Something profound, unexpected, nearly unimaginable awaits us if we will turn our investigative attentions toward the phenomenon of shamanic plant hallucinogens. The people outside of Western history, those still in the dream time of preliteracy, have kept the flame of a tremendous mystery burning. It will be humbling to admit this and to learn from them, but that too is a part of the Archaic Revival.
This is not to imply that we must stand slack-jawed before the accomplishments of the “primitive” in yet another version of the Noble Savage Cha-Cha. Everyone who has worked in the field is aware of the frequent clash between our expectations of how “true rainforest people” should behave and the realities of tribal daily life. No one yet understands the mysterious intelligence within plants or the implications of the idea that nature communicates in a basic chemical language that is unconscious but profound. We do not yet understand how hallucinogens transform the message in the unconscious into revelations beheld by the conscious mind. As archaic people honed their intuitions and their senses by using whatever plants were at hand to increase their adaptive advantage, they had little time for philosophy. To this day the implications of the existence of this mind within nature discovered by shamanic peoples have yet to fully dawn.
Meanwhile, quietly and outside of history, shamanism has pursued its dialogue with an invisible world. Shamanism’s legacy can act as a steadying force to redirect our awareness toward the collective fate of the biosphere. The shamanic faith is that humanity is not without allies. There are forces friendly to our struggle to birth ourselves as an intelligent species. But they are quiet and shy; they are to be sought, not in the arrival of alien star fleets in the skies of earth, but nearby, in wilderness solitude, in the ambience of waterfalls, and yes, in the grasslands and pastures now too rarely beneath our feet.
— Terence McKenna in Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A radical history of plants, drugs, and human evolution, (New York: Bantam Books, February 1993), p. 13. First published (New York: Bantam Books, March 1992).