'True Hallucinations' by Terence Mckenna (1993)

A selection from 'True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author's Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil's Paradise' by Terence McKenna (1993).

We walked southwest, out of town, perhaps a mile. Here were the warm waters of the Rio Hacha, visible across rolling pastures of tall grass. [...] Someone more familiar than I with the appearance of the mushroom Stropharia cubensis [
Psilocybe cubensis] pointed out a single large specimen standing tall and alone in an old bit of cow manure. Impulsively and at my companions' suggestion, I ate the whole mushroom. It occupied but a moment, and then on we trudged, tired from our swim, a tropical thunderstorm moving toward us along the eastern edge of the Andean cordillera... .
For perhaps a quarter hour we walked on, mostly in silence. Wearily I hung my head, almost hypnotized by the sight of the regular motion of my boots cutting through the grass. To align my back, to throw off my lethargy, I paused and stretched, scanning the horizon. The feeling of the bigness of the sky, which I have come to associate with psilocybin, rushed down on me there for the first time. I asked my friends to pause and then I sat down heavily on the ground. A silent thunder seemed to shake the air before me. Things stood out with a new presence and significance. This feeling came and passed over me like a wave just as the first fury of the tropical storm burst overhead, leaving us soaked. The eerie sense that some other dimension or scale of being had intersected with the bright tropical day lasted only a few minutes. Elusive but strong... .

...but... we were after bigger game. We were involved, I imagined, in a deep jungle search for hallucinogens of a different sort: ...the psychedelic brew Ayahuasca.

...the trip may well involve contact with some race of hyperspatial dwellers.
Probably it will be an encounter similar to a "flying lesson": instruction in the use of the transdimensional stone, how to navigate in hyper-space, and perhaps an introductory course in Cosmic Ecology... .

...I [was struggling to] come to terms with the elf-haunted psychic landscapes revealed by dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. Once we had encountered DMT, in the heady and surreal atmosphere of Berkeley at the apex of the Summer of Love, it had become the primary mystery... .

Ev, Dennis, and I smoked a joint of Santa Marta Gold before turning in. It was a calm, perfectly clear night when we sat down and began this ritual. Eve commented on the clarity of the night, and we all stared for a moment out into the galaxy. The night was awash with millions of stars. Perhaps five minutes went by, each of the three of us lost in our ideas.

For about seventy feet in all directions there was a thick fog, only a few feet deep, hugging the ground. [...] We had come from depthless, clear night sky to dense fog in a few minutes.

Eve related that in the silence before the appearance of the fog she had a hallucination. With her eyes closed, she saw a strange, elf-like creature rolling a complicated polyhedron along the ground. Each facet of this polyhedron seemed, she said, like a window onto another place in time or another world.
"It's the stone!" I breathed. I could almost see her vision of the lapis philosophorum-- the glittering goal of centuries of alchemical and Hermetic speculation glimpsed in the Amazonian night, now seeming a great multi-dimensional jewel, the philosopher's stone, in the keeping of a telluric gnome. [...]  I had never seen or imagined the mystery of the stone thus, but in listening to Ev's description of what she had seen, an image formed in my mind that to this day remains with  me. It is the image of the philosopher's stone as hyperdimensional jewel-become-UFO-- the human soul as starship. It is the universal panacea at the end of time, all history being the shock wave of this final actualization of the potential in the human psyche. These thoughts, these reveries, seemed to me then like the stirring of something vast, something dimly sensed that was stretched out over millions of years, something about the destiny of humankind and the return of the soul to its awesome and hidden source.

Dark oceans of time  and space seemed to swell and flow beneath our feet. The image of the earth hanging in space was everywhere emotionally superimposed on the situation around us [recall the lunar landing only 2 years earlier]. [...] I lay in my hammock, thrilled and uneasy at the edge of sleep, then I fell into deep sleep and deep dreams from which nothing remained in the morning save the sense of yawning interstellar space.

The overwhelming impression was that something possibly from outer space or from another dimension was contacting us. [...] The source of this unearthly contact was the Stropharia cubensis... .

...what was compromised was the ability of reason to give a coherent account of what was going on, as paradox, coincidence, and general synchronistic strangeness began to increase exponentially. Into the vacuum left by the collapse of reason rushed a staggering array of exotic intuitions about why things were as they were.

Hyper-carbolation: This is what we had named the process of altering the neural DNA and changing man into an eternal hyper-dimensional being. [...] ...we were following Jung, who early on realized that the flying saucer is an image of the self, the suppressed psychic totality that lurks behind the apparent dualism of mind and nature. We thought that the field of mind and its will toward the good could be templated onto the genetic engines of life. The hope was that out of biology, Tantra could summon the reality of the living stone, the chimerical unicorn of the alchemical quest made at last to lay his head in the maiden's lap. We dreamed, in short, of a union of Spirit and Matter.
The dead: We believed that hyper-carbolation was to be the shamanic defeat of death, that those doorways through which the dead enter daily were to be finally thrown open to a hyper-carbolated humanity, which would then have freedom of movement to and from an eternity in which all the members of the species existed as a living reality.
There seemed to be an ideological lineage, the golden chain, whose collective task was the shattering of the historical continuum through the generation of the living philosophical lapis of hyper-carbolated humanity. All these visionary thinkers had performed their part in this project. Now, as the secret work of human history, the generation of Adam's cosmic body, lost since paradise, neared completion, these shades stirred and pressed near to our Amazonian campsite. Our destiny was apparently to be the human atoms critical to the transformation of Homo sapiens into galaxy-roving bodhisattvas, the culmination and quintessence of the highest aspirations of star-coveting humanity.

All the pain and suffering and war and desperation would somehow be repaid and made right through the intercession of the mystery of
higher dimensions and a backward flowing logic of time that somehow undoes what has already happened. The wave of understanding that had been gaining strength... was so strong as to be nearly visible in everything around me. The lenticular shape of the approaching philosopher's stone seemed to be everywhere that I looked. Every shape and form around me was pregnant with its unearthly, opalescent depths.

As breakfast unfolded the following morning, the sixth of March, it became clear that the restful sleep I had imagined we had all shared had been anything but that. From Dennis, still disorganized but expansive, comments emerged that he had, or imagined he had, a very active night. Upon close questioning, it came out that he was completely convinced that sometime during the night he had arisen and dressed and then had a series of nocturnal adventures. These involved going alone in the darkness to the thundering immensity of the chorro over a mile away, then returning to climb and spend some time in a large tree near the edge of the mission, then making his way back across the pasture and returning to his hammock, strung among all the others. The thought of him wandering around during the night on those trails, without his glasses, falling in and out of shamanic ecstasy, perhaps howling and otherwise paleolithically comporting himself, was too much for me. It was a breech of the collective cool. Even though I was 90 percent certain that it had never really happened, I was determined to eliminate all possibility of such rambles in the future.

Dennis's story was the classic description of a shamanic night journey. He said that he had gone to the chorro and had meditated in the mission cemetery we had visited before. He had begun to return to camp when he confronted a particularly large Inga tree near where the path skirted the edge of the mission. On impulse, he had climbed it, aware as he did that the ascent of the world tree is the central motif of the Siberian shamanic journey. As he climbed the tree, he felt the flickering polarities of many archetypes, and as he reached the highest point in his ascent, something that he called "the vortex" opened ahead of him—a swirling, enormous doorway into time. He could see the Cyclopean megaliths of Stonehenge and beyond them, revolving at a different speed and at a higher plane, the outlines of the pyramids, gleaming and marble-faceted as they have not been since the days of pharonic Egypt. And yet farther into the turbulent maw of the vortex, he saw mysteries that were ancient long before the advent of man—titanic archetypal forms on worlds unimagined by us, the arcane machineries of sentient agencies that swept through this part of the galaxy when our planet was young and its surface barely cooled. This machinery, these gibbering abysses, touched with the cold of interstellar space and aeon-consuming time, rushed down upon him. He fainted, and time—who can say how much time—passed by him. He next found himself in the pasture a few hundred feet from his newly discovered axis mundi. If he fell from the tree, it did not seem to have hurt him. Amazement, exaltation, fear, and confusion were all present in his thoughts. The continuum seemed to be shredding and ripping itself to pieces before his eyes, time and space swirling the artefacts of twenty-thousand years of human striving into a vortex of apocalyptic contradictions. In that state of fear and exultation, at the depth of the revelation of humanity's destiny among the stars, Dennis returned to our camp and noiselessly returned to his hammock, or awakened there from a dream of the same thing.

Say What Does it Mean

...from the dumb confrontation with chipped flint to the starship is one hundred thousand years.

Twenty-thousand years from nomadic hunting and gathering to cybernetics and spaceflight. And we are still accelerating. There are yet more waves to come. From the Model-T ford to the starship: one hundred years. From the fastest man on earth being able to move thirty miles per hour [i.e., the galloping speed of a horse] to nine miles per second: sixty years.

Human culture is a curve of expanding potentiality. In our own tormented century it has reached vertical gain. Human beings threaten every species on the planet. We have stockpiled radioactive material everywhere, and every species on earth can feel this. The planet when viewed as a sentient entity can react to this kind of pressure. It is three billion years old, and it has many options.
Dualistic talk about humanity not being part of the natural order is foolish. We could not have arisen unless we served a purpose that fit into the planetary ecology. It is not clear what our purpose is.... . [...] By stockpiling atomic weapons, we have claimed the capacity to destroy the earth... . Why? We do not know why. Surely not for the political and social reasons that are given. We are a tool building species that it itself the tool of a planetary ecology that is a higher intelligence. It knows what the dangers and limits on the cosmic scale are and it is furiously organizing life to both preserve and transform itself.

Our roles as parts of the process introduces an uncertainty in our observations that bedevils prediction.

We find ourselves in the strange position of being alive. [...] And yet our physics, which can light the fires of the stars in our deserts, cannot explain the strangeness of the phenomenon of our being alive.
Organisms are completely outside the realm of physical explanation... for science. Who are we? What is history? And what does it push toward? Now we have unleashed processes potentially fatal to the planet. We have triggered the final crises for all life. We have done this, but we do not control it. No single one of us. No leader or state can call a halt to the fact of our being trapped in history.

The Coming of the Strophariad

The mushroom stressed its age, its vast knowledge of the ebb and flow of historical forces in many civilizations through the millenia. Images of the past and future abounded.

I could see... advanced machinery being made ready, glittering, obsidian machinery built to challenge the mind-numbing distances that lie between us and the suns of Centuaurus. Before me was the spectacle of the departure preparations of a starship.

The mushroom always returned to the theme that it was wise in the ways of evolution and sympathetic therefore to a symbiotic union with... human beings. It was eager to share its own sense of the howness of things, a sense that had been developed over millions of years of conscious experience as an intelligent organism radiating through the galaxy. From its point of view, the mushroom is an elder life form, and as such it offers its tempering experience to a vibrant but naive child-race standing for the first time on the brink of flight to the stars. As our imagination has striven outward to attempt to encompass the possibility of the intelligent Other somewhere in the starry galaxy, so has the Other, observing this, revealed itself to be among us, when we are in the psilocybin trance, as an aspect of ourselves.

In the late summer of 1975, Dennis and I... wrote and published a guide [Psilocybin - Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide] to the method we had developed cultivating Stropharia. At the beginning of that little book, I introduced what we had personally learned about the world of the mushroom:

     "I am old, older than thought in your species, which is itself fifty times older than your history. Though I have been on earth for ages I am from the stars. My home is no one planet, for many worlds scattered through the shining disc of the galaxy have conditions which allow my spores an opportunity for life. The mushroom which you see is the part of my body given to sex thrills and sun bathing, my true body is a fine network of fibers growing through the soil. These networks may cover acres and may have far more connections that the number in a human brain. My mycelial network is nearly immortal, only the sudden toxification of a planet or the explosion of its parent star can wipe me out. By means impossible to explain because of certain misconceptions in your model of reality all my mycelial networks in the galaxy are in hyperlight communication across space and time. The mycelial body is as fragile as a spider's web but the collective hypermind and memory is a vast historical archive of the career of evolving intelligence on many worlds in our spiral star swarm. Space, you see, is a vast ocean to those hardy life forms that have the ability to reproduce from spores, for spores are covered with the hardest organic substance known. Across the aeons of time and space drift many spore-forming life-forms in suspended animation for millions of years until contact is made with a suitable environment. Few such species are minded, only myself and my recently evolved near relatives have achieved the hyper-communication mode and memory capacity that makes us leading members in the community of galactic intelligence. How the hypercommunication mode operates is a secret which will not be lightly given to man. But the means should be obvious: it is the occurrence of psilocybin and psilocin in the biosynthetic pathways of my living body that opens for me and my symbiots the vision screens to many worlds. You as an individual and man as a species are on the brink of the formation of a symbiotic relationship with my genetic material that will eventually carry humanity and earth into the galactic mainstream of the higher civilizations.
    Since it is not easy for you to recognize other varieties of intelligence around you, your most advanced theories of politics and society have advanced only as far as the notion of collectivism. But beyond the cohesion of the members of a species into a single social organism there lie richer and even more baroque evolutionary possibilities. Symbiosis is one of these. Symbiosis is a relation of mutual dependence and positive benefits for both of the species involved. Symbiotic relationships between myself and civilized forms of higher animals have been established many times and in many places throughout the long ages of my development. These relationships have been mutually useful; within my memory is the knowledge of hyperlight drive ships and how to build them. I will trade this knowledge for a free ticket to new worlds around suns younger and more stable than your own. To secure an eternal existence down the long river of cosmic time I again and again offer this agreement to higher beings and thereby have spread throughout the galaxy over the long millennia. A mycelial network has no organs to move the world, no hands; but higher animals with manipulative abilities can become partners with the star knowledge within me and if they act in good faith, return both themselves and their humble mushroom teacher to the million worlds all citizens of our starswarm are heir to."

[Editors note: see Jung's 'personification' of the Unconscious in his 'Modern Man in Search of a Soul':

"If it were permissible to personify the unconscious, we might call it a collective human being combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, and, from having at his command a human experience of one or two million years, almost immortal. If such a being existed, he would be exalted above all temporal change; the present would mean neither more nor less to him than any year in the one hundredth century before Christ; he would be a dreamer of age-old dreams and, owing to his immeasurable experience, he would be an incomparable prognosticator. He would have lived countless times over the life of the individual, of the family, tribe, and people, and he would possess the living sense of the rhythm of growth, flowering and decay."]

Something... as fragile and diaphanous as a spider's web-- for such is the mycelial network of the mushroom-- was not only able to communicate with me but was able to convey a vision of greater grandure and more transcendent hope than I had ever dared to dream possible.

My own reaction to the mushroom's claims... has taken many forms. I think that it is possible that certain of these compounds could be "seeded genes" injected into the planetary ecology eons ago by an automated space-probe arriving here from a civilization somewhere else in the galaxy. Such genes could have been carried along in the genome of a mushroom... . [...] I speculate that the final content of the message will be instructions-- it will be called a "discovery"-- of how to build a matter-transmitter or some other device that will allow its direct contact with the civilization that sent the message-bearing hallucinogen genes to earth so many aeons ago.

The information carried by the probe and broadcast by the hallucinogens is modulated by the needs of evolving intellect life on whatever planet is contacted. [...] ...the revelation of the extraterrestrial source of this information and the purpose behind it: construction of the star antenna and the entry of the Logos of galactic civilization that it will bring.
Speculative ideas indeed! [...] R.N. Bracewell's contribution [
'Communications from Superior Galactic Communities'] printed in [A.G.W. Cameron's Interstellar Communication: Scientific Perspectives, 1963] was the basis of my own ideas about interstellar probes.

Perhaps they have always been here, or rather their presence has always been here in the hallucinogens-- when we understand this on our own, we will be signalling to them that we are now ready for the contact.
We can send that signal only by following the instructions contained in the seeded genes and building the necessary apparatus... or vehicle. When that is done, somewhere in the galaxy lights will flash the message that yet another of the millions upon millions of seeded planets in the galaxy has achieved the threshold of galactic citizenship. [...] It is a joyous moment, even for galactarians. If such a speculation has any validity at all, then its very articulation signifies the final moment of pre-contact phase... .

The Hawaiian Connection

...until Kat joined me [in Hawaii], most of my mushroom trips had been entirely alone, one soul adrift in the cosmic ocean. Happily, there were now two of us navigating together through the billows of jeweled and demonically scintillating geometries.

Kat and I each took five dried grams and settled down before the fireplace...  . Soon we were deep into it.

I had the idea that if we should go outside... we might see some contintuation of the cloud-related phenomenon that had been a part of the experience at La Chorrera. Kat complained of being very hot and agreed that we should go outdoors. We were very unsteady on our feet, and though Kat said very little, I felt considerable alarm for her.

As we knelt together, realizing that we had surmounted the difficulty that had confronted us, a wild peal of unearthly sound-- a howling laughter-- split the air from the direction of the ancient woods behind the house. This laughter was like the scream of a panic-inducing god. Eldrich, amoral, mad-- the throaty battle cackle of the unleashed fiend. We fled.

When later we talked it became apparent that her experience had dimensions for her that had not been apparent to me. From the moment  we had first stepped out of the house, she discovered that the sensation of heat had not diminished but grown stronger. She noticed that directly above her was a disk of light and color-- a giant tinker-toy assemblage of softly glowing rods of light, with jewel-like connectors emanating every color.

"By seeing it, [she told me] I was understanding everything... but there were creatures inside the vehicle, mantis-like  and made of light, that didn't want me to know. Bending over their instrument panels, the more I understood, the more they burned me with their ray. I couldn't stop looking, but I was being vaporized."

Kat was having a UFO close-contact experience while I was seeing nothing.

We sat up all night discussing what had happened. It served to accentuate other odd things that we had noticed when taking psilocybin in that remote environment. We had particularly noticed small scratching and rustling noises at the periphery of sense and vision during the trips, not unlike the activation of a classic poltergeist phenomenon. [...] ...after a prolonged period of near-trance in contemplation of the visions, if we were to draw away from it in a collective motion to stretch or talk, the fire would suddenly flare and burn brighter and the rustling at the periphery would increase.
We were definitely at the brink of the same dimension that I had been plunged into at La Chorrera, again brought there by the agency of the mushroom.

...reflecting on her encounter with the mantis-beings and their machines of light,... Kat pointed out that a lens is the natural result of the overlapping of two spheres. Is there something to be learned by applying this idea to the lens-shaped UFO?

[cont. here]


My hope is that I may bear witness to the fact that there is a great mystery calling to us all, beckoning across the landscape of our history, promising to realize itself and to give real meaning to what is otherwise only the confusion of our lives and our collective past.