Usenet is much more than 30,000+ newsgroups. In fact, some say that Usenet is the 'soul' of the Internet. Others say that acid-cum-cyberpunk recited tales of cyberspace mystery doesn't mean anything to them. Shrug. Gigabytes of revelation can easily be trashed by applying the term, 'fruitcake'. Nevertheless, opinions are cheap, and if not for Usenet, where anyone can say anything to anybody, some may never have learned that there are people out there who possess utterly different world views to them.
One such person was Terence Mckenna, Ethnobotanist, explorer, inventor of Novelty Theory, and discoverer of machine elves, who passed away with no fanfare on Monday 3rd April, after battling brain cancer for nearly a year. Terence's legacy to the net should not be underestimated. He saw the unstated design goal of virtual reality as a digital simulation of the psychedelic experience. He saw culture evolving as rapidly as technology. Always examining the outward-bound edges of net-based culture, his unique consciousness authored several influential books. These include 'Food of the Gods', 'True Hallucinations', and 'The Archaic Revival'.
He is noted in Peter Stafford's, Psychedelics Encyclopaedia, for "a landmark examination of the role of plants in human history". Diagnosed with a life expectancy of only six months, Terence immediately set about arranging a final conference on Kona, Hawaii, last September. I was fortunate to be able to attend. See the extended report below. I was also lucky to have spent a week with Terence when he'd lectured in South Africa, some years ago. Even with the reaper staring him squarely in the face, he was as charming and patient as I remembered him, and in memoriam I'd like to share with you some of his thoughts on passing over;
Terence: "Everything is a blessing, and everything comes as a gift. And I don't regret anything about the situation I find myself in. We're all under sentence of 'moving up' at some point in our lives. I have an absolute faith that the universe prefers joy and distils us with joy and this what religion is trying to download to us, and this is what every moment of life is trying to do - if we can open to it. And we psychedelic people, if we could secure that death has no sting, we would have done the greatest service to suffering intelligence that can be done. And I feel that it's close, and I feel strong. I feel strong because of this community and the plants that it rests on, and the ancient practises that it rests on, and I am full of hope, not only for my own small problems, but for humanity in general" I watched him utter these words, and if he was scared he didn't show it, neither did he speak like a condemned man.
You have your wings now, Terence - Fly!
Original Sound Clip from Hawaii - 1.8 MB - Download here
See Terence in the 21st Century 'smart movie 'Cognition Factor'
True Conversations with Terence Mckenna - Kona - September 1999
Sooner or later, anyone who examines the outward-bound edges of net-based culture is bound to encounter the unique consciousness of Terence Mckenna. Ethnobotanist, explorer, inventor of Novelty Theory, and discoverer of machine elves, Terence has authored several books, including Food of the Gods, True Hallucinations, and The Archaic Revival. He is noted in Peter Staffordís, Psychedelics Encyclopedia, for "a landmark examination of the role of plants in human history".
Terence: "Our zeitgeist may be creative dreaming in the presence of technology, a place haunted by genies which wrap us in the blanket of their mysterium and lead us forward. Alchemy by another name"
Avowing the positive value of psychedelic plants for decades, it was thus something of a shock for the psychedelic community, whoíve only just lost Timothy Leary, to learn that Terence had been diagnosed with a brain tumor on May 22, and that his prognosis was; "six to nine months more of life"
I include myself as one of those dismayed by Terenceís condition, but living in Cape Town, South Africa, it isnít easy to get hold of him, because when itís noon here, itís midnight there. Itís the end of August by the time we speak. During our conversation I learn that heís feeling; "mostly OK", and that heís going ahead with the AllChemicals Arts Conference on Big Island in Hawaii on September 12-16, a five day conference of artists, film makers, performers, writers, musicians and creative people whoíve all been inspired by hallucinogens. He exhorts me to try to attend, and even though the conference is taking place in less than two weeks, and I have no passport, visa, ticket, or even a travel budget, I promise to try make it. From that moment onwards my life is hot-wired by synchronicity. Itís difficult to believe that magic doesnít exist, because sometime later I find myself jet lagged and staggering into the AllChemicals Art Conference on the far-side of the planet.
Iíd met Terence when he visited South Africa some years ago. Thatís another story, but itís as well weíd met before, because life is complicated enough without having to deal with terminal illness and a conference simultaneously. Nevertheless, he manages to be as charming and patient as I remember him. Extruding an aura of calm, heís accompanied by Christy, his beautiful girlfriend, whom I come to like and respect during my stay for her hospitality, open smile, and caring nature. Theyíre obviously very much in love, and come up to my room where we have a chance to speak without an audience. Terence says about the conference; "I knew this conference was going to be complicated for me, because these days everything is complicated. But this psychedelic community carries a very special charge, and I said to Christy months ago when I got into this medical mess; "If love could cure, I would live forever". There is no doubt about this in my mind"
I understand what heís saying, and get an invitation to; "Come up to my place on Saturday, after the conference"
Itís only Tuesday, but the rest of the week speeds by, accompanied by more than a hundred people, some of them famous, whoíre gathered at the luxurious Royal Kona Hotel for what might be his last appearance. Sometime later in the week he speaks out on how he feels about his life-threatening situation, but if heís scared, he sure doesnít show it.
Terence: "Everything is a blessing, and everything comes as a gift. And I donít regret anything about the situation I find myself in. If psychedelics donít ready you for the great beyond, then I donít know what really does. And weíre all under sentence of Ďmoving upí at some point in our lives. I have an absolute faith that the universe prefers joy and distills us with joy and this what religion is trying to download to us, and this is what every moment of life is trying to do - if we can open to it. And we psychedelic people, if we could secure that death has no sting, we would have done the greatest service to suffering intelligence that can be done. And I feel that itís close, and I feel strong. I feel strong because of this (psychedelic) community and these people and the plants that it rests on, and the ancient practices that it rests on, and I am full of hope, not only for my own small problems, but for humanity in general"
He doesnít speak like a condemned man, rather he seems somewhat elated. Later, he gives his views on what he considers psychedelic literature to be.
Terence: "I think psychedelic literature should make your hair stand on end. It should be read standing up. Itís consciousness expansion before drugs. I remember when I was a child; I could con my mother into reading The Oz Books to my brother and myself for up to eight hours a day. She was also an Oz Book junkie, so we spent a great deal of time in Oz. And it seems to me that in the same way that a childhood is shaped by that kind of involvement in fantastic literature, that civilisation, or a series of civilisations, is shaped that way. So when I sat down to think about this, I realised the psychedelic literature that I hold dear begins with the invocation of the goddess. In other words, the first lines of The Homeric Corpus, which enunciates the actual differentiation of human consciousness out of the primal mind"
Question: What do you think your contribution to fantastic literature has been?
Terence: "I see my contribution to this Corpus Hermetica, that body of literature based around natural magic, and the heretical message opposed to Christianity. That man is the measure of all things, and not some fallen creature, but that man is somehow a CO-creator of reality, some kind of Pythagorean God that works through numbers and mathematics and color and musical form"
On Friday the three of us have breakfast together and exchange a promise to connect later by phone. The conference closes with a sonic healing session by Constance Demby and her Ďwhale saleí instrument, and at 7.00 PM I get the weirdest directions from Terence on how to get to his place.
Terence: "Itís about an hours drive South from you. At the marked stone, head up towards the mountain. Donít loose faith. Itís the third driveway on the left"
Itís just as well Iíve hired this 4X4, also that I donít loose faith. I should add that I didnít really see the Ďmarked stoneí, and in the end felt hugely lucky to find his place, which is hidden behind a steep rocky climb in low gear. ĎRiders on the Stormí played on radio on the way up. It wouldíve been impossible in a normal vehicle. Surrounded by lush tropical forest, Terenceís house is built on three levels, complete with telescope dome and satellite dish. Under the small dome, a large upstairs room is surrounded by bookshelves. Three computers facing the forest run in the background, while weird jungle artifacts are haphazardly placed in front of some of the books. Terence sits crossed legged on a carpet surrounded by a dozen people, whoíd also been invited up. Itís really hot, so after a while we move outside to the large patio to philosophise with the view, and do battle with the mosquitos. Everything thatís said seems to have additional information attached. We agree that a near-death experience paves the way to understanding death, but I tell Terence Iím not that keen to half-kill myself to find out. He laughs. We talk of the live volcano on Kona. He expects a big eruption "soon". We also discuss the "splitting of body and soul". Knowing when to surrender, and when to fight back. He says heís "fighting back". All too soon it starts getting dark. We exchange a good-bye hug, and the customary; "See you downstream". I wonder if Iíll see him again.
Terence underwent a successful craniotomy at the Moffitt/Long Hospital on Monday 11th October. Heís also one of a handful of people undergoing gene therapy for brain cancer, medicineís experimental magic bullet, and probably the only person alive who can come out of major brain surgery to make a room full of people laugh. He'll beat the odds yet! Check here for updates on his condition. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery, but whatever happens in the future, his last words on mortality were as courageous as his intelligence has always been;
Terence: "I think we stand on the brink of a golden age to be built out of the kind of love that the psychedelic community embodies. So Iíll try to be at Palenque in February, whenever it is. Iíll try to be around and about. But if Iím not, then you know that Iím behind your eyelids, and Iíll meet you there" - Kona - September - 1999
copyright all media: schwann October 1999