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The Terence McKenna Video Archive (2011)

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Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 - April 3, 2000) was an American researcher, philosopher, speaker, spiritual teacher and writer on many subjects. His works are wide-scoped, ranging from consciousness, the human experience, psychedelic substances and their role in societies, evolution of civilizations, origin of the universe to aliens.

Early life

Terence McKenna grew up in Paonia, Colorado. He was introduced to geology through his uncle and developed a hobby of solitary fossil hunting in the arroyos near his home. From this he developed a deep artistic and scientific appreciation of nature.

At age 16, McKenna moved to Los Altos, California to live with family friends because his parents in Colorado wished him to have the benefit of highly rated California public schools. He was introduced to psychedelics through The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley and the The Village Voice. McKenna claimed that one of his early psychedelic experiences with morning glory seeds showed him "that there was something there worth pursuing."

In 1964, circumstances required McKenna to move to Lancaster, California, to live with a different set of family friends. In 1965, he graduated from Antelope Valley High School.

McKenna then enrolled in U.C. Berkeley. He moved to San Francisco during the summer of 1965 before his classes began, was introduced that year to cannabis by Barry Melton and tried LSD soon after. In an audio interview Terence Mckenna claims to have started smoking cannabis regularly during the summer following his 17th birthday.

Adult life

He spent the years after his graduation teaching English in Japan, traveling through India and South Asia collecting butterflies for biological supply companies.

Following the death of his mother in 1971, Terence, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-hé, a plant preparation containing DMT. Instead of oo-koo-hé they found various forms of ayahuasca (also known as "yagé") and gigantic psilocybe cubensis which became the new focus of the expedition. In La Chorrera, at the urging of his brother, he allowed himself to be the subject of a psychedelic experiment which he claimed put him in contact with Logos: an informative, divine voice he believed was universal to visionary religious experience. The revelations of this voice, and his brother's peculiar experience during the experiment, prompted him to explore the structure of an early form of the I Ching, which led to his "Novelty Theory". These ideas were explored extensively by Terence and Dennis in their 1975 book The Invisible Landscape - Mind Hallucinogens and The I Ching.

In the early 1980s, McKenna began to speak publicly on the topic of psychedelic drugs, lecturing extensively and conducting weekend workshops. Though somewhat associated with the New Age or human potential movement, McKenna himself had little patience for New Age sensibilities, repeatedly stressing the importance and primacy of felt experience as opposed to dogmatic ideologies. Timothy Leary once introduced him as "one of the five or six most important people on the planet"

As a freshman at U.C. Berkeley, McKenna participated in the Tussman Experimental College, a short-lived two-year program on the Berkeley campus. He graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Conservation.

He soon became a fixture of popular counterculture, and his popularity continued to grow, culminating in the early to mid-1990s with the publication of several books such as True Hallucinations (which relates the tale of his 1971 experience at La Chorrera), Food of the Gods and The Archaic Revival. He became a popular personality in the psychedelic rave/dance scene of the early 1990s, with frequent spoken word performances at raves and contributions to psychedelic and goa trance albums by The Shamen, Spacetime Continuum, Alien Project, Capsula, Entheogenic, Zuvuya, Shpongle, and Shakti Twins. His speeches were (and continue to be) sampled by many others. In 1994 he appeared as a speaker at the Starwood Festival, which was documented in the book Tripping by Charles Hayes (his lectures were produced on both cassette tape and CD).

McKenna was a contemporary and colleague of chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham and biologist Rupert Sheldrake (creator of the theory of "morphogenetic fields", not to be confused with the mainstream usage of the same term), and conducted several public debates known as trialogues with them, from the late 1980s up until his death. Books which contained transcriptions of some of these events were published. He was also a friend and associate of Ralph Metzner, Nicole Maxwell, and Riane Eisler, participating in joint workshops and symposia with them. He was a personal friend of Tom Robbins, and influenced the thought of numerous scientists, writers, artists, and entertainers, including comedian Bill Hicks, whose routines concerning psychedelic drugs drew heavily from McKenna's works. He is also the inspiration for the Twin Peaks character Dr. Jacoby.

In addition to psychedelic drugs, McKenna spoke on the subjects of virtual reality (which he saw as a way to artistically communicate the experience of psychedelics), techno-paganism, artificial intelligence, evolution, extraterrestrials, and aesthetic theory (art/visual experience as information-- representing the significance of hallucinatory visions experienced under the influence of psychedelics).

McKenna also co-founded Botanical Dimensions with Kathleen Harrison (his colleague and wife of 17 years), a non-profit ethnobotanical preserve on the island of Hawaii, where he lived for many years before he died. Before moving to Hawaii permanently, McKenna split his time between Hawaii and the town of Occidental, located in the redwood studded hills of Sonoma County, California; a town unique for its high concentration of artistic notables, including Tom Waits and Mickey Hart.