The Taxonomy of Illusion

Day Month 1993

UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA


Ralph Abraham: So, in the 1960's our speaker Terence was a student, like many of you, at UC Berkeley. And he left in the middle of things to go on a tour around the world for seven years that ended in, uh, the, the deepest Amazon Basin where he had an experience that has determined his life in the 20 years following and which is the subject of his latest book, True Hallucinations. So now in this historic moment after all this time, Terence will ascend the platform of the University of California for the first time.

Terence McKenna: What I thought I would talk about, uh, when I was approached to to do this, uh. The pressure was to say something new which is a heart stinging pressure to a warhorse of the lecture circuit. I started out thinking I would never repeat myself and sometimes wonder if I'll ever have a new idea again. Uh, but what I wanted to talk about this evening is illusions, and I called the lecture the taxonomy of illusion, because I think it's interesting to, uh, to attempt to classify and relate the various kinds of illusions that stand between us and, uh, that presupposed naked radiant Truth [mic whirrs, all chuckle, clapping] that, hah, has more or less driven the engines of Western philosophy since Plato. Of course the great victory of modernity is to disabuse ourselves of such naive notions, but, uh, they die hard I think. Um, Ralph mentioned my, uh, my latest book and I didn't, I don't intend to talk about the book particularly, but I- in the book I quote, a, uh, the only piece of poetry in the whole thing not written by me. I now see that I seem to have lost it, oh no, here it comes up. But it relates to this on many many levels, this question of illusion and the relationship of the self to the real, and where the world falls in that equation, and the limits of knowledge [cup falls in the back] and all the other good psychedelic stuff that needs to be considered. The quote is from Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, and if you don't know this book you should. It is without doubt one of the funniest books in the English language, and it takes the form of a very long poem and then the commentary upon this poem. The poem is written by a character that Nabokov creates named John Shade, and, uh, the part that I want to call to your attention this evening runs like this:

…that rare phenomenon
The iridule—when, beautiful and strange,
In a bright sky above a mountain range
One opal cloudlet in an oval form
Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm
Which in a distant valley has been staged
For we are most artistically caged"

Now, this is a very strange piece of poetry. This is not like, uh, even Wallace Stephens at his most obscure. In the first place, this word, 'the iridule'. You won't find this word in any dictionary and yet I sensed that this is obviously the word for this phenomenon. I know what he is talking about, I have seen, uh, this, uh, 'opal cloudlet in an oval form which reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm in a distant place. We're- here we're in the realm of mirage and nature as mirage and nature as mirrored labyrinth. Uh, and then the final point, and I'll go through all this in the course of talking to you, but the final line of being artistically caged, this is I think, um, where the psychedelics come in because psychedelics allow one to pierce beyond the veil of cultural illusion, beyond the linguistic momentum of what has been handed on, what has been handed on. The faith of tantra and magick and psychedelics is that the apparent intransigent appearance of the world can somehow be overcome by an act of magick.

I used to collect, uh, Tibetan tonkas and the texts which go with some of these tonkas, I remember one in particular which, coming out of the Tibetan the translation was "all things being reversed, the great Hla (the great god) appears instantly". You see, the precondition for magic is the reversal of causality somehow, and as moderns we have grown to give great credence, I think, to the idea that the world is largely a linguistic structure, largely created through the participation of the observer, but we have not been able to take that perception and turn it into a technology. Instead we are still driven by, uh, the blind momentum of atomic structure. Who was it who said, uh, "the atoms blindly run" and then I think it was Whitehead who said, "yes, but within the body they blindly run according to the body's plan". You see, what, what I think we're dealing with are patterns and then the indeterminate dimensions between patterns. And it's in those indeterminate places within the interstices of reality that the observer is able to establish him or herself, and then model back, uh, the world.

The reason I wanted to talk about a taxonomy of illusion was because I thought it was important to relate the various styles of hyper-seeing, non-seeing and mis-seeing together because I think that the, the heuristic consequences of doing that are to realize just how shifting the sands are upon which the ontological edifice of Western thinking rests. I mean, that's always the point, you see, to deconstruct Western civilization because Western civilization, the toxic consequences are now clear for everyone to see. So, the first, uh, the first category or grand family of illusions which we would put into our taxonomic key would be social illusions, and when I, and, and, you know, later we can argue this, but at this point in the, in the discussion, illusion is slash delusion, so the great social illusions/delusions are sexism, racism, xenophobia, egoism, so far- uh, classism. The world is riddled and ruled by these social illusions and no-one is free of them, and so they constitute one broad category. I might just mention, as an aside, a book which was very influential on me, and I never heard anybody else ever mention it, was, uh, a book call- by Rockliff called Illusions and Delusions of the supernatural and the occult. Uh, this was a 10th century book which I as a kid got in a Dover reprint and it was in a wonderful era where the study of anomalies was still young and so this book had everything poured in together from mesmers, ectoplasm, to people who had tumors that they carried around in wheelbarrows, to birds that did advanced arithmetic, so on and so on. And it was very much from the point of view of Victorian rationalism, and it also mentioned psychedelics. What it really was a was a category of edges, or a catalog of edges, I'm sorry. And it was only in the subsequent 40, 35 years that that vunderkamera approach to illusion, and I assume you all assume what I mean by that, and I mean- I'm referring to the era before the rise of Linnaean natural science when naturalists would simply fill cabinets with anomalous, natural and strange object, so the tarantulas were mixed in with the chambered nautiluses which may be stirred in with the Zuni fetishes which may be stirred in with something else.

Then later these wunderkameras, these, uh, curiosity cabinets, as you would call them in English, gave way to Linnean taxonomy in the same way over the past 100 years I think the study of illusion and anomaly has, uh, attempted to rationalize itself. Uh, spatial illusions are an entirely different family of illusory phenomena and we all have encountered at some level, I imagine, the specially constructed environments that occur in behavioral psychology labs that trick you into thinking that the person in the foreground is smaller than the person in the background, so forth and so on. These kinds, uh, of illusions and are- are probably fairly trivial except that they address perceptions, and when we get to psychedelics as a source of illusion this is more important.

Another of the great family of illusions are, uh, in thinking about them I called them ontological illusions. Illusions of states of being, which may or may not in fact be reflected in reality. Uh, UFOs, Bigfoot, uh, crop circles, uh, mmm, the entire panoply of poultergeist phenomena and this sort of thing- ontological illusions. And these are very interesting, I mean one could give time to this alone, uh, because there are persistent ontological illusions in the human sensorium such as an- angels, elves, demons, djinns, afrites, nixies and sprites, that crowd, and there are ontological illusions that seem somehow tied to the evolving modalities of the group mind. Uh, UFOs are an obvious example. I mean, aside from the fact that people have occasionally seen strange things in the sky, the UFO archetype really emerges in the late 40s with, uh, the Rainier lights, and then a whole set of, um, taxonomic features of this particular brand of illusion, uh, coalesce the silvery discs, uh, the alien denizens with the cat eyes and the rubbery flesh, those same guys who give you unscheduled proctological examinations in the middle of the night [audience laughter] but notice that that particular taxonomic feature has been added recently through the assiduously careful scientific research of Strieber and company.

So, uh, these things are in a- in a- in, uh, well, cattle mutilation is very interesting one, very confined in time in space. The, the crop circle thing, similarly, it's not that, uh, there aren't crop circles but that what we have is essentially a pattern in an English wheat field but then radiating out from that are the illusions of those who cast their gaze upon it, those who proclaim it, uh, you know, telluric communication or particle beam research carried on by the air force, or in one version it was supposed, it was supposed that a particular crop circle had been decoded, found to be a lost Sumerian language which when decoded said basically "Don't stop here". It was essentially a no-parking zone for time machines. They were saying, you know, this entire century- just maintain speed and, uh, [Terench chuckles] you know, do not stop.

Um, psychedelic illusions, uh, again this is a related category but different from these ontological illusions. Uh, by illusion I mean that, uh, uh, these are, uh, confrontations with phenomena and apparently subjective ground and an ap- an an assumed rational observer where then there is a more than ordinary amount of ambiguity. I mean most of reality is illusory, it's just that we do each other the courtesy of not pointing this out, [audience laughter] uh, you know. Actually you, you trace a very thin data path through the world and al- most of what we assume without question we have very little evidence for. I mean, something as simple as, uh, well, like that mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Well, first of all very few people have ever seen it. Uh, I saw it and because I saw it from a distance of about 500 miles it looked quite small and my own testimony as to whether it was the highest mountain in the world would be fairly unreliable and besides, what does that mean anyhow and how the hell do you figure it out? I mean, here we have one, uh, mountain in the Himalayas and another in Bolivia and you're telling me you know which is the higher mountain? It must rest on a whole bunch of weird and fishy assumptions resting on even shakier data. So, and that's just the question of the highest mountain in the world, give or- leave alone the state of your lover's heart or your banker's for that matter.

What's important about the psychedelic family of illusions is that they, uh, propel the entire issue of illusion to center stage because they demonstrate that the, uh, uh, assumed bedrock of quote unquote 'ordinary perception' is in fact no, no bedrock at all. It's simply a very soft, uh, dwell-point somewhere in the mysteries of metabolism. And the, the consciousness, whatever its relationship to the brain, is spectacularly effected by the perturbation of the physical brain by, uh, endogenously introduced pseudo neurotransmitters of some sort. I mean, to my mind this is very interesting. You know Sh- Alexander Shulgin has secured in his work that you can take a molecule that is completely inactive and by moving one atom to a different place on the ring you can change this into an active compound. Now, it seems to me you could hardly have a neater demonstration of the quantum-mechanical foundation of consciousness because you've moved one atom and you've, uh, moved the mountains of mind 500 miles from where they were resting when last you looked. It's quite spectacular, and it argues then that mind, which strangely enough, the materialists always claim this, they just put different emphasis on the words- mind is a kind of iridescence on metabolism. For materialists that was a dismissal because to materialists what iridescence meant was a tertiary phenomenon not inimical to the structure of matter, but necessarily perceived only through the intersession of an observer. See, that's what iridescence is. It's somehow a more fragile part of nature than the rocks, the trees and the waters because it's a play between light and mind, again, a kind of illusion. A mirage.

Now, in a very different category of illusion, and this is one worth considering because it's the one we tend not to place in this category. And that is the illusion of materialism. This has broken down completely, uh, the idea that the material world was real sustained the investigation of nature from Parmenides to the early years of the 20th century. Virtually the entire history of human engagement in intellect-in the abstract intellectual modeling of matter, matter was assumed to, uh, be pretty much as presented in perception: solid, enduring, having simple location. Meaning, you know, it is, it stays where you put it, and when you look there again it's there, uh, that sort of thing. Now one of the best-kept dirty secrets of Western civilization is that the core science which is physics, the science which was always, um, the envy of all the other sciences for its mathematical formalism and its incredible, uh, predictive ability, because it's not unusual in physics to predict from theory an experimental result to the third or fourth decimal. This is spectacular congruence between, uh, theory and experiment. You don't get that in the social sciences. Even in physical- need I mention. Uh, uh, even in physical chemistry. However, the investigation of matter has now been pushed to such extremes that matter has shed its easily recognized and familiar face and has become something much slipperier, much more dependent on the presence of the observer, much less easily located in space and time, something much more of the nature of thought than, uh, than of the familiar conception of matter. This word has not reached bu- even as far as biology yet. The biologists are still laboring under the notion of the reality of physical material. Uh, if any of you read this book that was published last year with much a to-do called "Consciousness Explained". Uh, actually it should have been called "Consciousness Explained Away". Uh, here was an effort to drag out all the old material paradigms and, uh, ah, explain away consciousness. The problem is, uh, matter itself has taken on the qualities of mind and, uh, as this realization relativizes, uh, the life-sciences I think there is going to be, uh, a new interest in the potential for psychedelics to elucidate, uh, mental functioning because what will be come respectable, you see, is talk of the observer. This is what has invaded physics, the most rarefied and formal of all the sciences had, in order to make sense of its enterprise, uh, allow the observer a kind of primacy with the thing observed. As this seeps into the life sciences and psychology hopefully the phobia of actually involving yourself in your field of study that informs all these reductionists and ratomorphic types in these schools of psychology will be overturned.

Well, uh, having flayed that dead horse sufficiently, uh, the uh, uh, another category of illusion that needs to be addressed, I think, is, um, um, how would one call it... Well, basically, uh, philosophical illusion or philosophical slash religious illusion. This is the idea [Terence coughs] that by a direct appeal to intuition we can somehow gain, um, a foothold on truth. I think this is as specious as the notion that we can gain a foothold on truth [Terence coughs] through reason or experiment. This foothold on truth idea may have to be given up, uh. I'm sure some of you have heard me recall [Terence coughs] the situation where Wittgenstein was raving about something and one of his students said "But is it the truth?" and he said "Well, it's true enough" and this is really- means a great divide has been crossed when you can say that because it means you understand now that you are no longer a fairy in a platonic super-world, but that you are actually a monkey with a brain full of mush trying to sort out, uh, you know, what's right in front of you. True enough is what we should probably rest with.

And you know, uh, illusions abound, uh, one for instance- I was speaking of these religious ontologies. I was talking to someone recently who amazed me because I've always thought of them as a person of great intelligence but who would never be reclaimed from the arms of mother church, and uh, we had dinner last week and he said "I realized it finally comes down to do you believe the universe is being run by the ghost of a Galilean politician?" and he said, you know, put that way I realized that it wasnt. Other, other, uh, religious myths are less easily undone, I think. Monotheism has an appealing philosophical neatness, but it leads, apparently, to colitorectomy, so, you know, you wanna watch that. Uh, this, this search for philosophical neatness may make for a strange bedfellows. Um, and of course Buddhism, uh, I love the illusion of Buddhism. It's the illusion that illusion can be transcended [clears throat] [audience laughs] And, uh, again, not really doing genuflection to the animal nature. It's amazing to me, I mean, if you were to meet a termite who stated that his or her, uh, goal in life was the perfect modeling of the cosmos you would think it was quite a comic undertaking, uh, and yet how different are we that we should presume, uh, uh, to more than a shadow of, of, uh, a shadow of the truth.

Well, then, uh, finally or, I don't know finally, but completing my laundry list here, um. Linguistic truth, or the truth of language and the illusions that language weaves because, uh, someone quite intelligent said, uh, "language was invented so that people could lie." In other words, it, it gives you that fudge factor of obfuscation where someone says, you know "why did you do that?" well, the best approach is "I didn't do that!" You know, you, you thought I did that. What you thought you saw, you didn't see. iN other words, uh, I suppose that, uh, lawyers are probably the people who have done the finest work with language, uh, and, and behind them, politicians, and the true potential for language to elevate and to unite the community was early on betrayed into the production of, um, of illusion- illusory ideological goods which could then be marketed among the people and, uh, to spread confusion. Psychedelics reflect on this because psychedelics stretch and pull and melt and re-cast the illusion-producing machinery of language.

I mean, I think that if you had to say the one thing that psychedelics do for everyone, whether they have a good trip or a bad trip, because it's up to them to interpret what they make of this, is it shows you the relativity of your cultural viewpoint, you know? That it's just a w- it's just your point of view. You inherited it from, uh, a geolo- a geographical area, a culture, a set of parents. It has no relationship whatsoever to anything anchored in some kind of metaphysical super-space. It's just your cultural point of view, and travel actually does the same thing, and I've always felt there was a weird affinity between psychedelics and travel, and I suppose many people have or we wouldn't call it a trip, and, you know, we wouldn't call it a journey.

But travel shows you the relativity of culture, and what's really happening when you travel, you see, is you're moving from one language domain to another. We don't think of it that way, but that is in fact what is happening. You can never see the Amazon jungle if you keep intact the bubble of linguistic assumptions of the place you started out from. Every place will withold its secrets from you. I learned this in the Amazon because the first time I went I had virtually had no botany, and to me the jungle was green. That's what it was, and it was many shades of green and it was beautiful, and it was this and that, but it was basically green. The second time I went I was with, uh, a lot of botanists, and within days, you know, you learn the families. That's how they do it. With the same taxonomy I'm here applying to illusion was really developed to describe plants and animals. So you learn the families. The plants with square stems, the plants with the opposed leaves, the plants with, uh, with the particular flower structure. Once you know families, then you have a linguistic wedge in. But, you know, the cur- the corrupting or curious thing about language is that like all tools it shapes its user in ways that are not suspected until it's too late. So, uh, in- for instance the way in which Western Civilization is totally obsessed with the subject-object relationship. You know, and it's the basis of our science, our polity, our relations to commerce, the concept of product. All of these things come out of the subject-object relationship which is an aspect of language.

Uh, in the f- so I, I point all this out because, uh, in talking about my new book somebody said that I had gone too far. And I was amused because it implied from what, you know. It's not like there is a king's ex where greybeards in white coats tend the sacred vestal fires of reality. There is no reality. There are only people who know this and people who don't know this and are therefore being manipulated by the people who do know it! [audience laughter] This is true! Or true enough [Terence laughs] [Audience laughter & clappin]

And, uh, you know, one of the things that has amazed me with my own personal career because, you know, I started out basically shoveling snow in a cow town in Colorado and by fate or who knows what, uh, come to the present position and what I notice as I tran- traverse levels on a supposed ladder of success where you would expect, um, there to be more and more competition and people and activity. Actually it gets emptier and emptier. Uh, there is nobody minding the store as far as I can tell. This is why I'm so unsympathetic to conspiracy theory. We could use a few conspiracies. Nobody is minding the store. Everybody is getting rich, personally rich, and so they don't have time for, you know, to advance the Aryan race or the council of Zion or any of this fantasy and illusion that haunts the world of conspiracy theory. Uh, rather it seems, uh, everything is being left pretty much to develop on its own because people are afraid to grab or touch the levers and buttons in the control room of the historical vehicle. Uh, and what that means then is that people who can cut through these many many illusions. The illusion of materialism, the illusion of business as usual, the illusion of benevolent institutions carefully guiding us to reasonable destinies. If you cut through all that, if you disabuse yourself of all that, uh, you- you will empower yourself to eventually be able to stand up in delicate social and political situations and just say Bullshit! That's bullshit! [audience clapping]

And this is worth considering doing, uh, simply because we have an imperiled planet on our hands. We have been, for a long. long time, the victims of illusion. Western civilization- Stephen Dedalaus is right, history is a nightmare from which one must awaken, quite literally. I mean we have been blind to what we have been doing. We are blind at this moment to what we are doing. If, in a single moment, the actual nature of our predicament were to fully make itself felt in the mind of any one of us, I think it would be paralyzing. It would be horrifying. We, we have waited 'til the last moment of the last hour. The house is burning down around us and we rouse ourselves from the stupor of materialism, the stupor of Christianity and scientism, the stupor of male-dominance, sexism and racism. If we don't rouse ourselves from this stupor, the momentum toward extinction is now practically irreversible. You know, the Greatful Dead like to sing that song, 'we need a miracle every day'. We certainly, uh, we certainly do because with- and so then that brings me back to my original point, that the mome- that outside the ven of culture lies an unmapped terra incognita as vast as the New World was to the Old in the 15th century, as vast as outer space appears to us now. The New World outside of culture is a world that can be conquered through vision and language and, you know, many of you have sat through my recitations of what it's like to smoke DMT. Many of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the, the medieval woodcut of the guy sticking his head through the cogs and wheels of the cosmic machinery to observe a new world outside. The message here is, and it's, it, it's more than a message, it's a message if you just come to events like this and then go back to studying cost accounting. It's an experience if but you will avail yourself of these tools. The experience is of the discovery of a new world. A new world as real as any world that we know. It's not going to come from Time magazine or the secretary general of the United Nations or anybody like that. It's - it isn't that the world is tired and played out and that all frontiers have been explored. Every culture could support that viewpoint. It- within certain classes and in certain situations, but in fact it has never been true and it isn't true now. We are monkeys and monkeys love a helluva good fight and we have a helluva fight bearing down on us because we have to clean up the mess. We are going to- we're not going to go silently into the gentle night of extinction. There- it's just not going to happen that way. Creativity is going to be unleashed. Struggle is going to be, uh, an unavoidable part of trying to steer this battleship away from the cataracts of history in which we are now caught. Uh, I, I believe that it, there is a tremendous obligation upon the priveleged classes of the high-tech industrial democracies, and I daresay that includes everyone in this room, a tremendous obligation to attempt to deconstruct the bomb that we have inherited. I mean that is literally our situation. The gift from the past, from the 19th century, from the 1940's, from the psychology of Nixon and Johnson and that crowd is, uh, a ticking bomb, except that it's a planet. And it's the greatest challenge to intelligence that intelligence has ever faced, and yet it's precisely the kind of challenge that intelligence should be able to meet because what it requires is large-scale strategic planning, implementation, a visionary responses. It is not incremental. It's sudden, complete, and dramatic. And I really believe that, uh, there will only be one chance, you know. It's- we are circling the runway of post-history and the engines are running low and they- there is one approach and then, you know, if you miss that approach you're into the drink.

Now, we can use- we have the great good fortune to be approaching the end of a millenium. Would it be redunant to say this only happens once in a thousand years? Yes! [Terence laughs] [Audience laughs] And it's extraordinarly fortunate. Once I was in England and I ran into somebody I hadn't seen for twenty years and I was amazed and I said to Rupert "How often does one get a chance to meet someone one hasn't seen for twenty years?" And he sayd "Well, I daresay I suppose once every twenty years or so." We can use the millenium. this, uh, this apparent coincidence of our dilemma and a calendrical turning point to, uh, create awareness of opportunity, and we can use the psychedelics to dissolve boundaries between ourselves and other people, between institutions that govern and the governed, and basically we have to insist on the seriousness of the situation and the potential for solutions, and what it means is a much more radical break with American society than we've been willing to contemplate, uh, in the last twenty years. [audience member claps. We, we went through this thing with, you know, the two-term governer of Arkansas and it took a year and a half to play that all out and to see what it comes to, and what it comes to is, you know, Washington is convulsed over the possibility of closing an airbase near Sacramento, so how can we even conceive of this government making an impact on the real problems. It is still government by flim-flam. And that would be all very well if we had 500 years to dig ourselves out of this dilemma, but if there- if a radical political alternative is not opened up in this country then we are essentially, I think, going to amuse and entertain ourselves into extinction. The ordinary orthodox system has failed. What Bill Clinton exists to prove at best is that people of good will make no difference in those institutions because they are compromised and corrupted from the very beginning. It's just the way it is. They- those institutions are set up for business as usual. Business as usual, at this point, is a death sentence on the human race. Uh, what has to be done is, uh, a tribalizing of culture, an ecstaticising of culture, a dissolving of hierarchy. That means self-empowerment through claiming the new information technologies, through deconditioning from propaganda, through deconditioning, uh, from the pharmo-phobia that holds everyone within the pre-programmed molds that are being handed down from Madison Avenue and Hollywood. It means actually realizing that your life is your own. Your destiny is your own. It isn't within the confines of the culture because the culture is dissolving, and to the degree that the word is put out, that phenomenon will accelerate. We are in an extraordinary transition. Everything that has worked now doesn't. Meaning global economic systems, control of the spread of epidemic disease, uh, so forth and so on. All these systems are breaking down, and yet the new systems are not yet in place. So this is a situation of extraordinary malleability and a situation in which, uh, people of great vision and great ego can make tremendous impact. So it's a very dangerous situation. We saw this in the 1930s in Germany and in Europe, where there were all kinds of potentials, all kinds of possibilities. We forget how powerful a visionary Marxism was before the rise of fascism. Movemens like Bauhaus and Dada and Surrealism all had agendas which were, which disappeared then under the rise of Fascism. This must not happen again, and what it has to do with is resisting images that are coming from the reality studio, resisting the images that are coming off the tube, coming through the newspapers, and creating a community based on psychedelics, sexuality, sensitivity, and good sense. Cultural val- and what good sense will mean in this situation is the preservation of the Earth, the preservation of diverstiy, deconditioning from product fetishism, deconditioning from, um, energy overconsumption. All these things we understand but we seem to lack the power to change our minds or if we have that power, then the power to change other peoples' minds. And I, I am in to psychedelics not because I think it's a sure thing, but because I think it is the only game in town. In other words, it's the only thing I've ever seen change an individual on a time scale similar to the time scale that we have if we're going to make a difference. I've seen over and over again, I'm sure many of you have, people go into a psychedelic jerks and come out halfway decent human beings. [audience chuckles] you know, eight hours later [audience laughter]. If we had 500 years to steer global society into safe harbor, it might be possible to do that, but we don't.

I mean, I really believe that we are being asked to participate in the birthing of a new order of being and that there is reason for great optimism and hope because it looks like we're just boring in to solid rock, but in fact there's somebody else boring through that solid rock, and they have triangulated our approach and they are hurrying to meet us. I don't think we fell into this situation because of bad fate or, or bad destiny. This is part of the process. History is what happens when an animal species, an advanced animal, falls under the influence of a transformative attractor of some sort. History is only about 25,000 years in duration. The interesting part in the last 5,000 years, what has happened is that something confounding has entered the local situation or was always dormant there but has stirred to wakefulness and it is not God, not the God that in Milton's wonderful phrase "hung the lamps like stars in heaven". It isn't that God. Maybe it's the God of biology, but whatever it is, it is to us as we are to the termite, and what it is doing is it is casting an enormous transcendental shadow back through time, over the epigenetic landscape of biological becoming, and in our species, for reasons mysterious to me, we mirror this thing and it has swung our compass away from the forward flow of genetic theme and variation and in a course orthogonal to biology, a course set on the transcendental, and it is pulling us toward it through the medium of transforming our languages, through the medium of the imagination which is, after all, this mysterious mental domain in which we are whispered to by angels, demons, gods, ancestors, aliens, and out of that intercourse culture, self-transforming, shedding its face every 100 years, building on novelty is ascending toward a reaching out toward the unspeakable. This has been going on, I think, for billions of years. It has obvious and incontravertably been going on since the advent of consciousness in the human species, and now we're there. We're in the final domain of the confrontation with the secret. It is impossible to conceive of history going on for hundreds of year. It- the planet cannot sustain it. Uh, all of these, uh, social structures and institutions that we have surrounded ourselves with are obviously lifeboats. They are not made to last. They are made to carry us to a certain point in the life of the Earth and we are now there, or we are within 20, 30, 40, 50 years of confronting the transcendental object at the end of time that drew us out of the animal body. History is the proof and the shockwave of the eschaton. This is a hard thing for secular audiences to wrap their minds around because they're familiar with hearing this from rattlesnake-handling Christers, but that's simply because religion has always been the repository of the irrational intuition. It never said that the irrational intuition is ipso facto false. It becomes a travesty when, hung with the, uh, trappings of dogma derived through the scholarly revelation of weasels, but the intuition, the intuition is pristine and the intuition of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and cults innumerable is that there is a finiteness to the historical experience. And then the more staid the ontology, the further into the future they put it so they can continue trading real estate, uh, for the next little while. I think that it is now possible to extrapolate the curves that describe our degradation of the planet, the spread of epidemic diseases, the ozone hole, the extraction of metals, the clearing of the rainforest, the rise of population, the spread of toxic compounds so fa- to see to convince yourself, even from a rational point of view, that history is a self-limiting process. Well, if you're a rationalist then you must conclude we're just headed for extinction. I would think then the rational response to that logical process would be to get your ass in gear and try and avert the distinct- the extinction, and if you're not a rationalist, then the conclusion you draw from all that is that, uh, we are within striking distance of merging with the mysterious hyper-spatial source of our intelligence, and that somehow this is a planetary birthing. Something is scripted as the breakup of Pangaea or the movement of glaciers south from the pole. It's just part of the process. Culture exists to transform mind out of the domain of matter. We are rising toward the rarefaction of ourselves into, uh, the transcendental plasmic body of alchemical and Buddhist, uh, uh, preoccupation. This is what is calling us out of matter. It's what called the monkeys out of animal organization, it's what calls technology out of the restless hands of the hominids, and it is what is calling all of us toward a kind of fusion with the community, with the psychedelic totality of the species, and with the larger gaian totality of the planet. This is what it all went for. This is the promise and the redemption of history. Without this redemption then history becomes the abortion that materialists fear it is. This is why the legitimate path to the transcendental, the linking of the individual with the transcend- transcendental through psychedelics now becomes the most important political work that can be done in the light of the rising awareness of the end of history. Thank you very much.

[audience claps]

Well, all of you who stayed, the intrepid core. I'll, i'll just go through these. I've not had any chance to look at them and, uh, handwriting is also degraded here at the end of the world so it's a little hard to sort out some of this. Um, "What role does an individual psychedelic experience play in the massive changes that you're anticipating?" It would seem to me- uh, well, my model for the psychedelic experience, there've been a number of them. Uh, the idea that it's, uh, cre- mimics madness, that was one idea, that it takes you into the f- uh, Jungian unconscious, that was one notion, that it somehow illuminates the concepts of Indian, uh, yoga or after-death models such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. All of these have been tried. My assumption has been a mathematical one, that, that what psychedelics are about is that mind, under the pressure, under the pressure of evolutionary constraints, turns itself into a threat detection device. Uh, and that's how we use it in three dimensional space, to anticipate threat and to meet it, but that that is, as it were, a lower-order application of mind and that, uh, in silent darkness what happens on psychedelics is that you- the mind unfolds literally into a kind of super space, or a higher dimension in the mathematical sense because I take seriously the i- the claims made in all times and places for millenia that shamans can locate lost objects, predict weather, see where the game has gone, and, uh, predict the outcome of disease situations. In all cases what is involved is a higher dimensional relationship to the manifold of history. So I think that, you know, you all understand that a locked box, if we had a padlocked box here on stage, a locked box is not locked in hyperspace. It has a f- a, a dimension in hyperspace from which the contents of the locked box are easily removed, taken out, and put back. In our world this looks like magic. Shamanism is like this and so, to answer the question "What role does an individual psychedelic experience play in the mass changes anticipated?" The role is that the individual gets in on the joke. At this stage in history to be a shaman is to have seen the end, and if you've seen the end it's like, you know, taking Anna Karenina and reading the last five pages, and then as you make your way through this bewildering morass of material you do have the faith that it's all going to end up as you discerned, so that's the political act. You see, terror of the future is one of the weapons by which the rationalists are holding everybody in line. Terror of the future can be put out to pasture through psychedelic shamanism.

Uh, ok. "It seems mushrooms for the masses is not really what you advocate." Ehhhh...[audience laughter] [Terence laughs] Mushrooms for the masses doesn't sound like such a terrible idea, I mean I always equivocate by saying, you know, if you're, if your problem is maintaining boundaries then you probably shouldn't take any psychedelics, but you can- in a mature civilization you know you don't uh, you don't define opportunities based on what will be detrimental to a small minority. Mushrooms for the masses seems to me a fine idea. I just don't see how it can ever come about about because I believe that the society-shaping effects of these things are so powerful that, uh, they will never be tolerated. Just to go off on a tangent for a moment, this is why I am an incredibly pessimistic person about getting pot legalized because as far as I can tell the argument now in favor of legalizing cannabis is that it ain't no big deal so why not legalize it. The problem is that it is a big deal. You just have to bake it into some banana bread and you'll find out what a deal it is.

So, uh, you know, and if you read the 19th century accounts like Fitzhugh Ludlow, The Hashish Eater, people like that, it's perfectly clear that it can reach LSD levels of intensity if, uh, if you eat it. And I- the question, you know, if pot were, were judged on its social impact, uh, or, you know, its lack of addiction, its lack of detriment to health, it would have been legal a long time ago, but it subtly erodes commitment to dominator values in ways that are absolutely intolerable to dominator institutions. Uh, they'll let gays in the military before they'll legalize pot, that's how threatened they are by pot.

Well, let's see here. "Recently you appeared on talk radio with police chief Daryl Gates. What was the inside story and do you feel you were heard by him?" Well yes, I won't give this too much time. I did appear with Daryl Gates on his radio show. Clearly they're desperate to raise ratings. They'll do almost anything at this point. And Daryl Gates was, uh, a pussycat, very easily intimidated by I mean I make no great claims in this area, but intelligence. [audience laughter] He, he completely folded in the presence of, you know, academic calm, big words, citation, that sort of thing. [audience laughter]

"What is the difference between your vision of the end of history and the Christian belief in a savior?" This is a great question. Um, my- the- ha, well, it's complicated. Uh, the way I think of this transcendental object at the end of time is on this level. For purpose of metaphor it's like those mirrored ball-bars that they hang in discos, you know, that spins and sends out scintillations of light all over the walls ceiling and floor of the room. The transcendental object at the end of time, and I like that image because, uh, alchemists- alchemists used to talk about what they called the scintilla, which is simply Latin for 'spark'. So the transcendental object at the end of time sends off scintillas, sparks which are like reflections of its essence but necessarily distorted. Well then, ranged all around this transcendental object, and at greater and lesser distances, are all the people who have ever lived, and if you are a Buddha, a Christ, a Mohammed, a guru-somebody or other, and you, you are- what that means is that you have been struck by a scintilla of reflection from the transcendental object and so you as it were mm, as- have assimilated its essence into your being, and now you must act it out. And I would bet you that if you could step into the mind of a Christ on the road to Calvary, or a Buddha preaching at Sinoth what you would discover going on in the personal part of the mind is the question "why me?" "Why me," and the answer is you just are dumb lucky, that's all. You know? You just happened to be standing in the right place at the right time and there is nothing special about you. You just have uh, a hit of the stuff. [audience chuckles]

Uh, and then the, the other part of the question- the, the problem with all these religions, and it affects flying saucer cults and it effects uh, occult schools of magic and everywhere is people claim to know too much. They are not willing to live in the light of ignorance and in the absence of closure. So you know, my God, you go to these uh, UFO conferences and you know, you've got the people talking to the Plebeians in uh, Booth 1 [audience chuckles]. Next to them people are talking to Commander Zamo of the Antares system, and then number 3 something else. No cognitive dissonance uh, between these groups. They all have coffee together and are dating heavily and it doesn't [audience laughter] ever seem to enter anybody's mind that this is a little odd. [audience laughter] In occult stuff, you know, y- you say "what's that?" and they say "well, that's the eleventh Amethystine Ray that was brought by the great white fathers of the Eleventh Lodge who came from the Galactic Center at the fall of Atlantis and established the [audience laughter]- you say, "how the hell do you know all this stuff?" [audience laughter, clapping]

I mean, nobody knows anything and, and Christianity, the anticipation of the end of the world and the exegesis of Revelations that has been worked out based on the visions of John of Athos uh, you know, it's a good try but it's not a uh, it's not a paint-by-numbers script for the unfolding of the world by any means. Uh, when the transcendental object at the end of time finally reveals its quintessence among us all prophecies will be fulfilled, all religious ontologies will find themselves uh, somehow vindicated and somehow humbled in the same moment, uh, because they were in fact uh, in Wordsworth's wonderful phrase "intimations of immortality." But you don't need to rely on the sanctioned intimations of immortality. You can have your own simply by taking five grams in silent darkness on an empty stomach after you've unplugged the phones on a Saturday night in your apartment. [audience laughter]

Uh, the, the real research into the nature of the Eschaton is done one-on-one uh, above five grams. [audience laughter, clapping]

Well, let's see here. Um, "I once heard you talk about an experiment your brother undertook where he was raving for three weeks, but you never explained what the experiment involved." uh, "What was it?" Well, what a wonderful opportunity. [audience laughter] True Hallucinations. I, I never talked about this even, often to very dear friends of mine. I mean there are people who've known me for twenty years who I never told this story to because I think it takes as long to tell as it takes to read this book. You know that wonderful scene in The Time Ma- in Wells' Time Machine when he comes back to his gentleman's club and he says "Gentlemen, this is no tale to be told over greasy plates!" Well, similarly with this. So uh, y- I- and I didn't also want to make it the basis for my public career because this is real mm, uh, well, I almost said nutty stuff. [audience chuckles] It's uh, I generally um, disbelieve in violations of physical law and miracles, but I did actually in the course- I'm forty-six- I have seen three or four in my lifetime, and each time it's absolutely astonishing, whole worlds of possible questions are instantly answered and, uh, I wrote this book to inspire people to follow our method which is, our method is the rational but stoned mined in confrontation with the obscure. [audience chuckles] Seek ye the obscure, you know? If a book has, is not at least one hundred years old don't read it. Uh, if, if a country has more than one international airport don't visit it. Uh, if a village has more than one outboard motor don't stay, and just keep pushing and pushing and pushing because out there at the edges are the edges, and that- there are edges because nobody goes there, because the unsanctioned is hidden there. Uh, you know? That's where the shamans are and the mad people and uh, the sexual experimentalists and the uh, aesthetic experimentalists. Uh, that really is the method. Not, not belief. Belief is a toxic and dangerous attitude toward reality I think. After all, if it's there it doesn't require belief, and if it's not there why should you believe in it? [audience chuckles] It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. [audience claps]

By eliminating money and the separateness that it causes could the world be saved by sharing the resources and the work and eliminating all the unnecessary waste of energy and needless competition and consumption. Well, I'm not sure how money could be eliminated. See, I'm a funny person. I vacillate between- I have a very strong impulse toward political action and save the world and round up the miscreants and set things right. That's part of my thing, but I also have this incredibly evolved sense that it's a done deal, that it's ok, that the main task is a certain alertness and attention to one's comrades, and that it will all unfold through the intercession of the transcendental object at the end of time. People say this is a contradiction. Fine, it's a contradiction! I mean what are we doing here anyway? Is life supposed to be simple? [audience chuckles] Uh, so, but I, I, I preface that by saying one time somebody in a group like this challenged me and said "you're always talking about the peril of the planet and one thing and another uh, why, why don't you ask the mushroom how to save the planet?" And I, so then I thought that was kind of a facetious and challenging thing to propose, but the next time I found myself capable of asking the question [audience chuckles] I did! And the mushroom hesitated, and now I pass this on to you as pure fungal hearsay [audience laughter] on the networks. I said to the mushroom "so how can we save the world?" and it hesitated roughly a third of a second and said every woman should bear only one natural child. I thought about this for a long time before I ever publicly mentioned it to anyone, and I realized, you see I think that what is destroying us are two things. Number one, and uncontrolled rise in population that wipes out every good intention, every social program, every ar- e- expansion of agriculture succumbs to expanded population. This is destroying us.

The other thing that is destroying us is that we are not properly utilizing uh, the intelligence, talent and so forth of half of our population, the female half of the population. Now [audience clapping] people say [clears throat] that we must m- you know, women must be promoted and t- into professional positions and power positions and, and of course this is true and I agree, but what is really holding women back is that they spend a staggering amount of their creative lifespan raising children, and uh, if every woman were to bear only one natural child the population of the planet would fall by fifty percent in forty years without wars, epidemic diseases. It would just naturally fall in half. Now, I don't think very many people have ever considered this possibility. We tend to think that our problems are insoluble. They are not insoluble. Furthermore it turns out, and here's news nobody likes to hear, a woman who, uh, uh, a child born to a woman in Santa Cruz compared to a child born to a woman in Bangladesh, that child will use between eight hundred and a thousand times more resources than the Bangladeshi child in its lifetime. So where do we preach population control? The third world, because that's where all the people are, but that's not the problem. People are not the problem. Incredible consumption by some people is the problem. It would be possible to imagine a world where inst- governmental institutions or whoever's running things could go to women and say "how would you like to have vastly increased leisure time? How would you like to have an in- increased expendable income, and how would you like to have genuine status as a hero in the struggle to save the planet?" If women were to have only one natural child, women would very naturally come into an enormous empowerment. No one, no institution could deny it to them. Uh, and interestingly enough this is not a plan where men, who have always been the planners and the managers of plans, play much of a role at all.

Well, I just passed that off in case you don't want to put your trust in the transcendental object at the end of the world, then the most politically conscious thing apparently from the mushroom's point of view that you could do is uh, encourage those kinds of policies and that kind of attitude.

Audience member: How many unnatural children? [audience chuckles] [Terence laughs]

TM: Are there unnatural children? Um-

Audience member: George Bush.

TM: [Terence laughs] Oh dear, still carrying a grudge? [audience laughter] Leave it. Leave it to Saddam. [Terence laughs]

Audience member: Only children would be neurotic [?? 1:22:35]

TM: No. That is not true. That's what always put out. The fact of the matter is in 1800 the average American woman gave birth thirteen times in the course of her lifetime. The two-ch- the two-child family is a genuflection to the industrial revolution. No traditional culture on this planet ever advocated the two-child family. It's a convenience that allows uh, factories to run and uh, jobs to be filled, and in fact as the father of two children I would argue that the two-child family, what happens is the children mirror the tension between the parents in a way that happens in no other configuration of uh, of parent-child relationship. So I would actually argue that uh, w- then, the so-called family values that these right-wingers are constantly binging us preserve are in fact values created to support the agenda of the industrial revolution which means global capitalism. They have nothing to do with archaic values which are enormous families, not nuclear families but extended families living communally. That's the traditional model, and if you're not ready to go back to that then one woman, one child is as good as anything my humble opinion. [audience chuckles]

Let's see here. "You mentioned earlier this evening that psychedelics played a role in human evolution. How so?" Thank you for not groaning, those of you who have heard me explain this eighteen times. Uh, because it may be my only crack at getting into the history books, uh. [audience chuckles] It, i- it seems to me clear, well it seems to everybody who looks at the question clear that the theory of evolution is handed a tremendous dilemma when it comes to human evolution. Uh, a planet of groundhogs, hummingbirds and slime molds poses no problem to Darwinian evolution as modified by molecular genetics. We pose a problem, specifically our brain, and it's doubling in size in less than two million years is very difficult for the theory of evolution to explain, and it's a, a particular embarrassment because that's the organ which generated the theory of evolution. [audience laughter] So it's like a real rip in uh, the, the sail of the galleon of evolution.

I believe and everyone believes that there must have been extraordinary selective pressures of the unique sort up on our early ancestors to have produced the human brain in such a short amount of time, and I think that the answer, and I don't wanna go into it in detail tonight, but briefly here's what it is, and it explains a lot about our sexuality and our politics and so forth. All primates um, clear back to squirrel monkeys and like that have what are called dominance hierarchies. We all know what this means. It means that the hard-muscled, long-fanged young males run roughshod over everybody else, the women, the children, homosexuals, the old. Everybody gets their marching orders from the dominant males. This is true throughout the primates and it is true of us as we sit here this evening. That's what's screwing up our politics and making us uh, you know, the situation with women so forth and so on, and it can be argued to other social problems as well. I believe that psilocybin uh, because it dissolves boundaries is uniquely positioned to mitigate against this tendency toward male dominance for a number of reasons uh, and when our remote ancestors moved in- out of the trees and into the grasslands they encountered these mushrooms and I think the great undiscussed frontier of evolutionary theory is the effect of mutagens in foods on human evolution. We- most animals maintain a very narrow food menu to avoid contact with mutagens. We, when we were forced out of the arboreal canopy we became omnivores. We came under nutritional pressure and for a long time we were testing all kinds of foods, and that would have meant a very high rate of mutation through that period and an acceleration in natural selection, and I think that uh, that psilocybin because it uh, improves visual acuity would have given a leg up to predators and hunter-gathering um, protohominids and so in a sense there was a period of time, perhaps as short as a hundred thousand years, perhaps as long as a million or more years when uh, male dominance in our species was suppressed chemically by psilocybin in the diet. It was still there [Terence coughs] hard-wired in the genes, but chemically suppressed by an orgiastic, religious style that had everybody taking mushrooms at the new and full moon and then having sex in a heap basically. This made it impossible for men to trace lines of male paternity. That's a consequence of an orgiastic uh, society, and w- a kind of paradise evolved and it was during that paradisical interlude that language, theater, altruism, metaphysics, poetry, dance, uh, religion, all of the functions that we equate with unique humanness evolved under the aegis of a near symbiosis with sym- with psilocybin mushrooms, and then- this all was happening in Africa- then through climatic upheaval, drying of the African continent, the mushrooms disappeared and God forbid the old wiring reasserted itself. It must have been hell on earth. It must have been similar to what we're living through. It must have been an era of incredible brutalization when people stopped caring for each other, people stopped having group sex, they started fighting over women, fighting over territory, bashing each others' brains out, appointing leaders, uh, uh, developing weapons. The entire sick set of pathological institutions that leads to our dilemma was evolved in the wake of the invention of agriculture and the abandonment of nomadism and so forth and so on, and this is why I think we're so funny on the subject of drugs because we are literally the children of a drug. There wouldn't be human beings on this planet had there not been this hominid-mushroom interaction over a very, very long period of time. The reason we addict so easily to so many substances and the reason people destroy their lives with various addictions is we have an itch that we just can't scratch, and we try everything, and I maintain that you'll keep itching and you'll keep scratching til you come to this very narrow family of hallucinogens, the tryptamine hallucinogens. Then the itch stops because you are restored to the archaic dynamic in which we created the most noble social systems that we have ever lived under: the archaic, shamanic, goddess-worshipping world of the dawn-time, and history is a fall away from that exactly as these monotheistic religions uh, insist. The fall into history, and I see then this emergent end of the world, post-history, millenarian culture as an attempt to reconnect with that archaic authenticity that was the birthplace of intellect, of poetry, of beauty, of love and of altruism.

Ok. [audience claps] These are great questions. I wish I had more time. Here's uh, one: "please define intelligence." Strangely enough, I was thinking about this today as I, I can't even remember why, but I produced a definition. Uh, i- it's a kind of a cribbing from Whitehead. Whitehead defined understanding in the following way. He said "understanding is the apperception of pattern as such." That's all. For instance, in this room there are many patterns: where the men are, where the women are, where the over-forties are, where the under-forties are, where the wealthy and the poor are. Each of these patterns if you can see it tells you more about the situation, and presumably there are an infinite number of these informative patterns. So I would define uh, intelligence as Whitehead defined understanding. Intelligence is the apperception of pattern as such, and the more of pattern, of the pattern and the more patterns that you perceive the more intelligent you are. Of course, these patterns must actually be there, [audience chuckles] otherwise you're delusory and that's a different issue.

And then I'll do uh, I'll do one more here.

Audience member: Aww.

TM: Aww. [Terence chuckles] You don't wa- go fast through them! [Terence chuckles] [audience laughter]

What do you think about meditation as a path to other levels of consciousness and understanding so-called reality as illusion. I, I've- meditation is a fine thing. I do it. Uh, I'm not sure what its relation to the psychedelic experience is. I, I, the best uh, the uh, this is essentially part of a larger question which is "can you get there on the natch?" uh, and m- m- you know, the short answer is no. [audience chuckles] The fair answer is maybe in exceptional cases, cases so exceptionable, so exceptional that the answer is no. [audience chuckles] Uh, the- and the perils I submit to you are much greater because uh, what is so wonderful about the psychedelics is how democratic they are. You know, you don't have to have enslaved yourself into some beady-eyed weasel and his set of precepts, dietary strictures and mantric formulas. Uh, it doesn't work like that. It isn't handed down through a human lineage. I asked the mushroom about this. I said "can, you know, what's the deal with uh, these other paths to enlightenment?" And you got to understand, this is the mushroom speaking [audience laughter] but it said for one human being to seek enlightenment from another is like one grain of sand to seek enlightenment from another; kt is preposterous. And I like that because I never met anybody whose intelligence seemed so intimidating that they deserved to be followed, and I daresay you probably haven't either uh, if you've been paying attention.

I mean how many [audience laughter], how many philandering zennys have to parade before us? How many coguptes [??] with a Budweiser welded to their good right hand do we have to encounter uh, before you get the message? You know, these guys are just slimeballs at worst and lost souls at best, and you're smarter than they are by an order of magnitude anyway, so why waste your time? Now, if you want to follow, if you just can't tear yourself away from the concept of following, then you know, how about Plato, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plotinus, Proclus? You know, dead guys, they're much safer. [audience laughter] You know? They're not going to try and climb into your wallet or uh, some delicate portion of your anatomy [audience laughter] plus they've been use-tested uh, in the historical arena uh, and have been found to be generally at, at least harmless at worst and in some cases actually to be recommended uh, so I would say you know, the whole message of psychedelics is self-empowerment. Trust yourself. Seize the tiller of your destiny. It is your life. It is your body. It is your mind, and it's your world to re-make as you choose to reshape it. History has failed. The past is no guide. Uh, the, the immediate generations preceding us have dealt themselves into bankruptcy. Their object fetishism, their ideological excesses, their uh, tendency to resort to brutality in the solution of every problem has essentially ruled them uh, out of play. They are no longer operable and uh, psychedelics because they do in fact enhance, accelerate and promote consciousness must, must, it's not a debate, must loom large in the future history of our species because if consciousness is not a major part of the human future, it is not a human future.

Thank you very very much. [audience clapping]

Original Transcription by: Eva Petakovic
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