His brother, the late Terence McKenna, became the appointed ambassador of the aliens –following in the footsteps of the UFO Contactees of the 1950’s and 60’s– in charge of laying the ground for their arrival.
Both of them were subjected to profound mental and biological changes which effectively transformed them into human-alien hybrids.
That could be one interpretation extracted from the two famous brothers’ surreal experiences during their little expedition at the Amazonian rain forest in 1971, popularly known as the La Chorrera Experiment. It could easily have been the conclusion reached by UFO investigators if they had ever bothered to interview them after their return from South America; that is, if the McKennas had decided to omit the tiny little detail that their whole purpose of traveling to Colombia was to look for an orally active version of DMT, the most potent psychedelic substance known to man –oh, and that failing to discover it, they were all-too happy to settle with the abundant clumps of pan-tropical psilocybin mushrooms they serendipitously found all around the tiny jungle village they settled into.
Terence knew all too well that when it comes to the mere mention of mind-altering substances involved before or after an exchange with non-human intelligences, UFO buffs are just as puritans as the arch-skeptics who love to invoke the stereotypical ‘pink elephants’ meme, in order to explain anomalous sightings as a result of “one-drink too many at the pub”. He made a point to mention this during his presentation (“Shamanic Approaches to the UFO”) at the Angels, Aliens & Archetypes conference in San Francisco, in November of 1987, where Whitley Strieber and Jacques Vallee were also speakers, turning him into a heretic among heretics:
“(…)Had (Whitley) prefaced his story with the comment that before it all happened he took five grams of mushrooms, I doubt he could have sold it to his mother. Because in a world where mushrooms and other psychedelic plants are imbibed, such stories are commonplace. It’s no big deal!”
3 decades have passed since Terence, who departed this planet in April 3rd of 2000 –4-3-2(000) for those who like to check on numerological stuff– made this point of contention to the UFO research community, and yet barely anyone bothered to hear him amid all the shouting between those defending the legitimacy of the MJ-12 papers, and those who decried them as hoaxes. “Don’t talk to us about taking drugs in order to meet the aliens, you hairy hippie! We wanna know where the government is hiding all the crashed saucers!”
In the absence of something tangible, like a piece of a flying disc or a pickled alien body, UFOlogists had to settle themselves with the tangibility… of photocopied documents.
And yet, what both true believers AND materialists skeptics have failed to grasp, is that the uncanny nature of the UFO seems especifically designed into coaxing us to disregard such simplistic distinctions –is it either ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’? ‘psychological’ or ‘physical’? ‘objective’ or ‘subjective’? etc– and to open our minds into broader (and weirder) possibilities. Possibilities into which “Both/And” tends to yield better results than “Either/Or”.
During the Breaking Convention at the University of Greenwich in 2017, Dennis McKenna decided to take these ‘ür-heretical‘ ideas where his brother had left them, and to keep pushing further into exploring the commonalities between alien encounters and their Amazonian experiences in the 1970s. The title of his presentation: “The ‘Experiment’ At La Chorrera – Psychosis, Shamanic Initiation or Alien Encounter.”
Dennis numbers 9 basic parallels between the experiment at La Chorrera (E@LC) and ‘standard’ alien encounters –understanding the term as an umbrella encompassing any alleged interaction with non-human entities, in which angelic encounters and religious apparitions could also be included. These commonalities are listed below, along with my personal commentary on them:
A familiar ‘back story’ often related to childhood events, or family trauma. In his book ‘The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss’ (which I highly recommend) Dennis narrated the family tensions he and his brother experienced while growing up in a seemingly typical middle-class household with a war veteran suffering from PTSD, plus the loss of their mother when they were fairly young –and Terence was at the time a fugitive of the law. As per alien encounters, abduction researchers have made the point that the phenomenon starts at a very early age, and it even seems to occur across several generations of the same family.
A ‘siren song’ – something that inexorably pulls the ‘contactee’ into the encounter despite its terrifying nature. How many times have we heard experiencers being unable to explain why they decided to make a wrong turn during a road trip, or wake up in the middle of the night to have a nightly rendezvous with The Other? It is as inexplicable as what impulsed the McKennas and their group to leave everything behind to answer ‘the call of DMT’ into the inhospitable heart of the jungle. There’s also the ‘sense of mission’ Mike Clelland often talks about, with regards to the ‘urgency’ felt by many who claim the alien encounter experience into sharing their story online.
The alien “teacher,” a non-human intelligence not always seen, but always sensed, with a message or information to share. For the McKennas the ‘teacher’ was the spirit residing within (or channeled through) the mushrooms they were ingesting on a daily basis(!) which they interpreted as something external from their own mind. ‘Channeling’ is in fact another umbrella term that is present in both the UFOlogical literature, as well as in spiritualist accounts of previous centuries –leading one to suspect the entities reaching both to UFO ‘Contactees’ and mediums were one and the same.
Lost time – the encounters seem to occur in a timeless realm; contactees report returning to ‘reality’ hours, days, sometimes weeks, after their encounters. Often with little or no memory or confused recollections of what has occurred. ‘Missing time’ is by now an archetypical element of the UFO narrative thanks to the work of the late Budd Hopkins. During Dennis’s ‘abduction’ from consensual reality as a direct result of the experiment at La Chorrera, what might have been perceived as a full psychotic breakdown by an external observer, was perceived by him as being ‘smeared into all Time’; whereas Terence seemed to remain stuck into a ‘time-less now’ until they both gradually managed to return to a ‘normal’ perception of Time flow. Here Dennis’s exposition would have benefited from mentioning near death experiences (NDEs) and how the people who claim to have visited other realms while being clinically dead also report a sense of being ‘unglued’ from Time, and entering into a sort of Hyperreality.
Transformative, psychic or physical modifications. Probes inserted into the brain or anus; objects implanted into the body (similar phenomena also seen in shamanic initiations). The alleged anomalous nature of so-called ‘alien implants’ remains a highly controversial subject, and yet I for one have been vocal in some podcast interviews by suggesting that these objects found inside the bodies of self-proclaimed abductees might have more in common with religious stigmata than with extraterrestrial technology –i.e. they may be a form of apport. Among aboriginal Australians on the other hand, it is part of their shamanic tradition the belief that after dismembering the body of the shaman, the spirits will put it back together but leave inside a ‘magic stone’ which will become a talisman for the new shaman, who is no longer a mere mortal but something different –a ‘mutant’ or ‘hybrid’ if you will. A similar form of ‘hybridization’ was sought out by the McKennas when they became convinced they could combine the psychoactive molecules of psilocybin with their own DNA using the right tone or sound frequency; and metaphysical discussions re. the importance of ‘vibrations’ has become such a hallmark aspect of the New Age narrative it is by now a cliché.
Secret or esoteric knowledge is transmitted. The Contactee is shown books, or golden tablets, or technical manuals, or computer-like machines. These are often instructions for doing something or building something. Classic examples of this ‘higher knowledge’ can be found in the famous Hill case, in which Betty was not only shown a ‘star map’ by the leader of their captors, but was even promised a ‘book’ she could bring back to be shown as solid proof of her ordeal. The book was never produced, giving way to the notion often supported by Terence McKenna that the only thing you can bring back from Fairyland, Magonia, the Underworld or whatever label we wish to put to that ‘other side’ in which communion with non-human entities take place, are IDEAS. Whether these new ideas prove to be pure malarkey –like the instructions to build a flying saucer using electromagnetic principles as was instructed by the Space Brothers (which presumably destroyed many a barn in the 50’s), the secret history of the lost tribes of Israel decoded by John Smith, or the Timewave Zero theory concocted by Terence McKenna himself (which proved to be drastically wrong when predicting the Eschaton of History on December 21st 2012, in accordance to the Mayan calendar)– or are eventually shown to be accurate information which can lead to tangible progress –like Descartes’s ‘angelic visitations’ or Kekule’s dream which lead him to the discovery of benzene– is a trickier proposition than we would be led out to believe; and that is because often in paranormal experiences sometimes the subject will receive at first bits of information he or she can easily confirm to be factual, but this seems to be ‘bait’ in order to lower the skeptical barriers of the person so they get convinced of the ultimate grandiose secret –Doomsday prophecies or promises of ET arrival that are never fulfilled.
Gifts are given. The Contactee often receives a gift, that imparts knowledge or power. In the case of alien encounters, the examples of food exchanges between non-human entities and witnesses could fill a whole book –and it fact it already did, thanks to my good friend Joshua Cutchin— and in the case of La Chorrera we also find examples of consumables that seemed to alter the perception of the consumer in significant ways; only that the McKennas had the unique opportunity of bringing back their ‘space pancakes’ in the form of mushroom spores, which were effectively disseminated on a vast scale thanks to the growing guide they (anonymously) published, not unlike all the books which were self-published by UFO Contactees in the heyday of the modern flying saucer era.
The Absurd. Often there are funny or ridiculous aspects to encounter; if seen, the ‘aliens’ are little green or blue gnomes, or dwarves, or clown-like, or sometimes the scarier ‘greys’. Sometimes the ‘saucers’ are straight out of comic books or debunked UFO reports. As if the ‘aliens’ want to make clear that it’s kind of a practical joke, all in good fun. By “debunked UFO reports” Dennis is making a clear reference to the alleged ‘flying saucer’ encounter his brother Terence had right after their attempt to create the ‘transcendental object at the end of Time’ –a metaphysical UFO, a biochemical ‘Philosopher’s stone’– which was both wondrous and farcical since the object looked just like the oft-debunked ‘Venusian’ flying saucers photographed by the George Adamski in the 50’s and 60’s. The ‘absurdity by design’ quality of the phenomenon is something I’ve addressed more than once, and the self-negating nature of not only paranormal events but also profound religious experience, is something most academicians have yet to grasp. For example, although I have no doubt Adamski faked 99% of his material and the Venusian higher teachings was a rehash of Teosophical philosophy, the film taken by him in 1965 while staying at Madeline Rodeffer’s home still gives me pause; and the ‘distortions’ exhibited by the object may not be the result of a ‘gravitational distortion’ as speculated by those who studied the footage, but a sign that it was a sort of ‘thought projection’ or tulpa. Furthermore, it just occurred to me as I was writing this piece that, in a way, Terence McKenna became a sort of Adamski-like spokesperson for alien entities once he attained world-wide popularity; not because he was a charlatan mind you, but because both Terence and George were charismatic individuals with a ‘gift for gab’ and they clearly enjoyed being the center of attention –and also, because both of them suffered from untimely deaths…
Post-encounter confabulations. Obsessive efforts to explain what happened. Loss of credibility in the eyes of friends and colleagues. A vague persistent sense of unreality; “things are not what they seem.” Dennis explains both in the aforementioned presentation and his “Screaming Abyss…” book how Terence became totally shocked and dismayed after what happened to them at La Chorrera, to the point that after returning to Berkeley he decided to return by himself to Colombia, yet it was all for naught because the mushrooms that had serendipitously appeared during their previous visit proved to be as transitory as the ‘fairy rings’ occasionally found by farmers in the Irish landscape. One could say Terence McKenna –that is the person he used to be prior to the experiment at La Chorrera– never did come back from his initial pilgrimage into the jungle, unable to find his way into Kansas after being whisked away into the land of Oz, just like many men and women who’ve had brief or persistent brushes with unexplained phenomena (be that a close encounter, a cryptid sighting or an NDE) and see their lives forever transformed by these chaotic catalysts –sometimes not for the better…
“Yes, there are unknown dimensions out there; beautiful, dangerous, and utterly alien,” concludes Dennis. These realms are accessible to those brave (or foolish enough) to seek passage via a chemical key, but other times the Invisible Landscape and their denizens come barging in uninvited, and disrupting the existence of countless people who try their best to make sense of this liminal glimpse through the looking glass. Some of those hapless individuals have been burned at their stake or committed into insane asylums, whereas others have been anointed as saints, or recognized as medicine men or high priestesses by their people –biological bridges between this world, and the Great Beyond.
And now thanks to the disruption of the Internet and other forms of modern communication —technologies who owe no small debt to psychedelics— the shamans, alchemists and prophets of this age can further spread the tendrils of the alien meme-cylea to every corner of the world, completely unbound by the constraints of space and time —sounds familiar?
Psychosis, shamanic initiation or alien encounter. How about neither…