Guest speaker: Terence McKenna
[NOTE: All quotations below are by Terence McKenna.]
“McLuhan was synonymous with incomprehensibility in the Sixties.”
“In McLuhan there is a very deep strain of nostalgia for the essence of the Medieval world of what he called ‘manuscript culture’.”
“Joyce is, in ‘The Wake’, making his own alchemeric cave drawings of the entire history of the human mind in terms of its basic gestures and postures during all phases of human culture and technology.”
“Nothing is now unconscious if your data-search commands are powerful enough.”
“So really, like for Joyce, for McLuhan the book is the central symbol of the age, the central mystery of our time. In a sense, I sort of share that notion. It’s a very Talmudic notion. It’s a very psychedelic notion. It’s the idea that somehow the career of the word is the central, overarching metaphor of the age. And, naturally, if the book is the central metaphor for reality, then reality itself is seen as somehow literary, somehow textual. And this is in fact how I think reality was seen until the rise of modern science.”
“The idea of the individual is a post-Medieval concept legitimized by print. The idea of the public, this concept did not exist before newspapers.”
“The notion of an observing citizenry somehow sharing the governance of society, this again is a print-created idea.”
“Reading is not looking. Reading is an entirely different kind of behavior. … Nobody opens a book and looks at print … We read print, but we look at manuscript, because manuscript carries the intrinsic signification of the individual who made it.”
“[Quoting Marshall McLuhan] High definition is the state of being well-filled with data.”
“Print is the least invisible of all media. Print is an incredible Rube Goldberg invention for conveying information.”We are going beyond the entire domain of scribal humanity and actually reaching back to a shamanic feeling-tone kind of thing.”
“A perfect media is an invisible media, and print is the least invisible of all media.”
“Those who read, do not see, even when they lift their eyes from their books, they carry the attitude of print into the world. They read. They attempt to read nature. And you can’t read nature. You must look at nature. You must see nature.”
” ‘The Medium is the message’ means that the medium is the thing which is making the difference.”
“Imagine if a drug had been introduced in 1948 that we all spent six and one-half hours per day, on average, watching. And the one thing about drugs, in their defense, is that it’s very hard to diddle the message. A drug is a mirror, but television isn’t a mirror. Television is a billboard, and anybody who pays their money can put their message into the trip. This is an extraordinarily insidious situation.”
PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option
Thank you so much Lorenzo! I have fun listen your podcast. Anyway, this is a good collection of books. But I only read Aldous Huxley book. I download its eBook on my iPod few months ago. Good to know Huxley story as a child debilitating his illness. That he use bates method to save his failing eyesight. I think the idea of this book is to improve your vision. I think I have to use this method to for my vision to get some benefits. Okay just till there and I will take a tour on your site. Looking for the next target to listen. Ha-ha!
Comments from original blog page: http://www.matrixmasters.net/blogs/?p=1131
Lorenzo, one thing to note about Rube Goldberg is that he isn’t necessarily being remembered in a negative light when the term “Rube Goldberg Device” is invoked to indicate that something is extraneously serpentine or overly complicated . In fact, Goldberg was lampooning these types of inventions/ideas and so technically he isn’t being disparaged when someone critiques something as being like a Rube Goldberg Device. It’s an honor!
Secondly, the last 5 minutes of McKenna’s talk this week is particularly stunning. I want to expand a bit on the front and back of one of the quotes you already pulled:
“It’s very hard for us to understand this because we accept this medium [television] so thoroughly into our lives. But in fact it is shaping our value systems in ways that are very hard to suspect or even detect. I mean Television, for example, is a drug. It has a series of measurable and physiological parameters that are as intrinsically its signature as the parameters of heroin are its signature. I mean, you sit somebody down in front of a TV set and and turn it on. Twenty minutes later come back, sample their blood pressure, their eye movement rate, blood is pooling in their rear end, their breathing takes on a certain quality. They are thoroughly zoned on a drug. And when you think about the fact that the average American watches 6 1/2 hours of tv a day… Imagine if a drug had been introduced in 1948 that we all spent six and one-half hours per day, on average, watching. And the one thing about drugs, in their defense, is that it’s very hard to diddle the message. A drug is a mirror, but television isn’t a mirror. Television is a billboard, and anybody who pays their money can put their message into the trip. This is an extraordinarily insidious situation.
“What McLuhan wanted to become, I think, was the founder of a general new sophistication about media. And he was essentially parodied to death by guess what? Media. They made of him an icon of cultural incomprehensibility. Not since Einstein have you been so pre-programmed in advance to believe ‘You ain’t gonna understand this guy.’ And that’s what they said about McLuhan and, consequently, his message and his insight failed. We will have to reinvent McLuhan around the turn of the century because we are producing forms of media of such interactive power and potential social impact that we’re going to have to go back and rethink all of this.”
Amazing. I just want to say that I feel we DID get a McLuhan reinvention right around the turn of the century and his name was David Foster Wallace. He fits quite a few of the criteria: (1) successfully wrote with an elevated sense of sophistication about media in both his fiction and his non-fiction, (2) was parodied by the media and presented as impenetrable to any casual passerby (I can think of 3 Onion stories off the top of my head that parodied how long and unapproachable his books were). I mean, just look at this quote of his from a radio interview:
“It seems to me that the nervous systems that now receive all this information today are vastly more complicated, difficult, cynical, and overhyped than they used to be. The easy example is, and one that I go over again and again with students in my writing class is: these students are far more afraid of coming off as sentimental then they are coming off as twisted, obscene, gross– things that used to be the horrible asepcts you didn’t want to portray about yourself. And it would appear that the great danger of appearing sentimental is that sentimentality is mainly now used in what would appear to be very cynical marketing and mass entertainment devices that are meant to sort of manhandle the emotions of large numbers of people who aren’t paying close attention. So that some of the most urgent themes or issues like ‘how to deal with mourning the loss of someone you love very much’ have been so adulterated by cynical commercial art that it becomes very, very, very difficult to think about how to talk about in a way that’s not more of that crap.” – David Foster Wallace, Bookworm Radio Show
This kind of statement is wildly prescient & wise in my opinion. If you’re interested reading DFW tackling the subjects of media saturation & struggling to be an authentic human (those two topics are forever linked in Wallace’s mind) I suggest the following non-fiction essays: E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, Host, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, The View From Mrs.Thompson’s, Present Tense, and his commencement speech to Kenyon College. His fiction, especially Infinite Jest, of course unpacks this subject as well. In fact, I’m continually surprised that Infinite Jest isn’t more popular in psychedelic-culture circles. All of our regular topics of discussion appear on page after page.
Great work Lorenzo. I look forward to more discussion about all of this. If there’s some other place the conversation is going on (like a message board or something) please let me know. Best- Ryan
Thanks for your insights, I love McKenna and admire McLuhan but I cannot penetrate Wallace, but you inspire me to try again. I have got to find out what is the big deal with this guy.
Towards the end of the podcast McKenna says that we need to invent a new McLuhan for the end of the century. In fact, a new McLuhan did manifest himslef – in the form of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. His message was informed by McLuhan but in much the way that Marx was a reinterpretation of Hegal. And like McLuhan his message, complicated as it was, is largley maligned and misunderstood – especially in Anglo-speaking countries.
But well worth a read and definitely psychedelic in the way that McKenna claims that Joyce is psychedelic.
And on Joyce, Part 1 of the podcast was so seductive that I’ve already gone to Amazon and purchased a copy of Finnigan’s Wake and the Campbell key. Lets hope I have more success than when in my early 20s I tried to take on Joyce’s Ulyssess – where I failed miserably in that literary agonistic contest!
Thanks for the podcasts. I have no real interest in psychedelics (well not for 30 odd years!). But I do love the podcasts.
I too live without psychedelics these days — but I get high on McKenna and Lorenzo’s Psychedelic Salon
so then is a podcast a hot medium or a cold one?
i think BEFORE we need a new McLuhan, we need more of us to have heard the original.
his was a mind that was so far ahead of it’s time that his words are still timely and even prescient now…