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Exploring the Abyss

After the last post, a reminder of Terence McKenna’s floor-wiping verbal magic. I think this is the earliest talk of his I’ve heard, 1982—and it certainly bears out Bruce Damer’s impression that McKenna as a speaker arrived “fully formed” in the public eye.


  1. What a beautiful expression. Years ago I would accept all of that as stated. These days I see it as one of the most appealing expressions of vidyamaya. I would go so far as to say that if anyone wants to truly know what vidyamaya is, then sink into the beauty of McKenna’s expression. It occurred to me, in listening to that, that vidyamaya can be recognised through the sense that something gorgeous has been lost in seeing through it, like the fading of a stupendous mirage. The allure of exquisitely handled words, expertly referencing actual ethereal experiences, vanishing in pipe-smoke. Vidyamaya. The last barrier between the poet-intellectual and reality.

    Joel - 11th February 2013 @ 3:18

  2. Vidyamaya = the illusion of Knowledge. Avidyamaya = the illusion of ignorance.

    Joel - 11th February 2013 @ 3:36

  3. I’d not come across vidyamaya / avidyamaya before, definitely an interesting way of approaching someone like McKenna. After getting past that stage where you take most of what he’s saying as stated, I’ve felt you can keep learning subtler things from watching your engagement with him, and you lose something less obvious by just discarding him as “wrong”. Maybe recognizing vidyamaya is part of that.

    Gyrus - 11th February 2013 @ 12:40

  4. McKenna is certainly interesting. He seems to come unstuck when trying to formulate something systematic, such as the way he tried to incorporate the I Ching, which just ended up as a superficial theory, but when he speaks from his own learning and experience he has a mesmerising eloquence.

    Ranjit Maharaj calls vidyamaya the illusion of God, which I take to mean both that God is an illusion (take that for granted) but also, more interestingly, God’s illusion. Vidyamaya is that illusion that can help one break through and go higher, but also, if you get caught up in it (knowledge for knowledge’s sake, you might say), can tempt you into avidyamaya. The Trickster I would say operates through vidyamaya, but of course the Trickster only falls for it so it is more convincing, once the need to convince has passed the Trickster is no longer fooled.

    Joel - 11th February 2013 @ 16:21

  5. Ah, the ambiguity of words. By ‘God’s illusion’ I don’t mean illusion created by God I mean the illusion that has fooled God, the ultimate form of which is the illusion of being God, a fairly common psychedelic backwater. Hence you have McKenna talking far more interestingly, but in the same vein, about a hyperdimensional object at the end of time. This object certainly needs a subject, otherwise it’s just freight lost off a UFO and you have Angleton’s ‘wilderness of mirrors’ reappropriated for a hyperdimensional Cold War.

    Joel - 11th February 2013 @ 16:46