Terence McKenna, Psychedelics, Psilocybin Mushrooms, DMT, Carl Jung, Culture, Drugs & Society
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So who are you? And what do you best known for?
Dennis McKenna 5:57
I'm probably best known for being Terence McKenna, his younger brother. I mean, honestly, you know, and I wrote this book, really heavy the subtitle is my life with Terence McKenna. But Terence has been gone for 23 years, which makes me you know, is kind of sobering when you look back on that it's been so long. On the other hand, he's still very much part of the cultural conversation. He's achieved this certain immortality, the cyber immortality of the web, you know, I mean, his stuff is all over YouTube. And, and even though a lot of that was from Knight, the mid 90s, it's still very timely, you know, because he was a guy that was very much ahead of his time, and very much focused on the future. So that's our association, but then I went on, I mean, I have had my own career in what you might call ethno pharmacology, and I investigated ayahuasca, I conducted a biomedical. Why is that coming down? I conducted a biomedical research project on Ayahuasca in the early 90s, with the UDV. And my thesis. My thesis work at the University of British Columbia focused on Iosco and another very obscure psychedelic that few people have heard of Uchu Hey, they more people have heard of it now, because I've talked about it. It's another orally active form of DMT, but comes from completely different plant sources. And, you know, Ayahuasca is made from a combination of Banisteriopsis and Psychotria for reverse Chuck cruda. So it's a it's orally, it's DMT potentiate it by beta carb leads and Uchu. Hey, in my investigations, the question was, what are the central questions was, is that the same? Is that the same mechanism because we're Rola is the main ingredient of Uchu. Hey, which is used by the with Toto and it's a dying tradition. I mean, it's not that a popular thing at all. I have watched his like, you know, global superstar now. Nobody's ever heard of a coup. Hey, except a few ethno pharmacologists. And like I say, other people. But anyway, for Rola is used as snuffs and different parts of the Amazon primarily by the yellow mummy. And the reason for that is that, you know, snuffs don't have this issue about oral activity, you know, they've been parentally taken. So this was interesting. Uchu he was interesting to me when I was doing my research, because it's another tryptamine containing plant, you know, preparation, but from completely different botanical sources. So the central sort of hypothesis, if you could call it that, of the research of my research is, is it the same mechanism? In other words, is there beta carbon lanes in Kouhei, that are similar to those in in, in Iosco is that the basis of a mechanism? And it turns out, it's not so clear that it is the say, you know, there are very few beta carboline There are beta carbon leaves And then Kouhei but very trace amounts effectively and yet it is orally active. So, I never really did nailed down why that was, but I think why it was was because the the tryptamines into Kouhei are basically DMT and five methoxy DMT you know in very high amount. So, these things are you know, they are substrates for bottle I mean oxidase, but it may be that, effectively they inhibit monoamine oxidase so, they do enable it to be absorbed in the, you know, in the orally active form. That was the supposition that was what I concluded. I don't know that people are interested in those details. But anyway, that was the finding of my research. And so, yeah, so
Nick Jikomes 11:00
you're, you know, an ethno pharmacologist by profession. You're, you're the brother of the the famous or the infamous Terence McKenna. And I think many of the listeners will have some familiarity with who Terence was, but I don't think all of them will have very much will have much familiarity. So can you give a brief overview before we kind of go through your lives together in different ways of who Terence McKenna was, and what was he best known for? When was he active when he was an adult?
Dennis McKenna 11:27
Well, Terence, you know, we are famous together for, for a lot of the events early in life, which are described in the book, you know, I mean, as as you know, I was a teenager in the decade I was born in 1950. Right, so, the 60s were my adolescent years, Terrance was four years older than me, just old enough to lead me down the primrose path. And many of these ways, I don't think of it that way. He introduced me to some very interesting things. And he was that much older. And in the 60s, you know, we, you know, the 60s was an era where there was a great deal of interest in psychedelics, but there was basically LSD, there was much else occasionally, one ran across mescaline. And occasionally, very occasionally, we, you heard about DMT, but it was almost legendary. But Terence was pretty good at work in the matrix. And so he was able to get DMT. And we were both quite fascinated by that. Because it seemed to be a just an order of magnitude stranger than LSD, you know, which was plenty strange, but DMT was a whole different thing, you know. And so we were fascinated by it, and wanted to look into it further. But the, the thing with DMT, that was surprising to us, I should change my, here, nevermind. Sorry. The thing that was disappointed, not exactly disappointed, but I'd say frustrated about DMT was that it's so short, you know, like these, like five methoxy DMT, you have to smoke them, they last 15 or 20 minutes, pretty much and then they very quickly go away. And one of the issues that we had was we wanted to be in that place longer, we actually thought of it as another place accurately or not. And we were just we were frustrated, because you couldn't by the time you got into the DMT space, it was already fading. So we became interested in a longer term as some sort of, we thought an orally active form of DMT might last longer and give us more time to explore that place. And at that time, in the 68 6970 period, the pharmacology of Ayahuasca was not really well understood. You know, it wasn't understood. It was understood that there were beta Karpeles. And it wasn't really understood that the, the, you know, the admixture plants, the DMT admixture plants were the important component. This was all sort of a black box So at that point, you know, I mean, it was quickly, it was quickly elucidated around the same time, but we didn't know that at that time. So we stumbled on a paper by Richard Schultz at the famous Harvard ethnobotanist. At the name, the title of the paper was verb Rola as an orally active hallucinogen. And so, when we found out about this, when we found this article, we thought, Aha, this this is, this is the secret, we thought of it as the secret we thought this is what we need to go find, you know, and so that was the the motivation for our decision to go to South America in 1971. Looking for this Uchu Hey. And the reason we went to lunch Herrera was because LACERA was the ancestral home of the with Toto people. And they were the ones that had this thing. So it was a pretty, you know, and we just decided that there was nothing in our world more important than that. That's what we wanted to do. So we basically quit our jobs that we had jobs.
Nick Jikomes 16:23
Actually, Dennis, I think that's a that's actually a perfect teaser for where I want to go, which is exactly where you're going right now. Before we get there. I do want to back up and talk about some of your earlier years with Terence. And if you could, you know, some some sector, some part of the listener base will probably not be too familiar with Terence, if you had to give someone like the 10 to 22nd elevator pitch on who Terence McKenna was, just to give them a basic idea, what would it be?
Dennis McKenna 16:54
Who he was,
Nick Jikomes 16:55
yeah, what was he famous for?
Dennis McKenna 16:58
Well, you know, we both became famous, or, you know, he became famous, he, we both became famous for, you know, this trip that we did to luxury in search of these things. And then he turned that into a career as a kind of cultural commentator, philosopher, that sort of thing. And I went towards science, you know, I mean, we came back from that experience, you know, with a different perspective. And, and I wanted to pursue the nuts and bolts of, of these things. And, and this was what led me to go into ethno pharmacology would instantly botany and chemistry of all the things related to that. Terence, as a result of the experiences that we had at LACERA, which are described in the book was all ready to reject science. You know, he was like saying, science will never explain this stuff. You know, the things that happened to us it will not, scientist is not up to the task of explaining what happened. And, and I was sort of sad. I was saying, Well, wait a minute, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. You know, science can carry us a certain distance to understand that. And at the time, we went to lecture arrow, we were not scientists. You know, I mean, we may have fancied that we were scientists, but we weren't really scientists. We were a couple of curious nerdy kids from Colorado with a fascination with psychedelics, you know. And so I wanted to look at the, at the, at the basis of the, you know, a formulation of cuckoo hay and other things. Terence rejected all that and, you know, became a spec, you know, more of a philosopher and a speculator. One of the things that have many ideas, crazy ideas, or interesting ideas that came out of LACERA was his ideas about time and he became famous for this, the time wave zero idea, and we wrote a book together in 1975, called the invisible landscape. Mind hallucinogen, some the E Ching. He came up with this. He had in the in the prolonged altered states that we have that luxury era, which actually had nothing to do with who Kouhei who Kouhei was a false hairy red herring, sort of when we when we got to LACERA in search muku Hey, what we found Oando terreiro was pastures full of mushrooms, which we had almost no experience with at the time, you know, but we knew what they were. And we got into them, you know, you've read the story. So we got into them probably a bit too much, but they quickly, you know, we started eating them a lot daily and at substantial doses, and they quickly rearranged our priorities, you know, in a sense, we were thinking, and we set out to look for Uchu hate when we got to lecture, we found Salafi cubensis. growing out of every cow pie in the pasture, practically it was the rainy season. So we started sorry about that, I cannot suppress that. Dammit,
Nick Jikomes 20:56
I could barely barely hear it.
Dennis McKenna 20:59
Okay. So we started eating these, and they downloaded a bunch of ideas, I guess you could say about things we could do, you know, a biophysical experience. Experiment, we call that the experiment at launch, where it was really an experiment that didn't have the kind of, you know, ethic probably shouldn't be called the, the, the ritual LACERA more than the experience of the experiment at Lotteria. But anyway, we consume these mushrooms in great quantities have it downloaded a whole bunch of crazy ideas about things that we could do, based on the imitation of a sound in our heads, that we could hear at high doses of mushrooms, and people can read about that, I don't really want to delve into it too much. Because I've, I've talked about it a lot. But the and, you know, you can look on the McKenna Academy website, or, you know, there are various places that you can, the mechanic Atomy website, we actually did a retrospective on luxury era in 2021. So people can explore that. You know, McKenna Academy, McKenna dot Academy, they can explore that, anyway, to bring the thread back. So we came back with a lot of crazy ideas, you know, or a lot of interesting ideas, possibly crazy as well. But one of those was Terence, his ideas about time. And the idea, you know, the ideas that he later developed into the time wave theory that this mathematical treatment of the E chain, the kernel of those ideas came out of our experiences at LACERA. And then he actually spent decades kind of developing and building on this idea that the time wave as he constructed, it was really a map of the texture of time, and could be used to predict the future. And the past could be could be laid across. And it was it was the presumption was the hypothesis was the this theory, describe the aggression of novelty into the continuum, the idea that there are actually new things under the sun every day that there are novel events. And this time wave describe the aggression of novelty into the continuum of reality. And this idea, really is borrowed in some ways, although we didn't know it in the, in the process of, of learning to investigate it. We found out that, you know, Alfred North Whitehead, the 20th century philosopher, had had talked about this in his in his, you know, magnum opus, he wrote a lot of interesting things, but process and reality is his major work and, and so he provided a framework for our ideas, the idea that you can, that novelty does ingress into the continuum and what the tidal wave brought to that was that you could actually major measure this to a certain extent, you could quantify this, and it was a fractal and it had an end and That was the, you know, much of the discussion, subsequently over four decades almost was, when is the web this time? And when does the singularity the time is that it is a collapsing spiral, you know, it's, it's a fractal that actually comes to an end and much of the discussion in sort of cultural meme sphere where these these ideas were being talked about, there was a group called the novelty group, much of the discussion is about when when is tide going to end. And there were, in the course of sorting out these ideas, there were various endpoints postulated. But eventually he settled on December 21 2020 12, as being the the end date for the for the appearance of singularity, whatever that was, and the collapse of the space time continuum, or they transition to some other type of, you know, state of reality. And coincidentally or not, I think it was only partly coincidentally, but it was that happened to be a very important date in the Mayan calendar, some have said, you know, and there was a lot of discussion about December 21 2012, because it's the end of a major cycle in, in the Mayan calendar. And it was only later that we have that, you know, this came to light. But when that piece of data came surface, then tariffs, you know, settled on December 21 2012, as the definitive end date, of course, he did not live to see that. And, and we're still here, so that in some ways that disprove the theory, I mean, if there was ever, you know, it made a prediction of it failed spectacularly, you know. So, in that sense, you know, baby, this speculation, well, it was obviously incorrect, you know, if that was the criterion, I am not. I was always a speck, sort of a skeptic about the time wave, you know, and we used to have lively discussions, tariffs. You might even say, arguments, but let's call them lively discussions about the nature of novelty, and how does novelty manifest in the continuum? You know, and I was, I was, and still am open to the idea that novelty does emerge in time. You know, but but he was he was focused on that traumatic events, and I was, my perspective was novelty doesn't erupt into the continuum, you know, it leaks into the continuum. It's a slow process, which you don't even notice generally, until something happens. That's definitely novel. And one of the one of the examples of this is the first detonation of the atomic bomb. You know, I mean, Terence said, Well, I mean, that was a Novel Event, for sure. And it wasn't novel of him. But there were, there was a whole series of novel events that no one noticed that led up to that, you know, Einstein's theories of relativity, all the work that was done on nuclear fission and Chicago, by Oppenheimer and others, all of these laid the groundwork for the for, you know, the technology that led to the atomic bomb. So when the atomic bomb was eventually dedicated, detonated, yes, that was very novel. But there was a bunch of things that had to happen that to make that possible. So this was the crux of the difference in our perspective on it. And but in the end, you know, this, this eruptive novel event that was projected for December 21 2012. Didn't happen obviously, we're still here, you know, so the space time continuum. For whatever singularity was supposed to happen, did not or it happened and nobody noticed, which is unlikely. But you know, so so that was kind of the the test of the novelty theory that failed. In that respect. That's, though it was a very interesting sort of mathematical construct that, that could be, you know, applied to history. The trick was, the problem was, with the time wave was, was perpetually, if it has an end, where do you put the end point, you know, how to get an accurate
overlay of historical events, and even, you know, cosmic events, because the tidal wave, you know, really, in its larger cycles went back to the birth of the universe, but how do you accurately lay it across the span of time have known events? And Terence, his approach to this was to identify these significant historical events like, like the detonation of the atomic bomb, or the collapse of, you know, Roman civilization or whatever it might be these these very impactful events. In the end, I, one of the problems that I had with with the time wave, which, you know, maybe I'm getting into the weeds too far on this up. Yeah, I
Nick Jikomes 31:49
think, yeah, I think, you know, so you guys went a lot for and you had these incredible experiences with probably more magic mushrooms than almost anyone on earth has ever taken. And, you know, I'm actually curious into your book. So that's a lot of that stuff is first is talked about in that book that you mentioned, the invisible landscape, which you guys wrote way back in the day, you have this new book called The Brotherhood of the screaming abyss, which is about your entire life with Terrence. And you know, one of the things that actually caught my attention in the book that you mentioned, before we even got to a lot rarer stuff, is you're talking about DMT. And you said in some ways that DMT is what the book is all about. And I'm curious, when did you and Terence first encountered DMT? And what was sort of the set and setting for that? When did it happen? Where did it happen? And how did that influence you?
Dennis McKenna 32:41
Yeah, so the sudden, so Terence was living in Terence finished his last two years of high school and in the Bay Area, in Menlo Park, and he fell in with a group of what you might say, ultra nerds in a certain way, you know, very intelligent, but very weird people, you know, which is, which is exactly what he went out there for, you know, he wanted to connect with, you know, strange ideas and was fascinated with psychedelics. Anyway, through some of the people that he knew in high school, and then shortly after high school in Menlo Park, he was able to find DMT actually, Stanford Research Institute, was doing experiments with DMT at that time, and one of his close friends, had some connections to Stanford Research Institute, and was able to, you know, boost some DMT from their research lab. Terence, tried that, and sent by God, you know, this, this is, this is more than a psychedelic. This is like the ultimate metaphysical reality, you know, pill or whatever. It's not appeal. But, but this is this is about this is about opening portals to other dimensions, you know, and at i be the little brother, I was brought along to this a few years later, he shared it with me. And it's probably worth mentioning that both Terrence and I, in our adolescent years, we were very much immersed in science fiction, you know, and science fiction, more than spirituality or fascination with ethnographic practices, shamanism, and all that. And we read about all those things. But our framework was really born out of science fiction and we actually thought of the places the DMT state As another dimension another place, and that that DMT opened up, and that you could actually go this was, and this was our, this was the basis of our wish to be able to spend more time there so that we could actually explore this dimension a little more. And so that was our fascination with it that this was, you know, I mean, LSD was interesting, but LSD was nothing compared to DMT. At the time, in our, in our estimation, so this was the motivation of our desire to, you know, to find a more sustained form of DMT. And, and the thing is, when, when we eventually when we got to lecture, you know, we had come through Kouhei, but then the mushrooms were there, you know, and in some ways, the mushrooms are the perfect, orally active form of DMT. You know, psilocybin and psilocybin, psilocybin, as the active ingredient of psilocybin is psilocybin is converted to psilocybin in the body, it's still a son, that, that interacts with the receptors of psilocybin, chemically is very close to the empty, you know, it's four hydroxy Dimethyltryptamine. That trivial molecular difference makes it orally active, and of high doses, the psilocybin psilocybin, psilocybin, psilocybin state, is a lot like DMT. I mean, that's because it's the same dimension, if you want to put it that way. And again, we were thinking of these things, and tourism of dimension, but let's call it the tryptamine space, you know, a lot of these things, DMT, five, methoxy DMT, it turns out, also, five hydroxy, DMT are both fote name, all of these have a very similar phenomenology, you know, and so you could say that they're, you know, they opened up the tryptamine space, this family of chemicals, because they all interact similarly to the, with the, with the five HT to a receptors, which are of a target for all of these true psychedelics, what I call true psychedelics, those are the key, that's the key serotonin receptor subtype, that all the true psychedelics interact with. And the trip domains are, you know, they, they all do that, and many experiences are similar with all of them. So anyway. Yeah, psilocybin, if you want to study the tryptamine space, it's almost the ideal tool, you know, because it does last hours instead of minutes. It's very non toxic, it's very compatible with human metabolism. And, you know, it's a kickass, I can tell. And it's, it's, you know, at high doses, it can be quite, quite overwhelming. But it's not threatening to metabolism, you know, our bodies really evolved to handle molecules like this. Well known DMT methoxy, they occur in the brain as well. So
Nick Jikomes 38:55
like, when when you and Terence were taking, like the highest doses of psilocybin mushrooms that you took, if it was at la carrera, or anywhere else, how much do you estimate you're taking per dose? And what was the phenomenology like?
Dennis McKenna 39:09
Well, it was very hard to say, because these were these were fresh mushrooms. These were growing in the pasture we were drying them is hard to say that I would say, you know,
Nick Jikomes 39:23
but it's like a standard, say recreational dose today's is on the order of half of an eighth of an ounce of dried mushrooms. You know, are you are you double that? Or are you well, well, well, above that?
Dennis McKenna 39:34
Well, Terence always talked about five dried grounds as the heroic dose, you know, that was his estimate of the heroic dose. It's a pretty strong dose. There are people now that take even more than that, of I think, it's, it's a testimony to the non lack of toxicity of psilocybin, that you can pretty much increase the dose to higher levels. You know, I mean, there I know people who have taken, you know, 1015 20 grams, dried grams of salt, you know, or even more, I think that at a certain point, you reach a place where the whole, the whole receptor system is probably saturated. And you take more, but you don't get a, you don't
Nick Jikomes 40:30
get more. So you would have been taking more than like a five dried gram heroic dose you think,
Dennis McKenna 40:37
at LACERA? I would say so I would I mean, I don't know what it was. But if there's a roughly one to 10 ratio, and, you know, 10, grand 10 Wet grams is a is about equivalent to one dried gram, roughly. I mean, it's 90%. Water, you know. And so I think these doses were probably in the 10 to 15, dried grams level, they were sufficient. Let's put it that way. They were definitely steepish sufficient, they did the trick.
Nick Jikomes 41:14
And what was I mean, what was the experience like?
Dennis McKenna 41:18
Well, the experience was, you know, what, what we focused on in this, in this state, and in this special place, was the these these very high doses, we could hear a sound inside our hands that we could listen to, and it wasn't clear where it came from. It was kind of like an electrical buzzing kind of sound like something that we can you experience on the DMT. Sometimes, you know, Terence wants to characterize that as crack laid cellophane. And it was something like that, and this sound, would show up at these high doses. And we found that we could imitate this sound, we could actually try to sing the sound, and ascertain if you reach a point where you could just lock in on this sound, it was hard to imitate, but once you locked in on it, they would just sort of pour out of you. And you couldn't really stop it. And there seemed to be a visual strong synesthesia, synesthesia effect, have you made the sound, but you could see the sound, at the same time, you could see something, and this is common with with psychedelics, particularly with psilocybin synesthesia, but we can actually project the sound and see apparently, a, you know, a visual representation of it. So that visual component that God has speculated about, you know, all the things we talked about in the book about hyper translating ballistic matter and all this that, you know, we could actually use the sound as a kind of energy wave to manifest our vision on the in 3d space, so that anybody could see this, you didn't have to be a mushrooms to see it, you know, at least that's what we thought. And so that experience with the sound and imitating the sound and then the mushroom at this point, I mean, you've dragged me into talking about this even though I don't want to go into details, but the mushroom goddess into a place there was a very strong noetic component to the experiences, you know, a sense of being in touch with a nonhuman intelligence, whether it was the mushrooms or something channeling through the mushrooms was downloaded all this information about this experiment that we could do that if you make this sound in the right circumstances, you can set up you know, you can do flips effectively transform transformation of your own DNA, you know, you can set up a resonance with your own DNA and produce a producing object of a physical object that was made out of matter and mind you know, so effectiveness union of matter of mind, so that you could create an object that was you know, that you could see it and be it at the same time and This is you know, there are analogies to this in occult literature, alchemical literature, particularly, the Philosopher's Stone, is very much that idea or the idea of the scrying mirror, or, you know, there is in the sort of esoteric or occult traditions, the, you know, allusions to an artifact that you can create. And we, you know, and, and, and if you could create an artifact like that, it would be pretty much the ultimate artifact, at least, this is what was being transmitted to us, at LACERA, you make this thing, and it's capable of doing anything than you can imagine, literally anything that you can imagine. So, that's what we were shooting for. And what it didn't happen in it, it didn't happen, because for Well, for a number of reasons, and obviously, it didn't happen, or we wouldn't have be having this conversation. And it didn't happen, because it couldn't have been, you know, it would have had to overturn pretty much every physical law that we know about. And physics is very stubborn about its laws. We were not concerned with that at that time. I mean, in fact, that was the whole, the whole idea was that, you know, if we can create this thing, it will basically disrupt history, it will be the end of history, it will be the ultimate artifact that bring this history to an end. And then we transition into some kind of post historical, you know, mode of, of existence. And the idea was, you know, the framework for the experiment was based on our alchemy, primarily, these different stages of alchemy having to do with condensing the stone, you know, through different stages. The idea was that once condensed, you know, you'd actually be able to hold it in your hand or look at it, or whatever. And yet, it would be a combination of mind and matter, it would be a fusion of minds that matter. And you would respond to thought, and they would be able to do anything that you imagined. Well, you know, we could talk about it, there was, obviously hold all kinds of ego, inflation and messianic ideation and all this stuff, you know, going on, which, which I write about in the book, you know, I mean, we were clearly we were clearly. To put it charitably, we were, we were around the band, we were, you know, deluded, but not, they didn't really understand that at the time, it took a long time to understand that one of the conundrums about the experimental voucher era was we performed the experiment. And the experiment predicted that this would happen, you know, at the end of imitating this sound on high doses of mushrooms, well, we did that, you know, we perform this ritual singing to the mushroom and trying to get this resonance, this superconducting standing wave form, combined made of DNA, our own DMT D of a the mushrooms to get that to manifest. Well, that didn't happen. You know, so they're the end. So you know, maybe, well, you know, what, what happened then, was we IT DID NOT condense on schedule, you know, so we thought, well, we've succeeded, because there were different anomalous things going on that led us to think that we succeeded. But the question then became, we've condensed the stone, but the stone has not, you know, it's a question of when will it show up? You know, when is it actually going to manifest and actually, for decades, the, that became the question that had to do with the time wave of ideas about when is the singularity going to manifest so the You know, in some ways, my brother's preoccupation with a time wave had to do with the appearance of the stone, you know, a when the the height the ampersand, we called it or the, or the stone, when the stone manifests, then the history is going to end. So we have to construct this map of history, you know, and identify the end state. Now, you know, this is pretty wild stuff. And, you know, I've been, I'd like to think that I'm fairly sane now. But at the time, we were participated in this in this delusional process, you know,
Nick Jikomes 50:53
you know, one of the things that I remember from some old Terence McKenna lecture, is he used to say things like, you know, entertain all ideas, but commit to none. And so, and he used to say things like, I come to you with this stuff half finished. So he was very much into just entertaining all ideas and bring them to people half baked, and just, you know, he's, he's sort of just love surfing the edge of knowledge, even if, you know, the ideas didn't turn out to be, you know, validated, or they didn't turn out to be true. And, you know, I mean, one of the things that's amazing is, you know, if you want YouTube, or Google or whatever, and you just look up Terence McKenna lectures, there's hundreds and hundreds, if not 1000s of hours, with stuff still coming out to this day, it seems. And he, I mean, he must have been on the road, speaking all the time. And he was on the he was on the internet so early, that, you know, well ahead of almost anyone else. Do you think that if he would have lived longer he would have been like, you know, one of the first big podcasters or something like that? Oh, absolutely.
Dennis McKenna 51:52
I mean, I would say he was already, you know, I mean, that was before we even have the word, you know, to characterize it, but effectively, you know, his, he was one of the first big podcasters of the world. You know, the interesting thing about the internet is, once this stuff is up there, it lives forever, you know, and Terence has achieved this is kind of virtual immortality, you know, people can, can bring this stuff up and listen to his raps, and he was such a good rapper, he was so articulate, and he was so able to make this stuff seem plausible. And, and present it so well. You know, I used to kid him. I mean, I used to tell him, uh, you know, he never wanted me to. He was always uncomfortable if I would sit in on his public events when he was talking, because I was the only person that would stand up and say, Well, wait a minute, you know, what you just said was bullshit. And that directly contradicts what you said 20 minutes ago, which was also bullshit. Not I didn't say that. unkindly. But but, you know, I was the only person that really, people seem, and I told him, You know, it's not what you say, you know, it's the way you say it. You know, it's that voice. It's the way you deliver it. You could be reading the phone book. Yeah, people would hold on to every word. Because your delivery is so like, mesmerizing. That was his gift. You know, he
Nick Jikomes 53:39
was almost like an intellectual stand up comedian or something like that. Stuff like that. Yeah. It was just very artful the way that he spoke,
Dennis McKenna 53:46
people have called him the thinking man's Timothy Leary. And in some ways, he was I mean, ideas were great. And I think he reached a point, you know, in his career where maybe he didn't take it that seriously, but he was having fun with it, you know, and he was fun presenting mind stretching ideas, you know, because it wasn't confined to this you know, you've listened probably to lots of his stuff. And he was very well read. In all these esoteric all this esoteric stuff, magic, Alchemy, shamanism, you name it, esoteric traditions, far more than I was, you know, am and he can bring all this stuff together. And he could come up with the, you know, the craziest ideas and present them in, in a way that seemed convincing. And he didn't come off as a wild raving maniac, you know, which some people would have, he could present it very calmly and at all seemed to make sense, you know, and it was only later that people might reflect and say, Well, wait a minute, what was he saying? This doesn't make any sense. You know? So it's very interesting. I mean, in some ways, I you know, I mean, the premises of the whole time wave thing and the and the aggression of novelty. I agree with that. I mean, all you have to do is look around to see that things are getting weird. You know, and they've been getting weird for a long time, and they're getting weirder and weirder and weirder. And they're reaching a point now, where you can almost see like, reality is fragmenting you know, we've got all these things, we've got the internet, we've got AI, we've got psychedelics, you know, I mean, the world is pretty weird compared to 1971. You know,
Nick Jikomes 56:02
it's certainly more heterogeneous. Like, there's just more variety in every, every local slice of space around us. You know, there's, there's very few, you know, it used to be like, right, every small town was its own little cultural universe, but now, you know, everything is injected everywhere from from technology.
Dennis McKenna 56:22
Yeah, it seems like it. So in that sense, I think Terence was right, I think that I think that novelty, you know, novelty does ingress into the continuum, and maybe we are headed towards some kind of singularity, whatever that might be. But people are talking about the singularity. And I think people think, you know, that means something different to, you know, to everybody. But the basic, I think the error, perhaps not an error, exactly, but but Terence was attempting to quantify this, you know, through the time wave and actually nailed down a moment, an instance, where it all shifts over. And again, this goes back to our different perspectives, you know, he was expecting some, some novel event to just collapse the whole quantum wave. And I was, you know, my argument was, it doesn't work that way. You know, novelty is a real thing. It oozes into the continuum, you know, it, it leaks into the continuum gradually. And then eventually, you reach a point where you look around and you say, you know, what, things are just batshit weird around here. And that seems to be what's happening? Well, I
Nick Jikomes 57:51
mean, when you were speaking earlier, you know, a lot of these ideas are, we'll just call them strange, you know, or potentially even kooky. But, you know, when you talk about something like the Philosopher's Stone, this object that can do anything, you know, it's easy to dismiss that as just sort of this weird, you know, medieval, you know, thinking from alchemists who, who, you know, were were people who didn't know all the things that we know today. But at the same time, it sounds remarkably similar to questions, the very serious people talk about today around Artificial General Intelligence, building technological artifacts that are literally capable of essentially doing anything. And you know, many serious people think that that's not only possible, but but will happen within our lifetimes. Do you see any parallels between the things you and Terence were talking about and thinking and the current sort of race to create visual?
Dennis McKenna 58:44
I? I do indeed, I think that I think that some of the ideas are these ideas that terrace was talking about? I was talking about too, but kind of from a different perspective. But But I think a lot of Terrence has ideas where the seeds of these ideas that are emerging now, because people have listened to that stuff, and people with the skills in information science and artificial intelligence and all this, this resonates with people and people either with the skills can say, well, yeah, we can create an artificial intelligence that is, you know, we can, we can, and it's what people have always done. It's, you know, what humans are good at is visualizing something, imagining something. I mean, the imagination is what separates I think, us as humans, us as human primates, from everybody else, the fact that we have an imagination and the imagination. The word itself describes what it is image innovation, we're able to create it turtle representations of reality. And we create a reality hallucination, if you will. And we can then take those ideas, and we can project them into the real world because we have opposable thumbs, you know, we have the right tools, we can master technology. So somebody could imagine an artificial intelligence, you know, which is made of data, basically, they can build that. And they're doing that. And that's actually quite terrifying. You know, because the these things are, you know, any technology is, is a two edged sword. And it can be, and, you know, everybody's terrified of artificial intelligence, not everybody, but some people have, I wouldn't say I'm terrified of that, I'm certainly wary of it, it's happening, whether we're afraid of it or not, these inseam purchase, very hard to know where it's gonna go.
Nick Jikomes 1:01:13
Another another interesting McKenna ism, that stuck with me that I think is one of the more interesting ideas that he had, or metaphors he used was was around what culture is, and he used to say things like, you know, culture is not your friend culture is your operating system. And so is this metaphor of human culture being like an operating system, and the operating system is controlling what's not only what you think, but what's you could even potentially think. And so, what was that idea? And where do you Where does it come from? And how do you interpret it?
Dennis McKenna 1:01:46
I think the same thing on social media, he was talking about social media, and other things, you know, I mean, the the information sphere, that we inhabit the meme sphere, you know, is this is culture, now it's been instantiated in height in cyberspace. And, you know, the social media sphere is, you know, an example of this culture, I don't think, I mean, I don't I don't think you can escape from culture. I mean, you can't go live in a cave someplace. Some people can, even there, they don't escape it. But if you live in this society of this world, you're immersed in the this cultural operating system. And now much of that has been uploaded into the, into cyberspace in the form of social media environments, you know, and they're even. I mean, now, you know, was Facebook. And now they're talking about the metaverse and, you know, augmented reality and all of this stuff and MIT. So, you know, that that's what I mean, when I say in some sense, what he predicted is coming true. It's not coming true in the way that he predicted. I don't think it can be quantified, but his imagination, his visualization of what this might look like, we're seeing that in the in the embryonic stages right now, you know, this is a merging the embryonic stages. I mean, it's frightening and maybe encouraging, and, and also certainly astonishing, how quickly, all this new artificial intelligence, technology is emerging and spreading throughout society. It's happening so quickly. And it's kind of like it was predicted that once this happens, of course, it's going to spread because it's going to happen fast. Because all these systems talk to each other, and they're self refining, and they, they're self correcting. And so you're seeing evolution of effectively and evolution of the collective consciousness that's been uploaded into cyberspace. And I mean, it's way beyond anybody's ability to control it. And that's rather frightening. You know, maybe it shouldn't be maybe it shouldn't be. I'm not sure just because someone can control something. Doesn't mean that, you know, I mean, people control technologies, and they do all sorts of terrible things with them, you know, they do all All sorts of wonderful things with them. Technology inherently is. I mean, my own feeling is that technology is, you know, it's morally neutral, it depends on how we use it. You know, that's up to us. But maybe in the emergence of artificial intelligence, we're seeing this cross a threshold where it's not up to us anymore, maybe the technology itself, if these artificial intelligence systems are conscious in some way, maybe they're calling the shots, or maybe they're making their own decisions, that's rather frightening, because it's not clear that it's not clear that they have our interests at heart, you know, they may, their idea of you their moral compass, if they have one may be quite different than ours. This is not to say that our moral compass is necessarily superior. But it does happen to be ours that happens, the one that we had happened, and the framework for which we, you know, live and make our decisions and so on. At our, our moral frameworks may not mean anything to us super intelligent AI system, it may very well have its own agenda. And it's, I guess, this is the basis for, you know, many people are in this field are saying, well, you know, this, this, this will lead to the extinction of humanity. Maybe so, maybe not the transformation. Who knows,
Nick Jikomes 1:06:55
one of the things that you also do in your book about about your life with Terrence is you talk about a lot of your intellectual influences that that each of you shared and, and one of them that I thought was interesting was Carl Jung, the psychologist, and one of the things you mentioned about him is that even though he came out of the Western world, and was a thinker of the Western world, he was one of the few Western psychologists who was also well versed in Eastern traditions and Eastern philosophy. And, you know, Eastern and Western intellectual traditions and philosophical traditions tend to have a very different view, sometimes the opposite view on the nature of mind and matter. You know, on the on the western side, you tend to have people thinking that things are material and that the mind emerges from a certain kind of material configuration, like a brain, whereas in the Eastern traditions, it's oftentimes the opposite, that everything is sort of mental, or everything has consciousness, and what we perceive to be, you know, nuts and bolts matter is really just one way that that mental processes can manifest. So what exactly was the Carl Jung's influence on your thinking? And how did that sort of how do you think that informed the way that you guys had your experiences with your subsequent experiences with psychedelics and other things?
Dennis McKenna 1:08:09
Well, I think Jung's ideas were strong and fluids, you know, on our, our ideas, you know, the ideas about that there is a collective unconscious, that you know, archetypes are a real, a real thing that kind of underlie both, you know, individual and cultural, you know, idea complexes, if you will. So, yeah, I think I think Jung was absolutely spot on with within the limits that, that, that he conceived it, you know, so, here we are now and, you know, I mean, it's a fascinating time to be alive, you know, and because we are, you know, our culture is at the, at the, you know, whatever is going on, technologically and in terms of cultural consciousness is the cutting edge of, of this collective evolution, this collective evolution of consciousness, and maybe it is headed toward some sort of singularity, some sort of fusion of consciousness, you know, childhood, their childhoods, those those sorts of scenarios, perhaps that will, perhaps humans really will become obsolete or irrelevant, you know, or, you know, give rise to maybe the next stage of evolution has little to do With biology, you know, we just don't know, at this point we just can't really say. And so it's both exciting. And, you know, in some ways, there's tremendous reason for optimism and, and equally tremendous reasons to be very well, we're careful about it, you know, I wouldn't say, be afraid of it, I don't think being afraid, really accomplished as much because fear tends to just paralyze us, you know, but we should be very cautious, I think about the way that we deploy these technology is, you know, because, because, because he's, you know, the moral frameworks, that these technologies operate in AI and so far, may not be compatible with our idea of, you know, what is good, true and beautiful, you know, and so, it's not clear, you know, we just have to be, we have to keep our eyes open, we have to keep our powder dry. And we have to, you know, look at these things, not get sucked in. And the thing is, these these technologies are so inherently seductive. And fascinating, it's hard to keep your perspective, you know,
Nick Jikomes 1:11:43
what did? Was Terrance always taking psychedelics on a fairly regular basis in his adult life? Or did he stop at some point?
Dennis McKenna 1:11:52
Well, he kind of he kind of stopped. In the early 90s, he he stopped, or he stopped taking them very regularly. He had some experiences that were very unsettling to him, I think, on a personal basis. And that really, kind of brought him up short, you know, and he, he, you know, from the early 90s, on, he was not taking them so much he didn't entirely stop. But there was a point where I think well, I don't know exactly, you know, what, what the dynamic was behind that, I think that probably shouldn't say this, but I will, I think that at a point. He, his experiences stopped being about this, the other, if you can think of it that way. And started being about himself, you know, and I think the psychedelics have a way of putting a mirror up to the self. And that can be very uncomfortable. For some people, it could also be an opportunity to look at yourself and, you know, examine your you know, yourself and see some of the, some of the warts, if you will, and if if that's not comfortable for you, if it's uncomfortable, then you know, the tendency is to step back from that to step away from that. But I'm not tariffs, so I can't really say I can only say what I've seen from the outside.
Nick Jikomes 1:14:04
One, you know, you guys, you have so much experience with psychedelics firsthand, and then just in your professional life, as an ethno pharmacologist, you know, one of the the major questions today around psychedelic medicine, and a lot of the very promising very exciting clinical results that have been had with things like MDMA with things like psilocybin is, you know, whether the therapeutic effects depend at all in any significant way on on the psychoactive effects, whether the whether whether whether the trip itself, the psychedelic experience itself, is therapeutically efficacious. What are your thoughts on that based both on your own psychedelic experiences and your experiences around the world, as well as your knowledge of you know, the nuts and bolts of how these things work on the pharmacological level?
Dennis McKenna 1:14:54
Well, yeah, I I strongly believe that If that these efforts that are going on to reverse a, you know, to engineer the psychedelic experience out of the molecules, there are a number of people that are working on that. And on that, and it's like, I think it's a non starter, I think it's a complete misunderstanding of the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelics. I mean, I think if you, you can probably make molecules that will have no perceivable psychoactive effects that may re set receptors or change, you know, certain, certain systems on the neurological level. But I think that for lasting benefit, I think this, the experience of the psychedelic is really essential. Otherwise, you know, you can make these drugs that do that the non psychedelic psychedelics, but we already have those, you know, I mean, they're, they're the whole generation of cycle pharmaceuticals, like SSRIs, that we already know, yeah, they do provide temporary relief, and they're sort of band aids, they don't really get to the problem, I think you have to have the experience. And that is reflected in those experiences as much as anything trigger the, the formation of new neural connections and different, you know, different connectivities that you don't have unless you go through the experience, but that I may be a you know, old fuddy duddy, you know, 20th century person who says, Yeah, you have to have the psychedelic experience one day, maybe not, you know, maybe we'll have a whole new generation of drugs that turn us all into Bodhisattvas. And we don't have to do any work at all, you know, it just happens. I doubt it.
Nick Jikomes 1:17:12
Yeah, I mean, well, one of the ways that I think about this is a set, you know, more or less every form of neuroplasticity that's been studied, and that we understand with any detail is experienced dependent or activity dependent, meaning you need activity flowing through that particular circuit before it can change itself, neuro plastically. And when I think people have, you know, when you go through some of these trials with MDMA, and psilocybin, and people are instructed to think about their addiction, or think about their illness during the trip, what you're doing there is you're priming them to make the circuits that are problematic, active during the experiences, which is probably when they're most apps to be changed as when you know, the drug is actually in the system and in the immediate aftermath of that. And so I think, when when people have these lasting changes, it's probably because they are, they're being coached ahead of times with the therapy to, to think about these things, which amounts to activating just those circuits, which need the changing. And so I think if you engineer out to the experiential component, you're just making it, you're making it less focused on those exact circuits, you might sort of tweak things across the board here and there, but you're not actually focusing the activity dependent plasticity, you know, where things are actually problematic in the brain?
Dennis McKenna 1:18:32
I completely agree. I think that's exactly I think that the, the therapeutic efficacy of of the psychedelics is that they let you step out of your, your so called Default Mode Network, you know, they, they demolish the default mode network temporarily, and they let you look, they let you step away from your reference frame. And look at your search existential situation, whatever it may be your relationship to addiction, or trauma or depression, or whatever it is, you see it from a different perspective. And the default mode network will reestablish itself because the brain, you know, tans toward equilibrium, it will, it will fall back together, but it's like rebooting your computer. You know what I've said this many times you reboot your computer, and it works better, you know, because you've cured and cleared the clutch out of a temporarily, that maybe it accumulates again, but for a while the system works more efficiently. And I think that's exactly what's going on with, which is why the psychedelics have such a broad, if there was ever a broad spectrum, you know, psychotherapeutic class of drugs, these are this as opposed to the SSRIs or they anxiety clitics or those sorts of things. And I very much think that that's exactly what's going on that, that you have to be open to this experiential restructuring that the experience itself facilitates. And then that becomes reflected in this neural plug the neural plastic re re configurations, you know, I think that's what's going on. I mean, yeah, it's my, my personal bias and belief that that's important, you know, and maybe that's because, well, I believe that maybe that's maybe that's just my bias, maybe 10 years ago will say, you know, people like me will say, well, dammit, we have to do all this suffering, we have to have these terrifying experiences and transformative experiences to get the benefit. And then the younger generation will say, none of that was necessary. It was a waste of time. You know, we have the right molecular monkey wrench, we put it in there and tweak the right receptors, and we're fine. I'm waiting for it. I'm not expecting it.
Nick Jikomes 1:21:14
What, you know, as we start seeing, like more and more clinical trials happen, and eventually, you know, the certain psychedelic medicines get approved by regulators, and more and more decriminalization happens if we if we assume all of that's going to continue, and progress. How do you see like, the landscape of legal medical use of psychedelics co evolving with people's personal use for unofficial reasons, you know, either recreational or spiritual? or what have you?
Dennis McKenna 1:21:43
Well, it's tricky, you know, I mean, I mean, things seem to be diverging. That way, anyway, there seems to be the medical clinical track, and the personal use track, are they, you know, which is often associated with the, you know, the ritual use the more traditional uses? You know, when I think I mean, both are going to happen. I mean, I think that, you know, I'm all for the chemical research and, and that mode may work for a lot of people, and certainly it will, it will advance our knowledge of how these things work. I do not believe that any substance, particularly any natural substance, whether from whatever source should be prohibited or inaccessible to people. I think that people prohibition doesn't work. I mean, if we haven't learned anything, and the last part of this decade, the last decade, prohibition doesn't work, people want to take drugs, they'll find drugs, you know, what works is education. And people should be have access to sources of education, and they have should have the right to use any drug they want, as long as they use it, in a way that doesn't harm other people. And they should be encouraged to do it in a way that is informed themselves and not harmful to themselves, you know, and when it comes to natural substances, I'm, I'm very much, you know, I've lately started to, well, not so lately, but for the last few years, I've started to articulate the idea that people have a right to symbiosis, you know, and relationships with these natural drugs is a kind of symbiosis, mutual benefit, you know, we grow the mushrooms, and they, they give a benefit, and we take the mushrooms and we get a benefit. So that's a good partnership. And we form those kinds of partnerships with all kinds of natural substances and it should be asserted that it is a that it is a fundamental right of living organisms to form symbiotic alliances. I mean, it's not even a human rights because it transcends the human realm it you know, the right to symbiosis is that right of living organisms, you know, and of course that's well that's my view, you know, it's not really put that way but that's what I think
Nick Jikomes 1:24:32
um, you know, in your book you obviously detail everything about your relationship with Terrence you know, the good the bad and the ugly and I think no one with a brother You know, it's always a mix of of adversarial and brotherly and friendly aspects to the relationship. What do you miss most about Terrence? What do I What? What do you miss most about him?
Dennis McKenna 1:24:58
Oh, you know, I miss a lot. about it. I mean, you know, I miss his I miss his sense of humor, a great deal. I mean one utterances virtues, one of actually many virtues that he had, but one of his chief virtues is, with all these crazy ideas and wild speculations that he dealt with, he never took himself that seriously. I mean, he kept his sense of humor about it. And I think that's very important, you know, so I missed that. And I miss his, his quick mind, you know, and his, his ability to appreciate ideas, you know, I mean, he was the, the propagator of money ideas, you know, from the start, and, and that's why people like Terence are dangerous, because funny ideas are dangerous, you know, and he realized that, and that's okay. I mean, Timothy Leary was the same kind of person, you know, there was so much cultural, you know, opprobrium against Timothy Leary, because he had funny ideas and ideas are dangerous. And people that don't appreciate ideas are scared of this. Terrence was fearless in that sense, you know, and, and he could present funny ideas in a way that was, you know, that other people could appreciate, they could appreciate the humor of it. And in a way that wasn't threatening, and yet that got people thinking, you know, and that was, that was his talent, he could stimulate people to think, and he was very much a advocate of the idea about the notion that people should think for themselves, you know, and ultimately, you, you know, you have to do that you have you have to be confident enough in your, in your sort of, I don't know, what the term is your intellectual foundation, to, you know, to trust yourself, which is different than cutting yourself off from other forms of information, you know. So, those are things I miss about him, you know, very much, but he was, you know, he was a unique character, there will never be another tariffs. Mr. Chairman.
Nick Jikomes 1:27:39
Are there any final thoughts or things you want to reiterate for people, Dennis, about anything that we talked about today?
Dennis McKenna 1:27:47
Well, I think we pretty much covered, you know, we delved into it here. I mean, I guess that would be the my message, you know, if anything, a couple of things, you know, trust yourself and trust your, your ability to think about these things in a in a way that's constructive, and don't and keep your skeptical antennas. well tuned. You know, and always remember, I mean, if people say, What have you learned from psychedelics? You know, what's the main thing, the main thing I've learned from psychedelics is how little we know, you know, and the psychedelics, my psychedelic experiences, always remind me that, remember how little you know, you know, which I think is, you know, we really understand any one person and as a species, the universe is far more vast and experienced and mysterious than we can imagine that we only understand a tiny, tiny slice of it. You know, and that's good enough. I mean, that is what we understand. We can, you know, try to expand the sphere of our understanding. But we're not going to get it figured out. You know, I'm 72 years old. Now, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to have it figured out by the time I pass on. But I'm grateful for, you know, what it what I've been able to experience, and I think the world is astonishing, and we'll never completely understand it. And I don't find that depressing. I find that inspiring in a way, you know, cuz there's always more to learn.
Nick Jikomes 1:29:48
All right, I think that's a great place to end it. Dennis McKenna. Thank you for your time. This was very interesting.
Dennis McKenna 1:29:54
Thank you. Yeah. Thank you big this was a great conversation. I agree. Enjoy this