Guest speaker: Terence McKenna
Date this lecture was recorded: August 4, 1998
[NOTE: All quotations are by Terence McKenna.]
“A certain portion of my audience is flakier than I am comfortable with.”
“The whole point with psychedelics was to cut through the programming and the cant, and the propaganda of culture to true truth, real reality, not to just initiate an era of intellectual permissiveness where everything in the spiritual marketplace was placed on the same pedestal as Euclidean geometry.”
“It offends me that psychedelic people are susceptible to this [New Age thinking], because it seems to me that we’re the last people who should be susceptible to this. We have no need of spiritual illusions because we have access to spiritual realities through the substances and the plants. So why should we, least of all why should we, buy in to all these unanchored, wholly, fluffed-headed ideas that are being pushed in the spiritual marketplace?”
“If you’re intelligent and you live past forty you will outgrow your culture. Some people may do it sooner, but you have to be a complete idiot to just buy-in at fifty-five, at sixty, at seventy-five. At eighty what are you still going to be doing, expressing homophobic views, voting Republican, and worrying about the A, B, and C’s of phony reality? Most people get to a place where they just see it’s a bunch of crap.”
“It looks to me like ideology is one of these neonatal behaviors that culture downloads on us. In other words, belief is for kids. It’s a fairy tale. Marxism is no different than belief in the Easter Bunny. Probability theory is no different than a belief in the Easter Bunny. Everybody needs to get a grip on the uncertainty of the intellectual enterprise.”
“So the way to live with a human mind in the world is not to believe things, that’s childish. It’s undignified. The thing to do is to build models.”
PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option
I recently checked in on a Facebook group devoted to Terence, and was instantly frustrated! Within, I found that there was a rather juvenile discussion on who should play Terence in a Hollywood film. the discussion was borderline rabid fandom; the likes you might see on the internet movie database in a discussion on who should play Iron Man or Batman.
I was truly stunned.
Coincidentally (!), after a few months away from the Salon (the new world of horror-politics has called me away to other duties), I checked in and listened to this one. And, as always, Terence delighted me, and seemed to capture my frustrations with the Cult of TM that has swollen up around the internet lately. And it truly is a cult! The internet is flooded with TM “memes” now and bombastic trolls that think they “get” Terence (not that I ever claim to be an expert). The memes are feel-good TM quotes with photos or fan art, and the know-it-all trolls will shut you down in a discussion because that’s what they need to do in order to feel empowered, etc.
It’s all rather depressing.
Then, as if i wasn’t already bummed out, I went to a Robert Anton Wilson group on Facebook, and found exactly the same cult centered around his writings! Oy vey!
Finding the others is still important, but now we have a new layer to wade through to get to them. At least, there’s still Lorenzo’s Salon!! So, thanks, Lorenzo!!
I think that much of what he says is just him venting his frustration at being cast as new age himself, then looking around at his assigned peers and realizing he was sharing a bunk with people whose methods and rhetoric were far less rigorous than his own. It’s understandable.
Bravo, Terence! The bone-headed thinking of the New Age deserves a little shaming. Of course, no one could do it with more humor, wit, and insight than Mr. McKenna. I’ve seen many believers trapped within the sales pitches, ideologies, and subcultures of the spiritual market place; and, oh, how it irks me! How canned and regurgitated it all is! Clear thinking, and dare I say, knowledge, comes from seeing through all that bullshit, first of all; and then learning about the world based authentic, personal experience. As Terence might say, “Mamaji” ain’t gonna do it for ya. Sigh, anyway, this was a stellar talk.
I just want to say that while I am increasingly critical of certain aspects of Terence’s raps, I still frequently listen because his counter-narrative to various interpretations of history is so funny, irreverent and richly informed. He says culture is not our friend but he says it in such a culturally informed way. One thing I like and that is particular about Terrence is his favoring of source materials wherever they are available.
In regard to Mckenna’s humor and his descriptions of psychedelic experiences I want to make a suggestion. He talks about smoking a joint when tripping almost every mention of hallucinogens. It is my own sense that thc has potent hallucinogenic properties of its own and the visions induced are frequently of a cartoony repetitive quality. Anyway, it is my experience that psychedelics alone are distinctly unlike psychedelics with pot. Also Mckkenna’s humor reminds me of the kind of comic riffs my mind takes with pot. So what I am saying is that he may underplay the role of pot in his own psyconautic exploration and take away.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: There is a lot of truth in what you say. And I think that once you have listened to the 250+ Terence McKenna talks that I’ve podcast so far, you will discover that he most likely would have agreed with you. And we should also always keep in mind the point he often made that people shouldn’t take him so seriously.]
It is an absolute pleasure to hear a new talk from Terence ‘the bard” Mckenna. It would not be the same for me without your introduction, and conclusion during the podcast. This may sound strange, but you and your voice through the speakers at my house have become a friend in cyberspace.
Funny story… I was living in Ocean Beach, CA during the 2010’s after high school. A lot of my entertainment during this time was searching for Mckenna talks on the web after I had my first Psychedelic experience. The trip I had was so profound that I went to a local library and “key searched” the word Hallucination. The computer lead me to a book called True Hallucinations, and I read it. At the time none of my close friends could help me with the questions I had about psychedelics, but this book turned out the be the gateway to exploring, reading, and hearing more about psychedelics.
I moved to Texas last March, however around Julian, CA on my road trip I discovered The Psychedelic Salon while pulled over for a break. It is a coincidence that I had lived near you in places such as Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, Escondido, Valley Center, and Point Loma during my residency in California, so I just wanted to give a shout out to you and all the San Diegans listening to the podcast. If I was still there I would have loved to meet you at the Carlsbad library last month during that get-together you mentioned on your podcast.
I am still learning about all the things the psychedelic community has to offer, and you have been an amazing voice to turn towards during this journey. Thank you Lorenzo, and I can’t wait for the next podcast.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: We are ships that passed in the night. When you were living in Ocean Beach, my wife and I were staying with friends in Point Loma. Now you are in Texas where I also once lived. I suspect that one day we will finally meet in person. Thanks for being a part of the salon.]
Amadeo, darn wish you partook with us in yage(aya) when our aya group/church(I know that term has to much baggage sorry) partook it in Julian. We are all passing ships in the night as Lorenzo said.
This talk was not about closure, it was about the intellectual enterprise. How clear headed inductive and deductive thinking & reasoning is the one thing that keeps us moving forward in consensus reality. This talk should go viral in present craziness.
I have a real hard time with McKenna getting all snooty about new age beliefs. This guy believed that some kind of cosmic end of the world was coming in 2012, based on his bizarre correlation of the I Ching with history. The word ‘belief’ is easily mocked, but humans all have them, from atheists to scientists to children who base their belief in the easter bunny on the logical premise that their parents usually don’t lie and the easter eggs appear at the due time.
One of the obvious problems for the psychedelic community is how to explain some of the most consistent effects of the psychedelic experience because what does the scientific method have to say about machine elves, visionary jaguars, mind reading, a sense of the dissolution of cultural boundaries, comic interconnectedness, karma etc.? McKenna himself talks about the struggle to give appropriate meaning to these things. As for ignoring political realities, one might like to do so but the assholes will not. Part of empirical reality is the lies that bring in regimes of violence, racism, police state controls etc. The idea that you can walk away is just another belief. Where the hell is away?
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Thanks for this well-thought-out comment.]
We all operate from our own belief system. Some or most of us have specific beliefs on top of this. Does it serve us well to have unexamined belief in our thinking process?
He actually did not really believe in the Timewave, he literally said that on multiple occasions; he said he didn’t take it seriously. It was an idea that came to him on a trip, not something he was warning the world about as a certain danger. It was his best guess at a method for modelling time, which couldn’t really be tested until long after he was dead anyway.
Yes, we all must have beliefs, since it simply means “to consider something to be true” – there is no way around that. However, there is clearly a difference between a belief which can be logically proven, and one which cannot. As for your example about the Easter bunny, if these kids employed the scientific method and did a controlled study, they would find that if they removed their parents from the situation, the eggs stop coming. Occam’s razor would lead them to the conclusion that their parents are the source of the eggs. I am assuming these kids are attending Harvard, but you get the idea.
Terence’s rhetoric about new age beliefs is completely on-point and one of his best raps. He may bash the *institution* of science for its narrow-mindedness and inability to see the forest for the trees at times, but ultimately he supported the premise of the scientific method, and that’s really what he’s talking about here. Think clearly and logically, trust evidence, experiment with the situation to determine what’s going on, don’t hold strong beliefs you can’t prove. Not that we shouldn’t be open-minded, that’s the only way the envelope gets pushed, which is equally important.