25 Thought-Bombs From the Man Who Predicted Meme Culture

While there are very few people who would claim that the late Terence Mckenna was a living master, anyone who has heard even one of his talks will tell you that he was a master of the spoken word. Able to weave two-hour-plus long monologues into beautiful, impossibly intricate tapestries of deep meaning and revelation, Mckenna was undoubtedly a raconteur of the first order. One could listen to him speak for only a few minutes and come to realize that he possessed the unique power to turn any subject, no matter how drab, into a spell of nearly hypnotic quality. The fact that his subject matter often centred on some of the most interesting aspects of our existence, however — everything from ancient mysteries to the nature of time to the technological singularity — made his talks all the more mesmerizing.

One of the chief voices for the psychedelic community, Mckenna was often referred to as the “Timothy Leary of the 90’s”. He was a highly respected figure of the countercultural movement who nonetheless remained relatively unknown to the mainstream until the rise of the internet and “meme” culture, something he ironically referred to in his talks years before internet memes became a reality. Over the course of his life he published 8 books, gave hundreds — if not thousands — of talks, and founded the nonprofit ethnobotanical preserve Botanical Dimensions on the Big Island of Hawaii. He died of brain cancer in April, 2000, yet his legacy remains stronger than ever, thanks in part to the internet’s natural tendency to give quality its due diligence over the long run. Here, then, are 25 thought-bombs from the man who predicted meme culture.

  • There is a spiritual obligation, there is a task to be done. It is not, however, something as simple as following a set of somebody else’s rules.
  • We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.
  • Nothing comes unannounced, but many can miss the announcement. So it’s very important to actually listen to your own intuition rather than driving through it.
  • The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.
  • It’s clearly a crisis of two things: of consciousness and conditioning. We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save our planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war; but we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds. We must decondition ourselves from 10,000 years of bad behavior. And, it’s not easy.
  • We tend to disempower ourselves. We tend to believe that we don’t matter. And in the act of taking that idea to ourselves we give everything away to somebody else, to something else.
  • Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.
  • You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.
  • The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation.
  • Personal empowerment means deconditioning yourself from the values and the programs of the society and putting your own values and programs in place.
  • Culture is not your friend, it’s an impediment to understanding what’s going on. That’s why the words cult and culture have a direct relationship to each other. Culture is an extremely repressive cult that leads to all kinds of humiliation and degradation, and automatic, unquestioned and unthinking behaviour.
  • Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coersion, brainwashing, and manipulation.
  • The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind, and anything less is a dithering while Rome burns.  If artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.
  • Our world is in danger by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness. And so to whatever degree any one of us can bring back a small piece of the picture, and contribute it to the building of the new paradigm, then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit, and that, after all, is what it’s really all about.
  • The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.
  • History is the in-rushing toward what the Buddhists call the realm of the densely packed, a transformational realm where the opposites are unified.
  • Matter is not lacking in magic, matter is magic.
  • The problem is not to find the answer, it’s to face the answer.
  • Ideology always paves the way toward atrocity.
  • You don’t want to become so open-minded that the wind can whistle between your ears.
  • Half the time you think your thinking, you’re actually listening.
  • Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member of a neurotic culture against the facts of the matter. And culture, which we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort of neurotic behaviors are acceptable.
  • Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.
  • The message of psychedelics is that culture can be re-engineered as a set of emotional and spiritual values rather than products. This is terrifying news.
  • The internet is light at the end of the tunnel… it is creating a global society.