Terence Mckenna and his Brother Dennis Mckenna
A lifelong love for psychedelics
For anyone who gets the itch to explore psychedelics and is interested in taking them, there are a handful of people that lead the way into self-exploration. Those people on my top of the list include Timothy Leary who advocated the saying Tune in and Drop Out, Andrew Weil whos research into drugs has opened the public into the prospects of psychedelic research, and Terence Mckenna whos speeches and books provided us with a creative perspective into the possibilities of psychedelics. Terence from all the others has had a more significant impact on my life because he still had a radical approach to life and psychedelics but always expressing it with a sense of kindness and love.
When I first started to get into psychedelics myself I had no idea who Terence Mckenna was or what psychedelics were. I wanted to understand the relationship between psychedelics and dreaming and found through Dr. Strassman’s research that DMT may be the link that I was looking for. What happened next was a paradigm shift in my understanding of reality, and free-floating through an existential crisis brought on by a hefty dose of Ayahuasca, I searched out for answers. Much like Terence in his early age, I started to look into shamanism and the psychedelic use of mushrooms in their practices in hopes to find my own answers.
Food of the Gods
I stumbled on Terence Mckenna book Food of the Gods which opened my eyes into a new perspective of drug use throughout human history and the possibility for psychedelics to have changed not only how we see ourselves, but the human species as a whole. I remember reading about the Stoned Ape Theory that Terence offered as his explanation how humans jumped in evolution from the primitive ape to the complex thinking humans we see today, and this blew my mind. Just like any idea that is groundbreaking, it’s important to get other opinions about these ideas, and there were many people that apposed Terence’s theory. Unlike many spiritual iconic figures of their time, Terence’s ideas were not force fed down peoples minds as absolutes, Terence’s theories were not expressed as fact, more theories or ideas that he had and wanted to share with others. I respected this more than anything about him, and his educational method allowed me to form my own ideas in relation to some of his own theories while I processed my experiences.
Terence passed away in 2000, so he never got to see how things have changed today. He did, however, believe that the world was going through a phase much like the human body does when it reacts to infections. He thought that through this process we would eventually go back into an archaic revival state where we lived much more like a tribal community. Though I would agree with Terence that this is a much healthier way of living for humanity, I don’t see humankind going in that direction any time soon due to economic pressures to do the opposite. I do wonder though what he would have to say about our culture today especially in the west and how we are treating each other and making changes to manage the environment better.
Though Terence Mckenna’s theories were pretty far out when it came to reality, I personally think that Terence’s most significant contribution to humanity was his ability to articulate his psychedelic experiences in relationship to shamanistic traditions and in result open peoples mind to the playful idea that reality has many possibilities.
Dennis Mckenna Continues the Tradition
Dennis Mckenna has said that he was very close to his brother and their interest in psychedelics and this has been apparent in both their lives. Being the younger brother of someone who reached legendary status can be problematic when it comes to the ego, but Dennis has shown to be very humble and gracious for his brothers work and has not shown to desire the spotlight in any sense. Dennis, unlike Terence, had a great deal of formal education and received his Ph.D. in Botany where for his dissertation published an article on Ayahuasca entitled Monoamine oxidase inhibitors in Amazonian hallucinogenic plants. The article discusses the possibility of other active components in Ayahuasca besides the MAOI that is traditionally referenced as being the reason that Ayahuasca can allow DMT to pass the blood-brain barrier. This article by itself is a great contribution to our understanding of psychedelics as Ayahuasca is one of the most well-known psychedelics in American culture today.
Additionally, at a young age, Dennis worked with his brother to publish one of the first techniques to grow psychedelics mushrooms at home. This most likely is what made both Dennis and Terence very popular. Today though Dennis is moving into the future by actively creating new books and helping the establishment of an academy based on psychedelic and spiritual experiences called the McKenna Academy for Natural Philosophy, something that I look forward to hearing more about. He also is the founder of Symbio Life Sciences which is a company is based on the idea of symbioses, which Dennis explains is a close association between different species for mutual benefit. You can think of it as a holistic approach to ecosystems that not only includes plants and animals but people too. Though its just in the starting phase, it shows great promise to continue the work of the Mckenna family into creating a better world.
Joe Rogan Interview with Dennis Mckenna
Though I have found that both Dennis and Terence Mckenna have done great things for our society and the future of humanity when it comes to forming a relationship with psychedelics, I also find their story very assuring for myself and others. Here are two guys who really just had a passion for something, an open mind, and did something with that. They made large impacts because they had drive, determination, and cared about what they were doing. It shows anyone could be a Mckenna if they have the ability to work hard on something they love and to continue to have an open mind to the world around them. This seems to be something that those who have taken psychedelics have in common.
Are you the next Terence or Dennis Mckenna?
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.
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