Podcast 450 – “The Primacy of Direct Experience”


Guest speaker: Terence McKenna


[NOTE: All quotations are by Terence McKenna.]

“These psychedelics, which in the Sixties and Fifties were simply called consciousness expanding drugs, a good old phenomenological description, if there is an iota of possibility that they expand consciousness then we must put out attention on this area. Because it is the absence of consciousness that is making our situation so very uncomfortable.”

“Where spiritual advancement is discussed, I want psychedelics to be discussed. Where transformative social visions are put forth, I want psychedelics to be part of the agenda.”

“The historical enterprise is an effort to turn the human body inside out so that the soul becomes visible, and the body becomes a process that you can command in the imagination.”


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

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


  1. All I can say is this man (terence) has moved me like some intense plant relationship that I’ve had …… thank you for this podcast and it’s so reassuring to know that there are other people that appreciate and internalize ideas of this nature

  2. Every once in a while I miss Terence so much I feel like my heart is breaking. And I’ve never met him.

    The 21st century so needs him. So sad.

  3. Okay this is just ridiculous why should I DL this to hear you Lorens tell me what it’s about. You only post the quotes and never even change what you wrote .. it’s like you knew it. You are just a proud

    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: I have no idea what you are saying.]

  4. Cosmic,

    if you count social phenomena like corporations (and every other social institution) as AI, well… that’s an uncommon and very broad definition of AI. Sure, any organized group of people has some kind of power or will (maybe even call it intelligence) of its own.

    The AI discussion focuses on man-made machines operating with strict mathematical logic (computers) – because proponents of “strong” AI claim that such machines are (theoretically) able to not only mimic certain human behavior in an automated way, but to have a form of consciousness, to understand, to be intelligent – like us humans.

  5. We’ve lived with AIs for at least hundreds of years and are quite use to them — to the extent that most people don’t even notice. In the vernacular, we call them ‘Corporations’ which are legally treated as “persons” by most governments (which, BTW, are also AIs).

    Do Corporations pass the Turing Test? Yes!

    Do Corporations have aches and pains and worry about cancer and dying? You bet!

    Widen your view, people! AIs don’t have to be computers or other pieces of hardware.

    Peace to All, Cosmic

  6. Anyone interested in the AI debate should take a look at John Searle’s “chinese room” thought experiment. I think it’s fairly convincing.


    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: That is an interesting article. I can also argue the question in this way. The first sentence of that article says: “The Chinese room is a thought experiment presented by John Searle to challenge the claim that it is possible for a computer running a program to have a “mind” and “consciousness”[a] in the same sense that people do,” The reason I point out “in the same sense” is that this implies that the computer consciousness version must also have aches and pains and worry about cancer and dying, otherwise it wouldn’t be “in the same sense” IMO.]

  7. Terence often said “everything is made out of language”. Recently
    science is saying everything is information (language). That what
    is evolving is not fundamentally species but information. Is all
    that we and are (and everything else) encoded in the fabric of reality?
    Is AI not artificial but the basic nature of what is? Doesn’t a computer (in some sense) contain all that its builders learned and experienced to produce it?

  8. http://arxiv.org/abs/1502.05417

    The Evolution of Popular Music: USA 1960-2010

    ABSTRACT: In modern societies, cultural change seems ceaseless. The flux of fashion is especially obvious for popular music. While much has been written about the origin and evolution of pop, most claims about its history are anecdotal rather than scientific in nature. To rectify this we investigate the US Billboard Hot 100 between 1960 and 2010. Using Music Information Retrieval (MIR) and text-mining tools we analyse the musical properties of ~17,000 recordings that appeared in the charts and demonstrate quantitative trends in their harmonic and timbral properties. We then use these properties to produce an audio-based classification of musical styles and study the evolution of musical diversity and disparity, testing, and rejecting, several classical theories of cultural change. Finally, we investigate whether pop musical evolution has been gradual or punctuated. We show that, although pop music has evolved continuously, it did so with particular rapidity during three stylistic “revolutions” around 1964, 1983 and 1991. We conclude by discussing how our study points the way to a quantitative science of cultural change.

  9. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

    (Article with that quote appeared in the May 3 issue of Techcrunch, but quote (by a Tom Goodwin) was picked up by NYT’s Tom Friedman on May 20.)

    Just to add some weight to the claim made about a critical mass of people getting online in 2012 was a huge turning point.

  10. I generally Enjoy Terrance. His breadth of historic,science, and cultural references and experience and his ability to take any topic into real depth and unexpected directions are an immense pleasure. The 2012 thing did show that he could let speculative material get the better of common sense. But I respect the way he approached the idea of directionality and the possibility of an end of history and linear time.
    Sometimes I feel Terrance’s penchant for science fiction ran ahead of his skeptical analysis, and particularly as regards artificial intelligence and computers. What I don’t get about the whole expectation for the realization of computer based consciousness is the problem of want or desire or motive. The difficulty is not to get a machine to compute an answer to a question; the difficulty is to get what is essentially a cleverly designed set of mirrors to ask an original question. Our curiosity is related to our many biological appetites. We want to stay alive, want to eat, want ecstatic pleasure and spend a lifetime exploring our ecstaticresponse to music or touch, fragrance, visual beauty, we want to give some meaning to our experience, want to understand others and connect to them. It all comes from being alive and the appetite that drives life to reproduce and thus extend life beyond ourselves. Where can a collection of electronic parts, switches designed to feed our particular talking monkey communication interests …acquire any appetite or desire to do anything? There is no program that imparts desire. This is really the same as the yet inscrutable mystery of the gap between self-aware existence and non-living , non-breathing non-metabolizing materials. Algorithms are stearing wheels and nothing more.

    This whole urge t that dream machines will save us bothers this crazy artist on another level too. It seems like we want to be Gods before we have learned to play and work in a friendly and respectful manner with other life forms on the planet. If psychedelics are a door into the Gaian mind and to selfless realization of the eternal harmonies available to the fully awake soul, isn’t there some sense that these medicines and all other practices that cultivate peaceable wisdom should be used to help us develop the skill and love needed to redirect the forces of greed, ager, fear , violence, status seeking etc. that threaten the human and Gaian experiment.
    Wouldn’t anything else be a failure of the whole human enterprise?

    I fear that if the ai project were possible( I deeply doubt we are remotely near such a thing) the only possible result at the present moment of human history would be that all our insanity and self interest will be passed into these ever more powerful and interconnected machines who have no need of water, air, touch, respect.

    [COMMENT by Lornezo: I really like this comment and agree with it. My personal opinion is that there is simply no way that our consciousness (mind? memories? ego?) can be uploaded/downloaded into silicon. For example, how would you write the algorithm for an orgasm? Interestingly, at least to me, is to notice how my opinions on this subject have changed over the years. And I’m not sure that it is because I’m getting older or because I better understand the difficulties of building a true AI that can “feel” like a human. As I age, eternal life seems to lose its luster. :-)]

  11. I really enjoyed the series, despite the clicks. Thanks for making it available through your podcast, Lorenzo!

  12. Tim:

    Would you not read a book with yellowed, every so slightly obscured pages? What if it was rare and contained special information? What if it was the only copy?
    Point being, I really don’t get why people care about the audio quality when it’s the content that is important, it’s a privilege we even get the content at all!

  13. Thank god this clicky series is over! Please post Camden talks if you see them. Thank you for this podcast.

  14. 2012….
    The year 33% of the world got connected to the Internet. A critical turning point? When Terence said that history will end because the perfect tool had been created, and that the temporal dimension will be opened up, I can’t help but thinking of the effect the Internet (an iPhone plus Wikipedia anybody?) has on people’s relationship to history. In a way, it is ending, an ending is only now possible because our new tools allow enough people to grasp history enough to act appropriately.

    Also in 2012 the USA, champion and spearhead of the War on Drugs, had two states completely legalise cannabis, by power of the voting people. A huge first step in shutting down the monster that has been created; their lead is being followed.

    I think Terence’s end point to predictable history in 2012 in the light of these two points seems reasonable if not correct.

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