Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Review of The Brotherhood of The Screaming Abyss

One could have subtitled this book The Perfect Storm.
This frank biography of the relationship between the two McKenna brothers deftly melds the ordinary with the extraordinary, while managing to balance both within historical and family contexts that more often than not were turbulent, as anyone who survived the Counterculture of the 1960's can easily recognize that era of experimentation as a familiar and yet unique story arc, as being the best of times and the worst of times with pratfalls and revelations, regrets and philosophical ruminations amidst the relentless violence of that era.

Terrence McKenna , the futurist, theorist and cultural gadfly as a philosophical explorer still speaks to us from the grave, as does Mac Tonnies in the digitized mirror of the Internet and yet, their combined presence ironically enough makes their absence in the ongoing dialog of life, ever the more stark.

Dennis McKenna, the author of this highly personal remembrance provoked an admiration from this author in managing to skillfully navigate  the nameless cartography that lies between psychosis and the genuinely anomalous while remaining grounded while probing the bioneurology of his own mind through a determined search for realities hidden in normal waking states, both reckless and brave as well as being often brilliant.

A portrait of both the author and his brother is framed with their both equally being products of their times, as well as leaving a unique biography that while being frank and personal, is also a historical document, rare and well written that leaves in the reader as many questions as it does answers.

This tome is not for those who disdain or avoid the topic of the willing participation of experimenters who ingest various substances to enter altered states. Be forewarned if you desire to avoid being disturbed, as it were. Recently, as some of you know, Graham Hitchcock's lecture on a very similar subject was recently erased and banned from TED and the excuse or rationalization for this act of censorship was that it was not scientific, that it promoted the use of naturally occurring hallucinogens. I suppose some ideas are too dangerous for some and the ability of an intelligent person to decide for themselves to determine what is this or that is interesting poses some sort of imagined threat. To whom this is a danger, eludes me.

Nonetheless, the reading of this biography is it's reward and the thin line between being a public persona and being tagged as a guru by the gullible is revealed as a the payment necessary for placing one's self in a spotlight, although the scrim of privacy is heavily and carefully lifted in this epilog to Terrence's life along the rocky path he chose to follow.
The dangers of buying one's own goods especially when ideas are your calling card is examined in the depression that followed his own recognition that the Time Wave theory was so seriously flawed it could not be revamped. The epilog to this journey occurred after his death from a fatal tumor as 2012 came and went with a whimper and not having his own predicted bang of any kind unless you discount the deeper morass that a technologically driven market economy has found itself in.
The emphasis on science fiction realities and comic book characterisations  of realities that are now so prevalent as to be a case of mistaken identity, also had a subtle influence in this unrequited search that swept two brothers as kindred spirits into a labyrinth seeking The Philosopher's Stone as an experiential, alternative to the brutality of their times.  


  1. Those of us who have grown old and who have lived through the struggle to examine our existence beyond the recommended channels that have been generally accepted can only wonder in amazement that our thoughts might be classified as dangerous by those who barely allow themselves or others to have thoughts at all when we know very well our thoughts are magical and marvelous and have served us well on this journey of discovery we are so fortunate to have been given a ticket to embark upon.

  2. Hi
    Reality Sandwich issued an open letter to TED here:
    You'll find my comments there for the record. I do not advocate the use of drugs nor do I want to go off chasing windmills. To me the subject matter is interesting as well as Hitchcock having stopped his own drug use after his experience which took some courage to admit at TED.. so publically and definitively. When public discourse is censored by an organisation whose charter is to explore new ideas, something is obviously wrong.