Terence McKenna

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If the words 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' don't include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn't worth the hemp it was written on.
—Terence McKenna[1]

Terence Kemp McKenna (1946–2000) was a psychonaut, ethnobotanist, metaphysical philosopher, and advocate for the informed use of entheogenic psychedelics — known for his lectures and theories on such topics. McKenna's meetings with "entities from other dimensions" led him to believe in ideas like collective consciousness and matter emerging from intelligence (non-materialist neuroscience), not the other way around (materialism). Although he was seen as a culmination of the New Age movement, he did not find himself in agreement with such a community, additionally saying, "These things are like intellectual viruses loose in the theater of discourse … the howling tide of unreason beats against pure fact with incredible fury".[2] Even so, expect a touch of pseudoscience churned into his works. Thankfully, he was joking when he says humans evolved from monkeys.

DMT entities[edit]

The archetype of the little people: the leprechaun, the fae. And being Irish and being Jungian, I'm willing to entertain, you know, maybe I have a special relationship to this stuff, but then in the Amazon, the people using DMT that I studied in the early '70s — the reason they did it, they said, was to speak to the little people.
—On the topic of "Self-Transforming Elf Machines"[3]

McKenna had extensive experience with psychedelics: psilocybin, ayahuasca, peyote, ketamine, etc. Like many other people, his DMT trips specifically often contained interactions with perceived entities.[4] He has made several guesses as to what these could be, ranging from Jungian archetypes hidden in the subconscious to the apple from the flatland segment in Cosmos or even soul substance in the Buddhist Bardo.[5][6] More in line with an immaterialistic interpretation of McKenna's description of these entities as higher levels of conscious reality, one could visualize a single human mind as a point/node in consciousness and a DMT entity as a square or cube of consciousness, perhaps even an infinity expanding throughout uncountable dimensions. Observations and interpretations like these are not too outlandish for DMT trips, as DMT can sometimes allow for the perception of never-before-seen colors, new senses, and dimensions outside length, width, height, and linear time.[7][8]

His description of these entities as fractal and loving match with the encounters of most other people, but the "machine elves" label leaves more questions than answers. He has also referred to a collective conscious entity as "Logos" or "the Mushroom".

McKenna was a Ufologist of sorts, not being able to differentiate Ufology/extraterrestrials from psychedelic drug experiences.[9]:58-88

Shamanic states of mind and UFO contact can, somehow, be mapped onto each other. At active levels, psilocybin induces visionary ideation of spacecraft, alien creatures, and alien information. There is a general futuristic, science fiction quality to the psilocybin experience that seems to originate from the same place as the modern myth of the UFO. My brother and I discovered during our expedition to the Amazon in 1971 that accumulation of the tryptamines in one's system seems to confer the ability to inhabit more than one world at once, as though another world were superimposed over reality. This is a super-reality, a hyperdimensional world where information is accessible in magical ways.

Crackpot hypotheses[edit]

At this point, it should not surprise that Terence McKenna was known for his crackpot hypotheses.

Stoned Ape Theory[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Non-Darwinian evolution

What McKenna called his "theory of evolution" is what came to be known as the Stoned Ape Theory: the idea that consumption of wild mushrooms by early hominids had a drastic impact on the evolutionary development of the brain.[10] The basic idea is that humans migrating due to the desertification of Africa must have had been exposed to mushrooms in the dung of cows upon stumbling into the new fields and oases (never mind that mushrooms grow on the dung of wild African animals), where they would eventually begin the neolithic agricultural revolution. He postulated that this exposure could be responsible for which all human art, culture, spirituality, and science stand upon. While this is certainly a possibility, one could just look at psilocybin-using societies like the Aztecs that performed human sacrifice. Clearly, it doesn't always mitigate the bad side of humans. McKenna has even said something to this effect, saying, "Psychedelics don't work on stupid people" — never mind that some people considered McKenna stupid.[11] The hypothesis is also less convenient when taking into account that the Oasis Theory of human development isn't exactly credible due to the fact Africa was actually getting wetter leading up to the agricultural revolution.[12]

Timewave Theory[edit]

Novelty theory or timewave theory was McKenna's idea that entropy is wrong and that the Universe will continue to get more and more complex until it reaches infinite complexity, destroying reality as we know it. This was concluded from the entities' messages and nonsense in the I Ching. This pseudoscientific conundrum was backed up with some pseudomathematics. Leading up to McKenna's death, he said the date of this would be 2012. It is still unknown whether or not this was a joke or a trolling operation by the mischievous elves directed at him or by him directed at us, but it could be interesting as a thought experiment. This seems to be cleared up in a recording where he says he doesn't believe it as a fact but entertains it as an idea.[13]


McKenna died from a brain tumor, which prudes assumed was caused by his habitual marijuana usage. The doctors stated there was no connection.[14]

See Also[edit]


  1. McKenna, Terence K. True Hallucinations Being an Account of the Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise. Harper San Francisco, 1994.
  2. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/was-psychedelic-guru-terence-mckenna-goofing-about-2012-prophecy/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJjR3aUhsOk
  4. Pinchbeck, Daniel. Breaking Open the Head: a Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. Broadway Books, 2003.
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJjR3aUhsOk
  6. https://erowid.org/chemicals/dmt/dmt_writings3.shtml
  7. Luke, David (28 November 2013). "Rock Art or Rorschach: Is there More to Entoptics than Meets the Eye?". Time and Mind. 3 (1): 9–28
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6107838/
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History by Terence McKenna (1992) HarperCollins. ISBN 0062506137.
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfye6cmCOVA&t=3017s
  11. A Critique of Terence McKenna’s ‘Stoned Ape Theory’ by Sam Woolfe (May 28, 2013).
  12. Scarre, Christopher. The Human Past: Wold Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. Thames and Hudson, 2005.
  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rLHLhO1lCk
  14. https://www.wired.com/2000/05/mckenna/