As the esoteric traditions say, life is an opportunity to prepare for death...

From an interview with Nevill Drury from the autumn 1990, Archaic Revival by Terence McKenna

ND: You have said that an important part of the mystical quest is to face up to death and recognize it as a rhythm of life. Would you like to enlarge on your view on the implications of the dying process?

TM: I take seriously the notion that these psychedelic states are an anticipation of the dying process-or, as the Tibetans refer to it, the Bardo level beyond physical death. It seems likely that our physical lives are a type of launching pad for the soul. As the esoteric traditions say, life is an opportunity to prepare for death, and we should learn to recognize the signposts along the way, so that when death comes, we can make the transition smoothly. I think the psychedelics show you the transcendental nature of reality. It would be hard to die gracefully as an atheist or existentialist. Why should you? Why not rage against the dying of the light? But if in fact this is not the dying of the light but the Dawning of the Great Light, then one should certainly not rage against that. There's a tendency in the New Age to deny death. We have people pursuing physical immortality and freezing their heads until the fifth millennium, when they can be thawed out. All of this indicates a lack of balance or equilibrium. The Tao flows through the realms of life and nonlife with equal ease.

ND: Do you personally regard the death process as a journey into one's own belief system?

TM: Like the psychedelic experience, death must be poured into the vessel of language. But dying is essentially physiological. It may be that there are certain compounds in the brain that are only released when it is impossible to reverse the dying process. And yet the near-death experience has a curious affinity to the shamanic voyage and the psychedelic experience.

I believe that the best map we have of consciousness is the shamanic map. According to this viewpoint, the world has a "center," and when you go to the center-which is inside yourself-there is a vertical axis that
allows you to travel up or down. There are celestial worlds, there are infernal worlds, there are paradisiacal worlds. These are the worlds that open up to us on our shamanic journeys, and I feel we have an obligation to explore these domains and pass on that inforrnation to others interested in mapping the psyche. At this time in our history, it's perhaps the most awe-inspiring journey anyone could hope to mak