Terence McKenna - 1990 Maps Conference Address (draft)

Well, it’s a pleasure to see the tribe assembled. (audience cheers)

When we look at our own psychedelic experience, it seems so personally huge that it’s very hard to place it in the context of hundreds of thousands of such experiences, but when we do that, when we look at the medical research that was carried on until it was suppressed some twenty years ago, the feeling that you come away with is: psychedelics dissolve boundaries. This is what they do. They dissolve boundaries at every level. They dissolve boundaries between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, between men and women, between various societies and points of view.

At one time, I was willing to let it rest at that, to imagine that these things are boundary-dissolving, structure-dissolving compounds, and this is what gives them their enormous import, because they lead us outside of the theater of language and into the real world that we suppressed in the process of becoming acculturated to our own culture.

But now I thought more deeply about this and I think we can say more about this phenomenon of boundary dissolution, because the most profound boundary that any of us experience is the boundary between ego and world. We are in the world but we are the ego. This is the cultural myth in which we live, and this is the cultural myth that is completely dissolved, exploded and blown way by the psychedelic experience.

It is not a cliché to say that it is an experience of oneness, because the world we are living in is unifying itself at a prodigious rate. And this is now the will of institutions. Andy made reference to what a con this drug war is because it’s making so much money for so many people. The chief function of institutions appears to be to retard progress and to keep their criminal enterprises bubbling merrily along on the side. Meanwhile, the rest of us, the masses of people struggling to come to terms with the end of history can see, can feel, that what we need is a sense of unity. Not an idea of unity, not an ideology of unity, because if there ever was an ideology of unity, it was communism, and the pieces are still falling from the explosion of that system of thought.

We need a feeling of unity. Feeling is primary.

It doesn’t come out of intellectual exertation/exhortation. It comes out of a personal act of courage made by the individual. An act of courage which involves surrender. Surrender is the opposite side of the coin of ego. The central issue of our time is our inability to surrender to what we know is right.

We have the ability to feed the hungry. We have the ability to educate our children, to clean up our environment, to eliminate sexism, to eliminate racism. The question is: can we change our minds fast enough? Not “can we change our minds”, but “can we change them fast enough?” The momentum of the institutions that were created out of the collapse of medieval society has become so great, the momentum toward a lethal conclusion, that if we don’t act quickly to pull ourselves out of this power dive, eventually the political will, the resources, even the infrastructure will not be there to support this kind of a reorienting of our thinking.

I believe in psychedelics because I’ve seen them work. That’s the main thing. They are operationally effective. Psychoanalysis, yoga, this is all very fine if you have worlds enough and time, but we don’t. If you stake your self identity on the aggrandizement of a single atom of humanity which you call yourself, then what hope is there for creating a coherent communal future? None, I submit. And I believe that’s the position that we are in.

We need a radical intervention in the evolution of our social psychology, and we have the models. This is one thing this gives us a leg up over the 1960s. They didn’t realize, not enough people realized, that this was not something new, this was something old. That shamanism, psychedelic shamanism is how religion was practiced for the first million years, and if there is to be any future for our species, it’s how it’s going to be practiced from here on out. We have to overcome male dominance, institutional dominance, suppression of the feminine, worship of technology. All of these things arise out of a projection of energy away from the authentic, toward the ephemeral, toward the fleeting. You know, it’s all flowing anyway. There’s somebody here who said be here now.

This notion that the quality, the primacy of experience is the centerpiece of being. Not regret. Not plans. Not projections. But the primacy of the felt experience of the moment. If we stick with that, we not only gain a kind of authenticity for ourselves, but we open space for dialogue where the frightened, the truly ego sick, the institutional junkies, the truly traumatized can then feel: well, here is an area where perhaps I can feel safe, here is an area where I can perhaps take a chance on changing my mind. This is not an exhortation to a political movement. The mind that is most important to change is our own. Each of us. By ourselves.

It’s wonderful that psychedelic use is spreading, because each person who is touched by it is brought back into the authentic community of being, but it’s also very important that we who are psychedelic, remain psychedelic, deepen the psychedelic commitment and carry it forward. Because, after all, we are the yeast that could make the bread rise, and then there would be bread for everyone. Thank you.