Rare for his time, Terrence McKenna was a widely known advocate for the use of psychedelic substances to facilitate altered states of consciousness. He believed that the Western world is a brainwash of consumer culture, and that the only cure is to open the mind to see the world from a macroscopic view; usually by means of hallucinogenic substances. He also believed that everything is a drug to some degree. Television, coffee, and sugar were his prime examples of openly accepted widely abused drugs. Terrence wasn’t just a psychonaut from the 60’s rambling about freedom of choice. He was an ethnobotanist, a mycologist (expert on fungi), an author, a public speaker, and is known for introducing Cubensis mushrooms to the Western world.
Studies of shamanism, and it’s use of visionary plants has taken him to every corner of the planet. From Nepal, and SE Asia, to the Colombian Amazon, and everywhere in between. With his brother Dennis, he developed a method of cultivating Cubensis on a small scale, so that everyone could have the chance to open their minds in the way that people have for centuries globally. It’s safe to say that without Terrence, and Dennis McKenna, we would not be where we are today in terms of many things. Music, science, philosophy, really everything involving “outside the box” thinking.
Terence McKenna Quotes
With that, I give you a selection of his words chosen to honor his message which still carries weight even today.
1) “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 its a feather bed.”
2) “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.”
3) “Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coersion, brainwashing, and manipulation.”
4) “The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet, and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege, and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.”
5) “People are so alienated from their own soul that when they meet their soul they think it comes from another star system.”
6) “You don’t want to become so open-minded that the wind can whistle between your ears.”
7) “We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat.”
8) “Part of what psychedelics do is they decondition you from cultural values. This is what makes it such a political hot potato. Since all culture is a kind of con game, the most dangerous candy you can hand out is one which causes people to start questioning the rules of the game.”
9) “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.”
10) “If you don’t smoke cannabis, you may spend your evening balancing your checking account. If you do smoke cannabis you may spend your evening contemplating the causes of the Greek Renaissance.”
11) “Stop consuming images, and start producing them.”
12) “Half the time you think you’re thinking you’re actually listening.”
13) “Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.”
14) “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.”
15) “The shaman is not merely a sick man, or a madman; he is a sick man who has healed himself.”
16) “You see, a secret is not something untold. It’s something which can’t be told.”
17) “Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored.”
18) “It is the imagination that argues for the Divine Spark within human beings. It is literally a decent of the World’s Soul into all of us.”
19) “The word ‘self’ is as great a mystery as the word ‘other’. It’s just a polarity between two mysteries.”
20) “My voice speaking is a monkey’s mouth making little mouth noises that are carrying agreed-upon meaning, and it is meaning that matters. Without the meaning one has only little mouth noises.”
21) “When you take into your life the gnosis of the light-filled vegetables, the psychedelic plants that have stabilized the sane societies of this world for millennia, the first message that comes to you is: You are a divine being. You matter. You count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.”
22) “The imagination is the goal of history. I see culture as an effort to literally realize our collective dreams.”
23) “The spiritual atrophying of contemporary culture may be due in large measure to its loss of sensitivity to processes in the collective unconscious.”
24) “We cannot evolve faster than our language. The edge of being is the edge of meaning, and somehow we have to push the edge of meaning. We have to extend it.”
25) “Sometimes people say to me ‘These states that you’re talking about, can’t they be achieved without drugs?’ And my answer to that is, ‘My God, who would want to?’ What would be proved by achieving these things without drugs? If the things I’m talking about began to happen to me without drugs I would be very, very concerned and alarmed. And also I think there is something to be said for admitting that we cannot do it alone. That if you want this spiritual insight, if you want the Gaian matrix to welcome you, then humble yourself to the point of making a deal with a plant. That’s the key.”
Conclusion – Terence McKenna Had Many Fascinating Insights!
Truly, a mind not to be taken lightly, or taken for granted, Terence had a particular way of unseeing the world the way they condition us all to see it from birth. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing. If these last 60 years have taught us anything, it’s that opening your mind through the use of mind altering substances can be a very healthy and positive experience (if done in moderation, of course). After all, where would we be as a species without modern music? The Psychopharmacology field has grown exponentially, thereby granting cures, and helpful means of suppressing mental illness. That alone is worth the great exploration taken on by Terrence McKenna.
So honor him, and his work. Remember the words you’ve read here in this article, and don’t forget the contribution this one man has granted to the world we live in. Above all, what he himself would want you to remember.. Take in nature, as you take in the oxygen you breathe. It’s all the same, and it’s all you. The difference between you, and the universe? There isn’t one.
Thank you for reading.
Terrence McKenna Videos
This is a fascinating interview with Terence. It is his final interview prior to his death.
And one of his most famous appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience. This is quite an in-depth, free wheeling discussion that covers many topics in a great deal of depth.
Image Credit: By Jon Hanna – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
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