Podcast 318 – “Psilocybin and the Sands of Time”


Guest speaker: Terence McKenna


This is Tape Number 002 of the Paul Herbert Collection.
Some of the topics covered in this talk:
Repression of psychedelic drugs
Element of risk in taking psychedelics
The imagination
Interiorization of the body/exterization of the soul
The importance of psychedelics
Bell’s Theorem

[NOTE: All quotations are by Terence McKenna.]

“I regard [my] degree more or less as a joke because it was self-directed study. They don’t really; there is no degree in shamanism.”

“This [repression of psychedelic drugs] has, in my opinion, held back the Western development of understanding consciousness because quite simply, these states, I do not believe, are accessible by any means other than drugs.”

“There is an element of risk [in using psychedelics]. I never tell people that there isn’t, but I think that the risk is worth it.”

“Psilocybin, tryptamine, is in my opinion the means to eliminating the future by becoming cognizant of the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and causing history, essentially.”

“The immediate future of man lies in the imagination and in seeking the dimension where the imagination can be expressed. The present cultural crisis on the surface of the planet is caused by the fact that this is not a fitting theater for the exercise of imagination. It wrecks the planet. The planet has its own Eco-systemic dynamics, which are not the dynamics of imagination.”

“A birth is a death. Everything you treasure, and believe in, and love, and relate to is destroyed for you when you leave the womb. And you are launched into another modality, a modality that perhaps you would not have chosen but that you cannot do anything about.”

“There is no knowledge without risk taking.”

“It is slowly becoming understood that the modality of being is the modality of mind.

“Flying saucers are nothing more than miracles, and they occur essentially to bedevil science.”

“The drug may not be toxic, but you may be self-toxic, and you may discover this in the drug experience.”

“I think with the work we do with these drugs we are the earliest pioneers in what over the next 100 years will lead to an understanding of consciousness almost as a thing apart from the monkey body and brain.”

“We are consciousness. We may not always be monkeys.”

So I believe that a technological re-creation of the after-death state is what history pushes toward. And that means a kind of eternal existence where there is an ocean of mind into which one can dissolve and re-form from, but there is also the self, related to the body image but in the imagination. So that we each would become, in a sense, everyone.”

“There can be no turning back. We are either going to change in to this cybernetic, hyperdimentional, hallucinogenic angel, or we are going to destroy ourselves. The opportunity for us to be happy hunters and gatherers integrated into the balance of nature, that fell away 15,000 years ago and cannot be recaptured.”

“It is the people who are ‘far out’ who are gaining advantage in the evolutionary jostling for efficacious strategies.”

“Modernity is a desert, and we are jungle monkeys. And so new evolutionary selective pressures are coming to bear upon the human situation, new ideas are coming to the fore. Psilocybin is a selective filter for this. The wish to go to space is a selective filter for this. Just the wish to know your own mind is a selective filter for this.”

“On these matters of specific fact, like is the mushroom an extraterrestrial and that sort of thing, I haven’t the faintest idea. The mushroom itself is such a mercurial, elusive, Zen sort of personality that I never believe a word it says. I simply entertain its notions and try and sort through them, and I found that to be the most enriching approach to it.”

“Could any symbol be any more appropriate of the ambiguity of human transformation? What mushroom is it that grows at the end of history? Is it Stropharia cubensis, or is it the creation of Edward Teller? This is an unresolved problem.”

PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option

Psychedemia: Integrating Psychedelics in Academia

September 27 – 30, 2012
On the campus of the University of Pennsylvania

Posted in Culture, Death, Evolution, Extraterrestial, Future, Imagination, Psychedelics, Terence McKenna (mp3).


  1. Thank You Patrick H for “delivering your two cents” in comment 11. This is by far, second to none, the best explanation of the Time/Eternity issue, i have come across. It adds greatly to my understanding of the process of time best adumbrated, till “NOW” by Alfred North Whitehead. You have made my day! Thanks again Pat!

  2. With regards to what he means by that comment… he says later on in the lecture that it’s most likely a bunch of bullshit, anyway. (I paraphrase.)

    To me, his key point is that consciousness is too immediate and too weird to be explained as simply an emergent property of matter. Any further detail is very difficult to discern. Various contradictory strains of entertaining bullshit can be thus entertained, in which we are induldged a few in this speech :).

    “The body is the placenta of the soul” — that’s my take-away from this talk!

  3. I think Terence’s baffling comment, is based on Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘eternal recurrence of all things’ in Thus Spoke Zarathustra with a Tralfamadorian twist.

    Terence’s comment may seem paradoxical, and contains the same paradox in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, but I think what Terence might be suggesting is that as he would say the universe is stranger than we can suppose, and that perhaps he is suggesting that the psilocybin mushroom can give us an idea of the workings of a system that ensures infinite space time continuum through a sort of active logos or universal mind, that both achieves the infinite through actions leading to an eschaton, and an achievement at the eschaton which directs those actions leading to that state. In a way it is a solution to Nietzsche’s paradox, since Nietzsche doesnt provide a means to the end point other than pure human will power.

    Terence’s terminology of the overmind is also Nietzschean, he seems to have substituted human for mind. Thus this human mass intelligent conciousness operating beyond and above individual human conciousness, directs us towards and our combined actions toward our goal, while the state of intelligence at the eschaton directs our own overmind towards that goal using its much higher intelligence. This as he may be suggesting is revealed by the psilocybin mushroom with its NN-DMT acting as a sort of frequency transmitter to the overmind and the eschatological mind.

  4. I think Terence’s baffling time comment, is a reflection of Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘eternal recurrence of all things’ in Thus Spoke Zarathustra with a tralfamadorian twist.

    Nietzsche’s concept has its own sort of paradox, but as Terence would say the universe is stranger than we can suppose, and I think that he perhaps thought that even the paradoxical to us, may not be so strange to the universe we live in, and that we are given glimpses of that as revealed during the altered states of consciousness induced by the psilocybin mushroom.

    Terence’s terminology of the overmind is also Nietzschean. It is as if he’s replaced the word human with mind, both the human overmind directs us towards a sort of eschatology, but the even greater overmind at the end of the universe is directing our overmind, perhaps through the psilocybin mushroom, or through other directing medium (perhaps the mushroom only reveals an approximation of or vague idea of the process to us), in order to ensure the eternal continuum of a universal system of logos or mind.

  5. I really enjoy the difficult discussion of time and eternity. Thank you for the prompt Lorenzo. I hope here to respond to my friends who have ventured to comment on this tricky topic above.

    Prior to endeavoring to deliver my two cents, I’m pressed to give a kind of preface of reflexivity. It is hard not to think or speak of eternity in terms of time, for good reason, since it is impossible. Any statement concerning eternity should seem utterly baffling, unintelligible and irreconcilable (with time), because one is always already in performative self-contradiction when speaking of it, because the modality of language and the meaning traveling through it is inherently temporal. Sharing in language is possible only by virtue of the order that time allows. Said differently, linguistic communication and thought is temporally limited, for its own sake! So by “reflexivity” I mean this, that the temporality inherent to the very act of speech (or thought) can never be one with eternity; and thus it necessarily expresses eternity with neither coherency, consistency, nor comprehension.

    Eternity is beyond all temporal limitation, not in the sense that it is above time, as if separate from it, in some heavenly realm wholly other than the here and now, but simply not dependent upon it. Thus, we have to move beyond language and thinking to experience eternity. When Terence speaks poetically of “the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and causing history,” he is providing us with a linguistic catalyst, potentially able to catapult us through and beyond the limiting threshold of language and logic. This is the wonder of poetry. Reflexivity can become conscious through the poetic act of speech, becoming a self-negating symbol pointing beyond itself. It is, of course, up to the recipient of such poetry to be open to the translinguistic/logical structuring of time into which the poetry is poking a hole, in order to peer into the deep presence of eternity, to experience it. So when Spock says to Kirk: “That sounds good captain, but it’s not logical,” we should salute both space crusaders and say “YES, indeed, because eternity is not logical!” It is not as if eternity is counter- or anti-logical, but that only its face is logical, whereas its essence is beyond logic. To be as accurate as I can, I should say that eternity is BOTH logical and not logical, and NEITHER logical nor not logical.

    There are a number of Zen koans—pedagogical puzzles and freedom keys—that gesture toward this very same point. For instance, the great ancestor and early architect of Zen, Dogen-zenji, teaches that “Time goes from present to past.” This obviously flies in the face of our logical assumption concerning time’s chronological pathway, precisely in order to blast through such an assumption! Commenting on this koan, Shunryu Suzuki teaches thus: “This is not true in our logical mind, but it is in the actual experience of making past time present. There we have poetry, and there we have human life. When we experience this kind of truth it means we have found the true meaning of time. Time constantly goes from past to present and from present to future. This is true, but it is also true that time goes from future to present and from present to past.” Many fine people get frustrated with such speak, since it sings in contradiction (like many of our favorite lyrics), but this self-reflexive negation is the only way to be true to eternity. It is to allow the structure of logic to turn on itself in critique, for the sake of revealing its architect, as it were. If you wish to maintain logic’s impassibility, you could make this point just as well by saying that this self-negation is “logic’s proper end or purpose,” or that it is “excessive logic.” But unfortunately, in light of this paradox of reflexivity, there is no “easily understandable language” capable of conveying “eternity” and its “temporal architecture.”

    I am very tempted to turn now to Lewis Carroll, but I think that you get the point. And with this disclaimer, you know ahead of time, whoops, that no matter what I say about eternity, I will be capturing only a temporal image of it, failing to express eternity itself.

    In Plato’s Timeaus (37d), Socrates maps eternity and time with a famous image: “Time is the moving image of eternity.” (This is immediately what I thought of upon hearing Terence’s “architecture” metaphor.) We might think of time or temporality, along with space, as a condition for our moving maps of eternity. Through time and space we are able to draw distinctions. Without distinction, there is no intelligibility. By drawing distinctions we are able to “measure”—considered broadly—eternity and thus render it intelligible, to whatever fallible degree that we can. Our mapping of eternity, reality, the divine, the universe—whichever concept resonates with you—seems to be a spatio-temporal matrix of meaning, which is superficially true, not to be confused with flatly false, but not the territory itself; the mapping is not itself the territory; the ____ (fill in your favored concept). Our measurement is not infallible, and therefore our maps are not infallible. Again, the maps require distinction (through or “over” the course of time), but the essence of eternity does not contain distinction. This is okay if we remind ourselves that the map is not the territory when seeking direction and plans of action. When we mistake the map for the territory, we become lost within our own labyrinth of limited measurement.

    I try to let my thinking be led by the notion of origin, or source, from which we came, to which we return, and of which we are an image. In essence, at heart, we are an eternal image, one with it, but we are only capable of concretely understanding ourselves in terms of change, movement, which must happen over a chrono-logical span—hence over time. Even though we often have a creeping feeling that there is something more going on, it seems natural to consider our existence in terms of birth, years of life, and then death. If there is eternity, it comes after death. This understanding becomes sedimented to the point at which time and its anthropogenic course are taken for granted, as the self-consistent measure of existence, of the universe, and concomitantly it is taken for granted that we have—through time—the measure of all things, including our own selves. We scoff at the notion that we are a temporal image, measured by an eternal source beyond time. Violations of logic are not to be given a moment of consideration in the tribunal of self-uncritical rationality and “timely” thinking. And yet, there are instances of experience, sand grains of eternity, so intense, that the grip of logic’s time is lost to its greater essence. Perhaps better said, time is given over to its eternal self, which is just to say that the experiencer of time is given over to his or her eternal self. Staunch rationality cannot deny this experiential or phenomenological ingression of our original eternity. Rationality can either repress and indeed oppress these immediate and ineluctable experiences—resulting in self-detriment—or it can properly re-cognize itself as the cosmic train, as to the cosmos itself. Many of grown weary of Rumi quotage, but this passage (a favorite of Huxley’s) seems too pertinent: “Reason is like an officer when the Kind appears: The officer then loses his power and hides himself. Reason is the shadow cast by God; God is the sun.”

    Rumi’s metaphor of reason as shadow and God as sun reflects the early metaphor of Plato’s, and more relevant to our psychedelic poet, gestures nicely toward the sacramental experience and “shadow work” or practice that this salon celebrates. Entheogenic, or to play with it a little we could say “eternalgenic,” experience is a testament to the presence of eternity in time, our eternal self. It opens us up to eternal experience beyond logic and time. Inversely said, it opens deep into time wherein lies our eternal self. Reason becomes humble to itself as a shadow, and must work through itself, in search of its source, the sun. This encounter with eternal self’s shadow may be akin to what Terence is referring to when he says that “the drug might not be toxic, but you may be self-toxic, and you may discover this in the drug experience.” Like the purpose of the Zen koan discussed above, the “Zen personality of the mushroom,” or other entheogens, open doors to our shadow self, as Jung coined it. They shoot you through your shadow to the eternal sun, if only “momentarily.” By working through this “spiritual emergency,” as the Grof’s put it, the self finds evermore, through this stormy search, its eternal self. The danger is of course that you may flee from this existential task, attempting to ignore the shadow; or that you attempt to face it without appealing to the wisdom of “our elders” and the love of friends. As we all know, it isn’t easy when our culture relentlessly pushes to give such a negative context to consciousness expansion, spiritual emergence, or transformation; so we should never take these entheogenic opportunities for granted. The diverse tradition of shamanism is of course a leading light of practicality us. Shamans and the group-mind(s) that they lead are said to travel through time, visiting ancestral spirits. Like Dogen-zenji’s poetic breakdown of time’s logical texture, shamanic consciousness more immediately and intensely dissolves time, allowing the comic train to traverse eternity with far more intimacy, having discovered itself to be eternity in essence.

    These sacraments hold the key that can unlock our temporal doors to eternity; they can dissolve the boundaries between shadow and sun; they can turn culture into love. Together we can work through our shadow, our finitude, and temporal maphood, with the shared wisdom that we are passing through the necessary portal that is history. As Huxley says in the Perennial Philosophy, “Man must live in time in order to be able to advance into eternity, no longer on the animal, but on the spiritual level” (141) And to paraphrase another one of his gems: “There can be no happiness or safety in time and no deliverance into eternity, until we give up thinking that slime (i.e. culture) is enough and, by abandoning ourselves to what is in fact our element, call back the eternal waters” (91). So we can honestly have compassion for our own respective selves and others, and should, as we work together to awaken from the shadowy nightmare of history to the sun of eternal love; learning to be aware here now in the “time modulating architecture” of eternity. Then only, as Terence says at the end of his “Temporal Resonance” essay in The Archaic Revival, “the moving image of time will have discovered itself to be Eternity.”

  6. July 11, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    “Can you tell me in easily understandable language what Terence is talking about when he said, and I quote, «psilocybin, tryptamine is in my opinion the means to eliminating the future by becoming cogniscient of the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and causing history, essentially»”

    He’s just talking about how psilocybin directs your attention to how the present moment creates the past and future and the feeling of time moving. Not vice-versa(past casing present, present causing future).

  7. Thanks for choosing to re-post these talks you have already aired, the quality is a vast improvement on the previous versions of this particular interview that have been floating around.

  8. Oh and Lorenzo this one is on you tube, but thanks for posting since I haven’t heard it in forever

  9. Hmmm.. Can’t find the comment I posted yesterday..

    But what happened to the “deep dive into the mind of McKenna” one? It’s no longer up

  10. Hey lorenzo,

    Those in this thread are curious why the “deep dive into the mind of mckenna” podcast has been taken down?


    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: I’ve updated that page with the following message:

    This podcast (# 316) has been temporarily removed at the request of Dennis McKenna. Unfortunately, some of the material from his upcoming book was from an early draft and will not be included in the published edition of the book.

    After consulting with Bruce Damer, I hope to be able to remove the portions of this podcast in which excerpts of Dennis’ book were read. If the program still “holds together” after those edits I will re-post this podcast.

    As for the comments, having once been in a situation where my posts were removed from a site without asking me, I deeply understand the frustration of those who took the time to make those valuable comments. All of that material has been preserved, and it is my intention to re-post the comments also.

    Thank you for understanding,


  11. I find the following to be a curious paradox: Terence basically says what the ufo is, which is a projection created by the overmind to restore balance where it has been lost, a miracle sent to bedevil science in this case. In this definition the flying saucer is not supposed to be figured out, because that would pull the carpet away from beneath its feet as it would rid it of its reason to exist. What is more, it can’t be figured out. Well then, what did Terence do? Did he figure it out or didn’t he? If he did, then that contradicts what he figured out. On the other side, if he is completely wrong about what the ufo is, then why does his theory make so much sense?

    But this occurrence of a paradox actually makes the theory consistent: He figured it out to a certain extent, but sense there is the paradox that figuring it out defeats the purpose of the mystery, there still is some figuring out left to do in order to get around the paradox, and since that seems impossible, the purpose is restored and sustained. But again, if that were to mean that we now fully understood its purpose, that very purpose would be defeated once more, and we would have to conclude that we were wrong.

    I like the workings and mercurial nature of this paradox:)

  12. “Can you tell me in easily understandable language what Terence is talking about when he said, and I quote, «psilocybin, tryptamine is in my opinion the means to eliminating the future by becoming cogniscient of the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and causing history, essentially»”

    This is Terence’s eschatology. I certainly can’t explain it in a more understandable language than he did, but I can quote and paraphrase some ideas that he said about it in other talks:

    “Eternity” is the transcendental object at the end of history. It is very similar to the christian eschatology. It is transtemporal. It is basically an enhanced version of Teilhard de Chardin’s eschatology. It is the intrusion of a multidimensional super-object into spacetime, creating a temporal shockwave that is history.

    And the shaman can see this transtemporal object. The best trips, and other miraculous events are reflections of eternity. And living into the future as much as we can means being aware of the future, and acting it out artistically, and otherwise. That’s what “being cogniscient of the architecture of eternity” means.

    And “eliminating the future” means bringing an end to history by becoming part of eternity (thus eliminating time), becoming a reflection of it, and thereby becoming part of the force that pulls time towards its completion.

    And it “modulating time” is just another way of saying that it is the creator of history, which is a higher-level structure on the surface of time, like modulation is a higher-level structure on a waveform.

  13. (Ouch. I used too many pointy brackets, let me try again:)

    «Now, there are several quite interesting comments that Terence makes in this interview, or conversation. And I suspect they’d have much less meaning without our knowing what happens later in the story of Terence McKenna. For example, at one point he’s being very careful to point out the dangers from a psychological standpoint of using psychedelic medicines. Because, as he says, and I quote, “eash journey into that dimension is a total existential commitment. And the element of fear is always there.”»

    Why would that have much less meaning?

    This is the “Mcpsilosands” recording, one of those talks that’s been online for ten years, and that I, for example have listened to many times. This is part of who Terence is for most of the fans out there, because it is part of that collection of mp3 files. I don’t see how knowing what happens later gives meaning to it. It is pretty straightforward already.

    I am still trying to figure out what “illusions” Bruce is talking about. It doesn’t make sense.

    And of course: thank you. The Psychedelic Salon is a central piece in the community-mandala for me and many others.

  14. Lorenzo, greetings and the opportunity to express gratitude for your steady good work over the years.

    Apropos SEN, it could be a reference to the Spiritual Emergence Network — they’ve used this acronym in the past. And I believe the distinguished old gent above is none other than NICK HERBERT, not (a) Paul ..

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