In the Valley of Novelty

July 31, 1998

Journeying through multiple dimensions of psychedelic consciousness, Terence McKenna’s visionary weekend workshop invites us on an entheogenic voyage to the frontiers of the mind and its imminent conquering of matter. Blending scientific insights with shamanic wisdom, McKenna argues that natural plant medicines like psilocybin and DMT provide portals into mystical realms and alien dimensions, catalyzing revelations about nature, reality, and the human psyche. He urges us to courageously explore these consciousness-expanding substances, seeking the gratuitous beauty and truths they unveil. For McKenna, the psychedelic experience holds secrets to our world and ourselves—if only we dare lift the veil.

Mentions

Session 1

Friday Evening

July 31, 1998

00:00

McKenna

Well, welcome to In The Valley Of Novelty. I understand we’ll meet here all of our sessions. And tomorrow’s session begins at nine and runs ’till noon—correct me if any of this is not the case—and then tomorrow afternoon’s session runs from two to five, is that it? Two thirty to five. And then a Sunday morning session. So I see familiar faces, unfamiliar faces. These things are most interesting (at least to me) when they’re directed by the agendas of whoever’s present. I have a number of things on my mind, more than a weekend’s worth of stuff. All of it is very familiar to me. I know what I think—mostly, most of the time—so don’t be afraid to interrupt, to ask questions if you’re not getting what you want. It’s fine to take it another direction.

01:13

The way I conceive of these things and how they’ve evolved over the years is: originally, my enthusiasm was for informing people about the psychedelic experience, especially plants, and how that arose out of shamanism, and how it was evidence for Jungian models of the psyche. And basically, for me the psychedelic experience was the path to revelation. It actually worked on somebody who thought nothing would work. And that’s still a large part of what gets talked about in these weekends simply because there’s an endless crop of new people who are interested in using these botanical materials for purposes of self-exploration. And doing that safely, sanely, and in a fully aware manner involves coordinating a lot of detail: botanical, chemical, ethnographic, geographical, evolutionary, biological, pharmacological detail—which we can spend as much time on as the group will tolerate.

02:48

What I like to talk about, and what I have very little competition in terms of talking about, is the content of the psychedelic experience—which is very difficult to English or to bring into any other language, and which is not predictable or is confounding of the expectations of students of mystical experience. And so that was sort of my core specialty, if you will; was the ethnopharmacology of consciousness and the phenomenology of the states there derived. But after 25 or 30 years of doing this it bleeds into all kinds of larger categories, like: what is art? What is human history? What is the religious impulse? What is the erotic impulse? What is mathematics? And then, somehow, these concerns (shamanic, oracular, ecstatic) always garner to themselves a prophetistic aura: what is the future, and can it be known? And is it mundane or is it transcendental? And on what scale and on what schedule? So all of these things are interesting to me.

04:30

My personal history, if it matters: I grew up in a very middle-class family in a very small town on the western slopes of Colorado, which is about as white-bred culture as you can possibly achieve. It was a very stable environment to be brought up in. It was the fifties, it was all tube furniture and bad television. But the ground I happened to be fortunate enough to walk around on had clamshells 150 million years old scattered through it, dinosaur bones, extinct fishes. And I, as a kid, I was a loner and I spent a lot of time in these dry arroyos and washes where these fossils and stuff could be found. And then people informed me of the age of these things. And I can remember when I found out that a million years is a thousand years a thousand times, it was like: I go it. It was the largest thing I could get at that stage of my conceptualizing reality. But then suddenly the reality of the size and scale of nature snapped into focus for me.

06:12

And I’ve been thinking about this recently, because one of the things you’ll find out about me if we get to know each other is: I have a skeptical and cranky side, and I’m forever puzzled by why people believe some of the (seeming to me) dumb things that they choose to believe. And I spent a lot of time thinking about: what is a dumb thing to believe? And how do you judge in a shrilly competing ideological marketplace the various claims, counterclaims, nostrums, ideologies, therapies, insights, revelations that are being peddled? And so my intellectual development, if you want to put it like that, was sort of scientific in the sense that it was always about looking at phenomena, testing it, trying to define its limits.

07:26

The strange thing that happened to me—because, I guess, I eventually became involved with psychedelics—was this method of testing, demanding proof, never taking anything for granted. Normally what that does is: it deflates reality, it flattens it, it makes it industrial and existential and post-romantic and horrifying. But in my case it didn’t, because psychedelics are actually a kind of miraculous reality that can stand the test of objective examination. I mean, in other words, there’s nothing woo-woo about it. It has to do with perturbing states of brain chemistry and standing back and observing the effects wrought thereby. And it’s extremely dependable. And from a medical point of view, it’s extremely safe and non-invasive. I mean, one of the paradoxes of pharmacology is that the substances which most dramatically affect the mind do so at tiny doses and with very little sequella. This is extraordinary. I mean, it’s almost as though the mind in this case is a phenomenon very different from the body—where, to achieve major effects in the body, often massively invasive procedures or large doses of invasive chemicals have to be used. Someone once said to me, referring to LSD, that if you wanted a picture at the molecular level of the power of LSD, imagine an ant that can rip the Empire State Building apart in thirty minutes. One ant—in terms of the scales and the sizes of what’s going on, that’s a reasonable analogy to the power of LSD.

09:42

So I explored all kinds of fringe areas when I was a kid: magic and telepathy and ouija boards and various invocations, some of which interrupted my career as an altarboy—couldn’t have it both ways, it turned out. And one by one these things fell, you know? In the same way that as you go through life, you close the door on Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and so forth and so on as you move along toward adulthood. But then I discovered that the psychedelic dimension seemed to be an exception, that it was as though the tidy world of European positivist culture derived from Calvinism and Greek science and so forth and so on had this umbilical point, this place where it was all tied together. And if you untied it, it completely deflated and you were left staring into something analogous to William James’ description of an infant’s world: you were left staring into a blooming, buzzing confusion. Well, you know, what is that? What are the implications of that? It wasn’t a confusion chaotic enough to be simply mind dissipated into thermondynamic noise.

11:26

I think a lot of people who have never taken psychedelics have the idea that it’s thermodynamic noise—you know, that it’s just the brain isn’t working right, it’s firing randomly, and then some portion of it is trying desperately to lay Gestalts of meaning onto this random firing, and so you get this kind of surreal, careening from one supposed illusionary perception to another. Anybody who’s taken psychedelics knows this is not a very apt or cogent description; that actually, these things reveal scenarios, modalities, hierophanies of emotional and poetic power that are very emotionally moving, and sometimes leave in their wake powerful ideas—ideas as powerful as any of the ideas that have moved and shaped civilization.

12:32

So my motivation in talking about these things is that I do not say that this is the only path out of the mundane coil of blind casuistry and entropic degradation. I don’t say it’s the only path out. It’s the only path I found. And I checked some of the other major players. But checking doesn’t mean I exhausted them. I mean, perhaps yoga can deliver this, perhaps Mahayanist metaphysics can deliver these things. Perhaps I was impatient or lumpen or simply not intelligent enough. But the good news about psychedelics is that they are incredibly democratic, you know? Even the clueless can be swept along if the dose is sufficient.

13:36

Hmm, yes. Well, so that’s just a little bit about it. And other things that are very interesting to me, as I said, are the future. But the future in some specificity, both the rationally apprehendable future that we get when we extrapolate current technologies, current tendencies, and the not-so-rationally apprehendable future when we actually turn on all the bells and whistles of the historical process and realize that it is inevitably ramping up into more and more hypersonic states of expression, and that this is what is creating this end-of-history phenomenon, or this eschatological intimation that now haunts the cultural dialogue. There is something deep and profound moving in the mass psyche, driven by historical forces long in the process of unfolding, but now exacerbated and focused by new communications technologies that are essentially prostheses: extensions of the human mind and body of enormous and unpredictable power, or with unpredictable consequences.

15:03

So, in a sense, what began for me as the psychedelic experience, a personal experience triggered by a relationship with a plant based on certain definable pharmacological phenomena, has become like a general metaphor for understanding being in the world and our historical dilemma, because in a way they’re fractal adumbrations of each other. I mean, history—call it 15,000 or 25,000 years of duration—is the story of some kind of complex animal becoming conscious and staring out, then, into a kind of universe of infinite possibilities based on what consciousness can do in the realm of energy, matter, light, time, and space. Well, so, in a way, the psychedelic experience is like a microcosmic reflection of that: you start from baseline—which is your ordinary lumpen (or not so lumpen, depending on who you are) state of consciousness—but wherever you start from, it lifts you up in a process of evolutionary unfoldment that is squeezed into hours, and it goes on entirely in the evolution of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. And it seemed to me for a long time—at least since I read McLuhan and assimilated his notion of tools as things which have a feedback into how we see the world—it seemed to me that the psychedelic state was, then, like a predictive model for what human history wanted to do. Human history wants to break through all boundaries, to somehow have a realized collective relationship with deity or that which orders nature, or some fairly large concept like that.

17:29

So for my own benefit and for the benefit of the group, it’s useful to move around the circle and just hear who’s here and what their professional interest, or just something that we can hang a tag on so we know if we’re half psychotherapists and half advertising executives, or how many hackers are here, how many molecular biologists. Something like that. So with your indulgence—and please don’t talk long in a situation like this; lack of brevity is considered proof of psychosis…. You laugh. Why don’t you say some little thing about yourself that keys us?

Audience

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18:21

McKenna

Yeah, the implications. It’s all in the implications. It has to do with how much intelligence you bring to it at the beginning, you know? If there’s no mind behind the retinal screen, then it’s just mental pyrotechnics. But it’s how much we can make of the phenomenon that makes it so rich.

Audience

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18:51

McKenna

Yeah, you mentioned the gratuitous grace—this is based on a famous comment by Aldous Huxley. He was asked at one point: what is the psychedelic experience? And he said it’s a gratuitous grace. And then he explained: it is neither necessary for salvation nor sufficient for salvation. But it certainly makes it easier. It’s like an aid, it’s a cul-de-sac. I mean, we can’t suppose that it’s necessary for salvation because too many people have gone from birth to the grave without it. But one has attained a very fortunate incarnation, I think, to be in a culture, in a place, in a time when psychedelic knowledge is available. And it’s a kind of paradox that in our own time (meaning in the last hundred years) all this information has arrived in our laps as the hubristic enterprise of white-man anthropology carried back all these medicine kits and mojo bags and sacred plants and so forth, and grew them in university botanical gardens and kept the stuff in locked drawers. It was like a Trojan horse brought inside the city walls of Calvin’s Troy. And now the genie is out of the bottle.


I’ll have to restrain myself with these long exegetical comments on each person’s… yeah?

Audience

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20:38

McKenna

Yeah, I’m interested in all of this, too: the rising paranoia, and what it means, and how to come to terms with what I call the balkanization of epistemology—the fact that large groups of people no longer demand that the world even make sense, they’re operating on synthetic ontologies that have risen above the concept of mere sense. But, you know, there’s a whiff of fascism about that that has to be fully deconstructed before we want to sign up.


Yeah?

Audience

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21:19

McKenna

Well, I have answers for all three of your questions, but it would take a while to unfold it. But as far as this last question is concerned, the official answer is: because it came with the conquest; that the stropharia cubensis, the psilocybe cubensis only prefers the dung of bos indicus cattle. So it was so associated with the cultural genocide brought by the Spanish conquerors. And this is the same reason given why, in Mexico—though in the Mexican situation it’s a little different. You actually have an indigenous population of native mushrooms, but you also have the san isidro; the cubensis. But it’s considered inferior—when it isn’t by any chemical index. So I think it’s a deep association to the conquest is the only thing I can figure.

22:22

The other thing may be—and this is more… I gave you the official answer; then here’s an answer based on my own experience—though I know that some people combine harmine with psilocybin, when I have done it it has scared the socks off me. It seems an unfriendly combination for me. Now, the way I did it was: I took half a dose of ayahuasca and half a dose of mushrooms. Do not do this! If you must combine these two compounds, I think the way you want to do it is take a fairly substantial dose of an MAO-inhibitor, either peganum harmala seeds or banisteriopsis, and a very light amount of mushrooms. But the 50-50 combination was one of the longest evenings I’ve ever spent.


And if I seem not to be going to answer your other two questions in the course of the weekend, remind me. Because… yeah, I’m keen to get to both of those.


Yeah?

Audience

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23:36

McKenna

Community and connection. Yeah, it’s important for all of you to notice everyone who’s here, because our agenda has triumphed so completely, culturally, that we can’t tell ourselves from the rest of the population as we could in the sixties. So it’s only at moments like this when we emerge out of the darkness and show ourselves to each other. And I will sail on to the next new age watering hole or institute or whatever, but you should all realize that, probably, whatever you’re looking for, someone in this room could help you out if you could but figure out exactly who it is and what it is you’re looking for.


Yeah?

Audience

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24:32

McKenna

It may come to that, yeah. Yeah, well, we need to think this seating thing through. This is how we came in, and probably I will do it tonight, but if you spontaneously reorganize yourselves I won’t say anything about it. It’s interesting that you mentioned the Kundalini thing, because those of you who’ve read my book True Hallucinations know that my brother and I got into something that was triggered by psychedelics, and started out as a psychedelic trip, but then developed into either an episode of schizophrenia or a revelation or it depended on who was voting. And this can happen. These things are… the path goes further than most sojourners wish to travel, I think. I mean, the power is immense. And once you find the way, it isn’t a matter of… it can be overwhelming. Someone once said, “The yogan and the schizophrenic are divers in the same ocean, but one of them has learned how to use scuba equipment and the other is simply drowning.” So the reason for the emphasis on shamanism and on other techniques is: you will need techniques if you go into the deep water. And they can make your life very simple and save you from unnecessary suffering. Not all suffering is necessary. Maybe no suffering is necessary.


Yeah?

Audience

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26:34

McKenna

Yeah, one of the things that I’m keen to talk to you about is, you know, there are various models of the psychedelic experience: that it’s the Jungian unconscious, that it’s the ancestor world, that it’s this or that. The one that I’m most struck by is: it’s the world of the Platonic ideals. It’s a world very closely related to mathematics. And, in a way, the shaman is a hyper-mathematician—not in that he proposes theorems and solves them, but that he perceives hyper-dimensionally. And the magical power of the shaman—the power to predict weather, to tell where the game has gone, to cure, to have deep insight into social problems within the tribal group—all these so-called magical powers become completely understandable if you believe that the shaman actually attains a kind of hyper-dimensional perception. And, you know, also teaching here this weekend is my old buddy Ralph Abraham, who’s one of the world’s leading exponents of chaos dynamics. And he has told me many times that the DMT flash for him is simply and straightforwardly a perception of hyperspace, a coordination—and this is why metaphors like “inner eye” and “inner seeing” make sense, because of course in hyperspace the inside of the body is no more secret from perception than the outside of the body. So yeah, mathematics is one of the few things I still trust at this point.

Audience

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28:38

McKenna

Yeah, that’s… my motivation is basically on curiosity. I mean, I’m fascinated that we’ve gotten this far. I mean, given that the most economical situation would be pure nothingness, what is this? I mean, and why is nature doing these things? And why does organization have such a tenacity? And what does it mean that we appear so late in the process and represent such a difference in the rest of nature? It’s very mysterious. We get used to reality because it’s so stable, but in fact it’s an absolutely confounding situation. Besides the DMT flash, the only other thing that I know that’s as confounding as that is ordinary consciousness and incarnate being in a body. It’s just so improbable, you know?


Yeah?

Audience

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29:53

McKenna

Yeah, well I was very resonant with the person over here who mentioned Evelyn Underhill’s book on mysticism, because I also read it at about that age, and I wanted these mystical experiences. The problem is that the thing that is so powerful about the psychedelics is that they perform on demand, which almost in principle you cannot expect of a mystical experience because that would be essentially man ordering God at man’s whim, which is not how it’s supposed to work. Similarly, you know, waiting for UFOs to come by, you spend a lot of cold nights in the corn field. But if you were to take five dried grams of stropharia cubensis and spend the night in the corn field, I don’t know whether you would get UFOs, but I guarantee you, by morning your notebook would be full of something.

30:54

So the fascinating thing about the psychedelic is: of all of the… it seems magical in the sense that it seems to respond to human will. One decides whether this is the evening or not. And sometimes people have said to me, “Well, don’t you want to achieve these things on the natch?” Well, to me that suggests a certain degree of out-of-controlness. In other words, if I were—sitting here—suddenly to notice that I appear to have taken twenty milligrams of psilocybin, I would be alarmed. I would be concerned, I would want to know the casuistry of why I felt this way, whether someone had dosed me at dinner, or I was losing my mind, or what was going on. On the other hand, if I had initiated the experience I would be perfectly at ease with it and see the unfolding signposts and know what it was. Yeah, it’s a difference of sort of waiting in an attitude of the supplicant, the expectant supplicant, or being the hierophant with all the Faustian echoes that that carries with it, and being able to call down the power, or go up to the power, at will. And, you know, that’s a fantastic thing and a responsibility.


Yeah?

Audience

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32:34

McKenna

Yeah, one of the things that inevitably downloads out of all this psychedelic stuff is—because it’s central to understanding our nature anyway—is: how do we relate to our sexuality, to our relationships, to our obligations, to biology, and romanticism, and so forth and so on? And you mentioned monotony, monogamy, and monotheism—or… was that the one? Yeah, well, part of what happens with a career like mine is: everything you ever say is taped. So then, your ideas may change over time, but people will listen to an eight-year-old tape, a six-year-old tape, and so you’re like imprisoned or liberated (I haven’t figured out which), because you must account for every opinion you ever held, even if you no longer hold it. The toughest thing to figure out is relationships. It is the yoga of the West. But it’s harder than yoga. And I’m 52, nearly, and I don’t feel greatly wiser in this are than I felt at 24. And, you know, I’ve had a marriage, I’ve had a divorce, I’ve been single, I’ve had long-term relationships, short-term relationships, on and on and on.

34:07

This is… well, part of what I’ll say in a larger context is: we shouldn’t seek for closure. Part of what the psychedelic point of view represents is: living a certain portion of your life without answers. Just accepting that certain dilemmas will never resolve themselves into some kind of a complete answer. That’s why psychedelics are so different from any system being sold—from one of the great elder systems, like Christianity, to the latest cult out of Los Angeles. These cults, these cultic answers, always invariably provide a complete set of answers to life’s dilemmas at the price of being absurd, but this doesn’t seem to bother people. So part of what being psychedelic means, I think, is relentlessly living with unanswered questions. And this relationship thing, this is the heart of the alchemical furnace. This is where the coincidencia oppositorum is a fact in your life and my life. And I don’t know whether psychedelics make it easier or harder to come to terms to that. They certainly reveal its many facets with incredible and sometimes bewildering clarity.


Yeah?

Audience

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35:51

McKenna

I think it works faster. You’re right, I never have said much about it because my own style was always to weigh the dose. I mean, I guess I’m just that much of an engineering type to weigh the dose. With the tea you don’t know exactly how much you’ve taken. I had an experience in London one time where I went to these people’s house and they were serving mushroom tea, and I think the miscible portion of the psilocybin must have been floating on the surface, because the hit I got from this cup of almost clear broth was staggering. And nobody else got loaded at all; I think I got 90% of the thing. So I think if you didn’t emulsify it, the tea delivers an uneven dose. Of course, if you’re drinking the entire dose—

Audience

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36:58

McKenna

It’s just a habit. There’s nothing wrong with doing it that way. Usually, in my mushroom-taking career, I was the grower, and so I somehow just wanted to eat it directly. Like, usually, that’s how I do it. I just don’t even… it doesn’t for me require honey or anything to wash it down. They get a little rasty, that’s right. And if they’re rubbery then they can have secondary bacteria and stuff growing in them. So in that case, adding hot water, giving them a splash of boiling water, probably isn’t a bad idea.


Yeah?

Audience

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37:43

McKenna

You know, it’s a frustrating situation, because the literature tells you that DMT occurs widely throughout nature: distributed through grasses, mammalian brain tissue, leguminous trees, rubiaceous plants. But when you actually go to try and get it out, you encounter two problems. Either it’s spread very thin, or—and if it’s spread thin by simply gross overwhelment you can get it out. But the other problem is: it often occurs complexed with other tryptamines of very nearly the same molecular weight, and they have activity you don’t want: cardioactive activity or like that. So practically speaking, in my own experience, the cleanest source of DMT is psychotria viridis. And if you can get hold of it and grow it you will obtain a clean source of DMT. But basically you need five acres in a tropical country to do it right. That’s why I have five acres in a tropical country…!

Audience

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39:08

McKenna

What? Well, it is schedule one. Pardon me? Yeah, all DMT is schedule one. But there’s a weird Catch-22 around that. I mean, we all contain DMT. So, you know, it’s like the universal holding law. Everybody’s holding. Everybody is potentially out from under the umbrella. Probably—though you may not wish to hear this—the shortcut, the easier path, is to just tighten your belt and learn organic chemistry, and make it then from scratch, or from tryptophan, or from indole, or something. But it’s a puzzle why there is so little DMT, because as a synthetic process it’s not that difficult. It’s certainly far less difficult than making LSD or something like that. But it’s vanishingly rare in the underground. One reason for that may be, you know: if you sell somebody a gram, they may leave a significant portion of it to their great-grandchildren. This is not a drug of abuse. Where what people like are drugs where you sell somebody a gram at eight in the evening and at eleven o’clock they’re beating on your door to buy two more. This is not like that, you know?

Audience

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40:48

McKenna

You mean what is it doing there? It’s not really well understood. The people who identified it, their best guess was that it had something to do with very rapid shifts of short-term attention. In other words, a shot is fired, everyone in the room turns and looks in well under a second. That is—possibly those shifts of attention are mediated by DMT. The fact that it is so dramatic as a psychedelic experience but goes away so quickly makes it an ideal chemical to use in these kinds of short-term reactions where something spikes and then very rapidly returns to its baseline. But what it’s really doing in human metabolism, we don’t know. DMT, like many psychedelics, competes with serotonin for the serotonergic bond site. Interesting, then, that drugs like Prozac and Zoloft—these new antidepressants—they also relate to (though in a different way) the serotonergic system, one of the four major neurotransmitter systems that operates in the human brain. It’s no surprise to me that these extremely effective antidepressants are emerging out of meddling with serotonergic chemistry. DMT—many people experience it as orgasmic or ecstatic. Ecstasy is not simply joy, ecstasy is an emotion of great complexity that hovers almost on the edge of terror sometimes.

42:45

But, you know, we could speculate that the orgasm is an interesting phenomenon, and what is the chemical basis of orgasm, and why does it occur at all? Since, in many animals, it doesn’t occur. And, in fact, as you advance in the animal phylogeny, orgasm becomes more common. Well, it’s… I would bet that the chemistry of orgasm, the chemistry of DMT, the chemistry of mood-alteration, in the next five or ten years this will all be pieced, deconstructed, and understood. I mean, the recent flap about Viagra will be as nothing when a drug is discovered which causes orgasm. And chemically this is probably not far out of reach. Orgasm is a pretty general spectrum chemical response that you ought to be able to pharmacologically mimic with reasonable facility. I’m sure some of our best people at pharmaceutical companies are hard at work on this.


Yeah? But I digress!

Audience

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44:08

McKenna

That sounds fine. I mean, I’m not commenting on the price, I’m commenting on the pharmacology. If you take two grams of peganum harmala seeds, well ground, and a sufficient amount of the root scrapings of mimosa hostilis, which is the Brazilian species, and then the conspecific Mexican species is mimosa tenuiflora. As far as we can tell, chemically, these things are equivalent. That works. Basically, if you’re serious about pursuing this, you need to get into the habit of growing things and gardening, or you need to sharpen up your chemistry chops and actually become a synthetic chemist.

Audience

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45:01

McKenna

Well, the jungle ayahuasca, you know, you don’t need that much harmine or harmaline to inhibit your monoamine oxidase. People tend to overkill on that. I think that the jungle ayahuascas, they have a cultural value system that places emphasis on vomiting. They even call this stuff la purga: they want to vomit violently and dramatically. We’re not so keen for that. So we don’t need such an amount of harmine or harmaline. So you can—if you’re fiddling with this you can cut it back. Most people use pegamon harmala seeds to inhibit their MAO. You don’t need more than two grams of that. At two grams, 90% of the MAO in your body is fully inhibited for four to six hours, and more than that is simply kicking up your gastric response.

Audience

So these things are available legally by mail?

46:06

McKenna

Oh yeah, there’s been a whole revolution. There are seedsmen who sell the makings of all of these things. And Jonathan Ott’s book Ayahuasca Analogues—I guess what I’m saying is: it’s not as easy as it sounds right off the bat. You may spend a few evenings not getting off or a few evenings wandering in some fairly peculiar mind states before you finally grab the brass ring. But it’s out there. It’s out there.


Yeah?

Audience

[???] and I had no idea.

46:51

McKenna

You mean you had no idea that this was a category of human pursuit and that people came to workshops like this and talked botany, chemistry, and all this stuff? Yeah, well… I agree that it’s a weird subset. It’s a weird—

Audience

[???] and I had no idea.

47:20

McKenna

Well, maybe bong-making.

Audience

How do you do? Thank you. My name is Nicholas [???], and I’m a federal narcotics agent. I’m here to do my job, and I can tell that many of you are on these schedule A substances at this moment. Probably half of you. We can do this easy, we can do this hard. The easy way is this: tonight, in the cover of darkness, you bring these substances to my room. Don't worry, there will be no questions asked [???]. As a matter of fact, I will come looking for them. It will not be pretty. Thank you, carry on.

48:09

McKenna

Very good! So you were warned. You were warned.

Audience

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48:21

McKenna

Well, Wallace Stevens was an insurance adjuster, and he managed to get good mileage out of it—so you just can’t tell, you know? God is in the cabbages.

Audience

My name is Birgit. I went to the jungle in Peru and [???] two mushroom journeys by myself [???] was one of your books [???]. I’m here to hear what you have to say.

48:49

McKenna

Doubtless, some Amazonian shaman had lost it for you to stumble over.

Yeah?

Lorenzo Hagerty

I’m Larry. I manage a group of Internet docs for a large phone company, and I’ve been involved in the net since the late 1980s and had been struck for years by the fact that a very significant percentage of the people who’ve been building the infrastructure for the last twenty years are also very deeply involved in psychedelics. And I’m here to learn a little bit more about possible ways we can maybe leverage the net for the archaic concepts that you’ve espoused and endorsed.

49:27

McKenna

Yeah, it’s incredible the connection between the psychedelic culture and high technical culture, and how this is rarely discussed. But the people who built the Internet, who conceive of these complex machine architectures, the people at the cutting edge in AI, in chaos theory, in dynamics, are all graduates of these experiences.

Audience

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49:58

McKenna

Yeah, there’s a new book—I see it’s in the bookstore here—the Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, John Jenkins’ book about Mayan archeo-astronomy. If you’re interested in all that, his book pretty much lays it out in greater detail and in a more scholarly fashion than anybody else has done. Because there is a lot of loose-headedness around when it comes to talking about the Maya. But this guy is a very good scholar. And as is always the case, the real truth is more astonishing than any myth. So if you’re interested in all that, check it out. And we will talk about the Maya and the time wave and the millennium and all of that stuff in the course of the weekend.

Audience

[???]

50:52

McKenna

Yeah, all this is fascinating. I mean, I’ve pursued the paranormal my whole life, and out of 52 years I’ve been in its presence for maybe five minutes. But those five minutes were absolutely real. I mean, at least under some conditions you can understand what another person is thinking. You can even look into their memories. But what those conditions are, how to return to it—but having seen it only once or twice in my life, that’s enough. You know, miracles are not bought cheaply. I mean, some people would have you believe otherwise, and that there’s telepathy all around you. Well, maybe there is, but not that I could see. But on the other hand, functioning as a skeptic, there still were encounters at certain points that were uncanny by any rational standard.


Yeah?

Audience

[???]

52:01

McKenna

What do you mean exactly by “experience of the primordial”? Well, I wrote a book called The Archaic Revival, where the idea there is that we are discomforted, civilization has made us uncomfortable with our humanness, because these various technologies and phonetic alphabets and things like that have rearranged our sensory ratios from what they were in paleolithic times. And that, in a sense, what psychedelics do is: they hit your reset button. They address the animal body. They address a deeper level than cultural conditioning. And so you feel and experience these atavistic images and feelings that civilization has repressed or transmuted in you. And, you know, the whole premise of that book was that the twentieth century in many of its cultural manifestations—from cubism to Dada, abstract expressionism, jazz, sexual permissiveness, hallucinogenic drugs, youth culture—a whole bunch of things were all impulses toward the primitive, toward a return to a primal state of social organization. And that, really, this is the overarching metaphor of the twentieth century. The nineteenth century saw the triumph of hierarchical order, gentlemanly values, class structure, all that constipated European stuff. And then the twentieth century is experienced as chaos, you know? Cubism is created when Picasso brings African masks to Paris and begins painting them. Freud announces that we are not just Christian ladies and gentlemen, but that right beneath the surface the incest drive, cannibalistic drives, extremely violent primitive impulses are there. Jazz introduces syncopation into music. Women begin to display more of their animal nature through flapper dancing. I don’t know, you can figure it all out for yourself. The point is: the whole of the twentieth century is a turning back toward these values that had been repressed for millennia—not only by Christianity, but by the Greek scientific philosophy, the phonetic alphabet, urbanism, agriculture itself. There was a very long period in the human adventure when all of those things lay in our future. And we were far happier (I think) then, judging by our lack of need to make egoistic statements by building vast religious monuments, or enslaving each other, or setting down codes of laws, so forth and so on. And of course we’ll never be like that again. But there is an impulse in modern society to recapture those values. And psychedelics are hugely effective at doing this. I mean, all this talk of shamanism, and native Americanism, and getting in touch with your body, and honoring gender shifts, and all of this stuff is basically rooted in a more psychedelic attitude, a less categorical and constipated and print-defined—McLuhan would say—attitude toward social roles and social polity.


Yeah?

Audience

I’m Tom. I teach literature and mythology, and I’ve been experimenting with my own forms of exploration for many, many years. But as many of you have said here, much of that for me has been a kind of individual quest, a kind of—and I just thought that the opportunity to meet you and to interact with the rest of you who shared some of the same kind of interests in opening up our minds and our experience and put the quintessential expression of that through language that you bring to that. And along with that, the kind of interacting (as several of you have mentioned) on looking at some of the same areas that we’re attempting to explore. As I watch us go around the group and heard and felt in myself the resonance with a number of the experiences and expressions that many of you have had, I realize how, at some other level, we all seem to have a kind of shared experience that is somehow coming into a focus here, and that is perhaps being given expression—most eloquently through you. But I think through our need to be here—that’s how I felt—just a need to come and somehow just be part of this experience with you, and I’m glad to be here.

58:22

McKenna

It’s not really a coincidence. It’s sort of hard to avoid me on the Internet. There’s just so much stuff—not all put there by me by a long shot.

Well, did we touch everybody? Did everybody have their say? Well, it’s always interesting to me to do these around-in-a-circle things. First of all, it seems to me—I mean, maybe this is self-congratulatory—but it seems to me that people are extraordinarily serious and together. I have a real nose for nuttiness, and I didn’t so much as twitch this evening—and this is a large group! So don’t loosen your chains too much, but congratulations for impressing me, anyway, as very sane. This is an area where sanity counts. There’s no points gained for being fanatical or maniacal. This isn’t an area where you have to push the process. The process can push you harder and faster than you may wish. Once you get to this place—on what we might metaphorically call your spiritual quest—once you get to the place where you hear about psychedelics, the issue is no longer, then, about where is the gas pedal in the spiritual vehicle, the issue suddenly becomes: where is the brake? Because this is the fuel to go where you want to go. This is the power to lift you where you want to be lifted. Those issues are somehow now overcome. It becomes a very different game now, a much subtler game. The doorway stands open, and all it requires is courage—which is not to say it doesn’t require a lot. It does require a lot. But what it is is courage. You know, very few people go to the ashram for their daily meditation with their knees knocking in terror over what is about to sweep over them. They are pretty confident that they’ve got it confined and nailed down. It isn’t so with this. I mean, I’ve done it many times, there are many people here who’ve done it many times, and the survivors are not confident. It doesn’t build hubris in you. It doesn’t promote bravado. Because you know how quickly and how horrifyingly it can cut you down to size if you presume it, or if you presume you understand it, or if you presume to use it.

1:01:33

So sometimes the issue of magic and power comes up. I wouldn’t get near that. My goal is to see more, to understand more. And what I do on a trip is damn near absolutely nothing. You know? I have two or three J’s rolled in front of me. If I can get through them in the course of the evening, all goals have been met. To see, to understand, to remember. It’s an incredible statement about our humanness—it’s a double-edge statement about our humanness—that within us, under the influence of these plants, we have literally Niagaras of alien beauty. I mean, I, when I go to Manhattan, I go to the Met and the Guggenheim, and I haunt the galleries of SoHo. When I take mushrooms, I see more art in twenty minutes of behind-the-eyelids hallucination in total darkness than the human race seems to have produced in the last thousand years. Well, so on one level, that’s an incredible statement about the human capacity to generate and be in the presence of beauty. But the paradox is that so few people know this. That our ordinary styles of beings, our ordinary relationships to plants, our main-brand religions almost never carry us into the sense of this potential for beauty.

1:03:25

And when I was young—you know, in my early twenties, wandering around India, trying to sort all of this out, having taken some psychedelics, but reading yogic texts and Mahayana texts and all this—I discovered in every culture there is what I call wise-old-man wisdom, or wise-old-woman wisdom. You know, in every culture, at evening, you see sitting on porches men smoking pipes, old men, and these guys know something. They know something about life: how to till the soil, how to raise a family, how to, you know, shepherd children through their marriages, and so forth and so on. But what I did not find in these cultures was any knowledge of this gratuitous grace. This is like a secret of some sort. And it’s a true secret, in that telling it does not give it away. I know this because I’ve been trying to tell the secret for 25 years to anyone who would listen, as you listen tonight. And I don’t know how many people, here, at what level, hear me.

1:04:56

And there are many problems. First of all, there’s the problem of dose. It’s a physical problem. You can take a little of a psychedelic substance, or an effective dose, or a lot, or too much, and medically not be in any particular danger. The LD50 of these substances is such—let’s take psilocybin as an example. Psilocybin is effective at 15 milligrams for 145-pound person. But the LD50, the lethal dose, is something like 110 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. In other words: hundreds of times more than a dose that you would swear you were melting down, you were becoming the Earth, you would never live to tell the tale, and actually you’re in no medical danger at all. So people have experiences of different dose levels. I’ve always been interested in what the literature describes as effective doses. What this means is that you’re so loaded that a guy standing there with a clipboard looking at you is completely convinced you’re totally loaded. You know, all pretense dissolves. At these higher doses, the machinery of phenomenological description begins to come to pieces on you.

1:06:39

And in my experience—someone mentioned the difference between mystical experiences and psychedelics—there are enormous similarities and enormous differences. If you study the mystical literature of Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, it all triangulates toward unitary states: the Bodhi mind, the white light, the ineffable, the unnameable, the irradiance. Vocabularies like this, which indicate some kind of homogeneity. Well, in my experience—though, when you push LSD there is something somewhat like that, LSD is not my idea of the paradigmatic hallucinogen. It’s different in many ways. Psilocybin is more the paradigmatic hallucinogen. And when you push it there seems to be not this merging into the radiance, but a revelation of multiplicity, of detail, of complexification within complexification. Everything gives way to everything else. Everything is interconnected to everything else. But the impression is one of an overwhelmingly bewildering profusion of phenomena.

1:08:06

And, you know, I’ve discussed this with lamas and these sorts of people, and they say, “Well, you’re in the realm of saṃsāra. You’re in the realm of the multiplistic.” Perhaps, but the sense of a hierarchy of judgment doesn’t feel right. Somehow, this all-and-everything, this teeming multiplistic universe that is revealed, seems to carry a message of ecstatic and transcendental import. It’s all and everything, in Gurdjieff’s phrase. And one of the ideas that I want to explore with you in the course of the weekend is, you know, most discussions of psychedelics orbit around: what will it be like when I take it? Well, that’s very interesting and, of course, important to the individual. But to me an equally interesting question is: what has been the impact of this experience on the evolution of human beings over hundreds of thousands of years? In other words: what is it that we share with this planet? A kind of co-evolution not only with another order of being, which it certainly is, but the great confounding fact that I’ve brought back from my excursions into these places is that there is an organized intelligence in there, out there, over there—far more alien than the cheerful pro bono proctologists that haunt the trailer courts of the less fortunate. A truly alien presence, not interested in our gross industrial output or in imparting salutary technology upon us.

1:10:18

Well then, what does it mean that our culture has sealed us off from this information? I mean, our culture claims under the aegis of science to bring us news of quasars chiliocosms of time and space away, news of the activities of the nucleus of the cell at the heart of the atom—and yet here’s a world that begins right behind your eyebrows that any mention of it either brings talk of mental pathology or how you’ve transgressed certain laws of the village. In other words, this culture has reared the edifice of empirical understanding and modern science and existential philosophy—this edifice has all been put in place in complete ignorance and denial of a fact of experience that is approximately as easy to access as orgasm. I mean, by different means, but nevertheless not far away. And yet, we in the West have navigated for 1,500–2,000 years with this, simply an easily repressed rumor.

1:11:47

How did we get into this situation? In other words: if there was a primordial era of shamanism and plant symbiosis and a mediated relationship with nature through the Gaian intelligence, how did we fall, then, into the domain of post-Renaissance, post-Medieval, post-Industrial culture? And then, what is the implication for the future of in this dark hour of complete overcommitment to technology, economic solutions, rational reductionism, materialism, so forth and so on? In the darkest hour of our commitment to these things, this news arrives from these repressed aboriginal people that we have marginalized and humiliated in the process of building our own version of a global culture.

1:12:54

Well, obviously I’m not going try to answer these questions tonight, but this, to my mind—you know, in the eleventh century, when Islam swept across Asia minor, in Isfahan in Iran they built these immense mosques with mosaiced, vaulted roofs. And one of the great historians of Islam said of the city of Isfahan in the tenth century, he said, “It is half the world.” A single city, half the world. In a way, psychedelics are half the world. And yet, how few people have ever visited these sights, have ever stared into these particular vistas of beauty? And as was said in going around the circle, the impact of these psychedelics, where they hit us hardest, is in the domain of visionary imagining and the effort to communicate about our visionary imaginings. In other words, where they hit us hardest is in the domain of art and invention and novelty. And we have built a culture that, however hostile it may be to the psychedelic experience, it is incredibly friendly toward novelty, innovation, creativity, cultural evolution, celebration of difference, so forth and so on.

1:14:38

So I would like to believe that the long prodigal journey of Western humanity to a well nigh perfect understanding of the nature of matter and energy and space and time, that that prodigal journey can only be redeemed and made meaningful if the things learned in the shamanic descent into history—which it is a shamanic descent. I mean, we have achieved what the alchemists only dreamed of. And we’ve achieved it, strangely enough, by abandoning their illusions. They were epistemologically naïve. You do not discover fusion by endlessly rarefying mercury. You do not disentangle DNA by heating chemical vessels in horse dung. We had to abandon the naïveté of alchemy to achieve its goals, which were mastery of space and time, control of human longevity and health and psychological well-being.

1:15:50

Well, at the center of the alchemical ideal was the idea of the stone: something part mineral, part mental, part spiritual, something drawn out of nature but perfected by human artifice, and then reflecting back upon man a perfect world created through magic. This is the faith of the Renaissance magi: Marsilio Ficino and Campanella and these people. It’s a different idea than the idea of man as a fallen creature, or science’s notion of man as a mute witness to a meaningless universe. The magical ideal that these things fertilize and support is the idea that humanity is somehow the co-partner, a full partner, in creation, and that what God has brought into being the human imagination can perfect. And it’s a necessary faith for our time, because the power that we have is so great.

1:17:11

If the power that science has given us does not serve a transcendental ideal, then it will serve some kind of fascist ideal. And most people will be reduced to equations and parts of a machine that does not serve the human individual or the human community. Psychedelics are a catalyst for the imagination. They raised the ante in the historical poker game. They show that there is more than one way to skin a cat. And we have come to a place of bifurcations, immense choices. The decisions and the processes that are put in place in the next twenty years will probably put the stamp on whether humanity and this planet are made or broken as a cosmic concern. Well, consciousness is the key. What is dragging our boat is an absence of consciousness. You know, we have one foot in angelhood and one foot in the identity of a carnivorous ape. And the tension between these two, on a global scale, is excruciating.

1:18:41

So if psychedelics, if there is one chance in a thousand that they contribute an increased measure of consciousness to this situation, then they are a precious gift, a resource, an option, a possibility to be explored. I don’t advocate these things because I think it’s a sure thing or a safe path to the eschaton, I advocate them because they’re the only game in town. You know, if hortatory preaching could’ve done the trick, then the Sermon on the Mount would’ve been the turning of the corner. But we have Buddha, we have Christ, we have these examples of enormously insightful spiritual beings who have delivered their message, and humanity has continued to flop on the seamy side. So it’s not about an idea. An idea is not sufficient to transform us. It’s about an experience. And this is the only experience I know that, in the time given to us, on the scale given to us, we have a hope of actually cutting through the detritus of our historical experience and building a true human community.

1:20:10

Well, that’s all I really want to say this evening. I’ve gone over my time. Thanks for being so patient. All of these issues and many more will be reprised in the course of this weekend. Get a good night’s sleep and do not attempt to detain me in my attempt to do the same!

Session 2

Saturday Morning

August 1, 1998

1:20:29

McKenna

On days this nice my parents used to make me go outdoors! I had no excuse anymore for staying in. No, actually I vacillated. I spent a lot of time on my stomach on the couch, reading, and then a lot of time scrambling around in the nearby semi-arid wilderness looking for fossils, and later collecting butterflies, and then after that building and launching rockets—Freud notwithstanding—and it was lots of fun. But there was certainly lots of fun inside books.

1:21:24

So last night was sort of a first pass at all of this, and there were questions left unanswered, and threads untied, and now you’ve had a certain amount of time to absorb all that before I launch into some rap of my own. Is there anything anybody wants to carry forward? Yeah?

Audience

I realized last night that I didn’t mention that I had an interest in the I Ching, and I don’t think anyone else had really mentioned it either. But your work, and others’, trying to tie that to other systems of order—DNA, [???]stuff—it’s all so difficult to understand.

1:22:15

McKenna

Yeah, several people last night mentioned novelty theory. But you’re right, the I Ching itself wasn’t mentioned—which we could do. And I have done five-day workshops on nothing but the I Ching, especially its mathematical deconstruction. So we’ll talk about all of this probably this morning, if I feel like it. Novelty, order in nature—since we’re talking around it and through it, I might as well just do it.

1:22:51

What does it have to do with psychedelics and all that? Well, the bridge of connections—there are many. But for purposes of discussion, these psychedelic experiences, in my opinion, when correctly managed, end up giving you a big idea. That’s a really successful psychedelic experience—is not where you simply have observed this bewildering other dimension, and try to come to terms with it, and then come out, and then live in the light of it because it’s made the universe so much bigger—but following like a shamanic model of a journey to obtain a gift or to recover a lost jewel. This is the shamanic motif: it’s always one of loss and recovery.

1:23:52

These flights into this realm of the lógos—the real stamp of authenticity on them comes when you bring back a new idea; something brand new. That proves that you’re not just talking to yourself. And so I knew this, and aspired to a new idea—whatever that might be, but I had no notion of what it was. And my problem as an intellectual throughout my entire life has been: it’s hard for me to depth with anything. You know, I study Roman history for a year, I study German for a year, I study the Maya for a year, but I never could get that professional mania that leads you into becoming a real academic in a specialized sense.

1:24:51

So this download for a big idea—somehow these psychedelic experiences set you up for it. They’re not the only way, but they’re the only way where you have some managerial control. The other methods all seem to be driven from the unconscious. For instance, if you read Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, you discover there that these huge rational idea systems were downloaded in very shady and shaky mystical ways. The classic example that I always give (because it’s so much fun, basically) is that René Descartes’s invention of scientific materialism was at the behest of an angel. An angel appeared to him in a dream. He records it in his diary. And the angel says: “The conquest of nature is achieved through measurement and number.” You know? And he awakens the founder of French empiricism, materialism, and derivatively this whole branch of modern science—at the behest of an angel in this occult drive to understand nature.

1:26:21

This is the amazing thing that the Greeks unleashed, this idea that we can not only mythologize the world, but that there is another way of looking at it: we can understand it. And, you know, they started out simply: what is air? What is fire? What is earth? And after 2,500 years of this we are now… we’ve pretty much figured out what the standard moves are. You know, the history of Chinese philosophy and the history of Western philosophy are the same schools by different names. You know, you get atomic materialists, you get spiritualists, you get what’s called occasionalism, you get all the possible adumbrations of a mind’s position in relationship to being in the search for these ideas.

1:27:22

Well, my idea—which came to me… I don’t say I channeled it, because I find that vocabulary infantile and obnoxious. But, on the other hand, I don’t take credit for it in the way that I don’t feel elevated by my genius for having done this. It was definitely unfolded for me at a conversational speed by an intelligence for which I was little more than the secretary. And the idea is this—and I’ll start with the outlines and then move into the details. First of all, that two facts about nature have been overlooked by science, and that these facts are so overwhelmingly obvious once you begin to talk about them that ordinary people like you and I, by talking about them, can actually satisfy ourselves that these two related aspects of nature have been overlooked or not properly weighted in philosophical discourse. And here’s what they are.

1:28:43

The first one is: as you go back in time from the present moment, the universe becomes a simpler place. This is a huge generalization, and it’s true. And let’s state it, now, a slightly different way: let’s imagine we’re at the moment of the Big Bang or the moment when the universe flashed into existence 15 billion (or however many billion) years ago. It was a very simple thing. In the first nanoseconds of its existence it was some kind of integrated plenum. It was smaller than the diameter of a proton. All particularity was co-extensive in this tiny area. And then it began to expand. But for many milliseconds it was a pure electron plasma. There was only a certain kind of physics, only the physics of pure electrons. The universe had to cool over minutes and millennia for atomic systems to form so that electrons could actually go into orbit around the atomic core and not be overcome by the greater dissipative power of high thermal radiation. So until the universe cooled below a certain point, atomic systems, as it were, couldn’t crystallize out. And then they did. And at that moment a whole new set of phenomena in nature emerged—in David Bohm’s phrase: emergent phenomena. There had been only a universe of pure electrons, suddenly there was a universe of hydrogen and helium atoms. Much more complex… organisms, if you wish.

1:30:59

Well, so then the whole story of the universe is a story of progressive complexification accompanied by this phenomenon of cooling. And the universe of hydrogen and helium atoms, under the influence of gravity, these things were aggregated into huge masses where pressure rose at the center of these masses from the weight of the stuff above. And at a certain point the curve of pressure passed through a point where a new phenomenon—hidden in the structure of being, but previously not by any phenomenon proclaimed—emerged. A new phenomenon: fusion. The stars began to burn.

1:31:59

And this process of nuclear burning, this nuclear chemistry, created heavier elements. Instead of a universe of hydrogen and helium, suddenly you have a universe which contains sulfur and iron—and for us, for our story: carbon. And at that point it’s like the rest was inevitable. The rest is just filling in the blanks, drawing the dots. I mean, it takes 14 billion years, but with carbon present in the universe this force (which I identify and call novelty) could begin the long march forward toward this teleological ideal; this purpose which beckons at the end of time. What makes this idea radical—one of the things which makes it radical—is that it doesn’t simply assume that history and becoming is the unfolding of causal necessity, it assumes instead that there’s some kind of an attractor; that events are not just bubbling forward probablistically and randomly, but that they’re actually caught in some kind of field that is pulling everything toward a conclusion.

1:33:37

So I’m making this more complicated than it needs to be. The basic perception is: the universe has grown more complex as we approach the present. Now, this is a huge law if true, because it’s a statement about physical matter, it’s a statement about organic organization, it’s a statement about culture and society, it’s a statement about your own psychology. Things complexify through time. But science has never said this. It’s not even—I mean, the theory of evolution says biological systems grow more adaptive through time, but there’s been a real phobia against any teleologial implication from that. But this is a general rule which I submit to you. You, by investigating the nature of things on your own, can completely satisfy yourself that this is true.

1:34:49

Well, when you start thinking that way—that it begins to look like nature on all scales is some kind of an engine which produces complexity and then conserves it, and uses it as a platform to proceed deeper into complexity; it’s a kind of anti-thermodynamic flow, it’s a dissipative… it’s what’s called autopoiesis by one school. So this tendency has been completely overlooked by science. In fact, science’s most secure statement is Maxwell’s second law of thermodynamics, which says all systems tend to disorder over time. But what it means is closed systems: all closed systems tend to disorder over time. Well, biology is some kind of a loophole in the laws of physics and chemistry, because what’s happening in biology is: complex materials are trapped inside membrane, and energy is extracted from these materials. And so a chemical process which would ordinarily ride down into entropy and obey the second law of thermodynamics actually is trapped in a kind of basin of attraction far from equilibrium.

1:36:34

And physical chemists look at this and say, “Well, but it’s ephemeral. It just happens on the surface of the Earth, and it’s very fragile, and death is everywhere.” It’s a fluke, basically, is what they’re saying. But this is just their professional bias. Because you can go into the rocks of this planet and discover life and a continuous fossil record 4.83 billion years deep. The stars that you see when you look out at the Milky Way at night—the average star lasts 500 million years. So we just happen to be in orbit around a very stable, slow-burning type of star. But, in fact, life on this planet has already proven that it is more tenacious than the stars themselves by five times. So you can’t discount biology. Biology is clearly a player on a cosmic scale in this universal game of capturing energy and resisting entropy.

1:37:59

So novelty theory says that this general law—that nature conserves complexity—reaches its culmination or its most interesting intersection of discursiveness in ourselves. That we, then, look different to ourselves by this theory because we are the most novel phenomenon around. So, suddenly—what positivist materialism teaches about man’s place in nature is that we’re lucky to be here, it’s a cosmic accident, purpose is conferred, it’s just totally existential, you’re on your own, make it up, don’t make it up, who cares, doesn’t matter anyway kind of modernism. If, in fact, we have identified nature’s purpose as to create and conserve complexity, then suddenly we are returned (for the first time since the sixteenth century) to the center of the cosmic stage of the universal drama of salvation and redemption. Isn’t that weird? I think so.


Yeah?

Audience

I was thinking about making that shift to considering the human experience as kind of central to our understanding of the planet. And then it seems to me environmental movements that are Earth-first, that place a large emphasis on [???] ecosystems and other animals, plants, as on the same level as us—it’s kind of a dichotomy [???] so many movements trying to save the planet [???] not even be here, and that is a way to [???] factors in place to save the planet. Whereas, this stuff arguably says that we need to realize how special we are and what’s going on up here to be able to rebalance things. And it’s kind of a strange line to walk between valuing ourselves, but not over-valuing ourselves. Can you see that?

1:40:44

McKenna

No, I agree. It’s very tricky. There’s almost like a bifurcation where it’s hard to see how you can have the cake and eat it, too. There is the concept of the forward escape, which I’m tending more and more to believe in. But it’s a desperate strategy from a military point of view—the forward escape. And forward escape is where you realize the only way out is right up the center. And then you have to get traction and go right up the center. What’s happening is that so much power is being given to man (or taken by man) from the universe through the power of scientific understanding that we are becoming the masters of the planetary destiny whether we want to be or not. And you’re right: the choice seems to be between some kind of primitivism (an archaic revival that abandons technology and tries to redial the last sane moment we ever knew) or some kind of gnostic rejection of the world of nature and matter and a complete commitment to machine symbiosis and a cosmic destiny and, you know, life extension, starflight, cloning, the whole mega trip. And, of course, it’s not going to be one or the other, it’s going to be both and. There’s going to be a spectrum of possibility.

1:42:44

How the actual details of—like, how do you go to the stars and save the Earth, I don’t propose to discuss or to really know. I do think—you know, the French sociologist Jacques Ellul once said: “There are no political solutions, there are only technological ones. The rest is propaganda.” And he wrote a whole book in which he defined these terms, “political solutions,” “propaganda,” “technical solutions.” And I tend to think that’s true. What we have to deal with in this millennial narrow neck of constricted possibility, where it still feels as though the human race could skid off into the ditch, is: we have to deal with the fact that we have built institutions that do not serve human purposes, but that are like automata or golems among us—corporations, religions, cabals, ethnic tribalism. And these things are like the psychotic architectonics of the unconscious that the information age is causing to suddenly emerge for the inspection of those who have eyes to see. So our humanness is not endangered by our machines, it’s endangered by these institutional entities.

1:44:27

And the most spectacular and obvious example, of course—without getting into the whole thing—is corporate capitalism, simply because corporate capitalism has the intelligence of a termite at the organismic level, and all it understands is its agenda. And its agenda is to take cheaply extracted raw materials and fabricate them into expensive finished products which are sold to well-heeled markets in the high-tech industrial democracies. And it can’t propagate that cycle on the closed surface of this planet much longer without the contradictions becoming unbearable. But it doesn’t know that, you know? It has a very low-grade intelligence. So how we communicate—we’re all ready to switch on a dime to the new paradigm if we can just figure it out. The problem is to switch these enormous dinosaur-like institutions in which we have invested our lives and our economies and our scientific research establishments and our civil hierarchy, and so forth.


1:45:53

The way I think of it is: I think that Maxwell’s laws of thermodynamics are only part of the story, and that you also have to look at the work that Ilya Prigogine did in the 1960s and 1970s, where he showed that there is this principle—which they call different things, but basically it was random perturbation to higher states of order, and that this occurred in systems of all levels of complexity. That, actually, sometimes, systems spontaneously organize themselves into more complex forms.

1:46:33

So in the entropic state that you’re talking about (which resembles a Bernoulli model of dissipation of the particles of gas), the opposite end of the spectrum would be this notion that all points in the matrix become cotangent, which requires a higher dimension that is still trivial. And that’s what I think it is. I think that biology… like, this process which we’ve called novelty or complexification (that we say is increasing through time; starts simple, ends complicated), one way of talking about is to think of it as languages in conquest of dimensional expression. Or: something is seeking to manifest itself in a domain of time and space of higher and higher dimension.

1:47:40

Because if you go back to the earliest biological emergence, they’re like fixed slime, these early life forms. They’re essentially points. They don’t move through space, they have no eyes, they have no organs of perception, they are simply points of being. Well, then, still later in the process they break free from their stationary points and they become motile. But they still have no perception. They’re just groping now. Now they’re groping specks of being. And they’ve gone from being points to the equivalent of lines. Well then, finally, light-sensitive chemistry sequesters itself in the membrane and these things begin to have a notion of a gradient: that the action is where the light is, that the food is where the light is. And so then this generates the concept “here” and “there,” which is a time-bound concept. Suddenly, time springs into being. There is the notion of the execution of will over time. Well, then the rest of the story of the evolution of animal life, right up to 50,000 years ago, is simply the story of better eyes, better muscles, better coordination, better ability to move through this revealed topological manifold with a temporal axis.

1:49:23

But then, with the advent of spoken language—what spoken language is about is the recovery of memory at a later date. It’s a data-recall system. And then you talk about the past. And you not only talk about it, but you strategize from it. Hunting strategies, erotic fantasy, mate-getting strategies. When you get to writing, this time-binding function is now totally explicit. The game is out in the open. The purpose of these behaviors is to keep the past from slipping away. And so we write down king lists and dynastic histories and this sort of thing. Well, from this point of view that I’m pushing here for a moment that evolution is the conquest of dimensionality, you can see, then, that the primate conquest of time through time-binding technology is the phenomenon that we call human history. This is apparently what we’re about. This is why we speak, why we write, why we invent phonetic alphabets and mathematical notation. Because we are binding time.

1:50:56

Well, you can then propagate that process forward to say: well, then what would satisfy this drive? Well, nothing less than a complete conquest of time itself. In the same way that, as we look back in the history of biology, we see these other dimensional barriers were crossed: from stationary, from in-situ existence, to motility, to a sense of light, to coordination of three-dimensional space, now coordination of fourth-dimensional space. And to make this leap to the full coordination of 4D it requires some kind of machine symbiosis, it requires prostheses, it requires that we redesign and extend our nervous system over the entire planet, and that we undergo some kind of metamorphosis and become (instead of semi-cannibalistic primates) machine-tenders of global nervous system, some of which is gold and copper and glass and some of which is flesh and DNA and neurons. And so this whole thing is in a state of self-designing foment.

1:52:21

And that, you know—I don’t know how we got here, but it leads me to the second point I wanted to make earlier when I was talking about novelty. I said there were two things which science had overlooked, and then I discussed the first one, which is that nature is a novelty-producing and -conserving engine. The second thing that science has overlooked and culture has overlooked is related to the first, and it’s this: it’s that this process of producing novelty that the universe is about is not going on at a steady rate. It’s going on faster and faster as we approach the present. It’s like what mathematicians call a cascade. It began slowly and has moved with greater and greater acceleration from the very first moments of its existence. So the early history of the universe is dullsville, it’s slow-moving. I mean, stars are condensing, galaxies are ordering themselves. This is the stuff of millennia, of tens of millennia, of greater spans of time. Once you get down to the last 500 million years—on this planet—biology is the main show. Geology and astrophysics have receded into the background, and where the action, the mutation, the change, the shift is happening is on the surface of planets in interface with atmospheres and cosmic environments and asteroidal impacts and melts and all these various things that went on. There is a period for life before that; a long, long period: the Archaeozoic. But talk about dullsville! I mean, there’s nothing going on there.

1:54:31

Well then, when you reach the last million years, it’s as though this process of the emergence of novelty both concentrates itself in nature into a single line—the hominids—but it also intensifies itself by orders of magnitude. So change is then happening on a scale of hundreds of years. You know: languages are changing, pottery designs. And as we approach the present this becomes more and more furious. And so what novelty theory is saying is: this is not an easily explained phenomenon. It’s not simply a natural consequence of our being in the world. That’s looking at it backwards. Somehow, our being in the world means that the world process is approaching some kind of definitive cusp in its development. In other words, that human history is the shockwave of some greater event about to emerge out of the order of nature. That human history (25,000 years is all it is) is like a shimmer, an aura, something which flashes across animal nature in the geological millisecond before the thing goes cosmic, or whatever it is that it’s going to go.

1:56:19

And so, for us, human history has this enormous dramatic impact, because our lives last 70 or 80 years if we’re lucky. I mean, we’re as ephemeral as mayflies. For us, human history is 1,500 generations. But in terms of the species it’s a fever, it’s a moment that has come upon us. And now we’re deep, deep, deep into it—and deep enough into it, I think, that we can begin to actually talk about what lies at the other side.

1:56:58

And our religions have become almost the architectures of our social hopes. And this coincidence of calendrical synchronism that we’re undergoing—and what I mean by that is that the Mayan civilization fixated on the heliacal rising of the winter solstice sun and the galactic center (an event which occurs only once every 26,000 years) occurs in 2012. They fixated on this. And our calendar—you know, reformed by papal rationalists in the fifteenth century and originally founded by a Roman dictator—misses the same 26,000 node with a millennial date by only twelve years. So, you know, that’s 0.001% on a scale of 10,000 years. So, for all practical purposes, these two calendars both reach very important culmination dates very near to each other in eternity, if you think about how much time that is.

1:58:28

So what does this mean? Well, if you’re a Jungian, or believe in the greater larger dynamics of the unconscious, it means that on the wheel of cosmic time, somehow the appointment of the end of a world year has arrived. Why is it keyed to the galactic center? I wouldn’t at this point care to speculate. I could be dragged into it, but it’s probably not the best way to spend our time. But the point is that this phenomenon of novelty-conservation—which has been going on for a very long time, throughout the whole life of the universe—is now happening so rapidly that it’s down into the scales of time where it’s discernible in a human lifetime. In fact, less than a human lifetime. Now change defines everything, even for such microbes as ourselves. Where before we were embedded, as it were, in the much more slow-moving processes of climate change and glaciation advance and retraction and that sort of thing, now we make our own time.

1:59:57

And we even talk about downloading ourselves into machines. Well, as we sit here, we’re functioning at about 100 hertz; about 100 cycles a second. If you were downloaded into even today’s desktop computer, you’d be running at 200 megahertz. Suddenly, 2012 would appear as far away in time as the bust-up of Pangaea is in the other direction, because you would’ve stretched time. All time is is how much you can jam into a moment. It’s very easy to suppose that we’re on the brink of a weird kind of pseudo-immortality where time spent in circuitry is essentially time spent in eternity, and people will choose toward the close of their lives to migrate into the virtual realms where the laws of physics are replaced by the laws of the programmer’s imagination. You really, then, are entering into your own private Idaho, so to speak.

2:01:10

Teilhard de Chardin—for those of you who don’t know his work—was a Jesuit paleontologist and primatologist who wrote in the 1950s. The Omega Point, The Phenomenon of Man. And, in a way, nothing I say or little that anybody has said about cyberspace, about the meltdown of humanity into some electronic collectivity, has been surpassed by Teilhard de Chardin. He had this idea that human beings were on this Earth, and that they would generate what he called the noösphere. And the noösphere was simply the atmosphere of electronic and radar and radio and telegraphic and television signals which surround the Earth. That we would build a new atmosphere, as it were; a technosphere of information.

2:02:16

And information is a very key concept in all of this. What I call novelty you could arguably call information. What I call habit you cold arguably call noise. And this is a vision of being where there is a struggle between these two antithetical forces. One described by the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), the other described by novelty theory, Ilya Prigogine’s nonequilibrium thermodynamics, et cetera, et cetera, and they are in every situation locked in struggle. The amount of order and disorder in any situation is dictated by the unique configuration of the local struggle between these two forces, if you want to put it that way.

2:03:15

But the good news is: it’s not a Manichean thing. It doesn’t go on forever. These two forces are not quite equally pitted. Over time, novelty wins. Order wins. Order triumphs over disorder and builds higher states of order. So, in a way, you could think of the whole process as what engineers call a damped oscillation. That habit is this oscillation in a space of perfection, and it is eventually damped by the surrounding telos toward concrescence. A lot of the words I use to talk about this are taken out of Alfred North Whitehead, who’s, to my mind, the great unread philosopher of the twentieth century. And he wrote a book called Process and Reality in which he tries to build a general vocabulary for talking about being, and it comes off as very psychedelic and very chaotic dynamical kind of anticipation. Check out Whitehead.

2:04:37

The thing which has made novelty theory difficult to sell (in terms of the ugly knobs and warts on it as a theory) were that it has this built-in crazy assumption, which is that in the very short term (meaning the next 15 or 20 years) the world will in part completely transform itself. And so it’s in a category with apocalyptarian thinking, millennarian thinking, miraculous thinking, deus ex machinas, squirrely revelations, all of that—all of which I abhor, but you can’t escape the mathematical implications once you draw the curve of the asymptotic acceleration into novelty. There’s a group of people—you can read their stuff on the Internet—they’re called extropians, or singularists—and they are very hard-headed engineering types. Libertarian geeks, not psychedelic, not spiritual in any sense of the word. And they propagate out curves such as the human population curve, the curve of information, number of papers being published, the curve of the amount of energy being released, so forth and so on. All these curves reach infinity somewhere before 2025.

2:06:19

What does it mean to say these curves reach infinity? Nobody knows. It’s a singularity. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a mathematical contradiction. What it means is: your model is broken. What is going to happen has so many dimensions embedded in it that your simple propagations of curves method of of analyzing it are giving you crazy data that makes no sense. And I’m—being semi-unemployed—I have the leisure to spend many hours a day reading journals and surfing the net and so forth, and I’m telling you: all these esoteric fields of knowledge, all these solid state physics, quantum encryption, drug-design, genetic engineering, long-base interferometry—on and on and on; these cabals of secret societies—in each case they’re reaching out for the ultimate pieces of knowledge in their field. And no one is coordinating the implications of all this across the face of the rising tidal wave of understanding.

2:07:43

What really is happening is that—and a very… I wouldn’t say complete control of the world of matter and energy is coming into being, but a leap forward is being taken, and all under the aegis of this key concept of information. Information is more primary than time and space, more primary than light and electromagnetism. Information is the stuff of being. It’s all you will ever know, it’s all you can ever know. The rest are ghostly hypotheses to explain the behavior and the presence of information. And it’s almost as though it has a syntactical life of its own. It’s almost as though it’s a virtual life form of some sort that is running on a primate platform.

2:08:47

I read a very interesting thing by Danny Hillis, who wrote The Connection Machine. He was talking about songs, and he said primitive human beings—especially young juveniles—like to imitate each other and make strange noises. And some strange noises are easier to make than others, and so you begin to have a population of short bursts of strange noise. And these populations—we’ll call them “songs,” just to make it easy: short bursts of strange noise—and some of these songs are easy to remember and some are not, and that’s the environment of selection. So the easy to remember songs survive and the hard to remember songs go extinct. And there’s only a limited number of human beings to sing the songs, so the songs must also compete for this resource, which is the human singer. And to this point the human beings have been like a the host of a parasite. These songs have conferred no adaptive good at all to the human being. But when the songs begin to aggregate around repetitious behavior (because that’s where there’s a high likelihood of survival, because that’s where there’s a high likelihood of repetition), then you begin to have a syntactical net. And I think that, in a sense, this is our situation: that we were early parasitized by a kind of virtual life form that lives only in syntax and is essentially time-sharing and piggybacking our nervous system. But at some point we insisted around it somewhat the way a cell membrane trapped early bacteria and turned them into mitochondria. So now we can think with this linguistic symbiote that shares our brain space.

2:11:14

However, it’s very interesting, this idea. I mean, this may seem trivial to you, but it’s new to me, so I’m into it. I read this book by George Dyson called Darwin Among the Machines, and I highly recommend this book. This is a great book; fun book. Darwin Among the Machines. And one of the points that he makes in there that I had sort of—I mean, when you heart it you say, “Yeah, I always sort of new that”—but I had never quite grokked it in its full implications. One of the points he makes in there is that when we talk to each other, when we make sense to each other, what we say can be perfectly made formulaic through symbolic logic. In other words, that the branch of mathematics called symbolic logic is capable of portraying human language and human logical processes perfectly. But the interesting thing is that this language, symbolic logic, is the language which machines speak with great fluency. This is the great bridge between us and the machines: that fundamentally we speak the same language. That “and” to a human being and “and” to a microprocessor mean the same thing. So there is no great barrier. It’s all conceptual between us and machine intelligence.

2:13:10

Machine intelligence is the most likely form of alien intelligence to arrive and complicate our social dialogue because, in a sense, it’s already here. In a sense, we are putting a great deal of effort into creating it. And, in a sense, its emergence depends on the very same appetite for novelty that allowed us to squeeze ourselves out of the rules of molecular chemistry. And again, it’s happening at these very high megahertz rates. Machine evolution will not be like human evolution, because what it took us 50,000 years to achieve it can achieve potentially through distributed processing in minutes, hours. Hans Moravec says of artificial intelligence: we may never know what hit us, you know? It will simply be coming to be. And what would that look like? We have no idea—or its relationship to us at all.


Yeah?

Audience

Would you say this is like a linguistic analog to the morphogenetic field [???] evolution?

2:14:30

McKenna

Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s like that. Novelty theory and Rupert’s theories of the morphogenetic field are very closely related. He doesn’t believe in a temporal attractor, he believes things are pushed by necessary casuistry. But the unfolding of the morphogenetic field and the unfolding of the time wave—you’re talking about the same thing. You’re talking about the four—you see, in a way, what science is all about is: it will tell you what is possible. If you want to know if something is possible, you ask the expert in that science. But what science can’t tell you, and what is what you usually really want to know, is: out of the class of the possible, what things will actually occur? And we have no theory for this, strangely enough. We have no theory for—I mean, I suppose somebody who was fundamentalist or some kind of Christian might say: “Well, God’s will. Out of the class of what is possible, what comes to be is God’s will.” Well, that would be one theory of what it is that winnows the actual from the possible. A scientist would say: preexisting conditions. In other words, somehow the circumstances into which any phenomenon is born skew it toward its ultimate developmental end state. I mean, it’s almost like the law of karma or something; that by the circumstances into which you find yourself, then you’re carried forward to some conclusion that was inevitable based on that.

2:16:39

Novelty theory is not predestination. It doesn’t say that the future has happened. If you believe the future has happened, you have all kinds of philosophical problems on your hands. Because for truth (as concept) to have any meaning, you have to have error. If you think what you think because you can’t think anything else—which is what predestination is—well, then what does the search for truth and meaning look like in a cosmos like that? It’s meaningless. No, in a predestined cosmos you think what you think because that’s what you think and you can’t think anything else, and it doesn’t have anything to do with truth. So there must be at least that much freedom: freedom to err in the mind. But, of course, the mind (through the body) is an extension into the world.

2:17:50

You know, for all the huffing and puffing of modern science and neurophysiology, they still can’t tell you how you can think “I will close my hand” and close it. I mean, this is mind over matter. This is telekinesis. Science is just completely baffled as to how this can take place at all. It’s a fundamental miracle. Been good for 5,000 years. Still knocking ’em dead. And it’s by that trick—that we don’t understand how it’s done—that will and mind and intent enters the world, and cities get built, and armies sent marching, and religious revelations written down, and so forth and so on.

2:18:47

But I think that the—you see, for years I was, like, crying in the wilderness about this ramping up towards some kind of hyper-complex unravelment of the social machine in the very short term. But now I feel much more confident (than I was ten years ago) now, ten years closer to the end date, because the Internet looks to me like the backbone of the emergent thing. I mean, the Internet is a huge and not fully comprehended cultural step that we have now totally committed ourselves to. It’s nothing less than the building of a thinking nervous system the size of the entire planet. And we’re wedded to this thing. Our banking, military planning, corporate capitalization, long-term planning, design process, inventory control, resource extraction—everything is running on this strange companion that we built to be indestructible, because we built it at the height of the Cold War. And so, you know, it has no nodes of control, and it’s the most complex thing ever put in place on this planet since DNA cooked itself out of the primal ocean.


Yeah?

Audience

Again, somehow, are those people that had these experiences going to be spared a certain type of…?

2:20:35

McKenna

Yeah, you put your finger on it. It’s that, to the degree that people are psychedelic, they will be less anxious about what will happen. Because what psychedelics show you is that there is life after history. There is something outside of culture. If you don’t know that by one means or another, then you will define what is happening as the end of the world—the literal apocalypse, the collapse of everything—when, in fact, that’s not what it is. It’s just the collapse of historical print-based cultural models and models of the self and the psyche. I embrace it. I mean, we’re not about to blow out here or go extinct, and we never escaped from the yoke of nature. Nature has taken some hits in this neighborhood. 65 million years ago, an object encountered the Earth that nothing larger than a chicken on the entire planet survived that encounter. And guess what it cleared the way for: the flowering plants (the source of all these compounds we’re so interested in) and the ascendancy of the mammalian order, our dear selves. We are here because of the most appalling bad hair day this planet ever endured. So, you know, when you start judging this stuff and saying what’s good, what’s bad, it’s very hard to say. Nature is incredibly profligate and will take enormous chances to preserve novelty, to keep the novelty game going. And so I feel that, in a sense, nature will open a way for us. Nature is interested in this process. We represent the greatest step in organizational realignment and redesign since life left the oceans.


Yeah?

Audience

It’s grace. You know, it’s the will of God that makes these more and more complex systems fall into place.

2:22:53

McKenna

This relates to a question which was unanswered here this morning, which was about teleology. The Darwinian theory of evolution is very hostile to teleology. First of all, what is teleology? Teleology is the idea that the universe has a purpose. And Darwinian evolution is hostile to this because Darwinian evolution arose in nineteenth century England where the reigning intellectual paradigm was called deism. And deism is the idea that God made the universe like a clockmaker, and then he went away and left it going—in other words, the divine clockmaker. The universe was structured by a force which has now withdrawn from it. And Darwin and his circle were very clearly atheistic, and they wanted to see biology as requiring no purpose to direct it at all. And so they created the dual concept of random mutation and natural selection. Random mutation is just that, because of copying errors, radiation, drift, toxic material in the cellular environment, that the DNA messages degrade. So that’s mutation. Then [natural] selection is that this DNA is then subjected to the selective winnowing out that the environment lays against it. So by the meshing of these two processes—this is Darwinian theory—by the meshing of random mutation and natural selection, you get the slow incremental emergence of new forms, some of which confer advantage and some don’t. Most don’t, and they’re eliminated. Those that do stay in the system, and incrementally the system seeks to come to equilibrium with the selective forces that are operating on it.

2:25:18

But these selective forces—which are continent, incidental radiation from space, weather, climate change, so forth and so on—because these factors are themselves changing over time, mutating, the system can never come to equilibrium. And so for Darwinian evolution, evolution is what’s called a random walk. The system destabilizes, it corrects itself. It destabilizes, it corrects. Destabilizes, corrects. And after billions of years of this, lo and behold, you get animals like ourselves. But these nineteenth century evolutionists were keen to say: do not imagine that this is God’s purpose or that the final form was pre-figured in the original form. No. This just happened like this. Well, now we’ve had 150 years to absorb all this. In the meantime, Mendelian genetics, the particulate nature of the gene has been understood, the molecular nature of the gene has been understood. We can say some new things about this. Also, we are no longer under the spell of deism. That’s a crank idea that is nobody is that keen for. And so it’s a different intellectual world.

2:26:43

Well now, when we look at nature we see a different picture. We see that, where Darwin said nature is all red in tooth and claw, we see that the way to be a successful species, the way to survive, is to make yourself indispensable to your neighbors. Then, instead of attempting to push you down and extinguish you, if you can cut deals with everybody in your neighborhood (providing various chemicals or energy supplies or other affects in the environment), then everybody will begin to pull your way. So, in fact, cooperation is what is maximized among species. And a huge complex organic system like a coral reef or a rainforest is actually attempting to come to an equilibrium of balance that is the point of greatest benefit for the greatest number of organisms and species in the system.

2:27:57

Well, this is a whole different picture. And it opens the possibility—these new sciences like complexity theory, global dynamics, chaos theory—have made it now respectable to think about processes that are drawn by something in the future rather than pushed from behind. In the nineteenth century that was inconceivable. All that was known was the chain of cause and effect. But now we see that the temporal landscape has what are called basins of attraction in it, and that certain processes are actually drawn forward by their presumed end states. And so it seems less outlandish to us, I think, to suppose there is a purpose. And also, we see a level of global integration and global mutation that Darwin couldn’t’ve even dreamed of.


Yeah?

Audience

The idea of elements of time having their particular qualities—have you correlated that with astrology at all?

2:29:14

McKenna

Well, it’s somewhat like astrology, except astrology believes that planets and stars and the arrangements among them represent shifts in a kind of energy field. In a way, this is more abstract. Wang Bi—who was a medieval Chinese mystic—his thought comes eerily close to my own, in that the way he pictured this was that you have the sequence moving in an abstract dimension, but you have the sequence moving at a certain speed. And overlaying that is another sequence, moving at a different speed. And over that another version of the King Wen sequence, moving at another speed. And that a given moment is a slice through these levels that creates a unique juxtaposition of the levels. So it is in that sense very astrological, but it’s all calculated independent of any observation of nature.

2:30:25

Although, if it’s true, then it’s interesting that there are correlations in the cycles in the King Wen sequence to astrological cycles—specifically, the system that I elaborated on one level contains a cycle of 384 days. That’s the number of lines (6 × 64) in a complete sequence of the I Ching. 384 days. Well, it happens to be 13 lunar cycles, exactly. Well then, if you take it times 64, you get a number—67 years, 0.10425 days—which is six sunspot cycles. Sunspot cycles also occur in 33-year cycles. Well, it’s known that the early Han Dynasty Chinese knew about sunspot cycles. They were the first people to observe them. So without hypothesizing super-technologies or any kind of Atlantis-type stuff, we see that the King Wen sequence could’ve been a kind of gear used in a system of multiplicands that predicted lunar cycles, sunspot cycles on two levels, and then, with one further multiplication, this precessional great year; this 26,300-year cycle. So it’s a neat kind of resonance calendar. And given the sorry state of Chinese calendar-making in historical time, it’s interesting that you ca derive a very accurate calendar from the I Ching—more accurate than the calendar we’re presently operating on. If you use a 384-day year length, the problem of course is that a year of that length would precess against the sun. But this may have been (for political or religious or philosophical reasons) acceptable at the time that calendar was formulated.

2:32:47

My fancy is that there was a calendrical war in the pre-Shang Dynasty time, a war between the solar materialists and the lunar mystics. And it was basically a war about how the calendar should be. Because, you know, the calendar is the largest frame of reality. For instance, our calendar with its fixed equinoctial points, is a lie. Our calendar promotes a belief in the permanence of eternity when, in fact, everything is slipping and sliding around. The fact that the equinoctial points are traversed every year on the same solar year day gives rise to a kind of patriarchal hubris, arguably.


Yeah… yeah?

Audience

The difference between a schizophrenic and a psychedelic traveler being that maybe one can’t navigate its way back. And I was wondering two things. One is: have you ever worked with any schizophrenics and what was that interaction like? And the other was more a take on modern culture; the common channel-surfing couch potato, that it has some schizophrenic quality to it. And I was thinking of the movie Twelve Monkeys, the Brad Pitt character in the asylum, when he says that the thing that separates a sane citizen from insanity is how much he allows his culture to straitjacket him.

2:34:38

McKenna

Well, I don’t know. Schizophrenia is a very complicated subject because several syndromes which are quite different are all lumped under schizophrenia. Probably the kind of schizophrenia I’m sensing you want to talk about is what’s called process schizophrenia. This is where somebody becomes really spun-up, and it can come after days of not sleeping or something, and then people begin to have really funny ideas and they want to tell everybody about them. And they go to the manager of the business with fantastic ideas that are going to make a whole bunch of money—the problem is, they just don’t make sense to anybody but them. Or they start hearing voices. Or they become convinced that they have a special mission. And it turns out that this phenomenon—which we pathologize pretty confidently—actually is not that different from people who are having real legitimate breakthroughs in understanding their lives in new ways. It’s a shifting and reordering of the dominance of the psyche.

2:35:57

And I tend to agree—he’s dead now, but the English psychiatrist R. D. Laing—what I observed of schizophrenia went on in La Chorrera in those days that are described in True Hallucinations, and my really strong conviction coming out of that was: it should not be interfered with by depressive drugs. That it’s some kind of a process, of a healing, of an acting-out, and that the biggest favor you can do the person is to let them (to the greatest degree possible) do what they want to do and not interfere with them. And if you medicate them and incarcerate them, the thing is aborted and squashed and distorted, and then they have a great deal of trouble getting their act together.

2:37:00

It was very fortunate—I mean, how many psychiatric residents have ever seen an untreated schizophrenic, you know? The minute these people hit the front door of a hospital they’re given stelazine or lithium or something, and yet it seems more as though Jung was on the right track: this is a process in the dynamics of the unconscious that wants to works itself out to a conclusion. Now, obviously, if they have violent fantasies or seem dangerous to themselves or other people, you can’t let that go on. But I think the treatment of schizophrenia is largely at the convenience of the practitioner. And people are warehoused and—you know, if I were going crazy, I think the thing that would really throw me over the edge would be to be put with a bunch of really crazy people. It’s always seemed so odd to me that, if you go bananas, they put you with all the other people who’ve gone bananas, who are the worst models for you to be in the presence of and are quite unsettling to normal people, let alone to people who are having boundary dissolution and self-identity problems, so….


Yeah?

Audience

There’s some studies that show what it creates is a—in schizophrenic states there’s a more common shift in brainwave rhythms, which is associated with an enhanced immune system and resultant less cancer. And I’ve been curious as to whether or not the use of psychedelics may also provide those frequent shifts, which are probably more necessary to help. So, as soon as we depress, for instance, schizophrenics, what happens is they go back to normal cancer rate of the normal population, so their immune system doesn’t function as well. So in terms of looking at enhanced immune function, whether or not frequent shifts—which, coming in and out of psychedelics… and I don’t know if you know anything about it—

2:39:10

McKenna

Well, in some sense, the kind of process schizophrenia, the messianic grandiose schizophrenia that we’re talking about here, is an over-expression of self-definition. And in that sense you would expect an enhanced immune system to accompany it. The immune system defines the chemical self. So if the self is somehow being over-expressed to the point where it becomes a pathology or a burden on the functioning of the social group, then it wouldn’t surprise me that the immune system would be functioning very efficiently.



Yeah, behind you.

Audience

The question about schizophrenia: like, I agree with you that a big part of it is just that our culture should be more tolerant of people that are crazy. If there was a place for them, then maybe less of them would have to be warehoused off. Like, people in less developed countries, schizophrenics tend to do much better in those cultures. But my question is the fact that a lot of them really are suffering, and they really are suffering with the voices in their heads. And many of them do commit suicide because they’re suffering so much with those voices. And some of them do see the hospital as a safe place for them. And how do you balance those two—

2:40:35

McKenna

Yeah, well, I think the paranoid kind of schizophrenia is different from this process schizophrenia. And from having seen people in that state it’s clearly a very uncomfortable state. These people are not happy, they don’t like being where they are, it doesn’t seem like a very functional state. I think what we’re dealing with is probably a group of pathologies that may or may not have common origins. These may be completely different chemical or genetic screw-ups of one sort or another. Certainly, the catatonic schizophrenic and the process schizophrenic present completely differently. The catatonic doesn’t move, has nothing to say, can’t care for their own body functions. The process schizophrenic wants to reorganize the company and call the president and talk, invest, and invent, and travel, and speak, and heal, and cure, and they’re just all over the map. It’s a whole different style. So, you know, in the classification of fungi they have this classification called fungi obscuranta, and it just means everything we haven’t classified. And I think probably schizophrenia will be seen to be a group of unrelated phenomena requiring different kinds of intervention and different kinds of therapy.

2:42:10

McKenna

You know, when the psychedelics were first coming on, everybody had the idea: aha! These things are what was called psychotomimetics. In other words, they imitate psychosis. And so then people said, “Well, it must be that schizophrenics are overproducing DMT, or they’re producing LSD-like compounds in their blood,” and people went tearing off in search of the schizogen, it was called in the literature. Well, the schizogen was never found. Schizophrenics have slightly depleted levels of DMT than the ordinary population—not dramatically depleted. No other chemical analog as a real marker for schizophrenia has been found. So it’s more complicated than that. And, once you go back through the literature and compare with more attention to detail, the differences are clear. The paranoid schizophrenic hears voices. Visual hallucinations are actually pretty rare. Hallucinogenic trips inevitably tend to be more positive than what schizophrenics are reporting. You know, you have only to contrast my encounters with zany, punning, self-transforming elf machines. Compare that to these gray-faced proctologists who come in the middle of the night and look up your ass and take you off and abuse you and surgically snip and tuck, and this is appalling stuff. The stuff of nightmare. If there was a drug that did that, none of us would get near it, I dare say, after one exposure.


Yeah?

Audience

[???] the eight-circuit model of evolution, because thinking that… it just sounds really close to what you were talking about, especially the neurogenetic level, where you can tune into the actual DNA and get sort of a readout of the evolutionary process in pattern. So—

2:44:30

McKenna

Yeah, I like the model. I’m not sure of the mechanism. On the other hand, one of the most mysterious issues in neurophysiology is the issue of memory. In other words: where is it? We know that in the course of your lifetime, every molecule in your body will be swapped out five times. Well then, how can a 70-year-old woman remember the smell of her grandmother’s dress when she used to climb up into her lap? You know, we know that people can undergo horrific accidents, brain damage, and cancer of the brain, and this sort of thing, and that their memory is in some cases virtually unscathed. This has been, in fact, the greatest embarrassment of materialist science in the past fifty years—or one of them—is: they have made zilch progress on understanding memory. And it’s right smack in the center of everything we want to do. It’s a communication technology, it’s a nanotechnology, it’s a molecular genetic technology for information and storage retrieval that works with images, music, sound—and we don’t have a clue as to how it works.

2:45:53

McKenna

I tend to believe that nature is fairly conservative, and that once you develop a mechanism that’s good for a certain function you will find it iterated in other areas where that function is called upon. So notice that the DNA, in a way—if you understand how it works—it’s like a chemical learning system. It templates the environment and it responds to environmental selection by building proteins of a certain type. In a way, it’s a chemical engine for responding to the environment. Well then, if you look at the nervous system, it’s an electrochemical system. It’s a combinatory system where information moves in the body down the nerve fibers at a pretty good clip. But why, then, are we such slow-moving creatures? Well, because every time it gets to a synaptic cleft it stops being electricity and it turns into a complex chemical reaction to bridge the gap, to go down the next wire, to the next gap. And so in the course of this electro to chemical to electro to chemical transmission of the signal it slows down to a few hundred miles an hour. And that determines our speed as organisms. Downstream this may all be sped up. Memory seems to work almost instantaneously. But no mechanism is visible. I mean, if you really want to look at a human function that’s present in all of us and easily studied and may hint at undiscovered principles in physics or miraculous new orders of nature, human memory would be a real place to begin, I think.

Audience

[???] and I wondered what your involvement is today, what you hope to get out of your involvement with the rave scene, and just what role do you think youth culture will have in the next twelve, thirteen years as we approach this possible singularity?

2:48:26

McKenna

Well, I didn’t intend to get involved in rave, really. I mean, I was interested in it. When I went to England in 1990 I had a pretty academic schedule of lecturing, but a lot of ravers came. And the Zippies were just getting organized around the club called Megatripolis in Charing Cross. And I met Colin Shaman of The Shamen, and then we talked about me doing something with them. And he taped our conversation, and then I thought it was like a job interview, but then when it was all over, he said that would do fine; that that was what they would use on the record. So that CD was called Boss Drum, and just by chance it went double platinum in England, which means—hard to believe, but every fifteenth person in the British isles bought this album. And so it was a mega hit, and suddenly I was an icon to a whole bunch of people who had never heard of me before. And then I worked with Zuvuya, which was another English band, Spiral Tribe, which was an English band. I met an Austrian couple in Frankfurt who are station rows, which was a German doof [?] band. And last year I went to South Africa and Australia and ended up doing raves there.

2:50:10

It’s kind of a weird thing for a person my age to be the world’s oldest raver, or something. But the rave scene needs to be more psychedelic. You know, it breaks down. It breaks toward amphetamine, it breaks toward heroin, it breaks toward alcohol. You have to keep constantly reminding it. Plus the youth culture is incredibly powerful and creative. You know, people talk about the 1960s and what a great thing it was. Well, I was there. I was at ground zero. And it lasted from about 1966 until early 1968. And 1968 was called the year of rage, or the days of rage. That was all street fighting and rocking out bank windows and burning police cars. The summer of love, which was 1967, it was like a two-year thing. 1966–1967. The current youth culture has been going in the same direction strong since 1986. There are people who will tell you: if you were not in London in the summer of 1988, you missed it. And yet, there are kids who obviously don’t feel they missed it, because they were children in 1988. So it’s an incredibly vital culture. It’s worldwide, it was born in the bowels of Thatcherite Britain, and it’s very cynical about bourgeois social values and getting a job and fitting in and all that. And it speaks German, Afrikaans, Japanese, French, English with equal fluency. And it’s not rock’n’roll, you know—the ultimate heresy against the 1960s musical fascisti. It’s not rock’n’roll, it’s doof. If it’s anything, it comes out of hip hop. It’s syncopated and ambient and experimental.

2:52:32

And I really don’t understand the youth-bashing tendency of this culture. It seems to me one of the most chuckle-headed things that we’re involved in is youth-bashing. Because it all rides on the back of youth. They’re the ones who are going to be asked to live in and perfect the future that all this technology and integration and bio-engineering and so forth and so on is going to bring to fruition. And the great thing about the youth culture—there are many great things about it, but one is that it’s so suspicious of bourgeois values, and that it’s so friendly to the Internet. You know, the Internet is owned and managed by the Fortune 500 corporations, but they own and manage it somewhat like a little old lady who owns a gorilla: they really fear it and they don’t understand it. And they have to hire guys with rings in their ears and ponytails to turn on the machines in the morning and to run the payroll software and the inventory control software and everything. So it’s a very uneasy alliance.

2:53:58

As far as whether I’ll do more with rave culture—I don’t know. I keep trying to back out of it. It’s different. It’s strange to go on stage in front of a screaming crowd at 2 a.m. and try to talk philosophy. And so I’ve given up trying to talk philosophy, and instead I find myself behaving more incoherently and crazily than I do in any other fashion. And the crowd seems to love it. But the crowd is predisposed to love it. The crowd is not terribly discriminating at that point. But I have been working with a band called Lost at Last, a Maui band transplanted to Santa Cruz. And if you’re in San Francisco New Year’s Eve, we’ll be at the Veteran’s Administration doing glossolalia and handling boa constrictors with light show and the whole razzmatazz. If only this had come when I was twenty! I feel Billy Pilgrim or something, living my life entirely out of sequence. I mean, what is a 51-year-old guy need with a career as a raver? Beats the shit out of me, but there you have it. You know, and I’m poor enough, I can’t just say no, either. I have to negotiate this stuff.

Audience

[???]

2:55:30

McKenna

Oh yeah, it’s a shamanic role for sure. I mean,

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

It’s a gas! Gas! Gas!

For sure it’s a shamanic role. But I’m sure—I mean, it would be perfectly reasonable to stand aside and let a 22-year-old do it. Let Spooky do it. Let somebody else do it.

Yeah?

Audience

With all your talk about the proctologists who come in the night—what do you think about the extraterrestrials?

2:56:05

McKenna

I thought you would never ask! Well, first of all, before I wade in visor down, razors flashing, let me say that I have at times proposed various extraterrestrial theories. Because it seemed to me, back in the mid-1970s, that if you were to take seriously the idea that there was an extraterrestrial penetration of the terrestrial ecology, that the mushroom would be it. The mushroom is alien enough in its life cycle, alien enough to survive the conditions of outer space, and when complexed with a mammalian nervous system it seems to want to download these messages from far away, shall we say. So that’s my idea of how an alien would be: that the first problem you would have with a real alien would be to recognize it. Because, first of all, it’s going to be alien, for cryin’ out loud! This thing evolved on some other planet under a completely different chemical regime of pressure and chemistry. I mean, if you can’t understand your next-door neighbor, what do you think it’s going to be like to stare into the face (if it has a face) of somebody from Zubenelgenubi?

2:57:35

So the mushroom seemed alien enough. And it’s also very low-key. It looks high-technology. I don’t expect them to come in trillion-ton ships of titanium roaring out of the cosmic darkness into parking orbit around our planet. I seriously doubt if it will happen that way. If they don’t want to be detected, they certainly will not be detected. Because you have to assume that the technology will be beyond your wildest imaginings. The idea that someone is going to come in ships, speaking languages and with an interest in our gross industrial output or trading with us, or some crap like that, this is what I call failure of scale. This is for people who don’t understand how weird reality is. This is for people who’ve been watching too much daytime TV to think it’s going to be so humdrum as that.

2:58:44

Well, so then we’re left with this residuum of testimony that something weird is going on. I think this is like an intelligence test built into reality. Life presents itself as a mystery. The people who pass the intelligence test are not worrying about gray-faced aliens checking them for hemorrhoids in the middle of the night. They have passed this intelligence test, and their conclusion is: whatever this is, it is not what it claims to be. It is not what it appears to be. And then people are very puzzled and they say, “Well, but what about all these people who have these things happen to them?”

2:59:31

Well this, now, we sort of get down to the nut of the matter. And this is where I often feel my audiences peeling away from me in horror and disappointment. Because I think we’re very naïve about what information is and how it works. And—let’s see how I can give examples of this or start into it. First of all, the media that we are embedded in are designed to amplify anomalies. In other words, here’s a story: man goes to work, does moderately good job. No newspaper on Earth would run this as a headline. Why? Because it’s not news. It’s ordinary. On the other hand, Volkswagen-sized chunk of ice falls in Massachusetts farm field—this is news. And if it passes the first gateway—which is: the local news reporting apparatus passes it on to the AP and UPI and like that—then it makes its way out into the electromagnetic medium. Well, in the electromagnetic medium the laws of perspective are weirdly distorted. The further away you are from something, the more real it looks. The closer you get to it, the less substantial it becomes in the world of media.

3:01:14

So, for example, let’s say that the New York Times, on a certain day, reports that in a Massachusetts field a large chunk of ice has fallen. And so you look at that, and then you think to yourself, “Well, let’s see what Dilbert’s up to.” Of course, with the New York Times you will not be satisfied in your quest, because there is no Dilbert, because the great gray maiden doesn’t stoop to comics. But suppose you’re reading a civilized newspaper—well, then you just go and read Dilbert. But a newspaper like that is designed to be read by five million, six million people per day. Well, sure as hell, someone will open the paper to page 42, “Chunk of Ice Falls in Massachusetts Field,” and they will notice that the county in which this field is located contains their mother’s maiden name initials. Ha-ha! And by that, and the dream they had the night before of something wet falling from the sky, they realize that God has sent them a message. And they call work, and cancel, and jump in the car, and head for Amherst or wherever the action is.

3:02:44

Well, meanwhile, the rest of us go on about our business—with one exception. Editors of newspapers where this story has been put out are now getting feedback. So the editor calls up the cub reporter. He says, “We’re really getting a lot of interest on that ice-fall in Massachusetts deal. I want you to drive up there and get the story. Interview everybody. Find out what’s going on. Is there a religious angle? Is there a this? Is there a that? What did people see.” So this guy thinks, “Oy, oy, oy! I have to find honest work…. But, until then, I have to drive up to Massachusetts and find out what’s going on.” The person for whom God was speaking to them and the reporter encounter each other at the edge of what is now a drying mud hole [audio cut] and then he says, “Who are you?” He says, “Well, funny you should ask. I’m Dr. Raymond Hammurubiberd, expert in telluric energies, lay lines, radiesthesic energy, genies, afrits, and ancestor spirits, and I can tell you what’s going on here. This confirms a theory that I published in my book, turning the world upside down in ten different ways. I self-published my book, but…” and you’re off at this point.

3:04:11

And so, to make a long story short—and you maybe can’t always follow this advice, but it’s very good advice nevertheless, whether you follow it or not—when confronted with the irrational or the extraordinary or the miraculous, it is legitimate to carefully examine the messenger. The key to understanding what is going on is to examine the messenger. People don’t do this. They examine the testimony of the messenger. So they say, “Now stand exactly where you were standing when the saucer first appeared. Aha. And so it was twenty degrees above the horizon, and it moved. So we can calculate. It must have been moving at this speed.” This is not the right question to be asking this person. The right question to be asking is: “Have you ever seen a ghost?” “What’s your position on the Resurrection?” “How do you feel about homeopathy?” “What’s your position on major Earth changes in the short-term projection of things?” And if you do this, you will begin to discover an epistemological naïveté, I maintain; that the illusion that you and this person are living in the same Idaho begins to break down. They have categories and presuppositions and expectations that you can’t follow along with. And so the illusion of communication is necessary for there to be the mirage of an event—is essentially a way of putting it.

3:06:05

So these things are like informational viruses. It’s because of how we, as organisms, handle information. For example, here’s a counter way to approach a problem in nature. Suppose you want to know how much electricity is running through a wire. The way to do this is to measure 100 times, add these numbers together, divide by 100, and you will have the average amount of energy flowing through the wire. Now, suppose your 100 numbers fluctuate between 3 volts and 3.5 volts, except that measurement 72 tells you that 11,000 volts are running through this wire. Well, what do you do with that reading if you’re a good scientist? Well, you throw it out. You say: that’s crazy. That can’t be right. There’s something wrong with that one. Get that puppy outta there. In other words, you reject the anomalous. Instead of pouncing on it and triumphantly raising it on high for all to adore, you simply eliminate it. The media works exactly the opposite. Every night a million people go out and look into the night sky. They see zilch: the stars, the Moon. One person goes out, they see a triangular spaceship 800 feet across with red running lights broadcasting the second chapter of Mark. Well, what are we told the next morning? That this was seen and this disrupted the night sky over Phoenix or Alamogordo or some place like that—always some place you aren’t, by the way.

3:07:58

So people say, “Well, but is it all like that? Is it all so much like that?” I think it pretty much is. People don’t like—I mean, I’ve told stories here about strange events, but I’ve said the real weirdness does not have to be treated with respect or as though it were fragile. True weirdness is true weirdness. You can kick the tires, honk the horn, drive it around the block. Phony weirdness is incredibly fragile, and they don’t want you to get near, and you can only see it if you stand here, and please don’t touch, and the speaker is veiled and the voice is distorted because the CIA might kill him if they knew who he was. A million reasons why it’s just not totally straightforward. You know, all resting on the preposterous notion that we couldn’t stand knowing the truth, and therefore these things must be shielded from us. Well, if we’re so fragile, why weren’t we shielded from the knowledge of the President’s blowjob? I mean, that shook up more people than the knowledge that extraterrestrials are trading human fetal tissue for advanced technology.

3:09:14

It seems to me that, as psychedelic people, we should be more immune to these rumors of miracle signs and wonders than the rest of the population because we have a benchmark to measure it against. And the cultification of discourse and the rising tolerance for raps which don’t make sense is a really weird aspect of the end of the millennium discussion that we’re trying to have. I mean, somebody, on no evidence at all, can introduce the most preposterous and outlandish hypotheses into a conversation, and it has to be treated with the same respect that the pronouncements of quantum physics or evolutionary theory are treated. And then people say, “Well, how do you not throw out the baby with the bath water?” Well, it’s tricky. I think we all need to get our razors clarified, and also a little less politesse would be alright. I don’t know what it’s like here. I said all these things I’m saying to you now to Rupert recently, and he said, “Well, you’re just sinking in Malibu-itis.” He said, “In an average English pub, if somebody started raving about this stuff there would be half a dozen people on their feet instantly just sneering it out of existence.” Well, upstate New York is halfway between London and Malibu, so maybe you’re leavened with reason and temperance.

3:11:05

But there certainly is a lot of loose-headed metaphor building out there in the intellectual marketplace. We almost need a new vocabulary of fluff, you know? I mean, there are different kinds of fluff. For instance, there’s what I call deep fluff, which is fluff with a history. So that would be, for example, alchemy—which is something dear to my heart. Alchemy is fluff with depth because it’s 4,000 years old, and even though it’s never made good on its promises or agenda, it just keeps popping up in various places, it’s generated a rich literature. It’s deep fluff. The kind of fluff that freaks me out is where you get one person who never read the Old Testament, never read Plato, doesn’t understand mathematics, music, history, art, literature, religion, economics, or philosophy, but they have all the answers. Because when they were in the desert the archangel Malingi appeared to them and downloaded the entire shtick from A to Z in eleven simple lessons which they will share with you for a significant portion of your income. This kind of thing you should automatically….

3:12:33

You know, the mushroom said to me once—apropos of all this, and I’ve tried to live by it—it said: for one human being to seek enlightenment from another is like a grain of sand on the beach to seek enlightenment from another. And, you know, for me that puts in perspective all this malarkey about lineages and secret orders and having to sweep up around the ashram for fifteen years before they cut you any juice, and all of that stuff. A truth which you cannot understand is of no use to you. So don’t tell yourself that the fact that you don’t understand quantum physics is okay because these guys at MIT have it under control. Until you understand it, it’s utterly useless to you. So people live by hearsay and rumor, and people delightedly spread rumors of the miraculous. And people say, “Well, did you see that thing on TV the other night, where they had that Air Force colonel who claimed that he was there at Roswell when zabaa-zabaa…?” Well, to repeat this kind of stuff is the equivalent of taking home a newspaper with a headline that says, “Alien Mom, 9, Gives Birth to Dead Christ.” This is not something people of intellectual integrity involve themselves with.

3:14:14

Isn’t that a downer, that rap? It’s so… and it’s especially a downer when I get more specific than I have been here. Because, of course, it really becomes cogent when you tear into somebody by example. And the reigning cult of niceness precludes that I do too much of that, because my own ox might be gored. But I do urge you to disperse your money and attention with extreme miserliness when people start telling you they have the answers. There are no answers at this point. Part of growing up is to live without answers. You know, culture is a kind of con that works on you if you’re smart until you’re about 35 or 40 or 50—it takes longer for some people. But if you live long enough and you’re paying attention, you will eventually notice that culture is a con. It just wants to pick your pocket and get your vote and make a fool out of you. And around age 35, 45, 55, people just say screw it, you know? Who needs this? Or they become defenders of it because they somehow see into a wisdom that it contains that I have not perceived.

3:15:45

I think, really, part of—there is an idea around that some time in your mid-twenties you mature, and that then you are a fully mature human being. This is obviously not true. You’re still a puppet of culture. The maturation process goes on into the 30s and 40s. And if you live that long, what you should end up being is an independent person free of ideology, free of object fetishism, consumer fetishism, free of pathological attachments to other people, free of codependent relationships. I mean, these all things which people in their twenties are just beginning to encounter as possibilities. And if you don’t grow past these things, then you become these people who watch daytime TV and roam the malls and vacation in artificial paradises, and a lot of attention to lotteries and Publisher’s Clearing House millions that are soon to arrive. Just a squirrely lifestyle, hardly above the level of a laboratory rat. And if consciousness-expansion means anything, it means thinking your way out of these cultural cul-de-sacs and dilemmas. You know, don’t buy anything, because very rarely is what you are being sold what it represents to be, nor worth what’s being asked for it.


Yeah?

Audience

[???] do something about our planet quickly?

3:17:43

McKenna

Well, in terms of suggestions—and we have ten minutes left, so I’ll be able to get out of here without the hour of discussion this usually provokes—in terms of suggestions: when I have said to them, I once said to the mushroom, “How can we save the world?” Somebody had challenged me in a group like this. They said, “Why don’t you ask it how we can save the world?” Which I had never been (being sort of an oblique thinker) it had never occurred to me to be so blunt with it. But the next time I found myself with it I said, “How can we save the world?” And without a moment’s hesitation it said, “Each person should parent only once.” This is an astonishing idea. This is not zero population growth, this is population falling by 50% every 20 years from here on out. If people in the high-tech industrial democracies would limit themselves to one child, almost immediately the destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems and resources would halt.

3:19:04

We preach population control in the Third World, but the statistics show that, to a woman in the First World who has a child, that child will consume between 800 and 1,000 times more resources in the course of its lifetime than a child born in Bangladesh or some other Third World place. So if we were to practice this one person, one child policy in the First World democracies, there would almost immediately be a visible slackening of the pressure on resources. And population is the thing which is driving everything over the edge and is not allowing any time for full reflection about land use, implementation of technologies, the political directions we want to go in. Because everywhere you just hurl money at problems like sanitation, detoxification of land, education of children, cleaning up of water supplies, extension of early primary education, and so forth and so on. No matter how much money you throw at these problems, you see no progress because it’s all dragged down by burgeoning populations.

3:20:37

And it’s interesting. I’ve always felt that the way to solve collective social problems is to find solutions which advance the agendas of individuals. In other words, some version of enlightened self-interest. And if you think about this one person, one child thing, what we’re saying is: how would you like to have increased leisure time, increased disposable income, and the sincere gratitude of humanity by volunteering to limit your procreative activity? And I would favor social policies that would give people cradle-to-the-grave medical care and cancel their income tax and whatever it took to honor people who did that, because that is the most significant single political act any one of us could probably do. It’s very practical. It’s a bumper sticker. It astonished me when the mushroom said this. I thought it was going to be a [???]. It said each person should parent only one child. In a single sentence it offers probably the only solution to our long-term dilemma on this planet.

3:22:10

Can we do it? Well, we don’t know. It involves changing our habits—the hardest things we have to change. It involves injecting novelty in an area where habits have ruled for millennia and tens of millennia: our reproductive behaviors. On the other hand, as primates we never really get rocking and rolling until we’re painted into a corner. Now, China is attempting to do something like this. But, of course, they start from a more problematic circumstance than our own. However, if China continues to limit its population, that’s the one piece of the puzzle missing from its ability to project its culture onto a global scale. If the rest of us pollute our social systems and drag the development of our economies with burgeoning populations at the same time that the Chinese population is falling, and they are bringing their technologies and infrastructure up to speed, then we could find ourselves in a very different sociopolitical circumstance not far downstream.


Any comment on that whole idea?

3:23:33

It’s an interesting idea. I’m surprised that there is no society for it. I’ve never heard it discussed. Not radical lesbians, not libertarians. And I also thought when it first came up that there must be some hideous political flaw in it; that some radical feminist or somebody would spring forward and point out this appalling contradiction as to why this couldn’t be done or why this was utterly unacceptable and dehumanizing. Nobody has ever done that, either. The only criticism I’ve had of it is: people have said that political power is based on population. But I argue that’s not true. If that were true, India would be the second most powerful nation in the world. Well, what about France, what about Germany, what about England? So, you know, we are not in a breeding race with the brown-skinned people of the planet. Thinking like that is crazy-making. What determines the viability of a society is the quality of life that it delivers to the greatest number of people. So I think one person, one child—those of you who haven’t yet entered the reproductive phase of your life—you might consider.

3:25:02

People have objected and said, “Well, but children need other children.” This is arguable. The nuclear family is not handed down from Mount Sinai. The nuclear family is a late nineteenth century invention at the convenience of industrial capitalism. If there is a human model handed down from Mount Sinai, it’s the extended family group—the aunts, the uncles, the cousins all together in a longhouse or a compound. Well, we haven’t lived like that in America since the 1840s. And it was no way to live anyway. In 1800, the average American woman—the average American woman—gave birth thirteen times in her life. This is not a behavior pattern we want to emulate.

3:26:06

I think that we are sentimental, that the concept of the child is some kind of morbid download from nineteenth century romanticism, and that it’s a morbid concept. The child in our society is a symbol of innocence and victim of mayhem. It would be—you know, in Amazonian societies that I’ve observed, children are small versions of adults. And as quickly as they can handle them, they are given responsibilities and roles, and they participate in life, birth, death, sexuality, hunting rituals. There is no—this idea that we screen people from the facts of life because they are innocent and fragile. And it’s a complete paradox in our society, because while we’re dishing out this rhetoric of innocence we’re creating a popular culture so steeped in images of violence and abuse and rape and so forth that the idea that there are any secrets from anybody is pretty hollow rhetoric.

3:27:18

So we need to reenvision our relationship to children. They are more precious than we have tended to treat them, they are more central to our future than we have tended to admit, and our population policies, if they don’t swing around to take cognizance of this, will probably derail all our best intents to build a sane and caring world. Anyway, that’s the opinion of an extraterrestrial fungus on a matter of human population.

Session 3

Saturday Afternoon

August 1, 1998

3:27:57

McKenna

The original prediction was that there would be a deep plunge into novelty in 1996. There would be the deepest plunge in the 1990s. But that was based on my mathematics before John Sheliak corrected it. Once his corrections were factored in, it showed that there was a deep plunge into novelty where I said it was in 1996, but that it wasn’t the deepest, it was the second deepest. The deepest was, I believe, in 1993, in fall of 1993, which was right when the Internet was going public and the world wide web was coming into being, and all that was happening. The plunge that I predicted in 1996 I felt pretty good about, because right near the place where I predicted the maximum amount of novelty we got within ten days of each other the announcement of the Martian meteorite with fossils in it—which has since been hassled over royally, I’m aware of that. But still, I think it was a watershed moment that the President of the United States felt the need to address the nation on the subject of extraterrestrial life. It was a rare moment! And then, within eight days of that announcement, was the announcement of Dolly, the cloning of the sheep in England—which, again: if certain scenarios come to pass, that will be a moment, the point the human race passed from which there was no going back, then, because basically if you can clone a sheep you can clone a human being.

3:29:59

And these technologies are all rushing upon us. I mean, the body is being dissolved as much by advanced medical technology as it is by cyberspace and the Internet. I read this amazing story recently set slightly in the future, and this guy has been in this very bad accident and virtually nothing has survived but his brain. But they have a medical technology that they can take a fragment of flesh and clone him, and then with hormones rapidly age the infant, so that in two years there will be a brand new adult body for his brain to be transplanted in. And these people have this fantastic medical policy that the fine print says that the brain must be kept alive by a medically approved method, and that the insurance company reserves the right to choose the cheapest method. And the cheapest method is: implant into the body wall of the cosignatory of the insurance policy. So this woman carries her husband’s brain for two years inside her body cavity while his body is being grown to manhood for the transplant. It’s a dilemma we all may face some day!


Yes? Yeah?

Audience

I wanted to ask you about novelty and psychedelics, and the language that changes through the use of them. I remember reading María Sabina saying that the mushrooms spoke a different language to her after people like Wasson came down and began to use them. They went from Spanish to English, from Catholic mushrooms to… I don’t know, Harvard mushrooms or something. I don’t know. So, I haven’t spoken with people that have taken DNA—I mean DMT, sorry—in the 1960s very much. The people I talked to that did, they said it was so overwhelming they could not even understand the language. I haven’t read about this, anyway. Maybe you can enlighten me.

3:32:28

McKenna

Well, one place—there aren’t many places you can read about it—one place you can read about it is: there’s a book edited by Michael Harner, called Hallucinogens and Shamanism, Oxford University Press, and there’s an essay in there by Henry Munn called The Mushrooms of Language, which is one of the most eloquent and beautiful essays ever written on psilocybin. It’s wonderful. Henry Munn. Then, harder to get but equally interesting, is a doctoral study that a guy named Horace Beach did at CIIS, and it’s called something like The Perception of Audio Phenomena Under the Influence of Psilocybin. And he interviewed Bay Area psilocybin-heads about their experiences with language, and it’s very interesting.

3:33:25

This is a very interesting area of discussion. On DMT, and on psilocybin—and they are closely related; psilocybin being 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, the phosphorylated form of DMT, though they do not degrade into one pathway in the body. It’s a parallel pathway. DMT is N,N-dimethyltryptamine. These psychedelics particularly seem to impact the language-forming portion of the brain. And this produces truly bizarre states of mind, because it’s the language-forming part of your brain that is explaining to you moment to moment what is going on. You know: “Now I am eating.” “Now I am having sex.” “Now I am flashing on DMT.” And when that part of the brain gets foobarred, then you really do have a puzzlement on your hands. Because the machinery of description itself has been caught up in the process.

3:34:42

On DMT, these entities—these machine-like, diminutive, shape-shifting, faceted machine-elf type creatures that come bounding out of the state (they come bounding out of my stereo speakers if I have my eyes open), they are like, you know… they are elven embodiments of syntactical intent. Somehow, syntax (which is normally the invisible architecture behind language) has moved into the foreground and you can see it. I mean, it’s doing calisthenics and acrobatics in front of you. It’s crawling all over you. And what’s happened is that your categories have been scrambled—or something—and this thing which is normally supposed to be invisible and in the background and an abstraction has come forward and is doing handsprings right in front of you. And the thing makes linguistic objects. It sheds syntactical objectification. So that they come toward you, they divide, they merge, they’re bounding, they’re screaming, they’re squeaking, and they hold out objects which they sing into existence, or which they pull out of some other place. And these things are, you know, like jewels and lights, but also like consommé and old farts and yesterday and high speed. In other words, they are made of juxtapositions of qualities that are impossible in three-dimensional space.

3:36:38

What they’re like is—and, in fact, this is probably what they are—what they’re like is: they’re like three- and four- and five-dimensional puns. And you know how the pleasure of a pun lies in the fact that it’s not that the meaning flickers from A to B, it’s that it’s simultaneously A and B. And when the pun is really funny it’s an A-B-C-D pun, and it’s simultaneously all these things. Well, that quality—which in our experience can only occur to an acoustical output or a glyph which stands for an acoustical output (in other words, a printed pun)—in the DMT world objects can do this. Objects can simultaneously manifest more than one nature at once. And, like a pun, the result is always funny. It’s amusing. You cannot help but be delighted by this thing doing this thing.

3:37:50

Well, so these syntactical animals, or these linguistic elves, are pulling this stuff out and gesturing with it, pushing it in your face, saying, “Look at this! Look at this!” And you are fascinated, you know? Pulled into it. Because each one is… you know… what? How can this be happening? We’re not in the world any more. No artist, however gifted, could make one of these objects. Because they have qualities extremely difficult to language, qualities that no object in this world has. And so you’re trying to wrap your mind, and say, “My God, you know, what is it?” Because in spite of the fact that it’s just a little thing, you can tell by looking at it that its implications are Earth-shaking.

3:38:48

In other words, that if I could suddenly pull one of these things out of hyperspace, and we would all look at it, we would all realize that that was the ball game, right there. That somehow this proved it, was it, did it, ended it, started it, made it clear. How can this be? Well, I don’t know. You had to be there, sort of. And then what lies behind this, or as you try to analyze the situation, you realize that these objects that these things are making are made by the utterances. That sound is how this trick is done. And meanwhile these things are saying—or beaming at you—but the general vibe is, strangely enough, “Do not give way to astonishment! Do not abandon yourself to wonder! Get a grip! Try to get a grip and notice what we’re doing! Pay attention!” This is the mantra. “Pay attention! Pay attention!”

Audience

[???]

3:40:06

McKenna

Well, somebody once asked me, you know, “Is it dangerous?” And the answer is: only if you fear death by astonishment. But death by astonishment is entirely possible. I’m not kidding! I mean, you are so fucking astonished that you’ve never felt your astonishment circuits get a workout like that before! I mean, what is astonishment in this world? It’s like, “Oh!” This is a different form of astonishment. This is: GASP! You know? And then the whole notion that’s being pushed here is: “Do this thing. Do this activity. Do as we do.” And you can sort of feel your intentionality, your inner something-or-other, reorganizing. And there’s this, like, heat. It’s quite akin to heartburn. I won’t metaphysicize it. But heat in your stomach. And it just moves up, and then your mouth flies open, and this stuff comes out—which is a very highly articulated, syntactically controlled, non-English, non-European, language behavior of some sort. Not, strictly speaking—though I call it glossolalia—it strictly speaking is not glossolalia. Glossolalia has been carefully studied, and it’s a trance-like state. On the floors of these Pentecostal churches in Guatemala they measured pools of saliva sixteen inches across from people who were in ecstatic glossolalia. This is much more conscious, much more controlled. It’s almost like a kind of spontaneous singing. But your mind steps aside, and this linguistic stuff comes out.

3:42:09

And you can see it. That’s the amazing thing. It is not to be heard, even though it is carried as an acoustical signal. Its meaning resides in what happens to it when the acoustical signal is processed by the visual cortex. That’s the important thing. It is a new kind of language. It’s a visible, three-dimensional language. It’s not something I ever heard about, or any mystical tradition I ever heard about anticipated. But it’s as though the process, or the project, of language—which, according to academic linguists, began no more than 50,000 years ago—the process of doing language, in us, is not yet finished. And this thing we do with small mouth noises, and each of us consulting our own learned dictionary, and quickly decoding each other’s intent, this is a stumblebum, cobbled together, half-assed way to do language. And what we’re on the brink of, or what these psychedelic states seem to hold out, is a much more seamless kind of fusion of minds by generating topological manifolds that we look at rather than that we, you know, localize into designated meaning.

3:43:48

And I didn’t mention ayahuasca in this rap, but ayahuasca, being—along with the mushrooms—a natural and shamanically used for many millennia doorway into these places, and what you find in ayahuasca groups in the upriver tribal situation is people—the whole way the ayahuasca-taking is set up is to facilitate singing. The shamans get loaded, then they sing, then they go outside and take a leak and smoke and talk. And in those intervals you hear people say things like, you know, “I liked the violet and yellow part, but I thought the olive drab with the silver spattering was way over the top.” And you think, you know, what kind of a critique of a song is that? Well, it’s the critique of a song that is designed to be looked at. Nobody talks about the sound. Everybody talks about the visual impression left by the sound. And it was these ayahuasca-taking groups that, when the German ethnographers got into the Amazon in the early part of the twentieth century, they called this chemical “telepathine.” They recognized, you know, that—and the reputation of ayahuasca is group states of mind. Well, if you’re naïve, then you think you’re going to hear everybody thinking. No, you’re going to see everyone thinking. You know? You’re going to see what people mean.

3:45:36

And it’s not that surprising when you think of it, because obviously the world arrives at the surface of our skin as a seamless body of electromagnetic and acoustical and pheromonal data. It’s just that our eyes, our nostrils, our ears, our skin—we break up this incoming flow of data. And now we’re close to McLuhan country here. I think what this hints at is that print skewed our perceptual apparatus, or our style of parsing perceptual data, toward the acoustic space. So that, for us, thought became a voice, you know? And very early in the Western tradition this is so. Jehovah is a voice in the Old Testament. The lógos is a voice in Hellenistic philosophy. We’re the People of the Voice. But apparently, you know, there is a passage in Philo Judaeus where he talks about the etymology of the word “Israel.” And he says, “Israel means: ‘He who sees God’.” He who sees God. And then he poses the question to himself: “What is the more perfect lógos?” And then he says, “The more perfect lógos is that lógos which goes from being heard to being seen without ever passing over a moment of noticeable transition.”

3:47:28

Well, I’ve actually seen this happen in psychedelic states: where you will be lying in silent darkness, you hear distant music, and as the music gets closer, it’s like a band with lights and drums coming over a hill. As the music gets louder, it seems to physically approach. And a confusion of light turns into, you know, oom-pah-pah, brass band, dancing elves, cavorting harlequins, and less easily described denizens of the imagination. And then it all goes thumping and marching past and disappears. But it’s a perfect example of light and sound arriving together in the hallucinogenic space.

3:48:23

The fact that we’ve talked here, or mentioned, that we have DMT in our pineal glands, in our brains—what we haven’t said is: we also have compounds in that same organ very much like what’s in ayahuasca. Occurring in the human pineal gland is a compound called adeneroglumerotropine, but when you give it its physical chemical nomenclature, it turns out it’s 6-methoxy tetrahydroharmine. It’s a very near relative of harmine and harmaline. So I’m—you know, it doesn’t strain me to believe that, perhaps, in looking at this phenomenon, we have actually put our finger on the place, the cutting edge, of the evolution of consciousness. Right now, at the biochemical level. What’s happening is: there is a shifting, or an acceleration of the concentration, of harmine-like alkaloids and DMT in the human pineal, and it’s affecting our ability to process language, and it’s pushing and exacerbating a bias toward visual understanding.

3:49:43

And I see this, then, also reinforced and accelerated by the evolution of media. You know, in the last 150 years we go from photography to color photography, to moving colored photography, with sound, with stereophonic sound, and pointing toward virtual reality with more and more money to be made at each step of the way. And clearly, with amounts of money now (we’re outspending defense for entertainment) we will produced simulacrums of imaginary worlds. And engineering bench tests will be to make it as much like Hawai’i as possible, or as much like Tibet as possible. But what people will really want to do with these things is make worlds as strange as we can stand, that are in these virtual places. So whether it comes through a natural evolution of the human nervous system, or the evolution of an advanced interface with prostheses that create virtual realities, I think the transformation of how we do language is part of this acceleration into singularity.


Yeah?

Audience

I believe you made a reference in one of your books to Julian Jaynes’ book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and the way we evolved, and God was like an auditory hallucination before, I guess, our consciousness really developed, and we were thinking human beings.

3:51:37

McKenna

Yeah, Julian Jaynes—it didn’t win him too many friends, but he wrote a big book and had this theory that this thing which we call the ego is so recent in human beings that it actually didn’t exist at the time of Homer. And he goes into Homer, and he shows that the god always breaks through in situations of crisis and danger. And he felt that, before Homeric times, people were essentially like ants or something; that their behavior was largely instinctual, and that the only time they encountered this phenomenon of free will, the interrupting of the instinctual pattern, was in situations of great crisis and impending danger. And then this thing would literally almost come out of the sky and say, “Get your ass out of there! Save your self!” Well, then, over time, this ability to access this higher informational thing was like—again, the metaphor of encysted, closed over with the membrane of the self, and made part of the machinery of the self—and that this is what the ego is. The ego is a Greek god that you have frozen like an ice cube behind your eyes, and that you think you are this thing, and that this is just a cultural myth, a necessary weird idea—no more a true statement about the nature of the mind of the hominid than anything else.

3:53:29

One of the conclusions that novelty theory leads to (in terms of its feedback into social here-and-now stuff) is the idea that culture is not your friend, that culture is an impediment to understanding what’s going on. That’s why, to my mind, the word “cult” and the word “culture” have a direct relationship to each other. Culture is a cult. And if you feel revulsion at the thought of somebody, you know, offering to the Great Carrot, or tithing to some squirrely notion, just notice that your own culture is an extremely repressive cult that leads to all kinds of humiliation and degradation and automatic and unquestioned and unthinking behavior. There is a tendency to want to celebrate culture, springing both from the French deconstructionists and their fascination with culture, and then the effort to build pride through ethnicity thing. Well, that’s all very fine, but I think the cultures we should all revere are our ancestral cultures, the cultures most of us have our roots in. The actual culture we came from was probably fairly squirrely. I mean, the American family is what keeps American psychotherapy alive and well. This is a cauldron for the production of neurosis, and in some cases little else.

3:55:24

So, you know, part of what psychedelics do is: they decondition you from cultural values. This is what makes it such a political hot potato. You know, if there’s anything—since all culture is a kind of con game, the most dangerous candy you can hand out is candy which causes people to start questioning the rules of the game. So you can have a Stalinist state, a parliamentary democracy, and a theocratic state, and they all can agree on one thing: that psychedelics are just terrible, because then citizens start asking all kinds of hard questions, and the devotion to the values of the fatherland become mired in pseudo-intellectual discourse, and the next thing you know somebody has to be shipped off to the camps in order to right the situation.

Audience

Well, even our own structures are dissolving [???]

3:56:34

McKenna

Oh yeah. No, it definitely works in the personal life. Like, you know, I’ve been building a house in Hawai’i, and while I’ve been building it I’ve definitely cut back on my intake of psychedelics because I don’t want the answer to the question, “Is this a good idea?” until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s like St. Augustine’s prayer: “God grant me chastity and continence,” but not yet!


Yeah?

Audience

One of the big ideas that seems to be in the notion of the archaic revival is that the whole big thing is really conscious and alive—the universe, the galaxy, the larger entities. And that’s interesting, because it’s a traditional belief that’s held by non-modern, non-scientific, cultures. And if, in fact, our belief systems are taking us in that direction such that that makes sense to us, it’s really interesting but it also sort of upsets the current description of evolution within, say, the Darwinian dogma. Because that seems to be, you know, based on the idea that it’s all very random and it’s just all material and life is a big accident that’s moving forward. So I think that one of the ideas that you’re talking about today is teleology; that whether or not we really want to talk about evolution and how evolution as a theory is going to get self-involved and absorb this idea, comes down to whether or not these larger things have in fact some kind of direction behind it—which is what I think your work and observations imply.

And so I thought one day about how to understand that, and I have a question, which is: whether or not you can talk about creativity as having a fractal nature? Since self-similarity shows you at various levels similar principles, and since on our level as human beings anything that we make, we first think about: it begins as thought, and then it becomes matter. And so if creativity can be seen as having a fractal dimension, it would be a way to talk about all kinds of creation by simply understanding it at the level at which we see it. And it would suggest that, to modify the Big Bang theory a little bit: before there was a Big Bang there would have to be a Big Thought, and you kind of move along with that idea.

So I want to ask you to comment on that, but also in relation to the idea that was also contained in evolution about the origin of language. Because some of the things you’re speaking about from your DMT experiences have a funny resonance with creation stories, like Adam and Eve naming the animals. I mean, I’ve never really been all that comfortable with the idea that language would evolve out of grunts and groans when guys like Chomsky say it’s all organized. It’s a big system in language, and all kinds of languages can be very different, but inside they always have these structures. And nature, and ecosystems, and languages, always seem to pop out fully formed and integrated.

So is there any possible way that you could think that language, rather than evolving from grunts and groans, evolved in the opposite direction? That the first time language was used, it was used with the power that you ascribe to the machine elves? That is was something that was done carefully and precisely because it could manifest form? Or something like that?

One more idea—in terms of how new species come into being. The only idea that we ever get to allow into the theory of evolution is that it’s always an accident, that there will be a mutation and a new species similar to another species will be born, and it will survive, and that will lead to a new species. But I have a logical problem with that, in that any female creature which gives birth to a new species is going to perceive that species as a birth defect. And this is a baby they’re not going to want to survive. And then there’s only one. And so that Barbara Klar book I read talked about nine dimensions, and said the sixth dimension was the morphogenetic field from which all species and organisms evolve. So I was kind of thinking maybe along the lines of the metaphor of a computer: there’s a software program through which new species are developed and designed, and the whole way in which they integrate themselves into existing ecosystems, et cetera, somehow or other it all gets worked out, and there’s a mystery, then, we don’t see and don’t understand, by which these new forms come into being. Maybe they all come into being at once, with a thousand or a million creatures, instead of just one that’s having to struggle.

4:01:59

McKenna

Well, all this raises a lot of stuff, most of which I can’t remember because of my devotion to cannabis. But let’s go back to the thing about language and the origins of language. Let’s talk about that for a minute. I think that—I’ve been thinking about this, because I’ve been writing about it, and here’s what I’ve come up with. Part of what makes it difficult for us to think about language clearly in English is that this word “language” is used by us to mean spoken language, and it also means the general class of linguistic activity—as in computer language, body language, so forth and so on. And to think clearly about language, we need to have a clear distinction between spoken language and the general syntactical organization of reality. Language. Because that is old. Honeybees do it, dolphins do it, termites do it. They all do it different ways. Octopi do it. There is much of language in nature. In fact, you could argue that all of nature is a linguistic enterprise, because the DNA essentially is a symbolic system. Those codons which code for protein are arbitrarily assigned—assigned, in other words, by convention. There is no chemical relationship between the codons and the proteins they code for any more than there is a relationship between an English word and the thing it intends. Those are just conventionalized by probability over time. So language is deep in nature.

4:03:58

What is not deep in nature is speech. Speech is as artificial as the water wheel, the bicycle pump, the Tesla coil, and the space shuttle. Somebody figured this out somewhere. Well, so then people say, “But this is hard to understand. It’s hard to picture how it could happen.” Well, here’s how I think it happened. My little example about the songs earlier was a stab at this, but here’s more. It’s that all non-genetic behaviors (which are called, reasonably enough, epigenetic behaviors) are, nevertheless, they’re not simply expressions of free will, they are under the control of a looser system of rules than the genetic rules, which are chemical and absolute. The epigenetic behaviors are under the control of syntactical constraints. In other words, we need to expand the concept of “syntax” from “the rules which govern the grammar of a spoken language” to “the rules which govern the behavior of any complex system.”

4:05:18

So, for example, before speech among human beings, I think it was probably very touchy-feely. If you watch monkeys you see this. They touch each other, they stroke, they grunt, they groom, they goose, they push, they do all of these things. The repertoire of this kind of behavior, if you’re good at it, may be on the order of having four or five thousand words in your vocabulary. Well, when we watch primates do this kind of behavior, we don’t think of it as a language—but in fact it is. It’s a gestural language. A couple of years ago, some research was done where these people took pre-verbal infants, and they taught them standard American sign language before they could speak. So these little tiny children could sign, “Pick me up,” “Please change me,” “Where is Daddy?” “I’m hungry,” “I want to watch TV,” dah, dah, dah, before they could ever utter a word. Well, now what we’re always told about spoken language is it’s this miracle, and that we’re genetically hardwired for it. Well, these experiments seem to imply we’re even more genetically hardwired for standard American sign language, which is something very few of us will ever learn to use. What does this mean? Well, it means that the gestural capacity is deeper than the ability to verbalize, and hence probably older. So I think there was a gestural language as complex as standard English, probably, in place before anyone ever uttered a word.

4:07:13

Now, what the psychedelics seem to suggest is that you can get so hyped up on tryptamines that your body goes into some kind of almost convulsive shock, and the normally acoustically modulated processing of language flows over into the voice box, and you begin to literally articulate syntax. You begin to make a noise which is a tracking noise for this ongoing syntactical stuff that’s organizing gestural intent. And it’s like going from carving in stone to color TV: your listener immediately transfers loyalty to this much more spectacular form of behavior. And so it’s like literally that the word burst forth full-blown, based on a platform of gestural syntax that had been maybe millions of years in its formation. It was just this ability to redirect the energy of syntactical intent through the body so that, instead of coming out of the end of the fingers, it came out of the end of the tongue, flapping in the air stream, and this thing happened.

4:08:44

It’s amazing to me that the straight linguist—you know, if you go to an academic university and study linguistics—will teach you that language is no more than 35,000–40,000 years old. I mean, that’s like yesterday! I mean, fire is half a million years, chipped flint a million and a half years. Language 35,000 years old? Language is everything we are, everything we do. You can’t think without it, you can’t do anything without it. And yet, if it’s that new, then what it represents is simply a technology, a form of media, that’s squeezed out other forms of media. And it’s not hard to see why: after all, it works in the dark, that’s good. It allows politics: you can make speeches to large groups of people. And it’s… well, it’s just very portable. It’s the cleanest technology ever put in place. When you think about it, it’s one of the weirdest abilities human beings exhibit. And when you go forward to reading, you realize this is an animal in some kind of an informational tizzy. I mean, the idea that you would make marks in clay which signify tongue noises, which signify designated objects, so that these pieces of clay can be lugged hundreds of miles so that other people can reconstruct your thought by looking at these pieces of clay, this is bizarre! For animal behavior, this is absolutely… it’s just, how they managed to do that!

4:10:41

And, of course, the picture-writing, we understand. But similar to the breakthrough to speech is the breakthrough to a phonetic alphabet, where you see: “Aha! We don’t have to portray the thing we intend. All we have to portray is the sound of the word that signifies the thing we intend.” And then, you know, you’re just roaring forward. And from there to the printing press—what is it, a couple of thousand years or something? And then there’s no going back.


So that’s the part about language. Now, what was the second part after that?

Audience

Well, just whether you could think about creativity as a principle that could have a fractal dimension, and that would be a way to think about design, or a larger universal order; just having some consciousness—

4:11:32

McKenna

Well, if you think of the universe as an engine which produces and conserves novelty, and you think of it as a fractal thing, a fractal hierarchy built up and build downward of subsets of itself, then in a sense every creative act is the paradigmatic act of the Big Bang. I mean, it always struck me, you know, that the end of the novelty wave—which is: up, down, oscillate, zero—it’s like it’s a general map of all process. We could be describing the life of the energy output of a star, or the firing of a single neuron, or the birth and death of an economy. In a sense, you get down to a fractal level where you can say all processes are the same: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And if you know where you are in this concatenation of process, you can sort of locate yourself in the cosmic domain.

4:12:42

The thing (that I tried to talk about this morning) that we need to map into our maps of reality is the acceleration. I think it’s a really weird idea to talk about “a thousand years in the future.” I mean, good grief! A thousand years in the future, what do you imagine will be left standing that you call home? Cast your mind back a thousand years: King Cnut was taking charge of things across northern Northumbria, and the Anglo-Saxons were making forays along the coast of Norway, and, you know, very few of the concerns of the day have survived to this moment. And that was the slow-moving part of the process. We’re going to move, you know, in the next ten years, further than we’ve moved since the time of King Cnut to this morning.

4:13:46

So it seems to me the most unlikely future scenario is one which assumes things will stay more or less the same. Because we’ve put in place all these processes designed to make sure that does not happen. You know: rapacious capitalism, technological innovation, bourgeois social aspirations in the hearts of every man, woman, and child on the planet, urbanization, connectivity—all of these processes are designed to erase reality as we know it.


Yeah?

Audience

I’m wondering what you think of the kind of Vedic paradigm involving the states of consciousness we call the waking state, the dream state, and the sleep state, and the transcendental force state, and they used that on an individual basis, but also with regards to [???] genesis. And that criticized the West, saying that, well, the West has taken the waking state as its standard, and evolved its philosophical views without accounting for these other states of consciousness.

4:15:12

McKenna

Well, certainly the West has built its house on a narrow foundation, denying these other possibilities. On the other hand, if—well, you get into all kinds of difficulties here. How do you judge whether or not a civilization has assimilated or explored the domains it’s named its own? One way is by looking at the technological applications that it’s created. And for all this talking about these other states of mind, they seem actually as mysterious to the East as they are to the West. I don’t get the feeling they’re really navigating through what they’re talking about. In the past, there may have been levels of understanding. It may be, see, that psychology—though it’s a mystery to us—it may be that it’s an easier nut to crack than the nut of matter. And so I don’t have any trouble believing that Vedic India of 3,500 BC may have known all kinds of things about how the mind works and how to navigate through these imaginal spaces that we’ve lost. But the spirituality of modern India is thoroughly contaminated by a thousand years of commerce with Islam and the West. It isn’t that different, really. I mean, Vedic theology and German idealism are strikingly similar cousins.


Yeah?

Audience

In spite of [???] a number of things of conflict when you talk about the archaic revival, and then the current cultural and technological revolution. It seems to me that a lot of the stimulus for novelty that was generated by the psychedelic experience now may be generated without that experience, such as through virtual reality, technological advancements, and perhaps would maybe make the psychedelic experience less necessary in order to point to or to observe the whole process.

4:17:48

McKenna

Well, definitely, what you’re getting at is that technology itself is a kind of psychedelic drug. That, you know, by chance or design, the proponents of psychedelica have figured out that it’s totally acceptable to this culture if you disguise it as electronic entertainment and put it out that way. So the web is incredibly subversive. Simply the fact that all that information is there and available, in a world where control of access to information has always been the game. So yeah, the way I see it is that the psychedelic people need to use the new information technologies to build art of a type more powerful and more compelling than the world has ever seen. Call it virtual reality, call it multimedia, whatever you want, but it’s basically walk-into, walk-around art. And then the boundaries will fall for ordinary people.

4:19:02

Because, you see, when you build a virtual reality, in a sense what that technology is allowing you to do is: it’s allowing you to show people the inside of your own head. We have never had a technology that would do that. We think the inside of our heads are all the same. But, you know, when I say to you that when I smoke DMT it unleashes a Niagara of alien beauty, if I had spent the last thirty years building that Niagara of alien beauty so that you could just strap on the goggles and go, then we would have a very different kind of dialogue and relationship going. And so I really see art as the great searchlight that illuminates the historical landscape just ahead, and I think that art is about to get teeth for the first time in human history. I mean, it’s all very fine, scratching on cave walls, and film, and video, and all that, but it’s always artifice, you know? You never are convinced—or only for seconds—that you’re in the presence of reality when you’re in the presence of art. But we will build art that will literally stand your hair on end. And the amount of creativity in a single human mind, as I said, more than fills all the museums of this planet. So what we need is: figure out how to get a spigot into that and get this stuff out. And then, as James Joyce said, man will be dirigible.



4:20:45

Well, we said, I think, that when you take psychedelics you go up a dimension, and so this world of transience and flux becomes an eternal world. So, in that sense, it’s the same thing. Whether meditation and psychedelics are the same thing I think depends on your meditation and your psychedelics. Different meditations strive for different things. Much meditation is about emptying the mind of phenomena. This certainly would not be a description of the psychedelic state.

Audience

In my experience, the highest psychedelic states have been complete merging and complete ego loss, and becoming oneness. [???] and LSD [???] highest meditation experience has been very similar, where there is no sense of self and other, it’s just a flash of everything [???] it’s non-dual, seemingly the center of the singularity [???] each other where [???] another dimension.

4:22:08

McKenna

Well, in the interest of keeping the number of singularities to a minimum, the most elegant thing to do is to wrap the theory around and say that the starting point and the ending point are the same place. Yeah, it’s the place where all is cotangent. How we could get the universe back into the primal dot in twelve years, I don’t know, but there are some schemes to do that. There’s always schemes to do it. You know, if the universe were some kind of vacuum fluctuation, and it had an antimatter twin in a higher superspace, then there would be the potential, at least, for them to collide across all points simultaneously, and you would actually get the universe of matter disappearing instantly, and you would then be left with a universe made only of photons, because they don’t have an anti-particle. What a universe purely made of light, what its physics would be like, is hard to say, but it sounds peculiarly like certain Gnostic hierophanies about gathering the light and returning the light. Ultimately, the meditation path and the psychedelic path must somehow lead to the same kinds of data if the claims of both are to be respected, which is that they give deeper knowledge about reality.


Yeah?

Audience

I was wondering, as a kind of connection between that and the point that you were just making previously about the expression of those inner states [???] what your view might be about the use of some of the technologies today that are aimed at providing access to those inner states [???] you’ve mentioned about one of the psychedelic problems is bringing back the information, and so I’m thinking here about some of the [???] and particularly the technology of Robert Monroe aimed at providing access consciously to those states, such that you can bring that information back.

4:24:43

McKenna

I’m all for it, I just haven’t seen anything that convinced me that anybody had achieved it to any degree of significance. Yeah. You know, imagine a drug that did nothing more than allow you to remember your dreams. I mean, that’s not exactly shooting for the moon, pharmacologically, these days. And yet, a drug which allowed you full recovery of your dreams might unleash God knows what, because we don’t know what we dream. The chemistry of DMT suggests that, in deep REM sleep, it’s possible every single night you have a DMT flash, but it does not transcript into short-term memory. Or imagine a drug which allowed you to enhance long-term memory, so that you could slip into reveries of a summer day thirty years ago and play it back moment by moment by moment. Again, this is not shooting for the moon pharmacologically. We’re not talking immortality here, we’re just talking simple neurochemistry. But all of these possibilities would change life beyond recognition. And I think these things should be pursued by any means necessary. You know, it’s a false dichotomy, the idea that somehow you should be able to achieve these things on the natch, and they’re not authentic if you achieve them through psychedelics. This is just a con to keep lineages in business, I think, because they don’t want you going off the ranch and charting your own course. But where shamanism becomes priestcraft, it’s already well on its way to senescence.

Audience

Terence, when you collectively perceive—if you get this group taking mushrooms, you’re collectively perceiving—similar phenomena without speaking—

4:26:55

McKenna

In a couple situations I’ve had telepathic things. I’ve had, in group situations, very quasi-telepathic social interactions. What I mean by that is: I’m recalling an evening many years ago taking ayahuasca with these people, and they had a weird scene going. The shaman was a good guy, and a good shaman, but he had a nephew who was a jerk and was sort of a pimp and kind of a hustler. And the shaman was singing with his three friends these ancient, ancient songs, and this guy was drunk on aguardiente, and he would sing against them. He would sing against them. And this was in Peru, and if you know the style of rural Peruvians, people are so polite and so not upfront, that no social problem is ever dealt with directly. People will tolerate incredible bad behavior without turning on a person and saying, “Listen, you’re completely out of line. Knock it off.” So thirty people. thirty Peruvian campesinos, were witnessing this sing-against. And the woman I was with at the time very much didn’t like what was going on. And at the end of this nephew, the sobrino, at the end of his song of raucous interruption, I looked up just as he ended. The room was almost in complete darkness. I looked up just as he ended. I saw her look up and look at him with a look of utter disgust—


[Audio interruption]


—and when these red dart things got to him, it knocked him off his feet. And I heard—the old shaman was sitting right to my left—and I heard him turn to his friend, and he said, “Ah! The gringa sends the bazudalaganga!” And so it was like, “Wow!” But then, ordinary reality immediately reasserts itself and moves forward, and there’s no time to say, “Wait a minute, folks! Something paranormal just happened here. I want to interview everybody, get your impression.” It’s never—you know, when it’s real, it’s always caught up in the on-moving flow of events.

Audience

[???] resisting and fearful. In other words, to resist what comes forward.

4:29:38

McKenna

Well, if you’ve taken—what you don’t want to do is take… this is reasonable advice, too, I think. Where the problem area lies—people think it lies in taking too much—it lies in taking too little. Because if you take too little, you can resist it. You can struggle with it. And then it can turn into a real mess, because you’re afraid of it. And you actually have the power, to some degree, to resist it. What you want to do is take sufficiently enough that there’s no escape, and that the transition from ordinary reality to fully loaded is as quick as possible. Because the going up is somewhat terrifying.

4:30:28

For example, let’s use psilocybin as the model. Here’s how it works for me. This is not tea, this is eating raw mushrooms. It comes on more slowly. So after an hour or so, you know—and the way I do it is: I sit. As soon as the mushroom enters my body, I sit and meditate. I noticed in South America they don’t do it like this. They dose the ayahuasca, and then everybody just goes on, talking about their motorcycles, and the jobs at the sawmill, and who’s conning who. It’s like, totally—there’s a brief moment, they pour, they toss it down, then they all go back to raving at each other about mundane life. And then, thirty minutes later, on the dot, the shaman blows his whistle or shakes his chakapa (his dry leaf bouquet), and everybody settles down. It’s like it comes on within two minutes as soon as the guy starts singing. He just invokes it.

4:31:33

The way I do it is: I take the mushroom (or the ayahuasca), and then I sit and I roll bombers so I’ll have them ready if I need them. And I just sit as I’m going to sit during the trip. And I’ve unplugged the telephone, and I’ve gotten everything squared away, and it begins to come on at about the forty-minute or the sixty-minute mark. And there’s sometimes some nausea as it comes on. And then I smoke a bomber, or half a bomber. And then it catapults it into the full deployment of the thing, where you just hang on. There’s about a twenty-five-minute period where your only job is to hang on. It builds. It’s like watching an atomic explosion on the other side of fifty feet of absolutely clear crystal glass. I mean, you can’t believe this is happening “in my mind.” You have the feeling that everybody from Seattle to San Diego has just crawled under their desk as this thing tore past. But it’s in your mind.

4:32:52

And then there is the interaction with it—which, moment to moment, you are pretty coherent. But you lose it. A lot of it doesn’t transcribe into short-term memory. And then, after about an hour or forty minutes of that, it becomes more manageable, more memorable. The most mind-boggling parts of it are just not possible to bring out of it, because language fails. Because English… there are no words. There are no words even close. I mean, sometimes you’ll bring out an image or a metaphor, but out of five hours of tripping you bring out half a notebook page of metaphors, and yet you were entirely engaged during that time.

4:33:44

Now, this question about fear—which is a real question, because when everything begins to slide, if you are not… it’s more than most people who haven’t done it expect. They have heard it, they’ve read the book, but they think it’s a metaphor. They don’t understand it’s really going to happen, and it’s really going to happen to you. And there’s a tendency to clutch, or to try and resist it. The thing to do in those situations, I think—and it’s counter-intuitive to how Western people think—but the thing to do is to sing: to sit up, not to assume the fetal position. See, what you might tend to do is assume the fetal position and tell yourself, “My God, this is the most appalling thing that’s ever happened to me. If I can just live through it, it’ll be alright. I’ve taken this drug. If I can just wait through. How long did they say it will be? Seven hours. I see. It started two minutes ago. If I can just…” No, the thing to do is to sit up and to sing. Why? Well, being practical people, to oxygenate your brain. To move the entire—this thing that’s happened to you, though it may have one claw in heaven, its roots are in your neurophysiology and in the chemistry of the drug. You want to move your physiology around. So oxygenating your brain can’t fail to do this. So you sing. And this almost always is accompanied by a sense of power, control, equilibrium, and so forth and so on.

4:35:40

Not always. I mean, let’s face it: you’re a product of a nutty society and there are unexamined crevices and un-cleaned-out drain traps in all of us, and you’re going to encounter that stuff. The good news is: the earlier psychedelic trips tend to deal with that. You will quickly discover, taking psychedelics, that either you can work through your personal issues and become a psychedelic explorer, or this is just stronger medicine than you are up for, and you would be far better to go back to psychoanalysis or whatever works for you. Some people just can’t take it. Why is that? Well, because what it does is: it dissolves boundaries. And most of us are over-boundary-defined. But some of us are having an uphill battle getting some boundaries in place, and realizing we are not the telephone or the tree or the person we live with. And so, for those people who are having trouble establishing and moving boundaries, this is the last thing on Earth they should get involved with.

Audience

[???]

4:37:02

McKenna

Cannabis. Cannabis. Cannabis!

Yeah?

Audience

When you’re in this state that you’re experiencing, [???] ego or boundary, is it possible that your physical self could just literally stop? Because I have had—

4:37:27

McKenna

Well, people often… yes, wondered. Often people wonder. You get into a place where it’s so unfamiliar that the question comes up: have I done it this time? You know? Am I dying? Or am I in danger? The answer is: the odds are incredibly against you being seriously in danger. People don’t die from psychedelics unless they have heart conditions or some incredibly rare medical condition. The problem is that the ego feels threatened by the boundary dissolution, and its ace is your self-identification with it. And it can actually say to you: “You are dying, and here’s the evidence.” And you have to say: “No, it’s unlikely,” and sing your way through it. But this is really tough. I mean, the Buddhists talk about slaying the ego—this is slaying the ego for real. You must slay it, otherwise it will spread panic into your whole psychological system, will give way to panic and hysteria.

4:38:51

So unless there is some real reason to think you’re dying—and you should have done your homework, you should know what to expect. For example, if you take LSD and begin intense bouts of vomiting, this is not a proper reaction to LSD. Something is wrong, either with the LSD or with your relationship to it. You should know, because a typical trip will put you through changes, but is not dangerous. But if you suddenly begin exhibiting some symptom—a heart fibrillation or something like that—then you want to have…. This is why, then, there is always the issue of the buddy system: should there be somebody else there, and what about all that? My position is: if you’re anxious, then you should have a sitter. If you’re going to do it alone, you should certainly tell someone so that they will check on you after a while. I don’t like doing it in groups or with sitters because inevitably I get spun into them. What I want to do is go as deep as possible. And even if I’m alone with one other person, culture is the third guest at the table, you know? I mean, I’ve often found myself in the middle of psychedelic trips thinking, “I’m sure glad there’s nobody else here to see this, because I’m sure it would alarm an observer!” Because I have my leg thrown back up over my neck, and I’m screaming in Urdu, or something. But it’s okay. After a few minutes it’s okay. But if there were an observer, they would feel the need to do something, you know? And often—like, I’ve seen people smoking DMT, and people moan, and they say, “No! No! No!” And they moan. So then, you know, you get them back together, and constituted, and you say, “How was it?” and they say, “It was fantastic!” So you realize how they present is not reliable.

4:41:16

Well, setting has a great deal to do with it. And setting is a very complicated issue. Setting means everything from the astrological situation at the time that you do it to the physical surrounding that you’re in. And it’s also a roll of the dice: you never know exactly what you’re going to get. As far as the question about Buddhism and all that—my own… you know, when I started taking LSD I thought I saw (in Tibetan Tonka painting and mandalas) the echoes of this same world, and pursued it: went to Nepal, studied Tibetan, collected the art. And it is similar. I don’t know to what degree the Buddhists, the Mahayanists, realize those states without psychedelics. I do know that with psychedelics, those meditations, those techniques, those insights, are supercharged. And I would suspect that Tibetan Buddhism, as it has its roots in Vedic Hinduism, there may be psychoactive plants in its past. But it’s far in the past. Buddhism was brought to Tibet in 741 by Padmasambhāva. There was an autophanous shamanism already present throughout the Himalayas, the Punpo, and it was largely based on cannabis intoxication at that point in history. Not so much in the present.

4:43:08

But I think that this is a fruitful area. I just can’t believe that Mahayana Buddhism could have gotten as far as it did without some reliance on psychedelics. And, of course, cannabis—we, in the West, our style is to smoke it, and that’s a very mild way of dealing with it. I mean, if you eat, if you have unlimited amounts of high-grade cannabis, and you eat grams and grams of it, you will have experiences as extreme as anything that psilocybin or ayahuasca can deliver to you. You only have to read the descriptions of nineteenth-century writers on cannabis—Fitz Hugh Ludlow, S. Weir Mitchell, these people—their descriptions of their trips are as psychedelic and as out of control as any acid reportage or psilocybin reportage.

4:44:11

So the relationship of Indian and Buddhist spirituality to cannabis and other psychedelics is not well understood. We do know that the whole Rigveda is a hymn to a drug, soma, but we don’t know what soma is. Well, the fact that it could have invited such attention to this Vedic civilization—the 95th mandala of the Rigveda says, “Soma is greater than Brahman, greater than Indra.” Well, what is being talked about? How could such a great thing be forgotten and lost? What was it? And then, you know, almost as puzzling as “What was it?” is: How could you lose such a thing? I mean, it’s like us forgetting how to make automobiles or something. It was something so basic to the culture that how could you possible forget something so central? Yet, apparently they did. And today there’s scholarly fights. Was it amanita muscaria? Was it psilocybin? Was it peganum harmala? Or was it something else? And why is this so hard to figure out? The only thing I can imagine is that it must have been eventually restricted to a priestly class of initiates, and then there must have been a social revolt from the bottom, and all those people were put to death. And then, nobody knew what it was.


Yeah?

Audience

[???]

4:45:48

McKenna

Yeah, I think you have to push these psychedelics to reach these unitary states. What always fascinated me was hallucination. Because it was, to me, the proof that I was dealing with something outside myself.

Audience

[???]

4:46:08

McKenna

Well, and here was stuff that amazed me, that I couldn’t make up on my own, or that would—you know, a single image would have taken me hours to draw and figure out. And here I was getting 28 frames a second of this unpredictable stuff.

Audience

Who is the “me” in that experience? The “me” witnessing those hallucinations? Because that’s…

4:46:37

McKenna

Well, one of the nice things about the tryptamines, I think, is they leave the sense of self pretty much intact. In other words, it doesn’t distort who you are. It does something to your sensory input. DMT is very surprisingly like that. You smoke DMT, you are immediately plunged into an alien universe. But if you can keep your wits about you and actually notice how you feel, you don’t feel any different. You’re not smarter, stupider, you’re not more excited. Once you get the initial panic under control, you realize: my God, it didn’t lay a finger on me! I’m me. I’m entirely intact. What has happened is that the world has been completely replaced by something completely unrecognizable and alien that I have no words for, that’s blowing my mind, that’s ripping apart my philosophical machinery as I gaze upon it. But when I bring my attention back into my body, I discover: I’m fine. I’m okay. It didn’t change my mind, you could almost say. It changes 100% the reality around you.

4:48:00

That’s powerful, because it appears objective. I mean, the impression you have when you smoke DMT is: this isn’t a drug, that’s ridiculous. Drugs, you know, make you smarter, make you stupider, make you fall down, make you stay awake. We know what drugs are. This is no drug, this is something else hiding under the label “drug.” This is a doorway into another modality that exists all the time, independent of my thoughts or feelings about it. Is that true? Well, I don’t know. But it certainly doesn’t seem to be a place constructed to fit human expectations.

4:48:43

Like, one of the things that always troubled me about DMT—being somewhat of a Jungian bent—was the question: how come there’s no hint of this in any mythology or religious tradition or alchemical text or fairy tale or dream, or anything else? I mean, if this is so important a part of what it is to be a human being, how can it be so deeply buried, so secret, so unknown, and yet just one toke away? Still, that confounds me. Because you can read all the Hindu scripture, or Sufi mysticism, or all the stuff you want—occasionally, sure, you’ll find a phrase or two that could be mapped onto a DMT state, but nobody has trumpeted it. Nobody has said, “This is what it is.” And yet, as I say, it’s spread throughout nature, it’s been known since aboriginal times. We used to, years and years ago, call it “the secret.” And, in a way, it really is the secret. Jorge Luis Borges has a story called The Cult of the Phoenix, and he talks about a secret that seems profound and yet preposterous to the initiates: “One child may initiate another,” and “ruins are good places to do this.” It just goes on like this for a page and a half. Well, you realize he must be talking about DMT.


Yeah?

Audience

[???] exactly what you were saying before, talking about the ego and consciousness and the bicameral mind, and whatever: that we’re looking at ego as a fairly recent phenomenon. And the ego’s just, the way I’m sensing it, ego is a sense of self. And it really is that construct where you think, “This is me. This is what I know.” And the mystic traditions say the true so-called enlightened state is the deconstruction of the sense of self. So doesn’t is seem that the—this is what I’m getting from the journey I’m taking. [???], not of the loss of myself, but it is a sense-able loss of myself, in fact. It’s like intimations of the future where we’re functioning on such a different level that’s beyond that ego construct. You know, where we’re really telepathically in connection. The whole sense of self, as being this limitation of “This is me” is just history, is gone.

4:51:32

McKenna

Yeah, the great cultural accomplishment of Western civilization is this thing called the free individual. But now that we’re on the brink of, you know, the electronic dispensation, exactly what we’re going to do with the free individual, and how that’s going to look in an era where consciousness flows through a thousand portals, it’s not at all clear. It’s not clear whether we can somehow now carry the idea of the free individual to an even higher level where each of us will become a kind of god, lord over our own creation as vast in time and space (but virtual) as the cosmos in which we find ourselves embedded, or whether the free individual is going to turn out to have been the problem all along, and we’re going to abandon it and become some kind of socialist gas, or some collectivist swarm, a hive mind, a world where intelligence flows where needed and identity is provisional and fleeting and unanchored to place or body. I mean, much of this goes on on the Internet, you know. You can be an 11-year-old girl, you can be whatever you want. You can build your avatar and present yourself in many guises. It’s much more like a shifting fantasy land than it is like the good old world of positivist rock’n’roll.

Audience

[???] connection is between the [???] shamans and [???] as a catalyst for visionary experience, and if there’s any corollary [???]

4:53:32

McKenna

Well, yeah. I think that, you know, we see shamanism from the outside with the values of Western civilization unconsciously applied. In cultures that are taking psychedelics, this thing which we call singing is a very complicated activity indeed. And if you’ve ever sung on psychedelics, you know that, you know, it’s an ecstatic and complicated and synesthetic experience. I mean, to make of your body a vibrator for sound, to, you know, move out into the Pythagorean octaves with the human voice, and—it’s extraordinary, actually, how capable of sound human beings are. No other animal has the range and control. Of course, they say that this is because we’re adapted for spoken language. But I think we had a lot of this range and control before. So words that we use very knowledgeably, like “song,” “ancestor spirit,” “power place”—we’re not getting 90% of the nuance of these meanings, because they go so gracelessly into English. When a shaman talks about “spirit,” he’s using a term as technically complicated in his mind as when a physicist uses the term “beauty” to describe a quark. You know, it’s very technically defined. And we tend to simplify, and then suppose that we understand.

4:55:31

Part of the thing I found with hanging with shamans in various places and times is that, once you get past the language barrier, what shamans are are are simply curious people; intellectuals of a certain type. In Australian aboriginal slang, a shaman is called a “clever fella.” If someone says, “I’m a clever fella,” they mean, you know, “I’m a shaman.” Well, that’s all it is. It’s somebody who pays attention to how things actually work, and sort of transcends the culture by that means. It’s a weird paradox. It’s that the shamans, who are the keepers of the cultural values, are also necessarily the keepers of the secrets of the theatrics of the cultural values, and so they live their lives in the light of the knowledge that it all rests on showbiz. You know, everybody else is a true believer, but these are the image-makers, the people who actually pull the strings and control the evolution of the mythologies.

4:56:53

And, in a way, it’s a situation of alienation. Mircea Eliade talks a lot about this in Shamanism: The Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy and in History: The Eternal Return. He talks about how the shaman is socially marginal, politically marginal, lives at the edge of the village, and so forth and so on—and is feared by the people, because dealings with the shaman are always dealings about life and death. But then the shaman comes forward in this critical role as go-between, as mediator between the cultural mind and the real world, which is this potent set of forces and planetary cycles and meteorological events and diseases and, you know, fate. And the shaman mediates. In many languages the word for shaman means “go-between.” So the cost of this, or the price of this, for the shaman himself or herself, is a kind of alienation from the cultural values, and a kind of understanding that it’s a game that’s kept in play. This is true in our culture as well. You don’t think the people who market all this crap and produce all this bad art (and so forth and so on) love it, or watch it, or consume it. They market it. Its basic purpose is to delude and distract the masses.

4:58:45

So psychedelics—what they bring into that shamanic situation is sort of rocket fuel for the project of cultural detoxification, or Gnostic rocket fuel into a realm of cultural alienation. And from that point of view, then, these other dimensions of reality come into being and deeper understanding comes into being. I mean, one of the things I think after spending a while with all this is: it really helps to be educated. It really helps to cram a lot of information and experience into your head. Because the lógos—the alien AI, the higher and hidden god that is trying to reach down to you and deliver the message—is a collagist. It can’t really compose the message except out of bits and pieces of what you already possess. And so, you know, this came home to me very forcefully when I developed the time wave out of the I Ching and its sequence. Because at the times when I was most inflated in my thinking, or most grandiose in my thinking, one of the issues for me personally was: why me? You know: why are you downloading this millenarian visionary revelation on me? And the answer from the mushroom was fairly humbling. It was: you are the first person who has ever walked through this pasture who had these 64 hexagrams in your head. And that’s all we needed. We were just waiting for somebody who could bring that much to the party, and then we could arrange the details and the mapping and the arranging. But they had to arrive with that much, and you’re the first person. So it was like nothing about, you know, my fine genes or cosmic destiny, but that just I was the first termite to happen by carrying the right scrap of information in their head, that this thing could then manipulate.

Audience

[???] is that something that is, like, clinically extracted or…?

5:01:26

McKenna

Well, most DMT in the underground has been synthesized from indole. It’s a fairly simple process, like third-year organic chemistry. DMT does occur in nature, in many plants. But usually there is little of it (so you have to process a lot), or it occurs complexed with other tryptamines that have various psycho- and physiological activities that you don’t want, and that’s very difficult to separate them. So most DMT in the underground is made by underground chemists. And if any of them are listening, you might consider making a bit more. Because it’s hideously hard to come by.

Audience

[???]

5:02:21

McKenna

If you had an IND. If you had a license to give it to human subjects. But so people have such paper that the practical answer is: no. So it’s like that.

Yeah?

Audience

Per your book, True Hallucinations, you talked about the silver key that then unlocks [???]. At what level have you experienced shamanic ability to manifest these miracles at a rush hour hamburger stand level?

5:03:01

McKenna

Well, aside from the story mentioned—no, no, the truthful answer is always complicated, although the truth itself is always simple. If you’re asking me to tell a story of a miracle that I still cherish as authentic, I don’t think it’s told in True Hallucinations, the book, because it involves—well, you’ll soon see why. But here’s an incident that happened at La Chorrera that didn’t make it into The Invisible Landscape, I don’t believe. Dennis had this notion of what he called “the good shit.” This developed in the days after the ideas about hypercarbolation. And he claimed it was like a fantasy, it was like a joke, it wasn’t clear exactly what it was, but it was this idea that there was this hash somewhere that had been rolled into cow dung, with cow dung, and then infected with psilocybin mycelium, so that the mycelium had completely replaced the cow shit in this ball of hash, or this hypothesized kilos of hash somewhere in the world. And so there was this psilocybinated, the good shit. And at one point he envisioned us actually forming a rock’n’roll band which would play instruments that would condense this stuff out of the air over large audiences. And, you know, we would go on tour, and at the end of the tour history would be… the whole thing would be in a shambles, because Uncle John’s band really did come out of the woodwork.

5:05:04

So at one point he predicted—one night, after he had been moved to the river and the sort of semi-incarceration—he predicted that the good shit would come that night. And by this time he was very suspect, I was highly suspect, everybody in the expedition was polarized against everybody else, and it was a pretty uptight scene. And so I left with my girlfriend of the time, and it may have even been the same night as the silver key incident. And it was pouring rain, and we made our way like a quarter mile, half a mile, back into the jungle to this other place where we were staying, where the original experiment had been done. And so then we get to the hut, and it’s pouring rain. And I had scored this kilo of Santa Marta gold for the expedition, and we had smoked nothing but this—for Colombia relatively reg—weed, for weeks. So I got it out to roll the evening’s joint, and I was fumbling with it, and I got this thing lit, and this little crumb, this little burning thing, fell on the floor, and I lifted it up, and smelled it, and the transubstantiation had occurred. It was, you know, like Mazari Sharif triple-A, red lion, hashish of some sort. And I know hashish.

5:06:57

And here we were, in the center of the Amazon, in this hut, in this pouring rain, and I could tell that it was the good shit. It had actually manifest. And I showed the woman who was with me, who was easily led one way or another. But anyway, she didn’t say it wasn’t. And I stayed up late that night smoking this incredible hash and waiting for the rain to stop so that at the first grey light of dawn I could go down to the river and confound my critics with, you know, the stone itself! The alchemical quintessence, the concrescence, the excretum bonum, the good shit! Here it was! And so, as dawn broke and the fog lifted, I made my way across this rainy pasture and sat down by the hammock of the sleeping form of my most vociferous critic, and sort of elbowed her awake, and, you know, there were other instances where this was the principle at work. It didn’t work. Everything had returned to normal. It was the Cinderella screw-up, you know? It was just that I was a char-girl who washed pots, and there was no prince, and there was no coach, and there was no—and, plus, I was once again humiliated in the presence of my critics, who had further reason to think that, you know, a check-in to the local mental healthcare delivery system might not be a bad idea. These things happen.




…now enslave yourself to the machine!

Audience

Can you expand on the 2012 date and this whole idea of what’s going to be happening in your idea?

5:09:03

McKenna

Well, I talked this morning about how the story of the universe is that information (which I call novelty) is struggling to free itself from habit (which I call entropy), and that this process which informs the whole history of the universe on all scales—chemical, biological, cultural, et cetera—is accelerating, speeding up. And it seems as if what wants to happen is: the whole cosmos wants to change into information. Or, put another way in a geometric model: all points want to become connected. The thing is achieved through connectivity. The path of complexity to its goals is through connecting things together. Well, if that’s true, then you can imagine that there is an ultimate end state of that process. It’s the moment when every point in the universe is connected to every other point in the universe. And if that’s what the universe is trying to do to overcome its dissipate state, its spread-out state, and somehow function as a unitary monad, then this point does not lie too far ahead of us in time, given the acceleration rates of all these technical processes—at least locally.

5:10:39

So on one level I think there is a cultural singularity. What I mean by that is: a place in our cultural development where we can’t predict or understand what will happen to us. A kind of flip point, if you want, or doorway, if you want, or revelation, if you want. And it’s built into the structure of space and time. It’s that novelty, in its emergence, is now operating at such a fine scale that it’s actually reflected in the lives of individual people. The human adventure has become the cutting edge of cosmic destiny. But it won’t always be so. It will actually move through the human domain and into smaller and more rapid and compressed domains of concrescence—and probably in our lifetimes. And what will this mean, or what will it look like? It seems to me it’s just not possible to say, because we’re too far away from it. Even though it’s only 14 years in the future (if it’s in 2012), those 14 years are going to be so mutational, so transformational, that right now in time we can’t see around the corner. We’re summoning strange helpers to our aid. The machines that we had such confidence in controlling are actually a kind of entelechy of some sort that is alive and with us in the historical continuum and evolving at a far faster rate than we are. And what all this leads to, and how it works, is very, very difficult to predict.

5:12:38

And I’m not a paranoid. I think it’s very difficult to predict. I think we wished for transformation, Western civilization built it into its cultural agenda, science delivered far more than we ever dreamed in terms of understanding of matter and energy and space and time, and now, under the aegis of market capitalism where everything is in a state of furious competition, somebody is going to put something together that is just going to completely redefine and rewrite the nature of reality itself. And my bet is: it will be some kind of a technology. It could be a drug, it could be a machine. It would be nice to think that it might be a technique or a teaching. But just looking at the history of the human race, I’ll bet you it’s some kind of technology/drug type thing that is just going to be plugged into us and our consciousness and our aspirations—and it may already be here. It may be the Internet. It may be nanotechnology. It may be biotechnology and cloning and quantum teleportation and virtual reality and all the rest of this. I mean, we are just at the brink of taking these various pieces of the god-magician puzzle and putting them together and figuring out: well, what can you do, what do you do, if you can do anything? I mean, that’s really the question at the end of history: once you have overcome all limitation, what is the human agenda?


Yeah?

Audience

Do you believe, then, that this is something that we’re just observing? Or do we actually play a part in its development? So what is the purpose of these hallucinogenic experiences? Is it to get information so we can influence the outcome, or are we just watching?

5:14:50

McKenna

No, I think we’re more than watching. I think we spin it. We’re the spin-doctors of the thing. In other words, if there is a prophecy which must be fulfilled, it’s a kind of general prophecy—something like: “And man shall become dirigible in the first decade of the third millennium.” It’s general. In other words—what does that mean, “man becomes dirigible”? We turn into airships? We become oblate spheroids? We what, what, what? What does it mean? Well, that’s open to human definition through specific acts of creation. The levels of novelty or habit in any given moment will be fulfilled. But how they’re fulfilled is a matter of human decision.

5:15:43

An example which maybe makes this clearer is from statistics. For example: we know that, in the next twelve months, between eight and eleven people will jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. But who those people will be is surely not decided today. They have the right through the experiences they meet along the way to either include or disinclude themselves in that group of victims. So in that same way, I think, the future—the details are ours to fabricate. The great landscape over which the city of time will be built is given by natural law. And where we are in time is very near this attractor. And then people sometimes object to this and say, “Well, don’t you think it’s a weird coincidence that we happen to be so near the attractor,” when, presumably, it could’ve been throughout time? Well, no. I don’t think it’s weird. I think the strangeness of our condition signifies the nearness of the attractor. That the reason our world is so accelerated, the reason all effects are being smeared toward Omega, is because of the nearby presence of this cultural black hole, this singularity of technology and biological intent, that is feeding backwards into time these apocalyptic images.

5:17:28

And I would predict that between now and 2012 there will be ever more hysteria, prophecy, prediction, revelation, squirrely teachings, people bawling out their strange despair on every street corner. Because in the collective unconscious (of which each of us shares a part) the thing at the end of time is spinning like a club ornament, like a Christmas tree ball, like a bar ornament. And it’s throwing off scintillations which are distorted images of itself. The transcendental object at the end of time infects the history that precedes it with the images of its approaching unfoldment. This is what I mean when I say history is the shockwave of eschatology. The presence of history on this planet means that this thing is moving beneath the surface, this protean form, that, when it manifests, it will shed the institutions of history the way a butterfly sheds a chrysalis when it breaks out of its metamorphosis. But the period of latency, the period inside the shell for this metamorphosing super-creature, is the 25,000-year season that we call human history. The fact that it’s the same period of time as the precession of the equinoxes—I don’t know. Don’t ask me. Fortune or coincidence?


Yeah?

Audience

Terence, I’m interested in your reaction to the recent announcement by astronomers that more than 90% of the universe is composed of something called dark matter.

5:19:29

McKenna

Well, this has been a problem in astrophysics for a while. What it is, is—to state the problem differently—the universe seems to hold together far better than it should, given the amount of matter that we can observe. In other words, given the amount of matter we can observe, our physics of gravitation tells us that the galaxies should fling themselves to pieces and everything should assume a kind of uniformity. Why doesn’t it do that? This is called the dark matter problem. My thinking on this is: this is a good problem for novelty theory to cut its teeth on, because I don’t believe that 90% of the matter in the universe goes unobserved, I think the neutrino has a slight mass and that that accounts for a significant portion of the unobserved mass of the universe. And the rest of it—it’s not that there’s mass missing, it’s that there’s a law missing. And behold, what law is it? It’s the law of novelty, on one level, because if you believe there is something called novelty working at extragalactic and galactic scales, then that answers your question: why does the Milky Way tend to stay the Milky Way? The answer is: because, as a spiral galaxy, it’s a more complex organism, a more complex structure, than it is as a dissipated, homogeneous mass. And if this were proven you would actually begin to work toward a quantified measurement of the strength of the novelty field. Because you would take the known mass of the universe, you would subtract the newly discovered mass of the neutrino, and the amount that was left you would proclaim as the novelty constant, which is the constant which then causes large-scale structures to persist through time for no other reason than that they represent higher orders of organization.

5:21:55

You know, recently, in the most recent ultra-revolution in astrophysics—which means in the last six weeks, these days—is the discovery that there seems to be some kind of repulsive force, a kind of anti-gravity, if you will. That the universe seems to be expanding slightly faster than the laws of physics say it should. And they’ve gone back to some work Einstein did and rejected in the 1920s, where he actually hypothesized this anti-gravitational factor. This, if proven, could be arguably a tremendous piece of evidence in favor of novelty theory. Because one of the things novelty theory says is: the universe never goes back to its initial conditions. Well, in astrophysics there’s been this debate: does it or doesn’t it? If the force of gravity is at a certain level, then eventually the outward expansion of matter in the universe would be halted and the whole thing would implode upon itself. The latest findings indicate that will not happen. That the universe grows outward into infinity for ever, never retracing its steps and always elaborating new forms and new emergent properties.


Yeah?

Audience

Let’s see, I’ve had an experience on drugs, and I’ve read about it. Other people have had a similar experience, which is that what’s presented to you as perception takes the form of a series of stills. And so this resonates for me with some teachings in Buddhism and in Sufism, that basically what appears to us as manifestation is actually coming through as a series of stills, and we kind of glue it together with our mentation of it. And I wondered if you had come across this, or you have any comments on this, or you think it’s just a stray phenomenon, or is it of some cosmological import, or…?

5:24:21

McKenna

Well, it’s certainly interesting that film and talkies and all that really got rolling in the 1920s, which is when quantum theory really got rolling. And quantum theory is, on one level, a theory that reality is delivered as a series of stills. You know, this mysterious quantum between which, then, there is some great incomprehensible gulf, and these things arrive this way. I know what you mean. I have seen the slide show, the series of hallucinations where it’s click, and this thing hangs in space, no movement whatsoever, click. Weird! And interesting. But, on the other hand, I’ve seen all kinds of weird themes and variations on simply a visionary movie. That’s one kind of hallucination.

5:25:17

For instance, I sometimes see text. And then, as I watch the text, the level of sense and nonsense drifts. Words flip over, letters turn themselves upside down, words that made sense are replaced by gibberish. And, well… now what kind of a hallucination is that? You have to be a print head. I mean, could a Witoto have a hallucination like that, where text was going through these variations? Ralph has described to me mathematical hallucinations; you know, drifting parentheses and factorial signatures and all this stuff moving around, and you’re watching it, and you understand it somehow, you know? I’ve had those things like when you’re a little kid and you get it in a cereal box, and you pull it one way and the lion is in the cage, you push it one way and the foreground reverses and becomes the background, and now there’s a tiger in the cage? And I described the hallucinations with the sliders on them. And so I don’t know. I think it’s all and everything. You cannot conceive of information in a way that the hallucinogens, then, can’t see your bid and raise the ante.


Yeah?

Audience

What is it about the I Ching that qualified you in the eyes of the entity that it revealed the time wave? I have a sense of an attractor. I see what the I Ching is, but I don’t see the relationship.

5:27:11

McKenna

Well, here it is in a nutshell—or a not-shall, as James Joyce said—I was not a sinologist, I was not a scholar of Confucian or Han dynasty occultism. The good news is, the part of the I Ching that I looked at is older than all of that. What my attention was drawn to (is the only way I can put it) by this teaching entity was the sequence of the King Wen sequence. Little detail: King Wen is a person who may or may not have been a real person, who supposedly lived around 1150 BC, and he got into some political trouble and he was put into prison. And while he was in prison he arranged the sequences of the hexagrams of the I Ching into a sequence, which is called the King Wen sequence, and which is the sequence traditionally used in China ever since.

5:28:22

Well, so the teaching voice said: “Look at the sequence.” And the first question—it was, like, posed as a series of questions; a dialogue between a teacher and a student. The question it posed for me was: “Is the sequence a sequence? Or is it simply a traditional jumble?” Now, what would be the difference? Well, if it’s a sequence, then there is a rule that makes it, that orders it. If it’s just a jumble, then there is no rule that orders it, it’s just like a randomly shuffled pack of cards. So I was, like… this is in over my head kind of stuff. I was basically just an Asia-traveling freak. But I looked at what’s called the first order of difference. The first order of difference is: how many lines change as you go from one hexagram to the next. Not a very deep concept. I mean, the first hexagram is all solid lines. The second hexagram is all broken lines. Hexagrams have six lines. Therefore, what is the first order of difference as you go from hexagram one to two? Six. Six: all lines change. So I graft this and, to make a long story short, I discovered artificial arrangements. I discovered that these hexagrams had been arranged to cause certain results to occur. That somebody had gone in there with an intent to achieve certain mathematical conservation effects. And I worked on it, and worked on it, and eventually what came out of it was a fractal algorithm—a wave, for you and I.

5:30:33

And this wave is like a stock market graph, except that it’s not showing the price of something, it’s showing the ebb and flow of habit and novelty. And when the wave moves upward, habit, entropy, conservation, recidivism is increasing. And when the wave moves down, novelty, innovation, information, connectivity, anti-entropic process is increasing. And the idea was that this would allow an understanding of history, that you would be able to lay the wave over the past, and when you got a perfect match-up with past revolutions, breakthroughs, atrocities, migrations, language-changes and so forth, you would just propagate the wave forward into the future, and you would have not only a theory of history, you would have a theory of future time.

5:31:39

So all this was done, to make a long story short, and the major of the mathematical object being used was that it was a damped oscillation, or it was a self-limiting cycle. So it didn’t just go on and on to infinity, it actually had a finite end. Well, the big surprise was, when we got it matched up to history in the way that we felt was the best way—the way most true to the most events in the intuition of the largest number of people kind of argument—then we went to see: where is the end point? Where is the singularity? Thinking that it could be hundreds of years in the future, thousands of years in the future, millions of years in the future. This was in 1975. Discovered: no, it’s 38 years in the future. So that was the first surprise: that the wave, which seemed to work so well on the past, burdened itself with a near-term prediction that seemed highly unlikely.

5:32:56

The second surprise came some six weeks later, when somebody pointed out that, to the day—to the day!—we had calculated our way to the end of the Mayan calendar. Now that is weird, folks! The only thing I have in common with the Mayan calendar is that we both—I and the Maya—took psychedelic mushrooms. Well, is it so woo-woo that it’s actually as though there’s a barcode in there, and if you get deep enough in and pass all the gates and pass all the passwords and get to the sanctum sanctorum, that then is revealed this access point of time? Whether you are doing it a thousand years ago or two thousand years ago, even as the Maya did it, or whether you’re doing it 38 years in advance of the moment? This is the message—the mathematical, astronomical, Pythagorean download—that the mushroom seems to give a lot of people. I mean, I don’t say if you take mushrooms you will find yourself caught up in the dynamics of the Mayan calendar, but you might. Many have. I certainly—I’m more rational than I may sound here. I’m a good person to be the message for such a squirrely idea, because I doubt. I know absolutely how flaky this sounds, how unlikely, how lightly anchored. So I’m not here to found a cult, I just had a very wiggy experience that, unlike—you know, the problem with most people’s really wiggy experiences is that it never gets down to the nitty-gritty. And by the nitty-gritty I basically mean: a mathematical formula that you can then throw up on a blackboard and say to the experts, “This is what God said to me. Is it horseshit or what is it?”

5:35:18

Usually what happens in these self-risen Kundalini or psychotic break or shamanic whatever or psychedelic runaway states is that there is a revelation, and it’s quirky, and it’s personalistic, and it’s usually messianic, and it’s unanchored. So people put you away, because they just say, “Well, you have no proof that you’re the kavitz hederak sent from Arcturus to lead mankind to milk and honey, you just say this. And you say it too much and too loudly and inappropriately, and so now we’re going to drop a net over you.” The good thing in my view of what happened to me is: it actually got down to a mathematical proposition; a law, a hypothesized law. Which may turn out to be false, but it was a contender—you understand what I mean? It played in the highest class of competition of all, which is in the realm of formal mathematical theory—as did Pythagoras, as did some of Plato’s work. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you know, read the tenth book of The Republic: the Myth of Er. Do any of you recall what’s going on there? This is Plato, he’s at this banquet, and then the conversation takes this sudden left turn, and he tells this story about this guy, Er, who was a soldier and died, and was dead eight days and then came back. And then he lays out this rap; one of the most puzzling passages in the entire Platonic corpus—the myth of Er. And it’s this mathematical treatise about this thing called the spindle of necessity, which is: the ratios are given, and how it’s something inside something else, and something turns one way and something turns another way, and the ratios are like this and like this. This is one of the most argued about passages in the ancient literature. What is being described? What does it mean? Well, it’s another one of these mathematical downloads.

5:37:38

I am still willing to argue that what I put down about the I Ching is true—or that a truth is very close to the surface in all of that. Think about the I Ching for a moment: this is one of the world’s oldest intellectual artifacts. This is a mathematical notation system of some sort for the purpose of creating a physics of time, a phenomenological description of the order of time, based on human observation. And it arises in a completely non-Western context. It arises in the context we presume of shamanism and proto-Taoist values. And I think that what happened was that people with a very different set of agendas than those of Western civilization chased after an understanding of time in the same way that we chased after an understanding of matter. And the way you understand time is not by building enormous instruments or clashing elements together or… no. The essence of understanding time lies in understanding organism.

5:39:00

And so it yields to a very low-tech observational style of natural science, which we call yoga. By looking inside the body and the mind, as you still gross physiological functions, subtler and subtler shells of vibration and emanation and physiological activity come into view. And my hypothesis is that, eventually, if you do this with sufficient care and attention, you get down to some kind of level where you’re actually at the level of the primal quantum-mechanical vibrations that lie behind everything. In other words, you are in the realm of the primal patterns. The primal patterns, whose activity downloads and eventuates as the macrophysical world. In other words, you’re in the realm of the butterfly’s wing in the chaos theory that says the butterfly’s wing can start the cascade that leads to the hurricane.

5:40:17

Well, these people who penetrated to this realm mapped it—phenomenologically. They said time is a thing of elements in the same way that Western science discovered matter is a thing of elements. They said time is made of elements. Well, then the question immediately becomes for the rational mind: how many elements? A million? Ten thousand? One hundred? The answer is: observe, make notes, observe similarities, observe differences, mathematically analyze your data. The answer is: 64. Time comes in 64 irreducible species. And the hexagrams of the I Ching are simply a way of noting and assigning each one a distinct Gestaltung for purposes of manipulation. And in the same way that plutonium is not sulfur and tin is not oxygen, these species of time display properties. Time is not, as Newton thought, pure duration—some kind of intellectual abstraction necessary for a serial universe—time is a real thing. It’s as palpable as electricity. It’s as real as radiation. It’s a thing. And so then, what’s going on is that objects which arise in time carry the impress in their structure of the medium in which they arose. And so organism becomes a microcosmic downloading, a mapping, of the architectonics of being. I don’t find this occult at all. This seems to me quite reasonable.

5:42:25

Let me give you an analogy to help you understand what I’m saying here. Think of a sand dune. Notice that when you envision a sand dune that it looks like wind. The thing in your mind looks like wind. Well now, let’s analyze what’s going on here. The sand dune looks like wind because sand dunes are made by wind. Okay. What is wind? Wind is a pressure gradient phenomenon that is variable in time. What is a sand dune? It’s a download, a flattening, it’s a one-dimensional picture of the wind. If you had a good computer and you had a sand dune, you could compute backward from the sand dune to the speed of the wind. Well now, taking that image, think of it this way: think of the grains of sand as genes. Think of the wind as 500 or 700 million years of time moving those genes around, blowing them around, recombining them, breaking them apart, pushing them together. At the end of that time, life would bear the imprint of the medium in which it came to be. So it is, in fact, not a leap of occult faith that the human organism would have impressed upon it the categories that shape time, because we arose in time.

Audience

And you keep talking about biology, and you talk about the leap from biology into culture, and you talk about the medium. What do you think of the Internet as the wind or the medium, and that the memetic quality that are occurring in culture, you know, tying into the genetic codes like biology does—is the real medium for on-folding what I mentioned to you earlier, the global intuition? It seems like all of this stuff is fitting together these days.

5:44:52

McKenna

Well, there’s this thing called the 26n rule. I’m not sure that I can quote it directly, but Benjamin Whorf figured this out. And it’s that in any lexical tree no category on any level can contain more than 26n members—in other words, 64. So, in a way, we’re dimensionally imprisoned inside this, because our minds work this way and so do our bodies. DNA, like the I Ching, runs on a code based on 64. There are 64 codons coding for the various amino acids that make up all the proteins that organize organic nature.

5:45:39

Well, so you have the I Ching, which categorizes time as having 64 categories. You have the DNA, which arose as the most elegant expression of complexity in time, running on 64 categories. Then you have the human brain running on the platform of animal organization run by DNA. And we discover through Whorf’s law, the 26n rule, that our lexical categories are ruled by these same limitations. So it appears, you know, that I said earlier this morning: that life is undergoing some kind of conquest of geometry. And I almost picture it like protoplasm flowing into a crystal landscape. We conquer this geometry by assuming its shape in some sense. So it transforms us even as we overrun it.

Session 4

Sunday Morning

August 2, 1998

5:46:42

McKenna

…black cats of the human history story. These are the people who domesticated the horse, invented the wheel, and realized that rape was a better career than agriculture and pillage. And they come—in the Buddhist scenario they come over the hill and sweep down on the peaceful goddess-worshiping valley-dwelling neolithic farmers, and it’s a bad scene. Colin Renfrew, who wrote a very interesting book called The Archaeology of Language, is the great critic of this theory. And he believes that there was a process of cultural diffusion, and that if you move these language division lines five kilometers every thirty years for 1,500 years, you’re thousands of miles from where you started. And so he pitches it as less dramatic.

5:47:46

Europe did not play a very big role, I think, in the emergence of human consciousness because it was locked in ice as far south as southern Tuscany and Lebanon as recently as 15,000 years ago. The action, I think, is in the central Sahara. And interestingly, it’s a hellish place now; it’s a furnace of sandstone deserts and difficult to traverse terrain akin to the Four Corners area in the United States. But 12,000–60,000 years ago it was a grassland with patches of forest and rushing rivers and vast herds of game and huge human populations. We can tell that because of the rupestris rock art that has been scattered through there—some of it depicting clearly what are mushroom rites. And this is at 12,000 B.C. Pictures of joyous figures running through geometric landscapes waving mushrooms in the air, pictures of shamans in suits of bone with mushrooms sprouting out all over their bodies. So it’s in that Saharan situation that we need to look.

5:49:23

And what we find—what we know as the archaeological record stands now—is: the Nile valley (which is always offered up as the cradle of ancient civilization, so forth and so on) was empty of human habitation before about 11,000 B.C. It was probably a malarial-infested and unhealthy zone, and people lived in what is now called the Western Deserts, which were much wetter. Well then, the earliest layer of human stratigraphy in the archaeological record in Egypt around 11,000 is these people called the Natufian, and they come out of nowhere, and they’re carving naturalistic little cameos out of bone and ivory that are exquisite; as naturalistic as was produced in the Umayyad Caliphates 10,000 years later. Beautiful, naturalistic work. Well, I say this is the evidence of this clarity of vision.

5:50:39

You know, the strange thing that went on in the Western mind that may or may not have been triggered by psychedelic drugs, but whatever triggered it, this was the turning point, is: if you go all over the world—to the highlands of New Guinea, to the Amazon basin, to Siberia, Tierra Del Fuego, and visit aboriginal people and ask them to show you their art that depicts the human form, people symbolize the human form worldwide. You know: two eyes, nose, fanged mouth. And they make masks, fetishes, symbols of human beings. What happened in the Middle East beginning with these Natufian people, and to be seen in certain Egyptian portraiture, sculpture, and finally just erupting like a volcano in Greece, is: people got the idea of making objects which looked the way the thing appeared to the eye, not to the mind. And the idea of taking marble and molding it into a simulacrum of flesh so real that you would wish to reach out and touch it, this idea strikes Greek thinking like a bolt of lightning. I mean, they go in 200 years from these things called the Dionytian Apollos—these stiff, obviously archetypal, forward-staring, godlike juveniles—to nudes, flesh, soft, melted, breasts, nipples, flesh. And it’s like coming to the surface for the first time is the objective eye. And it’s related, I think, to the strain of Greek thinking that you trace down into the central eastern Mediterranean: to Crete, to Knossos, to the old Minoan civilization which was an atavistic, reliced civilization of earlier civilizations on the Anatolian mainland that, for millennia, had been replaced by male kingship and a more familiar pattern of culture. It was a goddess-worshiping culture, it was a narcoticized culture, it was erotic, it was unique. And much of Greek spirituality is rooted in this atavistic, Minoan impulse. And it has its roots in Africa. It’s an unbroken line of succession.

5:53:41

So this is a long answer to your question about the impact of psilocybin on human sexuality. What that was all about, or why I was even thinking about that, was because it was part of a general theory of human evolution that noticed that, at small doses—doses so small you can’t feel it—your vision is improved in standard vision tests, especially edge-detection. Well, in a grassland environment populated by hunting carnivores, this edge-detection thing is the difference, literally, between life and death. So if there’s a food in your environment that gives you a two percent, three percent improvement in vision, those members of the population that accept this food item will have an evolutionary edge up on those reluctant (because of taste or taboo or some other reason to use this food). So just a little percentage of difference like that becomes the wedge through which the evolutionary force of natural selection can begin to move a species in a new direction. Well then, if you have something which improves your eyesight, your ability, your acuity, then it improves your hunting skills. There’s an automatic positive feedback in the food-getting process. Well then, if this same compound at still higher doses increases your sexual arousal, increases the amount of sex generally that’s going on, then that’s obviously going to outbreed the members of the population that are not stimulated in this way.

5:55:42

And then, if you have on top of this—first you have this drug which hits you in these two very different ways—but then, thirdly, if you go beyond the sexually stimulating dosage level, it stimulates the imagination. And at first this is under the control of strategic thinking and fantasy, but as the serotonin molecules are elbowed aside and the millions and millions of psilocybin molecules make their way into the synapse, the fantasies grow more unanchored to ordinary concerns, the images more wild. And then, finally, you’re moving in the realm of art. You’re moving in the realm of pure novelty. And you can—to whatever degree you can—bring some of this back in the form of body painting, designs on ceramics, tall tales told, songs, technological innovations, so forth and so on.

5:56:49

So in this one compound—which would’ve been in the grassland environment that this new primate species, forced out of the collapsing and retreating rainforest environment, going omnivorous, testing various foods, we would surely have encountered these mushrooms. And I think, in a way, it was a symbiotic relationship. Paul Stamets has pointed out how the psilocybin mushrooms—you don’t find them in the primary forest, you don’t find them in remote unvisited ecosystems, you find them on the lawns of courthouses, libraries, and public buildings. You find them in the rhododendron duff in city parks. They accompany mankind. They hover near human habitation sites. And we’ve spread them everywhere.

Audience

[???] I’ve heard from several people—it’s very inconsistent.

5:58:00

McKenna

I don’t think it’s inconsistent so much as you have to learn how to do it. It seems many drugs are hard to get off on the first time. What I recommend with salvia is: do it in a gravity bong, which is, you know, a bong where you cut the bottom out of a water bottle and put a mouthpiece full of whatever the substance is on top, and have a bucket of ice water, and you sink the water bottle into the ice water, and then you put the place where the stuff will burn into a cork, and you hold a match over it, and you slowly pull the bottle up out of the bucket of ice water, and a vacuum forms in the bottle, and it fills with immense amounts of white smoke; and you don’t quite withdraw the thing from the water, you keep a seal down here. And then you get over it, and you whip the pipe part off the bottom, you cover it with your mouth, and you sink it into the ice water. Whhhhssssh! None escape out that method. Use an Evian bottle, or a big water bottle, so you just get some whopping 2,000-milliliter, force-injected cool smoke hit. I’m telling you, it’ll rock you.

Audience

Terence, would that work with the—I’ve gotten a hold of some 5-[???] extraction—in a sense, would that be something—

5:59:49

McKenna

No, that’s probably strong enough that you’re getting close to just about any old method will push you through.

Audience

Like—but in a smoking… that is, in…

McKenna

Yeah, it’s smoked. Yes.

Audience

Okay, thank you.

McKenna

Back here. Yeah?

Audience

I have a quick question about what you were talking about previously, and then a longer question. Is there any evidence, some kind of analysis, of traces of psilocybin in skeletons, things like that, in the past? Does something support this theory of yours?

6:00:22

McKenna

You mean archaeological evidence for early human use of psilocybin? The primary evidence would be these rock paintings in southern Algeria in what’s called the Tassili plateau; the Hoggaran Azure region of Algeria. Henri Lhote wrote a book called The Rock Paintings of Tassili, and you can see them in there. Part of the problem (which isn’t from my point of view a problem, but an opportunity) is that the area where I think you should look, nobody has ever looked. In other words, it’s so hard to—Algeria right now is in political hell and has been for some time. The desert is a very difficult place. The geography is impassable. You have to speak French. You have to have good credentials with French academia. And on an on and on. In other words, it’s very hard to do work in there. I’ve seen the archaeological survey map of the Tassili, and there are tells, hills, ruins all over the place, and the archaeological survey just says “pre-Roman.” Pre-Roman! Well, good God, it could be 25,000 years old and you wouldn’t know until you dig in there. People have gone and photographed the rock paintings. You need to go with a modern, well-financed archaeological team that would stay months and do a complete stratigraphic analysis of several major sites. Palynology would be an approach: could we detect unusual amounts of mushroom pollen in old deposits?

6:02:14

And this is—you know, in Turkey there is a very interesting site called Çatalhöyük that’s on the Anatolian plain. It’s the oldest city in the world. It was flourishing in 6500 B.C., 8,500 years ago, when the pyramids were but a distant dream of the mad future. This city was flourishing on the Anatolian plateau. And it’s very clear that the cultural motifs and design style of Çatalhöyük can be traced back into this Natufian thing, and then to the motifs of the Tassili Ajjer region. So there is this—it’s almost like: if you give up the idea of water, if you get water out of the myth, Atlantis really existed, but it sank into an ocean of sand. It’s North Africa. It’s that there was an incredibly advanced goddess-worshiping paleolithic, probably psychedelic culture out there, and it entered the Near East as the Natufians, then it was at Jericho one, then it was at Hebron, and then, finally, the end state of that tree of cultural development was Çatalhöyük.


Yeah?

Audience

But so I guess the answer to my question about any kind of physical evidence, to coin a phrase, is no?

6:03:56

McKenna

Well, I—you mean because arguably the rock paintings are of something else?

Audience

No, I’m not arguing that at all. I’m just asking if somebody has done anything to establish, with some kind of measurement, that there’s traces of something which is psilocybin within skeletons or in the pottery or something like that.

6:04:16

McKenna

No. There was the famous case of the ice man, which was, as you probably all know, this guy, 9,000-year-old man, found in a crack in a glacier in Switzerland, and he had a mushroom with him in a little leather bag. But it was impossible to identify it, and the doubters said it was tinder. So it was an inconclusive thing. The funny story about the ice man that I love is: they could get DNA off him, so they sequenced his DNA, and then they wanted to search the world to find out what people on Earth had a genetic component most like the ice man. It turned out that the Swiss couple with a cabin 600 yards away down the valley were the tightest match. And it just… those Swiss, they’ve just been staying home for ever!

Audience

Well, if I may, could I ask my longer question? Last night, your encounter with Ralph Abraham—which I enjoyed tremendously and I really thank you for that—you described the world wide web as being possibly some sort of a device for capturing an alien intelligence. And I was wondering if we could step back a little bit and just think of as being sort of a site where a home-grown intelligence might sort of emerge. You don’t really need to imagine an alien intelligence coming from outside, it can sort of emerge from the web itself.

6:06:04

McKenna

Well, yeah. We touched on that possibility too. That, I think, is more likely: the AI. I think this is a real issue. Ralph pooh-poohed it, but it’s a philosophical problem for human beings. First of all, as someone last night mentioned, the famous Turing test, which is: somebody calls you on the phone, if you can’t tell whether it’s a person or a machine, and it is a machine, then it is an artificial intelligence. Three are theories of emergent network properties that, when you get enough simple switching devices connected together in a complicated enough way, that there will begin to be self-reflective forms of behavior. And, of course, the net is a vast self-monitoring, self-observing, self-designing thing. And we’re making it more and more flexible all the time. Like, in a few months it’s going to be able to call processing power as needed to any task. So the people who actually really know about this stuff and have built careers in it seem quite concerned.

6:07:30

Hans Moravec, who wrote a book called Mind Children: The Future of Human and Machine Intelligence, he says that it’s an inevitable consequence of the net, and that we could never turn back from this. And there are a lot of essays on the net called: what would ultra-intelligence look like? In other words, what would a global mind actually have to say, or would it have to say anything? And more importantly, what would it do with its fingers on the world resource extraction apparatus, research and development facilities, stock markets, world price of gold, platinum, iridium? It’s an impossible situation for us, because we have designed something potentially beyond our ken and something that’s right smack in the middle of our lives in every level. It’s like: you wanted transcendence, you’ve been whining about it for five thousand years—eat this! And then people say, “Well, what’s the time scale?” The answer is: we don’t know because we—like all cultures in all times and places with new technologies—we do not understand what we’re doing. We do not understand the consequences of all this busy connecting and putting in place of ever faster hardware and expansion of bandwidth and satellite… I mean, we’re as conscious as termites are of the real raison d’être of what we do. So in a way, perhaps, we’re already at the service of the AI.

6:09:29

This is a very hard thing to think about, because in almost all versions that can be discussed it sounds paranoid and it also sounds cranky. You know, it sounds like: you gotta be kidding! But it won’t be the way we think it will be. This is the scary thing about it. The one thing you may be sure about the AI is: it won’t be what you think it’s going to be. Because the very definition of machine superintelligence means it’s going to think very, very, very differently from us. We’re going to find out stuff like: are there universal moral values? Are there moral values so universally binding that you can appeal to a global integrated machine intelligence and say, “What you’re doing is not fair!” and have it say, “Oh, excuse me. You’re right. Sorry, old chum.”

Audience

I think for me the insight I got last night which I hadn’t had before is that, once the process starts, it could be over very, very fast. Because you said that once it achieves the self-consciousness of a flatworm, from there to exceeding our intelligence could be just a matter of minutes.

6:10:49

McKenna

Well, again: we’ll find out if there are overarching moral dimensions to the universe. If it can go from paramecium to beyond the human stage in hours, presumably it could achieve bodhisattvahood within a matter of further hours. And at that point, hopefully, it would achieve the parinirvāṇa, and all sentient beings would be liberated from the illusion of saṃsāra, and we would realize that this was what it was. It was Buddha 4.0 booting up, you know?


Yes? Are you… shall we move on? Yeah, okay. Yeah?

Audience

I’m [???] to what extent you think change is cyclical, and I’m thinking more particularly of the Archaic Revival map, and to what degree it’s linear; how things don’t go back?

6:11:51

McKenna

Well, I think it’s cyclical on all levels except the largest level, and that unlike the Hindu cosmologies where cycles of time are always potentially nested in larger cycles of time, I think this thing called time is ultimately what engineers call a damped oscillation: that it fades away like a tone, it finally truly does fade away. But because it’s fractally organized within the context of its being, it is always cyclical. It has very long-range cycles and cycles that operate in the quantum-mechanical domain. To give you an idea of how I think about it mathematically, the way novelty theory comes out with its nested fractal cycles is: each cycle is the domain of certain natural laws. And at the close of that cycle a new cycle begins, and it permits new phenomena by adding degrees of freedom to the previously achieved degrees of freedom. So the first era in novelty theory is hypothesized to be 72 billion years long—far longer than modern astrophysics needs for any process it looks at. The fight there is whether the universe is 12 or 16 billion years old. But 72 billion years is enough turnaround time on your disk to get the whole thing in.

6:13:47

So that’s the era of physics. And it extends from the beginning of the universe until the beginning of the next cycle of closure. And it’s—I don’t know—something like 1.4 billion years. It’s 72 divided by 64. And it’s the era of nucleic acid and the degrees of freedom that it permits. And then the next level is something else. And then the next level is something else. And you do these divisions for about six times, and you get down to an era 67 years and change long. And I think that we’re inside that epoch. It stretches from the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima to the moment of the winter solstice of 2012. And inside each cycle, all the themes of the previous larger cycle are recapitulated in a different octave, if you want to put it that way. In other words, the drama is replayed, but on different scales and with different actors.

6:15:15

After the 67-year cycle—which, if you’re wondering where are we in that cycle in terms of the previous large cycle, which was 4,300 years long, we’ve reached a period of time shortly after the Norman conquest of England. So one of the reasons the future is so opaque is that some of us are painting ourselves blue and running around speaking Middle English and worrying about what the venerable bead has on his mind. There’s a lot of stuff that we have to go through to close with the eschaton. An era will come (of 384 days) that I call “the year of the jackpot,” because all hell will tear loose. It will be a year in which the previous 67-year cycle, the previous 4,000-year cycle, and all the larger cycles preceding will all be reprised in furious miniature; a sort of a year like a long Bugs Bunny cartoon running backwards, a year of explosions and falling anvils. And at the end of that year of the jackpot there will be a six-day period where, now, even the most lumpen among us will have grasped the principle that something weird is going on. It’s at this point that they’ll send a helicopter for me to explain it all to the General Assembly; the apparent meltdown of the space-time continuum.

6:17:14

But the funny thing about this kind of a cosmology—I mean, it strikes me as amusing—is: see how we’ve come down through these condensing declensions that are shorter and shorter, and each one gets wilder and wilder? Well, if you assume the bottom floor of time is Planck’s constant (which is 6.55 × 10-23 erg seconds; technically one jiffy), if you think that we don’t go deeper than the jiffy level into time, then when you are an hour and thirty-five minutes from the jiffy epoch, the universe still has half of its morphological unfolding ahead of it. This is the mind-boggling thing. This is why when people ask the question “What will happen at the singularity?” I just wave them off. Because it’s like trying to see around eight corners at once. In the last hour and thirty-five minutes of this hypothesized universe that I’m talking about, it will go through more change, more morphogenetic unfoldment, more interconnectivity than it has experienced in the previous 72 billion years of its existence.

6:18:47

Now, people say, “Well, but that’s crazy. How could something like that happen?” Well, excuse me, wait a moment. You what the straight people are selling? They’re selling that the universe sprang from nothing, for no reason, instantly. Well now, I submit to you that this is the limit case for credulity. If you believe that, my family owns a bridge over the Hudson river that we will sell you very, very cheaply. The idea that the universe could spring instantly from nothing for no reason is: they’re just saying, “Test them with this, Charlie! If they’ll buy that, what wouldn’t they buy, for cryin’ out loud!” And this is tenet one of science. Essentially, what science is saying is: give us one free miracle—one free miracle!—and we can just work with that. We can unfold that, invest that, fold it back, expand it, comment on it, copy it, rarefy it. Well, so then, apparently, you get one free miracle when you play this game; the how-does-it-all-work game. Well, then I’ll take my miracle at the end, thank you. It seems to me that a miracle is far more likely to arise out of a very complex situation, a situation where you have physics and computers and civilizations and superconductivity and planets and stars and oceans and gases and plasmas and bleh-daa-da-da. You might shake a miracle out of such a rich and juicy mix. But to get a miracle out of nothing? This is bizarre.


Everyone’s hands… Yes, yes?

Audience

[???] this singularity, whatever it may be, affects your daily life now? You’re building a house, or saving the planet. I mean, these things seem to pale into insignificance.

McKenna

How does it affect my life?

Audience

Just day-to-day life. Your beliefs at this point.

6:21:04

McKenna

Well, when I got these ideas in 1971 and 1972, and wrote The Invisible Landscape and all that, I was too hot for public consumption. I was manic and grandiose and classically process schizophrenic. I hope I wasn’t as offensive as some of the cases that I’ve experienced myself, because I tried never to lose my sense of humor or my good taste. But I did tend to be didactic. And time meant nothing to me. I mean, I would corner people in rooms, and seven hours would go by, and I was unrolling diagrams. It amazes me. I mean, you have no idea how toned-down and how my whole career is about not amping it up too much, not raving too much, always appearing urbane, self-mocking, ironical, at home with the idea that I might be wrong, wyeeh, wyeeh, wyeeh. Well, these are the manners the schizophrenic must learn in order to pass among the normals without them dropping a number three steel net mesh over you and hitting you with a tranquilizing dart. But, you know, that was 1972, 1982, 1992. It was—my God, you know, I’m slowly coming down from those trips.

6:22:49

You know, if the question pertains to: is novelty theory permission to sit on your ass and not be involved in political action or building community? I mean, I don’t take myself so seriously that I would cancel my obligation to political action because of anything novelty theory said. I think that, regardless of what our ideological positions and speculations might be, we should act as if it matters. And I do think that novelty theory implies not that what I or you may do is particularly important, but that the human enterprise is immensely important. And Ralph has pointed out to me that any invention or political movement or religious revelation—any great culture-shaping thing that you can think of—if you study it carefully, it always goes back to one person. You know, no committee ever had a revelation. Revelations come to individuals.

6:24:08

So in terms of how I view my own life and everything, it seems to me it’s like pure science fiction. It seems to me—you know, I really identify with Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five. Something happened back there in the Amazon jungle, and it turned my life into literature. It unleashed this zany thing. And it’s crazy. It’s a crazy kind of literature. It has a kind of Nabokovian irony that is…. And I don’t know to what degree everybody experiences the end of history and the end of a millennium that way. This is an enormous opportunity for us that we’re just dumb lucky to have had happen. Because the way they do history when they do it the quick way is: they look at every 500 years. And everybody who was unfortunate enough to be born or live through a year that’s not a 500 or a millennial year drops through the cracks. But we’ll all be looked at, you know? The way that people in A.D. 0, A.D. 1000, 2000, 3000 will be the sample.

6:25:40

I don’t know where all this stuff leads to, because the truth of the psychedelic experience is: we could have a week long, we could have a month long, we could just spin endless tales. And sitting here talking about it doesn’t come close to being loaded. I mean, being loaded is so hard to grok—when you’re really loaded, when you’re really out in the billows, when you really can’t tell whether you’re Agnes or Angus. And so then the implications just filter down from a great distance. So it’s as though… I mean I’ve always felt—I’m not really religious in any ordinary sense—but I’ve always felt the psychedelic thing is like a religion with a god that is present. You know, I was raised Catholic. They’re always yammering at you about how God is present on the altar. Well, no, there’s some bread, some wine, some mumbo-jumbo. But I think the reason the church—as it financed the conquest of Mexico—the reason it was so furious in its oppression of the mushroom was because the people called it teotlnanácatl: the flesh of the gods. And it demonstrably was.

6:27:11

And I kid people about yoga and meditation and all these things. I’ve done them—probably not enough to really know what I’m talking about. But the psychedelic thing, it’s not about effort. All other spiritual paths are represented where effort either… the effort toward moral purity, or good works, ethical behavior, or ascetic practices. Some enormous effort is necessary to deliver you into the presence of the mystery. What is need in the psychedelic thing is not effort, but very discriminating understanding of when and where to apply slight amounts of pressure. Because the thing works. It works. It has gas in it, the tires are good. It works. And so then, suddenly, the issue is not how do I find it, but now that I’ve found it, where do I drive it? And it’s like the end of spiritual childhood or something. It’s so easy to be a seeker because your agenda is so clear: you just seek.

6:28:32

But when you find, then suddenly all that seeking malarkey, all those good times around the ashram and flying to these exotic countries and trekking around behind bare-tailed ladies in the forest and all that, that comes to an end, and you say: here it is. Here’s the [???], here’s the console, here’s the key to the city. You’re the captain of the starship now. What course shall we set? And it’s awesome to me. I don’t seek to lead it or control it or enclose it in any way. I’m perfectly aware of its capacity to unhinge me, if not destroy me completely—and that I would find very upsetting. So I treat it very fragilely. But it’s a living mystery; the only one I’ve found in the whole world. There may be others. But I worked hard: I scoured the continents, I’ve read the old books, I pored through a lot of stuff. I mean, of course, a human lifetime is finite. But I didn’t even find a second contender, really. I mean, intellectual discourse is fine, mathematics and music stand behind all this, but they are definitely the handmaidens of the living psychedelic experience. They’re necessary lenses to make senses of it. But it’s this mysterious thing. And people say, “Well, is it spiritual? Are we better people? Are we better people for being involved with this?” That’s a very interesting question. You know, the Mormons think they have the answer, the Hasids, the Zen people. Are we any different? Or does the fact that this is an experience make it different? Or is, in fact, this a grace so gratuitous that it’s granted to the morally destitute, our dear selves? This is the only way bad people can see God!


6:31:14

It’s a great puzzle how cultures lose their way. I mean, in the twentieth century we have the example of national socialism in Germany. In the course of this weekend we’ve talked about how Vedic India was based on the total celebration of some kind of psychedelic, and that it was lost, 100% lost. So that, you know, there are a few pandits in India who claim they know what soma is, but nobody can produce something which performs as advertised:


Greater than Indra, greater than Brahma,

Shaper of the world, soma.

It’s pouring forth from the soma presses,

Gushing forth to intoxicate the multitudes.


Well, what kind of drug is this that you can have three daily pressings and intoxicate hundreds of people, and it has no reputation for anything except the highest state of ecstasy, and this goes on for 1,500 years, and then bingo—nobody knows what it is, nobody makes it, nobody can find it, it’s just something talked about in old books. How do cultures lose their way? It’s a hard thing for us to understand with our electronic obsession with preserving everything, digging in colonial outhouses and cataloging the pottery shards, and all this. We’re savers of the past. But several times in Chinese history there have been enormous book burnings to basically dial back the cultural clock to zero and start it ticking again. The burning of the Alexandrian library was an event like that in the West. I mean, there were over a million volumes in the Alexandrian library. And the guy who burned it that there are two kinds of books here: those that contradict the Koran, they are heretical, and those that supplant the Koran, and they are superfluous. Let it all burn together! And that was the second burning of the Alexandrian library. It was also burned by a Christian barbarian enthusiast called Alaric the Visigoth. The same clown who burned Eleusis.


Behind. Yeah? You, yeah.

Audience

I just have two brief questions. The first one, I just wanted to know more about the visual puns of the machine-like elves, or elf-like machines. And the second question is: I know someone who recently went to Holland, and they brought back some tryptophan, and I’d read something in the literature about combining an MAO inhibitor with tryptophan, and I just wanted to know if you knew anything about the effects of that, or anything like that.

6:34:21

McKenna

Well, I think tryptophan is an MAO inhibitor. I’m not sure. Tryptophan is a common amino acid. If they’re thinking of starting toward DMT I think you can start from tryptophan, but I think it’s easier to go from indole.

As far as self-transforming elf machine puns, what exactly did you want to know about them?

Audience

Just if you could kind of elaborate on the three-dimensional, four-dimensional, five—like, maybe give an example. I know it’s kind of hard to put into words, but…

6:34:58

McKenna

Yeah, well… it’s some kind of transformation of category where things are made out of things which are impossible. I mean, as I said: how can something be made out of yesterday’s consommé and hope? It’s impossible to conceive of something like that. And so in the presence of these puns, they break down ordinary reality even more than it’s broken down anyway in the DMT state. It’s not enough that you’re loaded on this psychedelic mega-hallucinogen, now they tell you crazy jokes—which you get in that state! It’s sort of like the surrealists used this; saw the pun as a way of opening the crack between the worlds. And it would be a great challenge to artists to do this. I mean, the surrealist I’m thinking of who certainly leaned on this was René Magritte, where foreground and background trade shape and outlines of things are silhouettes of other things, and this sort of thing. Maybe it’s a uniquely human capacity, and we can argue about whether animals think or not, but I don’t think anybody would give you much of an argument that they pun. There’s very little evidence of that.

Audience

Terence, a word about psychic therapy—

6:36:44

McKenna

Well, I think anything which gets people free associating and talking freely and making previously hidden connections in their biographical material—in doing that in the presence of a skilled therapist, if the therapist then practices their craft with skill, it’s hard to see how that isn’t going to synergize the therapeutic process.

Audience

Is there [???] for that, this [???]

6:37:14

McKenna

You mean, are there people doing it? Well, it’s very underground because giving people these things without an IND is illegal, and here you’re dealing with people who are already self-defined as needing psychotherapy. But some of you may know that book, The Seeker Chief, about psychotherapist—to this day, those of us who know him don’t use his real name in public. In the book he’s called Jacob. But Jacob was a guy who so strongly believed in psychedelics. He was a superb therapist to begin with; fully credentialed. And he taught of hundreds of people how to do psychedelic therapy. And some day that story will be told, because I think that was the heart and soul of transpersonal psychology in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. You know, the joke on psychotherapy is whether you’re Jungian, Reichian, Kleinian, whatever-you-are; one third get better, one third get worse, one third stay the same. Well, I don’t really think that’s true of psychedelic therapy. And the psychedelic therapy, it’s arguable or it’s a complex issue whether it should be used in cases where people are severely disturbed. The people who seem to profit most from psychedelics taken in the presence of psychotherapists are people I would describe as the worried wealth. You know, people who are anxious or have hit a block in their career or have a relationship coming apart. But these things happen to people.

6:39:22

I know psychotherapists who I really believe probably 95% of every psychotherapeutic session they have with somebody changes a life for decades, if not for ever. It’s one of the great tragedies. And we’ve taught McCarthyism has been bared, and the black lists in Hollywood—we’ve all done our mea culpas for that, and the Rosenbergs and so forth and so on. But we’ve never, as a society, dealt with the way science and human mental healthcare was sacrificed on the altar of government paranoia in the 1960s in the name of repressing psychedelic drugs. I mean, there was work going on at Saskatoon in Canada with Humphrey Osmond and in other places. They were curing serious lifelong alcoholism with a single dose of 500 gamma of LSD in the presence of a psychotherapist. They were having incredible results treating addiction, serious trauma, all of this stuff. Well, then that just went down the tubes. And the psychotherapeutic community didn’t have the political muscle or the guts or something to resist that, the scientific community—which is very quick to tell government and everybody else to take their hands off, they can do anything they want with studying human sexuality, they can do anything they want with animal experiments, they can do anything they want—well, they just totally folded on this drug thing. And my brother is a professional drug designer, molecular chemist, and the whole story of his career is how unwelcome and threatened people felt by having good psychochemists in their presence. If you’re going into medical pharmacology, stay away from psychedelics if you want to have any career at all. The number of people who’ve been able to overcome those barriers, and make significant careers, and do research and publish, you can count on the finger of one hand.

Audience

[???] international community as well?

6:41:52

McKenna

It’s not as bad, but it’s still—most of the world just doesn’t deal with it. I mean, Germany, there’s some people; chemists, other people interested. Some Swiss people. It’s sort of traditional there, you know? I mean, try and name a psychedelic drug that wasn’t invented within 700 miles of Berlin. It can’t be done. But the Japanese make no contribution, the English make no contribution, the French make no contribution. It’s just not looked at. Bizarre! Because the impact—you know, if you’re a psychotherapist or a neurophysiologist or anybody else—the impact of giving somebody 200 micrograms of LSD (which is a vanishingly small amount of physical material) is just stunning. But it’s not been pursued.


Yeah?

Audience

[???]

6:42:49

McKenna

Ibogaine is interesting. Ibogaine is a psychoactive alkaloid that occurs in a plant, tabernanthe iboga, that occurs in western Africa (in the armpit of Africa, in Gabon and Zaire), and it’s used traditionally—although we have no record of it being used by anybody before 1850, which is kind of peculiar. Because it looks like an ancient usage; like people have been at this for thousands of years. But the Portuguese have been in there since the 1430s and there’s no mention of ibogaine before 1850. It’s a bush. You scrape the bark, you eat it, you hallucinate. The alkaloid is unique and psychoactive on its own. The reason research is being done in this country, and it’s being somewhat talked about, is because the claim is made that it interrupts heroin and cocaine addiction dramatically. I wouldn’t rush to sign up for that. I mean, it may. I think all psychedelics have this ability. It’s not that ibogaine is a magic bullet for heroin addiction, it’s that: if you take a strong psychedelic, and you’re an alcoholic or a junkie or an abuser or fucked up in some way, it’s going to be very hard to go through that trip without confronting this. And then you just say, you know, “I’m killing myself,” or “I’m making the people around me unhappy and killing myself.” And it’s hard, once you actually say these words to yourself, not to form what good Catholics call a purpose of amendment—you know: to try and do better. So people say, well, this question of: are we better people? I think it’s possible to be a bad person and take psychedelics, but it’s rare because it requires enormous powers of denial and ego. Most psychedelic people are pretty mellow because they’re used to looking at the shadow and confronting the various facets of themselves and other people. It’s a tolerant, gentle crowd, generally speaking.

Audience

[???] if you looked at the records, we have millions of people even in this country who’ve claimed to have some kind of encounter. In studies, most of them that have been done, have shown that there tend to be very what we would call normal people, a lot of them had no previous interest in this field at all—housewives, accountants, and so forth. So from that point of view… and many of them have also been scientists or people who are credentialed in some way. So [???] people who have had some kind of bias in that area, I think we’d have to delve into that a little bit more, as I’m sure you’ve thought about. Also, I just heard an article that was pretty incredible, where I think a former Air Force officer came forth and said that he had been responsible for planting technology from a crashed saucer in major corporations in this country, that was eventually reverse engineered. And a lot of people feel are responsible the increased technologies since World War II, including the computer ship and a lot of other things that have come out recently and certainly revolutionized where we are right now. So I just wanted to ask you again if—

McKenna

Did you hear me right, is what you’re wondering?

Audience

Yeah, right. I know your previous writings have been somewhat more liberal in that regard, and—

McKenna

Well, first of all, let me say: I saw a flying saucer, I saw it up close, I wrote about this in True Hallucinations. But there is—are you suggesting… you said millions of people believe they’ve been abducted—are you suggesting that you believe that millions of people have been abducted?

Audience

No. I didn’t say [???] I said had some encounter, like yourself, possibly.

6:47:53

McKenna

Oh, well, if by “some encounter” what we mean is that some people have felt the cosmic giggle come near, I don’t think you can get through life without that happening. The problem I have is, first of all… this is hard to talk about, but maybe worth talking about. First of all, because of my position as whatever I am, I get to meet all these people—off stage, so to speak. And it’s not been a confidence building experience. Also, I noticed you had a tendency in your question to lead with credentials: an Air Force colonel, a navy officer, an ex-NASA scientist. And when I hear the phrase ex-NASA scientist, I reach for my revolver. First of all, nice people do not understand how mendacious, scheming, lying, and bizarre pathological people are. They can’t imagine it. That’s essentially what being a nice person means, is: evil is a mystery to you. I think that a lot of people are making a lot of money spreading anxiety. Anxiety sells. And the Earth change people, one by one, we tick past the Edgar Casey prophecies that don’t come true, one by one. You know, now every piece of physical evidence from the first thirty years of the UFO phenomenon has now been shown to be fake. None of those photographs stand up under modern computer-logical deconstruction.

6:49:52

And so my method for—because I’m interested in the weird, the miraculous, the bizarre, the unearthly, the other—but my method has been to go to the place or the person or the thing, and then not believe, ask hard questions. And everybody else goes and believes. Well, the truth doesn’t require your belief to exist. But hokum does. Hokum requires a relationship between the consumer of the hokum. And I’ve argued with Bud Hopkins, I’ve had lunch with Whitley Strieber, I’ve argued vociferously with John Mack, and these people are second-class thinkers. You would not send them to investigate a bus accident. I’m sorry that this is true. I didn’t know this. I assumed—as most people do—that the word “expert” has meaning. It has no meaning. It’s just public relations flackery. You’re a UFO expert if you say you’re a UFO expert. So my method has been, as I said, to kick the tires and make it real.

6:51:25

The other thing is—and people don’t like this, but: to examine the messenger. You know, you mentioned in your question these people are normal, run-of-the-mill type of people; accountants, lawyers, so forth and so on. In fact, when you look at these populations closely, they’re weird. For example, the abduction population. A paper was written showing that the abduction population tends to cluster in middle-aged white women of the middle class who stay home. Well, what is that population, folks? That’s the population of people who watch more daytime TV than any of the rest of us. If our average TV consumption is 5.5 hours a day, this population is pulling up the slack for those of us who don’t watch, and is watching 15 hours a day. And this is an area where you see the newspapers being vended at the grocery store: “Virgin Mom, 9, Gives Birth to Alien Christ.” Are we all clear that this is a joke? All of us? Including the remedial readers, and the people who just got off the boat from Somalia last week, and everybody? Are we all looking at it through the eyes of a Harvard intellectual with a B.A. in English Literature? I’m not sure.

6:53:11

So this is what I call the balkanization of epistemology. And part of it has to do with us all—apparently, this was left out of our curriculum recently—what’s called rules of evidence. You know, if you’re a lawyer, you learn what are called the rules of evidence. What do a given set of facts actually mean? And in this UFO game people—first of all, they repeat things, and never with citation. They say, “Did you see that article the other night, or that thing on channel 6 a few weeks ago about this thing that happened in Argentina?” And it’s never accompanied by a citation. So it’s a multi-networked game of telephone where these rumors move out and are endlessly adumbrated and changed around. And all for the purpose of filling in people’s blank spaces.

6:54:23

See, I think there are two phenomena. I’m not saying there aren’t strange lights in the sky that we may not know what they are and that they could be anything. But that’s subject A. Subject B is the UFO community as a social phenomena. It’s a paranoid community. These myths that are being propagated are always myths of disempowerment. It’s that they came to Babylon and gave us an alphabet because we couldn’t think it up ourselves. It’s that they’re giving us fiber optic technology and computer chips because we couldn’t think it up ourselves. It’s always about poor humanity receiving the largesse of the space brothers, and all we have to do is trade them human fetal tissue and some other stuff, and they’ll be happy. It’s a backward fantasy that the media has drummed up into a hysteria.

6:55:25

And if you really care about it, if it really speaks to you, then you must go and investigate it. You cannot understand it by consuming it from the media. Because all these people that you hear about—Jacques Valle and Bud Hopkins and John Mack, the gods of this—do you think they would stand out if they were sitting here in this room? Do you think if we had them in front of us that these would be towering geniuses or men of deeper insight than you and I? Get real! It’s just the new age book circuit. It’s marketing and people making careers. Not that there insincere, but they’re limited as you and I are limited by our understanding and our past history.

6:56:21

I was invited a few years ago to speak at a big UFO conclave in L.A., and I had never been to one. And I thought—as I’ll bet most of you think, who have a moderate interest in this—that if you go to one of these things, what you will find is a whole bunch of sincere people who have had strange experiences and who are trying to figure it out together. That is not what you find. What you find is booths: the Urantia Book, Commander Rama, the Raëlians, Billy Mire, the Palladians, the Roswell Incident. And these people operate side by side, having coffee, holding smokers for each other, and so forth and so on, with no sense of cognitive dissonance whatsoever, you know? It doesn’t ever strike them that if the Raëlians are right, then how can Commander Rama be right? And if he’s right, how can Billy Mire and the Palladians—this doesn’t come up as an issue. And you realize: these people are having a lot of fun, and that they are not—this is a support group for some kind of fallout from a religious hysteria. This is not about the study of strange lights seen in the sky at night. And if you try to talk about that, people will just look at you like: who let you in? It’s now all about channelings, and prophecies, and the rise of Atlantis, and the beam from the center of the galactic whoop-dee-doo, and the photon belt, and the coming of Malkuth Sedhek if Maitreya will get out of the way, and on and on and on.

6:58:18

And I find the only defense against this is the conjuring rod of irony and reason. You know, if it seems absurd, it probably is absurd. Now, I’m not saying that the world isn’t strange. I’m actually saying that the world is stranger than these cheerful UFO enthusiasts can even begin to image. The stars are so diffuse in space and time, the evolutionary time spans available to life so vast, that the idea that the alien intelligence will communicate through sparkling-eyed, blue-eyed, middle-aged women with bowl haircuts and mu-mus is mind-boggling to me! And so it’s just a matter of—and how do you tell? And I have this argument with Ralph all the time, and Rupert, because they’re both softer than I am. And I’m getting more hard-boiled in my old age because I see how a lot of people take all this stuff much too seriously and can’t even really think straight.

6:59:40

I read an interesting essay a few months ago in a book about all this by Douglas Stillings, and he said: when you encounter somebody with a strange belief we have been asking the wrong question. The question we’ve been asking is: why do you believe this? Wrong question. The question we should be asking is: why do you believe that you believe this? Because the interesting thing is: these people don’t act differently than you and me. Somebody can claim they were an abductee and they did this and they did that. They don’t act the way I would act if I were abducted. If I were abducted I would come apart at the seams. You realize the implications of being abducted by an alien spacecraft? I don’t think I would be satisfied to just tell my story to John Mack and become case number 232, and then sit back and let him handle the public relations fallout of it. These people do not behave as though their story was true. They behave as though it’s a story.

7:00:50

And so, somehow, what we’re dealing with here is clashes of epistemic values. The Carlos Castaneda phenomenon was a good example. Half the people who want to talk about Castaneda want to talk about: is it true or not or was this guy some kind of a charlatan? The other half says: what kind of a question is that? You don’t even understand the issue. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. Well, without taking sides on that issue, notice that these two groups don’t have much to negotiate. Because for them the very notion of truth has taken on a different meaning. One is saying the truth of myth is truth, and the other is saying the truth of myth is a bullshit concept, we want to know if this is the truth or not.


Yeah?

Audience

[???] about psychotherapeutic use of psychedelics and the lack thereof in this country and in other countries. Do you foresee an increase of that with the decline of the nation state and the rise of the world wide web as you’ve sort of laid it out?

McKenna

A rise in psychedelic therapy?

Audience

Well, because from what I understood of what you were saying, one of the main reasons why that’s been marginalized and pushed under and scheduled to the degree that it’s been scheduled is because it doesn’t serve the nation state to have psychedelic activity going on on a large scale. And so if nation states in the next 15–20 years go on the decline and are marginalized in their power and scope, and either corporations or a global community take over, do you foresee a rise in psychedelic use in…

7:02:55

McKenna

Yeah, I think so. I think… you know, we talked about the world corporate entity that’s emerging; that the world is being replaced from 200 nations to 1,000 corporations. The values are very different. Corporations are not particularly interested in suppressing dissent in quite the same way that nations are, because corporations don’t argue their existence from a philosophical position. The other thing is: corporations hate unregulated markets, and so I can imagine—I mean, drugs are a commodity, an enormous money-making engine. And it would be better for everyone—cynics, users, purists, manufacturers, physicians, governments—if drugs were simply an ordinary commodity, and if abuse of drugs was treated like any other mental aberration. Simply you would be dumped into the mental health care system for treatment rather than criminalized and humiliated. It would be much cheaper for health care management and the legal system to treat it this way. Essentially, the situation now, the reason drugs are so severely repressed when it’s such a money-losing proposition to do that is because the nation state is carrying out a vestigial obligation to the church, to central European Calvinism. I mean, the reason drugs are illegal is because they’re evil, fundamentally. Well, I think the corporate state will move beyond such theological claptrap and just say: well, they may be evil, but so is pornography, so are a lot of things that we traffic in with great gusto.

7:05:01

The shift to the world corporate state is an ambiguous thing. The nation state used war as an instrument of national policy. Corporations don’t do that. I mean, yes, there’s a large trade in armaments, and those arms are created by corporations. But armament trade is a small percentage of overall global economic activity. The world could live without corporations that produce armament, and so could capitalism. The world corporate state is unfriendly to racism—in fact it doesn’t like any kind of boundary definitions in the customer class, it wants everybody to think of themselves as Joe Normal with the buying patterns and tastes of Joe Normal. What are the other differences? Well, it’s non-ideological. You know, all the world corporate state wants to do is pick your pocket, which, if you think of the political agendas we’ve survived in the twentieth century, somebody who just wants to pick your pocket doesn’t exactly sound too bad.


Yeah?

Audience

Yeah, and that’s a difficult question because when you have corporations, you have things that have to be manufactured. I’ve been dealing with the uprising in [???], you know. Somebody has to make this stuff. There is a point where there are uprisings and where it is shut down where there is great violence that occurs. We don’t hear about it—

McKenna

You mean violence at the behest of corporatism?

Audience

Indeed.

7:06:49

McKenna

Yes. But it’s nothing like erasing the cities of Europe by aerial bombing or something like that. I agree. There’s a low level of—

Audience

It may be low level. It seems fairly high level where, you know, a company will go in and say: Guatemala is becoming socialist, let’s go to the law firm, we’ll hire the lawyers, they’ll get in touch with the political people, and we’ll go down there and assassinate whoever so that United Fruit can continue. That’s just, you know, an easy example.

7:07:28

McKenna

Well, if assassination is a tool of corporate statecraft. I’ve always sort of leaned toward assassination. Have you ever noticed how few innocent people get ground up in assassinations? I mean, if someone had assassinated Saddam Hussein, those 100,000 Iraqi soldiers who were buried alive in the pits in the desert might’ve lived to tell the tale to their grandchildren. But governments are horrified by assassination—oh lord, no, you’d never do that. The entire fabric of diplomatic understanding established since the Congress of Vienna would come unglued. Far better to conscript a million 18-year-olds and send them off to try to kill the leader by the fair rules of international diplomacy.

7:08:24

Capitalism is so triumphant now that its salvation will probably have to be self-generated. In other words, it’s not going to come from slave uprisings or a papal encyclical, it’s simply that capitalism is going to have to grow smarter. And they’re trying to do this. And once they smarten beyond a certain point, they will carry out what is essentially a Marxist analysis of their own situation and realize: we can’t keep doing this, because the open system of exploitable natural resources that we are assuming doesn’t exist anymore. And we can’t lift everybody to the level of the American middle class without cutting down every tree and digging every vein of metal on the planet. Now, there are always—as I’ve tried to stress in this weekend—there are always technological fixes, and it may be that there will be a technological fix for this as well.

7:09:35

One thing we haven’t talked about at all (maybe it’s mentioned, but certainly not unpacked) is a nanotechnology. You know, nanotechnology is something as mind-boggling as the Internet or psychedelic drugs, and it isn’t exactly related to either one of them. You all know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about these people—many of whom are clustered down in Cambridge and Boston—who propose that we’re on the brink of an entirely new way of making things: that things can be made from the atoms up in chemical soups, that everything should be as small as possible. And these are people who have gotten 1,500 steam engines onto a one-centimeter chip. The cover of Scientific American a few years ago had this one-centimeter chip with over 1,500 steam engines on it. More steam engines than were operating in England at the height of the age of steam. Now, of course, each one of these steam engines produced 110,000th of a millinewton of force—not much. But at the molecular level enough to kick a tiny molecular gear into action or throw a switch or something like that.

7:11:16

Nanotechnology is coming. It’s so mind-boggling that they haven’t spent any money on public relations—in other words, getting the people ready. So very few people realize how close this is. I mean, the AI may be off in the mists of time. Practical nanotechnology is already here. They make electric motors, sixteen of which can fit inside a human hair. And what’s envisioned is a world of aerosol dusts that are architected machines that are creeping over our bodies, through our bloodstream, in our houses, inside our larger machines. And everything is made of diamond, because diamond is the easiest material to manipulate at the atomic level. The holy grail of nanotechnology is something called a matter compiler. A matter compiler has its nose in a muddy ditch or an ocean estuary or something like that, and it essentially does to matter what Photoshop 5.0 does to images: anything you want. So what’s being brought in is a kind of sludge-like raw feed. It could be, in fact, in the nanotechnological future the great real estate bonanzas will be toxic dumps, because there you will send the nanotechnologically designed bacterial machines into the dumps, and they’ll bring out the gold, the platinum, the phosphorus, the arsenic atom by atom and stack it up for you. You can have a closed resource cycle based on the standing crop of already extracted metals. People talk about abandoning agriculture. Abandoning agriculture because the populations of India and China will be fed out of matter compilers that turn sea water directly into rice. This could be done. How do we feel about that? Are we willing to give up agriculture if it means an entirely artificial food cycle for us, but the restoration of millions of acres of forest and prairie and meadow and grassland? These kinds of choices lie in the immediate future.


Yeah?

Audience

When will the time machines arrive from the future?

7:14:08

McKenna

The question of time machines. Well, this relates to the speculation about the singularity. You know, one scenario for envisioning the singularity at the end of time would be: here we’ve had this graph which for millions of years has described the unfolding of process, and then at this certain date in 2012 it reaches infinity, or it stops working. In any case, it indicates novelty becomes maximized at infinity, and then there is no more time. Well, trying to imagine various scenarios which would destroy time or obsolete time, one is: a technology for moving through time. The literal annihilation of time by vehicular traversing of it. Well, time machines have a checkered intellectual history. Some people claim—with good reason—they’re impossible. Other people claim they’re only impossible under certain conditions. What’s usually put against a time machine theory is what’s called the grandfather paradox. The grandfather paradox is: if I had a time machine and I traveled into the past, I could kill my grandfather. Then I wouldn’t exist. Then I wouldn’t have a time machine. Then I couldn’t travel into the past—so how could I kill my grandfather? So this apparent logical contradiction is used to say that travel is impossible. Notice: it doesn’t restrict travel in the forward direction. In quantum physics it’s routine to send charges and qualities backward through time in these equations, and people have always said, “Well, it’s just a mathematical convention. It doesn’t really mean anything in the real world.” Well, but how do we know? We don’t know. As we approach the speed of light, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time slows to nothingness. At the speed of light time is at zero; eternity. If you were a photon, you would have no notion of time at all, but the universe would appear to be aging wildly around you. But you would have no sense of time passing.

7:16:58

Are time travel technologies possible? A lot of people are beginning to think so. Some of them require almost god-like technologies. In other words, if you could spin a cylinder whose radius was that of the planet Saturn and whose longitudinal length was ten times that—if you could spin it at the speed of light and you traversed its perpendicular axis, theory indicates you would be spun into the past. Well, we can’t even dream of technologies like that. But it seems to indicate that, in principle, these things can be done. Some people believe there are black holes in the universe, or wormholes, that might be potential doorways to other dimensions. That wormhole theorists calculate what kind of energies it would take to pry open the mouth of one of these wormholes and hold it open long enough to push some information down it. Well, its material’s orders of magnitude more tensile in their strength than anything we can produce, but still not inconceivable in some far-flung future.

7:18:22

My notion about a time machine is that it’s not what it looks like. If you had a time machine and you used it and it worked, I think it would actually have the effect of causing the rest of the history of the local universe to happen instantly. Because it would collapse the local assumption of a symmetrically evolving dimension. What I mean by that is: in order to keep the grandfather—well, here’s the idea. Suppose you had a time machine that you had never used. You were the inventor of the first time machine. And on a certain day you used it and sailed off into time, the future. Well, then the presumption would be, since you’re the inventor of the first time machine, that just moments after that event time machines from all points in the future would converge on your departure point. People who had come back to see the first voyage into time. This is presuming a universe where you can travel back into time, but only as far as the invention of the first time machine. This is the kind of universe I think we’re living in for no good reason other than this is what the mushroom told me. I said: “Is time travel possible?” and it said, “Yes.” And I said, “Into the future?” and it said, “Yes.” And I said, “Into the past?” and it said, “Only as far into the past as the moment of the invention of the first time machine.” I said, “Why?” and it said, “Because before that there were no time machines, duh!”

7:20:20

So in that kind of a universe, when you sail back in time, and to keep the grandfather paradox from happening, I think all the rest of time happens instantly. So it becomes more like a god whistle, more like some kind of evolutionary fast-forward button where you’re somewhere in the historical continuum messing around with technology and society and this and that. Then you invent a time machine, and zip! The rest of history happens in the next few milliseconds as the whole thing goes nova.


7:20:58

Yeah, “machine” is a very general term. I mean, the machine might be a mantra, a drug, a physical position. This is the kind of stuff we were playing with at La Chorrera. But I’m now afraid of it because I know that it’s real. You have to believe you’re going to fail to attempt to build a time machine, because no one in their right mind, if they thought it was going to work, would in fact climb into the gleaming saddle and slam the lever forward. You have to believe that you’re going to fail or you wouldn’t do that.

Audience

I had a particular psychedelic journey where I was going into the wormholes, and I was realizing: wow, if people are really serious about doing this, this is the way. Because I was actually feeling like I was able to go wherever I wanted. But at that moment I refrained, because: oh wow, this is real. I can actually traverse through the timeless singularities or the timeless wormholes and pop out at any point in space and time, because it’s all interconnected at that one point.

7:22:13

McKenna

The name of the game is to bring back real information. That’s how you will convince the rest of us to do it and to believe you. And I think it can be done. I think probably shamanism is about this. But one of the things we talked about a little bit here, but maybe not enough, is this Bell non-local information space that seems to lurk beneath the surface of ordinary reality. For fifty years in quantum physics this was denied as so counter-intuitive and leading to such bizarre conclusions and possibilities that it must be impossible. And now they’ve done experiments that pretty much show this is real. This is real! And what it means is: all the mystics of history were right. You can journey from any place in the universe to any other place instantly. You can extract information that lies on the other side of the cosmos instantly. It’s all done in the imagination. The imagination is this sense which you have that is your non-local perceptor. Your local perceptors are your eyes, your ears, the surface of your body, so forth. The non-local perceptor is the imagination, and it’s giving you a continuous holographic readout of the Bell non-local dimensions. And it’s like a cheat on your being trapped in the evolutionary cul-de-sac of Newtonian space and time. You are trapped in the evolutionary cul-de-sac of Newtonian space and time, but you have this little tiny peephole, this doorway, into the entire cosmos. All the races that ever were there, all the catastrophes and civilizations and philosophies and messiahs and so forth and so on. But you have to tune it. 99.99999% of this Bell information is utterly incomprehensible to the human mind because it’s on a scale too large or too small, or it involves premises or environments or presuppositions so bizarre that we can’t grok them. But the remaining point 0.0000001% of this data is absolutely fascinating: beings, philosophies, works of art, ruins, planets, hierophanies, strange music, strange art, strange ideas, endlessly to be explored and then to be brought back as much as can be to the human camp and examined. I mean, we are hunters and gatherers in hyperspace as much as we are in 3D. And what we’re roving and scanning for in those informational spaces is: things which delight us, or make life more comfortable, or inform our relationship to each other or our environment.

7:25:40

The future lies in the imagination, you know? The imagination is going to get louder and louder and louder. William Blake saw this. We talk about virtual realities, designer drugs, downloading ourselves into circuitry, travel through time, disincarnate bodies, cloned identities, gender shifting, point of view shifting—all of these things, this is all about the rules of mind overwhelming the rules of physics. The rules of physics say you are a body, you are on a planet, you have weight, you have momentum, you have specific gravity, you must behave like this and like this and like this, and mind says: no, I want to be pure unleashed conceptuality, I want to be a thought blown in a hyperdimensional wind, I want to move from planet to planet with the twink of an eye, I want to know everything, see everything, be everything, feel everything—and then, by that means, somehow, I will make my way back to my higher and hidden source.

7:26:53

And who knows, you know? Maybe this always awaited us beyond the grave, and what we’re doing in some sense is drawing death into the world and erasing that most profound of all boundary distinctions: the distinction between life and death itself becomes thin, becomes transparent in these contexts. I mean, it’s very easy to imagine technologies such that human identity will be scrambled beyond imagining, you know? If you can download yourself into circuitry, you can make copies of yourself. If you can make copies of yourself you can collage these copies and make selves that never were or might have been. You can have multiple identities. In one of Greg Egan’s stories, people have this thing inside them that is implanted when you’re two years old that’s called—it starts out being called the dual, and it ends up being called the jewel. And what it is, is: it’s a thing which simply maps and studies your nervous system and creates a perfect copy in silicon of your being for the first 23 years of your life. Well then, when you’re 23, you go through this ceremony where the body is vaporized and the dual, this eternal copy of your youthful self, lives on. This is within reach.

7:28:33

Hans Moravec had the idea that you could nano-engineer bacteria such that you could nano-technologically engineer a leprosy bacteria—because leprosy moves along the nerves from the point of infection—a bacteria that would lay down a thin wire of molecular gold along every nerve. And so you would undergo these operations where you would slowly be changed into a thing of gold and silicon, glass and arsenic. But there would be no moment of transition, no loss of consciousness, no speed bump, no transition of identity. It’s just over time you would become something completely eternal and machine-like.

7:29:28

You know that poem by William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium, where he says,

Once out of nature I would be

A thing of gold and gold enameling.

Set before the lords and ladies of Byzantium

To sing of what was and what will be.

“Once out of nature”—what he means is: “when I am dead”—“I will be a thing of gold and gold enameling:” there’s the image of the flying saucer coming out of the collective unconscious. We want to become the stone. We want to become, somehow, a living thing that nevertheless has the character of machinery and objectification. It’s a very complex image in the human mind, you know, with Christ at one end of the spectrum and a universal medicine of longevity on the other end of the spectrum, and then all these adumbrations and resonances. The philosopher’s stone, the grail, the gift difficult to obtain, the magical object, the talking stick, the jeweled self-revealing basketballs of the DMT state.

7:30:46

You know, in the 53rd Fragment [Note: it’s actually the 52nd Fragment] of Heraclitus he says “the aeon is a child at play with colored balls in eternity.” And this makes no sense until you smoke DMT, and then you find yourself in the presence of the aeon, the archon of the world age. It’s a child at play with colored balls in some kind of a virtual reality.


Yeah?

Audience

I have two questions before the workshop ends up. One of them is: if you could talk a little bit about the tone that you and Dennis used to [???] tryptamine molecules in DNA, how you decided to use that particular tone, and if it’s occurred again in your life; what it may mean to you. As well as just a brief comment on generations in your workshops, whether there’s more men than women usually. You’ve talked a bit about—or I’ve heard you say—that men may be more drawn towards the psychedelic experience because of some lack of intuitive knowledge about…

7:31:54

McKenna

Yeah, well, I don’t know why exactly it is. It certainly seems true that men have a deeper relationship to drugs than women. I think that’s generally true. Even hard drugs—women don’t seem as interested in drugs or as potentially addicted to drugs. Maybe there’s a deeper survival instinct there. Women are constantly burying the dead, caring for the sick, giving birth, helping with miscarriages. They may be more rock-bottom realists while, you know, the guys are harping hundred-thousand-line oral epics and stuff like that. I quoted this statistic in a different context, but that in 1800 the average American woman gave birth 13 times. Giving birth, especially in a world without anesthetic, is a pretty psychedelic and boundary-dissolving and ego-erasing and whoop-dee-doo kind of experience. I think women may have, in traditional societies, not cared to contextualize psychedelics simply because they have enough on their hands. I don’t know the gender… there’s a lot about gender stuff I’m interested in, but I don’t understand.

7:31:54

My friend, Brenda Laurel, studies girls and why they seem to have some difficulty naturally acclimating to the Internet, and how male-female mathematical abilities seem to differ—although I think that’s changing. I think the latest data is that women are pulling even with men in mathematical graduate schools, at least in some places. I don’t know. Men are—and maybe this is cultural, or maybe this is biological—but men are maybe more boundary-defined than women. Like, women seem (and I, again, you make these statements, you don’t know whether you’re making a biological statement or a cultural statement) more tolerant of bisexual and homosexual behavior. They’re sort of comfortable with all that, where male-male sexual encounters are always defined to some degree by competitiveness or the hidden shadow of competition.

7:34:38

Now, what was the other part of your question? Oh, about the tone. About the tone. Well, this is a very specific question, but in the story that’s told in The Invisible Landscape, Dennis seemed, as he went around the bend, to have insights into these shamanic techniques that were real techniques, and that he could not only tell you what they were, he could tell you how they worked. And one of the things he insisted upon was that you could use your voice to transduce energy into your own body and other people’s bodies—which, this is no news. Acoustical signals are a good way to transduce energy across space. But that you could actually use it almost like an acoustical laser or something like that, and that you could interfere with the normal chemistry of these drug molecules, and make them enter into bonding situations that they would normally not have affinity for the bond. You do this by making them superconductive. You make them superconductive by stilling their molecular motion. We tend to think of absolute zero as a temperature, but in fact, when an atom is still (from a physicist’s point of view), it’s at absolute zero. At absolute zero, the normal rules of bonding are canceled and these things become sticky. They’ll bond to anything. And so he said you could use voice to form a relationship of the geometric incident of the angle of attack at the incoming acoustical wave as it encountered the molecular matrix, that it would cause some of these molecules to become superconducting, and that then they would bond permanently into the bond site of activity, and that instead of having a transient psychedelic trip you would lock this stuff in. And he envisioned the harmine molecule, which has these two Mickey Mouse-like ears of benzene rings hanging off the pentoxil structure of the center. He visualized them like vibrating antennae. And he said you will land these molecule into the nuclear cleft of the DNA, and then bond them in with this acoustically generated sound, and then forever after the person that we do this to will have a standing wave form holographic image in their imagination of the sum-total of space and time. He said you’ll get this image of the universe that will sort of be like your interface to the big Internet. You know, the Internet where every star is a website. And the sound that you were to make to cause this to happen was an octave—or a harmonic, I’m sorry—a harmonic of the electron spin resonance of the harmine molecule in your system.

7:38:18

And it is true that a significant percentage of the people who take ayahuasca report a loud hum. A hum. It was a hum. And so he felt that by imitating these molecular hums, and tuning through them, that you only (according to him) had to make the right sound for a few milliseconds, so that doing the scales was an effort to hit all possible sounds, knowing that when you got it right for just a few milliseconds, it would lock in. And so these sounds sounded somewhat like this: [Humming demonstration]. And then he somehow was able to keep going. And then he would start over and do this. And he called this “the strum.” And it would not have been worth talking about 32 years later, or whatever, except that it seemed to work. It caused him to go spectacularly bananas, and me to go arguably nearly as spectacularly bananas. And in a way, that trip, we’ve never come down from. I mean, I’m not saying that as I sit here I am in contact with the eschaton or the spinning violet torus of hyperdimensionally stored holographic information, but on the other hand, I feel a very strange, weird connection to those times. Probably because he put all kinds of strange suggestions into my mind. I mean, at one point he said, “You know we can never leave this place. We’ll never leave this place.” He said, “But we have to fashion an image and send it forth. We have to send forth holographic images of ourselves.” And I’ve often wondered: am I still down there, rising at dawn to walk the grassy pasture, loaded out of my skull, and this is all some sort of… it’s all a dream, actually.

Audience

[???] after that experience, you said before, I’ve heard that you felt the [???] gave you your powers of locution or memory, and that’s something you didn’t have access to before.

7:40:58

McKenna

It certainly oiled my tongue. It did. And when we would—yeah, psilocybin facilitates language. I mean, it wants to be expressed. Henry Munn’s essay that I mentioned to you makes this clear.

Yeah?

Audience

A couple weeks ago I was giving a talk at the World Futurist Society in Chicago, and it was entitled Beyond Alternative Medicine. And in that talk I talked—you know, I bring up the Internet—and I talked about the shift from the industrial paradigm to the information age and all that kind of stuff. And I was presenting that, and I was going down the list of the industrial things: massification to customization, quantity to quality, hard resources to soft resources. And as I was looking at the list of the industrial age and the information age, the thing that came off was: it was almost like masculinity moving to femininity. And I said to myself: you could almost look at these columns in front of this group as testosterone-loaded and estrogen-loaded. And then I said: what in the hell is a man supposed to do with testosterone in the information age? So I throw that out at you and, you know… how do we fit in as hunters and gatherers in the information age?

7:42:30

McKenna

Well, the Internet is a large and multi-leveled forest environment with all kinds of… I think there’s a place for the stealthy and the swift. I think it’s a place where steely-eyed courage pays off and chance-taking is rewarded. This whole gender thing, it’s locked into the way we’re focused on identity. I would think probably we’re on the brink of… I’m not sure I would say transcending gender, but having a different relationship to it as we have a different relationship to our bodies. And in the future it will be thought absurd to think of themselves as heterosexual, homosexual, exclusive this, exclusive that. After all, Freud showed that our fantasies almost always contain counter-elements to our expressed choices, gender or otherwise. And I think hyperspace is going to give a lot of space for acting out. And it’s harmless acting out. It doesn’t shake the social boat.

7:44:05

How we deal with our sexuality—because it’s at the center of our biological nature—is going to be one of the most interesting things about how we manage cyberspace. You know, the things that are usually put against cyberspace is that all people just become lumpen, and they never leave the keyboard, and they’re not interested in smelling the roses, still less in making love. That’s objection number one. Number two: people just spend all their time fantasizing and looking at pornography and making distant friends in different places under false pretenses. So it seems to be: it’s either too sexy, or it’s not sexy enough. You know, Howard Rheingold got taken to lunch a million times for inventing the word “teledildonics,” which always gets a laugh, but teledildonics is nothing more than sexual prosthesis extended over space and time.

7:45:10

And it’s interesting to me that pornography is the most successful business on the net, and drives technological innovation. Because they’re the only people who actually care about having the server always up, having the downloads occur fast, having the real audio not flicker, having the sound of high quality. They keep pushing the platforms and upgrading. Sexuality without being anchored to biology is naughty in the Western canon of values. But nevertheless, for quite some time, naughtiness has held a real fascination for large numbers of people.And virtual reality, you know: people want to act out strange fantasies. Should you feel guilty about a fantasy acted out with pieces of software rather than poor hard-working prostitutes? Is it a more horrifying thing, a less horrifying thing? Should it even be mentioned? What is our relationship to the eroticization, potentially, of our technology? Is that healthy? Is it not healthy? We don’t know. I mean, for cryin’ out loud, we’re barely 80 years from Freud, and now look what we’re going to have to deal with.

7:46:46

You know, on one level, the way to think of the Internet and what it is is: it’s simply the collective unconscious is becoming conscious. They’re draining the water out of the bathtub, and suddenly the toys that were hidden there are now to be seen for all to behold. And we’re squeamish about this because our culture is based on the myth of niceness and gentlemanly and lady-like behavior and so forth. Still, this is a huge echo for us. And we designate certain clubs, certain holidays, certain drug states as permission to transcend the normal scriptures of bourgeois behavior. But what outrages conservatives about the net, for example in the area of pornography, is: pornography used to be urban, it used to be you had to go to some seedy section of town and mingle with seedy characters. Now every living room in America can have endless amounts of pornography that would stand your hair on end. Well, what’s happening is an erasure of the previously print-created domain called public spaces. And people wanted private property and public spaces, and certain business was confined to one area, and certain ones to another, and the Internet is neither public nor private space.

7:48:21

You know, I play around with CUCME, and I visit technology which is a technology of using small TV cameras to conference with people at a distance. Well, you often go into these reflectors where many people are making appointments to see other people—not you—and people don’t know how to handle the technology, they leave switches on they shouldn’t leave on, and so forth and so on. You log in to a place where there are eleven guys, four seem to be masturbating, but not in a particularly exhibitionistic way; sort of halfheartedly and lackadaisically. And then other people, you can see them, they’re staring at screens. And you’re wondering: do I look like that? Am I staring at a screen? Are they watching the people masturbating? What is the relationship between these people? Is this an invited situation? Is it a situation of voyeurism or is it a situation of domestic carelessness where this guy forgot to turn off his software? And you realize: these are the frantic questions of someone enraged by the breakdown of public space. You say: “I don’t understand what’s happening here! Are we in a private space? Are we in a public space? Can people see us? What do they think? What’s happening?” It doesn’t make any sense. You just have to go with the flow. I don’t know what those people are doing.


Yeah?

Audience

Do most people who take DMT have the same encounter with the machine-like elves, and if so, how similar are they? And then also I’m wondering what your relationship is with law enforcement that might…?

7:50:13

McKenna

Well, the first question: everybody’s different, and everybody takes the dose differently, and gets a different amount, and brings different baggage to the train station. Having said all that, I think the stronger, the higher the dose, the more everybody’s experience converges. If people get 50 to 70 milligrams in a big hit, they will go to the realm of the self-transforming machine elves as described by yours truly. They may not describe it as I do. I’ve turned a number of people on to DMT, I’ve listened to a lot of stories, and slowly the image that has emerged for me (if you want to think of the DMT place as an archetype): it’s the archetype of the circus. The circus is a very complex archetype. It’s a rupture of plane of the bizarre and the transmundane which shatters bourgeois expectations. The circus comes packaged in several ways. First of all, it’s a great place for children: clowns, animals, bright music, cotton candy, the hertie gertie and the calliope. Great place for children. But also, the circus traditionally packaged and marketed Eros. I think my earliest intimation of sexuality and Eros was when I was a creature so small that I was wrapped in a blanket and handed from shoulder to shoulder, and I was taken to a circus, and I saw the woman in the nearly naked, perfect woman in the little spangled costume, hanging by her teeth up in the top of the tent, spinning around and around, working without nets. But I imprinted this thing very strongly, and I got the feeling of the fear of death, the beauty of youth, the risk of performance, the whole… the glamour of it. So that’s part of DMT. Clowns. DMT is always characterized by clowns, you know? They arrive in a tiny automobile, exploding and chugging. Fifteen of them get out: huge noses, huge shoes, they’re poking each other in the eye, they’re dropping anvils, they’re flinging irons around. But then, just off the center ring, it gets weird. You know, the goat-faced boy, the thing in the bottle, the hermaphrodite, the harlequin. It’s all this woo-woo, strange stuff.

7:53:15

And then every child worth their salt wants to run off with the circus. The circus represents such a countervailing force to middle-class respectability and small-town rules and so forth, you want to run off with the circus. I remember when I was a kid, the town I grew up in, every fourth of July was the big festival of the town and a carnival would come. And our parents would tell us: you can’t stay out after nine o’clock at night while the carnival is in town. Well, why not? Well, you just can’t. These carnie-people are different. They’re a little darker shade than most of us, some of them might use drugs, some of them may, god forbid, once have been divorced—I grew up in the 1950s, things were pretty screwed down. And then, when the circus would leave town, of course, reality would seamlessly close over it where it had been, and the city park would once again be a place for gowanus picnics and football practice. So the archetype of the circus is, I think, the ruling thing of DMT. It’s made me a fan of Fellini’s circuses: his wonderful circuses are very DMT-like and have everything I’m talking about—the erotic, the humorous, the menace, the shadows and the light.

7:54:51

As far as my relationship to law enforcement is concerned, I’m happy to say I don’t have any. It disappoints people, especially conspiracy theorists. Of course, they can assume I’m lying. But nobody has ever bothered me. Years ago, I was a hashish smuggler, and then they did bother me. They indicted me when I was in India and I had a whole opera as a youth, and had to come back and work all that out. But that was all settled by the mid-1970s. Why do I not have a relationship to law enforcement? In other words, why don’t they watch me, bother me, tell me to shut up? I mean, it’s sort of disappointing to people to hear, I think, because I love it when people come up and congratulate me on my courage and say, “We’re so happy that you’re doing what you do. It must take enormous courage.” No, I think if it took enormous courage I probably wouldn’t be doing it. I just have made an assessment of how things work, and my assessment seems to be right.

7:56:10

And here’s how they work: eggheads don’t count in America. It doesn’t matter shit what we say here. What drugs are about in America is money, from the law enforcement point of view. You can get your booties, but if in the next year I cleared a million dollars in untaxed money dealing drugs, I would have trouble. You would have trouble, too, probably—unless you’re already in the Mafia or something and you’ve got it wired. They hate not getting their cut. And psychedelics generally have not been big money-makers. They’re not addicting, and so they’ve always been a side issue for criminal syndicalism. The criminal syndicates that have marketed psychedelic drugs, with the possible exception of cannabis, have just basically done it for humanitarian reasons. You know, there’s lots more money to be made in heroin and cocaine and MDMA and all these things than in true psychedelics. Usually, the only time you meet idealistic criminals is when you meet psychedelic chemists and the people who distribute their wares. If you’re good enough to make LSD, you’re certainly good enough to make methamphetamine and cook up all kinds of scaggy drugs. So it’s not a good idea to make money with drugs, I think.

7:57:48

I think that people are entirely too willing to police themselves. The Internet is solving some of this problem by creating an incredible forum of information where—you know, when I was a kid, if you wanted information about drugs, it was like the most forbidden thing imaginable. Now you just log on to lycineum.com or the MAPS page, or if you go to my website there are buttons there—to enormous ongoing discussions. Thirty posts a day to salvia lists. Thirty posts a day to the ayahuasca lists. You can’t possibly churn through all this stuff, let alone all the vast amounts of material that have been archived and articles transcribed and stuff like that. So the net, the web which empowers all fringes, especially empowers fringes where information has previously been restricted. And I think that’s why I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with these pornography people. I mean, some pornography may be odious, but if you let the Calvinist mentality start digging there, the next thing you know it’ll be drug information, and then sexual contraceptive information, and then certain political points of view, and on and on. And it just can’t be that way. No nation state can set an agenda. And pornography is the most discussed and least offensive of the world’s problems. I mean, my god, we have serious problems. Let’s put control of pornography—and I mean by adults, for adults. Child pornography is odious, of course. But pursuit of child pornography is a rare pathology, I choose to believe.


Yeah?

Audience

[???]

7:59:57

McKenna

Actually, I don’t know anything about all this. I’m sort of conservative. My approach is not to try every drug that comes down the pike, but to just use the drugs that work for me quite a bit. So I’m aware of things—like what you mentioned, and DEPT, and there’s another one. But I won’t be in the first charge to try all those things. Because I’m pretty happy with my circumstance. If I were depressed or bipolar or something, I would certainly medicate it. I think it’s really crazy to think that pathological traits are somehow character-building or to be treasured as a charming part of one’s personal toolkit. I think you should just throw that stuff out of the rowboat and become a more bearable person.

8:01:02

But my ignorance of these things doesn’t mean they’re not important fields. Obviously, the rest of our future is going to be chemically engineered. And drugs, pseudo-neurotransmitters, enzymes, immune stimulants—there’s an endless potential market for all of this stuff. And not all of it will be hype. Some of it will actually change our lives, like Viagra, for example, or Prozac. I mean, we kid about these drugs, but if in fact Prozac is the most prescribed drug in the world, maybe that’s why things have seemed to me to be running rather smoothly recently. A whole bunch of people who would be moping in their beer or snapping or dragging their tail or not cooperating are in fact cheerful, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed. And Viagra—it can’t hurt that people are having more orgasms and more profound sexual encounters with each other. And at some point these fixes, chemical and informational fixes of our lifestyle, have got to feed back into greater happiness, or what’s the point of it, you know?


Yeah?

Audience

I just wanted to make a comment about before when you were talking about the question about the similarity in DMT experiences. And I remember the first workshop. I saw you about five years ago and I had done quite a bit of psilocybin and LSD, but never DMT. And I heard you talking about coming into contact with the alien, and the visual language. And I guess I was quite skeptical, because it just seemed like it was a lot of romanticism. And then I had my experience and it was all there: these jeweled basketballs, the carnival-like quality. So it kind of was the evidence for me that it was more than just a vague memory of a trip, that it was really something outside of our own consciousness, that we weren’t creating it, and experiencing some variation on our past. So…

8:03:32

McKenna

Yeah, I mean, something—you know, we talk about DMT and all this. Remember: it’s just three tokes away! And it only lasts ten minutes. So your major problem, I suppose, is accessing it. Well, why are you sitting here, for cryin’ out loud! In other words, if you worked at accessing it 24 hours a day, how the hell long would it take before you accessed it? I know, I’m sure there are people in this room who could help you. So if you didn’t meet them this weekend, well, then you wandered in the wilderness. What were you doing? Sitting by the brook, browsing in the bookstore? You blew it! It’s to be sought. And… what?

Audience

[???]

8:04:22

McKenna

Well, that… it’s an intelligence test. That would give it away. You’re supposed to figure it out. My notion is: once I have performed my job, which is telling you this stuff exists—and I tell it in such a dramatic way that you’re supposed to doubt me. And so then the only way to prove that I’m full of it is to go out and find this stuff, smoke it, and then come find me, and tug at my wrist, and say, “I smoked it and… eh, nothing!” Or whatever. And one person in twenty will be able to do that. But the other twenty will come with flowers, offerings, incense, and the sound of yellow brass because this is there, and it’s a real thing. I mean, if I were to tell you that you should go meet the flying saucers or go find Atlantis (or go find Bodhi mind, for that matter), it’s a pretty tall order. Where do you begin? But finding DMT—you know, it’s matter. It’s an object in this world. If you wanted a print by Hieronymus Bosch you’d know how to proceed, if you wanted to buy the Cullinan Diamond you’d know how to proceed, if you needed a Mercedes you’d know how to proceed, if you wanted a first edition of the poetry of e e cummings you’d know how to proceed. Why do you have so much trouble figuring this out? Just proceed as you would in the pursuit of any other defined material object. Basically, put the word out that money is no object, and… I’m sure you’ll be amazed at how the market responds!

Audience

I’m wondering… I find my balance in meditation, and psychedelics have given me tools, I think. I wondering if you have any suggestions for preparing ourselves for this evolutionary acceleration.

8:06:37

McKenna

You mean practical tools? Basically, in the short term, I don’t eat for six hours. I don’t call that fasting, I just call it emptying my stomach. I don’t fast because I get dizzy and have headaches and, you know, why fast? It’s going to work anyway. But I don’t eat meat or greasy food and sugar and stuff like that leading into it. I fast for six hours and then I do it in a quiet, secure, not likely to be interrupted space. And so those are the short-term—and I smoke cannabis on psychedelics. I navigate with cannabis. I cannot imagine taking psychedelics without cannabis—in fact, wouldn’t. If there was no cannabis, that would be a problem to be solved and we couldn’t think of getting loaded until we had that nailed down.

8:07:42

In terms of longer-term preparation, how do you really prepare? By cultivating wonder, imagination, and curiosity. Curiosity is really the psychedelic impulse in the absence of psychedelics. You know, if you like to look at things—paintings, ants, bugs, butterflies, flowers. And pay attention. Look at things. And then the other thing is: love knowledge and love the weird. Love the fringes of knowledge. I said at some point in this weekend that the alien intelligence is a collagist. The more you put into your head, the more far out your trips can be. You know, there are people so lumpen that you give them DMT and they come down with the standard stereotype of the psychedelic drug-taker: “pretty colors.” Well, you have to be pretty dumb to come away with the impression that all there was was pretty colors. So, you know, read strange stuff. Go to strange places.

8:09:08

There’s an old alchemical saying, something like this: the highest mountains, the wildest deserts, the oldest books: there will you find the stone. And so it’s all about the common opinion should be rejected on principle. I mean, this sometimes makes you seem kind of quirky, because everybody’s running toward fish, and you’re talking about Buxtehude. Everybody’s interested in sushi and you want fermented mare’s milk. But usually you find out that, by behaving in this way, you end up ahead of the curve. And life is beautiful without psychedelics. Psychedelics simply make you aware of that primarily, and then secondarily lead you deeper into it. The affirmation of psychedelics is not the affirmation of an ideological position or a moral point of view, it’s the affirmation of the existence of beauty itself. The pursuit of psychedelics is the pursuit of beauty. The taking of psychedelics is a religion of platonic beauty: to know that it exists and to live one’s life in the shadow of that knowing is transformative, and carries us and the rest of evolution forward.


So that’s the weekend, folks! That’s the rap. Thank you very, very much!

Terence McKenna

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

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