An article (and associated podcasts) published in Reality Sandwich entitled A Deep Dive into the Mind of Terence McKenna included some shocking revelations about Terence that come from his brother, Dennis. After a dark mushroom trip in the 80s Terence never took mushrooms again, and only rarely and reluctantly did any psychedelic stronger than weed. Meanwhile, in public he was encouraging others to take “the heroic dose” etc.
I added the following comment to the article:
I’m still processing the revelations about Terence which so far have increased my sense of the complexity of the man and increased my fascination with his enigmatic character. Jung once said, “The larger the man, the larger the shadow.” and no doubt 6’6″ Jung, who had an often brutal personality, hoped the aphoristic principle would be applied to him. I can imagine Terence, who always revered Marshall McLuhan, rationalizing that the “messenger was the message” and therefore that he was justified in making his public persona an edited performance art that combined authentic and inauthentic elements. Although my love and fascination with Terence is increased by the revelation, I don’t feel a need to gloss over it in a hagiographical blur of idealization either.
Shadow material, in my experience, is often the most revelatory. To mine the depth of meaning offered by this revelation, however, we need to step through the thousand petaled chrysanthemum, brush aside the self-transforming machine elves and their Faberge egg like creations for a moment and take an unflinching look at the shadow side.
First, it seems so appropriate that 2012, which so far has not been apocalyptic in either the conventional sense or in revelatory sense that the etymology of the word implies, would at least give us a somewhat dark revelation about the “man of 2012.” The timing is perfect and works with the sense of Terence’s life as performance art with a new act being revealed twelve years after he leaves the stage. When your life is performance art, and you really are inspired as Terence certainly was, you should expect that the performance will be beyond your control. Since Terence was such a great bard whose eloquence and story telling ability shimmered with alchemical brilliance, it is warranted to view the arc of his public life as a story structure with a key denouement delayed till 2012.
To appreciate the depth of the denouement, however, we first need to look at it in an unflattering light. Imagine this analogy—a celebrity is the official spokesperson for a neuropharmaceutical, say an antidepressant, and for years he extols its virtues and talks every chance he gets about how it changed his life. Prospective customers are urged to take it in heroic doses. Human evolution may depend on it. The endorser, however, fails to mention that a dozen years ago, the last time he took it, it sent him into a bout of suicidal despair. Since most of us don’t like big pharma and its celebrity spokespersons we wouldn’t hesitate to call such a person a liar and a hypocrite. If the spokesperson then died of a prozac-shaped brain tumor we might even call it poetic justice. (according the article, Terence’s fatal brain tumor was mushroom-shaped).
Although I’ve praised Terence, and continue to, as a visionary genius in a number of writings, I’ve also pointed out a flaw in his approach to esoteric research in those same writings. I pointed out some of the flaws in his reality testing to Terence’s face on a few occasions and he responded to my challenges graciously and in a way that showed his large character and capacity for self-criticism. Terence, like so many, underestimated the trickster side of the unconscious. Even though he described the trickster nature of the self-transforming machine elves, he didn’t quite realize that the voice of a mushroom goddess speaking in his head should be taken with as many grains of salt as the voice of God the Father speaking in the head of George W. Bush. This is why Timewave 2000 became his obsessive Bête noire. In the last public talk I ever saw him give, in Denver, about a year before he passed, Terrence said that if Timewave turned out to be wrong he would spend the next twenty years of his life trying to figure out why. As it turned out, he didn’t have those twenty years, but we do, and we need to integrate this other side of his character into everything he represents.
If you underestimate the trickster side of the unconscious you get tricked and especially you fall into the principle I coined years ago: “Wherever you cast your obsessive attention, there shall you find weird patterning.” Conspiracy types are especially prone to falling prey to this effect, which is rife in every area of esoteric research. Also, if you gain access to the energetic contents of the collective unconscious you are likely to have ego inflation, and will feel filled with a sense of special destiny, a sense of messianic purpose and a feverish desire to proselytize. Typically you will find that the gods and mystical forces seem to endorse your sexual agenda. Terence’s final mushroom experience, however, was humbling and disenchanting and perhaps that helped him to avoid some of those excesses.
If you underestimate the trickster side of the unconscious, if you think every synchronicity is a divine revelation, than you become tricked and ultimately you become a trickster. The archetype you didn’t understand and integrate functions in you as an autonomous complex and you trick yourself and others.
For more on the many trickster pitfalls and blind spots of esoteric research see: Carnival 2012—A Psychological Study of the 2012 Phenomenon and the 22 Pitfalls and Blindspots of Esoteric Research An account of a trickster laden encounter with Terence in 1996 A Mutant Convergence—How John Major Jenkins, Jonathan Zap and Terence McKenna Met During a Weekend of High Strangeness in 1996 Also everyone should read my friend George Hansen’s seminal work on the subject, The Trickster and the Paranormal
Bruce Damer, the co-author of the article responded:
Jonathan begins by saying, “I’m still processing the revelations about Terence …” I doubt that ‘revelations’ is a correct description.
It should be noted that the claim that Terence never did mushrooms after a bad trip in 1988 or 1989 is based on anunauthorized public reading by Bruce Damer of an extract from an early version of an unfinished and unpublishedbook by Dennis McKenna, and the claimant is not identified, so we cannot make an estimate of reliability.
This claim has been used by some to attempt to discredit Terence, and Jonathan does him no service by assuming that it is true without waiting for the final version in Dennis’s forthcoming book.
In any case, whether or not Terence did mushrooms much in the 1990s is irrelevant to the value of what he had to say to us. Terence is mainly regarded as a psychedelic advocate, which is why some people may be disappointed that his use of psychedelics (in the latter part of his life) was less than they had supposed, but his real value to us was as a trenchant critic of a (modern Western) civilization which has become insane and thereby diabolical (and which thus does not deserve our support) and (as I said in my earlier message) as a genuine prophet speaking to us by means of something like divine illumination, and pointing us toward a level of truth which psychedelics can enable some of us to know for ourselves by direct experience. For this he will long be remembered.
Yesterday, someone sent me a link to a youtube video that seems like Terence’s response to the predicament. Here are the new comments I just added to the RS article: