Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolut

Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolut

by Terence Mckenna, Satty

Cited by the L.A. Weekly as "the culture's foremost spokesman for the psychedelic experience," Terrence McKenna is an underground legend as a brilliant raconteur, adventurer, and expert on the experiential use of mind-altering plants.

In these essays, interviews, and narrative adventures, McKenna takes us on a mesmerizing journey deep into the Amazon as

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Cited by the L.A. Weekly as "the culture's foremost spokesman for the psychedelic experience," Terrence McKenna is an underground legend as a brilliant raconteur, adventurer, and expert on the experiential use of mind-altering plants.

In these essays, interviews, and narrative adventures, McKenna takes us on a mesmerizing journey deep into the Amazon as well as into the hidden recesses of the human psyche and the outer limits of our culture, giving us startling visions of the past and future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McKenna's ( Invisible Landscape ) wild theories about how hallucinogenic experiences are the last best hope of a world gone mad are at the center of these essays and interviews, most previously published. McKenna interprets three decades of flying through the deepest and highest levels of consciousness, encountering extraterrestrials, unknown languages and ``the Other,'' the self seeking new levels of interior human existence. Much of his experience comes from trips--physical and drug-induced--to and with Amazonian Indian shamans. McKenna is best when he describes the multicolored landscapes and backgrounds of his visions and their settings. Such description, though, is rare; the author serves mostly as millenarian missionary, predicting an apocalypse for the year 2012. He gives short shrift to the demonstrable healing properties of the Amazon drugs, neglecting the most persuasive data as to why natural hallucinogens ought to be taken more seriously. He opts instead to promote hallucination as a messianic panacea for the individual psyche, not unlike the New Agers and pop psychologists against whom he rails incessantly. (May)
Library Journal
McKenna has been exploring the ``Wholly Other'' for 25 years. In this spiritual journey, he ponders shamanism, buddhism, and enthnopharmacology. By the phrase ``archaic revival,'' McKenna refers to a return to shamanism, which he believes can be enhanced by current scientific practices. The next level of spiritual transformation, he explains, is achieved by the intelligent use of psychedelics and should be performed only by thoughtful explorers rather than experimenters, scientific or otherwise. The ideas presented in this collection of interviews, speeches, and articles are radical even now, and will challenge the reader. There are many insights on current spiritual movements such as goddess worship, deep ecology, space beings, and virtual reality. Recommended.-- Gail Wood, Montgomery Coll. Lib., Germantown, Md.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.72(d)

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Chapter One

In Praise of Psychedelics

Once upon a time, while on one of my rare excursions into hyperconsciousness (on this occasion via mescaline), someone played for me a Terence McKenna tape. I was transfixed. McKenna was one of the loveliest speakers I'd ever heard, with a lush Irish gift of gab and an extraordinary ability to turn difficult intellectual concepts into verbal poetry. That his subject matter was the evolution of consciousness of the human species, and particularly the role of psychedelics in that evolution, made the tape a particularly engaging experience in my elevated state.

But what truly converted me into a McKenna fan was the level on which he explored what had been for some time one of the major strains in my own thinking — that history as we know it and define it is ending. This was an awareness that I had arrived at early in my journalistic career while researching a magazine assignment on the new psychotherapies. On a mass scale, were people able to break free from the psychological patterns and deadlocks of history, I reasoned, then all our views of human history would change and history as we'd learned it — the battle of nation-states, the struggles between classes, the endless fight for human equality — would in fact become mere footnotes in the annals of the species. It seemed only a matter of a couple of centuries.

To this view McKenna resonated with extrapolations of molecular chemistry, physics, ethnobotany, anthropology, the mathematics of chaos, Jung, McLuhan, and much more. And what made histalk most compelling, at least during my own mescaline meditation, was his argument that the species' ability (eventually) to transcend our own sick history stems chiefly from the impact throughout history of what McKenna called "botanical shamanism." In other words, God's own given psychedelics — mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca, morning glories, and so on.

McKenna, as it turns out, has never met Tim Leary, whom, it seems, he is about to replace as the culture's foremost spokesperson for the psychedelic experience. Where Leary was brilliant and original in both his experimentation and his salesmanship, McKenna is brilliant, scholarly, and priestly (in the best sense of the word). In fact, though a child of the sixties, the forty-one-year-old McKenna came to his fascination with "ethnopharmacology," as he calls it, not through Leary but through the far more cautious and spiritual Aldous Huxley, whose Doors of Perception he read when he was fourteen. The son of a traveling salesman for heavy-duty electrical equipment and of a "housewife-mother" in a small, largely fundamentalist Colorado town, Paonia, McKenna recalls that the book left him "completely swept away." "I remember following my mother around our kitchen, telling her that if one-tenth of what this guy was saying was true, then this was what I wanted to do with my life." What in fact he has done is spend twenty years studying the philosophical foundations of shamanism, the use of hallucinogens in spiritual transformation, and the enormous impact and potential of natural hallucinogens on our evolving planetary culture and emerging "metaconsciousness."

McKenna took his first psychedelic — LSD — in the sixties at Berkeley, where he was a student activist in the free speech and antiwar movements. As an art history major at first, he participated in a special program for gifted students in which "the literature, art, science, mathematics, and what have you of different historical periods were studied in depth." This laid the groundwork for what he calls his broadbrush "approach to exploring the history of human consciousness."

Halfway through college, harassed by Reagan's cops because of his barricades-style political activism in the student strike of 1968 at San Francisco State, McKenna decided a sabbatical was in order and went off to work as an art historian in Nepal, where he tried "to integrate the psychedelic experience into a Buddhist model." This led him to the study of Tibetan shamanism. Both cultures, he discovered, used psychoactive drugs in their explorations of consciousness — hashish and a local herb called datura. Thus began his investigation into the true nature of shamanism. He later finished his degree at the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources at Cal Berkeley, where, he says, he was "a self-organized major in shamanism."

Aside from his wide knowledge, what makes McKenna fascinating is that he has himself experienced virtually every form of psychedelic and psychotropic known to or devised by man, and yet, throughout all these experiences, he has managed to retain the keen-eyed, scientific, intellectual observer part of his consciousness, which, after the experience, is able to describe its nature in the most extraordinarily lucid detail. He has thus experienced levels of awareness described by some of the great mystics of the past, but unlike most of them he can relate his experiences to the cultural and historical evolution of the species.

These experiences have led him to one profound and overriding conclusion: the human species has evolved to its present dominant state through the use of naturally occurring hallucinogens and will not advance past its current primitivism and reach new dimensions of evolved consciousness without further use of these nature-given means of expanded consciousness. According to McKenna, no fan of the pop drugs — crack, smack, et al. — or pop drug use, the pharmacology should be entrusted to specially trained psychotherapy professionals — the potential shamans of postmodern culture — and he is a happy crusader for the expanded legalization of the use of such materials by professionals.

These days, when not out lecturing or searching for new natural hallucinogens in the rain forests of the world, McKenna divides his time between his home in Sonoma County and the Botanical Dimensions garden site in Hawaii — a non-profit effort at preserving the natural medicinal and shamanically significant plants of the earth from the ravages of civilization. He lectures frequently to psychotherapists and is a personal consultant to some of them.

— Jay Levin

JL: You've...

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