A recently unearthed calendar produced in Britain just prior to 1947 shows that the benighted folk of the post-War era believed our world would end on December 31st of that year; similarly, the calendar of the ancient Mayans – ah the ancient Mayans! whose beliefs and inventions underpin so much of modern Western society – proves conclusively that the world will actually end on December 21, 2012. Most people have heard this by now, certainly more than have heard the name of Terence McKenna (1946-2000), one of the leading promulgators of the 2012 myth. One fact about Mr. McKenna that never receives nearly as much attention as it deserves is that next year wasn’t his first choice for Armageddon: in an afterword to “In Pursuit Of Valis: Selections From The Exegesis” (ed. Lawrence Sutin), McKenna recounts how, on his 25th birthday, November 16, 1971, he found himself alone in the Amazon jungle full of wild ideas: “I knew with perfect clarity that the world of time, the illusion of history was ending.” Dig it! He was earnestly and without a flicker of doubt awaiting “the implosion… of the entire multidimensional continuum of space and time.” Hot shit! But how did he *know* the world was ending, how did he *KNOW*? “The Logos assured me.” The Logos assured him!

The day came and went, and so should have McKenna’s capacity for self-deluding nonsense. But no, he did what they all do, he knocked the date forwards a few decades – Did I say 1971? Oh silly me, I *meant* 2012 – and indulged in some barefaced fiddlefucking: “There was only one small incident that might subsequently be construed… to support my position.” Yeah? An incident to support the position that the world was going to end on November 16 1971? Go on Tel, what was it? “Unknown to me, a struggling, overweight SF writer, an idol of mine since my teens [=Philip K Dick], discovered the next day that his house had been broken into.” Give up the day-job, McKenna. You really should have done.

See, when it’s some Christian nutter scheduling the Apocalypse, I don’t mind – let him make himself look stupid, go for it bozo. But the anti-psychedelic position holds that these drugs rot the brain, and here’s some big-time brain-rot from a big-time fan of DMT and psilocybin, here are sacraments being abused for the sake of some poisonous deluded anti-life cultism. Not, for sure, that McKenna ever presented himself thus: apart from an occasional slip in which he would lament our “awful physics” his books are mostly filled with exquisitely written gibberish about Love and hyperdimensional objects and the most glorious states of transcendence. But the fact is, this was a man who looked deep into the world… and wanted very much for it to be over.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brian Akers
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 16:51:48

    You’ve really touched the depth of issue, with precision and admirable insight. That doesn’t strike me as the ‘customary and usual’ stuff of commentary about the psychedelic influence on subculture, its entire discourse – the movement in society extolling the virtues of its charismatic genius. And rebuking critical inquiry, if it comes near certain nerves worn right out on the sleeve, ready to lash out at infidels who question – the ‘wrong way.’

    I may have echoed your point in my own words, several years ago, in a review of THE ARCHAIC REVIVAL (posted at – I wonder if you’d think so. I put it this way:

    “McKenna is verbally articulate; but his discussion mostly ranges from incoherent to deeply misinformed. That he advocates psychedelics per se is not a problem. Trouble is, he does it in a way that only adds to the air of discredit and disrepute which has come to surround the subject (unfortunately), lending credence to the worst prejudices against such substances — that they inspire delusional grandiosity and incoherence, irrationality; and any insights or realizations one may come to under their effects are illusory at best, and psychotic at worst.”

    A refreshing intelligent, perceptive, and above all – genuinely principled – perspective, well expressed. Bravo.


  2. Jason Pilley
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 22:56:38

    Hiya Brian, I agree with some of what you said – and your review of McKenna is spot-on – but I think you’re overstating the case, I don’t think the field of Psychedelia is characterised by the fanatical fundamentalism you describe, I can’t think of any examples of that “infidel” rhetoric infecting Psychedelic discourse, most of which seems to have been influenced by pioneers like Robert Anton Wilson, who showed how you could experience the most far-out states of delusion while retaining your sense of skepticism and your faith in scientific method; and Timothy Leary, who always said “At least a third of everything I say is wrong”; and Stanislav Grof and John Lilly and Humphrey Osmond and Jeremy Narby and all the other researchers who, far from “rebuking critical inquiry,” embraced it even as the government criminalised it; not to mention Terence McKenna himself, who despite the bullshit he spouted always seemed to retain a sense of humour and civility.

    Given the persecutions Psychedelia has suffered over the past few decades, I think we mostly handle ourselves pretty well.


  3. Brian Akers
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 15:48:35

    Thanks Jason – I don’t wish to presume we have ground for discussion – not for any failure of communication ability but rather – purposes in conflict. We may not have enough in common, on impression from your (appreciated) reply. But if I may, question:

    You refer to ‘fanatical fundamentalism’ – as an ‘overstatement’ of the case – on MY part; as if reference to a case I make – with purport of disagreeing, as if to rebut something I’ve said. It resembles a ‘straw man’ but – I’m no fan of such jargon in rhetorics, or ‘fallacy-spotting’ approaches to inquiry.

    I respectfully protest, and object. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, I’ve never used the word ‘fundamentalism’ in context of subculturally patterned cultic extremism – that I do, yes – observe in the psychedelic subculture (not so much from its earliest stages but more and more, as its been emerging). One can draw analogies. There are useful comparisons between fanatic strands of the old time, and the new age. But they’re opposite, equally problematic extremes. One is not the other, and I rather that be clear, if it can be – especially if such is going to be attributed to your humble narrator, for purpose of disputing on such invalid basis?

    May I please at least suggest, submitted for your reflection: Fanaticism is a much broader term, and a far more diverse phenomenon than just fundamentalism – i.e., religious conservatism, especially of Western world traditions (Genesis taken as literal fact, “inerrancy of scripture” doctrine etc). And psychedelia’s fanatic-like aspects – please, I generally say “fanatic-like” in order to not overstate, to qualify my tentative conclusions as such – are anything but fundamentalist. Occult metaphysics yes, new religious movements yes – not fundie.

    Nor is ‘religious conservatism’ a reasonable basis for labeling something ‘fanatic.’ Neither can all forms of fanaticism reasonably be described thus. It almost sounds like you consider fundamentalism has some monopoly on fanatic tendencies or expression.

    Religious conservatism harbors educated interests with healthy boundaries; and also has its ‘faces of fanaticism.’ Reasonable people, in common – regardless of race creed or nationality – generally agree to some extent on what fanaticism means, and how thus to recognize it. The better to know what it is we see before us, when it comes down the pike. It doesn’t self-identify, say “Hello I’m a form of fanaticism, do you have a minute we could talk?”

    But when an ‘inspiration’ acts out bloodshed, violence – whether homicidal, suicidal, psychosexual etc – that doesn’t come off real spiritual to most people, in any healthy religious framework. What kind of ‘blessing’ goes around hurting on, maiming or killing folks who – simply got the wrong look on their face at mention of some prophet’s name?

    In the McKennasphere, ‘vicious personal attacks’ – that’s Lorenzo’s phrase from his Deep Dive podcast (not mine) – seem basic form of reply to ‘wrong word’ – a cultic pattern already taking shape as of 1996. But, what was the provocation? Taking TM at his ‘question everything’ word, big mistake. TWZ was questioned, and worst of all – competently (not incoherently as prescribed) – at a TM service in Palenque. Right in his presence.

    Target: M. Watkins (as Lorenzo cited).

    The Watkins Affair, as I find, does represent psychedelia’s antisocial “Us/Them” aggression pattern, by example. It expresses mostly as ‘psychological violence’ – ad hominem abuse, harangue harassment etc – and in this case, specific to the McKenna preoccupation. But the violence isn’t all intangible. IN months leading up to an eagerly vaunted eschaton, amid the tense anticipation of celebrants – deadly violence did break out, at cost of life and limb, including homicide. But most of the fallout has been less physical more psychologically traumatic – depression, deepening alienation and defensiveness – intensifying cultic tendencies.

    Moving beyond violence as a criterion – another widely recognized hallmark of fanaticism is when some ‘spiritual’ interest adopts ‘dishonesty is best policy’ – that’s not a typical virtue or paramita of most belief systems. So whenever one starts to stage operations in covert deceit and manipulation – one might trace its outline accordingly, the better to know what we’re dealing with, what it is we see before us – regardless what costumery or mask it may wear, what act its putting on.

    Creationism was honest (however dubious) at one time, decades ago – quoting the Bible on faith, as its basis for objecting to science. When that strategy decisively failed historically, its ‘art and craft’ became deceit: evolutionary pseudotheorizing.

    Again in McKenna reference – the same ‘fake evolutionary theorizing’ ploy stands tall in evidence. His brand originated 1980’s; not long after Creationists devised that subversive strategy – tossing principles of integrity and honesty to the wind.

    As with violence – the subversive motive and deceptive means of obfuscating knowledge and understanding, to infiltrate educational institutions (operational objectives in an ulterior agenda) – doesn’t seem real spiritual to folks not ‘on board’ regardless what religion or even atheist.

    When we find that type thing in action, again, many reasonably suspect, diagnose or hypothesize, by the pricking of their thumbs, something ‘fanatical’ this way comes.

    Not all cultic fanaticism is ‘fundamentalist’ i.e. ideologically conservative, of old time religion. And the fanatic-like elements in psychedelia are specifically anti-conservative, almost without exception. Your term ‘fundamentalist’ doesn’t seem to me valid or reasonably accurate – as applies to things like Heaven’s Gate (the Marshall Applewhite cult). Or in psychedelia – the Castaneda “Don Juan” biz, some aspects of which perhaps foreshadow Things To Come in the subculture, as its devolved.

    Thank you for posting my reply. I’m struck by the absence of response to what you’ve said, a clear and present lack of engagement – the sound of wind blowing down a desolate alley, in place of discussion. I feel sad that you and I, unless my impressions from your reply mislead – aren’t anywhere within range of being able to communicate, so far apart are we in – not subject of interest, but manner of interest in it. Purposes of conversation in disarray, like loose ends that cannot come together. I wish I were wrong, ruefully. I’m disappointed, not in the fact of your reply but in its form and content, scope and scale – nonetheless, no burden you bear to offer me anything more satisfactory for – my interests not yours. Most likely this is the only flag we can plant. With no bad wishes, and appreciative regards however regretful – Brian Akers

    PS – sorry to ‘blow up’ your blog (if I understand current idiom of popular speech)


  4. Jason Pilley
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 22:38:14

    I’m not sure, but I think the “fundamentalist” thing might be a UK/US “tomato/tomayto” discrepancy, the word gets thrown around very loosely here: i.e. al-Qaeda types generally get referred to as “Islamic fundamentalists” but then someone will ponder aloud if technically they count as “fundamentalists” but everyone calls them that anyway ‘cos “fundamentalist” is just shorthand for “small-minded bastard.” But fair enough, pretend I said “fanatical extremists” instead, and I think my point stands up: Psychedelia isn’t characterised by fanatical extremism but instead by the level-headed tolerance of e.g. the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the Breaking Convention, etc; so when reviewers complained that Jeremy Narby’s “The Cosmic Serpent” wasn’t scientific enough, he responded not with invective about “infidels” but by sketching an experiment to move in the direction of making ayahuasca studies more rigorous ( – “The scientists said that more research was needed…”).

    McKenna – alongside, as you note, Castaneda – was one of the most cult-like voices to infest Psychedelia but even then I don’t think either of them were really cult-like: they weren’t L Ron Hubbard-type figures nor did either of them aspire to be. “But when an ‘inspiration’ acts out bloodshed, violence – whether homicidal, suicidal, psychosexual etc – that doesn’t come off real spiritual to most people, in any healthy religious framework. What kind of ‘blessing’ goes around hurting on, maiming or killing folks who – simply got the wrong look on their face at mention of some prophet’s name?” If you’re describing McKenna and his acolytes here, you’ll have to provide links to news-reports so I can see what specific incidents you’re referring to, ditto with this: “In months leading up to an eagerly vaunted eschaton, amid the tense anticipation of celebrants – deadly violence did break out, at cost of life and limb, including homicide.” When and where did that happen? All the 2012 Apocalypse True-Believers I knew got high that night and laughed at themselves in the morning, I’m not aware of any violence nor of anyone at all indulging in genuine cult-like behaviour i.e. giving away their worldly possessions and fleeing to the mountaintop to embrace the Apocalypse, Jehovah’s Witness-style.

    As for the Watkins Affair – and again, this relates to McKenna who I don’t think represents or ever represented the Movement anyway – all I can find about that on the internet suggests it wasn’t a big deal: writing in 2010 ( Matthew Watkins describes his encounters with McKenna, they don’t seem particularly well characterised as “vicious personal attacks” or “ad hominem abuse, harangue harassment etc,” Watkins’s tone is amiable, he is of course frustrated and bewildered by the depths of the wannabe prophet’s dishonesty but he seems fond enough of him as a person (“I found this incredibly irresponsible, but he may have had a point”); anyway it’s 2014 now and Terence McKenna is as relevant as Nostradamus or Charles Taze Russell.


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