Skip to main content
You are not a member of this wiki.
The Terence McKenna Wiki
words and wit of the alchemical bard
Pages and Files
An Interview By James Kent
Before and Beyond History
Gaia, Eros, and the Archaic Revival
Gaia, Psychedelics, and the Archaic Revival
Having Archaic and Eating it Too
Leprechauns, Elves, or Dead Souls?
Making and Unmaking History and Language
Morphogenic Fields and Psychedelic Experiences
Mushrooms, Sex and Society
Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines
Terence McKenna's Trip
The grammar of ecstasy — The world within the word.
(aka This Counts, Somehow it Matters & A Higher Dimensional Section of Reality)
A Better World (Toward The End Of History)
A Conversation with Terence McKenna and Ram Dass
A Necessary Chaos
A report on crop circles with Abraham and Sheldrake
Add "All Pages"
Eros and the Eschaton
Eros and the Eschaton
25 March 1994
Kane Hall, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Transcription from DominatorCulture.com
So everyone can hear, yes? I can hear anyway. Good. Well I want to thank Mandala books, Jan, I want to thank Jay Weidner for bringing me back to Seattle, the home of real grunge and real peculiarity. Before I plunge into this I should tell you, because Harper would like me to do that, The Invisible Landscape after years and years of being out of print is shipping right now. I don’t know if it’s in the bookstores but it’s real. True Hallucinations is going into paper at the same time so if you couldn’t afford the $22, wait for the $12 or the 2012.
What I wanted to talk about tonight simply because it’s the thing that is moving me to the edge of my chair at the moment is: I called the talk Eros and the Eschaton. What I could have called it is Eros and the Eschaton, What Science Forgot. Somebody asked me recently is there any permission to hope? More specifically, is there any permission for smart people to hope? It’s easy to hope if you’re stupid. Is there any basis for intelligent people to hope? I wanted to deal with that because I think so. It was to me a shocking question because I live in an aura of hope because I live in a twilight world of my own self-generated, cannabinated fantasy. I forget that not everyone is so fortunate and that there’s a lot of despair and uncertainty out there.
So I wanted to talk about this. I’ll talk for a while and then we’ll break and have an intermission. I’ll sign books if anybody needs a book signed. Then we’ll come back and do Q&A on this until we’re sick of it basically.
If there’s a technician adjusting this, help me out a little bit.
Eros and the Eschaton – these are the two areas that I think compromise the old paradigm and give permission to hope. Strangely, neither of these words is that well known, which gives you a measure of how completely the dominator position has squelched, subverted and downplayed any opposition to its worldview. Eros we know about in some kind of devalued, shticky kind of glitzy way because we get it in the eroticization of media and society. Really what Eros means in the Greek sense is a kind of unity of nature, a kind of all-pervasive order that bridges one ontological level to another. This is not permitted in the official worldview of our civilization, which is science. The world of inorganic chemistry is not thought to make any statement about the organic world and the organic world is not thought to be extrapolatable into the world of culture and thought. There are imagined to be clear breaks in these categories.
I had a biologist tell me once, “If genes aren’t involved, it ain’t evolution.” So that means you can’t talk about the evolution of the Earth as a physical body. You can’t talk about the evolution of human social institutions. Evolution is somehow a word appropriate to biology and appropriate nowhere else. This brings me then to the first factor easily discerned by anybody who has their eyes open that compromises and erodes the hopeless, existential view of the world that we’re getting from science. That is the idea that nature is in fact across all scales and all levels of phenomena, a unity. It’s not a coincidence that electrons spinning around an atomic nucleus and planets going around a star and star clusters orbiting around the gravitational center of a galaxy; it’s no coincidence that these systems exhibit the same kind of order on different scales. Yet, science would say that is a coincidence.
P.W. Bridgeman, who was a philosopher of science, defined a coincidence as what you have left over when you apply a bad theory. It means that you’ve overlooked something and what jumps out at you as a coincidence is actually a set of relationships whose casuistry and whose relationships to each other are simply hidden from you. What I’ve observed and I think it’s fair to give credit to the psychedelic experience for this - what I’ve observed is that nature builds on previously established levels of complexity. This is a great general, natural law that your own senses will confirm for you but has never been allowed into the canon of science. What I mean by that nature builds on complexity is the following. When the universe was born in the dubious and controversial circumstance called the Big Bang, it was at first simply a pure plasma of electrons. It was the simplest that it could possibly be. There were no atoms. There were no molecules. There were no highly organized systems of any kind. There was simply a pure plasma of expanding energy.
As the universe cooled, simply cooled, new kinds of phenomena, we say emerged out of the situation. As the universe cooled, atomic nuclei could form and electrons could settle in to stable orbits. As the universe further cooled, the chemical bond became a possibility. Still later the hydrogen bond…which is a weaker bond, which is the basis of biology. So as the universe aged, it complexified. This is so obvious that it’s never really been challenged. But on the other hand, it’s never been embraced as a general and dependable principle either. Follow it through with me. Out of atomic systems come chemical systems. Out of chemical systems comes the covalent hydrogen bond, the carbon bond; complex chemistry that is prebiotic, organic. Out of that chemistry come the macro-physical systems that we call membranes, jells, charge transfer complexes, this sort of thing. These systems are the chemical preconditions for life - simple life, the life of the prokaryotes, the life of naked unnucleated DNA that characterized primitive life on the planet.
Out of that life come eukaryotes, nucleated cells and then complex colonies of cells. Then cell specialization – leading to higher animals, to social animals, leading to complex social systems, leading to technologies, leading to globe girdling, electronically based, information transfer oriented cultures like ourselves. Someone once said, ‘what’s so progressive about media?’ ‘It’s the spreading of darkness at the speed of light.’ It can be, it can be. So this is very interesting that apparently the way the universe works is upon a platform of previously achieved complexity; chemical, electrical, social, biological, whatever. New forms of complexity can be built that cross these ontological boundaries. In other words, what I mean by that is that biology is based on complex chemistry but it is more than complex chemistry. Social systems are based on the organization that is animal life and yet it is more than animal life.
So this is a general law of the universe overlooked by science. Out of complexity emerges greater complexity. We could almost say that the universe, nature, is a novelty conserving or complexity conversing engine. It makes complexity and it preserves it and it uses it as the basis for further complexity. Now, there’s more to this than simply that. I think we all observationally could agree what has been said so far. The added wrinkle, or an added wrinkle, is that each advancement into complexity, into novelty, precedes more quickly than the stage that preceded it. This is very profound because if accepted as a serious first principle, it ends the marginalization of our own species to the level of spectator status in a universe that knows nothing of us and cares nothing for us. This is the most advanced position that modern science will allow us – spectators to a drama we didn’t write, shouldn’t expect to understand and cannot influence. But I say, if in fact novelty is the name of the game, if in fact the conservation and complexification of novelty is what the universe is striving for, then suddenly our own human enterprise, previously marginalized, takes on an immense new importance. We are apparently players in the cosmic drama and in this particular act of the cosmic drama; we hold a very central role.
We are at the pinnacle of the expression of complexification in the animal world and somehow this complexity which is concentrated in us has flowed over out of the domain of animal organization and into this mysterious domain which we call culture, language, consciousness, higher values – each stage of advancement into complexity occurs more quickly than the stage which preceded it. After the initial big bang there was a period of billions of years when the universe cooled, stars condensed, planetary systems formed and then the quickening process crossed an invisible Rubicon into the domain of animal and biological organization.
Well you see since the rise of western monotheism, the human experience has been marginalized. We have been told that we were unimportant in the cosmic drama. But we now know from the feedback that we’re getting from the impact of human culture on the earth that we are a major factor shaping the temperatures of the oceans, the composition of the atmosphere, the general speed and complexity of speciation on the planet. A single species, ourselves, has broken from the ordinary constraints of animal nature and created a new world, an epigenetic world, meaning a world not based on gene transfer and chemical propagation and preservation of information but a world based on ideas, on symbols, on technologies, on tools, on ideas downloaded out of the human imagination and concretized into three dimensional space as choppers, aeropoints, particle accelerators, gene sequencers, space craft, what have you.
All of this complexification is occurring at a faster and faster rate. This brings me then to the second quality or phenomena that science has overlooked, which is the acceleration of complexification. The early history of the universe proceeded with excruciating slowness then life took hold in the oceans of this planet. A quickening of process and evolution but still things proceeded on a scale of tens of millions of years to clock major change. Then the conquest of the land, higher animals, higher exposure to radiation, faster change, species following species, one upon another. Then fifty thousand, a hundred thousand, a million years ago – anyway recently – the crossover into the domain of culture, tool making, myth making, dance, poetry, song and story that set the stage for the fall into history; the incredibly unusual and self-consuming process that has been going on for the past fifteen or twenty thousand years. A biological snap of the finger. Yet in that time everything that we call human, everything that we associate with higher values has been adumbrated, elaborated, created, set in place by one species – ourselves.
This acceleration of time or complexity shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, within the fabric of our own lives, we can almost daily, hourly, by the minute feel it speeding up, taking hold. It’s a cliché that time is moving faster and faster, a cliché of the mass media. But I want to suggest that this is not a perceptual illusion or a cultural mirage – that this is actually happening to the space-time matrix and that time is in fact speeding up. That history in which we are embedded because our life of fifty to eighty years is so ephemeral on a scale of ten to fifteen thousand years – but nevertheless history is a state of incredible destabilization.
It’s a catastrophe in the process of happening. It begins with animals kept in balance by natural selection and it ends with a global Internet of electronic information transfer and a language using species hurling its instruments towards the stars. There is no reason for us to suppose that this process of acceleration is ever going to slow down or be deflected. It has been a law of nature from the very beginning of nature; this acceleration was built in. What poses a problem to us as thinking individuals is that the speed of involution toward concrescence is now so great that we can feel the tug of it within the confines of our own lives. There has been more change since 1960 than in the previous several thousand years. There has been more change since 1992 than in the previous thousand years. Change is accelerating. Invention, connection, adumbration of ideas, mathematics, algorithms, connectivity of people, social systems – this is all accelerating furiously and under the control of no one; not the Catholic church, the communist party, the IMF – no one is in charge of this process. This is what makes history so interesting. It’s a runaway freight train on a dark and stormy night.
This is why I’m not particularly sympathetic to a conspiracy theory because I can’t make the leap to faith that would cause you to believe that anyone could get hold of the beast enough to control it. Conspiracies, of course, we have conspiracies up the kazoo but none of them are succeeding. They’re all being swept away, compromised, astonished by new information and endlessly agonized.
So two factors relating to eros: the movement into complexity and the fact that that movement goes ever faster. The second quality, the acceleration of the movement into novelty, leads me to the third point, which is I suppose more controversial. I am frankly willing to admit that my sensitivity to this third point is based on my psychedelic experience. Science is the exploration of the experience of nature without psychedelics. I propose therefore to expand that enterprise and say we need a science beyond science. We need a science that plays with a full deck. The reason the psychedelic experience is so important here is not some namby-pamby notion that it expands consciousness or it makes you more perceptive or something like that.
That is all true but it isn’t strongly enough put. A cultural point of view is like a crystal. You have an amorphous cultural medium, which at certain temperatures will form a crystal of cultural convention if you will. Within the geometry of that crystal certain things make sense and certain things are excluded from making sense. Science is a condensed cultural point of view that is a rigid crystal of interlocking assumptions; assumptions such as matter is primary, mind is tertiary, causality works from the past into the future, so forth and so on. What psychedelics do in terms of their impact on the physical brain and organism of human beings is they withdraw cultural programming. They dissolve cultural assumptions. They lift you out of that reassuring crystalline matrix of interlocking truths, which are lies.
Instead, they throw you into the presence of the great ‘who knows.’ The mystery! The mystery, which has been banished from western thought since the rise of Christianity and the suppression of the mystery religions. Now the model that attracts me to the psychedelic experience is not that it makes you smarter – a kind of simple-minded idea paradoxically. Or the idea that…[Audience Laughter].
You are paying attention, aren’t you? Or the idea that it’s some kind of magnifying glass into the personal unconscious – your trauma, your childhood memories, your satanic abuse your parents laid on you, so forth and so on. The model which I like is a geometric model and says simply that since the rise of the Greek alphabet, print, linear thinking and science, we have become imprisoned in a causal universe of material connectivity and that this is a cultural myth as much as believing that we are the sons and daughters of the great father who got out of his canoe at the second waterfall to take a leak. These are just cultural myths.
What is revealed through the psychedelic experience I think is a higher dimensional perspective on reality. I use higher dimensional in the mathematical sense. Literally, you are lifted out of the plane of cultural assumptions and can look down with a kind of godlike understanding that one obtains when one flies in an airplane over a landscape previously only viewed from the ground. In other words, from the vantage point of the psychedelic experience, the cultural landscape is seen more nearly in its correct perspective – seen as historically bounded, spatially and intellectually bounded. Now it’s no coincidence that if you analyze biology, what it is: it’s a kind of conquest of dimensionality. The earliest forms of life were probably slimes of some sort, stabilized on a clay surface - immobile, unable to perceive light, with no sense of time – merely a fingernail or a toehold in existence. Then if you look at the entire fossil record, what you see is the evolution of senses. Sensory preceptors and organs of locomotion. The preceptors, the eye, the hand, bring into the cognitive field the sense of things at a distance. Then language provides models for these things at a distance. Similarly, fins, legs, so forth…means of locomotion carry us through space.
This is a journey of dimensionality and essentially what animals are that plants are not are life forms mobile in a very conscious way in the spatial dimension. This is why from the point of view of evolutionary biologists animals are somehow more advanced than plants. Well if conquest of dimensionality is the criteria then notice that we again occupy a special and privileged position in nature because we cannot only run with the best of them, see with the best of them but we can remember and anticipate like crazy. Other animals are not doing this. Other animals may imprint past situations of danger or opportunity but they do not analyze experience and extrapolate it towards the hidden domain of the future. Consciousness is the generalized word that we use for this coordination of complex perception to create a world that draws from the past and builds a model of the future and then suspends perceiving organism in this magical moment called the now where the past is coordinated for the purpose of navigating the future. McLuhan called it driving with the rearview mirror and the only thing that’s good about it is it’s better than driving with no mirror at all.
What this conquest of dimensionality comes to be in the presence of psychedelics is an anticipation of the future. We can anticipate the future. We know to within microseconds when the sun will rise. We know within a few percentage points where the prime rate will be in six months. Some things we can predict fairly closely, some things with less precision. But the perception of the future is very important to us. When we marry the need to perceive the future with the psychedelic experience, I believe we come up with data that is very, very difficult for science to come to terms with. This is the third item or really the second item on the list – what science forgot. It’s what I call the Eschaton. Now Eschaton is a rare word. Until very recently, unheard of outside schools of theology which I understand were a dying enterprise. Eschaton comes from the Greek word eskhatos, which just means the end. The eschaton is the last thing, the final thing.
It’s very important to science to eliminate from its thinking any suspicion that this eschaton might exist because if it were to exist, it word impart to reality a purpose, you see. If the eschaton exists then it’s like a goal or an attraction point or an energy sync toward which historical process is being moved. Science is incredibly hostile toward the idea of purpose. If you are not involved in the sciences, this may come as somewhat of a surprise to you. If you are a workbench scientist or a theoretician, you know that this is what’s called the problem of teleology. It is because modern science defined itself in the 19thcentury when the reining philosophy was Deism and Deism was the idea that the universe is a clock made by God. God wound this clock and has walked away from it. The clock will eventually run down. That theological construct was poisonous to evolutionary theory in the 19th century. So they said we must create a theory of reality that does not require a goal, does not require a purpose, everything must be pushed from the past. Nothing must be pulled toward the future.
The problem with this is that it does not fulfill out intuitions about reality. We can see that evolution, biological evolution, has built on chemical systems. We can see that social and historical systems build on biology. As people with open minds or as open as they can be inside this culture, we nevertheless have this intuition of purpose and it is dramatically underscored by the psychedelic experience, which takes the raw material of your life, your culture, your history and tells you this is not an existential mishmash to be lived out with dignity because there’s nothing else to be done with it – some kind of Camusian ‘why not’ affirmation. It says no. It says your reality is a coherent cosmos and embedded in your own sense of identity, embedded in your own sense of purpose is a microscopic reflection of the larger purpose that is built into the universe. Now this is not just blowing smoke in the sense of ‘it’s a nice idea’ or its like a religious idea like saying Jesus loves you so feel alright about yourself. It isn’t like that. It’s a theory about reality that has teeth because reality is actually following the script that this particular version of reality dictates. Reality is accelerating towards an unimaginable omega point.
We are the inheritors of immense momentum in our social systems, our philosophical and scientific and technological approaches to the world. Because we’re driving the historical vehicle with a rearview mirror, it appears to us that we’re headed straight into a brick wall at a thousand miles an hour. It appears that we are destroying the Earth, polluting the atmosphere, wrecking the oceans, dehumanizing ourselves, robbing our children of a future – so forth and so on. I believe what is in fact going on is that we are burning our bridges; one by one we’re burning our bridges to the past. We cannot go back to the mushroom dotted plains of Africa or the canopied rainforest of five million years ago. We can’t even go back to the era of Cayuse and six-shooters of two hundred years ago. We have burned our bridges. We are preparing for a kind of cultural forward escape and this question – is there cause for optimism? The answer is, it depends on where you placed your bets.
If you placed your bets on male dominated institutions based on consumer fetishism, propaganda, classicism and materialism, then God help you. You should call your broker. If on the other hand, you’ve recognized that a life boat strategy is involved here, that what is really important is empowering personal experience, backing off from consumer object fetishism, freeing the mind, empowering the imagination – then in that case, I think you can feel pretty good about what is going on.
You know there is a lot of talk about cultural death and disenfranchisement and it’s usually couched in terms of some happy naked people in the rainforest or in Tajikistan making their rugs or milking their camels or something - and isn’t it too bad that their culture is being blown up and traded in for mall culture and shopping by remote? But in fact all cultural is being destroyed. All culture is being sold down the river by the sorts of people who want to turn the entire planet into an international airport arrival concourse. That’s not the victory of somebody’s culture over somebody else’s culture. Nobody ever had a culture like that, the victory of schlockmeisterism and crapola over good taste and good sense.
If I were dependent on the notion that human institutions are necessary to pull us out of the ditch, I would be very despairing. As I said, nobody is in charge. Not the IMF, the pope, the communist party, the Jews – no, no no! Nobody has their finger on what’s going on. So then why hope? Isn’t it just a runaway train out of control? I don’t think so. I think the ‘out of controlness’ is the most hopeful thing about it. After all, whose control is it out of? You and I never controlled it in the first place. Why are we anxious about the fact that it’s out of control? I think if it’s out of control then our side is winning.
To me, the most confounding datum of the psychedelic experience is this thing, which I call the eschaton and I want to talk about it a little bit this evening because I think it is the hardest thing for people to grasp about my particular rap. Sometimes I’ve talked to many of you about psychedelic plants, shamanism, techniques, chemistry, approaches, so forth and so on – I’m approaching this evening as a graduate seminar. I figure everybody has their little mojo kit and their particular way of approaching these things and then the question is, what kind of conclusions can we draw? The conclusion that I draw is – and this is sort of pulling together what I said before – we are central to the human drama and to the drama of nature and process on this planet. The opposition, which is science… Well first let me say this. Every model of the universe has a hard swallow. What I mean by a hard swallow is a place where the argument cannot hide the fact that there’s something slightly fishy about it.
The hard swallow built into science is this business about the Big Bang. Now let’s give this a little attention here. This is the notion that the universe, for no reason, sprang from nothing in a single instant. Well, now before we dissect this, notice that this is the limit test for credulity. Whether you believe this or not, notice that it is not possible to conceive of something more unlikely or less likely to be believed. I defy anyone. It’s just the limit case for unlikelihood that the universe would spring from nothing in a single instant for no reason. If you believe that, my family has a bridge across the Hudson River that we’ll give you a lease option for five dollars. It makes no sense. It is in fact no different from saying ‘and God said let there be light.’ What these philosophers of science are saying is give us one free miracle and we will roll from that point forward from the birth of time to the crack of doom. Just one free miracle and then it will all unravel according to natural law and these bizarre equations that nobody can understand but which are so holy in this enterprise.
Well I say then, if science gets one free miracle then everybody gets one free miracle. I perceive that it is true when you build these large scale cosmogonic theories that you have to have kind of an umbilical cord to start from that is different from all other points in the system. So if we have to have a singularity in our modeling of what reality is, let’s make it as modest and as non-unlikely a singularity as possible. The singularity that arises for no reason in absolutely empty space instantly is the least likely of all singularities. Doesn’t it seem more likely if we have to have a singularity that it occurs in a domain with a rich history with many causal streams feeding into the situation that nurtures the complexity. In other words, to put it simply – if you have to have a singularity, doesn’t it make more sense to put it at the end of a cosmogonic process than at the beginning?
I think this is the great breakthrough of psychedelics and shamanism is that science got it absolutely wrong. The universe didn’t begin in a singularity. Who knows how the universe began or even presumes to judge – but the universe ends in a singularity. It has been growing more singular, more complex, more unique, more novel every passing moment since it burst into existence. If that’s true then we represent a kind of concrescence of universal intent. We’re not mere spectators or a cosmic accident or some sideshow or the Greek chorus to the main event. The human experience is the main event. The coordination of perception, of hope, of dream, of vision that occurs inside the human heart/mind/body interface is the most complex phenomenon in the universe. Now even the physicalists acknowledge that the human neo-cortex represents the most densely ramified matter known to exist in the biological world.
You don’t have to be rocket scientist to see that human society, human history, human art, human literature, represent things for which there is no analog in the world of wasps, groundhogs, killer whales and so forth and so on. In our species, complexity has turned inward upon itself and in our species. Time has accelerated. Time has left the gentle ebb and flow of gene transfer and adaptation that characterizes biological evolution and instead historical time is generated. So I believe that science and its reluctance to deal with the psychedelic experience and the way in which science has used the law to suppress its rival in this case arises out of a profound discomfort on the part of science about this future state of complexification that is clearly the grail, the dwell point, the end point of the human historical process. Not one of us I think can imagine that history could go on for another thousand years. I mean what would it look like? At the current rate of population growth, spread of epidemic disease, rate of invention, connectivity, depletion of resources, the atmosphere – it is impossible to conceive of another thousand years of human history.
History then is ending. History is a kind of gestation process. It’s a kind of metamorphosis. It’s an episode in the life of a species. If you think of the simple example of metamorphosis, that of caterpillar to butterfly, we all know that there is this intermediate resting stage where the caterpillar is for all practical purposes enzymatically dissolved and then reconstituted and an entirely different kind of organism with different physical structures, different eyes, different legs, a different way of breathing, with wings where no wings were before, with a different kind of feeding apparatus. This is what’s happening to us. History is a process of metamorphosis. It’s a pubescent stage. It begins with naked monkeys and it ends with a human/machine planet-girdling interface capable of releasing the energies that light the stars and it lasts about 15,000 or 20,000 years and during that period, the entire process hangs in the balance.
It’s a period of high risk. It’s like what a butterfly is doing in the cocoon or what is happening to a child in the womb. It’s a gestation process where one form of life is being changed into another. Well, this would all happen naturally and with a great deal of anxiety I imagine as history builds to it’s ever more climatic and horrifying crescendo and we would all be ignorant or very baffled about what’s going on were it not for the institution of psychedelic shamanism. Remember I said that what is dissolved are the crystalline structures of cultural assumption. Well one of the strongest symmetries in our cultural crystal is the symmetry that gathers around the concept of past and future. The shaman actually rises into a domain where past and future are different areas on the same topological manifold. This is not a metaphor. It’s what’s really going on. If you think about shamanism in its classical guise for a moment – it is about predicting weather, predicting game movement and curing disease.
If you had a prescient or extraordinary understanding of the future, each one of us would be able to do these things. Predicting the weather, you just look into next week and there it is. Predicting the movement of game, same deal. Curing the sick actually involves very judicious choice of your patients with a pre-knowledge of who will get well and who will not get well. So it’s as though the members of the culture are imprisoned in linear time and the shaman is not. And why not? Because the shaman has perturbed the brain states sanctioned by the culture, sanctioned by its educational processes, its habits, its attitudes and into that vacuum created by the perturbation by these cultural values rushes the raw unanalyzed datum of reality. This is what Aldus Huxley called removing the reducing valve of consciousness. Suddenly culture is seen to be a relative phenomena; the stockbroker no different from the rainforest shaman, each somewhat similar to the Trobriand islander or the Eskimo.
Culture is simply clothing upon the human experience but the human organism outside the confines of culture in a direct relationship to nature transcends time and space. This was a fact, I believe, that was known in pre-history and in fact was the source of Paleolithic values which were not material, not linear, not surplus oriented, not class oriented, not power oriented but rather oriented towards a kind of egalitarian partnership in an environment of great material simplicity. Human beings lived like that for probably a half a million years with poetry, with dance, with mathematics, with magic, with story, with humor but not with the paralyzing and toxic artifacts of the late evolving, machine worshiping, monotheistic, linear, phonetic alphabet, tight ass straight culture that we are a part of.
So now at a kind of moment of great cultural challenge and dynamic for western civilization which has for a thousand years called all the shots and shoved itself down everybody’s throat whether they liked it or not, in the last hundred years, through the science of anthropology, ethnography, ethnomedicine and botany, the news has arrived that these “primitive” people are in fact master technicians of journeying into a world of the neurological imagination. A world we didn’t even know exists. A world that is as distant to us as the world at the heart of the atom is from the rainforest fisherman. Because our own cultural values seem a little shoddy at this moment, those on the fringes of western civilization have begun to seek alternatives, begun to look at alternative religions, yoga, Tantra, Buddhism, Zen, whatever. Alternative approaches to diet – vegetarianism, macrobiotic, so forth and so on, and alternative approaches to authentic experience – which means psychedelics.
In the early stage of psychedelic involvement, everyone was sort of flying under the banner of hands on Freudianism or hands on Jungianism. ‘We’re going to see those archetypes, we’re going confront those sexual repressions, we’re going to journey into those traumatic childhood memories.’ Now it’s understood I think that those metaphors were fairly inadequate and that actually we stand on the brink of an unexplored landscape of planetary size. The world of the high Paleolithic, which is a Gaian world – a world of feeling, not analytical, intellectual constructs but a world of empowered feeling, empathy and intuitive understanding. An understanding that doesn’t arrive in a context of Greek logic but in a context of animal knowing in the authentic mode of the body.
So just to bring it all around here. The great exhibit, which we must always keep in front of ourselves and our critics, is the mystery of the human mind and body. No one knows how it is that I can command my hand to make a fist and that it will do that. That’s mind over matter. That’s the violation of every scientific principle in the books and yet it is the most trivial experience that any of us have. We expect to command our body. We expect the mental will to order the monkey flesh into action and it will follow. The body is the nexus of the mystery of life and our culture takes us out of the body and sells our loyalty into political systems, into religions, into inanimate objects and machines, collections, so forth and so on.
The felt experience of the body is what the psychedelics are handing back to us. That’s why it’s called escape because it’s escape from HBO, from walking the mall, from seeing what’s on the tube, from consuming trash media. It’s escape from all of that into the authenticity of the body. This is why sexuality is so edgy in this society. They’d make it illegal if they could but figure out how. It’s the one drug that they can’t tear from our grip, so they lay a guilt trip about it.
But sexuality and psychedelics, by carrying us back to an authentic sense of the body, carry us back to the domain of authentic values. More and more, the message that people are getting as they avail themselves of the psychedelic experience is that it is not a journey into the human unconsciousness or into the ghost bardos of our chaotic civilization. It’s a journey into the presence of the Gaian mind. That the earth is a coherent whole. It is a thinking, feeling, intending being that in terms of our value structures, it would be foolish to image as anything other than female. When cultural values, created by male dominance, science and linearity and so forth and so on; when those values are dissolved, what is waiting there is this incredibly poignant experience of matrix – what James Joyce called the mama matrix most mysterious – nothing more than our bodies and the earth out of which our bodies came.
History as we have lived it in the west has been a turning of our back on that. Now history has failed. Western cultural institutions having become global cultural institutions now show themselves to be inadequate to inspire, lead or carry anyone into a future worth living in. At this moment then, this reconnecting to the Gaian mind becomes a kind of moral imperative. So this whole drug issue is not an issue even about criminal syndicates or about untaxed billions or about the mental health of our youth or any of that malarkey. I mean my God, the most destructive known to the species are pedaled on every street corner without restriction.
The real issue is what kind of mental worlds shall people inhabit. What kinds of hope shall be permitted? What kind of value systems shall be allowed? The value systems that aggrandize the possessions of things, the tearing up of the Earth, competition, classism, racism, sexism, have led us to the brink of catastrophe. Now I think we have to abandon western cultural values and return to the deeper wisdom of the body in connection with the plants. That’s the seamless web that leads us back into the heart of nature. If we can do this, then this very narrow neck of cultural crisis can be navigated.
Very little of the past can be saved. The architectonics, the machines, the systems of monetary exchange and propaganda, the silly religions, the asinine aesthetic canons, very little of that can be saved. What can be saved is the sense of love and caring and mutuality that we all put into and take from the human enterprise. You know there’s a grateful dead song that says, ‘you can’t go back and you can’t stand still, if the thunder don’t get you, then the lightning will.’ We now hold through the possession of these psychedelics, catalysts for the human imagination of sufficient power that if we use them, we can deconstruct the lethal vehicle that is carrying us toward the brink of apocalypse. We can deconstruct that vehicle and redesign it into a kind of starship that would carry us and our children out into the broad starry galaxy we know to be awaiting us. But it’s a cultural test. Nature is pitiless. Intelligence is a grand experience upon which a great deal has been risked. But if it proves inadequate, nature will cover it over with the same kind of cool impunity that she covered over the dinosaurs, the trilobites and the crossopterygian fishes and all those other folks that came before.
So what we must do I think is see our future in the imagination, catalyze the imagination, form symbiotic relationships with the plants, affirm archaic values and spread the good news that what is out of control, what is in fact dying, is a world that had become too top heavy with its own hubris, too bent by its own false value systems and too dehumanized to care about what happened to its own children. So I say good riddance to it. Bring on the archaic revival and lets create a new world. And that’s it!
Original Transcription by:
Review 1 by:
Review 2 by:
Terence’s ideas are free, but his words and works belong to his children and legal heirs. People who wish to use Terence’s words must seek permission through
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"