So the way this will work this evening is: I’ll just talk for a while, and if somebody wants to play music that’s their business. And then, when that’s over, I’ll do questions. And I think that’s the better part, because it’s interactive.
Okay, so I’m Terence McKenna, my pitch is that mushrooms shaped human consciousness, that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for psychedelic plants, because they promoted the suppression of dominator styles. We created art, theater, philosophy, everything about us that is human. And then we lost it, and we created history, slavery, standing armies, urbanization, monotheism, monogamy, materialism, militarism, and all the other -isms that are destroying the planet. And so the way back is through a kind of archaic revival.
And the whole of the twentieth century has been about this. Everything from jazz, surrealism, psychoanalysis, abstract expressionism, rock’n’roll, house music, body piercing, tattooing—all of these things are impulses to go back to how it was before history, to go back 10,000–15,000 years to a set of cultural values that made us happy. And what that meant was a non-material lifestyle, a lifestyle of orgiastic sexuality, wandering, hallucination, myth-making, and hope.
The reason these psychedelics, these plants, are so important is because they dissolve boundaries. They dissolve boundaries, and when the boundaries are dissolved we flow into each other: men and women, rich and poor—ultimately, the living and the dead. This is what shamanism is about: ancestor worship; magic through the ancestors.
So part of what’s happening is that time is accelerating. Time is moving at a faster and faster rate. This isn’t an illusion, it isn’t something just happening in human society, it’s something which is actually built in to the laws of physics, something that science has missed. Science has overlooked facts about reality that are going to help us make a revolution. The two facts are, first, that nature, the cosmos, is a novelty-conserving engine. What I mean by that is that each level of novelty that is achieved becomes the foundation for the next level of novelty. So upon atoms are built molecules. Upon molecules, membranes. Upon membranes, cells. Upon cells, multi-cellular life. Upon multi-cellular life, primitive animals. Upon them, advanced animals. Upon them, culture. Upon culture, global electronic culture. So what that means is a revolution in how we see ourselves. Because we are the most novel entities on this planet. Our bodies, our minds, our civilization is the inheritor of all the novelty that has been produced over the life of the Earth. That’s the first thing that science has overlooked.
The second thing science overlooked is that each advance into novelty proceeds more quickly than the stage which preceeded it. This is how it is that time is a spiral, moving ever faster, ever more quickly around a kind of attractor, a kind of transcendental object at the end of time that is pulling us toward itself through the dimensions, sculpting us out of matter, calling forth cultures, mythologies, languages; building, accelerating, complexifying faster, faster, faster.
And now, at the end of the twentieth century—with six billion people on the planet, information instantaneously transmittable around the planet—now all curves can be accelerated toward infinity. The number of people, the amount of energy being released, the amount of information being transmitted around the planet, the amount of potential creativity in the human population. And what this is doing is: it’s causing us to prepare for a kind of leap into a new cultural dimension. This isn’t like the Italian renaissance, it isn’t like the discovery of language. The only thing that’s ever happened on this planet that is comparable to what we are about to undergo is that distant moment 700 million years ago when life left the oceans. Some oxygen-addicted fish finally decided to make the break with the water and dragged itself, gasping, into a shallow pool there at the edge of an ancient sea, and that became the first step forward into the new dimension of space. Space on the land.
We come at the end of that process. And so the leap that we make is a similar leap into a higher dimension; a leap driven by electronic technology, psychedelic drugs, syncopated music, unleashed sexuality, and desire to transcend history. Because history has failed. History led us down a blind path. And now, after a thousand years of positivism, materialism, reductionism, male dominance, cities, slaveries, political ideology, we see what this is for us as human beings. It is intolerable. It creates a world that no one is comfortable with.
This is why I believe the twentieth century has been driven by this nostalgia for the distant past, for the archaic. We are trying to make our way back to the last sane moment we ever knew. And the last sane moment that we ever knew was literally 15,000–20,000 years ago, when people followed their flocks, fucked in a heap, intoxicated themselves with mushrooms, and lived in the lawdy, lived the felt presence of immediate experience. This is what has been taken from us by propaganda, ideology, religion, abstraction. All these inventions of the Greek and European mind have tended to carry us further and further away from authentic experience.
This is why psychedelic drugs, trance dancing, and sexuality make the dominators so uncomfortable. Because these things represent people taking back their planetary birthright. What we’re talking about here is people taking back their own minds.
So, like many of you, I came up doing LSD, doing cannabis, thinking of these things as part of the twentieth-century experience. It took the Amazon to convince me that, actually, this is how religion was done for the first million years. Religion is not ideology. Religion is not moral laundry lists of do’s and don’ts. Religion is the authentic experience of the wholly other. This is what Rudolf Otto said: the authentic experience of the wholly other, the alien, the unimaginable. And we now can only reach these things through psychedelics. Because our culture has completely sealed us away from all other avenues of authentic experience. Everything comes packaged, everything comes having been put through the sieve of Western ideology.
What pushed me through to this understanding was the discovery of DMT in my own life many, many years ago. I was an LSD aficionado, assumed myself to be very sophisticated, so forth and so on. And finally someone came to me and they said, “There’s something you should know about.” And I said, “What is it?” And they said, “It’s a new substance, a new experience.” And I only asked one question: “How long does it last?” And they said it lasts five minutes. So I didn’t hesitate.
When I smoked DMT, I was immediately conveyed into a dimension that I previously couldn’t even have imagined. I took two enormous tokes, I saw a kind of mandala-like form, a kind of floral turning symmetrical orange form, and then it was as though I burst through it. It was like breaking through a membrane. I could hear a crackle like the crunching of a bread wrapper or flame. And then I was in a narrow tunnel, fluctuative, pushing me by disystolic pressure down an undulating corridor. And at the bottom of that slope, at the end of that corridor, there was something waiting for me that I could scarcely wrap my mind around.
And what it was, was an elf nest, a domain filled with jeweled self-dribblng basketballs; howling elven forms from another dimension that would scramble toward me, squealing a greeting, and then jump into my body, into my chest, and then jump out, crawling over me, howling, telling me over and over again, “We love you! We love you!” And what these things were doing was: they were using their voices to make objects. They possess a language that condenses objects out of the air. So that they would come toward me, and then say, “Look at this! Look at this! Look at this!” And each one of these things was like a jewel, a machine, an animal, something made out of gold, agate, [???], jello, glass, heat, light, flesh—something unimaginable that was changing constantly as I looked at it.
And I realized as I looked at these things that if you could bring a single one of these objects into this world, this world would never be the same again. All you would have to do is walk up to someone and say, “Look at this!” and they would immediately understand what I was understanding, which was: this is impossible. This is im-fucking-possible in any world I’ve ever heard of or been in—and yet it’s happening.
Okay. So now, think about it. I didn’t have to go to Tibet. I didn’t have to spend twelve years sweeping up around the ashram. I didn’t have to submit myself to some beady-eyed weasel in a dhoty. All I had to do was take two tokes and hang on. This dimension that is so alien, so history-shattering, is nevertheless right here, right now. It’s just two tokes away through some kind of pharmacological energy barrier. And yet, and yet, millions of people throughout human history have gone from birth to the grave and never had even a suspicion that this was possible. That I can’t put up with. It gives me the creeps. It’s like somebody telling you that they lived to age sixty and they never had sex. The question is: what did you do with your humanness? What did you do with your existence as a human being? The world is full of these kinds of mysteries. But they belong to the courageous and they are to be sought in the mind, in the darkness of the intoxicated mind, with breath control and attention. They are not for the holy ones among us, they are not for the pure among us. They are for everyone. It is a democratic reality. It’s another dimension. And human art, human science, human cultural striving, I believe, is an unconscious effort to come into contact with this precise kind of reality.
What does it mean, then, to us? It means that we possess a tool for overturning the linear, uniform, constipated, moralistic assumptions of dominator culture. They’ve missed the entire point. Apparently, Western civilization is a kind of prison against reality. We have all been placed in a domain where reality can never reach us. And yet, and yet, in the rainforests, in the cultures that never made the descent into history, the flame was kept, the knowledge of how to penetrate into these bizarre alien dimensions. The way it’s done is through shamanism, through psychoactive plants, through syncopated music, through edge-running, chance-taking, intoxication, ecstasy, sexuality, understanding. The universe wants to be understood. And the act of understanding it transforms us to the point that we are unrecognizable to each other. So that was part of it: simply the discovery of the psychedelic experience; what it meant to me and to my friends as a force that could completely shatter, transform, reshape an individual life. But there is more to it than that.
It is not simply neurological chaos, or the Freudian unconscious, or the Jungian unconscious. The reason it is so important is because when the psychedelics dissolve boundaries, we merge again with the living entelechy of nature. The Gaian mind is a real intelligence which completely surrounds the planet, and which is composed of all living things on the planet. And we alone, through the perversion of culture and language, have wandered away from this understanding. This is the source of our cosmic loneliness: the fact that, for us, some 10,000 years ago, the psychedelic connection became severed. This is why we use drugs; so many different kinds of drugs. I mean, some animals—you know, elephants will push down fences to eat fermenting papaya and so forth and so on, but human beings have a unique relationship to drugs. There is in us some deep unmet need that propels us to try cocaine, heroin, religion, money, Marxism, deconstructionism, fashion, you name it. We are restless with a feeling of abandonment.
And this is symptomatic of a traumatic childhood. Something happened to us 15,000–20,000 years ago that has left us forever lacking inner peace, forever reaching beyond ourselves. And I think that it was this fall out of the connection with nature. It was a great tragedy when the climatic forces in Africa that brought the partnership society into being, when those forces, then, caused the mushrooms to disappear. Because once they disappeared, we returned to a much more animalistic style of existence.
I mean, here’s the deal. All primates, all monkeys, have what are called dominance hierarchies. It means that the hard-bodied, long-fanged, young males control women, the elderly, children, homosexuals, all minorities [audio cut] art, poetry, theater, ethics, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, everything that makes us human. And then we parted company with the mushrooms, and that was a dark, dark moment for the human march into time. That was the moment with agriculture, history, cities, kingship—all the institutions that have evolved into the pathological world we see around us were set into place.
So essentially, our consciousness is an artifact of a relationship to a psychedelic plant that no longer exists for us unless we make a conscious, individual effort to go back to these shamanic practices. And when we do that we lose interest in products, we lose interest in the news, we lose interest in dominating each other, we become much more interested in sex, in dancing, in philosophy, and in feeling the experience of our own bodies. This is what I mean by taking back our minds. It’s not for nothing that in this very dark moment of our cultural history anthropologists bring us the news from many parts of the world concerning psychoactive plants and shamanism. It’s not for nothing that our impulse to tattoo, to jazz, to house music, to rock’n’roll, to abstract expressionism—all these twentieth-century impulses are paths back toward this authentic archaic feeling of existential validity. And I learned these things in the Amazon. I discovered psychedelics at Berkeley in the sixties. But it took the Amazon to show me how connected up with human cultural history and the evolution of cultures.
Now, in the sixties these substances were called consciousness-expanding drugs. Just a simple phenomenological description: consciousness-expanding drugs. Imagine for a moment that this is true! If it’s true, or if there’s a chance in a thousand that it’s true, then we must explore these things. Because it’s a lack of consciousness that is pushing us toward the brink of some kind of a catastrophe. It’s the lack of consciousness that permits the spread of nuclear weapons, the rebirth of fascism, the toxification of the oceans, the degradation of the atmosphere, the proliferation of the schemes of male politicians. It’s lack of consciousness that stands between us and the kind of world that we want to create and live in. So we must use all the tools that we have in the cultural toolkit. And it turns out these are the oldest tools, these are the most dependable tools, these are the tools that we can rely on.
Now, in the absence of psychedelics, what happens to a person is that they develop an ego. The ego is a very late-arriving component of the psyche. The ego is less than 15,000 years old. It’s like a cancer or a calcareous growth. In the absence of psilocybin it takes root in the personality, and soon the entire personality is being dominated by the ego. The solution to this problem is boundary-dissolving psychedelic experiences. When you start from a position of ego, it takes great courage to take psychedelics. Because the ego will tell you—as you plunge into the psychedelic state, the ego will tell you you are dying. You are dying. You’ve done it this time. At that point what you have to do is turn to the ego and say: no, you are dying. You are dying, and I will stand here and watch it happen. And when you are gone, the real structure of the human being will emerge—the real archaic, genetically driven architecture of the personality will emerge.
Now, there’s a big political hassle about these substances because no government—democrat, fascist, socialist, you name it—no government is interested in having its people ask basic questions about freedom, responsibility, and identity. And no matter who you are, if you take psychedelics—rainforest Indian, Hasidic rabbi, Japanese stock broker—whoever you are, you will question the values of your society. You will become a force for social change and redefinition.
So, the Tolstoyan question: what is, then, to be done? What is to be done? We have to support each other. We have to build community. You know, Tim Leary said, “find the others.” Find the others. And psychedelics are only half of the equation. The other tool in our evolutionary toolbox, I believe, is technology. The only difference between a computer and a drug is that a computer is too large to swallow. Computers can help us find the others. Through the networks we can build an invisible web of connections, exactly as a mushroom builds an invisible web of connections, and we can become invincible. So invincible that we need not exercise our power at all.
Because what we have with us is the momentum from the past drawing us into the future. One model of psychedelics that I like very much is that, when you take psychedelics, the mind—which has… you know, here’s the deal. Mind takes the shape of its container. Mind takes the shape of its container. The ordinary container for mind is the paranoid animal: fearing attack, fearing death, fearing hunger. When we recast the mind, it actually unfolds into a higher dimension. It actually becomes a global, a universal phenomenon. The information is there. And it allows you to feel the future, it allows you to see the past, it allows you to reach beyond the boundaries of conventional thinking.
And when you do that you empower yourself, because you see that there is nothing to fear. There is nothing to fear. That message—that death holds no terror, that risk is always repaid, that nature loves courage—is the message that we’ve forgotten. The way the shaman is able to dance in the waterfall is through an enormous act of trust in nature, an enormous act of courage. We are now drawing back, preparing to make a leap into an entirely new order of existence. This is like trying to redesign an aircraft for supersonic flight while in flight. We must redesign our culture so that the stress, the vibratory shock of moving into hyperspace, doesn’t rip the cultural structure to pieces. And we haven’t large amounts of time.
There is a—well, we have a great ally in all of this. The universe is not running down into entropy, the universe does not want to become a dead machine. The universe wants greater cohesion, more love, more beauty, more integration. This is what novelty is. Someone said to me yesterday: the most flexible person in any situation controls the situation. And they control the situation through abandonment of control. This is a Zen idea: that you steer by not steering, that you serve by not serving. We are both being asked to make a tremendous act of political commitment to a new reality, and we are also being asked to simply let it happen. Simply to let it happen.
So when people ask what is to be done—this old question—the answer comes in a series of negatives. It isn’t a political program. What we should do is never follow (never follow, you should lead), never believe (belief is ideology, and ideology is poison). Never follow, never believe. Do not consume. Do not consume. It is acts of material consumption that are destroying the planet. If you have to make something, make music, make dance, make [???], make love. But not objects—not aircraft, bombs, toys, fashion. All of this is at best distraction, at worst poison. Do not consume, do not make. Do not watch. Do not watch. Millions of people are being warehoused in toxic low-awareness lives in front of televisions, where the poisonous messages of the consumer-driven media are the entire reality of their lives. This is where fascism gets its hooks into the body politic: among the low-consciousness, larval, warehoused, [???] live in a world of cosmetically-enhanced products, surfaces, and political propaganda. Do not watch. Do not watch.
The other thing is: do not multiply. There are enough people on this planet. And if you must multiply, make sure that your offspring is female. Because our problem as a culture is an over-expression of male-ness. The way to deal with this is not to try to feminize men. Men are men. They should not be feminized. But if we as a culture believe that feminine values need to be brought forward, then let’s simply work it out so that there are fewer men. Then, very naturally, the feminization of cultural values will occur.
So these are very practical things. Not to follow, not to believe, not to watch, not to multiply, not to consume. If we do these things, and we often and at high doses go to the Gaian mind—five grams in silent darkness, this should be the battle cry—if we do these things, we will discover under all the crap of civilization that the angelic nature is still intact. Humanness is still intact. It has not been betrayed. It has only been delayed. And the rainforest cultures, the shamanic cultures that exist all over the world, are waiting to show us the way back. We are like the prodigal son. We made a journey into matter 15,000 years long, we built the new toolkit of technology, computes, global transfer of information, and now—now—we must place these tools at the service of the Gaian and psychedelic agenda. If we do this, the transcendental object at the end of time, the attractor that is shaping all of nature and all of the human experience, will be able to manifest itself. This is what we’re going toward. We are preparing for the great, great adventure, and we cannot take very much cultural baggage with us.
The best metaphor that I have come upon is the metaphor of birth. When you are first a fetus, you live in an amniotic ocean that seems endless. But as you grow in the womb, eventually the resources are consumed, the boundaries are encountered, the pressures mount, and eventually in the process of birth and transition you are forced into the birth canal. You are being crushed. You cannot breathe. You assume you are dying. The fetus cannot imagine the world that lies outside the womb. We are the fetus of the planet. We are the children of the planet. But we have been brought to this stage of development in order to make a transition into another mode of being entirely. And there is no way that we could anticipate this. No prophet, no shaman can see beyond a certain point in this process. And beyond that point lies the great unknown to which we must commit ourselves if we hope to have any kind of existence in the future.
So I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new here. These are the ideas that we as a community and the other members of this community scattered around the planet understand intuitively. But we need to articulate this inside the dominator culture. For too long we have been in the closet. For too long we have accepted drug laws which amount to religious persecution. For too long we have hidden ourselves away from the eyes of polite society. Now, at the end of the millennium, with a global electronic culture as a support group, we can make this transition to a domain of hope and creativity like nothing we have previously supposed or imagined.
And I think that’s all I want to say about that. And I’ll take questions. Thank you!
One more thing before I take questions. It might come up in the questions, but in case it doesn’t there’s something I want to tell you that’s not such high-flown philosophical raving. But it must be told. And that is: a new psychedelic has been discovered that is active in the microgram range, exactly as LSD is. But it’s not related to LSD at all, nor is it related to any other known psychoactive substance. And this substance is smoked. But the point that I want to make here about it is: it is legal.
Well, I’m going to tell you. But first of all I want to tell you it is legal. It is legal to possess, it is legal to manufacture, it is legal to advocate, it is legal to do on stage in public, in therapy. Legal, legal, legal. Okay.
So what is it? It comes from a plant with a history of shamanic usage. The plant is called salvia divinorum. The compound is called salvorine alpha. 300 micrograms—that’s three grains’ of sugar worth—you vaporize it off a piece of tin foil, and it comes on so quickly that it doesn’t come on at all. It’s simply that, after a while, you notice that you’re looking at something incomprehensible, and you have been for some time. The plant is legal. It’s sold by rare plant dealers in the United States and in England, and presumably on the continent. All you need to know is the name of the plant, and you can track it down. Salvia divinorum—the diviner’s mint. Ojos de la pastora: “the eyes of the shepherdess” it’s called by the Indians who use it. And it is dramatic. It is dramatic. I mean, DMT test pilots come back white-knuckled and ashen from these places. So this is a great challenge to the community.
Interestingly, no laws have to be changed. It is legal in every country on this planet as I speak. So if we behave responsibly and move quickly and stockpile and produce this stuff, we will simply completely go around this whole issue of drug legality and availability. The other thing is: as a plant, you can take this stuff. You can take twenty leaves and put them in your mouth and lie down in silent darkness where you can see a digital clock, and after fifteen minutes spit this stuff out, and just lie there, and within two or three minutes it will begin what’s called hypnagogic streaming. That means violet and chartreuse amoeboid forms flowing past your eyes. And then, about a minute after that, it begins to really build and build. And the hallucinations are extremely peculiar, and extremely bright.
I did it recently in Hawai’i, and in a dark room with moonlight flooding in, with my eyes open, there was nothing going on—in a situation where hallucination is very common. But when I closed my eyes it was as dramatic as switching on a light in a dark room. It was instantly there. I mean, I just closed my eyes and it was there. An indescribably bizarre, non-DMT-like, evolving geometric modality in deep blues and violets that was touched with the strangeness of those realms. So that’s just the evening news of the psychedelic world. But it’s—
How long does it last [???]?
It lasts 45 minutes, and the question is: is it friendly? I’ll tell you a story. The first time I took it, someone came to me and said, “You’ve got to try this. It’s this amazing thing,” and so forth and so on. So I did it, and I was very nervous. Because when you take new drugs you basically have no idea what you’re setting yourself up for. Anyway, I took it, and the hallucinations came on. And what they were was: they were fuzzy bunnies, little kitties, dancing canaries. And I was saying: “Okay, it’s alright. I’m reassured. You don’t have to insult me.” It was like a psychedelic for eight-year-olds.
Now I’ve done it a number of times, and it no longer is so gentle. It becomes more what it is, the Ding an sich of the thing—you know, what it is for itself. And it is bizarre.
A lot of give and take. And what it says—and I haven’t crossed this threshold—but what it says when you see these three-dimensional hallucinations is: it says, “Get up. Walk in. Walk in.” And what I said was, “But I’ll stumble over furniture in the real world. I’ll… this and that.” “No. Get up, walk in.” Many people are reporting that this is a very place-like drug in the same way that DMT seems more like a place than an intoxication. This is a new place. And this morphogenetic field is waiting to be explored.
And so I hope all of you will locate and grow this plant. It will grow in this country easily, outdoors. It looks like Joe plant. It has no particularly interesting characteristics at all. And we need to produce a world where this stuff grows along every railroad track and every vacant lot on the planet.
Okay, that’s my spiel. Now I’m happy to do questions. Just a minute.
The question is: does this drug make the the virtual reality and multimedia thing irrelevant?
Well, “real” reality is an interesting philosophical concept. Somebody said, “Prozac makes you so you’re not yourself,” to which I replied, “I haven’t drawn an unstoned breath since 1965.” Talking about my real self is a little superfluous. But to answer your question: I don’t think so. Because the importance of virtual reality as I see it is: it is a technology that will allow us to show each other our dreams. We will be able to build structures in the imagination that we cannot now share with each other. I imagine a world where children begin to build their virtual realities by the time they’re five, six, seven. Well, by the time they’re twenty, these virtual realities may be, practically speaking, the size of Manhattan.
Well, then what real intimacy will mean is saying to someone: “Would you like to visit my world?” My world, with my visions, my values, my dreams, my fears. In a sense, what virtual reality is, is a strategy to let us turn ourselves inside out, so that we see each other’s minds. You know, octopi wear their minds on the outside of their bodies. Octopi communicate by changing colors and the smoothness of their bodies. They wear their meaning. We have an organ that we can do this with, but it’s very limited. It’s called a face. If you look at people’s faces, and you are open, you can see into the mind. But virtual reality is going to allow us to share much, much more of ourselves.
After all, my reality is not how I look, my reality is who I am. And the only way I could give that to you is if I could invite you inside. So I think this hasn’t much been said about virtual reality, because it doesn’t interest the commercial people who are developing it. But I think this is what it will eventually be: a tool for sharing our dreams and the insides of our heads.
Who am I and what is—who am I? Well… yes, what is my reality? I don’t think I have a ready answer. I mean, I could try an answer. If you mean: what is it like to be me? It’s exactly what it’s like to be you. One of the things I’ve noticed going around doing these kinds of talks is that I truly believe that any one of you could do this—what?
How are you what?
How are you? Half in and half out. You’re okay, I’m okay. What?
Do I like D.E.?
No, no. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t discuss the chemistry.
Well, that’s about right. I mean, here’s the thing. With those tryptamines, what seems to happen is: the longer the trip, the lower the spike. So with DMT it’s this incredible spike and it’s over in four minutes. With DET it’s a lower spike and a longer trip. To go back to your other question, just in case there are chemists here: the active principal in salvia divinorum is salvorin alpha. It’s an isoquinoline. It’s the only isoquinoline hallucinogen ever discovered. It’s not an alkaloid. It’s not an indole. This is astonishing—that fifty years into the psychedelic revolution we could discover a new mega-hallucinogen active in the microgram range?
It just shows you we don’t really know what’s out there. This was one of dozens of plants carried on the books for years as possibly psychedelic. And it wasn’t discovered in the laboratories, it was discovered by underground chemists in L.A. This is entirely an underground operation, this salvia divinorum thing. So it shows, really, that in the domain of psychedelic research our people—not Bayer, not Sandoz, not J.B. Lily, but the underground—is where the research is happening and where the discoveries are being made.
Somebody else. Yeah?
Do you want me to talk about that? Yeah? No, it’s a completely different thing. Santo Daime is—well, there’s a plant combination in the Amazon called ayahuasca, which moved down into Brazil in the early years of this century, where it’s now called huasca. And there are two religious groups in Brazil, Santo Daime and UDV (or União do Vegetal). And they take their recipe of ayahuasca in a group setting, and I understand that some missionaries from these religions have been coming to Europe and America spreading their particular style of psychedelic religion. It’s similar in style to the peyote church. It’s one by men, women, and children. Many of the Santo Daime people are members of the Brazilian middle and upper class. It’s very respectable there, probably because it comes out of their own native forest. In the States, it’s very much stigmatized.
Ayahuasca is essentially a strategy for oral activation of DMT. It’s a way to take DMT—which, if you normally took DMT orally, it would be destroyed in your gut. But if you take it with an MAO-inhibitor, it can survive the chemical environment of the intestines and pass into the bloodstream. So ayahuasca is another one of these shamanic hallucinogens that are making their way into Western society. And it’s always been done in a religious context. I’m hopeful that in the United States this will allow it to be used because the freedom of religion clause of the Constitution should protect it—although it didn’t save the Mormons their polygamy, and it doesn’t save the peyote for white people. So we have to—
—inevitably. You know, the right to explore your own mind is about as fundamental a right as one can imagine. And the idea that governments could seek to legislate states of mind is an outrageous affront to the idea of human freedom.
Well, Dennis had this idea—which is on some levels fairly conventional—that you can use sound to pump energy into a chemical system. And there is an entire branch of chemistry called acoustical chemistry. He believed that under the influence of psilocybin and ayahuasca you could cancel the various electron spin resonance signatures of these molecules and drive them into a superconducting state in the DNA. And I’m not an acoustical engineer, so I don’t know what you call this kind of sound. But this is what it sounds like. It sounds like this: neeeeyoo neeeyoo neeeyooooo neeyyyooooo. I think that’s called… well, I don’t know. It’s an asymptotic scale of some sort.
There are many different kinds of acoustical sounds. The kind that interest me are the spontaneous glossloalias that come from psilocybin that I believe were the basis of language. I think that, long before there was meaning, there was language, and that people made strange mouth noises for each other as a form of entertainment and amusement. And it was only very late in the evolution of language that some very practical alpha male decided we would assign special meanings to certain words. The kind of glossolalia that I like sounds like this. Nee deje guahua huaxi dipi nimha guavahaki nogua gahakbi wutz tish mohagaba gende odejimbu vi buahua gedebahakte fulminti guzh wegeba hag bedegoa. People were doing that for a long time before they learned to tell jokes, I’m sure.
Do drugs done in a ritual form have more efficacy than solo journeys? Well, solo journeys have a ritual form. I’m not big on ritual in the sense of—well, the mushroom once said to me (I didn’t even ask a question), “Ritual is what you do when you don’t know what to do.” But ritual on another level—I mean, for instance, here’s how I take mushrooms. I don’t eat for six hours—which is not fasting; I don’t call that fasting, I just call it getting your stomach empty. I don’t eat for six hours. Then I unplug the telephone. I lock the door. I wait until it’s ten o’clock at night. And then I take five dried grams of stropharia cubensis, or three dried grams of the European psilocybe semilanceata. This is a lot. This is a lot. This is probably close to 30 milligrams. And then I smoke dope. And I sit and I wait.
And at the hour-and-twenty-minute mark, when I feel it beginning to cut in, I smoke. And usually that brings it in. An then I just sit with it. Sometimes I never move in a trip. I sit for four to five hours. And then, when it’s over with, I eat. I don’t go to sleep. If you sleep without eating, when you wake up the next day you’ll feel like shit. So eat. Eat before you sleep. Fruit or something like that. It doesn’t have to be a feast. But something. And that’s all there is to it. Silent darkness on an empty stomach. Pay attention.
It’s weird. People don’t understand how to look at the back of their eyelids. It’s like they don’t get it. You’re supposed to look at the back of your eyelids with the expectation that you’re going to see something. That’s all. And it’s weird. I mean, I talked once with Roland Fischer, who is this Viennese scientist who had given psilocybin to 2,500 graduate students and so forth and so on. And I said to him, “Roland, what do you think of the hallucinations when you close your eyes?” And he said, “I never closed my eyes.” This guy had taken it sixty times and never closed his eyes. That’s crazy as far as I can figure. For Christ’s sake, close your eyes! It also helps to shut up, you know?
And then—I contradict myself—it also helps to not shut up. One thing people don’t understand… like, Westerners especially, when the going gets rough—and if you take psychedelics often, sooner or later you will have a long, hard evening—when the going gets rough, you don’t clench and get in the fetal position, what you do is: you sing. That’s what the shamans do. You sing. It doesn’t matter what you sing. The idea is: sit up, open your mouth, and sing. Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Sing! And then it will move. It will move on you. But if you clench, then it just is hell, you know. It’s very simple. It’s so simple.
This whole thing about psychedelics, it’s like the best kept secret in human history. I’ve been standing up in front of audiences like you for twelve years, telling this secret over and over again, and it’s still a secret. It’s still a secret!
Well, I think—well, you have to make a decision here. The reason I smoked DMT without fear was because I’ve been told it only lasts three minutes. If I’d been told it was the strongest hallucinogen on the planet, I might’ve had a different attitude. You sort of have to decide which is harder: three minutes of the very, very dense stuff, or four and a half hours at thirty percent strength? I sort of think the “hit ’em hard and fast” theory is the way to go. DMT is for the people who say, “Oh, you people who take drugs! You’re just soft in the head. Give me a bourbon and water and I’m fine.”
These are the people—and anyone who is a critic of drugs, of psychedelics, should be asked the question: “Well, it only takes ten minutes to do a DMT trip. Have you done your homework? Have you… you’re so full of criticism, are you willing to invest ten minutes in seeing what it’s about?” And they’ll never be the same. You’ve got them then. So, you know, choose your weapon according to the task at hand.
How do you remember? Well, it’s very tricky. I mean, the first time I did DMT, after it was over, all I could say was, “I can’t believe it. I cannot believe it. I don’t believe it. I can’t believe it. It’s impossible.” But after saying that for fifteen minutes, I no longer knew what I was talking about, because I not only couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t remember it either. So—what?
Yes. It does. Did you all hear what he said? He said, “Does it fade like a dream?” or “It fades like a dream.” It not only fades like a dream, I think the chemistry of dreaming and the chemistry of DMT is similar. I think that every night we go deep, deep into these places. But if you have no language for something, you can’t tell anybody about it. You can’t even tell yourself about it if you have no language for it. So DMT is a catalyst for language development.
And then, a very practical strategy for remembering is: tell it as you’re coming out of it. Tell it when you’re a minute away from it, two minutes away from it, five minutes away from it. Try and build up a composite picture. But even though I go around talking about this stuff, I’m completely convinced that most of my DMT trips lie beyond my reach. I mean, it literally cannot be told, because language has developed in the three-dimensional and familiar world. And if you’re plunged into an utterly unfamiliar world where there is no up, no down, no past, no future, no three-dimensional space, no foreground, no background, then you literally cannot tell it.
This is why the great frustration of my own life is that I am not a great painter, a great artist. Because we need to send people who can paint what they see, who can—through computers and sculpture and whatever—carry the message back.
They are nuts. They are nuts! I mean, actually, Tim Leary denied ever saying this once, when I gave him credit for it. But someone very wise once said: “LSD is a psychedelic drug that occasionally causes psychotic behavior in people who have not taken it.” I would bet you that more people have exhibited psychotic behavior from not taking LSD than from taking it. So…
The question is: can you use harmine and mushrooms to get a DMT effect? Smoking it. Well, this is a good area to experiment with. A very nice thing to do is to take a half a dose of mushrooms, and then roll up a bunch of joints of banisteriopsis caapi bark, or pergamon harmala seeds—some source of a vegetable MAO inhibitor. Then, when you take a hit on this MAO-inhibiting joint, the hallucinations will sort of come into view and perform for a few minutes, and then fade out of view. Then you can take another hit, and it will happen again. And you can do this twenty times in a night. We called it, when we discovered it in the Amazon, vegetable television. I don’t think I’d call it that now. But the reason it seemed like television was because these hallucinations were not at all threatening. They were just simply beautiful and there, and you could watch them, and then it would fade away, and then you could bring them back. So if you’re of an experimental nature, this playing with MAO inhibition in the presence of your system loaded with alkaloids is a great way to go.
Why [???] what is hostile? Yeah. How far does it go? Well—
Well, my impression is that when you go into these places, you not only see things that nobody has ever seen before, but you see things that no one will ever see again; that this dimension is so huge that the idea of returning to the same place is almost impossible. The American writer John Crowley once said, “The further in you go, the bigger it gets.” And I think this is true.
As to what does it mean—what does it do for us here? Well, to me, I’m basically philosophically a Platonist. And Plato said the good and the true are the beautiful. The good and the true are the beautiful. So what psychedelics do for me is: it’s like an orgasm of beauty. It affirms beauty. And beauty affirms what is good and true. So to me it’s an expression of—it’s the discovery that the universe is beautiful, that it cares for us, that it is coherent, and that it is a mystery. A mystery is not an unsolved problem. That’s how a scientist thinks of a mystery. A mystery is not an unsolved problem, a mystery is a mystery. And it’s the absence of these kinds of mysteries in our lives that have made us into materialists, Marxists, existentialists, capitalists, so forth and so on. So for me the psychedelics are the rediscovery of the authentic dimension of mystery in being. The only thing comparable is sex. But it’s very different from sex.
Yes. Well, I think the other thing that it teachers you is that your reality is a cultural construct. What we call reality is not reality, it’s just the reality of being German or French or Japanese. You see, because what happens is: by the time we are three years old, four years old, you have been given a word for everything. These words are like tiles, and you just cover over reality. Here we have a bird. But once we have the word “bird,” the mystery of birdness is replaced by the fact of the word. And a child learning its native language is slowly building a prison for itself inside conventional expectation. And what the psychedelic does is it completely shows you that you’re inside a cultural set of conventions, and that they were no more than that. And that’s tremendously liberating, I think.
Yes. Good question, and it gives me a better answer to your question. The other thing I that I think psychedelics teach, if you do it—this is not what it teaches the first time, but if you give your life to it—it teaches you that death is not dissolution. It teaches you to overcome the one truth that we all accept from science, which is that when you die, you’re compost and that’s it. I don’t believe it. I think psychedelics cure the existence of the human personality beyond death. And that alone would justify the whole razzmatazz of it.
Yes. So, I think the body is the placenta of the soul, and that when the soul is finished, it can sever its connection to the body, we can bury the body under the apple tree, and the soul will then proceed with its career in a dimension that we cannot even conceive of.
Well, I’m very suspicious of trying to understand reality through particle physics or something like that. I think the world is not made of quarks or electrons or… it’s made of language. Yes. Well, so what we’re learning from things like Bell’s theorem and stuff like that is information is holographically and fractally everywhere. Well, if that’s true, then the concept fades away, can’t exist. Or nothing can fade away if all information is holographically and fractally embedded in every iota of space and time. So I would say no. I would go with William Blake, who said nothing is lost. Nothing is ever lost.
Well, I’m not sure it’s necessary to do that. I have a sixteen-year-old son, and he’s certainly been brought up in an alternative style. And I’m very happy with the results. I’ve been with tribes that give their children—they put ayahuasca on the woman’s nipples when the baby is four days old. And ayahuasca tastes weird. I mean, it’s sour and just strange. These Aguaruna Jivaro people, they are exposing their children to these things from three days old and up. And it’s a very shamanic, metastable rainforest culture.
You could think of thousands of things that we could do with psychedelics if they were legal to work on. I mean, careers could be made with them. We’ve never explored paranormal phenomena with psychedelics. We’ve never explored curing physical conditions with psychedelics. We’ve never explored trying to solve complex mathematical problems intoxicated on psychedelics. I mean, people report breakthroughs in all these areas; individual anecdotal stories. But if what this is is consciousness-expansion, then we should be able to design better cities, have better economic systems, have better healthcare delivery systems, make better art, make better love, design better spacecraft. It’s just mind. It’s just creativity driven by connecting up to the real mind that is behind the appearances of nature. It’s about getting connected up to the Gaian mind, discovering that it’s not we who are intelligent, we are the brain cells of an intelligent being which is the Earth. And when we honor that, everything flourishes. And when we fail to honor that, nothing flourishes.
Well, we have to do it drug by drug. The question was: what do I think of combining MAO inhibitors with ecstasy, 2CB, and drugs like that? Well, the rule is: if it’s an indole, the MAO inhibitor will activate it, will make it stronger. 2CB is an indole. MDMA is not. So combining an MAO inhibitor with MDMA would probably not do anything terribly dramatic. Combining it with 2CB probably would. If you’re into this, use a natural MAO inhibitor. Don’t use these pharmaceutical MAO inhibitors. They’re much too strong. You know, they have MAO inhibitors where you take one pill and it inhibits every molecule of MAO in your body for eight weeks. You don’t need that. If you take harmaline, harmaline is an MAO inhibitor that is reversible in four to six hours. And there’s lots of interesting work to be done here. A lot of people are using pergamon harmala seeds—two grams of pergamon harmala seeds—with other things: LSD, DMT, psilocybin, ibogaine, whatever, and getting all kinds of interesting results.
A book was just published in the United States called Ayahuasca Analogs, in which the thesis of the book is that there are plants which contain MAO inhibitors and DMT in every ecology. In Europe, in North America, in Australia. And people don’t need to import ayahuasca from Brazil or Peru, they just need to locate local sources of these chemicals, and then put them together. The easiest local source for an MAO inhibitor—at least in the States, and it’s probably true in Europe—is: Iranian markets sell something called hurmal. It’s actually the seeds of pergamon harmala, designed to be burned as an incense. But it contains a very substantial amount of harmine, and you can use that as your basic MAO inhibitor, and then explore these other plant combinations and create your own shamanic toolkit.
Are they active in the dry state? It didn’t work for me, but some people swear they are. My best luck has been with the fresh leaves. Take about twenty of them, remove the midvein with your fingernail to lower the volume. 20 salvia divinorum leaves is a mouthful. And just put it in your mouth, hold it there, squeeze down on it with your jaw. It has horrible taste, but no worse than ergot. But a weird taste. And then hold it for fifteen minutes. Then spit it out, and it’ll do you.