Comments to Podcast 316 —
“A Deep Dive Into the Mind of McKenna”
By Peter Meyer
On or about July 2, 2012, Lorenzo released his Podcast 316,“A Deep Dive Into the Mind of McKenna”, one of his Psychedelic Salon Podcasts. This consisted mainly of an “Ode to Terence” by Bruce Damer (a well-intended homage to Terence but of very dubious poetic merit) with a reading (by him) from an early version of Dennis McKenna's (at that time unpublished) book The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss! and extracts from some of Terence's talks. This podcast generated some controversy, since the reading referred to the aftermath of a mushroom trip that Terence allegedly took in the late 1980s which produced a negative experience in which he was overwhelmed by a feeling of the meaninglessness or insignificance of everything (perhaps similar to Jean-Paul Sartre's bad trip on mescaline). This podcast attracted many comments, including four of mine.
On or about July 12 this podcast was "temporarily removed", along with all the comments. I had, however, saved my four comments, and they are reproduced below, with some explanatory material in italics interpolated in square brackets.
Comment #1 (July 4): I don’t recall a psychedelic experience in which everything seemed meaningless, but once on acid I was shown that nothing exists at all. I reported on this experience in http://www.serendipity.li/dmt/haw_tr.html (a trip I took while living on the Big Island in 1987 not far from where Terence was living at the time). This was not a negative experience, but one I found quite perplexing.
The various ruminations above [in previous comments] concerning being overwhelmed by a sense of meaninglessness is interesting not just because of the fact that this is possible on some trips but also because this is an existential problem which faces our whole Western culture. According to the modern scientific worldview the universe is basically a vast vacuum in which occur zillions of galaxies which themselves are ultimately composed only of atoms, molecules and ‘energy’, all of which being totally devoid of life and consciousness. Whence, then, comes the meaning, purpose and value which everyone knows is real by lived experience? The modern scientific worldview says that this can only exist in the human mind, and cannot have any source in the cosmos in which we (as physically embodied beings) live (since that cosmos is just atoms, etc.), and thus that all meaning, purpose and value is merely a psychological projection upon a universe devoid of them (hence basically a delusion). Since meaning, purpose and value are part of our lived experience, this gives rise to a compartmentalization in the modern mind which borders on collective insanity.
This question (as to whether meaning is inherent in the cosmos or exists only in the human mind and is projected upon the world) has been discussed by Richard Tarnas in Part I of his book “Cosmos and Psyche”, and I have written a review of this, to be seen at http://www.planetary-aspects.com/tarnas_cosmos.htm
Comment #2 (July 4): Terence smoked cannabis more than anyone else I knew, but I never saw him smoke DMT, even when others present did (he held the pipe for my first DMT trip in 1987). Actually sometime in the early 1990s he said to me that DMT was “terrible stuff”. Obviously he did not mean that everyone should stay away from it, but rather that it is something which can induce terror in someone who smokes it. (This is confirmed by several of the reports at http://www.serendipity.li/dmt/340_dmt_trip_reports.htm.) It does not always do so, but the experience is something to be approached only with great respect and a willingness to enter a space which is totally bizarre and thus for some people rather frightening.
But whether or not Terence smoked DMT or did mushrooms much in the 1990s is irrelevant to the value of what he had to say to us. He was one of the very few genuine prophets of our time. I use the term ‘prophet’ in the sense of the Cambridge Platonist John Smith, who (in his short treatise “On Prophecy”) distinguished three degrees of prophecy, the second of which is (I quote from a book by Basil Willey) that “at which the reason is illuminated indirectly, through the medium of the ‘imagination’ — the imagination being the ‘stage’ on which appear the ‘images’ which are to be allegorically and ‘anagogically’ interpreted. At this level the prophet is dealing, not with naked Truth [Smith's first degree of prophecy], but with phantasms and simulacra depicted in his ‘fancy’ or ‘imagination’ (equivalent terms), and he will accordingly also speak in figurative language; but if he is a ‘true’ prophet he will *understand* the truths so represented, and be able to interpret them.”
Terence is mainly regarded as a psychedelic advocate, which is why some people may be disappointed that his use of psychedelics (in the latter part of his life) was less than they had supposed, but his real value to us was as a trenchant critic of a (modern Western) civilization which has become insane and thereby diabolical (and which thus does not deserve our support) and as a genuine prophet speaking to us by means of something like divine illumination and pointing us toward a level of truth which psychedelics can enable some of us to know for ourselves by direct experience. For this he will long be remembered.
Comments #3 and #4 are on the CD-ROM.