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A Conversation with Terence McKenna and Ram Dass
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28 January 1996
Location, Palenque, Mexico
Interviewer: Do you think, from your experience with Ayahuasca and the mushrooms, that there is...there exists a pedagogical sense of the experience...exists a systematically teacher instance or factor which not proceed from the ego in the experience with these entheogens?
Terence McKenna: So the question is, is there a teaching presence that doesn't proceed from the ego?
TM: Well sure, yes, absolutely. I mean, we're not saying
it is. You're asking what it isn't. It certainly is not the ego. Perhaps it's the superego or, or the Gaian mind of the planet or something like that, but it certainly is not coming from ordinary consciousness, ego consciousness.
I: Is this common, eh, in the mushroom experience and in the ayahuasca experience?
TM: Yes, I would say at effective doses
people have this experience. I don't know how to characterize an effective dose of ayahuasca, but I would think 30 milligrams of psilocybin and above, this would be a typical reaction.
I: In this case, who or what do you think that teaches us? It's inside or outside us?
TM: It's neither outside nor inside; it's both. Because what it is is the psychedelic dissolves boundaries, and then we learn of levels of reality that normally are not available to us. So it's really, I think of it as the wisdom of biology. That which is in your own body, and in the environment, and in the much larger global environment. So, the psychedelics give an insight into biology that is psychologically..healthy. That's how I would put it.
I: I ask, uh, some persons that are too much time in the ayahuasca way, and, ah, is multiple factors they, they bring to explanate this, this question. Some talk about spirits, some talk about the Self, some talk about the, eh, the founder of the line of in the work or guardian angel. It is very interesting this, this, this question..
TM: The idea that it's the biology of the planet
TM: ..one's self. The body, the wisdom of the body, the wisdom of life.
I: The super mind, that you call, you call supermind.
TM: You could call it the supermind, right.
I: I ask you now again from your experience with these entheogens, if in your point of view, does exist an ethic religious character of the experience. Do you think that there impart a wish to become more ethic in relationship with the other man and with all nature?
TM: Yes, I mean I think, uh, it inspires a level of attention that can be the basis of an ethic. I mean, it seems to make people, ah, more aware.. of social, ah, the social dimension to obligation or something like that. This is how the Bwiti taking functions in Africa. This is how shamanic use of plants seems to function. It increases the social connectivity, which can be the basis for an ethical position.
I: Do you think that there apart [impart] an ecological consciousness too?
TM: Yeah I think that would come with it. A sensitivity to nature, this biological intelligence that I mention certainly carries with it the implication of caring for nature.
I: Uh, do you think that, uh, they have therapeutical properties, the mushrooms and the ayahuasca?
TM: Well, certainly the ayahuasca has physical therapeutic properties. It kills intestinal parasites. There's scientific evidence that it interrupts the trypanosomal phase of the malarial organism. As--but the larger impact is the psychological impact on people. It's by boundary- by dissolving boundaries, people are able to realign themselves with the community and their family and their obligations. So, in that sense it's like a kind of psychotherapy and that's what is happening for most people.
I: Mmm. Mushrooms have this kind of
TM: Same...different but similar.
I: ..effect, too.
TM: Different but similar.
I: It's a kind of psychosomatic effect.
TM: Psychosomatic effect...well sure. You're feeling it in the body, you're feeling it in the mind, but it's a relationship to your past, and your, and your, ah, self image. It's more psychological than somatic, but it is psychosomatic
I: Psychosomatic. Have you perceived in the effect of them, uh, some kind of therapeutical properties in some event, some, some effective systematically...
TM: Have I seen these things make a difference in people's lives? Is that what you mean?
TM: Have I seen these things make a difference in people's lives? Is that what you mean?
I: Yeah, yeah.
TM: Sure, I think that it makes a very positive impact, that ayahuasca in the upper Amazon, which is what I'm familiar with, is a very powerful force for keeping people physically healthy and in tune with nature and the surrounding social environment. It makes life easier. It makes life easier and it makes mental health more naturally accessible to most people.
I: What do you think about the paranormal or parapsychological phenomena described in the experiences with these entheogens?
TM: Well, I have an open mind. I've seen enough in my own experience to be..convinced that with further scientific research, we might be able to understand some aspects of the paranormal using these compounds. I mean, these compounds are tools for understanding mind, both ordinary mental processes and extraordinary mental processes. They're--because they give us a way to get into the mind and to make changes and then observe them, that we can't ordinarily make. So, uh, I think the frontier for parapsychological research using psychedelics is, is good.
I: Eh, what is your personal experience about this?
TM: I've, in two situations in my life, I saw convincing demonstrations of telepathy.
TM: Telepathy. And in one case, it was not simply reading someone's mind, it was that someone was telling me a memory that I had never told anyone, so it was not simply communication in the moment. They simply had complete access or partial access at least to a portion of my past, and that was very impressive. But how to repeat these things i-is something you may see for 30 seconds over 20 years.
I: Mhm. Can you say something more about your vision on the relationship and differences between shamanic plants and the artificial chemical compounds?
TM: Well, the, the shamanic plants have a very long history of human usage, and so in a sense you enter into that field of their usage when you take them. The new compounds are new, and so they feel new and they are less, uh, determined and to my mind usually less experientially rich. So I prefer the, the plants.
I: Mhm. What do you think about the question of the presence of advanced cultures and man in the remote past of humankind? History of Atlantis..
TM: I'm very, in the absence of any convincing evidence, I'm very skeptical.
I: Yeah, you don't think that the pyramids and the, for example, the, the, the know-how to, to, to do, to make the ayahuasca and so how, how man discovered that that
TM: Oh, I thought you meant something...I though you were implying Atlantis or something. Uh, no it's very clear that cultures are always complicated. There's no such thing as a simple culture. Every culture is extremely complex and advanced in different ways. So Egyptians could build the pyramids, Amazon indians understand the pharmacology of ayahuasca, Americans go to the moon. These are three different cultures, three different styles, but one is not superior to the other. Cultures are always extremely sophisticated and complex affairs. There's nowhere where you find what you could describe as a simple culture.
I: Since the beginning, since the paleolithic, neolithic age?
TM: Certainly within recorded history and on the planet now. At some time in the past, culture must have emerged from advanced animal organization, but today there are no simple cultures on this planet.
I: Mmm..Ok. Thank you very much.
TM: Thanks very much.
Original Transcription by: Eva Petakovic
Review 1 by: Koto
Review 2 by [admin only]: Kevin Whitesides
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