Terence McKenna Biography

Terence McKenna was a famous psychonaut, ethnobotanist, writer and lecturer. Go through this biography to learn more about his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: November 16, 1946

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By Terence McKenna Philosophers

Died At Age: 53

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Also Known As: Terence Kemp McKenna

Born in: Paonia, Colorado, United States

Famous as: Philosopher, Psychonaut, Ethnobotanist, Author

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Spouse/Ex-: Kathleen Harrison

siblings: Dennis McKenna

children: Finn, Klea

Died on: April 3, 2000

place of death: San Rafael, California, United States

U.S. State: Colorado

More Facts

education: University of California, Berkeley, Tussman Experimental College, ,

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In the annals of psychedelic research, there have been very few figures who have made a mark through their psychedelic discoveries and ideologies, and Terence McKenna was one of them. He was a renowned lecturer, psychonaut and writer, who had dedicated decades to study ‘shamanism’ and psychic alteration. His brilliance and interest in human psychology was evident from a young age as he read Carl Jung's book ‘Psychology and Alchemy’ at the tender age of ten. He supported the survey of different statuses of the human mind through the consumption of psychedelic substances such as ‘psychedelic mushrooms’. He traveled far and wide and studied the impact of psychotropic florae on human culture, human cognizance and evolution. He also extensively researched on and introduced the concept of ‘novelty theory’. His ideologies and his scientific appreciation of nature can be seen in works including ‘The Archaic Revival’, ‘Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge- A Radical History of Plants’, ‘The Invisible Landscape’ and ‘Drugs’ to name a few. He was also the co-founder of ‘Botanical Dimensions’, an ethnobotanical sanctuary in Hawaii. Towards the end of his life, he became actively involved in advocating the importance of ‘technological singularity’.

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Childhood & Early Life
Later Life
  • In 1969, inspired by his study and hallucinogenic experiences, he traveled to Nepal, where he worked for a brief period of time as a hashish smuggler.
  • Due to his dangerous line of work, he was forced to move from Nepal and consequently, traveled around the world where he collected butterflies and even worked for a brief period of time as an English teacher in Tokyo. He finally landed up in Berkeley once again, where he pursued biology.
  • Following the death of his mother in 1971, he traveled to the Amazon with his friends where they tried to look for a certain plant called, ‘oo-koo-he’. However, instead of finding the plant, they found various other forms of plants that became the focus of their expedition.
  • In 1972, he returned to Berkeley to finish his education and graduated from there three years later. Right after his graduation, he co-authored a book on his Amazonian experiences titled, ‘The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching’.
  • Sometime in the 1980s, he began giving public speeches on psychedelic drugs and also started conducting workshops on the same, where he stressed on the importance of ‘felt experience’. Ostracized by society, he became the prime focus of popular counterculture and ‘taboo’.
  • In 1985, he co-founded the renowned ethnobotanical institution, ‘Botanical Dimensions’, along with his wife, Kathleen, in Hawaii.
  • During the end of the decade, from 1988 to 1989, he had troublesome experiences with psilocybin, which led him to eventually stop his usage of the drug. However, he ardently advocated psilocybin and its usage to others, till the end of his life.
  • In 1993, his views of hallucinogenic experiences and psychedelic drugs were collated and published in ‘True Hallucinations’, which made him extremely famous amongst those who were active in the rave scene.
  • In 1994, he was invited as a speaker to the Starwood Festival and his lectures/speeches given there were recorded on both, CDs and cassettes. In addition to giving lectures about drugs, he would also often touch upon the subjects of artificial intelligence, the ‘novelty theory’, techno-paganism, human evolution, extra-terrestrials and aesthetic theories.
  • Some of the books that he authored towards the end of his life include, ‘True Hallucinations & the Archaic Revival: Tales and Speculations about the Mysteries of the Psychedelic Experience’, ‘The Evolutionary Mind’ and ‘Robert Venosa: Illuminatus’ to name a few.
Major Works
  • One of his greatest works is the ‘Novelty Theory’ developed by him. His initial experiences with psilocybin, DMT, LSD, mushrooms and other hallucinogens led to the development of this theory. It expounds that Mother Nature conserves newness, as observed by an omnipresent timeline that initiates with comparatively minuscule atomic arrangements vaulting through space into more multipart forms like human beings.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • He was romantically involved with Ev, who was his interpreter during his many travels. After a brief but stormy romance, the couple split, leaving McKenna depressed and alone.
  • He married Kathleen Harrison in 1975 but the couple split in 1992. He had two children with her, Finn and Klea.
  • He died on April 3, 2000, due to brain cancer, at the age of 53.
  • Today, a number of his works continue to inspire psychedelic research and some of his works such as, ‘Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness’ and ‘The Evolutionary Mind: Trialogues on Science, Spirit and Psychedelics’ were published posthumously.

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How To Cite

Article Title
- Terence McKenna Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- October 13, 2017
Terence McKenna

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