NOW SERVING Psychedelic Culture

We Don’t Know Sh!t | Dennis McKenna ~ ATTMind 67

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Few people in history manage to make their way to the status of cultural legend.

Among them, I propose, at least in the psychedelic culture, is Terence McKenna. The man who, according to writer and modern-mystic James Oroc, helped keep the psychedelic culture alive during the major acid drought of the 1990s by bringing our attention to the transdimensional potential of plant psychedelics.

During his heyday, Terence played no small part in the popularising of DMT, ayahuasca, and psilocybin mushrooms. This is an attribution that stays strong even today, 17  years after his death. His ideas, his voice, and his influence are still palpable through the thousands of hours of McKenna’s recorded talks online. His eloquent and engaging stories of deep jungle journeys, machine elves in hyperspace, and encounters with unimaginable novelty as well as his philosophies on culture, realty, and the nature of mind has ascended him to legend status. But a legend is never the truth. It always obscures the facts in favour of fancy.

How do we discover the truth when the man of legend is dead? Well, we could start by asking his brother, Dennis.

Terence was a trailblazer, but not exclusively on his own. The legend of Terence McKenna is really the legend of the McKenna brothers. Together, both of them went down to la chorerra in search of plant psychedelic, both of contributed to the widespread availability of psilocybin mushrooms through the development of home cultivation techniques, both of them went on to dedicate their lives to the study of psychedelics.

The thing is, while Terence got on a stage and gathered crowds, Dennis buried himself in academia; while Terence was waxing poetic on philosophical implications of DMT, Dennis was doing ethnobotanical research on DMT containing plants and biomedical research on the physiological effects of ayahuasca; while Terence was selling out speaking events, Dennis was publishing peer-reviewed research papers. Terence sadly died in 2000, Dennis is still with us, and is in fact, with us directly on this episode of Adventures Through The Mind.

Ep 67 PROMO photo
Dennis McKenna

Formally, Dennis Jon McKenna (born December 17, 1950 in Paonia, Colorado) is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer and author. He is a founding board member and the director of ethnopharmacology at the Heffter Research Institute, a non-profit organization concerned with the investigation of the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic medicines.

McKenna received his Master’s degree in botany at the University of Hawaii in 1979. He received his doctorate in botanical sciences in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where he wrote a dissertation entitled Monoamine oxidase inhibitors in Amazonian hallucinogenic plants: ethnobotanical, phytochemical, and pharmacological investigations. McKenna then received post-doctoral research fellowships in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, and in the Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine.

He is one of the founding contributors to the modern wave of ayahuasca research in particular, and psychedelic research in general. In fact, the book Magic Mushrooms grower’s guide, which he co-authored with his brother Terence in the 70s, presented the first reliable method for cultivating psilocybin mushrooms at home.

Chances are if it wasn’t for Dennis and his brother, none of us would have ever tasted the magic at all.

It was an absolute honour to talk with him. Enjoy.


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Episode Breakdown

  • The early years: developing the magic mushroom growers guide.
  • The limitations of the biomedical model for psychedelic research
  • The encounter and emergence of psychedelics in the culture of the 60 impact – dangerous
  • How and why Dennis and Terence got into psychedelics.
  • The McKenna journey early journey, from the jungle to the university.
  • What it was like to travel into the jungle for ayahuasca during the early years, before the tourist boom, compared to today.
  • The danger of the cults and power hunger within ayahuasca culture.
  • The role of psychedelics in the modern plight of humanity.
  • The moral dimension of psychedelic technology.
  • Plant intelligence and mycelial brain of the forest (no?)
  • Plant/mammal symbiotic co-evolution.
  • Psychedelic spiritually is cheating?
  • On Terence
    • Beyond the legend. The man, the brother.
    • How Terence privately feel about the time wave?
    • Did he stop taking mushrooms?
    • The challenges of being a psychedelic celebrity
    • How does it feel to watch Terence being torn down by his critics?
    • Did Terence work for the CIA?
    • Dennis favourite story of his brother
  • The difference between Microdosing LSD and psilocybin
  • The possible dangers of microdosing LSD?
  • Cultural implications of microdosing vs macrodosing.
  • Suggestion and cautions in choosing to guide others in psychedelic experience.
  • What psychedelic is Dennis still taking?
  • You don’t know shit.
  • If he were to die tomorrow, what piece of advice would he offer us?

Related Links 

Follow Dennis on Facebook
The Brotherhood Of The Screaming Abyss

Dennis’ book on his journey with Terence.

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (ESPD50)

This is the conference Dennis was speaking about. On that page, you can see full details about the conference and buy the limited edition printed editions mention. Videos can be found here.

The Hefftner Research Centre 

Advancing studies on psilocybin for cancer distress and addiction with the highest standards of scientific research. (Article regarding possible heart health dangers of microdosing LSD)


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