The Meaning of Life According to Terence McKenna

Dylan Charles, Editor
Waking Times

The transformation from sleep-walking in the matrix to wide awake in the vast splendor of the universe is often triggered by a low point in life, a dark night of the soul, if you will. This is when the gift of being human is lost among the ever-present morass of confusion, chaos, madness and suffering. What carries us out of this morass is inspiration, which so often comes in the form of wisdom offered by our philosophers and sages, those among us who’ve taken the hero’s journey and have returned with a prize.

Terence McKenna is a contemporary sage of this sort, and he shared the unique wisdom he gained from his exceptionally deep examination his life and the universe in the form a neverending conversation with the world, described in his books, and recorded in hundreds of hours of talks and interviews.

  • In many of his talks, McKenna speaks about the driving force of the universe, which he refers to as ‘novelty.’ In short, it is the idea that the world we know is always evolving and changing in accordance with the creation of an evermore interesting and unique present moment than the one just experienced. Novelty never trends toward simplification, instead always accelerating toward maximum intrigue, being pulled ever forward by what he referred to as ‘the transcendental object at the end of time.’

    “I have proposed the existence of an invisible permeating something, that is throughout all being, all time, all space, all bodies, all thoughts, which I call novelty. And the interesting thing about novelty is that it’s increasing, constantly. Science has not trumpeted this view, because science tends to look for principles which operate in definable domains. In other words the laws of chemistry, the laws of physics, the laws of gene segregation, the laws that describe the trajectories of artillery shells and falling bodies.


    But, I submit to you that there is a overarching law which affects all reality and that you don’t need an atom smasher or extremely advanced mathematical methodologies to discern. It is self-evident in your own experience. And what it is, is that as we go back in time the universe if found to be a simpler place. If we go back a long ways in time, the universe is a very simple place. There are no cultures, there are no animals, there are no plants. Indeed if we go far enough back in time there are no stars and planets, the universe is simply a swarming ocean of energy.


    But as we approach the present its as though the universe has undergone a series of crystallizations, out of itself of higher and higher forms of organization. And this is what I call novelty.” ~Terence McKenna

    The Meaning of Life is to Find the Meaning of Life

    From 1997 to 2001, host of the radio show Coast to Coast AM, Art Bell had a number of conversations with Terence McKenna. In one of these enlightening encounters, a caller asked McKenna what the meaning of life is. Here is his reply:



    “You know in classical philosophy they said this is what classical philosophy is about. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? These are the three questions, everything arises from this. Each leads on to the other.


    I’ve tried to look at the question, where did we come from and have proposed theories about it. By looking into my body, brain with drugs and meditation and just analytical thinking, I’ve tried to look at who are we, and then the great unanswered question is, where are we going. You know, what is to be the destiny of the human race? Are we an episode in the biology of this planet, or will we build an eden strung along the Milky Way? And from there to yet grander and greater things?


    We don’t know how much intelligence there is in the universe, but we certainly know that something has broken out on this planet in our species that is like nothing else in the order of nature.”


    Art Bell:


    “What if we are nothing more than a virtual zip on the face of reality?”




    “Well if by virtual you mean that we are inside some kind of artificial simulacrum, which is some software being run, well then the question is by who and to what ends?


    I could accept that. My life is so much like a story, that I’m constantly asking the question, who writes this? Who writes this stuff? I mean, who thought me up? Who thought Art Bell up and put us talking like this front of twenty-two million people?


    That doesn’t happen in reality, that kind of thing happens in art of the very finely honed source, and so I want to know, what is the medium and who is the artist, and who’s paying for this production?”

    Creating the Meaning

    In these strange, chaotic and backwards times, sage wisdom shines a bright light on the colossal folly of such pointless darkness, offering a larger perspective on our current travails, encouraging us to contribute harmony, peace, kindness and happiness.

    Terence McKenna’s comments tell me that we are here to choose and to create our personal and collective destinies, and that the possible outcomes are ever-increasingly complex: nothing is impossible. In essence, life is a story we are writing as we go, urged along by some inexplicable force that guarantees that our every experience will be folded into our future, therefore every present moment is of unfathomable importance.

    He is warning us not to squander life without ever considering where we wish to go, that we should actively choose the story, rather than passively allowing it to be co-opted by our most destructive characteristics. He is telling us to wake up and envision an extraordinarily magnificent future for ourselves, and that once we do so, it will be possible.

    Read more articles by Dylan Charles.

    About the Author

    Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and host of The Battered Souls Podcast, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.

    This article (The Meaning of Life According to Terence McKenna) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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