The Experiment and Weekly Update [Trenchant Edges]
The Gang Tries To End Profane Time By Singing while Doing Comical Amounts of Drugs In The Jungle and Yes This is an Always Sunny Reference
Welcome back to the Trenchant Edges, the Newsletter where I sometimes bite off more than I can chew.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes, 25 seconds. Contains 2286 words
Trying to synthesize too much at once for the publication schedule of this newsletter was a risk I was trying to avoid but didn’t. Anyway, I’m Stephen and I feel more than a bit silly right now.
Worse, lol, it turns out I didn’t even need to read that much to get a timeline and description because I already did that last year. So, today will be looking over the timeline and reframing the context a bit.
And in the last section, I want to get your opinion on some ways I can make this newsletter easier to read for people who aren’t following along daily. It’s probably going to involve ebooks and syndication on Medium.com.
The Weekly Update
So this week has been pretty Terence McKenna heavy, mixed with wild digressions about eugenics and The US spies UFO report.
On Monday, we discussed the psychoemotional context of Terence And Dennis as they planned and went on their expedition.
Tuesday we did some unpacking of eugenics and why worrying about genetic selection is, even if all of the wrong things in eugenics were true, a slow and clumsy way to improve humanity.
Wednesday we asked, Why even experiment at La Chorrera? The answer was a kind of science fiction naturalism motivated hail mary towards a millenarian break with history into a posthuman paradise. Maybe.
Thursday we got our Deep State on with the UFO report.
And we’re doing Friday’s TE today.
What Happened with The Brothers In Columbia?
Before we get into the timeline I want to take a moment and lay out my views on how this kind of high weirdness works. Based on extensive personal experiences, study, and conversations with others who have lived such weirdnesses.
I used to think my experiences were unique and special, but I’ve long since realized they’re part of a longstanding part of the human experience. Though often encoded into folklore or religion there’s a kind of confrontation with either the Transcendent Other or Weird Outsideness that gets filtered into all kinds of places.
It’s enmeshed in inspiration for art and philosophy. Not necessarily the source, but a powerful catalyst.
Imagine a dimension, a kind of quasi-physical space like height but not in the directions we normally process.
In the “Romance of Dimensions” Flatland, the hero (A Square) tries to remember what experiencing the third dimension is like with the mantra, “Upwards but not northwards.”
That’s the kind of dimension I mean: one at a right angle from all our dimensions.
This dimension is normality. Near the origin (starting a 0), it’s where all the usual physical laws apply. All the scientific materialism you want and probably more. But as you go further away from zero, things get a little weirder. Go far enough away and all sorts of things that weren’t possible become normal.
Now, maybe this is more than one dimension. We don’t have any rigorous way to tell because the only instrument we’re currently aware of that works this dimension is the human mind. Which isn’t noted for objectivity.
So I want you to imagine yourself in this dimension. It has its own kind of physics and ecology, but let’s assume those to be comparable to our own for this mental image.
You’re there and you’ve got a kite. Your body is literally your body. It can’t travel freely, it mostly just sits around the origin. Its job is to focus you on the physical world of survival. But you also have a kite.
The kite is your mind and more specifically, your point of awareness. The camera you point on reality.
So if conditions are right, you fly your kite up pretty high. Maybe mediation, maybe a drug, maybe you’re in love.
The point is you can get into a different climate in this other world. The rules shift and more things become possible than were previously.
What the Mckenna brothers describe isn’t so much flying their kite but accidentally losing the fucking thing in a freak storm.
To Dennis, at least.
Perhaps this dimension is mind and perhaps all minds interconnect in this strange otherplace we’re at home in.
Folklore tells us that this place is not empty and that its ecology can sometimes intersect with us.
It isn’t necessarily safe and you can do yourself and others real damage if you do the wrong thing there. Which seems about the right cue for our timeline of events. :-D
What Happened Out There
August 16th, 1969 Paonia, Colorado: Dennis is briefly arrested but not charged in association with hashish Terence was sending stateside; Terence then becomes a suspected drug smuggler. We discuss his criminal record in an earlier email at length.
1970 Taiwan: The brothers Mckenna write to each other and plan both Terence's return to North America and their Amazon expedition.
September 1970: Terence uses a fake passport to travel to Canada, Dennis visits.
October 25th, 1970: Their mother, Hazelle Mckenna, dies of cancer. Terence, still a fugitive, remains in Canada. Plans for the trip intensify.
Early February 1971, Colombia: Terence, Dennis Mckenna, and their friends arrive in Colombia. Their target, a Witoto small village on the Rio Putumayo where they'd read in a monograph about a promising admixture of DMT and other powerful psychoactives. On arriving, Terence tries a magic Stropharia Cubensis mushroom.
Early February 1971, Colombia: Terence meets 93-year-old John Brown, as we discussed in an earlier email.
February 6th, 1971 The Rio Putumayo: Dennis & co get on a boat towards La Chorrera, which will take them as far as El Encanto on the Rio Cara-Parana.
February 8th or 9th: The group reaches Mission San Raphael at El Encanto, and make their way to meet Dr. Alfredo Guzman, who would help them get bearers for their trip to La Chorrera.
February 21nd, La Chorrera: After a grueling overland trek, they reached their destination and almost immediately found a lot of Stropharia Cubensis mushrooms. This would prove... influential.
February 22rd, La Chorrera: The group would take their first psilocybin trip and see strange lights in the sky. Yet, they appeared to see the same lights in the sky. The first hints of a shared perception of the invisible landscape of tryptamine ecstasy. Dennis’ first insectile droning noise experience.
February 23rd: Terence's last journal entry for several weeks, enthused by the experience the night before. The group is introduced to a Witoto named Basilio, who assumed the group were drug tourists and offered to take them to his father for Ayahausca. Terence and his lover Ev follow Basilio to get the plants for the visionary brew. They return the next day.
February 24th: The group begins to fracture on ideological lines: Terence, Dennis, and Ev, believing they may be approaching a phenomenon with "elements more than merely psychological," where Dave and Venessa were less than enthusiastic.
February 27th: On a mushroom trip, Dennis makes a strange, insectile buzzing noise not entirely of his own volition later plays a central role in our story.
February 28th: Dennis first attempts to write his theories about the phenomenon down and what to do about them.
March 1st: Dennis focuses on the strange, buzzing noise he made in earlier trips as the source of the phenomenon in his writing. Ev notices a strange effect where the foam on the far side of the lake by the Chorro (the waterfall) appeared to stop moving. Verified by everyone but Dave. Terence grows uninterested with scientific speculation on the subject, content with knowing everything was happening as it should. A clear sign of having moved into a mythic mode of operation as opposed to a rational one. Dennis speculates that a fogbank condensed because of the slight change of environment of burning a joint, which worried Terence but later provided much food for thought.
March 2nd: Dennis, Ev, and Terence take residence in a more isolated forest house, more ideal to their increasingly wild speculation. Terence and Ev begin brewing the Ayahuasca, and Dennis outlines the theory their experiment will follow.
March 3rd: Preparations continue, and Terence notes the apparent synchronicity with an old calendar pun: "What date is a command? March Forth!" Sees it, along with everything else, as an omen.
March 4th: Preparations conclude, dinner is had with all members of the group, Vanessa and Dave retire away from the experiment, as Dennis raves about backwash from the approaching breakthrough. The experiment begins.
Outside of Time, ritual space: Terence finishes boiling the infusion as Eva and Dennis lightly chatted in their hammocks as they found it difficult to operate their bodies. The Other, in its transcendental, Lovecraftian form loomed outside with the Jungle. A candle on a shelf in the house tipped over, but froze in time and hung there turned to the side and didn't move at all. Dennis declares they've entered a space that is part mythology, part psychology, and part applied physics, and it'll take three attempts to breakthrough. They all drank the Ayahuasca, and Dennis ate a mushroom. After a time, Dennis declared he could hear the tone and was ready to begin. They all checked in to make sure everyone wanted to continue and snuffed out the light. Dennis made "a long, whirring yodel, strange and unexpectedly mechanical each time it sounded." The large mushroom they'd gathered to experiment with appeared to Terence and Dennis as the whole of the earth, and after the tone finished the third time, the mission rooster crowed that it was sunrise.
March 5th, A New World: A host of strange apparent effects from the experiment happened, though none as spectacular as Dennis's suggestions. Over the day it becomes somewhat clear that only Terence can access them. The world is not overcome in rapture at the arrival of the Millenium, but it was hard to tell that at the time. Dennis is unstuck to consensual reality and begins a period of several weeks of cosmic ideation in which communication with anyone is difficult. Terence appears normal except for his total faith in Dennis's dreamlike state, which makes him appear even crazier. That night, as everyone slept in the forest hut, Dennis declared everyone would have a series of dreams which, by morning, would sever their connection to their bodies and reassemble themselves perfected on a starship 22,000 miles above the Amazon basin.
March 6th, La Chorrera: Everyone woke up in their natural bodies, though I hesitate to say they woke up normally. With the second self-defeating prophecy in the trash, it set the pattern that would replay 4, 5 7, 10, 16, 21, 40, and 64 days after the experiment. Dennis' psychic disorganization is recognized as clear and persistent. Vanessa and Dave leaned towards leaving towards civilization, where Terence wanted to stay and let things play out. he won out over the short term.
March 7th: Vanessa and Dave acquiesce to Terence about Dennis's mental state. This balance, where Terence and Dennis would spend their time at the forest hut and Ev would more or less mediate between them, the mission, and Venessa/Dave would last five days. Terence would neither sleep nor need sleep for nine days.
March 11th: Terence would leave Dennis alone, and he ran off and ended up hassling some locals. This breaks the delicate political balance. The pilot agrees to come back in a couple of days to fly the group out.
March 12th: Terence accepts the need to withdraw from La Chorrera
March 14th: Terence McKenna sees a UFO, the Climax
March 15th: The Airplane arrives to take the group out of the deep Amazon.
March 17th, Leticia, Columbia: The group spent two days resting, worn on each other. Dennis improves markedly.
March 20th, Bogota: Dennis returns fully to normal.
March 21st: Terence begins writing again, fixating on the I Ching as a reference point for the experiment and starting the process, which would produce the Timewave.
March 29th: Dennis returns to Denver.
April 13th, Berkeley: Terence and Ev return to the States for a brief visit where Terence discovers his college friends are not thrilled to find their friend thinks he's helped bring about the end of the world.
July 15th: Terence and Ev head back to La Chorerra where they'd spend the next five months, against the advice of friends. The experience does not repeat itself, but Terence makes sure to collect spore prints of the Mushrooms.
So there you have a decent sketch of the events. Notice how the weirdness concentrates and then diffuses over time.
The mind warps and the physical world appears to go with it. Unaffected observers just assume it’s psychosis.
But if you’ve ever been there it’s extremely hard to tell the difference. And like trying to explain a dream or a trip, the sheer vividness and clarity doesn’t come with the telling.
Much of McKenna’s career was spent trying to communicate the intensity and felt-elation of these few weeks of his life. Arguing that they were Important and if not real, real enough.
Alright, that’s enough for now. Monday we’ll get serious about diving into the layers of theory and speculation involved.
Now that we’ve got over 350 people here and are following several threads of investigation at once, we’re going to run into more and more problems of people losing the plot and me not doing a good job of keeping everyone on the same page because I’m focused at my own leading edge, not tracking where everyone else is.
I can see two options for this:
Syndicate on Medium.com, with moderate editing so that there’s a clear path from Begining-to-End of each Investigation.
Syndicate via Ebook. These would be something like $1 for non-subscribers and free to subscribers and be ongoing collections of the same Investigation.
I think the latter would end up a better experience, but the former is probably easier.
Let me know what you think.
See you next week ;-)