In the realm of philosophical explorers and visionary thinkers, few names are as famous as Terence McKenna. An enigmatic figure who traversed the boundaries of science, spirituality, and psychedelia, McKenna’s life and ideas remain an enduring source of fascination, inspiration, and insight into the world of psychedelic thought. The five-time author has been called the “intellectual voice of rave culture.” He was an early popularizer of virtual reality and the Internet. He and his brother, Dennis, taught the world how to grow Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms. Terence McKenna’s writings have a cult following to this day.
“Mr. McKenna combined a leprechaun’s wit with a poet’s sensibility to brew a New Age stew with ingredients including flying saucers, elves and the I Ching,” writes Douglas Martin for the New York Times. But, McKenna’s work wasn’t widely accepted everywhere: His enthusiasm for psychedelics and mind-altering substances garnered him a fair share of criticism amist a prohibitionist culture.
A Brief Biography
McKenna had a lively life before his fame as an author. He enrolled at the University of California in Berkeley in the 1960s, where he studied shamanism and Tibetan folk religion. Eventually, he lived and studied in Nepal. In 1970, McKenna, along with his brother Dennis, embarked on an expedition to the Colombian Amazon in search of ayahuasca. This psychedelic ‘trip’ became a profound initiation into the mysteries of altered states of consciousness and a catalyst for McKenna’s lifelong fascination with ethnobotany, psychedelics, and shamanism. The wisdom of the Witoto, and later Mestizo, along with Shipibo and other Indigenous ayahuasqueros in the Amazon basin, shaped the foundation of McKenna’s thinking about the psychedelic experience, time, and the nature of reality itself—forever igniting McKenna’s exploration of the human mind and its connection to the universe at large.
In the 80s, McKenna, along with his brother Dennis, devised an innovative method for growing psilocybin mushrooms that remains the standard for today’s eager mycologists. By utilizing spores that they had obtained during their expedition to the Amazon, the brothers were able to produce P. cubensis using household items and rye grain substrate.
This groundbreaking approach revolutionized the ability to cultivate psilocybin mushrooms in the comfort of one’s own home. The Mckennas documented the development of their technique in their 1992 book titled “Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide.” Despite facing criticism from the mainstream media for their work and advocacy of magic mushrooms, the brothers managed to sell more than 100,000 copies of their book in the first few years. It lives on as the standard for home cultivation.
The same year, McKenna published Food of the Gods, where he unveiled his Stoned Ape Theory. Regarded as controversial even today, McKenna suggested that Homo erectus, our ancestral species, transformed into Homo sapiens, modern humans as a result of ingesting psilocybin mushrooms. Supposedly, these mushrooms played a role in the expansion of early humans’ brain size and intellectual capabilities, particularly in terms of self-awareness. Eating psychedelic mushrooms, “laid the basis, I think, for religion and for language,” he told the New York Times in 1993.
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31 Best Terence McKenna Quotes
McKenna devoted his existence to understanding the mysteries of consciousness and the cosmos. Far from ordinary, Mckenna was known for his counterculture views and groundbreaking cultivation techniques. Join us as we unravel some of his remarkable quotes that continue to echo through time, challenging our perceptions and beckoning us to embark on our own inner odyssey of self-discovery.
Terence McKenna Quotes About Psychedelics
These quotes capture some of McKenna’s perspectives on psychedelics. They reflect his deep exploration of altered states of consciousness and the profound insights he not only gained from his experiences with psychedelics but left for future generations to pursue further.
“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third-story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
“Who would want to do machine architecture or write software without taking psychedelics at some point in the design process?”
“The message of psychedelics is that culture can be re-engineered as a set of emotional and spiritual values rather than products. This is terrifying news.”
“Psychedelics are not a substitute for faith. They are a door to authentic faith.”
“Psychedelics are the only path to a new and authentic consciousness in a world where we are separated and driven mad by the forces of history, capitalism, and the remnants of patriarchy.”
“The great lesson of psychedelics is that the world is a temporary hologram, a coagulation of frozen light, and if you learn to change your mind, you can change it.”
“I think of going to the grave without having a psychedelic experience like going to the grave without ever having sex. It means that you never figured out what it is all about.”
“The purpose of psychedelics is to heal and dissolve dysfunctional behavior patterns.”
“The best way to take LSD is to be by yourself, in nature, with good friends, and a jug of wine.”
“If the words ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”
McKenna’s Thoughts On Life and Society
The following quotes provide a glimpse into the depth and diversity of McKenna’s thoughts and ideas on various aspects of life, consciousness, and the human experience.
“Culture is your operating system. The mind is programmable, and if you’re not programming your own mind, then someone else will program it for you.”
“The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle: totally fascinated by the realm of the senses, it swings from one desire to the next, one conflict to the next, one self-centered idea to the next.”
“We are caged by our cultural programming. Culture is a mass hallucination, and when you step outside the mass hallucination, you see it for what it’s worth.”
“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”
“The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.”
“The purpose of life is to familiarize oneself with this after-death body so that the act of dying will not create confusion in the psyche.”
“We need to interact with like-minded people throughout the world to establish the new archaic revival.”
“Stop consuming images and start producing them.”
“It’s clearly a crisis of two things: consciousness and conditioning. We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save our planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war; But we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds.”
“Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coercion, brainwashing, and manipulation.”
Terence McKenna Quotes On Nature
These quotes showcase McKenna’s connection with nature and his belief in the importance of embracing and cherishing the natural world as an integral part of our existence. Save these for a sunny day spent lounging in the infinite.
“Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored.”
“The world is not made of atoms, it is made of stories.”
“The larger issue is that the planet is slowly being transformed into a computer.”
“We need the beauty of nature to sustain us through the shock of contact with the infinite.”
“The world is not a material machine, it is a magical festival.”
“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.”