All quotes from Terence McKenna’s

Life is a very, very dramatic example of what Prigogine was talking about. We have genes in us that occur in flatworms; absolutely undifferentiated from their expression in the human body. Well, those genes are arguably 3.5 billion years old. Since the life of an ordinary star—not our star, which is a slow-burning and special kind of star—but ordinary stars have an order of existence of 600 million years, one sixth the known rate of the persistence of life on this one piece of real estate. So life is a phenomenon that violates the second law of thermodynamics on a planet-wide scale with ease for 3.6 billion years. Fascinating!

The universe is more like an organism. It’s more like a creature. It learns. It gains experience. As it matures it changes its strategy. As it expands its experience it gains new domains of emergent subtlety. And this is, in fact, what we see.

If the planet is a thing, you can basically use it. If it’s an organism, then you must relate to it the way you would relate to another person, or at least to a fine animal or something like that.

Equilibrium is where you get to when you let go, and then you drift toward death, disintegration, decay, equilibrium. And sooner or later, in the old paradigm, all systems will reach equilibrium. A cup of coffee left standing becomes a cold cup of coffee. Everything seeks equilibrium. But what Prigogine showed was that some systems don’t, and that they are incredibly tenacious—life being the most obvious example. How does it do it? How does life perform this trick of maintaining itself homeostatically far from equilibrium? Well, it does it through the process of transferring order in the environment into its energy cycle, and then passing disorder out of the system. This is what we call eating and excreting. You take in a very highly ordered protein with a lot of energy bound into carbohydrate and protein. You extract energy from that and excrete out a much less differentiated, much less energy-intensive material. And by cycling energy through the form, the morphogenetic form of the body maintains itself. It’s a kind of miracle. I mean, the form is like a ghost in matter. The matter flows through it and the form puts the matter through a series of contortions that allow the form to exist. And as long as the form—the organismic form—can obtain high-grade stuff which it can get energy out of, it will maintain itself far from equilibrium. And through the miracle of genetics and heredity this maintenance of a state far from equilibrium has been going on on this planet for several billion years.

Mind is a phenomenon of metabolic activity. So far as we know, where there is not metabolism, there is not consciousness. Even computers—they have to have a flow of electrons in their guts. When there’s no electrons flowing, there’s no computation taking place. Similarly for us: when there is no flow of electrons, no charge transfer, then you’re dead. You know? And there’s no coming back from that. But if you have had children, look what’s happened: half of your information has been kept alive in the non-equilibrium thermodynamic state of the dissipative structure which is the species, you see?