Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival


 …you are not a fully matured being in touch with the potential of reality unless you have had a psychedelic experience. -Terence McKenna

A glimpse into Terrence McKenna is a glimpse into one of the most brilliantly sophisticated, psychedelically philosophical mushroom oracles of the 20th century.

Here Terence states, “What was amazing about the mushrooms, and it continues to be amazing, is that it is animate, that there’s someone talking to you. This was actually a voice in the head, making sense, speaking English, and addressing the concerns that were most important to me personally. I was not set up for this.” 

In this post I will share my introspective review of his book: The Archaic Revival published in 1991.

I love his radical idea for solving our society’s spiritual neurosis through the ingestion of entheogenic compounds. In this way, a level of consciousness could sufficiently be achieved capable of propelling us through the limitations holding us in a collective stasis.

His information affirmed my understanding of philosophical concepts like the Logos, a theological term for ‘divine Word’. Idiomatically killing two birds with one stone, a dual reference from this quote on pages 61 and 62:

A voice that gave guidance to Western civilization has been silent for about seventeen hundred years. This is the Logos and all ancient philosophers strove to invoke it. For Hellenistic philosophy it was a voice that told self evident truth. With the passing of the Aeon and the death of the pagan gods, awareness of this phenomenon faded. However, it is still available through the mediation of the plant teachers.

If we could intelligently examine dimensions that the psychedelic plants make available, we could contact the Oversoul and leave behind this era where dominance hierarchies must be disciplined by UFOs and Messiahs, and where progress is halted for millennia because culture cannot advance ethics at the same rate as technology.

If we could have a dialogue with the other, we could understand all of these things and we could begin to contact the Tao of the ancestors. Perhaps we would develop a shamanic alternative in which trained people mediate the group experience that is available from psychedelic plant use.

And here again on page 98:

Our institutions, our epistemologies are bankrupt and exhausted; we must anew and hope with the help of shamanically inspired personalities [like his], we can cultivate this ancient mystery once again. The Logos can be unleashed, the voice that spoke to Plato and Parmenides and Heraclitus can speak again in the minds of modern people.

When it does the alienation will be ended because we will have become the alien. This is the promise that is held out; it may seem to some a nightmare vision, but all historical changes of immense magnitude have a charged emotional quality. They propel people into a completely new world.


Becoming the alien. This reminded me of the channeled books I read many years ago in which entities calling themselves the Pleiadians claimed to actually be us from a distant future.

The Pleiadian purpose was to engage the human race and impart information that would help to avoid our destruction. Considering this was before 9/11 and how things have gone downhill on a planetary scale since then, I’m not so convinced that they got through. That remains to be seen.

If this was not the context under which Terrence was presenting his idea, he simply may have been expressing a higher understanding of how the inter-dimensional quantum universe operates.

Familiar to me was his concept in working with the ‘Timewave Zero’ phenomenon and the software he had developed to chart events in time within reference to the mechanics of the I Ching. Here he described it in his own words on page 20:

It’s a fractal wave, a mechanical description of time that shows that all times are actually interference patterns created by other times interacting with each other and thatall of these times originate from a single end state.

‘Novelty’ is a term he uses to describe measurable occurrences on the Timewave Zero time line as a measure of focus and creativity. In his own words here on pages 109 and 110:

Synonyms for ‘novelty’ are ‘degree of connectedness’ or ‘complexity’. Note that these are not terms that make a moral judgment. Novelty is not ‘good’ while entropy is ‘bad.’ Novelty is simply a situation of greater connectedness and complex organization, while entropy is the opposite of these qualities: it is less organized and less integrated, less complex.

I have deliberately chosen to use the word ‘novelty’ for this concept in order to anchor these ideas in the metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead as presented in his Process and Reality. Whitehead has this to say:

“Creativity is the principle of novelty. Creativity introduces novelty into the content of the many, which are the universe disjunctively. The creative advance is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to each novel situation which it originates. The ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction. The novel entity is at once the togetherness of the ‘many’ which it finds and also it is one among the disjunctive ‘many’ which it leaves; it is a novel entity, disjunctive among the many entities which it synthesizes. The many become one, and are increased by one. In their nature entites are disjunctively ‘many’ in progress of passage into conjunctive unity. Thus the ‘production of novel togetherness’ is the ultimate notion embodied in the term concrescence. These ultimate notions of ‘production of novelty’ and ‘concrete togetherness’ are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition.” (1929, p. 26)

Terence continues:

This notion of the ebb and flow of an invisible quality that integrates and disintegrates entities into the world is well established in Eastern thought as the idea of the Tao. What is unusual in this approach, if not unique, is the effort to give a formal mathematical description of the ebb and flow of this quality. I might have called it Tao, but I chose instead to call it novelty to stress the fact that it is process growing toward concrescence.


What we’re looking at here is a quantifiably cyclical understanding of time as a probability pattern; a standing wave that excludes the notion of randomness. The x-factor, as it may be, is in us: consciousness. The disjunctive self-aware essence of the universe.

One of the best quotes I found in the book gives support to my thesis, page 41:

History is the shock wave of eschatology. Something is at the end of time and it is casting an enormous shadow over human history, drawing all human becoming toward it. All the wars, the philosophies, the rapes, the pillaging, the migrations, the cities, the civilizations-all of this is occupying a microsecond of geological, planetary, and galactic time as the monkeys react to the symbiotic, which is in the environment and which is feeding information to humanity about the larger picture.

I do not belong to the school that wants to attribute all of our accomplishments to the knowledge given to us as a gift from friendly aliens-I’m describing something I hope is more profound than that. As nervous systems evolve to higher and higher levels, they come more and more to understand the true situation in which they are embedded. And the true situation in which we are embedded is an organism, an organization of active intelligence on a galactic scale.

Science and mathematics may be culture-bound. We cannot know for sure, because we have never dealt with an alien mathematics or an alien culture except in the occult realm, and that evidence is inadmissible by the guardians of scientific truth. This mean that the contents of shamanic experience and of plant induced ecstasies are inadmissible even though they are the source of novelty and the cutting edge of the ingression of the novel into the plenum of being.

Think about this for a moment: If the human mind does not loom large in the coming history of the human race, then what is to become of us? The future is bound to be psychedelic because the future belongs to the mind.


One understanding needed in moving toward a healing of our misadventures is the working of the brain and how the ego fits in. McKenna gives some perspective on the origins of the ego and how it was born out of crisis on page 11:

You must know this book by Julian Jaynes called ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’? Well, he makes a very interesting case . He says that even as late as the Homeric time, people wandered around rather automatically, and when they got into a very tight spot, suddenly there would be a voice in their head saying, “You’re in a tight spot. Here’s what you should do.” They called this God, or a god, or the king (living or dead). This became the ego, the voice we now call “me”, something that has been assimilated in the wake of civilization as a necessary means of adapting to socialization.

I was pleased to learn he and I share some fundamental views on page 12:

As an anarchist and skeptic, I saw India as a very stratified kind of con game. I am no fan of gurus. I think that they have done quite enough for us, thank you, and that is nothing that sophisticated people need to have anything to do with.”

Again, we agree on our assessment of Christianity and it’s impact on the the feminine principal as well as the devastating loss of our pagan connection to life on Earth, on page 17:

I would think that if you wanted to talk about the heart opening, the rebirth of the Goddess is a more viable metaphor. The problem with Christianity is it’s the single most reactionary force in human history. I don’t even know what is in second place, it’s so far in front. And I believe that the destruction of paganism was probably the greatest disservice to the evolution of the human psyche that has ever been done. The repression of witchcraft is really a repression of botanical knowledge, of shamanism. So I see Christianity as part of this paternalistic shell game.


I think if Terence were alive today he would agree with the knowledge of a conspiracy to do away with holistic medicine and put in it’s stead pharmaceutical poisons, based on his statement on page 29:

Anthropologists have commented on the absence of serious mental disease in many preliterate cultures. I believe that the mediation of the shaman and through him the contact to the centering Logos, this source of information or gnosis, is probably the cause of this ability to heal or minimize psychological disorders.

I am researching intently the subject of the demiurge and how this force has created the Matrix program we se around us today. McKenna’s insight on page 31:

I take a very premodern view: we are in league with the demiurge. We are the children of a force that we can barely imagine. It is calling us out of the trees and across the plains of history toward itself. 

And to synthesize the idea of a force that usurps the spirit and the inevitability of our awakening to cast off this dark shadow, page 32:

And the chaos of our age, which is troubling to us all, is nothing unusual at all. It is the normal situation when a species prepares to leave the planet. This is the chaos at the end of history.

I would postulate on a much deeper level that leaving the planet could be used as a metaphor for leaving the Matrix. I recognize that might not have been his intention but in his statement, “…we can evolve no faster than our language evolves”, I am holding course and attempting to evolve the language.

The reader should avoid thinking that I’m stretching the intent of his words too far based on this quote from page 42:

My vision of the final human future is an effort to exteriorize the soul and internalize the body, so that the exterior soul will exist as a super conducting lens of translinguistic matter generated out of the body of each of us at a critical juncture at our psychedelic bar mitzvah. From that point on, we will be eternal somewhere in the solid-state matrix of the translinguistic lens we have become. One’s body image will exist as a holographic wave transform while one is at play in the fields of the Lord and living in Elysium.


Because of my adventures in the study of imagination and the human condition, I think this next quote is great; page 64:

We need to face the fact that there is a level of hierarchical control being exerted on the human species as a whole and that our destiny is not ours to decide. It is in the hands of a weirdly democratic, amoeboid, hyperintelligent superorganism that is called Everybody.

As we come to terms with this, as we take our place embedded in the body of Everybody, information flows more freely and the reality of this informational creature is seen more clearly. The fact is that we are in a symbiotic relationship with an organism made of information, and this is the situation classic shamanic plant hallucinogens reinforce very strongly.

The imagination is the true ground of being. There is a dimensional parallel to time, outside of time, that is accessible only to the degree that one can decondition oneself from the history bound cognitive systems that have carried one to this point. This is why it’s always been said that the psychedelic experience acts as a sociological catalyst.

And these comments on death and UFOs on page 70:

But what the psychedelic experience seems to be pointing out is that actually the reductionist view of death has missed the point and that there is something more. Death isn’t simple extinction. The universe does not build up such complex forms as ourselves without conserving them in some astonishing and surprising way that relates to intuitions that we have from the psychedelic experience. The UFO comes from this murky region, beyond the end of history, beyond the end of life. It is both suprahistorical and supraorganic.

It is uncanny, alien; it raises the hair on the back of one’s neck. It is both the apotheosis and the antithesis of the monkey’s journey toward mind. It is the mind revealing itself. This is what all religion is about: shock waves given off by an event at the end of history. We are now very close to that event, and psilocybin can help us to understand it because psilocybin conveys one into the place where it is happening constantly.

The Aeon, eternity, and the millennium are accomplished facts, not an anticipation. Hence the mushroom stands at the end of history. It stands for an object that pulls all history toward itself. It’s a causal force that operates upon us backward through time. It is why things happen the way they do; because everything is being pulled forward toward a nexus of transformation. 


I highly encourage anyone who is game for introspection, higher thought and mind bending concepts to take the time and read The Archaic Revival. What I have shared here are just a few of the highlights that are pertinent to my life at the moment. Regardless, I’m sure any individual would come out the other side benefitting from at least some modicum of consciousness expansion by way of the experience.


3 thoughts on “Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival

  1. I believe Time Wave Zero came and went at the end of 2012. Where does that place us now? If things get any more “novel” the paradigm may collapse. That could be a good thing.


    • I wish TM were around to directly answer the Timewave issue. I’m not sure where but I picked up that he projected that end date BEFORE someone came along and pegged it as an end to the Mayan calendar. I think the important thing was his recognition that time has a pattern that has been influenced by an event that culminates in it’s ending at some point. That point could have just as easily been 9/11/01 as it could possibly be (arbitrarily) 1/5/2021.

      TM was ‘novel’ unto himself and that is not to say he didn’t come and go without controversy. I did catch his romanticism with the trans-humanist idea in the book and I’m thinking he didn’t fully comprehend the implications of such statements. It would be worth your while to check out this interaction between Mark Passio and Jan Irvin from Gnostic Media on the subject.



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