Posted: June 08, 1998 at 14:45:56 PST

McKenna trips over alien message
Philosopher brings insight about 'shrooms to Western

Shane Powell
The Western Front

        Terence McKenna, described as “the psychedelic guru” or “Timothy Leary of the ‘90s,” argues that, as popular culture rapidly approaches the 21st century, it is leaving out a crucial element of past and future. That element, he says, may be the fungus that grows around cow manure.        

       McKenna, 50, is a popular philosopher, ethnobotanist, author and activist. On Wednesday night, he spun his thoughts on alien intelligence, New Age shamanism and the role of hallucinogens in human evolution onto a mass of more than 300 people at the Mount Baker Theatre. Associated Students Special Events sponsored the lecture and discussion.

       McKenna has a theory that psychedelic mushrooms are possibly a form of alien intelligence that has found its niche on Earth and been right beneath our noses amidst our multi billion-dollar search for spacecrafts and radio waves beyond the atmosphere.

“Whether introduced on Earth or not, the mushroom is an organized intelligence of some sort,” McKenna said. “They have a peculiar quality of speaking to all those who ingest them; this is what I imagine an alien to be.”

McKenna admitted his theories may appear bizarre to many, but he claims to be a rationalist in his approaches to the irrational — not preaching absolutes or ideologies.

“The truth doesn’t have to be spun, marketed or packaged,” McKenna said. “Truth is truth. It becomes evident on its own. We have to polish our crap detectors to get beyond what we’re fed by popular culture.”

McKenna said he has been studying the role that hallucinogens have played in human evolution since 1967, attributing much of his inspiration to Aldous Huxley and Gordon Wasson. Wasson was a Western pioneer in the use of mushrooms, and a believer that a certain mushroom was the “Soma” of ancient civilization.

Mushrooms have been ingested for years in shamanic ceremonies and have been a catalyst for the expansion of human mind in self-reflection, he said. McKenna argues that if small doses of mushrooms can be proven to increase acuity in both mental and physical ability today, then, hunters who ingested mushrooms in the past may have been more fit to survive than others. He also suggested that those in our society who have psychedelic or similar experiences will be more likely to survive future evolution due to increased self-awareness. He also pointed out that “when you begin to experiment with new foods, you are essentially accepting mutogenic material into the diet.”

       McKenna also compared history to a psychedelic experience, using examples of present-day technology to explain current and future worldwide dissolved boundaries.

       “We are presently caught in the nightmare of human history,” McKenna said. “But as communication methods such as the Internet connect people, boundaries are dissolving, and human culture is having to come to terms with itself. We are in a unique moment in the discourse of our identity.”

       McKenna’s lecture drew moments of loud applause as he addressed the need for culture to change its perception and mind in order to create change.

       “Listening to him speak is almost like getting high in a way,” said Western student Ryan Orth during the intermission. “He has that effect.”

       McKenna currently lives in Hawaii where he operates a foundation devoted to rescuing Amazonian plants that have a history of shamanic uses. According to his web site, he has a Bachelor of Science from the University of California-Berkeley with a distributed degree in ecology, resource conservation and shamanism.

       McKenna’s lecture wound down with a question-and-answer session. He encouraged those interested to attend a shamanic-plant seminar in Palenque, Mexico.

       “We are exploring a new fusion of human possibility,” McKenna said in his closing words.

       “We’re taking flight from the physical world. We can’t imagine ourselves, as we are, for much longer. We are headed toward a fusion with a larger essence of the universe. It’s a birth of God that is all of us, each being, nature and more. We are there.”

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