Martijn Schirp 5 min read

HighExistence Podcast #5: Dennis McKenna on Plant Medicines as Catalysts for the New Paradigm

Consciousness & Meditation Psychedelics & Drugs Delic

HighExistence Podcast #5: Dennis McKenna on Plant Medicines as Catalysts for the New Paradigm
All experience is a drug experience. Whether it’s mediated by our own [endogenous] drugs, or whether it’s mediated by substances that we ingest that are found in plants, cognition, consciousness, the working of the brain, it’s all a chemically mediated process. Life itself is a drug experience.

— Dennis Mckenna
In order to spread it, you have to spread information. You have to do what plant people have always done: share your plants across the back fence; get your neighbors to grow them; teach them how to use the plants; encourage them to tell their neighbors about it. It’s a very organic co-evolutionary process and that’s why it’s unstoppable. You cannot criminalize all of nature. There are attempts but they are doomed. This is too powerful. It’s too subversive.

— Dennis McKenna

Podcast Access:


At Breaking Convention 2017 in London, I had the privilege to sit down with the most sought after man at the whole conference, Dennis McKenna.

As a scientist, Dennis did groundbreaking work on the role of monoamine oxidase inhibitors in ayahuasca, discovering that DMT becomes orally active only when accompanied by an inhibitor that breaks down the enzyme that would have broken down the powerful tryptamine.

But that is not the only mask he wears. He can fluently switch between being an ethnobotanist, a pharmacognosist, brother of the famed bard Terence McKenna, a lecturer, and one of the elders of the psychedelic movement.

I’m as passionate about psychedelics as I was 50 years ago. I think they are really the best hope that we have to get conscious.

— Dennis McKenna

Extracting the wisdom of his many years of experience, Dennis talked in this heartfelt conversation about the current state of the world, the potential of psychedelics to heal trauma and usher in a much needed new paradigm, and the imperative to take personal responsibility for our lives and for the state of the world at large.

I feel like psychedelics and especially plant medicines are maybe the last best hope that we have to get woken up. The planet is in peril and the only thing that is going to save us is a global change in consciousness.

— Dennis McKenna
The HighExistence Podcast with Jon Waterlow (left) & Martijn Schirp (right)

According to Dennis, we are now more ready than ever to integrate these tools into our culture. At this point in time, as opposed to the sixties when the mysterious LSD just came onto the scene, we have access to the wisdom of a wide variety of indigenous traditions, and thus can properly frame the set and setting of these experiences. We have the science to figure out the best substance and dose for specific results, plus we now know which individuals to exclude because there are contraindications. But perhaps more importantly, we have the internet to freely share subversive information, and can even use it to source the substances themselves, circumventing the misguided legal structures.

The power of LSD to change consciousness is frightening to a lot of people; they are very invested in the way things are! And as my brother said and I’ve often said, psychedelics make you have funny ideas and funny ideas are inherently dangerous because they can destabilize the accepted order!

— Dennis McKenna

Perhaps this is why he wanted these Gaian messengers to spread, and decided to write one of the first solid books on how to reliably grow your own mushrooms.

I’m a believer in the Gaian idea and I think these plants are ambassadors for Gaia. This isn’t just a new age kind of quasi-mystical perspective. It’s a very scientific perspective because plants communicate with their environment with their chemistry. They are very good at that. Certain parts of their chemistry are neurotransmitters and they happen to fit into the receptors in our brains and this is a reflection of hundreds of millions of years of coevolution! They happen to hit just those parts of our brains that activate these kinds of sensibilities: the mystical experience.

— Dennis McKenna

Listen to this podcast if you’re interested in global change, psychedelics, plants, consciousness, symbiosis, and/or the McKenna brothers.

Dennis’ Books:

Voices in the Dark:

Ayahuasca Retreats in Sacred Valley With Dennis McKenna

When families come down there they come with all the baggage that families have accumulated over time. Then they share this experience and they go back with a lot more trust and appreciation for each other, their uniqueness, and their differences. Basically just a lot more love. I don’t know that it always lasts but they’re meaningful experiences for them.

— Dennis McKenna
Don’t let anyone tell you what is meaningful. Find what is meaningful for yourself and then just go for it balls to the wall!

— Dennis McKenna

A Final Note on the Safety of Psychedelics

As we repeatedly stress on HighExistence, psychedelics are not playthings. They must be approached with reverence and caution. We do not recommend taking psychedelics illegally or impulsively. We believe that in the proper context, certain psychedelics are powerful medicines with tremendous potential, but there are a number of physical and psychological safety concerns that one should consider before journeying with psychedelics. Please, please do plenty of research, and do not take psychedelics if you have reason to believe that they will not jibe with your personality or particular mental baggage (or if your family has a history of mental illness). The Essential Psychedelic Guide on Erowid is an exceptional free resource, and we recommend reading it, especially the section on ‘Psychedelic Safety,’ before ever dabbling in these substances. We also recommend reading our guide to psychedelic myths before deciding to try psychedelics. It’s also imperative that you buy a test kit if you aren’t absolutely certain that the substances you’ve procured are what you believe them to be. Take care, be smart, and be well.

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