What follows is a transcript for the podcast HomeGrown Humans - Dennis McKenna - Non-Ordinary Experiences and Psychedelics - Hosted by Jamie Wheal
Topics include the following:
- The eschaton or end of times.
- The concept of time and linear time.
- Non-ordinary experiences and hallucination
- Dennis and Terrence McKenna’s Experiences with La Chorerra
- Do plant medicines transmit some kind of outside intelligence?
- Is Reality a Hallucination?
- Humility and curiosity over false certainty
- The culture, the historical, and the societal context of psychedelics
Fungi, neurotransmitters, amino acids
The eschaton or end of times
Jamie Wheal: Well, Dennis McKenna, thank you for joining us on Homegrown Humans. Really looking forward to getting to have a far-ranging conversation. I think you and I first got to cross paths personally when we were both sharing a stage at a conference in Vancouver last year, but your life, your writings, your research have been weaving in and out of my life for ages, all the way back to Paonia, your birthplace, being the shared home base of High Country News and all sorts of good Western slope natural living.
That then sending you actually into a career of relative empiricism. Ethnopharmacology, botany, the sort of life of a scientist and a professor. Terrence kind of took the other fork and the parallel and complimentary track of being sort of trickster philosopher. And between you guys, that notion of the eschaton, the time wave zero, the fact that there could be, and whether it was in 2012 or 2000 or 2020 or TBD, just that idea of linear time is not necessarily indefinite, and we may be approaching inflection points of sorts that may change everything.
So, I'd love to just kind of riff with you, which is the relationships that you've gleaned over half a century of reflecting, writing, living, between indigenous wisdom, plant knowledge, and the eschaton, or the end of time. What do you think?
Dennis McKenna: Well, I think we have enough to fill three hours here easily just dealing with those. But yeah, the eschaton is a tricky thing. The eschaton basically comes out of the Western religious tradition, the idea that time has an end, and that at some point the apocalypse or whatever, this is a Christian notion.
But the idea that that history is not infinite, that there is a prehistory, and we know that, and there's maybe a post history. And maybe at this juncture, at this point in time, we're approaching the end of history, and we're transitioning into some post historical or ahistorical epoch.
And oddly enough, I think that 2020 is going to be a marker. We'll look back and say, "The world ended in 2020. The world as we know it ended in 2020." Something else took its place, and that's the world we live in now. But it's a very different world, and I think it's going to get much different as time goes on. We're seeing what it is like to be living essentially in these end times, or the end of this particular brand, I guess you could say, or type of historical time. We're in it. We are post-historical. Now we're living on some other temporal wave
Jamie Wheal: Let's actually define that, because you touched on it, and I think it's just worth unpacking for anybody that's not familiar. You said fundamentally this notion of the eschaton is Judeo-Christian, right? And I don't know if you're familiar with John Gray's work at the London School of Economics, but he wrote a book called The Black Mass and the Myth of Utopia. But he basically says every Western movement, including secular movements like communism, are all still just the Judeo-Christian alpha. In the beginning was the word. And then omega, and at the end, something awesome happens. Something awesome or terrible or both happens.
The concept of time and linear time
Jamie Wheal: And Ilya Prigogine talked about it with Time's Arrow. That idea that Westerners, not only do we have some metabolic directionality to our sense-making and perception, but that our religiosity has also created a very linear version of time, and that most of them are hockey stick stories. You get to this steep part of the curve, and then whatever is our original condition, whether it's man is born everywhere and is in chains and is subject to the capitalists, or we were kicked out East of Eden and we're going to be redeemed soon. They all follow that script, as does cryptocurrencies, as does the current psychedelic Renaissance. We can't help ourselves. We just pour all of our stories into that.
And they're so seductive and so persuasive, and then maybe even feel truthy. They feel true because we're so used to that. It's the same with the Goldilocks rule of threes. This one's too hot and this one's too cold and this one's just right. And every kid in bed knows there's three of these things come in, whatever the tale.
So, what's your extent?
Dennis McKenna: I think as a species, we have this intuition that we are coming to the end of some kind of phase and entering another one. Which it never was, right. But our collective memory reconstructs it that way.
And then we anticipate the future. This yearning toward what Terrence sometimes called an interesting concept, the transcendental object at the end of time, which is what we were trying to create-
Jamie Wheal: Philosopher's stone, yeah?
Dennis McKenna: The philosopher's stone is one instantiation of it. It's the ultimate artifact. And the interesting thing about what we were doing and what it is, is it is an artifact, it's a biological artifact that you bake out of yourself. It's like, yogic transformation or something. And Jeffrey Kripal and Whitley Strieber, you're probably familiar with Whitley Strieber-
Jamie Wheal: I'm not. I'm familiar with Jeff's work, but not Whitley's.
Dennis McKenna: The guy who wrote Communion back in the eighties, the alien guy, or he was... Well, he's kind of a screwball.
Jamie Wheal: Most are.
Non-ordinary experiences and hallucination
Dennis McKenna: So we're in good company here. Yeah. But he and Jeffrey wrote a very interesting book a few years ago called Super Natural. Super Natural, two words. A New Understanding of the Unexplained was the subtitle. And in this book, how I got into this is I was invited to a symposium in Hawaii where all of these things about aliens and so on were to be discussed. And they told me that Whitley Strieber was going to be one of the guests. And my immediate knee-jerk reaction to that was, "I don't want to be on the same stage with this guy." I mean, he's a flaming nutball, right?
And I said, "No, I'm not going to go on with him." I mean, I'm happy to be associated with lots of strange people, but there is a limit. But then the guy that was organizing it, Jeremy [inaudible 00:25:54], said, "Well, Whitley's going to come, and do you know about this new book that he wrote with Jeffrey Kripal?" And so he brought that to my attention, and I'd been to visit, I'd given seminars and symposia with Jeffrey a couple times when my book came out. And you're familiar with Jeffrey's work, right? He's professor of comparative religion at Rice University, and his kind of specialty is superheroes and the paranormal.
Jamie Wheal: And Ramakrishna, and Eric Davis studied with him. All kinds of good stuff. Yeah.
Dennis McKenna: Eric Davis was his graduate student. Exactly. And so I said, "Well, okay, this sounds interesting. I'll read this book." And I read the book, and I said, "If you can get Jeffrey, I know that Jeffrey is not a screwball. I'm not so sure about Whitley, but if you could get Jeffrey to come, then I'll come." And so I did. He did come. We spent a very interesting weekend together. And when you see Whitley in person, he looks actually like your tax accountant. I mean, he's very, very buttoned down. Nothing crazy. I mean, he's just a little man. A very dapper little man.
But anyway, to get back to the point, in his book, in this book that they published together, in which basically Whitley in one chapter is relating some of these wild tales that he talks about, the things that happened to him. And I was able to set disbelief aside and just kind of take it as it was and say, "Okay, well maybe this happened. Maybe it's all in his head, but something definitely strange happens to this guy and happens to him all the time."
Jamie Wheal: With any precipitating events? I mean, is this under the influence of psychedelics or visionary practice?
Dennis McKenna: Alien abductions, this kind of thing. I mean, he's all about-
Jamie Wheal: So just driving along in the field and then suddenly close encounters?
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. Or in his bedroom. I mean, these things appear, these entities, and they take him away, they take him to places. It isn't clear that he's not hallucinated all of this stuff. It may just be pure hallucination. But to him, they're real experiences. And then in the book, Jeffrey, Whitley's chapter and then Jeffrey will unpack those experiences in terms of how does that fit into mythology and relevant themes.
And so it was a fascinating book. And in the latter part of the book, there were a couple of chapters about, "Okay, let's grant for a minute that this is really a real phenomenon. So what is it?"
That this is really a real phenomenon, so what is it and what is the-
Jamie Wheal: And this being non-human, autonomous sentians.
Dennis McKenna: Non-ordinary reality experiences, what you might call extraordinary experiences. They do happen to people and Whitley just seems to be a magnet for this. I don't know, I mean I'm not really questioning his credibility. I believe that he sincerely believes that these things happen, but I'm not saying they did, because I also read not to long ago, Oliver Sax book called Hallucinations. Have you read that book?
Jamie Wheal: Yeah.
Dennis McKenna: Which completely changed my perspective in a certain way, because it seems that you can hallucinate in full color, sound, everything, the damnedest things.
Jamie Wheal: The damnedest things. He tells that story of like morning glory seeds and having an entire conversation with friends that didn't come to visit that he served breakfast to. You're like, "Whoa, well that's very country."
Dennis McKenna: No, that wasn't ... My story. No, that was about datura, not morning glory seeds.
Jamie Wheal: No, I was talking about Oliver Sack's story of morning glory, but you had one with datura?
Dennis McKenna: datura is ... Yeah, datura will reliably do that. You will see and interact with entities that look like other people, they may look like people that you know, your friends. That was my experience when I took datura accidentally thinking it was morning glory seeds and I had a full-on, typically case, a typical intoxication with datura in which these ... I used to tell my students when I taught my ethopharmacology class. datura is not a psychedelic, but it's a true hallucinogen in the sense that you have hallucinations that you cannot distinguish from reality. And psychedelic, you may have hallucinations, but you usually know that they are not real, that they are hallucination. The datura hallucinations are exactly that where you know I could be sitting in a room and by myself intoxicated by datura and maybe you show up. You're sitting in the chair next to me and we-
Jamie Wheal: We would had fewer tech issues, I'll tell you that much.
Dennis McKenna: We don't have any tech issues that way. We have a conversation and then you sort of just fade away like a rafe and you were never there, but you were as real, as a solid Simian as I did. Anyway, we've gotten off track a little bit, but-
Jamie Wheal: You were telling the story of Jeffrey and this fellow's book and the subsequent chapters where he kind of got to I think the nature of things you wanted to share.
Dennis and Terrence McKenna’s Experiences with La Chorerra
Dennis McKenna: Right. The subsequent chapters where they're speculating ... Let's assume that these phenomenon go on and what is the physical basis for it. In one of those chapters, one of those chapters is named The Soul As A UFO.
Jamie Wheal: So the kind of touching of the umian thesis? The umian thesis?
Dennis McKenna: Well, kind of yes, because Union wrote about UFOs, but just the title of the chapter really grabbed me, because The Soul As A UFO, you know and they talk about maybe that is what UFOs are, maybe they're a soul of some sort. My reaction was like, "Damn right they are." At La Chorrera we were downloaded the blueprints to do exactly that, to built the UFO and we followed the instructions and very strange things happened, not what we'd predicted, no UFO came out of it unfortunately, but very interesting other things came from it. You can read about all that in my brothers book, True Hallucinations or my book, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss.
Jamie Wheal: Which is the best title ever, by the way.
Dennis McKenna: Oh, thank you.
Jamie Wheal: I've been re-using that repeatedly ever since reading the book.
Dennis McKenna: Have you read it?
Jamie Wheal: Oh yeah. The Screaming Abyss, dude like that's the jam. I mean if you haven't seen it yet, you haven't gone far enough.
Dennis McKenna: That was kind of tongue and cheek you know, but when we went to La Chorrera looking for what we thought was, well we were looking for this exotic hallucinogen called oo-koo-he , something that the Watoto people used made from Virola. Virola is a genus of trees that the sap contains hight levels of dimethyltryptamine and five-methoxy dimethyltryptamine. It's used by various tribes in the Amazon in the form of snuffs, but the Watoto make an oral preparation out of it. And why that's interesting is DMT and dimethoxy DMT are not orally active unless they're combined with an MAO inhibitor. That's the basis of ayahuasca, a DMT containing plant is activated by alkaloids in the vine, in the banisteriopsis vine that are very potent MAO inhibitors, so it renders DMT orally active, so instead of having ten minutes or 20 minutes in this place, you can have six or seven hours and it's not as intense as smoking DMT, but it's much more interesting in the sense that you can bring back more from it.
Jamie Wheal: Well, wait, just to clarify, was that more interesting version, was that the ayahuasca experience you're describing or the snuff experience?
Dennis McKenna: The ayahuasca experience is more interesting. The snuff and smoking synthetic DMT is certainly interesting, but you can't bring back much from it other than just a sense of, "What the hell was that?" You come away with a sort of sense of astonishment that maybe you know the most profound thing you ever experienced just happened. Even before you even come down you're forgetting it.
Jamie Wheal: Yes.
Dennis McKenna: You know?
Jamie Wheal: The amnesia of the anamnesis. You forget what you just-
Dennis McKenna: Exactly.
Jamie Wheal: Remember that you'd forgotten. You're like, "Fuck, I swear I wouldn't do that again."
Dennis McKenna: Remember before from my ayahuasca. Well, back in '71 when we first down there, went there, we went looking for this Watoto drug called oo-koo-he, because it was reported as an orally active form of DMT and nobody knew about ayahuasca. Nobody knew the basis of the pharmacology of ayahuasca at that time. You know, Schulte's had graduate students out in the field who were sorting this out, but nothing had been published really about it and so we didn't ... For a long time ayahuasca, the importance of the add mixture plants of the fact that it's cullminatorial preparation was not really appreciated. It was thought, "Well, ayahuasca's fine and it's prepared from this vine, which it is, but the add mixture plants were not identified as a big part of it," and then later they were.
Anyway, we went to La Chorrera. The reason we went to La Chorrera is because that's the ancestral home of the Watoto and they were the ones that Schulte's in the paper, Harvard Botanical Museum leaflets had reported and the title just jumped out of it at us when we ran across this paper, because it was called Virola as an orally active hallucinogen. Terrance and I were both preoccupied with DMT. That's what got us into psychedelics in a more than casual way. We're back in the '60s, late '60s, everybody was, many people in the counterculture, whatever, we're experimenting with LSD and whatever else was there. DMT was very rare at that time. You'd never heard of it, but Terrance was very good at working the matrix so he had that and we both experimented with it-
Jamie Wheal: What was the plant derivation? What plant material were you guys working to extract?
Dennis McKenna: It was synthetic.
Jamie Wheal: Synthetic.
Dennis McKenna: It was this horrible, orange paste that was probably made in bathtubs. It was anything but pure. Good, pure DMT these days, which you can get is a crystal. It's a light yellow and it's a very good preparation. The 1968 version was this smelly, orange paste, which was probably full of really bad stuff.
Jamie Wheal: That was back in the days of mexi-brick weed too, but the sandos and alsly was the tits. It was a quality game, you know?
Dennis McKenna: Yeah, the DMT was in there. It did the trick and we were impressed. We thought, "This is not just the most interesting drug that's crossed our radar." This is the most interesting thing that we've encountered in our short lives and in some ways I'd have to say 50 years later that's still true. The tryptamines are the most interesting class of psychedelics, because they do seem to open up this portal or channel to entities and you know they have a very science fictiony cast to them. You see machines, what may be machines, you don't know, maybe they're buildings, maybe they're ... God knows, but it's a completely alien environment, but you can take it, you can be immersed in this and then you can forget it, almost. That's one reason I think why when a person takes DMT there's an impulse to try to box it in with language almost immediately. You try to defuse this experience in a certain way because it's so powerful, so alien, so you start explaining it to yourself. You know even-
Jamie Wheal: Let's talk about that. You had one of the more documented, blow your doors open, not sustainedly non-ordinary experiences, meaning that your experience down in La Chorrera went past the metabolic timeline of supposedly having drugs on board. You ripped a hole in the fabric of reality and it stayed open for days to weeks, right?
Dennis McKenna: That's right.
Jamie Wheal: Half a century later-
Dennis McKenna: It wasn't oo-koo-he. It wasn't this drug we were ostensibly looking for. When we got to La Chorrera we had been sort of warned by an anthropologist that we'd encountered on the way in who was who we knew he was there. I mean, his colleagues in Bogota said, "You were encounter Doctor ..." His name is Horatio Calyay. "You'll encounter Doctor Calyay probably as you make your way to La Chorrera," and we did and he was in this village. The first place, he was completely appalled. There was no way to send a text or anything in those days. We just showed up in the village one day and we were rather a colorful band, you know, I mean like we stepped out of Haight-Ashbury, long beards, beads, colorful clothing, far more colorful than any of the Watoto and he was utterly appalled.
Jamie Wheal: Like, "Take me to your medicine man, man."
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. "Where did these people come from and what in the hell are they doing here?" Then, he was even more appalled when we explained, "Well, you know we're here to find oo-koo-he ." That really freaked him out, because he thought, "How did you find out about this?" This is-
Jamie Wheal: He's like, "That's some inside baseball. Yeah, what are you doing?"
Dennis McKenna: Yeah, this is like, "Where did you hear about this? This is the biggest secret of Watoto, shamanic medicine." Well, you know, Schulte's paper, blah, blah. Anyway, I've recounted this story a lot and I don't want to necessarily dwell on it, but he said, "Well, you can't just go in there and start asking around about oo-koo-he . You've got to be careful if you do it." We said, "Yeah, whatever doc, we'll be careful," as much as a 20 and a 24 year old who think they had it already figured out. We continued on to La Chorrera. When we got to La Chorrera we had listened enough to him to say, "Well, you know, let's get settled in here and be discreet about this thing." But at La Chorrera they had around this mission village they cleared the pasture, they cleared the forest so it's about 200 acres of pasture around this mission village. They brought in zebu cattle, the white, humpback cattle and it was the rainy season, so there were huge clusters of psilocybe cubensis mushrooms growing out of pretty much every cow pie and we knew what they were. We'd done our homework. We have virtually no experience with them. We'd taken a light dose at another place on our way in, but we really had no idea of the depth of the experience that you could connect with.
I mean, we approached it in a very cavalier way and we thought, "Well, this will do until we get the secret," right? "We can enjoy these mushrooms until somehow we manage to connect with the oo-koo-he ." Well, the mushrooms clearly made it clear that they were the real secret and they were the ones that when we started eating them pretty much on a regular basis, like a daily basis. We actually incorporated it into our diet, because there wasn't a lot else to eat. You know? We had rice, canned beans and stuff like this, and you know they make a good, tasty mushroom soup. They don't really taste that bad, so we consumed a lot of it and it established this, "I, thou" dialog relationship as these things tend to do. It had things it wanted to teach us that it was concerned to teach us and part of what it wanted to transmit was this thing we could do to construct the philosophers stone or the UFO or whatever it was using sound and the mushrooms and our own bodies.
Jamie Wheal: What was the embodied component? What was it that you were to do with your bodies? My understanding was toning and over-toning. There was something you guys were doing vibration on.
Dennis McKenna: Right. We could hear that these high doses of mushrooms, we could hear a sound inside our head like a tone or an electrical buzzing sound or something like that, very similar to what you can hear on DMT. I don't know if you've taken DMT. I suspect that you have. Often people hear these kinds of sounds on DMT and you understand that psilocin, which is the active, metabolite of psilocybin. Psilocybin is converted to psilocin in the body. psilocin and DMT are chemically very, very close. psilocin is four hydroxy DMT and so-
Jamie Wheal: Yeah, exactly, and isn't that still a research chemical that's still available? I think it is.
Dennis McKenna: You're probably thinking ... No. You're probably thinking of 4S-acetoxy-DMT.
Jamie Wheal: Is it AOC, 4AOC-DMT?
Dennis McKenna: Psilocin, get off into the tangent of chemistry a little bit, psilocybin is four phosphoryl DMT. There's a phosphate group on the four position, the top of the indol ring. That's quickly cleaved away in the body and that's converted to psilocin 4-hydroxy-DMT. There is a research chemical called 4-acetoxy-DMT, essentially the same thing, different enzymes, but that acetoxy group would be cleaved off yielding psilocin. It's chemically identical to ... It is psilocin. It's just a precursor that's different. These are pro drugs. These are what pharmacologists call pro drugs in inactive form. In the mushroom it's stored mostly as psilocybin, then you ingest it and your cellular machinery goes to work, removes that phosphate group and converts it to psilocin. psilocin and DMT, psilocin is just different enough chemically from DMT to make it orally active. You don't need an MAO inhibitor to make psilocin orally active.
Do plant medicines transmit some kind of outside intelligence?
Dennis McKenna: I know these days some people do combine MAO inhibitors with mushrooms, but it's not really necessary. It will boost it, but the other solution is just eat more mushrooms, eat a higher dose and you'll get to the same place. psilocin and high doses of psilocin and DMT will get you to the same place, very similar experiential place. The difference is that in the mushrooms this can go on for two or three hours rather than 25 minutes at the outside. In that experiential place we had the sense of being in communication with some kind of intelligence that it wasn't ever clear to us whether ... We're not in a position where we were thinking very clearly about very much, but it was either the mushrooms themselves or the mushrooms were a channel through which some intelligence was communicated with us.
Jamie Wheal: Let's pause right there.
Dennis McKenna: Sure.
Jamie Wheal: You mentioned the, "I, thou," relationship, Martin Buber famously expressed that. That idea there's the me, the subject, there's the divine or the numinous, that is the object we are in some form of relationship or dialog, and then you said, "Hey, in our experiment down in La Chorrera," and by the way quick sidebar, was the traditional, indigenous use of those mushrooms? Or had they just kind of found there way into that recent clearing and that was-
Dennis McKenna: They found there way into that oecology. As far as we know the Watoto didn't use them, didn't think much about them, at least until we showed up and then maybe we attracted-
Jamie Wheal: Maybe we don't need colored television. Let's talk about it, because you just skipped over it. You said, "Well, perhaps we found ourselves in an I, thou relationship. Perhaps it was with the mushrooms or perhaps the mushrooms were a pharmacological catalyst enzyme signal booster, whatever to information from another form of intelligence." Where are you know? How would you hold that today in all that retrospect?
Dennis McKenna: Well, you know I think it's a suspended judgment. Today I am much more inclined to say that this all comes from within. This really is your own head talking to yourself. Ayahuasca often presents itself in an, "I, thou," relationship and there's a tendency to project onto the medicine what's really inside. It facilitates your ability to have a dialog with yourself and it's like that other part of yourself that you're having the dialog with does not appear to be you. It appears to be in fact quite alien, but it still could be part of you. I don't claim to know how to sort that out. Terence-
Jamie Wheal: Okay, well let's do it a step at a time and you'll help me think this through. If furthest out is these entheogens, psychedelics, et cetera provide access to non-ordinary hyperdimensional realms with other entities. That's a major, that would be world changing for all world related
Dennis McKenna: That's big news if you can prove-
Jamie Wheal: And most peoples belief systems.
Dennis McKenna: Yeah, absolutely.
Jamie Wheal: Big news, right? Shy of that you could say there is some ... We are probably anthropomorphizing, but there is some form of personalities, qualities, whim, agency to the actual plant itself and that would be congruent with many indigenous traditions who have related with plants over time. They absolutely personify them and give them qualities and standing.
Dennis McKenna: Right.
Jamie Wheal: That's still radically interesting, but a step down from access to hyperspace. And then what you just posited loosely ... I get that you are holding all of these loosely.
Dennis McKenna: Right.
Jamie Wheal: You said, "Hey, I think this might be just us having conversations with ourselves." On the far end of that is straight up, I suppose almost Oliver Sax-like, reductionist materialism, these are all just neurochemicals popping off, this is all persistent hallucinations, we are making meaning out of essentially raw data gobbeldy gook, even if they are persistent illusions. Then, somewhere up that stack is how generously do I define myself, right? And you were eluding to soul as UFO, even on the notion of, "Do these boost my signal and my capacity to scan the hard drive of my body mind and brain, and included in that is all the carbon and all the minerals and all the rarer things that were actually star stuff in the big bang and my DNA code ..." I think they've literally just stored the Wizard of Oz on the human DNA strands, so you're like, "Okay ..."
There's mechanical proof of concept that we store information in our genetic epigenetic expressions and our neurochemistry and our synaptic pattern recognitions. Where in that whole, within the subset of self we're just actually learning about ourselves, where do you feel most comfortable? Where do you feel is the level of that palace that most accurately includes your own experiences while still honoring kind of the Occam's razor minimalist?
Is Reality a Hallucination?
Dennis McKenna: Well, yeah, I mean Occam's razor is a good place to start, but not necessarily the end of the story. The tricky part as a person who is a scientist and basically oriented toward reductionism, but then I've had enough of these transcendental experiences to realize there's a lot that simple reductionism doesn't really explain. I mean, the thing about science is it's very good at constructing models, but it deals with a very small slice of reality and for a small portion of reality it's very good. You can ask, it's a way of asking questions of nature and getting answers back that you can sort of test, sort of verify. It leaves out of the picture many aspects of experience and nature that don't easily lend themselves to reductionist or empirical verification and I think psychedelics is a prime example of that. These things happen. It's either like you say, it's just neurochemistry and in some sense you could say everything is neurochemistry, because we do not have an experience that is not filtered through our sensory receptors and then processed internally with associations and so on so that we create this model of reality.
This is also called these days the trendy term is the default mode network, but I used to call it the, and I still do, I like it better. I call it the reality hallucination. Reality, it's a hallucination. We don't live, we never experience raw reality. Physics, if we believe our instruments, which again come through these sensory portals and all that, but if you believe our instruments physics says, "Reality looks nothing like this. It's not solid. None of this is ..." This is a hallucination that our brains construct for our convenience mostly so that we can comprehend what's going on. If we had to process all the information that's coming into us and then being processed it would just be a blooming, buzzing confusion. We couldn't make sense of it. Building the reality hallucination or the default mode network is a lot about what it excludes.
Dennis McKenna: There is this process called sensory gating. The brain is-
Jamie Wheal: So that's the Henri Bergson original, like the one that Hoxley picked up for The Doors or Perception, kind of idea.
Dennis McKenna: Exactly.
Jamie Wheal: Cortico thalamic gating, right?
Dennis McKenna: Huxley is the first one to articulate ... Well, Henry Bergson, but right, Huxley articulated it and this is, I think this is a good model. I think that this is-
Jamie Wheal: Oh, you do? So interesting. Way back when that was the provisional and it's bearing the test of time and updated research.
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. It is. A lot of what the reality hallucination is, is this ability of the brain to take this chaotic input of information, process it, combine it with internal processing which may be memories or associations or just the raw muck of experience if you will out of which you construct a more or less coherent model of your experience of being in the world. It's like you're the producer, director, and star of-
the world. It's like you're the producer, director, and star of your own movie. You're telling yourself the story, even as you live the story. And in order to make the story coherent so that you can be functional, more or less, you have to leave a lot of the story on the cutting room floor, in a sense, if we continue that analogy. Because it doesn't fit and it's not immediately relevant to your survival. It's not helping you respond to the saber tooth tiger who's coming to eat you or the bus that's about to run you over.
Jamie Wheal: Because, I mean, as you're describing that, I just have this sense of like, "Oh wow, is there an integration of all these pieces?" So, let's say we're used to living life with blinkers. We've got our aperture dial very tightly shut. We have an experience, it could be pharmacologically produced shamanically, breath work, you name it, whatever. Boom, blows the aperture wide. We're suddenly taking in everything and no thing. And in that overwhelm, we potentially get to what feels like stepping out of ego-based meat suit, narrative identity, linear causation, all of these things. Do we find ourselves outside of time? And you can use whatever models make sense, but kairos and chronos is one, from the Aristotelian to Heideggerian perspectives. There's clock time, chronos, and then there's kairos, sacred time or timeless time, deep now.
Jamie Wheal: Just feel free to respond however it hits you. But I know [inaudible 00:59:49] rift on the notion of logos, the word, and even shamanic substance as [inaudible 00:59:56] instantiation, what is the relationship to logos, kairos, chronos, and the eschaton? How do you hold all of that, and what does it potentially point for our way forwards?
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. I think it does potentially. I think that the great utility of psychedelics, both therapeutically and just as tools to understand and explore consciousness, is the fact that they temporarily disable this default mode network, or they disable this reality movie that you're constructing. Then, suddenly, it goes in a different direction. And I think the ability to step outside that reference frame and examine the situation from that perspective is extremely therapeutic, if that's the purpose for which you're taking it. It lets you look at your existential situation in a different way. And so, if you're dealing with things like addiction or trauma or all of the things that we postulate that psychedelics can help ameliorate, or just reassess your perspective on what is reality. I think it's very useful in that way because it... What I sometimes like to say is it brings the background forward. Usually, this model that we construct, it's all about suppressing what is not important, or deemed to be not important. You disable that, you can suddenly pay attention to the background.
There's all kinds of interesting things going on in the background, whether that's physically in the environment or mentally in your mind, and when the two come together, it gets very interesting. So, the ability to shift your reference frame, I think is very useful. And then, once you have that tool, then you can compare. "This is my grounded default mode network experience. This is what I experience when I take a psychedelic." How do they compare? And what is in that other, that altered state, that may be useful? Something that I can't really comprehend as long as I'm trapped in this default mode network or this reality hallucination. And that's where the learning is going on.
And I think that people get hung up in discussions about these entities and so on. Are they real? Are they inside or outside? And if you really think about these terms, they're very simple terms, but they're used very carelessly. And what I say is anything you experience is real. I mean, because all we have is experience, right? Whatever we experienced is real. I might experience some entity that appears to be eight-headed, multidimensional, energy God or something. It's real in the sense that I experience it. The stuff that Whitley Strieber experiences for him, it was real. It was totally real. Does it correspond to anything in the, and here the terminology gets very awkward, does it correspond to anything in the real world? Who knows? We can't say anything about the real world. We can only say things about our models, and so that's the tricky part.
Jamie Wheal: Well, here's the thing, here's the thing, because like for anybody else that I'd be talking to, I would let that slide. That's a good, straightforward, secular humanistic interpretation of what do we do with these spaces but you sir are a blue ribbon carrier of the... like pilot, repeller of the screaming abyss, so I'm not going to let you off the hook so easily. Because I think few people are as qualified to ponder the yonder as you. So, in this big ass, wild, multi-verse, we seem to have found ourselves in, as monkeys with clothes and overactive prefrontal core disease, what do you think? Are we the only sentience out there? Do you feel that these compounds and plants provide access either in and of themselves, sui generis, they in fact are intelligent, the panspermia hypothesis idea? Or are they frequency boosters/gateways to communication? Where do you sit on that spectrum?
Dennis McKenna: These are tough questions, and I've pondered this all my life, and my final answer, I mean, is very disappointing, because the final answer is I don't know. And I really don't know, and I don't think anyone knows. I think we have to be careful. I think it was Whitehead who said the essence of science is the suspended judgment. And I think the beauty of science is that it's, number one, it always acknowledges, if it's a practice in its true spirit - and the true spirit of science is the search for truth - and it's a tool for asking questions of nature that you can verify, but from the get-go, science has to acknowledge that its models are always in complete.
Once you construct a model about something, you can never prove it, you can only say, "Based on the data available, this model appears to be valid." Next week, something may come along that completely overturns this model or forces you to radically modify it. Like the transition from Newtonian to relativistic physics is a good example. As new data comes in, paradigms change, so you're always working within the limitations of that understanding. And people often ask me, "Well, like ayahuasca, you've been taking ayahuasca for 40 years, what have you learned?" What I've learned is, I don't know shit.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I think [inaudible 01:06:44] was right. Robert Anton Wilson said that.
Dennis McKenna: And this is what ayahuasca always tells me. Never forget how little you know. And I think that's one of the lessons of psychedelics. We'll probably never get it figured out, whatever it is, which doesn't mean we shouldn't try, but we shouldn't look at our efforts to understand as failures because no model is ever going to be complete. But to the extent that you can expand the sphere of your understanding, that's worthwhile, that contributes to the sum total of knowledge. Another thing is, this information, like what the mushroom or the entities behind it were downloading to us about how to do this biophysical experiment, the question is not really, "What is the source?" The question is, "Is the information valid? Is the information.
Jamie Wheal: Exactly. Exactly.
Dennis McKenna: Right?
Jamie Wheal: Because my sense is is that until you get one to one... Well, I would hypothesize it does not feel that there is a one to one linkage between non-ordinary state information and successful application in 3D. It appears orthogonal on the best of days and a really slippery clutch, and so you get all kinds of power loss and all kinds of wonkyness. and if it really was remotely one to one, then you'd be like, "Holy shit, we are onto a salient information feed." If it's always tricksy, if it's always slippery, if it's always counter-intuitive, if it disappears right when you rely on it the most, then you're like, "What is this squishy thing?" And that's a little bit more like the land of Faerie or some other element. And to your point-
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. There is always a trickster aspect to these substances and these kinds of ordinary experiences. That's why they're so frustrated, because it's like you say, it's wiggly. Once you think you have it nailed down, it'll wiggle out from under it and present itself in some other way, and there's really no way to get it nailed down.
Jamie Wheal: Well, yeah. I mean-
Dennis McKenna: You kind of have to reach a place where you say, "That's not the point." You're not going to get to some definitive understanding. If anything, you're just going to get, hopefully, better waddles, better waddles, but they will always be incomplete.
Humility and curiosity over false certainty
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, I mean, I'm sure one of your contemporaries, Robert Anton Wilson, I know he said that about entering the chapel perilous, which if, in his [pallance 01:09:35] was essentially the tryptamine realms of like high, psychedelic, non-owner [inaudible 01:09:39] states. And he said you leave one of only two things: insane or agnostic. Well, what the hell is that all about? Right. And that, to me, seems honest. I'm far more comfortable with humility and curiosity in these spaces then false certainty. That terrifies me.
Dennis McKenna: Exactly, exactly. You and I are completely in resonance here. Humility and curiosity. Curiosity is what drives science, what drives all kinds of intellectual inquiry, and curiosity is play. It's playful. It's fun to think about these things. And I guess this is something that I've learned over the years of taking psychedelics on something that was different when Terence and I went La Chorrera, because we had this much younger mindset, and we thought, "We're looking for ultimate answers here. We're going to nail this down." And then, it took 50 years or more to realize, "There ain't no ultimate answers. There are just answers and sometimes not even that," but just that more or less explained experience. And it doesn't even become that important. It becomes... Well, that's where the humility comes in. I mean, I hope I'm humble. I'm intellectually humble in the sense that I've come to a place where I don't have that many years left on this planet, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to figure it all out by the time I pass on. And I'm okay with that. I'm okay with that.
I mean, there's an interesting analogy to the way that people who, in terminal situations, react to suicide, but when they have these experiences, because usually what leads them to seek out that therapy, if they're dying, is this anxiety and preoccupation with dying and, "This will be the end. This will be the ultimate," and people can get quite terrified by it. And then, they have the experience and they have a different attitude, and they, "Oh yeah, the therapeutic aspect is reflected in this change of attitude, this reduction of anxiety," because they say, "Well, yeah, actually I'm dying, but wait a minute, I'm alive right now. I'm alive now, so why not be in the moment?" And that is just tremendously helpful to people to accept that, "Yeah, death is out there, but death is out there for all of us. Sooner or later, we're all going to-
Jamie Wheal: And so is ice cream.
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. Exactly. We're all going to have this experience sooner or later, don't obsess about it. It will come in it's time. In the meantime, enjoy life. And I think that for those of us who spend a lot of time in our heads anyway, I think curiosity is a wonderful thing to have, because it gives you a excuse to be curious about anything, interested in everything, and I think an intellectually active person enjoys it. It is a form of play. And one reason that I have a knee jerk repulsion and dislike of dogmatic systems like religions, I think religions can have elements that are admirable in some ways on the ethical level and this sort of thing, the problem I have is that they tend to be systems that encourage you to stop thinking. They are a set of answers if you'll just accept these tenants of the faith, or whatever, "You can be happy, and you don't have to worry about it. These are the answers. Don't trouble your little head about that." That's not satisfying for me.
But it's safe. I mean, for many people, it could be very comfortable to retreat. And one of the problems with these these spiritual technologies, these spiritual practices, and so on, is they can be temptations for power for certain people, if that's their inclination, then they can grab on to this numinosity, this spiritual energy, and bend it toward their own purposes, which are not always that ethical. And we know this goes on in every spiritual practice, psychedelics included, so these are not toys, these are pretty serious technologies. But the moral element, I think, comes from within us, and that's true of every thing we interact with. All technologies, I think there's no inherent good or evil built into any technology, it's the use that we make of them. We're the entities that have to supply the moral dimension to our existence.
The culture, the historical, and the societal context of psychedelics
Jamie Wheal: For sure. For sure. So, thank you for that. And I wonder if, like a full circle, here's the thing I'm curious about hearing how you set things up to start with, which is you said, "Hey, [inaudible 01:15:49] we had that experience." There appeared to be some end of time point. 2020 might even be having have been that end of time, and we're already fumbling our way into what's next, what's after that. And then, you and Terrence in particular explored that notion of like the stoned ape hypothesis, that perhaps psychedelics helped primates wake up, helped us become homo sapiens sapiens, and that idea of logos, like the idea of the evolution and the invention of language.
And something that I've been wondering about lately is this thing, this eschaton, this end of time, are we on the verge of an inflection point, that the nearest analog we have is actually all the way back to the invention of language? And in the same way that before naked apes had logos, before that descended, and we figured some shit out and can start making sounds, we were still naked apes. We still had to get glucose to the brain, we still have to avoid big drops and sharp teeth. The game of staying alive was identical. But when you layered on language, then suddenly that unpacked abstraction, ideation, ethics, morals, values, aspirations, awe, and then led to the...
And in fact, I'm reading, have you read the book, Sand Talk by a fellow named Tyson Yunkaporta? He's a phenomenal Aboriginal professor down in Australia, but he's writing this beautiful book about indigenous wisdom and really going back and just making the obvious case for the oral tradition. I think we tend to think of, "Language, Gutenberg, written word, newspapers, yay." But the idea that for 98% plus of human history, it was purely oral, which was mediated by the vagal nerve, right? Our tone, our embodiment, all these things. We then create lifts, hieroglyphics, alphabets. We abstract it from the speaker, whether they're trustworthy, whether they're true.
Dennis McKenna: These are projections into the external world of what is essentially an oral/visual interior experience. That's the crux, I think, of the stoned ape idea, is that they're cognitive learning tools, they helped us construct or create this internal world, this model reality we've been talking about. They facilitate about by making us aware of giving the assigning meaning, essentially, to internally imagined abstractions, and it gave us the imagination. I mean, in a simple sense, it gave us the ability to imagine things, to visualize things. Not only visualize them, but then express them in language, even projecting them into the physical world in the sense of artifacts. We can think of something we want to build, and whether it's an arrow point or a star ship, we still have to imagine it on some level.
Jamie Wheal: We also have the accretion of culture beyond one metabolic lifetime. Like if my grandpa figured out how to [nap 01:19:11] flint or building out [lattle 01:19:13], then I benefited from that and we don't have to do the monkeys at a typewriter thing every single generation, right? So, there's the accumulation of knowledge but then in the abstraction into, basically, alphabet language, written word, we've taken, what was fully embodied and is now disembodied, and then we take it all the way to zeros and ones. We continue it to have fragmented, spliced, abstracted life further and further and further and further to the point where most of us are literally dis-eased by our relationship to the natural world. And so, my curiosity is, everything that you were just describing about being in that deep present moment in an expansive psychedelic state, and potentially you as one of the early pioneers of that state experience, are we on the verge, potentially, of stepping into a quantum consciousness and culture?
And I do not mean that in a throw away New Age-y way at all. I mean that technically and literally. That is effectively, if logos was us being able to use our glottal stops and tongues and voice boxes to make stuff happen, is this potentially the embodiment in an integrated nervous system of a hominid to be able to hold what you guys first pried open all those years ago, and might that... And again, it doesn't absolve us of the monkeys with clothes thing, just the same way language didn't change us from the naked apes we were, it was just at this huge bolt on pack, upgrade pack. What would be possible if we could hold it and stabilize it without mania, without depression, without psychosis, without anything else, and then do good things from that? What's your thoughts on us living into that as what's on the other side of-
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. I think that mushrooms and other psychedelics, but mushrooms are most likely the [ur 01:21:15] psychedelic. They're most likely the first one we encountered and here we are two million years later, or 100,000, however long it's been. They're still one of the most interesting experiences that we have, and they have as much of an impression on us post-21st century hominids, as they had on hominids back in prehistory. There's still just an incredibly profound experience, I think. But in the meantime that's happened, we've made this descent into history, which we may now be ascending to the other side. We've gone into the abyss. We picked up a lot of unfortunate things in that process. A lot of things have attached themselves onto us in the process of this historical experience, and these are the dysfunctionalities that we experience as we became more and more estranged from nature and more and more insulated in our own bubble of experience. So, out of that, spring the dysfunctionalities that we identify as neuroses and mental dysfunctions, and so on.
The psychedelics are now emerging. I think people are beginning to realize that one of the reasons that we as a species are in so much trouble is we become estranged from nature. And we need to rediscover that. Psychedelics may be one of the tools that can help us rediscover that connection, and that doesn't mean... I mean, that's like the curative properties, the therapeutic properties is just something you have to get through to be more fully functional, and then once you've interiorized that, and I mean as a species, as well as an individual, then you can get onto the really interesting and more important stuff in a certain way.
You can move on into that world of wonder that the psychedelics render accessible, but you've kind of rebooted your system in a certain way. I think the analogy to rebooting a computer is probably pretty close to what goes on with psychedelics. They let you temporarily disabled, demolish this default mode network, which is keeping everything bundled up tightly, and like any hard drive, mistakes will accumulate, glitches will show up. It slows down, it doesn't work as well, so you just burn all that down temporarily. And the default mode network being what it is and the brain, nervous system and all that being seeks equilibrium, so it's going to reconstruct itself. It will rebuild itself, but it will rebuild itself in a slightly more functional way. And that may stick, maybe you only need one treatment in a lifetime to do that. Maybe others, like people like me, maybe we're slow learners, we have to keep doing this to keep being functional.
So, I really think that's what psychedelics are in the individual sense and then the species sense. They give us a way to step out of our reference frame and put our historical experience in perspective. Something that is not talked about much in discussions of psychedelics, we talk about the psychedelics in the context of science and developing clinical protocols and practices to use them as medicines, and in a sense that, in a way, diffuses their potency, diffuses their numinous power in a certain way. Well, these are just chemicals, and if you take them, it'll change your neurochemistry and that's pretty much it. So, there is a tendency to ignore or repress the other aspects of psychedelics, which are the cultural context, the societal context, the historical context. These medicines come out of our ancestry, and they have connections to, possibly, if you put credence of the stoned ape hypothesis, they possibly have connections to our earliest ancestors, when we really moved from being the naked ape to be the naked ape who's talking and asking questions. That was the big transition-
Jamie Wheal: From the naked ape to the trippin' hippie. What a wild ride.
Dennis McKenna: So, I guess the point is that a psychedelic experience to us who, as a species, we're pretty jaded... who were... As a species, we're pretty jaded in a certain way. We think we've experienced everything, but it can really set you back on your heels. That's the point, sort of. It makes you question everything you know, and that's a good thing. That's a good thing. But one point I wanted to make, we talk about psychedelics and the context of the clinical science, sort of the shamanic context, the connection to indigenous people, and then the societal context. We don't really talk about them in the co-evolutionary context, and I think that's what's most interesting in a certain way. These actually are... They're symbiotic partners with us, with our species, in this co-evolutionary odyssey that we're experiencing that started back, probably about 2 million years ago on the Serengeti plain. And now we find ourselves at this particular historical juncture, where we're... I mean, we're not ready to head for the stars yet, but we certainly have that longing, I think. And that feeling that really, maybe, that is where our destiny is. I mean, that's a psychedelic perception. Maybe
Jamie Wheal: Well, that would be one hell of a full circle. If you agreed with the Francis Crick panspermia hypothesis, that mushroom spores survived the vacuum of space, made it to this earth, woke up a little bunch of monkeys and said, "Hey, psst, we're supposed to go back. We just came to get you. There's a rocking cosmic jam."
Dennis McKenna: Well, I'm sorry, Jamie, but I have to disabuse you over a couple of notions here.
Jamie Wheal: Oh, I'm unattached. I'm just saying, wouldn't that be neat?
Fungi, neurotransmitters, amino acids
Dennis McKenna: Because I really tried once. I gave a seminar at Tyringham Hall one time. I really tried to make the case that... I think the name of it was, Are Mushrooms Extraterrestrial, was basically the question. And the answer is, you can't make a case for that. You can't make a case that mushrooms are extraterrestrial, because if you look at phylogeny, they're part of a terrestrial life. There's no doubt about it. What you really have to ask is, tryptophan, maybe that was something that was seeded into the biosphere by alien, super biotechnologists back in the day. Tryptophan is the amino acid that most of these psychedelics come from, all the tryptamines, certainly LSD, all of these things.
Tryptophan is a very interesting amino acid. It's one of the oldest, evolutionarily, of amino acids. Serotonin is one of the oldest neuro-transmitters, and probably had many functions in the biosphere before there were complex nervous systems to make use of it. Most of these things, if you look for example at psilocybin, we know enough about the phylogeny of the mushroom group, basidiomycetes, is the division, I think is the term, that includes all gilled mushrooms. And so that's about 75 million years old, so mushrooms have been around for much longer than we have. And psilocybin has been around for much longer than we have. I mean, because we're so young compared to these ancient organisms, what was psilocybin doing before? Why did they bother? Why did mushrooms bother making psilocybin?
Jamie Wheal: Looking for somebody with opposable thumbs. Right?
Dennis McKenna: Or another purpose. Often in chemistry, these things, these compounds become... They're evolved for one purpose, and then they become adapted as other species start to interact with these mushrooms. We started eating them, and they did all these interesting things, so then we formed a symbiosis. And the mushroom is a-
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. It's a little bit like that upgrade to the tree falling in a forest thing. If cannabinoids, and tryptophans, and any of these compounds, existed without ever finding neo cortical vertebrates, would anybody have ever known what mysteries and potential they contain?
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly, you don't know, and you can only speculate. What we can say about psilocybin, information that's come to light in the last 5 or 10 years, is that for one thing, it undergoes horizontal gene transfer between different groups of fungi. Which is very interesting, because that happens, but it was thought to be mostly in bacteria that you get horizontal gene transfer. So this is not inheritance, this is actually direct organism to organism exchange of genes. And it seems that this psilocybin synthetic complex, call it the psilocybin synthetase genes, has been shared over many phyla of fungi over the last 75 million years. Some of them are not that closely related to psilocybin mushrooms. You've probably heard of this cicada that is parasitized by a fungus called Massospora, that invades the body of the cicadas. Basically fills the abdomen of the cicada with bascillium and spores, so that when it... And it makes it so that when it emerges, that the fungus contains psilocybin, and also cathinone, which is a stimulant. It's the same amphetamine, like-
Jamie Wheal: It's bath salts, right?
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. As in khat. Khat is a stimulant that people choose, and cathinone is an amphetamine-like derivative. Even say, similar to-
Jamie Wheal: Does anybody eat these? I mean, is there any indigenous traditions of people popping these?
I know. The cicadas. Does anybody eat the cicadas?
Dennis McKenna: Undoubtedly, someone has, but I mean, it's so disgusting, I don't even want to hear about it.
Jamie Wheal: That seems like that's just waiting to happen.
Dennis McKenna: But it, other things in there. But the thing is, the effects of these infected cicadas, when they emerge, they become hyper-sexual, and they will try to mate with anything. And in the process of doing that, they're waving their butts around, and their butts are made of spores, are just these spore masses. So, really clever strategy on the part of the Massospora to propagate itself.
Jamie Wheal: And we've got ourselves sparkle ponies at Burning Man.
Dennis McKenna: They are spore dispersal mechanisms for the mushroom. But the fact that this existed, this... And other studies with mushrooms and fruit flies show that either the psilocybin may be a lure to the fruit fly attracted to the mushroom, and it eats and disperses spores. Other people have suggested that what they actually do is they drive insects crazy. So, they forgot where they came from and they... And no one really knows, but I think it makes sense that the psilocybin probably showed up initially to modify the insect, mushroom relationship. And then only later, it turns out, we evolved this peculiar cortical architecture, and neurochemistry, and all that. And these things, the psilocybin just happened to fit into the set of receptors that you might call the transcendent receptors, the mystical receptors.
Jamie Wheal: Yeah. It's crazy. It's crazy, really.
Dennis McKenna: It is.
Jamie Wheal: And then tons of trial and error. We have a dopaminergic system, and we found coca leaves. And we have an endorphin system, and we found poppies. And we have an endocannabinoid system, we have a syra genetic system. And we came preloaded with those peripherals, and then somehow bumbled through millions of years of adaptive evolution, and trial and error. And then, if you talk to indigenous folks, it's not trial and error. The plants show them, the plants teach them. It's not monkeys at a typewriter from within those traditions, in most cases. But on the other, however we got here, we got here. And we have all sorts of keys that fit inside our locks. It's beautiful.
Dennis McKenna: Yeah. And it's not such a mystery, is it really, if you think about it. Because these compounds, what we call neurotransmitters, we all originated from this same... Ultimately there is way, way back, we don't know how far, but there is something called the LUCA. The last universal common ancestor is the LUCA. And then these branches arborized out from that, and led to mammals, fungi, plants, and so on. But, the chemical diversity that you see in plants, plants make all this stuff because they're messenger molecules. This is how plants mediate their relationships with everything else in the environment. These are like neurotransmitters in the ecosystem, in a certain way. They are the neurotransmitters of plants and fungi, that through these hyper-connected networks of roots, mycelial networks, and fungal networks, essentially, this is the sentience of the mind of Gaia. You know, Gaia? And I am a believer, or I'd like to believe that Gaia, if you mean the accumulated, organismic population of the earth that's in constant communication with these different levels of organisms.
So these molecules... In biology, as you know, the term of signal transduction. Signal transduction involves exchange of information in which it's chemically mediated. In other words, there is a molecule that travels to a place, to a receptor and interacts with that receptor. Well, the brain is the primary example of signal transduction. That's basically what it is, it's a machine for signal transduction. But our whole system, and any biological system, is based on signal transduction. Signal transduction is what orchestrates, and organizes, an organism through time. These are the keys that let the metabolic dance happen, in a certain way. We think we're objects, we think organisms are objects. No, we're processes. We express ourselves through time. We're sort of like a piece of music on a sheet of paper. It's not much, it's just a sheet of paper. It only becomes meaningful when you play the music. Right? Express it through time, and organisms are like that. And these neurotransmitter-
Jamie Wheal: Oh, that's beautiful. I mean, just what you said. Right? We're just sheets of paper.
Dennis McKenna: You liked that?
Jamie Wheal: Well, we're just sheets of paper. There's just this set of codes, or instructions, on us to act out. And it only becomes meaningful when we play that music. I mean, that feels like as succinct a description of the human condition.
Dennis McKenna: That's our job. When we introduce the drug into that system, any drug really, but a psychedelic drug, in a sense, you change the key. You change the music, but the melody continues. It's just not the usual melody. And these plant and fungal compounds existed long before there were complex nervous systems. But when complex nervous systems began to evolve, and there's no beginning, as they evolved eventually, essentially these molecules became internalized. They had an ecosystemic function in the plant and fungal kingdom, but in mammals and so on, they became internalized and repurposed to our internal signal transduction processes, which we see as the functioning of the human brain. And the rest of our body, of course. When metabolism ceases, you only have the sheet of music. You just have the machine, but it's not functioning, and it's not very interesting. Well, and it can't sustain itself.
Jamie Wheal: It's that old Dylan line, right? He not busy being born, is busy dying.
Dennis McKenna: Exactly. Exactly.
Jamie Wheal: Well, Dennis, listen mate, this has been amazing. And thank you so much,
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