Terence McKenna has been described as the ‘Irish Bard’ of psychedelia, cultivating a unique discursive and conversational style somewhere between science and poetry, conveyed through his most iconic medium: the verbal ‘rap’.
Having returned to California from the Amazon in 1971, Terence told the tale of what became known as The Experiment At La Chorrera, a story of the McKenna brothers plight into a mind-bending journey, occasioned by a heroic dose of psilocybin mushrooms, described in retrospect as a mixture of a paranormal encounter, revelation, and psychotic episode. Terence is still widely celebrated for his highly entertaining speculations and apocalyptic prophecies, whose gnostic, paranormal, and science-fictional dimensions blended explorations of technology, media theory with first-person insights from the psychedelic experience.
Terence McKenna (November, 1946 – April, 2000) grew up in Paonia, Colorado. His a mother of Welsh descent, and his father had Irish ancestry. From a very young age, he developed an interest in fossil hunting and was introduced to geology by his uncle.
In 1965, he studied art history at the University of California, Berkeley. Two years later, he became involved in studying ‘shamanism’ and travelled to Jerusalem, where he met his future wife, Kathleen Harrison.
Following the death of his mother in 1971, he travelled to the Amazon with his friends, where they tried to look for a certain plant called, ‘oo-koo-he’. However, instead of finding the plant, they found various other forms of plants and mushroom species that became the focus of their expedition. Later, he co-authored a book on his Amazonian experiences titled, ‘The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching’, and ‘True Hallucinations’.
In the 1980s, he began giving public speeches on psychedelic drugs that emphasized the importance of ‘felt experience’. He became the prime focus of popular counterculture and ‘taboo’, and following in the cultural footsteps of Timothy Leary he began preaching heroic doses (5 dried grams) of psilocybin mushrooms.
In 1989 he had a troublesome experience with psilocybin, which led him to eventually stop his drug usage and only ever use other psychedelics with great reluctance on rare occasions. However, he ardently advocated psilocybin and its usage to others in his public forum, till the end of his life.
Some of the books that he authored towards the end of his life include, ‘True Hallucinations’ and the Archaic Revival: Tales and Speculations about the Mysteries of the Psychedelic Experience’, and ‘The Evolutionary Mind’
He died on April 3, 2000, due to brain cancer, at the age of 53.
- A biography of Terence was written by his brother Dennis Mckenna, titled: The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012)
- The Evolutionary Mind: Conversations on Science, Imagination, and Spirit (2005)
- True Hallucinations and The Archaic Revival: Tales and Speculations about the Mysteries of the Psychedelic Experience (1998)
- The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching (1994)
- Find an extensive collection of Terence McKenna’s spoken words at the Psychedelic Salon podcast
- A YouTube archive of Terence McKenna’s collected work
- A great post-factum discourse on the legacy and controversy of the late Terence: A Deep Dive Into the Mind of McKenna (Esalen Institute, 2012)
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