TERENCE MCKENNA AND

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY
BOOKS BY PETER FRITZ WALTER

COACHING YOUR INNER CHILD

THE LEADERSHIP I CHING

LEADERSHIP & CAREER IN THE 21ST CENTURY

CREATIVE-C LEARNING

INTEGRATE YOUR EMOTIONS

KRISHNAMURTI AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL REVOLUTION

THE NEW PARADIGM IN BUSINESS, LEADERSHIP AND CAREER

THE NEW PARADIGM IN CONSCIOUSNESS AND SPIRITUALITY

THE NEW PARADIGM IN SCIENCE AND SYSTEMS THEORY

THE VIBRANT NATURE OF LIFE

SHAMANIC WISDOM MEETS THE WESTERN MIND

CREATIVE GENIUS

THE BETTER LIFE

SERVANT LEADERSHIP

CREATIVE LEARNING AND CAREER

FRITJOF CAPRA AND THE SYSTEMS VIEW OF LIFE

FRANÇOISE DOLTO AND CHILD PSYCHOANALYSIS

EDWARD DE BONO AND THE MECHANISM OF MIND

JOSEPH MURPHY AND THE POWER OF YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS MIND

JOSEPH CAMPBELL AND THE LUNAR BULL

TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY
TERENCE
MCKENNA
AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

SHORT BIOGRAPHY, BOOK REVIEWS,
QUOTES, AND COMMENTS
(GREAT MINDS SERIES, VOL, 8)
by Peter Fritz Walter
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About Dr. Peter Fritz Walter
http://peterfritzwalter.com
About the Author

Parallel to an international law career in Germany, Switzerland
and the United States, Dr. Peter Fritz Walter (Pierre) focused upon
fine art, cookery, astrology, musical performance, social sciences
and humanities.

He started writing essays as an adolescent and received a high
school award for creative writing and editorial work for the
school magazine.

After finalizing his law diplomas, he graduated with an LL.M. in
European Integration at Saarland University, Germany, and with
a Doctor of Law title from University of Geneva, Switzerland, in
1987.

He then took courses in psychology at the University of Gene-
va   and interviewed a number of psychotherapists in Lausanne
and Geneva, Switzerland. His interest was intensified through a
hypnotherapy with an Ericksonian American hypnotherapist in
Lausanne. This led him to the recovery and healing of his inner
child.

In 1986, he met the late French psychotherapist and child psycho-
analyst Françoise Dolto (1908-1988) in Paris and interviewed her.
A long correspondence followed up to their encounter which was
considered by the curators of the Dolto Trust interesting enough
to be published in a book alongside all of Dolto’s other letter ex-
changes by Gallimard Publishers in Paris, in 2005.

After a second career as a corporate trainer and personal coach,
Pierre retired as a full-time writer, philosopher and consultant.

His nonfiction books emphasize a systemic, holistic, cross-cultural
and interdisciplinary perspective, while his fiction works and
short stories focus upon education, philosophy, perennial wis-
dom, and the poetic formulation of an integrative worldview.

Pierre is a German-French bilingual native speaker and writes
English as his 4th language after German, Latin and French. He
also reads source literature for his research works in Spanish,
Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. In addition, Pierre has notions of
Thai, Khmer, Chinese and Japanese.

All of Pierre’s books are hand-crafted and self-published, de-
signed by the author. Pierre publishes via his Delaware company,
Sirius-C Media Galaxy LLC, and under the imprints of IPUBLICA
and SCM (Sirius-C Media).
The idea of the simultaneous coexistence of an alien di-
mension all around us is as strange an idea in the context
of modern society as it must have been to the first sha-
mans, whose experiments with psychoactive plants would
have soon brought them to the same tryptamine doorway.
—TERENCE MCKENNA, THE INVISIBLE LANDSCAPE

The author’s profits from this book are being donated to charity.
Contents
Introduction! 9
About Great Minds Series

Chapter One! 13
Short Biography
1. Paonia, Colorado (1946-1962)! 15
2. California (1963-1967)! 16
3. New York City (Fall 1968)! 17
4. Asia (1969-1970)! 18
5. La Chorrera (1971)! 19
6. Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide (1976)! 20
7. “Ranting and raving” (1980s)! 21
8. The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the
Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth
of the Goddess, and the End of History (1992)! 22
9. Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowl-
edge—A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution
(1992)! 23
10. True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordi-
nary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise (1993)! 23

Chapter Two! 25
Book Reviews

The Archaic Revival! 26
Review! 26
Quotes! 40

Food of the Gods! 64
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

Review! 64
Quotes! 73

The Invisible Landscape! 97
Review! 97
Quotes! 102

Chapter Three! 111
Bonus Essay: ‘The Shamanic Method’

Common Assumptions! 111
The Detractors of Shamanism! 116
The Age of Enlightenment! 117
Cartesian Science! 119
Reductionism! 122
Catholicism! 123

The Shamanic Revival! 125
Sigmund Freud! 128
Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead! 131
Carl-Gustav Jung! 133
The Grand Opening! 136

The Shamanic Method! 138

Bibliography! 151
Contextual Bibliography

Personal Notes! 163

8
Introduction
About Great Minds Series

We are currently transiting as a human race a time of
great challenge and adventure that opens to us new path-
ways for rediscovering and integrating the perennial holis-
tic wisdom of ancient civilizations into our modern science
paradigm. These civilizations were thriving before patriar-
chy was putting nature upside-down.

Currently, with the advent of the networked global so-
ciety, and systems theory as its scientific paradigm, we are
looking into a different world, with a rise of ‘horizontal’
and ‘sustainable’ structures both in our business culture,
and in science, and last not least on the important areas of
psychology, medicine, and spirituality.
—A paradigm, from Greek ‘paradeigma,’ is a pattern of things, a
configuration of ideas, a set of dominant beliefs, a certain way of look-
ing at the world, a set of assumptions, a frame of reference or lens, and
even an entire worldview.
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

While most of this new and yet old path has yet to be
trotted, we cannot any longer overlook the changes that
happen all around us virtually every day.

Invariably, as students, scientists, doctors, consultants,
lawyers, business executives or government officials, we
face problems today that are so complex, entangled and
novel that they cannot possibly be solved on the basis of
our old paradigm, and our old way of thinking. As Albert
Einstein said, we cannot solve a problem on the same level
of thought that created it in the first place— hence the need
for changing our view of looking at things, the world, and
our personal and collective predicaments.
What still about half a decade ago seemed unlikely is
happening now all around us: we are rediscovering more
and more fragments of an integrative and holistic wisdom
that represents the cultural and scientific treasure of many
ancient tribes and kingdoms that were based upon a per-
ennial tradition which held that all in our universe is inter-
connected and interrelated, and that humans are set in the
world to live in unison with the infinite wisdom inherent
in creation as a major task for driving evolution forward!
It happens in science, since the advent of relativity the-
ory, quantum physics and string theory, it happens in neu-
roscience and systems theory, it happens in molecular bi-
ology, and in ecology, and as a result, and because science
is a major motor in society, it happens now with increasing
speed in the industrial and the business world, and in the

10
ABOUT GREAT MINDS SERIES

way people earn their lives and manifest their innate tal-
ents through their professional engagement.
And it happens also, and what this book is set to em-
phasize, in psychology and psychoanalysis, for Françoise
Dolto, while having been a member of the Freudian psy-
choanalytic school, has created an approach to healing
psychotic children that was really unknown to the founder
of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

More and more people begin to realize that we cannot
honestly continue to destroy our globe by disregarding the
natural law of self-regulation, both outwardly, by polluting
air and water, and inside, by tolerating our emotions to be
in a state of repression and turmoil.

Self-regulation is built into the life function and it can
be found as a consistent pattern in the lifestyle of natives
peoples around the world. It is similar with our immense
intuitive and imaginal faculties that were downplayed in
centuries of darkness and fragmentation, and that now
emerge anew as major key stones in a worldview that puts
the whole human at the frontline, a human who uses their
whole brain, and who knows to balance their emotions
and natural passions so as to arrive at a state of inner peace
and synergetic relationships with others that bring mutual
benefit instead of one-sided egotistic satisfaction.
For lasting changes to happen, however, to paraphrase
J. Krishnamurti, we need to change the thinker, we need to
undergo a transformation that puts our higher self up as
the caretaker of our lives, not our conditioned ego.

11
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

Hence the need to really look over the fence and get
beyond social, cultural and racial conditioning for adopt-
ing an integrative and holistic worldview that is focused
on more than problem-solving.
What this book tries to convey is that taking the exam-
ple of one of the greatest child psychoanalysts of our time,
we may see that it’s not too late, be it for our planet and for
us humans, our careers, our science, our collective spiritual
advancement, and our scientific understanding of nature,
and that we can thrive in a world that is surely more dif-
ferent in ten years from now that it was one hundred years
in the past compared to now.
We are free to continue to feel like victims in this new
reality, and wait for being taken care of by the state, or we
may accept the state, and society, as human creations that
will never be perfect, and venture into creating our lives
and careers in accordance with our true mission, and based
upon our real gifts and talents.

Let me say a last word about this series of books about
great personalities of our time, which I came to call ‘Great
Minds’ Collection. The books within this collection do not
just feature books but authors, you may call them author
reviews instead of book reviews, and they are more exten-
sive also in highlighting the personal mission and autobio-
graphical details which are to note for each author, includ-
ing extensive quotes from their books.

12
Chapter One
Short Biography

Terence McKenna (1946-2000) spent twenty-five years
in exploring ‘the ethnopharmacology of spiritual trans-
formation’ and is as a specialist in the ethnomedicine of
the Amazon basin. He is coauthor, with his brother Dennis,
of The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

Ching, and author of the forthcoming Food of the Gods.
—From: The Archaic Revival (Back Cover)

Reviews of The Archaic Revival

Scholar, theoretician, explorer, dreamer, pioneer, fanatic, and
spellbinder, as well as ontological tailor, McKenna combines
an erudite, if somewhat original, overview of history with a
genuinely visionary approach to the millennium. The result
is a cyclone of unorthodox ideas capable of lifting almost
any brain out of its cognitive Kansas.
—Tom Robbins, from the Foreword

As wordsmith and logos laser [McKenna] stews his concep-
tional imagination in language so potent that doors open
into evolutionary destiny and possible worlds. A radically
innovative natural philosophy is offered here, one that in-
spires a new ecology of inner and outer space.
—Jean Houston, PhD, Director, Foundation for Mind Research,
author of The Possible Human and The Search for the Beloved

[McKenna's] ideas are rare jewels discovered during expedi-
tions to the heights and depths of inner space. (…) The Ar-
chaic Revival is flammable to the drybrush and deadwood of
the intellect. In the twilight of human history, McKenna’s
prescription for salvation is just so crazy it might work.
—Alex Grey, artist, author of Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art
of Alex Grey

The three McKenna books I have chosen to review are
jewels both in their quality as literary oeuvres and their
value as testimonies of one of the greatest mind explorers
of our times. But let me first tell a little about the author’s

14
SHORT BIOGRAPHY

life. I am grateful for Vice.com’s ‘One Version of One Ver-
sion of Terence McKenna’s Life.’ They are saying his life
would fit a 450 pages book and I don’t doubt it, but here I
limit myself to a short bio and some quotes.

The world which we perceive is a tiny fraction of the
world which we can perceive, which is a tiny fraction of
the perceivable world.

—TERENCE MCKENNA, 1987

1. Paonia, Colorado (1946-1962)

Terence Kemp McKenna was born on November 16,
1946, in ‘a Colorado cattle and coal-mining town of 1,500
people named Paonia,’ he said in an interview in 1993. He
elaborated:

They wanted to name it Peony but didn’t know how to spell
it. In your last year of high school, you got your girlfriend
pregnant, married her, and went to work in the coal mines.
An intellectual was someone who read TIME.

Growing up, Terence was ‘the persecuted, bespectacled
type,’ he told San Francisco Chronicle in 1993. He subscribed
to the Village Voice and the Evergreen Review—a literary
magazine that published Jack Kerouac, William S. Bur-
roughs, and others from 1957 to 1973. He wrote, in True
Hallucinations, of his childhood:

My interest in drugs, magic, and the more obscure backwa-
ters of natural history and theology gave me the interest
profile of an eccentric Florentine prince rather than a kid
growing up in the heartland of the United States in the late

15
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

50s. Dennis had shared all of these concerns, to the despair
of our conventional and hardworking parents.

Dennis, Terence’s only sibling, wrote in The Brotherhood
of the Screaming Abyss that their parents enjoyed drinking
alcohol. ‘But in our father’s mind, alcohol was not a drug;
its effects were on the muscles, in his thinking, and not the
brain,’ wrote Dennis. He continued:

He viewed drinking as essentially benign ... All drugs, on the
other hand, he equated to heroin—all were addictive, de-
structive, and evil. Part of his attitude toward drugs resulted
from an experience he had during the war (so he said). On a
bombing mission over Germany, one of his crew mates had
been badly injured by flak shrapnel, but when his buddies
broke open the medical kit to give him a shot for his terrible
pain, they found that, as Dad said, ‘Some hophead had sto-
len the morphine.’

2. California (1963-1967)

When Terence was 16, he convinced his parents to let
him move to California, where he finished his last two
years of high school at two different locations while living
with an uncle and aunt in Los Altos, then a family friend in
Lancaster. At age 18, in 1965, he enrolled at the University
of California, Berkeley. He was admitted into the Tussman
Experimental College, a new program that, for 150 of Ber-
keley’s about 27,000 entering students, replaced the first
two years of normal undergraduate curriculum.

16
SHORT BIOGRAPHY

Dennis wrote about the program, founded by Joseph
Tussman, a philosophy professor, in The Brotherhood of the
Screaming Abyss:

No grades were given; evaluations were based on intense
dialogues with faculty members and fellow students, and
extensive, eclectic reading lists that participants were en-
couraged to develop on their own.

By the end of his second year of college, Terence had
amassed a library of 1000+ books. Three years later, in the
summer of 1970, this library would be destroyed in a fire.

Terence’s second library, which, at the time of his death
in 2000, also contained 1000+ books, would also be de-
stroyed by a fire, on February 7, 2007.

3. New York City (Fall 1968)

After leaving his undergraduate studies and traveling
in Europe and North Africa, living for a time in an archi-
pelago in the Indian Ocean called the Seychelles, Terence
found himself in New York City, trying to sell a book he
had written. He referred to this book in True Hallucinations
as ‘a rambling, sophomoric, McLuhanesque diatribe that
was to die a born-in, fortunately.’ Seated at an outdoor res-
taurant in Central Park with the only person he knew in
NYC, Terence talked about an idea his brother—’some sort
of genius’—had ‘that some hallucinogens work by fitting
into the DNA.’ The idea was startling and had ‘a ring of
truth’ he couldn’t ignore. ‘The political revolution has be-

17
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

come too murky a thing to put one’s hope in,’ he told his
friend, referred to as ‘Vanessa’ in True Hallucinations.
‘So far, the most interesting unlikelihood in our lives is
DMT, right?’
‘Reluctant agreement,’ said Vanessa.
‘Reluctant only because the conclusion that it leads to
is so extreme,’ said Terence. ‘Mainly that we should stop
fucking around and go off and grapple with the DMT mys-
tery.’
But he had already committed to a ‘hash thing in Asia
in a few months.’

4. Asia (1969-1970)

Terence lived and traveled in South Asia for around a
year, studying the Tibetan language and smuggling hash-
ish. In August 1969 one of his Bombay-to-Aspen shipments
was intercepted by US Customs. Terence’s reaction, from
True Hallucinations: ‘I went underground and wandered
throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia, viewing ruins in
the former and collecting butterflies in the latter.’ He lived
for a time in Taipei, then taught English in Tokyo, then
lived in British Columbia for three months, during which
(1) he and his brother, along with two friends, planned a
trip to South America in search of the DMT-containing
plant preparation oo-koo-hé and (2) his mother, who had
been diagnosed with cancer six years earlier, died.

18
SHORT BIOGRAPHY

Terence McKenna, 1976. Photo by Kathleen Harrison.

5. La Chorrera (1971)

On February 22, 1971, in the Colombian Amazon, a lit-
tle more than 24 hours after arriving in La Chorrera follow-
ing a ‘four-day walk through the jungle,’ Terence and his
brother had their first Stropharia trips. ‘I knew only that the
mushroom was the best hallucinogen I had ever had and
that it had a quality of aliveness I had never known be-
fore,’ Terence wrote in True Hallucinations. ‘It seemed to

19
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

open doorways into places I had assumed would always
be closed to me because of my insistence on analysis and
realism.’

On March 4, the McKenna brothers performed ‘the ex-
periment at La Chorrera,’ which involved using Ayahua-
sca, Psilocybin, and the human body’s vocal cords and
DNA to create, as Terence in True Hallucinations quoted
Dennis’ journal entry from that day, ‘a solid-state hyper-
dimensional circuit that is quadripartite in structure.’
He returned to Berkeley on April 13, but three months
later, in July, went back to La Chorrera with his girlfriend,
named ‘Ev’ in True Hallucinations. Stropharia cubensis was
scarcer this time. He gathered spore prints and brought
them to America.

6. Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide (1976)

In 1976, five years after the experiment at La Chorrera,
an intriguing book, Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s
Guide by O.T. Oss and O.N. Oeric, appeared. The book was
written by the McKenna brothers under pen names. In less
than 100 pages it provided ‘precise, no-fail instructions for
growing and preserving’ Stropharia cubensis, ‘the star-born
magic mushroom.’ This was their second co-written book.
The first, The Invisible Landscape, which was published a
year earlier—and sold ‘no more than 1500 copies,’ Terence
said in 1993—examined what happened at La Chorrera
and introduced Timewave Zero. ‘I regard Timewave Zero as
a fascinating model of a previously unmodeled sys-

20
SHORT BIOGRAPHY

tem—which is human history,’ said Terence in a 1996 in-
terview.

7. “Ranting and raving” (1980s)
In the early 1980s Terence began giving talks at the
Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California as well as at other
venues and events around the country. How did this be-
gin? An interview from 1993 offers one answer:
—Interviewer: So you lived on the royalties of the
Magic Mushroom Growers Guide alone?
—Terence: And something which we should probably de-
scribe as ‘consulting.’
—Interviewer: I see [laughs].
—Terence: [laughs loudly]
—Interviewer: [regaining composure] Well, I guess that’s
what I was shooting for with that question.
—Terence: Yes, there was a lot of ‘consulting’ in the ‘70s
[laughs].
—Interviewer: How did your success with the Magic
Mushroom Growers Guide steamroll into a career?
—Terence: As the new age got going, say ‘80, ‘81, ‘82, I just
found it incredibly irritating, and I was busy consulting
and staying home and I also had small children, but I just
thought it was such a bunch of crap.
—Interviewer: Talking about crystals and such?
—Terence:   Yeah, the crystal, aura, past life, channeling
business, and I said, you know, why don’t these people
check out drugs? What’s the matter with them, my god?

21
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

And finally someone persuaded me to say that in a public
situation, and it’s been constant ever since.
By the late 1980s he was married, with two children.
Due in part to his ‘innate Irish ability to rave [which] had
been turbo-charged by years of psilocybin mushroom use,’
he wrote in True Hallucinations, his popularity had increas-
ed—he sometimes spoke now to audiences of around 1,000
people—and publishers were ‘suddenly interested in his
work.’

8. The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mush-
rooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shaman-
ism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History (1992)

The first book Terence published without his brother’s
collaboration was a collection of six interviews, four tran-
scribed talks, and seven essays: ‘Temporal Resonance’ (in
which Terence observes: ‘The experience we have of time is
much more closely related to the description that we in-
herit from a tradition such as Taoism [than Western sci-
ence]’), ‘Among Ayahuasqueros’ (‘a reflective diary’ of Ter-
ence and his future wife Kathleen Harrison’s 1976 trip to
the Amazon), ‘Mushrooms and Evolution,’ ‘The Voynich
Manuscript,’ ‘Wasson’s Literary Precursors’ (on Gordon
Wasson, ‘the Abraham of the reborn awareness in Western
civilization of the presence of the shamanically empower-
ing mushroom’), ‘Plan/Plant/Planet’ (‘The notion of ille-
gal plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous’), ‘Vir-
tual Reality and Electronic Highs (Or On Becoming Virtual
Octopi).’ Terence explained the book’s title:

22
SHORT BIOGRAPHY

When the medieval world shifted its worldview, secularized
European society sought salvation in the revivifying of clas-
sical Greek and Roman approaches to law, philosophy, aes-
thetics, city planning, and agriculture. Our dilemma will cast
us further back into time in search for models and answers.

9. Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowl-
edge—A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolu-
tion (1992)

Terence’s second book expanded on an idea introduced
in ‘Mushrooms and Evolution,’ that hallucinogenic mush-
rooms have been used by humans for ‘perhaps tens of mil-
lennia,’ and that the interaction ‘is not a static symbiotic
relationship, but rather a dynamic one through which at
least one of the parties has been bootstrapped to higher
and higher cultural levels.’ It also elucidated the histories
of sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, opium, tobacco, heroin, and
cocaine.

10. True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Ex-
traordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise (1993)

With his third book, ‘a chronological narrative of a
story that is both true and extraordinary’—a beautiful,
poignant, delightful memoir, in my opinion—Terence fi-
nally, at age 46, externalized the version of the story of his
life that most people now know. True Hallucinations, which
Terence called ‘the easy-to-read narrative anecdotal ver-
sion of what The Invisible Landscape is the no-holds-barred,
all the footnotes, all the citations [version of],’ focused on

23
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

his experiences at La Chorrera, but also explored the years
before and after that, and briefly examined his childhood.
He wrote of ‘the every-colored stars.’ He wrote of
‘imagining what one can imagine.’ In one passage, he de-
scribed what he felt while smoking a joint in 1971 on a boat
on the river Putumayo:

The flow of the river was like the rich smoke I inhaled. The
flow of smoke, the flow of water, and of time. ‘All flows,’
said a beloved Greek. Heraclitus was called the crying phi-
losopher, as if he spoke in desperation. But, why crying? I
love what he says—it does not make me cry. Rather than
interpret pante rhea as ‘nothing lasts,’ I had always consid-
ered it a Western expression of the idea of Tao. And here we
were, going with the Putumayo’s flow. What a luxury to be
smoking, again in the tropics, again in the light, away from
the season and places of death. Away from living under
Canada’s State of Emergency, on the edge of war-bloated,
mad America. Mother’s death and coincidentally the loss of
all my books and art, which had been collected, carefully
shipped back and stored, and then had burned in one of the
periodic brushfires that decimate the Berkeley hills. Cancer
and Fire. Fire and Cancer. Away from these terrible things,
where Monopoly houses, waxy green, go tumbling into fis-
sures in the animated psychic landscape.

On May 22, 1999, Terence had a brain seizure and col-
lapsed at home. A CAT scan revealed a tumor in his right
frontal cortex, which was diagnosed as a ‘glioblastoma
multiform,’ a rare form of brain cancer. He died on April 6,
2000 at age 53.

24
Chapter Two
Book Reviews

The Archaic Revival (1992)

Food of the Gods (1993)

The Invisible Landscape (1993)
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

The Archaic Revival
Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality,
UFO’s, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess and the End
of History, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1992

Review
In The Archaic Revival, McKenna lays the groundwork
for something like a psychedelic culture, a society based on
new values. In the etiology of the group alienation that is

26
BOOK REVIEWS

so typical for our culture, the author detects a basic denial
of ecstasy.
McKenna’s views are deliberately political in the sense
that he claims nobody can develop a sane mind within an
insane culture, without rejecting that culture in the first
place:

In addition to choosing to repress the strange abilities of the
shaman and the psychic potential of contact with the Other,
Western tradition has a built-in bias against self experimen-
tation with hallucinogens. One of the consequences of this is
that not enough has been written about the phenomenology
of personal experiences with the visionary hallucinogens. /3

I am a political activist, but I think that the first duty of a
political activist is to become psychedelic. Otherwise you’re
not making your moves cognizant of the entire field of ac-
tion. /13

There is a parallel here with Krishnamurti who had a
similar position with the difference only that he did not
endorse psychedelics. But K is quoted to have said that ‘it
is not a proof of mental health to be well adjusted to a pro-
foundly sick society.’ McKenna sees no way around the
citizen’s perversity than by ‘civilizing’ him or her psyche-
delically, while Krishnamurti sees the way out through to-
tal attention:

So the issue finally comes down to the citizen versus the self.
The citizen is an extremely limited definition of human po-
tential. The self is a definition of human potential so broad
that it threatens the obligations of the citizen./12

27
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

When we give a primacy to the self, the individual, and
hence see society or the group as secondary, we still can
build group values from such a starting point, and we can
build them with ecstasy as a primary value in place. This is
exactly the outcome of my own shamanism research, and I
have found no other author who saw this with an even
remotely similar lucidity as Terence McKenna. He writes:

Shamanism is use of the archaic techniques of ecstasy that
were developed independent of any religious philosophy—
the empirically validated, experientially operable techniques
that produce ecstasy. Ecstasy is the contemplation of whole-
ness. That’s why when you experience ecstasy—when you
contemplate wholeness—you come down remade in terms
of the political and social arena because you have seen the
larger picture./13

When we ask what shamanism is we need to focus our
research on the shaman as the central figure. The shaman
is a mind-alterer, a reality-shifter, a magician, and at the
same time, a healer. But he’s an outcast nonetheless, and
this is his crux:

So it is the form of the mind that the shaman works with: he
has a larger view because he is not really in his culture. (…)
The shaman may appear a member of the culture, but he’s
broader, deeper, higher, and wider than the culture that cre-
ated him./14

As a culture-founder and ‘psychedelic’ politician,
McKenna asked who or what is going to be supportive of
his quest? He decided that shamanism was part of this

28
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special branch of popular culture he became the spokes-
man of. Then, he discussed why he did not embrace Bud-
dhism as a religion, and his answer is conclusive and
makes sense:

I think of Mahayana Buddhism, the multileveled, many-
inhabited, demon-haunted, Buddha-haunted realms of peace
and joy. The insistence of Mahayana Buddhism that there is
really no center, that everything is a construct of time and
space, is the most sophisticated psychology. But I’m not will-
ing to climb aboard the Buddhist ethic because Buddhism
says suffering is inevitable. That’s not a psychedelic point of
view./17

I always thought that the Buddha was judging life in-
stead of embracing life, and this is pretty much a cultural bias
in the whole of Indian philosophy. The ‘psychedelic’ sage,
and there is wide agreement here, is definitely not somebody
who judges life, but who embraces life. But McKenna’s criti-
cal stance on religion is more general than that:

29
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

Unfortunately, religion for the past five hundred years has
been a hierarchical pyramid at whose top were theologians
interpreting dogma. This interpretation was handed down
through a hierarchy to the faithful. I think religious hierar-
chies are very unsettled by the idea of direct revelation.
Nevertheless, this phenomenon is certainly thriving in pre-
literate cultures all over the world. We discovered in dealing
with this that the only people you could talk to about it or
who seemed to have familiarity with it were shamans./28

Now, we got shamanism and the spirits of nature in
our cultural soup, and we got no religion besides nature’s
religions, and direct perception as our awareness para-
digm. But what is missing? McKenna puts a unique stress
on language, and the evolution of language through psy-
chedelics, as an essential characteristic of his new, and yet
perennial, cultural paradigm.

And this is certainly part of what the psychedelics are about:
they force the evolution of language. And no culture, so far
as I am aware, has ever consciously tried to evolve its lan-
guage with the awareness that evolving language was evolv-
ing reality. (…) The social consequence of the psychedelic
experience is clear thinking—which trickles down as clear
speech. Empowered speech./21

McKenna’s detractors cunningly argue that his highly
refined use of language was not the result of psychedelics
but of his Irish tradition, and that he was using his obvious
literary talent for making up a cultural pretension, as a matter
of show, and for establishing his particular niche in popu-
lar culture.

30
BOOK REVIEWS

It is true that McKenna had the ability to render com-
plex and convoluted speeches in a crystal-clear ‘premedi-
tated’ logic, that, as his voice is rather monotonous, sug-
gests someone reading from an invisible book in front of
his eyes. I haven’t seen or heard anything comparable in
my life. This being said, it seems obvious that McKenna,
when molding his cultural Pygmalion cannot rely on
proven theories, but proceeds by drafting hypotheses, such
as the following one, that bears however some anthropo-
logical backup:

Anthropologists have commented on the absence of serious
mental disease in many preliterate cultures. I believe that the
mediation of the shaman and through him the contact to the
centering Logos, this source of information or gnosis, is

31
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

probably the cause of this ability to heal or minimize psy-
chological disorders./29

The open question is if this ability of the shaman to
seize the ‘Centering Logos’ for healing purposes requires a
culture to be preliterate? The question hits home because
in my unique experience with Ayahuasca in 2004, the plant
intelligence communicated to me that I was more or less
unable to perceiving reality directly, and that this atrophy
had come about through the strong language training I
had received, so that language had become in my life an
obstacle to the real understanding of nature, and nature’s
wisdom.
Thus, my psychedelic experience seems to confirm
McKenna’s view that language is in the way of under-
standing nature when it’s not transformed, modulated psy-
chedelically, and rendered a philosopher’s stone through
the unique alchemy of entheogens impacting, over long
periods of time, on our mindbody chemistry.

And this, in turn, is exactly what McKenna has sum-
marized as the essential in the Archaic Revival. It is his
mind-boggling assumption that only through psychedelics

32
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humankind was able to build civilization, and that origi-
nally entheogens were really laid in our cultural cradle,
and have served over millennia their good purpose, until
exactly the moment when in the 20th century, our paranoid
leaders put them on the index of ‘forbidden plants.’ In his
book Food of the Gods, McKenna lucidly comments on this
prohibition with the words that ‘the notion of illegal plants
is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.’ And he
points to the degree of barbarous misinformation and anti-
cultural propaganda that this this cultural denial has
brought us, with the result that civilization, from that mo-
ment, was in a backward trend:

Psilocybin, in the minds of the uninformed public and in the
eyes of the law, is lumped together with LSD and mescaline,
when in fact each of these compounds is a phenomenologi-
cally defined universe unto itself. Psilocybin and DMT in-
voke the Logos, although DMT is more intense and more
brief in its action. This means that they work directly on the
language centers, so that an important aspect of the experi-
ence is the interior dialogue./36

Interestingly enough, McKenna shows a parallel of this
20th century anti-psychedelic paranoia with the former
worldview under Christianity that regarded any wisdom
from nature as diabolic and abject, and that destroyed
much of the direct knowledge that ancient civilizations
possessed about life:

The Stropharia cubensis mushroom, if one can believe what
it says in one of its moods, is a symbiote, and it desires ever

33
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

deeper symbiosis with the human species. It achieved sym-
biosis with human society early by associating itself with
domesticated cattle and through them human nomads. Like
the plants men and women grew and the animals they hus-
banded, the mushroom was able to inculcate itself into the
human family, so that where human genes went these other
genes would be carried. But the classic mushroom cults of
Mexico were destroyed by the coming of the Spanish con-
quest. The Franciscans assumed they had an absolute mo-
nopoly on theophagy, the eating of God; yet in the New
World they came upon people calling a mushroom teo-
nanacatl, the flesh of the gods; yet in the New World they
came upon people calling a mushroom teonanacatl, the flesh
of the gods. They set to work, and the Inquisition was able to
push the old religion into the mountains of Oaxaca so that it
only survived in a few villages when Valentina and Gordon
Wasson found it there in the 1950s./40

Our symbiosis with the Other, that unique intelligence
which speaks through psychedelic mushrooms, and that is
accessible through their ritualistic ingestion, McKenna ar-
gues, was cut, as through still another cultural circumci-
sion we were subjected to, on the basis of spiritual domi-
nance taken as religion, and as a matter of power abuse
and tyranny.

Ignorance burned the libraries of the Hellenistic world at an
earlier period and dispersed the ancient knowledge, shatter-
ing the stellar and astronomical machinery that had been the
work of centuries. By ignorance I mean the Hellenistic-
Christian-Judaic tradition. The inheritors of this tradition
built a triumph of mechanism. It was they who later realized
the alchemical dreams of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuri-

34
BOOK REVIEWS

es—and the twentieth century—with the transformation of
elements and the discovery of gene transplants. But then,
having conquered the New World and driven its people into
cultural fragmentation and diaspora, they came unexpect-
edly upon the body of Osiris—the condensed body of Eros—
in the mountains of / Mexico where Eros has retreated at the
coming of the Christos. And by finding the mushroom, they
unleashed it./40-41

I have forwarded the point of view, and I am not the
only one, that psychoanalysis was meant to be, from the
start, more than a medical technique, but had, especially in
its Freudian vintage, a strong underlying idea of shaman-
ism to it. The importance of the shaman as an integrative
and sacred figure in a highly technologically alienated cul-
ture such as ours is obvious. McKenna writes:

The tragedy of our cultural situation is that we have no
shamanic tradition. Shamanism is primarily techniques, not
ritual. It is a set of techniques that have been worked out
over millennia that make it possible, though perhaps not for
everyone, to explore these areas. People of predilection are
noticed and encouraged. In archaic societies where shaman-
ism is a thriving institution, the signs are fairly easy to rec-
ognize: oddness and uniqueness in an individual. /45

Among aspiring shamans there must be some sign of inner
strength or a hypersensitivity to trance states. In traveling
around the world and dealing with shamans, I find the dis-
tinguishing characteristic is an extraordinary centeredness.
Usually the shaman is an intellectual and is alienated from
society. A good shaman sees exactly who you are and says,
Ah, here’s somebody to have a conversation with. The an-

35
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

thropological literature always presents shamans as embed-
ded in a tradition, but once one gets to know them they are
always very sophisticated about what they are doing. They
are the true phenomenologists of this world; they know
plant chemistry, yet they call these energy fields spirits. /Id.

The integrative philosophy that McKenna’s Archaic Re-
vival represents and that we are the inheritors of, after the
passing away of its creator requires us to build relation-
ships between phenomena we don’t usually think of as
related.
McKenna teaches that this synthetic view of the uni-
verse is immensely facilitated through what he calls the
‘mediation’ of the plant teachers:

A voice that gave guidance and revelation to Western civili-
zation has been silent for about seventeen hundred years.
This is the Logos and all ancient philosophers strove to in-
voke it. For Hellenistic / philosophy it was a voice that told
self-evident truth. With the passing of the Aeon and the
death of the pagan gods, awareness of this phenomenon
faded. However, it is still available through the mediation of
the plant teachers. If we could intelligently examine dimen-
sions that the psychedelic plants make available, we could
contact the Oversoul and leave behind this era where domi-
nance hierarchies must be disciplined by UFOs and messi-
ahs, and where progress is halted for millennia because cul-
ture cannot advance ethics at the same rate as technology.
/61-62

In fact, contrary to many who claim their Ayahuasca
experience was but a spectacle of colorful visions, I can tes-

36
BOOK REVIEWS

tify as a direct witness of what McKenna writes about the
Logos coming through as an intelligence or plant teacher,
manifesting in the psychedelic state as an immediately pre-
sent telepathic voice and response-giver that teaches a wisdom
not from this earth. And it has taught me a wisdom, not
general, but very much tailored to my own needs, telling
me through direct insight that I needed to give love in-
stead of waiting to receive love from others, and that by
doing so without wavering in my attitude, I could over-
come the pitfall of perception that my overindulgence of
language-related thinking has brought about. From 2004 to
2007, and thus within three consecutive years, I have fun-
damentally changed not only concepts and relationships,
but also my daily life and habits, and there are no more
depressions, no more outbursts of hate and violence, no
more sad remembrances of my terrible childhood, and I
have simply become wiser in all I think and do.
McKenna’s vision of the Archaic Revival targets at the
creation of nothing less but a psychedelic science, while he
localized himself to be an avatar in the creation of that sci-
ence, in similar ways as our technological explorers some
centuries back on the road of technological progress, only
that this progress will not be fragmented, but holistic:

The early approach with psychedelics was the correct one.
This is the notion that intelligent, thoughtful people should
take psychedelics and try and understand what’s going on.
Not groups of prisoners, not graduate students, but mature,
intelligent people need to share their experiences. It’s too
early for a science. What we need now are the diaries of ex-

37
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

plorers. We need many diaries of many explorers so we can
begin to get a feeling for the territory./69

And as a parallel movement with the creation of that
psychedelic science that McKenna envisions, he predicts
the ultimate encounter with the Other, whenever on a
timeline of events this may occur:

Eventually this contact will occur. We are now in the pubes-
cent stage of yearning, of forming an image of the thing de-
sired. This image of the thing desired will eventually cause
that thing come into being. In other words, our cultural di-
rection is being touched by the notion of / alien love, and it
comes to us through the rebirth of the use of plant hallu-
cinogens. The shamanic vision plants seem to be the carriers
of this pervasive entelechy that speaks and that can present
itself to us in this particular way. (…) The appetite for this
fusion is what is propelling global culture toward an apoca-
lyptic transformation. (…) But it could also slip away. We
could harden; there are dominator, hypertechnological fu-
tures that we could sail toward and realize. That would
eliminate this possibility of opening to the Other./73-74

While McKenna seems to see this encounter with the
Other a bit in the way of science fiction novels, as a spec-
tacular one-time event, described by some as the prover-
bial ‘UFO landing on the ground of the White House,’ he
acknowledges, what can be called a consensus now, that
this Presence, this Other does not need to come here, be-
cause the eternal present aligns all dimensions as superpo-
sitions, and not in horizontal space. But what is the barrier,
then, between them and us? According to McKenna, it is

38
BOOK REVIEWS

language, and it’s by the evolution of language that we are
going to get over the fence and face the Other:

As human history goes forward, we develop the linguistic
discrimination to be able to recognize the extraterrestrials
that are already insinuated into the planetary environment
around us, some of which may have been here millions and
millions of years. In other words, space is not an imperme-
able barrier to life; there is slow drift. There is genetic mate-
rial that is transferred through space and time over vast
distances./80

Let me come to the end of this rather extended book
review with a brief discussion of Novelty Theory, and what
McKenna says about it in this book. Timewave Zero or Nov-
elty Theory is a graph-based mathematical construct that
depicts novelty in the universe as an inherent property of
time. The idea was initiated by Terence McKenna in the
1970s and was worked out mathematically by the Swiss
mathematician Peter Meyer. It is a wild and unconfirmed
assumption when Wikipedia writes that ‘the theory lacks
any credible basis in peer-reviewed science and is gener-
ally dismissed as pseudoscience.’ In personal correspon-
dence with Meyer, I was informed that the theory basically
is to be explained with the fractal nature of time; when nov-
elty is graphed over time, a fractal waveform known as
Timewave Zero results.
The graph shows at what times novelty is increasing or
decreasing. Now, this is what McKenna comments on the
theory in the present book:

39
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

What is happening to our world is ingression of novelty
toward what Whitehead called concrescence, a tightening
gyre. Everything is flowing together. The autopoietic lapis,
the alchemical stone at the end of time, coalesces when eve-
rything flows together. When the laws of physics are obvi-
ated, the universe disappears, and what is left is the tightly
bound plenum, the monad, able to express itself for itself,
rather than only able to cast a shadow into physis as its re-
flection. I come very close here to classical millenarian and
apocalyptic thought in my view of the rate at which change
is accelerating. From the way the gyre is tightening, I predict
that concrescence will occur soon—around 2012 A.D. It will
be the entry of our species into hyperspace, but it will ap-
pear to be the end of physical laws accompanied by the re-
lease of the mind into the imagination./101

Novelty, then, is put forward as a primary term necessary to
a description of any temporal system much in the way that
spin, velocity, and angular momentum are primary terms
necessary to the description of any physical system. Syno-
nyms for novelty are degree of connectedness or complexity.
/109

Quotes
‣ In addition to choosing to repress the strange abilities
of the shaman and the psychic potential of contact
with the Other, Western tradition has a built-in bias
against self-experimentation with hallucinogens. One
of the consequences of this is that not enough has been
written about the phenomenology of personal experi-
ences with the visionary hallucinogens. /3

‣ And I think what’s really happening is that a dialogue
opens up between the ego and these larger, more inte-

40
BOOK REVIEWS

grated parts of the psyche that are normally hidden
from view. Ego may be a fairly modern invention
meaning the last one or two thousand years a fairly
modern adaptation of the psyche to its environment.
One of the things happening in the Amazon is that
forest people say they enter into a group mind when
they take ayahuasca, and on it they make decisions for
the tribe – where to hunt, who to make war on, where
to move to, these kinds of things. /10

‣ So the issue finally comes down to the citizen versus
the self. The citizen is an extremely limited definition
of human potential. The self is a definition of human
potential so broad that it threatens the obligations of
the citizen. /12

‣ I am a political activist, but I think that the first duty of
a political activist is to become psychedelic. Otherwise
you’re not making your moves cognizant of the entire
field of action. /13

‣ Shamanism is use of the archaic techniques of ecstasy
that were developed independent of any religious phi-
losophy—the empirically validated, experientially op-
erable techniques that produce ecstasy. Ecstasy is the
contemplation of wholeness. That’s why when you
experience ecstasy—when you contemplate wholeness
—you come down remade in terms of the political and
social arena because you have seen the larger picture.
/13

‣ So it is the form of the mind that the shaman works
with: he has a larger view because he is not really in
his culture. (…) The shaman may appear a member of
the culture, but he’s broader, deeper, higher, and wider
than the culture that created him. /14

‣ I admire transpersonal psychotherapists. I think they
are trying to remake the shamanistic institution in a

41
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

modern form. What they have to realize is that they’re
wasting their time unless they use the shamanistic
tools. And the foremost tool of the shamans is the
technique of ecstasy, and that means the hallucino-
genic plants. /14

‣ There are three questions that you should ask yourself
about a drug you’re considering taking. Number one,
does it occur naturally in a plant or an animal? / Be-
cause nature has use-tested these compounds over
millions and millions of years. Something that came
out of the laboratory four or five years ago—who
knows? So it should be a product of the natural world.
Number two, does it have a history of human usage?
Mushrooms do. Mescaline does. LSD doesn’t. Ecstasy
doesn’t. And number three, and most important, it
should have some affinity to brain chemistry. It
shouldn’t be just like landing on the moon; it should
be related to what is driving ordinary consciousness.
The last criteria is the most narrow, because mescaline
won’t get through that. I think that drugs should be as
noninvasive as possible, and I know I’m on the right
track because the strongest psychedelic drugs there are
are the ones that last the shortest amount of time.
Now, what does that mean? It means that your brain
recognizes the compound and within a few minutes
can completely neutralize it. DMT is the strongest psy-
chedelic there is, yet it lasts only five minutes. Twenty
minutes after you do it, it’s like you never did it at all.
/16

‣ Nature is the great guide in all of this. The natural
chemistry of the brain. The natural history of the plant.
The naturally evolved shamanic institutions of small
groups of human beings that are still in touch with
reasonable social values. /15-16

‣ I think of Mahayana Buddhism, the multileveled,
many-inhabited, demon-haunted, Buddha-haunted

42
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realms of peace and joy. The insistence of Mahayana
Buddhism that there is really no center, that every-
thing is a construct of time and space, is the most so-
phisticated psychology. But I’m not willing to climb
aboard the Buddhist ethic because Buddhism says suf-
fering is inevitable. That’s not a psychedelic point of
view. /17

‣ And this is certainly part of what the psychedelics are
about: they force the evolution of language. And no
culture, so far as I am aware, has ever consciously
tried to evolve its language with the awareness that
evolving language was evolving reality. (…) The social
consequence of the psychedelic experience is clear
thinking—which trickles down as clear speech. Em-
powered speech. /21

‣ What is not well known is the communication model
that is happening in the octopus. Octopi change their
color not for camouflage purposes, as might be sup-
posed, but as a mode of communication. The blushes,
spots, and traveling bands of color that an ordinary
octopus can manifest are reflective of its linguistic in-
tent. Its language appears on the surface of its skin.
/22

‣ Ordinarily, telepathy is imagined to be you hearing me
think, then me hearing you think. But a richer notion
of telepathy would be if you could see my words,
rather than hear them—if they were actually sculp-
tural objects. I would make an utterance, then you and
I would stand and regard this utterance from all an-
gles. There would be no ambiguity. And this is exactly
what is going on with the octopi. Shamans do the
same thing. These shamanistic songs that are sung are
not intended to be heard, they are intended to be seen
by other people who are intoxicated. This crossing
from the heard to the seen is a very important part of
the revelation of the transcendental object. /22

43
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

‣ We are going to go from a linguistic mode that is heard
to a linguistic mode that is beheld. When this transi-
tion is complete, the ambiguity, the uncertainty, and
the subterfuge that haunt our efforts at communica-
tion will be obsolete. And it will be in this environ-
ment of beheld communication that the new world of
the Logos will be realized. /22

‣ This experience of an interior guiding voice with a
higher level of knowledge is not alien in Western his-
tory; however, the intellectual adventure of the last
thousand years has made an idea like that seem / pre-
posterous if not psychopathological. /27-28

‣ Unfortunately, religion for the past five hundred years
has been a hierarchical pyramid at whose top were
theologians interpreting dogma. This interpretation
was handed down through a hierarchy to the faithful.
I think religious hierarchies are very unsettled by the
idea of direct revelation. Nevertheless, this phenome-
non is certainly thriving in preliterate cultures all over
the world. We discovered in dealing with this that the
only people you could talk to about it or who seemed
to have familiarity with it were shamans. /28

‣ Anthropologists have commented on the absence of
serious mental disease in many preliterate cultures. I
believe that the mediation of the shaman and through
him the contact to the centering Logos, this source of
information or gnosis, is probably the cause of this
ability to heal or minimize psychological disorders.
/29

‣ Unless you shed your language and enter into these
cultures entirely, you will always have the point of
view of a stranger and an outsider. /29

‣ Psilocybin, in the minds of the uninformed public and
in the eyes of the law, is lumped together with LSD

44
BOOK REVIEWS

and mescaline, when in fact each of these compounds
is a phenomenologically defined universe unto itself.
Psilocybin and DMT invoke the Logos, although DMT
is more intense and more brief in its action. This
means that they work directly on the language centers,
so that an important aspect of the experience is the
interior dialogue. /36

‣ The Stropharia cubensis mushroom, if one can believe
what it says in one of its moods, is a symbiote, and it
desires ever deeper symbiosis with the human species.
It achieved symbiosis with human society early by
associating itself with domesticated cattle and through
them human nomads. Like the plants men and women
grew and the animals they husbanded, the mushroom
was able to inculcate itself into the human family, so
that where human genes went these other genes
would be carried. /40

‣ But the classic mushroom cults of Mexico were de-
stroyed by the coming of the Spanish conquest. The
Franciscans assumed they had an absolute monopoly
on theophagy, the eating of God; yet in the New World
they came upon people calling a mushroom teo-
nanacatl, the flesh of the gods; yet in the New World
they came upon people calling a mushroom teo-
nanacatl, the flesh of the gods. They set to work, and
the Inquisition was able to push the old religion into
the mountains of Oaxaca so that it only survived in a
few villages when Valentina and Gordon Wasson
found it there in the 1950’s. /40

‣ Ignorance burned the libraries of the Hellenistic world
at an earlier period and dispersed the ancient knowl-
edge, shattering the stellar and astronomical machin-
ery that had been the work of centuries. By ignorance I
mean the Hellenistic-Christian-Judaic tradition. The
inheritors of this tradition built a triumph of mecha-
nism. It was they who later realized the alchemical

45
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

dreams of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries - and
the twentieth century - with the transformation of
elements and the discovery of gene transplants. But
then, having conquered the New World and driven its
people into cultural fragmentation and diaspora, they
came unexpectedly upon the body of Osiris—the con-
densed body of Eros—in the mountains of / Mexico
where Eros has retreated at the coming of the Christos.
And by finding the mushroom, they unleashed it. /40-
41

‣ As I said, I am an explorer, not a scientist. If I were
unique, then none of my conclusions would have any
meaning outside the context of myself. My experi-
ences, like yours, have to be more or less a part of the
human condition. Some may have more facility for
such exploration than others, and these states may be
difficult to achieve, but they are part of the human
condition. There are a few clues that these extradimen-
sional places exist. If art carries images out of the
Other from the Logos to the world—drawing ideas
down into matter—why is human art history so de-
void of what psychedelic voyagers have experienced
so totally? Perhaps the flying saucer or UFO is the cen-
tral motif to be understood in order to get a handle on
reality here and now. We are alienated, so alienated
that the self must disguise itself as an extraterrestrial
in order not to alarm us with the truly bizarre dimen-
sions that it encompasses. When we can love the alien,
then we will have begun to heal the psychic disconti-
nuity that has plagued us since at least the sixteenth
century, possibly earlier. /43

‣ My testimony is that magic is alive in hyperspace. It is
not necessary to believe me, only to form a relation-
ship with these hallucinogenic plants. The fact is that
the gnosis comes from plants. /43

46
BOOK REVIEWS

‣ I will add a cautionary note. I always feel odd telling
people to verify my observations since the sine qua
non is the hallucinogenic plant. Experimenters should
be very careful. One must build up to the experience.
These are bizarre dimensions of extraordinary power
and beauty. There is no set rule to avoid being over-
whelmed, but move carefully, reflect a great deal, and
always try to map experiences back onto the history of
the race and the philosophical and religious accom-
plishments / of the species. /43-44

‣ The tragedy of our cultural situation is that we have
no shamanic tradition. Shamanism is primarily tech-
niques, not ritual. It is a set of techniques that have
been worked out over millennia that make it possible,
though perhaps not for everyone, to explore these ar-
eas. People of predilection are noticed and encour-
aged. /45

‣ In archaic societies where shamanism is a thriving in-
stitution, the signs are fairly easy to recognize: odd-
ness and uniqueness in an individual. (…) Among as-
piring shamans there must be some sign of inner
strength or a hypersensitivity to trance states. In trav-
eling around the world and dealing with shamans, I
find the distinguishing characteristic is an extraordi-
nary centeredness. Usually the shaman is an intellec-
tual and is alienated from society. A good shaman sees
exactly who you are and says, ‘Ah, here’s somebody to
have a conversation with.’ The anthropological litera-
ture always presents shamans as embedded in a tradi-
tion, but once one gets to know them they are always
very sophisticated about what they are doing. They
are the true phenomenologists of this world; they
know plant chemistry, yet they call these energy fields
‘spirits’. /45

‣ Shamans are peripheral to society’s goings on in ordi-
nary social life in every sense of the word. /46

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

‣ What good is a theory of how the universe works if it’s
a series of tensor equations that, even when under-
stood, come nowhere tangential to experience? The
only intellectual or noetic or spiritual path worth fol-
lowing is one that builds on personal experience. /46

‣ What the mushroom says about itself is this: that it is
an extraterrestrial organism, that spores can survive
the conditions of interstellar space. (…) Is it possible
that these mushrooms never evolved on earth? That is
what Stropharia cubensis itself suggests. Global cur-
rents may form on the outside of the spore. The spores
are very light and by Brownian motion are capable of
percolation to the edge of a planet’s atmosphere. Then,
through interaction with energetic particles, some
small number could actually escape into space. Under-
stand that this is an evolutionary strategy where only
one in many billions of spores actually makes the tran-
sition between the stars a biological strategy of radiat-
ing throughout the galaxy without a technology. Of
course, this happens over very long periods of time.
/46-47

‣ I couldn’t figure out whether the mushroom is the
alien or the mushroom is some kind of technological
artifact allowing me to hear the alien when the alien is
actually light-years away, using some kind of Bell non-
locality principle to communicate. /47

‣ The mushroom states its own position very clearly. It
says, ‘I require the nervous system of a mammal. Do
you have one handy?’ /47

‣ The Italian Renaissance ran on spices; they had to get
spices from somewhere, so they bought them. ‘Spices’
is a very ambiguous term. If we could get psychedelics
classified as spices they would come under the control
not of psychotherapists and mental health care people
but of chefs and maître d’s. Then we would have an

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entirely different approach to the administration of
psychedelic substances, set, setting, goals. /55

‣ [Follows a very interesting dialog with Ralph Metzner
that is important word for word].

‣ Ralph Metzner: Your ideas, as well as Albert Hof-
mann’s idea about the role of ergotlike plants in Ele-
usis, tie into the notion of the reawakening of the old
gods. These are sacred plants that were treated as sa-
cred beings, divine beings, basically deities. If we are
in fact able to identify what soma was, we will be able
to identify and re-create the original source-energy
behind the Indo-European civilization. Similarly, if we
rediscover and are able to incorporate whatever was
used at Eleusis, we will have the original impetus be-
hind Greek-European civilization that carried it for
two thousand years as the primary vehicle of religious
experience. /56

‣ Terence McKenna: Soma is the light at the beginning
and end of history. This is the notion. It infuses history.
History is a process that it created for its own pur-
poses. We are involved in a symbiotic relationship
with a biological creature that is like a god because it is
so advanced, different, and in possession of such a
peculiar body of information compared with our-
selves. /56

‣ Ralph Metzner: Another brief point about soma:
Whatever soma was, why did it disappear? There are
not any Stropharia cubensis or Amanita or any of these
other hallucinogens in India now. If it is there, it is
fairly remote and not a widespread thing like alcohol
or wine, which became a widespread religious-social
drug in all of Western culture. My theory about what
happened then is the same as what happens now, that
the use of soma, which was a genuine religious intoxi-
cant in the sense that it produced a religious experi-

49
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

ence and direct knowledge of God, was stamped out
systematically by the priesthoods, who were primarily
intent upon maintaining their own power structure. If
people could have a direct experience of God by tak-
ing mushrooms or any other plant they would not be
interested in priestly power structures they couldn’t
care less. Why should they talk to a priest if they could
talk directly to God? /56

‣ Terence McKenna: This is the deconditioning factor.
/56

‣ Ralph Metzner: We saw in the sixties and we see now
that the power holders in society do not want large
numbers of people taking substances or plants that
expand their consciousness. A few here or there do not
bother them. But if it grows into large numbers that
make a lot of noise, they don’t want it. /56

‣ Terence McKenna: This is why the vertical approach is
better. Deeper experiences for a harder core. /56

‣ My brother and I discovered during our expedition to
the Amazon in 1971 that accumulation of the trypta-
mines in one’s system seems to confer the ability to
inhabit more than one world at once, as though an-
other world were superimposed over reality. This is a
super-reality, a hyperdimensional world where infor-
mation is accessible in magical ways. /58

‣ It is not, strictly speaking, a contact from a space-
faring race that has come from the stars, nor is it mass
hysteria or delusion. /59

‣ The UFO is an idea intended to confound science, be-
cause science has begun to threaten the existence of
the human species as well as the ecosystem of the
planet. At this point, a shock is necessary for the cul-
ture, a shock equivalent to the Resurrection on Roman

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BOOK REVIEWS

imperialism. (…) I think that to some degree science
has betrayed human destiny. We have been led to
brink of star flight, but we’ve also been led to the brink
of thermonuclear holocaust. The result of this betrayal
is that science may well be swept away by the revela-
tion of the UFO. /61

‣ A voice that gave guidance and revelation to Western
civilization has been silent for about seventeen hun-
dred years. This is the Logos and all ancient philoso-
phers strove to invoke it. For Hellenistic philosophy it
was a voice that told self-evident truth. With the pass-
ing of the Aeon and the death of the pagan gods,
awareness of this phenomenon faded. However, it is
still available through the mediation of the plant
teachers. If we could intelligently examine dimensions
that the psychedelic plants make available, we could
contact the Oversoul and leave behind this era where
dominance hierarchies must be disciplined by UFOs
and messiahs, and where progress is halted for mil-
lennia because culture cannot advance ethics at the
same rate as technology. /61-62

‣ We need to face the fact that there is a level of hierar-
chical control being exerted on the human species as a
whole and that our destiny is not ours to decide. It is
in the hands of a weirdly democratic, amoeboid,
hyperintelligent superorganism that is called Every-
body. As we come to terms with this, as we take our
place embedded in the body of Everybody, informa-
tion flows more freely and the reality of this informa-
tional creature is seen more clearly. The fact is that we
are in a symbiotic relationship with an organism made
of information, and this is the situation classic sha-
manic plant hallucinogens reinforce very strongly. /64

‣ The great majority of people interested in flying sau-
cers are hardware nuts convinced that UFOs are ships

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from Zeta Reticuli. The shamanic and psychological
explanation is not particularly welcome anywhere. /67

‣ The early approach with psychedelics was the correct
one. This is the notion that intelligent, thoughtful peo-
ple should take psychedelics and try and understand
what’s going on. Not groups of prisoners, not gradu-
ate students, but mature, intelligent people need to
share their experiences. It’s too early for a science.
What we need now are the diaries of explorers. We
need many diaries of many explorers so we can begin
to get a feeling for the territory. /69

‣ The UFO comes form this murky region, beyond the
end of history, beyond the end of life. It is both supra-
historical and supraorganic. It is uncanny, alien; it
raises the hair on the back of one’s neck. It is both the
apotheosis and the antithesis of the monkey’s journey
toward mind. It is the mind revealing itself. This is
what all religion is about: shock waves given off by an
event at the end of history. We are now very close to
that event, and Psilocybin can help us to understand it
because Psilocybin conveys one into the place where it
is happening constantly. The Aeon, eternity, and the
millennium are accomplished facts, not an anticipa-
tion. Hence the mushroom stands at the end of history.
It stands for an object that pulls all history toward it-
self. It’s a causal force that operates upon us backward
through time. It is why things happen the way they
do; because everything is being pulled forward toward
a nexus of transformation. /70

‣ To sum up what I’ve said about religion, it is as
though the Father-God notion were being replaced by
the alien-partner notion. The alien-partner is like the
angelic tetramorph. It is androgynous, hermaphro-
ditic, transhuman; it is all these things that the uncon-
scious chooses to project upon it until we have enough

52
BOOK REVIEWS

information to define what it might actually be for it-
self. /73

‣ Eventually this contact will occur. We are now in the
pubescent stage of yearning, of forming an image of
the thing desired. This image of the thing desired will
eventually cause that thing come into being. In other
words, our cultural direction is being touched by the
notion of / alien love, and it comes to us through the
rebirth of the use of plant hallucinogens. The shamanic
vision plants seem to be the carriers of this pervasive
entelechy that speaks and that can present itself to us
in this particular way. /73-74

‣ The appetite for this fusion is what is propelling global
culture toward an apocalyptic transformation. (…) But
it could also slip away. We could harden; there are
dominator, hypertechnological futures that we could
sail toward and realize. That would eliminate this pos-
sibility of opening to the Other. /74

‣ There is tension around the flying saucer, aside from
the erotic connotation, because the flying saucer repre-
sents a tremendous challenge to science, perhaps the
ultimate challenge. It may be as confounding to sci-
ence as the resurrection of Christ was to Greek empiri-
cism and Roman imperialism. The flying saucer is es-
sentially an agent of cultural change. /75-76

‣ The zeitgeist of hyperspace that is emerging, initially
freighted with technology and cybernetics, requires
that it be consciously tuned to an erotic ideal. It is im-
portant to articulate the presence of this erotic ideal of
the Other early. This is an opportunity to fall in love
with the Other, get married, and go off to the stars; but
it’s only an opportunity and not evolutionarily neces-
sary. /76

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

‣ But in the Amazon and other places where plant hal-
lucinogens are understood and used, you are con-
veyed into worlds that are appallingly different from
ordinary reality. Their vividness cannot be stressed
enough. They are more real than real. And that’s some-
thing that you sense intuitively. They establish an on-
tological priority. They are more real than real, and
once you get that under your belt and let it rattle
around in your mind, then the compass of your life
begins to spin and you realize that you are not looking
in on the Other; the Other is looking in on you. /78

‣ The story you tell yourself about how the world works
can’t explain to you how forming the wish to close
your open hand into a fist makes it happen. This is the
true status of present science. It cannot offer so much
as a clue about how that happens. Scientists know
how muscles contract all that they know. It’s the initi-
ating phenomenon, that which decides ‘I will close my
hand’. They know as much about that as and perhaps
less than Western or Eastern philosophy knew in the
twelfth century. /78

‣ As human history goes forward, we develop the lin-
guistic discrimination to be able to recognize the extra-
terrestrials that are already insinuated into the plane-
tary environment around us, some of which may have
been here millions and millions of years. In other
words, space is not an impermeable barrier to life;
there is slow drift. There is genetic material that is
transferred through space and time over vast dis-
tances. /80

‣ I don’t think that mass drug taking is a good idea. But
I think that we must have a deputized minority a
shamanic professional class, if you will whose job is to
bring ideas out of the deep, black water and show
them to the rest of us. Such people would perform for

54
BOOK REVIEWS

our culture some of the cultural functions that sha-
mans performed in preliterate cultures. /82

‣ Evolutionary biologists consider humans to be an un-
evolving species. Some time in the last fifty thousand
years, with the invention of culture, the biological evo-
lution of humans ceased and evolution became an epi-
genetic, cultural phenomenon. Tools, languages, and
philosophies began to evolve, but the human soma-
type remained the same. Hence, physically, we are
very much like people of a long time ago. But technol-
ogy is the real skin of our species. Humanity, correctly
seen in the context of the last five hundred years, is an
extruder of technological material. We take in matter
that has a low degree of organization; we put it
through mental filters, and we extrude jewelry, gos-
pels, space shuttles. /92-93

‣ The conventions of relativity say that time slows down
as one approaches the speed of light, but if one tries to
imagine the point of view of a thing made of light, one
must realize that what is never mentioned is that if
one moves at the speed of light there is no time what-
soever. There is an experience of time zero. So if one
imagines for a moment oneself to be made of light, or
in possession of a vehicle that can move at the speed of
light, one can traverse from any point in the universe
to any other with a subjective experience of time zero.
This means that one crosses to Alpha Centauri in time
zero, but the amount of time that has passed in the
relativistic universe is four and a half years. But if one
moves very great distances, of one crosses two hun-
dred and fifty thousand light-years to Andromeda,
one would still have a subjective experience of time
zero. /95

‣ Our institutions, our epistemologies are bankrupt and
exhausted; we must start anew and hope that with the

55
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

help of shamanically inspired personalities, we can
cultivate the ancient mystery once again. /98

‣ In my opinion the unique quality of Psilocybin is that
it reveals not colored lights and moving grids, but
places jungles, cities, machines, books, architectonic
forms of incredible complexity. There is no possibility
that this could be construed as neurological noise of
any sort. It is, in fact, the most highly ordered visual
information that one can experience, much more
highly ordered than the normal waking vision. /98

‣ What is happening to our world is ingression of nov-
elty toward what Whitehead called ‘concrescence’, a
tightening gyre. Everything is flowing together. The
‘autopoetic lapis’, the alchemical stone at the end of
time, coalesces when everything flows together. When
the laws of physics are obviated, the universe disap-
pears, and what is left is the tightly bound plenum, the
monad, able to express itself for itself, rather than only
able to cast a shadow into physis as its reflection. I
come very close here to classical millenarian and
apocalyptic thought in my view of the rate at which
change is accelerating. From the way the gyre is tight-
ening, I predict that concrescence will occur soon
around 2012 A.D. It will be the entry of our species
into hyperspace, but it will appear to be the end of
physical laws accompanied by the release of the mind
into the imagination. /101

‣ Novelty, then, is put forward as a primary term neces-
sary to a description of any temporal system much in
the way that spin, velocity, and angular momentum
are primary terms necessary to the description of any
physical system. Synonyms for ‘novelty’ are ‘degree of
connectedness’ or ‘complexity.’ /109

‣ In my confrontations with the personified Other that is
resident in the mushroom, part of its message was its

56
BOOK REVIEWS

species-specific uniqueness and its desire for a symbi-
otic relationship with humans. At other times it pre-
sented itself not so much as a personage but as a giant
network that many sorts of beings in different parts of
the universe were using for their own purposes. I felt
like a two-year-old child who struggles with the ques-
tion, ‘Are there little people in the radio?’ Perhaps the
psilocybin-revealed dimension is a kind of network of
information and images, or something even more sub-
stantial. /117

‣ Chemists who made the early attempts to isolate the
alkaloids in B. caapi gave their compound the roman-
tic name telepathine, reflecting the deep forest reputa-
tion of yagé as a genuinely telepathic drug. /117

‣ ‘Ecstatic’ is a word unnecessary to define except opera-
tionally: an ecstatic experience is one that one wishes
to have over and over again. /144

‣ One view of plant hallucinogens is to see them as
inter-species pheromones or exopheronomes. Phero-
mones are chemical compounds exuded by an organ-
ism for the purpose of carrying messages between or-
ganisms of the same species. (…) If hallucinogens are
operating as exopheronomes, then the dynamic sym-
biotic relationship between primate and hallucino-
genic plant is actually a transfer of information from
one species to another. /145

‣ It is reasonable to suggest that human language arose
out of the synergy of primate organizational potential
by plant hallucinogens. Indeed, this possibility was
brilliantly anticipated by Henry Munn in his essay
‘The Mushrooms of Language’ (1973). Munn writes:

‣ Language is an ecstatic activity of signification. Intoxi-
cated by the mushroom, the fluency, the ease, the apt-
ness of expression one becomes capable of are of such

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

that one is astounded by the words that issue forth
from the contact of the intention of articulation with
the matter of experience. The spontaneity the mush-
rooms liberate is not only perceptual, but linguistic.
For the shaman, it is as if existence were uttering itself
through him.

‣ The people of Çatal Hüyük and other Mesopotamian
peoples existed undisturbed in the ancient Middle
East for a long time, practicing their Mother Goddess
religion. Then, around five to seven thousand B.P., a
different kind of people with wheeled chariots, patri-
archy and a ritual involving horse sacrifice swept
down from north of the Caspian Sea into Turkey and
Anatolia, and what is now Iraq and Iran, encountering
the pastoral, mushroom-using lowlanders. /150

‣ The Ninth Mandala of the Rig Veda especially goes
into great detail about soma and states that soma
stands above the gods. Soma is the supreme entity.
Soma is the moon; soma is masculine. Here we have a
rare phenomenon: a male lunar deity. The connection
between the feminine and the moon is so deep and
obvious that a lunar male deity stands out, making its
traditional history in the region easy to trace. /152

‣ It is my suggestion that the mushroom religion is ac-
tually the generic religion of human beings and that all
later adumbrations of religion stem from the cult of
ritual ingestion of mushrooms to induce ecstasy. /153

‣ A rethinking of the role that hallucinogenic plants and
fungi have played in the promotion of human emer-
gence from the substrata of primate organization can
help to lay the basis for a new appreciation of the
unique confluence of factors responsible and necessary
for the evolution of human beings. The widely felt in-
tuition of the presence of the Other as a female com-
panion to the human navigation of history can, I be-

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BOOK REVIEWS

lieve, be traced back to the immersion in the vegetable
mind that provided the ritual context in which human
consciousness emerged into the light of self-
awareness, self-reflection, and self-articulation: the
light of the Great Goddess. /153

‣ This dualism of the interior and the exterior may have
to be overcome. It obviously transcends the individ-
ual. But I suspect it is something like an Overmind of
the species and that the highest form of human or-
ganization is not realized in the democratic individual.
It is realized in a dimension none of us has ever pene-
trated - the mind of the species. It is the hand at the
tiller of history. It is no government, no religious
group, but actually what we call the human uncon-
scious; however, it is not unconscious, and it is not
simply a cybernetic repository of myth and memory. It
is an organized entelechy of some sort, and though
human history is its signature on the primates, it is
very different from the primates. It is like a creature of
pure information. It is made of language. It releases
ideas into the flowing stream of history to boost the
primates toward higher and higher levels of self-
reflection. /159

‣ [M]odern theories are that hallucinogens shift empha-
sis from left- to right-brain thinking. /189

‣ DMT is a neurotransmitter that, when ingested and
allowed to come to rest in unusually large amounts in
the synapses of the brain, allows one to see sound, so
that one can use the voice to produce not musical
compositions, but pictorial and visual compositions.
This, to my mind, indicates that we’re on the cusp of
some kind of evolutionary transition in the language-
forming area, so that we are going to go from a lan-
guage that is heard to a language that is seen, through
a shift in interior processing. The language will still be
made of sound, but it will be processed as the carrier

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

of the visual impression. This is actually being done by
shamans in the Amazon. The songs they sing sound as
they do in order to look a certain way. They are not
musical compositions as we’re used to thinking of
them. They are pictorial art that is caused by audio
signals. /209

‣ One of the things that interests me about dreams is
this: I have dreams in which I smoke DMT, and it
works. To me that’s extremely interesting, because it
seems to imply that one does not have to smoke DMT
to have the experience. You only have to convince
your brain that you have done this, and it then deliv-
ers this staggering altered state. /210

‣ There are times and this would be a great study for
somebody to do there have been periods in English
when there were emotions that don’t exist anymore,
because the words have been lost. This is getting very
close to this business of how reality is made by lan-
guage. Can we recover a lost emotion by creating a
word for it? There are colors that don’t exist anymore
because the words have been lost. I’m thinking of the
word jacinth. This is a certain kind of orange. Once
you know the word jacinth, you always can recognize
it, but if you don’t have it, all you can say is it’s a little
darker orange than something else. We’ve never tried
to consciously evolve our language, we’ve just let it
evolve, but now we have this level of awareness, and
this level of cultural need where we really must plan
where the new words should be generated. There are
areas where words should be gotten rid of that em-
power political wrong thinking. The propagandists for
the fascists already understand this; they understand
that if you make something unsayable, you’ve made it
unthinkable. So it doesn’t plague you anymore. So
planned evolution of language is the way to speed it
toward expressing the frontier of consciousness. /214

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BOOK REVIEWS

‣ Botanical Dimensions is a nonprofit foundation that
attempts to rescue plants with a history of shamanic
and human usage in the warm topics, and rescue the
information about how they’re used, store the infor-
mation in computers, and move the plants to a
nineteen-acre site in Hawaii, in a rain forest belt that
reasonably replicates the Amazon situation. There we
are keeping them toward the day when someone will
want to do serious research on them. As a nonprofit
foundation, we solicit donations, publish a newsletter,
support a number of collectors in the field, and carry
on this work, which nobody else is really doing.
There’s a lot of rain forest conservation going on, but
very little effort to conserve the folk knowledge of na-
tive peoples. Amazonian people are going off to saw-
mills and learning to repair outboard motors, and this
whole body of knowledge about plants is going to be
lost in the next generation. We’re saving it, and saving
the plants in a botanical garden in Hawaii. /216

‣ Reestablishing channels of direct communication with
the planetary Other, the mind behind nature, through
the use of hallucinogenic plants is the last best hope
for dissolving the steep walls of cultural inflexibility
that appear to be channeling us toward true ruin. We
need a new set of lenses to see our way in the world.
When the medieval world shifted its worldview, secu-
larized European society sought salvation in the re-
vivifying of classical Greek and Roman approaches to
law, philosophy, / aesthetics, city planning, and agri-
culture. Our dilemma will cast us further back into
time in a search for models and answers. /218-219

‣ The solution of much of modern malaise, including
chemical dependencies and repressed psychoses and
neuroses, is direct exposure to the authentic dimen-
sions of risk represented by the experience of psyche-
delic plants. The pro-psychedelic plant position is
clearly an antidrug position. Drug dependencies are

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

the result of habitual, unexamined, and obsessive be-
havior; these are precisely the tendencies in our psy-
chological makeup that the psychedelics mitigate. The
plant hallucinogens dissolve habits and hold motiva-
tions up to inspection by a wider, less egocentric, and
more grounded point of view within the individual.
/219

‣ What I call the Archaic Revival is the process of re-
awakening awareness of traditional attitudes toward
nature, including plants and our relationship to them.
The Archaic Revival spells the eventual breakup of the
pattern of male dominance and hierarchy based on
animal organization, something that cannot be
changed overnight by a sudden shift in collective
awareness. /219

‣ The closer a human group is to the gnosis of the vege-
table mind the Gaian collectivity of organic life the
closer their connection to the archetype of the Goddess
and hence to the partnership style of social organiza-
tion. The last time that the mainstream of Western
thought was refreshed by the gnosis of the vegetable
mind was at the close of the Hellenistic Era, before the
Mystery religions were finally suppressed by enthusi-
astic Christian barbarians. /219

‣ Later, more sophisticated observers (C.H. Waddington
and Erich Jantsch) found not the War in Nature that
Darwinists reported but rather a situation in which it
was not competitive ability but ability to maximize
cooperation with other species that most directly con-
tributed to an organism’s being able to function and
endure as a member of a biome. Plants interact with
each other through the tangled mat of roots that con-
nects them all to the source of their nutrition and to
each other. /221

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BOOK REVIEWS

‣ The matted floor of the tropical rain forest is an envi-
ronment of great chemical diversity; the topology ap-
proaches that of brain tissue in its complexity. Within
the network of interconnected roots, complex chemical
signals are constantly being transmitted and received.
Coadaptive evolution and symbiotic relationships
regulate this entire system with a ubiquitousness that
argues for the evolutionary primacy / of these coop-
erative strategies. For example, mycorrhizal fungi live
in symbiosis on the outside of plant roots and gently
balance and buffer the mineral-laden water that is
moving through them to the roots of their host. /221-
222

‣ We can only admire and we should seek to imitate
such a Tao-like sense of the planet’s multidimensional
homeostatic balance. /222

‣ Like plants, we need to recycle. On a cosmic scale we
are no more mobile than plants. Until this point in his-
tory we have modeled our more successful economic
systems on animal predation. Animals can potentially
move on to another resource when they exhaust the
one at hand. Since they can move to new food sources,
they potentially have unlimited resources. Plants are
fixed. /222

‣ This return to a perspective on self and ego that places
them within the larger context of planetary life and
evolution is the essence of the Archaic Revival. /225

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

Food of the Gods
The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge:
A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishers, 1993

Review
Food of the Gods of perhaps McKenna’s best book, and I
have read it with an enthusiastic participation that I have
rarely experienced in my literary life. It was as if I was co-
authoring the book while reading it.
And this book is much more coherent than The Archaic
Revival, and much less esoteric than The Invisible Land-
scape—the book I shall review next. In fact, it treats a very
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important subject that is rather obfuscated in modern
times: food. When I say obfuscated I really mean that most
modern city dwellers have developed no consciousness of
what they ingest on a daily basis; they are just gnawing
away their very juice of life, with all the toxics that modern
processed food contains.
While in ancient times food was medicine.
You still have this philosophy in the Chinese food tra-
dition where there are many dishes, for example a whole
array of mushroom dishes, that originally were concocted
for medical purposes but that today we eat just for enrich-
ing our daily diet. There is one rather esoteric dish among
them, that is called the ‘black chicken.’

The interesting thing about this dish is that while you
can buy these small black chickens in any supermarket in
Asia, the other ingredients you best don’t buy there, but in
a Chinese medical pharmacy. They will open a number of
little drawers for you and put on a sheet of paper a curious
composition of mushrooms, herbs, spices and dried plums
that you take home for a few cents.
Now, you brew this with water, add the little chicken
and just put some salt. You cannot imagine what this dish
can do! It cures any cold, influenza or cough—guaranteed!
The taste is exotic, it really tastes like medicine, and the red
meat of this little black chicken really has a good taste. This
is the way to enjoy life as the ancients did: you eat what
you like, but you eat medicine at the same time.

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McKenna’s mind was incredibly lucid for unveiling the
machinations of our negative oversoul, and I wonder if any
of his predictions are really understood by a larger number
of people, other than the eternal adolescent-minded and
hopelessly narcissistic baby boomers that surrounded him
like a plague all through his life, and that surely will not
have the necessary strength to assume his heritage. He
writes:

Our culture, self-toxified by the poisonous by-products of
technology and egocentric ideology, is the unhappy inheritor
of the dominator attitude that alteration of consciousness by
the use of plants or substances is somehow wrong, onanistic,
and perversely antisocial. I will argue that suppression of
shamanic gnosis, with its reliance and insistence on ecstatic
dissolution of the ego, has robbed us of life’s meaning and
made us enemies of the planet, of ourselves, and our grand-
children. We are killing the planet in order to keep intact the
wrongheaded assumptions of the ego-dominator cultural
style. It is time for change./xxi

Food and mind do interact: this is the essential mes-
sage of this book. And there is one more link to it. Food
acts on sexuality, and sexuality acts in turn on the mind.
This is not an insight unique to McKenna’s food research
but many studies have shown that alcohol abuse has a par-
ticular effect on sexuality in that it renders the sexual appe-
tite more violent, more sadistic, or else leads to impotence.
McKenna speaks of an ‘alcohol culture’ and a little later he
also speaks of a ‘coffee culture’ so as to characterize, in
terms of food, our patriarchal tradition:

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Dominator style hatred of women, general sexual ambiva-
lence and anxiety, and alcohol culture conspired to create the
peculiarly neurotic approach to sexuality that characterizes
European civilization. Gone are the boundary-dissolving
hallucinogenic orgies that diminished the ego of the indi-
vidual and reasserted the values of the extended family and
the tribe./148

On the other hand, the current demonization of the
harmless hallucinogenic Cannabis will in the author’s opin-
ion cause us a particularly heavy price to pay for the sur-
render to dominator values in that it will bring about the
deterioration of the individual self, and selfhood:

Of all the pandemic plant intoxicants inhabiting the earth,
cannabis is second only to mushrooms in its promotion of
the social values and sensory ratios that typified the original
partnership societies. How else are we to explain the unre-
lenting persecution of cannabis use in the face of over-
whelming evidence that, of all the intoxicants ever used,
cannabis is among the most benign. Its social consequences
are negligible compared with those of alcohol. Cannabis is
anathema to the dominator culture because it deconditions
or decouples users from accepted values. Because of its sub-
liminally psychedelic effect, cannabis, when pursued as a
lifestyle, places a person in intuitive contact with less goal-
oriented and less competitive behavior patterns. For these
reasons marijuana is unwelcome in the modern office envi-
ronment, while a drug such as coffee, which reinforces the
values of industrial culture, is both welcomed and encour-
aged. Cannabis use is correctly sensed as heretical and
deeply disloyal to the values of male dominance and strati-
fied hierarchy. Legalization of marijuana is thus a complex

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issue, since it involves legitimating a social factor that might
ameliorate or even modify ego-dominant values. Legaliza-
tion and taxation of cannabis would provide a tax base that
could help clean up the national deficit. Instead, we continue
to hurl millions of dollars into marijuana eradication, a pol-
icy that creates suspicion and a permanent criminal class in
communities that are otherwise among the most law abiding
in the country./155

At the same time, with the suppression of Cannabis, a
most harmful and toxic food rises: sugar. McKenna writes:

Let us be absolutely clear, sugar is entirely unnecessary to
the human diet; before the arrival of industrial cane and beet
sugar humanity managed well enough without refined
sugar, which is nearly pure sucrose. Sugar contributes noth-
ing that cannot be gotten from some other, easily avail able
source. It is a ‘kick,’ nothing more. Yet for this kick the
dominator culture of Europe was willing to betray the ideals
of the Enlightenment by its collusion with slave traders. In
1800 virtually every ton of sugar imported into England had
been produced with slave labor. The ability of the ego-
dominator culture to suppress these realities is
astonishing./178

I know that most people are unaware of the dangers of
modern-day sugar ingestion, and gradually destroy the
health of their children with this peak form of ignorance
that is promoted and encouraged by all governments in
the world. McKenna unveils the cunning trick that led to a
total inattention to sugar as a really harmful drug:

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Sugar is culturally defined by us as a food. This definition
denies that sugar can act as a highly addictive drug, yet the
evidence is all around us. Many children and compulsive
eaters live in a motivational environment primarily ruled by
mood swings resulting from cravings for sugar./180

Then, eventually, we talk about tobacco and the myth
of its cancerogenous nature that not only McKenna has
unveiled in the meantime, but also a number of other re-
searchers:

The tobacco of the Classical Maya was Nicotiana rustica,
which is still in use among aboriginal populations in South
America today. This species is much more potent, chemically
complex, and potentially hallucinogenic than the commercial
grades of Nicotiana tabacum available today. The difference
between this tobacco and cigarette tobacco is profound. This
wild tobacco was cured and rolled into cigars which were
smoked. The / trancelike state that followed, partially syn-
ergized by the presence of compounds that included MAO
inhibitors, was central to the shamanism of the Maya. Re-
cently introduced antidepressants of the MAO inhibitor type
are distant synthetic relatives to these natural compounds.
/196-197

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Opium addiction was once the price paid for the pro-
hibition of tobacco, as addiction to gasoline has been seen
to be one of the consequences of alcohol prohibitions both
in 1930s America and in Iran under the reign of Ayatollah
Khomeini. As a general rule, you can observe in life that
every denial brings about worse a condition compared to
the original desire that was denied to manifest. Only that
our decision-makers have so far not fully understood this
law of the psyche. McKenna writes:

It was the prohibition of tobacco smoking in China by the
last emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1628-1644) that led frus-
trated tobacco addicts to experiment with smoking opium.
Before that time the smoking of opium was not known. Thus
it is that the suppression of one drug seems inevitably to
lead to involvement with another. /201

So much depends on how we define food, or not define
it as food! Psychedelics were originally defined as food,
and no one had a problem with them. And the suppression
of culture and the suppression of food go hand in hand, as
McKenna lucidly demonstrates:

Psychedelic plants and experience were first suppressed by
European civilization, then ignored and forgotten. The
fourth century witnessed the suppression of the mystery
religions—the cults of Bacchus and Diana, of Attis and Cy-
bele. The rich syncretism that was typical of the Hellenistic
world had become a thing of the past. Christianity tri-
umphed over the Gnostic sects—Valentinians, Marcionites,
and others—which were the last bastions of paganism. These
repressive episodes in the evolution of Western thought ef-

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fectively close the door on communication with the Gaian
mind./223

I would like to close this book review with a reproduc-
tion of McKenna’s unique law draft, which he entitled ‘A
Modest Proposal’, and hope that the publisher will allow
me to share this information here, which is surely not des-
tined to preclude any book sales, and in the contrary en-
courage the reader to buy the book:

A drug policy of democratic values would aim to educate
people to make informed choices based on their own needs
and ideals. Such a simple prescription is necessary and sadly
overdue. / A master plan for seriously seeking to come to
terms with America’s drug problems might explore a num-
ber of options, including the following.

1. A 200 percent federal tax should be imposed on tobacco
and alcohol. All government subsidies for tobacco produc-
tion should be ended. Warnings on packaging should be
strengthened. A 20 percent federal sales tax should be levied
on sugar and sugar substitutes, and all supports for sugar
production should be ended. Sugar packages should also
carry warnings, and sugar should be a mandatory topic in
school nutrition curricula.

2. All forms of cannabis should be legalized and a 200 per-
cent federal sales tax imposed on cannabis products. Infor-
mation as to the THC content of the product and current
conclusions regarding its impact on health should be printed
on the packaging.

3. International Monetary Fund and World Bank lending
should be withdrawn from countries that produce hard

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drugs. Only international inspection and certification that a
country is in compliance would restore loan eligibility.

4. Strict gun control must apply to both manufacture and
possession. It is the unrestricted availability of firearms that
has made violent crime and the drug abuse problem so inter-
twined.

5. The legality of nature must be recognized, so that all
plants are legal to grow and possess.

6. Psychedelic therapy should be made legal and insurance
coverage extended to include it.

7. Currency and banking regulations need to be strength-
ened. Presently bank collusion with criminal cartels allows
large-scale money laundering to take place.

8. There is an immediate need for massive support for scien-
tific research into all aspects of substance use and abuse and
an equally massive commitment to public education.

9. One year after implementation of the above, all drugs still
illegal in the United States should be decriminalized. The
middleman is eliminated, the government can sell drugs at
cost plus 200 percent, and those monies can be placed in a
special fund to pay the social, medical, and educational costs
of the legalization program. Money from taxes on alcohol,
tobacco, sugar, and cannabis can also be placed in this fund.

10. Also following this one-year period, pardons should be
given to all offenders in drug cases that did not involve fire-
arms or felonious assault. /269-270

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Quotes
‣ No light can penetrate this situation of pandemic drug
use and abuse unless we undertake a hard-eyed reap-
praisal of our present situation and an examination of
some old, nearly forgotten, patterns of drug-related
experience and behavior. The importance of this task
cannot be overestimated. Clearly the self-
administration of psychoactive substances, legal and
illegal, will be increasingly a part of the future unfold-
ing of global culture. /xiv

‣ In the prehistoric but post-Archaic times of about 5000
to 3000 B.C., suppression of partnership society by
patriarchal invaders set the stage for suppression of
the open-ended experimental investigation of nature
carried on by shamans. In highly organized societies
that Archaic tradition was replaced by one of dogma,
priestcraft, patriarchy, warfare and, eventually, ‘ra-
tional and scientific’ or dominator values. /xx

‣ Our culture, self-toxified by the poisonous by-
products of technology and egocentric ideology, is the
unhappy inheritor of the dominator attitude that al-
teration of consciousness by the use of plants or sub-
stances is somehow wrong, onanistic, and perversely
antisocial. I will argue that suppression of shamanic
gnosis, with its reliance and insistence on ecstatic dis-
solution of the ego, has robbed us of life’s meaning
and made us enemies of the planet, of ourselves, and
our grandchildren. We are killing the planet in order to
keep intact the wrongheaded assumptions of the ego-
dominator cultural style. It is time for change. /xxi

‣ Usually, if drugs are used, the shaman, not the patient,
will take the drug. The motivation is also entirely dif-
ferent. The plants used by the shaman are not in-
tended to stimulate the immune system or the body’s
other natural defenses against disease. Rather, the

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shamanic plants allow the healer to journey into an
invisible realm in which the causality of the ordinary
world is replaced with the rationale of natural magic.
In this realm, language, ideas, and meaning have
greater power than cause and effect. Sympathies,
resonances, intentions, and personal will are linguisti-
cally magnified through poetic rhetoric. The imagina-
tion is invoked and sometimes its forms are beheld
visibly. Within the magical mind-set of the shaman, the
ordinary connections of the world and what we call
natural laws are deemphasized or ignored. /6

‣ ‘The twentieth century linguistic revolution’, says Bos-
ton University anthropologist Misia Landau, ‘is the
recognition that language is not merely a device for
communicating ideas about the world, but rather a
tool for bringing the world into existence in the first
place. Reality is not simply ‘experienced’ or ‘reflected’
in language, but instead is actually produced by lan-
guage’. /7

‣ Shamanic ecstasy is an act of surrender that authenti-
cates both the individual self and that which is sur-
rendered to, the mystery of being. Because our maps
of reality are determined by our present life circum-
stances, we tend to lose awareness of the larger pat-
terns of time and space and our role in them be
glimpsed. Shamanism strives for the higher point of
view, which is achieved through a feat of linguistic
prowess. /7

‣ The rational, mechanistic, antispiritual bias of our own
culture has made it impossible to us to appreciate the
mind-set of the shaman. We are culturally and linguis-
tically blind to the world of forces and interconnec-
tions clearly visible to those who have retained the
Archaic relationship to nature. /8

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‣ Where psychoactive plant use was present, hominid
nervous systems over many millennia would have
been flooded by hallucinogenic realms of strange and
alien beauty. However, evolutionary necessity chan-
nels the organism’s awareness into a narrow cul-de-
sac where ordinary reality is perceived through the
reducing valve of the senses. Otherwise, we would be
rather poorly adapted for the rough-and-tumble of
immediate existence. As creatures with animals bod-
ies, we are aware that we are subject to a range of im-
mediate concerns that we can ignore only at great
peril. As human beings we are also aware of an inte-
rior world, beyond the needs of the animal body, but
evolutionary necessity has placed that world far from
ordinary consciousness. /48-49

‣ Consciousness has been called awareness of aware-
ness* and is characterized by novel associations and
connections among the various data of experience.
Consciousness is like a super nonspecific immune re-
sponse. The key to the working of the immune system
is the ability of one chemical to recognize, to have a
key-in-lock relationship, with another. Thus both the
immune system and consciousness represent systems
that learn, recognize, and remember.**

• * Herbert V. Guenther, Tibetan Buddhism without Mys-
tification, Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1986, p. 66

• ** Francisco J. Varela and A. Coutinho, The Body
Thinks: How and Why the Immune System is Cognitive,
in: The Reality Club, ed. by John Brockman, vol. 2,
New York: Phoenix Press, 1988

‣ Awareness of pattern conveys the feeling that attends
understanding. /49

‣ Consciousness is the moment-to-moment integration
of the individual’s perception of the world. How well,
one could almost say how gracefully, an individual

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accomplishes this integration determines that individ-
ual’s unique adaptive response to existence. /49

‣ We are masters not only of individual cognitive activ-
ity, but, with acting together, of group cognitive activ-
ity as well. Cognitive activity within a group usually
means the elaboration and manipulation of symbols
and language. Although this occurs in many species,
within the human species it is especially well devel-
oped. Our immense power to manipulate symbols and
language gives us our unique position in the natural
world. The power of our magic and our science arises
out of our commitment to group mental activity, sym-
bol sharing, meme replication (the spreading of ideas)
and telling of tall tales. /49

‣ To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large
has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the
brain and nervous system. What comes out at the
other end is a measly trickle of the kind of conscious-
ness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of
this particular planet. To formulate and express the
contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented
and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and
implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every
individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of
the linguistic tradition into which he has been born.
That which, in the language of religion, is called ‘this
world’ is the universe of reduced awareness, ex-
pressed, and, as it were, petrified by language. The
various ‘other worlds’ with which human beings errat-
ically make contact are so many elements in the total-
ity of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large ...
Temporary by-passes may be acquired either sponta-
neously, or as the result of deliberate ‘spiritual exer-
cises’, ... or by means of drugs.* 50

• * Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, New York:
Harper, 1954, p. 22

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‣ The impact of hallucinogens in the diet has been more
than psychological; hallucinogenic plants may have
been the catalysts for everything about us that distin-
guishes us from other higher primates, for all the men-
tal functions that we associate with humanness. Our
society more than others will find this theory difficult
to accept, because we have made pharmacologically
obtained ecstasy a taboo. Like sexuality, altered states
of consciousness are taboo because they are con-
sciously or unconsciously sensed to be entwined with
the mysteries of our origin—with where we came from
and how we got to be the way we are. Such experi-
ences dissolve boundaries and threaten the order of
the reigning patriarchy and the domination of society
by the unreflecting expression of ego. /52

‣ One has, in the hallucinogenic state, the incontroverti-
ble impression that language possesses an objectified
and visible dimension, which is ordinarily hidden
from our awareness. Language, under such conditions,
is seen, is beheld, just as we would ordinarily see our
homes and normal surroundings. In fact our ordinary
cultural environment is correctly recognized, during
the experience of the altered state, as the bass drone in
the ongoing linguistic business of objectifying the
imagination. In other words, the collectively designed
cultural environment in which we all live is the objec-
tification of our collective linguistic intent. /52

‣ Psilocybin specifically activates the areas of the brain
concerned with processing signals. A common occur-
rence with psilocybin intoxication is spontaneous out-
bursts of poetry and other vocal activity such as speak-
ing in tongues, though in a manner distinct from ordi-
nary glossolalia. In cultures with a tradition of mush-
room use, these phenomena have given rise to the no-
tion of discourse with spirit doctors and supernatural
allies. Researchers familiar with the territory agree that

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psilocybin has a profoundly catalytic effect on the lin-
guistic impulse. /53

‣ Once activities involving syntactic self-expression
were established habits among early human beings,
the continued evolution of language in environments
where mushrooms were scarce or unavailable permit-
ted a tendency toward the expression and emergence
of the ego. If the ego is not regularly and repeatedly
dissolved in the unbounded hyperspace of the Tran-
scendent Other, there will always be slow drift away
from the sense of self as part of nature’s larger whole.
The ultimate consequence of this drift is the fatal ennui
that now permeates Western civilization. /53

‣ Some neurophysiologists have hypothesized that the
vocal vibration associated with human use of lan-
guage caused a kind of cleansing of the cerebrospinal
fluid. It has been observed that vibrations can precipi-
tate and concentrate small molecules in the spinal
fluid, which bathes and continuously purifies the
brain. /54

‣ Use of hallucinogens can only be sanctioned in hunt-
ing and gathering societies. When agriculturists use
these plants, they are unable to get up at dawn the
morning after and go hoe the fields. At that point, corn
and grain become gods - gods that symbolize domes-
ticity and hard labor. These replace the old goddesses
of plant-induced ecstasy. /56

‣ An ecstatic experience transcends duality; it is simul-
taneously terrifying, hilarious, awe-inspiring, familiar,
and bizarre. It is an experience that one wishes to have
over and over again. /59

• [Referencing R. Gorden Wasson, The Wondrous
Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica, New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1980, p. 225]

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‣ The textual exegete skilled only in dissecting the cru-
ces of the verses lying before him is of course indis-
pensable and his shrewd observations should have
our full attention, but unless gifted with Kavya, he
does well to be cautious in discussing the higher
reaches of Poetry. He dissects the verses but knows not
ecstasy, which is the soul of the verses. /60

‣ In claiming that religion originated when hominids
encountered hallucinogenic alkaloids, Wasson was at
odds with Mircea Eliade. Eliade considered what he
called ‘narcotic’ shamanism to be decadent. He felt
that if individuals cannot achieve ecstasy without
drugs, then their culture is probably in a decadent
phase. The use of the word ‘narcotic’—a term usually
reserved for soporifics—to describe this form of sha-
manism betrays a botanical and pharmacological na-
ïveté. Wasson’s view, which I share, is precisely the
opposite: the presence of a hallucinogen indicates that
shamanism is authentic and alive; the late, decadent
phase of shamanism is characterized by elaborate ritu-
als, ordeals and reliance on pathological personalities.
Where these phenomena are central, shamanism is
well on its way to becoming simply ‘religion.’ /61

‣ And at its fullest, shamanism is not simply religion, it
is a dynamic connection into the totality of life on this
planet. If, as suggested earlier, hallucinogens operate
in the natural environment as message-bearing mole-
cules, exopheronomes, then the relationship between
primate and hallucinogenic plant signifies a transfer of
information from one species to another. /61

‣ The benefits to the mushroom arise out of the hominid
domestication of cattle and hence the expansion of the
niche occupied by the mushroom. Where plant hallu-
cinogens do not occur, cultural innovation occurs very
slowly, if at all, but we have seen that in the presence
of hallucinogens a culture is regularly introduced to

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ever more novel information, sensory input, and be-
havior and thus is moved to higher and higher states
of self-reflection. The shamans are the vanguard of this
creative advance. /61

‣ How, specifically, might the consciousness-catalyzing
properties of plants have played a role in the emer-
gence of culture and religion? What was the effect of
this folkway, this promotion of language-using, think-
ing, but stoned hominids into the natural order? I be-
lieve that the natural psychedelic compounds acted as
feminizing agents that tempered and civilized the ego-
centric values of the solitary hunter-individual with
the feminine concerns for child-rearing and group
survival. The prolonged and repeated exposure to the
psychedelic experience, the Wholly Other rupture of
the mundane plane caused by the hallucinogenic ritual
ecstasy, acted steadily to dissolve the portion of the
psyche which we moderns call the ego. Wherever and
whenever the ego function began to form, it was akin
to a cancerous tumor or a blockage in the energy of the
psyche. The use of psychedelic plants in a context of
shamanic initiation dissolved—as it dissolves today—
the knotted structure of the ego into undifferentiated
feeling, what Eastern philosophy calls the Tao. This
dissolving of individual identity into the Tao is the
goal of much of Eastern thought and has traditionally
been recognized as the key to psychological health and
balance for both the group and the individual. To ap-
praise our dilemma correctly, we need to appraise
what this loss of Tao, this loss of collective connection
to the Earth, has meant for our humanness. /61-62

‣ We in the West are the inheritors of a very different
understanding of the world. Loss of connection to the
Tao has meant that the psychological development of
Western civilization has been markedly different from
the East’s. In the West there has been a steady focus on
the ego and on the god of the ego—the monotheistic

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ideal. Monotheism exhibits what is essentially a patho-
logical personality pattern projected onto the ideal of
God: the pattern of the paranoid, possessive, power-
obsessed male ego. This God is not someone you
would care to invite to a garden party. Also interesting
is that the Western ideal is the only formulation of de-
ity that has no relationship with woman at any point
in the theological myth. In ancient Babylon Anu was
paired with his consort Inanna; Grecian religion as-
signed Zeus a wife, many consorts, and daughters.
These heavenly pairings are typical. Only the god of
Western civilization has no mother, no sister, no female
consort, and no daughter. /62

‣ Hinduism and Buddhism have maintained traditions
of techniques of ecstasy that include, as stated in the
Yogic Sutras of Patanjali, ‘light filled herbs,’ and the
rituals of these great religions give ample scope for the
expression and appreciation of the feminine. Sadly, the
Western tradition has suffered a long, sustained break
with the sociosymbiotic relationship to the feminine
and the mysteries of the organic life that can be real-
ized through shamanic use of hallucinogenic plants.
/62

‣ Modern religion in the West is a set of social patterns,
or a set of anxieties centered on a particular moral
structure and view of obligation. /63

‣ The global triumph of Western values means we, as a
species, have wandered into a state of prolonged neu-
rosis because of the absence of a connection to the un-
conscious. Gaining access to the unconscious through
plant hallucinogen use reaffirms our original bond to
the living planet. Our estrangement from nature and
the unconscious became entrenched roughly two
thousand years ago, during the shift from the Age of
the Great God Pan to that of Pisces that occurred with
the suppression of the pagan mysteries and the rise of

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Christianity. The psychological shift that ensued left
European civilization staring into two millennia of
religious mania and persecution, warfare, materialism,
and rationalism. /63

‣ The monstrous forces of scientific industrialism and
global politics that have been born into modern times
were conceived at the time of the shattering of the
symbiotic relationships with the plants that had bound
us to nature from our dim beginnings. This left each
human being frightened, guilt-burdened, and alone.
Existential man was born. /63

‣ Terror of being was the placenta that accompanied the
birth of Christianity, the ultimate cult of domination
by the unconstrained male ego. The abandonment of
the ego-dissolving rites of the visionary plants had
allowed what began as an individually maladaptive
style to become the guiding image of the entire social
organism. From within the context of an unchecked
growth of dominator values and history told from a
dominator point of view, we need to turn attention
back toward the Archaic way of vision plants and the
Goddess. /63

‣ The drive for unity within the psyche, which is to a
degree instinctual, can nevertheless become pathologi-
cal if pursued in a context in which dissolution of
boundaries and rediscovery of the ground of being has
been made impossible. Monotheism became the car-
rier of the dominator model, the Apollonian model of
the self as solar and complete in its masculine expres-
sion. As a result of this pathological model, the worth
and power of emotion and the natural world have
been devalued and replaced by a narcissistic fascina-
tion with the abstract and the metaphysical. This atti-
tude has proved a double-edged sword, it has given
science explanatory power and its capacity for moral
bankruptcy. /64

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‣ Dominator culture has shown a remarkable ability to
redesign itself to meet the changing levels of technol-
ogy and collective self-awareness. In all its manifesta-
tions, monotheism has been and remains the single
most stubborn force resisting perception of the pri-
macy of the natural world. Monotheism strenuously
denies the need to return to a cultural style that peri-
odically places the ego and its values in perspective
through contact with a boundary-dissolving immer-
sion in the Archaic mystery of plant-induced, hence
mother-associated, psychedelic ecstasy and wholeness,
what Joyce called the ‘mama matrix most mysterious’.
/64

‣ Jean Baker Miller pointed out that the so-called need
to control and dominate others is psychologically a
function, not of a feeling of power, but of a feeling of
powerlessness. /68

‣ Partnership societies do not simply replace a patriar-
chy with a matriarchy; such concepts are too limited
and gender bound. The real difference here is between
a society based on partnership and roles appropriate
to age, size, and level of skill and a society in which a
dominance hierarchy is maintained at the expense of
the full expression and social utilization of the indi-
viduals within the group. In the partnership situation
the lack of concepts based on property and ego infla-
tion made jealousy and possessiveness less of a prob-
lem. /68

‣ The generally hostile attitude of dominator society
toward sexual expression can be traced to the terror
that the dominator ego feels in any situation in which
boundaries are dissolved, even the most pleasurable
and natural of situations. The French notion of orgasm
as petit mort perfectly encapsulates the fear and fasci-
nation that boundary-dissolving orgasm holds for
dominator cultures. /68

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

‣ The mainstream of Western thought ceased to be re-
freshed by the gnosis of the boundary-dissolving plant
hallucinogens long before the close of the Minoan Era,
circa 850 B.C. In Crete, and in nearby Greece, aware-
ness of the vegetable Logos continued as an esoteric
and diminished presence until the Eleusinian myster-
ies were finally suppressed by enthusiastic Christian
barbarians in A.D. 268*. The consequence of that sev-
ered connection is the modern world - a planet dying
under moral anesthesia.

• *[Referencing R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann,
and Carl Ruck, The Road to Eleusis, New York: Har-
court Brace Jovanovic, 1978]

‣ Suppression of the feminine and of knowledge of the
natural world has been the hallmark of the intervening
centuries. /90

‣ In view of the present cultural impasse, I conclude that
the next evolutionary step must involve not only a
repudiation of dominator culture but an Archaic Re-
vival and a rebirth of awareness of the Goddess. (…)
That same mind that coaxed us into self-reflecting lan-
guage now offers us the boundless landscapes of the
imagination. This is the same vision of human fulfill-
ment through the ‘Divine Imagination’ that was pre-
sciently glimpsed by William Blake. Without such a
visionary relationship to psychedelic exopheronomes
that regulate our symbiotic relationship with the plant
kingdom, we stand outside of an understanding of
planetary purpose. And understanding planetary pur-
pose may be the major contribution that we can make
to the evolutionary process. Returning to the balance
of the planetary partnership style means trading the
point of view of the egoistic dominator for the intui-
tional, feeling-toned understanding of the maternal
matrix. /92

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‣ This sense of the female companion explains the per-
sistent intrusion of themes of the mother/goddess
even into the most patriarchal domains. The persis-
tence of the cult of Mary in Christianity is a case in
point, as is the fervor that is reserved for the cult of
Kali, the destroying mother, and the idea of the divine
Purusha in Hinduism. The anima mundi, the soul of
the world, of Hermetic thought is another image of the
Goddess of the World. Ultimately, all of these female
images are reducible to the archetype of the original
vegetable mind. Immersion in the psychedelic experi-
ence provided the ritual context in which human con-
sciousness emerged into the light of self-awareness,
self-reflection, and self-articulation—into the light of
Gaia, the Earth herself. /93

‣ We need to think back to the last sane moment that
we, as a species, ever knew and then act from the
premises that were in place at that moment. This
means reaching back in time to models that were suc-
cessful 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. This shift in view-
point would enable us to see plants as more than food,
shelter, clothing, or even sources of education and re-
ligion; they would become models of process. They
are, after all, exemplars of symbiotic connectedness
and efficient resource recycling and management. /97

‣ The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridicu-
lous in the first place. /98

‣ The last best hope for dissolving the steep walls of cul-
tural inflexibility that appear to be channeling us to-
ward true ruin is a renewed shamanism. By reestab-
lishing channels of direct communication with the
Other, the mind behind nature, through the use of hal-
lucinogenic plants, we will obtain a new set of lenses
to see our way in the world. /98

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

‣ When the medieval world grew moribund in its world
view, secularized European society sought salvation in
the revivifying of classical Greek and Roman ap-
proaches to law, philosophy, esthetics, city planning,
and agriculture. Our dilemma, being deeper, will cast
us further back in time in a search for answers. /98

‣ Soma was a juice or sap pressed out of the swollen
fibers of a plant that was also called Soma. The texts
seem to imply that the juice was purified by being
poured through a woolen filter and then in some cases
was mixed with milk. Again and again, and in various
ways, we find Soma intimately connected with the
symbolism and rituals related to cattle and pastoral-
ism. /98

‣ The ambiance of Minoan-Mycenaean religion was one
of realism, a sense of the vitality of bios, and sensual
celebration. The snake-handling Minoan nature God-
dess is representative of all these values. In all Minoan
depictions, her breasts are full and bare and she han-
dles a golden snake. Scholars have followed shamanic
convention and have seen in the snake a symbol of the
soul of the deceased. We are dealing with a goddess
who, like Persephone, rules over the underworld, a
shamaness of great power whose mystery was already
millennia old. /124

‣ In the age of kingship, only Crete - an island and in
those times remote from the events of Asia Minor -
harbored the old partnership model. /124

‣ The mysterious Minoan civilization became the inheri-
tor of the style and gnosis of forgotten and far-off
times. It was a living monument to the partnership
ideal, enduring for three millennia after the triumph of
the dominator style was everywhere else complete.
/124

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‣ The great mystery cults that coexisted in the ancient
Greek world of the fourth century B.C. which we call
Dionysian and Eleusinian, were the last frail outposts
in the west of a tradition of using psychoactive plants
to dissolve personal boundaries, and to gain access to
gnosis; true knowledge of the nature of things, that
was many thousands of years old. /125

‣ Orthodox scholars, themselves unfamiliar with the
reality-transforming power of plant hallucinogens,
have fallen victim to the prejudiced attitude toward
ecstasy that typifies the constipated patriarchal acad-
emy and hence have been baffled by the Mystery. /132

‣ As the Mysteries faded, the phonetic alphabet helped
move consciousness toward a world emphasizing
spoken and written language and away from the
world of a gestalt pictographic awareness. These de-
velopments reinforced the emergence of the antivi-
sionary dominator style of culture. The dark night of
the planetary soul that we call Western civilization
began. /137

‣ The natural world had come to be seen, by late Roman
times, as a demonic and imprisoning shell. This was
the spiritual legacy of the destruction of the partner-
ship model of self and society and its replacement
with the dominator model. /146

‣ In many cases alcohol literally was slavery as the tri-
angular trade of slaves, sugar, and rum and other
practices of European civilization spread over the
earth, subjugating other cultures. /147

‣ Dominator style hatred of women, general sexual am-
bivalence and anxiety, and alcohol culture conspired to
create the peculiarly neurotic approach to sexuality
that characterizes European civilization. Gone are the
boundary-dissolving hallucinogenic orgies that dimin-

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

ished the ego of the individual and reasserted the val-
ues of the extended family and the tribe. /148

‣ Could it not be that we are willing to pay the terrible
toll that alcohol extracts because it is allowing us to
continue the repressive dominator style that keeps us
all infantile and irresponsible participants in a domi-
nator world characterized by the marketing of un-
gratified sexual fantasy? /148

‣ The strongest argument for the legalization of any
drug is that society has been able to survive the legis-
lation of alcohol. If we can tolerate the legal use of al-
cohol, what drug cannot be absorbed in the structure
of society? /149

‣ It is unsettling to realize that the delicately maintained
web of diplomatic agreements and treaties standing
between us and nuclear Armageddon was fabricated
in the atmosphere of misguided sentimentality and
blustering bravado that is typical of alcoholic person-
alities everywhere. /149

‣ When the resin of the cannabis plant is collected to-
gether into black sticky balls, its effects are comparable
to the power of a hallucinogen, providing that the ma-
terial is eaten. This is the classic hashish. /150

‣ Hashish is several thousand of years old, although at
what point human beings began to gather and concen-
trate cannabis resin in this way is not clear. Smoking of
cannabis products, the most efficient and rapid way of
obtaining their effects, reached Europe rather late. In
fact, smoking itself was only introduced into Europe
when Columbus returned with tobacco from his sec-
ond trip to the New World. /151

‣ Of all the pandemic plant intoxicants inhabiting the
earth, cannabis is second only to mushrooms in its

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promotion of the social values and sensory ratios that
typified the original partnership societies. How else
are we to explain the unrelenting persecution of can-
nabis use in the face of overwhelming evidence that, of
all the intoxicants ever used, cannabis is among the
most benign. Its social consequences are negligible
compared with those of alcohol. Cannabis is anathema
to the dominator culture because it deconditions or
decouples users from accepted values. Because of its
subliminally psychedelic effect, cannabis, when pur-
sued as a lifestyle, places a person in intuitive contact
with less goal-oriented and less competitive behavior
patterns. For these reasons marijuana is unwelcome in
the modern office environment, while a drug such as
coffee, which reinforces the values of industrial cul-
ture, is both welcomed and encouraged. Cannabis use
is correctly sensed as heretical and deeply disloyal to
the values of male dominance and stratified hierarchy.
Legalization of marijuana is thus a complex issue,
since it involves legitimating a social factor that might
ameliorate or even modify ego-dominant values. /155

‣ Legalization and taxation of cannabis would provide a
tax base that could help clean up the national deficit.
Instead, we continue to hurl millions of dollars into
marijuana eradication, a policy that creates suspicion
and a permanent criminal class in communities that
are otherwise among the most law abiding in the
country. /155

‣ Few myths of the underground culture invite as much
current scorn as the notion that cannabis could con-
tribute to a creative lifestyle. Nevertheless, a portion of
the cannabis-using community continues to use it in
this way. /163

‣ The ‘recreational’ context for substance use, as cur-
rently understood in the United States, is an atmos-

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

phere that trivializes the cognitive impact of the sub-
stance used. /163

‣ In our culture, private drug taking is viewed as dubi-
ous; solitary drug use is viewed as positively morbid;
and, indeed, all introspection is seen this way. /163

‣ Everything about cannabis that makes it inimical to
contemporary bourgeois values endears it to the Ar-
chaic Revival. It diminishes the power of ego, has a
mitigating effect on / competitiveness, causes one to
question authority, and reinforces the notion of the
merely relative importance of social values. /165-166

‣ Let us be absolutely clear, sugar is entirely unneces-
sary to the human diet; before the arrival of industrial
cane and beet sugar humanity managed well enough
without refined sugar, which is nearly pure sucrose.
Sugar contributes nothing that cannot be gotten from
some other, easily available source. It is a ‘kick’, noth-
ing more. Yet for this kick the dominator culture of
Europe was willing to betray the ideals of the Enlight-
enment by its collusion with slave traders. In 1800 vir-
tually every ton of sugar imported into England had
been produced with slave labor. The ability of the ego-
dominator culture to suppress these realities is aston-
ishing. /178

‣ Thomas Hobbe’s vision of human society as the inevi-
table subjugation of the weak by the strong and Jer-
emy Bentham’s notion of the ultimate economic basis
of all social worth signal that values that seek to nur-
ture the earth and to participate with it in a life of
natural emotive balance have been forsaken for the
rapacious self-centeredness of Faustian science. The
soul of the planet, shrunken by Christian monotheism
to the dimensions of a human being, is faintly denied
any existence at all by the heirs of Cartesian rational-
ism. /178-179

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‣ The stage is then set for the evolution of a human self-
image that is entirely dis-ensouled, adrift in a dead
universe devoid of meaning and without moral com-
pass. Organic nature is seen as war, meaning becomes
‘contextual’, and the cosmos is rendered meaningless.
This process of deepening cultural psychosis (an ob-
session with ego, money, and the sugar/alcohol drug
complex) reaches its culmination in the mid-twentieth
century with Sartre’s appalling assertion that ‘nature is
mute.’ /179

‣ Nature is not mute, but modern man is deaf - made
deaf because he is unwilling to hear the message of
caring, balance, and cooperation that is nature’s mes-
sage. (…) The Nazis said that Jews were not true hu-
man beings and that their mass murder was thus not
of any consequence. Some industrials and politicians
use a similar dis-ensouling argument to excuse the
destruction of the planet, the maternal matrix neces-
sary to all life. /179

‣ Sugar is culturally defined by us as a food. This defini-
tion denies that sugar can act as a highly addictive
drug, yet the evidence is all around us. Many children
and compulsive eaters live in a motivational environ-
ment primarily ruled by mood swings resulting from
cravings for sugar. /180

‣ The tobacco of the Classical Maya was Nicotiana rus-
tica, which is still in use among aboriginal populations
in South America today. This species is much more
potent, chemically complex, and potentially hallucino-
genic than the commercial grades of Nicotiana taba-
cum available today. The difference between this to-
bacco and cigarette tobacco is profound. This wild to-
bacco was cured and rolled into cigars which were
smoked. The / trancelike state that followed, partially
synergized by the presence of compounds that in-
cluded MAO inhibitors, was central to the shamanism

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

of the Maya. Recently introduced antidepressants of
the MAO inhibitor type are distant synthetic relatives
to these natural compounds. /196-197

‣ It was the prohibition of tobacco smoking in China by
the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1628-1644) that
led frustrated tobacco addicts to experiment with
smoking opium. Before that time the smoking of
opium was not known. Thus it is that the suppression
of one drug seems inevitably to lead to involvement
with another. /201

‣ Psychedelic plants and experience were first sup-
pressed by European civilization, then ignored and
forgotten. The fourth century witnessed the suppres-
sion of the mystery religions—the cults of Bacchus and
Diana, of Attis and Cybele. The rich syncretism that
was typical of the Hellenistic world had become a
thing of the past. Christianity triumphed over the
Gnostic sects—Valentinians, Marcionites, and others—
which were the last bastions of paganism. These re-
pressive episodes in the evolution of Western thought
effectively close the door on communication with the
Gaian mind. /223

‣ Hierarchically imposed religion and, later, hierarchi-
cally dispensed scientific knowledge were substituted
for any sort of direct experience of the mind behind
nature. /223

‣ The experience of ingesting ayahuasca—organic DMT
taken in combination with the Banisteriopsis vine—has
a number of characteristics that set it apart from the
experience of smoking DMT. Ayahuasca is gentler and
of much greater duration. Its themes and hallucina-
tions are oriented toward the organic and the natural
world, in marked contrast to the titanic, alien, and off-
planet motifs that characterize the DMT flash. Why
such major differences should exist between com-

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pounds that appear to be so structurally similar is an
uninvestigated problem. Indeed, the whole relation-
ship of particular kinds of visions to the compounds
that elicit them is not well understood. In the native
areas of its use, ayahuasca is regarded as a general-
purpose healing elixir and is called la purga, the
purge. Its effectiveness in combating intestinal para-
sites has been proven. Its effectiveness in killing the
malaria organism is now being investigated. And its
long history of effective shamanic use in folk psychia-
try has been documented by Naranjo, Dobkin de Rios,
Luna, and others. /227

• [Referencing Claudio Naranjo, The Healing Journey:
New Approaches to Consciousness, New York: Ballan-
tine, 1973; Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Visionary Vine:
Psychedelic Healing in the Peruvian Amazon, San Fran-
cisco: Chandler, 1972; Luis Eduardo Luna, Vegetal-
ismo: Shamanism among the Mestizo Population of the
Peruvian Amazon, Stockholm: Alquist & Wiksell,
1986]

‣ The chief lesson to be learned from the psychedelic
experience is the degree to which unexamined cultural
values and limitations of language have made us the
unwitting prisoners of our own assumptions. For it
cannot be without reason that wherever in the world
hallucinogenic indoles have been utilized, their use
has been equated with magical self-healing and regen-
eration. The low incidence of serious mental illness
among such populations is well documented. /229

‣ The costs of drug education and drug treatment are
small relative to routine military expenditures and
could be contained. What cannot be contained are the
effects that psychedelics would have in shaping the
cultural self-image if all drugs were legal and avail-
able. This is the hidden issue that makes governments
unwilling to consider legalization: the unmanaged
shift of consciousness that legal and available drugs,

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

including plant psychedelics, would bring is extremely
threatening to a dominator, ego-oriented culture. /244

‣ I have not mentioned any synthetics, because I would
prefer to separate the vision-producing plants from the
popular notion of drugs. The global drug problem is a
different issue entirely and has to do with the fates of
nations and mega-dollar criminal syndicates. I avoid
synthetic drugs and prefer the organic hallucinogens,
because I believe that a long history of shamanic usage
is the first seal of approval that one must look for
when selecting a substance for its possible effects on
personal growth. And if a plant has been used for
thousands of years, one can also be fairly confident
that it does not cause tumors or miscarriages or carry
other unacceptable physical risks. Over time, trial and
error has resulted in the choice of the most effective
and least toxic plants for shamanic use. /247

‣ Other criteria are also relevant when evaluating a sub-
stance. It is important to use only those compounds
that do not insult the physical brain; regardless of
what the physical brain does or doesn’t have to do
with the mind, it certainly has to do with the metabo-
lism of hallucinogens. Compounds alien to the brain
and therefore difficult for it to metabolize should be
avoided. /247

‣ A drug policy of democratic values would aim to edu-
cate people to make informed choices based on their
own needs and ideals. Such a simple prescription is
necessary and sadly overdue. A master plan for seri-
ously seeking to come to terms with America’s drug
problems might explore a number of options, includ-
ing the following.

‣ A 200 percent federal tax should be imposed on to-
bacco and alcohol. All government subsidies for to-
bacco production should be ended. Warnings on pack-

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aging should be strengthened. A 20 percent federal
sales tax should be levied on sugar and sugar substi-
tutes, and all supports for sugar production should be
ended. Sugar packages should also carry warnings,
and sugar should be a mandatory topic in school nu-
trition curricula.

‣ All forms of cannabis should be legalized and a 200
percent federal sales tax imposed on cannabis prod-
ucts. Information as to the THC content of the product
and current conclusions regarding its impact on health
should be printed on the packaging.

‣ International Monetary Fund and World Bank lending
should be withdrawn from countries that produce
hard drugs. Only international inspection and certifi-
cation that a country is in compliance would restore
loan eligibility.

‣ Strict gun control must apply to both manufacture and
possession. It is the unrestricted availability of fire-
arms that has made violent crime and the drug abuse
problem so intertwined.

‣ The legality of nature must be recognized, so that all
plants are legal to grow and possess.

‣ Psychedelic therapy should be made legal and insur-
ance coverage extended to include it.

‣ Currency and banking regulations need to be
strengthened. Presently bank collusion with criminal
cartels allows large-scale money laundering to take
place.

‣ There is an immediate need for massive support for
scientific research into all aspects of substance use and
abuse and an equally massive commitment to public
education.

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

‣ One year after implementation of the above, all drugs
still illegal in the United States should be decriminal-
ized. The middleman is eliminated, the government
can sell drugs at cost plus 200 percent, and those mo-
nies can be placed in a special fund to pay the social,
medical, and educational costs of the legalization pro-
gram. Money from taxes on alcohol, tobacco, sugar,
and cannabis can also be placed in this fund.

‣ Also following this one-year period, pardons should
be given to all offenders in drug cases that did not in-
volve firearms or felonious assault. /269-270

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The Invisible Landscape
Mind Hallucinogens and the I Ching
New York: HarperCollins, 1993

Review
The Invisible Landscape is the most esoteric of the three
McKenna books reviewed here. Many of the topics he
treats in his other books, he treats here as well, but he pre-

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

sents them under a slightly different light, or in more sub-
tle language. His standard theme psychedelics, for example,
assumes a new dimension, together with his regard upon
science:

Psychedelic drugs have always been and remain the most
useful molecular probes available to science for exploring
the relationship between the subjective experience of mind
and neurobiological processes. /Preface XIX

Despite its pretensions to objectivity, science, like any other
human institution, places a certain vested interest in its own
self-preservation; thus it is likely to be less than enthusiastic,
if not openly hostile, toward any investigative strategy that
could potentially call its most basic assumptions in question.
/Id.

I have pointed out in my review of McKenna’s Archaic
Revival that he envisioned a future ‘psychedelic’ science
which I believe will be a holistic science that uses the psy-
chedelic experience for the progress and true spiritual evo-
lution of the human. Presently, he adds on another element
to this broad vision, which is exactly what I call the holistic
direction this science will be going to take:

It may be that the psychedelic experience cannot be under-
stood using only the reductionist models of science, and that
only by a conscious unification of the reductionist, analytical
methods of science with the holistic, nonanalytical approach
of the shaman can we hope to understand, appreciate, and
apply the lessons learned from such experiences./Id.

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The next element in McKenna’s vision would be the
application of psychedelics to healing. The idea of psycho-
analysis being a potential adaptation of shamanism to
modern society is not new, and it does not originate from
McKenna. It has been voiced by Freud rather early in its
creational process of psychoanalysis, and by other psycho-
analysts of the closer Freudian circle.

But McKenna smartly fits the idea into his holistic vi-
sion of an ‘enlightenment’ of modern culture through
shamanism, at some point in the future. He points out:

One area of modern life that does not appear to be shamanic,
but that might profitably model itself after shamanism, is
psychoanalysis. A modern soul doctor might well achieve
better results if he or she could model therapy after a psy-
chopompic journey through the collective unconscious. The
exact techniques would, of course, have to be adapted to
modern patients, but where the unconscious is concerned, all
people are primitive. One approach to such a shamanic psy-
choanalysis could be through the controlled and judicious
use of psychotropic drugs; knowledge of both promises and
dangers of such agents has increased tremendously in recent
years, as has understanding of the role they play in shaman-

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ism. A combination of knowledge and wisdom in applying
their properties could very well give an effective and harm-
less technique of ecstasy that could be usefully employed in
psychoanalysis. /18

But not only for healing will this science be made fruit-
ful; according to McKenna it shall also have a different sys-
temic approach to the observation of nature:

Perhaps we have arrived, then, at a point where we can sug-
gest a basic reformulation of the metaphysical basis of sci-
ence. This suggestion is, first, that science consider the event
as the ultimate unit of natural occurrence, and second, that
in seeking to analyse the component elements of an event, it
should look for primary organisms rather than material
parts. For there is in nature virtually nothing that exhibits
the classical attributes of a material; nature is a process of
processes, and processes within processes. Accordingly, the
analysis of nature should concern itself with the analysis / of
aggregate processes into primary processes. Biology is con-
cerned with the larger processes that are organisms, whereas
physics concerns the smaller processes, which are likewise
organisms, in that they experience a reference to things past,
immediate, and future. For the primary organisms, we ob-
serve this relation as a factor in its external aspects; for our-
selves, we observe it as an element of our psychological field
of awareness. But if we experience, in experiencing ourselves
as process, our essential relatedness to other processes in
other times and places, are we justified in denying this expe-
rience to other, primary organisms?/39-40

To stay with the subject of science philosophy, McKenna
has given in this book an important contribution to the

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present discussion of what has been called the Holographic
Universe (Talbot), the Conscious Universe (Radin) or the Un-
folding Universe (Bohm).

The holographic theory is only one of many ‘puzzles’
that are concisely presented and commented by Ervin
Laszlo in his study Science and the Akashic Field (2005)
which I have reviewed in The New Paradigm in Science and
Systems Theory (2014). I myself think that there are many
natural phenomena that are best explained when we grasp
the notion of hologram-like coding in nature.

The unformed archetypes of the collective unconscious may
be the holographic substrate of the species’ mind. Each indi-
vidual and mind-brain is then like a fragment of the total
hologram; but, in accordance with holographic principles,
each fragment contains the whole. It will be remembered
that each part of a hologram can reconstruct an entire image,
but that the details of the image will deteriorate in propor-
tion to its fragmentation, while the overstructure will re-
main. Out of this feature of holography arises the quality of
individual point of view and, in fact, individuality itself. If
each mind is a holographic medium, then each is contiguous
with every other, because of the ubiquitous distribution of
information in a hologram. Each individual mind would
thus be a representation of the ‘essence’ of reality, but the
details could not be resolved until the fragments of the col-
lective hologram were joined. /51

Confronted with certain holographic qualities as a feature of
both mind and brain, it seems reasonable to ask whether
holographic principles are found on other levels of organiza-
tion. We can find this most apparently in the organismic

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realm, in the fact of the ubiquity and redundancy of DNA.
We refer to the fact that DNA seems to store information
holographically, in that the nucleotide sequence of the mole-
cule is identical in every cell of a given organism. The DNA
from one cell theoretically contains all the information nec-
essary to regenerate the entire organism./52

Quotes
‣ Psychedelic drugs have always been and remain the
most useful molecular probes available to science for
exploring the relationship between the subjective ex-
perience of mind and neurobiological processes. /XIX

‣ Despite its pretensions to objectivity, science, like any
other human institution, places a certain vested inter-
est in its own self-preservation; thus it is likely to be
less than enthusiastic, if not openly hostile, toward any
investigative strategy that could potentially call its
most basic assumptions in question. /XIX

‣ It may be that the psychedelic experience cannot be
understood using only the reductionist models of sci-
ence, and that only by a conscious unification of the
reductionist, analytical methods of science with the
holistic, nonanalytical approach of the shaman can we
hope to understand, appreciate, and apply the lessons
learned from such experiences. /XIX

‣ The shaman and the schizophrenic both seem to pos-
sess a greater access to unconscious processes than the
‘normal’ individual. While the schizophrenic is spon-
taneously inundated and often overwhelmed by these
processes, the shaman, through the practice of his
‘techniques of ecstasy,’ is able to integrate them into
consciousness and to maintain access to them without
suffering personality disintegration. /6

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‣ He [Mircea Eliade] further defines the shaman as a
manipulator of the sacred, whose main function is to
induce ecstasy in a society where ecstasy is the prime
religious experience. Thus, the shaman is a master of
ecstasy, and the art of shamanizing is a technique of
ecstasy. /9-10

‣ Although the particular motifs may vary between cul-
tures and even individuals, the general symbolism is
clear: The novice shaman undergoes a symbolic death
and resurrection, which is understood as a radical
transformation into a superhuman condition. Hence-
forth, the shaman enjoys access to the supernatural
plane; he is a master of ecstasy, an travel in the spirit-
realm at will, can cure and divine, can touch red-hot
iron with impunity, and so on. In short, the shaman is
transformed from a profane into a sacred state of be-
ing. Not only has he effected his own cure through this
mystical transmutation, he is now invested with the
power of the sacred, and hence can cure others as well.
It is of the first order of importance to remember this,
that the shaman is not merely a sick man, or a mad-
man; he is a sick man who has healed himself, who is
cured, and who must shamanize to remain cured. /10-
11

‣ The shaman’s primary functions are those of healer
and psychopomp. /11

‣ While Eliade asserts that the use of narcotic substances
as an aid to ecstasy invariably indicates a decadence or
vulgarization of the shamanic tradition, there is reason
to doubt this. /15

‣ There appears to be occurring in modern life a pro-
gressive alienation from the numinous archetypal con-
tents of the collective unconscious, which has engen-
dered a gradually encroaching sense of collective de-
spair and anxiety. /16

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‣ One area of modern life that does not appear to be sha-
manic, but that might profitably model itself after
shamanism, is psychoanalysis. A modern ‘soul doctor’
might well achieve better results if he or she could
model therapy after a psychopompic journey through
the collective unconscious. The exact techniques
would, of course, have to be adapted to modern pa-
tients, but where the unconscious is concerned, all
people are ‘primitive.’ One approach to such a sha-
manic psychoanalysis could be through the controlled
and judicious use of psychotropic drugs; knowledge of
both promises and dangers of such agents has in-
creased tremendously in recent years, as has under-
standing of the role they play in shamanism. A combi-
nation of knowledge and wisdom in applying their
properties could very well give an effective and harm-
less ‘technique of ecstasy’ that could be usefully em-
ployed in psychoanalysis. /18

‣ The onset of schizophrenia usually arises at the time of
some basic life-crisis, when the individual is likely to
experience feelings of guilt, impotence, or incompe-
tence in a life situation culturally acknowledged as
crucial. We find that this is also true in many cases of
shamanism; in addition to being introverted and of a
nervous condition since childhood, the future shaman
often receives his vocational call through accident,
sickness, familial misfortune, or similar mishap. Thus,
we may infer that in cultures where the shamanic in-
stitution exists, an individual may choose to restruc-
ture his life and become a shaman as a means of re-
solving a life-crisis. /24

‣ The difference between the shaman and the schizo-
phrenic must be sought in the degree of cultural accep-
tance of this lower-order referential content. The al-
tered perception of reality into which this newly
opened region of cognition plunges the schizophrenic
has, in modern society, no cultural validity. /26

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‣ The last stage in the progression, that of ‘cognitive re-
organization’ to cope with the altered perception in
which the individual now lives, is for the shaman and
for the schizophrenic much the same thing the ardu-
ous task of learning to use the altered perception to
good advantage, for creative endeavor and increased
sensitivity. An important difference, however, is that in
our culture the schizophrenic is forced to work out his
adjustment without the benefit of culturally sanc-
tioned attitudes of acceptance for the expanded reality
that he now inhabits, whereas in primitive society not
only is the shaman in possession of an elaborate body
of traditional teachings regarding his illness, but his
adjustment is made much easier by virtue of his ac-
cepted and respected social position. /26

‣ It seems reasonable to suggest that in our culture the
schizophrenic provides a necessary pipeline to the col-
lective unconscious, just as the shaman in tribal socie-
ties. The spiritual atrophying of contemporary culture
may be due in large measure to its loss of sensitivity to
processes in the collective unconscious. A reinstitution
of the shamanic role in modern society might prevent
its total estrangement from the collective unconscious,
which remains the fountainhead of all human cultures,
archaic or modern. /27

‣ Perhaps we have arrived, then, at a point where we
can suggest a basic reformulation of the metaphysical
basis of science. This suggestion is, first, that science
consider the event as the ultimate unit of natural oc-
currence, and second, that in seeking to analyse the
component elements of an event, it should look for
primary organisms rather than material parts. For
there is in nature virtually nothing that exhibits the
classical attributes of a material; nature is a process of
processes, and processes within processes. Accord-
ingly, the analysis of nature should concern itself with
the analysis of aggregate processes into primary proc-

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esses. Biology is concerned with the larger processes
that are organisms, whereas physics concerns the
smaller processes, which are likewise organisms, in
that they experience a reference to things past, imme-
diate, and future. For the primary organisms, we ob-
serve this relation as a factor in its external aspects; for
ourselves, we observe it as an element of our psycho-
logical field of awareness. But if we experience, in ex-
periencing ourselves as process, our essential related-
ness to other processes in other times and places, are
we justified in denying this experience to other, pri-
mary organisms? /39-40

‣ Here, at last, we begin to gain a glimpse of the rele-
vance of holography in neural organization. As in a
hologram, the meaning stored memory or learned
information appears to be stored ubiquitously
throughout the cerebral matrix rather than to be
caused by the interrelationship of separate parts. /45-
46

‣ In the holographic theory, these centers would act not
to store information, but rather as ‘processing’ stations
for the encoding and recalling of programs from the
holographic storage areas of the cerebral cortex. Thus,
these functional centers could operate in the role of the
‘reconstructing’ laser beam; whether the memory or
perception was experienced visually, auditorily, tactu-
ally, or as some combination would depend on what
centers were activated in reconstruction, a process that
would be equivalent to using lasers of different wave-
lengths in reconstruction. /48

‣ Granted that holography reflects in part the structure
and organization of the brain, and granted also that
the brain and its structure will in part reflect the nature
of the mind arising from it, it follows therefore that the
mind itself must in some sense be holographically
structured. /49

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‣ The realm where the two circles overlap (Graphic 1),
which we call C, forms the region of interface between
the physical world and the mind. Realm C corre-
sponds to the brain-body system; it forms the pathway
by which the mind receives information (perception),
and also the mechanism by which it responds to its
perceptions. The comparison to holography that this
suggests can be made through analogy; the brain-body
system represented by realm C is comparable to the
physical apparatus necessary for generating a holo-
gram; the brain in this analogy is equivalent to the ex-
posed holographic plate; the body, with its afferent
and efferent pathways, acts as the laser system, both
receiving (perceiving) information and encoding this
information into the neural holographic plate. Realm
B, in this analogy, the realm of states of consciousness,
is then comparable to the actual holographic image,
the standing wave form of ongoing awareness. Circle
A, which includes external reality and the subjectively
experienced state of the body, forms the ‘subject’,
which becomes encoded through receptors and affer-
ent pathways into the neural holographic plate, where
it is then ‘reconstructed’ as part of realm B, that part of
realm B representing its ‘model’ of the external world.
So far, this analogy lacks the notion of temporal flux.
The interactions between the mind and the body, and
through the body with the external world, consist of
dynamic processes. The analogy with holography is
more accurate if we think of the process as a holo-
graphic movie rather than as a static, frozen image. In
this dynamic version, the neural hologram (the brain)
is continually exposed and reexposed to the changing
environment, thus encoding a constantly shifting set of
interference patterns that are ‘read out’ as a temporally
unfolding hologram, that is, the mind, with its con-
stantly shifting ‘model’ of reality and associated
thoughts, memories, images, and reflections. /50

‣ The holographic capacity of the mind for ubiquitous
storage of information can be seen most readily in the
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phenomenon of imagination. We can imagine all of the
universe or any part of it and thus can say that the
mind ‘contains’ all of the physical world, that is, that
the mind is a hologram of external reality. This concept
has been anticipated by the alchemists in their notion
of man as microcosm, and also in the symbol of / the
alchemical monad [referencing Jung, Psychology and
Alchemy), a synonym for the Lapis Philosophorum,
that part in which the whole may be found. Reference
might also be made to the central axiom of Hermeti-
cism, the Hellenistic philosophical system that is the
forerunner of alchemy: ‘What is here is everywhere;
what is not here is nowhere’ (referencing Jung id.).
This is a formula for a holographic matrix. /50-51

‣ The complex symbol systems of alchemy are but one
example of a property that seems to characterize mind
in general; that is, its tendency to construct symbolic
totality metaphors. The constructs of the mind are, by
and large, couched in symbols; even ‘raw’ sensory
data is seldom experienced without symbolic interpre-
tations, associations, and judgments. This tendency of
the mind to symbolize, to organize experience into
meaningful, coherent patterns is indicative of its cease-
less effort to somehow ‘encompass’ reality, to construct
a suitable model of self and world. This quality of
mind is seen best of all, however, in the dynamics of
unconscious processes, in dreams, vision, and trance;
indeed, the individuation process in Jungian psychol-
ogy represents an attempt by the unconscious to con-
struct a totality symbol that both encompasses and
defines the self and the world in relation to the self.
Jung has shown in numerous works [Psychology and
Alchemy, The Archetypes and the Collective Uncon-
scious] the important role played by mandala symbol-
ism as a means for expressing the underlying order of
psychic unity and totality. This property of symmetri-
cal, mandalic organization is found universally in all
artifacts of human thought, from the most abstract
metaphysical systems to the commonest objects of
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everyday use, and it, indeed, appears to be intrinsic to
the organization of the psyche. May not this proclivity
of the mind to elaborate symbolic totality metaphors
be reflective of the holographic structure of the psy-
che? /51

‣ The unformed archetypes of the collective unconscious
may be the holographic substrate of the species’ mind.
Each individual and mind-brain is then like a frag-
ment of the total hologram; but, in accordance with
holographic principles, each fragment contains the
whole. It will be remembered that each part of a holo-
gram can reconstruct an entire image, but that the de-
tails of the image will deteriorate in proportion to its
fragmentation, while the overstructure will remain.
Out of this feature of holography arises the quality of
individual point of view and, in fact, individuality
itself. If each mind is a holographic medium, then each
is contiguous with every other, because of the ubiqui-
tous distribution of information in a hologram. Each
individual mind would thus be a representation of the
‘essence’ of reality, but the details could not be re-
solved until the fragments of the collective hologram
were joined. /51

‣ Confronted with certain holographic qualities as a fea-
ture of both mind and brain, it seems reasonable to ask
whether holographic principles are found on other
levels of organization. We can find this most appar-
ently in the organismic realm, in the fact of the ubiq-
uity and redundancy of DNA. We refer to the fact that
DNA seems to store information holographically, in
that the nucleotide sequence of the molecule is identi-
cal in every cell of a given organism. The DNA from
one cell theoretically contains all the information nec-
essary to regenerate the entire organism. /52

‣ Bohr was the first to show that the electron, the basic
subunit of matter, could not be considered to have a

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spatiotemporal location (around the nucleus of an
atom, for example), but instead had to be mathemati-
cally approached as a ‘cloud’ of probability: The free
electron possesses a ‘mass’ coincident with the entire
universe, and its occurrence at a given space-time lo-
cus is a function of extreme possibility, not of definable
position. This quantum concept of the electron is strik-
ingly reminiscent of the Leibnizian monad, that is both
‘here’ and ‘everywhere’ at once. Under the quantum
theory, each quantum of matter is both wave and par-
ticle and pervades the universe; there is no solid mat-
ter as such, but only probability densities in the con-
tinuum, interference patterns created by the interac-
tion of quanta that, to the synthesizing perceptual
mechanism of the brain-mind, appears as objects ‘ac-
tual entities’ rocks, tables, people, stars, and so on.
Thus, a holographic image of reality is reconstructed
by the brain-mind from the underlying substrate of
concrescences of probability. /54

‣ The idea of the simultaneous coexistence of an alien
dimension all around us is as strange an idea in the
context of modern society as it must have been to the
first shamans, whose experiments with psychoactive
plants would have soon brought them to the same
tryptamine doorway. /114

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Chapter Three
Bonus Essay: ‘The Shamanic Method’

Common Assumptions
The first real science humanity has developed, it has
developed not under the pulpit of scientists, but of native
shamans. This is my proposition.
Of course, when I assume that shamanism is a science,
I must be able to show that it uses a method, a scientific
methodology, that is, a set of tools that serve to look at na-
ture in a truthful and possibly objective manner. Is that the
case with shamanism?
Let us look at the literature first. Most authors’ assess-
ment of shamanism coincides with saying that it is a way
of apprehending reality, a set of insightful techniques, ritu-
als and patterns, as well as a natural and organic lifestyle
centered not at dominating nature or cosmos, but at par-
ticipating in and understanding nature and the cosmos.
Stanley Krippner and Alberto Villoldo, in their study
Healing States (1984), define shamanism as ‘an attitude, a
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

discipline, and a state of mind that emphasizes the loving
care and concern of oneself, one’s family, one’s community,
and one’s environment.‘ (Id., 85)

Most authors agree with this view, in that the shaman
is having a regulatory function within tribal society, for bring-
ing inner peace and healing to the clan or the whole of the
tribe. But this is not his only function. This quote also does
not give flesh to my theory that shamanism is essentially a
science, even though this science is used for doing good to
people, for healing or for divining future events.
What I am saying is that the shamanic method or tech-
nique is not just a fancy ritual, not just an experience of
ecstasy, but essentially, a scientific investigation into the na-
ture of things, the nature of the cosmos, and the role that
the human being plays within this cosmos.
Most authors also agree that the most important to find
out about shamanism is its use of entheogens.
These are plants that contain psychoactive compounds,
such as DMT, which, when taken at appropriate doses,
produce a consciousness-altering effect upon our psyche
and perception. There are various names for such plants,
and the name that is given often reflects the state of mind
of the researcher.

Mircea Eliade states in his book Shamanism: Ancient
Techniques of Ecstasy (1972) that any given shamanic culture
was at its decline or caught in decadence when their sha-
mans began to use psychedelics for the shamanic voyage.

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

However, it has to be noted that today this opinion is
clearly contradicted by the large majority of researchers,
such as for example Metzner, Harner, Gottlieb, Schultes,
Hofmann, Rätsch or McKenna who agree in considering
Eliade’s bias here as a myopic view and a basic misconcep-
tion about shamanism. For example, contrasting with this
view, Terence McKenna writes in The Archaic Revival (1992):

While Eliade asserts that the use of narcotic substances as an
aid to ecstasy invariably indicates a decadence or vulgariza-
tion of the shamanic tradition, there is reason to doubt this.
(Id., 15)

The shaman typically is one who stands out because of
his unique capability to explore, and travel into different
realities and levels of consciousness.
The second point where researchers largely coincide in
their opinions is that shamanism cannot be defined under
the exclusion of entheogens.
While there are methods to alter consciousness without
plants, using esoteric breathing techniques, body postures
or ecstatic dance, drumming, prayer, fasting and other
techniques, researchers agree that from a point of view of
effectiveness there is a large gap between those latter tech-
niques, and the use of entheogenic compounds. Entheo-
gens are several hundreds of percent more effective than non-
plant based methods.

Several researchers have seriously tackled the question
why this is so, and one of the most persisting on this spe-

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cific point was Terence McKenna. In Archaic Revival (1992),
he affirms that entheogenic plants contain the very essen-
tial genetic code, the basic information about the evolution
of life on earth, and that for this reason the ingestion of the
psychoactive compounds they contain leads to an immedi-
ate opening of consciousness, which was something much
broader and more intelligent to experience than mere col-
orful visions.

Anthropologists who try to understand the phenome-
non of shamanism and reduce the entheogenic experience
to a mere social game, a distraction or a search for some
kind of nirvana are deeply misled. When I say shamanism
is a science—actually the first science humanity used for
reality assessment—I go even beyond the visionary mes-
sage of McKenna, and Eliade’s assumption that shaman-
ism was merely a set of techniques for achieving ecstasy.
It is therefore not surprising that most anthropologists,
and especially those who really do not understand sha-
manic culture, tend to use expressions such as hallucino-
gens, narcotic drugs, narcotics or psychedelics when talk-
ing about entheogens.
Apart the fact that these plants are not narcotics, be-
cause a narcotic drug, such as for example opium, renders
somnolent but does not alter consciousness, the important
thing to know is that entheogens are not understood, in
shamanistic cultures, as leisure drugs, but really are con-
sidered as assets of the religious and numinous experience.

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

That is why the only expression that comes close to the
shamanistic mindset is the term entheogens, facilitators for
getting in touch with the inner god. It has been found that
entheogens, apart from their helping us to reach the inner
mind, also dissolve habits such as alcoholism, and gener-
ally help in a process of social deconditioning. In clear text,
entheogens help us lift the veil of the normative behavior
code in any given society as they show us options of differ-
ent behavior. They actually show us the immanent potential-
ity in all of nature’s setup, and especially in how nature
has setup the human being as a basically free creature, who
is not a priori bounded by a preset program.
What we can thus learn from taking these plants as a
sort of ‘social medicine’ is to recognize the patterns of nor-
mative behavior we are caught in and that obstruct our crea-
tivity and self-realization.
People who are socially oppressed, racial, ethnic, relig-
ious or sexual minorities, may want to inquire into the
possible dissolution of rigid behavioral rules and oppres-
sive normative standards in society. They may thus look
for the ultimately most intelligent catalyzer that exists to
see all the options reality offers and, as a result, might want to
engage in a consciousness-opening voyage.

The human soul expresses its originality in paradoxes
and sometimes in extreme behavior and the very attempt
to classify human behavior into rigid ‘standards for all’ is
in itself an ideology, or political program. The more a given
society puts up general standards, the more it is alienated

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from life and its creative roots and the more it is subject to
decay and devolution.
This being said, there is agreement among researchers
that shamanism is an effective guidepost for revisiting the
realm of nature’s wisdom and true connectedness with all-
that-is.
As far as I can see, people caught in minority group-
ings and the social fight involved with minority lobbying
hardly ever come up with beyond-the-fence solutions such
as experiencing entheogens, which makes the extreme
poverty of many of those movements, not to say their ul-
timate system-obedience.
This system-obedience can be seen in many a limitation
that social activists impose upon themselves and that are,
ultimately, still system-prone. As Krishnamurti said, re-
peating an old wisdom: the revolt is still within the same
frame of mind as the society it revolts against.
The entheogenic quest is therefore an inner quest, not
necessarily something like a defeatist approach on a social
level, but certainly an important add-on to any social activ-
ism for any possible social or humanitarian cause.

The Detractors of Shamanism
The detractors of shamanism were the Enlightenment,
Cartesianism, Reductionism and Catholicism. Let me point
this out in more detail. It is perhaps the most putatively
known fact that missionaries had a particular grip on na-

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

tive peoples, and their shamanic rituals, as the Church
considered such practices as ‘devil’s domain.’
It is for this reason not surprising that colonialism to-
gether with missionarism was doing harm to shamanism,
in many parts of the world. This was direct physical harm,
that often resulted in malady or death of the concerned
native populations.
That is today standard school knowledge. It is however
less known how Cartesian reductionist science, which was
a fruit of the rationalistic thoughts of the Enlightenment,
was largely prohibiting knowledge about shamanism to
percolate into Western society and culture. Here the effect
and the harm done was not direct and physical, but indi-
rect. It was something like intellectual or scientific racism.
Ethnology, psychiatry and certain branches of psycho-
analysis were initially treating native shamanic wisdom as
‘primitive’ or ‘barbarous’ practices. Shamanism was not
considered to effect valid healing of disease, but fake heal-
ing, or ‘magic;’ and even less was it considered to be a sci-
ence.

The Age of Enlightenment

The spook of rationalism began in the second half of the
17th century, which is not surprisingly also the time when
two other large movements started out, industrialization
and child protection. This rationalist streak in human phi-
losophy advocated so-called ‘Reason’ as a means to estab-
lishing an authoritative system of aesthetics, ethics, gov-

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ernment, and logic that would allow human beings to ob-
tain pretendedly ‘objective truth’ about the universe.
I simply call it the Age of Darkness because it is now
firmly established by both quantum physics and systems
theory that the values of the Age of Enlightenment were
bringing us widespread intellectual and emotional narrow-
mindedness, rampant functional disease, spiritual confu-
sion, fragmentation, racism and worldwide ecological de-
struction. The typical concern for the enlightenment was
mechanics; so was its understanding of the world, that is,
as a gigantic clockwork.
Most of the intellectual avant-garde today agrees with
this critical view, as for example Fritjof Capra, one of the
greatest exponents of today’s intellectual elite; many fur-
ther references and other authors are to be found in Ca-
pra’s books.

—See, for example, Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (1975), The
Turning Point (1987), The Web of Life (1996), The Hidden Connections
(2002), Steering Business Toward Sustainability (1995). There are many
further references in all of Capra’s books.

All that didn’t fit in the mindset of those total rational-
ists was ruthlessly discarded out and labeled as ‘mysticism,’
‘paranoid delusions,’ ‘freakish daydreaming’ or ‘charlatan-
ism.’
The sciences that were particularly hit by this myopic
paradigm were parapsychology, shamanism and astrology.
It is interesting to see that today adherents of this out-
dated and judgmental paradigm are to be found in the

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

rings of mechanistic science and skepticism. An example is
the fight of Randall James Hamilton Zwinge alias James
Randi against so-called pseudoscience, and his personal
fight against Uri Geller, a medium who was tested by Stan-
ford University and found not to be a fraud.
For James Randi, Goethe’s ‘school wisdom’ theorem
literally applies that says that what mustn’t be, cannot be.

Cartesian Science
The Cartesian or Newtonian worldview is a life and
science philosophy marked by left-brainism, a hypertro-
phy of deductive and logical thinking to the detriment of
the qualities of the right brain such as associative and imagi-
native thinking, and generally fantasy.
It’s also a worldview that generally tends to disregard
or deny dreams and dreaming, extrasensorial perception
and ESP faculties as well as genuine spirituality. The term
Cartesian has been coined to mark a similarity in reasoning
with the reductionist philosophical theories of the French
philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650). Historically, and
philosophically, it was not Descartes who came up first in
world history with this schizoid worldview, but the so-
called Eleatic School, a philosophical movement in ancient
Greece that opposed the holistic and organic worldview
represented by Heraclites; but it was through the Cartesian
affirmation and pseudo-scientific corroboration of the an-
cient Eleatic dualism that in the history of Western science,
the left-brained reductionist approach to reality, which is

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actually a fallacy of perception, became the dominant sci-
ence paradigm. Fritjof Capra, in his bestselling book The
Tao of Physics (1975/2000), observes:

The birth of modern science was preceded and accompanied
by a development of philosophical thought which led to an
extreme formulation of the spirit/matter dualism. This for-
mulation appeared in the seventeenth century in the phi-
losophy of René Descartes who based his view of nature on a
fundamental division into two separate and independent
realms: that of mind (res cogitans), and that of matter (res
extensa). The ‘Cartesian’ division allowed scientists to treat
matter as dead and completely separate from themselves,
and to see the material world as a multitude of different ob-
jects assembled into a huge machine. (Id., 8)

Presently, even mainstream science gurus declare Car-
tesianism to be obsoleted and overruled by the new phys-
ics and the emerging holistic science paradigm that is pres-
ently breaking through as a preparation for a completely
new worldview in the West, while in Eastern culture this
organic, holistic worldview was always the prevailing one.
Quantum physics has demolished the classical Newto-
nian worldview with its strict determinism. As Fritjof Ca-
pra concludes, a careful observation of subatomic particles
shows that these particles give meaning only when seen
not as isolated entities, but when understood as intercon-
nections between the preparation of an experiment and the
subsequent measurement.
Quantum physics reveals a basic oneness of the uni-
verse at least at a subatomic level of observation, which is

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

exactly what perennial science and mystical traditions of
the East and West always have assumed as the main char-
acteristic of reality.

In his second bestselling book, The Turning Point (1987),
Fritjof Capra then concludes this insight and extrapolates it
beyond the realm of physics:

In contrast to the mechanistic Cartesian view of the world,
the world view emerging from modern physics can be char-
acterized by words like organic, holistic, and ecological, It
might also be called a systems view, in the sense of general
systems theory. The universe is no longer seen as a machine,
made up of a multitude of objects, but has to be pictured as
one indivisible dynamic whole whose parts are essentially
interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a
cosmic process. (Id., 66)

Thus we can conclude that Cartesianism, which is ac-
tually rooted in ancient Greece and became the dominator
science paradigm for about four hundred years, was hos-
tile to shamanism, declaring shamans to be either psy-
chotic and delusional, or to be charlatans. It has to be seen
that the power of the Church in suppressing and rooting
out shamanic cultures all over the world was backed up by
science, by natural science, by psychiatry and by ‘colonial’
ethnology.
To see the holocaust committed against native peoples
only as religious fanaticism overlooks the much more im-
portant fact that this fanaticism was largely backed by ‘ra-
tional’ science.

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Reductionism

Reductionism is a typical modern-day phenomenon. It
is something like a thinking habit that results from a hy-
pertrophy of the left brain. Historically it has taken root
with the French philosophers René Descartes (1596-1650)
and La Mettrie (1709-1751) who were considering humans
as machines and nature as a complex yet entirely mechani-
cal machinery.
Thus, the nature of complex things is reduced to the
nature of sums of simpler or more fundamental things.
This can be said of objects, phenomena, explanations,
theories, and meanings.
More and more, with a holistic view of the universe as
it is emerging from about the 1980s, the mechanical reduc-
tionism of Darwinian evolutionary psychology is over-
come and science presently changes many of its funda-
mental paradigms because of this shift in understanding
nature, human nature and the cosmos at large.
Let me give a few typical examples for reductionism in
scientific texts and popular imaging. For example, it is
written by Rupert Sheldrake in his book A New Science of
Life (1995) that the old idea of a cosmic life energy, life force
or vital energy was but a ‘vitalistic theory.’
What Sheldrake means is that there is no such cosmic
life energy, and he thus was reducing the whole idea of a
cosmic energy to the term ‘vitalism.’

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It has to be seen that often in science and also in politi-
cal scripts and writings, reductionism is used for belittling,
or outright downplaying important concepts and phenom-
ena of life, thereby manipulating public opinion. A reduc-
tionist argument against shamanism would be the affirma-
tion that shamanism ‘is but a set of wild rituals that put
primitive peoples in a state of trance, in which they do all
kinds of things they wouldn’t do when they are sober.’

Typically, reductionists would deny shamans to be real
healers and to have a scientific approach to knowledge gath-
ering. They would downplay shamanism as a ‘barbarous
ritual’ that ‘may appeal to primitives but is to be rejected
by civilized society.’

Catholicism

While Catholicism has ravaged shamanic cultures, es-
pecially in South America, and as a result of the Conquista,
it could have had a better understanding of the shamanic
quest because, after all, the esoteric Christian tradition is
highly ‘shamanic’ in the sense that it values the inner expe-
rience over the outer ritual.
—See, for example Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1994), Michael
Talbot, The Holographic Universe (1992) and Michael Murphy, The Fu-
ture of the Body (1992), Part 2, (21) and (22), 464-527.

However, just as with Buddhism, this inner quest for
enlightenment is not scientific in nature, but contempla-
tive. There are many phenomena that saints produce, for

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the most part involuntarily, such as stigmata, that cannot
be rationally or scientifically explained.

—See Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe (1992), Part 2 (5),
119 ff., Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body (1992), Part 2 (21), 464
ff.

It is for this reason lesser a problem of an inner contra-
diction between the Christian dogma and shamanism, but
a general problem of power, and power politics, with all
organized forms of religion.
The same inner congruence but split on the outside
level is to be seen in Islam, between the official dogma and
the Sufi tradition. It is important to see that in most sha-
manic cultures, such as Siberia, or South America, there are
religions in place that are neither in contradiction to sha-
manism, nor are they in any way in alignment with it.
Interestingly, shamans, when questioned if shamanism
was a religion, tend to answer that it had nothing to do
with organized religion but that the inner quest, the quest
for real knowledge was a form of true religio, in the sense
that it brings us closer to our inner god, and thereby, in a
condition of cosmic alignment.
It is in this sense that shamans use entheogens, which is
why these plants or compounds have been called that way
—that is, inner god plants.
—See Piers Vitebsky, The Shaman (1995/2001)

Again, as with the other detractors of shamanism I dis-
cussed here, we see that shamanism stands out not because

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of an inherent conflict between shamanism and religion,
but because the shamanic quest is scientific, religious and
teleological at the same time.

The latter element is important, for it makes exactly the
divide with the purely contemplative or existential quest
that is at the basis of esoteric religious traditions. If I was to
compare shamanism with any other ancient science tradi-
tion, I can only think of alchemy.

The particularly destructive thrust that Catholicism is
to be reproached regarding shamanic cultures, and sha-
manism in general, is that the Church preached that non-
believers had no soul, that they were soulless and accord-
ingly, were lacking the essential quality of being human.
That was of course a hubristic view that is today largely
contradicted even within Church circles. In fact, both the
esoteric Christian tradition and the shamanic tradition deal
with what they call ‘loss of soul.’

—See, for example, Alberto Villoldo, Mending The Past And Heal-
ing The Future with Soul Retrieval (2005)

The Shamanic Revival
The shamanic revival may coincide with the publishing
of Terence McKenna’s book The Archaic Revival (1992), but
it actually began in the 1970s. To understand the turning of
the tide, let us consider the first honest information sources
about shamanism that penetrated in the West, and that
date back to the 1920s. It was the writings of anthropolo-
gist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942), ethnologist Marga-

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ret Mead (1901-1978), and the writings of Sigmund Freud
(1856-1939) and Carl-Gustav Jung (1875-1961).
Before I come to summarize these early glimpses into
shamanic culture and lifestyle, let me give an example for
the level of semantic confusion that reigned until very re-
cently in this field of research, since exactly the time that I
would qualify as the ‘early colonial adaptation of shaman-
ism to the reductionist mindset of Western researchers.’

The example is taken from the article Lévi-Strauss on
Shamanism, by Jerome Neu, published in Andrei A. Zna-
menski’s reader Shamanism: Critical Concepts in Sociology
(2004). The author observes:

Lévi-Strauss actually speaks of the sorcerer abreacting for
the silent patient (p. 183), which is without sense in psycho-
analytic terms. And again, he does not explain why symbolic
thoughts should provide a lever for producing physiological
changes, except that the thoughts run ‘parallel’ to the physi-
ology. But do they? If they did, would that explain anything?
(Id., 314)

This is a striking example of a gigantic misunderstand-
ing. First of all, the author here criticizes Lévi-Strauss for
observations he has made, and thus as a mere messenger
of a phenomenon neither Strauss nor the author seemed to
understand.

Second, it is true that the shaman effects changes in the
physiology of the patient by performing acts on himself, or
within his own spiritual oversoul, instead of the patient
doing anything about them, or taking any remedy against

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them. This is about the most important fundamental dif-
ference between shamanic healing and the healing con-
cepts in larger dominator civilizations. It has been pointed
out clearly and with much detail in a study by Sabine Har-
gous, Les appeleurs d’âmes (1985). In addition, a quote from
Terence McKenna’s book Food of the Gods (1993) leaves no
doubt that shamanic healing uses what we today know as
the quantum field or quantum interconnectedness for ef-
fecting healing:

Usually, if drugs are used, the shaman, not the patient, will
take the drug. The motivation is also entirely different. The
plants used by the shaman are not intended to stimulate the
immune system or the body’s other natural defenses against
disease. Rather, the shamanic plants allow the healer to jour-
ney into an invisible realm in which the causality of the or-
dinary world is replaced with the rationale of natural magic.
In this realm, language, ideas, and meaning have greater
power than cause and effect. Sympathies, resonances, inten-
tions, and personal will are linguistically magnified through
poetic rhetoric. The imagination is invoked and sometimes
its forms are beheld visibly. Within the magical mind-set of
the shaman, the ordinary connections of the world and what
we call natural laws are deemphasized or ignored. (Id., 6)

It doesn’t actually surprise me that the psychoanalytic
framework is used to deny shamanism its intrinsic scien-
tific novelty, when compared to traditional physics.
Psychoanalysis at no point in time was a science, but
represents a collection of myths that ultimately were forged

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and are upheld for providing a pseudoscientific and ideo-
logical roof structure for modern consumer reality.
Terence McKenna has anticipated this scientific novelty
while he explains the fact of the co-emergence of healing
both in the healer’s and the patient’s organisms in poetic
rather than scientific terms. But his language is accurate in
that the unified field is indeed ‘an invisible realm in which
the causality of the ordinary world is replaced with the ra-
tionale of natural magic.’ The same is true for the last sen-
tence of this quote, where he says that within the magical
mindset of the shaman, ‘the ordinary connections of the
world and what we call natural laws are deemphasized or
ignored.’

The truth is that indeed on the subatomic or quantum
level of reality, these natural laws that we know from New-
tonian physics are invalid.
Regarding the vocabulary McKenna uses, I can only
refer to the old truth that humans consider as ‘magic’ all
they don’t really (yet) understand.
Had McKenna anticipated cutting-edge research on the
unified field, he would probably have used a scientific in-
stead of a poetic vocabulary to express this truth.

Sigmund Freud
I am at pains to qualify Freud’s opinions and specula-
tions about tribal cultures in any even remotely positive
way. What Freud writes in Totem and Tabu (1913) about the

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‘primitive’ Australian aborigines will not lead the inter-
ested reader to a comprehensive grasp of shamanism.
In keeping with Freud’s personal style, not to say his
personal obsession, he uses examples mostly from the Aus-
tralian Aborigines, gathered and discussed by anthropolo-
gist James George Frazer.
In his first essay, entitled ‘The Horror of Incest,’ Freud
points out, with some surprise, that although the Aborigi-
nes do not seem to have any sexual restrictions, they ex-
hibit an elaborate social organization whose sole purpose
is to prevent incestuous sexual relations.
In the second essay, ‘Taboo and Emotional Ambiva-
lence,’ Freud considers the relationship between taboos
and totemism, using his concepts of ‘projection’ and ‘am-
bivalence’ developed in his work with neurotic patients,
concluding, somewhat precipitously, that ‘primitive peo-
ples’ feel ambivalent about most people in their lives, but
will not admit it to themselves.

In the third essay, ‘Animism, Magic and the Omnipo-
tence of Thought,’ Freud draws another parallel between
primitives and, this time, early libidinal development. He as-
serts there is a belief in magic and sorcery that derives
from an overvaluation of psychical acts whereby the struc-
tural conditions of mind are transposed onto the world:
this overvaluation, he sees in both primitive men and neu-
rotics, concluding that the animistic mode of thinking is
governed by an ‘omnipotence of thoughts,’ a projection of
inner mental life onto the external world. This imaginary

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construction of reality is also discernible in obsessive think-
ing, delusional disorders and phobias. Freud comments that
the omnipotence of thoughts has been retained in the
magical realm of art.
In the final essay, ‘The Return of Totemism in Child-
hood,’ Freud argues that combining one of Charles Dar-
win’s more speculative theories about the arrangements of
early human societies, Freud located the beginnings of the
Oedipus complex at the origins of human society, and pos-
tulated that all religion was in effect an extended and col-
lective form of guilt and ambivalence to cope with the kill-
ing of the father figure (which he saw as the true original
sin).

It is almost incredible how today anybody can invoke
Freud as a cultural or psychiatric innovator, as what he
was standing for is simply nihilism and a total ignorance
in front of the primacy of spirit over matter that aborigi-
nals do know about since millennia. That neurotics in their
confusion sense something true is not surprising, but obvi-
ously Freud was not up to match their level of evolution.
He was on a level below ‘primitives’ and ‘neurotics,’
ignoring about everything about spiritual laws, stating lit-
eral nonsense in most of his books and theories, which, to
make it worse, were adopted as eternal truth by subse-
quent generations of psychoanalysts and even lay people.
More is not needed actually to understand to what
point our culture is ‘intuitively ignorant’ to a point it be-
gins to border ridicule; for otherwise, none of Freud’s ar-

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rogant assumptions that have no backup even in common
sense would never have been adopted as bearing any onto-
logical value.

Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead

As early as in 1929, Malinowski published his report
on the sexual life of the Trobriands in which he draws the
reader’s attention particularly to the sexual life of children
and adolescents.

—See, for example, Susanne Cho, Kindheit und Sexualität im Wan-
del der Kulturgeschichte (1983); Larry L. & Joan M. Constantine, Treas-
ures of the Island (1976) and Where are the Kids? Children in Alterna-
tive Life-Styles (1977) as well as Richard L. Currier, Juvenile Sexuality in
Global Perspective, in: Children & Sex: New Findings, New Perspec-
tives (1981) and Floyd Martinson, Sexual Knowledge (1966), Infant and
Child Sexuality (1973), The Quality of Adolescent Experiences (1974),
The Child and the Family (1980), The Sex Education of Young Children
(1981), The Sexual Life of Children (1994) and Children and Sex, Part II:
Childhood Sexuality (1994)

Malinowski observed, not without surprise, high sex-
ual permissiveness toward children's free sexual play.
More generally, he noted the total absence of a morality
that condemns sexuality in children. Instead, he observed,
children engage in free sexual play from early age.

—Bronislaw Malinowski, The Sexual Life of Savages in North West
Melanesia (1929) and Sex and Repression in Savage Society (1927)

Initiatory rites, he found, were absent with the Trobri-
ands since children were initiated from about three years
onwards, generally by older children, in all forms of sexual

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play. This play is completely nonviolent and includes, with
the older children, coitus.
The most interesting finding for Malinowski was that
in this culture violence was as good as non-existing and
that there were equally as good as no sexual dysfunctions.
Trobriands were found to be ideal marriage partners
and divorce is a rare exception. Violent crimes are non-
existent and incest strongly tabooed and inhibited by so-
cial norms.
Other researchers found similar phenomena with the
Muria tribe in South India where children stay until their
maturity in so-called ghotuls where they live their sexual-
ity freely and in utter promiscuity. Older children initiate
younger ones progressively into sexual play.
—V. Elwin, The Muria and their Ghotul (1947), Richard Currier,
Juvenile Sexuality in Global Perspective (1981), 9 ff.

These researchers found that after a phase of promiscu-
ity, children, from the age of sexual maturity, form strong
bonds and partnerships that are based not on sexual attrac-
tion, but on love. They further found that these first steady
relationships formed the basis for later marriages that,
regularly, last life-long.
This field research conducted by Malinowski and Mar-
garet Mead, while it is certainly of high importance for
sexology, cognitive psychology and research on emotions,
has not given any information about shamanism.

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—Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Socie-
ties (1935)

This is simply so and my remark is in no way a value
judgment. Their research was not intended to provide in-
formation on shamanic culture and lifestyle. But it is quite
uncanny to see that before researchers came up with look-
ing at native peoples’ spiritual life, they were looking at
their sexual life. I guess it says more about the typical ob-
session of the observers than the subjects observed! And
the parallel with Freud’s early regard upon aboriginal cul-
ture is obvious and not coincidental.
What does this mean?
It means that what quantum physics says is really true,
and also on a practical level: the observer is always entan-
gled with the object of observation. When researchers fo-
cus on sexuality and physical reality, they will see emerg-
ing sexual properties, when they focus on spirituality and
metaphysical reality, the will see emerging spiritual or re-
ligious properties.
Both Malinowski and Freud were focused on the for-
mer, Jung was focused on the latter. All of them were one-
sided in a way, considering a partial spectrum of life, not
life in its holistic total quality, as shamanism does.

Carl-Gustav Jung

Carl Jung was not a representative of psychoanalysis
because he was different, so different that I say he was a
shaman himself! And I am not the only one who says this.

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C. Michael Smith writes in Jung and Shamanism in Dia-
logue (2007) that Jung, during the time of the break with
Freud, his mentor and father figure, became seriously de-
pressed and close to psychosis, which led to as it were his
shamanic initiation. The author writes:

Shamanically speaking, soul loss has traditionally been asso-
ciated not only with a loss of will, such as we find in depres-
sion, or with a loss of vital powers, such as we find in patho-
logical dissociation, but also with a loss of connection to
community, to the social sphere. In soul loss, one may be so
lost in the ‘realm of imagination’, in altered states of con-
sciousness, that there is little relatedness to the outer world.
In this respect, Jung must have felt very ‘lost’ indeed.

He heard voices, had visions, dreamt of rivers of blood,
talked with spirits as he walked in his garden. He was so
absorbed in the altered states of consciousness associated
with psychotic, mystic, and shamanic realms that he had to
remind himself that he was a doctor, a really existing person
with a family, patients, and responsibilities.

During the shamanic initiatory crisis, the initiant has avail-
able ritual elders, master shamans to whom he or she can go
to guide / and safely contain the transformative process. The
wounded healer learns to heal himself or herself partly
through the encounter with the spirits, and partly under the
necessary structuration and guidance of the ritual elders.
Jung had no ritual elder, no analyst to help him sort through
and understand the emerging material, and no professional
therapeutic containing vessel was available. (Id., 82-83)

From a scientific point of view, it seems daring to call
Jung ‘a shaman’ even though he might have experienced
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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

phenomena that are usually reserved for initiants of sha-
manism and psychic research. The difference between
shamanic initiation and Jung’s psychic experiences is that
Jung lacked a genuine intention to become a shaman; his
experiences were involuntary for the most part, a result of
his extreme psychic tension during these times of trial. He
was closer to a psychotic who kind of manages to make
senses of his delusions and psychic extravagances.

The difference to shamanism is that the shaman has
mastered this initial phase that however, he entered with a
firm intention to become a shaman, to enter the shamanic
tradition, usually after having received a guiding dream in
his adolescent years.

But despite this precaution, I can conclude that Jung’s
struggle with shamanism was certainly an honest opening
to the influence of shamanism upon the modern psycho-
logical and psychiatric tradition.
It is documented that Jung left his initiation, though an
involuntary one, unharmed, to become a major spokesman
for nonordinary states of consciousness and shamanic real-
ity in the our mythopoetic and psychiatric traditions.

Jung had found the key to his own healing, to his own psy-
chological theory, and to others in his tribe of western soci-
ety. The Self is the goal of his personal quest and simultane-
ously the goal of his mature psychological theory. In this in-
sight we have Jung the shaman becoming healed, and re-
turning with the boon of his tribe: the individuation process
is a path towards self-realization. The understanding of the
Self and its realization as the goal of the life process, the in-
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dividuation process, became the program and mission for
the second half of his life. From this point on, Jung had a
clear sense of his mission (purpose), and a valuable psychol-
ogy to offer the modern western world. (Id., 96)

Michael Smith asks ‘Was Jung a Shaman?’ He first says
he was not a shaman in the classical sense, as suggested by
Eliade, Harner, and others, but that he can safely be called
a wounded healer. Then he goes on reasoning:

The wounded healer is a fundamental aspect of the shaman.
It is through the tended wound that the shaman is able to
see, to empathize, and heal. Jung possessed empathic abili-
ties in a high degree, and his abilities increased immeasura-
bly after the resolution of his midlife crisis. Like the tradi-
tional shaman, Jung was a loner, an individual who pre-
ferred solitude and absorption in the non-ordinary or imagi-
nal dimensions of what he later came to call the collective uncon-
scious. (Id., 97)

The Grand Opening

The grand opening, as it were, for shamanism in West-
ern society occurred not before the 1960s. It can quite accu-
rately be seen coincident with the publication of Mircea
Eliade’s book Shamanism in 1964, followed by the books of
Michael Harner, Richard Schultes, Ralph Metzner, and
Adam Gottlieb.
Newer research eventually recognized that shamanism
is the oldest healing practice, a sort of religious medicine that
originated more than twenty thousand years ago in the
Paleolithic hunting cultures of Siberia and Central Asia.

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

Mircea Eliade observes that the word shaman is de-
rived from the Siberian Tungus word saman, which is de-
fined as a technique of ecstasy. The shaman is considered a
great master of trance and ecstasy. He is the dominating
figure in certain indigenous populations. Most early cul-
tures’ healing practices stem from a shamanic tradition.
For instance, when visiting the sick, Egyptian magicians
often brought a papyrus roll filled with incantations and
amulets in order to drive out demons.
It is further recognized today that the shaman is regu-
larly the religious leader or priest of the tribe. He is be-
lieved to have magical powers that can heal the sick. The
shaman is called upon to mediate between the people of
the community and the spirit world to cure disease, exor-
cize evil spirits, and to promote success in hunting and
food production and to keep the tribal community in bal-
ance. Traditional shamanic rituals include singing, danc-
ing, chanting, drumming, storytelling, and healing.

The shaman also is a psychologist, or psychoanalyst in
tribal society, a sort of specialist in human souls. He is able
to see them and know their form and destiny. The shaman
controls the spirits. Rather than being possessed by them,
he communicates with the dead, demons, and nature spir-
its. The shaman’s work is based on the belief that the soul
can forsake the body even while a person is alive and can
stray into other cosmic realms where it falls prey to de-
mons and sorcerers. The shaman diagnoses the problem,

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then goes in search of the wandering soul and makes it re-
turn to the body.
Shamanism is still practiced all over the world, al-
though each culture’s shamanic tradition has evolved in
different ways. Native American medicine men perform
soul flights and vision quests to heal. North American
Inuit shamans undertake undersea spirit journeys to en-
sure a plentiful supply of game.

Tibetan shamans use a drum to help them in spirit
flight and soul retrieval. Central and South American sha-
mans often use hallucinogenic plants to invoke their sha-
manic journeys. Australian aborigine shamans believe that
crystals can be inserted into the body for power.

Despite the variety of these practices, I stress in this
book that the shaman has a methodology, a more or less
precise, and ‘computable’ set of techniques that are or-
derly, logical and sound, and that are based upon a scien-
tific outlook upon reality. This fact is hardly ever men-
tioned in the admittedly large literature on the subject to-
day.

The Shamanic Method
The shaman is not a theorist, but a scientist, not a theo-
logian, but a pragmatist. He is practical, a solution-finder
and his first rule is effectiveness. He is something like a
highly effective manager in his universe of natural laws,
and he is a communicator; he communicates with the spirit

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

world, the world of the ancestors and the world of the
animal and plant spirits.
Now, how did I come to speak of shamans using scien-
tific method to explore the spirit world and learn healing
in the trance state?
I was studying how shamans learn their ‘techniques of
ecstasy’ and found there is very little ecstatic about this
learning process, but that it actually is rather strict, meth-
odologically sound, logical, and empirical.
Shamans observe the living, nature, the human organ-
ism, they observe every little detail, and this usually starts
when they turn into adolescence. They are rather introvert
and often bold and persistent people, men or women, who
have in common that they do not accept the common folk
wisdom, nor the common lies and superstitions but set out
to inquire by themselves. They spend years in solitude,
occasionally meeting their tutor, and often have no families
in their years of learning. That means that most shamans
live rather ascetic lives, that are turned toward their sci-
ence, toward their discoveries, just like any great Western
scientist in his or her younger years of scientific achieve-
ment, lab work, experimental studies, and publishing of
papers. A shaman receives his basic education from the
entheogenic plant teachers, only to a minor degree from
another, elder, shaman tutor. Shamans around the world,
asked why they knew this and that secret about healing,
about certain hidden connections or about specific illnesses,
answer they learnt it directly from the plant spirits. They

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tend to affirm that they just humbly asked the plant spirits
every time they could not solve a problem or not find a
remedy for a certain illness.

And the effectiveness of a shaman, then, is exactly to
maximize the response ability he has for all possible prob-
lems is is asked to solve, such as sickness, counter-magic,
right timing for harvest or even political questions regard-
ing tribe relations, by maximizing his unique communica-
tion with the invisible world.
By the same token, shamans around the world, when
asked about reality tend to affirm that our visible reality,
the one most city dwellers think was the only one, is a very
minor and rather insignificant form of reality and that the
real reality is the hidden one, the one that is unveiled dur-
ing the entheogenic visionary experience.
If we refuse this bias of a more-or-less in terms of reality
assessment, we can still enrich our mindset with the option
that there might be parallel realities and that all realities,
visible or invisible, are equally valid and equally impor-
tant. Such an opening of science toward parallel universes
and acknowledging the option of a multitude of possible
realities that are not conflicting each other but may or not
be intersecting would be a great advance and evolution of
Western science.
I am serious when I allege that an experienced shaman
is able, through scientific method of exploration into the
unknown, to use the laws of the subatomic world, thereby
directly connecting with the unified field for time travel,

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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

for rendering himself temporarily invisible, or for traveling
with lightning speed to remote places, clothed only in his
auric body, while leaving the physical body behind on a
bed, while being in trance.
Western society’s notion of reality and that of most na-
tive populations clash worlds apart. Let me quote from
Michael Harner’s The Way of the Shaman (1990), which rep-
resents a mark stone in shamanism research.

Shamanism represents a great mental and emotional adven-
ture that implies both the patient and the healer. Through his
voyage and his heroic efforts, the shaman helps his patients
to transcend their normal, ordinary, definition of reality as
well as their self-definition as being sick.

This is a psychological explanation of the healing expe-
rience. I can say that a shaman helps his patient to reframe
his illness, just as a psychotherapist does; but I can also say
that the shaman doesn’t really impact upon the perception
of the client, but directly upon his quantum field, using the
unified field as the connecting agent, and scientific means
to regulate the client’s energy body.
That is a completely different explanation, because it is
epistemologically different! When I say that the shaman is a
healer, that is one thing. When I say the shaman is a healer
using scientific method for healing, that is another thing.
In the second case, there is namely no more difference
between a shaman and a physician as both use scientific
method for healing. While the scientific tools they use are
obviously very different, they both proceed empirically,

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

using observation and verification/falsification of a ‘medi-
cal theory’ for achieving their healing goals.
Now, obviously, my view here is going way beyond the
accepted paraphernalia of shamanism research; it is today
no more doubted that the shaman impacts upon the per-
ception of the client. I can even say, it’s popular knowledge
after the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!? When the
shaman in the movie touched Amanda’s third eye or fron-
tal lobe, this was clearly meant as a ‘reality changing per-
ception opener.’
But it was hardly meant to denote the shaman as a doc-
tor who proceeds scientifically to heal Amanda’s emotional
stuckness, sexual neurosis and hysteria that was in part the
result of her traumatic marriage experience.
Interestingly, this same statement could be made about
hypnotherapy, especially the method applied by Milton H.
Erickson (1901-1980) by replacing ‘healer’ and ‘shaman’ by
hypnotherapist.

In fact, Erickson certainly has learned many of his se-
crets by studying shamanic theory and practice.
In a way, we can say that our modern psychotherapists
are something like Western shamans. They are in fact bor-
derline figures in a worldview that is almost hermetically
closed toward recognizing the universal existence of soul
values. Or, to remind the saying of Carl Jung, psychother-
apy begins with the study of our dreams (individual un-
conscious) and of our myths and cultural sagas (collective
unconscious).
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THE SHAMANIC METHOD

A native would qualify somebody with a narcissism
problem as a person who has lost a part or the whole of his
soul. A psychotic patient who, in his delirium, says that
he’s Jesus Christ would be qualified by a native shaman as
somebody whose soul is occupied by a spirit who, for
whatever reason, speaks through him.
While both worldviews are quite opposite, the funda-
mental principles of healing, in shamanism, on one hand,
and in psychoanalysis, on the other, are not very different.
Where the split opens much farther is where we talk
about modern medicine, as it is applied still by a majority
of physicians.
The sometimes sharp opposition between physicians
and psychoanalysts has its deeper reasons here! The fun-
damental incompatibility, today, of shamanism and West-
ern society is that the latter lacks almost totally out on ac-
knowledging and integrating the ecstasy pattern, which I
have identified as one of the Eight Dynamic Patterns of Liv-
ing. Terence McKenna was asked by Jay Levin to define
shamanism. He writes in The Archaic Revival (1992):

Shamanism is use of the archaic techniques of ecstasy that
were developed independent of any religious philosophy –
the empirically validated, experientially operable techniques
that produce ecstasy. Ecstasy is the contemplation of whole-
ness. That’s why when you experience ecstasy—when you
contemplate wholeness— you come down remade in terms
of the political and social arena because you have seen the
larger picture. (Id., 13)

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TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

But what is ecstasy, then? Terence McKenna explains:

Ecstatic is a word unnecessary to define except operation-
ally: an ecstatic experience is one that one wishes to have
over and over again. (Id., 144)

Terence McKenna was probably right in not complicat-
ing something that is basically so easy but that most of us
have unlearnt through our educational conditioning, while
we originally, as small children, possessed the gift to con-
nect with all-that-is.
Most authors in the literature on shamanism empha-
size the shaman’s role as a manipulator of consciousness,
an expert in states of ecstasy, a visionary, a healer, a com-
municator with the spirit world, and a psychopomp. But I
have found only two authors who, like me, are convinced
that all this, while it is much already, is not the essential,
and that there is more. These authors are Stanley Krippner
and Alberto Villoldo. They relate in Healing States (1987), a
book they authored together:

In other words, shamans represent the world’s oldest profes-
sion. Their roles probably varied from one society to another,
but it is likely that they served a number of functions: artist,
healer, magician, priest, psychotherapist, seer, storyteller. In
so doing, they assisted the evolution of human conscious-
ness. (…) Shamans were also the world’s first scientists.
Their discoveries of medicinal and sacred plants were made
through observation and trial-and-error, both honored scien-
tific procedures. (…) They provided humankind with the
first tangible clues that there was order in the universe, be-
cause these observations could be replicated hundreds of

144
THE SHAMANIC METHOD

times and still yield uniform results. If the shamans did not
produce reliable data, their role was endangered and their
days of honor were numbered. Thus, humanity owes a mas-
sive debt to shamans for their pioneering work in the accu-
mulation of knowledge and the development of human ca-
pabilities. (Id., 161-162)

In his later books, Alberto Villoldo stays true to his po-
sition and provides many more details for us to see that
shamans work in a methodologically correct and conscious
manner for gathering the data they need for their work.
The specific knowledge they gather for healing has
primarily to do with the states and the condition of what
Villoldo calls the ‘Luminous Energy Field,’ which connotes
the human energy field that pulsates both within the pro-
toplasm and the surrounding aura.
In truth, Villoldo’s books are an invaluable and impor-
tant source for this knowledge to expand to a greater ex-
tent within Western culture.
This knowledge was once hermetic in our ancient tra-
ditions, and as long as it was hermetic, that is accessible
only to a chosen few of sages and natural healers, things
were okay. From the moment however that first alchemists
and later natural scientists tried to vulgarize this knowl-
edge, problems arose. It was not a minor confrontation, as
a number of scientists lost their lives, Giordano Bruno per-
haps the most prominent on the list. This knowledge taboo
persisted even in the 20th century, and we need only to

145
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

think of how Wilhelm Reich ended his days to be re-
minded of how fierce, blind and brutal the opposition was.
The Western tradition that was for more than a millen-
nium under the knowledge denial of the Church, was not
ready to receive this knowledge; things got even worse
with the Cartesian science tradition, that is roughly during
the last four hundred years, while this science was declar-
ing itself separate from religion and agnostic. This science
paradigm completely rejected the concept of the ether, the
human energy field and the very existence of a creator en-
ergy that is the origin of all life.
It was the emergence of quantum physics, especially its
two proven base assumptions, uncertainty and nonlocality,
that made for a wide opening where formerly there were
only barriers and fears. Actually, the impact of quantum
physics upon the Western scientific paradigm was so dra-
matic that scientists felt the ground had moved away from
under their feet. But it was exactly this dramatic shift in
consciousness, and the insight that the observer is inevita-
bly entangled with the object of observation that made for
novelty and new ways of scientific thinking.
Within the last two decades, then, and given the un-
wavering and almost tumultuous progress of quantum
physics beyond the borders of what Krishnamurti called
‘the known,’ there was something like a grand opening not
only in science but also in society, in the whole of our con-
sumer culture, for this millenary knowledge to be eventu-
ally accepted and integrated.

146
THE SHAMANIC METHOD

What actually changed in this tremendous paradigm
shift was not so much science itself, but the way we are
perceiving reality; as a result of this shift in perception, our
scientific processes and methodology changed accordingly.
It is important to see this difference, for it is the very way
of thinking of native peoples that our perception conditions
reality and all we do and achieve within this reality.
Once I look at the world in a different way, I will do a
different kind of science. Once I see that my old science
was destroying the planet, I will be able, from my new ho-
listic perspective, to conceive and design a new science
that is sustainable, and that respects and integrates spiri-
tual values.

It is on this fertile ground that Villoldo’s books could
take root in our culture while just some decades before the
knowledge they bring would perhaps have been violently
rejected. Now, things look quite different; there has not
been a time in our culture that was more vibrantly inter-
ested and motivated to learn the most possible amount of
knowledge that was formerly rejected and banned, as part
of the forbidden tree of knowledge. A first breakthrough
was happening with the books of Carlos Castaneda in the
70s and 80s, then, at around the same time, with the books
of Terence McKenna.
But it must be seen that at that time, the idea of a sha-
man being a scientist was still so daring and outlandish
that even a popular author such as Terence McKenna care-
fully guards against possible attacks when he states in the

147
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

Archaic Revival (1992) that he was ‘not a scientist, but an
explorer.’
To reduce shamanism to being a catalyzing method for
bringing about ecstasy, while this is certainly true, is not
giving justice to the science of shamanism. It would be as if
saying that medical science is to bring about painless op-
erations, and generally, was a methodology not for healing
people, but for effective painkilling. (That medicine actu-
ally used to have this reductionist approach to healing, I
won’t discuss here as it’s off-topic, and also because things
are quite dramatically changing now).
While I admit that it was daring to state shamanism is
a science, just two decades ago, now such a view cannot be
dismissed as groundless or speculative. Why?
Because there is evidence, a lot of evidence to corrobo-
rate my theory. Villoldo’s books are a good starting point,
and they contain much of the knowledge I have found in
other recent publications about shamanism, but explain
matters in more detail, and in a way that is comprehensive
not for a few select field researchers only, but for many
people.
To begin with, the shamanic medical system and meth-
odology differs in several ways from the our medical sci-
ence model. The first fundamental difference, I have men-
tioned already earlier on; it is the fact that the shaman im-
pacts first of all upon his own neuronal and bioenergetic net-
work for effecting changes upon the neuronal and bioener-
getic network of his client. This means the shaman uses

148
THE SHAMANIC METHOD

quantum interconnectedness for bringing about any benefi-
cial changes in the complete organism of the client.
The second important difference is that the shaman
doesn’t directly impact upon the physical body; he impacts
upon the subtle, auric body, the luminous energy field; this
is systemically sound as any changes effected in the quan-
tum field automatically will trigger changes in the physical
body. This is actually very smart as a healing methodology
because the spirit body creates and maintains the denser
physical body; as a result, changes in the physical body are
always preceded by changes in the subtle energy body.
Now, the interesting thing is that shamanic medical
science in this point fully resonates with the insights and
practices of intuitive and clairvoyant healers within our
own culture. I have found important references in the writ-
ings of Paracelsus, Franz Anton Mesmer, Carl Reichen-
bach, Wilhelm Reich, Charles W. Leadbeater, Shafica Kara-
gulla and Dora van Gelder Kunz, to name only these, that
actually show in minute detail that shamanic healing wis-
dom exactly coincides with their Western esoteric corre-
lates.

—See Peter Fritz Walter, The Vibrational Nature of Life (2014)

It is important to note that both the shamanic and the
traditional healing systems of large civilizations are very
old, much older namely than our modern medical science.
Another parallel, I have found in the oldest healing
tradition of India, Ayurveda, and both Chinese and Tibetan

149
TERENCE MCKENNA AND ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY

medicine. These traditional healing practices equally know
about the luminous energy field and effect healing primar-
ily by manipulating anomalies in the field.

150
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Personal Notes