Zach Leary – Trans-humanism, psychedelic use, over-use and taking a break



During this episode of Psychedelics Today, your hosts Kyle Buller and Joe Moore talk to Zach Leary host of the MAPS podcast and It’s All Happening. We have an incredible time talking to Zach and his worldview, experiences, opinions and much more. It was a very fun time recording with Zach and we hope it can happen again in the near future. 

Show Notes

  • Joe and Kyle discuss Zach’s connections with Ram Dass
  • Zach Leary calls himself a futurist and we discuss what a futurist is.
    • A natural way to continue the narrative of our physical evolution and our spiritual development.
    • Cyberspace is an invention as a result of our human condition.
      • The way and the reason we invented it is that we found a need to create another dimension.
    • Futurism and transhumanism and embracing the way technology is augmenting the human experience is a great place to be.
  • Do you see any major problems in psychedelia?
    • Overall, it’s a great time to be into psychedelics.
      • There’s so much research and data available to the end-user and the discussion is improving.
      • Many people are starting to be more open about their beneficial relationship with psychedelics.
      • It’s important to get people in the mainstream aware of their beneficial properties.
      • The Ayahuasca fad going on in the U.S. has many people calling themselves shamans, which raised a red flag to Zach.
      • It used to be that going to the medicine man was a common occurrence in any culture.
      • Mysticism didn’t go away, it just got turned into a more doctrinal practice.
  • The part of the church that bothers Zach is the authoritarian aspect, that there is only one god.
    • There’s an element of fanaticism when someone says there’s only one drug that’s worth taking.
    • April 19 is the 75th anniversary of the first intentional use of LSD (Bicycle Day).
    • We have to start re-thinking about what “natural” means.
      • The human imagination and what it creates is a by-product of nature.
  • There’s no stopping the technological march, the train has left the station.
    • A return to nature can include biodiverse rooftop gardens in New York.
    • It’s very hard to get off the grid.
  • What do we have that’s readily available and sustainable?
    • Mushrooms
    • LSD
    • Other synthetic compounds that don’t bother the rainforest, etc.
  • Drugs that may not be sustainable:
    • Ayahuasca, Peyote, 5-MeO (Sonoran Desert Toad – Bufo Alvarius toad venom)
    • Some people are playing fast and loose with 5-MeO
      • There are people who give do things to “patients” that are non-consensual while they are under the effect of the drug.
  • Psychedelics are often highly individualistic.
    • It’s nice to be able to jump in with a shaman, but to what extent?
  • There is some cultural appropriation here when you take ancient practices and move them into new environments.
    • It’s best not to ignore the roots and traditions of these practices but honor them as best as you can.
  • How do we not make mistakes in psychedelics?
    • There’s so much data, examples and role models now.
    • There are best practices based on data now.
  • Zach would like to see less consumption of MDMA.
    • People over-consume MDMA.
    • More of a concern about bodily harm.
    • 2-3 times a year is probably enough.
  • There are parallel paths going on and if the parallel path of computers and humanity are going on, what does that look like eventually?
  • What are some of your major influences in the psychedelic world?
    • Terence McKenna, Jim Fadiman, Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Dennis McKenna
  • How would you like to see the future of psychedelics evolve?
    • We’re seeing the rumblings of what’s to come.
    • There’s going to be a firmly legitimate place in the psychiatric world for the psychedelic therapy.
    • Hopefully, it carries over into recreational use and cognitive therapy.


About Zach Leary


Zach is the host of both the “It’s All Happening with Zach Leary” podcast and “The MAPS Podcast.” They have helped to cement him as one of the most thought provoking podcasters in the cultural philosophy genre of podcasting. He’s also a blogger/writer, a futurist, spiritualist, a technology consultant and socio-cultural theorist.

In all of Zach’s work he blends his roles as a spiritual aspirant and a futurist into a unique identity all his own. His spiritual background has it’s roots in being a practitioner of bhakti yoga as taught through many of the vedantic systems of Northern India, in particular Neem Karoli Baba as taught by Ram Dass. Through the practice of bhakti yoga he has found keys that unlock doorways that allow the soul to experience it’s true nature of being eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. In addition to bhakti yoga, Zach is influenced by many different methods and traditions of consciousness exploration ranging from trans-humanism to buddhism and clinical psychology. Zach is also a frequent pundit on the political systems that are fueling todays economic and cultural structures. At the core of all of Zach’s work is the belief that we have been fused together by the collective practice of using technology to expand our species imagination with spirituality and mysticism to define the very nature of who we are.

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Matthew Segall, Ph.D. – Whitehead, Process Philosophy, and Ecology


During this episode of Psychedelics Today, your hosts Kyle and Joe Moore talk to Dr. Matt Segall, a philosopher with a Ph.D. working at CIIS as an administrator and adjunct lecturer. In this episode, we explore psychedelics through the lens of philosophy and Alfred North Whitehead.

Show Notes:

  • Philosophy is really important when talking about psychedelics.
    • This movement is working on a lot of different levels.
    • Looking to get accepted into academia therefore it’s important to be precise.
  • About Dr. Matt Segall
    • Strong interest in Alfred North Whitehead
    • 12 levels of abstraction away from Plato.
    • Ropes in all of western philosophy and science into a cohesive system that seems to reenchant the world a bit.
  • Extended state DMT research
    • Use an IV pump to keep a steady stream of DMT in the bloodstream for an undetermined amount of time.
    • The initial phase of the study is 10-20 minutes.
    • Not just for medical research, it’s for the community.
    • Join the class at
  • How did Matt Segall stumble his way into the Whitehead world?
    • Philosophy came first, but not by much.
    • He had a teacher who introduced him to some psychedelic teachers.
    • His first experience with psychedelics was when he was 19 years old with mushrooms.
      • He realized that there were many other worlds running in parallel with this one.
    • These substances open up our perceptions of other worlds and other facets of the same world.
    • We need to incorporate the experience induces by these substances.
    • Western philosophy is rooted in the psychedelic experience.
    • Plato’s encounter with the ideal forms that led him out of the cave proves that the origins of philosophy include psychedelics.
    • There is chemical evidence that the rituals in Athens were psychedelic in nature.
    • When ancient Greeks refer to wine, they’re talking about something that was way more mind altering.
  • What drew you into Whitehead?
    • In college, he listened to a McKenna lecture and he mentioned Whitehead a lot.
      • McKenna introduced him to Whitehead.
      • He waited until he started graduate school, so he could take a course on him and study him alongside other graduate students.
      • Whitehead incorporated 20th century physics and a version of Darwin’s understanding of evolution expanded to a cosmological level.
      • Combining advanced science with an enchanted view of the universe.
    • The modern era has alienated human beings from the rest of the natural world.
      • The industrial revolution made this alienation even more profound.
      • There has been a gradual isolation of the human being from the rest of life and the universe.
      • Human beings have come to think of the rest of life and just robots seeking to reproduce.
        • Value has to be assigned to anything non-human by humans.
        • This thinking is highly destructive.
        • Our idea has not fit the reality and it’s destroying the reality.
      • Whitehead helps us re-inhabit the planet as one of the many species.
      • When human beings come to recognize that value is not just made up in our human society but it’s an intrinsic cosmic value, they can act accordingly.
    • Whitehead’s process is called a process-relational process.
      • We’ve traditionally been thought to have a soul or mind that’s independent of others.
      • Whitehead proposes that our soul or mind is in relation to others.
        • So that what it means to be me is that I’m not unique, but my uniqueness comes from my unique perspective and works with the other souls in the environment.
        • This attempts to move us away from thinking of ourselves as isolated minds.
        • The biggest challenge is to get people to not shut down when they see Whitehead’s terminology.
      • Philosophy can serve to help us develop a language that actually serves to represent our experience.
        • It’s well worth it to learn the dictionary that Whitehead provides.
      • Whitehead’s understanding of perception is welcoming more indigenous ways of knowing back into the realm of philosophy.
        • Whitehead helps us make sense of indigenous experience.
        • All of human culture stems from these shamanistic practices.
        • We don’t yet have the words to explain yet what these psychedelic journeys are doing to us.
        • A downside to being in the west is that we don’t have relationship with psychedelic substances.
        • The plants that are a part of the ayahuasca brew told the indigenous people how to brew them.
        • People talk about nature deficit disorder, kids being raised indoors being told the outdoors is dirty.
        • The problem is not one of trying to reinvent the wheel, we have to stop beating this capacity out of children.
      • When we talk about the human nervous system in the context of symbiotic relationships with our ecosystem:
        • It doesn’t make sense to consider the human brain and nervous system as enclosed within the skull.
        • The human nervous system is actually a lot more ecological in its extent than most physiologists would let on.
        • The chemical metabolism of our brain extends out into the environment.
      • Richard Doyle wrote a book called Darwin’s Pharmacy where he coins the term “ecodelic” which challenges the idea of an autonomous individual.
        • The idea is we’re actually permeated by the chemicals flowing through our environment.
        • Our consciousness is shaped any time we eat anything.
        • Some drugs are not thought of as drugs: sugar, caffeine, tobacco.
          • These are accepted psychedelic substances.
        • The fact that cannabis and other psychedelics are becoming more mainstream again shows that we in late-stage capitalism.
      • Is there anything in particular you’ve been excited about in psychedelics lately?
        • The research on MDMA for PTSD in veterans coming back from Iraq and the success rate they’re achieving.
        • The FDA may be forced by the sheer weight of the evidence to approve MDMA.
        • The hope is that we can use MDMA to treat “pre-traumatic stress disorder.”
          • Enhance the empathic capacity of those who handle a great deal of conflict.
        • Within a year or two the FDA is going to be approving MDMA, which is unbelievable.
      • Joe and Matt talk about how credentials are often forced as a barrier to entry into certain fields.
        • Matt is all for a standardized approach to mainstream these things.
        • He wants to go in all directions to get the therapy out.
        • The plants used in psychedelics are so much safer than any drug that’s on the market right now.
        • Some lawmakers are trying to pass a law to allow the death penalty for drug dealers, including those who sell cannabis.
      • Do you have any places you’d like to send people to re-engage with philosophy?
        • Study the history of philosophy.
        • Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas.
        • Story of Philosophy by Will Durant
      • Matt teaches an online course on Whitehead, the next one begins in January 2019.
        • Philosophy is not an abstract linguistic analysis.
        • He approaches philosophy as a spiritual practice.
        • Philosophy is learning to die.
          • We’re embodied creatures and philosophy is a way to come to terms with that.
        • Psychedelics help you experience ego death, but we’re still conscious.

Tweetable Quotes

  • Psychedelics are not just theoretically interesting, they have profound practical implications for how we organize our lives.
  • Whitehead’s terminology is an attempt to return us to our concrete experience.
  • Philosophy is learning to die.

Resources Mentioned

About Matthew Segall, Ph.D.


Matthew T. Segall, PhD, received his doctoral degree in 2016 from the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at CIIS. His dissertation was titled Cosmotheanthropic Imagination in the Post-Kantian Process Philosophy of Schelling and Whitehead. It grapples with the limits to knowledge of reality imposed by Kant’s transcendental form of philosophy and argues that Schelling and Whitehead’s process-oriented approach (described in his dissertation as a “descendental” form of philosophy) shows the way across the Kantian threshold to renewed experiential contact with reality. He teaches courses on German Idealism and process philosophy for the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at CIIS. He blogs regularly at

Dennis McKenna and Mark Plotkin – Richard Evans Schultes, Conservation in the Amazon and the ESPD 50


In this episode of Psychedelics Today, Kyle and Joe speak to Dennis McKenna (of Dennis McKenna fame) and Mark Plotkin founder of the Amazon Conservation Team. We discuss a broad range of subjects. One of the most interesting was a project that Dennis and many others have been working on for over a year at the time of recording this, titled Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs, which was a conference in the UK in 2017. It was a 50-year follow up to the initial event (and later seminal book) that Richard Evan Schultes, Ph.D. helped coordinate and host.

This link will take you to a page where you can see all of the talks that were given at ESPD50.

We really think you’ll enjoy the show. Please let us know what you think and if you can, pre-order the ESPD 50 to save some money on the post-release price.

About ESPD 50


“In 1967, a landmark symposium entitled Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs was held in San Francisco, California. It was the first international, interdisciplinary group of specialists – from ethnobotanists to neuroscientists – who gathered in one place to share their findings on the use of psychoactive plants in indigenous societies. Follow-up meetings were intended to be held every ten years, but the War on Drugs intervened.  The findings of the convention were printed in a book entitled with the same name as the gathering.

On the 50th anniversary during the month of June 2017 an international group of specialists gathered again to share their perspectives on past, present, and future research in ethnopharmacology.  The symposium was held at the spectacular Tyringham Hall in Britain.

ESPD50 was organized by a team led by Dennis McKenna, Founder of Symbio Life Sciences, PBC.  Synergetic Press published a collector’s box set including the first edition of 1967 plus a brand new book with the 50th-anniversary symposium’s findings.”

Show Notes & Links

About Mark Plotkin, Ph.D

Dr. Plotkin has led ACT and guided its vision since 1996, when he co-founded the organization with his fellow conservationist, Liliana Madrigal. He is a renowned ethnobotanist who has spent almost three decades studying traditional plant use with traditional healers of tropical America.

Dr. Plotkin has previously served as Research Associate in Ethnobotanical Conservation at the Botanical Museum of Harvard University; Director of Plant Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund; Vice President of Conservation International; and Research Associate at the Department of Botany of the Smithsonian Institution.

Among his many influential writings, Dr. Plotkin may be best known for his popular work Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice (1994), which has been printed continuously and has been published in multiple languages. Other works include the critically acclaimed children’s book The Shaman’s Apprentice – A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest, illustrated by Lynne Cherry, and Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets. His most recent book, The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria, coauthored with Michael Shnayerson, was selected as a Discover Magazine book of the year.

In 1998, he played a leading role in the Academy Award-nominated IMAX film Amazon. Dr. Plotkin’s work also has been featured in a PBS Nova documentary, in an Emmy-winning Fox TV documentary, on the NBC Nightly News and Today Show, CBS’ 48 Hours and in Life, Newsweek, Smithsonian, Elle, People, The New York Times, along with appearances on National Public Radio. Time magazine called him an “Environmental Hero for the Planet” (2001) and Smithsonian magazine hailed him as one of “35 Who Made a Difference” (2005), along with Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and fellow New Orleanian Wynton Marsalis.

Dr. Plotkin has received the San Diego Zoo Gold Medal for Conservation; the Roy Chapman Andrews Distinguished Explorer Award; an International Conservation Leadership Award from the Jane Goodall Institute; and, with Liliana Madrigal, the Skoll Foundation’s Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2010, he received the honorary degree of “Doctor of Humane Letters” from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Plotkin was educated at Harvard, Yale and Tufts University.

About the Amazon Conservation Team

The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving South American rainforests. This small but robust outfit occupies a unique niche among other environmental non-profits working in the tropics: ACT works hand in hand with local indigenous communities to devise and implement its conservation strategies.

About Dennis McKenna

Dennis Jon McKenna is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer, and author. He is a founding board member and the director of ethnopharmacology at the Heffter Research Institute, a non-profit organization concerned with the investigation of the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic medicines. 

McKenna received his Master’s degree in botany at the University of Hawaii in 1979. He received his doctorate in botanical sciences in 1984 from the University of British Columbia,[2] where he wrote a dissertation entitled Monoamine oxidase inhibitors in Amazonian hallucinogenic plants: ethnobotanical, phytochemical, and pharmacological investigations. McKenna then received post-doctoral research fellowships in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, and in the Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine.


Dennis McKenna Links