As a fledgling life/spiritual coach/consultant/mentor/teacher (put your favorite adjective here), I follow many spiritual prophets/gurus/scholars, philosophers, traditions, scientists (yep), sages and shamans, Terrence McKenna is one of my favorites, especially when we look at our modern world and what is happening to us at the moment. He was very on point describing modern Western Culture:
“Western civilization is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet.”
― Terence McKenna
Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, author, and an advocate for the responsible use of naturally occurring psychedelic plants. He spoke and wrote about a variety of subjects, including psychedelic drugs, plant-based entheogens, shamanism, metaphysics, alchemy, language, philosophy, culture, technology, environmentalism, and the theoretical origins of human consciousness. He was called the “Timothy Leary of the ’90s”, “one of the leading authorities on the ontological foundations of shamanism”, and the “intellectual voice of rave culture“.
I his formative years (60s and 70s), Terence traveled a lot to build his philosophy and wisdom, visiting Nepal, to view the use of Shamanic/Psychedelic plants in Buddhist traditions. He also spent time in Jerusalem in his Opium-Kaballah phase.
In the Early 70s, he traveled to the Columbian Amazon to find the plant reputed to contain DMT, or the Spirit Molecule, finding Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms instead and focusing on this mushroom for the rest of his stay. In 1972, McKenna returned to U.C. Berkeley to finish his studies and in 1975, he graduated with a degree in ecology, shamanism, and conservation of natural resources.
After his studies, he published a book of his experiences in the Amazon and growing the mushrooms called Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide.
In the early 1980s, McKenna began to speak publicly on the topic of psychedelic drugs, becoming one of the pioneers of the psychedelic movement. He conducted lecture tours and workshop promoting natural psychedelics as a way to explore universal mysteries, stimulate the imagination, and re-establish a harmonious relationship with nature, something sorely lacking in the modern mythology where growth is everything and Nature is truly just a commodity to be transformed and resold.
Even though he was associated with the New Age movement, McKenna himself had little patience for New Age sensibilities. He repeatedly stressed the importance and primacy of the “felt presence of direct experience”, as opposed to dogma.
A prolific writer, his subjects included shamanism; metaphysics; alchemy; language; culture; self-empowerment; environmentalism, techno-paganism; artificial intelligence; evolution; extraterrestrials; science and scientism; the Web; virtual reality (which he saw as a way to artistically communicate the experience of psychedelics); and aesthetic theory, specifically about art/visual experience as information representing the significance of hallucinatory visions experienced under the influence of psychedelics.
Some of his important friends and collaborators were Rupert Sheldrake, Bill Hicks and Timothy Leary another big Psychedelic user with his studies and experiences with LSD.
But enough about the man, let’s dive into more of my favorite McKenna quotes and thoughts over here, and they always make you think!
“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”
“The cost of sanity in this society, is a certain level of alienation”
“The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”
“You have to take seriously the notion that understanding the universe is your responsibility, because the only understanding of the universe that will be useful to you is your own understanding.”