Podcast 440 – “The Tao of the Ancestors”


Guest speaker: Terence McKenna

Art by Jaret JohnstonPROGRAM NOTES:

[NOTE: All quotations are by Terence McKenna.]

“The present is this hairline division between the past and the future, and the past exists in memory largely for the coordination of some agenda in the future. And that’s history!”

“We have thought of history as something that we do. History is something that is done to us, and therefore we are not responsible. This is the first thing to understand. History is a process. It’s like waves in the ocean, and you are a cork.”

“That’s what the psychedelic experience is. It opens the inner eye, and what the inner eye sees is time.”

“A human being is a kind of a plant/animal combination when they are at perfection. That’s why shamanism is such a high ideal, because what shamanism really is is a symbiosis with the plant world.”

“Western civilization is the bundled group of civilizations that have been most distant from plant hallucinogens for the longest time.”

“Without doubt, in my mind, the most unique feature of psilocybin is that it speaks. It speaks in your native tongue.”

“All other spiritual disciplines drive with the accelerator to the floor. That’s how you do it. When you come to psychedelics suddenly there arises a great interest in locating the brakes.”

“Technology is biology pursued by other means.”


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Posted in Consciousness, Evolution, MDMA, Psilocybin, Terence McKenna (mp3).


  1. Thanks for the amazing podcast Lorenzo! I just made a smasll contribution to the pledge drive. Given the hours of enjoyment & steady stream of strange ideas that I derive from the salon, it is the least I can do.

    Lorenzo, as a human being with knowledge of the mushroom, you are especially well qualified to have an opinion on McKenna’s stoned ape theory. There have a been a few inspired moments in my life, bemushroomed, where I have had the revelation that our relationship with this organism must have played a significant part in the behaviour and evolution of our species. This is especially so if you’ve ever lived in an area where species of psilocybe mushrooms grow naturally. It truly is remarkable that a direct connection to the consciousness that permeates the universe can be initiated simply by picking and eating a wild mushroom, an organism that follows us around by forming symbiotic relationships with the animals we farm, and the plants we use.

    I feel there are also lessons to be learnt from McKenna’s other original idea, the timewave – or more specifically, the eschaton. After explaining the more overt aspects of the timewave (i.e. fractal mountain and how it relates to historical events), Terence would often also drop an interesting thought into the mix, almost as a throwaway remark – that while talk of a global or universal apocalypse may be purely speculation, the personal apocalypse is a certainty. It is that tingling in the feelings sensation you get when you realise your own mortality and the preciousness of existing in this moment. The timewave is a metaphor for our own birth, life and death.

  2. It seems on further research that there are a few (but not many) monogamous primate species, essentially arboreal monkeys. Nevertheless the vast majority are not, including all those most closely related to us.

    I am not convinced that the “whole idea” of McKenna’s theory was to postulate a cause for the increase in brain size, but I agree that this is the only part of it which in fact survives as a hypothesis today, and that this phenomenon remains unexplained.

    My reference to P. bonobo was merely to show that primates can be sexually promiscuous without the need to attribute this behavior trait to an element in the diet. This of course has all been developed in Ryan and Jetha’s “Sex at Dawn”, the original inspiration for which, although never to my knowledge acknowledged, may indeed well be McKenna’s speculations, which I think have been a deep well of inspiration for many researchers who have nevertheless been considerably more rigorous in their development of his ideas.

  3. PJ, there are many primates that are monogamous, in particular, most (if not all?) of the New World Monkeys live in monogamous pairs and family groups. Also, the mentioning of the Bonobo does not imply that they were exposed to psilocybin too, but to make a point about their sexual lifestyle (orgiastic and matriarchal). Funny enough, it is thought that their social structure is partly due to the abundance of resources in their environment, so that they don’t have to compete much for food, etc. This fits McKenna’s theory of our ancestors living at one with nature in a Goddess-worshiping culture in a time when the Earth was plentiful.

    The whole idea of the Stone Ape theory is, IMHO, not so much to explain the “fall from grace” (or selfish drift as you put it) but to postulate a cause for the tremendous increase in brain size in such short period of evolutionary time. A fact that evolutionary biologists are still not able to convincingly explain.

  4. McKenna’s theory may have a kernel of truth but as he states it, it is full of holes. Firstly, he claims all primates are monogamous. In fact, no primate is monogamous (unless you believe Homo sapiens to be). Minor error. In the same talk he acknowledges the closeness of Pan bonobo, which speciated in the Congo rainforest south of the Congo river where (today anyway) there are no psilocybin mushrooms. Nevertheless its social organization shows strong tribal bonding through recreational sex. Psilocybin only potentiates what is already present in the mind. Socioeconomic developments are more than sufficient to explain the selfish drift of society without any need to hypothesize a role for psilocybin. Nevertheless it could be that psilocybin played a role in brain development and it certainly is the case that it is restorative of a more biologically innate social behavior.

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