Wrapping up this round of posts on the arts with a few more, beginning with these short video clips in which six teachers share their perspectives on the role of art and the artist in society. Teachings of this type have deeply informed my mindful journey back into the world of form and have helped me to glimpse the larger human story embedded in all works of art and creation.
What happens to our sense of ‘me’ after death? Does our consciousness reincarnate in another form to live another life? How should we prepare for our death – and what does that even mean? Insights of the type shared by these six teachers in this video gallery helped me discover a new perspective from which to grapple with such questions about the transformation that is death.
True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise (1994)
I am usually disinclined to investigate the personal lives of teachers - at least not beyond the numerous personal stories many offer to their audiences. But upon hearing numerous direct and indirect references to either this book or the events it describes, curiosity - and Terence's exceptional wordsmithery - got the better of me and I made the time to take in this story of the psychedelic adventures of the McKenna brothers at La Chorrera in the Amazon Basin.
“In the days following that first mushroom experience, the lives of my brother and I underwent a tremendous and bizarre transformation. Not until Jacques Vallee had written 'The Invisible College' (1975), noting that an absurd element is invariably a part of the situation in which contact with an alien occurs, did I find the courage to examine the events at La Chorrera and try to fit them into some general pattern. I have told various parts of our story over the years, never revealing the entire incredible structure to any one listener, knowing full well what it seems to imply about our mental condition during the time of the experiences.” ―Terence McKennaIn 2017, Dennis McKenna published his account of the La Chorrera adventures in The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss. True Hallucinations is Terence's account of these same events - and what a wonderfully told account it is. But here I should come clean and confess - I didn't read the book but listened to Terence read his book via this nice YouTube share from PhilsMind. It's a funky rendition - natural and psychedelic sound effects and folk rock songs are sprinkled throughout - which adds a touch of the fittingly surreal to the story. But best of all, it's the author reading his words as he meant them when he wrote them - always an enjoyable way to 'read' a book. (FYI - Terence appears to be reading a slightly different version of the book than is currently on the market.)
The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012)
I've been on a McKenna brothers kick lately, first listening to Terence inspire curiosity about the psychedelic space and then to Dennis, a well-known ethnopharmacologist, thoroughly detail the psychotropic chemistry.
“Psychedelics are not suppressed because they are dangerous to users; they’re suppressed because they provoke unconventional thought, which threatens any number of elites and institutions that would rather do our thinking for us.” ― Dennis McKenna, 'The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss'The title might suggest the book is primarily about the brothers' pivotal experience at La Chorrera since 'the Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss" was the name the McKenna's gave to the small group they joined for this trek through the Amazon. But Dennis actually treats us to a much richer tale that begins with a few good stories about the McKenna ancestors before starting with the brothers' early childhood years in Colorado (speaking of which, I love this cover photo). We don't get to the days in La Chorrera until about halfway through the book and it's worth the wait as Dennis' retelling of the event is captivating. Having heard both Terence's (True Hallucinations) and Dennis' account of that psilocybin-fueled adventure, I can only say I soooo wish I could have been a fly on the wall, so to speak. to have witnessed the wildness. It's easy to see why this experience had such a profound impact on both men.
The book goes on to describe a number of other notable happenings in the lives of the brothers - the timewave theories, ayahuasca trips and the like - before concluding with Dennis' account of his brother's death in early 2000.
Wikipedia page, Facebook
Terence McKenna was an ethnobotanist, mystic, author, psychonaut and lecturer. He was born and raised in Colorado but managed to extricate himself to Los Altos, California while still in his teens and so was on hand during the Haight-Ashbury heyday. And yet he never seemed to join it directly and in 1969, Terence headed first to Nepal and then to the Amazon in 1971, where he encountered the psilocybin experiences that would shape him into the psychedelic bard he became.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it's a feather bed.” --Terence McKennaWhat's been helpful: I suspect anyone drawn into the world of psychedelic experiences is eventually going to come across Terence and Dennis McKenna. After hearing Terence's name mentioned in passing by several others, I finally got around to looking into the matter - and instantly became a fan. If you also appreciate hearing the English language expertly managed, then Terence is one of those people you'd listen to describe the cover of the phone book for an hour. And then to marry his language skills and the world of the psychedelic!? Well, that's just a match made in Magic Mushroom Heaven, is what that is. Terence often drew upon an extensive knowledge of art and human history as a backdrop, making his stories especially interesting and informative. In fact, that's often what I've enjoyed most about his lectures, the historical insights that come from his being so well read on the subject.
Terence gained and revealed a number of insights from his many psychedelic experiences, a few of which resonate deeply with my newfound take on reality. One is his 'novelty theory' - in general, the idea that the increasing complexity emerging throughout the universe signals the evolution of the collective consciousness, a process which will culminate in the birth of our next stage of consciousness. He connected a number of theories about time to this idea, all of which did not click for me after having experienced 'no time' as part of awakening. But this idea of novelty continuing to increase towards something - this is an idea that comes up in a number of guises from various teachers, and this idea definitely resonates. By which I mean it sounds like a truth I don't understand but do recognize.
His other insight that I found 'familiar' was about the existence of what Terence called 'the Great Eschaton' or the 'Transcendental Object At The End Of Time'. Terence spoke often over the years of the one large event/change/shift in the future that is sending 'shockwaves' of a sort back through time, prompting awakenings and intuitions that are quickly heralding changes to the millions of minds looking for a different way. As it happens, this concept actually aligns with new data coming from lab experiments which demonstrate an ability in humans to sense events, especially painful or negative ones, in the immediate future, which prompts the body to start reacting to the stimulus even before exposed. This is, of course, something we've all experienced as a sense of intuition or 'gut feeling'.
The Transcendental Object At The End Of Time - besides his books, the main reservoir holding Terence's teachings appears to be hundreds of YouTube videos from various lectures, retreats and the like. I'll be posting several of these links over time but to start, here's a compilation video (three and one half fabulous hours!) that offers a nice variety of video snippets from throughout Terence's career. An excellent segment on DMT starts @ 1:12:50 (no one describes these events like Terence) and another on the psychedelic experience here @ 1:45:25