The Life And Mind Of Terence McKenna

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The Life And Mind Of Terence McKenna

It is hard to think of the psychedelic experience without bringing up Terence McKenna. Terence McKenna was a true pioneer and explorer of the human mind. His ideas and theories influenced a generation of psychedelic truth seekers.

Anyone who walks the psychedelic path, has undoubtedly come across the name Terence McKenna. For those of you who know of McKenna's work, you know that he was a pioneer of not only psychedelics, but an explorer of consciousness itself. For those who don't know McKenna's work, it has shaped the study of psychedelics for decades. He dedicated his life to uncovering mysteries of the universe through psychedelics and left a profound impact on those who seek understanding.


McKenna was born in Colorado, in the United States. Born of Irish ancestry, he was fascinated by nature, science and psychology. In his teenage years, McKenna stumbled upon morning glory seeds, a powerful psychedelic. The trip left him realizing that the psychedelic experience is one of wonder, worth studying and pursuing in a serious nature.

McKenna began an intense life-long journey through psychedelics as a means of understanding the natural order and the universe. He was heavily influenced by the works of Aldous Huxley, whose books "The Doors of Perception" and "Heaven and Hell" spoke of the psychedelic journey. By 1965 he began his formal education at the University of California in Berkeley before moving to the Tussman Experimental College in 1967.

McKenna began to travel the world, making a stop in Tibet, where he explored the art of Tibetan painting and shamanism. He then made his way through Indonesia, where he explored ancient ruins and collected butterflies. His travels would take him through the Amazon jungle, where he delved into the World of DMT (dimethyltryptamine), mushrooms and ayahuasca. According to McKenna, “Ayahuasca is the conduit to a body of profoundly ancient genetic and evolutionary wisdom that has long abided in the cosmologies of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, who have guarded and protected this knowledge for milennia, who learned long ago that the human role is not to be the master of nature, but its steward”.

McKenna began to experiment with psychedelics on a molecular level, attempting to bind psychedelic compounds like harmine with his own neural DNA. He believed that through this synthesis, by means of vocal techniques, much like Tibetan chants, he could create what is known as an "Alchemist's Philosopher's Stone". This stone was meant to be a union of spiritual energy and matter and could allegedly connect the user to the totality of past human experience.

By the mid-seventies, McKenna finished his formal education and began to develop techniques for the cultivation of psilocybin and magic mushrooms. He pioneered one of the first methods of mushroom cultivation that anyone could do at home. His book "Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide" became one of the best selling books on mushroom cultivation ever written. By the nineteen-eighties, McKenna became one of the more in-demand public speakers on the topic of psychedelics and remained so until his death in April of 2000.


One of McKenna's more prominent theories is known as the "Stoned Ape Theory". On the surface the Stoned Ape Theory might seem more like science fiction to some. It proposes the theory that magic mushrooms and psilocybin in particular, played a significant role in the development of language, culture and ultimately our evolution. McKenna suggests that the origin of magic mushrooms on Earth, was not necessarily of this World. He suggests that it is possible the solar winds carried spores of intelligent life to Earth from elsewhere in the cosmos. The idea is not as far fetched as one might think. Scientists recently found compounds resembling THC on an asteroid. To think that psilocybin or a relative made it to earth on the back of a comet or a solar wind would be equally as plausible.

Once these spores made it to Earth, they were eventually consumed by hunter-gatherers. These early hunter-gatherer communities had a shift in their diet approximately 18,000 years ago. McKenna believed that it was around this time that psychedelic spores were introduced to their diet. The amounts were small enough when eaten as part of a meal that they did not cause the overwhelming hallucinations one might seek out, yet enough to enhance the senses, spark imagination and creativity and ultimately led to the development of language. The implications of McKenna's theory upend traditional concepts about the development of the human mind, society and culture.

McKenna didn't stop with origin of mankind's psychedelic experience. He delved even further into the nature of space, time and the universe itself. McKenna is the architect of what has become known as "Time Wave Theory". It is not as easy to explain. It is an attempt to create a mathematical formula based on the ancient Chinese I Ching. The purpose of which is to map out events in the history of the universe and time. Unfortunately for McKenna, his prediction of the end of the universe in 2012 based on the Time Wave Theory didn't exactly pan out.

Whether or not his theories will ever be provable is uncertain. What is certain is that he was a unique thinker not afraid to throw convention to the wind and explore concepts that others in the scientific community would condemn. Psychedelics unlock parts of the mind that can not be defined by words or feelings. McKenna pushed the boundaries of the mind and embraced these mysteries as solvable riddles.


Terence McKenna has left a legacy of information and knowledge. His journeys into the depth of the human mind and beyond have influenced a generation of psychedelic explorers. His works have influenced other great minds, such as Graham Hancock, Randall Carlson, Rupert Sheldrake, and the comedian Bill Hicks. His work sparked a renewed interest in philosophy and mysticism. He truly believed you could explore the universe from with your own mind. His ideas on evolution, space and time, and the role psychedelics have played in our development as a species have been firmly rooted in the hearts of those who continue to experiment with psilocybin and other mind-expanding substances. McKenna believed that when you consume psilocybin, you had the ability to tap into the cumulative experience shared by everyone who has ever consumed it. Perhaps in this regard we can all experience the mind of this true psychedelic pioneer.