Tuesday, 22 May 2018

20 Things Learned From a 48-Minute Terence McKenna Talk on Hermeticism and Alchemy

Do you know that children’s books have fifty percent more rare words in them than words spoken in an average showing of adult prime-time television? Well, now you do. Personally, when I choose to spend time on viewing or listening to something I am looking for added substance. Be it knowledge, a new word or fact, entertainment, or simply just a smile. This is the reason why I dropped the TV more than nine years ago. With all what is already online today, there is no need for such programming.

Being friends with a Terence McKenna account on Facebook who someday added me
, one comes across many random gems. The man has always been a brilliant teacher and eloquent raconteur who always, always leaves one with something to dig or think about while adding them with valuable substance.

This is not the first time TM inspires me to write an article. Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians is an earlier one initially instigated by another of his talks about Frederick The Fifth, King of Bohemia and how in the 17th Century he plotted a revolutionary alchemical renaissance with the help of his wife, Elizabeth Stuart — the Queen of Bohemia. For the learning reader into such archaic knowledge here is the video: The Winter King (aka Shamanism, Alchemy, and the 20th Century). 


Beside the history, for this unmedicated logo-lexophile McKenna is equally a linguistic gem with a unique aureate style. While it rarely happens with other thinkers or philosophers, whenever watching or listening to him he does send me to the dictionary/Google quite often due to the remarkable breadth of his intellect and language skills.

That is all in addition to the fact that his plane of knowledge aligns with mine, so whatever he is talking about is usually of interest to me.

The last of these YouTube videos is titled Hermeticism and Alchemy
(shared below). It is part of a much longer talk on the same subjects, also found online. What is different this time is the availability of the subtitles/captions option, which is a great addition, especially with TM since his vocabulary is insanely extensive. Without the captions it’s almost impossible to grasp all the words. For the Winter King for instance, I had to dig out the transcriptions separately. Another reason is that, being relatively old, many of his available videos/recordings may not the clearest in terms of sound.
That said, the video is a mere 48 minutes long. Y
et between new words, novel concepts, and characters from history, Terence McKenna enriched me with 20 different additions, which I’m sharing herein with you. The following list contains the personal discoveries.


1. Hermes Trismegistus Thrice Great

Hermes Trismegistus is mystical historical figure considered to be a divine source of wisdom. He is the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts which are the basis of Hermeticism; in addition to being credited with tens of thousands of highly esteemed writings. Nevertheless, his name(s) and identity(ies) are still debatable.

The name given to Hermes Trismegistus is associated with the Greek god Hermes — Messenger of the gods, god of trade, thieves, travelers, sports, athletes, border crossings, guide to the Underworld — as well as the Egyptian god Thoth — god of magic, writing, wisdom, knowledge, and the moon.

Greeks in Hellenistic Egypt recognised the equivalence of Hermes and Thoth. Accordingly, the two gods were merged together and worshiped as one, in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis.

Since I have read quite a bit about Hermeticism, most of this information is not new to me. What is new is the meaning of the epithet Hermes Trismegistus: Thrice Born, Thrice Great, or Triple Magician. One reason for this triple power is because he is believed to have been Akhenaton, Moses, and Orpheus. While I knew of those three legendary historical figures, I wasn’t aware they were lumped together as the Three Great Teachers.

According to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, another view is that he was named as such because he knows the three parts of the wisdom of the universe: Alchemy, Astrology, and Theurgy. An additional theory proposed by Marsilio Ficino is because he was the greatest philosopher, the greatest priest, and the greatest king.

On that same note, “The Book of Thoth is a name given to many ancient Egyptian texts supposed to have been written by Thoth. Aeons later, the author and occultist Aleister Crowley wrote a short essay on the tarot of the Egyptians titled:“The Book of Thoth”.

With lack of any conclusive evidence after all these millennia, the details remain only speculations. Though the wisdom conveyed still echoes its truth to this very day.

As Above. So Below.

2. Heterodox

Heterodox (adj): Not conforming with accepted or orthodox standards or beliefs.
It is the antonym of orthodox.

Synonyms: Unorthodox, nonconformist, dissenting, dissident, rebellious, renegade

Heterodox art by Moran Victoria Sabbag

3. Unbridled  

Unbridled (adj): Uncontrolled; unconstrained.

Synonyms: Unrestrained, uninhibited, unrestricted, unchecked, unmufflered, uncurbed, rampant, runaway, irrepressible, unstoppable, intemperate, immoderate.


4. Rosicrucianism

A spiritual and cultural movement, which arose in Europe in the early 17th century after the publication of several texts purported to announce the existence of a hitherto unknown esoteric order to the world and made seeking its knowledge attractive to many.

McKenna mentioned Rosicrucianism when talking about how
throughout history some schools of thoughts go back to the ancient teachings. Believing that anything old and archaic is of substance, they work on making the ancient knowledge more appealing to the people. Certain apologists fall into this category.

5. Thomas Taylor (1758 – 1835)

An English translator and Neoplatonist who was the first to translate the complete works of Aristotle and of Plato into English; as well as the Orphic fragments.

6.If then you do not make yourself equal to God, you cannot apprehend God; for like is known by like. Leap clear of all that is corporeal, and make yourself grown to a like expanse with that greatness which is beyond all measure; rise above all time and become eternal; then you will apprehend God. Think that for you too nothing is impossible; deem that you too are immortal, and that you are able to grasp all things in your thought, to know every craft and science; find your home in the haunts of every living creature; make yourself higher than all heights and lower than all depths; bring together in yourself all opposites of quality, heat and cold, dryness and fluidity; think that you are everywhere at once, on land, at sea, in heaven; think that you are not yet begotten, that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, that you are in the world beyond the grave; grasp in your thought all of this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together; then you can apprehend God.

But if you shut up your soul in your body, and abase yourself, and say “I know nothing, I can do nothing; I am afraid of earth and sea, I cannot mount to heaven; I know not what I was, nor what I shall be,” then what have you to do with God?

Hermes Trismegistus, Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, with Notes and Introduction

This vision echoes with a much later quote by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil reflecting the same view:

The sage as astronomer — As long as you still feel the stars as being something ‘over you’ you still lack the eye of the man of knowledge.”

Egyptian god Thoth (left) and a depiction of Hermes Trismegistus

7. Spiritual and Demonic Magic: From Ficino to Campanella (Magic in History) by D. P. Walker

First published by the Warburg Institute in 1958, this book is considered a landmark in Renaissance studies. “Whereas most scholars had tended to view magic as a marginal subject, Walker showed that magic was one of the most typical creations of the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.”

The topic of the book is interesting to me since I had always questioned the irony in how religions consider magic to be heresy while religious tales are full of magic. The reason why magic was and still is considered heresy is because it implies that man can command the gods to act; that man is like all those prophets who could do just that in times of miracles. Naturally, magic means that middle men are not needed, which would be a catastrophe for organised religions. 

This brings us back to heterodox as McKenna was talking about how Hermeticism was a heterodox way of perceiving reality in which human are seen as the brothers of God. According to this nature-oriented view, we are co-partners with deities; and through magic we can co-create. What the magician does is compel nature to act according to his desire.

8. Patristic

Patristic (adj):
Relating to the early Christian theologians or to patristics.

mid 19th century; from German patristisch, from Latin pater, patr- ‘father’.

9. Sympathetic Magic

Primitive or magical ritual using objects or actions resembling or symbolically associated with the event or person over which influence is sought.

10. Homunculus
Homunculus (n): A very small human or humanoid creature.

[historical]: A supposed microscopic but fully formed human being from which a foetus was formerly believed to develop.

From mid 17th century; from Latin, diminutive of homo, homin- ‘man’.

Hilariously, TM mentioned the word when describing the dude his ex left him for
― and how devastated he got.

11. Cosimo di Giovanni de
Medici (1389 1464)

Also known by his
bynames Cosimo the Elder, Italian Cosimo il Vecchio, and Latin Pater Patriae (Father of his Country) was an Italian banker and politician, who was the first member of the Medici family political dynasty that served as de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance from 1434 to 1537.

12. Christoph von Utenheim (c. 1450

The Bishop of Basel from 1502 to 1527.

13. Stenography

  • The art or process of writing in shorthand. 
  • Shorthand especially written from dictation or oral discourse.
  • The making of shorthand notes and subsequent transcription of them.

14. Obsidian


Obsidian (n): A hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallisation

Origin: From mid 17th century: from Latin obsidianus, error for obsianus, from Obsius, the name (in Pliny) of the discoverer of a similar stone.

While TM did not utter the word during the talk, I came across it while reading about John Dee
’s magical speculum or Mirror which he mentioned the obsidian Aztec cult object in the shape of a hand-mirror, brought to Europe in the late 1520s.

Dr. John Dees magical tools displayed at The British Museum, London. The Obsidian magical mirror 
can be seen in the middle.

15. Harangue


1. Harangue 

(n) A lengthy and aggressive speech.

Synonyms: Tirade, diatribe, lecture, polemic, rant, fulmination, broadside, attack, onslaught; criticism, condemnation, censure, admonition, sermon; declamation, speech; (informal) blast (literary) philippic.

2. Harangue (v) Lecture (someone) at length in an aggressive and critical manner.


Synonyms: Rant at, hold forth to, lecture, shout at; berate, criticise, attack; (informal) sound off at, mouth off to.

From late Middle English; from Old French arenge; from medieval Latin harenga, perhaps of Germanic origin. The spelling was later altered to conform with French harangue (noun), haranguer (verb).

16. Sir Edward Kelley

Also known as Kelly or
Edward Talbot (1555 – 1597), he was an English Renaissance occultist and self-declared spirit medium. He is best known for working with John Dee in his magical investigations. Besides the professed ability to summon spirits or angels in a “shew-stone” or mirror, which John Dee so valued, Kelley also claimed to possess the secret of transmuting base metals into gold, the goal of alchemy, as well as the supposed Philosopher’s Stone itself.

17. A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits.
John Dee was one of the leading scientists of Elizabethan Europe whose work has revolutionised the way people regarded reality. This informative book should tickle the curious souls pickle.

18. Scuzzball

North American informal

Scuzzball (n): A despicable or disgusting person.

Unpleasant, dirty, or dangerous; creep.

19. John Playfair (1748 –1819)

A Church of Scotland minister, geologist, and mathematician noticed that opium was addictive after 3,000 years of being used throughout history.

20. Paracelsus (
1493 1541)

Born Theophrastus von Hohenheim, he is a
German-Swiss physician, alchemist, and astrologer of the German Renaissance who established the role of chemistry in medicine.  First to concentrate drugs from plants, as the first to create the pill form.


Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians
The Archaic Origin of the Swastika Symbol [with Photos]
Connecting the Dots — a Storyteller Way of Seeing the Big Picture
Little Things I Recently Learned 

The Millennium Eve I Spent Alone at the Mosque

Unusual English Words I learned Later in Life  

The Comfort Women of the Imperial Japanese Army 

The Phenomenal Getty Villa in Photos
Theory of Mind: Thinking About Thinking and the Benefits of Observing the Observer

The Intertwining of Genius and Insanity

Who Are We?

For The Love Of Storytelling

Different Shades of Passion

My Journey Towards Self-Transcendence

How Do We Know We Are Good at Something?

Why I Share Stuff

From English as a Third Language to Author — How I Expanded My Vocabulary
Selective Hearing Among Men and Women

What The Heck are Vocal Fry and Upspeak?  

Artists Between Mindset and Motivation

The Writing Process and the Creative Block

On Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing

The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries]

Out-of-Body Experience and Ego Death on a “Heroic Dose” of Mushrooms

Surviving the Madness of Sakarana — Hyoscyamus muticus

The Intertwining of Music and Sexuality ― A Djembefola’s Tale

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