In collaboration with the synth explorers Zuvuya, the "Timothy Leary of the 90s" made two albums nearly as hallucinatory as the psychedelic substance that drove his work. A chronological list of 30 McKenna-related books, ideas, people, and other things that combine Terence McKenna's attraction toward history, his focus on memes, and his perspective that "the world is made of language. Lovecraft, London, visionary art, and "a revolutionary musical video game that will immerse players in a psychedelic experience.
Get smart. Sign up for our email newsletter.
Support Science Journalism
Discover new books on Goodreads. Sign in with Facebook Sign in options. Join Goodreads. Add New.
Topics Mentioning This Author
Rational Scientific American readers surely scoff at claims—based on ancient Mayan calendars and other esoterica—that life as we know it will end this December, especially now that NASA experts have "crushed" the prophecy. But many folks out there are reportedly worried. Perhaps I can allay their anxieties by relating my encounter with a prominent popularizer of the doomsday meme, psychedelic guru Terence McKenna. In his books and lectures, McKenna extolled psychedelic drugs as a spiritual path superior to that of any mainstream religion. His book The Food of the Gods Bantam was a rigorous argument—complete with footnotes and bibliography—that mind-expanding plants and fungi catalyzed the transformation of our brutish ancestors into cultured modern humans. The visions inspired in our ancestors by these substances—and particularly by plants containing psilocybin, dimethytryptamine DMT and other psychedelics--were the seeds from which language sprung, followed by the arts, religion, philosophy, science and all of human culture, McKenna asserted. By outlawing psychedelics, he said, we have cut ourselves off from the wellspring of our humanity. Food of the Gods showed that McKenna could play the serious scholar when he chose. But he was truer to himself in True Hallucinations HarperSanFrancisco, , a memoir packed with psychedelic tall tales and wild riffs on the nature of reality. McKenna was less a scientist or even philosopher than a performance artist or jester, and I mean that as a compliment.
The "altered statesman" emerged from Leary's long shadow to push a magical blend of psychedelics, technology, and revelatory rap. He had less time than he knew. He was relieved to be home. Since claiming the mantle of Tripster King from Timothy Leary, McKenna has earned his keep as a stand-up shaman on the lecture circuit, regaling groups of psychonauts, seekers, and boho intellectuals with tales involving mushrooms, machine consciousness, and the approaching end of history. Weird stuff, and wonderfully told. But the teller was getting tired of the routine. Soon after McKenna arrived home, however, he was hit with ferocious headaches. He'd long suffered from migraines, but nothing in his 52 years could match the ice picks now skewering his skull. On May 22, after dragging himself to the john to vomit, McKenna's mind exploded. Hallucinations cut in like shards of glass; taste and smell were bent out of shape; and he was swallowed up by a labyrinth that, as he later put it, "somehow partook of last week's dreams, next week's fears, and a small restaurant in Dublin.