- uploaded: Nov 29, 2009
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Terence McKenna grew up in Paonia, Colorado. He was introduced to geology through his uncle and developed a hobby of solitary fossil hunting in the arroyos near his home. From this he developed a deep artistic and scientific appreciation of nature.
At age 16, McKenna moved to, and attended high school in, Los Altos, California. He lived with family friends because his parents in Colorado wished him to have the benefit of highly rated California public schools. He was introduced to psychedelics through The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley and the Village Voice.
One of his early experiences with them came through morning glory seeds (containing LSA), which he claimed showed him "that there was something there worth pursuing."
McKenna then enrolled in U.C. Berkeley. He moved to San Francisco during the summer of 1965 before his classes began, was introduced that year to cannabis by Barry Melton and tried LSD soon after.
As a freshman at U.C. Berkeley McKenna participated in the Tussman Experimental College, a short-lived two-year program on the Berkeley campus. He graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Conservation.
Following the death of his mother in 1971, Terence, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-hÃ©, a plant preparation containing DMT. Instead of oo-koo-hÃ© they found various forms of ayahuasca and gigantic psilocybe cubensis which became the new focus of the expedition. In La Chorrera, at the urging of his brother, he allowed himself to be the subject of a psychedelic experiment which he claimed put him in contact with Logos: an informative, divine voice he believed was universal to visionary religious experience. The revelations of this voice, and his brother's peculiar experience during the experiment, prompted him to explore the structure of an early form of the I Ching, which led to his "Novelty Theory". These ideas were explored extensively by Terence and Dennis in their 1975 book The Invisible Landscape - Mind Hallucinogens and The I Ching.
In the early 1980s, McKenna began to speak publicly on the topic of psychedelic drugs, lecturing extensively and conducting weekend workshops. Though somewhat associated with the New Age or human potential movement, McKenna himself had little patience for New Age sensibilities, repeatedly stressing the importance of the primacy of felt experience as opposed to dogmatic ideologies. Timothy Leary once introduced him as "one of the five or six most important people on the planet".
It's clearly a crisis of two things: of consciousness and conditioning. These are the two things that the psychedelics attack. 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.
â€”Terence McKenna, "This World...and Its Double",
In addition to psychedelic drugs, McKenna spoke on the subjects of virtual reality (which he saw as a way to artistically communicate the experience of psychedelics), techno-paganism, artificial intelligence, evolution, extraterrestrials, and aesthetic theory (art/visual experience as information-- representing the significance of hallucinatory visions experienced under the influence of psychedelics).