Podcast 374 – “Bootstrapping Ourselves”


Guest speaker: Terence McKenna


[NOTE: All quotations are by Terence McKenna.]

“Ego is the absolute impediment to Tao.”

“We live in a domain of triviality that we have created.”

“Do we embody the radiant correctness of what we say we are pursuing.”

“I see the psychedelic experience as a birthright, and we can’t have a free society until people are free to explore their own mind.”

“I’m as against restricting access to drugs as I am to burning books. It offends me in the same way.”

“If you’re interested in drugs, the first stop is the library. And it’s a long stop. And you educate yourself.”

“In order to be free I must not believe anything. Then all things can be freely commanded in the mind.”

“It takes months to assimilate a large psychedelic trip.”

“I think the worst thing you can do is diddle with low doses. The nibblers of this world are no friends of mine. It should be overwhelming, and it should be an act of courage”


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

Book mentioned in this podcast

Amazing Dope Tales
by Stephen Gaskin

Russell Brand Sounds Off!

Posted in Consciousness, Creativity, Culture, Imagination, Psychedelics, Shamanism, Terence McKenna (mp3).


  1. The courage to be…. a transcript written listening to Terence McKenna:

    We can’t have a free society until people are free to explore their own minds. It’s so obvious. I am against restricting access to drugs as much as I am to burning books. It offends me in the same way. People must be free. We are the measure of the political universe; not the state, not the race; these have all been tried with horrible results.

    Individual beings must be free. Anything which ameliorates that must be looked at very, very carefully. Sexuallity and the restriction of information access and understanding that revolves around that issue for the past five hundred years just shows me that we don’t want to go into that with the mind. Because anything can be taboo. Your genitals don’t need to be taboo. Your mind can be taboo… anything can be taboo. But the presence of the taboo is so destructive, alienating and makes community so impossible, that we need to take individual people and make them free. That is the system where freedom has to be maximized.

    I don’t say that we have to convert these people to the existence of magic; in fact we don’t have to convert them to anything. The nature of the beast, meaning the nature of these hallucinogens, will set the agenda, once we are free to enquire. That’s all… freedom of inquiry.

    On one level you are right, the laws are totally irrelevant; we ignore them, so does everyone else. You mean we worry about them; styles of taking and styles of getting together. This is like the same question about sexuality or automobiles or anything. Obviously, though we say all people are created equal, we don’t sell guns to eight year olds and this sort of thing. But in the context of reasonable people, attempting to reach reasonable positions, I think this should be as free as possible.

    I think there should be an institution for handling it. You see, if we were a primitive or a preliterate society, there would be shamans who would be professionals and they would take out the adolescent boys and girls, and put them through ceremonies that would initiate them into the secret life and belief systems of the tribe and then certain ones would be selected out to be the shamans of the next generation. We don’t have any kind of institution like that.

    Part of my motivation for a public career is my belief that psychotherapy can be this. The motivation behind psychotherapy is totally correct, but how can we make it real? Shamanism does this. I wouldn’t go to a shaman for a cure if I had carcinoma or something like that. I regard them most effective in the realm of mental problems, psychological conditions.

    If you are interested in drugs, the first stop is the library, and it is a long stop, and you educate yourself. This all seems very natural to me, and this is how I did it and all my friends do it. In the early 1960’s there were articles in newspapers about morning glory seeds and this kind of thing. We followed-up and learned how to use scientific literature to figure out dosages. For me, I take drugs seriously, so I am perfectly aware of their capacity to cause a problem. You want to be educated, you want to have all the information. So first people need to be educated, then given the freedom to decide. Now inevitably certain people will evolve pathological lifestyles of addiction, dependency and abuse, but these people usually evolve these life styles with perfectly legal avenues. Alcohol is more conducive to these maladaptive lifestyles than almost anything else. The debilitating maladaptive drugs are all legal.

    The stuff that is restricted then is the stuff that gives you funny ideas. That’s the problem; the funny ideas category. Put that why, it doesn’t take long to see why; because funny ideas are very problematic for institutions. On the other hand, funny ideas are the life-breather of creativity. So, who are we going to make comfortable, a bunch of control freaks?

    I think it was really a mistake in the 60’s to try and take society away from the people who want to run it. To wage revolution with psychedelic drugs, where, I don’t know if those people realized that their weapon was effective enough that the world’s first nuclear power was quaking in it’s boots. Because you could produce, 10,20, 40 million hits of LSD. So, that’s terrifying to an establishment, because what if you changed 20, 40, 60 million minds? But, if it can be kept in a human scale, where you say “Out in California, people hang out at Esalen and people take off their clothes and mediate and then a few of them go on to drugs”; this doesn’t threaten anybody. The way in which LSD was used to thumb noses at the establishment brought trouble.

    I don’t think it should have been seen as a direct tool of social and political action. It should have been handled as an adjunct to creativity. It’s agenda would have surfaced. We would have ended up in a better place. This is what Aldous Huxley wanted to do. He felt you go to the power freaks in a non-threatening way. You don’t say to them, “Hey Mr. Dean… hey Mr. President… a hundred thousand acid heads have surrounded you administration building and if you don’t exceed to these non-negotiable demands, we are going to pull the place apart. But no, you send his friend, who he went to Yale with to him, who says, “You know… a few of us have been getting together and there is really this extraordinary thing happening and you should be brought in on this. This is going to be tremendous.” But… it polarized.

    Do we exemplify enough what we know and what we feel? And if we don’t… how can we? Because this is our faith. I believe that we have something precious that we want to give to those who are operating without awareness of it.

    Ego-death… I don’t conceive it as a dissolving into whiteness; I conceive it as a coming to terms with a world that wants to be recognised all around us.

    Psychedelics don’t say how the world really is, they say how the world really isn’t. That’s what they always do, they negate; they say “no, it isn’t that. It isn’t that. And it isn’t even that. So they aren’t offer a replacement faith; it’s really a region of doubt. This is what drives people crazy; they say “Well, you don’t believe in anything.” Damn right…. it wasn’t easy to get to this place of not believing in anything. But it’s not an existential abandonment, it’s not like I don’t believe in anything… it’s that in order to be free, I must not believe… anything. Then all things can be freely commanded in the mind. And that’s what psychedelics show. Everything you think is wrong, and everything you think now is wrong, therefore even your most advanced thoughts are provisional; therefore if you like thinking, think, but don’t think that thinking is somehow important; it really isn’t, but it’s hard to learn that.

    The purpose is to enrich the down state, because this is where we live actually. People who take drugs all the time are getting the wrong effect. Your system just adapts. Everything becomes like caffeine after a while. It becomes like caffeine or it becomes like opium. It either puts you to sleep or wires you up. It’s about doing it with attention and in a ritual setting; and high enough doses that you get somewhere. The worst thing you can do is low doses; it should be overwhelming and an act of courage.

    What we have to do… is each of us tell our story. Somebody thought it was wonderful. Somebody thought it was terrible. Each tell our story, then try to create a set of techniques; out of that fine what works. This is what I have been doing for 25 years. My peers at CAL, we did drugs a lot, but what we really did was talk about it an awful lot. What is it; trying to understand it. Try to compete with each other for the metaphors that would encapsulate it. And out of this has come a very grassroots kind of consensus which unites ideas like shamanism, an invisible world, the importance of holding down ego, the importance of paying attention, that nature is somehow a friend and an ally. We are putting it together ourselves; it isn’t a science. It’s an art. Shamanism is an art. And we take what we can get from all these other traditions. Maybe we are doing better than we think?


  2. Did y’all see this yet? http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=52b_1329796059#mciSuFCRpuZZ4sB2.01 🙂

    I don’t know much about American politics (cos I’m from Norway) but this is really cool. Of course, maybe Ron Paul isn’t any solution at all, and neither is voting, and this could be viewed as a very veeeeeery clever media move to control the masses into shifting the power over to Ron Paul.

    But even so, even for all of us who believe much more in a kind of anarcho-syndicalist local approach to a new world society with an overarching feeling of shared humanity across all cultures and frontiers, rather than that centralized power actually can work out, shouldn’t we admit that for the huge masses of people who don’t share our view in this matter, there should be progress and hope and options as well? Isn’t it necessary to make the best possible use of all the infrastructures and social mechanisms that the societies of the world have built up over time through toil and constructive ideological zeal, and not discard them completely?

    I suspect it’s easy to agree that this amazing flash of more than true enough truth that unexpectedly showered into the faces of all fox-viewers, is way more a good thing than a bad thing.

    And I think it is meant 100% sincerely. He lost his job for this.

    I feel it is somewhat on a par with Russell Brand’s thought-provoking behavior in the media lately, which can be used to affect a change in the way people think and act. Of course people may get ideas that are not always going to lead to the most desired behavior or the most constructive results, after all Brand is not instructing people in detail on how to go about to make the perfect world. (Even McKenna is only right for certain minds when it comes to being instructive, and we are all responsible for always getting the adequate instruction – or better: instructing ourselves – before acting anyway.) But in my opinion this kind of stirring up the masses is better than the alternative, which is the same-old same-old sheepish status quo of TV-adicts who’d otherwise never have gotten their emotions or thoughts stirred in a similarly potentially clarifying way.

    On the surface 2013 might have seemed like something of an anticlimax after the expectations tied up to 2012. It’s all up to each of us, but I think the effects of the global change in consciousness are already more than evident.

    Change is happening on so many levels, and it’s getting harder and harder to find true enemies of it 🙂

  3. “I’m taking it!” – Russel Brand

    Awesome. Another great find, Lorenzo 🙂

    Also had a thought earlier about Terence’s characterization of the late 60’s political approach. I understand that his interest is primarily in the psychological, the sociological, the freeing of ideas, etc, but I happened to have started listening to this on November 11th, 2013. Veteran’s Day.

    What about the war, Terence? From what I have read and heard from others who were there, the war in Vietnam and the turbulent opposition to a culture of “adults” that would allow such an atrocity to occur was as much apart of the political atmosphere, as the emergence of psychedelics into youth culture. Yeah, they wanted to burn the motherfuckin house down, because on the other side of pacific ocean we were burning houses down, raping women and girls, demolishing whole villages as matter policy. We were ready for an overt revolution then, and we’re still looking for one now, because as far as our super-militarized culture is concerned, very little has changed.

    However, I do agree with his sentiment that a more effective approach is to recruit the cultural creatives to be on the front lines of our campaign. It shouldn’t be political in method, but rather social, creative and slightly incomprehensible, so that the power dealers won’t see us coming.

    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: I agree with your conclusion. IMO, if we first influence a change in the culture, then the political changes will follow.]

  4. i really must express my gratitude for this, as well as all the other podcasts here. It starts with the internet but where the rubber meets the road, is with the quality of content happened upon. the passion and sheer love of brilliant ideas is apparent here at the psychedelic salon.

    having grown up poor white american trailer trash, and for the most part only inproving my lot by a few increments, i’m so greatful for the access to so many ideas. i’m not someone who can afford to go to collage. being able to find pockets and pouches of folk who just want to spread intelligent, heartfelt, concepts for the purpose of futhering conciousness,is a big efffin’ deal!

    a hearty thanks for the quality content.

  5. Bruce: Works fine for me.

    Lorenzo: It’s Tao, not Dhow. I mean, I’m sure ego is a problem on a dhow, but that’s not The Way he meant.

    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: :-0 Thanks for the catch!]

  6. Keep them coming Lorenzo! Really enjoying this workshop. terence always seems to find a way of “speaking the unspeakable”.
    Some of my other favourite talks on the salon have been those by Kathleen Harisson and Christian Raetsch, where they get more into the ethnobotanical details such as obscure plant preparations and the cultiural beliefs surrounding there use. Do you know of any more audio by these two great speakers? I think they balance out the speculation of terence nicely.
    Bruce, it works for me, but I did have trouble accessing ll talks on the salon a week ago. Must be a big load on the server?

  7. Hi Lorenzo,
    I’m not able to open podcast 374, been a couple of days now. Any other people with same? Don’t know if it’s my system or on the net…..thanks for all the great stuff. I never knew Terrance while he lived, and have become very familiar with his work because of your efforts here in the salon.

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