The Unspeakable

“The experience is private, personal, the best part, and ultimately unspeakable. The more you know the quieter you get. The explanation is another matter and can be attempted. In fact it must be told, for the Logos speaks and we are its tools and its voice.” –Terence McKenna.1


Basic Waves, Diana Slattery, 2006


The Unspeakable is a term used by mystics to name what can’t be named or described—the ineffable quality of the transcendental experience. Terence McKenna applies it to the “unspeakable primary experience” that psychedelics, especially high dose psychedelics, deliver. The tension inherent in the effort to communicate the Unspeakable suffuses this research. As Terence puts it, wryly, you can’t really say much about the Unspeakable; however the effort to explain it—that which feels like it must be told—can be a million-word-march. The Unspeakable has additional dimensions in the psychedelic discourse. The War on Drugs has had a chilling effect on communication about psychonautic research in academia and in the healing professions, but communication continues in volume.
Erowid provides an anonymous platform for trip reports; cannabis and ayahuasca forums abound. To pursue psychedelic studies is generally a career-buster in most fields; the academy is leery of positive attitudes. Government funding of research operates on the paradigm that drugs are unanimously harmful; research on positive aspects has been routinely rejected. Within the psychedelic experience itself, the unspeakably awe-ful, both the hell-visions and the heavenly, test the psychonaut’s ability to integrate the mysterium tremendum into default existence. These unspeakabilities shape the context, the set and setting in which this research developed.


  1. Sutin, L. (1991). In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis–Philip K. Dick. Novato, Underwood-Miller. []

2 Responses to “The Unspeakable”

  1. shhhh, you spoke and lost the quiet game. InI win.


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