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Terence McKenna was one of the great explorers of consciousness, and of the wild Earth. His relationship both with the psyche and anima mundi (world soul) was unique. He was a man of fabulous intellect, with the capacity to articulate in a rational manner the behaviors and experiences of the non-rational mind. Famous for his explorations of the inner world of psychedelics—primarily those arising naturally in the flora of Earth—he was also a fearless traveler into the regions of the world where shamanic use of various psychotropic drugs is ethical and employed with reverence toward the gods who provided them.

Terence traveled to the Colombian Amazon, and from that experience in 1971, wrote True Hallucinations in 1993 for Harper Collins. This is his primary work in transcendental experiences. McKenna's horoscope, even on the most superficial level, describes the archetypes that he lived out to the fullest, and even his early death shows as yet another exploration of unknown territory.

Investigating the Psyche

McKenna was born on November 16, 1946, at 7:25 am in Hotchkiss, Colorado, with the heroic Sun and the romantic Venus rising in Scorpio in the house of ancestral souls—the Twelfth House. His fearless psychological detective work is a Scorpio trait, intrepidly advancing into the steamy recesses of the psyche and the multi-dimensional world of consciousness.

Novelty and Time

Among many things, McKenna’s thoughts produced a link between novelty and time. His recent work attempted to comprehend the qualitative, experiential aspect of time. The current collective experience of “time speeding up” led him to propose a unique theory involving a kind of periodic “quickening.”

The quality of time as we now experience it is in the highest stage of quickening, and we are in a time of high degree novelty. The peak of current novelty he has dated to December 21, 2012, when the Winter Solstice and the heliacal rising of the galactic center coincide. This date is also aligned with the last notations in the Mayan calendar—when time as we know it will undergo a transformation.

Now, novelty is associated with the planet Uranus, the planet in which we experience unique individuality and inventive, innovative ideas. Uranus is a maverick in McKenna’s chart, a planet without aspects to the other planets, and is found in his Seventh House—the house in which one is "married," and where one's most committed passions lie. With that in mind, it would seem that McKenna was married to novelty, dependent on innovativeness and deeply committed to change and transformation.

The Academic Iconoclast

McKenna’s Mercury and Mars are both in Sagittarius (another signature of travels, both inner and outer) and link his impeccable academic, researching mind to a more adventurous and iconoclastic world-view (shown by the Moon in Virgo in the Ninth House, along with Saturn and Pluto in Leo).

There was nothing fuzzy about McKenna's logic, nor his ability to explain his theories and exploration of the mysteries of consciousness in a rapid-fire way. The combination of Mars and Mercury is the fast-talking philosopher (Sagittarius), and the trine to his Saturn-Pluto conjunction in the Ninth House gave his mind depth, rigor, power and the relentless desire to unearth truths—including the ability to admit when he was wrong.

Chemistry and the Cosmic Joke

Sagittarius is the truth-seeker, and the Ninth House is the place wherein we find dogma and doctrine (not always “truth”). McKenna was fairly nuclear in his attack on conventional attitudes, shown by his Saturn and Pluto in Leo in the Ninth House. This placement also gave him a sense of cosmic, black humor. The “cosmic joke” is a Sagittarian safety-release for the tension of realizing that the cosmos is a vast place, and ultimately, can be frightening to an individual. Within it, however, are tricks of illusion that pose as reality. Buddhism also acknowledges the humor of this situation.

Shamanism in the Western world—especially the American Western world—is a cosmic joke, attempting to clarify our place as human beings in the universe, and challenging our concept of reality. McKenna tried valiantly to link the vast dimensional compartments in consciousness to the vast cyber-dimensional compartments of the universe. By going to the source (aboriginal shamans), and taking part in the rituals, including the use of natural psychedelics, he worked to link the mind to the cosmos in this way—the shamanic way.

Chemical changes in the brain are present in the shamanic process, and McKenna was fascinated by this. The links between chemistry and the mind are shown in his chart through Mercury (mind/consciousness), which is closely related to Neptune, in his Tenth House of vocation.

Among myriad things, the planet Neptune is associated with chemicals and drugs, both natural and synthetic. The darker side of an astrological Mercury/Neptune connection is illusion, delusion and ultimately, loss of boundaries between “here” and “there.” The transcendant function of Neptune is bring us to a higher experience of consciousness—via the same route, but with totally different results. McKenna knew both of these realms well, and due to his intrepid will, he was able to explore alternative dimensions of the psyche and come back to tell about it.

This is shamanism in its highest Western form—to undergo the journey of the soul and return to heal the collective through information. The function of a shaman, aside from the magical acts of healing, is to teach. A shaman can induct his or her protégé or tribe into new perceptions. The shaman sees the “novelty” first, then leads us, one at a time and group by group, to the edge of novelty. The shaman prepares the consciousness for seeing that which has never been seen before.

Terence McKenna was a shaman of the Western variety—capable of thinking both magically and critically, and leading people to the thing they couldn't see until he carefully pointed it out. If you stay very still, and look very, very closely, focusing on the novelty, you will see something you have never seen before—try it!


Novelty: McKenna uses this term to describe periods in history when innovation and discovery are really high, and the world seems “alive” with new concepts and ideas. This term also applies to certain types of people, who are geared to novelty. People who are bristling with excitement about change, transitions, discovery and innovation—in short, explorers of all kinds.

Heliacal rising of the galactic center: The galactic center is at approximately 26 degrees Sagittarius. To explain this term, first we have to realize that our Earth, and its solar system, are located on the outer edge of an arm in the spiral galaxy called the Milky Way. When looking at the night sky in the summer months (winter in the Southern Hemisphere), especially in late June at the Summer Solstice, the thick band of small stars that run across the sky is actually a view of the entire galaxy edge-on, as seen from Earth. However, in late December, the Earth-view is from the Milky Way, and looking outside the galaxy, hence no thick band of stars. Heliacal rising is when a body or point in space first is visible on the horizon (east), rising. When the Sun is in Sagittarius (November 24 to December 21), it is on the same side as the galactic center is. On Dec 21, 2012, the center of the galaxy (26 Sagittarius) will first appear on the horizon at dawn.



Erin Sullivan has been a consulting astrologer for over 30 years. Author of five books; tutor at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London; editor for Arkana's astrology series from 1989-99; consults from, writes and teaches in Tucson, AZ. Depth pyschologically orientated work including predictive; high technical knowledge; classics background - business advisor and coaching available.

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Other StarIQ articles by Erin Sullivan:

  • Oprah: Finding Her Spirit   5/27/2000
  • Madonna: Mighty Aphrodite   5/20/2000
  • Ronald Reagan: Bedtime for Bonzo   4/27/2000
  • Hillary Clinton: By Herself   4/13/2000
  • Vladimir Putin: Russia Elects a Libra Leader   3/30/2000
  • George W. Bush: Not a Greek God, an American Icon   3/16/2000
  • Donald Trump: Peter Pan in Midlife   3/9/2000

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