Literature often goes where most other media often fears to. If you’re looking to push the boundaries of where a trip can take you and are ready to open your mind to the expansive possibilities of the universe, pair your next bong hit with one of these Terence McKenna books.
Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (1992)
McKenna was an ethnobotanist, mystic, and ardent believer in the responsible use of psychedelics. And he was as much an advocate for weed as he was for mushrooms. His works often surveyed the symbiotic relationships humans have always had with plants and chemicals. And his fascination with this field of study is most apparent in one of his most notable works, Food of the Gods.
In it, McKenna takes a deeply philosophical approach to the relationship between man and plant. Particularly, he focuses on the allure of altered states of consciousness. He delves into the politics of psychedelics, from caffeine and opium to alcohol and tobacco. Out of this focus comes a comprehensive record of the history of such substances, including trade routes, shamanic rituals, community, self-actualization, and much more.
While it may not be the simplest of reads, Food of the Gods is certainly a fantastic experience. And if all Terence McKenna books were ranked, this would probably top most people’s lists.
Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide (1993)
In the ‘70s, Terence and his brother Dennis – under the pseudonyms O.T. Oss and O. N. Oeric – put forward one of the most influential and comprehensive guides on growing mushrooms. At that point, no other work was quite as thorough.
While we have developed more modern methods of growing and cultivating the psychedelic wonder since then, this book remains one of the most important manuals you could have in your possession if you’re ever intrigued by the idea of growing your own little Garden of Eden.
Sacred Mushrooms and the Law (1997)
Outside of growing mushrooms, it’s extremely important to understand what the law has to say about this ancient sacred art. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t always have good things to say.
Sacred Mushrooms and the Law, by Richard Boire with contributions from McKenna, is one of few books that covers, in detail, both federal and state laws pertaining to mushrooms. Not only are the laws themselves laid out, but so too are the potential punishments for mushroom growers.
The legal landscape has not always been kind to stoners. Thankfully, the community has its very own fairy godfather in the form of McKenna to help guide us through our practice.
True Hallucinations: A Psychedelic Adventure (1993)
From an author thatThe Independent once described as “the single most influential spokesperson for organic psychedelics” comes this mind-bending odyssey. While most Terence McKenna books center on the relationship humanity has developed with plants and psychedelics, this book sees him take readers on a trip unlike any other.
In the ‘70s, McKenna and his friends traveled through the Amazon. That, on its own, already offers intrigue. Yet, when paired with psychedelic mushrooms, philosophical musings on extraterrestrial life, and higher states of consciousness, this trip ascends to new heights. And takes its readers right along with it.
The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching (1975)
The McKenna brothers were delivering gems all through their careers, which began long before the ‘90s. Outside of psychedelics and mind-bending travels, the duo also looked at spiritualism. In this book, they delve into shamanism, with a particular focus on concepts like altered states of consciousness and the organic unity of the I Ching.
Of their many works, The Invisible Landscape has left people bedazzled, and not always in the best way. This is largely due to covering such a wide range of topics including schizophrenia, holographic thought, the La Chorrera experiment, the Timewave hypothesis, and a prediction of the end of the world in 2012, among other things, in extreme detail.
As such, prior knowledge of these topics does help before diving into the book. That said, it remains a pretty solid catch-all for the brothers’ views on many things.
The Archaic Revival (1991)
Of the various books that McKenna put out, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History is perhaps one of the best books for anyone new to his unique brand of radical thought.
McKenna was a beloved spokesperson for the Westcoast psychedelic community. Yet, his work has not reached as much of a wide audience as one might expect for one of his calibre. A big reason for this is that in order to truly absorb the ideas he’s putting down, it helps to have experienced some form of psychedelia yourself.
But for the uninitiated or for anyone simply on the hunt for an introduction to his often disturbingly compelling yet ridiculously entertaining writings, the Archaic Revival is the perfect answer to the question, “which Terence McKenna book should I start with?”
Mushrooms, Mankind, DMT, and Hyperspace (2017)
Much can be said about McKenna’s contributions to stoner literature. Just as much could be stated about his intelligence and depth of knowledge and wisdom. But not nearly enough has been said about his unique charm and wit, aspects that informed his writing and contribute significantly to his ability to arrest an audience’s attention.
In Mushrooms, Mankind, DMT, and Hyperspace, McKenna effortlessly weaves through intense topics like consciousness expansion, extraterrestrial life and interdimensional communication, alchemy, Hermeticism, and tripping on DMT. Reading his work is, in essence, like going on some of the wildest trips with a knowledgeable sage friend by your side.
The Evolutionary Mind: Trialogues at the Edge of the Unthinkable (1997)
Speaking of friends, McKenna delivered some of his best work in collaborative projects. In Evolutionary Mind, McKenna’s intellectual trip occurs alongside Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham.
Billed as a psychedelic visionary, controversial biologist, and chaos mathemetician, respectively, this trio includes some of the most interesting and original thinkers of the modern era. Put them together and throw in topics like evolution, psychedelia, time, heaven, god, nature, animals, and consciousness, and what you get is a collection of some truly startling and revolutionary musings.
Trialogues at the Edge of the West: Chaos, Creativity, and the Resacralization of the World (1992)
McKenna is, naturally, known for his work pertaining to psychedelics. But the discourse he engaged in around human evolution and consciousness is, perhaps, the more revolutionary aspect of anything he wrote. And this is because of his focus on reshaping our understanding of where we came from, and where we go from here.
For any enthusiasts looking to have their minds blown, any Terence McKenna books dealing with these concepts are well worth the ride. In Trialogues at the Edge of the West, however, the author explores chaos itself. He centers his musings on human creativity and imagination, uncovering the soul of the very fabric we call existence.
Homo Monkey and Cyborgs: Nature, Culture and the Great Reset: Transhumanism (2020)
Despite the author’s passing in 2000, his work continues to be published and continues to reshape human thought and stoner philosophies. This is, in part, owing to the sheer breadth of published written and audio work he put out in his lifetime. But it is also thanks to the efforts of his collaborators who keep his legacy alive.
Homo Monkey and Cyborgs is the collective effort of Joscha Bach, Jiddu Krisnamurti, Eugen Drewermann, Nick Bosrom, Otto Thimoreit, and, of course, McKenna. Like much of McKenna’s other work, this book critically analyses our understanding of evolution. It addresses, specifically, how the human mind came to be. Was it simply a byproduct of our evolution from animals, was it consciously shaped through our interactions with one another, or is it, perhaps, a product of our biological and psychological interfacing with technology?
Or, in other words, is the human mind the nexus of ape, human, and cyborg?
A timely release, this book rips the lid off what we know and asks us to question who we are and why we are.
Unfolding the Stone: Musings on Mind Expansion (2018)
McKenna’s insightful commentary on the human mind didn’t end there. He took his work forward, discussing mind expansion and exploring the making and unmaking of our history and language.
Unfolding the Stone is a collection of these musings. It went out of print for two decades, making it one of the rarer additions you can make to your collection of Terence McKenna books. But it is thankfully resurfacing now, proving McKenna’s legacy can never truly be eradicated.
The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012)
As we celebrate McKenna’s legacy, it would be utterly unconscionable to do so without celebrating Dennis McKenna as well. Despite the loss of his brother, Dennis continued to keep his legacy alive. His writings have their own unique flavor, one that bears a nostalgia for Terence’s work while also offering perspectives unique to Dennis’ own experiences and worldviews.
In Brotherhood, Dennis recounts his expedition into the Amazon in the ‘70s alongside Terence. The purpose of their journey was to explore psychedelics and test the limits of their capabilities. What they found, however, shifted the very core of their beings. So much so, it would reshape everything they thought they knew about themselves, each other, the world, and beyond.
Reality is But a Culturally-Sanctioned, Linguistically-Reinforced Lie
The study of psychedelics has shifted a lot of what we know about human history. Our very existence is, however, an anomaly. So much of what makes humans tick remains a mystery.
These eye-opening, mind-bending Terence McKenna books expand far beyond the confines of our current understanding of the world. Yet, they are only the start of the journey into the unknown.