Terence McKenna was an American ethnobotanist, mystic, author, psychonaut, lecturer, and an advocate for the responsible use of naturally occurring psychedelic plants.
He spoke and wrote about a variety of subjects, including psychedelic drugs, plant-based enthogens, shamanism, metaphysics, alchemy, language, philosophy, culture, technology, environmentalism, and the theoretical origins of Human Consciousness.
In 1956, at the age of 10, he became interested in psychology, reading Carl Jung’s book ‘Psychology and Alchemy’.
In 1962, at the age of 16, he moved to Los Altos, California to live with family friends for a year.
In 1963, he was introduced to the literary World of psychedelics. In 1965, he enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1967, while in college, he discovered and began studying shamanism through the study of Tibetan folk religion. That same year (his Opium and Kabbala phase) he traveled to Jerusalem.
In 1969, he traveled to Nepal led by his interest in Tibetan painting and hallucinogenic shamanism.
He also studied the Tibetan language and worked as a hashish smuggler until one of his Bombay-to-Aspen shipments fell into the hands of U. S. Customs.
He then wandered through southeast Asia viewing ruins and spent time as a professional butterfly collector in Indonesia.
In 1971, after the partial completion of his studies and his mother’s death from cancer, he and his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of ‘oo-koo-hé’. Instead of ‘oo-koo-hé’ they found fields of gigantic mushrooms, which became the focus of the expedition.
He was the subject of a psychedelic experiment and he claimed the experiment put him in contact with Logos, an informative, divine voice he believed was universal to visionary religious experience.
In 1972, Terence McKenna returned to U.C. Berkeley to finish his studies and in 1975, he graduated with a degree in ecology, shamanism, and conservation of natural resources.
In the early 1980’s, Terence McKenna began to speak publicly on the topic of psychedelic drugs, becoming one of the pioneers of the psychedelic movement.
His main focus was on the plant-based psychedelics such as mushrooms, DMT, ayahuasca and cannabis.
Terence McKenna also became a popular personality in the psychedelic rave/dance scene of the early 1990’s, with frequent spoken word performances at raves and contributions to psychedelic and Goa rtance albums by The Shamen.
He was a longtime sufferer of migraines, but on 22 May 1999 he began to have unusually extreme and painful headaches. He then collapsed due to a brain seizure. McKenna died on April 3, 2000, at the age of 53.
I always thought death would come on the freeway in a few horrifying moments, so you’d have no time to sort it out. Having months and months to look at it and think about it and talk to people and hear what they have to say, it’s a kind of blessing. It’s certainly an opportunity to grow up and get a grip and sort it all out.
Just being told by an unsmiling guy in a white coat that you’re going to be dead in four months definitely turns on the lights. … It makes life rich and poignant. When it first happened, and I got these diagnoses, I could see the light of eternity, shining through every leaf. I mean, a bug walking across the ground moved me to tears.