Terence McKenna live at The Fez


Produced by Nicholas Hill for live broadcast from The Fez on

The Music Faucet, WFMU-FM

New York City, June 20, 1993

Well it’s great to be here. It’s been kind of a long day for me, so I may not be able to maintain the ordinary veneer of genteel, cultured affability. I may have to simply cut to the chase here.

You know, we’ve worked ourselves into quite a little situation here. We’ve got a rising youth culture, a government out of control, an environment that’s all ripped up, and we’ve got no place to go. So, who you gonna call? My solution in a situation like that is to roll another one. [laughter] Because it’s been my supposition for a long, long time that these vegetables that we’re pushing around on our plates are actually trying to talk to us. And they’re saying all kinds of things, among them some things which are fairly counter-intuitive. It seems to me that history has failed, and Western civilization has failed, and dominator-primate politics has failed, object-fetish consumerism has failed, the national security government has failed. And so then, where do go from here? What kind of new world can we create? And what kind of guidelines are there that we can follow?

And I — you know, every time you come to New York it’s obligatory to visit the museums, MOMA, this’n’that, see what’s going on in Soho. The conclusion that I come to looking at this is that as we move beyond modernity, it’s more and more clear that the real impulse of the Twentieth Century is towards the archaic, toward the primitive. Everything from Freudianism to body piercing, from quantum physics to abstract expressionism, from Dada to house music, is saying “BACK AWAY” from the linear, constipated world of print-head materialism that is what we inherit from the Western/European past. That style of thinking about life and human relations has essentially toxified the planet and allowed us to paint ourselves into a corner from which there is no escape.

Or is there? You know, a deliberate derangement of the senses worked for Rimbaud; it might work for us as well. What we have to do is go to the rainforests, the aborigines, and check up — check in — on what we have always dismissed, which is the world of natural magic and wisdom obtained through intoxication. This is what we’ve lost, and this is why our creativity is insufficient to overwhelm the cultural crisis which is confronting us. We have to stir it up. We have to mix it up. Ideas dictated out of the agenda of washed-up capitalism and science and religion are simply insufficient. Reason has failed. History has failed. And what we all have to do, I think, is fall back on ourselves. We have to stop waiting for the revelation to come from CNN or Time Magazine, and get lives! And what getting lives means is ignoring the idiotic laws that would dictate to us the kind of states of mind that we can entertain. [applause] You know, I’m sure it was alarming to Buddhists, but the Supreme Court decision last week that okayed animal sacrifice in a religious context was a door swinging open on the possible legalization of psychedelics. [applause] The concept of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is enshrined in the documents upon which this nation of ours is supposedly founded. If the pursuit of happiness does not mean the right to experiment with your own state of mind, then those words aren’t worth the hemp they’re written on. [laughter]

But the point of view that I’ve come to evolve out of 25 years of looking at this problem and churning through culture and so forth and so on is not simply a call for individual self-responsibility and a pulling away from these institutions. That’s pretty standard fare, I think. There’s something else going on which is worth talking about. And that is the fact that the human world is apparently under the influence of some kind of attractor, or force, that secular people have ignored because the only words to talk about it were the vocabularies of beastly, bankrupt religions. But nevertheless, this force, this unfolding agenda, this design which we seem to embody, needs to be talked about. Because I really believe that history is ending. And I’ve taken a lot of flak for that, because no one can conceive of the breakdown of the system in which we’re embedded to that degree. It’s a kind of transcendental faith that history is accelerating. The rate of the ingression of novelty into three-dimensional space is asymptotically increasing. The kind of knitting together that is taking place in the world is laying the stage for the emergence of new forms of organization, new properties of being. And I really think that the drama of life on this planet is pointed toward the time that we are living in, that we’re approaching a symmetry break on a scale of the kind of symmetry break that occurred when life pulled its slimy bottom out of the sea and crawled onto the land. We are approaching the symmetry break where we shed the monkey, we shed the hardwired negative animal impulses that keep us chained to the Earth and deny us our dreams of completion.

History is a kind of indicator of the nearby presence of a transcendental object. And as we approach the transcendental object, history will become more and more hallucinatory, more and more dreamlike, more and more surreal — does this sound familiar to you? It’s the neighborhood, right? [laughter] That’s because we are so close now to this transcendental object, that is the inspiration for religion and vision and revelation, that all you have to do to connect up to it is close your eyes, smoke a bomber, take five grams of mushrooms in silent darkness, and the veil will be lifted, and you see, then, the plan. You see what all these historical vectors have been pointing towards. You see the transcendental object at the end of time — a cross between your own soul and the flying saucer of cheap science fiction. I mean — the city of Revelations, hanging at the end of the Twentieth Century like a beacon. I really think that this is happening, and that what the — It’s as though we are boring through a mountain, towards someone else who is boring through that mountain, and there will be a handshake at a certain point in time. We are moving, literally, into the realm of the imagination. This is where the human future lies. This has been understood by some people since at least the time of William Blake.

We are like creatures caught in a interrupted embryogenesis: halfway to angelhood, the worst among us somehow got control of the social agenda, and we’ve been hammering on each other with monotheism, racism, sexism, materialism, for the past 10,000 years. We betrayed the aboriginal intellect, the aboriginal intelligence, that existed for probably a hundred thousand years with drama, with poetry, with altruism, with courage, with self-sacrifice — with all the higher values that we think of as human — but without the devastatingly toxifying habits of Western Man: slavery, city-building, kingship, and, the three M’s — monogamy, monotony, and monotheism. [laughter] These things have to be pitched out!

Or, maybe not. Who knows? [laughter]

Woman in audience: What’s wrong with monogamy?

What’s wrong with monogamy. What’s wrong with monogamy is that it, uh, it forbids and interferes with polygamy! [laughter and applause] Otherwise, I think it has a lot to recommend it! Yeah, I know, monogamy is a tough one. Monogamy is a tough one, but I have more and more the feeling that as you grow up, just as you’re about to go across the great Golden Gate Bridge to adulthood, there’s one last sign, which says, “LAST EXIT BEFORE AUTHENTIC ADULTHOOD. BECOME ADDICTED TO SOMEONE AS LAME AS YOURSELF, AND MAYBE THE TWO OF YOU CAN PASS YOURSELF OFF AS ONE INDIVIDUAL AND STUMBLE THROUGH LIFE TO COMPLETION.” [much laughter]

Same woman: But what’s wrong with it?

TM: I don’t think you should take me too seriously — I’m deeply into a divorce. [laughter] [sarcastically:] But I’m sure it’s not distorting my judgment a single iota. [laughter]

Gee, I thought what you were going to object to was monotheism, but apparently not! No, see, here’s the thing: back when mushrooms and nomadism ruled the world, monogamy was traded in for an orgiastic social style. And what’s interesting about orgy — besides that — is that in an orgiastic situation, men cannot trace lines of male paternity. And consequently, loyalty goes to the children of the group. It’s a tremendous force for group cohesion that the men collectively transfer their loyalty to the children as a collective group. And it creates a very tightly-knit social unit. I think that — I mean, it’s absurd — you can’t advocate orgy in a world riddled with epidemics of sexually-transmitted diseases and five and a half billion people. Nevertheless, the spirit of the thing can be worked out between you and your friends in any of a number of ways, and all of these arrangements which break the dominator mold are further permission for further breaking of the mold.

Why have we grown so polite as they have grown so much more treacherous and weasel-like? Why are we so content to allow the worst among us to set the social agenda? In the absence of Marxism, there is now no critique being carried out of the capitalist enterprise, and it’ll peel your skin off and peddle it back to you. It is doing that. Capitalism in principle is not, I think, a bad thing, but it requires endlessly-exploitable natural resources. And since the exploration of space has been taken off the agenda, there is no endlessly-exploitable frontier. So capitalism is going to deal itself out of existence, but before it does that, you’re gonna pay $50 for a latte, because inflation is going impoverish all of us before people get pissed off enough to realize that all of the last hundred years of economic progress was actually a shell game to create billionaires, while the great masses of people saw their standard of living eroded and destroyed. You don’t have to take psilocybin to figure this stuff out. You know, it isn’t all elf machines from hyperspace! [laughter]

Somebody asked me what did I think was going to happen in 2012? And I said there were probably a number of scenarios. One of the most radical I can imagine is that everyone would begin to behave appropriately! I mean, can imagine what that would be like? You can imagine the first minute, because in the first minute, of course, everyone would turn off their console, take off their clothes, and walk outside. What happens after the first minute, in terms of appropriate activity, staggers the imagination! And where you would be three weeks into it is preposterous to even conceive. That’s the soft version of the coming of the millennium. The hard version, I’m not really even sure… In the Amazon — in my book True Hallucinations I wrote about my brother and myself and our adventures down there. His expectation — once, he told me, “People are leaving their workbenches and offices with tears of joy streaming down their faces. They’re staring at the sky.” Fool that I was, I believed him. But it’s a reasonable hope.

Here’s the deal. We have the science, the technology, the money, the infrastructure, to do almost anything that we want to do. The problem is changing our minds. We have a hell of a time changing our minds. And yet, we must. There is no choice about it. The reason I’m a psychedelic advocate is not because I think it’s easy, or because I think it’s a sure thing — I don’t think it’s easy or a sure thing. It’s simply that it’s the only game in town. Nothing else can change your mind on a dime like we are going to have to change our minds on a dime. If we had 500 years to sort this out, we could maybe have a fighting chance without radical pharmacological intervention. As it is, if we don’t awaken, we are going to let it slip through our fingers.

And if hortatory preaching could do it, then the Sermon on the Mount would have turned the trick. It didn’t and it won’t. You have to somehow give people an experience — an experience that is not somebody else’s experience — their experience, that radically recrystallizes their understanding of the world. And these shamanic plants that have been quietly growing and maintaining themselves for millennia, are in fact — and for what reason? it’s beyond me — for some reason, these are pipelines into a kind of planetary mind. The big bugaboo of Western civ is that we deny the existence of spirit. It’s been a thousand-year project to eliminate the spirit from all explanations of how reality works, or the personality works, or anything works. The absence of spirit permits the murder of the planet. But the cost of the denial of spirit is life empty of meaning, which doesn’t mean we have to return to the world of beady-eyed priestcraft and its slimy minions. But it does mean that we have to recover an authentic experience of the transcendental. And apparently what this means, then, is fusion with Nature, and the psychedelics do this. They dissolve boundaries. They open the way to the Gaian mind.

Now you can believe this is bullshit, but you cannot believe it’s bullshit unless you have made the experiment yourself and found it to be wanting — this isn’t a philosophy course, here. We’re talking about something real. And if the critics are not willing to invest time in it, then the critics have already declared their terror and fear of the solution. You know, it reminds me a little of something that Tim Leary — well, I always thought Tim Leary said this, but when I asked him, he completely disowned this brilliant remark, which let me know he was an enlightened man cause I never would have disowned it. So, somebody said — not Tim Leary — “LSD is a psychedelic drug which occasionally causes psychotic behavior in people who have NOT taken it.” [laughter, clapping]

Now a lot of drugs are like that, and we have a lot of psychotic people running around who have been driven mad by drugs they never took. But what they did take was your civil rights, your freedom to guide your own life, and your right to make your own decisions. This kind of thing is intolerable. If there is an iota of possibility that these substances enhance consciousness — and remember, they used to be called “consciousness expanding” drugs (just a straight phenomenological description) — if there’s an iota of possibility that they augment consciousness, then we have to put the pedal to the metal in this matter. Because it is the absence of consciousness that is pushing us toward extinction, that is causing us to loot our children’s future, that is causing us to accept the elimination of thousands of species per month without pouring into the streets to loot and smash the institutions of those who allow these kinds of atrocities to go forward. I think the era of politeness has gone on just about long enough. And there’s going to have to come a moment where people stand up and are counted. We have seen our freedom taken away, we have seen our environment destroyed, we have seen our political dialogue polluted, and still we take it, and take it, and take it.

You know, being counter-cultural is more than a fashion statement. I recall an obscure Chinese philosopher named Mao Tse Tung, who once said, “The Revolution is not a dinner party!” Of course, he went on to say it’s an armed struggle, prosecuted by the forces of the people. I don’t think we’re ready to call for armed struggle, but I think it is time to call for “HANDS OFF THE AMERICAN MIND. GIVE US BACK OUR MIND.” The American mind is one of the most creative minds in the world, and it is being confined, compromised, and sold down the river by people who can’t think of anything better to do with the world than fabricate it into stupid products and sell it at twice its natural worth. [applause]

Q & A

Well, I could go on and on — and do, you may have noticed — but I think it’s much more fruitful when these things are interactive and driven by questions. And I’m not fragile; you don’t have to hold back. I’m from Berkeley — we throw chairs when we’re displeased. So, feel free to have at it. But is there anybody who’d like to comment or participate in this discussion?

Man in audience: Thank you, Mr. McKenna. The whole bit about quoting Mao was kind of interesting if you think of the arms in terms of modems — I mean, the fact that we now live in a point in time when it’s possible to completely transfer power without shedding a drop of blood if you have the right passwords and access codes. There is a unique tilt on Mao’s “armed struggle” coming up real soon, if you think in terms of information war rather than the kind of bloodshed that’s been marking history up until now.

Vis a vis your whole thing with the organic psychedelics versus LSD, for instance — which is enjoying a great revival right now, presently, in this city — I don’t know about elsewhere [laughter] — vis a vis the LSD thing — there’s a point in the temporal flow with LSD where it drops, slows down, and then there’s the sensation of temporal cessation wherein one generally tends to perceive a presence behind the world — which sounds a lot like the robot elves of yours. I’m just interested in your take, in the distinction that you draw between the organic psychedelics and — for example — LSD.

TM: Well LSD kind of has a foot in both worlds. You know, you start, when you make LSD, with ergonomine, which you get from ergot, which is grown on plantations in Pakistan. But then you elaborate the molecule and make it synthetic. I certainly think we wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be here, if it weren’t for LSD. The wonderful thing about LSD is that it’s possible to manufacture so much in the underground. I mean, there is a problem with that in that it tends to promote criminal syndicalism. [same man in audience: “Not if you give it away!”] Good point! [laughter, applause] But, if you have a trust fund and your roommate is a first-year biochemist, in a long weekend you can produce ten million hits. This means you’re not, of course, involved in helping out the folks in your building, you have some more ambitious agenda. But this is a unique situation with LSD, because you need so little of it. You see, if you set out to create ten thousand doses or ten million doses of psilocybin, the facilities of Upjohn corporation would be insufficient. You would need stainless-steel vats of thousand-gallon capacity and incredible quality-control equipment.

So LSD came along at the perfect moment in the life of the collectivity to focus us on the psychedelic experience. But I don’t think LSD is what I would call a “full-spectrum” psychedelic, because what I was always obsessed with was visions. And psilocybin and the tryptamines are much more reliable visionary activators. People say, “Why are you so into this vision thing? You’re just some kind of vision fascist.” [laughter] No, no — I mean, or: Maybe, but! [laughter] Maybe but — here’s the thing — the reason the visions were so impressive to me is because that was, to me, the proof that it wasn’t me. You know, when you take LSD, you have strange thoughts, many thoughts, illuminating thoughts…

[unintelligible question from audience]

You mean, what do I think of that in terms of DMT? [more from audience member] Well, I never encountered elves on LSD, but I did hear a story recently. And since all we have are anecdotes, I’ll pass it on, for whatever it’s worth.

A friend of mine told me a story. He and a friend of his miscalculated a dose and took LSD, and then they went to a dance. And they realized they were too loaded to be there. So they just backed up against the wall and slid down the wall and sat there. And as they sat, shoulder to shoulder, mouths hanging, watching these people dance, slowly, slowly, the dance came to a complete halt. Everything was frozen. And at that moment, the door swung open, and an elf came into the room [laughter] and waltzed through all these people, looked around, actually picked up a skirt or two and looked under it, and then exited. And then the movie started up again. [more laughter]

Well now, I’m not a theosophist or an Alice Bailey-ist or any of that malarkey. But on the other hand, this seems to suggest this old theosophical idea of vibratory levels of existence — you know, that if you’re moving at a zillion hertz you do not see things moving at very much higher or lower frequencies. Now I never was so aware of the time-stopping thing on DMT, but it is definitely true that when you smoke DMT, if you do sufficiently, you burst in to a place that is inhabited by these — what I call — self-transforming machine elves, these jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs that are squealing and squeaking in this alien language that condenses like metallic rain and falls out of the air of the room and is able to morph itself into Faberge-like objects that are scintillating and faceted and reflective of other possibilities and objects… [side one of tape ends]

Woman in audience: Hi, Terence, I wanted to know what products you have available. [laughter]

TM: Hey. Listen. The point guy can’t make the sale! [laughter] But, one of the things that I think is best about the thing I do, or one of the things that I like best about what I do is provide an excuse for the psychedelic community to assemble. Because, believe it or not, these days we look like everybody else out there. How the hell that happened, I don’t know! [laughter] So it’s very important for you to pay attention to who’s here, because without a doubt, somebody here has what you need! [laughter] Whatever you need — you know, what do you need? A loan? A girlfriend? Well, we all need different things — besides the fact that we all need DMT.

[question from audience]

Where do we go from DMT? Well, where do we go from there? I think the idea is to use psychedelics to remove anxiety without undercutting political action. In other words, we can do political work, ulcerated and clenched with terror and fear and always looking over our shoulders; or we can do that same work with a sense of play and lightheartedness. It’s the same work, so why not have a good time while we do it? It’s the good time we have that drives them so crazy and pisses them so off! [applause]

[question from audience]

What’s new and fun that you haven’t experienced? Oh, well here’s something new and fun. There’s a plant, called Salvia divinorum, which is absolutely legal. It’s not only legal, the active principle is unknown to science — therefore it can’t be made illegal! [sings:] S-A-L-V-I-A D-I-V-I-N-O-R-U-M Salvia divinorum — remember you heard it here first! [laughter] Okay, so here’s the deal with this. This is a plant that was carried on the books for years as a hallucinogen, but nobody took it seriously because when the botanists and the chemists would test for alkaloids, it’s alkaloid negative. So they said, “Well then, to Hell with it, it just can’t be.” But recently, an anthropologist who will remain nameless spent some time with the Indians where this stuff is happening, and they showed him how to do it. And he has been telling everyone how to do it. And, you know, true to the spirit of that, here’s how you do it.

First of all, this is a plant that looks like a coleus, which is a common houseplant. You could grow this stuff in your window box or your apartment; it would pose no problem whatsoever. It’s also — cuttings are available from plant dealers. And what you do is you take about fifteen leaves, which are about like… [hand gesture] that, and you pull out the mid-rib, so you just have the soft, leafy material. And you roll it up into a quid, and you put it in your cheek, and you lie down in darkness where you can see one of those illuminated digital clocks, you know? Lay there for fifteen minutes by the clock, slowly squeezing the stuff down. And it’s very bitter. I mean you feel like the whole front of your mouth wraps around this stuff, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it. And after about fifteen minutes, if you will just spit this into a receptacle, Kleenex, whatever, uh, hygienic product is your choice [snickering] then, about two minutes later, it will begin to stream. In other words, these afterimage-colored lights begin to form and come past you. And about two minutes after that, these cobalt-blue, magenta hallucinations begin to unfold. And what it reminded me of was “Nude Descending a Staircase” but as if Duchamp had done it in ultraviolet and blue and cobalt, and just this —

[question from audience] Where did I learn about this plant? Well I’ve known about it for years, but like everybody else I just didn’t take it seriously. [question] No no, it’s in the Oaxaca Mountains, it’s in the Sierra Mazateca of central Mexico. And after about 45 minutes, it all gently goes away. And believe me, I’m a skeptic, I’m hard to move off the dime, I’m not an airhead. And it worked, it worked. And — very interesting — I called the guy who gave it to me the next morning and I said, “It looks to me like it has the potential to be a craze!” And he said, “The very word that occurred to me — craze! CRAZE!” [laughter] So, like I said, you heard it here first.

Man in audience: I have a question. As a physician who’s interested in medical anthropology, what about the effect of this in terms of human development in utero?

TM: You mean the effect on the developing fetus? [“Yes”] Of Salvia divinorum? [“No. Psilocybin.”] Oh, psilocybin. Well, here’s my approach to this, and this is why I advocate the use of plants with a history of shamanic usage. Because these things are illegal, human research is essentially outlawed. As users we suffer under the prohibition, but imagine that science, one of the most powerful forces in our society, has been told, “GET LOST. Forget about psychedelic chemistry and forget about human studies.” This is why I don’t advocate MDMA use. In answer to your question, the human data on psilocybin is provided by the fact that it has a history of at least a millennium of human usage. If a plant has been accepted into a society as that one has, as a regularly-applied shamanic tool, then I think you can be relatively certain that blindness, miscarriage, tumors, and so forth, are not a problem. Probably a lot of human beings have given their lives and their health for that data to be available to us in that way. Do you want to follow up? No? [“Thank you.”] Did I satisfy you? Great! Great.

Woman in audience: As a poet and an art historian who has lived in a lot of cultures where I’ve worked with indigenous peoples — amongst the Yamamoto I had the blowgun done up my nose, in Peru I tried San Pedro, in Sichuan province in China with the baini I tried many of the old herbs. One of the things I’d like to mention, which I think a lot of Americans and Europeans don’t understand, is the ritual use of these hallucinogenics within the culture. I think it’s very important. I’m heading off now to work — to make a film with the indigenous people in Taiwan, Formosa. It’s a shamanic culture. I think the problem is that when these things are removed from the mythological stance within a community — the biggest problem in this country — which strikes me as a writer also — is this lack of mythology that exists anymore. It’s one thing for hallucinogenics, but it’s another thing for also creating a use — as you mentioned before, which I liked very much — of the imagination, a sense that a human being has the right to expand their own horizons, within whatever powers they wish and with whatever means. And I’d like to see a greater awareness that these things can expand an already fertile ground which first has to be created.

TM: That’s right! And what might be, [laughter, applause] well…

Woman: Thank you! And, what I’d like to ask, when I come back, is — I used to be on WBAI — and when I come back, I’d like to do something on these people that very few people have worked with. In fact, I have a military permit to go out, and it’s a culture that — unlike the Ainu and the Reipus(?) I’m doing another exhibition on now, soon, at the museum — but, the group in Formosa, AKA Taiwan, was first occupied by the Japanese but have a history for thousands of years. And I have to have a military permit to now get out — granted, I have lived in warzones before, you know, with the Hmong in Laos, etc. etc. etc., so as you might say, I get very bored living here! But — [TM: “Why? They’re all here.” [snickers] Well that’s what I think, also, but, the key is, in a sense, these are ways, too. So I was going to ask you, when I come back, if you’d like to do something, maybe a radio show on some shamanic [unintelligible].

TM: Sure, absolutely. Let me follow up on this. The issue of ritual and style of drug taking: I think that it’s — well, here’s how I do psilocybin. I do it on an empty stomach in silent darkness. And I think that this is the way to do it, because I’m interested, essentially, in the pure phenomenology of it. I don’t want to know what it does to Bach, or Coil. I want to know what it does to nothin’. I don’t want to see how it can affect Rembrandt or a natural scene. I just want it where I can study the ding ansich of the thing, you know? And I have nothing against a good time, and hanging out, but it is no substitute for serious psychedelic taking. And, you know, people forget, or people don’t realize, if you take a drug that you don’t like, then an excellent strategy for getting rid of it is to exercise like a crazy person, like go out and chop a bunch of wood or something. Well, so then what I see is people taking low doses and dancing their asses off, in very noisy environments dense with social signals. This is like a strategy for avoiding the psychedelic breakthrough. How could it ever find you in all of that? [applause]

So I smoke pot and confine myself to vodka gimlets most of the time in public, and then really pile it on in private, really pile it on. These things can’t hurt you, not at any reasonable dose. I mean, for instance, let’s take psilocybin. The effective dose is 15 milligrams; the LD50 is something like 225 milligrams per kilogram. Your stomach won’t even hold that many mushrooms. So death is not a possibility. DMT — same thing. I mean, DMT is a neurotransmitter. People sometimes say, “Is it dangerous?” The answer is, “Only if you fear death by astonishment!”

Man in audience [Dmitry from “Dee-Lite”]: Yeah, I just wanted to comment on the thing about taking psychedelics in noisy environments. I just happen to disagree with what you said, because, first of all I think collective tripping is really important, and it creates a communal vibe that’s really terrific and has every advantage to advancing your mind within it. Also you can — there’s something to be said about getting lost in the groove. It can join the music and take you to a new — and open your mind with the music, because music is the tool to open your mind. And dancing — dancing is spiritual, dancing makes your…[falters] Excuse me, I’m getting very nervous.

TM: Well, here’s the thing. These things are not mutually exclusive, it’s not like you have to choose. My problem is, I know people are dancing and they’re having these collective experiences. My fear is that they’re not having the other experiences. And you have to have both. [man: “Absolutely.”] That’s all.

And as far as the dance thing, let me say, I mean, I think that what’s happening with house music and the ambient music thing is the most healthy sign out of the culture in 25 years — at last, you know. Because the truth is, rock and roll became a tool of the very people it was supposed to discomfort. [applause] You know? [comment from crowd] Pardon me? Well, but what’s wrong with ambient and house music? We don’t need to “free the harpsichord,” you know. [laughter] It’s a done deal, I think. And there is so much talent waiting in the wings. I mean, I’m on my way tomorrow to London, on to Frankfurt — these are enormous cauldrons of creativity that are exporting this music all over the world. And the message is absolutely the message that needs to be put out. It’s a message of community, of sensuality, and of intelligence. I mean: love, sex, intelligence — that’s what the shamen are talking about.

Dmitry: Well, the music comes from here, too. This is one of major centers of world dance music.

TM: Oh, you don’t have to have an inferiority complex in New York! [laughter]

New man in audience: Terence, it was wonderful to meet you tonight. Your editor Dan Levy is a good friend of mine. I’m a musician, and I just wanted to say, yeah, music is terribly important to everybody’s life. But I want to thank you, and one of the things I respect most about you is your research, as far as text goes, because you’ve really traveled the world and you’ve dug up a lot of things that — I want to thank your translators, too, because that’s one of the most unsung arts in the world. When you dig up something, it’s not everybody that can just know what it means. Translators — let’s put in a plug for them. [TM: “The unsung heroes!”] It’s true! [“Yes, it’s true.”] But I just wanted to take one second and ask you — I was raised in a quote-unquote “Christian” environment, and one of the things I learned about Christianity as I grew up and came through it was that — we’re all here to learn something, and I’m not telling anybody in this room anything — but I was curious about the Book of Urantia, if you had heard of it and you might be able to comment on it.

TM: [snickers from audience] Well, here’s the thing. My tendency is to think that if you can channel without drugs, you’re probably mentally ill. [laughter] However, the Urantia book is the most extravagant and baroque and earliest of these things; they definitely got in ahead of the trend. So, to my mind, these things are like synthetic scripture, or efforts to resacralize language by casting it in a scriptural mode. My method — a lot of people are irritated with me, because if you really spend time with me, I’m actually a rationalist, and a kind of reductionist; I’m not “woo-woo”. Because I really think that the truth can stand on its own. And so I tend to be very conservative in my choice of facts. For instance, if we’re dating the pyramid, I’d probably call the American Archaeology Society before I would call the priests of the Coven of Atlantis. But I know there’s disagreement on these things. [laughter]

I think, you know — with the Urantia book and the Seth material, and then all little Sethettes that came along afterwards — I think basically it’s like anything else: you have to have your crap detector turned up on HIGH, and then just move forward with it, and what works for you, works for you. And all of these things should be taken as provisional. You know, when you rise as I have, from a cowtown in Colorado to giving speeches at very exclusive and chic New York nightclubs, you realize — because you tend to meet quote-unquote “celebrities” along the way — you realize that that’s all a racket. And you further realize it must have always been a racket. So, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Genghis Khan, Hitler — LAME! [laughter] Idiotic, ordinary, dreary, boring to have dinner with!

So, part of this psychedelic thing, I think, is really about self-empowerment. You know, Robert Anton Wilson has this wonderful rap, he says: “Define the world as a conspiracy run by you and your friends.” If you don’t have that as your model, then you probably have a loser’s model, and who wants to be a loser? So, just assume, you know, that you and your friends are gaining power, moving into positions of influence, and shortly about to take control! What does this have to do with the Urantia book? I don’t know, but here’s where we ended up, folks!

Woman in audience: I think a lot of people would agree that evolution is at a pretty questionable point right now. In fact, I personally believe that since the car has been introduced that we’ve been de-evolving. I guess my question to you is, through your hallucinogenic experiences, what do you think the lesson is to human society, that we’re supposed to learn, to sort of transcend the point we’re at now?

TM: You mean generally, what’s the lesson?

Woman: Generally, yeah. What are we supposed to do to sort of make this breach, cause I think we’re at a pretty precarious point.

TM: Well, it’s a complicated question, and I don’t want to unveil my whole cosmology this late in the game. But — why not have a stab at it? [laughter] Here’s the problem, as I see it. For a very long time, as we evolved out of the animal nature, perhaps a hundred thousand years, psilocybin was part of our diet and our rituals and our religion. And though those individuals taking the psilocybin didn’t know it, it was having a very profound effect upon them. What it was doing was suppressing a primate behavior that is so basic to primates that it goes clear back to squirrel monkeys. And what that behavior is is a tendency to form what are called male-dominance hierarchies. And we all know what this is, because it bedevils our own political situation, and our own effort to create a reasonable society. But there was a great long period in the human past when this tendency was pharmacologically suppressed, in the same way that you would give Prozac to somebody to suppress a tendency to manic-depression. In other words, what the shamans of the High Paleolithic figured out was how to medicate people so that they would live together in harmony, decency, and dignity.

The problem is, that that strategy depended upon the simultaneity of psilocybin intoxication and the orgiastic sexual style that I talked about earlier. And when the mushrooms ceased to be available, men and women were simultaneously becoming able to coordinate cause and effect, to the point that women were realizing that when they returned in their yearly wanderings to old camps, there would be food growing in the discard piles. And at the same time, men were realizing that the consequences of the sex act was the birth of a child. In other words, there came a certain point in human intellectual maturity when a distant cause and its effect were finally connected, and at that moment, agriculture was born. And agriculture was born as a response to the drying of the African continent. And we — literally — we fell into history.

You’ve heard me talk about Genesis as the story of history’s first drug bust. It was history’s first drug bust. I mean, that story is the story of the suppression of an earlier, feminine-driven mushroom religion. And once we stopped taking psilocybin, that old, old primate behavior pattern — male dominance — reasserted itself. But now, not in an animal species, but in a species with language, technology, agriculture, strategic planning, memory, recall, so forth and so on. And we used the re-emergence of that tendency to establish cities, kingship, slavery, property — the whole grab bag of pathologies that characterize Western civilization were born around the re-emergence of male dominance.

And now we’re in a similar situation. And you know, no less conservative and sober a character than Arthur Koestler wrote a book called The Ghost in the Machine twenty years ago, and he reached the same conclusion. He said, “We are best at bashing each other’s brains out. And since that’s no longer appropriate — if it ever was — we need a drug to make us able to live together in ways that we must live together if we’re going to have cities of 10 million people and a global civilization.” I think his analysis was on the right track, but shallow. I think we have that drug, and the anxiety and the restlessness and the dissatisfaction that has attended the historical experience is because we have this itch that we can’t scratch.

This is the key to our weird relationship to substances. I mean, think about it. Of course, elephants will push down fences to get to rotting papaya and butterflies will fall over beside bowls of sugar. But we addict to dozens of substances. We not only addict to substances, we addict to behaviors. You know, guy goes to the front door in the morning and if the paper isn’t rolled at his feet, he turns into a beast! We also addict to each other. You know? Our most sublime human relationships — when they fall into difficulty, we experience the condition of a broken heart, which looks — in terms of its presentation of symptoms — very much like junk withdrawal. Probably because it is, because there has been some kind of pheromonal lock-on that has gone on because you’ve been hanging out with this person so much. And now that the pheromonal thing is broken and interrupted, you can barely function, you know? And it takes weeks, if not months, to reclaim your identity. We have an itch that we can’t scratch, until we make our way back to the primary chemical mediator of our human-ness. And that was — I’m convinced — psilocybin. And that this is the missing link; this would allow us to understand the sudden doubling of the human brain in less than a million and a half years — one of the great mysteries of evolutionary theory — so forth and so on.

And the fact that the society is so anxious on this subject is an indication that this is the real taboo. We have found it. This is IT. And therefore, it has to be brought out of the closet. And it wouldn’t hurt for us to come out of the closet. I mean, when we are secretive, when we deny it, we are carrying out the Man’s work for him. They don’t have to arrest us if we’re willing to be our own guards and police. It’s absurd. This is part of your birthright. It is part of our lives. We pay taxes; we’re legitimate. And it should not be swept under the rug. Are we going to be the last minority on this planet to claim its civil rights? Why? When what we represent is an impulse back toward the aboriginal totality that gives life meaning. [applause]

Man in audience: You’ve proclaimed that there is this hyper-dimensional reality which is accessible through these psychedelics, that we are immersed in it. And you’re somewhat surprised that there is very little being done about this. It’s something that is so — as you say — unbelievable and unfathomable and there’s so little research being done. The majority of people don’t even care or know about this. Now, we gathered in this room, we care very much and we might have some connection to this and access to this reality. Maybe it’s only certain people have a predilection or interest in it, such as like people who want to go rock climbing or surfing, and that’s what they go to all extents to. But most people, if they were exposed to what you say — the five grams in silent darkness — would come back and not want anything to do with that experience, not have any understanding, any connection, and just want to hold on to the very simple reality which our consensus has constructed for most people to exist in. And that it really is just this fringe thing, and that’s why there isn’t much more interest in this — then how can the psychedelic actually affect the masses that don’t really have much connection to that?

TM: Well, revolutions are made with between five and ten percent of a population. No revolution in history has had more than that level of support. I’m not saying everybody should take psilocybin. I mean, God knows, there are plenty of people among us who don’t need their boundaries dissolved, and if they are going to dissolve their boundaries, please don’t do it when I’m around. [laughter] But those people are people who have been damaged in any of the dozens and hundreds of ways that this society has figured out to damage people. But I do think that it should be an option, and it should be an option that people are educated about. One thing that we’ve done is that we’ve completely poisoned the well of language when it comes to the subject of substances. Because the word “drug” reaches from heroin to aspirin through psilocybin to propaganda. I mean, it’s a word so widely-used that it’s meaningless. And we are living in an atmosphere of complete hypocrisy; the most dangerous drugs ever discovered by human beings are being freely dispensed all over the place. I mean, tobacco, sugar, alcohol — these are the great addictive and destroying drugs, and they are the least interfered-with and the most commercialized. And the psychedelics — no claim of addiction was ever made, even by their critics.

The issue with psychedelics is that they call into question the illusions of the masters. And I think it doesn’t matter who the masters are. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a fascist dictatorship, a high-tech industrial democracy, or a Third World banana republic — if you start taking psychedelics, you will start questioning the reality around you, and question-asking is not what the control freaks are interested in. They want you to work at your idiotic job, buy the crap they’re peddling you over the media, and keep your opinions to yourself, please. Or, there is spectrum of opinion offered, and it’s all represented on the McLaughlin Group and if you go beyond that, then you’re some kind of mad person.

This is all nonsense — we are allowing the least among us to control the agenda. That would be bad enough under any circumstances, but we’re in an emergency. This is a crisis. We should be going through lifeboat drills at this point, and instead, the band plays on, and the game continues to be played. The narcotics game, the government role in it, apparent suppression/tacit support, millions and billions of dollars in hot money being used to finance the murder of editors of left-wing newspapers and the financing of private armies in various rathole countries that are the client states of the remnants of the empire we created to oppose the Soviet Union. It’s all CRAP. And as soon as we call a halt to it, we’ll all be better off, I think. [applause]

Man in audience: I do recognize a lot of Alfred Korzybski in what you are saying, and I wonder, is Korzybski’s time-binding effect — is the drug going to be the trigger for the time-binding effect?

TM: It could very well be. Korzybski was very influenced by Whitehead, and I was very influenced by Whitehead. And Whitehead has this idea that he calls concrescence. And he says, “The world is growing toward concrescence.” And that’s what I call “the transcendental object at the end of time.” I really think that we are — we are not going to disappoint ourselves. History is a psychedelic experience, and we have come through, now, the darker bardos, and are about to — potentially — enter the payoff zone, the transcendental zone, the zone where it all makes sense. You know, a huge number of people have suffered unimaginably that we could be here this evening. Nine times in the last million years, ice, miles deep, has moved south from the poles, pushing everything in front of it. There have been upheavals, epidemics, droughts — everything — and yet we arrive, on time and under budget, here this evening. That’s the kind of tradition we have to continue, a tradition of human nobility and human striving. And enough of the whining from those who have piled up uncounted millions of dollars, and still are willing to suppress us in order to obtain more. It’s obscene. It’s obscene. [applause]

Man in audience: Yeah. Sorry to bother you one more time, but you just quoted Koestler. And Mike Murphy in his new book, The Future of the Body, he quotes Koestler, talking about — Koestler at one point took a very fatalistic approach to humanity, with the idea that — the big problem, in his view, was that we didn’t have a vertical equivalent of the corpus callosum that allows the two horizontal hemispheres to speak to each other. And he says that it may be a fatal flaw in our species — that there’s nothing that will link the vertical components of the serpent brain out to the neocortex. And I was wondering if your take on this, of these vegetable drugs, might be that they might be inducing — if there would be anything towards the inducement of — possible growth in that area?

TM: Yeah, I think that’s a very interesting idea. You may know a book by Julian Jaynes, called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It may well be that there has to be some kind of neural correction in us. For one thing, we cannot tolerate the luxury of an unconscious mind. That belongs to a more primitive stage of human development. When you have hydrogen bombs and can deliver synthetic plagues by missile to the other side of the planet, then you cannot be driven by the agendas of animals and half-conscious human beings. I mean, it’s like placing Jeffrey Dahmer at the head of the Pentagon, or something. [laughter] And that’s the — Hey, we probably got it. He’s there.

But this is what I meant when I said we can do anything. What we have inherited from the past — as misguided as it may be — may have been — are tools of immense power. And tools are neutral things, you know? It’s the monkey wielding the tool that you have to keep your eye on. And so, we are now challenged to apply the tools that have been created. Are we to clean up the Earth? De-emphasize the material side of our technology? recognize the right of every human being to a healthy, secure existence? De-emphasize the marketing of violence as a patina on product fetishism? De-emphasize the objectification of women as another patina on object fetishism? stop the peddling of loser scenarios to everyone? stop tying up our accumulated wealth in a useless standing crop of ever-more-obsolete arsenals and delivery systems?

I mean, it’s okay to live like there’s no tomorrow if you’re at some primitive stage of culture with endless frontiers of exploitable resources in all directions. That’s not where we’re at. We have burned through all that, and yet still we party on. And the signs are on the wall. We have invented a sin that no other culture ever even conceived of: it’s the sin of looting the future. No other culture was ever so narcissistic and self-indulgent that it cared nothing for the future of its children. Children have always been the value focus for a civilization. But when you pile up four trillion dollars in debt, when you cut down the rain forests and blow off the atmosphere, it means you are in the grip of such an orgy of narcissistic excess that the best thing for it would be for somebody to just walk over and put a bullet through your head as a favor to everybody else.

We don’t need that kind of a fate. We need to be as noble as the people who preceded us, and a hell of a lot smarter, because nobility by itself is not sufficient. We’re going to have to play a very cagey game now. And it’s okay with me; I anticipate it. I mean, I think primates love a hell of a good fight, and we’ve got one on our hands. We have unleashed processes that, if not skillfully controlled, are extraordinarily terminal — even in the short term. And again, I see psychedelics as the only way to react fast enough to have an impact on the runaway momentum of historical error.

Man in audience: I wonder if you could say something about the relationship between psychedelics and our inherent structure and chemistry. I mean, is it unlocking something that’s latent in us that we should be and should have been aware of all along?

TM: Sure. I’m very interested in this. Here’s the great paradox in this domain, as far as I’m concerned. DMT, without contest, is the most powerful psychedelic that I know of — and I hope there’s nothing stronger, cause if there is, I don’t wanna know about it! [laughter] It’s very brief and fast acting, and it clears your system very quickly. It occurs as a neurotransmitter in ordinary human metabolism. Now isn’t that interesting? That the most powerful and radical and alien of all these hallucinogens is the one most like — in fact, exactly like — what’s in your own body. This is also a Catch 22 for the Establishment cause it means we’re all holding, all the time! They can come and get you, folks! It’s worse than a U. A. — you haven’t got a prayer!

And one thing very interesting about DMT is that, if you’ve had it, it’s possible to have a dream, years later, in which something’s going on, and going on, and then someone whips out a little glass pipe, and puts it in your mouth, and you have the complete experience. Not a pale memory or a vivid memory — the real thing happens in the dream. Well this is big news, because what it’s saying is that human metabolism is very, very close to being able to produce this at any time, and sometimes it can produce it. Now, it’s known that DMT is at its highest concentration in cerebrospinal fluid between 3 and 4 AM in most people. And that’s the time of day when the deep REM sleep occurs, accompanied by deep dreaming. So, it looks to me like the chemistry of dream and the chemistry of the psychedelic experience are the same. In fact, you know, if the government is really serious in eliminating psychedelics, then throw down the 10 million dollars or 20 million dollars that it would take to develop a drug that allows people to remember their dreams. Because I think every night, we return to the psychedelic source, that the dreams you remember are the surface of the dream, and that every single night, we sink back down in to the primordial field of mind out of which we reconstruct ourselves.

Now, I’m telling you, if DMT were legal, in six months, a skilled laboratory team trained in the study of biofeedback techniques, could train a human being to trigger that on the natch. Well then, this is something that we would teach our children in the seventh grade, and from then on, that would solve the entire issue of the hallucinogenic substances, their availability, their legality, and so forth. Legalize the dream! Reclaim the human mind! Let’s make dreams legal, let’s make plants legal, let’s legalize the imagination, empower hope, and begin to build the kind of world that we would feel alright about handing our children on to. Because if we don’t do that, we’re going to come off as the lamest generation in human history, and we aren’t. The creativity, the connectedness, the potential for good is enormous.

And most people in this planet are embedded in pre-potent systems of relationship, meaning obligation and inherited religious and cultural ideas. So you may think that you don’t count, but actually we all probably are part of a sub-population of about 5% of the global population — people who have disposable income, can read, follow global advances, get good data, and feel a political and moral obligation to do something about it. We tend to feel as powerless as a Guatemalan peasant or something like that, but in fact, that’s a myth They want you to accept. The real responsibility for saving the world rests on the literate middle- and upper-middle-class masses of the high-tech industrial democracies. That’s US. It’s our responsibility to make a change and to act for all those silent, downtrodden people who have been so victimized by the system that they couldn’t turn out at a New York nightclub and hear an aesthete rail against the evils of the Establishment. And that’s probably enough railing against the evils of the Establishment.

Thank you very much, thank you. [applause]

Copyright ©1993, 1996 Terence McKenna. All Rights Reserved. Transcribed by Abrupt from the original WFMU broadcast.

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