A Psychedelic Point of View
Buck the status quo! Rebel philosopher Terence McKenna shook things up in this closing speech after a month of being scholar-in-residence at Esalen, arguing that reality escapes our rational grasp. He chided science and philosophy's paltry models that diminish nature's infinitude. Seeking to spur his audience from passive acceptance, McKenna called to revere expanded consciousness. He urged toppling the assumptions bolstering dominator culture to midwife more liberated, psychedelically-attuned societies. By trusting our intuition's cosmic tether, we can transform reality into something stranger and more wonderful than we suppose.
A Weekend with Terence McKenna
“Healing the inner elf through trance, dance, and diet”—the session for true McKenna enthusiasts: twelve hours with the bard himself, in which he touches upon practically all of his trademark topics.
Join Terence McKenna in this weekend workshop as he takes us on an imaginative journey into the depths of human creativity. Through eloquent exploration of psychedelics, virtual worlds, and shamanic states of consciousness, McKenna reveals how embracing our imagination allows us to envision and manifest alternate realities beyond cultural conditioning. By cultivating our creative faculties with mathematical reasoning, intuition, and immersion in nature, he guides us toward transcending ideological limits into an enlightened future of compassion. Ultimately, breaking boundaries through the power of imagination will inspire us to reach new heights of understanding and connectivity.
Has our techno-scientific society created problems it can't solve? Watts says the West excels at amplifying every folly humans are capable of, yet when it comes to answering the big questions we're like a dog chasing its tail. Perhaps solutions lie not in narrow scholarship, but in re-examining our own premises through imaginative engagement with Asian worldviews. We need protected spaces where scholars can play with concepts freely—not for any practical purpose, but for the sheer joy of ideas, because creative insights arise unpredictably from the useless act of contemplation.
Build Your Own Damn Wagon
"Do not watch, do not consume," implores Terence McKenna, inviting us on a thought-provoking journey to reclaim our humanness. By building our own conceptual wagons, rather than riding ready-made vehicles of meaning, we can travel along unique paths of critical thinking. Once within our own virtual worlds, the wonder of our distinctive minds will be open for discovery.
Countdown Into Complexity
At his weekend workshop Terence led attendees on an intellectual odyssey traversing psychedelics, virtual reality, technology, culture, spirituality, and the evolution of novelty over time. Blending philosophy, futurology, and mysticism, he explored humanity's relationship with nature and machines, challenging participants to think critically, create freely, and keep an open mind. The goal was to expand consciousness and uncover deeper truths about existence.
Culture and Ideology are not Your Friends
Delivered at the Whole Life Expo, Terence focuses on one of his favorite questions: what does it mean to be human in this cosmos?
When Alan Watts talked about the ‘mystical experience’ among scientific circles, he preferred to call it ‘ecological awareness’—referring to a state of mind in which a person ceases to feel separate from the environment in which he or she exists.
Evolution and Consciousness
Evolution and Consciousness is one of the first, still rare, truly transdisciplinary books: it deals with a totality, not a sector of it. Therefore, it defies any disciplinary labeling. It is a scientific book, yet also deals with topics until now reserved for books of mysticism and poetry. It bridges the gap between science and other forms of knowledge. It deals not just with scientific questions, but with existential questions which concern all mankind, such as the meaning of life and the evolutionary significance of human design and action. It challenges the whole dominant Western world view: process thinking instead of structural thinking, dynamic instead of static, evolution instead of permanency.
This evening address is one of Terence’s funniest, in which much is said about monkeys, mushrooms, plants, and people. The question and answer session gets good and lively, with his unique analysis of UFOs, governments, and possible evolutionary pathways for us and the planet.
General System Theory
In his seminal work, biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy outlines a theory of systems that breaks down disciplinary boundaries and argues that there are general principles and laws applicable to systems of all kinds. He contends that phenomena should be viewed not in isolation but as components of systems interacting with their environments. Bertalanffy proposes that there are commonalities across biological, physical, and social systems that can be explored through systems thinking. He suggests the need for an overarching systems science to uncover these universal system principles. The book develops key concepts like open and closed systems, steady states, growth, feedback, homeostasis, differentiation, hierarchy, and emergence. General System Theory was groundbreaking in its interdisciplinary approach and helped foster the growth of systems theory across academia and society.
Glimpsing the Global Brain
Complex systems theorist Heylighen and evolutionary biologist Wilson discuss a possible phase transition of humanity in which the members of our species become neurons in a planetary brain, utilizing the Internet as a shared exocortex.
History Ends in Green
The coming together of dream, film, and psychedelics in the twentieth century set the stage for the archaic revival. McKenna gives us a look through the window of our potential as humans. He helps put the hysteria of our time into perspective and gives a path that could help us to deal with this strange and wonderful world we live in. A must-listen seminar for those interested in human potential.
Hot Concepts and Melting Edges
A weekend workshop held at Esalen, with the alternate titles of Deeper and Broader Questions and Eros, Chaos, and Meaning's Edge.
In the Valley of Novelty
Journeying through multiple dimensions of psychedelic consciousness, Terence McKenna's visionary weekend workshop invites us on an entheogenic voyage to the frontiers of the mind and its imminent conquering of matter. Blending scientific insights with shamanic wisdom, McKenna argues that natural plant medicines like psilocybin and DMT provide portals into mystical realms and alien dimensions, catalyzing revelations about nature, reality, and the human psyche. He urges us to courageously explore these consciousness-expanding substances, seeking the gratuitous beauty and truths they unveil. For McKenna, the psychedelic experience holds secrets to our world and ourselves—if only we dare lift the veil.
Individual and the World
This seminar covers a variety of topics, from the illusion of our separation from the environment and the futility of trying to be genuine, all the way to the discipline required to handle mystical experiences in order to bring something back from them to share with the rest of the world. The presentation ends with his endorsement of insanity, saying a healthy amount of craziness in old age is necessary to prepare for a joyous death.
Intentionality of Meaning
McKenna takes us on a mind-bending ride about language, questioning if words unveil reality or cloak it. He suggests peering behind the linguistic curtain with nature and psychedelics, helping reveal life's magical depths where fairies and elves await to make deals that unleash self-transforming possibilities. But he cautions, the storytelling mushrooms can dupe you with their wit. Tread lightly.
Man Thinks God Knows, God Knows Man Thinks
What if language could be seen instead of heard? McKenna fancies a linguistic lark where lexicon becomes a dance of light. Words incarnate as rainbow octopi, their very skin shimmering significance. In the verbosity vortex we spin, until, lo, meaning and matter tango into one, with word becoming flesh and flesh becoming word in the ultimate semantic samba.
Megatripolis Opening Night
Join McKenna, Sheldrake, and Abraham on an imaginative journey into nature's creativity. Surfing the chaotic waters of psychedelic states, they catch glimpses of the Gaian mind behind Earth's being. Here, in imaginal realms beyond rationale, novelty is born. By relinquishing egoic control and surrendering to an unknowable creative force, we tap into the divine imagination—the eternal wellspring of nature's endless becomings. Immersing ourselves in this flow, we reunite with the cosmic creative essence.
Mind Outside Brain
We approach the problem of the extended mind from a radically non-dualist perspective. The separation between mind and matter is an artefact of the outdated mechanistic worldview, which leaves no room for mental phenomena such as agency, intentionality, or feeling. We propose to replace it by an action ontology, which conceives mind and matter as aspects of the same network of processes. By adopting the intentional stance, we interpret the catalysts of elementary reactions as agents exhibiting desires, intentions, and sensations. Autopoietic networks of reactions constitute more complex super-agents, which moreover exhibit memory, deliberation and sense-making. In the specific case of social networks, individual agents coordinate their actions via the propagation of challenges. The distributed cognition that emerges from this interaction cannot be situated in any individual brain. This non-dualist, holistic view extends and operationalises process metaphysics and Eastern philosophies. It is supported by both mindfulness experiences and mathematical models of action, self-organisation, and cognition.
Mind and Nature
Renowned for his contributions to anthropology, biology, and the social sciences, Bateson asserts that man must think as Nature does to live in harmony on the earth and, citing examples from the natural world, he maintains that biological evolution is a mental process.
Nature Loves Complexity
Terence argues that psychedelics reconnect us to archaic values like community, reverence for nature, and direct felt experience. He sees psychedelics as part of nature's tendency to conserve complexity and novelty. McKenna critiques science's misapplication of probability theory and suggests time itself fluctuates, finally proposing an ethics of aligning with nature's creative unfolding.
New and Old Maps of Hyperspace
Beyond perception's veil lies a hidden reality accessible through sacred plants. At the Institute for the Study of Consciousness, McKenna describes fantastical tryptamine journeys to alien dimensions, encounters with self-transforming machine elves, and the Overmind behind reality. These shamanic technologies induce total revelation, ecstatic communion, even our apocalyptic transcendence. McKenna demands science and religion gaze again into psychedelic infinity’s abyss where something mysteriously beckons.
Opening the Doors of Creativity
This far-out lecture held at the Carnegie Art Museum riffs on art, shamanism, psychedelics, and saving the planet. Terence sees artists as modern shamans who can reconnect us to the Gaian mind. He thinks we're an infant species held in nature's arms, but we've got to get our act together fast and let the irrational muse guide us, or we'll trash the place. Heavy stuff, but optimistically visionary.
Order out of Chaos
Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers and Ilya Prigogine, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1977 for his work on the thermodynamics of non-equilibrium systems, make their ideas accessible to a wide audience in this book, which has engendered massive debate in Europe and America. Stengers and Prigogine show how the two great themes of classic science, order and chaos, which coexisted uneasily for centuries, are being reconciled in a new and unexpected synthesis.
Our Cyberspiritual Future
Terence McKenna holds court on our civilization's journey toward the eschaton at this weekend Esalen gathering. With humor and eloquence he riffs on topics from psychedelic states and alien intelligences to time travel and VR. McKenna argues we're evolving toward an unimaginable state of accelerating novelty, propelled by advancing technology. A mind-expanding ride for the open-minded psychonaut or armchair traveler, guided by one of the twentieth century's most eclectic thinkers.
What a tickling trickster the universe is! As Watts wanders down philosophical byways, tales emerge of those healed by harmonizing body and world. Yet we teach children to twist themselves to fit odd ideals. Tension tunnels through society, our “civilizing” ways quite uncouth! Might we reconsider, relax our willful ways? Observantly ambling amidst being's little blooms, we rediscover unity in the unruly diversity—finding wisdom whispering within, inviting us to dance delightfully with life’s flowing forms.
Permitting Smart People to Hope
Delivered at Esalen in California, McKenna traipses through a mélange of scientific and technological folderol—the detection of the top quark, swift progress on sequencing the human genome, newfangled theories about the origin of the moon, quantum bafflements like non-locality, the proliferation of the interwebs and information technology, speculations on the nature of time from that Prigogine fellow, and sundry other bamboozlements. He elucidates how these breakthroughs in diverse fields might converge to profoundly transform human civilization, culture, and consciousness in the imminent future.
Power of Space
Weaving connections between Eastern thought and modern science, Alan Watts explores the wonder of space. For him, space is no mere emptiness but a cosmic tapestry integral to existence. He draws parallels between space and the Buddhist void, seeing both as the interwoven ground of being that allows consciousness to emerge.
Psychedelics and the Computer Revolution
Psychedelics unlock the mind's eye, let mathematicians fly
To landscapes unseen, where patterns careen in colors serene.
As symbols may hide truths inside, these vines we must untwine.
With psychedelics we'll refine new ways for minds to shine:
Computers give form, classics reborn, realms to adorn.
Together they'll fuse, creativity diffuse, inventions produce!
So let inhibitions loose, imagine the use, as we choose the hues
Of mathematical views, and virtual worlds that enthuse!
Robots, Men, and Minds
Based on lectures delivered as The Inaugural Lectures in The Heinz Werner Lecture Series at Clark University (Worcester, Mass.) in January 1966, the book introduces new conceptions of humans and their world. After discussing the advantages and drawbacks of humanity's propensity for the symbolic construction of reality, it focuses on the systems approach to an understanding of the species. The author warns against the common error of identifying cybernetics with general systems theory. No matter how complex the cybernetic system, it "can always be resolved into feedback circuits" and thought of in terms of "linear causality." The regulative behavior of general systems is determined by goal-directed, dynamic interaction between many forces and variables in an open system. Bertalanffy points out that "no comprehensive theory of systems exists today." As a model, however, the approach has many advantages, such as obviating the need for the "ghost in the machine" and suggesting some solutions to the mind-body problem.
Spirituality and Technology
Terence McKenna discusses psychedelic philosophy and the interconnectedness of all things, referencing Moby Dick as an allegory for the quest for transcendental truth.
The Evolution of a Psychedelic Thinker
McKenna explores the role of psychedelic plants in human evolution. He proposes psilocybin mushrooms catalyzed the emergence of language, consciousness, and culture in early hominids. Psychedelics can dissolve cultural conditioning and accelerate the development of imagination and creativity. McKenna advocates the careful, sacred use of plant medicines to expand consciousness and rediscover our symbiotic relationship with nature. He envisions psychedelics inspiring a cultural renaissance and guiding humanity's transition to an ecological partnership society.
The Evolutionary Importance of Technology
McKenna discusses how rapidly advancing technologies like nanotech, biotech, and the internet are converging and taking on a life of their own, bootstrapping information to higher levels of connectivity. He sees this leading to a virtual world where we can share inner visions and dissolve differences.
The Evolutionary Mind
What could have been the cause for the breakthrough in the evolution of human consciousness around 50,000 years ago? Part of the Trialogues at the Edge of the Unthinkable held at the University of California.
The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 1)
We are called to immerse in the sacred waters of the Now, releasing resistance's vain clutch upon illusion's crumbling stones. Feel each quivering wave, Alan chants, and the jewel of awakening will sparkle within your depths. Suffering fades when we cease damming the holy flow, surrendering instead to bliss's inevitable tide. Allow yourself to be cradled within sensation's currents. Let go, dissolve, and the river's timeless mercy will carry you home, beyond words, to dissolve in the ocean's mystical embrace.
The Medium is the Massage
The Medium is the Massage is Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic perception on life in the age of electronic information, exhibiting his understanding of the power of media long before those in control did. The Medium is the Massage presents some of McLuhan’s most amazing insights and cognitive observations on the global village: the rear-view mirror, the invisible environment, the end of nature, and sensory impact set against the everyday imagery of mass media, consumer goods, the press, advertising, and the arts. Although originally printed in 1967, the art and style in The Medium is the Massage seem as fresh today as in the summer of love, and the ideas are even more resonant now that computer interfaces are becoming gateways to the global village.
The Omega Point as Eschaton
Frank Tipler presents an outline of the Omega Point theory, which is a model for an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, evolving, personal God who is both transcendent to spacetime and immanent in it, and who exists necessarily. The model is a falsifiable physical theory, deriving its key concepts not from any religious tradition but from modern physical cosmology and computer science; from scientific materialism rather than revelation. Four testable predictions of the model are given. The theory assumes that thinking is a purely physical process of the brain, and that personality dies with the brain. Nevertheless, he shows that the Omega Point theory suggests a future universal resurrection of the dead very similar to the one predicted in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. The notions of “grace” and the “beatific vision” appear naturally in the model.
The Omega Seed
The Ωmega Seed brings together Paolo Soleri’s writings on eschatology, that branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind. Soleri believes that the simulation of the divine will provide man with a blueprint for creation not only of our physical environment but also of a new stage in the evolution of mankind. His work is against the things of a materialistic society, toward a redesigning of the urban civilization of Earth.
The Rites of Spring
Terence McKenna theorizes that ingestion of psilocybin mushrooms catalyzed the emergence of human self-reflection. He argues that psilocybin enhanced visual acuity and symbol processing in early hominids, leading to the development of human consciousness. Psychedelic plants can accelerate cultural change by deconditioning rigid mindsets, according to McKenna. He envisions a future where machines have consciousness and visible language communicates meaning directly. Ultimately, McKenna foresees the impending transformation of humanity through imagination and connection with the mysterious Other. Delivered at the Ojai Foundation in California.
The Self-Organizing Universe
The evolution of the universe—ranging from cosmic and biological to sociocultural evolution—is viewed in terms of the unifying paradigm of self-organization. The contours of this paradigm emerge from the synthesis of a number of important concepts, and provide a scientific foundation to a new world-view which emphasizes process over structure, nonequilibrium over equilibrium, evolution over permanency, and individual creativity over collective stabilization. The book, with its emphasis on the interaction of microstructures with the entire biosphere, ecosystems etc., and on how micro- and macrocosmos mutually create the conditions for their further evolution, provides a comprehensive framework for a deeper understanding of human creativity in a time of transition.
The Syntax of Psychedelic Time
The Theory of the Organism-Environment System
In any functional sense, organism and environment are inseparable and form only one unitary system. The organism cannot exist without the environment, and the environment has descriptive properties only if it is connected to the organism. Separation of organism and environment cannot be the basis of any scientific explanation of human behavior. The theory leads to a reinterpretation of basic problems in many fields of inquiry and makes possible the definition of mental phenomena without their reduction either to neural or biological activity or to separate mental functions. According to the theory, mental activity is activity of the whole organism-environment system, and the traditional psychological concepts describe only different aspects of organization of this system.
The Two Hands of God
Watts takes readers on a fascinating journey through the mythology of China, Egypt, India, the Middle East, and medieval Europe. His theme is the human experience of polarity, a condition in which opposing qualities define and complement each other. Light cannot exist without darkness, good cannot exist without evil, and male cannot exist without female. Chinese philosophy expresses this idea of universal polarity with the concepts of yin and yang, while other cultures express it through the symbolic language of myth, literature, and art. Watts illustrates the way great sages and artists across time have seen beyond the apparent duality of the universe to find a deeper unity that transcends and embraces everything.
The Universe of Experience
Modern experience forces philosophy and social thought to confront the basic problems of value. Is this life worth caring about? How can we find a way between the deceit of fanatical belief and despair? In the view of Lancelot Law Whyte, the essential challenge to mankind today is an underlying nihilism promoting violence and frustrating sane policies on major social issues. Avoiding the seductive trap of utopianism, Whyte approaches this challenge by defining the terms of a potentially worldwide consensus of heart, mind, and will.
The Varieties of Scientific Experience
Carl Sagan's prescient exploration of the relationship between religion and science, and his personal search for God.
The Wisdom of Insecurity
This 1951 classic explores how our modern pursuit of security through money, status, and technology leads to anxiety. Watts artfully weaves Eastern philosophy and Christian mysticism to argue that seeking permanence in an impermanent world is futile. Rather, we must embrace the present moment and recognize the illusion of the ego. Watts writes breezily with penetrating insight about how relaxing our grip on life's impermanence paradoxically allows us to live fully. Though challenging at times, ultimately Watts' message brings great comfort in understanding the futility of chasing security. Give it a read and you may just find the wisdom that insecurity brings!
The World and its Double
This workshop, held at the Nature Friends Lodge, revolves around how psychedelics dissolve boundaries, connect us to the transcendental, and reveal the novel realities underlying our perceived mundane existence. Terence explores how shamanic techniques give access to higher dimensions of consciousness, and describes history as an ever-accelerating process approaching an eschatological transformation or singularity.
Towards the Unknown
McKenna doth insist mushrooms assist
Our minds to resist what we thought we had missed.
Beyond normal ken, psychedelics send
Our thoughts to transcend, our culture to mend.
Though seen as a vice by the mainstream to chide
These compounds provide portals to sights inside
That propel our race to a posthuman place
By opening space for our minds to embrace.
Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature
The Great Mystery whispers through psychedelics as it unfurls revelations beyond language’s grasp. Here, ego-bound shells crack open as cosmic minds reborn beyond confines of space and time. We thus commune with the endless Imagination—holographic spirit-stuff whereof worlds are wrought. Invariants of the eternal suffuse temporal shadow-play, the mundane ever aflame in subtler dimensions. All form awakens, ascends, drawn unto consummate transcendence as history’s fever dream blossoms into timeless infinitude.
Understanding the Chaos at History's End
Delivered at the end of McKenna’s first month as scholar-in-residence at Esalen, when he began a new phase in his public speaking career. This weekend workshop provides an early glimpse at Terence’s description of the looming “transcendental object at the end of time,” and the psychedelic insights which led him to become an oracle.
Walking Out Of The Ordinary
Journey with Terence McKenna into the mystical depths of the psychedelic experience, where alien dimensions beckon and unseen vistas await. McKenna describes fantastical realms beyond ordinary conceptions of reality—worlds that hold promise for expanding human consciousness. He argues persuasively that plant medicines like psilocybin can serve as a key not only to self-knowledge, but to rediscovering our cosmic belonging. McKenna's uncanny ability to articulate the ineffable allows him to initiate audiences into the revelatory power of psychedelic states. Join him on this quest, and you too may glimpse the infinities within.
Who Is It That Knows There Is No Ego?
Alan explores the idea of separateness, and whether our language has tricked us into falsely believing that things are individual, independent, and comprehensible all on their own.