100 Quotes From Terence McKenna

Without further ado, here is a big collection of the very best philosophical quotes from the psychedelic mind of the mushroom ambassador Terence McKenna.

Terence Kemp McKenna was an American Psychedelic Philosopher, Psychonaut, Author and Reality Explorer, Mystic, Lecturer, Ethnobotanist and also an Advocate of sensible use of psychedelic plants. Terence was something of a modern wizard.

McKenna’s entrancing lectures covered everything from shamanism, language, imagination, the Internet, and consciousness to religion, dreams, the origins and evolution of lifeculture, alchemy, alienation, chemistry, sex, art, and literature.

His influence cannot be underestimated. He journeyed to the edge of the western mind and brought back eternal truths from the edge of consciousness.  Not only that but he met the others there, the others whose indigenous cultures had allowed them millennia of unbroken exploration into the Magical Realms using the Teacher Plants.

Terence McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) is the author of Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge – A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution (1992) and True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise(1993) and other books (including two co-written with his brother, Dennis McKenna, whose 2012 memoir The Brotherhood Of The Screaming Abyss I recommend). Terence died from a brain tumor—”glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer” (Wikipedia)—at age 53. There are hundreds of hours of his talks on YouTube.

Without further ado, here is a big collection of the very best philosophical quotes from the psychedelic mind of the mushroom ambassador Terence McKenna, hand-picked with love for your inspiration:

1. “I think of going to the grave without having a psychedelic experience like going to the grave without ever having sex. It means that you never figured out what it is all about. The mystery is in the body and the way the body works itself into nature.”

2. “If the words ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”

3. “If you don’t smoke cannabis, you may spend your evening balancing your checking account. If you do smoke cannabis you may spend your evening contemplating the causes of the Greek Renaissance.”

4. “Stop consuming images and start producing them.”

5. “You are a divine being. You matter, you count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.”

6. “You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.”

7. “The male dominant agenda is so fragile that any competitor is felt as a deadly foe.”

8. “You simply have to turn your back on a culture that has gone sterile and dead and get with the program of a living world and the imagination.”

9. “The imagination is the goal of history. I see culture as an effort to literally realize our collective dreams.”

10. The message of psychedelics is that culture can be re-engineered as a set of emotional and spiritual values rather than products. This is terrifying news.”

11. “Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.”

12. “Half the time you think your thinking you’re actually listening.”

13. “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

14. “The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind; and anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. If artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.”

15. “Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.”

16. “The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”

17. “The purpose of life is to familiarize oneself with this after-death body so that the act of dying will not create confusion in the psyche.”

18. “We tend to disempower ourselves. We tend to believe that we don’t matter. And in the act of taking that idea to ourselves we give everything away to somebody else, to something else.”

19. “The shaman is not merely a sick man, or a madman; he is a sick man who has healed himself.”

20. “You see, a secret is not something untold. It’s something which can’t be told.”

21. “If you don’t have a plan, you become part of somebody else’s plan.”

22. “Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored.”

23. “We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.”

24. “My technique is don’t believe anything. If you believe in something, you are automatically precluded from believing its opposite.”

25. “It’s clearly a crisis of two things: of consciousness and conditioning. We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save our planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war; But we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds. We must decondition ourselves from 10,000 years of bad behavior. And, it’s not easy.”

26. “We can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long. Lets us declare Nature to be legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.”

27. “Some kind of dialogue is now going on between individual human beings and the sum total of human knowledge and nothing can stop it.”

28. “Nothing comes unannounced, but many can miss the announcement. So it’s very important to actually listen to your own intuition rather than driving through it.”

29. “We need to interact with like-minded people throughout the world to establish the new intellectual order which will be the salvation of mankind.”

30. “Western civilization is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet.”

31. “Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coersion, brainwashing, and manipulation.”

32. “Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member of a neurotic culture against the facts of the matter. And culture, which we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviors are acceptable.”

33. “We are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get this, get that.’ And then you’re a player, but you don’t want to play in the game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”

34. “It is the imagination that argues for the Divine Spark within human beings. It is literally a decent of the World’s Soul into all of us.”

35. “The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.”

36. “Even as the nineteenth century had to come to grips with the notion of human descent from apes, we must now come to terms with the fact that those apes were stoned apes.”

37. “We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat.”

38. “If you keep yourself as the final arbiter you will be less susceptible to infection by cultural illusion”

39. “The problem is not to find the answer, it’s to face the answer.”

40. “The way you stretch the envelope of culture is by creating language.” 

41. “The real tension is not between matter and spirit, or time and space, the real tension is between information and nonsense.”

42. “Nothing lasts but nothing is lost.”

43. “Matter is not lacking in magic, matter is magic.”

44. “People are so alienated from their own soul that when they meet their soul they think it comes from another star system.”

45. “Nature is not our enemy, to be raped and conquered. Nature is ourselves, to be cherished and explored.”

46. “Ideology always paves the way toward atrocity”

47. “The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended, and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.  It is the night sea journey, the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets, and you let these nets down – sometimes, something tears through them that leaves them in shreds and you just row for shore, and put your head under your bed and pray.  At other times what slips through are the minutiae, the minnows of this ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing.  But, sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food, food for the human community that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.”

48. “You don’t want to become so open-minded that the wind can whistle between your ears.”

49. “If you’re not the hero of your own novel, then what kind of novel is it? You need to do some heavy editing.”

50. “Culture is the effort to hold back the mystery, and replace it with a mythology.”

51. “Unexamined cultural values & limitations of language have made us unwitting prisoners of our own assumptions.”

52. “This is a society, a world, a planet dying because there is not enough consciousness, because there is not enough awareness, enough coordination of intent-to-problem. And yet, we spend vast amounts of money stigmatizing people and substances that are part of this effort to expand consciousness, see things in different ways, unleash creativity. Isn’t it perfectly clear that business as usual is a bullet through the head?”

53. “The culmination of man’s effort in time will be the perfection and the release of the human soul. And it’s not that we are ‘doing’ it. It’s that a natural law that we are still unaware of is inexorably unfolding.”

54. “Our world is in danger by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness. And so to whatever degree any one of us, can bring back a small piece of the picture and contribute it to the building of the new paradigm, then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit, and that after all is what it’s really all about.”

55. “We have the money, the power, the medical understanding, the scientific know-how, the love and the community to produce a kind of human paradise. But we are led by the least among us – the least intelligent, the least noble, the least visionary. We are led by the least among us and we do not fight back against the dehumanizing values that are handed down as control icons.”

56. “What civilization is, is 6 billion people trying to make themselves happy by standing on each other’s shoulders and kicking each other’s teeth in. It’s not a pleasant situation.”

57. “Culture is a perversion. It fetishizes objects, creates consumer mania, it preaches endless forms of false happiness, endless forms of false understanding in the form of squirrelly religions and silly cults. It invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanize themselves by behaving like machines.

58. “Culture is not your friend. Culture is for other people’s convenience and the convenience of various institutions, churches, companies, tax collection schemes, what have you. It is not your friend. It insults you. It disempowers you. It uses and abuses you. None of us are well treated by culture.”

59. “Personal empowerment means deconditioning yourself from the values and the programs of the society and putting your own values and programs in place.”

60. “Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existance is defined in terms of control.”

61. “Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member of a neurotic culture against the facts of the matter. And culture, which we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviors are acceptable.”

61. “You have to take seriously the notion that understanding the universe is your responsibility, because the only understanding of the universe that will be useful to you is your own understanding.”

62. “The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse. If you go to Bosnia or Somalia or Peru or much of the third-world then it appears that the apocalypse has already arrived.”

63. “We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat.”

64. “The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation.”

65. “The future of communication is the future of the evolution of the human soul.”

66. “Our need to feel part of the world seems to demand that we express ourselves through creative activity.”

67. “Part of what psychedelics do is they decondition you from cultural values. This is what makes it such a political hot potato. Since all culture is a kind of con game, the most dangerous candy you can hand out is one which causes people to start questioning the rules of the game.”

68. “Life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience is life trivialized, life denied, life enslaved to the ego.”

69. “We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”

70. “Culture is not your friend, it’s an impediment to understanding what’s going on. That’s why the words cult and culture have a direct relationship to each other. Culture is an extremely repressive cult that leads to all kinds of humiliation and degradation, and automatic, unquestioned and unthinking behaviour.”

71. “We are caged by our cultural programming. Culture is a mass hallucination, and when you step outside the mass hallucination you see it for what it’s worth.”

72. “The internet is light at the end of the tunnel…it is creating a global society”

73. “If the words ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”

74. “In trying to think conservatively about the possibility of a non-human local intelligence, it seems to me that in a way nature herself presents as an intelligence—that the understanding of nature is the understanding of complex integrated systems of such complexity that to deny them consciousness is just a reluctance of the reductionist mind; that for anyone not burdened by that prejudice it’s self-evident that nature is alive, cognizant, responding.”

75. “If the ego is not regularly and repeatedly dissolved in the unbounded hyperspace of the Transcendent 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.”

76. “What is needed is a spirit of boundary dissolution, between individuals, between classes, sexual orientations, rich and poor, man and woman, intellectual and feeling toned types. If this can happen, then we will make a new world. And if this doesn’t happen, nature is fairly pitiless and has a place for us in the shale of this planet, where so many have preceded us.”

77. “What is needed is a spirit of boundary dissolution, between individuals, between classes, sexual orientations, rich and poor, man and woman, intellectual and feeling toned types. If this can happen, then we will make a new world. And if this doesn’t happen, nature is fairly pitiless and has a place for us in the shale of this planet, where so many have preceded us.”

78. “The word ‘self’ is as great a mystery as the word ‘other’. It’s just a polarity between two mysteries.”

79. “The dominator culture is increasingly more and more sophisticated in its perfection of subliminal mechanisms of control. And I don’t mean anything grandiose and paranoid. I just mean that through press releases and soundbites and the enforced idiocy of television, the drama of a dying world has been turned into a soap opera for most people. And they don’t understand that it’s their story, and that they will eat it in the final act, if somewhere between here and the final act they don’t stand up on their hind legs and howl. And it’s not done through organizing. It’s not done through vanguard parties or cadres of intellectual elites. It’s done through just walking away from all of that: Claiming your identity, claiming your vision, your being, your intuition, and then acting from that without regret. Cleanly. Without regret.”

80. “If you’re a person of decent intent and moderate intelligence, and you read the great minds of your culture and study their thought, it’s insufficient, because everyone is bound within an illusion of language. The entire enterprise of culture is this illusion of language. Homer was as sick with it as Heidegger. So there’s no going back—no classic recension. What we have to do is reach past to some kind of experience. [Our understanding] must be anchored in an experience.”

85. “The spiritual atrophying of contemporary culture may be due in large measure to its loss of sensitivity to processes in the collective unconscious.”

86. “The major adventure is to claim your authentic, true being, which is not culturally given to you. The culture will not explain to you how to be a real human being. It will tell you how to be banker, politician, Indian chief, masseuses, actress, whatever, but it will not give you true being.”

87. “We cannot evolve faster than our language. The edge of being is the edge of meaning, and somehow we have to push the edge of meaning. We have to extend it.”

88. “Part of what is wrong with our society, and hence with ourselves, is that we consume images, we don’t produce them. We need to produce, not consume, media.”

89. “A hallucination is to be in the presence of that which previously could not be imagined, and if it previously could not be imagined then there is no grounds for believing that you generated it out of yourself.”

90. “The movement of a single atom from one known position to another known position changes an experience from nothing to overwhelming. This means that mind and matter at the quantum mechanical level are all spun together.”

91. “The only difference between a drug and a computer is that one is slightly too large to swallow. … And our best people are working on that problem, even as we speak.”

92. “The reason for the emphasis on shamanism and on other techniques is, you will need techniques if you go into the deep water. And they can make your life very simple and save you from unnecessary suffering. Not all suffering is necessary. Maybe no suffering is necessary.”

93. “Inevitably out of the psychedelic experience emerges not despair, not self-indulgence, but wild-eyed idealism, that’s the inevitable product of any psychedelically driven social process.”

94. “LSD burst over the dreary domain of the constipated bourgeoisie like the angelic herald of a new psychedelic millennium. We have never been the same since, nor will we ever be, for LSD demonstrated, even to skeptics, that the mansions of heaven and gardens of paradise lie within each and all of us.”

95. “The psychedelic experience is simply a compressed instance of what we call understanding, so that living psychedelically is trying to live in an atmosphere of continuous unfolding of understanding, so that every day you know more and see into things with greater depth than you did before. This is a process of education.”

96. “We are asked by science to believe that the entire universe sprang from nothingness, and at a single point and for no discernible reason. This notion is the limit case for credulity. In other words, if you can believe this, you can believe anything.”

97. “The main difference between our world and the world that science tells us we’re living in is that science denies the quirky, freaky, cosmic-giggle, high-plottedness, completely improbable, totally quirky humor that binds everything together, and that makes it something other than an engine in which ‘atoms blindly run,’ in Whitehead’s phrase.”

98. “Right here and now, one quanta away, there is raging a universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien… What is driving religious feeling today is a wish for contact with this other universe.”

99. “We are the inheritors of a million years of striving for the unspeakable.”

100. “I don’t believe consciousness is generated in the brain any more than television programs are made inside my TV. The box is too small.

advertisement