|Late October-Early November 1999
||Terence's House, Big Island, Hawaii
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Erik Davis: I'm Erik Davis, and I had the great good fortune of spending a few days with Terence McKenna, and his girlfriend Christie Silness, in their jungle home on the island of Hawai'i in November 1999. Sadly the occasion was not so fortunate, McKenna had been diagnosed with a brain tumor the previous summer, and he was home recovering from a recent craniotomy. I was there to profile him for Wired magazine, and it turned out to be the final interview he gave before his death, at the age of 53, in April 2000. McKenna's home lay along a rutted road that round its way up the slopes of Mauna Loa from the south corner coast. It was a white modernist origami structure topped with a massive satellite dish and a small astronomy dome designed to house a telescope that McKenna could not yet afford. The house and gardens were surrounded by a riot of vegetation, but among the native flora lay thick ropes of banisteriposis caapi, and a sprinkling of flowering salvia divinorum. Every morning I ascended a spiral staircase decorated with blue L.E.D.'s to get to the study where McKenna spent the bulk of his time, either working on his Macintosh or sitting cross legged on the floor before a small oriental carpet, surrounded by books, smoking paraphernalia, and twigs of sage he occasionally lit up, and wafted through the air. His library was magnificent, thousands of books on alchemy, Tibetan art, Hindu meta-physics, systems theory, archaeology, astronomy, and of course, psychoactive lore. During the day I asked the usual reporters questions, but in the evening we would relax, and follow less quotidian pathways through the cosmos of conversation. McKenna rose to the occasion of his own mortal condition, and though he tired quickly and occasionally spaced out, he was as brilliant and funny as ever. What follows are edited portions of these dialogues.
ED: So what was your, uh, what was your, uh, your first like encounter, like with psychedelics, either in a strong way, or just?
TM: Well... was a friend of a friend of mine when I graduated from high school. They were building that band, so he insisted that we eventually smoke pot and take acid, and uh, and I had never encountered old lefties, or acid heads, or musicians, or gave a shit about any of this stuff. It was all new to me, I had just come from Colorado to the west coast, so I was easily swept into all of this, and uh, yeah he and his friends were into, uh, who was that strange heroin based comedian?
ED: Lenny Bruce.
TM: No, no, not Lenny Bruce. Stranger, more heroin based [Erik Davis laughs]. The, the guy who did the thing about 'The Nazz!', Lord Buckley.
TM: Yeah. They were into all of this stuff, and I had been studying the evergreen review for a couple of years trying to figure out what was going with with culture, but when I finally got to the scene, and all this acid, and all this left-wing politics, and all that, then I understood, and...
ED: So anyways, so you got to, he turned, he turned...
TM: He basically turned me on, and uh...
ED: Were you kind of fascinated from the get go?
TM: We'll I'd been worrying about mescaline since I'd read 'Doors of Perception', three or four years before. I I'd also read, um, Havelock Ellis' 'The Dance of Life', which has a long chapter on mescaline. Actually that, that passage in Havelock Ellis, it's only a page or so, is one of the most seducing passages in all of psychedelic literature. They were, he was taking peyote at the turn of the century, these people really got into, under the wire. Like he took it a hundred years ago, can you imagine? That is hard to grab hold of [Eric laughs].
ED: But were you always, this sort of, partly, as much, influenced by, uh, the kind of alchemical mystical book, historical books you read in some way as, as well the more primal evolving...
TM: Well I was raised by Catholic rationalists, so you know, it's hard to square that. In other words, you would run around spending part of your time trying to understand the nature of guardian angels, and the rest of the time grappling with fairly rational concepts. I mean my families basic orientation was mining, and not science in the sense of degreed science. But my father was an electrician, my uncles ran radio and television repair shop, and my father flew, navigated, did radio, so uh, but I did spend a lot of time grappling with shit like the nature of the soul, the nature of sin, the, all of these, imponderables, you know. And of course what you end up doing is you end up reading scholars of mysticism. And then I would read about what John of the Cross, or somebody else had got hold of, and then I would try for it, and I don't recall getting too far, but uh...
ED: When you were still...
TM: Quite young.
ED: Right. But so you were still thinking in a Catholic mode.
TM: Yeah. Because it was all religious mysticism.
TM: There was no other form of mysticism before, I guess before Huxley published his books. I mean it was somehow, uh, well for Catholics there was no other form of mysticism. There was 'Ouspenskyitis', and 'Gurdjieffianism', and all these peculiar... but none of that was quite kosher.
ED: Did you, so, did you have a, uh, a break with Catholicism? Or did it mutate into all of your...
TM: It sort of mutated. I read Jung is what happened. I read, I first read 'Psychology and Alchemy', and then that lead me on to, um, the other one which is deeper about all of that... it's something about the nature of the Kristos and Alchemy, and, and then I saw what the, how these geographically defined religious impulses could be part of some broader, deeper thing. And Alchemy, it was a revelation to me, all that. I didn't get religious history from the Church, the way I got it from Jung. Because from Jung I realized it was from books, and so you could read these books, I mean there was torment, torturous, was when I was first going to CAL, but on the other hand I had a library card, and I could actually get at this stuff, in whatever form it can ever be got out, I mean alchemy makes no sense at all if you actually read the literature.
ED: Right. So when you decided to start speaking, and doing these conferences, and speaking on the radio, did you have a sense of your, of a kind of mission?
TM: Well I always felt people should know about psychedelics, that that was the untold story, you know. But if there was anything new to be said or brought into the cultural dialogue, it was the news that these psychedelics were not these very tricky to manufacture drugs like LSD, but that it was really about plants. And I don't know how I would say I had a sense of mission, I certainly thought it was a fine idea that people realize. And I was also interested in feedback, you know it wasn't that I wanted to enlighten people, I wanted to hear what people had to say about this stuff, because to me it was also confounding. The transformations of language, the... what it did to information. I mean that's still what psychedelics are about, is what it does to information.
ED: Yeah, well talk about that a little bit, how do you...
TM: Well, it seems to show some kind of, uh, how would you put it, some kind of universality of source, or some, some, uh, language is not syntax, it's not grammar, it's none of these things, it's some kind of divine, uh, you could almost call energy, which flows out of objects and situations. Everything wants to communicate and so then what the chain of being is, is somehow handing connectivity on, you know, to the next plant, animal, human being, work of art, whatever it is. And uh, I'm, I still grapple with what all this means. And to me it's the most psychedelic part of the psychedelic experience is when you get the... the logos coming out of the trees, the rocks, the berries, the water, and everything. And it's the most Dao-ist part of it. It's where nature becomes transparent to it's own intent to communicate, or something like that.
ED: Do, are you uh, when think back of what you felt like you were involved with, you know in the mid-seventies, in terms of propagating the psychedelic experience, and you sort of felt like this is, you know, in a way were being one of a number of Johnny Appleseeds', uh, uhm... when you look now at what happened, emerged from that, are you disappointed in some ways? Or...
TM: No I don't think so. Considering the fact that uh, for the past year or so, or maybe longer, it's been legal to grow mushrooms in Holland and purvey them, I would say our goals were met. The thing with, brought into human cultivation, it'll never leave it, you know it's uh, a very rare thing to be able to bring an organism into the human family like that. And when we found stropharia cubensis it was standing waist deep in cow shit, and now it's part of the human family of agricultural production. It'll never leave it, it will alwyas be part of the global culture now, so...
ED: And do you think that, do you think that you have the feeling that in some sense it will remain at least for the foreseeable a somewhat marginal, uh, road? Like a path that a certain, certain temperaments, or, uh, characters inside of the social matrix have, of reality have recourse to, but that don't really dominate...
TM: Sure, because if they really wanted a lot of psilocybin, you would do it differently. You would grow it in enormous vats of liquid that were the size of railroad cars, and you would produce millions of hits within days of scaling up. So uh... no, what it is, it it's uh, it's a folk technology at the margin of civilization, and an underground technology for the production of, uh, these drugs. Like, I understand you can make methamphetamine out of Clorox and some other shit, I have no idea, but it sounds very similar, very simple. Well so, this kind of, at the edge of things knowledge is very, uh, critical too. And that's where the shamanism is in the culture. The tricks of the trade.
ED: So, the shamanism enters, because that's an inevitable...
TM: Well, these are esoteric secrets, how to make drugs, and the drugs are, how to change minds and make money. So, inevitably it's going to be part of where some kind of negotiation takes place. Negotiations like that rearrange the morphology of the social order. Well, the mind space of the people there.
ED: Well, what do you think constitutes, uh, uh, a post modern shaman, someone who's legitimately doing shamanic work, and not sort of acting out a fantasy, or playing some game of, of, like a, identification with the other?
TM: Well, I think you have to be... you have to know your pharmacology, and trust that you know it, and then be trusted sufficiently that you're willing to lead people with confidence through these places. These Ayahuasquero psychiatrists are very courageous to, and have built up sets of metaphors and assumptions that I think are probably true, or true enough, uh, but, you really, it takes balls to hold your ground with this stuff here.
ED: That must have been interesting in the sense, that you were propagating the, the philosopher's stone to the, to brethren.
TM: And it was going many other places.
TM: A lot of people were interested.
ED: No, that's what I meant, through the whole sort of network of... freak... culture...
TM: Yeah. Well, and it wasn't so much the, the, the mushroom, it was the information, you know? The knowledge of the technique. It was like the atom bomb or something, it was whether you had it or not, it was whether or not you knew how to do it. And uh...
ED: So it's interesting to see the way that other plants, now... I mean if that, if the mushroom, the mushroom parasited on print pamphlet technology, now the, uh, more emerging plants that are re-encountered have a different...
TM: Well, so...
ED: ...obligation device, of information fasted forward.
TM: Yeah, in one case a Brazilian cults, in another case, almost landscaping, like Salvia, uh... I don't know if you've seen that, those clumps of Salvia on the road with all the blue flowers and all that, uh... yeah. The, the mushroom is the most insidious and amusing because it seems to, uh, associate itself with human beings. Like for instance the, one of the densest psilocybin ecologies in the world is Oregon and western Washington. Well one of the main industries of those areas where these mushrooms are so dense, is uhm, the production of sod, to be shipped all over the country and world. To be pushed into malls, and hotel, uh, lawns, and golf courses to spray, so it's essentially an enormous economic engine for spreading psilocybin spores throughout the planet.
ED: What happens to people that lets them tune into a deeper level and intent? That wakes them up from the spell of, of mere consumerism, and the kind of subjectivity that is, you know manipulation of images and desires that constitutes consumerism, and which dominates many peoples lives?
TM: Well, then they probably have to head for deeper values. Either Buddhism, Shamanism, their own... you know whatever lies in their own ethnic background because in fact civilization is a carnival. I mean it's a cheap, it's uh, it's a delusion of a solution. So anybody who sees past the front door probably wants really, real structured values. And so that's where all the conservative resistance comes from; the fundamentalist Christians, the Orthodox Jews, and Buddhists, all of these people are saying, well hey wait a minute, we, we, we don't want to go down this path, only so far. And that's probably a good break, otherwise we would create a civilization that's essentially a mall, and there's enough of that anyway.
ED: So in essence that, that, that turn towards deeper values, even though sometimes they take a conservative form is ultimately a healthy balance to just the sheer...
TM: ...rush toward novelty.
TM: Yeah, I think so.
ED: But do you see psychedelics playing a role in, in opening up that kind of....
TM: It depends on how it's presented, it depends on the psychedelic... uh, the, if it comes along with some wizened ninety year old Indian from South America, it's hard to see that we're abandoning ourselves to the, the trivial and the concocting, uh, and so, it's a marketing of packaging issue basically.
ED: Well, and, so what would that look like then, if you, if you were...
TM: Well I'd say the wrongly packaged version would be some kind of like Castaneda-ism, a formulaic cult, do these things, take these drugs, follow these instructions, and moral obligation will flee from your, your camp, uh, nobody can be that foolish, you know. If on the other hand you, you know, you sincerely pursue this stuff, grow the plants, try to understand it, try to revivify the rituals, and figure out what it's all about, well that's an authentic push toward spirituality. A very authentic push toward spirituality, and probably fruitful.
ED: Do you think in that process, the, the actual handling of the plants, growing them, getting to know their cycles is, uh, necessary?
TM: Yeah, because that's the level, that's the speed, that's the... well that's the speed on which nature makes this stuff, you know, brings it to the surface, and invites it's contemplation. And it's also probably the right speed at which to assimilate this stuff, to come to terms with it.
ED: So in that sense, part of the problem with synthetic psychedelics, is that they fit too easily into a kind of consumerism model...
TM: It's not a product, you know it's not something you would get the 'drug of the month' or something. Although all these things have been proposed and some have been tried. It seems to me that, the shamanic drug of the month is not a very appealing idea.
ED: What are the, uhm, uh, emotional, psychological, ethical, expressions of really, kind of genuinely long-term, good psychedelic people?
TM: What is the long term... ethical... expression of the good of psychedelic people?
TM: Well, it's some kind of, it's some kind of effort to separate shit from shinola, you know, it's some kind of effort to, uh, uhm, distill, uh, a truth from the blooming buzzing confusion of the universe. So it's a branch of, I don't know what you would say, cognitive science? Or something like that. It's an effort to define the human essence away from its content or something like that. You see what I mean?
ED: Try to explain a little more.
TM: Well, it's a, it's a branch of psychology. It's a self study in psychology. So anybody who's taking psychedelics is, I assume is trying to present a truer image of themselves, to other people and the world, through this process of, uh, distillation of understanding, and that's where the connection to alchemy and all that comes in. This distillation of essence away from the dross confusion and Gnostic muck of the world is a kind of, uh, like a Jungian individuation process or something like that.
ED: And that, and that manifests in the, in the call even in normal life to present it yourself, articulate yourself, oneself differently.
TM: I think so, yeah. And causes people to be willing to take chances, uh, both pharmacological and sociological, by being involved in something so marginal, you know. Because in the, in the big civilizations this kind of shamanic stuff is definitely very marginal, and most people just don't do it.
ED: Do you feel that that characterizes the overall, or in some significant way, the kind of people you've met for the last...
TM: It depends on how often they do it. You know some people are doing because their friends are doing it. Some people are doing it because, some, I don't know, they're feeling some kind of social pressure. But the people that are really called to do it, are rare. You know the people who say, well, I get loaded ten times a year on high dose psychedelics or six times a year, that's a lot, I mean that means your lifestyle is pretty much defined by, by all that stuff. Yeah, I would love to know what the real numbers are. How many people a year get really loaded? Once you get the Amazon Indians out, and you know the Mexicans out, and fill these people out, it's hard to even know how you'd begin to make an estimate, you know.
ED: Before your sickness, did, how often did you do large, large journeys?
TM: Hm, less and less often. I mean I noticed that through the nineties, that uh... but maybe four or five times year get... but I always felt that never enough, you know, never enough...
ED: So do you have the sense that what, that tripping you on some level are getting, uh, getting something done?
TM: ...That tripping is getting something done?
ED: Yes, that there's something being worked out, like continuously and progressively?
TM: Yeah I assume that basically the download called history, meaning all the technology, social innovation, philosophy, art, fashion, architecture, is some kind of dialogue with this... well higher mind is, I'm not entirely comfortable with that, but this higher mind that keeps showing these different facets through the mist, and... I mean that science and, and psychedelica and all this, is a dialogue with the mathematical deep structure of nature and somehow as you get that out, there's this sense of progress, more than a sense of progress, Progress. And I don't, and you know in terms of what is it all leading toward or what it's about, it must be something about, like the spiritualization of matter. That matter is evolving toward quintessence or essence, or something like that. And you know, we're the startled witnesses to this thing, because we're part of this thing that I call the emergent properties, or you know, the, the uh, side effects you could almost say, of the universal emergence of matter into spirit. Cause that's what biology is. I mean, I think biology is, uh, the quantum-mechanical, uh, magnification of uncertainty into macro-physical space. So that essentially we're chemical systems that by some means yet to be understood, amplify quantum-mechanical uncertainty to dimension such as we see, and that permits, uhm, these emergent properties, and systems, and morphologies to, to show themselves, and, and that's the trick, or that's the trick explained on one level.
ED: You know it's funny, in your raps you, you stay away from, uh, what, what to a lot of people would be spirituality. In, in a way, like uh... the way that somebody would present their... you know, Jewish spirituality, or kind of Buddhist practice or whatever... you don't talk... in fact often you sort of, like slag the, the Guru model. Can you kind of separate yourself from that, and you really have a kind of... I mean you've maintained this sort of... I don't know how to, I don't want to characterize it or anything, but uhm, and yet at points obviously you are limited by something in your own language you might, you would call spiritual.
ED: What is, what comes up around that word?
TM: I guess I believe I'm some kind of progressive history, that history is progressive, so then the story of evolution and biology and human culture and all this, is assumed to be a story with a happy ending. So in a way, this belief in Telos, which is not philosophically sanctioned, or this eschatological vein, my personality is what gives it a spiritual impulse. But it's the idea that time, it's an alchemical idea actually, it's the idea that time will perfect matter, and uh, I think it probably will perfect matter.
ED: What do you think about? Do you think that like post-modern spirituality is a sort of legitimate term or project?
TM: You mean to believe? Or involve yourself in? Or, uh...
ED: Believe, it's not really about belief, I, I, I mean that whatever the kind, I mean there's a lot of people now who are developing relationships with all kinds of spiritual practices, and they're not really doing it, even in the way that people did in the seventies, when there was so much, so much more true believings, it's a different kind of relationship.
TM: It's probably on a short spin, a short cycle, that a lot of Empiricists are taking up Dzogchen, and that how long can that go on? So then there'll be a lot of revisionism, and re-thinking, and re-casting of all this, which is the very best thing for it.
ED: Yes it is. So were you ever very interested in the mediation or Yoga?
TM: Uh, when I was in India, and immediately before I went to India, when I was in the Seychelles the first time I, I was. Because... when I was in Mombassa, Kenya, I came upon this place called the, I can't remember, anyway, it was a library that was basically having a bargain sale in theosophical literature. So I took about fifty kilos of uh, of uh, Yogic, Arthur Avalon, theosophical literature with me to the Seychelles, and that was what I read and worked through when I was out there.
ED: How is that you relate to Mysticism...to mystical Experience?
TM: Oh you mean as a source of valid data about what's going on?
ED: Not even that far, I mean, I mean that's one way of saying... of,of judging it in one way or another, is... it doesn't necessarily be valid data, it's just... I mean, you've been interested... this library, obviously mysticism is completely surrounding us.
TM: Well I guess I would say the more personal the mystical indicator is, probably the more likely I am to take it seriously. In other words, it seems to me if you extrapolate your mystical insight beyond the personal... you probably enter into the domain of inflation, of some kind of psychological inflation, and uh...
ED: So it Plato inflated?
TM: Is Plato inflated..? No probably not, but he probably gets a pass, as uh, some kind of piny [sp?: Terence and Erik laughs].
ED: You could just start out, you could start off by talking about the relationship between technology and, and shamanism.
TM: Well, you remember Eliade's basic book which was 'Shamanism: The Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy', that book was originally written in French. And in French, as I don't have to tell you, the word technique, has this dual meaning in both a way to do something and a technology. So uh, from Eliade's point of view, Shamanism was always about using techniques, uh, to achieve these, what he called 'ruptures of plane'. And these ruptures of plane were these breakthroughs into these healing spaces, and for him it was always, drugs, yoga, or uh, ordeal, or maybe yoga/ordeal. So uh, in a way pushing on the frontier of language, and pushing on the frontier of technique always brought some form of breakthrough. I mean, I suppose, the perfect example would be fire, where fire must have been something... we talked about the smith thing yesterday... but, so, fire technology, the transformation, the visible transformation of materials through heat, and all of that leads straight into better weapons, stronger building materials, and uh, so forth.
ED: So uh.. I mean... can you... do you see that even though the west turns away from the worldview of, of pre-modern enchanted, the enchanted universe, is that there's still something in that process of technological development which has... which is linked to those older technologies?
TM: Well the way chips are made, and the way solid state objects are assembled often is just a matter of bringing, uh, a mix of materials to a certain temperature and a certain, uh, proportion of materials, and then standing back and letting the laws of physics rearrange the atoms so that electricity or information or something flows through this in an unexpected way so... I think we're still involved in discovering what can be coaxed from the, from the physical world, just be letting physical laws unravel themselves.
ED: And that seems to you connected to you with an old, the, the, the operation of doing that goes farther back than just modern science?
TM: Yeah, at low temperatures it's about psychoactive drugs, and brewing, and combining biological materials [phone rings], and at higher temperatures it becomes about this other thing.
ED: In one of my alchemical readings of modernity, is that electricity is a kind of element in the old sense of element, and that it has certain properties that evolve as you develop almost a shamanic relationship with it, in the sense of using it, and developing a relationship with electrical potentials, [Terence: uhuh], and that that sets up a kind of, that interjects a kind of life into the human organism that fundamentally changes it. Because it's introducing this element of electricity which has certain properties of communication, you know electricity is very strange, it's pretty far out stuff, you just laid out like electricity to somebody and kind of said, these are how these fields work, and they're not actually dadadadada, it's like total science fiction, we're just use to that story.
ED: It's an amazing thing and back... those potentials are being then introduced into human communication. So that fundamentally changes them, and I think spiritualism is like a reflection in the archetypal imagination of modernity, about the kind of communication that is introduced by electricity.
TM: Interesting. It sort of you know McLuhan had this idea about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, was electricity, and that, the covering of the earth by the matrix of, uh, the Holy Ghost initiated the third world age, and all this.
ED: Right, and that picks up a line of thought that's been carried through since the, since it first starts...
ED: I mean, the idea of electricity is born in, in an alchemical imagination, it's born at a, at a pre-, uh, point to the sort of... royal society break, or whatever you wanna call it, the genuine scientific, uh... transformation that split alchemy into the shadow realm of culture, but uh...
TM: In, uh...
ED: This comes up in that alchemical matrix.
TM: In Mason Dixon there's scenes in Philadelphia, in the seventeen-seventies, in, in coffeehouses where, uh, electricity is being sold as a drug. You pay your money, and then you grab on to this thing, and they rip this thing around until it throws you off, and you pick yourself up off the floor and go back and pay again and get more.
ED: That's hilarious.
TM: Just this insane scene [Terence laughs.]
ED: It's funny to say but you look at twentieth century science, and even though it's, it's story has nothing to do with alchemy, that it really is this kind of fulfilling of visionary notions about the way that matter, and energy, and mind can be stitched together.
TM: Well, and it turns out it's all true. I mean, what twentieth century science proved is you can actually almost do anything. And so you know, you wanna change lead to gold, you want to create life, you wanna store information in crystals, all these things. It's now come to pass, and much much more besides, uh, proving that matter really is magical material you can pull off all these tricks with.
ED: So what is it about the alchemy that really... kind of, got you?
TM: The surrealism, of it. The shifting imagery, the associational, uhm, yeah the associational schemas are very attractive.
ED: They, what do you think, what do you think's behind it?
TM: Well, you know the basic concept is that somehow intuition and nature are reflective of each other. Until that hypothesis fails, we should probably hang on to it, uh, because look how far we've gotten. I mean it is really bizarre how much of nature, the human mind seems to be able to understand. I mean my god, instruments are circling around Ganymede based on some guy in a powdered wig looking out his crenelated window, you know, figuring out this shit, how did they pull that trick off?
ED: Well I mean that, I mean that gets that whole thing about the, this sort of destiny of technology, or the way that... I mean it's...
TM: Yeah, it's like a white cane, and you're just feeling forward into the universe, you know? And uh... you know, what is it all leading toward?
ED: How do you, uh, in your own head have come to, let's say reconcile those two sides? The, the side that's, uh, mystical or fascinated by these questions by the soul, or the, the things that are beyond reason... and the intuition, and, and, the, the way that you would relate to reason, sort of expressed expressed through a kind of skepticism, and a certain kind of, uh, uh, love of science?
TM: Well, I think I still believe what the Angel told Descartes which is, you know "Nature is coordination, of uh, measurement and proportion". So really, nature is the study of, uh, proportion, and the making of measurement, and there doesn't seem to be any problem in any... we have very powerful instruments for taking measurement, and very powerful instruments now for modeling and constraining the data, and we're making progress. I mean I, I think, uh, you know in terms of stuff like the internet, human longevity, recovery of energy sources, and all this sort of thing that we're, that humanity is probably in great shape for the next hundred years, if anybody gives a shit, but uh... that kind of timescale, you know?
ED: So you're not, uh, as overwhelmed with the kind of dystopian scenario, since it's obviously an easy thing to do when contemplating the future?
TM: Yeah I think that... dystopian in the sense of losing control of primary processes inside civilization and so having like, disease, fascism, economic breakdown, problems like that?
TM: No, I have... I'm pretty high faith in systemics.
ED: Do you see the internet as being both... is that more of a hopeful direction or can you also exacerbate in that problem?
TM: No I think it's more of a hopeful direction. My, my... The happy story I like to tell myself about the internet is someone in some tiny village up in Ontario, or in Kenya, or in Brazil somewhere, who gets next to the internet and realizes, you know, I can get out of this preposterous scene, by simply, if I'm ambitious, if I just unleash my own ambition, and the educational power of this, then I can go to the large city and conquer, go to the capitol, and export myself to somewhere else. And I assume this is happening, cause you know, you meet in the third world incredibly ambitious people, who only by their circumstance are confined. Well if you re-arrange their, their circumstance... so if they want a degree in electrical engineering, all they have to do is be online, night after night, after night, uh... that's very exciting.
ED: So how do you see that changing the kind of... the cultural matrix, or the emerging global culture?
TM: Well, hopefully it gives it a more international flavor, and people realize that, there isn't... I don't want to use words like a natural 'elite' of native intelligence or something like that, but in fact there is something like that. I mean smart people... it would be a fine thing to put them in charge for awhile, and see if that does any good, uh... I mean they're taking charge where the money is. But that's not a very deep value, uh... what if they took charge where power, and the, the actual... well, the, the morpho-genetic intent was coming from? The design process, this is what it...
ED: But do you see that happening, I mean are, are you... I mean if that's sort of your vision, you must be a little concerned about the, uh, evident power of money and pure greed to drive, largely drive development rather than design principles with an eye toward the future, and social equity, and eco... you know, ecological improvement?
TM: Yes, except to some degree, except that it is a, uh, people who you know, Mao said or somebody said "To get rich is glorious", I'd say to get rich is modestly, uh, affirmable [Terence laughs] something like that, and that there's no sin in getting rich, as long as what you're doing is, you know making people into lampshades or something like that, uh... uh... it's better than a collectivist goal, that's what I'm saying, it seems to me.
ED: But how do you feel about that conjunction of media manipulation, money, and celebrity that's so dominant now?
TM: Well you have to have something to sell, you know? You have to have something people actually want. I mean if you're selling the Rolling Stones, or you're selling Charles Manson, or you're selling something like that, you might get somewhere, but inherently you can't sell that which is, uh, eternal, or it becomes like, it turns against itself, so uh... and that's what defeated fascism. Nobody wanted it, it was ugly ultimately. It's probably what defeated socialism... cinder block housing facilities, you know, and all this rhetoric. I don't know, social planning went off the cliff in the twentieth century, maybe because there were too many people, or too much money, or not enough money, but uh, something defeated all these, uhm, utopian visions of how people might have lived. That's what I'm hoping doesn't happen in the next twenty-five years.
ED: That what doesn't happen?
TM: That some lack of resource or vision doesn't reveal that, uh, we can't give enough people, uh, a bearable life. So we have to live forward into an age of revolution, social turmoil, and, and struggle for resources, it doesn't have to be this way.
ED: Do you see it going in that direction?
TM: Toward that kind of a struggle? That's my concern, that people and institutions not respond to need, and uh, and then what you get is a have, have not situation. I mean, you wouldn't want the first half of the twenty-first century to look like the first half of the twentieth century, you know... the equivalent of a Bolshevik dialogue, the equivalent of a, whatever soft leftism turned out to mean and be, because it turned out to mean and be, not bloody much, as far as I can tell, I mean there's a lot of labor. Unless some amelioration of some peoples, uh you know, dilemma in the system, but... the world is far richer than it appears to be, and that wealth, is not being, is not trickling down, or flowing down, or making nearly as many peoples lives as good as it could be. So far it doesn't seem to have gotten out of hand. I mean most people if you give them a lot of money, they buy second homes and collect art, well this is not exactly like hunting down serves [?] with your shaka [?], or something like that... These entrepreneurial capitalists, this is what they're doing, and they're building, uhm, vast wealth downstream for their children. It's probably you know, sort of like, the invention of very large and stable sailing vessels, whenever that happened, two-hundred or a hundred, two-hundred and fifty years ago, where suddenly a whole bunch of people realized, you know, is all we need is some money, not too much money. If we buy a ship and send it out to Indonesia, and bring back a load of nutmeg, our children's, children's, children will never work again. We need one load of this shit, and uh... and they have to work of course, and then they get a certain lifestyle, and a certain amount of social respect out of it. But I think what they really get out of it is the satisfaction of knowing that they secured for their heirs, uh, a comfortable existence unto the ninth generation, or something.
ED: Well it's interesting about that, because that ties in with the genetics. If you, if you buy in to some evolutionary psychology certainly at this stage of the game, one of the forms that that would take is not merely like the logic that guides you, that how you choose a mate, and the fact that your status and money might, you know, if you're a male bring you a foxier, younger babe than the, the schmo whose, you know, shoveling shit, uhm, that one form that that would take would of course be to maintain your genetic line, and you know, you know, create a situation that's possible.
TM: Well, and now people understand that this is what your genetic line is about, that to cope, or to be in a Darwinian position of competition in this society means to have money, and not a little, not sufficient, but plenty! So that when you need to arrive and be met by Rolls Royce limousines, or whatever, that it's not an issue, and this all comes down, uh...
ED: But, but do you see that there's also madness to that? To that...
TM: Yeah, I'm not motivated, I mean as you see, I need a place to keep some books dry, having achieved that, my motivation [Terence laughs] falls to pieces. And it's, alright, what else do we need to keep dry? Some firewood, okay. A truck, okay. That's about as far as I can go [Terence laughs].
ED: You know the way that technology, that the internet would allow you, to build a different kind of career, cause you don't like traveling, and... what were you... what are you working towards?
TM: Well essentially, this philosopher's stone without any, uh, dross. In other words, everything I require of the alchemical quintessence, the internet provides except physicality which I didn't require. So that's what I meant, I think I said to you yesterday, or the day before, that at times these technological developments have taken place that seem to me designed uniquely for my own satisfaction. Sputnik, couldn't have worked better for me. Acid, rock and roll, uhm, small computers, large computers, the internet, uh, so in my internal story about what's supposed to happen, everything is happening right on time, right on schedule. I mean this is the thing that if you believe knowledge is power, which I certainly do, then the internet is the dispensation, you know, the angels have landed, the aliens have unfurled their, uh, banner on this planet, and uh... Now let's see, if information can liberate. That's why I don't want to do something stupid like die, and miss the whole unfoldment of this proposition, that uh, knowledge is power, information will liberate. And it will be settled in the next ten or fifteen years. Either they'll get a handle on it, whoever they are, whatever a 'handle' means, or it will slip from their control and it will be clear that some kind of dialogue is going on between individual human beings and the sum total of human knowledge, and that nothing can stop it. That some kind of renaissance, some kind of total new relationship to knowledge, and possibility is put in place.
ED: The, the idea you had about... and I've heard you mention before about somehow taking advantage of, uh, the net, to allow you to continue your career, without having to move around so much. I mean that seems to be one of the real weird paradoxes of the scene we're in, is that at the same time that we're creating all these great communicating devices... that people are flying around, to conferences, to talks, even more than they ever have before.
TM: Yeah well I don't real... I don't really understand it. Like this morning I was looking at the brain tumor list, well fully one third of the brain tumor list is people planning get-togethers at the next brain tumor conference. Will you be going to Atlanta? Will you be going to Vermont? Are you going to London? So no matter whether you're in investment counseling, or dying of cancer, you can turn it into a circuit, of, of, a life, a phenomenon of some sort, uh... I'm not very interested in that.
ED: Well you've this, you've done the circuit for a long time.
TM: I have. I have. And I feel like I paid my dues, and I feel like you have to be visibly at some of these things because you're marketed as a personality. And you know I... I am not William Burroughs, nor was meant to be, uh, but... I am interested enough in being read that I'm willing to sign books, and stand up tell [phone rings], stories.
ED: I'm interested in a little bit of how you use the net? Like you have, you say you spend maybe four hours a day doing e-mail, but then also surfing.
TM: Well basically as an informational resource, an oracle, and, and sometimes even almost like, uh, a magical oracle, I mean words will come to me, and so I'll search them, and just follow this stuff, and where it leads. So I don't know, there's some term for that, I'm not sure what it is, uh, but yeah, it's like a...
ED: Term for what, that, that style of...
TM: Yeah, surrealists... I guess automatic writing, except this is automatic...
TM: Inquiry... or something like that, where you just, cast bread upon the waters and see what comes back, you know?
ED: Do you, do you ever have the sense of, uh, as you develop, uhm, that kind of relationship to it, that it becomes more alive?
TM: Well it becomes more synchronistic, in the way that people, you know, have said the I-Ching seems eerily alive because it anticipates and it seems to respond like a thinking thing. So in that sense it doesn't become so much more alive as it become more intelligent. So maybe really the key to bringing the, the net through is to discover universal grammars that cause it to appear, uh, alive!
ED: Do you look at, you know, what we're building with V.R., what's just around the corner with these three-dimensional interactive spaces and avatars, you imagine a culture that's more and more based on, on that kind of interaction... and, you know, obviously there's a kind of superficial shamanic or imaginative dimension to that, but at the same time, it, it's clear that at least initially, and certainly in many of its guises, it would be driven by the same kind of chintzyness, the same sort of crass, tinkely, uh junk, that really drives it... How do, do you think it's just going naturally evolve such that a kind of deeper, uh, shamanic world or at least shamanic analogue will emerge in, in virtual reality, or does it actually require some, some real creative work to seed it?
TM: It requires creative work, it requires that the people who build these realities understand how subtle the... what they're up against is, and not abandon a commitment to... to realism. You know the trick to making the shamanic world, virtual world compelling is to fairly and truly convey it. So you can't cut corners. You can't fake it. So animation and the rules of vermal and all this stuff, have to be faithfully executed so that this stuff really does blow people's minds. So that people see, well... the human imagination is large enough to accommodate the human soul, it doesn't leave you leave you feeling, like you're wearing too tight a pair of shoes.
ED: And that's the, that's the dangers, it just becomes kind of a...
TM: Formulaic. Too formulaic... too easy, not that the software couldn't use some improvement, but uh, I don't want it to become so easy to produce these virtual realities that there's no, uh, attention to detail, or no sense of accomplishment of doing it.
ED: What would the, the, the, kind of ideal 'Terence Mckenna' virtual environment be?
TM: Well, all of these, I guess you would call them models or explanations, uh, beginning with basic chemistry, right up to hierarchian management theory, uh... because all these processes can be envisioned, you know, as uh... interlocking sets of laws and that sort of thing. So the, that's I guess what we're talking about, is how the world should become more visual, should ride more on a visual, on a vocabulary of visual assumptions that everybody has learned. And we all know that a Bugs Bunny cartoon is a land of explosions and falling anvils... well, we learned that. We were taught that. So there needs to be more of this kind of, uh, slotting in, of uh, I don't know what you could call it... assumptions, or... gestalts that can be used as a vocabulary to communicate this stuff.
ED: Like the language, a visual language.
TM: Yes, exactly.
ED: And, and, do you... so do you see that, uh, that some language from the past, the imagery of Alchemy or Egyptian art or, or things like that are kind of... can be seen as predecessors for a possible new visual language?
TM: Well, this is where memory palaces, and archetypes, and uh, all this stuff come in. That was always the hope. It's not clear it can be realized. I mean that's why you go through the Maya, the Egyptian, the Alchemical... you're looking for these universal, uh, gestalts of meaning. But they're spread wide and far, and uh, it may have to be created de novo.
ED: Well that's part of the, the... I think, you know, uh... a more of a skeptic would really would say, the idea of building a, you know, a universal language is a, is an old and crusty dream, and [Terence laughs], and when you get into the realm of actually having images involved in it, in the kind of hieroglyphics of virtual space that are linked with meaning that, uhm, it becomes even more challenging to imagine, how you can make that kind of thing universal? Unless it's the universe of, you know, the Nike swoosh, you know, it's the universe of logos and advertising which actually is, somewhat like this, except that it's information content is...
TM: We're gonna spend a huge amount of money to establish these gestalts.
TM: Yes, yeah. So, I don't... I'm not... many of our discussions have led to this point where, we seem to say well there's something about the thermodynamics of information that we don't understand. Something about lexical categories, something about how language wants to emerge from the background of matrix, but something about how we process language holds this back, so then there's a negotiation at some kind of fractal edge, and that, and that's where we are. But not necessarily, I mean, that's why I encourage everybody to think about animation, and think about it in practical terms. To look at objects and pose these things to themselves as a model... model-able problems, uh... because out of that will come a language rich enough to support an actual form of human communication that's been very elusive, or maybe never in hand at all. Well, it's really interesting when you talk to people or listen to people, how many people who take psychedelics have cartoon-like encounters with beings or, and you well, gee this is weird, cartoons only back to nineteen-twenty or fifteen or some, how weird that such an out there technical phenomenon could just grab, a whole section of human psychology and, uh, camp there with that kind of, uh, tenacity, and uh... to me that indicates it has some kind of archetypal claim on that territory, and a claim which it can only continue to tighten over time.
ED: You ever seen that Scott McCloud book 'Understanding Comics'?
ED: Oh, that's worthwhile.
TM: Is that a...
ED: Yes, it's really worthwhile, very good, uhm... I mean it's just sort of getting at a grammar... you know a lot of cartoons disagree, I mean they're very irascible [sp?], laud, and a lot of comic people are like non-prescription, but it's a very interesting attempt to use the form itself to talk about the specifics of the form, and it's really about comic art, but it applies to some of these issues of, of animation and cartooning.
TM: Well, the great genius of Disney... I mean Disney is a... my idea of beyond Edison or Ford or anybody of what we really mean by American genius because he, you know, he had mice wear gloves, living inside his head, but he was able to create a mechanical technology to show people these mice. So instead of just being put quietly away by his brother, or something like that, he said, no, no, you don't understand... money!... this is worth, money! If we can show people these glove wearing mice and talking ducks, and, and all this stuff... and then he was sufficiently a true American yankee genius, that he saw how to, to take a flip book and put it on sale, and uh, do all that. Yeah, I think Disney is a very, very far out person. He went to the Platonic ideas and came back with, you know, baskets full of them, and released them in American towns and cities, and it did very well.
ED: I mean animation is a great place to see the reflection of things that are happening in culture at large.
TM: And certain people take it to incredible heights, uh... have you seen, uh... do you know that animation called, Asparagus? You should check it out, it's about twenty, maybe it's fifteen or twenty years old, but it's this, it's this, you know it's very highly detailed, as realistic as a Van Eyck painting, and totally surreal, and uh... there's also, do you know that one by Sally Cruikshank called uh, Quasi at the Quackadero? That's a DMT extravagance, uh, a carnival basically a cartoon about carnival that is a carnival crazy enough to convince you you should go take drugs, basically, uhm... and Max Fleischer was a genius, and all these people.
ED: Fleischer, Fleischer is great. I mean I think, I think that, I think Fleischer is the true origin of, of underground comics. I think that you find the most pregnant, uhm, uh, images of a certain kind of seedy, like, like the way that Robert Crumb presents a certain kind of seediness and sort of failure of the bodies, and spaces and yet that's infused with a kind of like, you know... magical eye. So you really have that both in Fleischer, and you really have that, the mania of the Betty Boop, but also a certain real, kind of, quotidian, almost proletarian, uh, uhm, graininess to these characters...
ED: It's very inundate [sp?].
TM: It would be very hard to imagine post-modernity without Crumb's input, and I consider him, an absolute psychedelic genius. Very few people have had the influence without the karma that Crumb had. He basically did all that stuff, sold the drawings, and moved to a chateau in southern France and called it quits, and uh... got away with it, with those moves.
ED: I mean that's one of the, one of the, things again that I just find totally fascinating, is like the magic of modernity.
TM: I mean what a strange, strange thing this is.
ED: Yeah, just the relationship of modernity to esoteric religious undercurrents, and things which are not accounted for in, in uh, enlightenment discourse.
TM: Yeah, what if it just gets more and more like this, in other words I think that's what's actually happening. We're really headed for our own private Idaho. More faster, deeper, and with more, uh, panache, that anyone ever dared suppose.
ED: You mean in terms of building our own sort of constructed world...
ED: respectives and communicating them to some degree but not in a way that dominates ideologically, or...
TM: Well, and we have no idea how strange the worlds we can create in the near term will be, and yet, they will be. It's coming at you.
ED: Right. But just how far back to go? Like what's witnessing this bizarre moment in, in history? You know, what point are you, is the perspective kind of sitting in? That's the part I find really hard to figure out, does that make sense?
TM: Well, that's the question. Cause what that boils down to is how real is it? How real is it? Hm, yeah it's complicated. Every age seems to design it's own, uh, image of it's own dissolution, and they happen over and over again. I mean when I think about the twentieth century, you know... I mean Europe, which is the source of world civilization, stomped flat twice, uh, millions of refugees, the... you know, Auschwitz, the whole thing. Meanwhile, you know, what went on in the far east of Asia and the Asian prosperity wars and all this. It's, uh, over and over again these cultures create their Ragnarok, and uh, act it out way over the top. I mean Germany for crying out loud.
ED: Yeah, what... so how would you describe that... what's the character of our dissolution?
TM: I don't know... I guess it was Nietzsche who pushed the myth of the eternal return, right? So it's some kind of, uh, it's like a closed cycle of Hegelian dynamic, where it just works itself out. Then the thesis, the anti-thesis, the synthesis, and the darkness, and then it starts over.
ED: That, uh, Nicholl's book that I told you about 'Living Time'... what was most impressive about that book was, he lays out this idea of like, time, and he basically kind of presents, a way of thinking about eternal return. Which is that, we are locked into these repetitive cycles, that are eternally re-iterating themselves. The only way of changing their quality is to increase consciousness in the midst of them. And so you affirm this life, this world, not some transcendent world, and just the...
TM: And then try to solve them...
ED: Like under the sign of this is always this way, and how does that mean to relate to the real as it presents itself, as if there's no other thing it can be but that, and that... but as you do this process, you change your relationship to this stream, and then all this other heavy, heavy stuff happens. But it was very interesting. It was like, cause other... up to that point I've always thought of eternal return on a kind of philosophical level, and I never thought what does it mean to actually live in the world of the eternal return, and that's pretty heavy.
TM: That's interesting. Yeah, well I've always felt like that reality was a kind of a thing... that the way you made progress was you grasped it. In the sense that you grasp a mathematical or geometric proposition, or something like that. But something which once understood, on some level, clears the way to advance a very short distance. So that's what we're always trying to do is create this lexical space of presumed understanding, and uh... and live inside that, uh...
ED: What are some of you wilder ideas about kind of technological situations
TM: Should you have any..?
ED: Should you need any, or, or lying ahead?
TM: Well the vision I always saw is inevitable, and I still do, and I'm very attracted to it. I shall be sorry to miss it, if I do. And that is, I can imagine the twentieth century defined, I mean the next century, defined by, uh, very, huge spacecraft that are, uh, that cycle from the inner to the outer solar system. That seems to me the way to do it. To create these worlds, which have like, say, eighty year orbits that carry them clear out to Uranus, and all these places, and to the inner Solar System, and that these things are just self constructed hives of human activity, and they invent their own Raison
d'être at each point in these voyages. And there's travel between them, but largely they are city sized or larger constructs, and that must be how it will work, powdering down asteroids, and... I would, hey you know, I would really like to see a breakout in the next century. How long can we wait for star flight? I mean how long before the contradictions in terrestrial existence just become too tearing, and you have to go to some kind of fascism and really turn the screws, or uh, things fly to pieces, you know.
ED: Yeah, that's...
TM: But I really always felt as a science fiction fan and all that, that star flight... that galactic citizenship was what you're aiming for, and even if you're the only fucking citizen, that's fine. But if you have to go up to the great council of the Talyxilou [sp?], or whatever that shit was in Dune. But yeah, this flinging ourselves around the solar system is an enormous... that's obviously all doable. In other words it doesn't require any re-arrangement of the laws of physics, it just, it requires we don't all murder each other, and we continue to pursue commerce. So, this is reasonable in some level to expect, and uh... there needs to be... I wish there were a face on Mars, or something like that. That would drag the popular imagination...
ED: But I see the... I see strong movements in some levels for an imagination of Mars as a place to inhabit.
TM: It seems like Mars is, is happening here.
ED: I mean, it's in the scientific imagination, it's in the high science fiction imagination, the... why not? I mean, it's...
ED: a pretty cool idea. I mean, it's insane... it's like, I wouldn't go first [Terence & Erik laughs]
TM: Or ten-thousandth [Terence laughing]
TM: Well between that and what's out at the edge of the Solar System, it seems to get quite exotic, and as what life is understood to be expands, it's all converging. I mean there are, there is mind under the ice of Europa. Not I don't know... Mind, that's not... but there's a lot of complicated and hard to define, and edgy shit, uh, from on, on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
ED: What do you mean like, edgy shit?
TM: Well like, uhm hot water trapped in methane environments, under deep ice. You know there's this lake...
ED: Hot water in there for something [?]...
TM: ...and complicated chemistry. And you know, they're drilling into this lake in Antarctica, that's under four thousand meters of ice, and has been there twenty million years, and utterly undisturbed in total darkness for... and this insane geological... and they're culturing stuff out it, out of the mud that's been under there, it's alive. Still alive.
ED: Woah! That's trippy a little bit
TM: Yeah, isn't that...
ED: ...bounce off my head...
TM: Yes. Yes, exactly [Terence laughs] So uhm, if I, you know... It would be a great time to be a xeno-biologist. And it could be Europa, it could be Titan, it could be Mars.
ED: Now that would just be a fascinating encounter.
TM: Yeah, that's a great, a great rap.
ED: But that one seems more likely, we encounter some kind of weird life-form underneath, but it's not, you know [Erik Davis speaks in alien voice] "I am here from Orion".
TM: [Terence laughs] We're not testing you... we have no questions, we have no answers [continues laughing]. This idea has been gaining strength for twenty years that life is not unique to Earth, it must have drifted in a chuck of stuff and it's, it's an alchemical rule. It's the rule of homogeneity, you know 'As Above, So Below', given the circumstances as we find them, what rational momentum is there to think that life is unique, and arose on this planet almost...
ED: It's much easier for me to imagine that on a certain level, that at least the galaxy, or our local part of the galaxy has some kind of other minds. I mean it may be, it may be not true. But it's almost the same way of the way that we model... you know... hopefully model a future. It's almost like you kind of imagine that... and so all that... Star Trek is even kind of this weird dress rehearsal for a certain phase of, of this kind of, uh... realization. That's just a story, just a science fiction story.
TM: Well, you could have said it of Jules Verne in eighteen-eighty-five, and in Wright, you know. Yeah, it is a rehearsal.
ED: And you know, psychedelics kind of seemed like to me imaginative rehearsal to some other event. And whether that event is merely my own individual death, or some kind of cosmic...
ED: event. I, I completely suspend judgement on it, and I don't know if I will be able to, I don't think I'll move from my present...
ED: position, of like, well...
TM: Who knows?
ED: who knows? uh,...
TM: Yes, it's the big kahuna, or...
ED: So what do you thinks the... up with the, uh... extra-terrestrial imagery, that features so heavily in some strands of psychedelic experience?
TM: You mean the cat-eyed... that kind of imagery? The cat-eyed alien, gray, pudgy little...
ED: That, and just the sense of, uh, I think it seems like a lot of people just even describe the sense of extraterrestrial intelligence, or...
TM: Well, remember how we were talking last night about everything wants to articulate itself. Everything wants to somehow communicate, and be perceived as language, when that impulse is most clearly separated from it's object, or from it's source I guess you would say, then maybe that's what you get, is this Gumby-like pure impulse towards communication, or something like that. I mean it seems to me, it's like, uhm, looking at a pure function... a pure psychological function of some sort... you see what I mean?
ED: No longer rooted in, in...
TM: In it's source.
ED: Source being biology and evolution, and the physical form of this particular planet.
ED: And so that, once it reaches a certain kind of...
TM: It can actually walk away from itself, and then there you have it. And you say, you know, what is this? It's category confounding, it can't be, it's uh... an essence without an object, or something like that, and uh...
ED: Yeah, I've had, I've had some pretty profound moments of... of feeling like contact with... something like extra-terrestrial intelligence, without often believing it in the interior of the trip that it was...
TM: Oh you mean while loaded.
ED: Yeah, even at the time going... Okay, this is...
TM: I'll let this happen.
ED: Yeah this is, this is the phenomena occurring, uhm... rather than... Oh, I'm only seeing it, and uh, or maybe you just sort of gear forward science fiction, or..
TM: So how real was it?
ED: Well I mean it's... maybe it's just a language that I use for 'other'. That if you, you know, if you present this some kind of intelligence or communicating force that seems to be 'other', that's very 'high', you know very 'evolved', that maybe I'm just gonna tend to see it more as, as alien. But even in terms of those buzzes, like the kind of weird way that sounds can like form these vibrating matrices... is they've often, they often take on a more metallic quality, and become more synthetic. And with that rising begin to enter into an imagery realm that's very...
TM: Peculiarly alien.
ED: And it's peculiarly Alien, and that's technological often, as opposed to natural.
TM: Uh-huh, that's the place.
ED: And uh... and that's you know this... that's like a lens or something of... cause I mean you imagine you're on, you know.... history is, if you imagine it pouring forward or moving rapidly forward, there's a kind of front edge, that's very weird, because it started bursting all sets of new...
ED: Yeah like, exactly [Erik laughs].
TM: Yeah [Terence clears throat]. I know that place. Hm...
ED: What is the nature of the entities? What constitutes their apparent agency, or communicative agency?
TM: Well I think that's the question that remains unanswered. You know, that's the grail of the thing, what is the nature of the other... is basically what you're asking. Is it a construct? A projection? Or a discovery? It's not clear to me what it is.
ED: Do you feel like you've gotten any closer to that?
TM: It's probably a discover which is the most radical conclusion. I mean I think that's probably what you think too based on the... your description of the DMT trip, and all that... that ultimately it is irreducible, you know... it is too weird to tell. I don't know whether it was a C.M. Kornbluth story, but it was all about these aliens come by and contact the United Nations, and all this, and... but somehow this book, 'To Serve Man', uh, uh, comes to the surface, and it's slowly realized it's a cookbook [Terence and Erik laughs], and this really spoils the party [more laughing].
ED: What about the communications that come in from either the extra-terrestrial, quote un-quote, or seeming, or the technological world?
TM: Well obviously it requires discrimination to figure out you can't believe everything you hear. The demons are of many kinds, some are made of ions, some of mind, the ones of DMT you'll find, stutter often and are blind. Just because something can talk, doesn't mean it isn't selling you something you may not want to have.
ED: Right, now that time in that phrase, you said the one time DMT, but I've also heard you say Ketamine there. The one time, Ketamine.
TM: Have I said that about Ketamine?
ED: Yeah, yeah.
TM: Well we need to control me a little more tightly [Terence laughs].
ED: What is your, uh, what is your opinion on Ketamine?
TM: I think it's an intra-uterine memory drug. I think there are things about it that cause you to recapture some kind of intra-uterine state. It's echoic, it's weightless. It cancels the sense of gravity, so you don't feel your lungs rising and falling. It's, uh, I sort of agree with you, I see it's fascination. I would not want to become embroiled in it's tentacles cause I... it seems to me a little too easy, a little too fascinating.
ED: Do you think, uh, ketamine is hollower, partly because it's just a synthetic? There doesn't, it hasn't emerge in the ancient matrix of the bio-sphere?
TM: No I think one of the big, one of the interesting unanswered questions is why do these chemicals have the characters that they do? You know, why do they have these personalities? Why is there Mayan imagery inside mushrooms and mescaline and this and that... and so, Ketamine's character is simply somehow conferred from whatever strange dimension this is, that sends these drugs their personalities, and uh... it certainly is an interesting personality. And Lilly is, you know, John is a juggernaut, do you know him? Oh my god. John's such a trip. I mean some people are just...
ED: He seems... but he's like... I mean, he's a really... kinda... out...
TM: Oh, definitely...
ED: Like I mean it, like this guy's out...
TM: Yeah, this guy is... there's nobody home. This guy cannot be left alone at home, and he's like me [Terence & Erik laughs]. What a trip! And such, you know, an amazing arrogance, and an amazing conviction of your own own, uh... that you've got it all figured out, you know... yeah, relentless character. He told me once... we were at Esalen... I don't know, it was just the two of us standing there... and he said "Nature loves you ruthlessly". And I thought, hm... well, that's an interesting observation, just ruthlessly (voice unclear).
ED: Was he speaking specifically about you?
TM: Yeah, he and I were to only two people present. It was just a private conversation. He used to have this Obi-Wan Kenobi robe that he wore around Esalen, it was just hilarious, and he would just show up out of the fog, you know, like... to lay these raps on ya. Yeah, they didn't make too many of John.
ED: Ketamine actually distills a certain element of... of the psyche, and then just lets that element interact with this whole weird plane. And there's not a lot of connections with the animal body, but the tryptamines are like carrying the animal body all the way through it all. So it's all still
ED: archaic, and there's sex, and there's fear, and all of these... the animals in this space... the Ketamine is like a little drop of like...
TM: [Terence voice unclear; Erik laughs]
ED: Enters into the zone...
TM: It is completely like that.
ED: You're completely, I mean... I don't know if you remember, like, things in your life life that are all part these networks that are cosmic cause and they're so impersonal, I mean these are very impersonal environments.
Sometimes on Ketamine I have the impression it's like this all time, I simply don't notice. Which isn't a very sense making perception, but uh...
ED: [Erik laughs] Yeah. Not it does have an always already quality to it. But the whole quality of time is very different, than with uh, also tryptamines, which a kind of more propulsive change about transforming.
TM: Yeah, you're right about how it accentuates the animal body and just shows you some kind of hyper state of, uh, I don't know... being!
ED: Or even metabolism. [?]
TM: Yeah, something like that. Where it's just a fifty thousand percent more powerful than you thought was the specs would tolerate.
ED: What do you think of MDMA?
TM: It's... it never spun me like it apparently did other people. It seemed very pleasant. I didn't quite ever get, you know, the fight to save MDMA and all that, uh... I figured from what I was hearing around me that it was doing a lot of good in psychotherapy, and so those people should be supported. But personally I never... it seemed, well it seemed very much like every drug as it's introduced into society. It's usually claimed to solve relationship problems, and uh, then... well that's the best packaging is to say the drug solves relationship problems, and...
ED: Well of course linked to that, right on the top was the warning that you could believe you were deeply involved with somebody, wind up making stupid decisions.
TM: Well, when was that not true?
ED: Yeah, no I remember the first time. I mean that was specifically one of the stories that was told around. And that was relatively early in being...
TM: You mean people deciding to marry the wrong person...
ED: Well, yeah that kind of thing.
TM: Because they...
ED: Had such an intimate experience. I only had a few. I only took it a few times. I find it extremely taxing on the system. You know the way that I, I...
TM: Oh, you mean the next day you feel terrible?
ED: Yes, yeah. [Erik laughs] Yeah, it's true, the amphetamine down is really quite a monster. I actually like, uh, crystal methadrine but it's not worth it.
TM: It just wears you too hard.
ED: Yeah, it's too hard. It's like... it's fun but, it's kind of...
TM: Every gear is flopping on it's axle by the time you're through. Yeah.
ED: Do you have a position about the relationship of the psychedelic experience to non psychedelic mysticism?
TM: Oh, I think I see what you're trying to get at, some kind of... what's the neo-Platonic, what's the Platonic connection to the psychedelic experience.
ED: That's one way of thinking of it, yeah.
TM: Yeah, in that sense, yeah, uh, I mean... maybe you need to ask the question, but uh, the.. the psychedelic vision is of some kind of relevant thing. It isn't just, uh, it isn't the equivalent of a dust bunny under your psychic bed, or something like that. It's actually a product of the... well, it's hard to English it but the product of the fractal laws that govern information theory. That, that's a theme... I mean that, uhm, Neil Stevenson and all these people understand that it really is all about how everything is put together at the informational level. There's no deeper truth, and so all this talk about code and, uh, virtual reality, and how the portions of reality might be code running in some way, and all of this. This is all I think trying to get at, uh, something about information theory that is... needs to be fundamentally understood before we can altogether take the next step to the next level.
ED: What's the relationship between what's happening with these information networks, and this kind of object? or matrix? or second hyperdimensional...
TM: You mean how does our own cyber-spatial technology relate to the presence of this neo-Platonic ur-object of, uh...
TM: Well that sounds like, this dialogue you wanna get in on with the 'Garland of Letters' or the 'Kabbalah' or the... I mean, mathematics is somehow this web of something which hold nature together and seems to spring out of a higher mind of some sort. I mean mathematics is really what it's all about when you finally get it sliced thin I think, uh...
TM: ...and that makes sense Platonically and from this neo-Platonic thing, you know, that's uh... and by neo-Platonic I mean Proclus, and Plotinus, and those people who came about five hundred years...
later, after Christ, yeah. Have you been to Ravenna?
That's where they have these, uh, mosaics that are... cause it was basically a theory of pixelation, it was an elemental theory. So they were tiny, pure un-dividable elements of essence that went together to produce a phenomenon. Well all those people came out around the end of the sixth or early seventh century, it was Plotinus, Proclus, Porphyry... yeah Plotinus, he had the right idea [Terence laughs]. And you know it was late Gnosticism, so all this star magic and, uh, really wild theories of stellar well, it was when, it was when the Hermetic Corpus was settling nicely into positions. All those doctrines of calling down the voices and all that.
Do you think we're, uh... do you think we're in some sense, in a structurally resonant position Vis-à-vis late antiquity?
TM: Oh, I think about that very much. Well, always in some degree because these fractal things are just endlessly echoing and re-echoing inside the structure of time, but uh... yeah this, what we share with that era is, uh... a kind of fundamentally existential confusion about what's going on, so any... so doubt itself becomes a philosophical position. Which in fact all doubt means is, I'm shopping thank you. [Erik laughs] So uh, you know what I mean?
ED: Yeah. What about that sense, that this... this matrix, this network...
TM: This thing you mine for language? Yeah, I sort of see it like that, that there's something you... that all the metaphors of alchemy which are, you know... locating the deposit, extracting, concentrating, alloying, fabricating, apply to this enterprise of language and literature and art, and clearly that's basically what it's all about. And you have to get in there somehow, to this, uh... the to the main vein, and once you're there, it's just pure, pure, Logos, and that's the way I've always gotten at it. I figured that's the way, the really smart money gets at it, the, the Melville, the Joyce, these voices that you find.
ED: Are somehow channeling closer to that... from a position closer to that matrix.
ED: Or whatever you...
TM: And that that's what real channeling is, is getting close to that kind of...
ED: To that writ efecundy [sp?]...
ED: I mean that's the thing that's so wrong about the... I didn't really get that... this totally explicitly but about like a lot of channeled material. Is that I have no doubt you can set yourself up into a psychic information network wherein you... human ego at this point in history are aware, or become aware of the presence of another personality and voice when then you bring through and write down. I'm not... I'm not saying nothing about ontology, something... something about perception psychology. But the thing is, is that the stuff that gets transmitted... so much of it is so bad, and so literalistic, and so boring. Because it's not actually close to that, because that is so rich with...
TM: It's because as you say, it's too easy. You know, you have no doubt people can do it and you're right, they can do it... and then, so then what you get it is C+...
ED: Have you ever seen an image of, of, of... the, the letters that were on the golden plates?
TM: The Mormon books?
TM: Uh huh, sure.
ED: The Brodie[?] book they haven't reproduced...
ED: And it's just that notion of these highly compressed scripts. I mean if you imagine... like this thing we were talking about in psychedelic space, that this kind of matrix of possible languages or possible logics, when end up kind of fleshing out into all this sort of other stuff, that there must be languages that are farther upstream, that we can't really capture in full left-brain, you know, alphabet, parson mind.
ED: It's a little, little challenging for that mind. And yet it still has the character of a language. It's like the Hebrew alphabet..
ED: ...That mystical idea of an alphabet.
TM: No, Ralph and I have talked about stuff like this, about uh... you probably know or have heard of this guy Stan Tenen...
ED: Yeah, yes.
TM: Well he is into thing thing where he has this shape and as you illuminate it from different angles, you get different Hebrew letters cast as shadows. So Ralph said, you know... this implied then that there was this hyper object which cast all these shadows and he said, given sufficient computer powers you could compute upstream as you say, and toward higher dimensional objects that would eventually shed all, uh... all shadows, of all letters, in all languages.
TM: And that there would actually be a kind of a, like a... Omega object or something, that was the source of all meaning. So this thing you and I were talking about last night or today about mining the veins of organized entelechy or whatever, relate to this, uh, this concept of this like gnosis shedding hyper object that is somewhere up in the Empyrean.
ED: I find that Kabbalistic stuff pretty, pretty evocative, that whole...
TM: Well it relates to this 'Garland of Letters' stuff, and... I really think, I mean I had experiences leading up to the thing at La Chorrera, you know when I was young, that just seemed to imply that sound was it! And that you could do things with sound, with your voice, that is was all natural stuff. But everything up to probably splitting the atom, if you knew how to do it.
ED: So do you, do you subscribe, kind of... at least loosely to the idea, that behind a lot of religious and mystical literature, at some level of depth, lies psychedelic experience, you know, produced through ingesting of some kind of psycho-active substance?
TM: Well I think so. And I think more-so since I've had cancer, because I had no idea that such, uhm, peculiar states of mind were naturally available to people and non-lethal. In other words that you could have fairly frequent brain seizures, and experience very bizarre states of body-mind dislocation and have it not kill you. So now I see that the spectrum of human experience is a lot broader, then I previously imagined...
ED: Because then you... you've imagined all of the chemical conditions under which people have...
TM: Over a million years...
ED: You know, not just drugs, but diet, temperament, genetics...
TM: And now this. All these various things. It turns out the mind is far more malleable than it is... it's easier to... well, what am I trying to say here, I'm trying to say it, the mind can adjust to a great deal more than that which simply kills it. And so, as people make their way through these states of mind, induced by brain architecture, cancer, diet, drugs, genetics, whatever... there's a broader human database than I realized.
ED: Well other than the, the seizure itself you kind of described to me... I mean I guess this, the drugs you're on now in terms of waking up these completely bizarre things... what are some of the other, like, really unusual mind states that you found yourself in, since, uh... this all began?
TM: Well, uh, they're hard to describe, like one time I call it 'losing categories', where it will become an enormous effort to decide whether there should be one or two of something, something completely trivial. But this one or two indicates to me some kind of lexical break or some kind of peculiar... I mean it's hard to English, but...
TM: You see what I mean.
ED: Yeah. I love the idea that you've found another number between...
TM: Oh I, that I discovered a whole number between and and five that had previously been overlooked. That was a funny idea, and uh... but mostly it's some very hard to communicate idea about how, uhm, concepts form these things called lexical objects, that are like topologically closed. So they can't really be cross-related. So all understanding becomes a kind of illusion of some sort.
ED: Wow, that's kind of intense.
TM: Yeah, that is a weird idea. Well now that I have all these medical problems with brain, and brain function, I have a much greater appreciation for the boundaries of eccentricity. I mean, now I understand, it doesn't take drugs. There are a lot of people running around who are crazy as shit house owls, and uh... are achieving it on the natch [Terence laughs]. And their, their testimony now has to be weighed as well, so uh... this surprises me. I didn't realize that, uhm... you know a malfunctioning brain could, uh... leave you functioning enough to report to work and tell your story, and presumably write novels and meet deadlines, and these other things, you know, that people do, so.. and I don't know how many other people realize this either.
ED: Because that's sort of how you... how you feel?
TM: Yeah, I mean, I'm now... live in a world defined by, pretty much by prescribed drugs and, uh, my doctors are telling me I have to take this stuff to stay alive, basically. So how many people are living in a world psychological defined by that way? Quite a lot.
ED: But you seem to be largely... Terence, you know...
TM: Well I recall who I'm supposed to be, so... [Terence and Erik laughs] We're not trading that in too likely, uh...
ED: But in some fundamental sense, do you feel like your standing on a different ball?
TM: I would like to get all these drugs out of my system, the Depakote, and the steroids and all that because, uhm... it makes mentally moving on a level surface feel like walking uphill, you know, so uh... and these are mild drugs I take. These are not, you know, what about the people who've been diagnosed, scizophrenic, or bi-polar this, or something, I mean what are these people taking, and what is it making them think about reality?
ED: Well you've taken, uh, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors haven't you?
TM: You mean like Prozac?
TM: Yeah, the... but those are designed to, uh, help you out. These other things, all you deal with is side effects.
ED: Oh yeah, yeah.
TM: It's a different thing.
ED: I thought you were talking more about... Schizophrenia, you know, it's been treated... don't they treat with all sorts of neuro-transmitter, uh... modulating drugs, which are presumably there to help them out?
TM: Well, there to help them out...
ED: In the way that Prozac's...
TM: It may be there to help the rest of us out. [Terence and Erik laughs] You know, to... like for instance this drug I take Depakote, the first thing it supposedly deals with is mania, well I'm taking a drug for mania? I don't have mania, do I? Did I? Would I? Should I? Could I? Do I want to? And so forth and so on, [more laughter].
ED: You, you didn't have any bit of mania in you before?
TM: At times I've been accused of mania, but... [more laughter] by idiots! So... [more laughter] ...uhm, and I guess because of the war on drugs somewhat concealed and all that is the willingness of the establishment to allow experimentation of drugs, the effect of which on tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people would have social consequences that were maybe unintended or unmanaged, uh...
ED: Yeah, I'll say.
TM: Yeah, like I've wondered, you know the statistic you hear, Prozac is the most prescribed drug in the world now, and a billion people take Prozac now.
ED: Is it really?
TM: It's something like that.
ED: Oh my god.
TM: So my question is, when do some of the rest of us get the benefit of this? In other words, when is the guy putting my fruit in my sack going to become a more pleasant person? The guy pumping gas, uh... all these people on Prozac, pretty soon it should begin to feed into the body politic as a sort of feeling of a good will and temperance. I haven't actually seen that. [Erik laughs] But yes, I would like to live for quite awhile longer. But it is a very interesting cancer as a metaphor for modern life and uh... how people live, how they think about their politics and diet, and uh, money and all the, the rest of it. And probably my generation was more exposed to toxin, than any other in history. Because there were not only all the toxins of the pre-modern world, but then, all the plastics, adhesives, and so forth and...
ED: Well, it's just so, it seems so basic that cancer is a socially, physically constructed metaphor for all these other processes that are happening on different levels. It's almost like that plane of the real response with an appropriate kind of metaphor for all these, processes of inflation, and kind of negentropy burning, uh, development.
TM: The revenge of matter or something... yeah. Or the revenge of synthetic matter.
ED: But what is your prognosis?
TM: Ah, well it's a little hard to figure out, uhm... I think it's, well it depends on the doctor your believe. The doctor who just did the surgery said he got it all. He has an incredible reputation like thirty best in the world, or something, with survival rates and all that, so uh... maybe he did get it all, in which case I'm the same weird, the same... I just have to get strong. On the other hand the survival rate for this shit is very low, uhm... zilch in some people's opinion. They say, you know, there's no escape, there's always salve[?], they always return. You can only have so many crainiotomies, uh.. so those people say six months to a year of life, which is really a drag to take on board, uh... my own intuition is I'm not sure, I can't tell what's going on. It certainly is a weird situation to have fall upon you. Especially a person like myself whose never had, I've never been a sick person or concerned with any of this. I had no idea there was so much morbidity around me, you know... where as Dante, you know... "I had not thought death had undone so many", he says when he looks into the Inferno. It's a sobering thought [Terence laughs]. So that's it and, uhm.. what you do, is you constantly try to get stronger and hope that no bad news comes down the pipe, and uh...
ED: Do you feel more, uh... intimate with death?
TM: Oh, absolutely. No, you spend every waking minute... well I don't know every waking minute, but for the past six months, uh... let us say, death has been a daily accompaniment of my, uh, thoughts, and uh... dying is the more troubling subject. Death is the great who knows. Dying on the other hand might be unpleasant, prolonged, it has a terrible effect on the people around you, and uh...
ED: Full of fear and pain...
TM: And misapprehension, you know...
TM: Well, people don't know what it is. So they don't know what they're looking at, and they, you know are they losing you? Are you passing to the great, the meaning combination of answer to all, or are you on the extended wing downward into darkness? And it really plays people.
ED: The internal subjective perception of the shut-down of the nervous system at death. I think that's a really interesting question.
TM: You mean to what degree are these things different and similar?
ED: Yeah, that in some way in what happens with most psychedelic, and mystical visionary experience, and, and certain relationships to apocalyptic form to the end of the world, where things all transforming. There's a, a point where the self dies and it might happen in a millisecond, but subjectively would be the end of the world.
TM: Yeah, and because I think everything works basically the same way, it would have a fair profundity, uh, because you would be seeing the primal assembly language code.
ED: But, but the whole idea of psychedelics as an end, you know, as a rehearsal for that kind of event.
TM: Yeah, it's like Buddhism with turbo-charge or something. Now you can...
ED: Run through the Bardo, or a Bardo...
TM: Take the diamond sutra for spin. [Terence laughs]
ED: How does one live your life in the shadow of such an event. You know, what does it mean to live in a shadow of a different kind of culmination? Or how does one live in a post-human world?
TM: Well, maybe that's how you actually can change your existential mourn. That's what you deal with. That's the peg you move, is this image of, uh, your own fate or end of life, or how it's... what exactly all this stuff is worth to you, and as you move that around, you see thing differently.
ED: How has a lifetime of psychedelic use, an adult lifetime, sort of set you up for facing death?
TM: Well I guess it leads you to the idea that, uh, things are probably more complicated than you can suppose. Therefore supposition is not to be trusted. So in other words, given how weird life has been, why rush to pre-judge death? It's bound to be mighty strange. Life was mighty strange, and uh... I'm curious, you know, I don't think anybody would be curious... I mean it's an interesting situation to be told that you have a very limited amount of life left, because it composes your mind for you... wonderfully. You know, and you start paying attention, asking the questions, and uh... and I have no insight into what it will be, but I suspect it isn't what anybody thinks it is. I mean the argument that nature has this desire to preserve form is I think self-evident on enormous scales of space and time, and very local scales of space and time, so why fight it? It must be that, uh, that the, that somehow matter is spiritualizing itself, or mathematisizing itself or something...
ED: Right, becoming virtual form.
TM: So, and what psychedelics show is, that the world is full of surprises. I mean I consider psychedelics a constant and verifiable miracle. The fact that that can happen to your mind, so it means all kinds of things are possible, uh... nothing is to be assumed or pre-judged, given a. biology, b. psychedelics and culture, and probably that's a long enough list but those two things alone secure the weirdness of being sufficiently... we can call it quits.
ED: It's late too. You should get your rest Terence.
TM: Yes I should, we all should.