Podcast 180 – “What Science Forgot”


Guest speaker: Terence McKenna


[NOTE: All quotations below are by Terence McKenna.]

“Is there any permission to hope? More specifically, is there any permission for smart people to hope? I mean it’s easy to hope if you’re stupid, but is there any basis for intelligent people to hope? … I think so.”
Bruce Damer, Terence McKenna, & Roberto Venosa
“I live in an aura of hope because I live in a twilight world of my own self-generated, cannabinated fantasy, and I forget that not everyone is so fortunate.”

“What I’ve observed is that nature builds on previously established levels of complexity.”

“An added wrinkle [to the story of ever-increasing complexity] is that each advancement into complexity, into novelty, proceeds more quickly than the stage that preceded it. This is very profound.”

“I say, if in fact novelty is the name of the game. If in fact the conservation and complexification of novelty is what the universe is striving for, then suddenly our own human enterprise, previously marginalized, takes on an immense new importance. We are apparently players in the cosmic drama. And in this particular act of the cosmic drama we hold a very central role. We are at the pinnacle of the expression of the complexification in the animal world.”

“Since the rise of Western monotheism, the human experience has been marginalized. We have been told that we were unimportant in the cosmic drama. But we now know from the feedback that we’re getting from the impact of human culture on the Earth that we are a major factor shaping the temperatures of the oceans, the composition of the atmosphere …”

“History is a state of incredible destabilization. It’s a chaostrophy in the process of happening.”

“It’s very important to science to eliminate from its thinking any suspicion that this eschaton might exist. Because if it were to exist it would impart to reality a purpose. … Science is incredibly hostile toward the idea of purpose.”

“Reality is accelerating toward an unimaginable Omega point.”

“So why hope? Isn’t it just a runaway train out of control? I don’t think so. I think the out-of-control-ness is the most hopeful thing about it. After all, whose control is it out of? You and I never controlled it in the first place. Why are we anxious about the fact that it’s out of control. I think that if it’s out of control then our side is winning.”

“We represent a kind of concrescence of universal intent. We’re not mere spectators, or a cosmic accident, or some sideshow, or the Greek chorus to the main event. The human experience IS the main event.”

“In our species complexity has turned inward upon itself. And in our species time has accelerated. Time has left the gentle ebb and flow of gene transfer and adaptation that characterizes biological evolution, and instead historical time is generated.”

“It is impossible to conceive of another thousand years of human history. History then is ending. History is a kind of gestation process. It’s a kind of metamorphosis. It’s an episode in the life of a species.”

“Culture is merely clothing on the human experience.”

“The body is the nexus of the mystery of life, and our culture takes us out of the body.”

“More and more, the message that people are getting as they avail themselves of the psychedelic experience is that it is not a journey into the human unconscious, or into the ghost bardos of our chaotic civilization. It’s a journey into the presence of the Gaian Mind.”

“We now hold, through the possession of these psychedelics, catalysts for the human imagination of sufficient power that if we use them we can deconstruct the lethal vehicle that is carrying us toward the brink of Apocalypse We can deconstruct that vehicle and redesign it into a kind of starship that would carry us and our children out into the broad starry galaxy we know to be awaiting us.”


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Posted in Consciousness, Culture, Evolution, Psychedelics, Terence McKenna (mp3), War on Drugs and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. There was another good quote.
    “Now, the model that attracts me to the psychedelic experience is not that, it makes you smarter – a kind of simple minded idea.” Time 26:16

    And by the way. Writing that earlier comment after Terence finished, and THEN listening to the rest was a good thing. Because it kind of felt I got an answer to my comment from you. And it further increased the amount of what was to get from this podcast.

  2. “Evolution is somehow a word appropriate to biology and appropriate nowhere else.” -T. McKenna
    39:00Daniel Pinchbeck – Life boat communities
    All culture is being sold. All culture is being sold down the river by that sort of of people who want to turn the whole planet into an international arrivals consort.
    Nobody wants to take responsibility of healing a patient which would look bad on your CV. In other words, if somebody can’t be helped, leave him to die and cut off all ties, so you won’t look bad and lose your credibility -when you fail- don’t let him die in your arms. That’s the complete opposite what is said in Buddhism. Helping the terminally ill is considered a very positive act which will have good consequences.

    Yea it’s not very easy to help people maybe that’s true. Why should it be? And why should I as a emotionally worthless piece of nature continue to strive towards a /science word included/ hypothesized forward escape into the imagination? since everybody is feeling something all the time, My job would in the case of these questions be to get rid of ego because why it should be easy to help people is unfortunately not my virtue to explain. Sorry for long comment.

  3. Comments from original blog page: http://www.matrixmasters.net/blogs/?p=1166

    Does any else find it disturbing how McKenna consistently misrepresents science as being a dogma especially with regard to the big bang. But then he says something like, time itself is speeding up.
    Well if time somehow were to decouple from events and speed up then the events would in effect slow down in relation to time. That to me sounds like a classic example of nonsensical dogma.

    yep, wHat you stated was completely non sensical.

    TM states a relevant detail about Humanity-perception. space/time perception. He is not representinG science. He”s representinG Himself(?). in order for tHe mind to Grasp tHe ideas He”s puttinG fortH, He must use some sort of familiar word/symbol-like science.

    Quite enjoyable, this one. I am not usually on board with Terence’s eschatological views, but I found myself quite moved this time around.

    I have heard a very similar talk before, but it’s always nice to hear Terence working his magic. I think it’s great that he gave us ideas about how the psychedelics could maybe help get us out of some of the more destructive cultural mindsets and gear us up to be more of a partner with gaia.

    I’m always getting less and less enamored with his talk about the eschaton, though. Certainly not because I think I’ve seen things more clearly or anything, but his vision is heavily infused with calls for “boundary-dissolution” and the revival of “eros”–and the more i think about those trends extending to some sort of singularity, the bleaker it seems to me.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I like having (at least some of) the boundaries that culture has been able to set up for us. Sitting in a room alone with a book can be great! (and I’ve heard Terence, himself, was quite the bookworm.) Also, getting to know a lover in a very deep and spiritual sense is important to a lot of people, too–and would be compromised if our more “tribal” connections to “others” allowed for less intimacy between a particular pair of individuals. Did Terence think the process of boundary-dissolution would end before that?. Anyhow, how might the boundaries between individuals dissolve? Would it happen all at once, or might groupings of people “melt together” or something? Could we still be individuals? If so, then to what extent? (Of course, “no man’s an island” but Terence might be suggesting something else…)

    Also, it was interesting to hear him begin this talk with an explanation of the term “eros” that helped me to expand my sense of the word beyond its associations with the English word “erotic”–but i think Terence does tend to hanker back to the “erotic” a lot. I’ve heard from podcasts here in the Salon that Terence was known to say that he wasn’t a “love-bug”. And I remember hearing Bruce Damer (I think! Maybe it was Lorenzo…?) in a podcast talking about how Terence wasn’t always a paragon of sensitivity, and maybe wasn’t suited to the sort of relationships that people close to him would’ve wished for. I don’t mean to criticize him for that in itself–many people (everyone…) can run into varying degrees of trouble in matters of the heart, it takes two to tango, etc. But it’s always in the back of my mind when I hear his calls for bringing back the mushroom-induced orgies he postulates happened in pre-historic Africa, his encouragement of sexual experimentation, his disdain for monogamy, and, finally, his assertion that so much will depend on how much “love” people will be able to bring into the post-historic “age”. Does he mean what I mean when he says “love”? Whether I’m reading Emerson write about Love, listening to Terence, or hearing about “free-love” on some commune, I am always struck by a disappointing sense of shallow passion. And I know it isn’t just me.

    I know my criticisms here might be a bit of cherry-picking, and it’s hard to take into account all of the nuances that come glittering off of Terence’s bardic brilliance–so maybe I’m being a bit unfair, or mischaracterizing things. And I feel terrible dragging my memories of second-hand accounts of his character into my analysis. But I think there’s something to think about in all of this.

    You raise some good questions, Bill.

    I would say it would help in understanding Terence to know Plato, Plotinus, and the Neo-Platonists, especially regarding Eros, which is much much different than the rather shallow meaning we give “erotic” today. There is a lot to be said about it, but a quick spin around the internet should give a good idea.

    Also, regarding Love – the Greeks, in keeping with the above, had at least 3 words referring to love of some sort. Agape, Eros, Philia. Usually these get looked at as “brotherly love,” “desire for the other,” and “friendship,” respectively. I cite this just to add to discussion about what “love” means.
    It is an important thing to ask just what is meant when someone speaks about love, and of course I can’t answer whether TM meant what you mean when you say love. It seems to me that the idealized love of the psychedelic scene is closer to agape, an unconditional acceptance, compassion.

    Terence definitely was a bookworm, and definitely loved many elements of our culture and the cultures of others. I think the point of saying “culture is not your friend” is to expose us to the idea that culture is something which cages us as much as it keeps us safe, and we need to keep an eye on that ambiguity.

    And as for the idea of boundary dissolution, and your very good example of intimacy with another individual, I tend to think that boundaries are still understood in practical sense, but that at the level of actual truth they are all seen as merely practical, lines in the sand so to speak.

    Fantastic talk by Terence Mc Kenna.

    I just love his brilliant critic of the big-bang theory.

    And what a synchronicty: Just today, this morning I discovered the music of Atomic Skunk for the very first time. In fact I added it to my last.fm online radio. Then, a few hours after, I hear Lorenzo recommending it!

    Enjoy yourSELF!

    Made of Clay, thanks for helping to focus on how the word “love” can be understood in different ways in different cultures by different people. It might seem to be a kind of obvious thing to some, but when the memes are being presented for some sort of eschatological recipe, I think the audience needs to try and understand what the ingredients really are.

    The nearness of the word “eros” to the english word “erotic” is a possible source of misunderstanding–but, keeping in mind how sexually charged his vision often is, I think the word’s “erotic” overtones likely played a role in Terence’s decision to use the term. (I checked out the word ‘Eros’ on wikipedia, found an entry about the Greek god, and there wasn’t much to distance it from eroticism, but there was an interesting connection to the idea of a “creative” force, perhaps distinct to males). I don’t want to make the mistake of concluding that the personal predilictions of such a powerful thinker can’t be separated from more universal interpretations by the wider audience–but still… It’s him talking, and he could’ve used a less-loaded word.

    I recently listened to ‘Rethinking Society’ (podcast 143, 1:13:00) , and Terence was sort of was putting out a call to arms, asking us to spread a ‘meme’ about the dematerialization of culture (which included his hope–which he spins in a very appealing way–that it might one day become standard practice for us to implant a high-tech contact lens in the eyelids of every child, so that all of us might be treated to an internet/virtual reality infusion of information whenever we closed our eyes). What I wonder is, when Terence is talking about the eschaton, is he trying to objectively ‘translate’ what he has intuited, or is he trying to ‘spin’ what he thinks is happening, or is he trying to ‘make’ a future that particularly appeals to him, and (with the best of intentions) strike these particular blows in a sort of “meme-war” with us as foot-soldiers?

    I think the best defense against any creeping “Orwellian-ism” that I sometimes (rightly or wrongly) detect in Terence’s talks these days is this sort of discussion. Thanks again, Made of Clay, you maybe have given me an excuse to flip through Plato’s Republic some more (podcast 29 was the last time that happened!). And that’s a great point, too, about how his typical audience would have had a particular expectation of what the word “love” would refer to.

    No wonder He appeals. Always been called a “mystery” by my friends. CuttinG edGe ideas on tHe constructive process of DISCOVERY usinG tHe mysteries of life. We can be very inspired by tHe mysteries of life. Or we can succumb to vaGue stupidities—name and cast tHem away, to make a “biG banG”.

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