Terence McKenna – Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature

If you’ve never heard of Terence McKenna before, you are in for a treat.  McKenna was an American philosopher who focused on the nature of consciousness and its relationship with psychedelic drugs.  One of his long standing theories about the nature of conscious evolution, that I find to be very compelling, was that primitive man encountered psychedelic mushrooms, and it was the incorporation of psychedelics into the primitive diet that prompted self-realization and language to come into existence.

McKenna is also no fan of the state, which he calls an “ape man political system.”  Obviously I share some agreement with him on this point.  While I don’t agree with every thing that McKenna has to say, I do agree with the vast majority of it.  He’s not a political philosopher, so don’t expect to hear any references to Menger or Rothbard, but his take on consciousness is quite extraordinary and very compatible with what I have come to discover through other routes of inquiry myself.

Some of his insights about psychedelic mushrooms include the possibility that such mushrooms are potentially alien to the Earth’s natural ecosystems.  If you consider that each mushroom is capable of emitting millions upon millions of spores, and that the spores are so small that they can be subject to electrostatic forces in the environment, it is possible for those spores to be carried aloft out of Earth’s atmosphere.  Mushroom spores are practically custom built to survive in the environment of space.  Assuming spores are capable of being pushed into outer space by electrostatic forces, a mushroom species could potentially colonize the habitable planets of the galaxy in around 40 million years.  Given that mushrooms are non-invasive, and occupy the very bottom of the food chain since they primarily survive on decomposing organic matter, their survivability among alien worlds is very high.

It is also interesting to note that psilocybin (the psychedelic drug contained in mushrooms), when taken in low doses, increases visual acuity by increasing edge detection.  Grass land animals who incorporated psilocybin into their diet would have a competitive advantage over those who did not.  There are many other interesting effects of psilocybin that most people don’t know about because of their illegal status and the prohibition on psychedelic research.

To quote McKenna:

Whether the mushrooms came from outer space or not, the presence of psychedelic substances in the diet of early human beings created a number of changes in our evolutionary situation. When a person takes small amounts of psilocybin visual acuity improves. They can actually see slightly better, and this means that animals allowing psilocybin into their food chain would have increased hunting success, which means increased food supply, which means increased reproductive success, which is the name of the game in evolution. It is the organism that manages to propagate itself numerically that is successful. The presence of psilocybin in the diet of early pack- hunting primates caused the individuals that were ingesting the psilocybin to have increased visual acuity. At slightly higher doses of psilocybin there is sexual arousal, erection, and everything that goes under the term arousal of the central nervous system. Again, a factor which would increase reproductive success is reinforced.

One other interesting item of note about McKenna; his research led him to conclude that human consciousness would undergo a dramatic shift around the year 2012.  He predicted this back in the late 80’s.  I’m not sure how logically or scientifically valid his theory about “time wave zero” is, but there can be no denying that humanity is about to undergo some major socio-economic and political changes.  The bond bubble has yet to blow, and when it does, it will take the entire machinery of the state down with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Michael.Allen.Ellis Michael Ellis

    Love Terence! He was truly ahead of his time. His contention that the world is made of imagination and more specifically language had a big impact on me spiritually. That and taking “Heroic Doses” of mushrooms. You can never experience reality quite the same way again after experiencing for yourself what Terence talks about. Great post Michael!

  • The They

    I first seriously took psychedelics in college and i found that it made my understanding of philosophy much more acute. For instance, i wrote this poem entirely on LSD:

    Through the differentiation
    Of its own self-engendering movement,
    veils its own eyes
    to the privilege of its self-experience.
    What a joke when
    a life full of contemplation
    has only to show for its efforts
    the understanding that occurs
    when the mind is silenced by its own contradictions.
    Understanding that
    When I see you,
    I see me.


  • http://www.libertariannews.org/ Michael Suede

    The use of the word propaganda has no malicious intent. We ascribe malicious intent because it is typically associated with government actors, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. I think his use of the word is appropriate.

    If you don’t think there is enough scientific evidence to support Terence’s case, I recommend checking out this more recent academic book.


  • MRockatansky

    I have excellent study advisement and mentoring. I’ll respectfully decline taking ‘recommended reading’ from you, thanks. If I need any, can I get back to you?

    Won’t offer you any free advice either, just to return the courtesy.

    “The use of the word propaganda has no malicious intent.”

    Well, will wonders cease. I guess MEIN KAMPF is an exercise in benevolence. Who knew? So Hitler’s now been misunderstood, a non-malicious guy picked on unfairly. By ignorant people who, unlike yourself (?) – don’t know a lack of ‘malicious intent’ when they see it. Thanks for clearing that up. Lot of generosity in what you serve, silver-platter style. Shining a light into the darkness of stuff all misunderstood like that.

    “We ascribe malicious intent because …” Putting aside the ‘becausifying’ explainification – and holding eyeballs from rolling reflex – um, who is this WE for whom you speak? Better not be me because I speak for myself, mkay? Or was it the Imperial We – you yourself and you?

    “I think his use of the word is appropriate.” HELLO? To his trained seals, applauding his every word in rapture – there is, nor can there ever be, anything not ‘appropriate’ in any word Terence used, anywhere. But to your credit – minuscule – yes, his use of the word ‘propaganda’ in describing his staged operations, his ‘stoned apes’ Trojan Horse (as he called it) – was accurate to the definition and meaning of the word.

    What wasn’t appropriate was – his recourse to disinfo and propaganda, falsifying and fabricating whatever the hell he felt like. Because the ends justify the means, and nothing else matters once that line of fanatic conviction is crossed.

    As Hitler well understood also.

    Likewise I think we understand each other. So if you want to spin all that silk, go ahead. They’re your spinnerettes. I think you’ll find the lines don’t attach. You might as well kindly cease and desist the bs propaganda campaign and offensive. At least, with me – not prey species here, be advised.

    I got some background in the anthropology of native ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’ – terms as used in ethnography. It turns out to be a specialization of critical importance for studies of the Terence McKenna cult, with all its abracadabra methods. World’s made of language you know … “it becomes true, when we talk about it.” Start with Evans-Pritchard, 1937, MAGIC WITCHCRAFT AND ORACLES AMONG THE AZANDE (and followed up by many other fascinating studies.)

    Unless you’re helpless, driven by reflex to try and argue. In that case – good luck. And declined. I don’t power struggle with the TM Admiration Society and its bots. I am quite well aware of the aggression pattern, the psychosocial morbidity of the spell cast by Terence McKenna and his followers. Acting out in one way or another – as if intelligent or informed, intellectual or ‘have something to say’ – or just belligerent ignorance, TM trolling – seems the entire range. All reaction all the time, zero response capability.

  • http://www.libertariannews.org/ Michael Suede

    So you’re going to base your criticism off the limited sources McKenna provides, and ignore all of the other evidence that is out there.

    I don’t need to refute you any further. People reading this can make up their own mind.

  • MRockatansky

    Actually – what I’ve done, never mind ‘going to do’ is cite facts. Little things like:

    1) what Fischer and colleagues discovered reported in their work – and

    2) TM’s own words, lies he made up in order to float his trojan boat. The facts of his blatant exploitation and deceit.

    You come off pretty defensive. Its almost as if you’re trying to justify McKenna’s lies, MEIN KAMPF style, repeating his talking points of deception like a puppet on his string, a ventriloquist dummy. Should I be surprised that a propagandist for Terence, like yourself – spinning lines of prevarication and obfuscation with your own silk – would go so far as to speak up for propaganda itself, as a basic form of deception? And start yammering – to me, not some idiot thank you – about how, oh, its okay, there’s nothing wrong with it, its not malicious – but “WE” …

    You got one thing right. You don’t need to refute me. I couldn’t have said it better. And good thing for you too. Because you can’t. Not with all the magic wand wording and talking in airy circles you got. Useless except to struggle in your quicksand of authoritarian self-impressed pseudo-theorizing.

    And you’re damn right readers can make up their own minds. How generous you’ll give them that.

  • HippyS

    Hey Brian.

    Are you seriously attempting to compare Terence Mckenna to Adolf Hitler?


    Maybe it’s time to take a break from harassing Mckennites over the internet.

    Relax, ingest your favourite psychoactive and play that funky guitar. Doctor’s orders!

  • MRockatansky

    Hippie Shakes, how goes? Ahem – what’s all this then? Are you just pretending? Impersonating a put-on? Or you ‘seriously’ joking?

    Ok with me, either way. No judgment or criticism express or implied. In context, ‘spidey sense’ says addressing me as you do is theater. Between the lines, you speak by indirection, mainly to a fellow Witness down on his luck:
    our poor ‘junior science expert’ bloghost.

    Kind of you to convey supportive sympathies covertly. Its only politic. You don’t want to rub salt in his wounds, as comfort directly posed, without ‘Hey Brian’ cover – might do.

    There’s a word of succor born every minute, hm?

    Wait a minute – maybe you’re right.

    Maybe your court (where you got me not just accused, but convicted? – without a trial?? – ‘harassment’ of the Terence’s Witnesses) – isn’t some grandiose farce, but a real, duly constituted authority. Not a court of incompetent jurisdiction. Perhaps your authority and judicial robes are real and binding. Not audacious absurdity or a put-on like some ridiculous MAD magazine fold-in.

    And maybe Terence’s junior evolution experts – like our bloghost here (Mr Understanding and Imagination in Light of Nature – can tell science its business without least clue what they’re talking about; like the ‘Scientific’ Creationists. They too know better than those ‘orthodox’ dualistic thinkers, with their ‘conventional’ science.

    Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m wrong. In fact, maybe we’re all fools, and nothing matters? Why, now that you got me thinking, maybe –

    NAW. 😉

    I’m sure the Catholic Church, 1600’s, probably looked at the telescope as a form of Jesus-believer harassment too. And science as a sneak attack on their robes, their holy authority. Whaddya bet?

    Good hearing from you Hippie Shakes. Not getting out my citation pad to write you up with warning for practicing medicine without a license. Bossing around “Quacks’ Orders” etc. (you realize I’m a doctor, got doctorate – right?). Or practicing law without a license. Letting you off with warning this time. Could be minutes in penalty box, next time. Word of friendly warning ‘dude’ …

    Well, hopefully our self-qualified junior evolution expert – i.e. TM preacher – will take some solace from your post maneuver, after all that. Because O-M-G! He unwittingly handed me a major guffaw, like a present under my tree. And he didn’t even know it was Christmas.

    Its that book he tried using to ‘cleverly’ (i.e. desperately) change subject, from inconvenient truth – by hand-waving ‘evidence, evidence.’ Like he has least clue what the word means (vs its use as rhetoric).

    Clueless In Austria must not have even read that book he picked out. Otherwise he might have realized – guess whose published research it sources? Uh huh.

    See the chap in it by my good senior colleague, world’s
    leading authority on Psilocybe – Dr G Guzman. Discusses significant (made news) collaborative study with several of my distinguished coauthors. Two of whom have other writings featured – again, in that same volume (see other chaps).

    So that’s the book Bozo’s gonna use for his “Throw In Face Ploy” – to try and evade issue or obfuscate? Stifling hilarity. Oh the humanity. Such self-humiliation. Alas for Mr Evidence. Do you know how ticklish I am? Talk about cruel and unusual punishment…