(In memory of Terence McKenna, November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000)
CHAOS AND THE WORLD SOUL
By Richard Kadrey
METAMORPHOSIS – A video “trialogue” featuring Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna, and Rupert Sheldrake – is part shamanic journey and part New Physics 101. It’s mostly talk, with touches of simple computer graphics and music adorning the presentation. But what talk it is. We’ve got Abraham, a mathematician and the godfather of chaos theory; McKenna, a shamanologist, ethnopharmacologist, and psychedelic philosopher; and Sheldrake, a radical biologist and originator of the idea of “morphic resonance,” a memory embedded in all natural systems. Their free-form discussion ranges from drug experiments to the anima mundi (world soul), chaos and complexity, and the effects of language and imagination on the shape of the universe – all in search of a new field theory that encompasses art, science, and philosophy.
In this particular chaotic system, McKenna is the strange attractor around which Abraham and Sheldrake orbit. The three unite in a quest for knowledge and an exchange about the sciences they’ve studied. Sheldrake talks passionately about trying to redefine biology in terms of living organisms, not the abstract dead things found in textbooks and labs. Abraham, not surprisingly, explains how protests over the Vietnam War lead him to leave his sheltered academic life, pursue meditation in the Himalayas, and study chaos theory.
With McKenna as the ringleader (and biggest talker), imagination and chaos are the principal themes. Chaos, as McKenna describes it, is a science to study, an opportunity to reshape the world by looking through the lens of nonlinear processes, and a metaphor to help us think about our place in the universe. In McKenna’s words, chaos “is telling us that the intimation of mysticism, the intimation of a possibility of transcendence, is all firmly grounded in science.”
This is heady stuff. Though you half expect the psychedelic proselytizing to drift off into some kind of Birkenstock-and-bean-sprout dead end, the rigor, intelligence, and wit of these three minds keep the ideas sharp and fast. For anyone interested in the edge of science, this video is both entertaining and inspiring.