Further Weirdness with Terence
By Paul Krassner
An except from "Further Weirdness with Terence Mckenna"
For all his pursuit of mysticism, Terence Mckenna is essentially a scientist. He may have a cult following, but he is not a cult leader in the sense that he encourages challenge rather than forbids it. "A scientists job," he says, "is to prove that he is wrong. You don't get that at the ashram or up in a monastery - [mimicking what such a guru would not say]. Well, we crushed that hypothesis to smithereens." So, naturally, i had some follow-up questions for him, in person and by e.mail.
Q. I would feel incomplete if i didn't ask for your comment on the recent news story about Heaven's Gate cult.
A. Like most people, i haven't sorted out the San Diego mass suicide. I imagine that on the mainland, the soul-searching and efforts to determine everyone's collective guilt and complicity are in full cry. But from the slopes of mauna loa, it looks like simply the latest Southern California pyschodrama with attendant obligatory media jack-off. I encountered Do (then Bo) and peep in 1972. They were contemptible, power-crazed new age creepoids then, and apparently things didn't get better.
Q. During the workshop at Esalen, you talked about not knowing where the mind is. Do you think that the mind can function without the brain.?
A. I have not made up my mind on this, but think of the mind as a hyperspatially deployed organ that is ordinarily invisible. As to whether or not it can exist independent of the brain, i am not sure. If the physical world is concieved in a 4-D manifold, it is logically impossible for a physical thing, a 4 D solid, to move or otherwise change. It must be our state of consciousness which changes as we become successively aware of adjacent cross-sections of the 4 D manifold. But this makes sense only if we, the observers, are not in space-time. This would imply that our minds exist on a level beyond anything that physics can tell us about.
Q. You also mentioned how, posteschaton, we'll look back from the grave and laugh at the futility with which we struggled through life. Were you implying that you believe individual consciousness can survive after physical death?
A. Not really, only that life will show its pattern and plan when we look back on it, and that will redeem some of the weirdness of having to live it essentially without a clue.
Q. You mentioned in the workshop, in terms of the coming apocalypse, that people should do things fast. Now, i thought that doing things fast was one of the problems that brought us to this place and that the antidote would be to slow down and savour the implications of what we do. Maybe you and i are saying the same thing?
A. Well, i don't really mean do more and more things, i said more and more will happen. I think the thing to do is to eliminate foolishness, having your time vampirized. I agree with you, the goal is not to just jam in as much stuff as possible. basically one strong motivation for moving to Hawaii was just to escape the silliness, the triviality of it all, and i've discovered there was apparently no information loss. I can keep up with an O.J Simpson discussion even though i spent three minutes a week keeping track. The people who watched every day of the testimony, my God, they must be slow learners. And it's amazing how many fields you can participate in as a fully empowered player without investing much time.
As pleasant as it is, i can't hold the whole thing in my mind in the states, as we citizens of the sovereign state of Hawaii, i can look at it all and see trends and tendencies, and pontificate about it in my rain forest, and it all makes sense. Somebody said, "yeah, well, it all makes sense because you never talk to anybody else. " Probably some truth to that.
Q. At Esalen, you stated: "The technological push that has seemed so relentless and so brutal and so difficult to deflect is, in fact, we are doing the right thing, and the only question is whether we'll make it in time, and it looks like it's going to be a flash photo finish. We basically have until 2012 to figure out how to download all human DNA [and other forms of DNA] on this planet into some kind of indestructible storage mode. Then there's a chance to ride out this catastrophic wave of extinction."
Now, my question is, in view of the recent news which has placed human cloning on the boarder between science-fiction and reality, might not cloning be an answer to the question posed by the statement? How does cloning fit into your theory of the need to prepare ourselves for the apocalypse?
A. In spite of the cloning of Dolly, we still have a great deal to learn about DNA. What was remarkable about the Dolly episode was how far the research team got to understand about the cloning process and how it works. Which does not mean that it will not be applied before it is fully understood. But at this point, it is a kind of stunt. Clones are simply people with a strange family history, and who among us does not fit that description?
The interesting thing about the recent cloning news, both regarding Dolly the ewe and the two cloned monkeys, is that both fated births occured right around the same time, July-August 1996. That was a time that my timewave had long predicted would be a period when there would be some enormous scientific breakthrough.
I was very excited, therefore, by the announcement, at the time, of the discovery of the discovery of microfossils in a Martian meteorite. Now, with the news of clones, i am more convinced than ever that my prediction of a period of novelty and scientific breakthrough was correct. As for the clones themslves, i am reminded of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley's distopia of clueless clones. More scary than 1984, that is for sure. And more likely, long run. So corporate, so elegant.
Q. What are your visions of alternative scenarios that are upcoming, either in December 2012 or before?
A. Well, i've spent a long time thinking about this, although i realized about a year ago that, in a sense, it's not really my issue. The funny thing is, here i have this wave, it predicts every second between here and December 12, 2012, i show it to people and their first question is, 'So what happens afterwards?" It dosen't address that. It addresses all moments before that. nevertheless, i feel the force question, and i've created a series of scenarios in ascending weirdness which answer the question.
A low weirdness answer would be, suddenly everyone begins to behave appropriately. This is kind of Buddhist, Taosit approach. Now, the interesting thing about that scenario is, the first thirty seconds of that we can predict - appropriate behavior would probably be to take your foot off your neighbor's neck. Step back from what you're doing.
And then i always imagine - for some reason, i don't know why - that everybody would take off their cloths and go outside. But after that i can't figure - thats only the first thirty seconds of appropriate behavior. Since we never had that, we can't imagine what it would be like.
Then there's the transformation-of-physics scenario, which basically says, "All boundaries dissolve." What that would probably be like, the first hour of it would be like a thousand micrograms of LSD. After that we can't imagine or predict, because again it would have so totally changed the context that you could no longer predict it.
Then there are the catastrophic scenarios that revolve around the question, "Death, where is thy sting?" And probably the most efficient of those is the planetesimal-impact scenario. A very large object strikes the earth and kills everybody, and that's it.
Q. A blunt object
A. It's a blunt solution. Sort of in that same category is the blue star in Sagittarius. And then a kind of intermediate between those two the sun will explode. That would certainly clear the disc and fulfill the whole thing. The planet vaporizes, and collectively we and all life on earth move into the shimmering capsules of the post-mortem realm, whatever that is. Novel, novel.
When i worked with the timewave, i argued strenuously that it reflects the ebb and flow of novelty, but somebody will come up with something like the release of the Sergeant Pepper album or the O.J Simpson trial, and then we see that it's lost in the noise. What the wave seems most pristinely to predict, or what parallels the wave most closely, is the evolution of technology, and i think technology is something that we haven't really understood. In a sense, technology is the alchemical journey for the condensation of the soul and the union of the spirit and matter in some kind of hyperobject.
The rise of the web has been a great boost to my fantasies along these lines, because now i can see with the Web from here to the eschaton. Apparently, it's a technology for dissolving space, time, personally and just releasing everybody into a data stream, something like the imagination. Then that's why the ultimate technological fantasy along this line of thought is what is conventionally called a time machine.
There's an interesting aspect to the time machine. The wave describes the ebb and flow of novelty in time, but then you reach a point where it's so novel that it fails beyond that point. Well, a time-traveling technology would cause such a system to fail, because it's a description of the unfolding seriality of linear events, which a time machine would disrupt.
So it may be that it isn't explosion of the sun, or the coming of the aliens, or the descent of the second person of the Trinity, it's simply that a technology is put into place that destroys linear time and, from thence forward, when you give your address you have to say not only where but when. There are some problems with this.
And then here is a slightly more interesting and woo-woo scenario. The thing that's called the grandfather paradox - somebody pointed out it's not called the father paradox because apparently you want to avoid an Oedipal situation - and it's simply the following objection: if you could travel into the past, you could kill your grandfather. If you killed your grandfather, you wouldn't exist. Therefore, you couldn't travel into the past. Therefore, time travel is impossible.
One idea i have for an end of history scenario: Time travel becomes more and more discussible, finally there are laboratories working on it, finally there is a prototype machine, finally it's possible to conceive of a test; and so on the morning of December 12, 2012, at the world Temporal Institute headquarters in the Amazon Basin, by a worldwide, high definition, three-dimensional hook up, the entire world tunes in to see the first flight into time. And the lady temponaut comes to the microphone and makes a few brief statements, hands are shaken, the champagne bottle is smashed, she climbs into her time-machine, pushes the button and disappears into the far flung reaches of the future. Now, the interesting question is, what happens next? And i have already established for myself that you can travel backwards into the past, but you can't travel further into the past than the invention of the first time machine, for the simple reason that there are no time machines before that, and if you were to take one where there are none, you get another paradox.
So what happens when the lady temponaut slips into the future? Well, i think what would happen a millisecond later is tens of thousands of time machines would arrive from all points in the future, having come back through time, of course, to witness the first flight into time. Exactly as if you could fly your beachcraft back to Kitty hawk, North Carolina, to that windy morning when the Wright brothers rolled their flyer out and fueled 'er up. And that's as far as the road goes. That's the end of the time road.
But the grandfather paradox persists. One of those time travelers from 5,000 years in the future, on their way back to the first time-travel incident, could stop and kill his grandfather, and then we have this whole problem again. So i thought about this for a long time, and i think i've found my way around it. But, as usual, at the cost of further weirdness.
Here's what would really happen if we invented a time machine of that sort. The lady temponaut pushes the button, and instead of all time machines appearing instantly in the next moment, in order to preserve the system from that paradox, what will happen is, the rest of history of the universe will occur instantly. And so that's it. I call it the God whistle.
This is because you thought you were building a time machine, and in a sense you were, but the time machine isn't what you thought it was. It caused the rest of time to happen instantaneously, and so the furthest out developments of life, matter, and technology in the universe can right up against you a millisecond after you break that barrier, and in fact you discover that traveling time is not traveling time, it's a doorway into eternity, which is all of time, and that's why it becomes more like a hyperspatial deal than a simple linear time-travel thing.
There's been a parallel development which has caused me to be more confident. We're now beginning to build this parallel world called the Wolrd Wide Web. And you can bet that long before we reach 2012, the major religions of the world will build virtual realities of their eschatological scenarios. There will be the Islamic paradise, the Christian millenium, the Buddhist shunyata - these will be channels that you tune into to see if you like it and want to join, so in a sense guaranteeing we will have a virtual singularity.
It's all very well to try to understand the end point, but recall that where we are relative to the end point is in resonance with the year 950 AD. We're like the people in 950 AD trying to understand the web, the hydrogen bomb and the catscanner. How can we? My God, we don't even have calculus yet. Newton hasn't been born yet, let alone Einstein. I mean we're running around - essentially we're primitives, is what i'm saying. We don't have tools yet to conceive of the object of 2012. We must build those tools between now and then. And good places to start are with the web, psychedelic drugs, whatever is the most cutting edge and most far out.
Q. So that saying, "May you live in interesting times," is supposed to have been a chinese curse, but if the ruling class had control of language, it would curse them, but it was a blessing to the people who made it interesting times.
A. I think it's saying the same thing as the Irish toast [heavy brogue], "May you be alive at the end of the world."
Q. Meanwhile, my Chinese fortune cookie predicted that you and i would cross paths again and also that i will enjoy another repast soon.
A. We must meet in a Chinese restaurant and save the oracle unnecessary embarrassment.
- from Further Weirdness with Terence Mckenna" Paul Krassner, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs - From Toad Slime to Ecstacy. Ten Speed Press. 2004
Paul Krassner is the author of One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Satirist;
he publishes The Disneyland Memorial Orgy at www.paulkrassner.com.