Our vision is an awakened world where all species thrive in symbiotic harmony.
Our mission is to be a catalyst for the transformation of global consciousness through educational experiences that interweave our collective intelligence, science, and ancestral wisdom.
Modern science grew out of Natural Philosophy, a fusion of philosophy and science that considers mind and consciousness as inseparable aspects of nature. Before modern science became fragmented into specialized disciplines and restricted to quantitative study, Natural Philosophy acknowledge the limitations of reductionism and embraced complementary ways of understanding derived from intuition, insight, and inspiration. The human mind perceives the world through lenses that no other instrument can simulate. The best tools to polish and clarify those lenses, to inspire and educate humanity in this emergent paradigm are our co-evolutionary symbiotic partners —the sacred psychedelic medicines.
A Modern Mystery School
- A center for intellectual inquiry, spiritual and moral development, philosophical discourse, and the exercise of human imagination and curiosity.
- A gathering place for the finest minds to catalyze, study, understand and advance the co-evolution of life, mind and consciousness.
- An academy, providing a fully-integrated curriculum including spiritual, shamanic, exploratory and medical use of Psychedelic Medicines. In this respect, the McKenna Academy is a modern instantiation of the experiential mystery schools of antiquity, combining plant experiences with rigorous academic inquiry.
Future of McKenna Academy
The McKenna Academy provides a replicable model for the establishment of a “21st century mystery school” that can function as both a template and a seed for future expansion in other regions of the world.
The Academy will adopt the most forward-thinking models of governance and operation, ensuring implementation of the highest levels of ethics. This will provide opportunities for social, environmental, and financial benefits.
Major Projects & Other Initiatives
In early 2020, the McKenna Academy lept into the virtual space, shifting “A Tribute to Terence McKenna” from a physical event in San Francisco, to a globally accessible online event. More than 10K registered and continue to register. With little indication that we would be able to do any physical retreats or conferences as before, we continued to organize virtual gatherings to continue our mission of educating the public on timely subjects.
The McKenna Academy embarks on a long term project, “BioGnosis” to be a catalyst in bridging ancestral wisdom, ethnobotany and innovation, for a thriving planet.
In 2021, filming will begin in and around Iquitos to create a short documentary — the launching point for a longer documentary series, learning modules, and the digitization of a significant herbarium in the Peruvian Amazon. Beyond this, Project BioGnosis has great potential to further illuminate the “gnosis” (knowledge) of all “bio” (life) on Earth that may bring us back to a more harmonic existence with all of Nature.
The use of plants in traditional ethnomedicine serves as a primary source of healthcare in most human societies worldwide (Hart et al., 2017). As such, globalization and the erosion of knowledge, habitat loss, climate change, cultural assimilation and language loss are primary factors that threaten biocultural diversity and traditional healing systems (Davis, 2007; Maffi, 2002; Pilgrim et al., 2009; Vandebroek & Balick, 2012). While it has been estimated the Amazon rainforest is home to approximately 80,000 species of plants, as few as 14,000 species have been taxonomically verified (Cardoso et al., 2017) to date. Juan Ruiz Macedo, curator of the Herbarium Amazonense at the Universidad Nacional de Amazonica Peruana (UNAP), is a local expert and repository for Amazonian ethnomedical information. He has aided the research of scientific investigators and botanical collectors for over 45 years, but little of his knowledge has been extensively documented. He is considered a living example of the adage: ‘when a medicine man dies, it’s as though a library has burned down.’
Juan’s repository of unique, richly diverse ethnobotanical knowledge combines scientific knowledge with deep appreciation of ethnomedical practices that bridges the less intuitive, reductionist mind, to traditional ways of knowing. This connection can help to illuminate the critical importance of a deeper biocultural understanding of the plant medicine renaissance occuring in Iquitos — a microcosm of a larger global movement that is bringing back the value of traditional ethnomedicine and our dependency on biocultural diversity — and a thriving planet Earth.
In collaboration with Hemmings House Pictures.
The "BioGnosis" film shares stories of people who study, use, protect, and ethically commercialize the healing plants that surround the Amazonian community of Iquitos, Peru at a time when the traditional knowledge is being lost as rapidly as the Amazon Rainforest itself.
We are contributing to the renaissance of the current transition in humanity — to LISTEN to the teachings of nature, our own nature as well as nature around us where the wisdom of wellness is abundant, particularly during a time when humanity is dumbfounded in the uncertainty of modern medicine. We learn that doubt does not exist in the system of traditional medicine. It is TRUST in the power of nature — a power that exists within all of us. But we are disconnected — lost. It is time to bridge the virtues of both traditional and modern medicine systems and embrace this potent synergy.
Through the micro lens, we have Juan Ruiz, a simple, humble and enthusiastic ethnobotanist who has had the opportunity throughout his life to learn from traditional practitioners as well as scientists. As the curator of the UNAP herbarium in the heart of the Amazon, he has exchanged knowledge with these vast and complementary repositories of knowledge.
Through the macro lens, he is the bridge connecting these repositories of knowledge to this renaissance that is currently discovering the power of the symbiotic relationship amongst all life on earth.
Through the film series, we look through the micro lens of Juan’s knowledge, to the macro lens of this renaissance led by local luminaries and discover the global message that the Amazon shares for the future of humanity.
During this Discovery Phase, we will explore this emerging renaissance and how it reflects the deepest of Nature’s teachings, the ‘Biognosis’ of symbiosis that defines Humanity’s ideal relationship to the planetary community of sentient species.
BioGnosis Project 2022
The launching of the short documentary will raise awareness of the importance of the digitization of Peru’s major Amazonian herbarium, the Herbarium Amazonense at UNAP. The Digital Herbarium has potential to serve as an online resource for anyone with an interest in the Amazonian flora, whether focused on medicinal resources, agroforestry, sustainable development of new crops, protection of habitats, etc. The short documentary will also serve to propose a longer documentary series that allows a deeper dive into the themes presented. And, for further learning on the subjects presented, each of the episodes is proposed to offer an associated learning module.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Academy envisions a long-term arc of development that will continue to create and offer educational materials and opportunities on a variety of fronts. What follows are brief summaries of what is currently ‘in the pipeline’ for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Sign up for our newsletter updates.
Ethnobotany Course with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS)
The McKenna Academy is partnering with OTS, based in Costa Rica, to offer an accredited, graduate level online course in ethnobotany in September/October of 2021. Lead instructor, Dr. Michael Coe will teach this 15-lecture ‘intensive’ accompanied by guest lecturers, various renowned ethnobotanists including Dr. Dennis McKenna, Dr. Wade Davis, Dr. Paul Cox, Dr. Michale Balick, Dr.Luis Eduardo Luna, Dr.Michael Winkelmann, and others.
‘Stoned Ape’ Virtual Symposium
During the Fall of 2021, the McKenna Academy will present a symposium on the ‘Stoned Ape Hypothesis,’ in part to recognize the third printing of Terence McKenna’s classic book, “Food of the Gods.” Psychedelic luminaries will gather to consider new information that is reframing Terence’s hypothesis (1992) from being ‘plausible’ to ‘more than likely.’
Other online events include the continuing series of the View from the Far Side fireside chats by Dennis McKenna, inspired by his Visionary Blog.
Founding Board Members
President, Principal Founder
Dennis McKenna has conducted research in ethnopharmacology for over 40 years. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute, and was a key investigator on the Hoasca Project, the first biomedical investigation of ayahuasca. He is the younger brother of Terence McKenna. From 2000 to 2017, he taught courses on Ethnopharmacology and Plants in Human affairs as an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. He emigrated to Canada in the spring of 2019 together with his wife Sheila, and now resides in Abbotsford.
Since 2019, he has been working with colleagues to manifest a long-term dream: the McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy, a non-profit organization founded in the spirit of the ancient Mystery Schools and dedicated to the study of plant medicines, consciousness, intelligence in nature, preservation of indigenous knowledge and a re-visioning of humanity's relationship with Nature. Dr. McKenna is author or co-author of 6 books and over 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Christina's life's work reflects her respect for the wisdom of the ancestors, new sustainable innovations, and the basic needs of the people, in their space, in their time; her work has always been focused on fostering a more harmonic existence with the earth, with others, and with oneself. In Vilcabamba, Ecuador known as the "Valley of Longevity" she established the Cultural Community Center with the efforts of the local people, including the provincial and regional government. This included working with its Youth Eco-Club organizing workshops, projects for their town, and publishing a local newspaper. With a grant from the Ministry of Culture, she organized Festivals for Sustainability, local artisan fairs and establishment of its Association. Christina also produced a book of stories told by over 100 elders who were interviewed by local volunteer high school students and published by the University of Loja. In northern Ecuador, she spearheaded innovative waste management projects in a remote town in Cotacachi, involving the schools, organizations, volunteers, and local and regional governments. In the Sacred Valley of Peru, she initiated awareness campaigns for conscious living with the Municipality, which included public forums, a TV program, and mini-programs on the regional radio station. Since 2013, Christina has supported Dennis' Ayahuasca conferences, then gained much more insight into the world of plant medicine as the Ecuadorian representative for the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC).
John Stanek has been a life-long student of philosophy, spirituality, and expansion of consciousness. Growing up a ‘child of the sixties’ John was drawn to study philosophy in his college days, particularly the writings of Carlos Castenada which sparked a fascination with a Separate Reality and the power of plant teachers to assist in guiding the way to healing at the soul level. During his 40 year professional life, as a financial and operating executive John helped build businesses in marketing communications and portfolio businesses in private equity. He currently serves as an advisor to CEO’s and management teams. In 2017, he left corporate life to more fully explore spirituality, the realm of plant teachers, and the burgeoning field of psychedelic medicine. Excursions to the mountains and jungles of Peru, to Asia, and the Himalayas of Tibet and Nepal have been transformative life experiences. John joined the board of McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy in 2020 and serves as Treasurer. John is a native of and currently resides in Chicago.
Donna N. Burns
Donna is a public policy veteran committed to seeing a healthy planet with happy people grow together.
In addition to her service as a Director of the McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy, Inc., Donna currently serves as President of NY Small Farma Ltd, a Hudson Valley, NY 501(c)(3) whose mission is to foster a socially just, environmentally regenerative and economically inclusive cannabis industry.
She has almost 40 years’ experience as a Washington DC AV-rated attorney (practicing under the name Donna N. Lampert), serving as a public interest advocate, a federal government official, a policy expert and a thriving law firm founder/managing partner. She’s been a tireless and prolific voice for the public’s interest in fairness, openness and access to diverse communications media, working extensively on issues such as telecom and media consolidation, and open internet.
Donna is also a lifelong gardener and nature lover and is a devoted practicing student of plant and herbal medicine.
Since departing the Beltway, she has been committed to bringing the feminine skills of compassion, community and collaboration to our daily work and spreading the seeds of appreciation and awe for our plant allies.