The Syntax of Psychedelic Time

July 1983

Mentions

00:00

McKenna

The poster says The Syntax of Psychedelic Time: Fractals, Endpoints, End Times, Zero Points, something like that. What all this indicates is a set of ideas that I want to share with you that are a slightly different tack than my normal lectures. My normal lectures deal with the psychedelic experience as a generalized and historical phenomenon. But this effort at communication is slightly more personal, in that it’s an effort to impart one idea that came out of an involvement with psychedelic substances—my idea. It is idiosyncratic. It is a psychedelic idea, certainly, but it’s only one of an infinite possible set of such ideas. And the reason I spend time on it to communicate it to a group of people like this is because I think it can serve as an example of psychedelic ideas generally—how they’re formed, how they operate, and what’s so great about them. And—perhaps with an element of ego—I think that this idea intrinsically has an elegance that makes it worth pursuing.

01:35

But before I talk about that, I want to talk about fractals for a moment as they’re understood in orthodox mathematics, because the idea fractals will serve as a basis for much of what I’m going to talk about. Fractals are technically defined as curves with a dimension greater than one and less than two, or surfaces with a dimension greater than two and less than three—none of which need concern us. What’s important to know about fractals is that they have the peculiar property of presenting the same appearance at all scales.

02:26

An example of a fractal in nature or a fractal-like phenomenon would be a mountain range—which, when you get up to it and examine small pieces of rock that are sloughing off the face of the cliff and hold one up against the light, we discover that the edge of the small fragment of rock and the edge of the mountain range are in fact the same thing. And at first this doesn’t appear startling, because you say, “Well, the mountain is made of this stuff. The small boulder is made of this stuff, and it simply fractures the same way.”

03:06

But actually, a number of issues are being touched on in this phenomenon. First of all, when you begin analyzing nature you discover that many, many forms of phenomena are fractal: coastlines, islands, the way processes condense, the way solids condense out of liquids in cheesemaking, for example, or something like that. There are many kinds of processes where a single process is reflected and refracted at many levels of magnitude, so that the whole and its parts and many levels within the whole composed of its parts all have the same structure.

04:02

Some fractals have been known for quite some time—since the late nineteenth century—but they were considered pathological curves, because they had the property of infinite lengths in very short distances, because they adumbrate themselves so intricately that their length can be said to be infinite. In the same way, you can understand that very readily if you ask yourself: how long is the coast of California? Well, it depends on what we mean by this. Because the smaller the unit of measurement that you use, the more detail that will arise. And at some level the unit of measurement is so small that it’s smaller than the molecular interstices of that which composes California. And at that point the length of the coastline becomes infinite.

05:03

Okay. So you get the drift of what fractals are and how they’ve been treated by mathematicians, particularly one mathematician. You can’t discuss fractals without giving all the credit there is to Benoit Manelbrot. Because if you don’t give him all the credit there is, he’ll ask you why not. So he has invented this branch of mathematics. He has perfected it. And he’s given us marvelous books where you can see these curves. And I thought about making this a slideshow, because the fractals are tremendously beautiful objects aesthetically, but I decided against that because I want to hold to ideas. This is a think-along lecture, by the way, and you’re free to think along at any point that you feel so moved to do so.

06:03

Okay, so that’s what fractals are for orthodox mathematics. The psychedelic part—and what I did with this was: I began to think about time. I’ve always had this idea that our physics has failed us because it is not true to experience, and every advance in physics has been gained at the expense of moving the turns of physics further and further away from anything that could be called concrete experience. So that what we finally have is an integrated set of complicated equations that we are told correctly map at the microphysical or the cosmological level—the objects of nature that we’re interested in—but it does not come tangential to our experience. I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before.

07:00

So I mediated on time with the idea “fractals” in the background, and I noticed certain things which are obvious, except they have implication when the idea “fractals” is linked to them. And they’re trivial things, really. They’re things like: every day is rather like every other day. And every week is rather like every other week. And every year. And to some degree every century. And to some degree every millennium. But I noticed that, as you raised the ante in these temporal scales, change did become apparent. But at the daily level every day is very much like every other day—but every day also is obviously different. And it’s in these differences that we have the feeling of advance into a future, and a feeling of completion.

08:04

So I took all these ideas, and in the Amazon, when we were investigating the beta-carboline drugs which are used in combination with DMT, I—under the influence of these drugs—fell into a long extended meditation about all these things. In fact, it actually went on for years. In fact, it’s still going on, in some sense. It was a true boost. And I looked at the I Ching, which I was familiar with but had never particularly been obsessed with. And I noticed something very interesting about it, which is the King Wen sequence—which is the oldest sequence of the hexagrams, a sequence which precedes any written commentary.

09:05

When mapped for its first order of difference—and its first order of difference is nothing more than, as you pass from one hexagram to another, how many lines change. So, for instance, as you go from hexagram one to two, all lines change, so six is the value of that. Six lines change. When you go from two to three there is another value. And I graphed the I Ching this way; for its first order of difference.

09:38

Now, in a random distribution you would expect a fairly even distribution of breaks of orders one, two, three, four, five, and six. But I found immediately that there were no fives whatsoever. No breaks of order five. And that there had been an obvious effort to optimize breaks of value two and four. So that in itself—I mean, obviously it’s ordered some way, so this wouldn’t be too startling to discover a property like that.

10:20

And I should pause for a moment and point out for people who have an interest in the I Ching that the I Ching is actually formed of 32 pairs. If you’ve ever looked at it, it’s formed of pairs such that the second term in each pair is the inverse of the first term. Except there are eight cases, naturally, where inverting a hexagram has no effect on it. The obvious case is where you invert the first one. It’s all solid lines, so inverting it has no effect. In those eight cases the rule is: all lines change. And you see following the first hexagram, which is all solid lines, is the second hexagram, which is all broken lines.

11:14

So in studying the sequence of the I Ching, your problem is not really how are these 64 hexagrams arranged, the question is: how are these 32 pairs of hexagrams arranged? So I graphed the first order of difference, as I mentioned, and then I noticed a peculiar visual symmetry in my graph, which was: it looked basically like a random squiggle, except that the beginning and the end of the wave were stereo-isometric reflections of each other.

11:52

Now, what that means is that if you were to rotate in the plane an image of this wave without lifting it off the paper, you could bring the two graphs together and they would dovetail together perfectly at the beginning and at the end, but nowhere in between. And this seemed to me a very powerful argument for order; that I had in fact discovered a previous kind of order that was implicit in this thing.

12:26

Now, to some audiences I have to make a complicated apologia about lógos and voices in the head and all that. I’ll just skip that and say: and so I continued working with this thing under the instruction of the voices in my head. And the first thing that I noticed when the wave was fitted together in this particular way was that the hexagrams paired up so that they always summed to 64. In other words, 63 would pair with 1, 62 with 2, 61 with 3, 60 with 4, and so on. So it was as though a kind of magic square was being generated where the I Ching was additive to itself in all directions on a grid.

13:18

And so I took this forward and backward running, 64-turn glyph or graph, and I said: aha, it is the complete I Ching running forward and backward against itself. Since it is the complete I Ching, all 64 hexagrams, all 384 lines, I will follow the principle of constructing modular hierarchies. I will collapse it to the simplest term in a system of levels. And I will treat this rather complicated looking thing as though it were a line; one of only 384. And then I, from there, over a period of years and many pencil sharpenings, we went to computers and produced very complicated versions of this graph, and then found a way to mathematically quantify it so that it could be—instead of a network of lines running forward and backward against each other, it became a single line running in one direction into the future.

14:40

Okay, so now what’s so great about this? In its own terms it is a self-consistent idea about time. It tries to be true to experience. It’s saying that time is made of elements—it is not simply an event space, something required for things to have duration. You see, before Einstein, space was thought of as the place where you put things: the necessary adumbration of a thing having being was that it be in space. Einstein came along and said: no, time can be thought of as a surface, as a continuum, as something which in and of itself can affect the outcome of the propagation of a beam of light or an electromagnetic field, or something like that.

15:43

What this idea suggests is something similar about time: that time is made of elements, and that what we intuit about time is more true to the facts of the matter than what physicists are telling us about time. What we intuit about time (and what astrology and all forms of prophecy and intuition and clairvoyance and all these things are) are the idea that we can know about time by deploying our feelings into it. And what this theory does is take what has generally been a very feeling-toned intuitional kind of idea and mathematicize it and give it rigor, and say that with a very simple computer we can predict novelty.

16:47

We can understand, first of all, that what is happening in the world of becoming, the world that we all experience as beings, is that novelty is entering into being, and it is changing the modalities of the real world toward greater and greater levels of integration. And no matter on what timescale you view the universe, you see this happening. In other words: the universe, in its early moments, is all chaos. Temperatures are too high to allow even intra-atomic bonding, so there’s only a plasma of charged particles. And then, as the universe cools, atomic bonds become possible and atomic systems come into being, which indicate a more refined level of organization. And then later, much later, molecular systems. And on another level, stellar dust and star systems and organization of large aggregates of matter.

18:06

Then: life. And it represents another one of these quantum leaps in complexity, which is old stuff. But something else besides a leap in complexity is happening with each of these ingressions into novelty. What is happening is a speeding up of the speed at which these ingressions are happening. So that the first half of the history of the universe, you can say virtually nothing happened. Everything happened in the last half of the life of the universe. And about a billion—or two or three billion—years ago, about twenty percent of what we assume to be the total life of the universe ago, life appeared. And then the early mammalian line appeared 60 or 70 million years ago at the close of the dinosaurs. Then we get culture 25,000–30,000–50,000 years ago, and very shortly after that mathematics, and very shortly after that electronic circuitry.

19:19

And there is this compression of events which, from the point of view of the historian, is the major thing that he sees when he looks at the history of the universe. But science has never mentioned this peculiar compression of events and densifying of complexity. Science takes the position that if that’s happening it’s unimportant, and it probably isn’t happening at all. And science goes to great lengths—though it admits to evolution—to make sure that it arises out of non-teleological processes, and to make sure that it’s always confined within the realm of biology. So that an orthodox evolutionist is very uncomfortable if you start speaking of stellar evolution or cultural evolution. I’ve heard these guys say: if there are no genes involved, you do not use the word “evolution.” See? They don’t want to see it as a formative process touching the organic, the inorganic, the social, the psychological.

20:27

So I took very seriously this deepening ingression into novelty, and I said it is a physical quality of the continuum that we’re existing in. It is not an unconstrained tendency, but it is a predictable tendency like charge, speed, momentum, that kind of thing. And I noticed something very interesting about the number 384—which, if you’ll recall, is the number of lines in the complete set of the I Ching. The number 384 is 13 lunar cycles. There are 29.29 (I believe) days in a lunar cycle, 13 of which gives you 383.89 days, or something like that—so, in other words, it’s to within a fraction of a day 384 days—so it suggested to me a calendar.

21:34

And then I noticed that in hexagram 49, which is “revolution,” it specifically says the magician is a calendar-maker. And then I used resonances of this 384-day solar year; resonances of 64. So, for instance, I would take the 384-day year and multiply it times 64. This gives you a period of time which is 67 years, 104.25 days. That is six minor sunspot cycles and two major sunspot cycles. Plus, it also—in The Invisible Landscape, the other astronomical correlations are made clear—when you rise to the next level (when you take the 67-year cycle times 64), you get 4,306 years. This is very close to, let’s see, half of a zodiacal age. In other words: the precession of the Earth on its mutational axis requires about 25,000 years. And that is what is spoken of when they talk of the Piscean age, the Aquarian age. They’re talking about how, through the slow precession of the equinox, it is moving from sign to sign. And it takes about 2,000 years for a sign to be transited. So two signs can be transited in exactly the cycle of time indicated.

23:20

I’ve spent so much time laying this out, because I’ve noticed in other lectures that I’ve given of this theory, what has come through to people is the notion that I have a prediction about the end of the world; that I predict an end time. And then there’s always lots of questions about: what is your eschatology? What kind of an end of the world do you foresee? But what I really am interested in is not the end of the world, but everything which precedes it, and that’s what this wave is looking at. And by comparing the wave with the computer to various historical periods, defining the quality that the wave is describing as novelty—which is this form of connectedness—we have been able to get very good fit between certain historical periods and the wave. And naturally, since the wave is a mathematical fixed entity, once you have a good fit to one historical period, if it’s a very good fit, the wave will fit, then, all of history. So that you can—say you’ve been using Periclean Greece as your benchmark date with a certain idea about how the wave must look in that period. So then you find the configuration that fits. You say: okay, that perfectly fulfills my intuition about how the wave should look for Periclean Greece. However, I have an equally strong intuition about how it should look for the French Revolution. So now let’s scroll forward and see how it looks against the French Revolution. And as the intuition of the fit builds, you define the number of applicable cases where the wave seems to be working.

25:22

And we have done this, and settled on a date—which I discussed a little bit last time—which is November 12, 2012. And someone brought up that the Mayan calendar also predicts the end of the world—whatever that means. It simply means that your calendar spins off its axis and you have to reset your clock… maybe. It may mean something else. Whitehead—who I’m a great follower of—had the idea of what he called “epochs.” And he pointed out that a constant—for instance, the speed of light, we’ll say, which is a favorite constant—the speed of light has only been measured for about eighty years. And yet, all of our physics hinges absolutely on the supposition that this is unchanging over the life of the universe; 20 billion years. And so what sample of 20 billion years have we looked at? We have sampled 80 years in one spot in the universe. And yet, from that our physics is extrapolated. Whitehead had the idea of what he called “epochs,” which were like bubbles in the universe of possible time. And within these bubbles certain laws were operating, and they would operate consistently throughout the bubble. But when you passed beyond the bubble, you found a different set of physical laws operating. And very recently this idea, I noticed, has been brought back with this inflationary nothing cosmology that’s catching on, where the universe may have a false vacuum bottom, and may be suspended in a much deeper, stronger, denser vacuum.

27:17

But what this theory is suggesting is that there are not only epochs of very long duration, such as the epochs which were in force when temperature and pressure in the universe were such that molecular organization couldn’t sustain itself, we’ll say. There may be very short epochs where laws manifest that are normally hidden. For instance, the puzzle of human history is something like this. A million, two million years ago, there were only monkeys on this planet, and a very advanced bipedal chimpanzee perhaps. Now, suddenly, there are atom-smashers and video games, Barry Manilow, all these things. And this has happened with startling rapidity. And it well may be it is because mind is manifesting—the constraints on mind as a force in nature has been lifted over the last 10,000–15,000 years, and mind is claiming these new levels of freedom.

28:33

And what I see happening—and this is why these lectures always seem to gravitate toward the future—is: we are living in a very pivotal time. The time that we inherit from science is a time to humble you, to dwarf you. It tells you that the sun will not fluctuate for another billion years, that species come and go—in other words: that, on a temporal scale, that you don’t matter, and that now doesn’t matter. But when you look at the release of energy, the asymptotic speeding up of processes, we tend to be xenophobically oriented toward the human. So what we say is that human history is taking place. But if you were an extraterrestrial lying off in your flying saucer and looking down at Earth, you would not see species. This is a Linnean/European concept that aids in the cataloging of natural products. What you would see if you saw biology, is you would see a gene swarm on the planet Earth, using species as the reduction valve as it flows through time, but only generally. There are many other ways that genes are transferred—through episomes and vegetated propagation and this kind of thing, which doesn’t need to worry us.

30:04

But process and information—which is what has been happening from the very beginning: the atomic system codes and releases more information than the plasma, the molecules have a similar relationship to the atomic systems, and so on right up to the cultural systems. And now we have reached the point where the culture is cohering, and we are becoming too big for the planet. All the natural resources are running out. All the political institutions which normally control the monkey tribe are breaking down, so that every man can know everything, which makes previous forms of social organization virtually impossible. All of these things are happening, and it is because there actually is closure into these shorter epochs.

31:04

We can now, after almost a thousand years (if not more) of moving man off the stage, and saying: No, man is not the image of god, man is not the beloved of the creator. We are on a small planet around a small star, off on the edge of the universe, and our fate (if we have one) rests in our own hands (if in anyone’s). This may not be true in the sense that, if we change our values and say that nature conserves complexity and strives for complexity—if that’s true, then the human neocortex and human society are the most precious and advanced objects and organizational dynamics in the universe.

31:59

Now, I want to talk briefly about something which happened in the past, possibly, hypothetically, and how it relates to this running into the short epochs where all time and culture and information seem to flow together in a kind of psychedelic eternity, an information stasis, a kind of standing wave hologram that is the now. I mean, I believe the poster says: Plato says time is the moving image of eternity. Because we talked about that last time.

32:40

Julian Jaynes, who was a psychologist at Princeton, talked about what he called The Origin of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind. And he said that, in pre-Homeric times, what we experience as ego consciousness was experienced differently by people in those early societies. What we experience as ourselves—something which we completely dominate and somehow enfold in our bodies; this is the cultural metaphor, that the self is inside the body—they experienced as outside the body and exterior from the ego, and somehow independent of their own will. So that what we experience as the self and the ego, they experienced as a kind of disembodied god or guiding voice or inner spirit or guardian angel. The important concept in all of this being that they experienced it as separate from themselves.

34:00

And then Jaynes goes on to suggest that it was traders—who were people who passed from one society to another for the purpose of exchanging goods—who were the first cynics. Because they realized that everybody’s gods in different places were saying different things. And they realized therefore that there was something funny about these gods; that they were in fact somehow rooted in human psychology rather than in theogany in some sense. And they became the world’s first egotists, or the world’s first individuated people, because they correctly identified a psychic function as arising from themselves, and they integrated it.

34:58

And then he goes on—I don’t want to spend too much time with this—but then he goes on to say that it was the spread of trade, the rise of money, all these things, which broke own these dialogues between cultural holes and their gods. And that when it broke down, that was what shattered that world of city-civilizations that is the true ancient world—in other words, the world of Babylon, Ur, Sumer, Chaldea. The states which precede the Hellenic world were shattered by the breakdown of this dialogue between the people and the god. And kingship—he talks a lot about how the kings assimilated, were associated with, this voice in the head. So everyone thought the king was speaking to them when they were told to go pump water, herd the cows, cheer the sheep, whatever they were told to do.

36:01

Okay. I mention this because I think that something similar is happening in the present, and that, unwittingly, Jaynes may have provided a metaphor for understanding this. We talked a bit last time about the flying saucer, and how it was a projection of a future state of mankind; a mobile psychic entity linked to the idea of the exteriorization of the soul and the interiorization of the body in electronic circuitry. I think that what we all experience as our culture—fashion, rock’n’roll, politics, music, media; all of these things which we experience as the clothing that we must put on in order to be able to talk to each other—this is a kind of god or a kind of autonomous psychic function that has slipped out of our control, or which has arisen outside of our control, as a legacy of this earlier process of integration in the Hellenistic period. So that phenomena like the nuclear freeze movement, or the rise of the term “networking,” or all of these integrative, holistic, feeling-toned—you could almost say liberal, or you could almost say that liberalism in its classic nineteenth-century guise is the first faint sounding of this theme. This rising global humanism is in fact the rising into consciousness of a tribal god similar to the kind of tribal god that functioned in these pre-Hellenic societies. However, in the present cultural context, cultural evolution is happening so fast that it is not going to take a millennium to pass through the first faint enunciation of the theme, the full-fledged exploration of the theme of cultural wholeness as exteriorized god or god-like mind to the integration of it.

38:53

And the psychedelics, I believe, are the key to moving from wearing culture like clothes to recognizing that culture is this intensifying reflection of an aspect of the self, and integrating it into the self. And that’s what all the hullabaloo is about, I think. And I think that this is happening. And if the date 2012 means anything, it means simply that we could take that as—we could make a statistical model of what’s happening and say that on November 15 2012 a sufficient number of people will have integrated this state of global electronic selfhood that it will be irreversible. That, up until a certain point when any stochastic process begins to happen or when any cascade begins to get going, up until it has a certain momentum, there is a possibility of many different bifurcations leading to different end states. But once a certain amount of energy is in the system, then you can say it’s going to go all the way.

40:20

And I prefer to probabilitalize all of these predictions of the end of the world and to think of them simply the way you think of a particle in the quantum-mechanical model: when we assign a position to the particle, we understand that the particle isn’t at that position, that that point is merely the center of a cloud of probable positions, any one of which could be occupied. Nevertheless, outside of a certain short distance from that point, the probability of finding the particle drops off asymptotically. So it’s a cloud of probability. And this date up after the first of the century is the center of a cloud of probability.

41:11

Now, what kind of ethics decline from that kind of a position? It seems to me obvious that the first thing that’s apparent from that is that you don’t sit around waiting for the apocalypse. You understand that, as soon as you push yourself over the brink, you’ve done the major piece of work that has to be done in your cosmos. From then on you just sit around watching it happen. So it’s an invitation. We’re all very fortunate. It reminds me—and I probably mentioned this last time; I think about it fairly often—of the Irish prayer “may you be alive at the end of the world.” Probably we all have a very good shot at it. But I have no idea what the probabilities are for any one of us.

42:11

I’ve spoken of this tonight more in its operational terms rather than in the gee-whiz kind of terms—which I did last time, where I painted a picture of what it will be like to invoke this global electronic aspect of the self and to integrate it. But these ideas about collapsing time vectors, about history having an end, about, in fact, history being the shockwave of an event at the end of time—these are the ideas that religions handle fairly well. I mean, not religion so much, but theology. Religion tends to concern itself with public morality. But underpinning religion is theology. And it seems to always—at least, in the West, meaning in Judaism, in Christianity, and Islam, and in all of the spectrum of cults that each one spawned and continues to spawn—there is this wish to put an end to time, to close it off, to redeem us from the cycle of becoming. And I think that the reason these ideas are so persistent in the human psyche is because all of history can be seen in biological time as so brief that it is simply a prelude and an anticipation—


43:52

—so that they actually look down on their culture. They become extra-environmentals, is a way of putting this. They act the role of the extraterrestrial. And we all can act the role of the extraterrestrial, and do when we adopt this extra-environmental position. It can be viewed as alienation if what arises out of it is a feeling of forlornness and being cast into being, as Heidegger says. But that need not necessarily be the feeling. The extra-environmental is also tremendously freed from the cultural conditioning. And when you travel you are always an extra-environmental, and you have a very deep insight into societies that you may only spend a short time in.

44:55

I think the merging archetype of the other or the alien is an effort to integrate alienation and actually make it a positive thing. And I think I mentioned either here or on Will’s show about E.T., and how clever this was to make people identify with something which looks like a cross between a can of anchovies and the Pillsbury dough boy, and to actually—you know, love is what that movie is about, and it’s alien love. And it’s a very important form of love to cultivate, because this process of integration of the electronic overself—that is one way of looking at the end of history—that is the process that we’re all involved in. And psychedelics—which I haven’t mentioned too much tonight, but which I hope you realize are the entire source and motivation and raison d’être of all of this. Because what psychedelics are doing: they are anticipating this future state. This electronic global information organism is in fact already present in the same way that most of the future is present in the past. I mean, think of any point in the past. Think of 1950. Think how much of today was present in 1950.

46:39

It means that this idea that science fiction has sold us—that the future is a total other world just up around the bend—it isn’t actually true. The future is 95 percent present in the present, and it is that 5 percent that eludes us that will provide the great adventure for the next 20, 30, 40 years as we come to terms with the fact that we are moving off into the human imagination. That’s what this godlike thing is. It is not a filled space, a loving figure, an angel, a god, or a demon, it is an empty space, a space which we will fill with our dreams, essentially. Because our dreams have always been the appetition leading us forward into history. But we have not understood why, especially over the last 500 years, when it’s become very unfashionable to believe in dreams and visions and revelations. But I think actually the faith is well founded. It’s well founded because of the nature of the physics of time. And that is a physics that your own experience will reinforce for you if you examine it carefully enough.

48:14

Thank you, once again, very much. I think we’re going to have a brief break and then questions. Thank you!

Q & A Session

48:59

McKenna

There’s no question that what the human imagination has now taken to itself so much power that it can no longer remain on the surface of the planet. We sort of have to part company with the planet for our own good and for its. And it’s just a commonplace of evolutionary theory that every frontier presents a genetic barrier, because only the hail, the hardy, the adventurous, the healthy go. Certainly space is going to be the tightest kinetic filter of that sort that has ever been laid on a human population. It’s said that the dynamics of North American society are due to the fact that we can all trace ourselves back to misfits and malcontents and religious screwballs, and all these people who were out of it relative to Europe came to here. A very similar thing will obviously happen in space.

50:07

But your question is interesting. I can’t quote him exactly, but when I spoke in Santa Cruz, Tim Poston, who’s a mathematician, after it was all over, he quoted a modern poet saying, “It won’t end with a statue of Jay Mansfield fifty miles high, it won’t end”—and he lists several things—“it will just go on. It will continue and continue and continue.” And perhaps that’s what human society will always be about. Perhaps there will always be a tacky element, and we will always flop on the seamy side. But I’m not sure. I’m not sure. The things which we take to be so basic to humanness—such as all that that I just mentioned—have all arisen since this hypothetical moment in Julian Jaynes’ theory, when we integrated the ego. Perhaps integrating the superego will actually make us stand taller and see more clearly into each other’s needs.

51:20

I think that the old evolutionary model—which was that evolution was this struggle of the fittest and the devil take the hindmost—is pretty much discredited, and we now understand that what is maximized in evolution is not the sharpness of the fang or the length of the claw, but the ability to cooperate with other species harmoniously. That’s what’s being maximized. Every parasite—or, I mean, every disease wants to be simply a benign parasite. No disease wants to see its host die, because then the party is over for everyone. So I would say in answer to your question: I’m hopeful, but I certainly—humans are a perverse lot, and I suppose reasonably what one can hope for is incremental advancement toward the good.

52:21

I studied political philosophy under Joe Tussman, and one of his favorite remarks he used to say to us was: “When you look around at the world, it’s a terrible show to be run by angels. But if you think of it as run by monkeys—pretty amazing!”


Another question? Any other question? Yes?

52:53

Audience

[???] experience with ketamine [???] future [???]

53:07

McKenna

Interesting question. What about ketamine? What do I think about it? Well, different things. First of all, you all know what ketamine is, or shall I briefly sketch it? Okay, this is a psychedelic drug that’s recently come on the scene that is what’s called a dissociative anesthetic. It was used as a veterinarian children’s anesthetic from the early sixties onward, and only slowly was it realized that, at low doses, there were peculiar psychic phenomena. And when done as an anesthetic it’s done 600 ml IV push—that means straight into the vein under pressure, as fast as you can, 600 milliliters—which would be just like being hit by a truck. But when it’s done for its—I don’t like to say recreationally—so when it’s done for its psychic effect, it’s done like 100 milliliters IM—into the muscle.

54:21

And it’s a troubling psychedelic because a lot of people, I think, are doing it who have never done any other. And I think that would be very, very misleading. When I did it, my first reaction was complete amazement that here was a category of experience that I had no idea existed. In other words, it was a slot on the bookshelf that I didn’t realize was there. It is not like mescaline, not like LSD, not like psilocybin, not like DMT, not like ayahuasca, not like any of these things, and yet you cannot get away from the fact that it’s a powerful psychedelic. So it’s useful for that alone: to further expand the definition of what is a psychedelic drug.

55:20

The problem that I have—I have two problems with it, and both of them may be curmudgeonly on my part, so you don’t have to take it from me. The first one is that it’s very easy. The first thing that happens after you’ve done ketamine is: you cease to be concerned that you’ve done ketamine. Before there is any other effect, that effect takes hold. And that’s a funny thing. On these tryptamine hallucinogens you are fully aware that you have taken a drug, that you’re walking on eggshells, that you should keep yourself alert to what’s going on. In other words: it puts you on your toes. You know you’re in a dimension of risk and opportunity, and you comport yourself that way. On ketamine, your definitions dissolve so completely that it’s a major accomplishment to realize that you’re a human being on a drug. You keep discovering and losing that realization. You keep saying, “Oh yes, that’s what it is! I’m somebody and I’m stoned somewhere! And that’s what this is. Now it’s coming back to me.”

56:41

Which brings me to the second thing about ketamine which is puzzling (and this is a problem with all psychedelic drugs): that you have to sort of get a life strategy for dealing with it—because it’s important to overcome—and that is: it’s very state-bounded, which is a term that the psychologist Roland Fischer coined, which means you can’t remember anything about it. It’s like an intense dream where you’re intensely dreaming, and the alarm goes off, and as you stumble to the shower it’s just… and there’s nothing there. Ketamine is very much like this. While you’re on it there’s a complete conviction that this is of staggering import to you and mankind. And then it is just totally mercurial and elusive and slips away. Now that, in itself, is obviously an interesting experience.

57:44

And so ketamine seems to teach obliquely. It teaches you that there are psychedelic states that you might not have called psychedelic, it teaches you that there are wonderful insights that totally elevate you that you can’t remember fifteen seconds later. So it sort of teaches you the richness of mind by example rather than by the imparting of information that you can take away. And then, whenever this question is asked, I’m like my acquaintance John Lilly. I always feel like I have to say to people: if you’re going to take a new drug you should go to the medical literature and read it. And I know there’s this much in reprints on ketamine, because I have it. And what they tell you is that there’s a kindling effect, which means each time you do it, it is easier the next time to get loaded. However, on the neurophysiological level, the level of an electroencephalogram, this kindling effect is… I don’t want to say it’s dangerous, I just want to say it’s a warning sign. Because the same kind of kindling will precede the petit mal seizure and other forms of seizure.

59:21

Let me say, though, on this matter of drugs and how you judge them, especially now, since there are so many drugs in the MDA series making their way into society—MDA, MMDA, MDMA, MMDA2—a whole gamut of these. And there will be more down through the years. I’ve always taken the position that it was important that the psychedelic has a relationship to a plant. And that’s almost a perfect fit for me, because I approve of psilocybin and it comes from a plant, and mescaline and it comes from a plant. LSD is sort of problematic because the LSD-25 (that is what most people are familiar with) is not from a plant, that’s a creature of the laboratory. But analogs active in the milligram range—ethyl lysergic acid amide—occur in morning glories of several species and in ergot, and in some cases non-toxically.

1:00:36

So as I live into the eighties, it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain this thing about the importance of the plant, because so many people can’t imagine what you’re talking about. They are totally devoted to one or another completely synthetic drug, and are having revelations and loving insights and all these things. And so I feel a little bit like a puritan. But until I know about it, for myself that’s sort of the categories I’ll work with. Also, the plant drugs almost always have a shamanic tradition associated with them that’s several thousand years old, so they’re use-tested in human societies, both for psychic effects and physiological effects. If a drug has been taken for ten thousand years, chances are it’s fairly benign.

1:01:40

Any other questions? Yes?

1:01:44

Audience

I was wondering if you’ve read the introduction of Psilocybin by Ott and Oeric. The statement that he offers [???] mushroom whereby the mushroom offers a possible [???] to the human [???] what you think about that, and what you think about the symbiosis between humans and mushrooms [???] Have you read it?

1:02:22

McKenna

I’ve read the introduction, yes. You’re a brave man to ask the question. Oh no, I shouldn’t kid you—I wrote the introduction. Because I am O. T. Oss and my brother is O. N. Oeric. I can tell you this now because this book is going out of print. Well, when we wrote that, that was straight transcription. That’s what the mushroom said.

1:02:57

I don’t know exactly what to make of this. These things stretch our categories, because it deals with our own definition of humanness. It’s curious that the psilocybin mushroom that our book is about occurs in the dung of domesticated cattle—the Indian humpback cattle Bos Indicus—so that it has been since very early in human history, in a sense, a symbiot of man, because it’s a symbiot of a domesticated animal which man had a symbiotic relationship with. And when you study symbiosis among lower animals you often find this situation, where it isn’t simply two species involved, but three or even more.

1:04:02

The mushroom has this peculiar ability to invoke or allow or trigger a voice in the head; this lógos-like phenomenon of information unrolling in your head. No other drug that I’m familiar with does that consistently. And our model of what psychedelic drugs should do has no room in it for this. Our model of what psychedelic drugs should do is derived from Freud, and then secondarily from Jung. From Freud we derive the idea that the psychedelic should introduce you to neurotic thought processes, repressed memory, traumatic experience, guilt-laden incidents that have been forgotten, this sort of thing. From Jung we inherit the idea that beyond that there is a landscape of myth, and that we will encounter the great mythological motifs of the collectivity of the human psyche.

1:05:18

But what psilocybin seems to be saying is that, yes, these two areas do exist, but beyond them and far larger than them—if we can speak of such dimensions in terms of relative size—there is an area which has veyr little to o with humanness, collective or particular, it is simply like a landscape. It is a world in the mind, but not related to our neuroses or our religious, totemic, and mythological figures. It is in fact highly independent of the human ego, but nevertheless discoverable through these drugs.

1:06:04

And in those dimensions we come up against things like the voice of the mushroom claiming to represent a galactic form of organism, or what are conventionally called angels or demons or djinns or afrits—in other words, these traditional but rarely encountered by modern people autonomous forms of psychic existence. And we have no models for those things. For our civilization the other—if it exists—can only come from the stars, in ships. It must be a carbon-based life form with the political and social and intellectual aspirations similar to ourselves. Science is not yet ready to entertain the idea that all points in our universe may be cotangent, that every form of intelligence in the cosmos may have the potential to communicate with every other in the here and now—simply because, to do this, science would throw open a floodgate of information that it cannot deal with. The repression of magic has been a very important part of science’s program for explaining the world, not because science has an intrinsic antagonism to magic, but simply because magic (if tolerated) would unleash more information than any scientific theory can cope with. Scientific theories must first limit the amount of information that they’re dealing with before they can begin to model things.

1:08:01

So in answer to your question about the mushroom and its role in human history: I’ve gone through many changes about this since the mushroom began talking to me, since I wrote that foreword. I have a manuscript now which one of the titles that we toy with for it is “Alien Intelligence and Psilocybin,” although it probably won’t be called that. A lot of what it deals with is that; is the fact that postmodern people—which is you and me—are getting in touch with something which the modern worldview cannot handle at all. For modernity, voices in the head are a clear instance of pathology. And yet, for the Hellenistic world and the postmodern world, voices in the head are a clear aspect of following the path. And this was classic before the rise of the forms of reductionist thought that characterize modern thinking.

1:09:11

Socrates had a demon. He mentions it many times. It told him what to say. It helped him with what he should think. And it was a commonplace for sages and philosophers of that time to make that kind of claim. Psilocybin places it within the reach of modern people, but it also (by so doing) serves to demonstrate that the old models of psyche (Freudian and Jungian) just won’t serve.

1:09:44

I don’t think that these things can be reconciled very easily. I think science—if it’s going to take up the Enochian tables and that sort of thing—is going to transform itself to the point where it will no longer be science. Paul Feyerabend, who lives in Berkeley—I don’t know if he still teaches—has written a couple of books, one called Against Method, and another one called Science in a Free Society, and he makes the point there that science has really become an enemy of the free society simply by virtue of the fact that it wishes to arbitrate all models. So that somebody says, “Well, I believe the universe is such and so,” and everyone says, “Well, go ask the scientists if it’s true or not.” This is a staggering amount of power for any group of people to have, especially the group of people whose accomplishments—and I’m not now talking about the technicians and the engineers, but the scientists—what they have accomplished is only to give us an unrecognizably abstract model of the world.

1:11:01

So I would prefer a world of intellectual pluralism where astrology and astronomy and kaballah and information theory and all these things worked in their own area, but no one claimed preeminence. Because, you see, this claiming of preeminence rests on a false assumption. No idea can be dismissed that is internally consistent. There’s nothing more than that. Science is not more than internally self-consistent, and astrology is not less than internally self-consistent. So why should these things be placed on two different levels in terms of being arbiters of the truth? So I think that there will be (by psychology, for instance) fringe human abilities and things like that discovered, but I think higher magic will always operate according to the laws of higher magic, and that this will be a closed book to science simply because of the nature of the premises of both concerns.

1:12:22

One of the things I didn’t get to say about this time theory that I put down this evening was that it’s a very anti-scientific theory. This is not merely a physics of time that can be grafted onto orthodox physics and have science survive, because what I’m saying has certain consequences in the realm of cause and effect and experimental design that make what is normally called a scientific experience out of the question.

1:12:58

And another untestable hypothesis that riddles science from end to end is the idea that if A causes B at time S, then A will cause B at time anything else. And that’s just obviously nonsense in any realm where we experience things, but it’s necessary to believe that—


1:13:25

And so what science ends up being able to do—this is interesting—science, then, becomes a way of explaining anything which happens the same way over and over again regardless of the time that it happens. We could almost describe science as that branch of human knowledge which is concerned with the description of those processes which are not affected by the time in which they occur. And none of those processes are interesting to living, thinking, feeling people, because everything we experience is unique. Every moment, every event, every person, every situation.

1:14:13

So what’s happening here? Something is happening to the monkeys, and it’s very dangerous, and it takes about 25,000 years to happen. It’s a mad rush, because for it to happen the most dangerous processes in the universe have to lie present at hand: nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, social control, genetic control—everything has to be possible for the good to be possible. The species is completely free to mirror itself. That is in fact apparently what this test is about. What freedom means is: you find out how good you are by discovering what you do when you have the power to destroy yourself. And we as a species are in that position, and no one can do it but us. And if we do not destroy ourselves, then very obviously the intellectual tools that we have taken in hand are the tools which send us out to the stars.

1:15:28

Now, as far as this idea that I talked about tonight—about temporal fractals and the nature of time and that sort of thing—that is only one aspect of this conquest of reality by information. And I think you can see if you look back through biological and cultural history—though no one, so far as I know, has ever actually described it this way—what it really is is a conquest of dimensions. With the earliest forms of life, like the amoeba, they essentially have a tactile perception. They can only perceive what they are immediately physically in contact with. And then, in slightly higher organisms, you get the evolution of cells which distinguish light and dark, so there is at least the idea of a sense that there is something out there that comes and goes, that cannot be tactilely recorded. It’s the coming and going of light.

1:16:38

But then, as organisms advance in complexity, the eye is where the evolutionary thrust comes once you get the spot eye spot. Then there is a sense of things at a distance which do not tactilely impinge upon the organism, but which nevertheless have importance for the organism. There are distant pieces of food, or distant enemies, and the organism learns to move toward or away from these things, and toward or away our dimensional concepts.

1:17:11

Then, when you get truly mobile organisms, you get—for instance, like monkeys and that sort of thing—they move in a much larger control space, and they move through it to grasp what they desire. And you get the evolution of a tactile sense that is under the control of the eye. And then that essentially ends with the binocular vision and the bipedal locomotion—that ends the conquest of physical dimension for biological objects.

1:17:50

But you then get language, which seems to have something to do with time, because language allows memory and the recollection of memory. So that past dates can be brought to bear on the present with an eye toward anticipation of the future. And suddenly you realize that what languages allow in this organism to do is to claim a whole new dimension. Language, then, is a dimension-exploring vehicle of some sort. And to what degree we don’t know. Because, for instance, obviously, as animals we contact the dimensions past and future. These are dimensions with great importance to an animal, because what you learn in the past may keep you from being eaten in the future. But then, once you have the luxury of civilization, we get language applied to subjects which are neither related to the past nor the future, like mathematics. And mathematics is a language which has gone out and described multi-dimensional spaces.


1:19:13

I think that nothing is more exquisite than the interior music. And all music is obviously an effort to approximate this interior music. And I don’t know if it’s apocryphal or not, but I’m sure you all know the story of Beethoven saying, “If you could hear what I can hear, you wouldn’t bother with what I’ve written. Because it’s just, compared with what I’m hearing…”. It’s a knife edge, because the music does lead deeper into these visionary states. But I still think that, once you are where you want to be, that, if you can cast loose from exterior musical input, that this interior music will rise into perception and reward you for that.

1:20:14

The way that I take psychedelic drugs seems very natural to me. But then, when I describe it to groups of people like this, I realize that people have all kinds of styles. And this has caused the psychedelic experience to be sort of neurally defined in the mass mind. My idea of how you take a psychedelic drug is that you reduce sensory input as low as you can without the reduction itself becoming an impediment. In other words, I’m not talking about isolation tanks and all that, I’m just saying a dark, quiet, calm, cool, empty room is the best kind of situation.

1:20:57

And some of the most interesting trips that I’ve had have been to the accompaniment of a single sound which is simply a drone. It’s like the bindu, the seed, around which then the multiplicity of the hallucinogenic vision can gather itself and constellate. I mean, I blush to tell you this, but some of my most interesting trips have been to the accompaniment of my floor heater which makes a buzz like a refrigerator. And that buzz becomes the cutting edge of a light which is like a comet giving off in the eddies of its trail hallucination—all the hallucinations there are.

1:21:49

So I think that music is intrinsic to everything that we’re talking about. We are aspiring to the condition of music, and we need music. Therefore, we should have it as an exterior input when we can have it no other way. So saying that I don’t listen to music during those states is not a put-down of music. Music is obviously the ideal, because it is one of these tonal languages that you understand my hearing. It is an Ursprache. It’s a language of emotion.


Yeah?

1:22:29

Audience

[???]

1:22:47

McKenna

Oh yes, definitely. One of the things that I do is: I have a counseling service called Anamnesis. And the reason I organized it as a counseling service was because I wanted people to interact with my wave on the level of their personal history, and I didn’t want them to be contaminated by being my friends. So I basically just advertised this service in common ground, which says something about: “Understand novelty in your life. Maps of the past and the future.” This and that. And then people come to me, and I interview them about their life, and we search the wave for a good fit to their life, and then we integrate their wave as a statistical component of the larger wave, and then we can make maps of the present, the next six months, the next ten or fifteen years, at different levels, and then people live it out and see if it works; see if, when the graph indicates novelty in their life should be increasing, it is increasing, and when it shouldn’t be it doesn’t. It’s like I’ve invented a one-term form of astrology. It only talks about novelty. It tells you when it will go up, when it will go down. It doesn’t in any given situation say what will happen, it only defines the level of novelty that must be fulfilled by whatever happens.

1:24:20

Synchronicity—you see, one way that I think of this time wave is: orthodox chemistry, physics, biology, probability theory, all these things go together to describe what is possible. So you say, you know, could an asteroid strike the Earth? Let’s ask the science. And they say: well, yes, it’s possible. There are enough of them. The probability is very low. Or you say: can we cleave this molecule with the input of this energy? They say: well, yes, it’s possible. Physics allows for that. But what my theory seeks to describe is not what is possible, but what out of the set of all possible things, why is it that certain things undergo the formality of actually occurring? It is as though they are selected out of this vast pool of possible things—things which could happen without violating any known laws—but out of that vast reservoir certain things undergo the formality of occurring. And once they’ve occurred, the fact of their occurring has defined the level of novelty in that now past moment. And so it’s like this novelty wave is an additional variable which has to be added in to physical laws. It’s the variable which dictates what, out of the possibles states, which ones are actually realized. And it’s the flux, the coming and going, of that wave of novelty which controls that.

1:26:04

Now, if you’re in a highly novel situation, then you get what Lilly calls cosmic coincidents or Jung calls synchronicity. You get obvious connections which have no obvious casuistry behind them. They are connected through meaning, not through the chain of cause and effect. And that is simply happening because the level of novelty is so great that these sideways connections are beginning to become apparent. And at the en of time, or at the ingression into this higher dimension, I think this will become excruciatingly present in the foreground of our experience. In other words, synchronicity is getting stronger, coincidence is getting stronger. The world is becoming more irrational. Science did work better in the nineteenth century than it’s working in the twentieth, because reality is slowly slipping through its fingers. There was a maximum moment when the reams of science and the nature of reality overlaid almost perfectly. But now reality is growing beyond it and pulling away from it. And I think soon I shall be pulling away from this meeting. Thank you very much!

Final Conversations

1:27:35

McKenna

—the platonic [???], you know, that scene where Plato proves that the slave understood geometry without ever having been taught, by asking him certain questions. This is the doctrine of recollection; that all learning is recollection. And he called that anamnesis.

1:27:53

Audience

That’s a great title.

1:27:55

McKenna

Yeah, well… we’re word folks!

1:28:00

Audience

I think that’s wonderful, Terence.

1:22:47

McKenna

Well, I hope you’ll read The Invisible Landscape, and let me know what you think of it.

1:28:06

Audience

Is it around at local bookstores?

1:28:09

McKenna

It’s fairly hard to get. I think they’re selling it out front.

1:28:13

Audience

Did you mention that this memory is somehow [???]

1:28:18

McKenna

Yes I did. I was talking about how being able to have memories is a kind of conquest of the temporal dimension. That was a very important moment in biology, when animals could be enough outside the present to say: oh, I’ve been here before, or: I know that I can’t swim, or: I know that’s a trap, I should avoid it. And I was talking about how memory was a part of this evolutionary conquest of dimensions, which begins with just with tactile awareness, and then light, and then motility through walking, then finally memory and anticipation of the future, and then finally (as in human society) anticipation of thousands of years of time and recovery of thousands of years of time of the past, not just personal [???] experience.

1:29:13

Audience

Well, I’m [???] my memory is not [???] judgment [???] saving factor, because as I live in time, if your memory is [???]

1:29:32

McKenna

That’s true. That’s true, yes. We live in the present, in a sense, because we have such bad memories. Thank you for coming!

Audience

[???]

McKenna

Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Good. Well, I’ll hope to see you again. Good.

1:29:54

Audience

[???]

1:30:02

McKenna

Yes. Well, I think this deepening of synchronicity and coincidence that I talked about will have the effect of getting us to the end of power. I think it’s going to be harder and harder to flock to power. Even in our own times we’ve seen the most powerful forces in the world totally brought low. I mean, America was in the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon campaign on the presidency. It seems like the more powerful you are, the more in danger of being depotentiated you are. And I think this is about information, about the density of media—that power and information are at war with each other. Power is [???] an ignorance is on the run.

Audience

[???]

1:30:55

McKenna

Yeah, well, we all are. Anybody in these societies [???]

1:30:59

Audience

[???]

1:31:33

McKenna

Well, this thing I was saying about how things are becoming more connected through time and speaking up? The last ten million years of Earth’s history have been the most violent and violently fluctuating in all of Earth’s history. The last million of these ten million years have been the most violent, and of those—

1:31:56

Audience

[???]

1:31:58

McKenna

The weather and glaciation and earthquake and pole shift, all these things. The last hundred thousand years have been the most violent of that. So what we’re getting is an increase in all kinds of change. And this—why does this happen to the planet is not clear. In other words, during the Jurassic period and Pre-Cambrian, the Earth’s climate was very stable, Earth’s temperatures were very stable. Apparently the weather was very mild. Now we have these tremendous fluctuations, glaciations. And, in fact, man was largely formed because of that. Because the glaciations have the effect of endlessly splitting apart and reuniting human gene pools, which is of course the fastest way to intensify diversity. You know, [???] and you mix the populations, and you separate them again, and then you mix them. And this is a major form of making man. So it’s as though, in a way, the planet, the instability of the planet on a planetary scale, has called forth an intelligent species.

1:33:18

Audience

[???]

1:33:20

McKenna

Well, I’m saying it’s driving this hump of evolution. It encourages making evolution happen faster than it has ever happened before. Because change always drives evolution. You know—

1:33:32

Audience

[???]

1:33:43

McKenna

Yes, we’ve certainly never faced a glaciation when we had a technology. But on the other hand, if the glaciation doesn’t come soon, real soon, we’ll be gone, you know? Well, in another hundred years, Gerard O’Neill suggests the major population center by 2050 could well be the Jovian moon system. That’s where the hydrocarbons are. That’s where the metals are. This is where the things we need are. And if classical patterns are followed, we will go where the natural resources are.

1:34:23

Audience

[???] higher beings [???]

1:34:26

McKenna

I think we’re going to spiritualize ourselves out of existence. I think that the dualism between spirit and matter, and body and soul, are probably going to be transcended. What we do is: we excrete ideas. We take in unprocessed matter—glasses, plastics, metal—and we excrete them as ideas in a very highly organized form.

1:35:01

Audience

[???]

1:35:06

McKenna

Well, it may be at transitional phase. In other words, maybe sophisticated civilizations always build with molecules. But even we are machines in the sense that we are made of DNA. Obviously, the metallic petroleum phase of the culture is very brief. As soon as we understand the genetic machinery we will use that as our technology. Everything can be made with DNA, not just people. We can make telephones and soft drink containers, and everything can be made this way.

1:35:45

Audience

[???]

1:36:01

McKenna

Well, someone—it wasn’t you—someone at the last one asked this very question. There are two directions to turning Earth into a garden, to recognize that we are the stewards of the ecosystem of the planet: to try to rein in our Promethean, Faustian tendencies, or what I think, which is space colonies and this Apollonian non-Earth-oriented culture—which I kind of lean toward, because I think that the other possibility was foreclosed sometime in the eighteenth century. That, to achieve now that no-growth ecological Earth-as-garden civilization, would require unbelievable savagery being unleashed, because there are too many of us. Now the only way out is up.

1:37:01

Audience

That’s true

1:37:02

McKenna

Well, this is a question for—

1:37:04

Audience

[???]

1:37:10

McKenna

You think that we can deliver—see, what we have to do is either deliver an American standard of living to everyone on the planet, or convince them that they don’t want that by doing it ourselves. But I don’t see that happening. I really [???] it could happen.

1:37:31

Audience

[???]

1:37:32

McKenna

Yeah. The space colony is wonderful, because it really splits. Everybody has to come and [???]. Because here we’re trying building a machine larger by a thousand times than any machine ever built, and saying, you know: “Is this the answer to Man’s problems or is this a deeper plunge into the nightmare?” I feel everything that you’re saying, but I also think that it’s too—in a sense, it’s too intellectual. Because what you’re saying is we understand what should be done, and let’s do it. But what if we exist to stockpile plutonium, and to build this staggering technology, to build these space colonies to lift the terran gene swarm off the surface of the planet, because the planet is in danger? What about the fact that the last million years has been the most turbulent of the last hundred million, and the last hundred thousand the most turbulent of that? Perhaps the planet is destabilizing. In that case, what is happening is: it isn’t that Man is evolving into Spaceman and leaving the planet, it’s that Man is the cutting edge of biology on the planet, and biology is frantic to escape. Because it senses that the ecosystem—

1:39:11

Audience

[???]

1:39:12

McKenna

But there will be if we take everything and go. And also: that’s a question. In other words, it’s the commonplace of the gee-whiz [???] that we’re made of stars. Alien stars, you know? The atoms in your body were once in the heart of alien stars. Well, that’s true, and everyone agrees it is. But the signal that should follow on that: that means there are body which were once the atoms of alien planets, not stars. So I think that the galaxy is no barrier at all to biology. Our biology is a barrier to understanding how biology really works.

1:40:02

Audience

[???]

1:40:30

McKenna

Maybe. Because, you see, the Earth is a prison, and we are threatened by toxicity and plutonium and all these wonderful things. Plato, on the other hand, thought that the minimum governable size of the human population was 50,000 people. Now, which is more likely to give rise to a totalitarian nightmare? A society of 700 million or a billion people with short resources on Earth with hostile neighbors, or a swarm of space colonies, several hundred of them, each with a population no more than 50,000, and spread through a volume the size of a solar system? See, I think we stand on the brink of the greatest age of pluralism since the Greek city-state, and that it’s not true the [???] here is where there must be staggering control, because there are hydrogen weapons stacked like cord wood. We must have thought control—not of populations, of leaders! They agree on both sides. This is the place where there is no pressure.

1:41:46

We have no idea how dangerous to ourselves the threat of extinction is, whether it occurs or not. Just the weight we are carrying around knowing that we could become extinct. If there were a hundred space colonies spread through the solar system, Man would be a galactic species. Nothing short of the explosion of the star could threaten all genes aboard the space colony. And everybody will go. We're simply the guy who gets to push the gold button. But the animals, the plants, the bacteria, the fungi, everything—

Terence McKenna

https://www.organism.earth/library/docs/terence-mckenna/headshot-square.webp

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