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Terence and UFOs [Trenchant Edges]
It's not late! It's just propagating backward from the future. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Welcome back to the Trenchant Edges, a newsletter of weird pulp science adventure!
We dig through fringe ideas to pull out the bits that might be salvaged for better constructions.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 43 seconds. Contains 1946 words
I’m your host and research junkie, Stephen Fisher. And we’re going to handwave away my procrastination on the theory side of Terence’s Jungle Experimentation again. Look for that more like Wednesday.
So, today, we’re focusing on The UFO. Terence’s interest in UFOs is steady but somewhat distant.
When Terence talked of UFOs he specifically meant visitation of alien intelligence.
And we can’t discuss the subject without touching on maybe my favorite piece of Terence’s writing. The introduction to the Magic Mushroom growers guide. Told from the point of view of the Mushroom itself.
The Mushroom Speaks
" 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 than the number in a human brain.
My mycelial network is nearly immortal--only the sudden toxification of a planet or the explosion of it's 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 through 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 hyper-communication mode operates is a secret which will not be lightly given to humans.
But the means should be obvious: it is the occurence 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 Homo sapiens 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 benifits for both 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 millenia.
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 to which all citizens of our starswarm are heir."
This is a kind of synthesis of the sense of personality from the Mushroom one may interface with. I’ve experienced the sense of the overwhelming other, ageless and beyond my ken more than a few times with psilocybin and this all feels broadly correct, though I’ve heard words with it.
The instinct to start describing a kind of Lovecraftian cosmic horror is strong there, only it seems to react to the human mind. Perhaps not in the way we might expect, but react nonetheless.
I say this because for people who haven’t taken enough psilocybin to get high enough for this to make any kind of sense. Someone on Tumblr posted a fun variation on this theme and, blessedly, someone else made a
But yeah, sometimes it’s kinda like that.
I know a few people who have, on an effective dose, asked the Mushroom what their life’s purpose is.
The mushroom told him that he should grow mushrooms. He now runs a Mushroom Farm.
All you can really do at a story like that is shrug, make a mental note not to ask the sex organ what you should do with your life, and chuckle.
An Inventory of Effects (see it’s a McLuhan reference!)
Next we’re going to pull some of the quotes from Mckenna’s talks that paint a bit more of a picture of what Terence thinks UFOs are doing and why.
[Jeffery Mishlove]: Well, that, that suggests to me that if we look at some of the most bizarre, most anomalous cases that we have, such as ufos, and we begin to ask ourselves, not so much what are they, because that's a mystery, but what is their function? How are they affecting us? That's like holding up a mirror to ourselves, and it tells us a great deal about the basic mystery of our mind and our reality.
[Terence McKenna]: Yes, this is the so-called postmodern approach -- to ask the question, not what is the ufo, but what is it doing to us? And, Jacques Vallee pioneered this approach. And, the answer is fascinating. What the ufos are doing to us, to global society, is they are eroding faith in science by casting directly in the path of science a-a-a kind of gauntlet, a challenge: "Crack this" -- almost as though the cosmic giggle had shown up at, uh, the bachelor party of science to spoil the bash, uh, in the same way that the resurrection of Christ posed a tremendous problem for the intellectuals of late Roman antiquity, because they had no place in their world view for someone rising from the dead. They were Greek materialists, atomists, essentially. In that same way, the ufo challenges the assumptions of science, and, uh, I think in that way--in that sense, Jung was really onto something when he saw it as coming from the unconscious. It is like an object coming from the unconscious with a compensatory function -- to turn us away from the rational and toward the intuitive; to turn us away from the paternalistic, Apollonian, solar, uh, masculine view of things, and toward a kind of watery, lunar, mysterious, intuitively felt, feminine force -- almost as though the ufo is a manifestation of Gaia as mother goddess. Science, as the proudest -- pardon the word -- erection of the rational mind, then, is challenged by something from an entirely other dimension, an entirely other realm, that concretizes for us the culture crisis. And that's why I've gotten into ufos; I think they are important for a resolution of the culture crisis. They concretize the struggle between the paternalistic-masculine and the lunar-feminine, to--uh, between a dominator society and the kind of partnership society that we require to survive.
Here Terence’s usual playfulness with words brings in some very interesting perspectives.
UFOs as a kind of suicide pill for high modernist rationalism. The scientific process can’t really directly touch UFOs because they don’t show up in a way we can expect, so experimentation is out.
So all you can really do is either get really deep in speculation or dismiss the whole thing. And most of the scientific community has picked the obvious choice between those.
The UFO as a manifestation of boundary dissolving serpent of chaos.
Does it have the potential to transform culture as mckenna suggests? Doesn’t seem to be much evidence for it but if you’re subverting rational expectation there wouldn’t be, right?
Okay, one last thought I wanna put out and then I’ll try for some questions. I have a sort of a rational mind, in that I like to make sense. I don’t mean experimental sense, but I mean if you can build a verbal metaphor to get from one thing to another then you understand it much better. And so I-the magical dimension is real. It isn’t psychological, it isn’t based on the strength of will. It’s as real as Mars in its orbit. I mean, there is real estate out there, folks. It’s that real. And so then, uh, the question becomes, uh, how to vivify it. And the answer is by creating a consensus in language. By having it made illegal it’s like where sex was with the Victorians. You know, everybody was inventing the wheel over and over again.
What we have to do is begin to build a consensus about this realm. And, uh, you know, this may be heresy in a community as oriented toward tradition as this one seems to be, but- and the generally pleasant position to take is that everybody has a piece of the action. You know, the Hassids know something, the Buddhists know something, the Book of Mormon there’s something there … The mushroom was incredibly ungenerous on this point. It said: “Nobody knows jack shit about what is going on.” [audience laughter]
So it is for you with your body as laboratory and your mind as worker in that laboratory to find a way, to reflux the alchemical gold. The only experience which counts is your own experience. Everything else is somehow handed down through social structures and political structures. It, it’s irrelevant. If flying saucers were to land on the south lawn of the White House tomorrow, it would not matter to you as much as smoking DMT would if you did that tonight. Because that’s your experience, your conviction, you see. And I believe that, uh, the rebirth of Paganism, the rebirth of Archaism, the rebirth of Psychedelic Shamanism is coming at this moment because we are going to be involved in a historical meltdown which will be the equivalent of a species-deep shamanic crisis in which, as a collectivity, we are going to have to make the journey to the well of worlds and recover and cleanse the collective soul of humanity.
Here we have one of Terence’s more controversial statements even among old heads.
The idea that what we as individuals and what we as a planetary mind must do is confront the archaic and embrace the wild and broader view of self and universe is core to Terence’s value and message.
More than the timewave, this is the thing that kept people coming back to Terence: The sense of scale and wonder that’s possible with psychedelics and the difficulty of doing much practical with it for most USAians.
In a sense, by going through the mostly forgotten moments of high weirdness, we’re doing much the same thing here.
I think we’ll have to continue this tomorrow since there are still more than a dozen different talks and we’re already about to hit 2k words.
See you then.