Terence McKenna On Science, Religion, Education, And How To Be Cool

Enemies Of The Imagination is another great speech by the late philosopher and 'psychonaut' Terence McKenna

In this lecture, Terence McKenna discusses a wide range of topics in his own unique and eloquent way, starting (as he always did) by bashing culture. This abstract thing we are so proud of is, to him, “the currency by which fools navigate the world.” McKenna claims that smart people go beyond that arbitrary meaning, but even they are easily lured into an easy dream of retirement and golf courses later on in life.

McKenna blames money. According to the late advocate of psychedelic mushrooms, money is the “final nail in the coffin” to mid-agers hoping to find the good life after working hard on the hamster wheel their entire lives. “It’s a comfortable dream, but it’s the dream of anesthesia,” The Archaic Revival author says dryly.

McKenna talks about our need to feel ‘cool’, joking : “I don’t know if i am cool or not, but I am incredibly resistant to any effort to make me think I am uncool.” As always, McKenna cuts to the heart of the matter: “Because the answer always lies in commodification. Real cool can’t be commodified, and that’s what makes it so cool.”



He offers some words of wisdom on science and religion: “I have bad things to say about science; it has to answer for some of its sins*,” McKenna starts, “but the great thing is, it’s a human intellectual enterprise in which you get lots of credit for proving that you’re wrong. If you have a theory that you’ve defended for fifteen years and you publish a paper to say I was wrong, they promote you for this. We know you do good work because we see how you trashed your earlier accomplishment.”

Religion doesn’t work like this, obviously. “In the religious domain you never admit you’re wrong,” McKenna goes on. “You further elaborate the story to save whatever preposterous notion has been exposed and you never deny, you never go back,” McKenna points out. “So what you get is: error based on error based on illusion based on delusion based on lie based on half truth based on supposition.”

Finally, McKenna attacks the education system, stating that the purpose of education is “to produce unquestioning consumers with an alcoholic obsession for work.” “And so it is,” he says, telling the audience we need to “recapture our soul from the net of money fetishism.”

*Note: McKenna criticized science for relying too heavily on probability, for example. Other points on the failings of science are explored on a banned TED talk by Rupert Sheldrake, which we previously published here.


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