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Terence K. McKenna

extraterrestrial, what we need is a body of people claiming this, or a body of people denying it, because what we’re talking about is the experience of the mushroom. Few people are in a position to judge its extraterrestrial potential because few people in the orthodox sciences have ever experienced the full spectrum of psychedelic effects that is unleashed. One cannot find out whether or not there’s an extraterrestrial intelligence inside the mushroom unless one is willing to take the mushroom.

DJB: You have a unique theory about the role that psilocybin mushrooms play in the process of human evolution. Can you tell us about this?

Terence: Whether the mushrooms came from outer space or not, the presence of psychedelic substances in the diet of early human beings created a number of changes in our evolutionary situation. When a person takes small amounts of psilocybin their visual acuity improves. They can actually see slightly better, and this means that animals allowing psilocybin into their food chain would have increased hunting success, which means increased food supply, which means increased reproductive success, which is the name of the game in evolution. It is the organism that manages to propagate itself numerically that is successful. The presence of psilocybin in the diet of early pack-hunting primates caused the individuals that were ingesting the psilocybin to have increased visual acuity. At slightly higher doses of psilocybin there is sexual arousal and erection and everything that goes under the term arousal of the central nervous system. Again, a factor which would increase reproductive success is reinforced.

DJB: Isn’t it true that psilocybin inhibits orgasm?

Terence: No. I’ve never heard that. Not at the doses I’m talking about. At a psychedelic dose it might, but at just slightly above the “you can feel it” dose, it acts as a stimulant. Sexual arousal means paying attention, it means jumpiness, it indicates a certain energy level in the organism. And then, of course, at still higher doses psilocybin triggers this activity in the language-forming capacity of the brain that manifests as song and vision. It is as though it is an enzyme which stimulates eyesight, sexual interest, and imagination. And the three of these going together produce language-using primates. Psilocybin may have synergized the emergence of higher forms of psychic organization out of primitive protohuman animals. It can be seen as a kind of evolutionary enzyme, or evolutionary catalyst.

DJB: During your shamanistic voyages how do you, or do you, differentiate between the literal and the metaphorical I/thou dialogue that appears to occur in certain states of consciousness? In other words how do you differentiate between the possibility that you are communicating with otherworldly independently existing entities and the possibility that you are communicating with isolated, unconscious neuron clusters in your own brain?

Terence: It’s very hard to differentiate it. How can I make that same distinction right now? How do I know I’m talking to you? It’s just provisionally assumed, that you are ordinary enough that I don’t question that you’re there. But if you had two heads, I would question whether you were there. I would investigate to see if you were really what you appear to be. It’s very hard to tell what this I/thou relationship is about, because it’s very difficult to define the “I” part of it, let alone the “thou” part of it. I haven’t found a way to tell, to trick it as it were into showing whether it was an extraterrestrial or the back side of my own head.

DJB: But normally the way we can tell is we receive mutual verification from other people, and we get information from many senses. You can touch me. You can see me. You can hear me.

Terence: Well, this is simply a voice, you know, so it’s the issue of the mysterious telephone call. If you’re awakened in the middle of the night by a telephone call, and you pick up the phone, and someone says “Hello” it would not be your first inclination to ask “Is anybody there?” because they just said hello. That establishes that somebody is there, but you can’t see them, maybe they’re aren’t there, maybe you’ve been called by a machine. I’ve been called by machines. You pick up the phone and it says, “Hello this is Sears, and we’re calling to tell you that your order 16312 is ready for pick up,” and you say, “Oh, thank you.” “Don’t mention it.” No, so this issue of identifying the other with certainty is tricky, even in ordinary intercourse.

RMN: There is a lot of current interest in the ancient art of sound technology. In a recent article you said that in certain states of consciousness you’re able to create a kind of visual resonance and manipulate a “topological manifold” using sound vibrations. Can you tell us more about this technique, it’s ethnic origins, and potential applications?

Terence: Yes, it has to do with shamanism that is based

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