Culture is not your
friend

Terence McKenna at St. John the Divine's Cathedral, Synod Hall, New York, April 25, 1996

Ideology is poisonous. It's not that there are good ideologies and bad ideologies -- ALL ideology is poisonous. Because to have an ideological position assumes that you understand the nature of reality. How likely is that? How likely is that? And, in the Twentieth Century, if we have not learned the bankruptcy of ideology, then I don't know what it would take. We have on the Right the stunning example of German National Socialism. We have on the Left the stunning example of Soviet Communism. And then all the blathering and wasted time and... crap that went on in all the spectrum in between.

This ties into a larger issue which I'm interested in -- and this is another way of saying "ideology is bankrupt" -- [it] is, Culture Is Not Your Friend. Culture is not your friend, no matter what your culture is. And this is sort of not a Politically Correct thing to say, because in the present ambience, (sort of, those who haven't gotten the word) there's a lot of attention to recovering our ethnic roots and to expressing our unique ethnicity, and so forth and so on -- I think that's the beginning of understanding. But all terms that stress ethnicity are words applied to groups of people. Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever noticed that you're not a group of people, you're a person? So you may be "Jewish", you may be "Black", you may be this, you may be that but there is no obligation to take upon yourself the generalized quality of these things, because the generalized qualities belong to thousands of people examined at a time. If you misunderstand that you become a caricature. You act out your ethnicity as a caricature.

So culture is not your friend, ideology is not your friend... Who's your friend? Well, to my mind, the felt presence of immediate experience is the surest dimension, the surest guide that you can possibly have. The felt presence of immediate experience. Feeling is primary. All rationalization and intellectualization and analysis is secondary, and comes out of culture. No matter what your culture is, it has answers. Cultures thinks up answers. So a child asks its mother a question, like, "Where do we go when we die?" or, "Why does Daddy go to work?" Cultural answers are always provided, but nobody knows the real answers to these questions -- that's outside of culture. So coming to terms and fully expressing your culture is like a stage in development. And then beyond that lies the aspiration of the felt presence of immediate experience, and its implications. It's a very hard thing to deal with and to do when you are poisoned with ideology. And ideologies are very difficult to deconstruct and rid yourself of through a simple talking therapy of some sort, through simply trying to work it out. The best antidote for ideology is to raise the intensity of the felt presence of experience to such excruciating levels that it simply vaporizes ideological illusion. And this is what psychedelics are for, I think. And it also explains (if you've ever wondered) the incredible phobia of these things on the part of the establishment, the incredibly deep alarm that these things trigger in people.

You know, "Tim Leary once said of LSD, it's "a compound that occasionally causes psychotic behavior in people who don't take it." ...That's how powerful these things are! And the reason is, they are a direct challenge to the myth of the tribe - whatever the myth is: Fascist, Democrat, Socialist, Communist -- everybody can get together on the idea that psychedelics are somehow dangerous and antisocial and pose some kind of threat to the body politic. That's because all these ideologies, from the psychedelic point of view, are seen in all their limitations and foolishness, and their historical assumptions and their naivetè writ large across them. Ideology is a fool's game. Or it's a scoundrel's game. Because scoundrels use ideology to control fools. And nobody wants to be caught in that situation.