All quotes from Terence McKenna’s

What’s going on on this planet is absolutely unique so far a we know. It’s never happened before on this planet: intelligence emerging out of biological organization and actually having a shot at—what? Who knows! I mean, being itself is some kind of opportunity.

Science doesn’t deal (as it always pains to point out) with what’s called subjective experience. Well, that’s really too bad because that’s all any of us ever have: subjective experience!

Don’t let anybody kid you. It’s not that the good guys are miles and miles behind, and so you just might as well tear your ticket up and throw it in the air and go home. No, it’s an absolute horse race: neck and neck, photo finish race between education and disaster. We are going to either burst out into a millennium of freedom and caring and decency, or we’re going to toxify the whole thing and just turn it into an ash heap. And the responsibility falls largely on us.

We have never taken the imagination seriously. We have never taken the self-management of culture seriously. We’ve always sort of thought things should just go along like a random walk. But now, because of the immense technical power that’s come into our hands, the design process of the whole planet is now on our desk. And we’re being asked to essentially step into stewardship of the entire planetary environment. We have to have, then, a vision. We have to have a dream. Not a vision, or a dream—the vision, the dream!

We can’t preach to the have-nots the virtue of voluntary simplicity when we’re riding around in BMWs and collecting Monets. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What if this is the only intelligence in the universe? Then I would think we have a certain obligation to preserve it past the life of the existence of the solar system. So if we’re not willing to commit ourselves at any phase of our evolution to a technical phase that involves mastery over matter, then we have no more defense against the larger universe than raccoons and katydids if push comes to shove.

We need to think on very large timescales and we need to figure out how to create political machinery to do that. We’ve been living a potlatch existence—just a frenzied, consumerist kind of unthinking abuse. And I think the best inoculation for that style of life is a stiff dose of psychedelics. You can’t evade it, you know? It dissolves boundaries, it allows you to feel what you’re doing. I mean, the level of denial in this society is incredible! My god, we don’t feel it! We read the newspaper but we don’t feel what it’s telling us! Because if we felt it, we would probably be an emotional wreck. But there’s something to be said for opening up to some of that.

We are not apart from nature, we are in some sense a portion of nature which is the most reactive and energetic, because we are reactive and energetic in the domain of epigenetic codes. We can foment rapid change.

What we are is almost an ontological transformation of life. We are to life what life is to the inorganic realm.

There is this thing about being human which we as a culture have ignored, repressed, don’t want to talk about, face, or think about, which is: you can get loaded. And nobody knows quite what to make of this. We dance around it with the same kind of furious, ambiguous intensity that we also reserve for sex, which is also a boundary-dissolving, momentary loss of self into some kind of greater whole.

The old notion of competition and survival of the fittest is now seen to be bankrupt. The way nature works is: it’s the species that can make itself most necessary to other species, the one that can cut energy deals with the most of its neighbors, that is the successful one. So you maximize cooperation, you maximize dependency, you maximize integration. This is the successful evolutionary strategy.

Stifle it! The ego is much too large. I mean, we need an ego, yes—that’s so that, if you take somebody to dinner, you know whose mouth to put food in. That’s having an ego. But above and beyond that it becomes sort of superfluous.

Cooperation is just an automatic response among many of these rainforest hunting-gathering people. When you finish a job, it isn’t your job. When you finish a job, you go on and you do another job until all the jobs are done. And this is clearly a learned response, because these are human beings just like us. But under the extreme pressure of being twenty people trying to hold it together in the rainforest through gathering, they have accepted that the tribal unit is the lowest common denominator, and that everything has to operate in the light of that.

“Superego” seems to imply organization, intelligence, focus, awareness. And what seems to emerge from these psychedelic experiences is that, where we expected disorder or the absence of organization, we find order and we find mindedness. The superego seems to be everywhere. So in a way it is like that. It is that you’re becoming more informed, but it diminishes your personal importance; the physical atom of your body.

A shaman is someone who has seen the end. A shaman is somebody who has seen it all. They’ve run the movie, and run the movie, and run the movie, and they’ve satisfied themselves that they understand the movie. Then they go back to their place in the movie and they live it—with a small smile, because they know the end. They know how things work. They know what life is. And when you have even a piece of that action you can get a real handle on peace of mind, on true authenticity, because it’s in the tumbling, forward-rushing chaos of the lower-dimensional slices of time that we lose it, that we become confused. Who am I? What do I want? Where am I? Who should I be with? What should I give myself to? This is a voice speaking from chaos.

It’s very important to understand: what is this coming and going of form? If we take this pillow and saw it in two, it’s a pretty undramatic event. If we take one of us and saw us in two, it’s an extremely dramatic event. What is the difference there? It’s that this object is three-dimensional and this object is four-dimensional. This object has a quality about it called “being alive.” Being alive—also technically known as metabolism—means that material is moving along temporal gradients within the confines of this organism. Material is not moving along any gradients within this thing, it’s just where it is; there it sits. But in here a form is being maintained from within. And if I were to die, the form would collapse. Here, no form is being maintained except the form imposed. This is an imposed form. It has no sense of itself and it doesn’t sustain itself from any kind of internal integrity. But higher-dimensional objects—like animals and plants and human beings—have this quality.

The metaphor, the model, to hold in your mind as you gaze at the Earth in its travail is the metaphor of birth, not death: that a gestation process of 20,000 years is coming to an end. Culture-using, language-using, minded creatures are coming to some kind of fermentative climax. And we cannot extrapolate the human career on this planet centuries into the future. It ain’t gonna to be like that.

History is a state of becoming. It’s a state of moving from the inarticulate, unreflecting, animal-style of organization to the self-reflecting, minded, conscious, energy-controlling style. But to get from one to the other takes about 20,000 years—and it’s a bitch. You don’t know where you are. You don’t know up from down. You cannot tell what is happening. There’s just migrations, and warfare, and pogroms, and gene mixing, and hysteria of every sort, messiah this and religion that, and they’re slaughtering these people, and these people are doing that. It’s like a bad dream. It’s like a psychedelic trip, is what it’s like. It’s a 15,000–25,000-year dash to authentic being from the animal body.

Everything is in the process of changing into something else, even at the very moment that you recognize its coherence as an entity. And this is the bad news that the ego doesn’t want to hear. This is what the ego is created to deny, because the ego is the effort of flesh to make diamond. And it can’t be done.

We don’t know what we could be if we were free to evolve ourselves. I think that’s the starting line that we’re edging up on: we’re about to have a chance to create a global culture; to decide, to essentially clean our basement and decide what we’re going to save and what we’re going to keep.

We are born in the mystery. It’s all around us. Everything is provisional.

I think the reasonable response is to push the art pedal right through the floor. The way to escape the present cul-de-sac is an enormous outbreak of creativity of all sorts. We just need to overwhelm ourselves with creative expression. This could be very easily done. We’ve been in the habit of binding about 60% of our social energy into a standing crop of weapons, and whatever creativity is expressed in the production and design of these weapons, it goes on behind closed doors in the most excessively testosterone-festered environment you can possibly imagine, which is a military weapons research laboratory. But if we weren’t caught up in that, if we could really direct the resources the way we want, we have no idea how rich we are—and how perverse our distribution of resources is. I mean, a single F-16 fighter plane, standard equipage, costs 120 million dollars. One of these fighter planes! They order them in lots of 500. If somebody were to give 120 million dollars to the New Age—define that any way you like— (or to me, or to you), that’s a lot of money! But if you spend it on a fighter plane, it’s not a lot of money. You can park a fighter plane in an area twice the size of this room and there it sits—useless unless Armageddon should come along. It’s about the most useless thing you could do with 120 million dollars. And yet, if you gave that to the sincere, the insincere, the half-sincere and let them all go off and do with it what they want, society would be a much richer place and many more interesting possibilities would be developed.