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Life on the Threshold: Terence McKenna

By Entropath (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Entropath (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

American ethnobotanist, psychonaut, and mystic, Terence McKenna, was known as the Timothy Leary of the 90’s and the intellectual voice of rave culture. Born on November 16, 1946 (in Hotchkiss, CO at 7:25 AM MST), McKenna had the Sun, Venus, and Jupiter in tropical Scorpio in the twelfth house along with a Scorpio Ascendant. The sign of Scorpio is associated with death and rebirth, occultism, psychology, and sexuality. Scorpio dominant individuals have come into this life to play on the edge of existence--to experience the full and raw intensity of life experience. 
 
There’s something about the Scorpio archetype that is incredibly drawn to anything taboo, edgy, or controversial. As a spiritual pathway, Scorpio’s highest potential is to sit with uncomfortable truths about reality and to dare to share those truths with the world in some way, no matter how much it might offend or displease the cultural status quo. Terrance had an early interest in psychology. He read Carl Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy at the age of ten. As a young boy, McKenna was an amateur fossil hunter and had a profound interest in the natural sciences.
 
In his later life, he was a vocal advocate for the responsible use of naturally occurring psychedelic substances (catalyzed by his experiences in the Colombian Amazon in the late 1960's). His lectures focused heavily on his relationship with psilocybin mushrooms, which he eventually claimed to be an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence seeking to communicate with higher evolved species throughout the cosmos. If that sounds too far out, it should. McKenna had a powerful cluster of planets in the twelfth house of his horoscope, a house we associate with experiences of transcendence or which facilitate communion with higher consciousness. In its shadow side, the combination of Scorpio and the twelfth house can push too far beyond the boundaries of reality, tending toward the extremes of escapism. 
 
To many, especially critics of his work, McKenna did just that. His ideas about reality and psychedelic substances, would to most people, appear far-fetched or just plain insane. But, if we look closely at McKenna’s chart, it appears that his life story was pretty clearly in alignment with his spiritual mission--to push the envelope of consciousness and life experience, to dance on the razor edge threshold of reality and the numinous. As someone who has heavily researched (and dabbled with) psychedelics, I can honestly say that I don’t believe these substances to be a form of escapism at all. 
 
I'll admit that I share with McKenna the idea that psychedelics open the mind to a potential we don’t normally have access to. In accord with the Scorpionic archetype, psychedelic substances certainly reveal the raw truth of reality which makes the ego incredibly uncomfortable. It is their nature to momentarily disparage the ego’s grip on an individual’s conscious state, thus showcasing the mind from the perspective of an objective observer. Terence lectured heavily on the nature of the psychedelic experience and its impact on human evolution. He authored several books, including Food of the Gods, True Hallucinations, The Archaic Revival, and The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, which he co-authored with his brother, Dennis McKenna. 
 
McKenna died of an aggressive brain cancer in April of 2000 at the age of 54. Perhaps, in some way, at least metaphysically, McKenna pushed too far. Or, perhaps, it was a part of his destiny to do so. Before his death, Terence in true Scorpionic/twelfth house fashion, had this to say about facing the reality of dying, "I always thought death would come on the freeway in a few horrifying moments, so you'd have no time to sort it out. Having months and months to look at it and think about it and talk to people and hear what they have to say, it's a kind of blessing. It's certainly an opportunity to grow up and get a grip and sort it all out. Just being told by an unsmiling guy in a white coat that you're going to be dead in four months definitely turns on the lights. ... It makes life rich and poignant. When it first happened, and I got these diagnoses, I could see the light of eternity, a la William Blake, shining through every leaf. I mean, a bug walking across the ground moved me to tears."

Happy solar return, Terence!