Walking Out Of The Ordinary

(Speech at Sunshine Gardens)


Journey with Terence McKenna into the mystical depths of the psychedelic experience, where alien dimensions beckon and unseen vistas await. McKenna describes fantastical realms beyond ordinary conceptions of reality—worlds that hold promise for expanding human consciousness. He argues persuasively that plant medicines like psilocybin can serve as a key not only to self-knowledge, but to rediscovering our cosmic belonging. McKenna’s uncanny ability to articulate the ineffable allows him to initiate audiences into the revelatory power of psychedelic states. Join him on this quest, and you too may glimpse the infinities within.



Well, thank you very much, Roy. It’s a pleasure to be here. It actually is a pleasure to be here in the sense that a prophet in his own country is not nearly so welcome as he is in southern California, apparently. Anyway, when I think of California I always think of it superimposed over the Hellenistic world, and I think in northern California we practice philosophy and worry about the quality of our wine and our cheese, and you people in a very Roman style easily rule the world.


I want to thank Roy and Diane and Pam and everyone who helped make this into the kind of event that it is. I think they all did a great job—not only this event, but Roy has certainly been an amazing booster. I was going over the figures for Lux Natura last week and I noticed the Bodhi Tree Bookstore has sold 135 copies of The Invisible Landscape this year, which is far more than anyone ever sold until Roy took up the banner. Is it a banner?


I imagine that, since you all paid so much money to be here, that you probably have questions or that you have a fairly intense involvement with all of this material. So I’m going to talk a little bit and then take questions, and then if there are a lot of questions I’ll give short answers, and if there aren’t a lot of questions I’ll give longer and longer answers. So you participate in a reciprocal feedback relationship by how many questions that you ask.


I’m amazed and touched, actually, to see this many people with this much interest in this subject. It’s a little hard for me to imagine what it is that must burn in each of you to bring you out to an event like this. When I started saying the things that I’m saying, they were barely welcome in my own living room! So it’s very gratifying to see this many people with an interest in these kinds of things. These kinds of things—what am I talking about? Well, specifically, the notion that plant hallucinogens are different from hallucinogens generally, specifically pharmaceutical drugs. That the tryptamine hallucinogens are especially different. And the difference lies in the animate quality of the relationship that one can have with them, specifically the elves, UFOs, fairies, whatever it is that seems to inhabit the mushroom dimension.

And—just a minute. Sure. Because who knows how long it will go on, right?


I first came up against this thing in the tryptamines with DMT one rainy evening in February of 1968—1967, actually. And someone from Stanford Research Institute brought me a sample of DMT and said, “Here’s something you might be interested in.” And I had taken LSD in the previous six months and felt fairly sophisticated, but I was quite unprepared for the experience. And I was at that time on the brink of becoming an art historian, and it completely turned my career around because I felt that the tryptamine ecstasy (besides being an ecstasy) was also an alien ecstasy, in that I did not see the contents of that flash reflected in any art historical period, any painter, any civilization, any series of motifs that I was familiar with. And it inspired me to concentrate on Himalayan (specifically Vajrayānist) art, because I felt there there was a slight trace of this kind of mentality. And I went to Nepal—not to study Buddhism per se, but to study the autochthonous shamanism of pre-Buddhist Tibet, which is the source of those bizarre images in Vajrayānist art: the multi-headed, multi-armed, dog-faced, deer-faced entities that are the guardians of the dharma. Those are actually pre-Buddhist entities that are only guardians of the dharma through having been forced to swear fealty to the dharma by the power of Buddhist teachers. There’s one monastery in Tibet where the oath of servitude to the dharma has to be redone every 24 hours or it’s felt that this autochthonous entity will tear loose and maraud across the landscape. So they’re more like the bulldogs of Himalayan Buddhism; these strange shamanic entities.


So I looked at that, and took a lot of mescaline and LSD, and traveled around India. And I finally concluded that shamanism is essentially the only living religious tradition that I have been able to find that is in touch with these titanic realities of the hallucinogenic experience in an operational way. Hinduism has been absent from that theater for a couple of thousand years with the passage of soma. Whatever soma was for the Aryans who composed the Rigveda, it does not exist in that form in India today. And various candidates have been put forth; ephedra is one. Gordon Wasson made the case very eloquently for amanita muscaria, but those of you who have read his book probably recall the only problem with Wasson’s theory was that neither he nor any of his friends could really get loaded on amanita muscaria. It just did not have the psychological properties that something must have to inspire the kind of praise that you find in the ninth mandala of the Rigveda, where it is hailed as the pillar of heaven and earth. My own candidate for what soma would be is that it is a psilocybin-containing mushroom of some sort. Sort of reasoning backward from the power of the psilocybin experience, and then trying to understand how it could have been present in Aryan India and in points further west, in Asia minor and in the Middle East. Mushroom stones are not something native to Guatemala and Chiapas in Mexico. Mushroom stones have been found in Yugoslavia and in a number of other sites—much older mushroom stones, in fact, than the Guatemalan finds. The finds from Yugoslavia are late neolithic.


So anyway, I turned over these issues in my mind and decided that if you’re interested in shamanism, the place to be (if you’re interested in what’s called narcotic shamanism, meaning shamanism with hallucinogens) is the Amazon. For a number of reasons. First of all, that the old world tropics—which are mainly comprised of Indonesia—have been impacted by European civilization for close to 350 years with the Dutch in eastern Indonesia. The Amazon is the only place where there are large areas where people, hunting and gathering cultures and nomadic cultures, exist essentially as they have always existed. Also, the density of species, plant species, in the Amazon is far higher than anywhere else on Earth.


You know, it’s thought by Carl Sauer and other people of that school that the major force creating speciation in plants before the advent of man was rivers, because rivers cut new courses and expose land. And it is exposed land which drives the speciation of higher plants. In other words, if you have a climaxed rainforest, there are not new species appearing in that situation. Every ecological niche is occupied fully. It’s only where you have contestable open land that you have heavy plant speciation. And the fact that in the Amazon we get the world’s largest river flowing almost along the equator means—because mutation rates are always higher along the equator of a planet because of the way radiation is dissipated—means that you have a perfect situation for driving evolution. And in that perfect situation these human populations have utilized the plant hallucinogens to an extraordinary degree, and have actually produced what I guess you would have to call psycho-mental civilizations. In other words, they appear to be very primitive, preliterate peoples, but they actually have a psychological subtlety and a subtlety of interactive awareness which is perhaps the last, best hope of mankind. But it’s very elusive, because these people don’t write anything and never have. You almost have to be one to enter into this state of mind, and these languages—Witoto, Bora, Muy Nani, Shipibo-Conibo—are outlandishly difficult, and the conditions under which you would have to live to learn then are outlandishly difficult. The only way into the ambient psychology of preliterate peoples is, I think, through these hallucinogens. And then you strip away the sensory biases of Western civilization—print, media, reductionism, all of the forces which form our thought—and you actually participate in this global consciousness of being, which is tremendously rich in the moment—not long on history, not long on scenarios of the future, but tremendously embedded in the experience of the present in a way that is, I think, very important for our situation in civilization.


And it challenges our situation in civilization. It’s not clear that science as presently constituted can survive a full airing of the issue of the meaning of psychedelic drugs. This is, I think, the real thing which lies—this an another factor, which I will mention—this is the thing which lies behind society’s difficulty in coming to terms with these things they actually throw open the doors to areas of phenomena and of the phenomenology of being that have been closed for 500 to 1,000 years. The whole notion of an animate relationship to nature, the whole notion of a dialogue with an internalized other, these things have been largely absent from the Western tradition or else have become empty, paradigmatic models for religions, but with a heavy interpretation of what’s going on; heavy programming of these phenomena. No one’s saying, you know, you can have a voice in your head and it can be neither an angel nor a demon, but something much more complex and less easily dealt with.


The other reason I might mention that I think psychedelics have a curious place in modern society is the fact that they decondition. That if you were to analyze their societal effect on millions of people rather than looking at the single individual trip, you would see that what they do is they sow doubt about the current ontological models of what’s going on no matter what those models are. I mean, we are all familiar with the banker and the advertising executive in the 1960s who took LSD and just walked away from it, but I’ve seen Hindu priests just walk away from it. You know? Just say, you know, “What do we need with Krishna? We were kidding ourselves!” You know? And you can imagine how happily a force like that is greeted in Marxist society, or in capitalist society, which is heavily dependent on programming of values: how we should look, what we should buy, what we should wear, what we should believe. And I’m not sure how to handle that particular aspect of it, because that aspect of it doesn’t really interest me. You see, it isn’t that it’s a deconditioning agent per se, it’s that what it tells you is a form of conditioning which casts everything else into doubt. In other words, it doesn’t leave you a blank slate, it offers a new set of ideas about what reality is and how it works.


For most people who take it, this seems to come down to discussing my contention that psilocybin is different from all these other hallucinogens because you contact an entity or entities, because there is a realized Other of some sort. I think this poses a real challenge. I mean, it’s only been 130 years since the notion that man was descended from the higher primates was thought to completely wreck the ontological argument for the uniqueness of humanness. And it’s been only maybe 15 years, 10 years, 5 years, since the serious enunciation of the notion that a machine could think. You know, when I was 16–20 years old, computer scientists were all over the place assuring us that machines don’t think! That’s preposterous! That will never happen. That’s a complete misunderstanding of what artificial intelligence is about. Actually, those voices have fallen silent recently because the people in the field know the thinking machine is on its way, and what will it do for our ontological view of our place in the universe? And if coming right behind that is a super-alien intelligence, apparently telepathically deployed through hyperspace, something which we approach almost upon the status of insects or something, then this is another blow to the centrality of human uniqueness in the universe—or it is interpreted that way.


I don’t see it that way. I mean, I think all of these things—the discovery of our human origins, the notion of people hardwiring entelechy, the notion of contact through higher spatial dimensions with other forms of involved intelligence—all of these things actually lend affirmation to the human position in the universe, because it means we’re finally beginning to fight our way free of the miasma of delusion which has been persisted since the very beginning. I mean, we are still trying to disengage ourselves from a medieval universe. We’re still quibbling about whether there may or may not be planets around other stars, but it’s been 460 years since Giordano Bruno went to the stake saying, “I know that the universe is infinite and that stars and planets extend in all directions.” He was essentially a psychedelic martyr—not that he used psychedelic drugs, but there’s more than drugs that are psychedelic: ideas can be psychedelic as well. All “psychedelic” means is: consciousness-enhancing.


I think that, when we fully grapple with all this, what we will have to face is the fact that the psychedelic botanicals—specifically psilocybin and the LSD-like alkaloids that occur in morning glories and in ergot—that these things were actually the catalysts for drawing out of a certain branch of the primate tree the thing which we call humanness. In other words, human beings are the product of a monkey-plant interaction that is essentially about hallucinogenic drugs. Why? Very simply because, before the word “psychedelic” was coined, these compounds were called “consciousness-expanding drugs.” This is, in fact, what they do. And the expansion of consciousness is, in fact, the distinguishing factor of what’s going on in us as a species. All of the entire historical experience is a psychedelic experience. It is this adumbration and accumulation of resonant themes about another, the other, ingressing into the primate dimension. I imagine that early shamanism was essentially as Mircea Eliade describes it: it was about weather prophecy, game-movement, curing of disease, this kind of thing, which to us is not terribly impressive, but is actually—for a primitive nomadic group it indicates that the person who knows these things has access to a higher topological manifold. How else can they know where the game has gone and how the weather will be? In other words, they are extended in the temporal dimension in a way that most of the people in the tribe are not.


So this kind of thing, this realization that we are and always have been in a symbiotic relationship with these compounds is going to actually lay the basis for understanding how something as bizarre as human consciousness could emerge out of an arboreal primate line. It is because we are catalyzing consciousness. (“Catalyze” means to speed up.) And this is what the hallucinogens have done. I always thought, looking at the human evolutionary record, that the story was plausible: the story of the gradual emergence of the higher form and the larger brain case and everything. What was not plausible was the time scale. It’s fantastically compressed for such a major change to have occurred so quickly. You have to look for a previously ignored factor which is making that happen, and I think that it is the hallucinogens—that people who used them gained an expansion of consciousness which operationally translated out as an increase in adaptive understanding. And that was the name of the game: adaptive strategy. So that it was reinforced and reinforced. So that we are, essentially, the stoned monkey, if you will.


And you have only to look over recent centuries to think about the impact of tobacco on human history, the impact of alcohol, sugar. I mean, these things have founded dynasties and set whole peoples on migratory patterns. And they are essentially the things which drive history. The bringing of coffee to Europe set the stage for the establishment of mercantile capitalism. The coffee achievers. It’s the manipulation of opium policy by the British crown in the Far East. The manipulation of heroin policy by the CIA in the same Far East during the Vietnam War. All these things have been documented, it’s just that the dominant strain of global culture happens to be this European-Medieval (tracing itself back to Rome and Greece) strain, which is slightly peculiar because of accidents of geography, basically, I think. The fact that the European continent is so poor in psychedelic plants. The only things that you can really consider psychoactive plants in Europe are henbane and datura; these very dubious atropine- and scopolamine-containing compounds which are more associated with magic and delusion, and are—for any of you who have ever experimented with them—physiologically a real nightmare. I mean, I don’t know who it is who can handle them, but it isn’t me. And I can’t imagine a major tradition of usage.


We know that there were psychedelic sacraments—is that the word?—psychedelic cults in Europe very early; I mentioned the green mushroom stones from Yugoslavia. The most interesting candidate is, of course, the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were, for 2,000 years, anybody who was anybody in the ancient world went to Eleusis and underwent an experience, which it makes very clear was unambiguous and occurred in darkness, and hundreds of people at a time had this experience. And with the advent of Christianity, eventually with the closing of the Platonic schools, Eleusis also disappeared. But that was the last time in Western culture that this thing was kosher. The soma cult—the movement of the mushroom out of Africa and to India—that, too, by 200 or 300 B.C. was repressed. Yoga was essentially invented by Patañjali in, I think, the third century B.C. He explicitly says that the goals of yoga can be achieved by physical exercise, discipline, and light-filled herbs. But that part of it was already lost by the time of the reformation of Buddhism, essentially.


So my contention is that knowledge proceeds by recognizing blind spots. And that once you recognize them, then they become almost trivial. You know, people have said of great discoveries: first they say you didn’t do it, then they say it wasn’t important anyway. But the psychedelic experience has not been fairly dealt with. It has been repressed—in the sense that LSD, though no one can figure out how much of it is being taken, and all kinds of estimates are given—but the attention and hysteria of the media has moved on. So, operationally, that means the issue has been dealt with from a point of view of the control function in society. But what psychedelic drugs do has not been dealt with at all. And until it is dealt with I think we will be in this peculiar situation, this peculiar cultural milieu, of being half-conscious and having being fully conscious be a semi-criminal endeavor.


So, you know, I don’t know what exactly to do about that except to indicate that these phenomena are there, and to articulate how it strikes me and how it strikes other people that I know. And that seems to work. For instance, the notion of talking with self-transforming machine elves, which is how I put it in my book The Invisible Landscape, seemed—I mean, I couldn’t believe it when I wrote these words on paper. It seemed like such a freaky notion. But people say, you know, “Yes, that’s it. I know what you’re talking about. I saw that same thing, too.” Well, that seems to me to mean that “self-transforming machine elves” is actually a step forward in language, and that the psychedelic issue is somehow linked to the evolution of language, and that we are not, and in fact the whole cultural crisis generally, is linked to a direct evolution of language. We have to change the way we speak about reality, and then it will be perceived as different. And this apparently cannot be done by great leaps. It’s done incrementally by introducing a concept here, a word there, a notion somewhere else. But the psychedelicization, if you will, of society and language seems to me was never blunted, and goes on apace, and has ever since Leary and Metzner and all those giants back in the “Stone(d) Age” dumped LSD on American society. I see it everywhere: in design, in music, in fashion. “Everywhere that doesn’t count,” someone said to me. It’s everywhere but in the control mechanism. But I think the control mechanism is probably the last to get the news. The culture is shedding its skin faster than anyone can anticipate.


So this evolution of language thing really interests me. And recently, when people have been saying, “What do you want to do with it? Where do you want to take it?” I’m less interested than I used to be in extraterrestrials, flying saucers, all of that stuff. I still access it regularly. But, you see, when I first started publicly speaking I thought that, if people confirmed what I was saying, the obligation would somehow leave me to do anything about it, and it would be, like, NASA would take care of it or something like that. But I’ve discovered that, you know, as my friend Erich Jantsch used to tell me: that society really is metastable. That, you know, I’m perfectly free to say these outlandish things, and you’re perfectly free to believe them and to say them to your friends, and it doesn’t matter a bit, apparently. Or, the effect is so long-term that it doesn’t matter a bit.


So I’ve turned from the question of indicating the presence of the Other to the question of: what is it like to be the person who indicates the presence of the Other. And so I’m more interested in the transformation of the quality of daily experience when we are un-stoned (or at least un-stoned enough to be here without any of us making any of the rest of us uncomfortable). And I think that there are bridges that can be built out of the psilocybin experience into ordinary reality. And how this is to be done, I think, is through the transformation of language, and somehow the recognition of emotion. It took me a very long time to figure out that emotion comes in more than four flavors. You know? I had thoughts running through my mind all the time, and I also had this undercurrent of something else, which was highly variant and ever-changing, which I finally figured out: that is emotion. And the nature of emotion is its unenglishability. I mean, you can say, you know, “I love her,” “I hate her,” this and that, but you never come in to the depth of the modality of this present but unlanguageable background in which we’re embedded. And this is what I think the psilocybin allows: it allows some kind of bridge from that unenglishable background of being into language, so that you can begin to articulate. And that this is almost like a form of telepathy. You see, we start out with telepathy, because language is a strange form of telepathy. It’s that I make little mouth noises, consulting a dictionary I have, and you hear the little mouth noises, and you consult another dictionary similar enough to mine that you get my thoughts into your head—out of little mouth noises. Now, how far can this be carried? I think it can be carried far. Far. Much further than any of us actually might wish to be congealed.


First of all, it becomes poetry, you know? And for instance, Muhammad spoke in poetry. And this is a symptom of shamanic election: the ability to speak in poetry. But what can happen on these tryptamine hallucinogens—and I’ve seen it happen in my own living room, and I’ve seen it especially and most interestingly happen among shaman in the Amazon—is that there is the possibility of something which I call the more perfect logos, harking back to Philo Judaeus, who was a kind of polyglot, first century Jew who really had his fingers on what was going on in the first century Hellenistic world. And he talked about a more perfect logos, and he said, “It will pass from being heard to being beheld with no transition.” No visible transition, no quantized moment of shift from one to the other. So that the colloquial expression we have, “colorful language,” is actually hinting at this possibility. It is speech which becomes richer and richer and richer, until finally you realize that you’re looking at it. You’re not seeing it anymore, you’re looking at it. And at that moment a kind of telepathic state has come into being if it is another person who is doing this, because you are no longer consulting dictionaries, you are actually looking at the same object of linguistic intent. You behold their meaning, and they can rotate it for you and show you various sides of it, and you can both get up and walk around and look at it.


This is what hallucinations are actually for, I think. In other words, when we take hallucinogens and there is the burst of vivid imagery from the personal unconscious and then apparently deeper, the archetypal or superego, that is, I think, the equivalent of a child babbling in its crib. You are just playing and seeing and being the hallucinations. You have not yet begun to manipulate them. And by manipulate them I mean in the same way that an infant eventually begins to manipulate language, and to discover the grammar of it, and to discover that it can be used for something—that it can, in fact, be used to communicate. And consistently in the DMT flash these things—and by consistently I mean not only for myself, but other people report this—these autonomous self-transforming machine elves, or “tykes,” as I call them in order to have a technical term that is… you know…. The tykes do this. They are using sound to make objects. And in some cases the objects are then using sound to make objects. But they are urging that you attempt this. You know, “Do this! Do this!” And in that situation you can, actually, do this. And the puzzle of it is that it’s so satisfying because, to the exterior observer, you have just made the descent into gibberish and are raising serious questions in your friends’ minds about how long this should be allowed to go on without somebody, you know, pushing some kind of a button.


In any case, though, I think that this is just under the surface in human organization. We know that β-Carbolines are produced endogenously in the brain, in the pineal gland. We know that DMT occurs in the human brain. We know that DMT reaches its most intense concentration in the brain in the circadian cycle around three and four in the morning, when the most intense dreaming is going on. And if you know anything about how evolution actually works, it isn’t that a mutation occurs which confers such radical advantage on its owner that that type suddenly dominates. People imagine this is how it works. It doesn’t work like that. The way it works is: you have steady turnover of mutations of all sorts in a population, and a presumed steady ecosystem in which this is happening. If there’s a sudden change in the ecosystem—a forest burned down, an atomic war, a sand bar where there had been a forest, something like that—then what has happened is the selective pressures have changed, and mutations which were previously in the population totally harmless and quenched in the previous situation, suddenly they assume fantastic dominance because of the new situation, and just proliferate out wildly. And I think that modern society constitutes such a radical reorganizing of the human environment. That we can expect to see different types of people coming to the fore, gaining dominance through the selective process.


For instance, a way of thinking of that would be to think—well, now, let me see if I can think of a good example. I’m thinking of people who give massages, and what a bright future they have ahead of them, and what a not so bright future they had ahead of them fifteen years ago. The shift in the capitalist environment to the stress on service industries—people who deliver an intangible product—has suddenly made massage a very hot and viable item where, before, it was somewhat fringy. And so a person who has this ability goes from finding themselves relegated to the fringes of society to making a living (if they’re good at it) comparable to a decent psychoanalyst, I would suppose. At least in northern California…! This is all so thoroughly blurred that…!


So I don’t want to talk the full time. It’s 8:30. These are some of the themes that circulate in my own mind at the moment. And I would be glad to entertain questions on them or talk about some of the other things. But if there are questions I would love to wade in. Yeah?


In many of my trips I talk to God. It was God for a long time. And God was funny, and he was neat, and it was like being with someone else. Then a psychic teacher of mine said that that was just a spirit guide. They demoted it. He was pissed about that for a while, but that was the way it was. Now, you [???] a space being or something, and I’m kind of okay about that one too. But have you thought about this? [???] and that model?



Oh, I’ve thought about it. I guess the reason I reject all occult models—and people ask, am I talking about astral traveling, am I talking about astral planes, am I talking about guardian angels? And I reject all of that because it’s so mundane. The main thing that impresses me about all this stuff is how other it is, how unearthly it is. It’s not a spirit guide. I sort of visualize a kind of Virgil figure as a spirit guide, as Virgil led Dante through paradise and hell. These things are so weird that the space being thing I sort of reached out toward because nobody knows what a space being would be capable of. It is very mercurial and very tricky. And it is, to some degree, linked to the dynamics of your own unconscious. For instance, for a long time it was the disembodied space voice which had this tremendously large picture of space and time and man’s place in it. And this cosmic view. That’s what it seemed to have: the cosmic view. Recently I mentioned these Hindus. They said, “What about Krishna? What about religion?” And I said, “You should ask the mushroom.” So he put it to the mushroom and he wrote down the answer. He said, “What about religion?” And the mushroom said, “Religions are like grains of sand tossed up on the beaches of the places of space and time. I am the ocean.” Well, now, who said that? I mean, is that a… what kind of person says that? A spirit guide, or what is it? Other times the mushroom is highly realized as a personality. I mean, I remember this one trip where it came on with this Rod Steiger trip, like in The Pawnroker; like someone who had been disturbed in the grass. And I said, “What are you doing here?” I say to the mushroom. It says, “What am I doing here? I’m not doing anything here. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood till the monkeys got out of control!” I said, “But so you’re just sort of here? And you’re living here? Why are you living here?” It said, “Well, you’re a mushroom, you live cheap! That’s all. It’s just a low-rent section of the galaxy out here. Not much action.” Other times it can be very cosmic. It can be steered.


And this is a phenomenon that totally puzzles me that many people have verified, which is: you can give it a theme. Like, you can say, “Art deco,” and this stuff will begin flowing toward you. Millions and million and millions of cigarette lighters, ash trays, glasses, dresses. All this stuff, all perfectly realized Art Deco. High Art Deco. And then you can just say, you know, “No. Hellenic Greece.” And it does that. And then you can say, “Okay, do one I’ve never seen,” and it can do that. And you say, “Okay, now make it weird.” And it just wooooooh! And you say, “Okay, that’s weird enough!” And what is happening here, you know? I mean, orthodox evolutionary theory, if it can be extended to brain organization, would tell you that you’re not supposed to have anything in your head that doesn’t have a survival purpose, a biological raison d’être. And yet, vast amounts of imagery and information. And I’ve said, you know: in twenty minutes you see more art than the human species has produced in 15,000 years. Well, now, if that’s true, what in the world is going on that Joe Blow can outdo Michelangelo and everybody else rolled into one, and that it’s only five grams away? What is human history then, anyway, that we’ve taken all this time to do this thing? Why are our horizons of experience so limited if this is so immediately accessible?


One more thing about the character of the presentation of the Other. Maybe it’s fresh in my mind or maybe I just tell it because it’s a funny story, but some of you must’ve seen Ghostbusters. You don’t have to have seen Ghostbusters to appreciate this. But I had a trip this summer where I sort of tricked myself, and I took what I would have to describe as “approaching too much.” And about thirty minutes into it I realized that it was a great deal more than I had thought. And I could see this thing coming toward me which was like about a hundred miles wide and ten miles high, and it was just coming fast. In fact, I only had time enough to lie down. It was coming that fast. And as I was lying there I felt this hand on my shoulder. And a very dry, distant, but somewhat sexy female voice said—it was like a stewardess—said, “They say it helps if you close your eyes, cowboy!”

Yes? Yeah, sure.


Okay. First of all, I had a statement of appreciation here. [???] your thought and it’s very stimulating. And one difficulty I have is trying to find a place to leap in in dialogue with you, because you cover so much territory. But one recurring theme that seems important is the meaning of your experience. And what you seem to be doing with explaining it and putting it out there as a framework for understanding, it seems to me crucial that that framework be there. I’m fortunate enough to work with a number of people who take a wide variety of drugs. These lines you talk about. Many of whom have taken, I think, sufficient doses of the hallucinogens that you—you know, the tryptamine type—to have encountered something transforming, but don’t. And really close investigation, the best psychological work I can do, reveals no content of significance. So it’s led me to believe—plus my own experience—that the framework you bring to the experience is crucial. So I’d like you to dialogue with me about that.



Yes. It’s a puzzling question. You’re saying: “What about the people who it isn’t like this for?” I agree with you that it’s something about what you bring to it. But on the other hand, I took LSD many, many times and found it puzzling, interesting, abreactive. Brought up a lot of strange stuff about me. But I was never fond of it the way other people were. I always found it somewhat trying to do it. And rarely hallucinated. It was only when it was the first time I took mushrooms, and I said, “My gad! This is something of a different order.” So I don’t know what to make of people who find it elusive any more than I know what to make of people who come back and say, “It was exactly like you said it was!” That’s puzzling too, you know?


I would expect that more.



Because of my riff and that sort of thing. The way I do it—it doesn’t happen for me spontaneously, I might say. I may have discovered, inadvertently, I have to invoke it, sort of. In fact, not sort of. I just invoke it. And I feel somewhat embarrassed to do that because it’s such a weird thing to do. But I do. And I even speak to it and say… usually what I say is something like, “Show.” And I call it “thing,” because our relationship is informal. And I say, “Show, thing. Show what you know. Show, thing.” And it will begin to show. And then I say, “What you show is beautiful, thing. Show more.” And it’s just like coaxing something out. But it never steps back, you know? Once you get it coaxed out, it’s there and it is fully active. So I don’t know what to make of people who don’t get the connection at all.


Dennis and I have discussed this and it’s possible—in fact, see, so little is known about all this. Even hardware stuff, stuff that schools of pharmacology could find out if they only cared to think about these problems this way. It may be that there are shamanic families or receptors, you know? It’s well known, for instance, that there’s some chemical—I can’t remember what it is—but that some people, one in twenty, can detect this stuff 50,000 times diluted from what most people can detect it. It’s just a test they do. Some people are 50,000 times more sensitive to this chemical than other people. And there is a great deal of biological individuality in people, even though this is not a heavily researched subject. Because, for instance, our whole medical theories are: all people are alike. You have a cold—penicillin, or something or other. The truth is: biological markers for individuality are very numerous and not well understood. And if my suggestion that these hallucinogens should be thought of as pheromones is true, then you would expect genetic variability and genetic differences in how they work to crop up. This is like the problem of alcoholism and its genetic component, you know? This is another drug where some people have a totally crazy relationship to alcohol. Other people can’t understand it. And the thinking is it must be genetic. Well, there are probably relationships like that to these less studied and understood drugs as well. I don’t know. Maybe you have to be in a state of grace.

Sure, follow up.


—which is the next statement of the generalizability of your experience for, you might say, human development, human thought. That this is the evolutionary challenge that will bring out the next level of complexity to cope with. [???] growing technique, to use your term. I would like to propose that it’s you and others (whatever selectivity that is in there) interacting with an experience that is powerful. And for you it is the tryptamine hallucination, and that you are dealing with that experience with all your resources and creativity, and making it into a new level of consciousness. But is it… what I’ve been struggling with, having encountered these other people for whom it has no challenge effect, that they have something else. Maybe it’s a flood or a tragedy in the family, or something like that, or they’re thunderstruck at a church, or whatever it might be, and that changes their whole life course.



Well, are you asking: is it historically inevitable, or are people like myself trying to make it happen and it sort of hangs in the balance? I would like to think that it’s inevitable, naturally. And so I do. It seems that way to me. I mean, it seems to me that what is happening in part of the culture crisis is that we are exploring all avenues out of this mess, and that this one will eventually have to be looked at. See, I read an essay by Guy Davenport in a very interesting book called The Geography of the Imagination. And he made a point which I’ve sort of adapted and made my own, because I think it’s so important. He believes that the whole thing that’s going on in the twentieth century—from Auschwitz to LSD to punk rock to psychoanalysis to everything—is really an effort to come to terms with an archaic cultural model.


In other words, let me explain that: at the close of the medieval period, when urban centers and mercantile capitalism and all these things were getting started, there was a tremendous crisis in European society, a tremendous lack of models. Because the universal papal monarchy model couldn’t handle phenomena like mercantile capitalism and urban life. So in an effort to stabilize the society of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, they looked back toward earlier cultural models. Specifically to Greece and to Rome. And so Renaissance society became obsessed with classical civilization. And Renaissance law and Renaissance painting and architecture and all of these things, they sought to reinvent Hellenism, essentially. And this is a valid response for a culture in crisis. Our culture, which is global, is in much, much deeper trouble than fourteenth-century Italy was. And consequently, our response is much more radical. We’re actually reaching back 15,000–20,000 years for our cultural anchoring point. And that’s why modern art can be mapped onto the paintings at Lascaux and in the Tassili frescoes and that sort of thing, it’s why shamanism is suddenly (after 2,000 years of being) is very hot, it’s why these drugs are being brought forward, it’s why all this polymorphic sexual experimentation is going on. It’s because we are trying to anchor ourselves in this earlier cultural model. And I think that it signifies probably the closure of the cycle.


And what is needed—or what is an emerging step—is the creation of a shamanic class, which is sort of probably going to… a lot of psychoanalysts are probably going to try and ride the coattails of this thing. But it needn’t come from them. But a shamanic class whose task is what the task of shamans has always been: is to go into the hidden dimension and return with numinous, culture-constellating material. And I think that this obsession with the late neolithic has not yet peaked. I mean, you can see in the phenomenon of the New Wave a New Barbarism is sort of the surface of it, but it’s very conscious and self-mocking. And I think as we move on toward the end of the century, the theme of anarchy—which I notice is very strong in the punk thing; though never articulated by commentators, it’s only within the punk thing that this is realized—this anarchy theme will begin to build, because we are locked in an impossible cultural bind between a completely exhausted and materialistic Marxism and a completely cancerous and value-dark kind of capitalism. Neither of these systems is tolerable, actually, and each feeds off the other as its reason for being.


The problem has always been with anarchy that people (as W. C. Fields said) are no damn good! And I think that’s where psychedelics come in. The reason people are no damn good is because they have no sense of social responsibility. And it is the cultivation of this sense of social responsibility that will pave the way for anarchy. And it isn’t social responsibility as preached from the pulpit, it has to be from the guts. It has to be real social responsibility! And then, lo and behold, the withering away of the state and all these highly unlikely things will actually come into view. But it will take almost a sub-telepathic or proto-telepathic society for this to happen. Computer networking and that sort of thing can provide the hardwiring for the basic data—you know, the banking data, the statistical data, the real unconscious of the machine part of humanity—but it’s human beings that are going to have to make this leap to responsibility, to usher it in. It’s the completion of this program of obsession with the neolithic, it’s the completion of the program begun by psychoanalysis and psychedelic drugs, and a number of people who might not have thought they would end up on the same side. I mean, it’s the completion of the program of Hugh Hefner and the feminists, because it will eventually—it does have this polymorphic sexual content, but it also is certainly a goddess-realizing kind of social movement. This thing I said earlier about emotions—emotions are the carrier wave of being. And we have been blind to this for a very long time.


I feel that one of the—talking about dialoguing with the Other: I think you’re perhaps on some level dialoguing with many parts of yourself. When I read or listen to things that people have written, and dialogue with part of themselves, the most amazingly beautiful things come up. And then they say, “Oh, I learned so much.” They taught themselves.


Well, the self…


And without drugs. I mean, this just happens.


Right. The self is an undefined thing.


And there are parts; many, many pawns to this stuff.



And no one has taken the measure of it. You know, Jung tried to take the measure of it. I mean, people are always saying: is it an extraterrestrial or is it the collective unconscious? And what I’ve finally come to think is that, first, you contact your personal, private unconscious; the crimped-up part of yourself. And LSD was famous for this. It actually straightened people out because they were able to get up repressed and traumatic material and get rid of it, depotentiate it. Then you move into this archetypal zone that Jung and Kerényi and these people mapped. Beyond that lies this stuff which seems accessible to human beings, but not very human, and not really relevant. And I think, when I actually put this to the mushroom and said, “What is going on? Where are the extraterrestrials?” the answer was: “Don’t you know? The extraterrestrial intelligence is a dialogue between species.” Extraterrestrials don’t contact governments or individuals or people, it’s that species communicate between the stars. Humans are extraterrestrials in the sense that they’ve always known extraterrestrials at the species level, and the information flows back and forth. And that seems to me more reasonable. It is that there is animate intelligence, and you can go deeper and deeper and deeper into it, and it is infinite. And defining portions of it as the self, portions of it as the overself, portions of it as the Other—this is just whistling past the graveyard, you know? The fact is: we don’t know what is going on.


The whole thing, I think, that I am trying to get across is summed up in J. B. S. Haldane’s little saying, “The world is not only stranger than we suppose, it’s stranger than we can suppose. And if it’s stranger than we can suppose, then we should suppose that it’s as strange as we can suppose!” And this is not an allowable point of view. Every society at every point in human history has been sure that in fifteen years they were going to wrap it up and have the ultimate answer, you know? And the truth is: it’s preposterous. I’m as unconvinced that we are on a planet circling a G-type star as I would be convinced that we’re descended from Father Ant, who got out of his canoe at the eleventh waterfall to take a leak and we all came from that. I mean, this is what the Witoto believe, so why not believe that? In other words, our cosmogonic myths, our science, all these things—it’s silly. It is silly. And yet, we always assume that, you know, “Just the details! The top quark, and that’ll be it!” And I think we’re at the very beginning of understanding what is going on. That, in fact, all history is prelude to a civilized society. Mahatma Ghandi was asked once what he thought about Western civilization, and he said he thought it sounded like an excellent idea. That’s sort of the mushroom’s view of us.


I have a comment and a question. I would disagree with you in equating the New Barbarians with the New Wave. I think the New Barbarians are obviously the new Heavy Metal movement. They’re the goon-type guys with the clubs and everything. When I think of New Wave I think of high-tech synthesizers and futuristic thought, and things like that. And if you’ve seen the new Heavy Metal groups, they are patterned after Conan the Barbarian, and that’s really the manifestation of the goon mentality in terms of the New Barbarian thing.


Right. Although, don’t knock barbarians, you know!


Okay. I’ve heard you talk about the end of time, the mushroom as the reflection of the mushroom cloud at the end of time. I’ve heard you kind of hint around with the possibility that the atomic war is going to be it for the human race in terms of the transformation into another state, a very final transformation. Although you haven’t come out and said it, I’ve drawn this from the things I’ve heard you say. Would you agree with me, then, that since the mushroom has to do with the shamanic ability to ecstatically leave the body and so on, that if you’re thinking of being able to survive an atomic war, the answer might not be in digging fifty-mile trenches in the [???], but in acquainting yourself with some other vehicle besides a physical body, which the Earth may no longer be able to support after such a thing happening?



Well, I think the only way you can get beyond the problem of nuclear war is probably to be dead. In other words—


That’s what I’m talking about.



Yeah. I don’t think there’s going to be a nuclear war, actually. It’s interesting, you know, to think about atomic weapons and the effect that they have had on society, and will always have on society, as long as they’re not used—which is a very good effect. There is the most progressive political movement since World War II, the most progressive social movements, the deepest soul-searching on the part of the scientific community, the blunting of creepy political intentions has all gone on because of the presence of atomic weapons. And so I think, actually, that we can weather this. That there is something about the ability to transform yourself that involves the ability to destroy yourself. There is no way around that. The power to transform is the power to wreck. And so far, we haven’t wrecked our situation.


As far as the end of time, that’s sort of a different thing. I’m very interested in flying saucers and in the way various groups of people react to flying saucers. And my notion of what is going on is that the apocalyptic and millennarian hope and ontology that is built into most religions will actually be fulfilled; that it’s an intuition which is true: that the world will end. It’s just the question is: how? And also: when? But especially how. I think that—you know, I’ve said at times that if you wanted to see the fingerprint of god on creation, the thing to look at is human language. That’s the thumbprint of god, because that’s just such a weird thing. I mean, here we have trees, rocks, flowers, animals, stars, and human language. Something so weird, so much different, that it should be looked at very closely. And I think that this wave of novelty which I described in The Invisible Landscape is approaching a point where it will pass out of three-dimensional space and into some higher topological situation. And when that happens, there will be what Alfred North Whitehead called a “shift of epochs.” Whitehead had the notion that physical laws don’t last for ever, they just reign over epochs. And when the epoch shifts, the laws shift; that physics itself could undergo a change.


Now, this idea may seem preposterous—or we’re accustomed to thinking of it as preposterous—but when you think about the fact that the speed of light was measured for the first time 80 years ago, then how much of a grip do we have on how constant these physical laws are? I mean, how do we know that light moved at the speed it now moves at even 500 years ago? It is entirely by induction that this assumption is made, because it makes it possible to do some interesting calculations. The flying saucer represents a form of matter and mind which is, in this universe, transient and very mercurial. In another universe it represents the way things are. The flying saucer is sort of a concrescence where physics has been replaced by the laws of the imagination. It is something which is both mind and matter, and as such it casts enormous shadows back over the temporal landscape. So that the flying saucer haunts time like a ghost in many forms. It haunts time in the form of the messiah. The messiah is basically a flying saucer with two legs. It is this thing which causes event systems to coalesce around itself, and then it moves forward into the stream of time toward a prediction of its second appearance. And flying saucers are not—nobody is going to come up with a chunk of a flying saucer. Nobody is going to get that kind of evidence. It doesn’t have that kind of evidence. You’re as likely to get physical evidence of, you know, a hope; something like that. It isn’t made of matter. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It means that it is an ontologically different category from everything else in the universe. So is the human mind. And the human mind, so far as we know, is the only thing around which has a relationship to flying saucers. Nothing else seems particularly concerned about them.


So that’s a strong clue that these two phenomena are somehow linked together—probably with a common source. But we are in time. We are the children of the fall. We are moving from Eden toward the Millennium. But this 15,000-year hiatus, this moment, this pause in the beat—which is all we have—is an extraordinary situation. No conclusions can be drawn from it about the larger dimension of human freedom and becoming that we’re moving toward. We really are before history.


What I always say about drugs is: if the things that happened to me on drugs happened to me under any other circumstances, I would be very, very alarmed. I mean, I would be very alarmed to deal with these elf-machines and all of this stuff. Also, it seems to me, you know, there’s a dualism there. The old dualism that the world is evil and that man—it’s a Gnostic idea—that man has fallen into this world and should purify himself from it. I mean, people ask me: do I eat meat? Yes, I eat meat. The most intelligent person I know is a plant. Why shouldn’t I eat meat? It seems to me that we need all the help we can get. And I explored yoga and some of these other things, and I have turned on people who had given decades to it. And they say, “You’re right,” you know? This is it. This works. And why so much energy should have been invested into these other disciplines, I’m not sure—unless discipline itself is a good thing, you know? But I don’t have any trouble with the notion that drugs are alien to the quest for spiritual understanding, because nothing else worked for me. And I can’t really see myself, or other people, in any way other than completely embedded in nature. I mean, I really believe these reciprocal feedback relationships exist. And here, in the center of Los Angeles, it’s a fairly theoretical matter. But if you would go a hundred miles up the Rio Egara Paraná on a full moon night and take psilocybin, you know—my god, it’s just too weird. I mean, it’s like you realize that you are like a sugar cube being sort of gently massaged on the tongue of a very large being, and it’s just sort of turning over this lump of sugar and considering what to do about it. And the messages, the chemical messages, the odors, the sounds—you are transparent, really. The only part of you which really exists is the perceiving self. The body is a kind of illusion. I mean, it could be anybody’s body. And one body is rather like another, except that there are two kinds. But all dualisms are bad. And so I reject it on principle. And then, just operationally, nothing else seems to work. I mean, we do not have the luxury of vast amounts of time. You know:

The grave’s a lovely quiet place,

But none do there, I think, embrace.

This coyness, lady, would be no crime

Had we but world enough and time.

But always at my back I hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.

Hurrying near? Okey-doke!

Question? Oh, Roy.


While we’re at a place, before I forget, I would like you to give a one-minute or two-minute testimonial on behalf of the station so I can play it on the air at times when we’re raising funds. Something about how important the station is, or how much you like it, or why don’t you support it, you know? It can’t be heard anywhere else.


You mean you would like me to give a pitch for KPFK?


Yeah, a one- or two-minute, short pitch.



Okay. In my opinion, Pacifica Radio and KPFA are probably one of the most significant forces working to change things around in the world today.


We’re KPFK, though.


Didn’t I say KPFK?


You talked about your station up there.



Oh no, my station is all run by Marxists and hacks! No. No, KPFK is a major force, I think. Being in this city at this time and having been in this city for so many years, and having people like Roy Tuckman put ideas out in front of people—where else could you hear this kind of stuff? The answer, friends, is: nowhere!


Hear, hear!


Thank you.




I was hearing on the morning reading—from, you know, your tapes?—and the one day that seemed like it was the secret, you know? You were telling about the DNA [???] it had to do later, maybe, with the ampersand, but it was like what structures, how they replicated, maybe, or how they—well, I don’t even know. See, because what it was is: you had feedback as part of the tape, and maybe my radios were crummy. I couldn’t understand. It was like tall gobbledygook. I thought maybe it’s supposed to be like that. Maybe that’s what it is.


That’s what I assume!


But see, I thought you were really saying something, you know what I mean? Just kill me! Like, I couldn’t [???] here was the main thing. You were explaining it all: the key, the secret, and I couldn’t understand a word. It was the feedback. There was echo, you know? You had an echo in there. And oh god, that echo! I just couldn’t make it out what you were…. Maybe you remember that part of the tape, and you could say it without the echo?



I haven’t a clue! I did a weekend at Esalen last weekend, and some people were up from LA, and they said they had played my tapes for someone. And after listening for about an hour this person said, “Does he ever make sense?”


No! You made sense. You know, I mean, really. It would almost make sense but for the echo. You know what I mean?



Well, eventually I hope that book comes into print, because at $80 a throw it’s pretty stiff. And, in fact, I urge you all to tape it off KPFK. That’s fine with me; that’s what I would do. We essentially put it out in that form because it was very cheap to capitalize, and we did it ourselves. But it made it very expensive. My hope is that some brave publisher will take it up and print it. And maybe not that brave; if a publisher were convinced that the book had the kind of audience it has in Los Angeles, I’m sure it would be out overnight. But this is a unique marketing situation.


What about the ampersand? That was a little later, but that’s connected to the DNA—



Well, that was just this idea—it was a way of symbolizing the flying saucer, really. Because the shorthand symbol for the ampersand is sort of like an X with a loop in one corner. Sometimes I called it the eschaton, sometimes I called it the ampersand. It was this notion of this waveform hierarchy of time, with some cycles so short and so intense that they were actually visibly present, and others, you know, stretched out over thousands and thousands of years. I used to say to people, to Dennis even, a couple of years after coming back from the Amazon, I said, “The way I see the world is not like other people see it at all.” I actually see this waveform superimposed over everything. I actually, if I look at an animal, I see a depressed spiral dimple in the waveform. I actually see concrescences as concrescences. And that was—I was, like, experiencing the visible language mode. And now it’s like a metaphor. It falls away.


I mean, the hit we got at La Chorrera was some hit! I mean, what has it been now—1971?—thirteen years, and I’m still ringing like a gong. And I just peel away layer after layer of it, and it still is present, creating ideas. I mean, every once in a while something will come through with that same kind of clarity and intensity, and I say, “Aha. I recognize this. This is a further installment on the idea.” So the ampersand was a shorthand way of symbolizing this thing. In the I Ching somewhere—I can’t remember where exactly—but it says, “If this sacrifice were correctly understood, a person could hold the universe in the palm of their hand like a spinning marble.” And this image of the universe condensed down to a spinning marble which you hold in the palm of your hand, this is the flying saucer again. See, as modern astrophysics, the frontier of knowledge was in chemistry, in matter. Not in what lies yonder of the Magellanic Clouds. And at that point the flying saucer was called the philosopher’s stone. And it didn’t appear in the sky, it appeared in the swirling interior of alchemical retorts, chemical glassware, where people seemed to glimpse the coming and going of something which, for them, had religious connotations and spawned ideas of the millennium and human transformation. Well, then, later, you know, chemistry was de-spiritualized. It was exorcised, you might say, and it all became very humdrum. Then the mystery moved into the sky. And we are just at the state of knowledge vis-à-vis distant star systems and the evolution of life that the sixteenth century was with its chemistry. So that the Other always recedes into a frontier of knowledge that is just being explored.


A perfect example of that is: in the twelfth century, hydraulic pumping techniques were created that allowed deeper mines to be sunk than ever before in Europe. And when they sunk these mines below the 500-foot level, elves became a major problem in European mining for several generations. And miners would never go alone into these places, and there was just a terror [that] these places were full of elves and gnomes guarding the mineral wealth deep underneath the earth. Well then, finally the problem just faded away, you know? And it was something about how the interface is at the frontier. This is why meditation is always ritually prescribed in deserts and at the edge of human habitation. It’s because at the edge is where things are happening. One of the things about the psychedelic experience is that it presents itself as an edge. Sometimes it’s like being on a beach. There’s this ebb and flow of two mediums. Sometimes the beach is like the electromagnetic envelope of the planet. You can see it rising and falling, and you are there, somehow, in this membrane of transition. So the notion of the wave form of time, the ampersand, and then (in its more condensed form) the flying saucer, was throughout. And it’s an idea which exists at many different levels.


I mean, at its most literal level it seemed preposterous, you know? I mean, I had, years before we went to La Chorrera in 1968 or something, a woman gave me a small glass bead; a lens-shaped faience bead. Not a woman particularly important to me. But anyway, I had this thing. And in Laos, in Luang Prabang, I lost it. I just lost this thing. And I thought about it thirty seconds and forgot it. And then three years passed. And then I was at La Chorrera. And I became obsessed with this lost bead because I realized that it had been the thing; that I had possessed it at a certain point in my life, but I had thought it was a bead. And so I had lost it. And so then I spent a great deal of time trying to get this thing back, trying to call it to me. And I never could. I got, as is told in the True Hallucinations tapes, the silver key instead. But it’s that notion of a condensed, trans-dimensional object which is not recognized for what it is, but which—when fully explored—turns out to be all and everything. It’s a sort of Borgesian notion, you know, of an infinite regress.

Yeah? Yes.


In one of your tapes you make a comment about [???] certain amount of trepidation. Or you say something about having to hold one’s self [???]



Well, yes, I guess this addresses the question: what do you do when it’s weird, you know? When the going gets going, the weird turn pro—isn’t that what Hunter Thompson teaches us? Great psychedelic guru and explorer of altered states. Honing yourself, I think, is basically the ability to keep your mouth shut and sit still, you know? It’s just about hanging on when it gets peculiar. And it really doesn’t ever get too peculiar if you know a few things. One thing is that mantras work in that state. They may not work in any other state; that’s debatable. But in that state they’re just as advertised, you know? Another thing is that cannabis is truly a gift of the Lord in that situation, because it just, you know… your little motor comes on and you wheel away from whatever it is that’s troubling you.


It is weird. It is weird, because you’re penetrating a very bizarre dimension. I had an experience earlier this summer (which I probably shouldn’t tell, but I will) that is an example of how it gets weird. A friend of mine moved to London and left me his library for unspecified amounts of time to keep. A very bizarre library. Mostly Platonic stuff, a lot of magic, a lot of that sort of thing. And so we built a book loft for it. And our house is wedge-shaped, and so this book loft is way up at the top of the house. And I was alone in the house, and I took seven dried grams, and I was sitting there, and it was juuust beginning to come on. I was in the “show what you know, thing” phase. And it was beginning to show what it knew, and there was this disrupted area of space in front of me where it was, like, rotating. And I was looking into it and talking it up. And at first I was speaking in my mind, then I began speaking aloud, and I was saying, “You are beautiful, thing. You are beautiful.” And suddenly things changed and it became very cold—meaning the temperature fell suddenly. And the dog next door, who never howls, howled. And the cat, which was down below me—I was up in this loft looking down at our bed, the cat was on the bed—the cat flared out and made this really weird noise. And I just stopped what I was doing and projected my mind into this situation, and at that moment I heard this sound which was like phhhhhhhhh. And then something settled onto the roof, sufficient to make the six by fourteen-inch beam creak in. It just went eeeeeeerrrrr. And I was floored! And I just sat for a minute. And I was not frightened. In fact, my emotion was hard to get back to. But I wasn’t frightened. But just at that moment, this thing was really coming on and really visually peculiar. And it seemed like the two things were independent. The trip was getting stronger and stronger, but a ten-ton something had landed on the roof beam of my house. So I just sat with it for about thirty seconds, and then this thought or voice came, and it was: this thing has come because of something I’m doing. And that means that I can get rid of it. So I just turned, like this, up toward the roof and projected this thought very strongly, which was: “Begone! I am in conversation with an elder.” And this thing went, “Eeeeuuuugh!” And there was a long pause, ten seconds or so, and then, whatever it was, it lifted off the roof and went away. And what was weird about this was: I had never ever used in my own mind this phrase, “an elder,” to describe a mushroom. It was like, just came out of me. And the whole episode seemed real weird to me. And I just let it ride. But that’s an instance where, you know, there is this… let’s call it synchronicity so that we don’t have to believe that a pterodactyl landed on my roof. There is this synchronicity. For some reason there chose to be a fluttering sound and the beam chose to creak. Now, doubtless, this has to do with temperature and the cooling of day to night and this and that, but, you know, it was a thing to go through.


And other things like that go on. There was an incident (which I don’t think is actually on True Hallucinations) in Hawai’i, where we stepped out of the house. It was another—we were hitting it pretty hard in that Hawaiian situation—and stepped out of the house in the middle of the night. Totally clear, starry sky. Very high, thin cirrus clouds in one part of the sky. And 300 yards in front of the house and about 300 feet up in the air, a large black cloud, lenticular, slowly turning. You say, “What the…? What is…? It’s ridiculous!” And you just look at this thing, and it swirled faster and faster, and grew denser and denser, and then it just retreated into nothing. It both moved away and got so small it disappeared. You know? So what is this? Low-level convection because of…? There’s no explaining these things. Many people on psilocybin report the rustling at the side of the room. There seems to be a periphery, about fifteen feet out, where the scurriers are in action. And they just move around, and they never come closer, and they never get further away. And they just scurry and… and you say, “Oh, they’re rats. Gee, there are a lot of rats!”

Yes? More. Any notion? You, yes.


I think we’ve all listened to True Hallucinations with a great deal of interest. I personally had trouble understanding your description of Dennis’ description of the experiment at La Chorrera. What was actually occurring, what the inhalation of the harmine molecule into the DNA matrix communed. Explain that.



You mean you had trouble with the concepts or the operational; what did we do? You want to know how to do it?


Well, could you go through that again, rather briefly perhaps?



Okay. I think—well, but you don’t have a manuscript. In the manuscript there actually comes a place where there are ten things that must be happening. It’s basically the notion that, if you saturate your body with β-Carbolines, that you can actually make a sound with your mouth that is an overtonal harmonic of the electron-spin resonance of the harmine molecule. Now, we have been subject to endless amounts of vilification and some jeering because of this idea, so let me try and make it seem as credible as possible to you. First of all, when you take something like ayahuasca, hundreds of millions of these molecules flood your body and occupy the bond site, wherever it may be. Okay. So then, this sound which you generate (with this ESR overtonal harmonic), it need only come in contact with a very small population of these molecules. Most of these molecules will be wrongly oriented to the source of the sound and it will have no effect. But some few, perhaps dozens only, will be in the correct orientation to undergo this process of cancellation of molecular motion, which is at the one molecule level an operational definition of superconductivity. See, if you have one molecule, you can have superconductivity and you really can’t speak of a low-temperature phenomenon, because how do you have low temperature when you have one molecule? So the notion was, then, that when this molecule achieves this superconducting state by being audibly canceled, that it will bond to anything near it. And some of these will bond into nuclear DNA in neurons. And then there was a whole long period spent figuring out: how could—since the synapse of a neuron is far away from the nuclear body—how could these drug compounds, which are active at the synapse, be transported into the region of the nucleus? And then, fortunately, Arnie Mendell and some other people came along with what they called “axioplasmic transport.” And they proved with radioactive labeling that there was both movement to and from the synapse to the nuclear membrane. So then that was the method of conveyance. And then the whole idea was that—you know how DNA is organized in this ladder-like fashion? Well, there is space between nucleotides for a planar molecule like β-Carboline to slide right in there. And it will not disrupt the molecule at all. LSD does this, too. This is not wild-eyed stuff, this is well understood. And in fact, early in the 1950s, LSD was looked at as a possible radiation protection. That it was felt that your body could withstand a higher amount of radiation with LSD, and the reason is very easy to understand: simply that the planar molecule of LSD was inserting between the nucleotides and adding its physical strength to the strength of the molecule. And this is a typical strategy for strengthening molecules: to add intercalators. But our idea was that the β-Carboline molecule is basically a pentexal group with two benzene rings hanging off it like Mickey Mouse ears. And the idea was that these were ideal transducers for a wave form. In other words: that they would emit a signal. That any kind of microwave or any kind of thermal radiation, anything that was being transduced through the DNA, would be radiated off by these harmine molecules. And that seemed to actually happen, you know? And we’ve felt that the basis of our experience was—the reason we were able to access what’s called the unconscious for such a long period of time was because these molecules were operating. Once they intercalate there’s no reason for them to come out.


So although the neuron [???] DNA would be harmine [???]



No, you don’t need to produce more. No, no. The DNA in the neuron doesn’t regenerate. Yeah, that’s [???].

Yeah. Back here?


You were talking about the ESR, which is something something resonance?


Electron spin resonance.


I’m here because I heard that half hour program on KPFA, and there was [???] insects [???] related to an experience with mushrooms and [???] that you touched upon. The oneness which has eluded [???]


You want me to talk about insects.





Well, this experiment that we did is—sure, it was egocentric. It was small potatoes. It doesn’t push the ocean—


[???] worth it to come here, because I’ve done it. It was egocentric [???] And it was something that brought me way out of my mind. I don’t go to rock concerts. I have trouble getting to a movie. I don’t answer the alarm. But I came here tonight. I couldn’t believe it.


And what would you like to know?


Whatever it means to you that those [???] don’t understand galactic hyperspace.


The whole relation of ourselves with the universe as [???] not that egocentricity [???] per se, but our relationship. [???] total aware… not person, but this entity [???]



Well, earlier we talked about how, you know, the notion that there are individuals is as you say: it’s an ego trip. It’s a conceit. There is a seamless web.


But we are all of one mind and all part of the universe. How can you preclude that? [???] one thing.


You talk about it quietly. You didn’t talk about it to the large group. You need to do that.



To talk about the unitary aspect of it? The fact—well, yeah. What these drugs do is: they drain away the water of illusion, and then you see that all the land is connected; that people are like islands sticking up out of the sea. And that, once illusion is overcome, everything is seen as unified. The whole thing is to try and… history is a very abrasive process, and the whole thing—


[???] that drugs will do this [???] something like meditation [???] self-awareness [???]



I think drugs shock people into meditation and that kind of thing. Yes.


Being giving, loving, rather than…



Emotion is the main thing to cultivate, even in advance of drugs. That we have no language for emotion—this has somehow been taken away from us culturally or some other way. Maybe because there are so many distractions. But I was amazed, in the Amazon, how much time people who have nothing spend talking about how they feel, and have a fantastically rich language for talking about that.


People who have nothing, which is [???] because they don’t know what nothing is.


That’s right. That’s right.


They’re like kids that don’t babble, but are [???]



But you have to cultivate what you’re talking about in this kind of civilization. But when you go to the Amazon you have to almost resist it. I mean, when you take psilocybin you discover something you never knew before—when you do it in the Amazon—which is that you could walk out. And that’s very unsettling, because you don’t know whether it’s true or not. But you say, “My god, I’m loaded on this stuff, and it’s saying to me that if I walk into the jungle, it will not be what I was previously told it is. It will not kill me in a matter of hours. It is in fact paradise, and it is in fact where I belong. It is in fact the entire completion of my being.” And people do walk into it. And I don’t have the faintest idea what happens to them. I mean, I had—it was like at the periphery of my vision, it was not presented to me squarely—but I saw an arboreal human lifestyle, a lifestyle in the canopy, that was erotic, athletic…





Oneness. Complete oneness.


[???] I felt and really aspire to. And I feel that it’s so devastating [???] trajectory, I always want to grow, and I feel: here’s a chance to grow. And that oneness is just something that’s special. [???] you put forth in a way that was very inspirational, obviously, because I can’t sleep!



Here’s the thing, see. This actually came up at Esalen last week. I mean, you’ve actually touched on the core issue, which is: I have a mortgage and two kids and all kinds of obligations. If what you want to hear from me is that you can go as far as you want to go, this is certainly true. You can go further than I am presently willing to go. I know what this stuff throws the door open to. It throws the door open to what you’re talking about, which is: becoming a Taoist sage, becoming a completely transformed human being. But that person, the person who chops wood and hauls water on cold mountain, is (by people like me and Roy and probably most of the people in this room) glimpsed through the fog, and you say, “Oh my goodness! Is he still alive up there?” You know? I know what can happen if you go into nature with this stuff. You need not come back. But that’s a decision that people have to make, because it’s so awesome. I assume eventually it will take me, and I will walk out of history. And I have friends with less responsibility than me, and perhaps more courage, who tell me stories about what it’s like—you know, to do eight grams on a glacier or a lava flow or at Mount Shasta. And I know that lifestyles are possible that could never be realized in such a way that such a person could come to this room. There’s no end to it. But you say goodbye to a lot. A lot which, if you’re ready to say goodbye to it, that’s fine. If you’re not, you should probably move at your own speed. But there’s no question.


See, I guess what I feel like I am—and, in fact, the mushroom even said this once. It had this weird (when it first recruited me) it had this curious semi-military metaphor, which was all about: “Give us ten years in the trenches and we’ll do something nice for you.” And so, you know, that was 1975. So I have a few months more to go. But what you’re asking about is individual transformation. And you can leave any time you want, you know? You just better have wanted to leave, because I think it’s fairly final. I was convinced of that. The mystery is everywhere. The thing is: most people are without courage, including possibly myself. I mean, when you go down to the Amazon and then up one of these rivers, and then dicker with the head man in the village, and then he takes you to his nephew three days in, and then its you and him, and he brews up this stuff, and it’s the middle of the night and you bolt it down—that’s the moment when you realize that they all just brought you here to kill you!


Really, one of the things I love most about the mushroom is that it doesn’t require Terence McKenna (or anyone else) to explain it, because it speaks for itself. And this is what has screwed up every religious mystery throughout history: is that the mystery could not speak for itself. So if you want to have a dialogue with the mystery, it’s there. And it needs no John the Baptist, it needs no exegesis of any sort.

Thank you all very much!

Walking Out Of The Ordinary

Terence McKenna


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