|20 October 1990
|Port Hueneme, CA
Andrew C. Voth: Well, I am most pleased and most happy to introduce our very special guest speaker for tonight, Mr. Terence McKenna. [long applause]
Terence: Well, it's a pleasure to be hear. It's wonderful to see..so many familiar faces, and so many faces period. [audience laughter]. I've never been to Port Hueneme before; probably some of you feel the same way. [audience laughter] But, uh, I've been doing a lot of traveling recently. I was, uh, in New York last weekend at the Open Center, and in Prague two weeks before that, so this is the end of a long season of traveling. I'm not home yet, but at least, I'm in my own time zone. [audience laughter]. I want to especially thank Andy Voth and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oxnard for inviting me to participate. Uh...it represents a real commitment to, uh, free speech and first amendment rights, I think, for [applause] an art museum [applause continue]..............Art museums have been taking some knocks recently, and so I think they doubly should be commended for their, uh, courage.
And, I want to explain, as Andy mentioned, this is a benefit for Botanical Dimensions, which explains the double price over the ticket. All of this money will go to the preservation of, uh, medicinal plants with a history of shamanic usage. That is the special focus of our botanical garden in Hawaii, and before I start the formal lecture, I'd like to just say a little bit about that. As you know, the rainforests of the world are being cleared at a v-very frightening rate, and, uh, perhaps, uh..voices are beginning to be heard to halt this destruction of the natural environment. But, whether it's halted or not, the destruction of the knowledge of native peoples concerning the uses of the plants in the rainforest, this is disappearing without doubt in the next 30 years, because these people are moving into cities, uh, taking jobs in the ordinary market economy, and thousands of years of accumulated folk medical knowledge is being lost. So, the real-world political work that Kat [Harrison] and I do is associated with Botanical Dimensions. We conceived it together many, many years ago, and then about six years ago, uh, Kat took it over, put it on its official feet, made it a-a, uh, non-profit foundation, and has run it day to day since then, uh, with tremendous energy and efficiency. So, I'd like to acknowledge Kat McKenna here [points to Kat, applause].
My better half; in fact, my only good half. [audience laughter] And, then I wanted to underscore what Andy said, a very special event, two weeks from now, at the Carnegie Museum. Roy Tuckman, Roy of Hollywood,
bon vivant, [audience laughter] countercultural figure, informational ferret of our time, [audience laughter] will be recast as an experimental composer of great, uh, energy and imagination, and I hope you'll all, uh, turn out for Roy. He's been a wonderful force, uh, and in my life and I think in the cultural life of Southern California. Both Roy and Diane [surname] have done a wonderful job in raising the quality of public dialogue in Southern California, which I think is a precondition for any kind of, uh, clear thinking about our future or our political situation. So, [applause] here's to Roy and Diane.
Well, the theme that unites these lectures is, uh, creativity and the techniques by which the artist can, uh, refine his or her vision, expand the vision, communicate the vision. And, um, before I get into that issue, I thought I would talk just a little bit about my notion of creativity, per se. What is it, uh, uh, in and of itself? And when I think like that of course I cast my mind back to nature. Nature is the great visible engine of creativity, against which all other creative efforts, uh, are measured. And, creativity in nature has a curious distribution. It’s something which accumulates through time. If we stand back and look at the universe, we see that at its earliest moments, it was very simple. It was a plenum. It was without characters or characteristics. It was what is called in Hindu mythology the
turiya, which is described as attribute-less. And, naturally if something is without attribution, you can’t say much about it [some audience laughter]. It takes a while for it to undergo a declension into more creative realms. And, these creative realms are distinguished as domains of difference. The precondition for creativity is, I think, disequilibrium: what mathematicians now call chaos. And, through the light of the universe, as temperatures have fallen, more and more complex compound structures have arisen. And, though there’s been, um, you know, many a, uh, slipping back in this process, over very large spans of time we can say that creativity is conserved, that the universe becomes more creative. And, out of that state of creative fecundity, more creativity is manifest. So that, from that point of view, the universe is almost, what we would have to call, an art-making machine. An engine for the production of ever more novel forms of connectedness, ever-more exotic juxtapositions of disparate elements. And out of this, uh, I believe, arises, implicitly, a set of principles we can then, uh, apply to the human artist in the human world. [takes drink]
Nature’s creativity is, obviously, the wellspring of human creativity. We emerge out of nature almost—and this idea I think was fairly present close to the surface of the medieval mind—we emerge out of nature almost as its finest work of art. Uh, uh, the medieval mind spoke of 'the productions of nature'. This is a phrase you hear as late as the 18th century: 'the productions of nature'. And, human creativity, uh, emerges out of that, whether you have a model of the Aristotelian great ladder of being, or a more modern evolutionary view where we actually consolidate emergent properties and somehow bring them to a focus of self-reflection.
Now, I’m sure that we couldn’t..carry out a discussion of this sort without observing that the prototypic figure for the artist, as well as for the scientist, is the shaman. The shaman is the figure at the beginning of human history that unites the doctor, the scientist, and the artist into a single notion of care-giving and creativity. And, I think that, you know, to whatever degree art, over the past several centuries, has wandered in the desert, it is because this shamanic function has been either suppressed or forgotten. And we’ve…eh, different images of the artist have been held up at different times: the artist as, uh,
artisan; the artist as handmaiden of a ruling class or family; the artist as designer for the production of integrated objects into a civilization. Uh, this notion of the artist as mystical journeyer, as one who goes into a world unseen by others, and then returns to tell them of it, was pretty much lost in the post-medieval and renaissance conception of art. Up until the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, where, beginning with the Romantics, there is a new permission to explore the irrational. This really is the bridge back to the archaic, shamanic function of the artist: permission to explore the irrational. The Romantics did it with their, um, uh, elevation of titanic emotion, of romantic love specifically. The symbolists, in the mid-19th century, did it by a reemphasis on the emotional content of the image and a rejection of the previous rationalism, and that emphasis on the image and on the emotions set the stage, then, for what I take to be the truly shamanic movements in art, which begin really with Alfred Jarry, in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s.
Jarry, you may remember, was the founder of something called the
Ecole du Pataphysique—the Pataphysical College. Jarry announced pataphysics is
the science. The problem was, nobody could understand what it meant or what it stood for, including Jarry. [audience laughter] Jarry is, uh, was tight--Jarry was tight with Montremont, who you may recall said, "I am fascinated by that kind of beauty that arises when a sewing machine meets a bicycle on an operating table." See, this was a true effort to bend the boundaries of art, to create new permission… permission really for the unthinkable. And this,uh, again, reinforces the shamanic function.
What do we mean when we say the unthinkable? We mean the envelope of that which can be conceived. And, for, uh, at least 200 years, the ostensible mission of the artist has been to test the conceptual and imagistic envelope of what the society is willing to tolerate. And, this has taken many forms: the, uh, deconstruction of imagery that we get with abstract impressionism going back into impressionism and the pointillists. Or the permission for the irrational imagery of the unconscious; surrealism and German expressionism make use of this permission. Always the idea being to somehow destroy the idols of the tribe, dissolve the conceptual boundary of ordinary expectation.
Well, in order to do this, it seems to me there is a precondition for the creation of art which I call 'understanding'. And I don’t mean this in an intellectual sense; I mean it in the sense that Alfred North Whitehead intended when he defined understanding as the “apperception of pattern as such.”
As such. There’s nothing more to it than that. You see, if we were to look at this room, and we were to squint our eyes and, uh--I’m doing this right now and I see that the room divides itself into people dressed in red and people dressed in blue. This is a pattern, and it tells me something about what I’m looking at. Now I shift my depth of field. Now I’m looking at where men are sitting and where women are sitting. This is a different pattern, and it tells me more about what I am looking at. The number of these patterns theoretically present in any construction is infinite. That says to me, then, that the depth of understanding cannot be known. It cannot be known. Everything is imminent. William Blake makes this point, you know, that you can see infinity in a grain of sand.
So, understanding, then, is the pre-, the precondition for creativity. And this understanding is not so much intellectual as it is visual. Visual. [takes drink] And in thinking about this, I realized what an influence on my own ideas in this area Aldous Huxley was. Not, the Huxley that we might ordinarily associate with my concerns, but the Huxley of 'The Doors of Perception and of Heaven and Hell', but the Huxley of a very modest book that he wrote in the early 50’s that he called 'The Art of Seeing'. The Art of Seeing. And in that book, he makes the point that a good art education begins with a good drawing hand. That to be able to coordinate the hand and eye and to see in to nature—to see into the patterns present as such—is the precondition for a kind of approach to the absolute. Now, out of this process of seeing, which I’m calling 'understanding', the creative process ushers in novelty.
And, many of you have heard me speak of novelty in another context: in the context of nature being a novelty-producing engine of some sort. And ourselves, almost as the handiwork of nature. But this same handiwork of nature which we
represent, we also internalize and re-express through the novelty of the human world. Well, now, if we take seriously the-the shamanic model as a basis for our authentic art, then certainly in the modern context, what we see missing from the repertoire of the artist are shamanic techniques. And it’s for the discussion of these shamanic techniques, I believe, um, that I was brought here this evening.
So, I want you to cast your mind back to a great.... seminal moment, germinal moment, in the history of human thought, which was, about 25,000 years ago, the great glaciers that had covered most of the Eurasian land mass began to melt. And human populations that had been islanded from each other for about 15 millennia began to re-contact each other and reconnect. And, out of this comes what is called the Magdalenian Revolution, from 18,000 to 22,000 years ago. And what it is, is nothing less than a tremendous explosion of creativity and aesthetic self-expression on the part of the human species. We find, uh, the--for the first time, bone and antler technology takes its place alongside stone technology. Musical instruments appear over a wide area. And, cave paintings—some paintings in areas and recesses so remote from the surface of the ground that it takes several hours to reach them— are painted and set up in dramatic
tableaus specifically designed to bring together sound, light and dance in hierophonies. Extravaganzas of aesthetic output that invoke a kind of transcendent other, that human beings, for the first time, are trying to come to grips with and make some kind of cultural statement about. And this pulling into matter of the ideas of human beings—first, you know, in the forms of, uh-uh, bead-work and chipped stone and carved bone—within twenty thousand years, ushers into the kinds of high civilizations that we see around us, and points us toward the kind of extra-planetary mega civilization that we can feel operating on our own present like a kind of great attractor.
Now, this whole intellectual adventure in exteriorization of ideas is entirely.. an aesthetic.. adventure. Until very recently, utility is only a secondary consideration. The real.. notion is a kind of seizure by the tremendum, by the Other, that forces us to take up matter—clay, bone, flint—and put it through a mental process where we then excrete it as objects that have lodged within them ideas. This seems to be the special, unique transcendental function of the human animal is the production and condensation of ideas. And, what made it possible for the human animal is language. If you’re seeking the thumbprint of the transcendental on the f--on the, uh, myriad phenomena that compose life on this planet, to my mind the place to look is human language. Human language represents an ontological break of major magnitude with anything else going on, on this planet. I mean, yes, bees dance and dolphins squeak and chimpanzees do what they do, but, it’s a hell of a step from there to Wallace Stevens, let alone William Shakespeare. Language is the unique province of human beings, and language is the unique tool of the artist. The artist is the person of language. And, I’ve, you know, given a lot of thought to this because, uh, the work that I’ve done with psilocybin mushrooms and the observations of psychedelic plant use in the Amazon, centered around ayahuasca, lead me to the conclusion that it is the synergy and catalysis of language that lies behind not only the emergence of human consciousness out of animal organization, but, then, its ability to set a course for a transcendental dimension and
pursue that course against all the vicissitudes of biology and history over ten or fifteen thousand years. Language has made us more than a group of pack-hunting monkeys; it’s made us a group of pack-hunting monkeys with a dream. [audience laughter and Terence laughs]
And the fallout from that dream has given us our glory and our shame. Our weaponry, our technology, our art, our hopes, our fears. All of this arises out of our own ability to articulate and to communicate with each other. And, I use this in the broad sense. I mean, for me, the glory of the human animal is cognitive activity. Song, dance, sculpture, poetry, uh… all of these cognitive activities… when we participate in them, we cross out of the domain of animal organization and into the domain of a genuine relationship to the transcendent. As you know, shamans in all times and places, uh, gain their power through relationships with helping spirits, which they sometimes call ancestors, sometimes call nature spirits. But, somehow the acquisition of a relationship to a disincarnate intelligence is the precondition for authentic shamanism. Now, nowhere in our world do we have an institution like that—that we do not consider pathological— except in the now very thinly spread tradition of the muse. That artists—alone among human beings—are given permission to talk in terms of “my inspiration,” or “a voice which told me to do this,” or, uh, “a vision that must be realized.” The thin line—the thin thread of shamanic descent into our profane world—leads through the office of the artist. And so, if society is to somehow take hold of itself at this penultimate moment, as we
literally waver on the brink of planetary extinction, then the artist, like Ariadne following her thread out of the labyrinth, is going to have to follow this shamanic thread back through time. And, you know one of the most disempowering things that has been done to us by the male-dominant culture is to, uh, brush out our footprints into the past. We don’t have a
clue as to how we got here. Most people can’t think back further than the first Nixon administration, let alone, you know, the arrival of the Vikings, the fall of Catal Huyuk, the melting of the glaciers, so forth and so on. We have been disempowered by a rational tendency to deny our irrational roots, which are kind of an embarrassment to science, because science is, uh, the special province of the ego.
And, magic and art are the special province of something else. I could name it, but I won’t. It prefers to be unnamed, I think. So, how seriously then, are we to take this, um, I’ll call it an obligation to follow the shamanic thread back into time? Well, I think that it is, uh, a matter of saving our own souls. That this is the real challenge. You know, I love to dig at the 'Yogans' by saying “nobody ever went into an Ashram with their knees knocking in fear over the tremendous dimension they knew they were about to enter through meditation.” Still truer, and more sad--still more true and more sad is the notion that very few of us pick up our sculpting tools or our airbrush with our knees knocking with fear because we know we are invoking and acting with the muse at our elbow. And somehow, I think the artists need to recover this sense of, uh, mystery. One of the most depressing thing to me about the art scene—and I had a chance to reconnect with this because I was just in New York—is, uh, it now has a kind of directionless quality. You can go into a gallery and you cannot tell whether it is 1990, 1980, 1970 or 1960. Because a kind of eschatological malaise has settled over art. All notion of any forward movement toward a transcendental ideal has been put aside for, um, the exploration of idiosyncratic vision. And, I grant you this is a tension—and perhaps in the question period we can talk about this—there is a tension between the individual vision and, uh, the notion of an attractor or a collective vision which wants to be expressed. But to my mind this is the same dichotomous tension that haunts the individual in h-his or her relationship to Tao.
You know, we don’t want to be lost in ego, but on the other hand, if we completely express the Tao, we have no sense of self. The ideal seems to be a kind of
coincidencia oppositorum… a kind of literalizing of a paradox where what we have is Tao, but we perceive it as ego. And, in the application of this notion to the art problem, I would say, what we need is a situation where schooling—if you want to put it that way—or a tendency toward a coherent vision expressed by many artists—is spontaneous. Each artist imagines that they are pursuing their own vision. Yet,
obviously, they are in the grip of an archetype which is rising through the medium of the unconscious. Now, the last time we saw this in American art was in abstract expressionism, which was probably—in terms of the values… in terms of, um, tension and the amount of, uh, emotional gain between one artistic moment and another—the break between abstract expressionism and, uh, what preceded it was the most radical break in American art in this century. Abstract expressionism actually carried us into a confrontation with what the quantum physicists were telling us. That the universe is field upon field of integrated vibration. But there is no top level, there is no bottom level. That the ordinary structures of provisional space-time are simply that. That if we can rise out of the human dimension, then we discover these larger, more integrated dimensions where mind and nature somehow interpenetrate each other. A vision like that, a coherent vision, has yet to announce itself here in the, uh, post-history pre-apocalypse phase of things.
Well, [takes drink].........I guess I have a kind of reactionary side when I think about the creative endeavor. I believe that the psychedelic experience, as encountered by each of you in the privacy of your own mind, or as encountered by a pre-, uh, literate society somewhere in the world, that that psychedelic experience is in a way the Rosetta stone—not only for, um, understanding the encryption that our own lives represent, each to ourselves—but it’s also a Rosetta stone for uncoding the historical experience. Art
is this endeavor to leave the animal domain behind. To create another dimension, orthogonal to the concerns of, uh, ordinary history. And this orthogonal domain, to my mind, is glimpsed most clearly in the psychedelic experience. The psychedelic experience shows you more art in an hour and a half than the human species has produced in fifteen or twenty thousand years [some audience laughter]. Now, this is an incredible claim. This is why I make it [audience laughter]. Uh, the, the energy barrier which separates us from this tremendous repository of transcendental imagery is very low. You know, it’s a matter of a little personal commitment and, uh, the substances which make the transition possible. The perturbation of brain chemistry is easily done. What is not so easily done is the assimilation of the consequences of this act. Uh, ordinarily, we assume that consciousness is channeled between tremendously deep walls. That there is no way to, um, force, uh, a confrontation with the Other or the transcendent or the unconscious. We tend to assume that, you know, we’re going to have to do double-duty at the Ashram for three decades [some audience laughter] before we’re vouchsafed even a glimpse into these places. This is not true.
Culture—and this is my message to artists and to anybody else who cares to notice—culture is a
plot against the expansion of consciousness. And this plot prosecutes its, uh, its goals through a, uh, limiting of language. Language is the battleground over which the-the fight will take place. Because, what we cannot--what we cannot say, we cannot communicate. And, by 'say', I mean dance, paint, sing, meme. What we cannot say, we cannot communicate. We can conceive of things that we cannot communicate. And, I think every one of us here has done that. And that’s a
thrilling thing. That’s the deep homework. The psychedelic inner astronaut sees things which no human being has ever seen before, and no other human being will ever see again. But, in fact, this has no meaning unless it is possible to carry it back into the collectivity. And, what motivates me to talk to groups like this is the belief that we do not have centuries of gently unfolding time ahead of us in which to, uh-uh, you know, gently tease apart the threads of the human endeavor and create a bright new world. That’s not our circumstance. This is a fire in a madhouse [audience laughter]. And, uh, to get a hold on the situation, I think we are going to have to force the issue. One way of forcing the issue, or a chemical definition of forcing the issue when you’re talking about a chemical reaction, is catalysis. We want to catalyze consciousness. We want to move it faster toward its goals, whatever those goals are. Well, I believe that to the present moment, language… again in the broadest sense: speech, dance, musical composition… language has just been allowed to grow like topsy [sp?]. It’s, uh, been a kind of every-man-for-himself situation. Now, what we really need, as we see ourselves moving from one species among tens of thousands of species on this planet, over the past ten thousand years, we have redefined ourselves. And now, like it or not,
we are the custodians of the destiny of this planet. Our decisions affect every life form on the planet. And yet, we are still communicating with each other with the extremely precise medium of small-mouth noises mediated by ignorance and hate [audience laughter, Terence clears throat]. This doesn’t seem like the way to do business [audience laughter, Terence takes drink] as we approach the third millennium.
So, it-it, what I, uh, what I’m hopeful for, and what I actually see happening—I mean, I think we’re on the right track—the birth of a new kind of humanity is going to take place. But there are still a lot of decisions to be made. How violent shall this birth be? What toll shall it take upon our mother the earth? What shape shall the baby be in when it is finally delivered… these are the decisions that artists can mediate and control. Most people are afraid of the unconscious. This is why, uh, you know, you can have a psychedelic compound like DMT, which is very much like ordinary brain chemistry, uh, appears completely physiologically harmless, only lasts ten minutes, extremely powerful, and generally in this society you have
no takers. This is because there has been a failure of moral courage. And, the failure of moral courage is perhaps most evident in our own community: the community of, uh, of the artist. In a way, uh, it’s the poets who have failed us. Because, they have not, uh, provided a song or sung a vision that we could all move in concert to. So, now we are in the absurd position of being able to
do anything, and what we are doing is fouling our own nest and pushing ourselves toward planetary toxification and extinction.
This is because the poets, the artists have not articulated an, a, um, a moral vision. The moral vision must come from the unconscious. It doesn’t have to do, I believe, um, with, uh, you know, um.... these post-meaning movements in art: deconstructionism, and this sort of thing. I mean, I'm basically putting out a very conservative, but I think, um, exciting program for art: that art’s task is to save the soul of mankind. And, that anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. Because if the artists, who are self-selected for, uh, being able to journey into the Other… if the artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.
Ideology is extremely alien to art. Political ideology, I mean. And if you will but notice it is political ideology that has been calling the shots for the last seven or eight hundred years. We can transcend politics if we can put some other program in place. You cannot transcend politics into a void. And I-I believe that a world without ideology could be created, if what were put in place of ideology were the notion or the realization of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. You know, the three-tiered canon of the Platonic aesthetic. Reconnect the notion of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
Then, use psychedelics to empower the artist to go into this
vast dimension that surrounds human history on all sides to an infinite depth, and return from that world with the transcendental images that can lift us to a new cultural level. The muse is there. The, the dull maps that rationalism has given us are nothing more than whistling past the graveyard by the bad little boys of science. You only have to avail yourselves of these shamanic tools to rediscover a nature which is not mute, as Sartre said in a kind of culmination of the modern viewpoint. Nature is not mute; it is man who is deaf. And the way to.. open our ears, open our eyes, and reconnect with the intent of a living world is through the psychedelics.
Now, as you know, biology runs on genes. And genes are the units of meaning of heredity. But we could make a model of the informational environment that is represented by culture. And in fact, this is done. A word has been invented: meme. M-E-M-E, meme. A meme is not the smallest unit of heredity; a meme is the smallest unit of meaning of an idea. Ideas are made of memes. And I think the art community might, uh, function with more efficiency in the production of visionary aesthetic breakthroughs if we would think of ourselves as an environment modeled after the natural environment, where we as artists are attempting to create memes which enter an environment of other memes that are in competition with each other, and out of this competition of memes, ever more appropriate, adapted, and, uh, suitable ideas can gather and, uh, link themselves together into higher and higher organisms.
Now, in order for this to happen, there is an obligation upon each one of us to carry our ideas clearly. Because in the same way that a gene must be copied correctly to be replicated or it will cause some pathological mutation, a meme must be correctly replicated or it will cause a pathological mutation. For instance, I would say what the Nazis did to Friederich Nietzsche’s philosophy was a bad copy--a miscopied meme became a toxic mutation inside a culture. So, uh, I would suggest to the people in this room tonight, that you take a good look around at who’s here.
Artistic people, psychedelic people, look pretty much like everybody else out in society. But we have come here tonight, self-selected for our interest in the empowering capacity of psychedelic plants and the empowering capacity of art. So we represent an affinity group; a population with the potential for, uh, uh, mutagenic impact on the ideological structures of the rest of society. So, look around. Someone here
has what you need. And, if you can only figure out who it is, you can make a novel connection to move, then, into a new level of creativity.
[takes drink] What is this new level of creativity? Some of you may be familiar with a theme that was very big in medieval religious art, which was, uh, the apocalypse, uh, of St. John or of somebody; there are a number of these apocalypses. And I think that, uh, many of us may come out of a secular background or have not given this kind of a religious idea too much consideration. But, I-my, uh, idiosyncratic conclusion, based simply on trying to be honest about the content of the psychedelic experience, is that, uh, human history really is on a collision course with a, uh, transcendental object of some sort. Uh, it is not going to be business as usual into the endless unfolding confines of the future. Uh, the very
fact that human history is
occurring on this planet; the very fact that a primate has left the ordinary pattern of primate activity and gone into the business of running stock markets and, uh, molecular biology labs, and art museums indicates to me the nearby presence, in another dimension, of a kind of hyper-organizing force, or what I call the transcendental object. And I believe that this transcendental object is casting an
enormous shadow over the human historical landscape. So that if you’re back in, uh, ancient Judea, you have an anticipation of the Messiah. If you are at Eleusis, at the height of the practice of the Eleusinian mysteries, you have an anticipation of, uh, the dark god.
These anticipations of an unspeakable transcendent reality, that are always clothed in the, um, in the assumptions of the individual artist and the society in which he or she is working, are in fact genuine. And that you don’t have to give yourself over to fundamentalist religion to connect with the fact that human history
is an adventure. And, this adventure has a number of startling reverses and sudden plot shifts that are very difficult to anticipate, and that we are coming up on one of those. The civilization that was created out of the collapse of the medieval world has now shown its contradictions to be unbearable. And though no one of us knows what the shape of the new civilization will be, somehow in the singing of the ayahuasca songs in the rainforests, in the tremendous hypermetallic transcendental off-planetary flash of psilocybin, in the teaching of the self-transforming machine elves that seem to dwell in the DMT dimension, we see that the ordinary linear expectations of history are breaking down, and that, uh, the-the truth of the imminence of the mystery is breaking through all the structures of denial of, uh, the male dominator paradigm that has been in place so long.
The way to make this birth process smooth, the way to bring it to a conclusion that will not betray the thousands and thousands of generations of people who-who suffered birth and disease and migration and starvation and lonely death so that we could sit here this evening. The redeeming of the human enterprise all lies, then, in helping this thing come to birth. And each artist is an antenna to the transcendental other, and as we go with our own history into that thing, and then create a unique confluence of our uniqueness, and its uniqueness, we collectively create an arrow. An arrow out of history, out of time, perhaps even out of matter, that will redeem, then, the idea, uh, that man is good. Redeem the idea that man is good. This is the promise of art, and its fulfillment is never more near than the present moment.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
We'll, uh, I think we'll take a ten or fifteen minute break and then we'll come back and, uh, you can have questions and we'll do that for a little while. Thanks very, very much.
Terence McKenna: Now I'll-- I'm happy to take questions....here...
Question: You spoke about science being in the realm of ego and art and shamanism being in some other realm [couldn't decipher]. My own psychedelic experience convinced me of the insistence of that other realm, but I felt not enough sense of personal power to be that antennae that you're saying that artists can be for bringing that other, until I became convinced not only of the existence not only of me but then the other realm and the other realm within me, and perhaps the psychedelic experience prepared me for that second awareness, but I guess you could comment on how, if possibly--if possible, that second awareness could become more easily accessible, and st...
T: What do you mean by 'the second awareness'...say a little more about it...
Q: Um, being aware that the other realm is something that's also very personal and ....
T: Well, yes, I mean, it seems, it's--it's a landscape that begins within the self and seems to extend into the world. I mean, one of the very puzzling things about the psychedelic experience is that it argues that we are not atomic individuals, uh, running around in some kind of society, but that if you actually drain the-the psychic water away, you'll discover that we're all connected at the roots; that the, uh, that it isn't a journey to another world; it's a journey inward to a world that is already present and there. The astonishing thing is how alienated we are from our own interior, from the interior world, to the point where we can hardly recognize it. I mean, the--I've talked a lot about the alien nature of the psychedelic experience and how it seems to be mappable over something as radical as the UFO experience. This is because we
truly do not know who we are. The past 10,000 years have been
so disempowering to us. We are really like the children of a dysfunctional relationship. Uh, we don't---we don't know where we have come from. It's very hard for us to emotionally connect with the consequences of what we're doing. I mean, that really horrifies me, that this is a society that loots the future. I mean, the symbol of that is devouring of children. We
literally, for our own comfort in the present moment are making it very difficult for gen--future generations to contemplate having anything approaching, uh, the level of resource availability that we have. And, this kind of situation could not be tolerated if we had not gone through a tremendous series of traumatic, uh, emotionally disemboweling experiences
You know, the Native Americans have a litmus test for all activity; you know, does it serve the children? And, so much of what
we do is so anti-future that it's almost as though the fundamentalist position exists to permit the destruction of the environment. I mean, this was perfectly encapsulated by this clown James Watt, who was Secretary of the Interior, and said 'We don't need to expand the National Parks because Jesus is coming'. I mean, this is, uh, this is, uh, a mentality so against the grain of the obvious that it has to be looked on as pathological.
Another question...Here in the corner.
Q: Hello Terence...I've known you for a long time, but you've never met me. I'm one of Roy's night people, and, uh...I guess, I don't know, I guess I ought to prep this remark by saying that I got about a $50,000 education and three degrees, college degrees in psychology, but I've never learned anything like I've learned from listening to Roy's show [audience applause] on KPFK [rest of comment indecipherable].........Uh, in pursuing those degrees, I've decided to learn a little bit about it hands-on, so I went to work in [couldn't decipher]. So, it's my misfortune, actually, to be earning my survival at this time to be working as a.....I would like to see psychology take a different direction, and I know that what you're talking about provides a focus to a direction for psychology to take which I think would...blow the lid off things. So, we're really close to, uh...I mean, I'm in total agreement that Freud and Jung discovered the [couldn't decipher]-conscious about a hundred years ago, but they discovered it 900 [couldn't decipher] in Santa Fe.
Um, how do we get closer to this in this kind of society, uh, that's the first part of this question...I'm a little bit nervous speaking in front of all these people. But, um, the second part of this question has to do with a study that you spoke of in '72 where with single-dose administration of LSD, alcoholics were achieving a 72% success rate, and, uh, I would you like you to speak a little bit on the pro-psychedelic, uh, the pro-psychedelic approach being and anti-drug approach
T: Yes, well, thanks for giving me the opportunity to make the point [audience laughter] because, uh, in the present atmosphere of hysteria and misinformation, uh, it's too easily run over. Uh...it is important to make the distinction that the, eh, what has happened really is that the well of language on this issue of consciousness alteration...the well of language has been poisoned; where you cannot make any sense if you use the words that have been granted us to use. I mean, let's take the word 'drug'. You know, we have a 'drug war', but as I drove into town I noticed a 'drug store' [audience laughter and applause]. Well, uh, you know, with that compressed a vocabulary, you can't make any sense at all about what's going on. So, I think what we have to do is make an operational argument about 'drugs' and say, well, you know, what is it that society finds offensive about, uh, drug abuse. And, then, what does that have to do with psychedelics.
Well, my own analysis of this is that what is, uh, offensive about drug abuse is a unconscious, repetitious, and demonstrably destructive pattern of behavior. And, whenever you see someone, uh, behaving that way, everyone feels repulsed and brought down, and, in fact, severe drug addictions are like this. But, as a matter of record, this is what psychedelics make absolutely impossible. Number one, the notion of unexamined behavior; how can you have unexamined behavior if you take psychedelics; it holds you up into a blast furnace of self-reflection [audience laughter]. It is, uh, certainly it does not promote repetitious drug use [audience laughter]. I mean, uh, I-I consider myself a great fan of psilocybin and if I can screw my courage to the sticking point a couple of times a
year, I'm doing alright. Uh, I know someone that says DMT is their, uh, uh, favorite substance. And, when I asked them when was the last time you did it, they said '1968' [audience laughter]. I mean it lasted three minutes [audience laughter]. This is not a pattern of drug abuse [audience laughter]...you see. So, uh, uh, it's a matter of educating the public, and, I--this is probably a good place for me to get a pitch in.
I--I wrote a book on contract for Bantam, and hopefully it'll be out next fall, and I'm hoping, I want to call it, and I'm hoping they'll go along with me, 'Why Eve Was Right: Plants, Drugs, and History' [woman squeals in audience]. Because, right there, in the beginning of the Western story, in Genesis, what you get is--it's the story of history's first drug bust. It's the story, of a woman, who follows her own mind and makes a decision about consciousness alteration, and then, uh....it
works [audience laughter]. I mean, she says, eh, eh 'and they were naked and she perceived them as naked'. In other words, she got true information about the situation. But, you have Yahweh there, mumbling to himself, as he wanders around the garden in an old bathroom, and he's saying 'if they eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, they will become as we are'. That was
always the issue, you see. It wasn't a health issue; it wasn't an abuse issue. It's about who finds out what's really going on and who doesn't. And, this book I wrote for Bantam makes very clear that the cult--the style of a culture is almost invariably a style of seeing the world through a certain set of drugs, or
a drug. For example, uh, you know, here we're in the middle of a, uh, drug abuse problem, but, uh, caffeine has been entirely institutionalized since the, uh, Industrial Revolution [1:09:25]