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Psychedelic American and Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna would have loved it. Scientific American, my former employer, has just published “How Hallucinogens Play Their Mind-bending Games.” Illustrated with a trippy Lucy-in-the-Sky photo, the piece reports on investigations into how exactly LSD affects the brain, providing yet another example of what I have called The Psychedelic Revival.

Researching Rational Mysticism in 1999, I interviewed McKenna, the crazy-like-a-fox psychedelic riffer-provocateur-performance-artist, just before he was diagnosed with the brain tumor that killed him less than a year later. We met in New York City in the Millennium Hotel, right next to the World Trade Center, which was still standing. At one point I warned McKenna that I had worked for 10 years at Scientific American, and it had left me with a rather conservative, skeptical outlook.

Scientific American, McKenna assured me, is one of his favorite magazines. It is “incredibly psychedelic,” and a major source of his inspiration. He had just read an article in Scientific American about a hypothetical cosmic force with “surreal,” “woo-woo” implications. “Essentially what it says is that Newtonian spacetime is in the act of boiling away, and what will be left in only a couple or three billion years--if you calculate these processes fully--is a universe entirely defined by nonlocal quantum activity.”

Anyone who reads Scientific American, McKenna continued, can see that science is in the throes of “an enormous crisis, or maybe not crisis but turmoil, based on the breakdown of paradigms.” Just look at superstrings, parallel universes, hyperdimensions, time travel, and other bizarre notions emerging from physics. Then there are technological advances such as artificial intelligence, which is on the verge of creating machines with superhuman intelligence. “Nobody knows what mind is,” McKenna said, “operating at multigigahertz speeds in virtual realities unconstrained by gravity and economy of any sort.”

Maybe in the future Scientific American can explore McKenna’s time-wave theory, which tracks the ebbs and flows of “novelty” in terrestrial history and predicts that humanity is hurtling toward an “enormously-reality rearranging” event that will take place on December 22, 2012.


Tom F

Heavens. What was the article/theory that had excited McKenna in 99? Has it proved robust? Has it turned to dust? It sounds intriguing.

As does he.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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