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Words with the Sham Man
by Chris Twomey
7 Jul 1994
Originally published in Eye Weekly
At the end of time -- Dec. 21, 2012, didn't you know? -- psychedelic guru and author/theorist Terence McKenna will be camped out at a Mayan temple somewhere in Central America. Stoned on psilocybin as usual, McKenna, with the help of his alien buddies, will cross an inter-dimensional bridge to higher consciousness.

And if you believe that, has McKenna got a $150 two-day Q&A session for you!

Not only is Dec. 21, 2012 the day Mayan astronomers considered the end of time, but it is the moment that our Sun eclipses the galactic centre -- a chance chaotic event that only happens once. McKenna the "Altered States"-man's belief in this date is the result of a computer program he dreamed up that describes the movement of time based on the resonance of fractals and the rhythm of the I Ching.

In his psychedelic rapture McKenna will have fulfilled his life's work, as mapped out in books like True Hallucinations and on recordings with English rave bands like The Shamen. "The sober men of science are saying the universe sprang from nothing for no reason," he says with Buddhistic non-attachment. "This is the limit test for credulity! Science is saying give us one free miracle and we'll explain the rest. I'll take mine at the end, thank you. They have the big bang, I have the big surprise."

McKenna believes that it's not the monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey that guided our planetary birthing, but the consciousness- expanding hallucinogen psilocybin. From the plains of Africa to 2012's hyper-dimensional gateway, McKenna thinks psilocybin has influenced our mammalian evolution.

"If you were really looking for an alien artefact you would look for a molecule like psilocybin with no near relatives in the ecosystem. It occurs in only 12 species of mushrooms. It is the only four- phosphorolated indole on this planet. The mushroom spore can survive the conditions of interstellar space. It lives off dead matter, which is the most karma-free position in the universe's food-chain. Compared to that vegetarianism is an orgy of slaughter."

This unlikely prediction has been brewing in McKenna since the mid- '60s when as a Berkeley student he explored the world in a transcendental quest for The Other. It started to get interesting when Amazonian witch doctors were willing to share their psycho- pharmacological key to the Logos. In a potent liquid made from the ayahuasca vine (or yage, as described by William Burroughs) McKenna was introduced to DMT, the most powerful of the naturally occurring psychedelics, which participates in human metabolism during deep dream. His experiences in the jungle of Colombia at La Chorrera led him to insights into time and evolution.

"Apply psychedelics and the mind re-crystallizes on another plane. It shows you a much broader swath of reality. The shamen have a different relationship to the future by dissolving the three- dimensional space-time matrix. Traditionally they have used this to predict the weather, find game and cure illness."

The personal obsession of this self-described "paranoid, double Scorpio and hermit" led to him being selected by an angel of gnosis to approach the essentially unsolvable questions of our planetary crisis. His wired visions foretold the upcoming union of spirit and matter, the event prophesied by the Hopi, Tibetans, Mayans and many others. During trips on five grams of stropharia cubensis mushrooms McKenna encounters The Other.

"I evoke it. I said, 'Show me what you are for yourself.' All the daisies and happy elves come to a full stop and the temperature drops five degrees in the room. These black curtains begin to be lifted like on a stage and you begin to see into it. After 45 seconds of that you say, 'Enough, thank you!' And you realize it's filtering itself for you and it's coming very gently because it understands you can't handle it."

McKenna is a mesmerizing talking machine. His whiny nasal mantras draw from eclectic sources of physics, psychology, evolution, language, geology and better living through chemistry. Proof of his invisible landscapes are not asked for -- or given. McKenna avoids the question of believability by comparing quantum apples and oranges. "Materialists sneer at psychedelics because they say it's just a perturbation of the brain and anyway hallucinations aren't real, but this point of view has taken some real body blows. The dirty little secret among quantum physicists is that the concept of materiality leads to the appalling conclusion that there ain't no such things."

McKenna thinks that his high-dosage drug epiphanies are real because he is experiencing things that he claims he couldn't imagine. "I'm an hallucination chauvinist. To see something that you could not imagine proves you are in the presence of The Other."

If you can buy that, then his oxymoronically titled book True Hallucinations may be a clue to our non-material future, and not the real lies of a science fiction fanatic. Cracks in McKenna's story appear when he "runs out of time" to explain how he generated the points on "his best trick," the Time Wave Zero program. Like a paranoid stock report, this computer program covers all the novel points in a U.S.-centric history, from the development of cell membranes to the Gulf War. And -- step right up! -- for the very material price of $50 U.S. (and don't forget that $150 two-day session) you can buy his software with its explanatory introduction.

"What I'm saying is grist for the mill of every screwball, messianic, apocalyptic-arian rap on the market. From David Koresh to you name it ." he says ironically, as his eyes bulge with an other-worldly intensity. "They got it wrong because it's all seen through the filter of somebody else's illusions. Christ, Nostradamus, J.G. Bennett, God knows who."

McKenna's fantastic hokum is lucrative entertainment. A library of cassettes and video tapes can be collected to explain his books, making his "chrono-synclastic" delusions the centre of a subscription cult. But like his favored drug trips, his line on the end of time is destined to bum out. Avoid his psychonaut enterprise like a flesh-eating virus.

Chris Twomey is heard on CIUT FM, Sundays 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

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