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Terence McKenna: 'Shamans Among the Machines' [1999]

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Seattle April 1999

Terence McKenna advocated the exploration of altered states of mind via the ingestion of naturally occurring psychedelic substances. For example, and in particular, as facilitated by the ingestion of high doses of psychedelic mushrooms, and DMT, which he believed was the apotheosis of the psychedelic experience. He spoke of the "jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs" or "self-transforming machine elves" that one encounters in that state.

Although he avoided giving his allegiance to any one interpretation (part of his rejection of monotheism), he was open to the idea of psychedelics as being "trans-dimensional travel"; literally, enabling an individual to encounter what could be ancestors, or spirits of earth. He remained opposed to most forms of organized religion or guru-based forms of spiritual awakening.

Either philosophically or religiously, he expressed admiration for Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Gnostic Christianity, Alfred North Whitehead and Alchemy. McKenna always regarded the Greek philosopher Heraclitus as his favorite philosopher.

He also expressed admiration for the works of James Joyce (calling Finnegans Wake "the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature of the 20th century") and Vladimir Nabokov: McKenna once said that he would have become a Nabokov lecturer if he had never encountered psychedelics.

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