Some people call him an ethnopharmacologist. Others call him a psychonaut.
Dennis McKenna -- like his more famous brother Terrence McKenna -- grew up experimenting with psychedelic drugs, then picked up a few university degrees and and spent his lifetime trying to understand their effects from a scientific perspective.
Terrence experimented with LSD, heroin, mushrooms and weed in 1960s and 70s California -- Timothy Leary reportedly once called him ""one of the five or six most important people on the planet" -- then Southeast Asia. Younger brother Dennis joined him to travel to the Amazon where they tried ayahuasca, and had a series of mindbending experiences that became the basis for their book, The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching.
Terrence published about a dozen books, including Psilocybin - Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide and True Hallucinations. He went on to the lecture circuit, and grew rare plants on a preserve in Hawaii. He died of a brain tumor in 2000.
Dennis meanwhile obtained his doctorate, then helped Aveda and other companies develop plant-based products. He published Botanical Medicines: the Desk Reference for Major Herbal Supplements and then last year, a memoir -- The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My life with Terrence McKenna --- about his adventures with his sibling.
Dennis was featured in our cover story last week about ayahuasca, the Peruvian jungle plant that is said to make people vomit violently but have mind-bending experiences. He will be involved with the Moksha Art Fair in Miami, happening this week as part of Art Basel. His lecture, "A Tribute to Terrence McKenna" will take place Thursday December 5 at 8 p.m. at 7th Circuit Studios, 228 NE 59th Street, Miami. Tickets cost $20 in advance or $25 at the door.
Send story tips to Deirdra.Funcheon@BrowardPalmBeach.com
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