||SEN Interview, Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California
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Frank [surname unknown]: Welcome Terence McKenna
Terence McKenna: Thank you very much [laughs]
F: Um, what I, what I'm, kind of, first of all interested in is your, your education, like you know, how come that you developed this very particular kind of interest.
TM: Well, I...received a degree in shamanistic studies from the University of California, but that was more, uh, in response to my interest in this kind of thing. I, uh, traveled widely in the East as an art historian when I was very young. And, uh, then later I moved to the Amazon Basin, and I had always had an interest in plant hallucinogens and drug experiences generally and conscious,uh, development of conscious alternatives. B
ut it was not until the Amazon that I saw that this was possible in a way that was accessible to me. So then I concentrated on those people, those chemical families and that, uh, that then became the compass for all the work that I've done since then, and, uh, I regard the degree more or less as a joke because it was self-directed study. They don't really, uh, there is no degree in shamanism. But, my interest was basically one in the phenomenology of religious experience, religious traditions worldwide and, uh, primitive people against a background of tropical nature. And, uh, stumbled onto the mushrooms in the jungles of Colombia in 1971 and was not even particularly interested in mushrooms at the time. We were looking for a, m-less well-understood drug that is still not discussed much in the literature but exists in a very circumscribed area among three Indian tribes. And we went into the jungle to stay at a mission that served these Indians, and the priest at this mission had cleared pasture and brought in white cows and there were many, many of these mushrooms. And as soon as we started experimenting with them, I realized that what I had been told about psilocybin, which was that it was analogous to LSD but simply required a larger amount for the effect to be present, was, uh, a complete simplification of the issue. And actually, then, psilocybin became the focus of my interest and, by extrapolation, the other tryptamine related hallucinogens.
And, uh, a great dream of mine and of my brother's was that the mushroom must somehow be made accessible to people so that they may judge for themselves the difference. And, uh, we worked with this over a number of years, and in 1975, we succeeded in growing it by a method that had previously been used, uh, only in the laboratory on commercial grocery store mushrooms to study their genetics, but it turned out to be perfectly adapted for growing this mushroom. Within a matter of months, we had written 'Psilocybin: the Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide' and, uh, information was moving out into society. More important from our point of view was that the mushroom was again accessible to us, so that we had psilocybin in a form that was certified pure by Mother Nature. And that, like, initiated the second phase of, uh, our work with these drugs, which has carried this up to the present day. It’s basically, uh, a project of taking the drugs, calling attention to, uh, the differences and the uniqueness of the state and trying to attract other people’s attention to it because, uh, I have, we have a very deep intuition of its importance for the cultural predicament for mankind generally. And, uh, this is how we come to where we are today basically.
F: You just mentioned that, uh, that the mushroom is really important for our country right now. Do you perceive yourself an advocate to bring into our culture new elements like an easy way to reach altered states of consciousness? What can we learn from these experiences?
TM: Well, the first thing that we can learn is that they exist. In other words, that, uh.... perhaps it’s a truism in the 80s, but at one point it was thought that there were two states of consciousness, awake and asleep. Now there is a gamut of these states, but I still don't believe that the people who deal with consciousness realize, uh, how mutable consciousness really is. There is a prejudice against the use of drugs because there is an inherent dualism, eh, built into Western thought where people value the experience if it is endogenously produced – produced through ordeal, or personality, or dieting – but is undervalued if it, uh, comes from drugs. This has, in my opinion, held back the Western development of understanding consciousness because, quite simply, these states, I do not believe, are accessible by any means other than drugs.
And this is heresy to a number of people, but the evidence that I lay in favor of that contention is, uh, the history of, uh, human art, literature, music and painting. It’s surprisingly empty of the motifs which exist in the tryptamine-induced ecstasy. And always when I speak of hallucinogens, I’m speaking of this limited family of drugs. Not LSD, Ketamine or Mescaline, but psilocybin, and DMT and combinational drugs that utilize strategies for making that effect noticeable. And my career is to point at this place in nature which I've stumbled upon and to say, uh, what is this? What do you make of this? What do you the physicist, you the psychologist, you the after-death researcher – what do you make of this, uh, place?
And, uh, even the most sophisticated consciousness researchers tend to hurry over drugs or to focus on one drug to the exclusion of others, and yet psilocybin has not received this kind of attention and treatment. And why that is, I'm not sure. I think that, uh, that the element of terror involved in doing it and the fact that it does not bathe your ego in, uh, a cloud of certitude or assurance that everything is going to be fine. It is much more cut and dry than that and, uh, it’s a challenge. It is, uh,... when you are out in the billows, as I call it, because it seems to come in waves like sets of billows – when you're out in the billows, you are against the power of mind--up against the power of mind to such a degree that you know that the entire enterprise hangs in the balance. That no matter how much you've been told about dosage and this kind of thing, that the mind actually holds the key to life and death and that, uh, those parts of your control board which are normally masked from you are suddenly unmasked, and the buttons are there for you to manipulate to the degree that you understand them.
And, uh, there is an element of risk. I never tell people that there isn't, but I think that the risk is worth it, because I think these bizarre dimensions of beauty and information are actually, uh-- it is an intimation of these things that gives human history its coherency. In other words, this is not a peripheral issue to the general phenomenon of human becoming in time. It is actually because the evolution of the human species is the evolution of the human mind, these consciousness-expanding agents actually anticipate an end state in the evolution of the human mind; so, they cast enormous reflections back over the historical landscape. It is
they which generate, uh, religions, and physics, and messianic careers and outbreaks of great psychic, uh, accomplishment and, uh-uh, disgrace. And, uh, until we understand this; until we understand that there
is a teleological object at the end of human history, and that it
can be known, we will continue to live the kind of limited intellectual existence that has characterized the last 500 years or so of Western development. Psilocybin, tryptamine is in my opinion the, uh, the means to eliminating the future by becoming cognizant of, uh, the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and
causing history essentially.
F: How do you perceive in this context the future of mankind and the human mind?
TM: Well, I've said many times the, uh-- human history is a, a lunge across 15,000 or 20,000 years of time from the primitive, stone-chipping primate to that creature which will walk into a trans-dimensional vehicle and leave the solar system, and human history and the concerns of the human monkey far behind. And, [clears throat] this may take a thousand generations of people, but as a biological fact and as an emergent process of planetary significance – that is only a microcosm, I mean a microsecond of cosmic time.
Uh, the immediate future of man lies in the imagination and in seeking the dimension where the imagination can be expressed. The present cultural crisis on the surface of the planet is caused by the fact that this is not a fitting theater for the exercise of imagination. It wrecks the planet. The planet has its own ecosystemic dynamics, which are not the dynamics of imagination. In space, the physical space that surrounds the planet, the modalities of imagination will be the limiting cases of what man can be done. So I see, uh, man becoming an artist and an engineer. In other words, flowing into our ideas, perhaps more than we dare even now suspect. In other words, uh, a possible end state of that kind of technical evolution would be, uh, the interiorization of the body - the human body, the individual body - and the exteriorization of the soul. And, this seems to me to be what the recovery from Adam’s fall, uh, allegorically is getting at. That the soul must be made manifest and eternal and the body must be incorporealized so that it is a freely commanded object in the imagination.
And what I mean by that is something like what William Butler Yeats is getting at in his poem, 'Sailing to Byzantium', where he speaks of the artifice of eternity and talks about how, beyond death, he would hope to be an enameled golden bird singing sweet songs to the lords and ladies of Byzantium. In other words, it’s the image of the human body become an indestructible, cybernetic object and yet within that indestructible, cybernetic object, there is a holographic transform of the body and it is released into the dream. In other words, the after death state is actually the compass of human history, that we are attempting to undergo a complete death of the species. And, as we struggle with this concrescence of Thanatos, there is- there are problems like nuclear stockpiles and all these things arise, because the message we’re trying to read is the message we most fear to hear, which is, uh, that you must die to experience eternal life essentially. But what this death that we're talking about is, is an understanding that the human, the
dasein [a concept from Heidegger], the
being of human beings desires to be released into the imagination. And until we confront death with the attitude that it is the after death state that needs to enter history, there will be a great deal of anxiety.
It’s like a birth, you know. A birth is a death. Everything you treasure, believe in, love, and relate to is destroyed for you when you leave the womb, and you are launched into another modality, a modality that you would not perhaps have chosen but that you cannot do anything about. So I, uh, I think these drugs anticipate this, because I think time is a moving image of eternity, as Plato said, and, uh, these drugs place you outside of time. Now the mechanism of how that’s done, you can invoke Bell’s theorem, or just call it pure magic, but, uh, it does happen in the here and now. It is accessible and it is not something remote from us. But somehow the clamor of the modern world and in search for answers, people have feared to place themselves on the line and to actually wrestle with life and death ‘out there’ in those strange bardo-like dimensions - not realizing that there is no other way to win true knowledge. I mean, it cannot be easily come by. There is no knowledge without risk-taking.
And, uh, I see this human future.. emerging along the lines that the mushroom visions have insisted upon. The proliferation of electronic media, the densification of information, the breaking down of consensus reality, the, uh, uh, break down of a coherent, uh, dogma at the center of physics – all these things indicate that it is slowly becoming understood that the modality of being is the modality of mind. And once that realization is placed in the center of someone’s thinking about the world, the importance of these drugs will be seen to be paramount. And once a culture places that understanding, uh, in the center of it’s model of the world, these drugs will then point the way, uh, and we will be much closer to the end of history that I think we all, uh, desire, consciously or unconsciously; uh, a cutting of the Gordian knot and a release of the human species and individual into the dream basically.
And uh, primitive people, meaning preliterate people, they just have circumvented the entire process of history. They have leapfrogged over us. They are already in the dream. They have accepted the drug on its own terms and, uh, and assimilated it and live with it. The problem with that, for them and for us, is that we are destroying their world, and our intellectual equipment is such that we can never have that, uh, that naïve epistemological approach to these phenomena, because we know about
techne. We know that energy can be manipulated to achieve effects, and so, it isn't enough for us to try to recreate the shamanism of preliterate people. We have to go into the shaman space with the
a priori categories of Kant, with the eidetic reduction of Wittgenstein, with the ideas of Merleau-Ponty and Whitehead. All intellectual equipage of our culture must be carried with us into that space to attempt to map it in a way that will be relevant for us and that will point the way toward a shortening of this period of shock and the accumulating shock waves, like the bow shock of, uh, ionized particles or energetic particles meeting the magnetic field of a planet. That’s what the chaos of philosophy and of history is.
F: Were you just talking about the Bell theory?
TM: No, I'm talking about a shockwave which precedes eschatology and is, uh, modern times, basically. It has been increasing throughout history but as we grow closer to this moment where, uh, the human mind will evolve into hyperspace - ah, the confusion, the amount of contradiction, the amount of, uh, well, ‘queue’ it’s called in engineering - just the amount of vibration in the system is increasing to the point where it seems that the system is about to fly to pieces. This signals to me that the onset of the, uh, of the primal crisis that when we have gone through it, we will then live in this, uh, in this realm of altered understanding that psilocybin and these drugs anticipate. And, it isn't a coincidence that they anticipate them. It is, in fact , what eschatological time is is what they reveal. That’s why the cultures that we find using them are eschatological and historical coaches.
F: What is the Bell Theorem you were talking about?
TM: Well, the Bell theorem is simply an interpretation of an experiment in quantum mechanics, which seems to suggest that information is non-local. In other words, that, uh, everything about everywhere can be known here and now, because somehow all information is co-tangent to every point in the matrix. I, uh, don’t, uh, pretend to have the background to judge the Bell theorem. What I would say about it is: if it isn't true, something like it must be true to account for the informational content of these, uh, drug experiences. If you just take a simple behaviorist model, uh, what is in your head, if behaviorist and reductionist evolutionists are correct, what is in your head should be very adapted to the here and now. It should be efficacious information that bears on your survival. Instead what we find when we, uh, take these drugs is a density of information, an alienness of information, an inapplicability of information to the human condition that suggests that information
is available that has no bearing on the life of the individual or his, uh, the success of his evolutionary strategy. And, I just cannot believe that these things are built into the human psyche. I have, as I've said, I was involved with Jungian ideas and, I, those archetypes and those archetypal processes are not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about, uh, the thing, which for want of a better word, we call the alien or the extraterrestrial. The thing that comes out of the drug experience that is ‘un-Englishable.’ Beautiful, but so bizarre that it seems to exceed human categories.
F: Some people talk about entities?
TM: Yes, it can present itself as an entity. It can present itself in a number of different ways. It is, uh, it is the central mystery of our age. We are so alienated, uh, or, let me restart that, the [clears throat]. The relationship of intellectuals alive today who are familiar with the state of modern science and that sort of thing, to a question like the existence of extraterrestrials is approximately in the same place or degree of closure as the relationship of 15th and 16th century intellectuals to the real properties of matter. In other words, they had only a tenuous grip on the real properties of matter. Consequently, alchemy could exist, could project the hopes of human psychic transformation onto inert matter, because so little was known about the real nature of matter that it seemed a reasonable place to expect these kinds of things to happen.
The present state of thought, uh, today, is that it’s highly likely that there are extraterrestrials somewhere out among the stars. Our state- the state of development of our chemistry, astrophysics, uh, linguistics, etc, etc, makes it reasonable for us as moderns to expect that. So then, consequently, we go into our heads and there seems to be the extraterrestrial. It may be a true extraterrestrial but it is odd that it has hidden itself in the place where we expected to find it, and this causes me to assume that actually it’s something far more profound than an extraterrestrial. It’s something which to gain our confidences disguised as an extraterrestrial, because its real nature is so much more devastating than that. That that is the way in which it insinuates itself into our lives so that we can dream of a hegemony of organized intelligence out in the galaxy that we will relate to and be assimilated into.
What I think is going on is that actually the most intelligent life form on the planet is not, uh, man and his institutions. It is the over mind of the human species, which is a diffuse organism of, uh, technical artifacts like computers and information transfer and retrieval systems and human beings. And- but human institutions are like, uh, myths woven by the individual human cells that make up society. The real controlling, uh, [sniffs] modality on the planet is never visible and it is this group mind. And, it controls the release of ideas into history by designating certain people as geniuses, and, it's, uh, if it- if there’s a certain type of imbalance, a certain kind of religion will arise to collapse that imbalance. If, uh, if technical advancement is outstripping the evolution of ethics, a religion can step in to freeze, uh, these developments so that one can catch up with the other. And I think the whole consciousness movement and--that has evolved over the past twenty years is an attempt to map, to verify, and to open a dialogue with this thing, which is the other; we call it the other, we call the alien, but it is actually the overmind of the species. And, it, It seeks this dialogue. It has been waiting all these millennia for us to essentially come to a point of intellectual maturity where we did not then require messiahs, religions and these various crude, fine- crude interventions into the human experience that keep us from destroying ourselves.
F: This is all what Jung called the Collective Unconscious?
TM: Right, but he-he painted it as a very passive kind of thing. More like a databank or a place where all myths and all memories were. I think of it as, uh, a god, a kind of god and I think it, it is active in three-dimensional space. It can be active in something as, uh, personalistic and circumscribed as, uh, a string of coincidences, which you experience which seem to be turning your life in a certain direction that you may not have expected. Or it can be active, uh, in-in something like the worldwide phenomenon of flying saucers. Flying saucers are nothing more than miracles and, uh, they occur, essentially, to bedevil science, because science is a human institution that has arisen in the last 500 years that is, uh, that dreams of displacing the over mind without ever realizing that it exists. Science dreams of this place of preeminence, but science creates alienation, um, species survival problems, all of these things.
Now, then, the overmind, which can be thought of simply like the cultural thermostat, it clicks on when the flash of contradiction between the ethics of a society and some other institution, in this case science, becomes too great. This governing device clicks on and it begins producing those events most destructive to the institution that is seeking preeminence, in this case science. So the inexplicability of the flying saucer phenomenon is its central, uh, reason for being, and all the effort to reduce it to something, um, metal ships from far away, or anything else – is doomed to failure. It’s very reason for being is to undermine those kind of ontological systems.
Uh, why we're talking about this is because psilocybin makes- inducts you into the flying saucer experience. In other words, a metaphor for it would be to say that psilocybin is the means of triggering the so-called abduction experience, or the close encounter of the 3rd kind. Ah, once you realize that, once you've satisfied yourself that that’s true, a number of experimental avenues are opened up. A number of different approaches to what’s going on are suggested. I mean, here we have alien entities eager to transmit information, eager to carry on a noetic dialogue and, uh, we seem to be ignoring the opportunity because our categories mitigate against us correctly appreciating it.
F: Are these entities coming from outer space or are they more part of us?
TM: It’s impossible to tell. This is the game that you must play with them, is through dialogue, trying to figure out if this is, uh, the previously unseen human psyche or whether it is actually a thing coming from the outside. And, it is not an easy thing to decide because we are so alienated from the self that we don't really know what it would be, uh...
F: It’s not important to know the context? It’s more important to know the content?
TM: The content is very interesting, yes. Because even if we were to somehow to verify that Bell’s non-locality theorem applied and that this- these were real entities around a real sun somewhere in the universe – it would make them no more or less real. In other words, it’s a hangup to demand that they appear in three-dimensional space. I always, uh, I have this hang up so I don't, uh, I don't put it down. I always think of the Apostle Thomas, because you'll recall, Thomas was not present when Christ returned, after--when he rose from the grave, he appeared to the apostles in the upper room and Thomas was not present. Then, later he was there and the apostles said, 'listen, the master was here and it was wonderful' and he said, 'you people have been smoking too many little brown cigarettes, that’s preposterous'. And at that point, Christ walked in, and he said, he said, 'Thomas, come put your hand into the wound so that you'll believe'. So, he did and then he believed. The moral of the story, as I read it is, Thomas was the doubter. Consequently, Thomas was the only one who was allowed to actually touch the resurrection body. It was because he doubted that he was vouchsafed this position of preeminence, and, uh, I’m like that. I mean, I would like to touch the incorporeal body. I would like to call the saucer down and observe all of its workings. But, uh, this is a spiritual aspiration that cannot be advanced by any, uh, human technique or activity. This is just something you pray for. Uh, in the meantime, the job is to map it, describe it, explore it, and try to direct the attention of other people more intelligent than myself to this
astonishing fact, really. I mean, I am- I'm troubled by the fact that so many strange claims are made today, so many forms of aliens, and channeling, and voices in the head. That-- when I began all this ten years ago, I was afraid to speak because I sounded mad, even to myself, and I sounded like a voice in the wilderness. Today the situation has changed to the point where I can barely make myself heard amidst the clamor of people who have various, uh, entities from Atlantis, and beyond the grave, and Zeta Reticuli, and uh, what have you, clamoring to be heard.
So I, uh, I take it on faith and I ask you to take it faith that I am, uh, somewhat more objective and somewhat more interested in hard facts than these other channelers. I would like people to take a look at this phenomenon and then
tell me what they think. And uh, it involves risk, people fear to do it, because careers are placed on the line. It is not easy to make a career out of taking a psychedelic drug. It is not a thing which makes us well with the politics of any institution, a university or research institution. Perhaps this is why shamen are the primary sources of, uh, information about it.
Female audience member: Terry, are you--are you a shaman?
F: Are you an exploring shaman?
TM: I’m an exploring shaman. I wouldn't
claim to be a shaman, but I think anybody who takes these things and goes out and tries to navigate through and make maps, and bring back data is a shaman, for sure.
F: Do you want to everybody to take this drug...goes out and takes the drug, or...
TM: No I don't think so. I think that it’s very dangerous. I do not tell people that it’s safe because, uh, I don't have the faith that it’s safe. I
know what the pharmacological literature says, and it says that it’s safe, that at the doses where these effects occur, there can't possibly be a problem. But, this seems to me to be the naïveté of materialists, and we shouldn't be in a hurry to believe them even though it might make us more comfortable to do so. In other words, it’s saying, you know, the drug may not be toxic, but you may be self-toxic and you may discover this on the drug, uh, in the drug experience. So you have to, uh, you have to hone yourself and be clean, and you never know if you’re clean enough until it’s too late, because each journey into that dimension is, uh, a total existential commitment, uh...and, uh, the element of fear is always there. I mentioned this morning that I think the fear validates it. I think it’s fine to take drugs, uh, for pleasure but it should be
labeled as taking drugs for pleasure. And the high doses of psilocybin that are necessary to elicit entry into this places, uh, it requires, as it says in Hamlet, ‘you must screw your courage to the sticking place.’
F: You mentioned earlier mankind evolving towards a teleological goal. Would you kindly tell me, what is the goal?
TM: Well, I don't think, I don't think there is a final goal, an end to history. But, speaking relative to the history of the past 4,000 or 5,000 years, I think the goal is, as I said, to invert the relationship of body and soul, so that the body becomes an image in the imagination, and the soul becomes an exteriorized solid-state piece of circuitry, which maintains everything else, uh, in stasis. And, uh, I'm not sure if people even realize what I picture in my mind when I say this, but I think that the destiny of man and what man will
make be his destiny - just because of how we are – is release into the imagination. And this is what all of our after death scenarios say, whether they are true or not, and they
may be true. And, this is what poetry aspires to, art aspires to; it's release into the imagination. We are creatures of the dream. And, once this is articulated with sufficient clarity, and, it, it’s happening now, but I think the work we do with these drugs, that we are the earliest pioneers in what over the next 100 years will lead to an understanding, uh, of consciousness almost as a thing apart from the monkey body and brain. We
are consciousness. Uh, we may not always be monkeys.
We fear the dehumanizing effect of so many computers and emotions-- euphoric emotions not related to sex and all these things. We fear them; we say that we're moving further and further from nature, deeper and deeper into our own psyche. But this is a dualism. Uh, our psyche
is nature, and we cannot move away from nature by exploring these places. So, I believe that a technological recreation of the after-death state is what history pushes toward. And, that means a kind of eternal existence where there is an ocean of mind into which one can dissolve and reform from, but there is also the self, uh, related to the body image but in the imagination. So that we each would become, in a sense, everyone. I would live at Versailles and, uh, you might live at the Taj Mahal, and, uh, someone else might live at Buckingham Palace but what you would see, if there were an exterior observer, what you would see is only that man had become a coral reef of circuitry; in space and on the planetary surface. But, uh, this is a very extreme view of the history of man because its essentially gnostic. It says we are not now what we yearn to be and are destined to be and are destined to be.
We are, uh, we are not...I don't see history as, uh, a process of accepting and coming to terms with monkeyhood. I see that it will inevitably seek to transform and transcend monkeyhood, and, uh, this will be very frightening, I mean as frightening--Imagine if even a 15th century person were to be in this room with us, and the value systems, the clash of, uh , assumptions about what is important and unimportant. And this will be a much more intense change that--and whether it is good or bad rests on a question that I have no answer for. And the question is: is man good? And this, I maintain, is the central thing to dig at, and we cannot know, and there’s evidence pro and con. I have the faith that man is good. So I don't, I don't fear this future, but if someone had doubt, even a small doubt about that, then they would be repelled by this. And, I take all these movements which want zero-sum growth and reject technology, reject space colonization, reject, uh, drug experimentation as artificial – these people would be very alarmed by this kind of a point of view. But they do not seem to realize that the momentum toward this kind of thing [Interviewer: "What thing?"] is now so great in terms of, uh, human culture and that sort of thing that there can be no turning back. We are either going to change into this cybernetic hyper-dimensional hallucinogenic angel or we're going to destroy ourselves. The opportunity for us to be happy hunters and gatherers integrated into the balance of nature, that fell away 15,000 years ago and cannot be recaptured.
I might just end by recalling a statement. Uh, I think, uh, Gerard O’Neil made it, uh, in answer to this very objection. He said, "the earth is the cradle of mankind; there is no question about that; but you do not remain in the cradle forever," and this is a birth crisis that we're going through. For the-the entirety of human history has been the story of monk--the monkey becoming the flying saucer. It is taking [snaps fingers] just that long in geological time. But
we, for some strange reason, we happen to be living through the final moments of that process right now. And it is, uh, a turbulent, chaotic, multidimensional, uh, metamorphosis that is, uh, there's never been anything like it on this planet before. It’s absolutely astonishing. Information, which was, uh, locked for chiliocosms of time into the DNA of plants and animals, has through the hand and articulate voice of man, uh, been able to bootstrap itself out of the DNA and into these culturally validated, rapidly operating, electromagnetic codes and languages. And, this is allowing its development, uh, its evolution to proceed at a rate so fast that, uh, the transformations are taking place essentially in our lifetime. And psilocybin is central to this because psilocybin casts a spotlight into the darkness into which we are moving and shows, uh, that this is what lies there. It is, uh, the human soul essentially - the oversoul of mankind calling history toward itself across the dimensions. And, it's taking only a moment but on the other hand, it’s taking 20,000 years, and it’s the great, great adventure of becoming. And we're very, very privileged to be in this final ticking out of the last seconds of the third act.
F: Do you have any comments about the fact that DMT is located in the human brain?
TM: Well, I think that puts, uh, in some senses, is a strong piece of evidence for the argument that I've been making. Not only is DMT endogenous in the brain but beta-Carbolines of the sort that occur in ayahuasca are endogenous in the brain as well. These things, as I mentioned this morning--the shift of a single atom on the ring structure of one of these molecules can cause a compound to go from inert to highly active. Well, that means, then, that it’s probably very reasonable to say that we are as close to shifting the level of endogenous hallucinogens in our head--we are probably only a one-gene mutation away from that happening. And, uh, if you know anything about how biological evolution works – it isn't that, uh, a change, a mutation occurs and the mutation is found to be better adapted than the previous form, and, uh, uh, hence the mutation dominates. That is not the way evolution works. The way it works is, you have the normal expression of the genotype in a population and then you have mutations being thrown up all the time. And they are usually quenched, except in the situation where the environment shifts so that new selective pressures are operating in the environment. When new selective pressures begin to operate, a gene that was previously without consequence may suddenly have immense consequences; so then every, ehh, member of the population that you're looking at that has that gene, suddenly is in a much more advantageous, uh, uh, position to advance their evolutionary strategy. And, I think that certainly modern existence has changed the selective pressures on the human genome and now, uh, it is people who are '
far out'-- that simply gloss--it is the people who are 'far out' who are gaining advantage in the evolutionary jostling for efficacious strategies, and this- your right Frank – this is happening on the hardware level, on the level of endogenous tryptamines and that sort of the thing.
I think schizophrenia is, essentially, in a way, a disease of modern times. And it is, though it's always existed of course, but the incidence of it and the incidence of schizoid, not schizophrenic, personalities and types is because the-the modalities of the evolutionary selection are shifting. It’s as though - if you think of a rainforest that has been above water, uh, 200 million years, all evolutionary niches has become occupied. Everything is at steady state. There is not going to be any dramatic radiation of a new species because everything has been worked out and the energy flows are so tight. Nothing can gain a leg up on that situation [clears throat]. But, if you clear 1000 acres of forest and reduce it to rubble essentially – open land – then what are called invader species come in there and they very quickly gain dominance, where in the jungle, at steady state, you never see those plants. You never see weedy annual, uh, heavily seeding plants in the jungle. The jungle strategy is for enormous plants which produce small numbers of seeds, and this is, again, an analogy to the modern situation: that, uh, modernity is a desert and we are jungle monkeys, and so new evolutionary selective pressures are coming to bear upon the human situation. New ideas are coming to the fore. Uh, psilocybin is a selective filter for this. The
wish to go to space is a selective filter for this. Just the wish to know your own mind is a selective filter for this. But, uh, this is, this is part of the picture; this is what’s happening. It’s inevitable. It’s a very good thing I think, if you have faith that man is good and my, uh, I...I follow the Renaissance Platonists on that; man
must be the measure of all things. What else could possibly serve with certainty? Uh, that’s all I've got to say about that.
F: You stated earlier that psilocybin is coming from outer space. There is a possibly that the mushroom is?
TM: There’s a possibility of that. Fred Hoyle and an associate of his have come to my aid on this, saying that spore bearing life forms, because spores have the capacity to survive in the conditions of outer space, that spore bearing life forms may, over truly large scales of time, percolate out through the galaxy and serve as a basis for the evolution of life on various planets, or insert themselves into already existing planetary ecologies and insert themselves there. I don't, I-on these matters of specific fact – like is the mushroom an extraterrestrial and that sort of the thing? – I haven't the faintest idea. The mushroom itself is such a mercurial, elusive, Zen sort of personality that I never believe a word it says. I simply entertain its notions and try and sort through them, and I found that to be the most enriching approach to it. To know that the option of believing that is there on hard evidence is very exhilarating. As to what is
really going on, uh, the mushroom assures me that I haven’t got even the faintest, uh, grip on what is really going on, but
something is going on!
F: Uh, can I ask another question, uh, it'll be the last one?
F: What do you think is evil? And, can these mushrooms be misused?
TM: Well, I think that anything can be misused. Most evil is, uh, trivial. And if I could, uh, speak off the top of my head, the only evil that associates itself with mushrooms is, uh, taking it but taking too little. [laughter] In other words [Terence laughs
--female audience member: "could you define evil?"], evil is, uh, evil is, uh - oh there’s a word I want - it isn’t 'twiddle' but it’s something like that. Evil is when you play at things, not in 'play' in the Hindu cosmic sense, but where you fiddle with things, you muck with things because you don't want to get your feet wet. You want to be able to say you've done these things but you never want to really want to place your validity on the line. And I am amazed at the number of people who claim familiarity with psychedelic drugs, who, when you actually question them closely, it’s very clear that they had a subthreshold dose even if they've taken it 50 or 100 times. They have managed through, through low doses and strong defenses to always keep the daimon at bay - that’s daimon with a ‘D-A-I,’ - to keep the daimon at bay, and they don’t know what they're talking about. You must take a sufficiently large dose so that you enter into these places.
Not to knock, uh, him personally, because he’s a very nice man, but as an example, uh, Roland Fischer, whose work you may know. I talked to him, and he has given psilocybin, he says, to about 15,000 people at NIMH and now he’s retired to Majorca, but, uh…[Frank: "I met him in ?? recently." Terence: "Oh, you did, yea?"] and I said to him, I said, 'Roland, what do you make of it?! I mean, what do you make of it?!' And, he said, 'well, make of what?' And, I said 'well, what do you make, just specifically, of the hallucinations? You say you gave it to all these people and you took it six times. What happened when you closed your eyes and looked at the hallucinations?' He said, 'I never closed my eyes [audience sighs]; I was highly agitated throughout.'
And, I just realized these things which seemed to me as natural as breathing just slide right past people. I mean, of, of course you do not eat for a few hours before you do it. Of course you lie down in darkness and compose your mind and look at the darkness behind your eyelids, and of course you invoke it through the wish to have it come to you. These are things as simple as they can be. Yet here was a man with a life long professional involvement, published dozens of papers, has made contributions in the mapping of consciousness, but he could never just stop fidgeting long enough to, uh, see it. So that--so my idea of that as evil. Evil as, uh, anything that trivializes a mystery would be evil. And, since this is a mystery, any dismissing of it or constantly taking it at low doses for hedonic purposes – I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that-- but, that’s not the whole story, and nobody should think that that gives you the pedestal from which to speak about it. You really have to do these heroic amounts and, uh, and integrate them.
This is something that I haven't even talked about in this interview, but these things are very state-bounded, a term which Roland Fischer, in fact, coined, that simply means that they're very hard to retain and remember what exactly happened at the peak of the flash. And you come down and you say, 'well it was very strange and there was information, there were entities, but I just can't get back to it. The way to overcome that is to be as psychedelic in your 'down' life as possible. And by psychedelic I mean ideas, cognitive activities. You should dance, you should read, you should think, you should paint, you should sculpt, you should converse. You should constantly involve yourself in cognitive activities, because taking these drugs is one of the major cognitive activities. And then, if you have a grip on human history - where the human enterprise has been, where it’s going - if you have been many places, uh, it’s easier to map. I'm, I'm reminded of- there's an alchemical aphorism. I think its attributed to Athanasius Kircher where he says, uh, ‘the oldest books, the farthest countries, the deepest forests, the highest mountains, this is where you must seek the stone.’ And what he means is, you simply acquire experience, because it is only in the acquisition of acquired experiences that you have a reservoir to draw on when you seek to make metaphors and analogies about, uh, the alien thing. When you invoke the god, then you can map back onto it. You can say, well, it’s like this, it’s like that, knowing that it is not that and not this. But the fund of analogies is there to give you a grip on it. So there’s an obligation to experience, deeply and richly and thoroughly, and intellectually, uh, I might add, and then you can map back onto it, but it’s a dialogue between you and it where you are discovering new things about yourself and it, and trying to resolve the question, are we the same thing? And I
haven't resolved the question. My suspicions flow one way and then another way, but I think it is without a doubt a living mystery existing in the present, available to anyone sincere enough to, uh, seek it. And,
for me, that was a life transforming discovery and revelation, because I didn't believe there were any mysteries. I believe there
may have been once, but to discover one right in our midst and it cannot be reduced, it cannot be, uh, pulled apart into its constituent, uh, uh, you know, functions, it is truly a unitary mystery, and it’s accessible in our lives, right now, without kneeling at anybody’s feet, without following any regimen of, uh, of, uh, denial or, or, the assimilation of any belief system. And this is very big news I think. The mystery has always been there, I’m sure, but our society is
so bizarre and has led us
so far astray that we have to rediscover it. And this process is happening; this is what the 20th century is all about. We are still tiptoeing at the edge of it even though great men, great women, great mappers of, uh, consciousness have come and gone. We're still at the very infancy of this thing and it calls out to us. It beckons. It says do more, see more, know more and, uh, be more a part of it.
F: Well, uh, you know during your talk I thought about one experience Rita and I had in in India when we were at the [Ajanta?] caves. We were looking at lingam and you know, we would look out of the caves; we would see across the bay. You could see an atomic plant and these two things just looked really identical.
TM: Well, the mushroom...Could any symbol be more appropriate of the ambiguity of human transformation? What mushroom is it that grows at the end of history? Is it stropharia cubensis, or is it the creation of Edward Teller? This is an unresolved problem [audience laughter] What a group! [laughter] Is that a...is that good?
F: Oh it's perfect.