|26 February 1997
||The Zoo, Brisbane, Australia
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[audience cheering and clapping]
Terence McKenna: Hello, hello, hello. Hello, hello, hello, hello?
TM: Wonderful. Well it's a it's a pleasure to be stoned with you in Brisbane this evening.
TM: [Terence laughs] It looks to me like the tribes have turned out in all their splendid variety. So I'm here this evening to talk to you in three brief rants with Zippy's wonderful art before, in-between and after. We have commercial opportunities for you back at the pinball machine. Uh, we've, uh, hopefully provided all that we can. I'm I'm sure someone in this room has what you need. And, uh, I'll be gone on the next flight tomorrow. So the important thing I think is to look around you. This is the psychedelic community in which you find yourself. This is your affinity group. This is your cadre and not only is there someone here tonight who has what you need, there's probably someone here tonight who needs something that you have. It's no news that a worldwide movement of trance, dance, consciousness, psychedelics and archaic revivalism is taking place. And my place in all this, I suppose, is to humbly offer one version only of why this is happening and why it's happening now and what it might mean for the future. This is the old style of doing things. This is how religion was practiced for the first three million years before it fell into the hands of politicians and real estate speculators. Religion is not about dogma. It's even less about laundry lists of moral do's and don'ts. Religion is about feeling and community. Feeling and community. And in the course of western history we have wandered a long long way from these things. So far in our own past is authentic shamanism, authentic community, authentic human relating, that it comes as an unconfirmed rumor. But in the last hundred years the curiosity of anthropologists, botanists, ethnographers, neurophysiologists, linguists has let the cat out of the bag. And the cat that is out of the bag is that reality is simply a state of mind. Reality is a place where cultures pitch their can and then defend it against all others. In the same way that we've had to learn that our sexuality doesn't come in two flavors, we have to also face that there's more to consciousness than awake and asleep. And in fact in every ecosystem, in every culture, in every part of the world from the Arctic to the Equator, there are chemically complex and shamanic plants that can be brought together to open doorways into domains of experience that are not only unsanctioned by the straight establishment, but unimagined by the straight establishment. I mean this is what lies outside of history. This is what the dreamtime is. This is what the magical world of suspended belief of South American shamanism is all about and the point that we have come to with all of this is not to talk about it or to s- long[sp?] for it, but to take the materials of our own environment and our own courage and our own dissatisfaction with the world as we find it and remake it. Remake it through technology, through trance culture, through underground culture, through media, computer graphics, the Internet. Uh, these are all tools of transformation completely beyond the understanding or the control of the establishment. Because they have dressed the part of the mind that the establishment is completely phobic of. The wild feral untamed pre-bourgeois, pre-constipation, pre-religion, pre-money, pre-consumerist human being. The real human being that each of us senses within ourselves and that we endlessly compromise for in our dealings with, uh, straight society. The truth of the matter is there are no answers now, except technological and shamanic and psychedelic answers. Politics has failed. Business as usual failed. Science failed. Religion failed. This is why youth culture is not interested in graduating to suits and houses in the suburbs. The bankruptcy of that whole lifestyle is now evident. Why now? I believe it's because psychedelics dissolve cultural assumptions. They are social and political dynamite. They are, uh, the equivalent of standing naked in a world of, uh, illusion, delusion, pretension, assumption and misunderstanding. All societies are frightened, all advanced, literate, industrial societies are frightened of the psychedelic experience. Because it represents a, uh, a cult of direct feeling. You don't have to believe anything to be part of this. You have to have certain experiences. Boundary dissolving experiences that, uh, teach you that the surface of things is only the beginning, not the end. That the surface is where we begin. But then we sink in, deeper and deeper, like a solvent, penetrating, dividing, washing clean, clarifying reality. The further in you go, the bigger it gets. The human mind is the source of all the riches after which we are told we should seek. The houses, the boats, the furs, the cars, the jewels, the degrees, the social esteem. All of this is false currency compared to the authenticity of your own experience and the art that you experience coming out of your own psyche and that you can then give back to the community, to the community. Zippy? Take it away, dude[sp?].
TM: Part two. Part two is what I've learned or think I've learned from psychedelics. And I offer myself as an example, because it's as important to tell your trip as to have it. Because until you tell it it's not food for the community. So, uh, my far too many years of taking psychedelics have taught me some things. And some of these things are this. First of all, very practical, nature loves courage. Nature loves courage. And the way you can tell that nature loves courage is she removes obstacles. So chance taking in the interests of knowledge is rewarded. All kinds of people may think they've had the psychedelic experience, but if it hasn't set your knees knocking and your heart racing you probably just shaved the fuzzy undertummy of the beast and never really wrestled with it. So a very practical lesson, nature loves courage. But a shaman, my definition of a shaman, is someone who understands how the world really works. How does the world really work? What is it and what are we in it? The where is it from? Where is it going? Science tells you that nature is red in tooth and claw, all competition strife and random mutation, but in fact there is a hidden appetite in nature that science has overlooked, that we have not been told of. It is that nature prefers complexity. Given the choice between the simple and the complex, nature always prefers the complex. And as you move from the beginnings of time to the present, what is consistent is the increase in complexity. Millions and millions of years may go by during a period when there is a backward flowing tendency, resisting complexity. But if you look at enough time the tendency to complexification will always reassert itself. So out of a universe of gas and dust comes a universe of stars and planets. Out of a universe of inorganic life, inorganic organization comes the carbon based world of organic life. At the very center of the complexification process of organic life intelligence appears some hundred thousand or million years ago. The process of intelligence existing and iterating itself through time, elaborating languages and technologies, spreading itself over the planet results in more complexity, greater complexity. So that ultimately from a psychedelic point of view the human world is seen not as an accident or an unlikelihood or some enormous privilege for which we must genuflect to an invisible god. But rather the human world is seen as inevitably the goal of all the processes that preceded it. Which doesn't mean that we are the end of the story. But it means that we are the heroes of the story now, now. And upon our shoulders rests the conscious obligation, because we are conscious to take the complexity, the novelty, the kinky, odd, heterogeneous reality that we find and further complexify it, further complicate it through the process of making art, forming relationships, realizing our plans, building our dreams. We are the creature that carries a sensory organ unknown to occur anywhere else in nature. We are the creatures who possess the hyperdimensional organ of perception called the imagination, the imagining mind. Perhaps a a carnivore in the act of hunting its prey briefly forms a strategy to carry out the kill, but human beings strategize over months, over years, over millennia. We launch plans and religion, scientific revolutions, styles of music, architecture, fashion. We fashion our world. We don't accept the world as given. Between ourselves and the selective processes of nature we have interposed the shifting domain of virtual reality that we call human culture and human civilization. Uh, a collective compromise that sometimes works to our advantage and sometimes works to our disadvantage. As a tribe we function as a group mind, as a mass society we are the victims of advertising agencies and politicians. The nature of our relationship to our collective existence is constantly changing and not yet defined. This is the important thing about the human adventure. We are not locked in genetic[sp?] repetition of behaviors over millennia. We are co-creators of our own destiny with the forces of nature. And we can deny that nature and retreat into cities, industrialism, reductionism, materialism, positivism, relativism, all the shitbrained isms of post-renaissance pre-apocalypse illusionism, or we can admit that we are unfinished business. That at the center of our experience of ourselves and the world is a sense of mystery. A sense of being uncompleted. This is the this is the perception which sophisticated cultures rob their members of. The sense that their is a hidden way out, a trapdoor, a deus ex machina, a magic word, a ritual, a conjuration, a drug, a form of music, a sexual act, a posture in relationship to art, something that cracks apart the rigid rule defined reality of the group and shows you that beyond culture, which is a fairytale told for fools, is the uncharted, unmapped, unintegrated, unspeakable. Wittgenstein actually called it the unspeakable. He said the word of common understanding is the present at hand. You can touch it, but beyond the present at hand lies the unspeakable. The challenge for the psychedelic community as the great hope of the human community is to move that boundary of what is unspeakable far away from us. To claim evermore domains as human domains. Potential areas for the production of art, the erection of, uh, relationships, the establishment of formal systems of understanding, mathematical, scientific, uh, mythological, psychological, whatever. Uh, the, uh, and this enterprise, this extension of understanding should not be though of as a quest for ultimate knowledge, rather it should be thought of as an exercise in self-exploration because it is inevitably true. The larger you build the bonfire, the greater the darkness that is revealed. Or to put it another way, the greater your sphere of understanding, the larger the area of your ignorance. It is inevitably so that knowledge reveals a greater and greater domain of unknowability. And it's into this domain of unknowability, like a search light that the psychedelic plants and substances, uh, offer illumination, direction, and partnership, partnership. Partnership with the humbler denizens of this planet. Creatures of reef, rainforest and tundra that are living in worlds of their own, worlds of immediate experience so alien to our own that there's no need to point radio telescopes at Zenebel Ganubi[sp?]. The aliens are with us in the rainforest, in the sea, in the pasture, waiting to be recognized as the potential co-partners that they might become.
[audience cheers and claps]
Woman in audience: Hey, Terence! Thanks for coming! [inaudible]
TM: I'm pretty happy.
Woman in audience: [inaudible]
TM: It's bloody hot.
Woman in audience: [inaudible]
Woman in audience: [inaudible]
TM: They're pretty.
[woman in audience singing]
Man in audience: Hey, Terence!
TM: Alright. Okay. Now we're turning final, as old bushpilots like to say. And before I get into my final hortatory spiel, I want to talk to you for a minute about some information that I simply think you should have, which is, some of you may know this, some of you may not, but very exciting for our community. A new plant teacher with a new psychedelic substance in it, with a completely unexplored pharmacology and phenomenology has appeared and is spreading worldwide through the culture. And this is the first plant on this planet known to produce a substance active in the same amounts as LSD. In other words, active at under 1 milligram. And this is the Mexican mint Salvia Divinorum, which if it's in Australia at all at this point is only a very few people are aware of it. Nevertheless, this plant grows easily in all Australian climates, can be grown as a houseplant, uh, and two leaves of this plant, dried and crumpled and put in a bong will cut your legs out from under you and.
TM: Put you twitching on the ground with a smile on your face.
TM: At the present moment this plant is legal worldwide. You can transport it, grow it, advocate it, extract it, advertise it, do therapy with it, uh, and anything else you can think to do with it. This is an incredible gift to our community out of the complex circumstances of the times. I don't think the world, uh, police establishment is ready to take on the control worldwide of yet another contraband substance. And yet this plant is as powerful as any plant on this planet. Uh, the leaves smoked produce an experience at least, at least as bizarre as DMT smoked at the 50 milligram level. And there is no reason why this stuff can't be grown by the acre. So.
TM: Uh, this is news. And tonight we have passed out information on various places where this plant can be obtained. Now this is all very exciting, but behind this fact lies the approaching truth that there are probably many such compounds and many such plants and that in fact the human inventory of psychedelic possibilities has only begun to be taken. Uh, some of you may know in Africa there is an extremely powerful hallucinogen called Tabernanthe iboga, the Bwiti cults. But very few people know that there was no record of any human group using that plant until[sp?] 1870. Peyote, which is imagined to be thousands of years old in its use in Northern Mexico, is in fact fairly recent. In the old graves of the Tarahumara and Sonoran people of Mexico we don't find Peyote buttons or seeds or detritus. We find the remains of Sophora secundifolia beans, a very toxic plant. The the Peyote only began to be used in the 1880s and the ghost dance religion has a way of trying to hold Indian culture together against the whitey[sp?] advances. Uh, similarly this Salvia Divinorum thing was known from a tiny group of Mexican Indians and only from there. And yet, as I say, this plant can be a house plant and sold in supermarkets and mall florists throughout the world. As we study psilocybin we have gone from the fifties, where it was assumed that it was restricted to Central Mexico, to the understanding that this is worldwide. Uh, just recently published, the psilocybin mushrooms of the Earth, containing over a hundred and s- sixty species of psilocybin. We now know that DMT, the most powerful of the commonly known hallucinogens, is literally in everything. It's in dozens of genuses, genera of plants. It occurs in fish, including fish off Norfolk Island. It occurs in the brain of every single one of us here tonight. In fact, this is an unresolved issue. Can you make a substance illegal that is a human metabolite?
TM: It's getting in there a little close, I think. Uh, maybe we might want to rethink that. Uh, it means you're holding every moment of every day and every night since you emerged buck naked from your mother's womb and you will go to the grave holding. Well what is DMT doing in human metabolism? We know not. But as the scales fall from our eyes and we move beyond the confines of our cultural programming, we are having to realize that nature seems to run on these psychedelic compounds. Nature is full of wormholes and hyperdimensional doorways into other realms of mystery and power. Our own origins are completely mysterious to us. But I believe we are a kind of partial symbiot with the psilocybin mushroom. That everything about us that we consider human, humor, theater, mathematics, loyalty, uh, you name it. All of these human qualities evolved at a point in human history where we were taking psilocybin mushrooms and practicing an orgiastic sexual style and a nomadic social style. In other words, moving lightly over the land, possessing nothing, finding our emotional release and our meaning in, uh, complex social and sexual relationships with each other, carrying for the cattle and using the, uh, psychedelic plants in our environment as a direct pipeline into the Gaian Mind. Because the real truth, I think, that is to be revealed out of the psychedelics is not simply deeper insight into your own psychology or recovery of childhood memories or insight into other peoples dilemmas or the coordination of abstract problems. Psychedelics do all of these things with enormous facility and ease. But what they are for, what they really do is dissolve the boundary between the individual and the species, between the species and the surrounding ecosystem, between the Earth itself and the surrounding, uh, extraterrestrial environment of the solar system. And this is what reality is. It's a seamless felt aperception of pattern. Language is a compromise, a downloading, a a slicing up, but dissecting and dividing for purposes of understanding. But the smart money knows that you have to take the perceptions of language and recombine them into a, uh, in a union with feeling in order to produce a real world. People sometimes ask me wha- what is the connection between dance culture and psychedelics. The connection is both of these things operate without ideology and with a tremendous emphasis on the felt presence of the immediate moment. If we as a community believe in anything, we believe in feeling good in the moment, the felt presence of immediate experience. This is what has been stolen from you by capitalism, by religion, by linear thinking, by strategizing. We're always about to be happy or we're always about to be free and while we're about to be free and about to be happy, life passes us by. This is because western ideologies are always ideologies of delayed gratification. It comes after death, after retirement, after coitus. It's always after something that it comes. Well I've got news for you. This kind of thing is chasing your own tail. The felt presence of immediate experience is the only world you will ever know. Everything beyond that is conjecture and supposition and what the psychedelics do is they bring one to focus on the union of the mind and the body. They do not give philosophical closure. They in fact present you with the unresolved dilemma of being. And to the linear western suited constipated mind this is a situation of incredible discomfort. The the suits want closure. They want linearity. They want the illusion of completion[sp?]. Job well done. But this is a fool's game. The world is more complicated than that. You cannot simplify the world and have it be true to itself. So if you want a relationship with fidelity to being, you must complexify yourself. You must recognize the ambiguity of your sexuality, the ambiguity of your grip on your understanding of your place in the world, your ignorance of the meaning of life, the destiny of biology. This admission of ignorance is not an admission of stupidity, it's an admission of intelligence. Only fools run through this universe proclaiming that they understand it. What the psychedelics do is give you a relative, uh, f- set of phenomena t- a a against which to measure your paltry models. Models of causal time or moral necessity or physical inevitability. And in every case the true nature of being is found to be too complex to be so linguistically or culturally caged. And so the f- f- conclusion I come away with from all of this is that culture, uh, is not our friend. Culture is a provisional form of infantilism, in the same way that you suckle at your mother's breast and then at the tit of the university and the government. Eventually one has to admit, whether one is Hasid, Chinese, Indian, American, whatever, that one's culture is infantile, idiotic, constructed by, for and of morons. And that it is an insult to an intelligent person to live within the definitions of a culture, because a culture is like a set of schoolyard, uh, rules. It's designed for the lamest among us so that the system can function at all. And to my mind what is happening in the new dance culture, which is often accused I suppose of frivolousness and immaturity, but what is actually happening is a forced maturity. You people have reached the level of alienation with the false values of the culture, that my generation didn't reach until it was forty or forty five. So here we can shorten the loop. And and, uh, what then should be the response of alienated, psychedelic, uh, uh, people and communities to, to the dilemma in which we find ourselves? I think it can only be, uh, to produce art. To put the art pedal to the floor. That essentially speaking at least for myself my involvement with psychedelics is part of a larger impulse in my personality, which is a cult of beauty. I grew up in a place where there were dinosaurs in the ground. And when I learned that they were a hundred million years old I felt the ground open beneath my own feet. I grew up in a place where lots of minerals were ore ores, metallic ores were brought out of the ground. The iridescence of ores, the iridescence of butterflies and beetles, the iridescence of opals and reef fish[sp?]. There was always this light on nature. Iridescence which indicated to me that things, physical objects had living universes inside of them. And I now think as Aldous Huxley thought, that as human beings our fascination with jewels and bright objects, which we share with magpies and packrats, uh, is, uh, a a kind of a spiritual intuition, that glitter is the path to follow. You know Plato and it’s said of western philosophy, all western philosophy is only a footnote on Plato. Plato had this idea of what he called the good, the true and the beautiful. And he said the good and the true and the beautiful are the same thing. And I found this very useful, because it's very hard to know, or very hard for me to know, what is good. And it's very hard for me, though I have philosophical training and reasonable intuition, it's very hard for me to know what is true. But beauty is easy to recognize. I know it when I see it. And show me two forms of beauty and I have no trouble telling you which I think is the more beautiful. So moral philosophy, too tricky. The search for truth, possible catastrophic error. The worship of beauty, no blame. A reliable arrow into the mystery. Stick with the beautiful. Follow the beautiful deeper into beauty and there you will find truth and goodness. And these are the things that we have turned away from, because the aesthetics of post-modernity are hideousness. Hideousness is the new god functionality. The new god, uh, economic efficiency. This is why our world looks like dogshit, because it is incredibly economically designed. Beauty played no part in that. We need to move back to the idea that nature at every level, molecular, membrane, cellular, species, interspecies, ecological, planetary, nature presents living models for how to deal with energy and experience that can be our salvation. But we must change. Everyone must change. And people some s- sometimes say to me well do do you think psychedelics is all that's necessary? Psychedelics to my mind is simply the only game in town. Not because it's a sure thing, but because everything else will certainly fail. If hortatory preaching could carry the day, we would have turned the bend at the sermon on the mount. If power over nature could have turned the day, than after the atom bomb we should have lived in utopia. So these are misunderstandings. We must become not the dominators of nature and each other and the physical planet, but co-partners. If we can find a position of co-partnership this appetite for complexity that I've been talking about will become a wind which fills our sails and carries us beyond the monkey business of today's politics. And into an authentically civilized and human world. And the clock is ticking. We will be judged. Nine times in the last million years the glaciers have moved southward from the poles miles deep in ice crushing everything in their paths. There were human beings who witnessed everyone of those glaciations. How much whining was there? I don't know. But somehow we're all here tonight. Those people didn't drop the ball. They kept the game in play in order to deliver it into our unsteady hands this evening. So, you know, wor- worship of the ancestors, a sense of being a reflex of the ancestors, which informs aboriginal civilization worldwide, is in fact an awareness that you act for others. That the genes that were your grandfather's and grandmother's and great grandmother's and great grandfather's are that you are simply a shuffle of the old deck. That how I pull my ear when I'm nervous is exactly how my great great grandfather pulled his ear when he was nervous. We are but the moving wavefront of our genetic heritage. And if we can dissolve boundaries between the ego and the hidden portions of ourselves and the hidden portion of nature we will find that we are each of us but the tip of a universal iceberg that connects to all other separate and assumed to be separate universes. Gregory Bateson said nature is a seamless web. So it is. And the seamless web of nature is woven by the spider of psychedelic mind and understanding. So let us, knowing this, weave a new heaven and a new world for ourselves and the all[sp?] the children sure to come if we act in good faith with the past. Thank you very very much! Thank you!
[audience cheers and claps]
TM: My pleasure!
[audience cheers and claps]