The Invisible Landscape


The Invisible LandscapeMind Hallucinogens and the I Ching, New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

The Invisible Landscape is the most esoteric of the three Terence McKenna books reviewed here. Many of the topics he treats in his other books, he treats here as well, but he presents them under a slightly different light, or in more subtle language.

His standard theme psychedelics, for example, assumes a new dimension, together with his regard upon science:

Psychedelic drugs have always been and remain the most useful molecular probes available to science for exploring the relationship between the subjective experience of mind and neurobiological processes. /Preface XIX

Despite its pretensions to objectivity, science, like any other human institution, places a certain vested interest in its own self-preservation; thus it is likely to be less than enthusiastic, if not openly hostile, toward any investigative strategy that could potentially call its most basic assumptions in question. /Id.

I have pointed out in my review of McKenna’s Archaic Revival that he envisioned a future ‘psychedelic’ science which I believe will be a holistic science that uses the psychedelic experience for the progress and true spiritual evolution of the human. Presently, he adds on another element to this broad vision, which is exactly what I call the holistic direction this science will be going to take:

It may be that the psychedelic experience cannot be understood using only the reductionist models of science, and that only by a conscious unification of the reductionist, analytical methods of science with the holistic, nonanalytical approach of the shaman can we hope to understand, appreciate, and apply the lessons learned from such experiences./Id.

The next element in McKenna’s vision would be the application of psychedelics to healing. The idea of psychoanalysis being a potential adaptation of shamanism to modern society is not new, and it does not originate from McKenna. It has been voiced by Sigmund Freud rather early in its creational process of psychoanalysis, and by other psychoanalysts of the closer Freudian circle.

But McKenna smartly fits the idea into his holistic vision of an ‘enlightenment’ of modern culture through shamanism, at some point in the future. He points out:

One area of modern life that does not appear to be shamanic, but that might profitably model itself after shamanism, is psychoanalysis. A modern soul doctor might well achieve better results if he or she could model therapy after a psychopompic journey through the collective unconscious. The exact techniques would, of course, have to be adapted to modern patients, but where the unconscious is concerned, all people are primitive. One approach to such a shamanic psychoanalysis could be through the controlled and judicious use of psychotropic drugs; knowledge of both promises and dangers of such agents has increased tremendously in recent years, as has understanding of the role they play in shamanism. A combination of knowledge and wisdom in applying their properties could very well give an effective and harmless technique of ecstasy that could be usefully employed in psychoanalysis. /18

But not only for healing will this science be made fruitful; according to McKenna it shall also have a different systemic approach to the observation of nature:

Perhaps we have arrived, then, at a point where we can suggest a basic reformulation of the metaphysical basis of science. This suggestion is, first, that science consider the event as the ultimate unit of natural occurrence, and second, that in seeking to analyse the component elements of an event, it should look for primary organisms rather than material parts. For there is in nature virtually nothing that exhibits the classical attributes of a material; nature is a process of processes, and processes within processes. Accordingly, the analysis of nature should concern itself with the analysis / of aggregate processes into primary processes. Biology is concerned with the larger processes that are organisms, whereas physics concerns the smaller processes, which are likewise organisms, in that they experience a reference to things past, immediate, and future. For the primary organisms, we observe this relation as a factor in its external aspects; for ourselves, we observe it as an element of our psychological field of awareness. But if we experience, in experiencing ourselves as process, our essential relatedness to other processes in other times and places, are we justified in denying this experience to other, primary organisms?/39-40

To stay with the subject of science philosophy, McKenna has given in this book an important contribution to the present discussion of what has been called the Holographic Universe (Talbot), the Conscious Universe (Radin) or the Unfolding Universe (Bohm). 

The holographic theory is only one of many ‘puzzles’ that are concisely presented and commented by Ervin Laszlo in his study Science and the Akashic Field (2005). I think that there are many natural phenomena that are best explained when we grasp the notion of hologram-like coding in nature.

The unformed archetypes of the collective unconscious may be the holographic substrate of the species’ mind. Each individual and mind-brain is then like a fragment of the total hologram; but, in accordance with holographic principles, each fragment contains the whole. It will be remembered that each part of a hologram can reconstruct an entire image, but that the details of the image will deteriorate in proportion to its fragmentation, while the overstructure will remain. Out of this feature of holography arises the quality of individual point of view and, in fact, individuality itself. If each mind is a holographic medium, then each is contiguous with every other, because of the ubiquitous distribution of information in a hologram. Each individual mind would thus be a representation of the ‘essence’ of reality, but the details could not be resolved until the fragments of the collective hologram were joined. /51

Confronted with certain holographic qualities as a feature of both mind and brain, it seems reasonable to ask whether holographic principles are found on other levels of organization. We can find this most apparently in the organismic realm, in the fact of the ubiquity and redundancy of DNA. We refer to the fact that DNA seems to store information holographically, in that the nucleotide sequence of the molecule is identical in every cell of a given organism. The DNA from one cell theoretically contains all the information necessary to regenerate the entire organism./52

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