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McKenna, Terence

Category: Ordinary person

Terence Kemp McKenna (1946 –2000) was an American drug user – a very prolific drug user and a writer, teacher and lecturer on drugs.  Given this, one might think that he had no place on this site, but before he died of the brain damage caused by the drugs, his drug experiences produced some quite interesting insights into the spiritual world and its layout.  He even ‘met’ the spirit beings of many of the substances he took – giving me yet more observations to add to the numerous one concerning the importance of bridges.

His drug use started very very early.  At about 17, he was introduced to the literary world of psychedelics through The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley and not long after he had some of his hallucinations with morning glory seeds showing him "that there was something there worth pursuing." In an audio interview he claimed to have started smoking cannabis regularly during the summer following his 17th birthday.  In 1965, he tried  "opium and kabbala".  In 1969, McKenna traveled to Nepal and ‘worked as a hashish smuggler’.

In 1971, McKenna, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-hé, a plant preparation containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Instead of oo-koo-hé they found other forms of ayahuasca, or yagé, and gigantic Psilocybe cubensis which became the new focus of the expedition.  At the urging of his brother, he was the subject of a psychedelic experiment which he claimed put him in contact with an ‘informative, divine voice’.  The brothers' experiences in the Amazon would later play a major role in McKenna's book True Hallucinations, published in 1993.  He followed this book with others such as Food of the Gods; and The Archaic Revival.

The brain damage from his use of drugs, appears to have started quite early, as he was a long sufferer of very bad headaches  – an indication that he had probably damaged the brain. In mid-1999, McKenna returned to his home on the big island of Hawaii after a long lecturing tour. He began to suffer from increasingly painful headaches. This culminated in three brain seizures in one night. Upon his emergency trip to the hospital on Oahu, Terence was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. His doctors assured him, on his questioning them, that there was ‘no direct causative relationship’ between the drugs and the cancer -  which shows they had a kind  heart. 

McKenna died on April 3, 2000, at the age of 53.

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