Guest speaker: Terence McKenna
NOTE: All quotations below are by Terence McKenna
(Minutes : Seconds into program)
2:10 “Civilization has made us uncomfortable with our human-ness because these various technologies and phonetic alphabets and things like that have rearranged our sensory ratios from what they were in Paleolithic times. In a sense, [psychedelics] hit your reset button, they address the animal body, they address a deeper level than cultural conditioning, and so you feel and experience these atavistic images and feelings that civilization has repressed or transmuted in you.”
3:53 “Cubism is created when Picasso brings African masks to Paris… Freud announces that… right beneath the surface… extremely violent, primitive impulses are [in us]… Jazz introduces syncopation… Women begin to display more of their animal nature through flapper-dancing… The whole of the 20th century is a turning back toward these values that had been repressed for millennia.”
7:15 “Once you get to this place on what we might metaphorically call your spiritual quest, once you get to the place where you hear about psychedelics, the issue is no longer about, ‘Where is the gas pedal on the spiritual vehicle?’ The issue suddenly becomes, ‘Where is the brake?’… The doorway stands open, and all it requires is courage. Which is not to say it doesn’t require a lot…”
8:30 “I’ve [taken psychedelics] many times. There are many people here who have done it many times. And, the survivors are not confident. It doesn’t build hubris in you. It doesn’t promote bravado, because you know how quickly and horrifyingly it can cut you down to size…”
9:02 “Sometimes the issue of magic and power comes up-I wouldn’t get near that… My goal is to see more, to understand more, and what I do on a trip is damn-near absolutely nothing.”
9:38 “It’s an incredible statement about our human-ness… that within us, under the influence of these plants, we have, literally, Niagaras of alien beauty…”
10:04 “When I take mushrooms, I see more art in twenty minutes of behind the eyelids hallucination… than the human race seems to have produced in the last thousand years. On one level, that’s an incredible statement about the human capacity to generate and be in the presence of beauty. But the paradox is that so few people know this.”
11:50 “[The ‘gratuitous grace’ of the psychedelic experience] is like a secret of some sort. And it’s a true secret, in that telling it does not give it away. I know this because I’ve been trying to tell this secret for twenty-five years, to anyone who would listen…”
14:20 “If you study the mystical literature… it all triangulates toward unitary states. ‘Bodhi mind’, ‘the white light’, ‘the ineffable’, ‘the unnamable’, ‘the radiance’. Vocabularies… which indicate some kind of homogeneity. …[but] when you push [psilocybin] there seems to be… a revelation of multiplicity, of detail, of complexification within complexification… an overwhelmingly bewildering profusion of phenomena.”
17:08 “…the great confounding fact that I’ve brought back from my excursions in these places is that there is an organized intelligence in there… far more alien than the cheerful pro-bono proctologists that haunt the trailer-parks of the less-fortunate… What does it mean that our culture has sealed us off from this information?”
19:46 “What is the implication for the future [when] in this dark hour of complete over commitment to technology, economic solutions, rational reductionism, materialism, and so forth… this news [of psychedelics] arrives from these repressed aboriginal people that we have marginalized and humiliated in the process of building our own version of a global culture?”
21:28 “…where [psychedelics] hit us hardest is in the domain of art and invention and novelty, and we have built a culture that-however hostile it may be to the psychedelic experience-is incredibly friendly toward novelty, innovation, creativity, cultural evolution, celebration of difference…”
22:14 Terence notes science’s triumph over the methods of alchemy, but suggests that the alchemical ideal that, “…humanity is a full partner in creation, and that what God has brought into being, the human imagination can perfect…[is] a necessary faith for our time, because the power that we have is so great. If the power that science has given us does not serve a transcendental ideal, then it will serve some kind of fascist ideal…”
25:26 “We have come to a place of bifurcations, immense choices. The decisions and the processes that are put in place in the next twenty years will probably put the stamp on whether humanity and this planet are made or broken as a cosmic concern. Well, consciousness is the key. What is dragging our boat is an absence of consciousness.”
26:01 “You know, we have one foot in angel-hood, and one foot in the identity of a carnivorous ape, and the tension between these two, on a global scale, is excruciating.”
26:20 “If there is [even] one chance in a thousand that [psychedelics] contribute an increased measure of consciousness to this situation, then they are a precious gift, a resource, an option, a possibility to be explored.”
27:17 “An idea is not sufficient to transform us. It’s about an experience. And [the psychedelic experience] is the only experience I know that, in the time given to us, on the scale given to us, we have a hope of actually cutting through the detritus of our historical experience and building a true human community.”
29:58 Terence spends the next 17 minutes of the podcast giving an overview of his Novelty Theory and its ramifications, beginning with how the theory came to him.
30:22 “These psychedelic experiences… when correctly managed, end up giving you a big idea. That’s a really successful psychedelic experience.”
31:10 “These flights into this realm of the logos-the real stamp of authenticity on them comes when you bring back a new idea, something brand new. That proves that you’re not just talking to yourself.”
31:28 Terence talks about how science emerged/evolved from mysticism and mythology, mentions Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and tells the story of how René Descartes founded scientific materialism at the behest of an angel.
34:45 “I don’t say I channeled [Novelty Theory], because I find that vocabulary infantile and obnoxious. But, on the other hand, I don’t take credit for it in the way that I don’t feel elevated by my genius for having done this. It was definitely unfolded for me at a conversational speed by an intelligence for which I was little more than the secretary.”
35:27 “Two [related] facts about nature have been overlooked by science… The first one is: As you go back in time from the present moment, the universe becomes a simpler place.” NOTE: Terence doesn’t mention the second thing until 7:55 into the next podcast (In the Valley of Novelty – Part 6).
36:20 Terence spends a few minutes describing cosmological evolution in terms of the increasing complexification of matter that began immediately after the Big Bang and eventually culminated in the emergence of biology.
40:18 “One of the things which makes this idea radical is that it doesn’t simply assume that history and becoming is the unfolding of causal necessity. It assumes instead that there’s some kind of attractor, that events are not just bubbling forward probabilistically and randomly, but that they’re actually caught in some kind of field that is pulling everything toward a conclusion.”
41:09 “This is a huge law, if true, because it’s a statement about physical matter, it’s a statement about organic organization, it’s a statement about culture and society, it’s a statement about your own psychology. Things complexify through time. But science has never said this. The theory of evolution says biological systems grow more adaptive through time, but there’s been a real phobia against any teleological implication from that.”
42:14 “…nature, on all scales, is some kind of an engine which produces complexity and then conserves it, and uses it as a platform to proceed deeper into complexity.It’s a kind of anti-thermodynamic flow… it’s what’s called autopsies by one school.”
42:46 “…this tendency has been completely overlooked by science-in fact science’s most secure statement is Maxwell’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says all systems tend to disorder over time. But what it means is closed systems. All closed systems tend to disorder over time. Well, biology is some kind of a loophole in the laws of physics and chemistry…”
43:56 “…physical chemists look at this and say, ‘Well, it’s ephemeral, but it just happens on the surface of the Earth, and it’s very fragile and death is everywhere.’ It’s a fluke, basically, is what they’re saying. But this is just their professional bias. Because you can go into the rocks of this planet and discover life in a continuous fossil record 4.83 billion years deep. The stars that you see when you look out at the Milky Way at night, the average star lasts 500 million years. …life on this planet has already proven more tenacious than the stars themselves… You can’t discount biology. Biology is clearly a player on a cosmic scale in this universal game of capturing energy and resisting entropy.”
45:42 “We, then, look different to ourselves by this theory, because we are the most novel phenomena around… If, in fact, we have identified nature’s purpose as to create and conserve complexity, then suddenly… we are returned, for the first time since the sixteenth century, to the center of the cosmic stage of a universal drama of salvation and redemption.”
48:49 “…so much power is being given to man, or taken by man from the universe, through the power of scientific understanding, that we are becoming the masters of the planetary destiny whether we want to be or not.”
50:15 Terence quotes the French sociologist Jaques Allule:“There are no political solutions, there are only technological ones. The rest is propaganda.”
50:54 “…we have to deal with the fact that we have built institutions that do not serve human purposes, but that are like automata or golems among us: corporations, religions, cabals, ethnic tribalism… These things are like the psychotic architectonics of the unconscious that the information age is causing to suddenly emerge for the inspection of those who have eyes to see. Our humanness is not endangered by machines, it’s endangered by these institutional entities…”
51:58 “Corporate capitalism has the intelligence of a termite, at the organismic level, and all it understands is its agenda, and its agenda is to take cheaply extracted raw materials and fabricate them into expensive finished products… and it can’t propagate that cycle on the closed surface of this planet much longer without the contradictions becoming unbearable. But it doesn’t know that.”
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These program notes were compiled by Bill, who joins us in the Psychedelic Salon from his home in Japan.