Episode 51: Ayahuasca, BioGnosis, and more with Dr. Dennis McKenna

In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Dennis McKenna, an ethnopharmacologist, researcher, lecturer, and author. He and his brother Terence are the ones who coined the term, Stoned Ape, as part of their evolutionary theory. He’s the founder of the McKenna Academy and a board member at the Heffter Research Institute. The McKenna Academy embarks on a long-term project called “BioGnosis” which aims to be a catalyst in bridging ancestral wisdom, ethnobotany, and innovation, all for a thriving planet. We talked about his personal journeys with psychedelics, his insights as an ethnopharmacologist, and even discussed end-of-life anxiety and death.

We discussed:

  1. His return to South America in 1981 to “just do science”
    1. Brought Ayahuasca forward as his main teacher
  2. I’d love to hear your story of how psychedelics helped you. If I understand it correctly, you see a profound, symbiotic relationship between mushrooms/psychedelics and humans. You see how they can help with depression, addiction, anxiety, and PTSD. But how have psychedelics helped you, personally? What was going on in your life before you found these Foods of the Gods? And did things change for the better?
    1. Stayed focused on studies
    2. Took Ayahuasca several times, but deliberately suppressed the effects; “Stranger in a strange land”
    3. Would allow himself to surrender
    4. Connected in 1991 at a conference in Brazil; 500 people took Ayahuasca together; profound experience of experiencing photosynthesis as a water molecule; personal and profound experience; influenced the idea of symbiosis; more details in The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss; songs were very impactful, allowed him to focus attention on inner process; felt safe, unlike in Peru; Hoasca Project
    5. Psychedelic experiences are so personal, they stick to memories as profound
  3. As you know, I lost my son, Ian. I love hearing his name. I love it when people ask me about him. Is there anything you want to share about Terence? Integrate together; big changes; familial issues worked out?
    1. He shared experiences with Terence as well as his relationship with his brother during Terence’s terminal illness.
    2. Terence as Timothy Leary 2.0 and his relationship with psychedelics
    3. Discussion of loss, depression, signs of suicide with my son
    4. Forgiving one who has died
    5. Food of the Gods; “Stoned Ape” – you don’t love that phrase, right?
  4. You have such a deep understanding of these medicines through your studies and your experiences. Given that, what is your advice to getting the most from a psychedelic experience? We know set/setting/dose/integration. What are your thoughts?
    1. How has this insight affected your own journeys? I know we try to “let go” or open up. Is that hard to do when you know so much about the chemicals?
  5. Have you formed opinions — or even strategies — around the different psychedelics – peyote, ayahuasca, mushrooms, DMT, 5-Meo-DMT, etc.?
  6. What’s coming from you in the near future? Events? Books?
    1. Documentary project in South America; BioGnosis — knowledge preservation; working with Botanist in Quito; downloading his knowledge; ethnomedicine in the Amazon; visiting communities; curanderos; 
  7. Anything else you’d like to share? Symposium


https://vimeo.com/showcase/4766647 https://synergeticpress.com/catalog/dennis-mckenna/