The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss - My Life with Terence McKenna
By Dennis McKenna. 2012. Published by North StarPress of St. Cloud, Inc.
Reading this fraternal autobiography was for me both fascinating and moving, as I was and remain close friends with both the brothers, have shared stimulating conversations and psychedelic explorations with them, and was deeply saddened by Terence’s early death. Terence became known for his scintillating eloquence and Irish gift of the gab, like my old friend from an earlier generation Timothy Leary. His scintillating flights of the imagination, mixing far-out speculative science and arcane scholarship, delivered in his characteristic dead-pan nasally inflected voice – have astonished and delighted thousands – and remain in disembodied recordings circulating worldwide on the internet.
As his brother Dennis writes “Terence channeled the logos of the age. Silver-tongued and a riveting speaker, he articulated the concepts that his fans groped for but could not express, and did so in a witty, disarming way. He was the gnomic trickster and bard, an elfin comedian delivering the cosmic punch line, even as he assured us we were all in on the cosmic joke.” Especially, one might add, if you followed his advice and continued to take what he liked to call “heroic doses” of psychoactive mushrooms and DMT.
Dennis, who was close to and admired his eloquent and imaginative older brother, took on a different role in society, after the two intrepid explorers returned from the shamanic-alchemical-cosmic folie-a-deux described as “the experiment at La Chorerra,” in their joint autobiography The Invisible Landscape. Dennis went back to school, got a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry and embarked on a career as research scientist in botanical medicine. His writing, in this dual autobiography, is enormously engaging, brilliantly articulating complex issues of natural history, while dealing honestly and humbly with the personal, familial and professional challenges with which he was confronted.
Terence once commented to me in a conversation, that while he was known as the more eloquent speaker and captivating story-teller, his brother Dennis, in his view, was the more profound thinker and scientist. “His mind goes deep into matter,” he said with obvious admiration. Indeed, Dennis has carved out a significant career as a consultant in the development of new botanical medicines, with a slew of research publications to his credit. I’ve always loved listening to his lucid and articulate explanations of complex concepts in molecular biology and entheobotany.
One of the most exciting passages in Dennis’s book, to my mind, is in the chapter where he describes the research work he and two colleagues did on the chemistry and pharmacology of ayahuasca for the Brazilian UDV church and subsequently participated in a large group session with ayahuasca (a ceremony I also attended). With the help of a concoction of the visionary vine, Dennis found himself identified as a sentient water molecule and was shown and actually subjectively experienced the entire process of photosynthesis, step by step. As a trained plant biochemist, he was able to identify and name the different processes he had come to understand objectively, as he was experiencing them subjectively, from the point of view of a single drop of water. “I knew that I had been give an inestimable gift, a piece of gnosis and wisdom straight from the heart-mind of planetary intelligence, conveyed in visions and thought by an infinitely wise, incredibly ancient, and enormously compassionate ‘ambassador’ to the human community.”
This was perhaps a core vision of Dennis’ life as a scientist, presaging, like the work of Jeremy Narby, a time when the instrumental external observations of material and natural scientists will be supplemented by and compared with the interior observations of those same scientists in sensitized and expanded states of consciousness.
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PSYCHEDELIA – An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way of Life
By Patrick Lundborg. 2012. Published Lysergia. Stockholm-Lhasa-Mojave. www.lysergia.com. Also available from http://beta.forcedexposure.com/Artists/LUNDBORG.PATRICK.html
Psychedelic culture seems to breed luxuriously in the literary, visual and auditory arts. Patrick Lundborg, a Swedish computer scientist and independent researcher who previously published The Acid Archives, a pioneering study of underground music in the 1960s and 1970s, has here produced an impressively wide-ranging historical compendium of psychedelic culture. In over 500 pages, Lundborg surveys a colorful history that spans 3,500 years of a living underground culture, engaged in constant dialogue with its mainstream counterpart. Topics discussed range from Husserl’s phenomenology, Apollonious and Hellenism, the Eleusinian mysteries, the McKenna brothers at La Chorrera, Paracelcus and John Dee, Huxley’s vision, William Blake and Philip K. Dick, Harvard and Millbrook, Wasson and Hofmann, the Peyote Church, the 60s counterculture and the mainstream backlash, ayahuasca churches and tryptamine entities… and much more. Lundborg is especially fascinating in his survey of contemporary visionary art and pop-culture, electronic and ambient dance music, acid house and Goa psytrance, cyberpunk, Eden Ahbez, Spongle and related cultural efflorescences.