Terence McKenna on Cannabis, Creativity and Decriminalization

By Wes Annac, Editor-In-Chief, Culture of Awareness

I wrote the following for the 213th issue of the Weekly Awareness Guide, a weekly document I offer for $11.11 a month. Income from the guide helps me get by and ensures I can continue to offer free content, and every subscription is appreciated.

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Few have said more about the benefits of cannabis than author, lecturer and psychedelic drug enthusiast Terence McKenna.

McKenna used cannabis regularly as a creative aid meant to induce higher consciousness, bring a sense of mental clarity and make the expression of deep thought easier. He didn’t consider its use something to be ashamed of, but embraced.

He often spoke of the plant’s practically endless uses, and on one occasion, he quit for a short period of time while working on a book only to realize after completing it (without having used cannabis the whole time he wrote it) that the book was terrible (1).

Obviously, his experiences are unique and don’t apply to everyone.

Not Much of a Difference

Some in the spiritual community (and beyond) feel that cannabis hinders creativity and the expansion of consciousness. Others are in favor of it but don’t advocate daily use, while some believe it should be used as much as possible.

Terence McKenna was definitely in the latter category, but beyond the lack of pizazz in his work when it wasn’t boosted by cannabis, he noted on more than one occasion that when he quit for a short time, nothing really changed besides one big thing.

His dreams became more vivid, but his personality and the ambition that drove him to write, give lectures and publicly endorse psychedelics remained the same.

He was an intellectual who was just as interested in what the herb can for the mind as the body and soul, so it was easier for him to replace his daily habit with reading.

Cannabis Treated McKenna’s Social Anxiety

Let’s learn a little more about Terence McKenna and the experiences that formed his perspective on cannabis.

He was reportedly a nervous and socially awkward child with issues that prevented him from comfortably being a part of ‘normal’ society, but his first experience with cannabis as a young man on Easter vacation in 1965 would help him find relief from these issues (2).

He was unsure of the effect it had on him the first time, and he had to try it a few more times before he could discern exactly what it was doing for him (2). He soon realized that, in his own words, he could “self-medicate to normalcy” and hold conversations in a state with no anxiety or awkwardness (2).

He describes in this quote the effect cannabis had on his interaction with others:

“The mere smoking of a small amount of vegetable material could completely invert the structures of my personality and socialize me, as it were, into a reasonably functioning member of the community in which I found myself.” (2)

Transcendence of Mundaneness

Not only did the herb help him function normally; it opened his mind to new intellectual and spiritual territory. In one of his well-known quotes, he expresses that he’d probably worry about balancing the checkbook or some other trivial adult responsibility if he didn’t smoke cannabis (2).

When he did smoke it, he was able to “read and scan through a vast intellectual world” composed of everything in his mind – books he’d read, musings on the content or philosophical message in such books, interactions with family and friends, etc. (2). His mind was free to roam in a limitless reality.

Cannabis doesn’t bring an escape from the mundaneness of life. It does, however, bring transcendence by opening new doors in the mind.

Cannabis for Creative Rejuvenation

In a quote relatable for any cannabis enthusiast who’s also an artist or writer, McKenna explains how the herb helps the creative process:

“I find that when I’m writing books that I can only write for about three hours, and then either the day is finished for work, or I smoke hashish and twenty minutes later I’m ready to go two hours more at it—and I can do that twice in a day.

“If I judiciously control my intake of cannabis, it like gives me a second wind and a third wind to go forward with creative activity.

“Now if you just sit down and smoke into a stupor, you’re not going to be able to do this. But if you just stop this now tiresome and boring activity [writing after three hours] and have a couple of puffs, and then you sit and have a few interesting thoughts, and you feel completely revitalized and able to go back to it.” (2)

Despite the growing number of people who are aware of the herb’s ability to expand the mind and enliven creativity, we have yet to take a serious look at how it helps us in this way or why so many creative thinkers are passionate about it.

There’s a reason cannabis is prevalent in alternative circles centered on art, writing, music and other forms of creative expression, and in this area, society has yet to give it the creative credit it deserves.

(Continued in our next segment; subscribe to read the rest.)

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2 comments

  1. I have heard people say that cannabis helps with their creative process. But, for me most of all I think is the importance of the health benefits that people say that they receive from it. There have even been studies that are backing this up, and more research is being done. Thanks for sharing!

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