All quotes from Terence McKenna’s

There’s a lot of kind of self-congratulatory back-slapping going around these days over the fact that communists everywhere are in hot water and have to admit that they did it wrong, and this gives a lot of satisfaction to people who feel that that means we did it right. We didn’t do it right. They did it wrong, and now admit they did it wrong. We do it wrong and have yet to even raise the possibility of turning away from what we are doing. The internal contradictions of Marxism were based on a false definition of what people are. People do not respond to central planning, hortatory propaganda, and stereotyping—neither do people respond to an ethos of self-denial or a view of human beings that denies the fact that we have certain itches which must be scratched. So I think that the collapse of Marxism is only the collapse of the outer edge of the societal and civilizing assumptions that we have made.

Where do you look for models? Where do you go? The answer is so obvious. You go to nature. Nature has been playing this game for three billion years on this planet. We have been playing the game—we, the apostles of Christian scientism—for about 2,000 years. Nature has an economy, an elegance, a style that, if we could but emulate it, we could rise out of the rubble that we are making of the planet.

Abstraction is the knife poised at our hearts. We are so much the victims of abstraction that, with the Earth in flames, we can barley rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat. That’s the level of disempassioning that abstraction has laid upon us.

How are we going to save this planet? How are we going to take the lethal cascade of toxic technological and ignorance-producing habits that are loose on this planet and channel them toward some kind of a sane and livable world? Well, the answer is emerging in culture out of the collectivity of global consciousness. It is what I call the archaic revival. It is this very large turnover in the mass mind; some people call it a paradigm shift. It’s an effort to recover the sensory ratios, the feelings, and the attitudes of 15,000 to 20,000 years ago—before fear, before ego, before male dominance, before hierarchy, hoarding, warfare, propaganda, child abuse, all of these things. And the answer lies—as was indicated last night—in integration into the dynamics of nature.

The only way you can abandon yourself to the dynamics of nature is to break through the language shell: you must cut through the aura of programming and cultural assumptions that surround us from the moment we are able to speak. The only way this can be done is by dissolving the boundaries of ego. Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual, who is a member of a neurotic culture, against the facts of the matter. And culture—which we put on like an overcoat—culture is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviors are acceptable.

We no longer have to operate without the presence of the goal firmly in hand. The goal can now be stated. What this is all about is a return to archaism with the lessons learned in history. That’s where we were happy. The fall was a fall into a veil of tears, into a world of limitation and pain and suffering and infectious disease, and so forth and so on. It’s a prodigal journey into a lower dimension that can now be ended by a collective cultural decision to commit to this Taoist, shamanistic, feminized, cybernetic, caring, aware, present kind of being. It’s nothing more than what each of us is in our very best moments. But we have to extend those very best moments to fill whole lifetimes.

Think of the number of people who suffered and died that we could sit under this tree this morning. In the last million years, nine times the glaciers have ground south from the poles, freezing the world into ice and confining human populations to subtropical valleys and the warm tropics. Nine times the interglacial periods have come and human populations have spread out over the Earth. They didn’t have radio, they didn’t have antibiotics, contraception, statistical analysis, or the partial differential equation. And yet, somehow they managed to get us here. Are we then—as the heirs of that wavefront, of the inheritors of a billion-year process—are we in one generation to turn it into a mass of pottage? I think not. I certainly hope not.

As Heraclitus put it, panta rhei: “all flows.” Nothing lasts. Nothing is saved. And this is our glory and our agony. That the people we love and the people we hate are swept away by time. Empires, dynasties, continents are swept away by time. And yet, our search for security is cast in the dominator culture as a search for permanence.

I don’t think we want to set ourselves up as the crusaders for permanence. But that means softening to the fact of the flow, and of the impermanence. Nicole has made the point very eloquently that these people in the Amazon have nothing. The wonderful thing about the Amazon is that nothing lasts. Nothing is worth having. I mean, a book? Forget it! Clothing, houses? Everything is just swept away by the incessant recycling of material. So all that is permanent are values, personality, strength, honesty, decency, dignity. These are things which can be erected against the flow and have some hope of permanence.

Every society did it wrong. We all did it wrong. Capitalism—it’s wonderful that you can get a safety pin at 4:00 a.m. within a half mile of anywhere in the United States (and I’m sure the Russians wish they had it so good), but is that the be-all and the end-all of cultural values? That you can walk the fluorescent-lit aisles of K-Mart and congratulate yourself that, whether it be gas can, sanitary napkin, or whatever, it’s there waiting for you? I don’t think so. I think that we have built in the termination of our world just as surely as the Marxist world built in a tripwire into its social mechanism. It’s just that we’re going to have to pay the piper more downstream.