Transcript for Episode 29 – Dennis Mckenna Ph.D.

what’s up guys such an amazing episode

here with dr. Dennis McKenna we spent

some time just going through his life

and the life of his brother and their

adventures or misadventures I really

enjoyed this conversation so hopefully

you do too please pick up a copy of dr.

McKenna’s book you can find the link to

that below if you enjoy what we’re doing

at HSP please donate it helps us cover

the server costs please also subscribe

to our YouTube channel follow us on

Twitter at the human XP and if you’re

feeling extra generous leave us a review

on stitcher and iTunes thank you so much

for listening amazing episode thanks



the human experience is joining the

Brotherhood of the screaming abyss as we

welcome my guest mr. Dennis McKenna mr.

McKenna it’s an honor to have you here

sir welcome to hxp Thank You Savior it’s

a pleasure to be here sir you are in the

Holy Trinity of psychedelic researchers

for me to interview so yeah I really

appreciate it I for the people that

don’t know what you do or who you are

can you just give us a brief

introduction well I I’m an earth no


and that’s a person who studies

basically the use of medicinal plants or

you know in indigenous cultures not

necessarily restricted to that but

that’s kind of a thumbnail definition

and as you probably already know and

your listeners already know my own

specialty in that area has been

psychedelic plants and fungi especially

ayahuasca I’ve worked I did my PhD

thesis on on the chemistry and botany

and pharmacology of ayahuasca so that

makes me a thud I am a doctor but I

don’t care you can call me mr. doesn’t


I’m informal but so that’s that’s been

what I’ve been studying and been

passionate about really for well over 30

years because you know if your listeners

are familiar with my story of my the

story of my brother and me then you know

that we first went to South America in

search of exotic hallucinogens in 1971

so I’ve been at this a long time we went

down there not you know thinking that we

knew what we were looking for thinking

that we knew a lot more than we actually

did and you know and really we had not

clue what we were getting into but I

guess that’s how you know real

adventures happened I mean if you if if

what you expect happens then it’s not

really an adventure yeah yeah I

definitely like to get into your trip

down there a bit more later in the

conversation but to start things off how

did you become first become interested

in the properties of psychedelic

compounds whereas they’re a single event

that turned you on to them or was it

more of a gradual thing well it was it

was it was not a single event exactly

but you know I I grew up in the 60s and

you know my teenage years coincided

exactly with the 60s I was I was 10 in

19 in 1960 and I was 20 and in night in

in 1970 so you know and that was the era

of the counterculture so Terence and I

were both quite immersed in the

counterculture in some ways we were

certainly fascinated by by psychedelics

and Terence was four years older than me

living in Berkeley at the time and going

to school so and I was still stuck in

this small town in Colorado kind of

waiting for you know postcards from the

edge in a sense I mean i felt quite hard

done by that terrence got to be at the

center of the of the cultural fur bat

and i was you know still isolated but he

would come home at Christmas time and

then the summers and so on and and bring

stories of what was going on out in the

wider world and bring bring drugs

actually the starti started with

cannabis I got my first introduction to

cannabis in 1966 and then when and then

in 1960

seven which was kind of a banner year in

the in the counter cultural movement the

Summer of Love in San Francisco I went

to Berkeley with a friend of mine and we

stayed at Terrance’s place various

places around the Bay Area for some

weeks and that’s when we had our first

encounter with LSD or my first encounter

and I guess the the thing that really

got us interested in this to the point

where we dedicated our lives to it was

was our early encounters with DMT DMT

was not around much it was actually

quite rare in those days but you could

get it

Terrace was able to get it by working

the matrix and different connections or

whatever and when TMT got on our radar

we were just astounded both of us and we

decided that you know this is too big to


we’d had LSD we’d had mescaline and we

had things like that there were no

mushrooms around in those days but we

had those two and they were interesting

but DMT was a seemed of a whole other

magnitude a whole other order of

strangeness and you know as I I told

people many times it wasn’t simply the

the most interesting drug that we’d ever

encountered it was the most interesting

thing that we’d ever encountered you

know in our entire lives and and so we

we thought well you know we we’ve got to

go after this this is a true mystery so

we I mean I guess we imbued with a bit

of romanticism we were both young in

those days we were you know restless and

we wanted to push the envelope in

whatever ways we could so when we

encountered DMT and then later when we

learned that it’s a component of many of

these indigenous psychedelics used in

South America we thought well

you know we’ve got to go we’ve got to go

after it so that’s what led us to go

there in 1971 and if you’ve read The

Invisible if you’ve read true loose

Nations which is my brother wrote about

our trip down there or the Brotherhood

of the screaming abyss which I wrote

recently as a memoir of our whole life

but the expedition to lot rarer plays a

big part of it you know and then and

then also the other book that deals with

it is the invisible landscape which was

our attempt to that would came out first

actually and that was our attempt to in

some ways rationalize or explain not

very well what had happened to us down

there and what what ideas and concepts

we came back with which were you know a

number of peculiar notions about time

and the nature of reality and and many

other things yeah definitely do you

still use it psychedelic compounds yes

yes I do

I take ayahuasca on a pretty regular

basis usually I go to South America to

do that

so yeah ayahuasca you know at the time

it wasn’t really in our purview at all

but later when I returned to South

America ten years later in 1981 that

ayahuasca was the was the focus of my

thesis research and so I got to know

about ayahuasca you know within a

traditional cultural context at that

time and it’s been an important teacher

and medicine for me ever since it’s it’s

it’s a it’s an ally for sure that and

mushrooms which which I still do take

not as much as ayahuasca but enough to

check in you know I haven’t I haven’t

really left these things behind so I

guess that means I’m

hard-headed didn’t haven’t got the

message yet or you know or the dialogue

is ongoing I mean I still learned from

these experiences and you know yes was

there was there a pivotal moment in

which you decided to make a sort of

scientific career out of this and move

beyond a casual spiritual interest uh

yeah yeah I would say so

well I again the experiment at luxury or

was really pivotal in that you know when

we went to lecture era in search of this

this orally active form of DMT called

Kouhei which was a preparation used by

the way Toto Indians primarily we went

we had experienced DMT in in the Bayer

in Berkeley in the 60s but I don’t know

if you know how it’s taken it it smoked

the freebase is smoked and when you do

it that way it’s astonishing it’s


but it’s also very short you know only

lasts maybe 20 minutes at the outside

and it’s very hard to bring anything

back from it other than the fact that

yeah it was astonishing and amazing and

moving but you can’t say much more about

it and so we we had this idea that if we

could spend a longer time in that

dimension we might be able to learn more

about it and bring more information back

that was useful so when we had learned

about when we stumbled on this paper by

our Ixchel teas who was the famous

harvard ethno botanist well-known and in

those circles is kind of the father of


and the world’s expert at the time on

hallucinogenic plants we stumbled on

this paper that he wrote called the rola


orally active howís Imogen and Verona is

a genus of trees in the Nutmeg family

not that that matters but in a genus of

trees that they extract the the the SAP

essentially they extract the SAP from

these trees which are loaded with DMT

and five methoxy DMT and in some tribes

like the yanomamö tribe they prepare

them as snuffs so they you know they

gripe they pout they dry the the resins

down they drive the SAP down mix it with

ashes powder it and they take it as a

snuff this other preparation was not

that it was it was it was made from rola

resin but instead of powdering it into a

fine powder they actually made a paste

out of it which was which was then

orally ingested in the form of little

little pills or little bonuses of this

sticky resin now the reason that’s

important is the DMT is not orally

active you have to which is why you have

to take it as a snuff or in the case of

synthetic DMT it’s usually smoked in a

freebase form because if you take it

orally it’s destroyed by enzymes in the

gut called monoamine oxidase inhibitors

and these are there in order to protect

from exactly this kind of thing you know

toxic amines in the diet it’s probably

an evolutionary reflection of that that

that has grown up but if you go around

the gut if you take it as a snuff for

you taking it by smoking it it doesn’t

go through that so it’s active but it’s

still very short acting so the oral

activity prolongs it because you’ve got

you change what they call the

pharmacokinetics of it it takes instead

of 10 or 15 minutes it takes four or

five hours to

– you know to metabolize so it’s a very

different experience and and much more

you know much more of a learning

experience in some way and that’s the

basis of ayahuasca that’s the basic

formulation of ayahuasca is a

combination of two plants one of which

contains DMT the other contains a group

of alkaloids called beta-carboline that

are very strong inhibitors of this

enzyme monoamine oxidase so if you boil

these two things up together and take it

it becomes a little it becomes a strong

hallucinogenic brew if you if you took

the DMT plant by itself and drank it

nothing would happen because it would be

destroyed by Mao so I mean have you have

you ever questioned your sanity at all

through this I mean I know that some of

these experiences are pretty intense all

the time some would say I’m I’m wacko

now but yeah I mean I guess if you mean

during the experiences yeah yeah


there are moments when you begin to

wonder if you’re losing it for sure if

they’re if they’re extremely intense I

have at times but you know as you do it

you sort of get a little more accustomed

to it even though even though the

experiences are astonishing and very

intense you do you know you learn you

learn to navigate in the territory and

you kind of know what to what to expect

you know so you’re the focus rarely

becomes on you know the two the two

major concerns one am I going to am I

ever coming back and two am I going to


you know and well so far so good

it’s I have neither died nor lost it

completely and you know there there are

things you can do to kind of keep your

Center I guess keep your balance in

these altered states and experience

helps you know IIIi don’t know exactly

if your audience is is sophisticated

about psychedelics are knowledgeable

about it or not so I would say they are

okay that’s good

so so so they will they will know about

they will know about the importance of

sentence setting right yes and the M dos

there are basically three key variables

with psychedelics set setting and dose

and the setting is is the setting it’s

it’s where you do it the circumstances

that you that you do it under and you

know to assure a good outcome of a trip

you have to pay a lot of attention to

the right setting once you have the

setting appropriate you know and

depending on what you want it could be

various things but you know the

important thing is that there be a

structure to it and I think that’s

that’s really an important aspect of the

role of ritual in in these experiences

it helps guide it it helps it provides a

you know a context in which it can

happen I mean you you can take

psychedelics outside of a group setting

you can take it without a shaman all

these things you can just lock yourself

in a room and do it by yourself and

that’s fine but that’s gonna be a

different kind of experience than if

it’s a if it takes place in a ritual

context with music and with the shaman

sort of guiding the situation so setting

is important and then the set is the

other important variable and that’s

that’s basically what you bring to it

who you are every

thing you’ve learned up to that point

what you expect to get out of this your

intention for taking it you know it

calls for some some introspection and

some thinking about why am I doing this

and and what are what what benefit do I

hope to you know realize from having

this experience and of course the more

you know about virtually everything the

more you will get out of it you know

kind of just like any other experience

you know that the more you know the

richer the richer life is so you know my

brother told me for example before I had

taken LSD said wait until you have read

psychology and alchemy by CG young

before you take LSD

you know you’ll learn a lot more you’ll

appreciate a lot more if you’ve read

that book well of course I ignored him I

mean I took LSD you know but later I

read psychology and now Camille I I

could see what he was saying you know I

mean it made a certain amount of sense

if you haven’t read that book it’s it’s

well worth looking into it’s it’s it’s

really a very psychedelic book yeah yeah

you know there’s there’s kind of an

interesting relationship between you and

your brother kind of a rivalry I mean

would you say that there is it seemed

like at the beginning of it he kind of

tormented you a lot I mean you wrote

about this in your book yes well I don’t

think any more than other siblings do I

mean siblings you know we were we were

just far enough apart actually it’s

probably good we were four years apart

in age you know so we were so close that

we were constantly together or

constantly in competition but it did

happen I don’t think that our sibling

rivalries were any worse than anybody

else’s I I think it’s a totally normal

thing his

creativity of imagination you know in

terms of thinking of exotic and novel

ways to make my life miserable that may

have been a little different than most

normal people he was very creative that

way you know but but I got I got my my

hits in too you know I I mean I don’t

know if you have if you’ve had seemed

siblings if you have a younger brother

you probably know how this goes on you

know so yeah that was that was early odd

but then later you know we sort of

evolved out of all that and we became

friends and and colleagues really and

sort of fellow explorers on this path

you know terrence introduced me up to a

lot of these things but i wasn’t only a

follower you know I brought my own sort

of chops to it and and that was that was

really a big factor in terms of I think

our you know our evolving beyond this

this simple sibling rivalry you know was

the fact that he found he found that I

was into some cool stuff too it wasn’t

just him and he could appreciate it and

I could certainly appreciate what he was

doing so we we discovered mutual

interests and and this all happened you

know around the time that I was you know

in our you know maybe the period from

the time that I was about eight to

twelve or so and then when I was twelve

Terrence left you know he was he

finished high school in California so

you know much of my life I was

essentially an only child with you know

my brother on the west coast and oddly

enough when he was on the west coast you

know we got along a lot better

I mean it it you know it worked out that

way was there was there ever something

that you felt like Terrence just

couldn’t understand or anything that he

challenged got challenged with in what

you know in regards you know in regards

to I don’t know psychedelics or just

something that he was maybe working on

that he felt that he just didn’t

couldn’t get a grasp on well I guess the

one thing maybe that that would fit that

his you know when when we came back from

LA era he he at Lotterer he was

downloaded or uh you know channeled this

whole idea about the time wave which you

know if there was an artifact of any

kind or an insight or a discovery that

came out of our misadventure a lot sure

era the time wave was certainly one of

those things and it was a mathematical

system based on the each King that

purported to describe the structure of

time yeah he was getting into novelty

theory and time we zero there all of all

of those things you know and later in

life when he was working on this I think

he you know I mean I in some ways I’m a

critic of the time Wi-Fi I was always

very skeptical about it whether it

really described those things whether

you even could describe those things I

was willing to accept the premise that

you know the basic premise that time did

have a structure and that novelty does

exist a bit aggresses you know into

reality this is this is pure white heady

in metaphysics basically I disagreed

with him

that I think the basic idea was sound

but I disagreed with him that the notion

that the time wave really described the

structure of time and that you know

given that it could be used to predict

events and as it turned out it wasn’t

you know it wasn’t so good for that

nothing really happened in 2012 nothing

really happened in 2012 and and 2012 was

just one of several dates that was the

whole conundrum with the time wave zero

how do you lay those that energy wave

across time where do you postulate the

beginning and the end point it’s hard to

know there’s no mathematical way to

evaluate novelty and this was an attempt

to do that but my criticism of his

approach was that it was always based on

just subjective interpretation you know

I mean I had to two problems with the

time wave one was he was the only person

who could who could interpret it right

because because the interpretation was

subjective and he was unable to state

what would disprove it you know what

would be the the criterion or the piece

of evidence that would completely sort

of invalidate the theory and he would

never go there he would never he was

unable to define it and theories if if

they want to you know if they want to

qualify for that name a theory has to

state what disproves it what what will

overturn it or at least not you know in

science which is kind of the game we’re

playing here you know you never prove

theories you can only disprove them you

know there’s no because theories are not

settled matters I mean if you look at

cosmology for example or physics you

know Einstein’s theories of relativity

are pretty accepted

they are they come as close you know as

possible to approve in theory and left

and the scientific community that thinks

about these things is pretty comfortable

with Einstein’s general a special theory

of relativity but you always have to

keep the door open that next week or

tomorrow or a hundred years from now

we’ll make a discovery that will

completely overturn those theories you

know or make it necessary to modify them

in a radical way so that they’re not

really those theories anymore

that science is it’s best you know

science develops theories they develop

models and hypotheses about the way the

world works about certain phenomena and

then if it’s honest with itself which

you know it often is because science is

a whole lot of things it doesn’t it

doesn’t happen in a pure vacuum as

perhaps ideally it should but assuming

that it does so science develops models

it develops hypotheses and then and then

you try like hell to disprove them you

know that’s the way it works you try to

say what does this theory not explain

mm-hmm and that was the problem with the

time wave he could not articulate what

would invalidate the theory so it’s not

a theory it is it’s an idea it’s a model

but is the model supported by evidence

probably not you know and and eventually

you know I mean there were various you

know ways that you could examine the

theory to try to figure out if there was

something there but a lot of it in him

in his case had to do with the endpoint

and finally he got around to defining

this endpoint as December 21st 2012 for

various reasons it wasn’t only that it

happened to coincide with the end of the

Mayan calendar

I mean that was that actually came a bit

later after he had postulated an

endpoint close to that date but not

exactly that date so you know after

looking at cycles of multiple billions

of years he figured well you know we’re

within a few days of this very important

date so let’s you know that’s a probably

it right the Mayans had this intuition

from a completely different perspective

you know but as we now know three years

later actually not much happened on

December 21st 2012 yeah

much to everyone’s disappointment you

know I mean I I was hoping believe me

but I wasn’t really expecting much what

did you what did you think would happen

I mean what would you call that all the

speculations you know I mean if you just

base it on the time way the idea was

that this ingression of novelty you know

into the continuum of would just

accelerate to a point where you actually

where the density of novelty was was so

high that you were essentially in a

singularity you know we we didn’t know

what would happen it would be some sort

of collapse really of the space-time

continuum it’s it’s it’s what happened

when when you come to the end of time I

mean you know but who knows cuz well

it’s never it’s never happened yeah and

in that sense it probably never will

happen so you know it was it’s very

difficult to predict the end of the

world you know it’s almost always you’re

gonna be disappointed or if you do or if

you do don’t give a specific date well

is it open as possible yeah exactly and

in that sense in that sense I think that

the theory is valid in a certain sense I

think you don’t need the time wave I

think we all share a certain sense that

things are accelerating and they’re

getting stranger and stranger

and you know I mean all you have to do

is look around you know and if you try

and think back how the world is today

versus how it was even even 10 or 15

years ago things are much stranger and

they do you know events do seem to be

accelerating now whatever that means

whether that’s an effect of the internet

and the instantaneous communication that

we have whether you know the global

network is is in some way you know

becoming conscious is is waking up to

itself that was that was one of the

scenarios that we tossed around as to

what happened

maybe that’s happening you know I don’t

know I don’t know I I do think in a

sense that you know in broad conception

overall the theory was right in that you

know this the novelty the density of

novelty is increasing but to you know to

to tie it to a specific date I think

that was an error and it doesn’t work

that way novelty does not ingress into

the continuum in that way you know there

are events which are certainly novel and

Terence was fond of talking about you

know the example was the detonation of

the atomic bomb over Hiroshima

that was certainly a novel event but

what about all the events that had to

happen in order to lead up to that they

were much quieter but they were key

events ranging from the you know the

point when Einstein thinking about the

nature of space-time and and so on

thought up the equations that that

postulated that it would be possible to

build an atomic bomb or something like

that convert matter into energy and then

all the research with the Manhattan

Project the research on

on nuclear fission that went on with

Oppenheimer and Fermi s group in Chicago

these were all novel events too but

nobody noticed because they were

happening in the background and then

when the bomb finally exploded that was

the novel event but you know it was

certainly a novel event but it wasn’t

the novel of him so his idea was that

the novelty kind of explodes into

history you know and and my idea is sort

of that it leaks into history and you

know nobody notices until until you go

down and the basement is flooded do you

know that kind of thing if that makes

sense yeah yeah it really does you know

your your experiment up Lohr era was

probably the one of the most interesting

things I’ve ever read can you get a

little bit more into that I mean you’re

trying to create a fourth dimensional

superconductive thing with mushrooms and

ayahuasca and other things how does that

occur how does that occur well you know

you’re you’re going into an area where

it’s difficult to discuss it and not

that I don’t want to discuss it but

that’s one reason that I wrote my book

was so that I wouldn’t have to keep

explaining okay because it’s hard to

explain it it’s hard to reconstruct it

because it was so confusing at the time

you know and and so I wrote the book so

that I would have a an opportunity to

sit down without people having any

expectation and explain to myself what

happened or reflect on it and try to

unpack it and split it you know and so I

have like they’re about three or four

chapters in the book that is basically

about all of that stuff because you know

there’s no doubt that our trip to Luxur

and our attempt to do this thing

whatever it was was a pivotal occurrence

in both of our life

Sabine I mean Terrence and my life in

some way can be defined as prelature era

and post luxury Wow and we were only 20

I was 20 he was 24 when he went to watch

your era so most of it has been post

luxury era and a lot of it has been

reflecting on you know I mean our lives

have been lived out in the light of that

just very peculiar adventure that

experience that we that we sort of you

know we got in way over our heads I mean

I mean we had no idea really what we

were getting into you know so I I don’t

want to get into it because it’s hard

it’s hard to explain people have to read

the book yeah we’ll just we’ll just get

people to go read the book yeah yeah I

mean why but why why the Brotherhood of

the screaming abyss where’d that come


all that I can tell you well the

Brotherhood of the screaming abyss

harkens back to our common interest in

science fiction when we were teenagers

and one of the writers that we were

fascinated by was HP Lovecraft and I

don’t know if you’re familiar with

Lovecraft but he was a horror writer and

that in the 20s and he was always

talking about you know the the you know

the the the Unspeakables gibbering

horrors from beyond the stars and and

all this stuff you know I mean I mean

the beauty of and the genius of

Lovecraft is that he wrote this

extremely scary science fiction novels

science fiction horror I mean I would

say he’s probably that the inventor of

that genre a science fiction horror and

a lot of it was about aliens and other

dimensions and all that but it was

always you know the gibbering abysus of

cosmic space he never actually described

very clearly what these things were he

left that to your imagination you know

but so when we were when we were going

to South America

in quest of in quest of this secret you

know which we thought was this exotic

Watoto hallucinogen but actually there

was a secret but that wasn’t it you know

as we found out later but we we

described ourselves as the Brotherhood

of the screaming abyss basically and in

in in a nod to HP Lovecraft it was it

was tongue in cheek right I mean we we

didn’t really take it that seriously but

we I mean we took it seriously but we

also had a certain sense of humor about

it and that was that was it

do you think do you think the 21st

century needs people like Terence

Mckenna figure a figure heading this

movement the psychedelic movement well

obviously not you know because he’s been

gone for 15 years you know which is

amazing when I stopped to reflect on

that it was 15 years ago this month that

he passed on you know and the

psychedelic movement is more active and

vibrant today than it ever was in his

day you know but I would say also that

it it does need Terence

and it has Terence you know I mean he’s

got this he’s achieved this kind of

immortality you know with all of his

writings and all of his talks on the web

and so on they’re all still out there

and and there is timely today as they

ever were that’s the amazing thing I get

so many young people telling me how much

of an influence on their thinking that

he was you know and they always say oh

and you too of course

but actually it’s Terence you know it’s

just five he woke up a lot of young

people and still does because because he

was you know he was really at the height

of his career

like in the early 90s maybe 92 93 94 he

was really out there a lot of the folks

that come up to me or people that sign

up for my classes they were you know

they were they were in diapers at that

point you know but or you know quite

young so as they grew up and became

adolescence and then young young adults

they discovered Terrence’s ideas and

writings and they were influential on on

them and and so many people have told me

you know ever I feel like everything

I’ve learned I owe to Terence so so

that’s a wonderful thing

yeah yeah this is this is kind of a big

question and if if at all possible in

could you put into words what is what is

your belief about the shape or truth of

our reality well you know I can always

take the scientific cop-out you know

which is which is you know always a safe

place to retreat to when you don’t know

the answer but the answer is we don’t

know the answer you know I mean science

is great because you can always say well

you know we could suspend judgment and

that is the the essence of the

scientific stamps you can always say we

do not have enough data to really answer

this question more data you know more

data is needed to resolve this question

and of course in the way that science is

practiced these days you quickly follow

up oh yes we need more data and and by

the way we need more funding and we need

you know all the things that science

runs on these days but it’s okay to say

that we have an incomplete picture of

reality you know which we do if you just

looked around science is very very good

at dissecting and defining very small

segments of reality but it’s not so good

at putting everything together into a

whole picture

a coherent picture of reality and then

you have the problem also which is one

thing that psychedelics certainly teach

you they they teach you a lot of things

but one thing they clearly teach you is

that really we are immersed in the

hallucination all the time

you know if consciousness itself is a

reflection of a neurochemical brain

state of some kind and you know is it

real is is what we see on psychedelics

real versus what we see in quote-unquote

normal consciousness real I think

neither one is that real you know both

of them are aspects of this model of

reality that we create that our brain

creates and it’s it’s necessary for it

to do that otherwise we you know it

would be a bloomin buzzing confusion a

lot of what the brain does is it takes

the raw data muff experience you know

which which physics tells us if we

believe our instruments that external

reality doesn’t look anything like we

experience reality everything is energy

and vibrations of you know it’s a

quantum it’s a it’s it’s a quantum state

well that’s not how we experience

reality most of the time you know most

of the time even on psychedelics reality

has a certain coherence to it so I think

the answer is again the answer is we

don’t totally know but I I think that

very much the you know the the we we

live inside of a hallucination that our

brains create or you know we’re the

producers directors and the stars of our

own movie you know and we call it the

reality story and everyone has their own

but they’re close enough that you know

there’s something called consensus

reality but

you know it’s still a collective

hallucination in some ways nobody knows

what the fundamental nature of reality

is because whatever it is whatever comes

to us from the outside comes to us

through this sensory neural gated system

if you will its filtered and it makes


I mean it’s filtered and and

reconstructed so that it does make sense

this is a lot of what the brain does hmm

am I making sense yeah yeah absolutely

yeah I mean so this is this is you know

this is one reason psychedelics are so

interested and and particularly DMT I

think because in certain cases DMT kind

of lets you step out of that framework

and you get to look at reality in in the

raw if you will it’s like you can it’s

like you can turn the circuit board over

you know and see how this thing is wired

this reality machine you know and then

and you see oh okay this is how it works


normally you don’t get to do that you

don’t get to look at the nuts and bolts

of it so DMT gives you a few minutes

where you can actually look at reality

unfiltered which is why it’s so you know

so overwhelming and so fascinating you

can actually see the machinery that’s

generating this reality hallucinate

should you do you think that these

shamanic type experiences hallucinations

have an objective reality do they kind

of coincide with what we experience here

I think that this is the $64,000

question I think that we cannot really

answer that question and and I’m not

even sure it’s the right question you

know in other words when you start

bandying about these terms like is it

real is it not real is it inside is it


and are there other dimensions that you

can access or is this all just a

hallucination you know these are all

charged terms and they encourage fuzzy

thinking I mean I’m not sure it’s

possible to think clearly about those

four for me to say well okay you take

ayahuasca and I see you know these

places these entities of all that and

people say well it’s just a

hallucination or is this just a

hallucination and the key word there is

just right because what’s implied there

is well if it’s just a hallucination it

has no value and it has no reality right

but I submit to you that what we

experience in normal waking

consciousness that’s also just a

hallucination you know it but it is but

you know we need to get the word just

out of it because yes it’s a

hallucination it is what it is it does

have value it’s something you experience

so you know this is basically this is

phenomenology which says you know we

take phenomena on their on their face

you know there may be nothing behind a

phenomenon but we experience so you know

a shaman goes into these altered states

encounters all of these entities and and

gets information and travels in these

worlds and so on and for that person he

he entered he or she interacts with

those entities in those places as though

they were real you know and so they may

as well be real right I mean that that’s

the that’s the thing you know if it

looks like a duck and walks like a duck

and quacks like a duck it’s it’s

probably a duck you know and it’s that

idea doesn’t really

provide any perspective on it to say

well it’s just a hallucination because

every moment of waking consciousness is

a dream it is a hallucination do you

think that culturally we are moving

towards a better attitude towards

psychedelic compounds oh yeah I don’t

think there’s any question that we are I

mean what’s happened in the last five

years for various reasons I think both

scientific discoveries and you know the

rising popularity of ayahuasca the whole

ayahuasca tourism thing the media the

fact that you know good science is being

done on on some of these compounds and

we’re seeing that they do have benefits

you know I mean they they have benefits

in the medical sense that can satisfy

you know the hardest knows more most

reductionist person who may not be

sympathetic to you know all this wolf

stuff but it’s hard to argue that okay

this person took psilocybin and you know

stopped smoking there or something like

that and there’s evidence accumulating

that they have definite benefits for

people and so so that’s kind of the

admission price if if psychedelics are

going to be respectable you’ve got to

show that they’re good for something you

know not just to have you know these

experiences again that there’s nothing

wrong with those experience that’s

that’s a reflection of our culture’s

tendency to devalue these things to say

well there’s there’s no legitimacy

there’s no value in an inner experience

you know now of course Eastern the

Eastern mind Eastern philosophy would

say there is nothing but inner

experience and you know but I think in

the West I think if you can say these

these compounds have uses they have

applications they can be used to treat

PTSD they can be used to interrupt a


they can be used for you know and help

people with existential anxiety at the

end of life all of these different

medical applications that we’re seeing

emerge so then it’s like okay well

they’re respectable they’re it’s okay

they’re not so terrible you know and in

the meantime we’ve you know a lot of the

reason this is coming out is because

we’ve had you know 40 years to get used

to them 40 years to learn about that

well since they you know I mean even

longer but but in the sense that you

know there was a big backlash against

them at the end of the 60s and nobody

knew what they were they were complete

and they were completely terrifying so

to the governments and the reason they

were terrifying to the governments is

that they didn’t understand them and

people would take them and they would

have all these unconventional ideas you

know which governments don’t like like

maybe I don’t want to spend the rest of

my life working in a cubicle for example

or maybe I don’t want to go over to

Vietnam and kill these people you know

why should I so psychedelics were

dangerous in that era and they still are

for much the same reason you know not

that they’re dangerous drugs they give

you dangerous ideas and ideas that don’t

conform with the you know the accepted

norms of what’s what are always

threatening to government’s institutions

governments and religions especially I

would say and you know it was it was the

the impulse to control and try and stuff

the genie back in the box in the bottle

that led to this prohibition it was a

kind of a yeah I mean it was unfortunate

because it also shut down all the

research that was going on at that time

which was quite promising so you know

then it took 30 or 40 years to circle

all the way back and see this research

activated yeah now that’s happening so

yeah I think that attitudes societal

attitudes are definitely much more

positive these days yeah I know you’re

connected with the Hector Research

Institute and the there’s the Maps

Institute which is they’re both making

large progress in this realm I mean

we’re we’re approaching the end here and

so I’ve got an interesting question I

mean is there is there anything that you

would kind of go back in time and tell

your younger self

well tell my younger self oh gosh I

don’t know it’s hard to know that’s a

tough one

I’m not sure no I I don’t really have I

don’t really have regrets I guess if I

was gonna tell myself my younger self

anything I would I would say in terms of

my academic and professional interests

you know it sounds odd for me to say it

but I would say be more specialized you

know one of my problem is as an academic

is I’m so interdisciplinary that I don’t

fit in anywhere and you know I’ve worked

in neuroscience and I’ve done postdocs

in neuroscience but then the question is

well you’re a botanist what are you

doing in neuroscience and then the

botanist say well you know you’re a

pharmacologist what are you doing in

botany and so in a way my interests have

been so diverse that I have never really

specialized but in some ways I feel like

maybe I could have been more effective

if I had specialized if I become a

medicinal chemist or a psychiatrist or

something like that

maybe I didn’t have the discipline to go

through that and and and reach those

points but I mean it’s a tricky thing I

you know I have friends I have

colleagues in the Heffner Institute and

elsewhere who you know they have gone


that they have but they’ve always kept

their interest in psychedelics kind of

on the back burners but they never lose

it you know but to go through these

professions and acquire the you know the

professional status that you have to

have you know institutions do their best

to brainwash you and you know by the

time you get through it you’ve forgotten

about why you start you know you’ve

forgotten about the motivations that led

you to undertake this and and then you

know you’re just boring and it hasn’t

happened to be but it hasn’t it hasn’t

been good for my professional

advancement either particularly so but I

you know I have no regrets I I feel

privileged to be part of the Hefner

Institute and I worked with great

colleagues so you know life is what it

is I appreciate that answer what what so

what does the future hold for you sir I

mean what is there any new project or

avenues of research that you’re kind of

getting into yeah

various things I have been doing a lot

of retreats in South America lately with

ayahuasca where I basically I work with

the center there yeah that it’s it’s not

an ayahuasca center exactly but I mean

they do other things as well it’s kind

of a tourist Lodge kind of thing but

they do do they allow ayahuasca retreats

maybe once or twice a year and I’ve

found a shaman that they introduced me

to that I really like this guy and I

like working with them so I’ve been

bringing people down there to have these

retreats and it’s very interesting and

rewarding to see people come down and

have these amazing transformative

experiences and the

Impulse be the scientist my impulse is

well that that would be enough but being

a scientist my impulses let’s do some

science around this let’s do some some

clinical studies the thing with

ayahuasca is you you know for various

reasons you you probably are not going

to see clinical studies with ayahuasca

done in the States because it doesn’t

fit into the paradigm you could do it

with MDMA you could do it with suicide

band you can do these things they the

FDA is okay with synthetic substances

they’re not so receptive to plant

preparations and ayahuasca is

quintessentially an herbal medicine so

it’s hard to do clinical studies in the

States for various reasons because of

this I mean for one thing there’s you

know it’s it’s the same Kevin Durham

that faces cannabis research there is no

authorized source of ayahuasca you know

there isn’t a government licensed

ayahuasca grower you know so you can’t

get the material you know and it’s kind

of like cannabis where you know the only

legitimate source of cannabis medicine

is is National Institute on Drug Abuse

they control the supply for clinical

studies and generally the weed that they

have is pretty much garbage you know so

it’s hard to carry out you know a good

study and what I’ve been saying is well

why do we need to work within that fda

box why don’t we just go to Peru and do

these clinical studies so in the in the

future and probably in the fairly near

future that’s what we’re going to do we

have a perfect venue to do it we have a

very good practitioner we have

connections with medical people in Peru

and also we’ve got hefter and all that

so I think we’re going to do some

clinical studies down there in the next

few years you know one of the problems

is what are we going to screen for what


what are we going to look to treat yeah

and of the spectrum of possible

you know therapeutic targets and there

is no ideal one you know it’s hard to

decide is it going to be addiction is it

going to be

PTSD is it going to be you know hospice

end-of-life I mean these are what

Hefner’s investigating now but how do

you shift that down to Peru and and do a

different medicine and is it even

necessary you know so yes we’ll see how

it out what the outcome is in a couple

of years well mr. McKenna I really

appreciate you making the time where can

people find your work they can buy the

book off Amazon brother you know the

Brotherhood of the screaming abyss and

then they have a website of the same

name without the be so just Brotherhood

of the screaming at viscom you can order

the book there and and give a signed

copy so that’s that’s useful I don’t

charge for the signature yeah you can

just order the book from there or you

can get it off Amazon I have to my

inventory on Amazon is getting low I

intend to send another bunch to them so

there should be there should be plenty

on Amazon that those two things are the

easiest way to to get my book and the

rest of it is just out there you know

put my name into YouTube and all kinds

of stuff comes up well you heard it here

guys thank you so much for listening

this is the human experience my name is

Xavier and my guest mr. Dennis McKenna

thank you so much for being here Dennis

it was a pleasure we will see you guys

next week Thanks

Share Button