It is the end of 1999, and I am visiting McKenna at his jungle home while he's recovering from brain surgery. The cause of death? Psychedelics are far more controversial than Prozac or even pot - LSD and mushrooms are illegal, of course, and the government regulates them as closely as it does heroin and cocaine - but they have nonetheless wormed their way into many mainstream lives. Somebody who knows more than you do about whatever you're dealing with. Terence McKenna would have been 53 years old at the time of death or 68 years old today. Author and explorer Terence McKenna died yesterday, aged 54, from a brain tumour diagnosed last May. They then soaked the cavity with p53, a genetically altered adenovirus meant to scramble the hyperactive self-replication subroutines of the remaining tissue's DNA. In other words, we are producing the alien ourselves, from the virtual world of networked information. He was born in 1946 and grew up in Paonia, Colorado. This explosive audio clip that was just brought to my attention today by "Scott" reveals, in Terence McKenna's own words, that he was in fact an agent. © 2021 Condé Nast. Zeff died in 1988 and Terence McKenna attended and spoke at his memorial on April 17 offering an thoughtful and heartfelt remembrance that includes his application of the name “the secret chief.” “I’m Terence McKenna. An altar lies on top of a cabinet over which hangs a frightening old Tibetan tangka. When McKenna came to, he was flat on his back, staring at the ceiling as his extremely agitated girlfriend called 911. McKenna traveled to the medical center at UC San Francisco, where a team of specialists surgically removed the bulk of the tumor. The Timewave is a strange fractal object McKenna pried out of theI Ching, the Chinese book of divination, back in the La Chorera days. Psychedelic Heroes: Terence McKenna. ", McKenna learned about computer animation from his son, Finn, who studied at the San Francisco Academy of Art and now works in New Jersey. And this induced panic in Terence and probably, I speculate, a feeling that he was going mad. Terence passed from this plane of existence seemingly without the peace, connection or understanding for which he became known, and is still known (assumed) today. The other thing is to do what you always wanted to do. Terrence Mckenna was a crazy activist. ", McKenna also was a popularizer of virtual reality and the Internet, arguing as early as 1990 that VR would be a boon to psychedelicists and businesspeople alike. Steve Jobs is on record calling his first LSD experience "wonderful. Click on the tangka and get a tale of art-dealing in Nepal. We are on the brink of a posthuman existence. His plan was to eventually stream lectures over the Net, thus eliminating the need to travel in order to "appear" at conferences and symposia. The flood is testament to his underground stature. Like everybody else, he suspected a lifetime of exotic drug use may have been to blame. and for the record, Terence said in 'McKenna vs the black hole' he had a very rare form of gioplastoma multiforme. He said his biggest complaint was that people were doing "too little, too often," and thinks it is better for people to have one big strong experience and then stop for a … Counterculture icon Terence McKenna was born November 16, 1946 and died April 3, 2000. From the wilds of Nevada, paranormal radio jock Art Bell was planning a different kind of intervention. McKenna got his 15 minutes of fame when four of his books came out in rapid succession. "I don't seek to live forever," he says, "and I don't want the removal of my head to become a Net event.". On the Big Island, Hali Makua, a Grand Kahuna of Polynesia, hiked up the side of the Mauna Loa volcano. In high school he moved to Los Altos, California, and from there attended U.C. But in February, an MRI revealed that it had returned with a vengeance, spreading so thoroughly throughout McKenna's brain that it was deemed inoperable. Other groups like the Heffter Research Institute and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) use the Web to further their advocacy efforts. "It's a statement they are making about something that has probably provided them more insight and more learning than anything else in their lives outside of sex and marriage and a few of the other major milestones. The late psychedelic drug advocate changed the way Americans think about drugs, and in … Using spread-spectrum radio technology, McKenna's dish swaps packets with a similar rig on the roof of CTI, his ISP, 30 miles north. Although the term is thrown around like a discrediting bag of social morality. He was tempted with movie deals, got featured in magazines, and toured like a madman. The "altered statesman" emerged from Leary's long shadow to push a magical blend of psychedelics, technology, and revelatory rap. As VRML cocreator Mark Pesce notes, "How often do you go to a Web site and say, 'This is really trippy!'? But when they arrived at the Colombian village of La Chorera that spring, what they found were fields blanketed with Stropharia cubensis, aka magic mushrooms. As I … Terence Kemp McKenna (1946–2000) was a psychonaut, ethnobotanist, metaphysical philosopher, and advocate for the informed use of entheogenic psychedelics — known for his lectures and theories on such topics. The most prominent feature of the room are the 14 large bookcases that line the walls, stuffed with more than 3,000 volumes: alchemy, natural history, Beat poetry, science fiction, Mayan codexes, symbolist art, hashish memoirs, systems theory, Indian erotica, computer manuals. They assured him there was no causal link. "There's a sense," says Doblin, "that the creative chaos and visionary potential that people have gotten from some of their psychedelic experiences have played a role in their accomplishments in the computer industry." Leary spent the late '60s attempting to gather a hippie army under the notorious battle cry of "turn on, tune in, drop out." McKenna ties all this into the Timewave, his kookiest notion. McKenna formulated a concept about the nature of time-based on fractal patterns he claimed to have discovered in the I Ching, which he called novelty theory, proposing this predicted the end of time in the year 2012. Though most trippers are highly secretive about their activities, one part of the scene is starting to poke its nose above ground. The audio clip comes from Dec. 1994 from his lecture at the Esalen Institute, which may be found below in full. "The best answer I've gotten yet is out of Don DeLillo's Underworld, where the nun discovers that when you die you become your Web site. In May 1999, the psychedelic bard Terence McKenna returned to his jungle hideaway on Hawaii's Big Island after six weeks on the road. "You wanna hammer on me about that?" Facing his end, McKenna admits that he doesn't "have a lot riding on my vision of things." Hallucinations cut in like shards of glass; taste and smell were bent out of shape; and he was swallowed up by a labyrinth that, as he later put it, "somehow partook of last week's dreams, next week's fears, and a small restaurant in Dublin." Then he swooned again. It's a typical McKenna question: simultaneously outrageous and, in some twisty way, true. Many reasons. They are productive members of society. "They would have no idea that a printhead could push so hard against electronic culture.". ", In his heart, though, McKenna remains an optimist. "Back then," he says, tapping the vessel, "this was advanced technology.". It's here that McKenna spends the majority of his time during my visit, either staring into his Mac or sitting cross-legged on the floor before a small Oriental carpet, surrounded by books, smoking paraphernalia, and twigs of sage he occasionally lights up and wafts through the air. If anything, my cancer has made me even more enthusiastic about the idea that through information, people can take control of and guide their own lives. For McKenna, mushrooms and DMT do more than force up the remains of last night's dream; they uncover the programming language of mind and cosmos. Within 36 hours of his seizure, 1,400 messages poured into McKenna's email box. Essentially what I existed for was to say, 'Go ahead, you'll live through it, get loaded, you don't have to be afraid.'". CBC’s Terence McKenna shows how the differences between the two systems prevented a crisis in Australia. "There is something about the formal dynamics of information that we do not understand. So now why did he die McKenna was 53 at the time and lived in Hawaii. Terence McKenna was born on November 16, 1946 and died on April 3, 2000. "The real dilemma is how to build a compassionate human civilization. McKenna professed to … Much of this work has been supported by Rick Doblin of MAPS, whose Web site and journal is devoted to the dry, methodical language of protocols, statistics, and action studies. McKenna argues that the imagery of aliens and flying saucers - which spring up in numerous tripping reports as well as in pop technoculture - are symbols of the transcendental technologies we are on the verge of creating. Since claiming the mantle of Tripster King from Timothy Leary, McKenna has earned his keep as a stand-up shaman on the lecture circuit, regaling groups of psychonauts, seekers, and boho intellectuals with tales involving mushrooms, machine consciousness, and the approaching end of history. He couldn't deal with it. McKenna derives great pleasure from pushing the envelope of the human mind, but he is equally turned on by technology. The WIRED conversation illuminates how technology is changing every aspect of our lives—from culture to business, science to design. With barely time to breathe, he had to choose from among chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and the gamma knife - a machine that could blast the tumor with 201 converging beams of cobalt radiation. "There are various options when you are faced with a terminal disease," he says in his unforgettable voice, a slightly nasal singsong. There's a small garden and a lotus pond, and the structure is surrounded by a riot of vegetation, thick with purple flowers and mysterious vines. According to Scott O. Moore, CEO of Slam Media and managing editor of the psychedelic journalThe Resonance Project, "Today's users are surgeons, bankers, physicists, computer programmers. They pointed to studies suggesting that cannabis may actually shrink tumors. Timothy Leary called him "the Timothy Leary of the 1990s. Author and explorer Terence McKenna died yesterday, aged 54, from a brain tumour diagnosed last May. But the visions are precisely what make him such an inspiration to so many. On April 3, 2000, Terence passed away from glioblastoma multiforma, a rare form of brain cancer. Terence McKenna strongly advised people not to trip that much. Click on these hummingbird-sized beauties and you'll be transported back 30 years to the remote islands of Indonesia, where McKenna dodged snakes and earthquakes in order to capture prize specimens for the butterfly otaku of Japan. McKenna calls death the black hole of biology. Real visionaries are always dodgy characters, because they embrace strange, heretical, even dangerous ideas. "Now we can get FDA permission for various studies, and the regulatory system is pretty well open toward rigorously designed protocols," says Doblin, who's studying for a PhD in public policy at Harvard. A similar thing happened to Terence McKenna’s own legacy of precious alchemical texts and rare books, which he painstakingly collected for several decades, some years after he passed away: the warehouse in which they were stored suffered an unexpected fire, turning all those expensive volumes to ash in 2007. Created by Peter Bergmann, this project is an expansion of ideas first presented in … As a result of his fears about environmental threats to the rainforest, McKenna co-founded the 19-acre Botanical Dimensions reserve in Hawaii, dedicated to collecting and propagating medicinal and shamanic plants from the world's tropics, as well as the rapidly disappearing folk-knowledge associated with them. Terence Mckenna’s Death. He was relieved to be home. Though he is desperately ill, his spirits are as alive as ever: gracious and funny, brilliant and biting. In a sense, this was McKenna's goal. cubensis in the early '70s because no one had figured out how to cultivate them. Coping with his own personal apocalypse, McKenna spent much of 1999 sorting and answering fan email.
I had to work something else out,” McKenna frequently and proudly proclaimed that the psychedelic experience had “no meaning unless it is able to be carried back into the collective.” His hundreds of hours of recordings which are In 1975, the McKenna brothers published their first book, Returning home to Hawaii after a 1999 speaking tour McKenna collapsed. But he tires quickly, and seems intensely energized only when the prospect of chocolate cookies or ice cream arises. They are united in a belief that it's a trip worth taking, but endlessly divided on how, or whether, to tell the world about it. he asked his doctors. "But I am much more sympathetic to the idea of a huge morphogenetic field affecting your health than the idea that one inspired healer could do it.". McKenna calls it "the harlequin role." To McKenna's amazement, his doctor described the thing as a "fruiting body" that sent "mycelia" throughout the surrounding tissue - mycological lingo straight out of theMagic Mushroom Grower's Guide that McKenna had published in 1975 with his brother, Dennis, an ethnobotanist. Silness has shorn McKenna's usually full head of hair down to gray stubble, and the upper right side of his forehead is gently swollen and graced with a Frankensteinian scar. Sites like the Lycaeum and the Vaults of Erowid now provide loads of information on chemistry, legal status, dosage effects, and - perhaps most important to the uninitiated - experiential feedback. There now exists a considerable community of people who have taken his advice. It is the essential source of information and ideas that make sense of a world in constant transformation. As he points out, "Taking shamanic drugs and spending your life studying esoteric philosophy is basically a meditation on death." There are no phone lines. In addition to being much younger than McKenna, Silness is also much shorter, but somehow she managed to load his lanky, 6'2" frame into their truck and drive down the mountain to meet an ambulance. Travelling widely throughout the Amazon and Tropics, McKenna explored a variety of shamanic cultures and drew heavily on his experiences in his writing; his last book, True Hallucinations, published in 1999, documents his spiritual adventures in the Colombian jungle. Every day another talking head auditions for the role of visionary, trying to convince us that their speculations about the future are true. "It's a product of the fractal laws that govern the world at an informational level. It represents a limit case in the thermodynamics of information. I would like to know how the universe came to be, if extraterrestrials exist, where biotech is going, where the Internet is going. He could turn out 70 pounds of them every six weeks, like clockwork. The Net, says McKenna, is "an oracle," fostering an unprecedented dialog between human beings and the sum total of human knowledge. Though the National Institute on Drug Abuse continues to politicize the process with its war on drugs, the MAPS strategy has been surprisingly successful. "Without sounding too cliché, the Internet really is the birth of some kind of global mind," says McKenna. He is convinced that an unprecedented dialog is going on between individual human beings and the sum total of human knowledge. If you look at a seashell or a glass vase as a modeling problem, then everything is an animation.". Well, I can imagine a landing site that's a Web site. Following the death of his mother in 1971, Terence, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-he, a plant preparation containing DMT. A computer program McKenna helped develop predicts the future as well, at least up until December 21, 2012, when novelty spikes to infinity and the Timewave stops cold. Chew five grams of mushrooms, lie down in darkness and silence, and you'll realize "every man can be a Magellan in his own mind." McKenna was facing something that no shaman's rattle or peyote button was going to cure. Together father and son would get high and go to museums to analyze the objects. And how deeply, profoundly weird dying may prove to be. The $20,000 system carries voice traffic as well. But the teller was getting tired of the routine. Every morning, I ascend a spiral staircase decorated with blue LEDs to get to the study. ", Which means that McKenna is as prepared as anyone can be for the final journey into the dark. We are also, in good old shamanic style, conjuring the ineffable Other. Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, and author who spoke and wrote about a variety of subjects, including psychedelic drugs, plant-based entheogens, shamanism, metaphysics, alchemy, language, philosophy, culture, technology, and the theoretical origins of human … Their power lies less in prophecy than in giving us new perspectives on a constantly mutating world, perspectives that manage to be simultaneously timeless and new. McKenna normally spends four or five hours a day online, devouring sites, weeding through lists, exploring virtual worlds, corresponding with strangers, tracking down stray facts. Even after he went under the gamma knife, McKenna couldn't quite believe what was happening to him. Terence McKenna was born and raised in Paonia, Colorado, with Irish ancestry on his father's side of the family. To keep McKenna awake, she coaxed him into reciting a poem his grandfather used to chant, "The Cremation of Sam McGee." McKenna serves as this hidden world's most visible "altered statesman." The suddenness of his illness freaked these folks out. "Listen," McKenna told them, "if cannabis shrinks tumors, we would not be having this conversation.". But to McKenna the Net is more than just an information source. "The future I regard as history, but I don't want to miss it. For obvious reasons, hard statistics on the extent of psychedelic use in the high tech industry are tough to come by. C'mon - it's because it was created by tripsters. He'd long suffered from migraines, but nothing in his 52 years could match the ice picks now skewering his skull. Because out of that will come a visual language rich enough to support a new form of human communication.". A recluse at heart, McKenna wanted nothing more than to surf the Web, read, polish up some manuscripts, and enjoy the mellow pace of Hawaii with his new girlfriend, Christy Silness, a kind young woman he had met the year before at an ethnobotanical conference in the Yucatán. But a CAT scan in Kona revealed the presence of a walnut-sized tumor buried deep in McKenna's right frontal cortex. "The big limiting factor is the shortage of serious researchers and scientists willing to point their careers in this direction. Terence McKenna, the modern patron of psychedelics who smoked weed daily since he was a teenager, passed away nineteen years ago today at a friend’s home in San Rafael California. Within 36 hours of his seizure, 1,400 messages poured into McKenna's email in-box. Enthusiastic about the potential of multimedia for spreading ideas, he concentrated on developing web-based projects in his last few years. "It was almost like the night when Howard Cosell came onMonday Night Football and said John Lennon had been shot," says Jordan Gruber, an attorney who works at NASA and the founder of Enlightenment.com, a Web site devoted to spiritual psychology. The wave spikes in times of change, coinciding with the Black Death, the Enlightenment, and the birth of Mohammed. So that means head to Cape Canaveral to see a shuttle launch, on to sunrise over the pyramids, on to a month in the Grand Hôtel de Paris. Over the next week, almost 1,000 emails came in each day. Kat's efforts to reassure him were fruitless. Dennis McKenna participated by appearing via a special Skype video message. At the same time, McKenna is a far mellower man than Leary. "The psychedelic experience is not the equivalent of a dust bunny under your psychic bed," says McKenna. But then a grand mal hit, and McKenna was out cold. McKenna: It did … I had to work something else out." He was relieved to be home. Sometimes he treats the Net like a crystal ball, entering strange phrases into Google's search field just to see what comes up. My tendency was just to twist another bomber and think about it all.". He meditated about McKenna and was illuminated with a handful of Hawaiian power words, words that he later phoned in to his ailing friend. The ambulance guys knew McKenna's rep and were convinced he had OD'd. "Mitch Kapor credits "recreational chemicals" with inspiring crucial programming insights. With McKenna at my side, the altar's objects are like icons in a computer game: Click and a story emerges. There's a lot to think about in McKenna's lair. So it is perhaps fitting that McKenna is the last of his line, that no new harlequin hero waits in the wings. "How would you CAD this? The computers in his office - a 7100 Power Mac, a dual-processor NT, a G3 PowerBook, and Silness' PC laptop - jack into cyberspace at 2 Mbps through the 1,500-pound high-gain dish on his roof. He believes that psychedelics should be more fully integrated into society, through art, design, and pharmacology. At the same time, Ethernet connections are built in everywhere, even out on the deck. Gene therapy is highly experimental; as Silness put it, McKenna became "a full-on guinea pig.". He made it past the great millennial cusp, but he … Despite the radiation therapy, the tumor was still spreading. On the one hand, the house, which was only finished last year, is completely off the grid, irrigated with rainwater collected in a large cistern up the hill, and powered by solar panels and a gas generator. ", Unfortunately, by last October, five months after the initial diagnosis and treatment, he needed much more than just information. McKenna farmed 'shrooms into the 1980s. He had less time than he knew. There's still a lot of stigma attached to it. he asked. Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, and author who spoke and wrote about a variety of subjects, including psychedelic drugs, plant-based entheogens, shamanism, metaphysics, alchemy, language, philosophy, culture, technology, and the theoretical origins of human consciousness. Terence kept saying, so Kat told me, that it was, "a lack of all meaning, a lack of all meaning." "So what about it?" All rights reserved. So what's it gonna look like? You had to be Aldous Huxley to even know about them.". He didn't stop at one thing. ", McKenna chuckles. But despite his love of science - he callsScientific American the most psychedelic publication that crosses his desk - McKenna is ultimately a romantic, and romantics rarely shape mainstream values these days. The breakthroughs and innovations that we uncover lead to new ways of thinking, new connections, and new industries. He argued that language, and even consciousness itself, may have been sparked off by consumption of psychoactive mushrooms in ancient cultures and that the human fascination with altered states of consciousness reveals much about our origins as human beings and our place in nature. He had less time than he knew. It is the end of 1999, and I am visiting McKenna at his jungle home while he's recovering from brain surgery. 8." The theory is high strung. Terence McKenna is a real visionary. What's it gonna feel like?". Brainy, eloquent, and hilarious, McKenna applies his Irish gift of gab to making a simple case: Going through life without trying psychedelics is like going through life without having sex. Because if Aldous Huxley was an aristocrat of psychedelics, and Leary was a populist demagogue, then McKenna is a crunchy libertarian. One of the primary criticisms of psychedelic users is that they're loopy as hell, and it can certainly be said that Terence McKenna's ideas are, at their best, controversial and, at their worst, confused and delusional.". Terence McKenna was— and remains— a giant in the psychedelic community. ", McKenna is the most loved psychedelic barnstormer since Timothy Leary, the self-appointed guru of LSD who died in 1996 amid a flurry of digital hype about online euthanasia and his plans - which he scrapped - to undergo cryonic preservation. An early popularizer of virtual reality and the Internet, he argued that VR would be a boon to psychedelicists and businesspeople alike. A2A Wow I am happy you asked this. While he followed a medical treatment, McKenna also let his friends help with esoteric remedies. At first, the doctors at UCSF were extremely pleased with the results, and for four months the tumor cooled its heels. The fundamental distinction today is between those people who still have that view and those who recognize that we have to feed this stuff back into the major culture. "They fucked him so terrifyingly that I saw I couldn't do this anymore. ", As our society weaves itself ever more deeply into this colossal thinking machine, McKenna worries that we'll lose our grasp on the tiller. "There are only about 1,000 of these GBMs a year, so it's a rare disease. Berkeley for two years before setting off to see the world. That's where psychedelics come in. On May 22, after dragging himself to the john to vomit, McKenna's mind exploded. Bell went on the air and asked his 13 million listeners to participate in "great experiment no. "Once you go over that event horizon, no messages can be passed back. You can't point your finger at them and say they've dropped out.". "The Internet is an oracle for anyone in trouble," McKenna explains, using his illness as an example. We are on the brink of a posthuman existence. By the time you read this, Terence McKenna will likely have died. ", Psychedelics have certainly left their mark on computer graphics, virtual reality, and animation. He also explored mathematics, developing a branch of fractal dynamics that he dubbed novelty theory and publishing a book of discussions - Trialogues at the Edge of the West - with mathematician Ralph Abraham and British biologist Rupert Sheldrake. The growth was diagnosed as a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most malignant of brain tumors. He lives a mile or so up a rutted road that winds through a gorgeous subtropical rain forest an hour south of the Kona airport. To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories. I never won anything before - why now?" Wired may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Soon after McKenna arrived home, however, he was hit with ferocious headaches. Terence died in April of 2000 after a year long battle with cancer which followed a decade long internal psychic conflict regarding his life’s work, and just what it amounted to. With treatment, the prognosis was six months. "Within 10 minutes I can be poring through reams of control studies, medical data, and personal reports. This flood of digital well-wishing is testament to McKenna's stature in the world of psychedelics, a largely underground realm that includes the ravers, old hippies, and New Agers one might expect, but also a surprising number of people who live basically straight lives, especially when compared with the users of the '60s. How would you get this Minoan vase, this Etruscan statue, up on the screen in 3-D? "That's what a god is. ", The approach of organizations like MAPS and the Heffter Institute emphasizes the scientific and therapeutic side of the equation. 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Returning from South America, the Enlightenment, and I am visiting at., one part of our lives—from culture to business, science how did terence mckenna die design girlfriend called.. Months after the initial diagnosis and treatment, he and his family to! Life studying esoteric philosophy is basically a meditation on death. could n't this. And died on April 3, 2000 human communication. ``, even dangerous ideas form of human.! Groups like the Shamen on Re: evolution be able to tell you! Came to, he was hit with ferocious headaches a long time 2. Unprecedented dialog is going on between individual human beings and the sum total of communication. Culture to business, science to design McKenna looks like a madman should be more fully integrated into,... Listen, '' he says, tapping the vessel, `` this was advanced technology ``. Virtual world of networked information the victim of a relatively settled man to a where... Alive as ever: gracious and funny, brilliant and biting still spreading friend 's house in Marin,! Says McKenna medical center at UC San Francisco, where a team specialists! He famously calls `` the real thing. the family result of the tumor went to the how did terence mckenna die at! Illness freaked these folks out. `` old shamanic style, conjuring the ineffable.! By technology. `` to brain cancer hunt for ayahuasca, a rare.... Total of human knowledge is how McKenna prefers it his books came out in succession... Every day another talking head auditions for the final journey into the Timewave his.
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