Friday, August 12, 2011

Terence McKenna


There are these things, which I call "self transforming machine elves," I also call them self-dribbling basketballs. They are, but they are none of these things. I mean you have to understand: these are metaphors in the truest sense, meaning that they're lies! [...] I name them 'Tykes' because tyke is a word that means to me a small child, ... and when you burst into the DMT space this is the Aeon - it's a child, and it's at play with colored balls, and I am in eternity, apparently, in the presence of this thing.
—Terence McKenna, "Time and Mind",
Terence McKenna advocated the exploration of altered states of mind via the ingestion of naturally occurring psychedelic substances. For example, and in particular, as facilitated by the ingestion of high doses of psychedelic mushrooms, and DMT, which he believed was the apotheosis of the psychedelic experience. He spoke of the "jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs" or "self-transforming machine elves" that one encounters in that state.
Although he avoided giving his allegiance to any one interpretation (part of his rejection of monotheism), he was open to the idea of psychedelics as being "trans-dimensional travel"; literally, enabling an individual to encounter what could beancestors, or spirits of earth. He remained opposed to most forms of organized religion or guru-based forms of spiritual awakening.
Either philosophically or religiously, he expressed admiration for Marshall McLuhanPierre Teilhard de ChardinGnostic ChristianityAlfred North Whitehead and Alchemy. McKenna always regarded the Greek philosopher Heraclitus as his favorite philosopher.
He also expressed admiration for the works of James Joyce (calling Finnegans Wake "the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature of the 20th century") and Vladimir Nabokov: McKenna once said that he would have become a Nabokov lecturer if he had never encountered psychedelics.

The "Stoned Ape" Theory of Human Evolution

In his book Food of the Gods, McKenna proposed that the transformation from our early ancestors Homo erectus to the species Homo sapiens mainly had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis in out diet - an event which according to his theory took place in about 100,000 BC (this is when he believed that our species diverged from the Homogenus). He based his theory on the main effects, or alleged effects, produced by the mushroom. One of the effects that comes about from the ingestion of low doses, which agrees with one of scientist Roland Fischer's findings from the late 60s-early 70s, is it significantly improves the visual acuity of humans - so theoretically, of other human-like mammals too. According to McKenna, this effect would have definitely prove to be of evolutionary advantage to our omnivorous hunter-gatherer ancestors that would have stumbled upon it "accidentally"; as it would make it easier for them to hunt.
In higher doses, McKenna claims, the mushroom acts as a sexual stimulator, which would make it even more beneficial evolutionary, as it would result in more offspring. At even higher doses, the mushroom would have acted to "dissolve boundaries", which would have promoted community-bonding and group sexual activities-that would result in a mixing of genes and therefore greater genetic diversity. Generally McKenna believed that the periodic ingestion of the mushroom would have acted to dissolve the ego in humans before it ever got the chance to grow in destructive proportions. In this context he likened the ego to a cancerous tumor that can grow uncontrollable and become destructive to its host. In his own words:
Wherever and whenever the ego function began to form, it was akin to a calcareous tumor or a blockage in the energy of the psyche. The use of psychedelic plants in a context of shamanic initiation dissolved-as it dissolves today-the knotted structure of the ego into undifferentiated feeling, what Eastern philosophy calls the Tao.
—Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods
The mushroom, according to McKenna, had also given humans their first truly religious experiences (which, as he believed, were the basis for the foundation of all subsequent religions to date). Another factor that McKenna talked about was the mushroom's potency to promote linguistic thinking. This would have promoted vocalisation, which in turn would have acted in cleansing the brain (based on a scientific theory that vibrations from speaking cause the precipitation of impurities from the brain to the cerebrospinal fluid), which would further mutate our brain. All these factors according to McKenna were the most important factors that promoted our evolution towards the Homo sapiens species. After this transformation took place, our species would have begun moving out of Africa to populate the rest of the planet  Later on, this theory by McKenna was given the name "The 'Stoned Ape' Theory of Human Evolution".

Documentary in playlist:

A Fireside Chat With Terence McKenna


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