Terence McKenna (1946-2000) was perhaps the greatest philosophical mind of the 20th century. His expeditions into the Amazon in search of the mystical botanical brew yage brought him in contact with psilocybin mushrooms. Together with his brother Dr. Dennis McKenna, the pair brought “magic mushrooms” hurtling into the awareness of the West. Terence became the heir apparent to Timothy Leary’s public LSD work. He was a most verbose, incredibly witty, pleasantly sarcastic Renaissance Man–a self-taught master of anthropology, biology, chemistry, magic, alchemy, math and history, with a deep knowledge of art and Jungian psychology. He took all of this knowledge and applied to to exploring hidden realms of human consciousness through psychedelics. Beyond all of this he is my personal hero and I honor his memory daily.
Meanwhile, WikiSpaces is shutting down, which means the Terence McKenna Transcription project is about to become homeless. Hopefully they will find a new place to host their content. I am simply posting my work here so that it won’t be lost forever. This is only ONE of his hundreds of public lectures that are floating around cyberspace today. Terence is well known for his gift of the gab, so this transcription took me 2-3 months to complete, and contains 21,662 words. Enjoy if you want to, after the break.
Journey Onwards, Terence!
My name is Terence McKenna and I’m, uh, a philosophical gadfly and shamanologist, writer and lecturer [laughter]. Uhm, Louis assured me that you were so familiar with my work that probably we could handle this meeting as a dialogue after a short introduction to some of the things that I’m interested in. So we’ll attempt that. I’ll talk for a few minutes and then we’ll see if we can’t have that conversation about the aspects of these things that interest you.
If any of you have read “The Invisible Landscape”, which I am the co-author of with my brother, you know that it ranges over fairly hardcore chemistry and neurophysiology, through the phenomenology of shamanism, and on into a fairly extensive discussion of principles of ordering in the I Ching. But what I seem to, uh, find myself publicly lecturing about is the relationship of, uh, hallucinogens, especially plant hallucinogens to shamanic healing in the context where use of hallucinogens is associated with shamanism. If you look at the worldwide distribution of hallucinogens you immediately notice that there are several unexplained anomalies. Why is it, uh, that fully 80% of the world’s known plant hallucinogens are concentrated in the Amazon Basin, even though the flora of the Old World jungles of Indonesia, uh, is equally rich? And Weston La Barre and a number of people have written about this, trying to say that perhaps it is because the people of the Amazon are closer to the hunting and gathering pre-agricultural mode than anywhere else in the world. But for whatever reason the people of the Amazon have developed, uh, the use of hallucinogens in curing and shamanism to a very high degree.
And [cough] while a number of plant species are involved in the production of these various, uh, drugs, the chemistry of them is more simple than the botany. In other words, almost all of the hallucinogens in use in the Amazon, uh, rely on a monoamine oxidase inhibition to propitiate dimethyltryptamine. In other words, monoamine oxidase, uh, is the enzyme system in the body which degrades monoamines, which would be serotonin, but also any introduced monoamines which would be all alkaloids, and, uh, many drugs. When the monoamine oxidase is inhibited, chemically, it can no longer do its job of, uh, deactivating, uh, these compounds, and consequently you get an accumulation of them at the synapse. And this is, uh, thought to be the mechanic by which the hallucinogenic, uh, experience is induced with these drugs.
For many people who seem interested in curing, I think this morning I will, uh, in brief remarks, concentrate on one ethnomedical system, and if your questions range beyond that, that’s fine. But I aim to concentrate on this one ethnomedical system because part of what I am trying to do is to get researchers like yourselves to look more closely at this. There’re a number of unanswered questions. In fact I would say more not known than known.
The system that I refer to is the endemic use of ayahuasca throughout Bolivia, Peru, southern Colombia, portions of ,uh, Ecuador and Brazil. Very briefly, ayahuasca is, uh, a combinatory drug made out of the boiled leaves and stems of a [????] woody climber called banisteriopsis caapi. A huge, woody vine that sometimes reaches 200 meters in length in the jungle. And, uh, it is boiled to make a hot water infusion, and then to this is added a small amount of the DMT-containing leaves of some other plant, either banisteri..uh..either diplopterys cabrerana, or psychotria viridis. Now, my brother has just finished toward the Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, and much of what his thesis consisted of was, uh, looking at drug and plant samples that we collected in the Amazon in 1982 when we went down there. For over ten years, Schultes and Bo Holmstedt of the Karolinska Institute had published theories of the activity of ayahuasca which stated that they believed it worked through monoamine oxidase inhibition, but they had never really been, uh, tested. Now it has been looked at in the laboratory, and essentially confirmed that this is precisely what’s happening. And it’s a very interesting comment on ethnomedicine, because unlike peyote or amanita muscaria or the psilocybin mushrooms of Mexico, ayahuasca is a combinatory drug. It is prepared. It is not simply picked and eaten. So, as a consequence of this, it can be made either well or badly. And as a consequence of that, the personality of the shaman becomes far more important in the ayahuasca cult, than in the cults that revolve around the use of, uh, plant drugs where no preparation is involved.
Now, at the beginning of this, I mentioned that all the, all the, uh, hallucinogenic drugs of the Amazon are based on this tryptamine, uh, beta-Carboline, uh, interaction. What we were doing in 1982 was looking at a much more endemic and restrictive drug complex, which is, uh,…for over 30 years there’s been persistent reports in the ethnographic literature, that there was an orally active DMT drug, which was very interesting to pharamacologists because there is large amounts of, uh, monoamine oxidase in, uh, the human gut. Assumed by evolutionary biologists to be there to degrade, uh, potentially dangerous or toxic monoamine that might be taken in through the diet. So it’s very interesting to pharmacologists to hear that there is an orally active DMT drug, because it, uh, flies in the face of pharmacological theory. It should be impossible. Uh, and the pharmacologists said that if there was an orally active DMT drug, then it must be complexed with an MAO inhibitor to make it work.
So what we were doing was going down there and visiting various shaman in various places, persuading them to make the paste for us, making voucher specimens of the plants that went into it, and then taking, uh, the voucher specimens, the paper material, the air-dried material, all this stuff back to Canada. And, uh, our assumption was that we would pretty much confirm Holmstedt and Schultes’, uh, assertion that this drug also worked by monoamine oxidase inhibition.
It now appears not to be so. Uh, it also appears to be, uh, there’re questions about the composition of the drug. The people who use this drug were disrupted in the 1930’s. There was, uh, a dispute between Colombia and Peru, and when the new boundary was drawn, these people felt they were in the wrong country. They felt Peruvian, but they ended up in the Colombian side of the line. The Putumayo River was set as the new border, and they undertook then a kind of exodus, in which, uh, ten to fifteen thousand of them, uh, moved about a hundred miles across the Putumayo River to the present center, uh, where they’re located. And in that [crossover?], we believe that the knowledge of the drug was severely compromised. The reason for this is because samples of the drug that we collected north of the Putumayo River in 1971 actually did show the presence of beta-Carboline in them. But samples prepared below the Putumayo River had no trace of beta-Carbolines in them, and in fact in bioassay, seemed , that means when we took it, assumed, uh, either inactive or toxic, and it’s well known that the trees from which this, uh, drug is prepared is also the source of an arrow poison. And in fact among the Yąnomamö, uh, if they are, the men are on a hunting expedition and they run out of the supply of the drug, they are persistently reported to scrape the arrow poison off their quill arrows and to sniff that. [Laughter].
So what exactly is going on was not clear. I think we took turns doing the bioassays, uh, with the drugs in Peru. And I think my brother got, uh, the most powerful and frightening sample. And it sounded from his account like a paralytic poison. He felt numbing which began around the lips and proceeded down his throat. His breathing became very shallowed and labored. His mind was racing but he couldn’t move. There were no, there was no eidetic or hypnogogic imagery. There was simply a, uh, a massive sense of respiratory, uh, depression. And when he recovered from this and questioned the shaman who had made the drug, his only comment was that it does take getting used to. [Laughter]. But I’m not sure that we’ll repeat the experiment.
So I, I mention that because, uh, here is an unsolved problem. We took the best suggestion of the generation of researchers ahead of us, and went to the Amazon and ran their suggestions to ground, and it appears not to. Their conjecture was incorrect. These [virola paste] drugs don’t work through MAO inhibition. So here is the continuing unsolved pharmacological problem if any of you find yourselves doing field work in the Amazon, this is the one to bear in mind.
The ayahuasca complex that I mentioned earlier is much more accessible and in fact is perhaps the most widely distributed psychedelic drug taking, uh, uh, complex in the world. It involves millions and millions of people who, on a regular basis approximately weekly, gather together usually in windowless corrugated roof sheds. And the local ayahuascero, and in these areas ayahuasca and shaman mean the same thing, uh, he leads the group in the taking of this drug. And, uh, a number of people are come to these sessions because they have medical or psychological problems, either is, there is no distinction made. Many people come to these sessions out of curiosity. A certain percentage come with the attitude that they’re going to take a psychedelic drug, in other words that this is a visionary experience. And, uh, this phenomenon of taking the drug is completely embedded in the people’s lives. And very very efficaciously so, they call it La Purga. And in fact harmine, the main monoamine oxidase inhibiting constituent of ayahuasca, actually is a, uh, a strong anti-worm remedy. And this is important and definitely gives the people taking ayahuasca a, an adaptive leg-up on everybody else because intestinal worms are an endemic problem in these areas. And I believe there’s no question that if you’re taking ayahuasca every couple weeks, you’re probably being very free with this.
Uh, the curing, uh, scenario of the ayahuascero is easily identified to the curings of nigh all shamans world wide. In other words it consists of magical songs, the blowing of tobacco smoke over the body of the patient, the laying on of hands, the sucking on the afflicted part of the body to remove a, uh, a, uh, magical object which may or may not be visible, uh, the interpreting of visions and this sort of thing. The ayahuascero really functions as a hierophant for these groups of country people. And I might say a word about the context in which this is happening. Their ayahuasca is used by deep forest Indians and they have their own folk ways about it. Uh, it’s really a mass phenomenon of displace Indian and uh, mixed Mestiso population.
What you have in the Amazon are, uh, relatively new cities. New if we mean, by new, built within this century. Iquitos in Peru arose first as a consequence of the rubber boom, many of you who saw Herzog’s film “Burden of Dreams” are not, uh, “Fitzcarraldo”, uh, got a good idea of what ayahua, uh what Iquitos is like. Pucallpa is a much newer city in the south of Peru and is essentially 50,000 Indians have come out of the jungle to work in the sawmills. And, uh, to create a tremendous, uh, pocket of syncretic foment, where folk beliefs, shamanistic practices, uh, languages are all in a state of homogenation, and very rich, very rich for those people to live in, and very rich to do research in. And, uh, it was there that we found the, uh, ayahuascero who seemed to us to have the most, as they say in Hebrew, he was memash, he was “real”, he was, uh, had a sense of existential authenticity about him. And then in the laboratory we backed that up. His stuff was consistently stronger and better made than anyone else’s.
So Kat and I spent six or seven weeks with these people, we just moved in with them. We took ayahuasca as often as we could arrange to do, which was at least once a week and sometimes twice a week. And I, we can attest to its curative powers because the peeks of ayahuasca taking were, uh, interspersed with the [trentures] of salmonella infection [Laughter]. Each time we got salmonella we would ask the shaman to move up the next, uh, ayahuasca trip…and that would give us about three days brace before the next bout of salmonella. It was a terrific problem. If you know what it is, you know what I mean. If you don’t, you’re lucky.
So, uh we can, I can answer questions about this, uh many different levels I guess before I open up for discussion. So many of you seem interested in curing, I should describe and maybe Kat can help us of our impression of what is going on in the curing. Naturally, uh, well…have to talk about psychedelic drugs. I think the word psychedelic is maybe too broad, because it includes things which are very different from each other. It can include things as different as ketamine and mescaline. And uh, certainly, uh we…Tryptamine, uh, intoxication if we can use that word advisèdly, is very distinct from the intoxication or or, uh, the immersion in the phenomenology of LSD or mescaline. Something like that. In our cultural context, DMT is almost never encountered. And when it is encountered, it is usually smoked. And it’s very very brief. It onsets in about 45 seconds. It lasts 100-300 seconds, and then it fades in a few minutes, and is tremendously intense visual hallucinogen. Very difficult in fact to imagine, and more intense than that. Now, psilocybin which is the active hallucinogen in mushrooms, is 4-phosphoryloxy-N-N-dimethyltryptamine. It’s well understood that the phosphoryl group is removed as it crosses the blood-brain barrier. This turns it into psilocin, 5-hydroxy-N-N-dimethyltryptamine, uh, I mean 4-hydroxy-N-N-dimethyltryptamine. And this is, this is very close to serotonin. So close that it’s reasonable to assume that these compounds are competing for the same types of activity at the synapse.
Now, though, uh, psilocybin cannot be directly changed into DMT, it’s a two step process, the structural affinities of them are very clear. What seems to be happening in ayahuasca is a very small amount of DMT, and uh, a lot of MAO inhibitor being used to activate it. Uh, and I should talk about these MAO inhibitors in ayahuasca. They are harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine, the family of compounds known as beta-Carbolines. Now, beta-Carbolines are psychoactive in their own right, but not hallucinogenic. Some of you may know the work of Claudio Naranjo, who used harmine and harmaline in therapy. But if you study his work on the subject very carefully, it becomes clear that fully half of all the human descriptions of, uh, the psycho, uh, activity of beta-Carbolines come from one subject. And massive doses had to be given. They were giving, uh, 10 mg/kg in some cases, to [elucidate] even low eidetic activity behind closed eyelids. So to call it a hallucinogen is perhaps a misnomer.
Uh, one of the things that my brother discovered that seems fascinating to me is that in in vitro systems, meaning in test tubes, uh, ayahuasca brews that we brought from the Amazon were found to be a million times stronger for MAO inhibition than they needed to be. When he diluted these to 1 millionth the strength that the people were taking in the Amazon, you’re still getting 80% MAO inhibition. So what seems to be happening if we can extrapolate from in vitro to in vivo, is they are way overdoing the amount of MAO inhibitor you need. And just barely saddling up to enough, uh, tryptamine to potentiate the, uh, the hallucinogenic activity.
When you take ayahuasca, first after about 30 minutes you feel a kind of calmative effect. Which if you’ve taken a large amount of it, can actually become almost the beginnings of a live anesthesia. And then in darkness under the influence of the ikaro, the magical song, the hypnogogia begins to weave itself. And it’s not, uh, sharp edged bright geometric kinds of hallucinations. It’s much more, as he says in his thesis, the color is of the forest floor. Rich ochres, olive drabs, warm browns, dusty oranges, all very impressionistically put together. And very much subject to audio control. The ikaros, the magical songs, are actually, uh, technically tools for controlling the fabric of the hallucination. This is very interesting to me because as some of you may known who’ve heard me lecture before, I’m interested in the effect of these things on the language centers and the relationship between visual modalities to spoken modalities. And definitely, this is what’s happening in ayahuasca. The songs are being used to to control the visions. Perhaps it’s what’s happening in peyote circles as well. I don’t have great familiarity with that, but I know there’s great stress on attaining these magical songs, which are not produced from the ego. They are spontaneous outbursts of, uh, linguistic order, that affect the visual cortex and control the fabric of the hallucinations. And, the shaman can use this to, in his own language, to look into the body. He can see into the body and I would say of ayahuasca the most, I don’t want to say “health oriented” but it’s definitely somatically oriented. You, you feel how you feel on it, and you see into yourself and you can actually direct energy in a visual way that is way more intense than mere metaphor. And if a person such as myself can do this, you can imagine someone who’s given their life to manipulating these states–how intense it must be. And they see into the body and they direct sound into the body, and by this means energy blockages can be broken up, diseases diagnosed, psychological conditions addressed, all kinds of things are, uh, go on.
And, uh, our attitude when looking at this was not the, uh, attitude of representatives of the superior culture studying the quaint folk ways of preliterate peoples. It seems very clear that this healthcare delivery system is very effective, perhaps more effective than our own, especially in the treating of psychological disorders, of which there are a number in Peru that only these populations are, uh, subject to. I am not an anthropologist or sociologist and not particularly interested in phenomenological descriptions of these things. I really believe that there is a, uh, a, uh, potential impact on our own society from all of this. If we could understand what was happening, we could have a much, uh, better chance of being able to orient our own healthcare delivery systems to be more effective. Uh, a friend of ours, an anthropologist who lives in Finland, uh Luis Luna, who showed his film in Vancouver last year, he is completely convinced that the real mastery of ayahuasca lays in following a very rigorous diet. Which, uh, the deep forest ayahuasceros used. And this may be true. I mean, definitely, uh, beta-Carbolines are endogenously produced in human metabolism, so are beta-Carbolines, uh, the, uh I mean so are tryptamines. And the peculiar diet in the Amazon anyway which is high starch, uh, uh, low protein, high sugar, very few green vegetables kind of diet, may predispose the, these people to accessing ayahuasca more easily.
Kat had no trouble getting off, uh, when we were being dosed down there. I had more trouble and I think it was simple a matter of, uh, the ratio of the compound to body weight. I was definitely the largest person in any of these sessions, and, uh, the same amount is doled out to each person, and not in a context where you can say “I’d like to take more please” [audience laughter]. You just have to go with what’s going on. But we also, our informant prepare several bottles of ayahuasca for us. And in a series of experiments in the United States when we got back, we verified that it is not only a hallucinogen, but it can be a terrifyingly intense hallucinogen, uh, if, uh, if, uh, errors in dosage are made. It can be, uh, well I said after I made my error of dosage, I never hope to be more stoned than..[laughter]…
So, uh, that’s, uh, what I offer to you as interesting perhaps to you in your own fields. I must be aware that I have other angles: the extraterrestrial angle, the end of history angles, several different things. But all of these things were inspired by our belief that these Amazon peoples have a technology for exploring the modalities of the unconscious, that is centuries ahead of us. I mean, we are at the very beginning of exploring the unconscious. The Freudian and Jungian models, which you can think of the Freudian model as embedded like a, uh, black dot in the center of the Jungian bull’s eye. Each theory of the unconscious claims more and more territory as its own. But what I have become convinced of from using these hallucinogenic drugs is, that the major portion of the unconscious has very little to do with human beings. It is simply a modality, an interior landscape, and large portions of it, uh, uh, are not human. You could almost make the cybernetic metaphor of, uh, ROM portions of the unconscious. ROM stands for Read Only Memory. This means that if you have a computer with Read Only Memory, you can read what is in that section of memory, but you cannot change it or input into it. And I believe there are “read only” portions of memory that no human being has ever inputted into. So they bare no trace of, uh, humanness. But they can be contemplated, and this is the idea the Alien Other, uh, a tension that appears in modern society. It has appeared before in Hellenistic society. Uh, as techniques are developed for exploring consciousness, these transhuman, non-human dimensions slowly come into view. It appears to be, uh, a co-equal dimension of existential validity, which our cultural and linguistic programming has blinded us to rather severely. Now of course, we’re returning to look at it again in the larger context of the higher, uh, intellectual thrust of the twentieth century, being an effort to recapture and understand archaic, uh, forms of thought. This is why our fascination with the unconscious, with drugs, with shamanism, with the forms of art like cubism and this sort of thing, because we are trying to give ourselves cultural balance by harking back to a time in illo tempore, sacral time, a time before history. And these drugs, uh, the means to do that properly understood. Our problems on this end are simply the baggage of cultural and legal and, uh, conventional assumptions about what these things are, and there’s a great deal to be learned from these shamanic, uh, uh, societies and conventions.
However I’m not, uh, I call myself the shamanologist to set myself aside from the people who claim to be shaman. Shamans. [laughter]. I don’t, uh, I I think there’s a great deal to be learned from shamanism, but that there is a great deal that can be extrapolated from it that we need to create our shamanism, and that we will. When we’re sitting in this cult hut in utter darkness with people vomiting and singing and undergoing […] and you’re still trying to perform the eidetic reduction, still thinking about Husserl and Heidegger, and realizing that you, you’re, your mental insides are too different to understand in their shoes, you have to make your own shoes.
So let’s talk about all this….
*But then you said that, uh, mushrooms are catalyzed into a tryptamine..So I wasn’t clear as to..
Either I wasn’t clear or you misunderstood me. Mescaline, which is the active, uh, constituent in peyote, is not a tryptamine. It’s an, it’s a kind of amphetamine. Mushrooms, psilocybin is an interesting compound. It is the only 4-substituted indolethylamine that occurs in nature. So it’s, uh, it’s unique and in another context, this is one of the reasons we were led to suggest it might be an extraterrestrial gene inserted from the outside. Because you just don’t get single instances of a compound occurring in organic nature. Serotonin for instance which is very closely related to psilocybin, occurs in everything from planeria to man. It occurs virtually in all known living systems. Psilocybin only is known to occur in the very limited number of fungi. It is a phosphorlyated tryptamine. Uh, the tryptamines then that occur in the virolas, in these trees used to make the paste, or in the admixture plants of ayahuasca, these are not phosphorylated tryptamines. These are things like, uh, N-N-dimethyltryptamine itself, and 5-methoxy, uh, MeO DMT….
No it was never there in those cases.
*No no I mean in the…
In the case of…yes
…Catalyzed so, in the end result it…similar…
Yes they are very very similar, with one exception I think. Maybe more? [laughter] The major difference is, that unlike psilcybin–psilocybin has one very curious property, which is that it seems animate. You contact an organized entelechy of some sort very easily. It speaks to you. I’ve compared it to the Logos of Hellenistic syncretism. It seems to be a, uh, a, uh, psychic component not under the control of the ego. And this is very curious. Frightening to some people. Uh, when I was with Albert Hoffman at the Entheogen Conference in Santa Barbara I asked him you know he discovered LSD and he characterized psilocybin. And I asked him which he preferred to take. And he said he preferred LSD, and I said “Why?”. And he said “There’s something….too animate about psilocybin.” And closer questioning showed that this was unsettling to him. It’s too much like the orthodox notion of madness. Having a dialogue with an independent voice in your head is quite unsettling to a certain sort of person I think.
And you dont have the same experience with ayahuasca?
It teaches. You want to say something…?
Yes I think that ayahuasca has the feeling of some kind of entity in it as well but, uh, it doesn’t particularlize like, uh, little creatures that can come at you and bombard you or whatever. And psilocybin is sort of more along the lines it’s very large and very gentle. And so if my, I had experiences where, I think Dennis did as well, where I was lead through the forest by someone so much bigger than me, that I couldn’t see him or her, you know but [Terence: “Mmhmm”], taught about the plants along the way, and which they were. Once I saw a huge hand dangling above my head that was all black with jewels, and crevices you know and…that kind of entity. Not frightening though. I never found it frightening…. The rushing, the coming of it is where people vomit, where you have a very strong [???] that’s what they call it. [???] Very strong at the beginning, that’s what scares me….[inaudible]
When you quake, I mean, and they seem to encourage that. For instance, uh, the shed where we would do it had a corrugated roof and no windows but it was up on short stilts. The shaman would stand up and put his hands in front of him, and tremble, and he would transmit this trembling into the floor and shake the entire building. And several times, uh, the protocol is when you feel you’re going to vomit, you just go outside and vomit. And people are coming and going all the time. We didn’t vomit that much, which was very puzzling to them. They really stress vomiting, and they identify the vomiting with the purgative, uh, effects of it. And when we would not vomit, they say “Oh you must live very cleanly. You must be in very good shape.” But actually all that was happening, I think, was that we were following the rules they laid down, and they were not. [Laughter]. Like they would say, you know, “Never eat pork before doing it. Don’t eat anything for 6 hours before doing it. No salt. No alcohol.” And we would do this and be fine. And they would just be [audience laughter] [Kat: Even the shaman was…] puking out ten different ways, and getting sick. [Laughter].
But the, the entity in ayahuasca, it teaches by showing. The visions teach. The thing in psilocybin is much more puzzling. I mean, it’s a haranguer. You actually have, uh, you know, uh, psychic arm wrestling with somebody who wants to, to, who loves controversy and rhetoric, and is well able to express itself and present itself. That’s a very puzzling thing that, uh, could lead one far afield if you sought a reasonable explanation. Um, so those are the major differences.
I think ayahuasca lends itself to be a better healing drug…
…than psilocybin. Because it is gentler, because it can still communicate, uh, with the other people. It’s very close, in fact this kind–this number of people in this smaller space, you know. And you can, it can flow back and forth. Whereas psilocybin….if you’ve experience you know…you can blast off. [Audience laughter]. So, uh, maybe when you’re by yourself on psilocybin, but…collectively I think, ayahuasca [inaudible].
It’s very earth-centered. I mean, even taking ayahuasca up where we live in Sonoma County. Immediately as it comes on it’s about sunlight on brown water, huge twining roots. In other words it creates the jungle. It is the jungle in some strange way. The psilocybin entity is Gnostic. It points to the center of the galaxy. It talks about ending history. It’s full of a sense of crisis and the need for activity and, uh, humor. But this intense desire for change. It is not a drug of acceptance, you know. It wants transformation of a very radical sort. The ayahuasca seems to, uh, create, to integrate. Especially into that environment. You know the major, uh, alkaloid fraction of ayahuasca is harmine, which was, a beta-Carboline, which was first, uh, isolated from Syrian Rue, the giant Syrian Rue peganum harmala, and that’s what called harmine. Before enough was known about the compound to realize, the compound in ayahuasca, to realize that it was the same as the compound in peganum harmala, it was called telepathine. Because the early explorers, uh, Villavicencio and Koch-Grunberg in the early years of this century, uh, reported that the people were inducing states of mass telepathy. And there is some reason to think that this might be true in some sense. In other words, these people live in a state of semi-telepathy anyway.
If you can imagine a hunting-gathering tribe of 30 people moving through a vast rain forest with their children and their elders, uh. The notion of the super-expressed individual that we take for granted is not really there. There is more a sense of the unity of the group. Then, when the elders get together and take ayahuasca, there is a kind of melding together to obtain consensus, and also imposs, uh, information impossible to obtain any other way. For instance, weather information. Shamanism is always related to weather prophecy. And it’s always been assumed that this is just a “wing and a prayer”, or that they had subtle, that they were super-sensitized environmental clues about weather change. But also things like game movement. This is very important to know. And, and, and for all of these things ayahuasca was invoked and used.
I want to go back to something you said about, uh, about personality of mushrooms. I think it’s an interesting political comment, uh, that mushrooms should be growing here in this county which is so apathetic and we need to do something, and we don’t have a more gentle type of, uh, of drug here..endogenous.
And also we don’t have a collective format to use them in, which is [inaudible]….
Two things. Let’s see first is, uh, when you described your brother’s experience, reminded me of [Michael Harlan, sp?] description of his, uh, ayahuasca experience. And he said, after I guess going through a kind of deathlike experience, that that’s why they call it the “little death”.
And the other thing was that he said that in their preparation of ayahuasca it was from a tree datura. Did you find that?
Uh, tree daturas, arboreal daturas in the subfamily brugmansia, are used in certain areas, uh, rarely and not in these, not in these public gatherings of people. Tropane alkaloids are notoriously difficult to control. And that would be more within a context of brujeria, of real sorcery and witchcraft, and generally tends to be more “montane”, uh, a phenomenon of the mountains. Especially around, uh, the Valley of the Sibundoy and those places. We never, uh, we grew brugmansias and have them of course, but we never, uh, combined it with ayahuasca because it, knowing just what the tropanes are like on their own, it seemed very, uh, dangerous. You know, some tropanes make you sweat and your heart race. Other tropanes make you fall asleep and your body temperature drops, and your respiration falls. And it just seemed like a dangerous area.
There are a number, one of the interesting chemical frontiers of this is these admixtures, in which you have the basic ayahuasca, the boiled stems of banisteriopsis caapi. Normally what’s added to that are the leaves of, uh, psychotria viridis, a rubiaceous bush related to coffee, which has a great deal of DMT in the leaves. Uh, in the northern part of the range where this drug is being made, where it is called not ayahuasca but yagé, uh, brunfelsias, which are also solanaceous plants with very high molecular weight tropanes, that have defied characterization. They are sometimes used. But we knew Tim Plowman and he’s, the only, uh, non-Indian person ever to take brunfelsia, and his description of it, it sounded like, you know, his life hung in the balance for 36 hours, and he didn’t know whether he would make it or not. So we didn’t go too deeply into that. What we did do, was we always asked our informants, “What other plants are sometimes used in ayahuasca?” And they would usually name them, and we could collect vouchers of 9 unusual admixture plants that we collected. Only one, a, uh, a, uh, menisperm, which is this very small family of plants. A menisperm, abuta grandifolia, was definitely alkaloid-positive. And that’s, there’s more work to be done there. But, uh….this technology of admixtures is very interesting, and not well understood. And, uh, that kind of thing could be worked out up here in the laboratory, if you could get and grow all these things.
That’s right, that’s right.
Andy [inaudible] was saying that he felt [….] of the, uh, multiple alkaloids, and that it, uh, made an incredible amount of difference to the person who was going through these things.
Yes. Well that’s a weaker way of saying what I said. I mean, ay… ayahuasca’s not effective without an admixture. It’s an odd experience. But it’s not an effective trance inducing compound of visionary compound without an admixture. You have to have it.
Can you contrast what you’re saying with muscaria?
Amanita muscaria? Well, that’s an entirely different situation. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it I’ll review it briefly. Amanita muscaria is a, uh, mushroom that has a mycorrhizal relationship with birch trees, that is distributed throughout the world at altitudes above 5 thou..well no actually it occurs at sea level too. But, anyway, it, uh, is highly variable both geographically and seasonally. And in Siberia in the Amur river basin the Yakut shamans and a couple of other tribes have utilized this for a long, long time. Uh, Gordon Wasson wrote a book in which he tried to suggest that amanita muscaria may have been the basis of the Vedic hallucinogen soma . The problem with amanita muscaria, which he freely admitted, is it is very hard to get satisfyingly loaded on it. Uh, you can–it is not consistent, and we don’t know…there’ve been various suggestions made: that you must roast it over a fire to create, uh, a change in its chemistry, that it must be pounded with milk curd. Apparently readings of the Vedas suggest that whatever soma was, it was pounded with milk curd. People have even come forth with chemical theories that show that the active agent in, uh, amanita muscaria, which is muscimol, is very closely related to the active toxin in amanita muscaria, muscarine. You can decarboxlyate muscarine to muscimol using the enzymes in sour milk. So it might be possible to incubate, uh, amanita muscaria in sour milk, and turn the toxin into more of the active agent. Um…
Is that also toxic?
Well, any, I mean sure. You have within any alkaloid or what’s called an LD50, which is the horrifying concept that [audience laughs] I don’t need to go into [Terence laughs].
One thing…other mushrooms often, if the, uh, specific reaction of the person relates to their own biochemistry and especially what they’ve eaten within the last 48 hours before you ingest it. Do you think that semi-toxic effects from certain mushrooms…For example if you drank wine, um, even very common ones like morels, um, that..It varies from person to person. So that could be an additional factor too.
That’s right there’s a lepiota species where if you eat it it’s perfectly harmless, but if you have very much alcohol it’s fatal and irreversible. Uh, another thing to bare in mind is that, uh, there are a number of monoamine oxidase inhibitors that occur in foods. Certain foods are high in these things and, uh. For instance soft cheeses, Bries and Camemberts are just loaded with tyramine, which is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. This is why, uh, certain, uh, anti-psychotic drugs, this is an admonition that they must not be given. And, uh, I think it would be murder to take ayahuasca on top of a typical diet of Camembert and Brie. [Audience laughter]. Fortunately these things are unknown in the Amazon [Terence laughs].
In Berkeley we all had a ton…
Yes in Berkeley it’d be tricky to keep track of yourself [laughter]. But I definitely felt, uh, when we were in the Amazon, the diet is so strange. And you cannot avoid it, uh, because you can–everything you carry in goes on your back or on the back of an Indian who you are paying, and it may not seem like much, but over days and days….So there’s always an effort to, to eat off the land. And, my God, you know if you’ve never been in a tropical jungle. People have a notion about a tropical jungle that it’s just full of food. Wonderful things to eat, all these plants and things. But you see, the Amazon has been above water 220 million years. That’s 220 million years of uninterrupted evolution of a tropical ecosystem with ample, uh, water supply. So that means, every ecological niche is occupied. Protein is at such a premium, that there is no protein. You could starve to death in the Amazon. There is no protein. Um, Chambers, who’s the world’s expert on the tropical rain forest, estimates in the Amazon 96% of all utilizable organic material, at any one, at any given moment, is in a living system. In other words only 4% of the organic material is not at any one given time in an organic system. What that means in practical terms is, a leaf falls. Ten minutes later it’s gone [laughter]. The, the leaf cutting ants, the “this” the “that”, it just sucks it right up, you know? And, uh, minerals in free suspension in rain water, they estimate the average flow distance of an ion in rain water is something like a centimeter [laughter] before it’s uptaken into a living system. So there is no food in the Amazon, and this is one of the reasons why coca is so popular. Coca in the Amazon is not a drug, it’s one a food, and two an appetite depressant.
And this is what they’re, they’re, uh, you know and people are going to the Amazon. People are outrage at the notion that coca could be though a drug. A drug is something bad. Coca is wonderful, you know? So, uh, it’s a very tight ecosystem with very little elaboration of protein. And that’s, uh, that’s why the search for food plants has been so intense. And perhaps why the discov..so many drug plants have been discovered. Because every single thing has been tested again and again for its effect as a food, a poison, a hallucinogen, because everything is to be utilized.
You mention the use of, uh, magic songs in the directing of the group experience of ayahuasca. Uh, we will mention that you are interested in the relationship between the visual experience and, and language centers. Do you think that it, the linguistics, per se, do you think it’s sound I mean as in frequency, verses linguistics in terms of semantics, that guide the [???] could you [speak?] to that distinction?
Well, is it possible to, for a human being to make sounds which do not reflect syntactical deep structure of language? I mean in other words, we’re so hard wired for language that in any extended verba…vocalizing, a Chomskyite would be able to come and find the linguistic structure of it. I’m not sure. I think, uh, this is a really interesting question because you have input through the senses. You have one, one, one sense perceptor which is geared to transduce, uh, audio input. And one which is set to transduce visual input. But it’s probably something about the way these perceptual systems have evolved, that they divide the incoming input. Actually, all that’s happening is that you’re moving through a multi-leveled wave system of various kinds of inputs, which you are transducing into tactility, vision, and sound. Uh, I think this a very interesting area for research. Just recently, someone sent me an article, which I thought was very very suggestive, that occurred in no less respectable a place than Martin Gardner’s, uh, or the amateur scientist in Scientific American. But they were pointing out in there, that if you can sustain a hundred Hertz hum with your voice, you can actually make an electric fan appear to slow down and stop. You can also cause roll lines to appear on a TV set. Now, what exactly is happening here? It isn’t that the fan slows down, or that the roll lines on the TV. The, the scientific explanation which they put forth was, that a well-sustained hundred Hertz hum actually vibrates your eyeballs, so that they become like strobes. And you can freeze motion. And you can, uh, uh, slow things down and start them up again.
So other people aren’t able to perceive…
No, other people don’t perceive it, but you perceive it. There were anecdotes about airplane mechanics who can look at a spinning propeller, and tell if it’s flawed by jerking their head back and forth very quickly. And, uh, this is very interesting because here is a way to use your voice to control your visual input, and to actually gain secret information. If we had written a secret word on that propeller, you could win bets in a bar by, uh [audience laughter] [Terence laughs]. So, um, I think this needs to be looked into. What can we learn about the world by subjecting our bodies to different kinds of self-generated vibrations? And, you know, without the back up of someone like Martin Gardner, I’m sure people would dismiss a wrap like that as pure fancy, utterly preposterous.
The guy who wrote the article said it was very hard for him. He didn’t have perfect pitch. It’s very hard for him to maintain this hundred Hertz hum. So what he did was he got a wave generator, which, uh, would perfectly generate the hum. And then, he, uh, modified a, uh, football helmet so that he could strap it to his stereo speaker [gasp from audience]. So he would rest his chin on his speaker [more gasping], and run the thing up to 100Hz [audience laughter], and then clock the motion of the fan. Well, this is just an example of a peripheral human abilities that we have not explored. I’m sure you all know LSD, have experienced the time-smearing effect of motion, where you move your hand and it just leaves it hanging there in all of its stages. And people will say, “Well your retinas are simply not quenching the previous image. There’s some problem in the, uh, something or other.” But, the effect is to, is to smear the psyche in time. Because, we, the psyche is defined largely by the, uh, the way the sensory inputs are, uh, interpreted.
So, I think, uh, these linguistic phenomena are very, uh, suggestive of special abilities. I, I’ve said many times, you’ve certainly all heard me say it: Philo Judaeus who was an exact contemporary of Christ: born before, died after, was on a bug about what he called the more perfect Logos. And he said, the more perfect Logos will be beheld rather than heard. But it will go from being heard to being seen without ever crossing over a quantized point of division. Now that suggests that hearing and seeing are just two ends of the continuum, and that your eyes slot you into part of that spectrum. Your ears slot you into another, but that it’s really a continuing spectrum. And this, the evolution of this more perfect Logos is my, uh, my hope for psilocybin–that this can become an experience for people, a kind of ursprache. You may be aware of, uh, Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess, where he talks about a perfect, poetic language that pre-dates history. A, a language of poetry so intense that to hear it was to understand it. It required no conventionalizing of cultural context and dictionary. It was so laden with existential validity, that to hear it was to understand it. We have very few articulations like that left, perhaps moans, screams and howls are the only words.
The ikaros, uh…
They’re and then…varied, uh, Peruvian, Indian dialects. And yet, when you’re taking ayahuasca and they’re taking it and seeing them, you can understand them though you’ve never heard the language before.
The evaluation, uh, from [inaudible].
Yes all of that including understand the language also. Very easily, we were having images which jived with each other that we were getting.
And do they then jive with the images that the, uh, people…
That’s harder, it’s hard for them to talk about that. Those people. Because they are magical songs they don’t analyze them in non-magical terms.
Did you get any cross…??
Yes, yes we did. We had, um, back to you were talking about [inaudible] aspects…Moments that had to do with the sounds, that had to do with the visions. That we all recognized at one point. We and the environment outside all recognized the [encroaching presence of Death]. We had to a death element, was just outside the building. The baby cried, the dog howled, the clouds went over the moon. Everybody got a big chill.
I just did.
And the shaman jumped up, and, like commanded all of us in a way to go with him. And then began hooting it away. And it took some minutes. And then it was gone, and all, in one moment everyone just laid back and moved aside. That was a very telepathic moment that was not conducted in any language common to everyone there.
What was your experience when you took it after having salmonella? And what experience that will connect to having had salmonella?
Um, you just look at it [inaudible]
Yeah, uh, I’m wondering if there were things you experienced during the ayahuasca trance, that were you definitely connected to having salmonella….
Oh, yes, Travelling through your organs. Travelling through your blood stream. Being in your stomach. In your guts. Recognizing like on a tiny level, being, uh, a molecule travelling through, you know? Seeing the little, yellow enemies or whatever. All of the things happening on that level [inaudible] very well. And it just felt like it just flushed it all out. Like the awareness, the deep awareness that we got on ayahuasca, made all the bad invaders go away. [Inaudible]
Yea right. It’s very much like what Pelitzer is doing it’s a, in their behavioral medicine club. [Inaudible] traces and meditation.
I wanted you to comment on the relationship of what you’re talking about to psychedelic synesthesia…let’s say things like LSD.
You mean, by psychedelic synesthesia you mean fusing of the sensorium under psychedelics drugs?
The initiation of, of, visual phenomena by sound.
You mean do I think that happens on LSD?
What you’re talking about in ayahuasca.
Yes, pretty much except that it’s controllable, you know? And, and in fact that’s almost too, um, too restrictive a term. It isn’t that the sound controls the visions. It’s that the sound is the visions. And if you want to change the vision, you must change the sound. And so you actually can take control. Ayahuasca is wonderfully suggestive, and can be led in a way that these other things sometimes can’t be. For instance, one of the most puzzling, uh, things that it can do is that you can suggest a motif. For instance, art deco, and it will just go to that, and flood you with millions and millions and millions of objects, all perfectly exemplifying this very constrained artistic style. And then you can say “No. Attic vases. Let’s do Attic vases.” Thousands of them, more than there must be! You know? And then you can say “OK, now do one that, now surprise me.” And it will produce an equally co…aesthetically coherent stream of images that are not referent to any, to any, uh, historical period. So then this raises questions, you know. What is fashion?”, What is style?, What are these collective image systems which come out of nowhere, gain great power and then fade away? And how is it a drug can command them out of this single human mind? How is, what does it mean, that on a psychedelic drug, one person can see more art in an hour than the species has produced in 10,000 years? What does that say about how effectively we are accessing our souls? It mean, I mean the, the potential then is so great. I mean, you prove it to yourself, you know? It, uh, very frustrating to imagine that that kind of beauty. Those depths of ecstatic revelation are that accessible to the individual, and so totally hidden from us as a group.
How can the potential be tapped in our time?
By chan…by evolving language. By recognizing that reality is created by language and no longer accepting the natural evolution of language, but actually going to work to evolve language ever more rapidly. So that we can, eh, uh, communicate these modalities.
I think that’s a lot of what [???] inherently is trying to put together…to express these experiences that doesn’t totally violate them, and, and rip them apart.
It’s a very long process, creating a new language.
You mentioned at one point, uh, transcending the ego. What kind of people experience that? What do they manage a specific healing intent for each person, or a collective event that happens when you get off, or, uh… I ask this because I think it’s very intimately connected with what the [fifth dimension….inaudible] that tapping out our potential has to do with transcending the ego.
Transcending the ego and its expectations in a linguistic set, mainly.
And controlling our experience.
Yes, language has not been examined enough, it seems to me. All the argument over man’s place in nature and that sort of thing, doesn’t take cognizance of the fact that if you want to, if you want a miracle, then language is the thing to look at. Because, we know that our, uh, genetic component is only 3% or something removed from chimpanzees, and this and that. But this thing that we do with sound and meaning is of an ontologically different order. And I am not sympathetic with the people who want to blur the distinctions, and say that dolphins talk, ants talk, bees talk…They may communicate, but this is a very different thing, what man’s able to do. Because for 50,000 years or so,
Man hasn’t, uh, the species hasn’t been in evolving in the somatype. Somatype is relatively steady. What is evolving is culture. And what culture is, really, is language. Uh, culture is merely the, uh, epiphenomenal accompaniment of language. So, it is the evolution of language that is changing. And, uh, all our ontological, all our religious ontologies, uh, in the western tradition: the insistence on the coming of the Word into the world, relate, the Word becoming flesh. In a sense, Man is the Word become flesh. And, uh, what all this leads to I’m not sure. I often like ot think that our map of the world is so wrong, that where we have centered physics, we should actually place literature as the, uh, the central metaphor that we want to work out from. Because I think, uh, literature occupies the same relationship to life that life occupies to death. And I don’t think very many people have thought of it in those terms. [Audience laughter].
[Inaudible] true testimony of the [wordsmith?] [laughter]
Well, in the sense that, uh, a book is a, is life with one dimension pulled out of it. And, uh, life is, uh, is something which lacks a dimension which death will give it. I imagine death to be a kind of release into the imagination, in the sense that for, uh, characters in a book, what we experience is an unimaginable dimension of freedom. And, this is why people like James Joyce, though arcane and difficult to pierce, seem to me central to understanding this. Because they’re saying something about the relationship of books, reality and death. That this is a cycle of expansion and understand that it’s happening through language. At one time there were no books. And, uh…
I think what you’re saying is assuming perceptive, at the same time I think there’s a better problem which is, that if you take a metaphor of literature, what you’ve done is, you take the same thing that we’re doing all the time, which is trying to abstract new elements into metaphor. It seems to me the central problem we’re in is that, it’s very difficult for us to give equal emphasis all possible metaphors, all possible… a physical metaphor, a biological metaphor, psychological, literary metaphor. We focus too much on one thing where I’m able to express, well, not unable but have a great difficulty in expressing a totality.
Well, see, what you want is a theory of being true to experience. And what we have, by centering in physics, is a theory of being true to itself. Meaning, physics doesn’t contradict itself, there, they go to great pains that doesn’t happen. On the other hand, the models that it offers no bear no relationship to anything anybody can see, experience, know or understand. So somehow an explanatory vehicle was chosen, which explains something. But nothing with any immediacy.
Well, what I’m saying is they draw in other things but not to, they push out, they, uh…the quantum physics model but integrate all of them so they form a more comprehensive view, and not try to select over the other.
Yes, but you want it to be true to experience.
And the entire set of objects manipulated by physics are unseen unknown, I mean, I mean, take as simple an object in physics as the electron. It seems more remote than, uh, the resurrected Christ to me [laughter].
And yet by invoking those notions we can create of them, you know, to try and find further particles.
We created, that’s right. But do these new creations then reflect back on experience? Do we learn, then, to be better people or more at ease with ourselves or…It seems the answer is “No”. We just unlock more and more demonic, uh, levels of, uh, power.
But that the contradiction that physics produces in itself, how they’re trying to find a unified field theory for…
But what we need is a uniform social theory. So that we don’t cause our extinction.
…about a biological process where both the ayahuasca experience and the scientific experience can be integrated.
Yeah I don’t regard, I’m not uh, I’m not uh one of the, uh, noble savage people. I mean, I’ve spent too much time in the Amazon and things go on that would curl your hair. There are people whose idea of a hilarious joke is to toss a dog in the fire. And, uh, but I think there is something to be learned, you know. I mean you can stand off and watch somebody tossing a dog in the fire for their own amusement and say “What…these people are barbarians”. On the other hand we carpet bomb Asian cities from 30,000 feet in the air in the name of policy. We don’t even call it fun, we’re so alienated from what we’re doing. So, you know, what to make of it?
A couple things that interest me, and they fall very nicely on this. One is I would like to hear you talk briefly perhaps about the highlights of what you call the the invisible landscape. What are some of the things that stand out in that, uh…And the other is that I get the impression you have the very distinct idea of where we, of the direction in which we can evolve. Um, and I wonder if you would say something about that direction and perhaps those two topics.
Sort of converge…Well, without trying to, um, solve the problem once and forever, let’s just say: Man has a very strong Gnostic bent. And, you know, Gnosticism, Dualism, the idea that you don’t belong where you are, that you belong somewhere else, that this is not your world, that you’re a stranger in it, is, uh symptomatic in modern parlance of what’s called alienation. You’re supposed to like where you are. You’re supposed to see yourself as part of the seamless fabric of Being, and that sort of thing. However, the people who take that position, that, that alienation is symptomatic of neurosis, don’t realize the cultural momentum of the last 500 years has made the Gnostic myth a reality. In other words, we have become a menace not only to ourselves, but to the planet. And the only way that both parties can, uh, save themselves is by a separation. And this, on one level, is the greatest,uh, crisis that biology has faced since animals left the ocean for the land. On another level, it appears inevitable in the present social context, that we’re going to go to space.
But we are, uh, the birth pangs of doing this are very destructive. For instance, and I’m sure you’ve heard me say this, that civilization is a 10,000 year dash to space with the potential to destroy yourselves. We, history is the departure of a species for the stars. But it takes 10 to 15,000 years. A moment of biological and geological time. But in that 10 to 15,000 year period, if you happen to be unlucky enough to be born somewhere in there, it’s going to look like it’s all up for grabs. We are creatures of information, and the imagination. The monkey we are already beginning to transform and shed. We don’t look like the other monkeys. And we look less like them all the time. We are…Humanness may not even be a monkey quality. It may be something that was synergized in the monkeys but that is taking, uh, that has an inner life of its own. In other words, we, since the early 1950’s, have had a notion of the structure of DNA, and this sort of thing. Well it’s perfectly obvious that within the century of the discovery of DNA, any species which makes that discovery takes possession of its own form. And we are going to do that in the next 50 years. We are going to design, we are going to design the kind of people that we want to be. And if we don’t want to be people, we will design that out of the picture.
I think of… the picture that, the Mushroom has of the human species, is much more like a coral reef. In other words, it sees our “artefractria” as contiguous with our flesh. We make a distinction. But what it sees is, uh, an animal which takes in raw material and excretes it in ideological molds. That’s what we do. We turn ideas into facts, on all levels. This cannot go on any longer on the surface of the planet, with the levels of energy and control that we have brought to bear. Because we are now in a position to destroy the whole earth, or to sculpt it, turn it into a Disneyland, which is a kind of destroying of the earth. So we have become a toxic force in planetary biology. We feel it, and the planet feels it. What must happen is, there must be a cleavage. And it, a birth is a good metaphor. Because, uh, uh, an infant being born can hardly, uh, face the experience with anything other than trepidation. The weightless state, the effortless nurturing, the complete immersion in the support system, all that is ending in earthquakes and spasms and pain, and anguish, which looks, it must look like a death process. And yet, it’s a life process. It is necessary for the mother and the child, that this cleavage take place. This is now happening, uh, on a mass cultural level for us. We, to be who we want to be, we have to leave the planet. It, as Joyce says in Finnegan’s Wake, “Up n’ent, prospector. You sprout all you’re worth and woof your wings!”
And, would you say that, uh, all of the higher forms are in all the lower forms simultaneously?
Uh, yes, what’s the word for that? Uh, uh, “implicate”. They are implicate in the lower forms. That’s right. But, uh, I don’t know. It’s, it’s a great, uh, It’s a great challenge to us to fulfill the things that we can imagine we are capable of. Our imagination is really the sail of the soul. The question is, you know, where will that sail take us if we will but let it?
Well what is imagination? Or what is its true relationship to the unconscious of which you spoke?
Well, its relationship to the unconscious…I suppose it is the unconscious made conscious. In other words, uh, all, all the mythologies, uh. I think it’s Mircea Eliade in Myths, Dreams and Mysteries about the evolution of human flight. And says, talks about first about shamanic flight, and then the notion of the dirigible and the Wright flyer and the space ship. And he says these, uh, ontologically self-transforming images of flight say far more about the nature of the human soul than they do about technology. This is again this idea of James Joyce’s that Man would become “durgeable”.
Uh, I haven’t mentioned the flying saucer here this morning. But this is one of the things that I think is very interesting. I think flying saucers have been the province of very dubious intellectual cadres for probably long enough. And that is really should be looked at as a totality symbol, which haunts human history in the same way that Alfred North Whitehead thought that the color dove grey haunted human history. In other words, it’s a, it’s a thing always present. It is the symbol of the ontological transformation of the human species. And always takes upon itself the, uh, the accoutrements of the current cultural myth, so that it can be seen as the intercession of the Immaculate Conception, or the, um, descent of an angel. Or, the, the current myth is that there are probably advanced civilizations somewhere in the universe, and so that this is what it is. It’s really nothing so trivial, you know. It is the alchemical object. It is, uh, the blind spot in the, uh, in the consciousness of the race. And it has to be the blind spot, because it is a mystery. All appetition for the future is an appetition for this, uh, modality of super freedom that comes from transcending the limitations of dimension.
That’s why we have, that’s why our, we are so riddled with apocalyptic mythology. Because we really do have a prescience about what is going to happen to us. We really do sense at a very deep level, that the linear extrapolation of our historical and cultural tendencies does not give a true picture of the future, that the major factor which will shape the future is uncertainty. And we have never yet created a method for integrating that uncertainty, and planning, planning for it. Novelty is the thing that continually overturns all efforts to, uh, project toward a given end-state.
So it’s correct to say then, that our evolution will be, or can be seen as our re-claiming more of the landscape of the unconscious.
Yes absolutely. That’s what it is. That is our world. Our world is in our minds, you know? The kingdom of God is within you. That’s the wrap. But the point is, then, you know, to get a lease nailed down somewhere in the world of the imagination, so that you can be part of it. Yes the planet is simply, uh, a precursor of what we will project outward when we have the ability to do so. And this is coming soon.
How, um, can we, um, uh, how to propose to accelerate the evolution of language?
I think that we have to make a very reasoned case to the establishment, that the, um, that the psychedelic drugs have to be looked at in a non-hysterical manner, by experts. And we don’t know who the experts are. They may not be pharmacologists. They may turn out to be linguists. Or they may turn out to be jugglers. But we have to recognize that what we’re talking about when we’re talking about the advancement of human evolution, is the evolution of the human mind. Uh, and these drugs, and, do..You know, before the argument was whether to be called a hallucinogen, or a psychedelic or an entheogen…They were just called consciousness-expanding drugs. And that really, as a phenomenological description, is more useful than these other things. They expand consciousness. Well, therefore, we should be really bearing down on them, because the problem is we don’t have enough consciousness. And we don’t know how to direct it, and sculpt it, and orient it toward our own salvation. So, we can’t just take our mental states as “given”, as somehow sacrosanct, and therefore not to be tampered with. We have to actually begin to engineer them. And Arthur Kessler has made the point that this is not big news, but there’s some resistance to it. Again I think a, a, uh, recursion of dualism, in a more dangerous form. The dualism of the natural and the unnatural. Yoga is natural, drugs are unnatur…All these dichotomies, I mean. Who can argue with the notion that dualism is the root of all evil?
Uh, how can it be otherwise? [Audience laughter]
Um, a question relating to this is that, there’s something, we have all this choice, we have all this power, and yet we are also prone to a great many powerful mistakes. And, with the element of that which happens spontaneously through us. And this, as far as dichotomies do. Where do we leave off engineering and, and, let, let um, that which is beyond us [inaudible] through us?
You mean the thing which is leading?
Well, we need to open a more coherent dialogue with the thing which is leading. Again, the re, the reason I don’t, I’m somewhat immune to political anxiety and that sort of thing is because I really do believe there is a control system that is larger than any institution. I don’t believe that the evolution of fate on this planet is in the hands of the Communist Party, the Catholic Church, the Jews, Wall Street. It isn’t in–no one is in charge. What is in charge is the most intelligent life form on the planet, which happens to be trans-human, not human. We have had for some time now the concept of, uh, the collective unconscious. But we need now to think in terms of the collective consciousness of the race. Which is not passive. It’s not just the storage place of old memories and myths and that kind of thing. It is more like an entelechy. It guides. It opens avenues to certain choices and preaches avenues to other choices.
You know, I think it was in Mysterium Coniunctionis that Jung said, uh, the unconscious has a thousand ways of terminating a life that has become meaningless. A chilling notion. And what he meant was, you know, you’ll step off a curb and be hit by a bus, cause you didn’t look. But the real analysis is that a decision had been made at a higher control level to just fling you away. Well, how much more disturbing it is to think that that could be possible on a global level. So we have to open a dialogue, and no longer, you know, all these words: intuition, artistic vision, trance, uh, memes like poetry, these are all ways of trying to have a dialogue with the control mechanism. And the psychedelic drugs, especially psilocybin, I think lay that open. We need to have professional facilitators of dialogue. We need to understand who is speaking. We only now have possibilities, you know, that the voice that speaks on psilocybin is an out-and-out extraterrestrial, you know, with a, with its own history, its own evolutionary standards, et cetera. That it is what Jung would call an autonomous portion of the psyche that has slipped beyond the ego’s control. Meaning, that you’re crazy, or at least that you are experiencing a form of consciousness not validated by this society. Um….
I want to stick something in there too.
I agree with your analysis, but I don’t share the same faith that we will inevitably make it as a species. Because what I see happening in a collective conscious/unconsciousness or that unconscious becoming conscious, is a struggle of whether to live or to die. And although I believe and hope certainly it decides or we decide for life. I don’t see that as inevitable.
Well, this is the question “Is God mad?”, you know? Are we living in a universe run by a mad god, where the choice for death could be made as easily as the choice for life. This is what the Gnostics of the Hellenistic era feared.
That isn’t quite what I’m saying though, because I think the, yea, or a subordinate consciousness, but made up of all of us. So our individual decisions of consciousness I don’t think are relevant to the totality.
Well, is it built up of, is it an, is it a bottom-up thing, or a top-down thing?
I think it’s a both. I don’t see how, in, in this level of talking how you can really separate out all the elements. Um, and if you talk about cells in your body, uh, yea they don’t go off a live a life of it’s own, it’s all coordinated. But it isn’t coordinated by one thing in the body. The whole body coordinates itself. And each cell is a part of the coordination [inaudible].
Yes, that’s right. Yes, I see what you’re saying.
How do you find a local ayahuascero? [Laughter].
These are not the ones…
Well, I’ll tell you, uh, [Terence laughs]…. A few years ago, we bought, uh, 10 acres in Hawaii, and moved as many of these Peruvian drug plants as we could get, uh…[laughter]…in there. So that was four or five years ago. Now those plants are grown and hopefully the next time we go back to Hawaii, we’ll be able to produce ayahuasca. We’re calling it Hawayahuasca. [Audience laughter]
Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you. These things, the…Botanists don’t think in terms of live plants. They always make voucher specimens. So we were, in 1982 or 1 whenever it was, we were really the first expedition looking at Amazonian psychobotany, that really put emphasis on live plants. And we got out hundreds of them, you know? But then growing them they can only be grown in green houses or in the subtropical environment. But eventually, we’re hoping that, uh, researchers who need, who want to grow the plants can buy stock from a place like that, and not have the expense of having to send an Ama, an expedition to the Amazon.
I find it hard to build a shamanic institute in Ecuador. And, uh, it’s just an interesting idea we’re tossing back and forth.
Well, when we originally conceived this idea of a psycho-botanical farm, we bought land, uh, near Florencia in the state of Caqueta, in Colombia. And then it become politically unfriendly to foreign scientists and, and so we stayed away for years. And then I just read last week, 13 tonnes of cocaine was busted in Colombia, and it was all in Caqueta. So I assume, it’ll be years before it’s cooled down enough to do it there. And I like the idea of doing in Hawaii. It, the Amazon is so difficult an environment to carry out even minimal field studies in, that it’s very hard to do much other than interview the informants, collect the vouchers, collect the drugs, and get out. Because, after two or three weeks, you’re really beginning to show the strain. I mean, it’s hard to sleep in hammocks. So you go into a kind of never asleep, never awake. And the strange diet, the intestinal problems, insect toxins. Uh, people are not always 100% cooperative and honest. Um, [laughter] numerous problems. And since we were not enthnographers or anthropologists per se, our real focus was on the plants and the drugs. So hopefully in Hawaii, a more, uh, commodious and low-key atmosphere can be created for experimenting with these things.
This relates to your question, which is “How can an exper, how can a group of people create an experimental context for doing these drugs with an eye toward making some kind of progress or, or getting something out of it”? And it’s a real challenge. We were amazed when we went to Peru and began taking ayahuasca. We had never taken drugs with groups of 30 people, you know? We had either taken them, uh, alone or one or two people, or occasionally with 100,000 other people at a rock concert. But the notion of 30 or 40 it’s very intense. And without a tradition, uh, it will be even more demanding. But it’s important to do. The whole problem in psychedelic research is the, um, reluctance to have human subjects in the picture, you know? As soon as that begins happening, the institutions and the government, and people’s wish to make careers rather than to actually do original work. A whole bunch of factors come into play that make it very, very frustrating. And yet, the LD50 in rats, the absolute structural determinations, the botany, the chemistry, the linguistic studies can only go so far with this stuff. The real thing is what does it do?
I think that, partly because in science, human experience isn’t considered a valid subject of study. And so that’s, you know, so people don’t as those questions because, well, you can’t quantitate it and you can’t…
Why don’t you get bold and get the mental health grant to do it?
Well, I think this is Dennis’ notion. What, what he wants to do really, and I think he has Frank Barr interested and some other people, is, uh, return one more time at least to the Amazon, and study them taking it. And actually take blood samples, and study diet, and get a re–a full biomedical study of what’s going on. And that should be sufficient data, then, that you could, could get a grant for human experimentation in this country. All this remains to be done, but, the work is just beginning to be done in psychedelics. Essentially the botany is now well in hand. There are only botanical details now. But the chemistry, the pharmacology, the neurophysiology, the psychology, these are just wide open areas.
I’ll take the opportunity to thank you for, uh, doing what you’re doing. The, I can’t remember since sitting like this in India. Being so alive and fireworks going off, that..
Oh well thank you very much.
Hear! Hear! [Laughter]
I would like to hear from some of you who’ve been so silent. [Terence laughs]. People who have, are either appalled that we’re this deep into this stuff [all laugh].
Let me preface the question, um…From my own meditative experience, I feel like I’m just beginning to get to a point where I can feel how energy and stillness are both necessary. And, in, like the existential, phenomenological sense that they co-constitute one another. It cannot be one without the other. And, by energy I mean all its forms too, including Mind, as you, uh…for me was good to hear another way of saying that Mind, the idea of Mind from the [???] and yoga philosophy, that, and the reality that someone else feels is comforting. [Terence: “Mmhmm”] Including the intellectual stuff. All that form. In your experience with these cultures, these different cultures, is there a, I hear a lot about the energies of it. The form, et cetera. Is there any stillness work. Is there any, uh, is stillness sacred. Is there, is there a “meditative” quote/unquote tradition, or…
Oh yea! For sure. Yes. It doesn’t call itself that. It calls itself trance. But trance is, is not a state of unconsciousness. It’s in fact a state of full alertness. But you can’t move. And you don’t experience this as paralysis, because you don’t care to move. But yes, I think that you, that there must be stillness for these things to manifest.
One of the most puzzling things about psychedelic drugs is, trying to teach people how to invoke the modality. People have the attitude toward drugs, if you take them they will work. And this not true at all, especially with drugs where a modality like Mind is what you’re attempting to conjure. So that, you know, uh, a drug will potentiate you for a vision state, but number of other things have to be present: energy and stillness being, I think, the two most important ones. And then, a third factor which is, uh, the invocation. You must invoke it in some way. And it’s hard to explain what that is. It’s sort of like, you know, it, it, the difference between being alone and with someone. You, though you are alone taking the drug, you have to assume the I-Thou tension [phone ringing] and then you will discover the Thou on the other end of the equation. [Yes?] And so the stilling will allow this, and if, it’s almost uh [Uh..can you call me after three? I have a meeting] …sensory deprivation [Thank you.] is what’s required. Not in the formal sense of [phone hangs up] a tank or anything like that. But you must sit still in darkness. And you must look at your closed eyelids with the expectation of seeing something. And then you will.
Within the cultural spoken discipline about mental stillness and the importance of that, or talking about the, the drugs or plants in terms that that would be a positive thing or…I’m just curious.
I think that the context is isolation. That’s what they would say about this. They say, “Well we go into isolation. We put ourselves away. We put ourselves into a tree, or a cu, a cold hut, or something like that. And do not move around a lot.”
I see that [inaudible]….
Well this question, though, of the roll of hallucinogens in, in Taoist practice is not, uh, not well understood. If you know James Ware’s book, the number, the attention given to fungi is out of all proportion. I mean, their pharmacopoeia was largely fungal. The, there are no known psilocybin mushrooms from China reported. However, this is a place for somebody to make a quick reputation I bet. Uh, if you chose carefully where you went to look, I’ll bet you find it. Because we know stropharia cubensis is in Thailand, Laos, and there is no reason at all that it shouldn’t be in China. And it was in Southern China, that the Taoist pharmacopoeia was evolved and elaborated.
It’s in the art.
…and he wrote a couple of papers I have copied….
Strickmann, yeah. And he…
Yes he’s doing very interesting work in this all of this.
It’s in German.
I think that, uh, hallucinogens are basic to humanness, and always have been. You know Carl Ruck and Wasson wrote a very convincing book to show that the Eleusinian Mysteries were an ergot, a cult of ergot intoxication. I thought that sounded totally crazy before I read the book. I thought it was going to be some flung-together case that would convince nobody. Actually [cough] I can’t believe that it’s anything else, having read the book. The evidence is overwhelming.
Well, Eleusis was the central wellspring of mystery for the Western mind for 2000 years. Everybody who was anybody went to Eleusis, and had the experience. And, uh, there were times when the mystery was profaned to the point that, uh, writers can speak of wealthy Athenians who had the mystery in their house, were able to offer it to their guests after dinner. Well what kind of mystery is this? [Audience laughter] And, um, mmm, John Allegro wrote a much less convincing book, uh, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, trying to say that Christianity itself was a mushroom cult. In fact, going much further than that…
Saying that Christ himself was in fact no person at all, but a code, a system of coded epigrams for a mushroom. His case is harder to judge, because it depends on the knowledge of, uh, of Aramaic philology. But, uh, my brother has suggested to me, and in fact has, uh, set an outline for a book. He believes that consciousness itself arose in the higher primates in a feedback relationship with hallucinogenic plants. In other words, he would go much further than Wasson, who’s saying religion was caused by a relat..He’s saying thought itself was caused by monkeys relating to these plants. And we know from laboratory experiments that, if you set, uh, monkeys in a situation where they can, uh, smoke DMT by just walking up to a, uh, pipette and taking a hit, that 20% of the monkeys will refuse food and water in preference to that. Well, now, [laughter]. So, if that [laughter]. We’d rather be stoned! And, so having this predilection apparently it’s simply–the shift is what they like. They like the thrill. The shift of modality from down to up, and up to down. But you stretch that over 100,000 years, and the next thing you know you’ve got the integral calculus, and the 384-byte chip and all the rest of it. So it may be that humanness is a symbiotic relationship between certain plants and certain monkeys. And that you don’t have humanness unless you have the plants and the monkeys together. This is why we may be the heirs of an inhuman culture.
In, in Colombia once I saw a graffiti, and it, my Spanish, I can’t get it right. But what, it was, it was a picture of a mushroom, and it said “Without this you are not yourself.” [Laughter]. So this is, you know, Arthur Koestler, I think it was in The Ghost in the Machine, said very clearly that he felt there was no hope for the human species without chemical intervention. That we cannot be the sharp fanged monkey, and the possessor of atomic weapons. And that we’re going to have to chemically intervene to mute the monkey, uh, the monkey proclivities. And, uh, it may be true. But the, the depth of their influence upon us: our thought systems, language.
I hold the, the peculiar opinion that language preceded meaning, by millennia. That long before people could communicate, they discovered how interesting the small mouth noises were, and made them for each other as a form of entertainment, which then bifurcated into chanting and singing. But it was very late in this experiment in the small mouth noises, that someone got the idea that you could assign a meaning to certain mouth noise, and everybody would agree that that’s what that noise meant, and then you could discuss things. So, you know, we’re creatures of language and thought, and uh, probably because these drugs, these plants first kicked that over in us.
I’d like to go back to drugs and consciousness. [Laughter] Stop right there for a minute. Um, are you…There are several ways a person can take that notion, really, in several different directions [inaudible]. On the one hand, you could be suggesting that the experience itself of a hallucinatory state is such a, um, different experience from normal waking consciousness that it demands thought to come to terms with it. And I don’t think that’s a very tenable line because the dream state itself would have similar experiences. We know that chimpanzees and lower primates are dreaming, so that doesn’t seem to be too far. Um, the other way would be to say its the actual communication with more developed intelligence that is inducing thought in our species. The way we’re doing that now with chimpanzees and teaching them sign language. They’re starting to develop humor and things like that.
Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
If you wanna go that way too, then you have to then get to: How did that being itself develop consciousness. But, uh, it’s an interesting line but I don’t think it would stop there where you want it to…
Well, the way I think of it is a third possibility. A kind of a geometric model. Which is just to say, here you have a grid called “experience of the world”, and they we have “waking”. So that’s a dot on the grid. Then we have “dreaming”, that’s another dot on the grid. But you can’t construct a 3-dimensional reality till you have a third dot. And this what the psychedelic experience is providing. It’s providing a reference point for the production of new metaphor. So that it isn’t really, it isn’t, and you really notice this with acid, it isn’t the taking of LSD that is so important, it’s the talking about it. That having, in other words, the reference point. Remember when we were all freaks, and all we talked about was how, uh, how in the light of acid everything was “thus and so” and “thus and so” and it took about five years longer for some of us, [laughter] uh, to assimilate that. So we no longer had to run around saying how everything was in the light of LSD. We had integrated that point on the grid. And I think that’s what it is, is we tap in to…worlds of experience. And each world of experience taps, uh, across, stretches our metaphors, is a boot in a tail for further evolution of language. And that’s all the evolution we have now.
I said this earlier, but it’s a point worth making again. It isn’t culture that’s changing and carrying everything with it. It’s language that’s changing, and it carries culture with it. Culture lags far behind. But the evolution of language is the evolution of reality. And this is a cliche but we, the challenge of the cliche is to make it operational, so that like God, when you utter a word, it becomes so. You know?
Um, you see, what do you reflect on in terms of the origins of the use of hallucinogens and that whole, you know, scheme of the sort of negative of it. You know, the, literally. When you’re talking a great deal about the sort of evolutionary potentials. And I’m curious about, you know…
Yeah. Negative potentials. And how we deal with those foreseeable.
Well, uh, the only answer I can give is probably not a very good one. The forces of, uh… Let me put it a different way. The government gets to everything first. And, they have been at the problem you ask for 20 years with an amazing little success.
I worked for the Department of the Interior for a while. I can tell you why… [Laughter]
Well there are many reasons why. But it doesn’t seem very pervertable. They were very excited at first, you know? But then, and I think what they got into, although perhaps you can say more about this cause you probably follow the literature. They like to give, uh, psychedelic drugs to people and then hypnotize them. And then get them to do terrible things, which they wouldn’t remember later. And claims were made that this was possible or being done. But it certainly didn’t seem to come into wide application. They also looked at, during the Vietnam War, they want, they built artillery shells which would deliver aerosol DMT. Uh, they envisioned, uh, dropping one of these aerosol DMT bombs, uh, on a Vietnamese town. Everyone falling into this intense hallucinogenic state, and they could just roll right in. But, like plans [audience laughter] in the 1960’s, radicals had. There was the fantasy of poisoning water supplies with LSD. Well it just turns out that they’re chemical factors and buffering problems, and it just does not very easy to do these things. I suppose, maybe I’m too sanguine about it and irrationally so, because when I asked this question of the Mushroom Entity, the perversion of this.
I was told, uh, that it was good in such a platonic sense, that you could only approach it if you were good. So that it was like ethical mercury. The grasping hand [audience laughter] would sign that it flowed right through it, and there was nothing left. But I may be God’s fool, you know. That may be…[audience laughter]. Certainly we know the Nazis used scopolamine as a truth serum. Although now when you look at the damn scopolamine it’s not very impressive. People don’t, they lie as much as they tell the truth. So it’s a little puzzling as to why. But it, definitely, uh…
Language [is called??] a truth serum.
That’s right. That’s right. [Terence laughs].
Also I have to agree with what James calls the cognitive imperative. [??] happens because [inaudible]
And, uh, so a lot of other use of, all these things, may depend a great deal on what people believe happened.
And also technology is the production, is the, uh, you could think of it as the residue of the workings of the imagination. And the imagination is not, is under the control of the, the Superego or the Overmind. So I think technology has a weird way of always escaping the intentions of, uh, those who are working with it. A perfect example would be the, the chip which makes possible the personal computer. That thing was developed under contract to the Air Force by I think Sperry Rand. And, when it was finally finished, it didn’t work right. It was far too slow. They wanted it for guidance systems of missiles and this kind of thing. So this thing is 1000 times too slow. It’s just baloney. It’s worthless. Toss it in the waste basket. But somebody said “But wait a minute! You know what you could do with this?” [Audience laughter] And created, you know, an information revolution that must be absolutely appalling to the forces that wished to control. I have an Apple II computer, and a $350 modem, and, uh, I can access the, uh, Defense Department databases. I can access, uh, all, uh, the complete shelf list of the Library of Congress, all chemical abstracts. In short, all information in the world I can access from my living room in Sonoma County. And so can anyone else who buys $1000 worth of equipment. This was not part of the plan [audience laughter]. This is a fact that terrified them.
And, my God, these computer networks where, as an example. A few years ago someone invented a device, this is an anecdote that will give you the idea. Someone invented a little device which looked like a ball point pen. And it was this small cybernetic device that could be programmed with a category. Like, let’s say “stamp collector” or “sadomasochist”. When you wore this pin, if you got near anyone else who was wearing a similar device programmed with the same word, your pin would begin flashing a little light. The notion was, that these things could be sold who hang out in singles bars, and would create a dimension neither public nor private. [Audience laughter] A new dimension, where people of similar interests could get together completely [audience laughter]. Isn’t that interesting? And this thing had a range of 20 feet, OK? [Audience laughter] So now comes a thousand dollars worth of cybernetic equipment and the telephone, and it’s the same device. It doesn’t clip into your shirt pocket, but we’ve extended the range to include the entire planet.
Think it had a search program on it too.
Oh you do, you go into these, you go into these computer networks, and you say, you know, “Who listed, who listed that they were interesting in: mushrooms, psychedelics, psilocybin, consciousness altering drugs, hallucinogens?” And then, out of 70,000 users on the network, in four and a half seconds it tells you that 12 people listed one or some of those words. You immediately type a little letter to each one, shoot it off through the system, and you’re in contact with those people. This makes conspiracy [audience laughter] on a level almost impossible to conceive. A form of liberation. And, uh, these kinds of hard-wired technologies are simply patriarchal, um, follow-ons to the feminizing of consciousness that is happening in drugs. In other words, the, you can almost think of, uh, drugs as the software and cybernetics as the hardware of what is being done. But vast areas are being opened up for human interaction. Completely unregulated by any kind of institution. And these will create new kinds of social realities.
Like a new kind of psychedelic experience.
Right [audience laughter]
It is a psychedelic, uh, it it’s a hardwired psychedelic experience. You are, people think, uh, tend to think of computers as masculine I guess, because, the first generation of people who built them were male. But what they actually are, are the mysterious mama-matrix of information. It is like the unconscious made conscious! The unconscious is…these seem to be unconscious. All information is rising into this dimension of accessibility. So that you need not wonder how many people died of tuberculosis in western Nepal last year [audience laughter]. You just key into the biomedical index and you find out. So, I’m, and this seems to me, you know, the word psychedelic has been, uh, attached to the drugs and confined. But many things are psychedelic. Anything which expands, adumbrates, aids and, uh, and supports consciousness is psychedelic, if we take the word down to it’s, uh, Greek roots. So this is, uh, this is very exciting.
First how do you see the roll of the I Ching, um, in all this?
Such a question, so late in the game. [Laughter]
Well, the I Ching, you asked about stillness concepts. The I Ching is, uh, a very old system of something that, uh, was created out of the combination of, uh, Taoist yogic techniques and, um, mathematical curiosity. What was happening I think, was that in states of deep meditation modalities were observed, you know? It says in The Sundara Pundarika, uh, Tantra Sutra, uh that when the Buddha attained enlightenment, through the night, he watched the causal uprising and down flowing. And, this is what you see in these deep states of, the, it’s called stilling the heart meditations. You see the passage of modalities of some kind. They’re elements. And the Chinese noted that there were 60, seemed to be 64 of them. Or you only needed 64 terms to describe them. And they sensed that it was something about time. But they, they had…Their linguistical and categorical imperatives were such that they didn’t see it the way we would. They, um, they assumed these things to be, uh, like archetypes.
What I suggested was that they were actually varieties of time. And actually there was a 16th century Chinese, uh, philosopher who pulled this all together out of the ancient sources, and said, you know, “The hexagrams are descriptive of time. They’re hierarchically structured at many levels.” So that on one level, hexagrams are, are influencing a situation and passing away at a rate of many a second. And on another level, at a rate of many a minute. And on another level at many an hour. And on another rate at, on another level at a rate of a few per century. And it is the, um, the interpenetration of these modalities on various levels that finally issues into what we call the here-and-now situation. And, um, it’s too complicated to go into here, but there is a way of looking at the sequence, and structuring it that allows you then to draw maps of novelty’s ingression into time. To create a completely non-scientific theory of time that is nevertheless not a cult, meaning has no hidden elements, as completely mathematical and predictable and self-consistent.
This was more of my question, in that you’re talking about information and structures being generated in new ways through computers, and the effect of the I Ching on our culture. In the formation of a cultural understanding of time. And if there’s a conflict because, you know the computer structure [inaudible] internal inconsistent structure. And the I Ching isn’t illogical, but also internally consistent structure.
Well like DNA, these vary large systems of very large numbers of elements can, can have, uh, irrational inputs and still have everything end up in the right place at the end. I mean if you read Pogosian’s work, where you discover that global rules govern situations which, when analyzed very locally appear highly chaotic. And this what the I Ching is saying. I mean, here we have a world which appears highly chaotic, but when analyzed at higher levels, uh, turns out to be, uh, describable by, uh, very rigorous methods.
So the converse is true too, that what seems to be a very orderly structure in a computer network is on a higher level actually chaotic.
That’s right. This problem of order and constraint is a very difficult one. For instance a sociologist can tell you, that in the next 12 months, I don’t know what the number would be but lets say, 30 people are going to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Well now, does that, so then someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. Well think they’re despondent, they’ve lost their job, they don’t want to live any longer. Are they free? How free are they, if at the end of the year, we look at the wreck and say “Yes it certainly is true. 30 people jumped off the bridge just like you said they would.” So apparently there was almost no freedom in the total system. It came in right on the dot. Yet every one of the people who jumped off the bridge felt they were making a, uh, completely independent choice exercising free will. Where they free?
Which goes back to what we’re talking about [inaudible]…It seems that …
Perhaps, or it may be something else. It may have something to do with how probability works, you know?
It’s not clear that probability is a good way of, uh, uh, uh, describing nature. The only time we get, uh, randomness is when you examine the output of a random number generator. There is no other process in nature that can be relied upon to produce random numbers. Yet we use the notion of randomness. Our entire physics is probabilistic and statistical. And the notion of randomness, a very unexamined philosophically, notion centered right in the middle of things. And it may be a kind of fudging. What we think is an explanation, that things are probabilistic, is actually a statement of complete ignorance. That we don’t know how things work so we say they’re probabilistic.
[Inaudible]…Well there’s a pattern, or there’s a norm. But nothing really fits the norm. So you always have to describe it by approximation.
So, that’s where the probability of humans getting close to this approximation and using this tool Because everything is a dynamic state. You can’t quantitfy this except on a moment by moment basis hence a static model. [Inaudible]
But it’s created all kinds of consequences that were not expected. Like the notion of, uh, the citizen. And the way democracy is. And the way power is a portion. Because we have these probabilistic and statistical notions about, uh, human beings. Politically we atomize ourselves. We say, you know we live in a fiction but all citizens are equal. Which is absolutely poppycock. It’s simply that how else can we have the kind of social system we have, and have it function? So the tools you have to be aware of the tool…of what the tool does to you, as well as…yes.
McLuhan should be looked at more carefully. I mean, McLuhan was never correctly centered vis-a-vis the psychedelic phenomena, the way he should have been. People thought he was talking about the impact of television and print and this sort of thing. What he was really talking about, was how cultural, uh, uh, inputs to sensory modalities change self-definitions. And the drugs have done that to a great extent.
[Completely inaudible from audience!!]
Although this abolition of the future is a controversial thing. For instance, I try to produce maps of the future with the I Ching on my computer. And people say “You want to destroy the future! You want to take the surprise out of being.” Well that seems to me rather silly. I mean, if you tell me youre going to South America, and I give you a National Geographic map of South America, have I destroyed the trip for you? Now there’s no point in going, you know where every capitol city is, where the rivers run, how the mountains lay? It just ruined for you, you know? Um, I don’t think so. Because what we are interested in are the details. Maps don’t, uh, don’t make it enough necessary to go to the places they portray.
…Somehow the rational conceptualization would somehow interfere with the intuitive flow of….
Yes. People don’t want to feel that, uh, freedom has been compromised. You know? But I’m…My theory of time is not a predictive theory of events. I’ve just quantified one…one quality which I call Novelty. And following Alfred North Whitehead. And talk about how…History is the career of novelty ingressing into Time. And sometimes novelty comes fast and sometimes it comes slow. Consequently, its ingression rate can be portrayed as a line graph. And in some periods, uh,there’s very little novelty. There is disorganization and, uh, and, uh, compromise of connection. And then in other periods of history, we’ll say Periclean Athens or, uh, Mogul Delhi or the 20th century, or, uh, the Nara period in Japan–there’s great cohesiveness. But there’s this ebb and flow of something which physics will not, uh, will not be found to describe. In other words, I like to make the analogy that science describes what is possible, what is possible. And what we need is a theory that tells us, out of what is possible, what is it that will undergo the formality of actually occurring? We have no theory of what it, out of possible sets of things why certain things will undergo the formality of occurring. And this is what we need.
…Science as, as, the way of looking at the world. We decided that that is what will come out.
But science only describes the most trivial kinds of events.
Whether or not we’re the most worthy of forming our reality.
Well it’s a good first try. Because what its simplest case, what sciences tells you is…What science is interested in is those situations where if the initial conditions are reestablished exactly, the process will occur exactly as it occurred every other time. The initial conditions are the same, the end state will be the same. But in all, uh, experience, this isn’t true. I mean, if I say that I’m falling in love, and you once fell in love, that doesn’t mean that the way your love affair ended is how mine will end. And so there is not guidance for understanding by extrapolation of past cases. And this is where we need help. Because this is where we feel and bleed, is in the realm of these, uh, processes where initial conditions are no guarantee of final end states.
But I wonder if we have that way to predict that to avoid pain and avoid suffering and avoid a certain notion of life.
You mean, we would fear to be victims?
Well, if we long to escape present feelings….avoid what was going to happen. And saying with uncertainty. I don’t think that…
Well presumable if you have a theory which will tell you how, uh, a situation will evolve. Then you steer it the way you want it. You know? It isn’t wrote. It isn’t like a ball rolling downhill.
And of course you have to take, you’re steering it consciously itself.
Well there’s not escaping the input, the fact that it is, that there is a hand on the tiller. The uncertainty principle has to be expanded to include everything. And to actually, the notion of certainty is, the uh, culturally naive and unexamined, uh, notion.
See the problem with Western thinking and science especially is that, uh, it’s a historical phenomenon. The oldest scientists were people like Thales and these people 2000 years in the past. This means that the most epistemologically fundamental assumptions of science are the least examined for, uh, flaw in their sophistication in the light of experience. The fact that we rely on an intellectual method 2000 years old, uh, almost precludes our understanding anything interesting. That’s why people like Ralph Abraham, uh, with his theory of dynamics and Ilya Prigogine with his non-equilibrium thermodynamics, and Manfred Eigen with his autocatalytic hypercycles…These are interesting new approaches because they, uh, they don’t predict end states from initial conditions. They only predict broad target areas where processes can be expected to come to rest.
I think a great deal of anxiety would, would leave human society if we had this grip on the future. It’s, uh, you can make a biological argument that what life does, leaving aside what it is, what it does is it conquers dimensionality. The earliest lifeforms were, um, had no impression of the world except that portion of the world which physically impinged upon them. In other words they had a tactile sense. And then very slowly light sensitive mela, uh, melanin chemistries were entrapped, and light sensitive cells arose so that light and darkness could be distinguished. And then, following upon that, uh, uh, motility. So that a third dimension would come. The dimension of space. And then as higher animals evolved with binocular vision and the ability to walk into the space perceived 3 dimensions were gained, intelligence, the unique human property of being able to command past experience as though it were present through memory, is like extending this dimension-conquering faculty to time.
And I think that the psychedelic drugs show that that’s the way the evolutionary arrow is pointing in Man. Again, Mercea Iliade’s statement about how the images of flight spoke volumes about the internal aspirations of the human psyche. We want to conquer dimensions. Life wants to conquer dimensions. And first it conquers the tactile, the immediate 2 dimensional space, then the immediate 3 dimensional space, and finally through memory the dimension of time is added in, and then theories of sort that the I Ching represents and my own ideas represent, whether or not they’re true, they represent an effort to do for the future what the faculty called memory does for the past.
Well if they work at all, and in some sense they’re mapping something. And as you’re talking I’m realizing that what I was saying underneath it is that, um, I have used, uh, I Ching and the, uh, [?] a long time. And what I realize now I was dissatisfied with is they have to a certain extent alien philosophic systems [Coughing] had to stop using them. What happened was I started to dream more and more….what happened you know, one step two steps whatever down the road. And that’s much more congenial to me. The problem really isn’t due to [padding?] time but uh, if you do it through your own dreams then you have, you know [Coughing!!!] in those systems which is utterly congenial to your own way of feeling.
Yes, well sometimes you’re trying to understand your own life, and sometimes you’re trying to create a general theory of Being. And, these things will issue into different sorts of stances.
Would you say that intuition or imaginal mind is to the future, what memory is to the past?
Essentially, yes. I mean I believe that, uh, eschatalogical objects, if you want to put it that way, cast shadows backwards over the landscape of history. And that we, we are drawn towards these things. They’re what C H Waddington called creodes. They are narrow, caramelized pathways of development that would take an enormous amount of energy to lift you out of that channel, and drop you somewhere else. It isn’t impossible, but it’s highly, uh, highly improbable. Uh, this is why religion cannot be dismissed, because religion is like the, the mass intuition about fate. And the religious ontology for the human species is generally eschatalogical. Not always, not in Buddhism, or, well, there are exceptions. But it generally is eschatological. In that we are seen to be in the grip of a backward flowing casuistry, that there is something forward, the telos, so unwelcome in science.
Science insists on operating without teleology. And so its explanatory power is in proportion to that. But the sense of the telos is very great, and I think that it’s physically there, that the, that what is really happening is there is, there are forward moving, meaning from the past to the present, causal, um, chains, and there are causal chains which operate the other way, from the future into the past. The present is the interference pattern caused by the backward and flow, the forward and backward flowing casuistries inherent in time. Where they meet, they form an interference pattern. A standing wave if you will. Which is what a hologram is. And its that which is experienced as now, and it is half of the past and half of the future. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed about the future…
I want to stop there cause I disagree in that I think that interface pillar requires operation of consciousness. That I notice while I’m doing therapy with someone, that its the reinterpretation of the past that changes causal lines in the past. That it’s not simply something laid down, the past comes to the future into the present, but the interpretation of what the past was that makes it real.
But in that sense, the past is a part of the present.
It was Proust who said the past can never be understood until it is remembered.
And it’s that…
And it’s remembered in a totally different way. It’s restructured each time we remember.
Yes. Nothing, nothing is fixed. This is for sure.
And in some ways it seems…to my clients it isn’t the past they’re really talking about but they’re symbolizing certain aspects of their present reality in terms of certain memories, in terms of certain ways of seeing the past.
Oh the past is constantly, constantly changing. One could study the changing paths. Did you know the Renaissance was invented in the 1850’s? It didn’t exist until a German historian decided that’s what had happened. And now we live in the light of the Renaissance, you know? It’s just, we don’t question…. Nobody was running around Florence talking about “how great it is that we’re living in the Renaissance now”, you know?
History is fiction.
History is fiction or Stephen Dedalus said “History is the nightmare I am trying to awaken from.” [Laughter]
I was wondering in [??]… the psychotropics get back to the…could there be an element to an entelechy…
At the end of time?
That is, uh, drawing us to the future.
Yes! I think so. I mean, I, I’m basically on this issue fairly Platonic. I mean, I think that, uh, you know Plato said time is the moving image of eternity. And that, I think, is probably true. That the, that eternity is all time, and when you, and it somehow exists in the higher dimensional matrix than what we experience. So that we can only section that dimension to create the 3 or 4 dimensional world that we live in. But, that there is this, uh, this Platonic completedness, at least in essence, whatever that means.
And that sort of carries me back to my Time Maps. They don’t say what will happen, they only say that certain levels of novelty and its lack will be fulfilled at certain points in time by some set of events. You see the difference? So you can’t have an absolute determinism. If you have an absolute determinism, you preclude the possibility thought meaning anything. It just means I’m saying what I’m saying because I have to say it. You’re thinking what you’re thinking because you must think it. So an absolute determinism is hopeless and indefensible. And destroys the intellectual enterprise entirely. So we have to have a free future, but how free, you know? Looking at the case of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the number of people who will jump off it. And certain things are very, uh, bound. The time of sunrise tomorrow morning. You wouldn’t feel great trepidation about making a prophecy about that. But, nevertheless, forces could be invoked which would make it rise earlier or later. But it is very much embedded in the matrix of inertia. That everything interesting is not, is much more up for grabs.
What psychedelics do, and I begin this as a kind of summation, is they enrich experience, which sounds trivial except that experience is all that we have. One of the things, if I, if my career or whatever it is could be said to be about one thing, it’s the notion that your understanding depends upon your self. In other words, no myth of the tribe will satisfy these myths like science and religion and politics. They do not satisfy. Uh, when I talk about this I usually mention the notion of the flying saucer. People who believe in flying saucers, as alien spacecraft, nevertheless so undervalue their own identity that they believe that it will, that contact will come to the Secretary General of the United Nations, he will assemble Time, Newsweek and the reporters from the Economist, they will get together with Carl Sagan and whoever [laughter], and they will all explain it to all of us, and they we will understand what’s going on.
This is a, um, a sold out point of view. You have accepted their definition of you as a citizen. The real fact of the matter is an anarchy of the imagination, where each one of us is our own Magellan. We are not living in the age when all frontiers have disappeared, when all things have been tamed and made mundane. We’re living in, uh, the most exciting era that has ever been! Because we are about to turn to the real terra incognito, which is the terra incognito in our minds. And, uh, it is for us to do. And this is why the drugs are so controversial, because they free you from the myth of the tribe. And that single fact, the fact that they decondition you, they don’t decondition you at the chemical level, like make you forget everything you believe so you have to start over. They decondition you at the ideological level. So you just look around at the society you’re in and its contradictions and preposterous assumptions are perfectly visible to you. And that frees you then to create a new world, through self experience, not by taking Heidegger’s word for it, or somebody else’s word for it, but creating it through your own experience. And this is what we should all be involved in, and this would carry us to psychological balance. It’s trying to make sense of our intuitions, in the light of the enormous pressure to accept pre-packaged ideologies, which makes neurotics of us all. And the only, the only way out of that is to step back from it, and say “I will only believe what I know. I will be like someone from Missouri”, you know? “Show me and I’ll believe it.”
This is why I always, my favorite person in the New Testament is, uh, is Thomas the Doubter. Because if you’ll recall, uh, Christ, uh, returned to the apostles were gathered in the Upper Room. And Christ came to them I think from the 40th day. But Thomas was not there. So then, later and then Christ went away and so then Thomas came and they said “The Master was with us.” And he said, you know, “You guys have been smoking too many of those little brown cigarettes.” [Laughter] “The Master has gone from the plane. Unless I put my hand into the wound I will not believe it.” So then a few days later, Thomas was with them, and Christ came again. And he said to him, “Thomas, put your hand into the wound that you might believe.” And he did. And he believed. OK so what, what conclusion do we draw from this story? The conclusion is [Laughter] that of all of the people, of all of the disciples, the only person in all of human history recorded to have actually touched the incorporeal body of the risen Christ was Thomas the Doubter. And he was allowed that. He was vouchsafed that unique, uh, um, blessing because he doubted.
And that’s, yes he insisted on experiencing it himself. And so he touched the incorporeal body, the White Stone at the end of time. And this is what we are trying to do, because, you know, if you can get your hand on the door knob, you can turn it and walk through. And, uh, the Secretary General of the United Nations need not be at your elbow, nobody need be at your elbow. And this is what shaman know. They have touched the door knob, turned it, and walked through and they are out of time, and out of history, and they’re immense personal presence, or at least the immense personal presence that I have experienced, uh, among the ones who were genuine, is because they have taken responsibility for their model of the world, and have modeled the world based entirely on their own experience.
One question. I was never exposed to drugs, never tried you know anything. And the way you’re talking to us…this is the only way to, uh, view where to become awareness of our own being, our own…Uh to me the experience uh, came to me, uh, with [?} exercise. Which without any drug, without anything. My life changed to this because I became aware of a different dimension that I was never aware of before. But it was without drugs without anything.
So how do you explain this?
No I don’t think drugs are the only way. I think that they are the most effective way when you’re talking about transforming an entire society, or a planet. But there’s you know many shaman are not drug users. We’ve here spoken because we spoke mostly of Amazonian shamanism, as though the use of hallucinogens in shamanism are always co-present. Not necessarily true. Uh, I have often people say “You mean you don’t believe in yoga, you don’t believe in ehhh.?” Well, I think that these things may be efficacious. I think we’re caught in a culture crisis where there is real, uh, immediacy to the notion that we have to get on with it. But yes near death experiences.. um.
How do you compare the two experiences? Because to me I became very aware near dimension and my home….I had to learn that. Nobody …??? And the world looked at me like it was supposed to be…And, uh..???? How could you compare the two experiences? In any way?
Well, I guess you can compare them in their results. You can’t compare them in their content. That’s the thing. Yes.
Some people think you compare them with chemistry
So. I think that um, there might be more similarities than when you first consider the point.
I’d like to get back to one of your concluding statements on how the use of the psychedelics will, um, decondition a society whose pathology. Now that doesn’t seem to have happened in the Amazonians. It seems to have reinforced their mythology.
It was based on the plants.
Yes that’s right.
Well we have no record behind them using this drug. We have no notion of what ideological transformations may have brought them to that point. There are tribes in the Amazon right next door to the people we’re talking about who don’t use drugs. And so we can’t know what upheavals of ideology they have been through. When there is a tradition which, um, supports the notion of the deconditioned individual, then you get the notion of shamanism. We don’t have any comparable institution. So that, there, if you are of a shamanic temperament, you will be selected out and put in that position. Uh…
But we, we do but we don’t give it credence where the total….sort of context. We have sports for example. There’s ample evidence for athletes entering into all sorts of shamanic experiences and experiencing [ ] with everything else, and not knowing what in the world’s going on with the, you know? And they it just happens with Marathon runners and droves at these things experienced….Uh. Distance runners anyone who gets into hyperventilating tremendous physical activity. We do have that in our culture. It’s a warrior type act against post war revealing It does exist.
It’s also a question of how much you can decondition yourself in the absence of any other example. In other words, uh, if you’re part of a nomadic Amazonian tribe there is no model, there is the social model of the tribe and the only thing you can decondition yourself into is acceptance of the secret non-public aspects of the ideology in the men society or something like that. Well then we have, uh, we have pharmacological means for intervening, where and we need them because we’re at such a terminal state with this problem.
It’s a personal response and also a social one.
That’s right we need to talk about it. And it isn’t necessary for everybody to go out and get loaded. It’s more about participating in a new language of self reflection. This is what we need to do. Some of us should take drugs, the people, it’s a professional kind of obligation. [Laughter] You know that’s what a shaman is. He’s the guy whose professional obligation is to take drugs. But we all have an obligation to create a language that values us and the people around us. And this begins with a language that values the self, and our experiences. Experience, this is the central thing above and beyond all else.
I want to come back to something you were saying a while ago, and that was the conditioning of the culture. And, um, I just have a couple of observations I’m marking the reaction to. It’s always a curious fact to me that uh, during the 60’s as we were beginning to move out into space, we were also taking drugs at a …rate. There was an inner and outer exploration going on there simultaneously. Out of that experience I think we have in some ways re-conditioned the society specifically in regards to the psychedelic experience and the ecology movement. And beginning to see things in more whole patterns. And I wonder if you have any comments about any of that?
Well, I think all of these things like the ecology movements, the, the hippies, uh, the dietary sensitivity. All of this stuff arises out of, uh, the awareness of the culture crisis. Basically traceable back to the Bomb. I think the bomb has had a wonderful effect on focusing people’s attention wonderfully on problems that before they just tended to fly off in all directions. The thing I might say about space. I don’t believe that you know we will go to space as we are, so that we’re going to create you know a South Bronx on Mars and to slavery and the moons of Jupiter and this kind of thing. I think space is too much like the imagination. This enfolding velvet darkness that stretches to infinity. That cries out to have artistic objects dropped into it. Uh, it’s uh, like going into the mind. Going into the unconscious. The same thing that we must do here on earth before we go to space. We must, we cannot afford the unconscious anymore. This is a concept that has to take its place with the high button shoe. We must be entirely conscious because we have the power to shatter the earth like, uh, a rotten apple with a stick of dynamite inside of it. So there can be no more talk of the unconscious or the freight of the primate body or anything like that. We have to get our act together, because, uh, nature is very ruthless and we cannot have, you cannot rest on the notion that there’s some kind of Deus ex Machina [???] which is going to make it all right even though we blundered endlessly. So it’s basically strangely enough a call to responsibility. Which is always what has always charged against psychedelic drug use is its flagrant irresponsibility. So its a pretty, uh, the lines are drawn.
Sounds like you’ve got a [pretty big job again]
I think so. Thank you all very very much for, uh, helping me think about all of this.
Original Transcription by: JohnDeeIsMe
Review 1 by:
Review 2 by [admin only]:
Terence’s ideas are free, but his words and works belong to his children and legal heirs. People who wish to use Terence’s words must seek permission through Lux Natura