There are rumors going around in the depths of Internet message boards concerning Terence McKenna and his beloved psychedelic substance, Psilocybin. "The Brotherhood Of The Screaming Abyss", written by his brother Dennis, recently shed some light on an incident that we could probably term a 'bad trip', from which Terence never really fully recovered. 
That is not to say he didn't take mushrooms after that experience. We have video proof that he did. Terence, however, did prefer and sought the clearly labelled and portioned active compounds psilocybin and psilocin after the incident. Which makes sense, since there are no two batches of dried mushrooms of the same size that contain the same amount of the effect-inducing compounds.

"Terence's pivotal existential crisis came abruptly. Sometime in '88 or '89. I don't know exactly when it happened and I don't know exactly what happened. I am piecing it together from what Kat (Terence's wife) has told me. It happened when they were living for a time on the Big Island and it was a mushroom trip they shared that was absolutely terrifying for Terence. It was terrifying because, for some reason, the mushroom turned on him. The gentle, wise, humorous mushroom spirit that he had come to know and trust as an ally and teacher ripped back the facade to reveal an abyss of utter existential despair. Terence kept saying, so Kat told me, that it was, "a lack of all meaning, a lack of all meaning."

Dennis did remove this paragraph in the final version of his book, mainly because a certain number of individuals in the community misunderstood it and jumped to conclusions that were not rooted in actual facts.

In the (first) movie I've made about him, I've collected some mentions of this trip by Terence himself, the video should start there:

"This trip that I had in Hawaii, I thanked God that somebody was there, that Kat was there specifically. Because just the sound of her voice completely ameliorated a whole spectrum of hard to describe but very icky things that were threatening to overwhelm me. And I don't have trips like that very much, where I need somebody there..."

And toward the end of the movie:

"And that's what these psychedelics do, they make you get down and grovel in the dirt. God, I had this trip in Hawaii that was just horrible, you know, where it was saying:
'You think you're such hot stuff? You won't even get off your ass and go shit in the field.' You know 'I wanna see you grovel, man! You sit in front of all these people and pontificate on how it's all put together... Face ME! Now, in the darkness, and tell me how it's all put together!'"

It's clear he was shaken by this experience, but the rumor that he didn't take any psychedelics after it is far from the truth. From one of the last interviews with Terence:

Jon: Have you cut back dramatically on any type of drug use?

Terence: At first I cut back on cannabis, because it seemed to trigger the seizures. But then I easily got that corrected. Now I'm smoking as much dope as I ever did. I haven't been taking ayahuasca because the vomiting reflex is too scary in terms of the brain seizure reflex. They're really closely related. So I've been taking psilocybin. We happen to have some actual pure psilocybin, not mushrooms. And it's great.

Notes: Mental issues and psychedelics go hand in hand, labelling a whole trip 'bad' means the learning process is not understood, and finally, there can be fun madness.


Terence McKenna's True Hallucinations is an experimental documentary about the chaos at La Chorrera, the imagination, time, the Logos, belief, hope, madness, and doubt. Created by Peter Bergmann, this project is an expansion of ideas first presented in "The Transcendental Object At The End Of Time".