Podcast: “The Primacy of Direct Experience”


This is my absolute favorite podcast of late, from a channel I listen to regularly.

The notes I’ve been gathering to share about it were becoming comprehensive enough to serve as a transcript so, rather, herein a few quotes from the transcript (which you can read in entirety, here).

Terrence McKenna was eloquent and exceptionally progressive. He's a pleasure to listen to, especially, as his presentations of complicated concepts are clear, and often funny. Currently, I can't get enough of him.

This one's well worth your time, and repeat listens are recommended.

“The Primacy of Direct Experience” - Terence McKenna. 1994

Source: The Psychedelic Salon - 450

What life I think is supposed to be about is the reclamation of the primacy of direct experience. That means sex, and psychedelics, and dancing, and conversation, and good eating, and lots of exercise, and travel, and attention to what Wittgenstein called the present at hand.

"The present at hand, meaning what you can reach is what’s real.  Everything else becomes progressively move hypothetical, more abstract.  Anticipating Wittgenstein, talking about our reach, William Blake said ‘attend the minute particulars.’  This was his advice for life.  Attend the minute particulars.  Well that’s good 18th century prose for pay attention to the details.  Keep your eye on the ball."


“You know, Martin Heidegger, the German metaphysician, the way he got it together was he said, what life is for is what he called ‘care for the project of being.’  Care for the project of being!  This is what we are called to.  Again, Heidegger’s phrase.  We are called to care for the project of being.  That means an appreciation for the minute particulars.  An appreciation and a recognition of difference.  An appreciation and a recognition of our position in the cosmos, which is both insignificant and paradoxically grandiose and the same time.  Pascal said man is a reed bent by the wind but he is a thinking reed.  That’s the paradox of our being, our fragileness in nature.  Yet, the supernatural grandiosity that we sense in the hallways of our souls."

"And Shamanism is not religion, really, at its fundamental level it’s the science of direct experience.  Other forms of science may deal with the states of the quanta or the orbits of the Pleiades, but shamanism is the science of direct experience and its laboratory is the human body and the human nexus in space and time."

You’re given on average, sixty or seventy years, and on average, a hundred and forty-five pounds of meat.  This is what you’re dealt, the meat and the time.  Then it’s up to you to sort this out and make of it what you will.  The entropic path, the downward path into blame, unhappiness, self-blocking, so forth and so on - that’s always there.  You can release yourself into the river of consequences and take no responsibility for who you are but the higher stakes game, the more interesting game, is to see the whole thing as an opportunity.

On the body:

“Heidegger - I’m amazed that I’m quoting Heidegger so much this morning - Heidegger again, he said the body is not a thing, nor is it a process, which is surprising because that’s considered an advanced view, that it is a process.  He said it is not a thing, nor is it a process, it is a window of opportunity which opens into eternity.  It’s a window of opportunity.  But opportunity implies the non exercise of itself.  An opportunity is something that you must seize.  It doesn’t press itself upon you.  It doesn’t force itself upon you.  It merely is there if you want to use it.”

On love:

“Salvation occurs simultaneously through an act of love (that’s not news, but here’s news), simultaneously through an act of love and an act of rational apprehension.  Understanding!  Love without understanding is not the full story.  Real love requires understanding.  Rational apprehension is a kind of penetration of the beloved, person, nation, ecosystem, whatever the beloved is.  Understanding is the higher dispensation."

On the imagination, the soul and the future:

"We are going to live in the imagination and the imagination is the domain of the soul.  I’m not kidding!  [Laughter]  We are going to live in the imagination.  It will cease to be metaphor.  It will become real estate.  That’s how real the imagination is going to be.  It may be virtual reality, pharmacological reality, after death reality, nano-tech reality - we’ll find the way.

"We will be living then in the imagination and yet celebrating the body in three dimensional space.  History will be over then.  We will understand what it means to have history be over because we will be living the way people lived before the first furrow was plowed."


"So if evil exists, and I’m not sure it does, it is ignorance, which is a Hindu position.  Avidya.  Obscuring of Vidya.  Ignorance.

So I think there is an obligation to understand.  To understand!  I’m not putting aside the obligation to love and to feel.  Those obligations seem to have their defenders everywhere.  But there is an obligation to understand.