Friday, October 13, 2006


Terrence and Dennis McKenna take a crew of Merry Pranksters to the Colombian Amazon in order to seek out a possibly mythic hallucinogen used by shamans of the Witoto tribe. In a run-down remote mission town called La Chorrera they find instead a plethora of mushrooms growing from cow-flops, said mushrooms positively drenched in psylocybe. After eating these, smoking hash, and downing baanisterius caapi, Dennis McKenna turns into the Victor Frankenstein of psychonauts, and attempts to immanetize the eschaton by using vocal tonality modulation techniques to merge shroom DNA permanently into his own. After this experiment the McKenna brothers go a bit off the rails. Nora and James Joyce visit in the guise of chickens. UFOs form from clouds, rivers stand frozen, a voice in Terrence's head teaches him the workings of time. Dennis attempts to manifest a blue protoplasmic goo he thinks might be the lapis philosophorum.

In other words, things go a bit haywire.

The McKennas are fascinating cats because they are obviously hyper-educated geniuses, but are also burnt-to-a-crisp wastrels spawned in the '60s. If Terrence is telling the truth and he actually read Jung's Psychology and Alchemy at age 14, well, then his intellectual curiosity must be off the charts, including those charts he describes in this book, the ones which list all possible future and past events as a predictable waveform of novelty injections into the universe.

Many of the experiences Terrence describes I myself wrestled during a brief and lush psylocybe cyclotron ride in my early twenties. I never, however, quite felt manifest the alien intelligence he encounters, which claims galactical omnipresence. Vast neural networks of underground fungal strands never spoke to me personally--and if they exist as McKenna describes them they deemed me worthy only of scintillating light-shows and dripping wood grain patterns, not of messianic missions to usher in the final stage of human evolution. For some reason the idea of an omnipotent fungal entity reminded me of Karl Rove.

Part sci-fi novel, part hippie memoir, part manifesto for the New Shamanism--True Hallucinations is a lot of mind-bending fun crammed into a slim paperback.


Seth Anderson said...

I just clicked through to buy a copy, but Amazon greeted me with a message:
" You purchased this item on January 26, 1998"
Umm, ok. Could be. Maybe I forgot, or maybe the Amazon-HAL system is just fracking with me. I guess I'll have to re-examine my shelves.

Seth Anderson said...

Oh, and I did have one experience in my 20s which does sort of fit the 'alien intelligence' model. If I'm ever in Baltimore, I'll tell you about it....:)

geoff said...

Were I to list all the times I've bought CDs and/or books I'd already bought, I'd prove myself a 'burnt-to-a-crisp wastrel.'

I've met personified plants before, but not psylocybes. And I'm not talking Mr. Potato Head.

Seth Anderson said...

my experience involved space travel and some other place. Before I had even heard of McKenna.

geoff said...

Ska pastora granted me an interview, found me lacking, and now punishes me for failure.

Mescalito often grants time travel. Sometimes there are very unfriendly Others present.