There was a note of delight in arch-psychonaut Terence McKenna’s voice as he read out this question from the audience after a 1993 talk at UC Santa Cruz:
Well, let’s see here… “Recently you appeared on talk radio with L.A. police chief Daryl Gates. What was the inside story, and do you feel you were heard by him?”
Well, yes—I won’t give this too much time—I did appear with Daryl Gates on his radio show. Clearly, they’re desperate to raise ratings—they’ll do almost anything at this point—and Daryl Gates was a pussycat. Very easily intimidated by… I mean, I make no great claims in this area, but intelligence. He completely folded in the presence of, you know, academic calm, big words, citation, that sort of thing.
If you don’t remember Daryl Gates, he was a real nice guy. At a 1990 Senate hearing, the LAPD chief announced that casual drug users—not traffickers, not dealers, but those “who blast some pot on a regular basis”—were guilty of “treason” in the war on drugs and “ought to be taken out and shot.” A few years later, when the program director from KFI, the right-wing talk station that broadcast The Daryl Gates Show, told the ex-chief over breakfast that the station wouldn’t be renewing his contract, Gates “leaned on the table and with his fingers made a gun. He put them in my face and said, ‘I’m going to get you.’” Super nice guy. If you like Ethan Couch, George Zimmerman, Martin Shkreli and Jason Van Dyke, you’ll love Daryl Gates.
Not a big Germs fan, Daryl Gates. Around 1980, the police chief sent The Decline Of Western Civilization director Penelope Spheeris a letter “requesting that [she] not show the film ever again in Los Angeles.” Nor was music a fan of Daryl. At one end of Gates’ tenure as chief, which extended, roughly, from the punk era to the L.A. riots, Black Flag lampooned him in their local radio ads; at the other, Ice-T gave him a personal shout out in Body Count’s “Cop Killer,” just to say “hi.” (And I always suspected that “hit the gates” in Ice-T’s “Escape from the Killing Fields” had a double meaning.) Race relations? Not Gates’ bag. When he died in 2010, the opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times remembered him as “a tough-talking spokesman for fearful, tradition-bound white Americans” who “found himself locked in bitter combat with the city’s African American community.”
And if some aging hippie tape trader out there would just do the right thing, you could be listening to this fucker discuss Timewave Zero with the apostle of the DMT elves right now.
No known photos of Big Bird hanging out with Terence McKenna exist, leading some to surmise they are one and the same. Evidence of the Bird’s interest in the spiritual and alternative lifestyles is confirmed in this photo of the the feathered freak with Allen Ginsberg.
Big Bird channels Terence McKenna in this delightful video, which gives new meaning to the term “high flying bird” and makes me want to smoke a little DMT with my morning dose of carrot juice.
“I’ll try to be around and about. But if I’m not, then you know that I’m behind your eyelids, and I’ll meet you there”
― Terence McKenna
What interests Horgan the most pertains to McKenna’s so-called Timewave Zero theory of history, which holds that something “novel” and mind-bending would happen on December 21, 2012. This notion was “revealed” to him by an “alien intelligence” during a psychedelic experiment conducted by McKenna and his younger brother Dennis, in the Amazon jungle in 1971 (Dennis McKenna, today a respected ethnopharmacologist, was the “channel” through which this entity supposedly spoke, has apparently never been much of a believer in his brother’s apocalyptic theories).
The Timewave Zero formula purports to mathematically “decode” the 64 hexagrams of the King Wen sequence of the I Ching into something that graphs fractal patterns of “novelty” and particularly active eras in history, culminating in a singularity point of infinite complexity that he predicted would happen at the end of the 13th b’ak’tun of the Maya calendar.
McKenna believed that all of human history and cultural and scientific evolution were moving inexorably towards a “strange attractor” at the end of time. Timewave Zero was later codified into a software program that seemingly mapped major moments in humanity’s evolution with the Timewave’s peaks and valleys.
McKenna’s theory, as written about at length in his books The Invisible Landscape and True Hallucinations, is a fascinating hermeneutic intellectual construction, and one that allowed for him to spin poetic and truly mind-bending thoughts about history, man’s place in the cosmos and of course, a sort of psychedelically-constructed apocalypticism that kept audiences absolutely spellbound, but rationally speaking, it’s wild-eyed, tied-dyed nonsense for soft-brained people…
John Horgan went to hear McKenna speak at a 1999 talk in Manhattan sponsored by the Open Center (I was in attendance at the talk myself, more on this below) and interviewed the psychedelic spokesman the following day. The object of Horgan’s line of inquiry was, not so surprisingly, to ask McKenna if he was actually serious about his 2012 predictions:
So what did McKenna really think would happen on December 21, 2012? “If you really understand what I’m saying,” he replied, “you would understand it can’t be said. It’s a prediction of an unpredictable event.” The event will be “some enormously reality-rearranging thing.” Scientists will invent a truly intelligent computer, or a time-travel machine. Perhaps we will be visited by an alien spaceship, or an asteroid. “I don’t know if it’s built into the laws of spacetime, or it’s generated out of human inventiveness, or whether it’s a mile and a half wide and arrives unexpectedly in the center of North America.”
But did he really think the apocalypse would arrive on December 21, 2012? “Well…” McKenna hesitated. “No.” He had merely created one mathematical model of the flow and ebb of novelty in history. “It’s a weak case, because history is not a mathematically defined entity,” he said. His model was “just a kind of fantasizing within a certain kind of vocabulary.” McKenna still believed in the legitimacy of his project, even if his particular model turned out to be a failure. “I’m trying to redeem history, make it make sense, show that it obeys laws,” he said.
But he couldn’t stop there. His eyes glittering, he divulged a “huge–quote unquote—coincidence” involving his prophecy. After he made his prediction that the apocalypse would occur on December 21, 2012, he learned that thousands of years ago Mayan astronomers had predicted the world would end on the very same day. “And now there has been new scholarship that they were tracking the galactic center and its precessional path through the ecliptic plane. What does all this mean?” McKenna leaned toward me, his eyes slitted and his teeth bared. “It means we are trapped in software written by the ghost of Jorge Luis Borges!” He threw his head back and cackled. “Tell that to the National Academy of Sciences!”
McKenna, when pressed said to Horgan, “I’m Irish! What’s your excuse!”
Although I have listened to (literally) hundreds of hours of his recorded talks, attended many, many speeches and even a weekend-long seminar (incongruously held on the outdoor “western village” set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) I can’t claim that I really knew Terence McKenna all that well, but I was most certainly acquainted with him and, in fact, was due to take him over the bridge to meet Howard Bloom in Brooklyn (Bloom was bedridden at the time) later in the very same day that Horgan interviewed him (McKenna cancelled because he was feeling tired; two weeks later he would have seizures and be diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer).
I’ve written before of how Timothy Leary expressed extreme exasperation about McKenna’s theories (In 1996 Leary shouted at me as I tried to defend him, that “Terence McKenna is a High Episcopalian!”) and how coldly dismissive Robert Anton Wilson was of his ideas (Bob would just roll his eyes and shake his head whenever the topic of Terence or 2012 came up). My take on the whole Timewave Zero/2012 thing and whether or not he truly believed it or not, is that “No,” I do not think that Terence McKenna wholeheartedly believed in his own psychedelic blarney. I think that he DID believe it at one time, but from personal observations on several occasions throughout the 1990s, when I would see him after one of his talks and observe his interaction with others, I don’t think this belief stayed with him.
To be perfectly honest, he often felt downright cynical to me when he discussed the Timewave Zero theory because it seemed like he knew he was spouting bullshit and it caused him to be curt, even disrespectful at times, to some of the people—especially the New Age true believer-types—who were in attendance at his talks.
Granted I might have only been around McKenna when he was feeling grumpy or wasn’t up for playing his expected role as a “guru” that day, but this is what I saw with my own eyes.
For any true believers out there who were planning to run up a lot of credit card debt prior to the “end of the world” that was supposed to take place between December 21-23, 2012, you might want to change those plans (or not!) because it looks like the Apocalypse just got cancelled.
In a striking find, archaeologists in Guatemala report the discovery of a small building whose walls display not only a stunningly preserved mural of a brightly adorned Mayan king, but also calendars that destroy any notion that the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012.
These deep-time calendars can be used to count thousands of years into the past and future, countering pop-culture and New Age ideas that Mayan calendars ended on Dec. 21, 2012, (or Dec. 23, depending on who’s counting), thereby predicting the end of the world.
The newly found calendars, which track the motion of the moon, Venus and Mars, provide an unprecedented glimpse into how these storied sky-gazers — who dominated Central America for nearly 1,000 years — kept such accurate track of months, seasons and years.
“What they’re trying to do is understand the large cycles of cosmic time,” said William Saturno, the Boston University archaeologist who led the expedition. “This is the space they’re doing it in. It’s like looking into da Vinci’s workshop.”
Before the new find, the best-preserved Mayan calendars were inscribed in bark-paged books called codices, the most famous being the Dresden Codex. But those pages hail from several hundred years later than the newly found calendars.
It will be interesting to see just how steadfast some people will cling to their beliefs in these New Age theories. Especially the ones who have gone out on a limb promulgating them in public. We’ll never get to hear Terence McKenna’s reaction to still waking up on Christmas Day, 2012, sadly, but what will Daniel Pinchbeck have to say I wonder?
Maybe Daniel and Harold Camping might want to grab a coffee!
Here’s what I wrote about the 2012 nonsense back in 2009 in a post titled “2012 is for suckers (and lapsed Christians)”:
Christian apocalyptism has been projected onto counterculture thought due to a surprisingly widely-held belief that the calendar of the ancient Mayans is going to “run out” and via various New Age theories (Jose Arguelles, Terence McKenna) growing in currency since the 1980s and conflating into one giant unstoppable Internet meme.
Y2K and went without a hitch and guess what? Every other previous doomsday failed to materialize also.
Here’s a telling anecdote, it’s all I have to offer you on the subject: In the mid-90s I had the occasion to ask Timothy Leary what he thought about Terence McKenna’s theories about 2012. He sat up in his chair—he was in horrible shape at this point, I should say—fixed his gaze upon me and wagging a finger in my face, sternly told me, “Terence McKenna is a High Episcopalian! He was raised to believe in the end of the world in church on Sundays. There is NO SCIENCE to any of this. He took psychedelic drugs and he interpreted those experiences via his own nervous system, which was pre-disposed to want to believe in the end of the world in the first place due to childhood imprinting about the Book of Revelations! If you believe in these things, why not just become a Christian and then at least you’ll be in the mainstream!”
If you buy into this stuff, you need to ask yourself WHY that is. Is it residual Christianity that you thought you shook off, but didn’t? It’s a valid point.
I’ve talked about this subject with Robert Anton Wilson as well and his take was different, but complimentary to what Leary had said. Bob very simply explained that calendars are man-made constructs. They are based on astronomical observations, of course, and the Mayan calendar is pretty accurate, but the idea of an end date, presupposes a start date and who CHOSE that date? It’s arbitrary and the whole argument starts to fall apart there.
Apolinario Chile Pixtun is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly “running out” on Dec. 21, 2012. After all, it’s not the end of the world.
Or is it?
Definitely not, the Mayan Indian elder insists. “I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff.”
It can only get worse for him. Next month Hollywood’s “2012” opens in cinemas, featuring earthquakes, meteor showers and a tsunami dumping an aircraft carrier on the White House.
At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the “Curious? Ask an Astronomer” Web site, says people are scared.
“It’s too bad that we’re getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they’re too young to die,” Martin said. “We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn’t live to see them grow up.”
Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan, says the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas.
Looks like the entire genre of “The World Will End in 2012” literature is about to go on sale for 99% off.
A few months earlier than planned, no doubt, but there was only so long they could milk this bullshit anyway.
Thank you, Steven Otero of New York City, New York!
Newt Gingrich falls under the spell of psychedelic pioneer Terence McKenna.
As McKenna speaks, Gingrich tries to maintain his equilibrium as subliminal broadcasts from DMT Radio (space is the place) activate the naturally occurring psychedelics (tryptamine) in Newt’s brain. Secret mystical teachings of love and peace are encoded in his nervous system for subsequent activation on 12/21/2012.
Probably the single most perplexing element in the fossil record is the doubling of the brain-size of Homo Sapiens over the period of just two million years (a very, very short period of time in evolutionary terms). Something caused it, but what?
In this brilliant animation, comedian Duncan Trussell gets to the bottom of it. This is the greatest thing ever, an instant classic:
This is a part of Thunderbrain, the pilot I made for Comedy Central. It is an animation of Terrance Mckenna’s “Stoned Ape Theory” which is the theory that protohominids munched on mushrooms and this caused the mysterious rapid expansion of the neocortex that eventually differentiated us from the other monkeys.
Animation by Will Carsola. Written by: Duncan Trussell, Will Carsola, and Tom Giannis
I hope Comedy Central pick this pilot up! And if they don’t Adult Swim should snatch it up immediately. This is what I want to watch on television.
Terence McKenna on his “Stoned Ape Theory”
Joe Rogan on Terence McKenna’s “Stoned Ape Theory”
Alex Jones has really topped himself this time. And then a few moments later, he tops himself again. How fantastic that we live in a world where a guy who spouts crazy bullshit like this with a straight-face is seen on a major 24-hour news channel? (Guess which one?)
I love the modern world sometimes, don’t you?
Here, Alex Jones absolutely leaves David Icke in the dust as he spins a conspiracy theory of the how “the elite” smoke DMT to put them in touch with Terence McKenna’s “self-transforming machine elves” who want them to kill everyone Dalek-style. Apparently.
According to Jones, the alien beings have instructed that the Large Hadron Collider be built so that the inter-dimensional vortex could be opened, allowing them to gain access to our space-time continuum. (Well he doesn’t say that exactly, I’m interpolating just a little bit).
His rant is SO “Doctor Who,” isn’t it? Steven Moffat has got to steal it!
This shit is poetry. It’s hilarious Jabberwocky as well, but poetry nevertheless. So, so good. Savor it.
Jones says that he doesn’t “need” DMT, but speaking as someone who (quite literally) smoked DMT up to four times a day for a two month period in 1994 (I know, I know), I really think he should try some. Immediately if not sooner, if for no other reason to test out his own theory and report back to his listeners, right?
Truly this is one of the best Alex Jones rants yet (and that, as you know, is really saying something). The idea of the Bilderbergers sitting around hitting the DMT pipe and doing the bidding of “the elves” seems to scare Jones, but to me this seems like quite a good thing. But then again, I suppose that really depends on what side of the aliens you’re on, doesn’t it?
An art show with a Terence McKenna-inspired theme opens this Saturday in Los Angeles. The Archaic Revival, after McKenna’s book of the same title, will explore “the collective subconscious of contemporary art through “allegorical code, sacred plant knowledge, magic and an untethered glossolalia.”
Curator Dani Tull has gathered 31 artists together who’ll visually explore alchemy, prophecy, mysticism and of course, this being a Terence McKenna inspired show, the end of time and psychedelics. The exhibit runs from Saturday, January 29th to February 26th at artist run gallery, Las Cienegas Projects at 2045 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Featured artists include Chromium Dumb Belle, Alison Blickle, Tracy Conti & Stephen McCarty, Liz Craft, Sarah Cromarty, Michael Decker, Francesca Gabbiani, Wendell Gladstone, Pearl C. Hsiung, Charles Irvin, Pentti Monkkonen, Sandeep Mukherjee, Alia Penner, Brian Randolph, Ewoud Van Rijn, Eddie Ruscha, Amy Sarkisian, Allison Schulnik, Anna Sew Hoy, Mindy Shapero, Jim Shaw, Laurie Steelink, Thaddeus Strode, Marnie Weber, Owleyes “James” Weigel, and Landon Wiggs.
Here’s the trailer for the event with an awesome Tony Conrad and Faust soundtrack:
Australia’s 21.C, edited by Ashley Crawford, was probably the best magazine of the ‘90s—it was my favorite at least—and to be profiled in its pages and later to contribute to it, was an lot of fun for me.
21.C was the most unabashedly intellectual and forward-thinking journal that I have ever seen, anywhere. And it was a striking and beautifully designed product to hold in your hands. Each issue was finely crafted, I must say. To have my own writing published alongside the likes of Erik Davis, Mark Dery, Greil Marcus, Hakim Bey, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, R.U. Sirius and Kathy Acker was an honor. I also met Alex Burns via Ashley and Alex, of course, went on to edit the Disinformation website for many years.(I wrote about art for 21.C’s sister publication—also edited by Ashley Crawford—the quarterly glossy World Art. I know that I wrote an article about the product design of the Japanese pop combo Pizzicato 5, but I can’t remember what else.)
Trailer for a new documentary film called DMT: The Spirit Molecule, based on the book of the same title by Dr. Rick Strassman MD. DMT or Dimethyltryptamine is one of the strongest hallucinogens known to man and each of us has a small amount of it floating around in our brains and blood stream. You can even make it yourself from a handful of a common type of lawn grass, distilled in a shot glass. The film features interviews with Dangerous Minds friends, author Douglas Rushkoff and visionary artist Alex Grey.
Smoking DMT, as the late Terence McKenna once said, is like getting shot out of a psychedelic canon. I agree. I’ve had some STRANGE experiences on the drug myself. It’s not for the timid, that’s for sure. DMT is not a drug you do for “fun” it’s a means of chemically connecting to an otherworldly “space” inhabited by strange and alien beings. Yes, you read that correctly. Think I’m joking? Smoke some, buster, then we’ll talk…
If you want a really good explanation of what the DMT experience is like, listen to this: