Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature

October 17, 1987

The Great Mystery whispers through psychedelics as it unfurls revelations beyond language’s grasp. Here, ego-bound shells crack open as cosmic minds reborn beyond confines of space and time. We thus commune with the endless Imagination—holographic spirit-stuff whereof worlds are wrought. Invariants of the eternal suffuse temporal shadow-play, the mundane ever aflame in subtler dimensions. All form awakens, ascends, drawn unto consummate transcendence as history’s fever dream blossoms into timeless infinitude.


Day 1

Archaic Revival as Antidote
to History’s Abyss



So I guess that’s the end of my introduction. Here’s Terence McKenna!



Can you all hear me? Can you hear in the back? Yeah? Not very well? Make them hear in the back. Okay. Ah, that’s much better, isn’t it? Is it better in the back? Good, good.


Well, I would like to join with Roy in thanking all of the people who made this possible. Mary Fowler worked long and hard to make this happen. Eric Ali did the wonderful graphics for the poster. Pam, here, has controlled and managed traffic flow here this evening. Diane and Roy are incomparable treasures in the L. A.community. I was talking to someone today who said they had listened to KPFK very carefully in the month that Diane and Roy were away, and it just ain’t the same thing. It’s terrifying to think that two human beings in a city of, what, 11 million? are what’s holding up the hip end of things.


As Roy said, this is a benefit for KPFK, and in a larger sense for Botanical Dimensions. Botanical Dimensions is the non-profit that Kat, and I, and Rupert Sheldrake, and Ralph Metzner, Ralph Abraham, Frank Barr, a number of people have organized to carry out plant rescue operations for medicinal plants and plants with a history of shamanic usage. And we have a botanical farm in Hawai’i, 20 acres, maintain collectors in South America, and occasionally support collecting in Africa. And this is our real-world political work, beyond the communicating and the publishing and that sort of thing, where we actually try to impact some of the negative so-called progressive changes that are taking place in the third world, and disrupting rainforest culture, and causing this shamanic and folk pharmacopeia to be lost. So I appreciate your being here tonight in support of that. It’s very important work—far more expensive than I thought it was when I organized the foundation—and it’s ongoing, so we never really seem to be ahead. So I want to thank you for your support of that.


In line with that, I’ve been living with Kat and our two children in Hawai’i on the Big Island for the past year, and not really doing any public speaking because there was none to be done there. And it was a very good opportunity to get out from under the electronic umbrella of the sprawl of North American culture, and to sort of look at it and assess it. As this practice of speaking with groups of people has become more and more a part of my life, it has sort of changed in my mind from the addressing of certain topics and the building of a talk around a theme to more just pointing and looking and saying, “Well, here we are. Here’s where we’ve arrived tonight. What is the situation? What is the state of the world? What is the state of the union?”


I think psychedelics had a very large impact—I’m sure there’s no argument on this—in the 1960s. But in a way it was not ever anchored in anything. It was never explained to anybody by anybody how it fit into the historical context of what had preceded it—perhaps because no one actually knew at that time. For instance, the invoking of shamanism as an explanation for how plant hallucinogens work on psyche is completely alien to the literature of the 1960s. It just isn’t there. And—speaking of aliens—the theme of alien intelligence or of hyper-dimensional organized entelechies contacted in the psychedelic state: that also was an absent theme. It was basically presented—it, the psychedelic experience—was basically presented as an exploration of the contents of the personality with a little bit of overflow into aesthetic issues. So I remember in the early days we would stack our Abrams books on Hieronymous Bosch and Pierro della Francesca and Giotto, and then the idea following Aldous Huxley was that you would imbibe the meaning of these great works of art behind the kind of psychic freedom that the psychedelic substance was going to graft onto your ordinary consciousness.


Well, I think all those kinds of metaphors were useful, but it’s been now twenty, twenty-five years of looking at that phenomenon, and also of having the future continue to overtake us with ever more demands upon our cultural resourcefulness and our ability to cognize the cultural situation. And I think now it can be seen somewhat differently. And so these two nights in Los Angeles—which are called Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature—are a kind of effort to take several telescoping steps backward and place the adventure of psychedelic self-exploration in context, to frame it in a number of different ways, because I think it’s very important for us to know—as the hermetic mysteries urge us to know—wither we have come, where we are, who we are, and whence we are going. All issues that the psychedelic experience (especially, to my mind, the plant hallucinogens) bring into close focus. Here is an opportunity for a theater of cultural growth that is unparalleled.


How did we find ourselves in this situation? What is, exactly, the nature of the cultural situation in which, then, the psychedelic response is called forth as part of a spectrum of cultural responses? Basically, what’s been going on in Western civilization for about 500 years is the exploration of the metaphor of materialism, which began as a simple limiting case. Since we’re at the Philosophical Research Society, it behooves us to talk philosophy for a moment and remind you that there is what’s called Ockham’s Razor. William of Ockham was a late medieval philosopher, and his razor was that hypotheses should not be multiplied without necessity. Without necessity. In other words, the simplest explanation should be preferred in all cases. The fewest number of elements should be put forward as necessary for an explanation.


And following William of Ockham’s statement of this notion as a logical way of proceeding, the assumption was made, then—a provisional assumption at the beginning—that matter could be separated from the notion of soul and spirit, that it could be divided into its simplest units. And out of the activity of those simple units, a model could be built up that would explain more complex phenomena in the world: Cartesian materialism—which was applied very successfully to physical matter, to the chemical elements. And so successfully, in fact, that the provisional nature of the assumption was soon forgotten in the explanatory zeal of the people who had latched onto this method. And so it was then applied out of the chemical realm, and it moved into the biological realm. And the search was on for the biologically irreducible unit, which in the seventeenth century was the cell, and great excitement about the cell. And then, in the twentieth century, of course, first the nucleus of the cell, and ultimately DNA as the constituent of the nucleus which was controlling protein synthesis.


But strangely enough, the elucidation of the mechanics of the gene through this program of reductionism did not issue into the same kind of control over the products of the gene that the same program had the same kind of fruit that had been born of the analysis of physical matter. And in the early years of this century, when the effort was made to extend the metaphor into psychology, the true inadequacy of it became clearly seen. So that the effort to break the personality down into types, or complexes, or archetypes, or behavioral strategies all failed. And at the same time that this process, that this confirmation, was happening in the social sciences, physics—which had been old reliable in the matter of supporting this particulate, pointillistic, materialistic school of explanation—began, in fact, to betray it. Because the analysis of matter was pushed to deeper and deeper levels, until finally phenomena began to be elucidated which seemed incomprehensible in the mechanical model. It seemed as though what had been thought of as points of matter were in fact spread through time, and the notion of simple location began to give way to talk of clouds of probability and this sort of thing. All of this reaching a culmination in 1923 with the Copenhagen conference on quantum physics, where basically a new vision of matter was elucidated. And, strangely enough, the new view of matter seemed to have a very mentalist sort of aura about it. It no longer was a theory of simple location, calculable energies, and specific predictions. It was probabilistic.


Now, this reemergence of the need for a wave-mechanical description of matter can, I think, now be seen (from the vantage point of 55 years) as the first stirrings, or among the first stirrings, of the reemergence of the spirit. And I think that what Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature argues for is the presence and re-emergence of the awareness of spirit in the world. This is what the so-called and long-heralded paradigm shift is all about: it is a vast turning-over of the intellectual universe which will eclipse many idea systems and support many more. It is the idea of fields. Spirit need not be defined or even conceived in any sort of nineteenth-century, or mentalist, or animist way. What spirit is, is a field of deployed energy that is somehow copresent at more than one point in space and time. It is the shadow that haunts the particularized world of Newtonian matter. And it is, strangely enough, the commonest object of experience. In other words, as we move through our lives, as we project our hopes, as we plan our days, as we execute our jobs, we move in this realm of spirit.


The problem is that we have been very slowly, but very efficiently, corralled inside an intellectual system which gives no credence to spirit, and therefore has had a curious effect on the validation that we give our own lives. For instance, if you look at positivist philosophy,—hich is the dominant philosophical paradigm in academic philosophy—there you learn that there are primary and secondary qualities to the world. And the primary qualities are charge, spin, angular momentum, velocity, this sort of thing—things which nowhere come tangential to the felt world of the individual. Well then, there are also so-called secondary qualities: color, taste, tone, feeling—all the things that make up the world that you and I experience. So, somehow we are not traveling in first class on this metaphysical airliner. No, we’re back there with the secondary qualities, and the good stuff is all up front, and it is described and manipulated by incomprehensible equations, and you have to enter into a priesthood to become part of it.


Well it’s to our credit, I think, that we are waking up. And one of the reasons that we are waking up is because into the objects of common experience—by an exhaustive search of the objects of common experience—diligent, clear-thinking seekers after understanding (people who took seriously the Constitution’s assurance of the pursuit of happiness) have—Robert Bork notwithstanding!—have found more than the right of privacy in the Constitution, but have actually found the right to alter your own consciousness for purposes of personal growth.


Well, consciousness is like a still pool. If it is unperturbed, it returns a clear image of the world—in the same way that the unperturbed surface of a pond will become a mirror to the environment around it. But if consciousness is perturbed by being shifted from its ordinary modalities, then the extraordinarily tenuous and provisional nature of what we call reality swims into our ken. And we see, you know, that what we take to be solid objects, what we take to be here and now, what we take to be personal identity versus other in the form of other personalities—that all of these things hang by the most tenuous of linguistic threads and cultural conventions, and that beneath the surface of those conventions is utter terra incognito: a no man’s land. The unexplored territory behind cultural assumption, suddenly starkly totally incontrovertibly illuminated to the inspection of the individual.


Well, this is feeding—indeed, to my mind it is the major factor responsible for—the reemergence of the awareness of the spirit. It holds out the possibility that we can create a new definition of our own humanness. That it was fine, for purposes of disentangling from the medieval church, to take the materialist route, and to follow it into Darwinian evolution, to recognize our ascent from previous primate forms, and to sort of claim a dimension of existential freedom. But that is not the whole story. That essentially is the legacy or the achievement of modernism, which was fully worked out by 1927 or 1928, I would say. I mean those people— the ’Pataphysicians, the quantum physicists, the Dadaists, the surrealists, Alfred Jarry, André Breton—it was all worked out. And those of us who were born after that time and have come into this sort of pseudo-eschaton of regurgitation of modern values in art, fashion, and literature have been living in this kind of a goldfish bowl ever since.


I mean, really, it’s astonishing the degree to which, in the most progressive and fast-moving century in the last ten—or twenty, for that matter—there has also been an extraordinary backward current, a very strong recidivism, that has held at bay the true exfoliation of what modernity was supposed to mean. That’s why, within the twentieth century, the further back you go, the more utopian the projection of the future becomes, and the further into the twentieth century you go, the more like a dystopia it becomes, as we get not elevated railways, immortality, and hot pants, but, you know, bread lines, and germ warfare, and double speak, and all of these things.


So, into this situation of retrenchment and cultural recidivism and the working out of modern values—which are materialist values—comes, then, the beginning of the postmodern era. I prefer a different term, which I call compressionism—the compressionist era—which follows the modern era, and its theme is the reemergence of the presence of the spirit, and its major cultural exhibit, or the major cultural force driving it, is the discovery of relativism with regard to consciousness. Which does not only mean psychedelic drugs and hallucinogenic plants per se, it also means media, it also means literary expectation, reorientation of the senses through design, urban planning. The entire spectrum of effects which feeds consciousness back into itself is enunciating this theme of the emergent spirit. And it is not necessarily a welcome theme. Because all institutions attain a certain momentum toward the preservation of their own vested interests. And science—and the handmaiden of science, which is modern technocratic government—have created a number of cultural institutions that have a friction with the reemergence of the spirit.


First and foremost is the notion of the public. The public is this weird idea that was generated in the wake of the printing press that there were vast numbers of people who could be treated atomistically. They didn’t have to be thought of as individuals, they could be thought of as various classes; masses of people to be manipulated. And if you could sell the public on the idea of democracy—which is another one of these atomistic notions. The notion of democracy is: for us all to get together and have it work, we have to assume that we’re all alike, see? So we each have a vote, and you may be tall, you may be short, you may be rich, you may be poor, you may be black, you may be white. But that doesn’t matter, we’ll give everybody this charge, one vote, and then we’ll see how these populations work themselves out. What they don’t tell you is that, at the same time that you build this definition of the citizen, you also build the institutions which subvert the the citizen. So the citizen is not free to act out and express the wishes of the citizen. The citizen is a consumer of ideological models that are sold to the citizen through agencies of mass propaganda. So there’s this peculiar playing off of one against the other.


In the meantime, what has also been happening is: the institutions of language—which previously were pretty much left to develop on their own, and that was the situation well into the nineteenth century—through the power of the printing press, the evolution of language also became something under the control of these institutions, and they very quickly have replaced whatever reality may have been impinging into the lives of the citizens with concepts. Concepts replace reality. You come into the world with a blank slate, and everything is what William James called a blooming, buzzing confusion. Well then, one by one you isolate phenomena in this confusion, and you name it. Once a sector of reality has been named, it stays still. It ceases to behave the way it would behave for itself. It begins to behave syntactically, because it has been changed into a linguistic object. When things behave syntactically, they are either subjects or objects or the syntactical machinery which relates these two together. In that case, materialism, dualism, projection of authenticity beyond the self are all reinforced.


So these are the factors which have impeded the spirit. Into this comes the psychedelic experience. It has a tremendous force to revivify the spirit, particularly because it is not an ideology. It is not something someone figured out. It is an experience. And this is important to bear in mind. It horrifies me—I’m sure you’ve heard me say it—to think of someone going to birth to the grave without ever coming tangential to the psychedelic experience. It’s like going from the birth to the grave without ever discovering sex. It means that you died as a pre-adolescent. You know, you never really came into your birthright. And we have been infantilized by our cultural institutions to accept the notion of ourselves as citizens consuming these regurgitated scientific models, which are then hashed through by Madison Avenue, and then handed down to us by the organs of mass culture, and this is supposed to be what we anchor our lives on. It’s no wonder that drug abuse, child abuse, self-abuse is rampant in this society, because it all has been taken away from us. You may read Nineteen Eighty-Four and think, “Well, thank God it isn’t that bad yet!” Well, the only difference between us and Nineteen Eighty-Four is: we dress better!


So I think that little gatherings like this—and I feel like this is definitely a family gathering. This meeting was sold out before there was any promo other than Roy’s show and a small mailing we did. So you are people who have passed through a very narrow filter. You stay up late, you listen to KPFK, and you tolerate Terence McKenna, so you are either thrice blessed or thrice cursed—I don’t know which it is. But anyway, it feels to me like a family gathering. It feels to me like we are figuring this out. And there aren’t that many of us, I think. But what we understand as a group—or what I imagine that we understand—is that there is this twilight of reductionism. There is this end of the old model. And yet, we’re not ready to proclaim the twilight of reductionism to simultaneously be the funeral of reason. You see, there are a lot of people, a much larger group than we represent, who are prepared to bury reason along with reductionism. And I think reason may have been caught in bed with reductionism, but it may have been set up, is the the take that I have on it. And as they used to say in Watergate: “Linked, but not tainted.” So….


I am a very… I was accused of being narrow-minded the other night. Because I come to this very honestly through the sciences; through trying to really find out what was going on, and not just accept everything that came down the pipe. I mean, I will believe anything if there’s evidence, if it’s self consistent, if the case is well made. I mean, I think that the first thing the truth will be is a pleasure to hear. You know? And not some turgid and tormented thing where you have to go to six meetings, and not talk to anybody who doesn’t believe it, and all of this sort of thing.


So I think it’s important—as the (what I call) archaic revival gets rolling—it is important for us to clarify where we’re coming from. When we were simply the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe it hardly mattered. But responsibility will devolve on us to say what we mean, and to have a position which is not only convincing to the converted, but convincing to the skeptics. That’s who I’m after, you know. Because I think that a great instance of cultural blindness is what we’re confronted with on the issue of psychedelics. Psychedelics are to the science of psychology what the telescope was to astronomy in Galileo’s time.


And we are in a situation of increasing global pressure on our species, increasing outbreaks of neuroses, unhappiness, psychic epidemics, and we are leaving our best tools behind because of fairly preposterous cultural prohibitions—cultural prohibitions which deny us our best weapons for overcoming the situation that we are in. And this is really an intolerable situation, because nothing less than the fate of the human species probably hangs in the balance. We cannot afford the luxury of an unconscious. We cannot afford stupidity, closed-mindedness, racism, sexism, consumer materialism, selfishness, an absence of globalism. These things are not necessary for our moral edification, so that we can feel like well-bred ladies and gentlemen. These things are necessary for us so that we don’t destroy ourselves.


And the fact that this message is so slow coming out is a strong argument for activism on the part of anybody who thinks they have even the faintest glimmer of what is going on. You know, the future will not wait. I see the most cryptofacist and intransigent of institutions slowly waking up to fairly basic facts—such as: that a nuclear war is probably a bad investment. You know? So that even as Neanderthal a type as President Pinocchio is willing—isn’t that a cruel thing for me to say?—is waking up to the fact that it just don’t pay.


But, you know, we have a lot of problems. It isn’t going to be the millennium even if we achieve a massive cutback in strategic weapons. There’s still going to be propaganda, sexism, starvation, inability to correctly manage resources. These things will plague us unto the last syllable of recorded time unless we begin to undergo this kind of intellectual cohesion: the compression of our intent, the recognition of our group-mindedness as a feeling, as a will, that can act in the historical context.


And to my mind the psychedelics have always existed in the plants to promote precisely this. There were not language-using, tool-making tribes of human beings in the absence of hallucinogenic plants. The hallucinogenic plants create the context for integrated organizational activity. This has been going on for at least 15,000–20,000 years. The problem is that, through a series of factors—which we needn’t go into in depth here—but factors which impinged on European civilization particularly, civilizations were able to evolve outside of the noetic input from Gaia, outside of the biological radio that envelops the planet and inputs into balanced tribal societies with functioning shamanic institutions. In Europe somehow the chain was broken. The link back to the elder gods and goddesses and to the biological organization of human society before history was lost, and this curious kind of ungoverned intellectual development occurred—ungoverned in the literal sense of a machine which slips from the control of its governor.


And in that situation, materialism—which is an insupportable philosophy. Actually, if you have an openness, a sensitivity, any kind of cultivated feminine response to nature, it is utterly impossible. Recall that the point of view of Cartesian materialism pushed Descartes to actually claiming in public debate that animals were machines. He said they feel nothing. The apparent display of pain is simply something which we project onto them, because we alone have a soul. And Descartes, you see, had himself not gone over completely to materialism. He believed there was a human soul, but it came tangential at only one point to the human body. Somewhere in the Pineal gland there was a switch, and the soul was running things like a telephone switchboard operator from there.


Well, very shortly after Descartes, his followers just said: well, we don’t need this soul concept. It was just a thing to stay on the right side of the church, and we don’t need it, and they cut it loose. Well, once you cut that loose, then you have all kinds of permissions. You have permission to rape and exploit nature—permission which had already been reinforced for Western man by the New Testament, but now raised to the nth degree by the assumption that nature is utterly without soul. And this philosophy persisted well into the 1950s. The essence of Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialism can be summed up in the statement, “nature is mute.” That was Sartre’s position on nature. How many people thinking themselves existentialist and hanging out in coffee houses actually ever worked through what the consequences of the existential point of view was?


Nature is not mute. You really have to have worked yourself in a weird place to believe that, you know? In fact, nature is entirely something else. Nature is communication. Because nature is psyche. This is what we haven’t understood. We have somehow talked ourselves into the belief that into the natural world of Eden God came and made man, and from man, woman, and that men and women are of so ontologically a different level than the rest of nature that no conclusion about us can be drawn from an examination of nature. Nothing could—I mean, it’s impossible for me to understand how this idea persists and has such momentum in the twentieth century, where hierarchy theory has very, very clearly explicated the notion of the linkage of higher-order systems to subsystems that are physically more simple.


So, you see, really, what we have is a kind of fractal universe. In fact, it’s not greatly different from the alchemical view of the sixteenth century where people said, “as above so below.” The microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. What this is really saying is that, at the level of a planet, you get a certain level of organization and spectrum of peripheral effects. The same thing—such as self-reflection, self-regulation, intent, goal-projection, steering toward perceived goals—you get the same kind of thing on the level of a society (can be a beehive or a herd of antelope or whatever), and you get it in the human individual and the human society. So really, what is to be seen is that we are the cutting edge of becoming. We are not a thing apart. We are a unique level of a multi-leveled organism. And we have been called forth out of nature, by nature, for a purpose. And what is our cast as individuals, I think, is to discover what that purpose is, and then to align ourselves with it in a way which allows the plan, whatever it is, to most smoothly unfold.


Well, what it seems to be is a progressive invocation of spirit—the theme with which I began the evening. That—through language, through abstraction, through magical invocation, the formulation of religions, the projection of art—the field phenomena (the phenomena which are diffuse in space and time and not easily located) are forcing or intruding their way into three-dimensional space and time. If you were an extraterrestrial in a starship in orbit around this planet, what you would see, looking down, is a gene swarm. The species that seem to us to be animal forms extremely stable in time are actually highly permeable membranes over millennia and tens of millennia, with genes crossing over, moving around, and being basically obedient to the expression of some kind of teleological form. And it was the concern of nineteenth-century biology to eliminate teleology, to eliminate purpose and directedness. But it’s very hard to avoid the impression of some kind of attractor ahead of this planet, embedded in its history, and somehow channeling everything toward it. So that the progressive acceleration of human society—of information production, of communication, the proliferation of languages, natural and synthetic—all of these things are not something going on in the human domain and somehow sealed from the general state of nature, but are, in fact, part of the general state of nature. And the human experience, or the human animal—as the carrier of this catalytic process, this speeding up and accelerating of process on the surface of the planet—is not sealed from nature, but the leading edge; the leading edge of a process on this planet.


Now, teleology was so antithetical to nineteenth-century science because they were trying to pull away from the telos of medieval philosophy. They didn’t want God, these nineteenth-century English atheists—Darwin and Lyell and that crowd. However, we have come through the so-called death of God, and the elimination of of a theological raison dêtre for the universe, and now we’re looking more at a telos which we would operationally define. Rather than define it based on ancient revelation—which was, you know, the previous the method was: the older the book, the truer it must be. And the Bible is the oldest book, and therefore it must be true. This is what Mircea Eliade called the nostalgia for paradise paradigm of time. We are overcoming that.


It can now be seen that there is, in fact, some kind of transcendental object. And it’s best to try and describe it phenomenologically. We don’t know what it is, but we do know that it’s an enormous attractor of some sort, and we are in the field of attraction—and by “we” I mean all life on the planet is being drawn in to this nodal point. And it is possible to anticipate it through the psychedelic experience. Because apparently, the natural and the linguistic worlds are worlds which are organized along the principle of fractal curves. Fractal curves are recently discovered mathematical objects—not all of them are recently discovered. Some were known as late as the late nineteenth century, but most have been discovered using computers in the last ten or fifteen years. And they are self-similar curves such that, when you take a subset of one of these mathematical objects, it is found to have the whole pattern embedded in it. The Fourier transforms that describe holograms are these kinds of things. Coastlines, mountain ranges—data of all sorts, when analyzed in a certain way, is found to be fractal.


Apparently, the world is a kind of vast spiral fractal that is achieving greater and greater closure with itself. And we experience this density of closure and this compressionism as the spectrum of effects which we call human evolution, human history, emergence of high technology, the present moment, the rush toward apocalypse. The most intense moments that the universe have ever known are the next fifteen seconds. And beyond that lies still more intense moments. Novelty—as a kind of generalized paradigm of the compression of connectedness throughout the cosmos—is accelerating moment by moment, in the rocks, in the trees, in the stars, and in us. And so what we call history—which is not… the modern theory of history is what they call “trendlessly fluctuating.” That’s their model of the world. You get order at the atomic level, order at the biological level, order, order, order. And suddenly you reach human beings, trendlessly fluctuating. It’s as though, you know, we were affected by the brownian movement of random particles. And yet, we somehow, out of all this ordering, we’re to believe that then emerges the trendless fluctuation of human history. Actually, this is nonsense. It’s simply that there has never been a thoroughgoing theory of history.


However, now we are ready for them. Because these wave-mechanical ideas that notions of closure, Sheldrake’s idea about the presence of the past, the way in which a past drives the present—all of these things lay us open for an understanding of the compression and densification of time. And this is what is experienced in the psychedelic experience. Really—you know, Whitehead said of dove grey that it haunts time like a ghost. Well, I think that the compression of the three-dimensional universe at the end of time haunts time like a ghost. It’s the cosmic giggle. Here a messiah, there a shaman, there an ecstatic poet, and there the tiny ripple that is simply a congruent coincidence in the life of a single individual. Robert Anton Wilson called this the cosmic giggle. It’s when something protrudes through the forward-flowing momentum of rational causuistry, and causes it to flow around it, and eddy and churn, and then you see through for a moment, and you say, “Well, what is it?” There was a plottedness for a moment. There was the hand of the maker there. But now I don’t see it anymore.


That is the going behind the veil. That is the seeing into the structure of being that lies behind the conventionalized languages. That’s why coincidence is so often reported as an accompanying phenomenon for the psychedelic experience. Because really, syntax is dissolved. And syntax is a filter for this sense of eminent connectedness. And when the syntax goes, the eminent connectedness flows in. Then it’s a question of what you do with it. If it causes you to believe that you are going to save the world, then you haven’t gotten the message right. That’s inflation, and inflation is very bad. It drives up interest rates. So if you get that kind of a take on it, you are misusing it.


Nevertheless, the most advanced yogic techniques that are known are the techniques of the so-called Anuttarayoga Tantra, and these tantric yogic techniques. And there the prescription is—it says in Herbert Günther’s Treasures of the Tibetan Middle Way, “You should think of your house as a resplendent palace. Think of your utensils as made of beaten gold. And think of yourself as having a body made of living mercury.” What this is in Western psychological terms is an invitation to inflation. But if it is approached with the right analysis of mind—basically that there is nothing but bodhi mind and there is no particularization in time and space—then there is no inflationary feedback into the ego. And this is the kind of opportunity that the psychedelic opens up.


I’ve said many times, quoting Plato: “Time is the moving image of eternity.” Time is the moving image of eternity. What the shaman does is: he or she leaves the mundane plane—and in Mircea Eliade’s phrase is able to trigger a rupture of planes. And the rupture of planes carries the shamanizing person into another dimension. Literally another dimension. And in that other dimension all of time and space is beheld, as James Joyce said, in a nutshell. And in the nutshell of time and space everything is seen to be an aesthetically pleasing, integral, necessary part of the transcendental object. In fact, what this universe is is a lower-dimensional slice of that same transcendental object.


Well, I guess what impels my career and what I really can’t get over is that what I’m saying to you is true. You know? We sit here, we gather here, and even though we’re talking about this extremely far-out thing, still all the forms are in place. I’m here, you’re there, everybody sits on their ass, nobody sits on their head. It all appears fairly mundane. How can it be that what we are talking about is the nearby presence of an impossibly alien dimension? Now, if that alien dimension had been reported back to us by a robot probe dropped into the methane oceans of Europa, we would be all hot to go there; to organize a 20-billion-dollar expedition and a 15-year plan, and go out there and fiund out what is happening. The amazing this is that, you know, each one of us in our own living room can be this Magellan, can penetrate into these dimensions. It really seems quite freaky to me—freaky to me that such a thing is possible, and yet that we are such monkeys, or so culturally constrained, or so blind, that this is not what we’re all talking about all the time. And by we all, I mean all five billion of us on this planet.


Because we appear to be being pushed down a featureless corridor toward a furnace. And yet, if you would notice, there are all these doors along the side of the so-called featureless corridor. And nobody seems to have cognized that you can just open these doors and walk through, and short-circuit the inevitability of planetary disaster. Amazing! Amazing! Because we pride ourselves on our commitment that science allows us to look anywhere, inspect any possibility. Our models are not dictated to us by the church, or by government, or by industry, when in fact they are dictated to us by the church, government, industry, mammalian organization. And so we are no better off than all those benighted people in those previous ages where we look back upon them and say, “Well, they must have been so limited by their world view, because they didn’t know about quantum physics and ketamine and Michael Jackson and cable TV, and all of these things.”


But the fact of the matter is that—unless we push through culture to nature—we, too, are dupes. We, too, are somehow being sold a line. And yet, nature is there, outside of the cities. You know, you drive an hour and a half from where we’re sitting and you’re in the high desert, and it is demon-haunted, paleolithic space. It holds the same promise for us as moderns that it held for the Luiseño indians, who were initiated into their shamanic institutions before the conquest, before history.


So nature is the final arbiter of cultural forms. This is what Taoism understood, and this is what I believe the psychedelic plant thing is pushing us toward. It was not immediately apparent that this was so, because as I said at the beginning of this talk, in the sixties the psychedelics came out of a laboratory, and only the most scholarly of the trippers bothered to study the natural origins and the anthropological and ethnographic context in which these things were coming from, like the Eleusinian Mysteries, or the Mexican morning glory mysteries, or the Wasson-discovered mushroom mysteries.


But if we can somehow link a respect to nature, a sensitivity to Gaia, a valuing of ourselves, a complete placing of our own feelings and our own perceptions in the forefront of trustworthy sources, and the psychedelics integrated into our lives, then there will be a tremendous cultural impact, a tremendous reorientation. Because the message that nature is trying to give, the steering signal on the human species, comes through the accessing of this shamanic dimension outside of history. Revolutions are made by tiny percentages of the populations in which those revolutions are wrought. The important thing is clarity and connectedness and a clear understanding of who one’s antecedents are, what the source antecedents are, and what the target goal is. “New Age” is a pale label for what is going on. New Age sounds too much like new Nixon, new Reagan, new re-treaded everything.


What is happening is an archaic revival; a harking back to cultural models 10,000–25,000 years old. Because the profane fall into history is actually ending. The way the fall into history ends is with the progeny of Adam, the human race, recovering the control of the human form. The control of the human soul. The ability to turn ourselves into whatever we wish to be. This comes through the union of imagination, through understanding, into nature. The invocation of the dream—this is what the Australian aboriginal society is talking about—this is what the dream time is. Finnegan’s Wake says, “Up-nee-yent prospector, you warp your woof and spread your wings, sprout all your worth.” This up-nee-yent, this end of time, this birth into angelhood lies ahead of us, but it is really part of the archaic return to the paradisical mode before history.


The psychedelic hallucinogens are the catalyst. The minds that they touch become the catalysts within the society in general. And from there the fashions, the social forms, the kinds of conscientiousness, the innate decency that is called forth by the authenticity of the experience, is what will transform us. I mean, in the same way that an affair can become a love affair—if there is mutual authenticity of behavior, rather than simply a kind of flirting flirtation—in that same way, our affair with Gaia can be a love affair if we can summon to ourselves the vision to make it so. And it means really being aware of the vastness of the options, of the precipice that late twentieth-century historical human beings stand on.


We are about to leave for the stars. This is what is happening on this planet. A species prepares to depart for the stars. To do that, energy has to be marshaled. The lessons of the long march out of the trees and to this moment have to be collated, sifted, refined, concentrated. That is the alchemical goal. The historical process is the story of a prodigal son, of a wandering and a return. The return is meaningless without the wandering. The wandering has no meaning unless its fruits are given birth after the return. And I think that the last thousand years has been the prodigal journey into matter. And it ends finally with modern pharmacology, modern ethnobotany, discovering in the jungles of the Amazon and the mountains of Mexico the body of Eros, Osiris. You know? Fallen since the time of the flood, but awaiting the reemergence of the cognizant human connection. That is what the archaic revival holds out. It’s actually our salvation.


I mean, I think I’m fairly hard-nosed. I don’t see any hope for us. I don’t see any hope for institutional transformation, unless it is done with an awareness of the transcendental object. And the religions that we inherit from the past are so screwed up that the only way to validate and empower the transcendental object is by self experience, by direct accessing. And people say, “Well, can’t it be done on the natch?” No, it can’t be done on the natch, generally speaking. Because if it could be, it would have been done. I mean, there are plenty of elder societies on this planet who have the rap down, you know, but look at the kind of societies that they erect. I mean, horrifyingly dehumanized societies seem to be the breeding place of the most sublime religions there are!


So no, I think there has to be a humbling. We have to bow our heads and abandon the dualism that we inherit out of Christianity and science and the whole Judeo-Christian-Islamic schtick. We have to realize that it requires a symbiotic partner. It’s a hand-in-hand effort. And if we are willing to take the hand which nature offers—in the strange form of the alien vegetation spirit from the stars that seems to infuse us on plant hallucinogens—then we will go forward into a bright new world. It’s a partnership, it’s a challenge, it’s the only game in the planetary village. And I appreciate your letting me share with you my notion of it this evening. Thank you.


We’re going to take about a ten- or fifteen-minute break, and then do question and answers. There are a bunch of handouts, catalogs, events coming up, stuff on tables at the back of the room, which I urge you to take a look at.

Q & A Session



Yeah? We’re going to start very quickly, because the Philosophical Society has asked that we wind ourselves down. I wanted to call your attention to a couple of things before I take questions. Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide is back in print by popular demand—at health food stores, you buy agar. But I do technical consulting for a hefty hourly fee. This can be gotten at Bodhi Tree. It’s longer, it’s on better paper, it has more drawings. It’s as state of the art as we could make it. It has brought freedom, prosperity, and enlightenment to tens of thousands.


We have—not to be outdone by Tim Leary—we have a piece of software. So if you own a IIe, IIc, or IIgs machine from Apple, why, you can run this Time Wave software—which, in my opinion, is actually my best trick, and I will be writing and talking more and more about about the wave of time. Because, in Hawai’i, finally developing this software gave me a real grip on it. Eventually we will market this for Macintosh and IBM-compatible machinery. But right now it’s in the IIe, IIc line.


Also, I’d like to mention that Kat and I will be at Esalen next weekend. So if any of you are true gluttons for punishment, why, you can join us up there for two and a half days, and it should be lots of fun. That will wind this all up.


And before I take questions, I want to again remind you of Botanical Dimensions. It is a tax exempt nonprofit. We do need donations, so all the money that is given goes very directly into visibly manifesting the botanical garden in Hawai’i, collecting the plants, building a computer database, and basically support—not even supporting, but keeping a Peruvian collector in the field. Since I’m most familiar with Amazonian botany, that’s where we’ve concentrated.


Well, usually questions are the most interesting. How is this to be done? Are you going to have a microphone? Do people come up? Stand up? Stand up and speak loudly. In the middle in the back, yes.



Yes, Terence. I was wondering if you could share with us your ideas about what the spirit is?



Well, I think my notion of it is that, the way we experience it, it’s an informing understanding. On one level, it’s simply appropriate activity, you know? Knowing how to do everything, because it is the Tao of the ancestors. In other words, you can sort of see yourself as the most recent version of your family’s genes. And in all traditional activities there’s millions of years of morphogenetic fields stored up for how you pick something up, how you set something down. So, in the immediate sense, the manifestation of spirit is appropriate activity.


What it really is, I think, is some kind of hidden how-ness that makes everything be as it is. And that’s what the spirit is. In other words, science describes the possible things that can happen. Science is the study of possibilities. And what nobody has ever answered is: how is it that, out of the entire class of possibilities, certain things actually undergo the formality of occurring? Somehow they are selected out of the class of the possible, and they become the actual. Well, the thing which mediates the coming into being of the actual out of the class of the possible is what I think the spirit is. It is the invisible hand, if you will. It is the guiding force. It is the invisible landscape over which becoming flows like a river. It defines, it creates. It is this telos that I mentioned; this attractor at the end of time.

Other—yes, back there.



Yes, Terence, has there been any research [???] in relation to electron spin resonance recently since The Invisible Landscape? And secondly, can tryptamine act as a mechanism for the release of genetically stored material through that DSR, direct spin resonance, with an interpolation [???]?



Well, in The Invisible Landscape that’s what we were suggesting. And The Invisible Landscape was published in 1975. Since then there’s been a lot of work with MMR and ESR, none of it which overthrows this idea. It’s a real question about: where is the epigenetic data stored? In other words, all the memories that you accumulate during your life die with you. Your genetic material, you can pass on at least half to your children. And so, during the life of the individual, this epigenetic material—experience, anecdotes, memories, anticipations—where is it molecularly stored? Or is it molecularly stored? In The Invisible Landscape we were suggesting that thought is actually a naturally occurring ESR readout of portions of the DNA which were not associated with genetic expression, but which were somehow like writable memory in a computer; that epigenetic stuff was being stored there. There’s no data to overthrow that notion that I’m aware of. I don’t cling to it as strongly as I once did.


I look more and more—see, I didn’t realize that this was a fundamental break, this allowing of spirit into the scientific model of the world. And I now think of the brain as a receiver of the phenomenon of consciousness. I don’t believe that consciousness is generated in the brain any more than that television programs are made inside my TV. You know, the box is too small. It just obviously is too small. I mean, it might not be if you didn’t have the psychedelic experience. But once you splice that in and you say, well, it’s taking 10-high-16 megabytes of memory to store this database, so I just don’t think it would be done like that.


I think that somehow this field phenomenon that I keep returning to—this is another slice on what the spirit is—it is this field of some sort of energy that organisms, as they evolve, discover. Right? Already somehow present in the environment. It is the appetition for being that drives organic evolution into this kind of dance of relatedness to this other thing, which is transduced from another dimension. That’s why, you know, if you take “consciousness expansion,” the phrase (or “consciousness enhancement”) seriously, it must be very important. Because consciousness is, after all, what it’s all made out of. That’s the name of the game. So this transducing of higher states of consciousness then seems very important. Even at that, it would be necessary to elucidate the physical mechanisms—whether it’s ESR, MMR, or what it is. An interesting sort of opportunity for psychedelic research.


You see, the amazing thing about psychedelics is not only that they are illegal and restricted from the so-called ordinary person, but they are restricted to scientific research. Nobody can do research on psychedelics. I mean, it is professionally and practically impossible to do it. Well, there’s no other area where this is true. I mean, science probes obscenely into the most private areas of our sex lives, our social lives, our dream lives, monkeys are smashed against walls to study—I mean, there’s no limit to it. And yet, there’s this total hands-off attitude toward the psychedelics.


So an interesting break in this front is the sudden need—because of computer assisted tomography, CAT scanning—the need for compounds which locate in certain highly defined parts of the brain. If you could [???] these drug compounds and make them radioactive, you could make very nice pictures of various parts of the brain. So now, suddenly, there is an interest in all this old psychedelic research about the receptor site and location densities of molecules in the brain. So we may be on the brink of an era where, to have a psilocybin trip in the evening, you must have signed on for a CAT scan at general hospital in the morning.

Someone else?



I forgot my question, so I guess I’d like to hear just about the space of these plans that you feel that you need to sort of rescue them from the Amazon and bring them into Hawai’i; how many types of plants there are, and that type of thing.



Well, every time I have gone to the Amazon plant collecting, I’ve observed that the indigenous rainforest cultures are more and more disrupted. And there’s a lot of conservation and big organizations raising money to preserve the rainforest, and to get large tracts of rainforest set aside. But there is no awareness or social conscience about the fact that the presence of capitalism in the Amazon is totally disrupting tribal human culture. So these people who have been tribal for thousands of years, the men are just totally walking out on the traditional lifestyle, and taking their canoe a hundred miles downriver, and signing on at sawmills and on oil-drilling crews and this sort of thing.


And so the consequences of this is that, far more rapidly than the rainforest itself is being destroyed, the human cultural interaction with the rainforest is being lost, and thousands and thousands of species of medicinal plants, antibiotics, immune stimulators, hallucinogens, analgesics—all these different kinds of plants, this data, this lore, is being lost. And when you realize that, you know, 80% of the drugs sold in the United States are, in fact, traceable to plant sources, and in spite of the vaunted success of so-called strategic pharmacology (where you just think up the drug you think you need and make it in a laboratory), it’s really, still, a lot of what drug companies do is screen for plants and cash in on folklore, basically.


So, it’s important to preserve these plants and the lore about them. Because, you see, it’s really hard to explain how some of these plants have been discovered. For instance, in the case of ayahuasca: ayahuasca is a visionary shamanic brew that happens to be made of two different plants. Banisteriopsis caapi supplies an MAO inhibitor, and psychotria viridis supplies DMT. Either plant by itself is inert. And you have to know to brew the wooden bark of one with the leaves of the other. And you have to know that it’s in a certain proportion. And you have to know to concentrate it to a certain degree. Well, when you realize that a square mile of Amazonian rainforest can have 120,000 species of plants on it—I mean, that’s in contrast to when you go into the Sierras, a square mile of forest may have 150 species of plants in it. So it’s an ultra-complex environment. And human beings—who knows by what means; I mean, it is, to my mind, that the vegetable spirits lead them to it—have sussed out all this knowledge that is a seamless web of understanding about nature. And so this is what we’re trying to preserve in Hawai’i.


I think ayahuasca is a good example. It has tremendous potential for psychiatry. It is a purgative. It kills intestinal parasites. It appears in agar, in slant culture, to kill the trazodone of malaria. Well, instead of delivering high-priced drugs made in Germany and the United States to the outback of Indonesia, where malaria is raging, you could simply send in thousands of cuttings of this plant. People could grow it as a dooryard plant, take it as a tea on a weekly basis, and malaria would be held at bay.


There are over 200 plants, in a recent review article that I saw, known from Africa that appear to be immune-stimulating plants. Well, God, this should have everybody on the edge of their seat. The breakdown of the immune system and the whole AIDS-related complex and all of that. It turns out that adaptations to plants in traditional cultures have conferred, or have stimulated the immune system, and conferred certain kinds of immunity. Well then, this could be the basis for a drug strategy of some sort, and so on. So this is the kind of preservational work that we’re doing there.




Yes Terence, a few days ago you were on KPFK with Roy and you mentioned briefly San Pedro—that’s what you said, right? You were talking about [???]. Can you just give a brief background, maybe a parallel between your experience [???] to that of psilocybin mushrooms? [???]



Well, I don’t know what [???] means, but it must have startled your stomach! It was pretty vile.



Well, I did know what I was doing.



Well, I don’t really know that much about San Pedro. I’ve never gotten around to it. I know a person who swears by it, but they have an elaborate way of cooking it up in a pressure cooker. Mescaline, and halamine, anhalamine, n-methyl mescaline, all of these things are occurring in that plant. It’s an amphetamine-related thing. It tends to be pretty rough. Of the natural hallucinogens—really the big ones, as I think of them—mescaline is the harshest. An operating dose is considered to be actually close to a gram; 700 milligrams. One way that pharmacologists judge the toxicity of a drug is by how much it takes to get you off. And the less it takes, then the more benign the drug is thought to be. So on that scale, mescaline doesn’t do too well. But my experience with mescaline is with peyote, which I gather is somewhat similar.


It’s been interesting. It’s hard to take enough to really reach the deep water without it really reacting on your stomach. It’s not the cleanest way to go. I think that, having looked at these things in south America and in many places, in my experience the mushroom just is it. I mean, other things have other aspects to it and bring it in, but the mushroom is an extraordinary organism. It’s like it’s engineered for that purpose. And I’ve spoken about how it’s almost strewn in the past of developing primitive man in Africa, because it was associated with the manure of cattle and in the ungulate herds of Africa, evolving on the veldt at the same time that the Human animal was evolving a complex pack- signaling language and so forth—it just set the stage. It seems to me it was the catalyst.


I really believe that we are in a symbiotic relationship with these plants, and that the mushroom—by virtue of being global in its distribution—is probably a major slice relationally of that kind. And in other words, that the peculiar turn that evolution took in our species—the reinforcing of self reflective consciousness and the reinforcing of linguistic signaling—has to do with the presence in the human diet in that early stage of these mushroom. It’s known that the mushroom—that low amounts of psilocybin, sub-threshhold doses of psilocybin—increase visual acuity. Well, it isn’t hard to figure, then, that if evolutionary pressure is operating on a pack-hunting species, that visual acuity is going to be at a premium. And if small amounts of psilocybin the food chain increase visual acuity, those animals will be selected and survive.


Well, then their habit of accepting the mushroom as a food makes them open for this linguistic synergy, this symbol-forming capacity, then, and then the deeper more ecstatic experiences with psilocybin—which are then projected onto the mushroom, onto the cattle—become the basis for a kind of cattle-goddess-mushroom; a cycle of a heirophany, the discovery of the tremendum. I mean, almost as though, in the scene in 2001, where the apes encounter the monolith: it was precisely that, except that the monolith was a mushroom. It was a superbly genetically engineered omnivorous organism that could insert itself into the ecosystem of a planet and begin to coax an effect out of a mammal that it had a relationship to. And this effect coaxed out of the mammal is this relationship to this higher-dimensional waveform (which we call the spirit or mind), which is, apparently… you know, that’s what it’s all about.


Why this is happening is not clear. I mean, in the mushroom book I suggested that it was because there is some awareness of planetary finitude; that the mushroom actually thinks on so large a scale that it is using us to make machines for it to perpetuate it throughout the nearby galaxy. That it is aware of the finite nature of our star. We don’t know, we don’t plan—yet—on those kind of scales. We’re an infant race, very obstreperous. And the mushroom said to me once, “If you don’t have a plan, you become part of somebody else’s plan!” One of it’s slightly more paranoid…! But it is good, I think, to have a plan, and to have allies. And the mushroom is very contemptuous of the notion of humans having human allies. It says, you know: for one human being to think it could gain enlightenment from another is like for one grain of sand to think it could gain enlightenment from another. So it really believes in hierarchical levels and trickle-down gnosis—which I’m not sure how I view that. I believe all secrets should be told, and that we should just lay our cards on the table. But maybe I don’t have as many cards as they do, so we play by their rules.

On the aisle.



You’re a wonderful convincing speaker [???] ceremony what you’re saying. It’s absolutely true that there’s this intelligence that wants to connect with [???] it’s extremely informative, and you’re saying that one way we can do this is through psychedelic experiences. I agree with this, But I’d like you to talk a little bit about the Western traditions of the mystery which involves ritual, and using ritual in order to maintain to contact with the nature spirit—which, I might add, is a spirit which is bursting at the seams right now to connect to us [???].



Yes, well, Mircea Eliade talked about the difference between sacral and profane time, and he said the way you leave history is: you sacralize a space. And you sacralize a space through ritual. You abolish the profane constraints of space and time—the here and now—and you imagine that you are what he called in illo tempore, “in the time before,” in the paradisical time before the fall. This goes back to what I said about the Anuttarayoga Tantra: the imagining of these titanic God-like states of mind as a ground for being.


Yes, I would never have thought—I mean, I’ve been pushed to my position by my experience. I mean, I’m amazed at what I have to say based on what I’ve experienced, because I never thought it would be this way. You know, I came up a whole different way. I was a Marxist and an existentialist and all of these things, and it was as you testified: it’s the pure evidence of it. I mean, you can convince yourself intellectually that something is true, but it’s only in the embrace of the tremendum that it just sweeps over you how true it is.


And as far as the difference between establishing these connections through psychedelics and through ritual—I think deep psychedelic tripping is something that you don’t do very often, simply because each time it’s so rich. It takes a long time to process. It’s much better to go deeper seldom, than to diddle with it in the other ways that people do. I mean, it often seems to me it’s not even so much a matter of spreading the good word and turning it into a mass movement. It might be much more interesting if simply the people who were already in on the secret did it more conscientiously and more deeply—although I hasten to add that you shouldn’t do too much. You should never do more than about six or seven grams of mushrooms. I say that because I keep hearing stories about people who think going deeply means doing a lot, and they do amounts that stand my hair on end. I mean, in the past month, traveling around, I’ve heard stories that are just, you know… and people are crazy, you know. They say, “I couldn’t remember whether you said five grams or five ounces. So to be safe I did an ounce and a half!” You know? I mean, it’s important to get there, granted, but it’s important to come back!


Oh lord! Yes?



In your talk you were talking about the transcendental object. Could you go into more detail about that?



The way I imagine that history works is—well, first of all, let me say how the way the people I disagree with think it works.

[Audio cut]

—and then you had cooling, and development of atomic and molecular and organics, and ultimately cultural and systems, and ultimately technological systems. And this will go on indefinitely down unto the heat death of the universe. And the development of life and the culture has nothing to do with the astrophysical level of things. It’s sort of ancillary and a mistake.


My view is somewhat different. It’s that if we have to have a singularity in our cosmology—in other words, it’s so hard to figure out how you get from nothing to something. No philosophical school has ever been able to do it without some kind of singularity. So if we are going to have a singularity in our system, let us try to make it as logically palatable as possible. So how to do that? It’s not logically palatable to me to believe that the universe sprang from nothing in a single instant. It seems to me if you believe that, you’re set up to believe anything! Right? I mean, isn’t that it? They say, “Well, if you’ll believe this, what wouldn’t you believe!?”


So how about this instead: that the universe—it’s origins are a mystery and cannot be determined. But as we look at its history—the history of it that is available to our inspection—what we see is increasing complexity, ending in ourselves and our civilization so far as we know. Well then, if you’re going to have a singularity, I think of a singularity as a kind of phase transition. You know, Ilya Prigogine talks about how a chemical system will suddenly and spontaneously migrate to a higher state of order. Well, that’s sort of how I think of this thing. It is capable of migrating to a higher state of order. So if we’re going to have a singularity, isn’t it more likely that it will emerge out of a situation of vast complexity than a situation of utter metaphysical nothingness? I think so. So I think that what the transcendental object is, is: it is the cause of the universe, if you will—except that this cause is at what we would conventionally refer to as the end. It’s what everything flows toward. It isn’t something wound up which runs down, it’s something diffuse which is gathered into something. And this gathering in takes the form not only of a progressive densification at the physical level, but of a progressive complexification at the organizational level.


It also is a kind of a spiral. It has a temporal closure, so that each epoch of closure happens more quickly than the ones which preceded it. And what I mean by that is: you know, the universe of twenty billion years old. The first five billion years it—ell, no. The first ten billion years it was all about star formation and nuclear cookdown of heavier elements out of lighter elements. And then you get molecules, which signify a higher level of organization which can only go on at a lower temperature. So as temperature leaves the universe, more complex systems become possible, and then ultimately polymers of great lengths become possible. So this complexification is occurring, and it is at each stage more rapid than the last.


Now, the emergence of self-reflection in our own species is part of this. It isn’t a fluke, it isn’t an accident. It is obedient to the same natural law which created these other systems. And the emergence of our own curiously alienated and at odds with itself culture is also a part of this phenomenon. We are initiating a kind of crisis with the planet. It is in the same way that a fetus will become septic if it is carried too far beyond term. There is a crisis now in the Gaia-Human system. The two must be parted.


And the transcendental object is this knitting together of the organic intent of the planet to somehow expel us from the planetary environment in some way—which is very hard for us to foresee and anticipate, because it is in fact the transcendental object. I mean, by appointing a committee to look into this we are not going to find out what it is. It is the face of the abyss. It is the transcendental object. It cannot entirely be known. It is the living embodiment of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. You know, science has taught us that there are no mysteries, there are only unsolved problems. This is a mystery, not an unsolved problem. Nevertheless, it is the narrowing vector of our timeline. And as some of your probably know, in my opinion around 2012 AD we will cross through novel epochs of concrescence, and the transcendental object will be manifest.


It’s a very curious thing. It’s something which is coming toward us from the future that we are creating out of our intellectual and technological anticipation of deity, really. I mean, at times I’ve spoken of it as the flying saucer. It is the flying saucer, and it does enter history at a certain moment, and it is coming toward us. But as we go toward it we are becoming what we behold. In effect, what I’m saying is that the entirety of human history is a kind of psychedelic apotheosis, where we are involved in a hieroschomos, a kind of alchemical marriage. And what the next 25 years are about is advancing to meet the bride. And the bride is the unimaginable and unanticipitable fulfillment of our heart’s desire. You know, we are becoming what we behold. Our metaphysical hypothesization of deity is becoming a cultural program for our completion.


And that’s why communication is so important, because what we’re trying to do is articulate this vision of the over-soul of our species. We are going into a kind of swarm state, or there is a pheromonal transformation of our cultural modalities. Our pheromones are information systems. And now, information systems, ideologies, are being released into the mass psyche that actually set us up to undergo this cultural compression and concrescence that the experience of the transcendental object is. If you haven’t read William Gibson, you might give him a go. His anticipation of a cybernetic future is part of the anticipation of the transcendental object. And what Gibson is saying—Neuromancer and Count Zero—is that data storage in hyperspace will become conventionalized the way the grids of cities are conventionalized in three-dimensional space. So that when you jack into cyberspace, you will see the Bank of America database like an enormous red neon oblong glowing off to your left, and over the horizon the Trans World Airlines database.


In other words, the dimension of culture—which, for fifteen thousand years or so, has been, for purposes of comparison, let’s say as thin as a thick sheet of paper. What has culture been? It’s been a few mud huts, some brick streets, a cathedral here and there recently, and then more recently a lot of knitted-together, electrified, cheap construction. Suddenly, the dimension of culture is about to be—which is orthogonal to ordinary reality—is about to be explained a hundred-, a thousandfold, into a complete mind-space: the cyberspace that Gibson is talking about. The psychedelic space that shamans have always known about is about to be activated as a cultural artifact in high-tech society, where we will become whatever we imagine. You know, you will move off into this electronically-sustained realm of mind.


At least that’s how I imagine it. I imagine that passage through the transcendental object leads into the imagination, and that the imagination is really our true home, and that all of this electronics and culture and art and drugs and magic and ritual is about the prodigal return to the imagination as a cultural norm. And the transcendental object represents the narrow neck, the narrowest place, the place where the phase transition occurs—at least that’s what I hope. That’s what I feel the symbiosis with the hallucinogens is coaxing out of us. Because we cannot go to the stars in the ape mindset, you know, with ape politics. And it’s just impossible. And very clearly we are on the brink of taking control of our own self-image. This is what the long cultural march has been. This is the justification, if there is one, for science—is: that it does give us a certain measure of control over stuff. And it is the mirror of our minds that we will make out of stuff that we will eventually perform this magical evocation in front of, and walk through into the time outside of history, the place before history.

Another Question. Somebody over here. Yes?



Terence, welcome to L. A. [???] radio, I just want to say we really love you. [???] Although I have to admit [???] I was going to go to Mexico to a little village up in Oaxaca, and my companion said to me that might not be the best idea, because while you’re looking around for green men, you might find some federales or something. And it might not be the best place to totally let go. So I decided to grow the mushrooms, and that just ended up on the low priority, because I still haven’t grown them, you know? But I was always of the fantasy that, going to this place in Mexico, there was something magic there, and there was this sort of morphic resonance, and I wanted to know if there was a morphic resonance, wouldn’t that be in the negative time-space frame? And so my question is, one: do you buy this morphic resonance idea? And… that’s it.



That’s the question? Well, one of the best people—one of the very, very best people—that I’ve found in the so-called new age is Rupert. Rupert Sheldrake. And he and I are tight. And we’ve spent a lot of time just pushing these ideas around. Ultimately, I think probably he’s very much onto something. It’s interesting that it’s considered such a radical idea, because think about what it says: it says that things are as they are because they were as they were. One can hardly imagine a more conservative philosophy. In fact, the problem for this philosophy is to therefore explain how anything ever manages to be different, how any kind of novelty could emerge out of a situation where the past is so present that it configures everything. So Rupert’s idea, and my idea—which I haven’t discussed, except by implication tonight, but I have this notion which is embodied in the software of a wave of novelty, a way of quantifying the flux of the Tao. And a wave of novelty would be necessary for Sheldrake’s idea to support the coming into being of new forms.


I mentioned this evening in the main body of my talk the term compressionism. I’ve just sort of begun to think about this. I like it because I like impressionism, abstract expressionism, surrealism. I like it because it’s an art movement, not a science. But I would number the compressionists that come to mind to be Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Abraham, Frank Bar, and myself bringing up the rear. And we—all four of us—have a slice on it, each different, but each leading to the same set of conclusions: that there is a set of hidden variables which we all describe differently, but that these hidden variables are channeling the development of events.


And what this signifies is a new way of thinking about time. And it’s all very much in flux. Rupert is a true great scientist and gentleman. If the theory of morphic resonance can be overthrown, it will be—and he will lead the charge. Our efforts, when we get together, much of our effort is experimental design: we try to think of experiments that will disprove the notion. Because it is a notion which asserts very firmly certain strange things about reality should be measurable and discernible. So morphic resonance, my novelty wave, the dynamic attractors of Ralph Abraham, and the fractal hierarchies of Frank Barr are all embryonic efforts.


There’s a feeling in the air, a sense of an idea to be nailed down. And I’m convinced, you know, that in the next ten or fifteen years one of us, or somebody we know, or somebody sitting at the table nearby, will work it out. It’s really the great intellectual adventure of our time, and it carries us all along with it. When this thing is figured out, it’s going to be understandable to all of us. It’s going to end the era of the professional abstraction. You know, for the new paradigm to work, it’s going to have to transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people. And that’s the point that has been diminished by the proponents of some of the more narrow versions of what the new paradigm is. The new paradigm will be an understandable explanation of the world. Understandable to whom? To you. To me. Not an abstraction sanctioned by a professional elite and handed down by the academy.



[???] translated into numbers in order to demonstrate society [???]



Well, that’s the beauty and the wonder and the delight of Time Wave Zero. Absolutely! I mean, this was produced to convince scientists. What this thing does is: it draws graphs of the ingression of novelty into time. I advance novelty as a new primary quality of the spacetime continuum, on a par with charge, spin, angular momentum—novelty. This is the realm of the hidden variables. And this program makes thousands of experimentally testable assertions. This is not smoke and mirrors stuff. You give it an end date, you give it a date of interest, and it draws a mathematically defined graph of its opinion as to where the flux of novelty and habituation—these are the two opposed quantities, novelty and habituation—where they fall vis-à-vis this event system. So every time you activate the program it fills the monitor with a screen full of precise predictions about known historical phenomena. So it seems to me, if there were a body of informed give and take on the matter, we could quickly settle on whether, you know, that I smoked too many little brown cigarettes, or that this kind of thinking is in fact going to underlie and restructure science.


It’s alright. I mean, why should we assume that the basic qualities of the universe have been defined as of 1965 by modern physics? After all, modern physics doesn’t explain the unicorn or the flower, so there must be more at work in the universal mix than we have perceived.


Well, I think I’ll do one more question.



[???] historical biographical [???]



Yes, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a way of looking at the life of an individual or a society, and asking a quest—see, the way I think it will be… this is good, because the spirit, to Eastern philosophy, is the Tao. And the Tao is the howness of the way things happen. Well, we are so accustomed to allowing these Eastern forms of thought to remain largely formally undefined that we never ask obvious questions about the Tao. For example, in the Tao Te Ching, the opening words in the Waley translation are: “The way this can be told of is not an unvarying way.” Okay, it’s a double negative. It’s not an unvarying way means: it’s a varying way. Well, anything which varies is modulated. That’s a mathematical term that has precise meaning. So if the way that can be told of is not an unvarying way, then it can be mathematically described as a set of integers in flux.


The problem, then, becomes: what integers? Well, that’s a long story, but it’s all in here. And I’m, you know, not mad enough to claim that this particular take, this particular set of integers, is correct. I’m very impressed by its successes, but I am convinced that a theory of this class will eventually explicate time. Time is the spirit—not the time of flat duration in the Newtonian universe, or the very slightly curved time of Einstein’s universe, but time as lived from moment to moment. It flows like a river. It runs here quickly, there slow and deep. Here there are cataracts, here there are vast lakes form, and all sense of direction is momentarily lost. Time is the continuum upon which our entire experience of being is deployed. And yet, up until very recently, the only model we’ve had of it was this flat or slightly curved surface. That didn’t explain the vicissitudes and synchronicites and the mysteries of our own lives.


Now, if we take a fractal model of time—the kind of fractals that we see in the psychedelic experience, and the kind of fractals that we see when we unleash computers in the realm of pure mathematics—then we begin to see the time of pure experience, the time where we recognize where every day is like every other, but different. Every year is like every other, but different. We grow, but we stay the same. We move forward at the same time that we move backwards. All of these kinds of feeling-toned complexes about movement and time are handled very well in the fractal.


So what the psychedelic experience has done for me—above and beyond the heart-opening and what it’s done for me as a person—what it’s done for me as a seeker after truth has given me, you know, this total description of reality. And I think our senses and our minds and our hearts are always trying to give us a total math, a total mandala. It’s always trying to emerge out of the chaos of out of perception. But it appears to me that it can happen to any depth. And if you still your mind with psychedelics and with discipline, and you look into the black rivers that flow through our hearts and our minds, eventually you see not only the truth of yourself, not only the truth of ourselves, but formal truths: the truth of mathematics. And then you have sort of made a kind of closure.


And so this was my personal meditation in Time Wave Zero. I urge you to take a look at it, because it’s the most original thing that I have done. The rest is the descriptive diaries of an explorer, well footnoted, which I share with you gladly. But this other thing was actually the logos from on high. That was what my particular relationship to the spirit was based around: the revelation of this particular idea. Because I had no interest in the I Ching, still less in mathematics and all of the disciplines that impinged on this notion. But somehow, you know, I was chosen—virtually because I was standing around when the decision was made. You know, I really believe that. And these things only mean something as they are communicated. You see, we have great anxiety about the future, and if there were in fact fractal maps of the future, then that anxiety would leave us, and would leave us free. And in one sense I think that’s the transcendental object: it’s the manifestation of the spirit. The spirit is with us throughout historical time and space, but it is concretized at history’s end.


Well, that’s all I have to say. We’re five minutes over, I appreciate your being here very, very much. Thank you!

Day 2

The Felt Presence of the Other



So we are organically meeting together and going to absorb some information from the otherworld, and I’m real proud to introduce Terence McKenna.



I do want to mention this is a benefit for Botanical Dimensions and KPFK. If you didn’t see the promotional material at the back of the room, you might look at it during the intermission. Botanical Dimensions is the real world kind of real politic response to all the issues that we deal with; that Kat and I hammered out over the last eleven years, really. And what it boils down to is a plant rescue project built around a twenty-acre botanical garden in Hawai’i. And what we’re doing there is trying to bring in plants that are threatened in the warm tropics—either the extinction of the species is threatened, or the knowledge of its medicinal or herbal or shamanic use is in danger of being lost. There are a lot of fancy organizations—World Wildlife Fund, Earthwatch, Earth First!—that are saving the rainforest, or at least fighting that battle, legally and by getting huge tracts of forests in the tropics made into reserves. Nobody really even cognizes or is focused on saving ethnobotanical lore—in other words, the very subtle relationship between aboriginal people and botanical resources in their environment. So that’s something we’re doing.


What was touched on last night, and which is sort of one of the centerpiece themes of this point of view, is the felt presence of some kind of alien intelligence that is somehow cotangent with the human experience for different people, in different ways, with varying degrees of intensity in different times and places. At the bedrock of my take on things is the notion that there is really finally a mystery wrapped in an enigma. But there is no resolution. Nevertheless, as you close distance with this mystery, there are a series of analogical metaphors that don’t really suggest themselves, but that are communicated to you by the Other.


And one of these analogical metaphors is the presence of this alien entelechy, this organized Other that is folklorically present in tradition—as fairies, gnomes, elves, jinns, afrits, sprites, tree spirits, that sort of thing—and anecdotally present in rural cultures throughout the world as the poltergeist and the milk-souring fairy. And this thing seems to reside in a curious area that is not epistemically clearly defined for the culture. In other words, the question of, “Is it real or not?” is thought to be sort of tasteless. You would intuitively sense if you were drinking in an Irish pub, I think, and people began to spin leprechaun stories, that the question “Is it real?” is a real bring-down, you know? It isn’t really like that. Because the question “Is it real?” can ultimately be shown to be infantile in any situation. I mean, is the Bank of America real? Immediately you realize that there are just assumptions skating over the mystery.


But this felt presence of the Other I choose to talk about so much because it was for me such an astonishing personal surprise. I was raised Roman Catholic and indulged in the kind of theological fiddle-faddle that that involves, and then grew out of that into atheism, into agnosticism. And by the time I got to college I was reading Jean Paul Sartre and Husserl and these people, and my intellectual ontogeny had followed historical phylogeny and I had arrived in the twentieth century. And then, having thought I had absorbed the lessons of LSD—which seemed to me to be to reinforce and confirm the theories of Freud concerning the dynamics of the psyche; that it was about repressed memory, repressed desire, sexual neurosis, parental foul-ups in the parental energy patterns, and this kind of thing—and then someone came to me one rainy February evening in 1967—really, a mad person, a kind of a social menace and intellectual criminal. This guy had said to me only months before, “We must live as if the apocalypse has already happened.” And here he was on my doorstep, and he wore little black suits that he buttoned up to the throat. Anyway, he came in and he said, “Something that you might be interested in,” and brought out a sample of dimethyltryptamine that he had somehow come into contact with. And I said, “Well, what is it?” And he said, “Well, it’s this short-acting... it’s a flash,” he said. And I said, “How long does it last?” That was my first mistake. He said, “Oh it doesn’t last long.” So I said, “Okay, we’ll do it.” And we did it.


And I discovered I had— guess it’s called a peak experience, or a core revelation, or being born again, or having your third eye opened, or something—which was a revelation of an alien dimension of a brightly lit, inhabited, non three-dimensional, self-contorting, sustained, organic, linguistically intending modality that couldn’t be stopped or held back or denied. I sank to the floor. I couldn’t move. And this disystolic hallucination of tumbling forward into these fractal geometric spaces made of light. And then I found myself in the sort of Oeric equivalent of the Pope’s private chapel, and there were insect elf machines proffering strange little tablets with strange writing on them. And I was aghast, completely. Appalled. Because the transition had been a matter of seconds. And my entire expectation of the nature of the world was just being shredded in front of me. I’ve never actually gotten over it.


And it all went on. They were speaking in some kind of—there were these self-transforming machine-elf creatures—were speaking in some kind of colored language, which condensed into these rotating machines that were like Fabergé eggs, but crafted out of luminescent super-conducting ceramics and liquid crystal gels. And all this stuff was just so weird and so alien and so un-Englishable that I felt like it was a complete shock. I mean, the literal turning inside out of the intellectual universe. And I had come to this, I thought, fairly intellectually prepared. I mean, a kid, but nevertheless double-Scorpio, art history major, Hieronymus Bosch fan, Moby Dick, William Burroughs, you know?


And as I came down—and this went on for, like, two or three minutes, this situation of discontinent orthogonal dimensions to reality just engulfing me. And then, as I came out of it and the room sort of re-assembled itself, I said, “I can’t believe it! It’s impossible. It’s impossible.” To call that a drug is ridiculous! It just means that you just don’t have a word for it, and so you putter around and you come upon this very sloppy concept of: something which goes into your body and there’s a change. It’s not like that, it’s like being struck by noetic lightning.


And the other thing about it which astonished me was: there is no clue in this world—you know, in the carpets of central Asia, in the myths of the Maya, in the visions of an Arcimboldo or a Fra Angelico or a Bosch—there is not a hint, not a clue, not an atom of the presence of this thing. And when you look at the religious hierophanies of the human species, it doesn’t have the same vibe, it doesn’t have the same charge. Religion is all about dissolving into unitary states of love and trans-linguistic oceanic unity, and this sort of thing. This was not like that. This was more multiplistic than the universe that we share with each other. It was almost like the victory of neoplatonic metaphysics: everything had become made out of a fourth-dimensional tesseractual mosaic of energy.


So I was quite knocked off my feet and set myself the goal of understanding this. There was really no choice, you see. And I don’t know how it hits other people. There are many things that can be said about introducing a chemical into your body. They’ve shown that certain people are 50,000 times more sensitive to the odor of certain compounds than other people. And part of the unique genetic heritage of each of us are our complement of synaptic receptors for psychoactive alkaloids. So that there may be something to the notion that the Celts tend to be poets, that certain peoples tend to be expressive in certain artistic modes, or certain senses seem to be accentuated for certain human sub-groups. But whatever the explanation for how it hit me, I felt that it like a call. There was no turning back from trying to understand that, because there is no place for it in our world. And yet, it is overwhelmingly existentially real, you see, and easily accessed.


I’m not peddling you that you have to go some place in India with poor sanitation and put yourself at somebody’s feet for a dozen years, or something like that. The enunciation of the presence of this dimension should inspire some kind of coming to terms with it. I mean, it’s preposterous that we can entertain in our popular journalism the titillation of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and prop up all these reductionist guys, and trot them out to give the statistics on the distribution of G-type stars, and all this sort of thing. Because the fact is: what blinds us to the presence of alien intelligence is a linguistic and cultural bias operating on ourselves. The world which we perceive is a tiny fraction of the world which we can perceive, which is a tiny fraction of the perceivable world, you see. So we operate on a very narrow slice based on cultural conventions.


So the important thing—if synergizing progress is the notion to be maximized, and I think it’s the notion to be maximized—is to try and locate the blind spot in the culture: the place where the culture isn’t looking because it dare not. Because if it were to look there, its previous values would dissolve, you see.


And I think that that place is the psychedelic experience as it emerges out of nature. And as human societies interact with the psychedelic experience in nature, they inevitably secrete the institution of shamanism—like a pearl around this umbilicus, or this nexus point, or this loci of interdimensional dataflow, which is really what it is. Under certain conditions—which have to do with molecules that have evolved in these species which have this weirdly quasi-symbiotic relationship to our species—you punch through the veil. You know, Melville said, “If you would strike, strike through the mask.” And that’s what’s done: you strike through the mask of the coordinates of apparent reality.


And then this thing is there, which to me is a miracle. It transcended any miracle I could ever ask for, because it not only had the quality of a miracle as I imagined it, it had the quality of a miracle as I could not have imagined it. It was entirely charged with the energy of the Other. It had the ambiguity of a pun; a kind of zany, impossible, improbable, hysterical revelation of the joke, the self-contradiction, the provisional nature of it all; that it really is a Marx Brothers movie in some sense.


So I pursued it. First to Nepal and involvement with pre-Buddhist shamanism in Tibet. Because the thing that puzzled me most—I guess because I was an art historian—was this absence of the theme in the artistic productions of humankind. And I felt that maybe there was a trace of it in the artistic conceptions of the old pantheon of Tibetan shamanism, and that central Asian Tibetan shamanism had actually created astronauts of inner space that had gotten good recon on this same area. You know, the dharmapālas—the guardians of the Dharma—are not Buddhist deities per se, they are autophanous Tibetan folk demons that protect the Dharma by virtue of the fact of having been overcome in magical battles by great Buddhist saints who came to Tibet. In fact, there are—or were, before the Chinese occupation—monasteries in Tibet where the vow of fealty to the Dharma on the part of the dharmapāla had to be renewed by the monks every 24 hours, or the thing would run amok and be on its own and bust up the countryside—I’m just telling you what they told me. So it seemed to me that this raw sense of the shamanically-accessed demonic realm was there. And I also saw traces in Hellenistic gnosticism and alchemy, but such thin traces.


So I went to Nepal, immersed myself in that, and decided ultimately that it was inaccessible. I wasn’t sure whether it was there or not. And then I placed myself in the context of nature by moving my sphere of operations to eastern Indonesia; to the climaxed, continental rainforests of the ancient continent of Sundaland. You see, Indonesia was a continent until as recently as 120,000 years ago. And then, with the melting of the glaciers and the subsidence of the land, it became a vast group of islands. And I think that it was my good fortune, or the fortune of my fate, because it was prudent for me at that time in the late sixties to remain outside the United States, and so I sort of had to become the hero I had pretended to my friends that I was—which I wasn’t. I had an around-the-world air ticket and was entirely a preppie poseur.


But suddenly return was not a possibility. And so I became—and my apologies to Buddhists in the audience—a professional butterfly collector. And I pursued this blood sport for many months in these remote montane jungles of eastern Indonesia. And that was there that the missing link in the quest for the resolution of the meaning of DMT and spirit fell into place. Because I saw what most of us only see on National Geographic specials, which is the real fact of the rainforest; the real fact of organic nature, and how nature is communication. Not only are the species that comprise the biota linked by pheromones and acoustical signals and color signals and of these various methods by which communication is seeping around, in fact, nature ultimately resolves itself into a self-reflecting, syntactical metasystem. And you can pursue this right down to the DNA. DNA, working as it does with nucleotide sequences that code—that means arbitrarily assign—code for certain aminoacids. It means that organic objects are essentially utterances in three-dimensional space of some kind of universally distributed linguistic intent. This is what it means when it says, “In the beginning was the word.” Nature is that word; this infinitely self-adumbrating, fractal, syntactical hallucination that has an infinite number of facets for potential regarding and self-regarding.


And, having said all of this, I might invoke here Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which (as I’m sure many of you know) was Kurt Gödel’s brilliant contribution to theoretical mathematics, where he showed that the possible set of true formal statements generated by any formal system exceeded the possible set of true formal statements which the rules of that system allowed. He showed this for simple arithmetic. And what this means, friends, is that what was called truth up until the beginning of the twentieth century is absolutely impossible. That’s what Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem secures. It shows that there is no ultimate closure in an effort to describe.


And so, in a way, my take on nature and culture and man is that human language is a meta-linguistic system generated out of the necessary formal incompleteness of nature. You see? That nature is a self-describing genetic language, and yet out of it arises something which is not formally predicted by its constraints and rules. There’s a symmetry break there, and a so-called emergent property comes into view. This emergent property is our unique ability to provisionally—provisionally—code sound to meaning, so that we then can freely command and reconstruct the world. We imagine that we do this for our own purposes of communication.


The analysis that I’m suggesting would seem to indicate that actually we do it because we are complicated enzyme systems that are moving linguistic charge around inside some kind of meta-system very important for the emergence of new order out of nature, you see? And I talked about this a little last night. The fact that it is contrived, provisional, is very interesting. It doesn’t arise out of the gene structure. Rather, it is agreed upon by individuals who are living at the time that the linguistic structure, whatever it is, emerges into consciousness. Well, since individuals are replaced, the thing is much more in flux than the genome, you see? The genetic component of an organism is a physical structure stabilized by atomic bonds, possibly stabilized by a phenomenon like room-temperature’s superconductivity. The way nature works is to conserve the genes. And so molecular machinery has evolved to do that. But there is no mechanism in nature with the same kind of binding force that conserves meaning.


Meaning is some kind of freely-commandable, open-ended, self-evolving system. The rules are that there are no rules. Meaning consequently addresses itself to a much larger potential modality of expression than the genes. The genes basically repeat themselves over and over, almost like Homeric poetry where the idea is that it be memorized and repeated. And that’s what sexuality is about, is: memorizing and repeating gene structures, handing on parts of the story. But the creation of linguistic systems, where meaning can be freely commanded, allows very rapid evolution of cultural norms.


And what I suggested last night and want to say more about tonight is that this process is mediated by plants. It is synergized in human beings by plants of all sorts. I mean, we are obsessed with drugs and short-term spectacular effects, but think about the effect on a culture of the presence or absence of, say, sugar. Or the presence or absence of coffee. What human culture can essentially be seen to be is a series of plant-established developmental creodes for a higher mammal. The fact that we are omnivorous lays us open for the formation of these weird relationships to things in our food chain. Everybody is taught in school that the Renaissance, the close of the Middle Ages, the rise of urban culture all had to do with the search for spices, right? Bringing spices back to Europe. Well, why was it so important that a drive to simply broaden the palate of Europe is given credit for the re-defining of post-medieval civilization? Very strange.


Hofmann and Ruck and Wasson showed that the Eleusinian Mysteries—which were the philosophical and experiential linchpin of the ancient world’s cosmology; the Hellenistic cosmology—was a cult of ergotized beer. There, every September at Eleusis, this mystery was carried out, and everyone who was anyone participated in it. And you only got to do it once in your life, so you had only one take. The point is clear: as you look at human culture in all times and places, the way in which our cultural institutions have been molded by these so-called tertiary compounds in plants is very suggestive. It seems to me that the felt presence of the Other, the alien intelligence, the being from outer space, is actually copresent with us on this Earth, and that the problem is not the finding of it, but the recognizing of it when it is seen—in the same way that, I think, in the present cultural crisis everyone is crying, “Answers! Answers! We have to have answers!” The fact is: we have the answers. The question is to face the answers.


You know, the answer to self-empowerment lies in the psychedelic experience. The answer to dissolving the hierarchically-imposed set of mythical conventions that disempower us lies in the psychedelic experience. Because what is really happening is a return to the primacy of feeling. And feeling is not something you can convey to people the way you convey facts to them. Facts can be handed down every week through Time magazine and the latest issue of Science News and Nature. But feelings will not lend themselves to that marketable, hierarchically-distributed system. And consequently, feelings represent a backwash against that. Yet, feeling is the modality in which we all operate. So as long as we are under the umbrella of the print-created, linear, post-medieval institutions that promote the myth of the public, the notion of the atomic individual, the notion that we are all alike, basically, then we are going to be unempowered.


The amazing thing to me about the psychedelic experience is that it can be kept under wraps, that people don’t insist, that somehow we’re leaving it to experts to figure it out. But did you know that the experts are not allowed to work it out? That, in this particular area, the entire human race has been relegated to an infantile status. It is not really professionally possible to do work with these things. Nevertheless, our cultural crisis is deepening—deepening mainly because we have very poor connections among our fragmented and autonomous psychic structures, within ourselves as individuals and within ourselves as a society. Our whole problem is that we can’t communicate with each other, we can’t express intention. And the psychedelics are sitting there waiting to unify us, to introduce us to the trans-linguistic intention, to carry us forward into a realm of appropriate cultural activity—which is, to my mind, the realm beyond history. Beyond history lies effortless and appropriate cultural activity. And nature has preceded us, as it always does, by laying out models that can be followed to realize this.


As an example, and by request, I’ll point out that the nineteenth century had a titular animal. Its titular animal was the horse—idealized as the steam engine: the iron horse. Marx talked about the locomotive of history, and there was this whole focusing on the horse archetype—which in the twentieth century gave way to the titulary animal the raptor, the bird of prey, as exemplified by high-performance fighter aircraft; as the kind of ultimate union of man and machine in some kind of glorification of the completion of a certain set of cultural ideals, you see.


Well, in thinking about this, and in thinking about how language is the cultural frontier of our species, I went to nature looking for models of how we might move beyond the bird of prey—which, when you think about it, is the American symbol. It was also the symbol of the Third Reich. And a lot of creepy scenes have actually been into birds of prey. Not even birds of prey. When Alleric the Visigoth burned Eleusis, it was the crow fluttered on his battle standard as the greasy smoke swept by. So these dark birds have been with us. Anyway, in looking for a new titulary animal and drawing the conclusion of what it would mean, I was drawn to look, strangely enough, at cephalopods, octopi. Because I felt that, first of all, they are extremely alien. The break between our line of development in the phylogenetic tree and the mollusca, which is what a cephalopod is, is about 700 million years ago. Nevertheless, and many of you who are students of evolution know, that when evolutionists talk about parallel evolution, they always drag out the example of the optical system of the octopi. Because: isn’t this astonishing? It’s very much like the human eye, and yet it developed entirely independently. And this shows how the same set of external factors impinging on a raw gene pool will inevitably sculpt the same organs to the same end, and so forth and so on.


Well, the optical capacity of octopi is one thing. What interested me was their linguistic organization. They are virtually entirely nervous system. First of all, they have eight arms (in the case of the octopods) and ten arms (in the case of the squid, the decapods). And so coordinating all these organs of manipulation has given them a very evolved nervous system. Then they have this highly evolved ocular system. But what is really interesting about them is that they communicate with each other by changing the color and texture of their skin and their physical shape. You may have known that octopi could change colors, but you may have thought it was camouflage or something very passive like that. It isn’t that at all. They have a vast repertoire of traveling bars, dots, blushes, merging pastels, herringbone patterns, tweeds, mottled this-and-thats, can blush from apricot through puce into dove gray and on to olive; do all of these things communicating to each other. That is what this large optical system is for: is to be able to see each other. The other thing which they can do—besides having these chromatophores on the surface of their skin—is, they can change the texture of the skin surface: can make it rugose, papillate, smooth, lobed, rubbery, runneled, so forth and so on. And then, of course, being shell-less molluscs, they can hide arms and display certain parts of themselves and carry on a dance.


Well, when you analyze what is going on here, what at first seems like merely fascinating facts from natural history begins to take on a more profound aspect. Because it is an ontological transformation of language that is going on in front of you. Note that, by being able to communicate visually, they have no need of a conventionalized, culturally reinforced dictionary. Rather, they experience pure intent of each other without ambiguity. Because each octopod can see what is meant—this is very important: can see what is meant—and I think that this heralds, or could be made to herald, a transformation in our own definitions of language and communication. What we need is to see what we mean. It’s not without consequence or implication that, when we try to communicate the notion of clarity of speech, we always shift into visual metaphors: “I see what you mean,” “He painted a picture,” “His description was very colorful.” It means that, when we intend to indicate a lack of ambiguity and communication, we shift to visual analogies.


This can in fact be actualized. And, in fact, this is what is happening in the psychedelic experience—is that we discover just under the surface of human biological organization the next level in the organization of language: the ability to generate some kind of acoustical hologram that is manipulated by linguistic intent. Now, don’t ask me how this happens, because nobody knows how it happens. At this point it’s magic. Nevertheless, the fact is: it does happen. You can have this experience. It represents a synesthesia in the presence of ongoing communication. It is, in fact, telepathy. It is not what we thought telepathy would be—which, I suppose if you’re like me, you imagine telepathy would be hearing what other people think. It isn’t that. It’s seeing what other people mean, and them also seeing what they mean. So that, once something has been communicated, both parties can walk around it and look at it, the way you study a Brâncuși or a Giacometti in an art gallery.


By eliminating the ambiguity of the audio signal and substituting the concreteness of the visual image, the membrane of separation that allows the fiction of our individuality can be temporarily overcome, you see? And the temporary overcoming of the illusion of individuality is a much richer notion of ego death than the kind of white light, null states that it has imagined to be. Because the overcoming of the illusion of individuality has political consequences. The political consequences are that one can love one’s neighbor, you see, because the commonalty of being is felt. Felt—not reasoned toward, or propagandized into, or reinforced, but felt. This is why there is this persistent notion which tracks these psychedelic compounds of a new political order based on love. This was a hard thing to say in the panhandle in 1965. It’s not easy to say in heavy metal L. A. in 1987. But it seems to be the fact of the matter: that love—which poets have celebrated for eons as ineffable—may in fact have certain ineffable dimensions attached to it, but it may in fact be more effable than we had previously cared to imagine. And the invoking of the effability of love has to do with discovering the shared birthright, the atemporal dimension that is copresent with this reality, and that is a vast reservoir of existential anchoring for each and all of us in our lives.


So my response to feeling the political pull of this—feeling the power to transform language that resided in these things—was to go to the people who I thought would know most about it: the shamans for whom hallucinogenic shamanism has never been an issue, for whom the notion that you’re supposed to do it on the natch, is a patent absurdity. I mean, if you’re serious about doing it on the natch, I suggest you eliminate all food. Because this notion of the pristine self somehow riding above the muck of the world carrying on a spiritual evolution is absolute foolishness. We are made of the stuff of the world. People who do not confront the presence of the hallucinogenic possibility are turning their back on their birthright in the same way that, if you do not experience sex throughout your life, you are turning your back on your birthright. I mean, after all, we could argue that to allow another person to touch you is to not do it on the natch, right?


But, dear friends, we’re slicing too close to the bone here to take that approach. It’s much better, I think, to open to the world. The world is communication. Nature is the great teacher. All human gurus are simply distillations of the wave of nature that is coming at you. So you can just short circuit the whole human boil-down, and go straight to the executive suite by putting yourself under a tree in the wilderness. I mean, they all have said this, but they need to be taken more seriously on the subject of their own expendability. Me too.


Going to the Amazon with these kinds of notions, and looking at what had been achieved there, I came to have a vision, then, of the future that could be: that we are sort of hurling ourselves into a new stone age, where the fruits of the prodigal wandering that I discussed in such detail last night can be used to infuse new meaning into that paradise. The imagination of man and woman is so incomparably rich, and exerts such an attraction on us as the builder-monkey, that we have to honor that. We cannot demonize that and preach a kind of naturalism that, if actually put in place, would cause the starvation of tens of millions of people. We have passed the point where some kind of Luddite reform can save us. It’s only, I think, very self-indulgent elites that can preach voluntary simplicity. Because a lot of people are experiencing involuntary simplicity. And unless you’re one of them, it rings rather hollow to be told that Zen values are best.


So I think that reinserting ourselves into nature is inspiration for cultural design. That’s what it is. It’s not flight from the design process, but a reinvigoration of it. And some of you may be aware of the concept of nanotechnology, where everything is built at the molecular level. By studying the mechanisms of the cell, and the immune system, and DNA, we begin to have a picture of how molecules and atoms are the machine parts of a microcosmic world that, if we were elf chemists, we could make our way into and create anything that we could imagine. I mean, I can foresee a world where all machines will be made by DNA-like polymers that will code base materials into larger and larger aggregates.


The minaturization of our world is a great frontier. As culture becomes more enveloping, its physical manifestation should become less material, you see. So the ultimate notion is of the world turned back to the form it held (let’s say) 35,000 years ago, where people lived in an environment of entirely climaxed natural perfection. However, behind their eyelids lies a culturally and consensually validated data phase space that is culture, civilization—turn each of us into a telepathic aquarium that has a direct pipeline to the general ocean of mind and being. This is possible. In fact, it’s not only possible, it may be the only decent solution: to download ourselves into another dimension.


And I want to note in passing the collapse of Max Headroom. What a tragedy I think that is that his last show was last night. This was a weird force for cultural transformation, but to be applauded. If anybody here tonight has anything to do with it, I wish them luck.


But this sort of notion—you know, the Max Headroom people and the William Gibson people have a very high-tech take on this, because they are interested in accentuating this tight blue-jean, cyberpunk kind of notion. But in fact, the worlds that they describe will have many, many different social subgroups and social ecosystems forming in them. What the future really means is a choice to become who we are, to flower out, to find our own way. McLuhan saw all this twenty years ago. He said that the rise of global electronic feudalism would create an atomistic fragmentation of culture. It may well be that, within fifty years, the largest organizational entity on the planet will be corporations with a few million loyal employees, and all larger social institutions will have disappeared. Because they don’t command loyalty in a social environment where direct experience has become empowered. And this empowering of direct experience, this return to the feminine, this legitimizing of the presence of the vaster regions of the unconscious, these are all aspects of this emerging paradigm of the spirit. Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature—which is what this two-night party has been called—is a definition of the spirit. Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature. In other words, true understanding, poetic imagination, standing as a mirror before nature as object, will cause the hologrammatic presence of the spirit to magically appear. It will be then seen to be a kind of emergent quality of the situation that was previously masked, simply because the elements had not fallen into the correct arrangement.


And I think, you know, as we move forward through time over the next 25 years, there will be many prophets of the transcendental object at the end of time; many takes. The important thing, I think, is to recall Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, and to always recognize the provisional nature of the metaphysical goods that you’re going to be sold. Nobody has the faintest notion of what’s going on. It’s important to keep that in mind. If you have that in mind, then the game proceeds much more cleanly.


What is ahead of us is true high adventure. The essence of it is its unknowability. Its promise is transformation. Its theater of occurrence is the here and now. We are not waiting for it to begin, it has already happened for us, and our job is to understand how that can be so. Plato said time is the moving image of eternity. My notion of shamanism is: it is that state of mind which accrues to those who have seen the end. By cultivating this notion of closure with hyperspace imaged as the archaic return to the world of the pre-cultural ambiance, we can have an anticipation of the transcendental object. It is still in Eden. It is we who have undergone the fall and the recurso. And now the laden prodigal returns to beat at the doors of the manorial home, the birthright. And within, I think, lies the beginnings of true civilization.


We are the forerunners of a truly moral and ethical human society. The deepest aspirations, however badly mangled and mishandled by our traditions, nevertheless still have the potential for archetypal fruition within them. The torch that has been passed from generation to generation, ad infinitum back into the distant past, is alive. And by some strange quirk of the metaphysical machinery it’s our great privilege to live through this symmetry break, this revelation of the next level of the open-ended mystery. And I think that the real thrill lies in relating to it with an open mind, a sense of caring, a sense of wonder, and a sense of real, grounded, intellectually firm hope.


So that’s all I want to say this evening. I think we’ll break for about fifteen minutes and then we’ll have questions. Thank you very much!

Q & A Session



Okay, well, now comes my favorite part of these things, which is the period where there’s interaction—because I think this is really a group process. Every one of you, to some degree, has taken upon yourself the role of the “Magellan in the living room,” and probably everyone in this room has at some time or another gazed upon things no other human eye has ever beheld. And the psychedelic dimension is not yet a science. We’re more like explorers comparing our crudely-drawn maps and hastily scrawled journal notes, to try and together get a picture of this new continent in the imagination. So I’m yours. Sir?



You have said in your book that the mushroom was genetically engineered for producing psilocybin by an alien intelligence. What do you think now about the possibility of us [???] using psilocybin [???] other kinds of organisms like fungi or plants or, I don’t know, animals?



Oh, well, interesting question. The question was: I’ve described the mushroom as genetically engineered by some other agency for the production of psilocybin. What do I think about the possibility of human beings being able to genetically manipulate organisms to produce psychedelic compounds? I think that the technology in theory has reached the stage where, if there’s an enterprising graduate student within the sound of my voice, the way to go is to locate the gene for psilocybin in the mushroom genome, and to translate it via standard techniques to E. coli, to Escherishia coli, and then you would have an easily-grown bacterium which would be a chemical factory for pouring out psilocybin. So if any of you are aspiring genetic pharmacologists, this would be a fine thing.


I might elaborate on the answer—some of you who are not familiar with the premise. The reason I suggested that the mushroom might have been engineered and be in fact an artifact of an alien intelligence was, number one, of course, the informational content of the trip, but number two, the fact that psilocybin is 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine—the only 4-phosphorylated indole known to occur in nature, you know? Out of thousands and thousands of compounds and organisms, only one 4-phosphorylated compound is known. So this suggests that it is artificial, or at least highly unusual. Every week, the science magazines are full of talk of strategies for locating and identifying extraterrestrial life. Well, a very obvious practical and scientifically reasonable way to proceed would be to look at the DNA of various lifeforms on Earth, and see if there are any in which there is a wild statistical departure from the norm. Whenever you get an organism which is producing, or has genes that no other organism has, this is highly suggestive. Because evolutionary types evolve incrementally out of each other. So you would expect that there would be a relative smoothness in the expression of genetic products; that one fungus would be rather like its taxonomic near relatives, one memisperm of member of the rubiaceae would be chemically similar to another. In fact, of course, we do find subtle chemical variations, but the presence of a 4-phosphorylated indole in a fungus like that is very suggestive.


There’s an interesting book by Cyril Ponnamperuma called Perspectives on the Problem of Extraterrestrial Communication. And he outlines there what he believes would be a general strategy for extraterrestrial contact that any kind of species would have to operate against if it were to seriously conduct a search through space. And the model has a ship, which at a certain distance from its origin planet, it must replicate itself. And then, at a certain distance, replicate again. And then again, in order to keep the density of ships constant as the sphere of the area being explored expands, there have to be more and more of these ships. And these ships could be as small as an animal cell. They don’t have to be thought of as Star type ships. But the point is: this ship contains a message that you have to read and call in. Because there are so many planets and star systems to be surveyed, that the only way such a survey could be conducted is if there were a message in the ship-qua-organism, such that, in the gene swarm of an alien planet, it would eventually be read by an organism on the planet, and that organism would act to do the things necessary to call the central switchboard, and then they would say: “Aha, we have contact in sector alpha-sub-N 362,” and they would concentrate all their attention there. [Audio cut] biological world that we assume to be natural may in fact be the artifacts of a much higher intelligence.




Yes, would you speak on the timeline a little?



Oh, what a kind questioner to lead me to my favorite subject. Well, it has to do with why—you know, people do this for different reasons—why people take psychedelic plants, and what lies behind it always. And what always lay behind it for me, from that very first DMT trip that I described to you at the beginning, was the notion: mMy god, this stuff has historical significance. It’s really important. Or nobody knows about this. Carrying with it the notion: we are discovering it. If we could bring it back somehow, it would change the world. Perhaps people are bringing it back by designing buildings and creating fashions, or fashioning mathematical descriptions of reality.


I never had that aspiration. I just simply defined myself as—more humbly than that—as a consumer of ideology, as an intellectual who would learn what has been said and done and proposed. But after the DMT experience I realized that there is unclaimed stuff out in those dimensions. You know, James Joyce says in Finnegan’s Wake, “Up-nee-ent prospector you sprout all your worth and woof your wings.” Well, the key word is prospector: a prospector is a rock hunter. I wanted to prospect for the alchemical stone, for the lapis philosophorum. And I conceived it as an idea. And the timeline—I mean, I think it would come differently for each of us.


For me it was this incredibly formal, aesthetically symmetrical, and therefore satisfying idea about what time is; that the Tao is something which could be mathematically described as a flux of a quality in time. A quality that I named novelty. And once I had enunciated it for myself, I saw that that was the part of the world that we have no description for. Science gives us descriptions for what is possible, but we have no descriptions for what, out of the set of the possible, undergoes the actual formality of occurring. Why are certain things selected to come to be? And I saw then the notion of the Tao—which is generally presented as a kind of intuitive notion. You’re not supposed to demand too much hard-edged clarity. You say: just flow with it man, flow with it. Well, when someone says “flow” to me, I think of equations which would describe flow; flow as a dynamical system, which therefore can be mathematically modeled.


And what the timeline is, is a seeing that the very largest patterns—which describe the whole birth, evolution, and death of the universe—are repeated at successively shorter and shorter spans of time, and down into the quantum-mechanically and micro-electronically cognizable realms of time: the realm of nano- and picoseconds. And studying the I Ching, which I saw then as a kind of phenomenological description of time produced by the Oriental mind—completely unencumbered by our particular set of cultural conventions; I mean, certainly it has its own set of peculiar conventions, but not ours—that there is a pattern in nature. Not in three-dimensional space, but in time. A pattern in time on many levels that reproduces itself and can be known, can be formally described. And once known, can be seen to control the ebb and flow of connectedness, or the forward and backward surge of novelty.


And I thought that this was a great insight—since it was the only one I had, I could hardly sell it short. And what pleased me most about it was—you know, a rap is a rap. It’s as good as the rapper. But here was a mathematically formal idea that could stand on its own, be examined in the absence of the rapper, be examined by critics who were as hostile as they cared to be. It’s a tool. It’s in a long line of tools that stretches back toward the first chipped flint, and stretches forward toward the soul made manifest as starship and alchemical transformation. But it was the tool that I came upon. And what is always put against the psychedelic experience is: they say, “Well, big deal! What’s ever come out of it?” You know? So I was pleased that here was a concrete notion that came out of it.




Yes. Along the line of this timewave, can you give us a reading of our current time in the not too distant future?



I would be only too happy to. The question is: would I care to prophesize based on this timeline? Yes, one of the assumptions built into the theory is that time is a series of nested resonances, and that each time is composed of resonance with previous and future times on varying levels. The time we are living through I call the Roman Twilight, simply because we are living through a period that is in resonance with the time of the last Roman emperors. And I think if you look at it carefully, you can begin to see the way this theory proposes to be analogical and yet formal at the same time.


What was happening in the decades immediately preceding the fall of Rome? A progressively weakened series of self-indulgent propagandists ruled the greatest empire on Earth with a more and more shaky hand as they succumbed to gonorrhea, mercuric poisoning, various occult pursuits, millenarian obsessions, and so forth. Meanwhile in the East, in Byzantium, a new civilization was unleashing itself. And if you think of those events which unfolded over a few hundred years as telescoped into a few years in our own era, you see that with the rise of Gorbachev and the continued mismanagement of the American empire under the cryptofascist series of rotating bimbos and buffoons that we have suffered through, that what is happening is: an empire is being betrayed into eclipse by self-indulgence and stupidity and bad management, and its cultural adversary is in ascendancy.


Now, Byzantium never conquered Rome. It doesn’t happen like that. But what ended was the Roman world of indulgent, cohesive imperialism. And what it was replaced with was a rise in religious fundamentalism, a stricter and more puritan kind of morality, the rise of epidemic diseases, and a vast economic retrenchment which initiated what we call the Dark Ages. Now, in the present situation of the twentieth century, these themes are being recapitulated at an extremely rapid rate. So their Dark Age is for us a tough three or four years—fortunately. It’s said history occurs first as tragedy, then as farce. We are the heirs of the vast tragedy of extended history who live through the curiously mediatized and dehumanized farce of the recapitulation of these same themes. Because the very notion that the last ten Roman emperors could be symbolized by someone like the present chief executive cannot fail to bring a small smile to any open mind, I think.


So what I see happening over the next twenty-four years, really, is first this retrenchment—which, hell, it may be upon us, judging by the market’s performance Thursday and Friday . I mean, I may not be doing prophesy at all. This may be recap at this point. [Curator’s note: Black Monday occurred the day after this meeting.] But whether that is a technical move or the actual beginning of the unraveling of the over-bought Western capitalistic system, I can’t say. But I will say that, by mid-1989—by the time the next presidential ritual has been enacted—it will be clear, I think, that we have entered into a whole new kind of temporal domain; a kind of temporal domain that will appear superficially to be fairly bleak. Because it will be highly chaotic, highly novel, and tending to oscillate wildly around a mean. So in other words there will be no clear trend visible. There will appear to be progressive surges, and then losing of ground, and then progressive surges, and losing of ground. And this will go on through until the mid-nineties.


Around 1996–1997 the resonance pattern will have shifted, and we will be occupying a relationship to the late high Middle Ages, and the emergence of the new social forms created by the emergence of the mercantile class and the bourgeois. In other words: private wealth, cities, end of cultural insularity, a re-starting of the economic machinery, and a kind of new flowering. But still under the shadow of these fundamentalist forces that will have come into ascendancy in the previous dark age.


Then, in 1998, we come into that area which is in resonance with the period of the discovery of the New World—1492, in other words. And the exploration of the New World and its subjugation over about a hundred and fifty years which followed from that will be what will be going on as we close out the millennium. What the discovery of the New World will mean in terms of our reenactment of these great themes is anybody’s guess. It could be the vindication of my style of rap: a nearby inhabited dimension filled with alien intelligence. Or it may be the vindication of a more orthodox sort of expectation of extraterrestrial contact. Or perhaps, ultimately, the launching of large telescopes into orbit which will confirm for us the existence of oxygen-rich, water-heavy worlds around nearby stars. That alone would make an intellectual revolution that would leave our world unrecognizable to itself.


We have to recall that, as recently as 500 years ago, the continent that we are inhabiting was unknown. It was something talked of by wild-eyed dreamers, you know? It was an impossibility, a psychedelic dimension. Everyone knew that when you sailed west far enough there be monsters, and that was the end of it. It was, literally, the unconscious. Now we deal in the real estate of that unconscious. And there is no reason why our children should not deal in the real estate of the psychedelic dimension that we are discovering and confirming over the next ten years or so.


Let me carry this through to the end, because the good part comes at the end.


After the turn of the century, the acceleration of the unfolding of these resonances becomes more and more intense, and eventually we reach the super-compression of modern times. This is why I proposed to you last night the term “compressionist” for this school of thought that myself, and Sheldrake, and Frank Barr, and Ralph Abraham represent. Because we all are talking about the dense nesting of concrescent systems—and ultimately, in my own point of view, the emergence of a transcendental object at the end of time. And the end of time is not far off. As Joyce says in The Wake: “It may not be as far off as you wish to be congealed.” I think within the lifetimes of all of us there will be an ontological transformation of the human mode. So I think the transcendental object is emerging.


Once it has emerged, there will be no big deal about it—in the same way that we look back at the emergence of language. And nobody jumps around or gets excited about it, or only a few philosophers do. And yet, the fact that we possess language is the thumbprint of God upon our species. It’s an impossible break with previous animal organization. You can talk all you want about Coco the talking gorilla, and this and that, but then you turn to a poem by Andrew Marvel, and you realize there is an ontological break here. There is not an even progress.


So as we anticipate this thing, it could be anything. It could be the visible language that I indicated as a possibility earlier this evening. It could be emergence in an extraterrestrial mind. It could be the transcendental emergence of all and everything; the Tao made flesh, the actual collapse of the state vector into some kind of mysterious completion. But it’s much more rational to place this kind of singularity at the end of a complex evolutionary process like the life of the universe than at the beginning—which is the scientific approach: to just say everything sprang from nothing for no reason in a single instant, and please don’t ask questions about that, because our map begins one ten-trillionth of a picosecond after that happened. We don’t talk about that. Well, isn’t this somewhat begging the question for an intellectual enterprise that purports to offer an explanation of how things came to be?


So the transcendental object—which suggests to me a negative casuistry; a purpose in the universe that is focusing and drawing everything toward it. And in fact I said history is the shockwave of eschatology. History, which lasts 10,000 years, is this microsecond of ultra-complex experience where the penetration of the natural world by the transcendental object each exists cotemporaneous with the other for a historical or geological microsecond. A then the two terms are merged and all opposites are dissolved, and somehow the gift is claimed, the pearl is restored, and the project is ended. We are living through that moment. A 10,000-year rush from chipping of stone flint to walking through the violet doorway of a self-generated, hyper-dimensional vehicle that carries us to our true home. No wonder it leaves an explosive set of eddies in its wake! I said last night: this is what happens when a culture prepares to depart for the stars. This is not business as usual. This is something else entirely. And it’s the intellectual adventure and challenge of our time for each of us to understand this in terms relevant to ourselves and the people immediately around us.


And so this is the inspiration for Timewave Zero. This is what it maps. This is the odd thing in the map: that when the time-map came through, it wasn’t only a map of historical process, but there was the transcendental object mapped into it, and all of its sub-reflections could be seen. This is what Christ was about. This is what Buddha was about. This is what your most enlightened moment was about. You, each of you. And me. It is the hyper-dimensional, particulate reflection of Godhead scattered back through the flatter plane of this lower-dimensional slice of experience. It’s hard to say it any clearer than that.

Here. Something is happening!

Terence McKenna


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