This is one of Terence McKenna’s most important discussions, as well as one of the most important discussions for humanity to hear in these strange times of crisis.
Terence really gets to the Heart of what is at stake – for planet Earth, humanity, and all that dwells on and in Earth.
Some of what he discusses may be at first difficult to understand because there is a mystic quality to it. I am currently processing all of what Terence spoke of here and know that the ideas he shared will take time to process. I’ve listened to this speech 3 times since I first heard it yesterday and will most likely listen again. The ideas he speaks of here are not just something that can be processed in an instant – which he mentions. The ideas he discusses require much more effort from the common, quick & dismissive, judgmental thinking.
Who has time to think critically though?
With the exceptions of some “ums” & whatnot, I almost certainly transcribed his exact words. (At least from around when I began taking these notes, 30 to 40ish minutes in.) I made sure to transcribe his exact words as he spoke them, because I believe this is that important.
The whole speech is great, but I really got into transcribing his words around the time when he says “…In a way it’s the poets that have failed us…” which are bolded, below. The video of this speech can be found at the end of this article. Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
“Culture is a plot against the expansion of consciousness...
And this plot prosecutes its goals through a limiting of language. Language is the battleground over which the fight will take place, because what we cannot say, we cannot communicate – and by say I mean dance, paint, sing, mean. What we cannot say we cannot communicate.
We can conceive of things that we cannot communicate, and I think everyone here has done that.
…the psychedelic inner astronaut sees things which no human being has seen before and no human being will ever see again. But in fact this has no meaning unless it is possible to carry it back into the collectivity…
(^around 32 mins)
“…now what we really need,,,”
“we are the custodians of the destiny of this planet. Our decisions affect every life form on the planet.”
“…In a way it’s the poets that have failed us. Because they have not provided a song or sung a vision that we could all move in concert to. So now we are in the absurd position of being able to do anything, and what we are doing is fouling our own nest and pushing ourselves toward planetary toxification and extinction. This is because the poets, the artists have not articulated a moral vision. The moral vision must come from the unconscious. It doesn’t have to do, I believe, with these post-meaning movements in art, deconstructionism and this sort of thing.
I mean I’m basically putting out a very conservative but I think exciting program, for art — that arts task is to save the soul of mankind, and that anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. Because if the artists, who are self-selected for being able to journey into “the other”( the transcendental dimensions, etc). If the artist cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.
Ideology is extremely alien to art. Political ideology I mean. And if you will but notice it is political ideology that has been calling the shots for the last 7 or 800 years. We can transcend politics if we can put some other program in place.
You cannot transcend politics into a void.
And I believe that a world without ideology could be created if what were put in place of ideology were the notion of the realization of the good, the true, and the beautiful, ya know.
The three tiered cannon of the platonic aesthetic. (the) Reconnect the notion the good, the true, the beautiful, then use psychedelic to empower the artist to go into this vast dimension that surrounds human history on all sides to an infinite depth, and return from that world with the transcendental images that can lift us to a new cultural level. The muse is there.
The dull maps that rationalism has given us are nothing more than whistling past the graveyard by the bad little boys of science. You only have to avail yourselves of these shamanic tools to rediscover a nature which is not mute, as Sart said, in a kind of culmination of the modern view point. Nature is not mute, it is man who is deaf. And the way to open our ears, open our eyes, and reconnect with the intent of a living world is through the psychedelics.
Now as you know, biology runs on genes. And genes are the units of meaning of heredity. But we could make a model of the informational environment that is represented by culture, and in fact this is done. A word has been invented — meme, m.e.m.e. a meme is not the smallest unit of heredity.
A meme is the smallest unit of meaning of an idea.
Ideas are made of memes, and I think the art community might function with more efficiency in the production of visionary aesthetic breakthroughs, if we would think of ourselves as an environment, modeled after the natural environment, where we as artists are attempting to create memes which enter an environment of other memes that are in competition with each other, and out of this competition of memes, evermore appropriate adapted and suitable ideas can gather and link themselves together into higher and higher organisms.
Now in order for this to happen – There is an obligation upon each one of us to carry our ideas clearly. Because in the same way that a gene must be copied correctly to be replicated or it will cause some pathological mutation, a meme must be correctly replicated or it will cause a pathological mutation.
What is this new level of creativity?”
Around late minute 41, closer to 42^^^
“… and each artist is an antenna to the transcendental other and as we go with our own history into that thing and then create a unique confluence of our uniqueness and its uniqueness we collectively create an arrow, an arrow out of history, out of time, perhaps even out of matter that will redeem then the idea that man is good. Redeem the idea that man is good. This is the promise of art, and its fulfillment is nevermore near than the present moment…”
“…that what is called gnosticism is a very strong strain in the human animal and especially in western thought. And gnosticism in its most severe form can be boiled down to the proposition that we are strangers here, we don’t belong here. This is not our world. We come from a place made of light and we will never rest until we return to it. Now the problem with that formulation is it sets us up for tremendous discontinuity and unhappiness until we achieve that return to the realm of light. It’s a kind of faustian thing.
And yet the other possibility…is isn’t there some way we could make our peace with the earth? Isn’t there some way that we can have archaic and eat it too…”
“.. somehow the living spirit has to be brought with us. And this is really the high task for shamanism. How can we who have always as shamans had a relationship to the spirits of the earth, of the waters, of the sky. If we are setting out for alpha in Sagittarius or something like that, how can we do that and not leave our soul behind?
Well, I don’t think we should leave our human soul behind.
Somehow we have to internalize the entirety of the biological world if we are going to become a spacefaring species, otherwise we are going to get out there and discover that something vital was left behind…
..and this is a great tension between ourselves and the earth. Between our destiny as an energy-using, dream-compressing, spacefaring, storm trooper kind of species, I mean that’s all male dominance and male mentality talking, and the need to somehow fold that into a nurturing stance, a preserving stance, a stance that recognizes that the conservation of (our?) archaic values is really our only hope.
And those two things exist in a dynamic tension.
This is maybe the issue that the artistic community can clarify, and that must be clarified before we can make a definitive step into the future.
Right now we are uncertain.
Stewardship or angel hood? Which shall it be?
What I’m proposing is more,, there’s no man in it.
It’s the compresence of the collective soul of humanity.
That somehow I see history as an alchemical task and process, and the artist, as artificer, it is the task of the artist to complete this alchemical compresence, and it’s a kind of irrational thing. It is irrational.
It’s that “mind” and “matter” are approaching each other on a trajectory that will bring them together with no damage to the quintessential nature of each. And we can’t image that. Because for us things are “mind” or “matter”.
We can’t conceive of a coincidentia-oppositorum (the coincidence of opposites). And yet it’s that which we must hold in our minds if we want to seek truth. I mean even in quantum physics they teach you that the universe is composed of what they call islands of boolean algebra embedded in an ocean of ordinary algebra. What they mean is they are having their archaic and eating it too, they’re trying to say that it’s “both, and”.
And it is an irrational process. It isn’t a Nietzschian program of realization. It’s a kind of an opening. Something wants to be born. The promptings of our religions with all the irrational and hysterical trappings that attend them nevertheless have a core perception that there is between man and nature a kind of compact, and this compact is, it will be redeemed. I mean I really think that this is the psychedelic faith. That we are the prodigal species. We have descended into the inferno of matter to try and recover the pearl of immortality.
The pearl of immortality is the perfected and reconstructed Earth, and somehow we are to be the critical factor in this equation, or the point species.
We are not acting for ourselves, we are the energy manipulating species that I believe carries the hopes of all life, all nature is watching this drama. The life of our star is finite. The life of the planet is finite. But potentially self reflecting understanding may be in fact immortal, and yet it is breaking out of the trappings of matter, and this is a process so large, so strange, that I don’t think a single mind can encompass it within a single moment.
It’s something that we triangulate over and over again. And for me, the psychedelic experience is how you do that.
The psychedelic experience is literally a rising into a higher dimension, in the geometric sense, and from that higher dimension the psychedelic voyager carries out a transecting of the lower dimensional object which is the world, and in the same way that we can build up an image of a cone out of an infinite number of ellipsoidal transections, we can build up a true model of the world by carrying out a number of these transections from a higher dimension, and then it shows us how the world really works.
And when you understand how the world really works, I’m beginning to get just a hint of it. It works through love, and dream, and intention to connect .. through love and dream and intention toward connection, and these are ultimately irrational values and they ultimately must be irrationally embraced, because the momentum toward irrational conclusion is tremendous, but unfortunately completely fatal. And this is the invitation that the artist has always extended – toward a radical break with the momentum of rationalism.
It’s simply that now, in this moment of tremendous crisis, when the artist is at last called upon to perform, and there must be no stitches dropped, because this dance is the dance of transformation of the planet itself. This is the moment of empowering. This is what all the Shamanism of the past built toward. This final magical invocation. James Joyce said man will be dirigible. That’s simply a way of saying that we will find a way to make our dreams, and the dreams of the planet and the life it carries, one dream.
And the way to do it is to reconnect up to the Gaian Mind through the channels of communication that were always there but that have not been really taken up since the late Neolithic.
It’s time for us to call home.
And you know how to do it.
It’s just a matter of having the courage to do it.
To act and then to have that empowering act spread back through the psychology of the planet. I am very optimistic.
I think we are awakening to a new day from a long long night of the soul, but it must be done collectively, gently, lovingly, and with a complete faith that we are an infant held in the arms of nature. That nature wants this to happen. That we are not an aberration. We are granted peculiar, but we are not an aberration.
We are a necessary oddness to the completion of the whole and this is our glory and this is why we’ve been graced with self-reflection, and we can redeem that tremendous empowerment by going forward in love and faith to save the world through art and the pursuit of meaning.