and on. Some people have infomatic indexing robots that rove the network when they’re asleep, searching out documents for them and downloading them onto their hard disks so they can pore over it over their coffee. I’m sure there are people in this room who do these things. So there is a great danger of creating a super-elite based on technology, and letting other people slide through the cracks. This is a problem of the heart. This is a problem of not allowing the momentum of print-created cultural institutions to bleed over into the new world that technology is creating.
Another question? Yeah, over here.
Do you feel that the Internet is corruptible? In other words, [???] in control now. And, as you’ve stated before, do you think that they could wrest control of the web?
Well, I tend to think—I mean, someone over here says all things are corruptible, and I hear myself agreeing with that. I think all things are corruptible, but I don’t think the Internet is corruptible fast enough to give any aid to those who want to corrupt it. An example of corrupting the Internet would be the Clipper Chip, but fortunately that was beaten back. I think that’s a won thing. You know, a few years ago, software was copy-protected and you couldn’t copy it. And this was because software companies were very paranoid about that. But people quickly developed copy-protection breakers and just went around it. And I think technology always leads toward greater freedom. That a wonderful fact of life is that technology favors democracy. And for a long time I don’t think this was true. 1984, for example—George Orwell’s dystopia—is a nightmarish world where a fascist superstate controls technology. But human beings are just too perverse. We’re too creative. We break through. The unexpected always comes along to help us out. The original chips that went into PCs were designed on a navy contract to guide a heat-seeking missile. And these chips didn’t meet design specs, and so the navy was ready to just throw it out. They’d blown half a billion dollars or something, and this thing didn’t work, and so they were going to throw it away. And somebody fished it out of the waste basket and said, “Well, you know what we could do with this, though? We could make little tiny computers with it.” And the navy said, “Well, why would we want to make little tiny computers. We have big computers!” And they didn’t understand: it’s not for you, you know? It’s not for you. It’s for somebody else.
And that was a technology that was never supposed to escape into civilian hands. I mean, that was the greatest unmanaged blunder in the whole history of the game from the point of view of the other side. They lost their queen in that blunder. They’ve been fighting on the slippery downhill slope ever since. If you’ve been on the net, it’s incredibly countercultural and irreverent—and yes, folks, obscene and unruly and so forth and so on. But great civilizations are all those things. We don’t need to all wear bow ties and walk in lockstep and salute the Lutheran god and have Mormon orgasms. No, that isn’t the plan. Let’s loosen up a little. Pluralism, you know?
Terence, I’d like to change the topic and come back to another [???] of consciousness expansion. Okay. Getting back to drugs [???] in the Amazon. How do you take your psychotria viridis leaves and turn it into a powerful psychedelic experience? Do you have to snort five grams of it like the natives do [???] snuff, or is there a more modern technique to make [???] viable?
Well, assuming you have the psychotria viridis leaves, is that it? The question is complex, but it basically comes down to: if you have leaves of psychotria viridis, how can you activate them so that machine elves will invade your apartment and take you prisoner? Yes, right? And the answer is—this answer works in most places. I’m not sure it works on Maui. The answer is: run down to your local Iranian market and buy something called hurmal, which looks like little black seeds and is, in fact, little black seeds. And these are seeds of peganum harmala, the Syrian rue. And it contains a powerful monoamine oxidase inhibitor which, combined with DMT in any form, will create an orally active program of dental care that will [???] complaints [???]. So let me go over that, since it’s important. This is easily available, this peganum harmala, from these Iranian markets, or seed dealers, or something. And I think it’s actually a cleaner MAO inhibitor than banisteriopsis caapi, the actual ayahuasca vine. So I mention this because you may or may not be aware, but there is a movement—there are so many of them; well, this is another one—there is a movement in the underground now toward what are called ayahuasca analogs. And what that means is: in most places in the world there are plants that, if properly combined, will produce a huge psychedelic experience. And people all over the world are cataloging their local flora and experimenting with this, and peganum harmala has a role to play in this. It’s available over very large areas of the Earth’s surface.
Jonathan Ott wrote a book called Ayahuasca Analogs, and I think this is the way to go. I’ve seen too much of the ordinary kinds of eco-tourism and that sort of thing, and I think that’s far better—far better—than to bring these shamans here. I mean, this is a meat grinder. It’s horrible. You can’t expect people to maintain their authenticity and put them up at the Beverly Hills hotel and all that. As a story—just to show you (and this is a pro-Dalai story, so don’t get your hackles up), as a story about how toxic our culture is: when the Dalai Lama was in Los Angeles a while ago, they wanted to give him some kind of quintessential L.A. experience. You know: what can we do with him? So they took him to Rodeo Drive and said, “This is Rodeo Drive,” wandered around with a small group, and just… here it is. So then he did, and after it was over they said, “So, what did you think of Rodeo Drive?” And he said—the Dalai Lama said—he said, “Now I understand you Americans so much better. There was so much that I wanted to buy!” Well, for cryin’ out loud, if the Dalai Lama can’t resist the whammy, what chance do you and I have with these weasels, right?
The police are here. They have just informed us that all the cars parked on the road are going to be towed in five minutes.
It’s very close to the end of the meeting. I want to thank you all for showing up. Please cooperate with your constabulary. Is that the thing to do, to…?
Terence, [???] harmaline is [???] roots.
Yes. That the beta-carboline, the monoamine oxidase inhibitor is available in lilikoi blossoms. It’s available in all passion fruits. I’m not sure in what amount, but this is right, what this guy is saying. And the other thing is: the DMT is available in the roots of a sensitive plant, a plant closely related to it. Actually, it’s called desmanthus illinoensis. But if you’re interested in these DMT analogs, it’s a wonderful study and very satisfying to read accounts of people. I’ve read accounts of people who had never had a psychedelic experience, who started out with their local plants and were able to have just blindingly transcendental experience.
Where did you read that? On the net?
No, in Jonathan Ott’s book Ayahuasca Analogs.
Just wanted to say that my experience with pergamon and mushrooms was that they amplified [???] about twenty to thirty times.
Yeah, I think you should be careful with this.
So I wouldn’t recommend it [???] rather modest dose.
Yeah. Let me second that. I had one of the hardest evenings I’ve ever had once when I took half a dose of mushrooms and half a dose of ayahuasca, thinking that would be a whole dose of something, and it was about a dozen whole doses of something.
Getting back to the analog. [???] How much did you have [???] How much would you have to put in of the caapi after [???], how much caapi and how much of the [???]
Okay, the question is basically about the proportions of the two components in ayahuasca. First of all, ayahuasca is not like peyote or mushrooms or morning glories, or something like that, because those things just grow and you take them. Ayahuasca is made by a human being. It’s more like a souffle. It contains two ingredients that are combined in a proportion that is a matter of human decision. So, having said that, then, I learned to make ayahuasca in Peru years and years ago, and I aim for the jugular. I don’t go for this maybe-it-worked-maybe-it-didn’t thing. So I made mine stiff. And I made—a stiff dose is 500 grams of banisteriopsis caapi, fresh, and 85 grams, fresh, of psychotria viridis. Now, if psychotria viridis is 90% water, then that means you should be able to get away with 8 grams of powdered psychotria viridis and 500 grams of banisteriopsis. Now, this is simply my style. I make it Peruvian style. And it’s thick, and it churns your guts, and it takes you to the other side. I’ve had the Brazilian stuff that the Daime and the UDV brew, and it’s much more watery and, to my mind, weaker. Although some people say not. And I just don’t know what to make of that.
You see, this is an area where not a whole lot is known. The fact that both of the pharmaceutical constituents of ayahuasca—DMT and harmaline—are both neurotransmitters means it’s sort of up for grabs. Because people react very differently in the presence of these tings. If you’ve ever smoked DMT, you know there’s no escape. But one person in twenty, roughly, it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. And if you’re one of the people for whom one hit sends you caterwauling into elf land, it’s pretty freaky to watch somebody take a hit, and another hit, and another hit, and say, “Well, I don’t know. It’s so-so.” I mean, it’s frightening. So in matters of drugs, our biochemical individuality is really upfront. What is a slight dose for person A is an absolutely destroying dose for person B. And we need to work with this, because the psychedelics are safe if done correctly, and they’re safe at doses so terrifying that you would never want to do more. The danger with psychedelics is not death, the danger is madness, obviously. These things can’t kill you. It would be a terrible way to commit suicide because it wouldn’t work. But what they do is: they hurl you against the wall of your assumptions, and then jump on you and rub your nose in it, and stomp on you, and make you want to die, and make you beg for death—not always. But they can do that.
So it’s very important when you get in there that you can at least have the pharmacological facts under your belt, so you can explain to yourself what’s going on. For instance, it amazes me—I’ve heard this story maybe a dozen times—of people taking mushrooms (which they either grew or bought), and then an hour or forty minutes into it “deciding” that these are obviously not psilocybin mushrooms, these are poisonous mushrooms, and now they’re going to die. Well, that shows you just don’t have your mind under control. You know, you need to have a talk with yourself about your tendency to get hysterical in tight situations, you know? Because you’re not dying. You have to come to the place where you can actually turn to the whining ego and say, “You are dying. Me? I’m going further. But you’re dying. That’s right! Death, death, death! Roll in it, citizens!” And discipline the mind. Because the ego does not want you to take psychedelics. The voice which tells you not to take psychedelics is the voice of your ego. It says, “Look, you’ve got a lot to lose! You have a professional position to think of.” And then, if you resist and go to the next level, it plays the next ace: “You know you’re crazy. You know that you’re not like these other people. You’re crazy. You should stay away from it.” And then, if all else fails, it plays the final ace: “You’re dying, stupid! You’re dying! Call 9-1-1 before it’s too late!”
You know, I had a friend who got into that position and who called 9-1-1. And the ambulance came, and they took him away. And naturally, these psychedelic crises are usually fairly short-lived. So by the time he had attention in the emergency room, it was all past. And he said to the doctor who—god bless this doctor, he must’ve been quite hip—the guy said: “Did the mushroom cause this?” And the guy said, “Well, I don’t see how the mushroom could cause it. We see panic attack cases in here every day and I’ve never had one caused by a mushroom.” So….
[???] You said A: it’s legal. So if it is, where do we get it? How do we take it? And how does it compare to [???]
Oh, this is a really interesting question. And maybe—well, this is news. What is salvia divinorum, and where do we get it, and what do we do with it? Well, first of all, it’s amazing to me as a connoisseur of this particular field that here we are, thirty years after LSD, and what has happened? An incredible new psychedelic has been discovered. The first psychedelic ever discovered since LSD, active in the microgram range. That’s big news, because a drug, a substance active in the microgram range, that means you can get enough in a handbag to smash China. So just as a social consequence, the fact that the dose is so unbelievably low—I mean, think about it: psilocybin, it takes 15 milligrams. Mescaline, it takes 500 milligrams. LSD, it takes 200 micrograms. That means, theoretically, in a gram of LSD there are 10,000 doses. And in this new compound it is comparable in strength. And LSD is quasi-artificial. It’s made from ergot, but it’s a synthetic. The new compound is entirely from a plant.
The new compound… well, here’s the deal: for years and years—a phrase you may learn to loathe as Ross Perot gains ascendance—for years, the psychedelic literature has carried the notation that there was this obscure Mexican mint which some Indians, under some conditions, claimed was intoxicating. Nobody would ever get off on it. It’s sort of like Rupert’s theory of morphogenetic fields. Now that we know how to get off on salvia divinorum, it’s impossible to understand how we could’ve overlooked it all these years. But it is a mega-experience of some sort. The plant is like a house plant. It can be grown anywhere. It can be grown in Hawai’i like crazy, outside. It looks like Joe Plant. There’s nothing defining about it. It’s just a plant.
And the way I like to do it is: I take between 16 and 20 leaves, and I lay them down, and I remove the midvein with my fingernail. This is because this is how the Indians told the anthropologists who busted this story this is exactly how they do it. They remove the midvein. And then what I do is: I make this little soft pancake pile of leaves. And it folds down to just about one enormous mouthful. It’s the absolute limit of what I can get in my mouth. And then what I do is: I lay down in silent darkness where I can see a digital clock. And I lay there—you have this enormous thing in your mouth. I mean, it’s just like…. And then slowly it softens. And every time you bring your jaw down on it, you [???] this hideous liquid in your mouth that just coats the inside of your mouth, and all the mucus membrane and everything. And then, fifteen minutes by the clock—
Do you swallow it?
No, you spit it out. You spit it into a little bowl or kleenex or the receptacle of your choice after fifteen minutes. Then, somewhere between minute sixteen and nineteen, as you’re lying there, you—just don’t move, just lie there in the dark—it will begin to do what’s called “streaming.” You know what that is? It’s these after image colored purple and chartreuse overstuffed things floating by in your visual field. That’s called streaming. Then, within a minute or two, it will become dramatically peculiar, visually peculiar. Someone said—and this was my impression. Actually—well, no, I shouldn’t say their name because they may not want to go down with me into the druggy thing. But anyway, a famous person said: it’s really stretchy. And I said yes. Remember that painting by Salvador Dalí called Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Ode To the Revolution Number 4? Study that puppy sometime. That’s what’s happening. Everything is stretching and falling away, and sort of interdimensional.
I’ve done it a number of times, and once I got it to work, it’s worked every time since. And I think it’s a very interesting hallucinogen. The last time I did it it was amazing, because in a darkened room with moonlight streaming through a big skylight, there was no hallucinogenic activity whatsoever. I mean, that’s where you would expect it, you know? You have all the edges, the moonlight, the perfect situation for a hallucination. Nuh-uh. Nothing. Crystal clear. But when you close your eyes, instantly—instantly!—there are complex three-dimensional hallucinations moving and rotating. So quickly does it form that you have the impression: it’s like turning on a light in a darkened room. And unlike DMT or psilocybin, where usually, when you get these weird hallucinations, you can just sit and look at it and think about it; say, “I am seeing a strange hallucination. It is very weird shit. It is partially strawberry, partially [???], partially what I found in my mother’s drawer when I…” you know, that kind of thing. But what I noticed on the salvia was that it sort of crept around behind me, and the observing mind began to speak gibberish. And then I didn’t know where I was in the circuit, because the observer was being messed with.
I think that the key to using this substance, and to not getting it scheduled—I mean, dig what the situation is right now. This is legal: legal to talk about, legal to take, legal to give to people. I could smoke it right now. I could choose one of you and bring you up here. We could hold a weekend where we claim this did you some good and we could do it. We could manufacture it. We could transport it. We could put ads in newspapers selling it. It is legal. You know, legal. Remember legal? Okay, that’s what it is. It’s legal.
Well—is it a good trip? Well, that’s a good question. A very well-known researcher took it, who has a big academic position and so forth. And he said—he told me—he said it was a complete psychotic break. He said, “I had no idea who I was or what I was doing.” I gave it to an acquaintance of mine who is a more (how shall we put it?) earthy person, and he said to me: “If you want this stuff to be a success, you should throw all the eggheads off the bandwagon, because they’re giving it a bad name. It’s simply a great load!” So I don’t know. Whether it’s a great load or a complete psychotic break depends on how many degrees you’ve collected; where it puts you.
Well, let me talk a little bit more about the plant, because the plant is on Maui—I mean, somebody sitting no more than eight feet away from you is keeping their mouth very shut at this point. It’s here. People know about it. I think we should do the plant and not attempt to extract or commercialize the substance. Because here’s the thing: the substance is active at the 200 microgram level, just like LSD was. But unlike LSD, you smoke this stuff. That means there’s no way back. And with the pure compound—you know what 200 micrograms looks like? It looks like, you know, a piss-ant’s box lunch. It’s not much. It’s like a grain or two of salt. Well, you can tell people are going to do too much. They’re going to do too much because it’s easy to do ten times too much, twenty times. And we have no human data on the pure compound.
Now, human data on the plant—we have these Indians. But everything at this point about this plant is mysterious. Everything. For example: naturally, you have this plant, it's in shamanic usage, so you go to the people and say, “What is the name of this plant?” they say to the Mazatecs who use it. They say, “We cal it ojos de la pastor:” eyes of the shepherdess. Now, there's a number of things about this that are interesting. First of all, “eyes of the shepherdess”—there are no shepherdesses in western mythology or iconography. In the entire Bible there's no shepherdess. We get some shepherds in the Christmas story, gender unspecified. But I've never seen them portrayed as shepherdesses. There is no shepherdess in western history, religion, iconography, mythology. It's a nothing burger, it's a dead end, it's a dry hole. Why is it called “eyes of the shepherdess?” Next question: These people are Mixtec. You call it “eyes of the shepherdess?” If you do, it's practically the only Spanish you speak. What do you call it in Mixtec for cryin' out loud. They say, “We don't have a name for this plant in our language.” Well, now, this is fascinating. That's impossible, if they've been using for a long time. No culture on Earth has something which it's been using for a long time for which it has no name! That's preposterous. And so you say to them, “How come you have no words in Mixtec for this plant?” And they say, “Because it's new.” And then the taxonomists get into the act, and they say, “That's impossible. This plant is not known from anywhere else on this planet.” It's only been collected in the Sierra Mazateca of southern Mexico, among these people who have no name for it in their own language, and who claim it's new. Well, I don't want to push the conclusion that on Maui I probably would be led to if I [???]. It appears that this plant has no history. It came literally out of nowhere.
And now, here's something else interesting about it. We have in this country a very complex drug law called—I can't remember—it's called the Congener Enantiomer Structures Near Relative Law. What it says is that the district's attorney or his appointed stooge can declare a substance illegal without any scientific evidence or any medical evidence, provided that that substance is an enantiomer, steroisomer, cogener, or structural near relative of an already scheduled compound. This isn't. This isn't. This isn't. So in order to make this stuff illegal, for the first time since the 1960s, the government is going to (in the clear light of day, and hopefully in the clear light of reason) have to provide scientific and medical evidence as to why this should not be illegal. And I don't think they'll be able to do it. I think there may be a case against the pure compound, although I can imagine a dosage system that would work. You could put it up on paper just like acid, but not eat the paper. Smoke it. But dose it regular doses. But I think we should all grow this plant and make no big deal about it.
It's in a very interesting place in the spectrum. It's a lot stronger than any cannabis in any form, other than eaten. And it's truly psychedelic on the psilocybin LSD scale, but it's brief. It only lasts about 45 minutes. It's very manageable. So as far as I can tell, [???] is a problem, and some people are working on breeding palatable strains, but—yeah, there is a palatable strain. But I think we could be on the brink of a craze here, folks.
Where can one get a start?
Where can one get a start? Well, first of all, ask around because there's plenty of it growing on Maui. Otherwise, these exotic plant dealers are onto the fact that this is happening. And very easy to grow, very easy to use, totally legal, safe. Psychotherapists who are worried about other substances where they may have a legal problem can use this safely. And I think that we have been screaming—we, the psychedelic community—for twenty years for a fair hearing—
—over the top of them, and establish a shamanic plant with a history of shamanic and sacramental use. And if we can do that and demonstrate that it can be used without society exploding at its foundations, the one argument they have against the legalization of hallucinations will crumble. And we can redeem the entire enterprise. So this is a very real and practical piece of news which I hadn't intended to end on, but the question prompted it.
Return to the plants is the message. I don't like gurus. I think they should be hunted with dogs. I am not one. My god, god help you if your life is so desolate and empty that you follow me. I mean, I'm either looking for the john or trying to find a New York Times, or something, but don't do that. It's bad mental hygiene to follow. It lacks panache.
[???] have a suggested common name?
Salvia divinorum? No. Although I'm urging that we call the compound—which is salvinorin alpha—we cal it “Sal-A”, or just “Sally” for short.
Does it introduce you to machine elves? The people who—we've sent some DMT pilots who were pretty white-knuckled when they came back. I think that if you thought by smoking DMT you could then say, “Alright, thank god I lived through that. Now I've done the strongest drug. Now I don't have to do that again.” No reprieve, no escape. Here it is on your plate. I don't know. It's different. It's different. And that's amazing. That, you know, after so many years, and that it could come from a plant, and a plant with a history of shamanic usage. You know, there are lists of these suspect hallucinogens, and people like myself and my brother and inspired botanists collect them. I have a bunch in my garden—suspect hallucinogens. No clue as to what part of the plant you take, how you take it. You know, is it an enema? Is it snorted? Is it smoked? Do you take ten pounds boiled down, or the edge of one leaf? You haven't a clue. But I'm sure this salvia episode convinces me there are great mysteries left to be uncovered, great allies in the enterprise of human becoming still to be discovered. And one plant leads to another, that's what I was taught.
Thank you very much!